Prior to the start of the season, I called
Jamey Carroll "the latest passenger on Minnesota's never-ending shortstop carousel," noting the position's instability over the past decade. As it would turn out, the veteran's ride didn't last long, as he ceased drawing regular starts at short by early May.
Granted, this had as much to do with external factors – most notably Danny Valencia's struggles at third – as Carroll's own play. But it quickly became apparent that the light-hitting 38-year-old is not suited to be a quality regular at this point in his career. Even in the short-term, the Twins knew they would have to look elsewhere for a fixture at shortstop.
They would like it be Brian Dozier. More accurately, they need
to it to be Brian Dozier.
Shortstop has been an organizational problem spot for many years, and the lack of talent at the position throughout the Twins' system is nearly as stark as the lack of pitching. Dozier is no great prospect, but he appears to be the club's only hope for respectability in the foreseeable future.
There's little hope in the minors. The Twins drafted Levi Michael, a shortstop from the University of North Carolina, with their first-round pick last year but he's currently hitting .203/.306/.259 as a 21-year-old in Single-A. His initial struggles as a pro don't doom him by any means, but they do make it highly unlikely that he'll rise fast enough to be a factor for the big-league club anytime soon.
With Tsuyoshi Nishioka basically out of the picture (he's batting .202 in Triple-A), Michael is the only shortstop of note on the farm. Free agency probably won't cure this epidemic; that's where they found Carroll, who has been a disappointment and remains under contract for $3.75 million next year. Clint Barmes, another relatively affordable free agent shortstop who ended up signing with the Pirates for $10.5 million over two years, has been even worse than Carroll, as he's currently hitting .170 in Pittsburgh.
It's tough to find good shortstops. That's been a hard-learned lesson for the Twins, who have opened with seven different players at the position over the past eight years and let the best of the bunch get away when they misguidedly handed J.J. Hardy to the Orioles after the 2010 campaign.
With all the headaches and frustration that Ron Gardenhire and his staff have experienced while trying to settle on a serviceable player to man the diamond's most important position, you can bet that they will show plenty of patience with Dozier as he takes his lumps. He's is doing so right now, with just 10 hits in his last 55 at-bats (.182) and 16 strikeouts against one walk during that span. Parker wrote yesterday
about the adjustments being made by the league against him.
I suspect that Gardy will keep writing the rookie's name into the lineup despite his struggles, and that's the right approach. At age 25, it's time for Dozier to sink or swim, and this season gives the coaching staff an opportunity to let him do so without risking much.
If Dozier can't make his own adjustments and prove himself as a legitimate big-league option, it'll be back to the drawing board. And considering the last eight years, that's a scary proposition.