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Twins Future Position Analysis: Shortstop


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This winter, one of Minnesota's most significant question marks is who will be taking over the team's shortstop duties in 2022. Will there be a veteran signing? Or will a prospect take the reins?

Current Shortstop: TBD
If the season started today, Jorge Polanco might be the team's only option at shortstop. Minnesota doesn't want to move Polanco back to shortstop, so they need to add a veteran shortstop when the lockout ends. Carlos Correa and Trevor Story are two of the top available free-agent options, but it will take a ton of money to sign either of these players. Other players like Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar are options on much cheaper deals to be placeholders to some of the team's top prospects

40-Man Roster Options
There are defensive question marks around both of the team's shortstop options on the 40-man roster. A former first-round pick, Nick Gordon played shortstop throughout his professional career. However, the Twins were hesitant to use him at that position throughout his rookie campaign. In 73 games last year, Gordon made eight starts at shortstop. He posted a .647 OPS with 10 steals in 11 chances. He has the opportunity to fill a utility role with the club, but being the team's starting shortstop seems out of the question. 

Royce Lewis could very well be the organization's shortstop of the future, but there have been questions about his defensive position throughout his professional career. He may have been able to put some of those questions to rest in 2021, but a knee injury leading into spring training cost him the entire season. The last time Lewis was on the field, he was winning MVP in the Arizona Fall League, but that was coming on the heels of a season where he posted to a .661 OPS. 

On the Farm Options
Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's shortstop depth. Minnesota has multiple shortstop options populating the rosters throughout the minor leagues.

With Lewis working his way back, Minnesota has another top-prospect in Austin Martin in the upper minors. The Twins acquired Martin as part of the Jose Berrios trade, and he posted a .796 OPS in 93 Double-A games last season. Like Lewis, there are questions about his future defensive home as the Twins used him at shortstop and center field. At this point, it seems most likely for him to be an outfielder for the long term.  

Wander Javier is another familiar name to many Twins fans as he has been in the organization since he signed in 2015. At one point, he was considered one of the organization's top prospects, including being on Baseball America's Top-100 list leading into 2018. However, he has struggled through injuries and poor play as he moved up the organizational ladder. Last year at High-A, he hit .225/.280/.413 (.693) with 37 extra-base hits and 141 strikeouts in 96 games. Minnesota left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, and a rebuilding team could take a flyer on him as a utility option. 

Will Holland played all of the 2021 season at Low-A, where he was 1.7 years older than the average age of the competition. He combined to hit .214/.336/.401 (.736) with 26 extra-base hits. Joining Holland at Fort Myers was former first-round pick Keoni Cavaco, who combined for a .598 OPS in 60 games. Holland should move up to High-A while Cavaco seems likely to return to Low-A.

There are multiple teenage options in the organization's rookie leagues too. Noah Miller was the 36th overall pick in 2021 out of high school in Wisconsin. He played in 22 games for the FCL Twins and hit .238/.316/.369 (.685) with six extra-base hits. Danny De Andrade and Fredy Michel were both 2021 international signees that made their professional debuts in the Dominican Summer League. In 50 games, De Andrade hit .264/.340/.348 (.688) with 14 extra-base hits, while Michel posted a .583 OPS with 62 strikeouts in 43 games. 

Overall, Minnesota has question marks at the big-league level and with it's two biggest prospects. What do you think about the organization's shortstop depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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If you have lots of shortstop candidates you probably don't have any sure fire shortstop candidates.  I wouldn't mess with success and move Polanco back.  I think the Twins will sign some cheap free agent, maybe Simmons again who is still a very good defensive shortstop, and his lack of hitting wouldn't be a big deal this year anyway as with no pitching staff it will be a rebuilding year despite the unwillingness of the front office to man up and admit to that fact.  With young pitchers, I would make sure that I had an excellent defensive shortstop to aid their development.  My recall is that Lewis was playing a lot of centerfield in the AFL, which may indicate that the Twins have real concern about his ability to play shortstop at the major league level.  On the other hand, maybe they were just preparing for the expected departure of Buxton in the future, or for the possibility that injuries might derail his career.  I think all of us will be watching to see how Lewis does in the minors this year.  That might be more fun than watching the Twins.

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12 minutes ago, RJA said:

If you have lots of shortstop candidates you probably don't have any sure fire shortstop candidates.  I wouldn't mess with success and move Polanco back.  I think the Twins will sign some cheap free agent, maybe Simmons again who is still a very good defensive shortstop, and his lack of hitting wouldn't be a big deal this year anyway as with no pitching staff it will be a rebuilding year despite the unwillingness of the front office to man up and admit to that fact.  With young pitchers, I would make sure that I had an excellent defensive shortstop to aid their development.  My recall is that Lewis was playing a lot of centerfield in the AFL, which may indicate that the Twins have real concern about his ability to play shortstop at the major league level.  On the other hand, maybe they were just preparing for the expected departure of Buxton in the future, or for the possibility that injuries might derail his career.  I think all of us will be watching to see how Lewis does in the minors this year.  That might be more fun than watching the Twins.

Someone can correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe Lewis' AFL team had three top prospects who were all shortstops.  Lewis may have been the most suited to play center, thus, spent most of his time there.

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I am not excited about the SS market and the Twins willingness to sign one of the two remaining big names, but I did not see Donaldson being signed either.  They could surprise.  If not experiment with Lewis, Gordon and Martin rotating in and out.  I think I am like most fans and don't expect 2022 to be a success so I think it is a good year to try out various options - SS and Pitching and get ready for 2023. 

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Is it wise to assume that Polanco’s success at the plate is explained by his move to 2B? Isn’t it more likely that he is following a common career path? Through age 27 lots of players have their best season at the plate in that age 27 season.

Polanco at SS and Arraez at 2B gives them a middle infield foundation for a very good line up. I would feel pretty good about the middle infield with those two starting and Martin and Lewis near ready.

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SS is a position similar to catcher.  Very rarely will you have a top defense guy that can also hit elite.  You normally need to find the balance between offense and defense.  Personally, I would let Martin and Lewis fight it out for SS in whatever spring training looks like. 

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I'm surprised that Palacio wasn't mentioned. Although he's not ready, he provides an interesting option since returning to the Twins, he rediscovered his hitting. IMO none in house options are ready. Via FA I like Story or Simmons, depending how much $ we can spend. Trades are trickier to find because any extra SS out there, are rightly loved and kept to play 3B, 2B or sub at SS. Like CF, good SSs are in high demand and hard to find.

We thought that we had a log jam in the past at SS because very few SS prospects are true SS and make it to the MLB level. It's insane to consider to return Polanco to SS and Arraez at 2B. Not only will we have defensively the worst midfield duo in MLB, we'll see Polanco's ankles digress and we'll see his offensive #s plummet also. Returning to past mistakes is not a solution in any circumstance.

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51 minutes ago, roger said:

omeone can correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe Lewis' AFL team had three top prospects who were all shortstops.  Lewis may have been the most suited to play center, thus, spent most of his time there.

Good comment.  But, three players were listed at shortstop on the AFL roster, but Brujan, a Rays prospect, played more 2b than ss during the 2019  minor league season.  He was not regarded as a ss prospect, and actually is listed as a second baseman and outfielder by the Rays.  Perdomo, the other player listed as a ss played 40% of his games at AFL at 2b.  Lewis, on the other hand, one of the highest rated (at that time) shortstop prospects in the minors, played only one game at short, while playing 12 at 3rd, 5 in center, 5 in left or right, and 4 at second.  There is no way that this breakdown of games would have occurred without the Twins knowledge and support.  You wouldn't send your number one prospect to the AFL and have them play him all over the diamond unless you wanted that to happen.

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Question, can the Twins afford to have Gordon, Lewis, Martin and Palacios on the 40 man, by afford I mean will it work with the talk about how the will use the pitching staff?

Lewis and Gordon are already on, it seems like moving Martin and/or Palacios on might mean cutting Gordon/Rocker or a pitcher they like?

How many SS can they have on the 40 at one time?

 

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I would like to see Twins trade Miguel Sano for Jean Segura. Each have one year left on contract. If DH approved in National league this would be good for both teams. It WOULD cost an extra $5 million or so in next years salary, but he would be a great fit. It would also open up first base for Kirilloff, which is where he belongs. 

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Two questions the Twins need to ask: Who of their prospects can play shortstop. If they can't play shortstop (ala Polanco and Gordon), then what position do you see them mplaying and do they fulfill the needs of that position. Are Martin & Lewis corner outfielders now that Buxton is contracted out in center. If so, are they better choices than, say, Wallner and other outfielders in the system.

 

Where do they play if Polanco is still the 2B, and you still have Arraez needing to play somewhere. Are eitehr third basemen, and where does that put Miranda in the prospect game of things.

 

Do you still try and market any as a shortstop and play off trade value to fulfill any of your needs.

 

Second: WHo plays where in 2022. If Palacios is still a promising shortstop, does he start in the position in St. Paul. How do you work Martin & Lewis into the position at AAA ball. Does Palacios go back to Wichita, does Lewis start at Wichita. Do you advance Javier to Wicihta for one last glorious look to see if this youngster can pan out as a prospect to add to the 40-man at the end of the 2022 season?

 

So, do the Twins have an abundance of players who can play shortstop, but do you really want them to play shortstop. If Martin & Lewis are out of the picture, you sign someone for 2-4 years and hope the next wave of prospects will be what you need.

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I often think that the Twins don't deserve their fans. By passing on every viable FA pitcher (most of them signing for reasonable money in the current context) and a bountiful SS free agent class, the Twins can say what they like, but 2022 is a lost year. The Berrios trade was a harbinger in retrospect. He wanted Cole money, blah, blah. The reasonable question that John Bonnes posed a few weeks ago, "would you rather have the prospects and $20 million a year to spend?" seemed apt at the time. Now, you just have the the prospects. There is no one left to sign if you were so inclined. The store is closed; move on.   

There is no sense in putting Polanco back at short. I thought they might want to grab Galvis but he voted with his feet. Resign Simmons or someone of that ilk cheaply and rotate Lewis through to see what you have (I suspect not much as far as shortstop viability) and pray for a copious amount of rain.

I am not much of a hockey fan but the Wild had a bold and audacious plan in re-tooling the team and its already working. The Twins seem adrift, content to sell over-priced hot dogs and warm beer.

On a brighter note, its only a few weeks until Bailey Ober and catchers report for spring training. 

 

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Knowing that Correa is way too much money for the Twins, there are a couple moves the front office could make. If the Twins could sign Story and Carlos Rodon, they could then make a trade for another pitcher and set themselves up to make a run in a year or two when some these pitching prospects finally become big league pitchers they are supposed to be

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If Lewis was playing mostly CF in the AFL with the full support and encouragement of the Twins, I wonder how much of that had to do with the uncertainty of Buxton's contract situation. In any event, good hitting, good fielding shortstops are freaks. There just aren't many out there. And in the case of Lewis and/or Martin, to be good at any position they're just going to need experience and instruction. If the Twins think they have the physical ability to play shortstop, then they need to keep sending them out there, even if it means poor results in the near term.

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23 hours ago, jorgenswest said:

Is it wise to assume that Polanco’s success at the plate is explained by his move to 2B? Isn’t it more likely that he is following a common career path? Through age 27 lots of players have their best season at the plate in that age 27 season.

Polanco at SS and Arraez at 2B gives them a middle infield foundation for a very good line up. I would feel pretty good about the middle infield with those two starting and Martin and Lewis near ready.

Is it wise to assume that Polanco's success at the plate is not explained by his move to 2B?

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6 hours ago, RJA said:

Good comment.  But, three players were listed at shortstop on the AFL roster, but Brujan, a Rays prospect, played more 2b than ss during the 2019  minor league season.  He was not regarded as a ss prospect, and actually is listed as a second baseman and outfielder by the Rays.  Perdomo, the other player listed as a ss played 40% of his games at AFL at 2b.  Lewis, on the other hand, one of the highest rated (at that time) shortstop prospects in the minors, played only one game at short, while playing 12 at 3rd, 5 in center, 5 in left or right, and 4 at second.  There is no way that this breakdown of games would have occurred without the Twins knowledge and support.  You wouldn't send your number one prospect to the AFL and have them play him all over the diamond unless you wanted that to happen.

It was about AFL roster rules. The Twins had no ability to send Royce as a SS because there is a position draft of sorts. Each AFL team is comprised of prospects from 5 ML teams. The player development directors from each of those 5 teams have a draft that determines which team gets to send players for which position. Otherwise you'd end up with teams with 1 catcher, 6 SSs, 5 CFers, 0 3B or whatever. So the SS spots were already taken and the only way the Twins could send Royce was to have him play other positions. 

Brujan isn't a SS anymore because Tampa has some kid named Wander playing there, but Tampa is full of guys who can play SS at the ML level, but won't because of a numbers crunch. Kind of the opposite of the Twins who have a ton of guys who can play the corners and very few up the middle. 

Lewis spent pretty much all of 2020 at the alternate site working at SS. The AFL position breakdown shouldn't be read into more than the Twins got the short end of the stick with the position draft.

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6 hours ago, Craig Gross said:

I would like to see Twins trade Miguel Sano for Jean Segura. Each have one year left on contract. If DH approved in National league this would be good for both teams. It WOULD cost an extra $5 million or so in next years salary, but he would be a great fit. It would also open up first base for Kirilloff, which is where he belongs. 

That's a very intriguing idea right there.

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I doubt that the Twins will be in the sweepstakes for Story or Correa. The Twins need a relatively sure thing to be at least a placeholder for in-house options Martin and Lewis (perhaps Palacios) and then they need to determine anyone of those candidates profile as an everyday shortstop, starting with what we hope will be some sort of normal spring training. 

With whoever they have slated for starting at shortstop, it would beneficial if he could transition into a utility player if Lewis/Martin shows he that they are ready. I have thought Jonathan Villar might be a good fit and I imagine there are some trade candidates who would fill the bill for the club. 

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11 hours ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

Question, can the Twins afford to have Gordon, Lewis, Martin and Palacios on the 40 man, by afford I mean will it work with the talk about how the will use the pitching staff?

Lewis and Gordon are already on, it seems like moving Martin and/or Palacios on might mean cutting Gordon/Rocker or a pitcher they like?

How many SS can they have on the 40 at one time?

I think there is room for those 4 guys, especially since Gordon won't be playing much SS, and I don't see Martin as a viable SS. They already have quite a lot of pitchers, and a handful of mediocre ones if they need to open up 40 man spots.

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I'm sure Seth or someone else could correct me on this, but in regard to Lewis in the AFL, I think teams can designate a position preference for a couple of their players assigned. I may be remembering incorrectly, but am thinking that is the case. Regardless, Lewis struggled with some nagging injuries during 2019 but was still promoted about mid season before his trip to the AFL where his bat came alive and he earned MVP.

I don't pretend to know Lewis's future at SS defensively. I know he has the arm strength and athleticism to play the position. I have seen a few ST games where he looked fine. And I've seen some hilight plays that looked outstanding. And if you can make those plays, then you should have the ability to make the routine plays as well, even if you are a little rough around the edges. And after positive "reports" of Lewis out of the secondary site in 2020, I'm still on his bandwagon. I think the Twins are as well. But I dismiss any notion he's ready for some early audition for 2022.

Martin is a different story. He's a great athlete with a bat and decent speed and power potential who has been given a shot at SS because of his athleticism. I say "go for it" and give him a shot! He may surprise! At worst, he may be a fill-in. 

I do think it's a mistake to leave Palacios out of the conversation. He re-discovered the ability to hit and added some extra pop on his return to the Twins system. 

Other than that, this is the weakest position in the system to be sure. The "good news" is that there are some still very young options in low A that have a chance to take a step forward in 2022. Looking at you Cavaco and Javier in particular.

I'm willing to Howard a pass for now as 2021 was his first year of pro ball.

The one guy I'm really interested in is Steer. I'm not expecting him to suddenly morph in to a legitimate daily SS, but he's been playing the position. Could he handle it on an occasional basis as a utility player? If so, it adds even more to his future value.

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The Twins have lots of "potential" SS's but nobody who profiles as a clear cut SS (other than Palacios).  I like Story as an option to spend some of the money that should be burning a hole in the FO's pocket, and I also like Rodon for that same purpose.  However, I think the Twins should be considering the trade market heavily for SS and SP's.  With Miranda set to replace Arraez in his role (and Gordon as well) Arraez is a great trade chip to accomplish filling some of the holes the Twins have.  it's NOT that I WANT to trade Arraez.  It's that he's a good ballplayer at a position or "role" that we have a high degree of redundancy who could bring the Twins back "quality" in areas where they need not only quality but "quantity" as well.  The Segura idea is also interesting.  

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Yes indeed it does feel as though the Twins are adrift.  Like always, they pass on the mid to high end free agent pitchers letting them sign elsewhere while Twins wait for the dumpster diving.  We better hope those prospects turn out to be good.  We traded our best pitcher and at the time our best hitter for these prospects.  Some will make the team by default.  However a couple of them need to be good considering what we gave up 

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15 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

It was about AFL roster rules. The Twins had no ability to send Royce as a SS because there is a position draft of sorts. Each AFL team is comprised of prospects from 5 ML teams. The player development directors from each of those 5 teams have a draft that determines which team gets to send players for which position. Otherwise you'd end up with teams with 1 catcher, 6 SSs, 5 CFers, 0 3B or whatever. So the SS spots were already taken and the only way the Twins could send Royce was to have him play other positions. 

Brujan isn't a SS anymore because Tampa has some kid named Wander playing there, but Tampa is full of guys who can play SS at the ML level, but won't because of a numbers crunch. Kind of the opposite of the Twins who have a ton of guys who can play the corners and very few up the middle. 

Lewis spent pretty much all of 2020 at the alternate site working at SS. The AFL position breakdown shouldn't be read into more than the Twins got the short end of the stick with the position draft.

Thanks for responding. You are right about the draft, but conversation does occur about how players will be utilized, I know that for a fact.  And, Brujan was playing second base in the minors full time even in the year that Wander was 17 years old and playing in rookie ball, so they didn't just suddenly switch him to second once Wander became "Wander", he was a second baseman during his whole career with the Rays.  Also, if you check the 2019 AFL roster you will note that Lewis is listed as a shortstop.  I don't think it was the short end of the stick that got the Twins, I think they were comfortable having Lewis stretched out just to see what type of position flexibility he had.

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Even if moving Polanco to SS does not affect his offensive production (which is a perfectly reasonable assumption), it would be a significant downgrade at SS and 2B defensively from last year.  Would that be wise with the mediocre-at-best pitching staff we are presumably going to have?

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