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Twins Utility Infielders

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I have been thinking about the job Eduardo Escobar has done this year. He has been cast as a three-position utility guy--someone who could fill in for a while at second, short or third, but someone who couldn't hold down a regular job.Since the Kelly era the Twins have employed at least one guy on the roster who has the ability to play second, short and third. The guys who have come to mind are Al Newman, Denny Hocking, Jeff Reboulet, Nick Punto, Jamie Carroll, and the previously mentioned Eduardo Escobar. The one common thread of all these guys is that isn't much power. Some were better hitters, some a bit better in the field, some highly thought of in the minors and some totally unheralded. Is Escobar just another utility guy or is he something more? Here's a thumbnail of each:

Al Newman http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ewmaal01.shtml Newman played over 100 games in each season for the Twins from 1987-91. He played 172 games at third, 217 at short, and 288 at second. Newman hit .231 in those five years, with an OPS of .581 (60 OPS+). He stole 69 bases in his time with the Twins and was regarded as solid at all three infield positions. Newman notably hit zero homers in his 1876 plate appearances with the Twins. Newman was a first round draft choice who never became a regular, much less a star, but he was a valuable cog in the two World Championship seasons.

Jeff Reboulet also spent parts of five season with the Twins. He totaled 450 games and 1173 plate appearances for the Twins. http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ebouje01.shtml Reboulet played 216 games at short, 75 at second (Knoblauch era) and 121 at third. Jeff was reputed to have a good glove, but no more than adequate range. His hitting was a bit of an upgrade from Newman, but not enough to be a regular player. He hit .248 for the Twins, with a .659 OPS (74 OPS+). Reb managed to slug nine homers in his Twins tenure while swiping 13 bases. Reboulet was a 10th round draft choice for the Twins, and never regarded as a hot prospect. He played seven more years in the majors before retiring after a twelve-year career.

Denny Hocking: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ockide01.shtml Hocking played parts of 12 years for the Twins peaking at 136 games and getting more than 400 plate appearances in two years after Reboulet exited the team. Hocking played 876 games for the Twins and had 2455 plate appearances for the team. He hit 25 homers and stole 36 bases in that span. Hocking played 262 games at short, 163 at second, and 118 at third. He also played substantially in the outfield. Hocking was a .252 hitter for the Twins, with a .661 OPS (71 OPS+). Hocking was a late round draft choice for the Twins, but was regarded as a pretty good shortstop prospect by the time he got to the big club.

Nick Punto: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...untoni01.shtml Punto was acquired by the Twins before the 2004 season and made his debut with the Twins in '04. Punto twice exceeded 500 plate appearances and for three consective springs was penciled in as a starter. During his time with the Twins he hit .248 with a .648 OPS (74 OPS+). Punto slammed 12 homers for the Twins and managed to steal 89 bases. Punto played 216 games at second, 248 games at short and 276 at third. Punto was regarded as an athletic and acrobatic glove man at all three positions. At 36 years of age, he is still in the major leagues.

Jamey Carroll: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...arroja01.shtml Carroll played less than two years for the Twins after signing as a free agent. He racked up 743 plate appearances during that span, playing 84 games at second, 40 games at short, and 77 games at third. Carroll hit .257 with a .628 OPS (76 OPS+) during his Twins tenure. He, too, was regarded as a steady glove at all three positions, but by the time he played for the Twins, his range was a bit limited. Carroll hit one homer and stole 11 bases in his time in a Twins uniform. Carroll had been a late round draft choice, who played his rookie year at age 29. He managed to stay in the big leagues more than ten years.

Finally we come to Eduardo Escobar: http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...scobed01.shtml Escobar has spent less than two years with the Twins. He currently is getting regular playing time and would project to more than 400 plate appearances in 2014. Eduardo has thus far played 18 games at second, 88 games at short, and 39 games at third while getting 433 plate appearances for the Twins. Escobar has clubbed five homers and stolen only two bases for his current team. His batting average with the Twins is .265 with a .693 OPS (OPS+ 92). Escobar has been very good defensively featuring adequate range, good hands and a strong arm.

In comparing all the players, the two most recent players, Carroll and Escobar, have smaller sample sizes. All have been very good defenders, but Escobar is the only one who has hit at a level acceptable for a starting player. A couple guys, Punto and Newman, displayed enough speed to be assets on the bases. This comparison tells me that Eduardo Escobar is at least a small step above "utility player" and at 25 years of age could easily become a regular player for the Minnesota Twins.

Comments

  1. Otwins's Avatar
    I actually have more fath in Escobar being a reliable regular shortstop than Danny Santana. I am hopeful that Escobar can continue to improve. He has suprising power.
  2. ScottyB's Avatar
    What about Matt Tolbert - 4 years, 103 2B, 64 3B, 51 SS, .230 BA, 3 HR, 17 SB, .607 OPS, 65 OPS+ (between Punto and Carroll).
  3. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
    I think it's easy to imagine Escobar sticking around for a few years. With Sano's expected arrival next season sometime, it will be interesting to see what the Twins do with Plouffe. Does he become a bench bat, 3B, corner OF guy? I think Danny Santana will be a key player to watch when thinking about the long term viability of a guy like Escobar. At this point, he's played well enough defensively, has positional versatility and has been hitting great. If he keeps hitting, the Twins will keep playing him everyday. If not, I think he still has value as a utility guy. Maybe could even handle some OF duties with some work int he off-season or spring training. Ben Zobrist type?
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