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Shortstops and Defensive Tolerance

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#1 nicksaviking

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:35 PM

The acquistion of Eduardo Nunez got people speculating about when he would get a chance in the Twins lineup over the struggling Pedro Florimon. Florimon's defense is an asset but it is not making up for his inability to hit.

Nunez has been getting panned for his poor defensive play, despite this, he is still looked at as a shortstop option for the Twins. This makes me wonder, what exactly is it that allows poor defensive players to continue getting chances at short when defense is continually hailed as of utmost importance?

We often hear about minor leaguers who "need" to move to 3B or 2B because they just won't cut it at the MLB level. Many of these guys get moved not because they play poorly, but because the perception is that they lack range, arm strengthy, speed or proper footwork. But that begs the question, how did Nunez get through, and more importantly, why is he still considered a shortstop? Or Jed Lowrie? or Asdrubal Cabrera? Or Jhonny Peralta?

Brian Dozier was deemed unworthy to play SS last year before he was demoted to Rochester. Since his return, he has only been considered for 2B duties, and almost surely that will never change. Is he really an inferior fielder to Nunez? Or Lowrie or Cabrera? I doubt it.

It seems to me, that once a player sneaks through to the majors and sticks at SS for any considerable amount of time, he will be considered as such, despite his shortcomings defensively. Lowrie, Nunez and Peralta are all working on their questionable SS play for thier second and third organizations and Cabrera will hit the free agent market viewed as a SS next year.

I think this shows an overly critical evaluation of minor leaguers. Defense matters, but managers routinely put subpar SS in their lineups because they aren't losing games despite what evaluators may project. Jorge Polanco is being given another chance at SS, and I'm happy to see that. But even if he hits, if his range or arm start to play at a subpar level, he'll risk being moved.

I always wondered what would have happened if JJ Hardy had been developed by another orgainzation. He's big, he's slow and by the eye test he does not appear to have much range. I would bet that there are a good number of clubs that would have moved Hardy to 3B long before he ever got the the majors, which of course would be a shame considering he is one of the top defensive players at his position today.

My overall sentiment is that defensive measurables for a shortstop seem to be more valuable in theory than the do on the field. How many perfectly acceptable shortstops are judged unworthy early in their careers?

#2 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:46 PM

You make a really good point - the best shortstop in our organization, all things considered, is probably Dozier. We rarely see first hand how poor defense can cost you a game, like we saw in Kansas City on Saturday. I go back and forth on whether Florimon deserves many more chances but I shudder at the idea of an infield with Nunez and Plouffe on the left.

#3 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:01 PM

You make a really good point - the best shortstop in our organization, all things considered, is probably Dozier. We rarely see first hand how poor defense can cost you a game, like we saw in Kansas City on Saturday. I go back and forth on whether Florimon deserves many more chances but I shudder at the idea of an infield with Nunez and Plouffe on the left.


Agree about Dozier, as a separate issue from whether he should move. As for Florimon, whether he deserves a job based on the (low) likelihood that he develops into at least an average shortstop won't enter into it until the Twins have a strong replacement option who does deserve the job based on that likelihood.

Nunez will probably be as bad defensively as Florimon will eventually wind up being at the plate, which will probably be similar to what PF did last year. Florimon wins that battle not on his own merit, but by virtue of the fact that the Twins have the worst rotation in the AL (.4 WAR vs. 2.6 for AL-leading Detroit, for the 'Twins could surprise the aging, Fisterless Tigers' optimists), and need all the help they can get in the field.

Edited by LaBombo, 22 April 2014 - 03:06 PM.


#4 alskntwnsfn

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:17 PM

I think now would be a great time to see if the Mariners want to sell low on Brad Miller... he booted a ball that cost them the game last week and was replaced a few games later by Nick Franklin.

I'm kind of indifferent to Florimon vs Nunez, I think Escobar should have been given a shot over both though. Why don't we think he can be the everyday answer? Just because he was tabbed to be the UT guy in the offseason? So what. Colabello was supposed to go to Korea in exchange for three buckets of kimchee. Plans change.

#5 Badsmerf

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:01 PM

Defense matters at SS, but so does offense. Its a give and take. Plouffe was too inconsistent at SS, he made bad plays at bad times. Dozier let his offense effect his defense. I say let Nunez have a shot and see if he can make it. Florimon isn't the answer, hopefully that much is clear.

P.S. Plouffe has been pretty good this year at 3b...
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#6 twinsnorth49

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:40 AM

Is there any reason to believe Santana or Goodrum will ever be as good as Dozier likely would be at SS? If Rosario picks up where he left off he will likely pushing to make the big club next spring or at the very least a May call up.

Despite how well Dozier has played at second base, considering the dearth at SS a Dozier, Rosario MI might be their best option in the near future, barring going the FA route.

#7 lukingood

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 06:56 AM

If you watched Rosario play in the Arizona Fall League, you would know that he is not shortstop material. His play at second base is awkward. And Santana also is a less than desirable glove at shortstop. I am not sure the Twins minor league system currently has a shortstop in it that is major league worthy. I personally would like to see Escobar get a shot.

#8 mudcat14

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 08:15 AM

How bad at SS can Escobar be? He sure seems like an upgrade to Florimon offensively. Is it his versatility that keeps the Twins from giving him a multi-game shot at SS, or do they already suspect he can't cut it?

#9 Cris E

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 08:52 AM

Escobar, Florimon and Nunez are your options. Dozier is playing well at 2b and they won't create a hole there to take a chance he fixes things at SS. So who's left in the org?

- There was a thing someplace recently (citing sources is important!) that Polanco has 10 errors in 16 games this spring.

- Rosario hasn't been on a field in half a year (and wasn't tremendous when he was playing 2b.)

- Goodrum is still in Hi A.

- Santana is the best of the bunch, and he's hitting below .240 in AAA, not walking and striking out in over a quarter of his PA. If you don't like Florimon you're going to go crazy watching Santana.

You can make an argument that the SS position in the organization is similar to where starting pitching was in November and that they need a transfusion of outside talent for a year or two. I think Santana might be ready next year, but the point remains that during the 2011-2014 period the team took the field without a proper SS. That's a real problem. (EDIT: And we still have five months of 2014 left.)

EDIT: Also, I skipped a lot of guys that aren't the future. Sue me. Berrisford and his ilk are a response to the problem I've described, not a solution.

Edited by Cris E, 23 April 2014 - 08:55 AM.


#10 Brandon

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 09:29 AM

If Florimon gets his OPS back to the .625-.650 range, He is good enough for now. His bat wouldn't be that big of an issue if Hicks was hitting. Florimon has around a .700 OPS since April 10th so the Twins should be patient with him for a few more weeks. Luckily the other 7 hitters have hit the snot out of the ball so far this year.

#11 tobi0040

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 09:44 AM

Defense matters at SS, but so does offense. Its a give and take. Plouffe was too inconsistent at SS, he made bad plays at bad times. Dozier let his offense effect his defense. I say let Nunez have a shot and see if he can make it. Florimon isn't the answer, hopefully that much is clear.

P.S. Plouffe has been pretty good this year at 3b...


I completely agree. It seems the Twins simply won't put up with below average defense at SS, but they will put up with below average offense. Seems like the offensive side is easy to quantify. You pick it, OPS, runs created, whatever. It would seem easy to quantify with reasonable estimates what an error means, what a ball that Pedro will get to that the other guy won't, etc. will cost you. The two should be weighed together.

#12 nicksaviking

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 10:50 AM

I completely agree. It seems the Twins simply won't put up with below average defense at SS, but they will put up with below average offense. Seems like the offensive side is easy to quantify. You pick it, OPS, runs created, whatever. It would seem easy to quantify with reasonable estimates what an error means, what a ball that Pedro will get to that the other guy won't, etc. will cost you. The two should be weighed together.


This was my point. We can project all we want about how a guy's defense is going to hurt too bad to play the position, but in the end, no one is taking Jed Lowrie's job away from him. He plays lousy defense and we assume lousy defense is going to cost the team a bunch of games, but in the end, his manager would not keep putting him out there if he truely was.

#13 Thrylos

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 11:01 AM

Yesterday Florimon's play on the field was inadequate as well. Matter of fact looked like Nishioka out there... He needs to go for a while since he is hurting the team on both sides of the ball. Escobar is the logical replacement.

#14 Steve Lein

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 12:41 PM

I would really like to see them get Brad Miller from the Mariners. I like him a lot. Is not a great defender, but would see him being similar to Bartlett in that regard (pretty average), and a likely a better hitter to boot even with his slow start this year.

I also wouldn't mind seeing Beresford given a chance either. Is of the same ilk as Miller defensively and has almost zero power (did see him hit a HR in Spring Training 2 years ago though), but he has hit .297 with a good on-base percentage thus far in his AAA career. And I would also say the Twins don't need any power from the SS position, just some on-base competency.

I was convinced halfway through last year that Florimon hurts the team more with his rally killing offense than he saves with his superior defense. It's a luxury you can live with if the rest of you're offense is stacked, and although the Twins offense hasn't been the problem thus far, I still don't consider it to be stacked or believe it will continue at this rate.

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#15 Paul Pleiss

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 07:39 PM

I don't know why this Dozier SS idea keeps coming back up. He was miserable there when given the chance. He looks very good at 2B, making web gem catches and strong throws from the right side of the infield, but that doesn't mean it translates over to SS. His offense would be a welcome addition at any position, but moving him to SS doesn't solve any problems for the Twins, you'd still have a big hole in the middle infield. Dozier is excelling at 2B, just let him keep doing that.

Florimon, Escobar, Nunez, it doesn't really matter. I like Escobar the best out of that bunch, but I think Florimon has the better defense, but marginally. None of those guys is the answer, they're all just place holders. For who? I don't know, and I'm not sure the Twin do either.
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#16 Major Leauge Ready

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 09:27 AM

While I hope for Santana or Polanco to emerge, I don't think the SS of the future is in the system today. He will likely be acquired via trade. If Plouffe sustains his play he could be used at some point as a trade asset. What about Colabello? He is a decent 1st baseman and we have Mauer for 5 years. He too will have to prove himself over a larger sample size but he could be one heck of a trade chip if he keeps it up, especially given his contract. I am also really hoping Hicks gets it together because he would also be a decent future trade asset. Hopefully, he has greater value than a 4th outfielder when Buxton arrives.

#17 DAM DC Twins Fans

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 09:46 AM

While I hope for Santana or Polanco to emerge, I don't think the SS of the future is in the system today. He will likely be acquired via trade. If Plouffe sustains his play he could be used at some point as a trade asset. What about Colabello? He is a decent 1st baseman and we have Mauer for 5 years. He too will have to prove himself over a larger sample size but he could be one heck of a trade chip if he keeps it up, especially given his contract. I am also really hoping Hicks gets it together because he would also be a decent future trade asset. Hopefully, he has greater value than a 4th outfielder when Buxton arrives.


I agree with the basic premise. The Twins don't have a viable MLB SS in the system. At Ft. Myers, Polanco is in double digits in errors and its only April. Goodrum and Michael (playing 3B and 2B respectively are not doing much better). Neither is Santana at a higher level. I think the Twins need to find a free agent SS next year or better yet trade for one this year (maybe Arcia...) They need to get a good one so have to trade someone with value like Arcia not an old vet like Willingham or one of the older pitchers or Collabello who is no youngster.

#18 Trevor0333

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 03:57 PM

The Mariners have always been pretty high on Miller, I don't think your going to get them to sell low at this point. That doesn't mean you couldnt throw them an offer. Maybe if they'd bite on an offer of Travis Harrison or Trevor May.

#19 Reider

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 05:46 PM

Florimon is clearly the one starter that is struggling the most at the plate. As long as the Twins are producing runs and are around .500, the team can afford to give Florimon some time to get it together. Based on the aforementioned, the Twins can easily give him until June 1st before making any major moves.

The Twins are in second place and one game above .500. Florimon provides invaluable defense in the middle infield along with Dozier. I don't think we need to panic just yet. However, it is a good idea to explore all of our options and make a decision when the time comes.

#20 Sconnie

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 06:17 PM

I don't know why this Dozier SS idea keeps coming back up. He was miserable there when given the chance. He looks very good at 2B, making web gem catches and strong throws from the right side of the infield, but that doesn't mean it translates over to SS. His offense would be a welcome addition at any position, but moving him to SS doesn't solve any problems for the Twins, you'd still have a big hole in the middle infield. Dozier is excelling at 2B, just let him keep doing that.

Florimon, Escobar, Nunez, it doesn't really matter. I like Escobar the best out of that bunch, but I think Florimon has the better defense, but marginally. None of those guys is the answer, they're all just place holders. For who? I don't know, and I'm not sure the Twin do either.

Agreed. Also, Rosario was moved out of need before Dozier took ownership of 2b. The Twins have a larger need in the outfield next year as Kubel, and Willingham are not long term outfielders. Hicks looks lost, and Arcia and Colabello are both good hitters, but not good fielders. I think Rosario gets moved to the outfield when he comes back.

I'd like to see Escobar SS and Dozier 2b the rest of the season.