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Article: Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Second Base

jonathan schoop marwin gonzalez nick gordon luis arraez
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:31 AM

Like at first base, the Twins are charting a new course at second after saying goodbye to an institutional fixture during the offseason. And like first base, Minnesota is keeping a short-term mindset here while looking ahead to an uncertain future.

But that doesn't mean the position isn't high on potential, both now and going forward.Projected Starter: Jonathan Schoop
Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Ronald Torreyes, Jordany Valdespin
Prospects: Nick Gordon, Luis Arraez, Travis Blankenhorn

THE GOOD

Although he's coming off his worst season since learning the ropes as a rookie in 2014, Schoop has every ingredient for a bounceback. He's young, having turned 27 in October. He's hungry, with free agency bearing down at year's end. He's feeling scorned, after being traded and non-tendered in 2018. He's got a new hitting coach who has had some success with free-swinging power hitters (James Rowson's work with Eddie Rosario comes to mind).

And most importantly, Schoop is working to iron out an ostensibly correctable issue. He was hampered early last year by an oblique injury that, from the view of both the second baseman and his new team, caused him to compensate and alter his swing. Now healthy and highly motivated, the Twins hope to see a return of the player who posted an aggregate .280/.316/.479 line from 2015 to 2017.

Whether or not he can fully rebound, Schoop is at the very least a good bet to bring the boom. He has hit 15 or more home runs in every season as a big-leaguer, and managed 21 last year while batting just .233 in 131 games for the Orioles and Brewers. That total would've ranked second on the Twins behind Rosario.

From 2014 to 2018, only one major-league second baseman hit more home runs than Schoop (109). It was Brian Dozier with 148. So in that sense, the Twins have found themselves a very fitting replacement, and Schoop is a better defender than Dozier was – at least toward the end of his Twins tenure. Schoop is renowned for his strong arm and lightning-quick double-play turns.

The addition of Gonzalez provides a crucial depth boost at several positions, and second base is near the top of the list. Minnesota's depth behind Schoop was rather scant, with Adrianza figuring to be the top backup. He can play second but has done so rarely, and made only three starts there for the Twins last year.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, has plenty of experience at the position, and logged 183 innings there for the Astros in 2018. His bat is also much more likely to play than that of Adrianza or Torreyes. It's hard to overstate just how much this free agent signing bolsters the outlook at second base by mitigating the risk around Schoop.

THE BAD

Schoop is a risk, of course. The rebounding-after-injury narrative is a tidy one, but it doesn't always play out that way. Even if he gets back on top of his game, he offers zero patience (drew 17 unintentional walks in 501 PA last year) and minimal running ability (slower sprint speed than Robbie Grossman, per Statcast).

Schoop's nonexistent plate discipline tends to hurt his batting average (.258 career), so you are looking at a fairly one-dimensional offensive player here. That's not necessarily the worst thing, because extra-base hits are always good, but it does reduce Schoop's margin for error. When you never walk it's pretty easy to become a drain on the lineup unless you're consistently hitting. As we saw last year.

Long-term, the big sticking point at second base is Gordon. Minnesota's first-round draft pick in 2014 was on a steady ascent toward the majors up until hitting a wall at Triple-A last summer. Gordon has played mostly shortstop in the system but projects as a second baseman in the majors, and – having been added to the 40-man roster in November – the clock is now ticking on him to stake his claim.

We should have a much better idea by the end of this year about the "when" and "if" where Gordon is concerned. There's also the fact that Jorge Polanco, newly signed to a five-year extension, profiles better at second than short, and has a few top prospects (Royce Lewis and Wander Javier) coming up beneath him.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Just like at first base, the future outlook at second for Minnesota is fluid, which is why a one-year gamble like Schoop makes sense. It's quite rare you can find a player with his track record, at his age, on a one-year deal so Minnesota seems to have done well here, even if his high-power/low-OBP profile is redundant in their lineup.

By adding Gonzalez to the roster, the Twins made their somewhat risky play on Schoop much more palatable. Marwin's two-year deal also provides some buffer in the event that the next mainstay – be it Gordon, or Polanco, or Arraez (added to the 40-man alongside Gordon) – takes a little longer to reach fruition.

***

Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base

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#2 Aerodeliria

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 01:18 AM

Well-said!

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#3 rv78

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 07:13 AM

Been a fan of the Schoop signing since before it was done. Dozier didn't break any records with his OBP either so we aren't losing anything there. Guessing he will bat in the 6 or 7 spot in the lineup so his lower OBP doesn't hurt a lot. 

Good article! Thanks!

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#4 rdehring

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:02 AM

If Gordon hit a wall at AAA last summer, he hit a high hurdle at AA the previous summer.Don't know if he is wearing down the last half of the season, or what.

 

Regardless, the second baseman of the future for the Twins is Polanco.We just don't know when that future will begin.Will it be this September?Or more likely summer 2020?Or maybe even 2021, when there could be two candidates clamoring for the job?

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#5 beckmt

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:10 AM

Gordon has to take a big step forward this year.Otherwise he will be trade bait or worse a bust. He also has to learn to take a walk anduse his speed.  

Schoop was a great one year signing, now we will see if he can bounce back.  

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#6 BJames

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:15 AM

IF Gonzales can hit, why wouldn't he be the everyday Second baseman? Looks to me Schoop's D isn't that great and we don't need a .230 hitter that is prone to strikeout in the line-up.Why move Gonzales around to replace better hitters i.e-Polanco,Sano,Kepler,Rosario? 


#7 caninatl04

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:43 AM

Gordon has to take a big step forward this year.Otherwise he will be trade bait or worse a bust. He also has to learn to take a walk anduse his speed.  
Schoop was a great one year signing, now we will see if he can bounce back.


I agree. He's what, 28 years old and only playing low-A?

What? He's in AAA and three and a half younger than his competition?

He's got this year AND next and maybe the year after that. There is zero rush to get him up as Marwin can start in 2020.
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#8 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:43 AM

I think the second base position is where Gonzalez‘ sign helps the most. Schoop may turn out to be a great player, could bounce back and hit 25 homeruns with a reasonable batting average, or he could be the guy he was last year. He’s definitely worth a shot but having Gonzalez around really helps make that experiment palatable. To me. This is why Gonzalez really solidifies the floor of this team and makes it much less likely we fall through into the mid 70s in wins like we did last year.
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#9 SomeGuy

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 08:59 AM

Side note on the Robbie Grossman sprint speed comparison.Schoop is still classified by statcast as slightly above average sprint speed.

 

Kepler 27.9 ft/s

Cave 27.8

Grossman 27.7

Schoop 27.5

26.9 is defined as league average by Statcast.

Mauer 26.0

Astudillo 24.5

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#10 dbminn

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 09:00 AM

"The rebounding-after-injury narrative is a tidy one, but it doesn't always play out that way."

 

I will say that Nick's 2B narrative is a tidy one - period. Well written.

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#11 Andrew Thares

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 09:02 AM

What is with this still ongoing narrative that Robbie Grossman is slow? Yeah he’s an awkward looking defender in the outfield but he isn’t slow. His 27.7 ft/sec ranked 119th out of 287 MLB players with at least 100 runs measured in 2018, and isn’t that far behind Max Kepler who checked in at 27.9 ft/sec.
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#12 JLease

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 09:47 AM

 

IF Gonzales can hit, why wouldn't he be the everyday Second baseman? Looks to me Schoop's D isn't that great and we don't need a .230 hitter that is prone to strikeout in the line-up.Why move Gonzales around to replace better hitters i.e-Polanco,Sano,Kepler,Rosario? 

 

Because Gonzalez isn't really replacing those hitters, he's replacing the guy who would be replacing those hitters when they get a day off or get dinged up. Kepler played 156 games last season, Rosario 138, 3rd on the team was Robbie effin' Grossman at 129. Ryan LaMarre, Gregorio Petit, and Johnny Field played 100 games between them.

 

If Schoop turns out to be a .230 hitter, I'm sure Gonzalez will start getting more and more of his ABs, but if Schoop bounces back and has a season like he did 2015-2017 then he's a solid starter. I'm not expecting the 5 bWAR from 2017, but 2.5+ is very achievable. And he's been a fine defender over the years, at least as good as Dozier.

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#13 PDX Twin

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 09:51 AM

 

Been a fan of the Schoop signing since before it was done. Dozier didn't break any records with his OBP either so we aren't losing anything there. Guessing he will bat in the 6 or 7 spot in the lineup so his lower OBP doesn't hurt a lot. 

Good article! Thanks!

 

And Dozier always insisted on batting lead-off, which Molitor indulged...

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#14 MMMordabito

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 10:29 AM

Arraez seems to be getting pretty much ignored here.Whether his amazing hit tool can be the thunder that pushes Gordon to realize his potential or allows him to surpass Gordon as at least the temporary heir, I think he should at least be recognized as more than just a 40-man addition.

 

Otherwise, this yet another great article in this series.  

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#15 rdehring

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:21 PM

 

Arraez seems to be getting pretty much ignored here.Whether his amazing hit tool can be the thunder that pushes Gordon to realize his potential or allows him to surpass Gordon as at least the temporary heir, I think he should at least be recognized as more than just a 40-man addition.

 

Otherwise, this yet another great article in this series.  

Arraez is a real wild card for this team.Logic said he couldn't maintain his high average when he moved to Hi-A and then AA, except he did.Can he do it two more times, going to AAA and then the Twins?Most would say no, but Arraez may not be listening to them.

 

If he does make it and ends up hitting .320+ in the big leagues, he will be a heck of a lead-off hitter.But with Lewis/Javier the future shortstop and Polanco moving to second, where does Arraez play?Seems to me he will be the most unusual DH in baseball, batting lead off for the Twins.

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#16 Dantes929

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:21 PM

 

"The rebounding-after-injury narrative is a tidy one, but it doesn't always play out that way."

 

I will say that Nick's 2B narrative is a tidy one - period. Well written.

Its better to have an explanation or reason for the dropoff and if that reason is correctable, all the better.In highs school I skinned my hand pretty badly and it was a bad month into the season before my coach realized I was still holding the bat with my fingers only on that hand. Ask a golfer if a bad back or hand injury causes a change in swing mechanics. its hard enough hitting without having to make adjustments based on pain, intentional or not.Isn't that why everyone seems happy they are taking things slow with Sano's foot?I also believe Polanco will be and should be slated to move to 2nd in 2020 unless both Lewis and Javier move him aside. Polanco seems like an easy choice over all the others at this point.

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#17 chpettit19

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:25 PM

 

I agree. He's what, 28 years old and only playing low-A?

What? He's in AAA and three and a half younger than his competition?

He's got this year AND next and maybe the year after that. There is zero rush to get him up as Marwin can start in 2020.

The push is coming from Lewis, Javier, and Arraez. It's not that him struggling this year means he's never going to be a ML player, it's that he will get passed in the immediate future of the Twins' organization as well as the big picture future. He's already been passed in terms of future plans with Polanco, Lewis, and Javier I'd think being the IF plan of the future, and if Gordon struggles again and the other minor league guys do what they're expected to Gordon may never see a Twins uni as they will get to the majors next year and he'll be sitting in the minors still. 

 

To be honest I'd guess the FO is already looking at him as trade bait if he can get off to a hot start, and, at max, a backup IF for the Twins down the road. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd guess Gordon himself is feeling quite a bit of pressure to perform this year as he can feel his ML future slipping away.

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#18 chpettit19

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:28 PM

 

Arraez is a real wild card for this team.Logic said he couldn't maintain his high average when he moved to Hi-A and then AA, except he did.Can he do it two more times, going to AAA and then the Twins?Most would say no, but Arraez may not be listening to them.

 

If he does make it and ends up hitting .320+ in the big leagues, he will be a heck of a lead-off hitter.But with Lewis/Javier the future shortstop and Polanco moving to second, where does Arraez play?Seems to me he will be the most unusual DH in baseball, batting lead off for the Twins.

Arraez's path to the majors is a Marwin Gonzalez type utility role, I think. He's played a bunch of 3B in the winter leagues and has worked out all over the IF and some OF for the Twins. If he keeps hitting I could see him stepping right into Gonzalez's role in 2 years when Gonzalez is gone.

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#19 yarnivek1972

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 12:56 PM

Arraez is a real wild card for this team. Logic said he couldn't maintain his high average when he moved to Hi-A and then AA, except he did. Can he do it two more times, going to AAA and then the Twins? Most would say no, but Arraez may not be listening to them.

If he does make it and ends up hitting .320+ in the big leagues, he will be a heck of a lead-off hitter. But with Lewis/Javier the future shortstop and Polanco moving to second, where does Arraez play? Seems to me he will be the most unusual DH in baseball, batting lead off for the Twins.


Paul Molitor hit leadoff as a DH toward the end of his Brewer career. As did Brian Downing with the Angels. Rickey Henderson late in his career. Wade Boggs hit lead off in Boston for most of his career, occasionally as the DH.

Dan Gladden’s first game as a Minnesota Twin came as the leadoff hitter as the DH.


Lot’s of history with the DH in the leadoff spot. And that’s not necesarily where Arraez will land anyway. If he hits, he’ll play.
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#20 Mike Sixel

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 01:03 PM

Mid and long term?

 

Polanco at 2B and Lewis at SS. Maybe as soon as mid 2020......

 

Gordon is young for AAA, though not young for a "top prospect", so there is still plenty of time, hope, and projection there.....but I'm guessing Polanco and Lewis are always better than Gordon will be. Of course, that's a guess.

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 




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