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Twins 2022 Position Analysis: Second Base

The Twins have current and future question marks at a lot of different positions. Second base is not one of them. 

Converted shortstop Jorge Polanco emerged as a star at second last year, and the organization has an abundance of depth behind him – both established big-leaguers and upcoming prospects.

Projected Starter: Jorge Polanco
Likely Backup: Nick Gordon
Depth: Luis Arraez, Daniel Robertson
Prospects: Austin Martin, José Miranda


Last year, the Twins decided to pivot in the middle infield by moving longtime shortstop Jorge Polanco – the 2019 All-Star starter at the position – to second base. The club hoped this relocation would help Polanco stay healthier, rediscover his power swing, and contribute more defensively.

It appears they were correct on all counts.

Polanco went from ranking 19th among all MLB shortstops in fWAR during the shortened 2020 season to ranking ninth among second basemen in 2021. His .349 wOBA was sixth-best at the position, trailing only Trea Turner, Marcus Semien, Brandon Lowe, Jonathan India, and Jose Altuve. That's some great company. He was in even better company when it came to the AL's leaders in Win Probability Added:

  1. Shohei Ohtani
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Jorge Polanco
  4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  5. Salvador Perez

Polanco was a clutch-hitting beast who delivered five walk-offs over the course of the season. He slashed .269/.323/.503 with 33 homers, 35 doubles, 98 RBIs, 97 runs scored, and 11 steals, filling the stat sheet and easily earning Twins Daily's MVP nod. He saw sizable increases in barrel rate, exit velocity, and launch angle thanks to a sturdy base. Following two surgeries and a maddening impact on his game over parts of three seasons, he finally seemed to put the ankle issues behind him.

Defensively, Polanco looked much more comfortable and natural in his new position. Although fielding metrics were mixed, he clearly improved as the year progressed, and there's no doubt that the team's defense benefited massively overall from supplanting him at shortstop with a more viable glove. 

In the event Polanco gets hurt, or needs to fill in at shortstop for a spell, the Twins are well equipped to backfill in his absence. It's possible that second base is the best defensive position for all these players: Luis Arraez, Nick Gordon, José Miranda, Austin Martin, Royce Lewis. The latter two haven't really played there, but as fringy defensive shortstops they automatically qualify.

One could argue this saturation of similar defensive skill sets is less than ideal in the big picture, but in terms of the outlook at second base – which is our specific focus here – it's wonderful.


It's pretty difficult to envision a scenario where second base becomes a problem this year. If Polanco is unavailable, they have so many options to step in. Even if you don't have faith in Gordon, and even if Miranda and Arraez are spending most their time at third base ... you can still fall back on one of the top two prospects in the organization. 

More than depth and contingencies, the question here is really one of true upside. Second base is a strength for the Twins, but how strong can it be?

The answer might come down to Polanco's defensive progression. I mentioned that he looked better at second last year, but metrics don't necessarily match the eye test. FanGraphs had him at negative-1 Defensive Runs Saved, with a -10.5 UZR/150 that basically matches his career mark as a shortstop (-11.0). According to Statcast he was in the 13th percentile for Outs Above Average, ranking 30th out of 37 qualified players.

If Polanco keeps raking, the lack of defensive impact will be tolerable, especially with the Twins being otherwise incredibly strong up the middle. But improving his range and execution – perfectly reasonable with one year of regular experience under his belt – would make him a more balanced player, offsetting any regression at the plate. 


From top to bottom, second base is probably the strongest position in the Twins system. Polanco is controllable at reasonable rates for three more seasons after 2022, through age 31, so he figures to maintain a foothold on the position so long as his feet (and ankles) hold up. 

From there, it's really just a matter of sorting out the youthful depth behind him, which shouldn't be terrible difficult since so many of those players are defensively versatile and capable of ending up elsewhere. 

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Listing just Martin and Miranda at 2B doesn't do the prospect section justice, especially with Steer, Julien, and Severino all profiling as guys who likely end up at 2B. The system sure is chock-full of infielders who can hit but likely are best hidden at 2B, and corner OFs who can hit, but are better off at 1B/DH. 

With Polanco likely staying at 2B through 2023, I'm not sure what happens with the depth of 2B prospects. Gotta hope Miranda can hold his own at 3B, and Martin ends up in the OF, for starters.

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Another "oh yeah, he can play second" is Urshela. Given the need to have Arraez in the lineup and Urshela's stronger defense, is Arraez your everyday third baseman and Urshela your utility infielder? This would also serve to keep Gordon's plate appearances to a minimum, which is probably for the best.

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14 minutes ago, ToddlerHarmon said:

Another "oh yeah, he can play second" is Urshela. Given the need to have Arraez in the lineup and Urshela's stronger defense, is Arraez your everyday third baseman and Urshela your utility infielder? This would also serve to keep Gordon's plate appearances to a minimum, which is probably for the best.

He probably can, but he really hasn't. At all. I was kinda surprised by this when digging for the article. Urshela has started only 3 out of 458 MLB games at second base, and only 5 in the minors, all back in 2018. 

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It will be interesting to see what second base looks like league wide in 2 yrs.  With the shift teams have leaned to putting there least rangy infielder at 2B and it has become a big bat position.

with the ban of the shift next yr does it go back to a SS needed range without the arm.

If so that part will serve the Twins well with  Polanco as well as guys like Gordon and Martin. 

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Lot of good here. The biggest criticism is how much better can it get? Can't be mad about that.

It'll be interesting to see how Polanco does with a new double-play partner, and if there's defensive improvement (hardly an outrageous proposition for a player coming off his first year in MLB at the position who is in the prime of his career to add a little on that side of things) then he should be contending for an all-star spot easily. I'll be interested to see where his BABIP lands at the end of the season; last year he was 25 points below his career average and he'll be an interesting case study to see if it's just a little bad luck or his evolution in approach to put more power into his offensive game. Polanco was also part of the Legion of Slow Starts last season that help doom the team; it'll be very interesting to see how he does out the gate this year. (as a switch hitter, he's even more valuable; you can slot him in wherever you want in the top half of the lineup.) he's a heck of a player and that extension is looking better all the time.

I like the depth at this position, even if a lot of it is coming off players who have failed out (or might fail out) at SS. We have a lot of guys in the system and on the team that can jump in at 2B if Polanco goes down. None of them are likely to match his performance (at least not right away) but that's because Polanco is an all-star caliber player and there aren't very many teams who have those guys sitting on the bench.

hip-hip, Jorge!

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