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Brian Dozier had a string of seasons for the Minnesota Twins where it was arguable that he was the best second basemen in baseball. That torch has now been passed, and with two options in the mix, it may be one of the strongest roles Minnesota has had in quite some time.

From 2013-2018 Brian Dozier played in nearly 900 games and blasted 161 homers for the Twins as their primary second basemen. He took time to settle into the role and changed his approach at the plate, but became an All-Star in 2015 and earned top-15 votes each of the next two seasons. In 2016-17 Dozier combined to hit 76 dingers with an .871 OPS. For a position often seen as an afterthought in the infield, he’d become a beacon of strength.

Fast-forward to where we are now, and the Twins have successfully passed the torch to a new pair of talents. Signed to an extension in 2019, Jorge Polanco is potentially under team control through the 2025 season. He dealt with an ankle injury that changed his abilities drastically, but now with a clean bill of health, he looks like one of the best in baseball at the position. Since June 1 this season, Polanco owns a .926 OPS. He was a first-time All-Star in 2019 and has posted an .806 OPS over the past three seasons, even with the dismal 2020 factored in.

There were always legitimate concerns regarding Polanco’s range and arm at shortstop. It was a position he had played often, but one he was ultimately miscast in. Sliding over to second base full time this season, Twins coaches talked up the fact that not only would his bat play, but his glove may find gold there. It’s safe to say the experiment has been wildly successful, and the return to offensive prowess is a welcomed shot in the arm.

Recently turning 28-years-old, it’s fair to assume Polanco’s best seasons are still ahead of him, and for a Twins team looking to rebound, that’s a great thing to dream on.

Then there’s the opposite but an equally successful type of player at second base for the Twins. Luis Arraez may be the second coming of Rod Carew, and he’s here to challenge for a batting title on an annual basis. Nagging knee injuries have kept him off the field at times, but the bat has remained intact when he’s out there. A .317 average this season marks a career-low, but it’s continued to rise, and the .325 mark across his first 205 big-league games is nothing to scoff at.

Arraez will never play with the power that either Dozier or Polanco has, and he’s more Dozier (Gold Glove’s are offensive awards sometimes) than Polanco with the leather, but calling second his primary home helps to push this narrative. Luis has done well for himself by establishing utility around the diamond, but make no mistake that the pipeline Minnesota has pushed here is impressive.

Add in that Nick Gordon is beginning to realize some of his potential in the big leagues, a converted shortstop moving to the first base side, and this situation continues to be worth monitoring. Spencer Steer is another name down on the farm that’s pushing his way towards the top and watching the Twins develop these athletes is exciting.

Second base is often considered the fallback for a shortstop with a lackluster arm. Be that what it may, but Minnesota isn’t simply throwing out good defenders that have little other tools at the position. Rocco Baldelli has employed lineups that can do damage, and even before the current skipper got here, second base has become an area of strength in the system. Maybe Jorge Polanco pushes for the best in baseball title down the line, but even if he doesn’t, he’s currently headlining an impressive position group within this organization.

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Reading this made me smile. Great take, I like each of these players a lot. Begs the question, if we are offered a ton of pitching for either Polanco or Arraez do we do it? Both these guys need to be in the lineup everyday. I love both, we do have depth as you describe, and others - we could list another 4 or 5 good looking, hopefully shortstops, but maybe not. Thanks for the positive piece!

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Don't forget Jullien and Severino are on their way as well.  If Soularie is truly is moving to second they are stacked at the position for a good long time.  Pretty much all those guys looks like they will hit for power as well although Steer is the only one of them to hit 20 HR's this year.  The other guys should have time to get there though.

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Jorge Polanco is indeed a gold glove shortstop in the making until you look at his stats. Polanco has the worst UZR/150 of any qualified 2B at -11.2, largely driven by having the highest number of fielding errors of any qualified 2B and the 2nd worst error rate overall. UZR ignores plays where the shift is on and likely impacted the play, but that's subject to a human scorer's opinion.

Range Factor has Polanco much better off because of extremely high rate of assists in the field. I suspect his range factor benefits from the enormous amount of shifts the Twins run. RF doesn't care if there is a shift or not.

In short... until Polanco drops the error rate which has absolutely plagued him throughout most of his career, he's not going to be a great defender anywhere in the infield.

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I love good defense. I want good defense. I still believe it's important in today's game. I have seen enough of Polanco at SS that I still feel he's fine as the backup. And while I don't mean to disparage anyone, much less a former great Twin, what we need is another Gagne for just a year or two. Simmons was supposed to be that guy but other than the first couple of weeks of 2021, he clearly was not that guy. It would be awesome to sign one of the top FA SS that will be available this offseason. But really, position wise, there is a ton of optimism for the offense in 2022. And $ should be spent on a SP and a couple high quality BP arms to add to the few guys we already have.

Who is a SS we can get to play quality defense and not stink at the plate for 2022?

We have seen Polanco be outstanding. We have seen him injured, depressed, and suspended and everything in between. But we have absolutely seen what a healthy Polanco can do. And despite a few bad plays while still adjusting to 2B on a daily basis, he's looked good to great. And yes, the best of him is still to come.

STOP that Arraez doesn't have a role! Still young, bounced around position to position, he's still growing and learning. He can play multiple positions "OK" and that's fine. He can also be a DH at times. What's wrong with that?

More time at 2B will only make Polanco more comfortable and I wouldn't be surprised if he won not only a Silver Slugger but a Gold Glove,  FWIW. And even more time just gaining experience, I wouldn't be surprised if Arraez turned out to be at least a solid defensive player at multiple positions as well as DH at times. I mean, just be honest, you've seen Arraez make some bad plays. But you've also seen him make some great plays as well.

What the Twins need in 2022 is a quality SS who can just be quality defensively and contribute offensively. Second base is locked in.

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5 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

I love good defense. I want good defense. I still believe it's important in today's game. I have seen enough of Polanco at SS that I still feel he's fine as the backup. And while I don't mean to disparage anyone, much less a former great Twin, what we need is another Gagne for just a year or two. Simmons was supposed to be that guy but other than the first couple of weeks of 2021, he clearly was not that guy. It would be awesome to sign one of the top FA SS that will be available this offseason. But really, position wise, there is a ton of optimism for the offense in 2022. And $ should be spent on a SP and a couple high quality BP arms to add to the few guys we already have.

Who is a SS we can get to play quality defense and not stink at the plate for 2022?

We have seen Polanco be outstanding. We have seen him injured, depressed, and suspended and everything in between. But we have absolutely seen what a healthy Polanco can do. And despite a few bad plays while still adjusting to 2B on a daily basis, he's looked good to great. And yes, the best of him is still to come.

STOP that Arraez doesn't have a role! Still young, bounced around position to position, he's still growing and learning. He can play multiple positions "OK" and that's fine. He can also be a DH at times. What's wrong with that?

More time at 2B will only make Polanco more comfortable and I wouldn't be surprised if he won not only a Silver Slugger but a Gold Glove,  FWIW. And even more time just gaining experience, I wouldn't be surprised if Arraez turned out to be at least a solid defensive player at multiple positions as well as DH at times. I mean, just be honest, you've seen Arraez make some bad plays. But you've also seen him make some great plays as well.

What the Twins need in 2022 is a quality SS who can just be quality defensively and contribute offensively. Second base is locked in.

Where does Larnach play if Arraez is DH? Sano? Kiriloff? Garver? Donaldson?

IMO, Martin is the LF by mid next year.....Kiriloff is 1B, and Sano or Larnach or Donadlson is DH.....or even Miranda. Arraez's only position is to back up all those guys plus back up Polanco?

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3 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

Where does Larnach play if Arraez is DH? Sano? Kiriloff? Garver? Donaldson?

IMO, Martin is the LF by mid next year.....Kiriloff is 1B, and Sano or Larnach or Donadlson is DH.....or even Miranda. Arraez's only position is to back up all those guys plus back up Polanco?

Great post and great questions!

For a moment, we have to forget a trade could happen and, of course, guys do end up on the IL list from time to time. 

Donaldson is a key for 2022 and nobody can deny it. He COULD be healthy, as he's been most of this year, and provide a positive influence and transition to 1B and DH and allow progression of the prospects or he could a negative for a re-tooling team. His future absolutely agree influences initial roster construction. 

 

But let's get back to your questions. Larnach is absolutely an OF, and he plays either corner. Mostly LF with Kepler in RF. No reason he can't play both. Kirilloff is also a decent corner OF and the only reason we are talking about him at 1B is because of depth and because he looks so good there. 

Garver should have 600PA as a C/1B/DH.

Arraez can play multiple positions AND DH. Never said he should only be a DH. People are obsessed that the DH spot should be a slugger. How about a good roster/lineup where you just put a great bat/OB hitter there? 

Just saying, the offensive line-up posibilites are interesting and not resteictive.

 

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If the Twins keep Polanco, Arraez and Donaldson should be traded because their talent is worth more to the Twins in prospect/player capital than their abilities are worth on the field.

The Twins have decided Gordon and Palacios are not MLB shortstops which leaves the Twins with nothing they can rely upon at the position in the minors for a couple years. Unfortunately, one of the best targets for shortstops, Brandon Crawford, was just re-signed by the Giants leaving the options for a short term quality SS in free agency down a major option. The Twins are going to need to figure out a way to get a good player for 2-4 years at the position. Considering Simmons has remained on the roster this long, I have a very bad feeling they're going to bring him back.

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7 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

Where does Larnach play if Arraez is DH? Sano? Kiriloff? Garver? Donaldson?

IMO, Martin is the LF by mid next year.....Kiriloff is 1B, and Sano or Larnach or Donadlson is DH.....or even Miranda. Arraez's only position is to back up all those guys plus back up Polanco?

I love Arraez, you just have to find a position for him to play.  Maybe the solution is to trade Donaldson in the offseason (assuming you can resign Buxton) to break the logjam. Don't think the young players have enough value to bring back anything good at the major league level.

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7 hours ago, bean5302 said:

If the Twins keep Polanco, Arraez and Donaldson should be traded because their talent is worth more to the Twins in prospect/player capital than their abilities are worth on the field.

The Twins have decided Gordon and Palacios are not MLB shortstops which leaves the Twins with nothing they can rely upon at the position in the minors for a couple years. Unfortunately, one of the best targets for shortstops, Brandon Crawford, was just re-signed by the Giants leaving the options for a short term quality SS in free agency down a major option. The Twins are going to need to figure out a way to get a good player for 2-4 years at the position. Considering Simmons has remained on the roster this long, I have a very bad feeling they're going to bring him back.

I agree that the Twins are not convinced on Gordon at SS, but I don't think they've given up on Palacios there. Hard to know exactly what they think Palacios' future is right now, but he's had a major rebound in AA.

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Great article Tom. Polanco has blossomed at 2B. Arraez is a great contact hitter but has very little range (which is probably because of his knees) so makes him a better 3B than 2B. 

Agree with Mike that Arraez should be considered as part time DH to keep his bat in the lineup.

If Gordon can prove that he can hit MLB on a steady basis, he could be considered 2B backup.

I like what jmlease mentioned about Palcios. I'm interested in what could pan out.

With all these 2B options we should consider trade possibilities.

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3 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

I agree that the Twins are not convinced on Gordon at SS, but I don't think they've given up on Palacios there. Hard to know exactly what they think Palacios' future is right now, but he's had a major rebound in AA.

Palacios is a MiLB free agent at the end of the year and is not on the 40 man roster. He's reached base safely in 12 straight games (.304/.365/.717 OPS 1.083 9.6% BB, 13.4% K) has owned an OPS north of .800 all but 1 month (July .667) this year. He hasn't committed an error in 25 games while playing nearly exclusive shortstop. Palacios also leads all AA shortstops in home runs and is top 10 in all of the minors, has been great on the basepaths stealing 14 bases in 19 attempts and has a .265 average despite a potentially lower than expected BABIP given his speed. Palacios also has a BB rate 1/2 his K rate and over the past month, his BB and K rate are nearly identical. Yet, Simmons is still playing SS every day.

  • May Line: .311/.398/.478 OPS .876, ISO .267, 12.6% BB, 25.2% K with 6 errors
  • June Line: .250/.348/.490 OPS .838, ISO .240, 9.8% BB, 22.3% K with 4 errors
  • July Line: .221/.303/.364 OPS .667, ISO .143, 10.0% BB, 22.2% K with 2 errors
  • Aug Line: .279/.354/.628 OPS .982, ISO .349, 10.4% BB, 14.6% K with 0 errors
  • Overall: .265/.352/.474 OPS .826, ISO .209, 10.8% BB, 22.1% K with 12 errors

I can't see anything more within reason Palacios could have done this year to get called up. The Twins even have two prospects they may want to play SS at AA other than Palacios right now. Martin and Steer. With about a dozen reasons to call Palacios' number, the Twins have refused to do so.

There are 4 things you could argue, in order of likelihood.

  1. The Twins have already written him off and think of Palacios as MiLB roster filler who's just getting lucky (most likely)
  2. The Twins think Palacios is a potential starting shortstop, but want to evaluate other unlikely contributors who are hanging onto a fringey 40 man roster spot so they don't want to give Palacios a spot on the 40 man yet.
  3. The Twins think Palacios is a potential starting shortstop, but they think if Palacios stays in AA, nobody else in MLB will notice him and they may be able to re-sign him to a MiLB contract without having to give him a 40 man roster spot and use him as a potential backup next year.
  4. The Twins think Palacios is a future All Star starting shortstop and are trying to manipulate his service time.

Btw, this post is fun because Palacios is just playing so well by the stat lines. It's all lot more about the positivity around Palacios and how he's been consistently playing great as an underdog all year than it is about the Twins' ineptitude. Most of the other "underdogs" have some pretty concerning peripherals. High K rates, low BB rates, unusual BABIP, granite gloves, iron boots, etc. Palacios has improved his K rate all season long. His BB rate has been sustained since 3 years ago in Tampa, his ISO has always been playable, his glove has shaken off the rust and become rock solid, he's stolen 5 of his last 6 attempts. I mean, it really seems like almost every facet of his game has become more polished while sustaining a very high level of play at the plate. If the Twins think Palacios isn't going to be picked up by another team, they're dreaming.

Ultimately, I still believe Palacios is far from a sure thing at the MLB level, but it's hard to ignore how well he's been playing at AA all season long. Sustained success beyond 300 plate appearances without obvious big red flags isn't usually flukey at the high minors. If we eliminate the missed season last year, Palacios would be in his age 23 season this year (he just turned 25 a few days ago).

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On 8/14/2021 at 3:30 PM, bean5302 said:

Palacios is a MiLB free agent at the end of the year and is not on the 40 man roster. He's reached base safely in 12 straight games (.304/.365/.717 OPS 1.083 9.6% BB, 13.4% K) has owned an OPS north of .800 all but 1 month (July .667) this year. He hasn't committed an error in 25 games while playing nearly exclusive shortstop. Palacios also leads all AA shortstops in home runs and is top 10 in all of the minors, has been great on the basepaths stealing 14 bases in 19 attempts and has a .265 average despite a potentially lower than expected BABIP given his speed. Palacios also has a BB rate 1/2 his K rate and over the past month, his BB and K rate are nearly identical. Yet, Simmons is still playing SS every day.

  • May Line: .311/.398/.478 OPS .876, ISO .267, 12.6% BB, 25.2% K with 6 errors
  • June Line: .250/.348/.490 OPS .838, ISO .240, 9.8% BB, 22.3% K with 4 errors
  • July Line: .221/.303/.364 OPS .667, ISO .143, 10.0% BB, 22.2% K with 2 errors
  • Aug Line: .279/.354/.628 OPS .982, ISO .349, 10.4% BB, 14.6% K with 0 errors
  • Overall: .265/.352/.474 OPS .826, ISO .209, 10.8% BB, 22.1% K with 12 errors

I can't see anything more within reason Palacios could have done this year to get called up. The Twins even have two prospects they may want to play SS at AA other than Palacios right now. Martin and Steer. With about a dozen reasons to call Palacios' number, the Twins have refused to do so.

There are 4 things you could argue, in order of likelihood.

  1. The Twins have already written him off and think of Palacios as MiLB roster filler who's just getting lucky (most likely)
  2. The Twins think Palacios is a potential starting shortstop, but want to evaluate other unlikely contributors who are hanging onto a fringey 40 man roster spot so they don't want to give Palacios a spot on the 40 man yet.
  3. The Twins think Palacios is a potential starting shortstop, but they think if Palacios stays in AA, nobody else in MLB will notice him and they may be able to re-sign him to a MiLB contract without having to give him a 40 man roster spot and use him as a potential backup next year.
  4. The Twins think Palacios is a future All Star starting shortstop and are trying to manipulate his service time.

Btw, this post is fun because Palacios is just playing so well by the stat lines. It's all lot more about the positivity around Palacios and how he's been consistently playing great as an underdog all year than it is about the Twins' ineptitude. Most of the other "underdogs" have some pretty concerning peripherals. High K rates, low BB rates, unusual BABIP, granite gloves, iron boots, etc. Palacios has improved his K rate all season long. His BB rate has been sustained since 3 years ago in Tampa, his ISO has always been playable, his glove has shaken off the rust and become rock solid, he's stolen 5 of his last 6 attempts. I mean, it really seems like almost every facet of his game has become more polished while sustaining a very high level of play at the plate. If the Twins think Palacios isn't going to be picked up by another team, they're dreaming.

Ultimately, I still believe Palacios is far from a sure thing at the MLB level, but it's hard to ignore how well he's been playing at AA all season long. Sustained success beyond 300 plate appearances without obvious big red flags isn't usually flukey at the high minors. If we eliminate the missed season last year, Palacios would be in his age 23 season this year (he just turned 25 a few days ago).

The Twins have more to gain by playing Palacios than they do by continuing to play Simmons. Period. Also, find a way to play Miranda on the Twins team. Definitely trade Donaldson..

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On 8/14/2021 at 2:30 PM, bean5302 said:

 

Ultimately, I still believe Palacios is far from a sure thing at the MLB level, but it's hard to ignore how well he's been playing at AA all season long. Sustained success beyond 300 plate appearances without obvious big red flags isn't usually flukey at the high minors. If we eliminate the missed season last year, Palacios would be in his age 23 season this year (he just turned 25 a few days ago).

AA play level is not as difficult as AAA, it is a simple as that because he has not mastered AAA yet.

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The only thing Dozier proved to me is that home runs in a vacuum don't matter.  His best year was the Twins worst year. 

Also, don't have your home run guy leading off would have been a good lesson to learn, but I think everyone but Molitor already knew that.

I'll take 130 OPS+ any way I can get it, it does not need to be from home runs.

 

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On 8/13/2021 at 10:36 PM, DocBauer said:

I love good defense. I want good defense. I still believe it's important in today's game. I have seen enough of Polanco at SS that I still feel he's fine as the backup. And while I don't mean to disparage anyone, much less a former great Twin, what we need is another Gagne for just a year or two. Simmons was supposed to be that guy but other than the first couple of weeks of 2021, he clearly was not that guy. It would be awesome to sign one of the top FA SS that will be available this offseason. But really, position wise, there is a ton of optimism for the offense in 2022. And $ should be spent on a SP and a couple high quality BP arms to add to the few guys we already have.

Who is a SS we can get to play quality defense and not stink at the plate for 2022?

We have seen Polanco be outstanding. We have seen him injured, depressed, and suspended and everything in between. But we have absolutely seen what a healthy Polanco can do. And despite a few bad plays while still adjusting to 2B on a daily basis, he's looked good to great. And yes, the best of him is still to come.

STOP that Arraez doesn't have a role! Still young, bounced around position to position, he's still growing and learning. He can play multiple positions "OK" and that's fine. He can also be a DH at times. What's wrong with that?

More time at 2B will only make Polanco more comfortable and I wouldn't be surprised if he won not only a Silver Slugger but a Gold Glove,  FWIW. And even more time just gaining experience, I wouldn't be surprised if Arraez turned out to be at least a solid defensive player at multiple positions as well as DH at times. I mean, just be honest, you've seen Arraez make some bad plays. But you've also seen him make some great plays as well.

What the Twins need in 2022 is a quality SS who can just be quality defensively and contribute offensively. Second base is locked in.

Would we rather have Gonzales back at the Utility/Everywhere role?  No thanks.  I like Arraez right where he is.  Ok defense all over and much much better stick.

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