Jump to content
Twins Daily
  • Create Account
  • 2021 Report Cards: Infield


    Nash Walker

    Earlier this week, we handed out grades for eight Twins starting pitchers. The six-month semester is over, and it’s time for Twins report cards. How did the infielders grade out?

    Image courtesy of Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

    Twins Video

    Considerations: 

    • Expectations
    • Projections
    • Results
    • Injury 
    • Leverage/Value
       

    *MINIMUM 200 PLATE APPEARANCES TO QUALIFY*

    JORGE POLANCO
    2021: 152 games, .269/.323/.503 (125 OPS+), 33 HR, 35 2B, 98 RBI, 18% K, 7% BB

    Undoubtedly the brightest star on the 2021 Twins, Polanco ultimately surged after a troubling start. Written off by many following a disappointing 2020 and treacherous April, "Polo" hit .279/.333/.541 with 32 homers and 31 doubles over his last 129 games. He hit a remarkable .333 with a 1.048 OPS with runners in scoring position. 

    Polanco’s outstanding season didn’t offset the overall disappointment of the team but provided positivity and hope in times of need for Twins fans. He is one of the few sure things for 2022. That’s important.

    Polo was a much better second baseman than shortstop, ranking almost dead even in Outs Above Average (OAA) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). It went as well as any could’ve hoped.

    GRADE: A+

    JOSH DONALDSON
    2021: 135 games, .247/.352/.475 (127 OPS+), 26 HR, 26 2B, 72 RBI, 21% K, 13.6% BB

    Donaldson’s season halted before it started when he came up lame while running out a double on Opening Day. His leg horrors had returned, and it once again looked like his season would be significantly compromised. 

    Donaldson indeed dealt with some aliments along the way, but he never again landed on the IL and produced his customary, strong season. He ranked fifth among MLB third baseman in wRC+ (124) and ninth in Win Probability Added (1.45). Defensively, Donaldson was average at third base. 

    The perception of JD’s campaign might differ if he hadn’t started 0-for-18 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Or if he didn’t miss half the season in 2020. All-in-all, he remains one of the best third basemen in the world. 

    GRADE: B

    MIGUEL SANÓ
    2021: 135 games, .223/.312/.466 (113 OPS+), 30 HR, 24 2B, 75 RBI, 34% K, 11% BB

    By the time he got going at the plate, the Twins were out of contention, and many had tuned out. That’s an unfortunate reality, as Sanó was both healthy and productive for the season’s final three months. 

    The streaky nature of Sanó’s game was on full display again in 2021. He was unplayable out of the gate, hitting .157/.271/.381 over his first 40 games. The Twins moved him to a platoon role, and he responded by hitting .250/.329/.500 with 21 homers over his last 377 plate appearances, earning back his starting job. 

    It’s hard to argue that Sanó notably contributed to the team, evidenced by his 0.4 Wins Above Replacement mark at FanGraphs. But finishing with 30 homers after such a brutal start certainly helped his stock

    GRADE: C-

    MITCH GARVER
    2021: 68 games, .256/.358/.517 (140 OPS+), 13 HR, 15 2B, 34 RBI, 29.2%, 12.8% BB

    Like Polanco and Sanó, Garver got off to a brutal start, hitting .161/.212/.387 with 12 strikeouts and two walks in his first 33 plate appearances. And like his counterparts, he quickly turned it around. 

    In 102 plate appearances from April 16th until June 1st, Garver hit .247/.373/.541 with six homers and seven doubles. His walk rate climbed to nearly 17% over that span. Sadly, a brutal injury knocked him out for the next month and a half. 

    Garver returned and was even better, hitting .297 with a .927 OPS over his final 27 games. The Sauce was back as a premier offensive catcher, and he also ranked in the 93rd percentile in framing. 

    GRADE: A-

    RYAN JEFFERS
    2021: 85 G, .199/.270/.401 (83 OPS+), 14 HR, 10 2B, 3B, 35 RBI, 37% K, 7.5% BB

    The Twins thrust Jeffers into an unfavorable role from the outset, with Garver getting the starts against lefties and the rookie left to deal with right-handers. It didn’t go well. Jeffers went 5-for-34 (.147) with 18 strikeouts and three walks in April which earned him a spot on the Saints roster. 

    Called up and handed the reigns after Garver went down, Jeffers hit lefties reasonably well and had some stretches of productivity. The sky-high strikeout rate and lack of consistent walks are both issues, but Jeffers graded favorably on the defensive side with above-average framing. 

    The Twins will likely leave their Designated Hitter hole open for rotation in 2022. This allows Garver and Jeffers to start against lefties, which is a much better plan for the duo than the 2021 misread. 

    GRADE: D+

    ANDRELTON SIMMONS
    2021: 131 games, .223/.283/.274 (57 OPS+), 3 HR, 12 2B, 31 RBI, 13.8% K, 7.1% BB

    The Twins signed Simmons to upgrade the infield defense drastically, a move that looked brilliant at the time. What they didn’t know is that he’d be one of the most extensive lineup holes they’ve had in years. Simmons’ .558 OPS is the lowest by a Twin in over 20 years (min. 450 PA). Simmons entered the season with a career .696 OPS. 

    His defense was close to as advertised. Simmons ranked second to Nicky Lopez among AL shortstops in Outs Above Average (16) and second to Carlos Correa in Defensive Runs Saved (14). 

    Still, it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for a historically bad offensive performance. Simmons went 9-for-20 out of the gate and then hit .212/.265/.258 with 12 extra-base hits the rest of the way. 

    GRADE: D

    NICK GORDON
    2021: 73 G, .240/.292/.355 (79 OPS+), 4 HR, 9 2B, 3B, 23 RBI, 10 SB, 25% K, 6% BB

    Gordon reaching the Twins is a significant accomplishment in itself. He went through a lot to finally land in the bigs, and he earned an extended look down the stretch. Gordon hit .263/.316/.391 with 14 extra-base hits over his first 66 games before going one for his last 21. 

    He held his own at multiple defensive spots, instilling confidence in many that he could fill a utility role for the team in 2022 and beyond. Gordon logged innings at second base, shortstop, third base, centerfield, left field, and right field. There’s definite value in that.

    Gordon’s overall line isn’t fantastic, and he’ll need to draw more walks or strike out less to improve offensively. There’s some power in his bat, he’s great on the bases, and his versatility is tantalizing. 

    GRADE: B-

    2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES
    Starting Pitchers
    Infielders
    Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! 
    Outfielders - Coming Soon! 

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers
    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
    — For The Locked On Twins Podcast, Click Here

     Share


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    Interesting analysis, fun to think about. My biggest question is why Sano got a C-, but Gordon got a B-? I think that might be biased by expectations. Gordon looked better than expected, Sano a little worse. However, for who had the better year, I'd have to go with Sano. Neither one exactly blew the lights out, of course. If Gordon were a top prospect like Larnach I think his grade would have been lower.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Sano is really hard to judge, but the fact that all his hitting came after we dropped out of any potential contention drops him to a D+ for me.  Hitting with the pressure off is not what we want or need.  He will be with us a long time and will be a challenge to judge throughout his career.

    Donaldson did almost everything we asked for so I would put him up to the B+.

    Simmons had a lot of lapses that do not figure in the fielding metrics he was an F for me.

    Where was Arraez - he is not an OF.  He played around the IF, his hitting was down, his fielding not sensational, but he was very usable and would get a C from me. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Again I concur with your evaluations but with Simmons you let outside opinions effect your grading. Defense I grade him at least an A. His range,  understanding of his position and his command of the INF are excellent. His hitting in the beginning of season was very good and towards the end wasn't bad. But the long period after his sickness and lay off, he was terrible. Taking all this into consideration I grade his hitting a D. His base running is pretty good. So I grade him overall a B- . 

    I'm grading strictly by performance, I didn't take into considerations him not playing last year or him being sick and laid off or lack of hitting  instruction to get him back on track. My concern about Simmons (when he 1st came to the Twins) was his ankles. How dependable would he be to keep Polanco away from SS so he could thrive at 2B. He did that, he allowed Polanco to recover and blossom at 2B. Polanco also learned from him.

    Simmons stock is low because of his hitting. If you have any idea about stocks, you don't buy good stocks when they are high but when they are low. Although I was hesitant to sign him last season, I would not this season. His endurance will be better and since they demoted their hitting coach. I'm betting his hitting will return to his prior avg. of .270.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    5 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

    Again I concur with your evaluations but with Simmons you let outside opinions effect your grading. Defense I grade him at least an A. His range,  understanding of his position and his command of the INF are excellent. His hitting in the beginning of season was very good and towards the end wasn't bad. But the long period after his sickness and lay off, he was terrible. Taking all this into consideration I grade his hitting a D. His base running is pretty good. So I grade him overall a B- . 

    I'm grading strictly by performance, I didn't take into considerations him not playing last year or him being sick and laid off or lack of hitting  instruction to get him back on track. My concern about Simmons (when he 1st came to the Twins) was his ankles. How dependable would he be to keep Polanco away from SS so he could thrive at 2B. He did that, he allowed Polanco to recover and blossom at 2B. Polanco also learned from him.

    Simmons stock is low because of his hitting. If you have any idea about stocks, you don't buy good stocks when they are high but when they are low. Although I was hesitant to sign him last season, I would not this season. His endurance will be better and since they demoted their hitting coach. I'm betting his hitting will return to his prior avg. of .270.

    I can't disagree more strongly with this take as it's based entirely upon an emotional attachment. Simmons has posted below average error rates for 3 consecutive years now, his defense graded below average this year, continuing a massive downturn due in part to his speed vanishing and his increasingly clumsy glovework.

    Simmons' sprint speed and 90 foot splits have are now placing him well below MLB average and dramatically lower than typical shortstops. The average MLB shortstop? 28.0 ft/sec. Simmons? Declined from sub-standard peak of 27.5 to 26.2 (slower than Miguel Sano's 26.5 ft/sec).

    His contact rates with the bat have declined 5 out of his last 6 years from 89.1% to 84.6%, his power has declined 4 straight seasons from an ISO of .143 in 2017 to a career low .051 this year and he had 451 plate appearances this year. It's not a small sample size and the batted ball data supports the decline with declines in barrel rate, exit velocity, hard hit rates, line drive rates and corresponding decreases in expected batting average. Even his weak contact rates have increased. The metrics are absolutely across the board.

    His UZR/150 looks like this for the past 6 years: 18.1, 18.5, 19.5, 13.8, 4.0, -1.1.

    Simmons is toast. His career is over.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 10/28/2021 at 1:30 PM, bean5302 said:

    I can't disagree more strongly with this take as it's based entirely upon an emotional attachment. Simmons has posted below average error rates for 3 consecutive years now, his defense graded below average this year, continuing a massive downturn due in part to his speed vanishing and his increasingly clumsy glovework.

    Simmons' sprint speed and 90 foot splits have are now placing him well below MLB average and dramatically lower than typical shortstops. The average MLB shortstop? 28.0 ft/sec. Simmons? Declined from sub-standard peak of 27.5 to 26.2 (slower than Miguel Sano's 26.5 ft/sec).

    His contact rates with the bat have declined 5 out of his last 6 years from 89.1% to 84.6%, his power has declined 4 straight seasons from an ISO of .143 in 2017 to a career low .051 this year and he had 451 plate appearances this year. It's not a small sample size and the batted ball data supports the decline with declines in barrel rate, exit velocity, hard hit rates, line drive rates and corresponding decreases in expected batting average. Even his weak contact rates have increased. The metrics are absolutely across the board.

    His UZR/150 looks like this for the past 6 years: 18.1, 18.5, 19.5, 13.8, 4.0, -1.1.

    Simmons is toast. His career is over.

    The gold glove committee seems to differ with your take as Simmons is a GG finalist https://www.mlb.com/news/gold-glove-2021-finalists

    He was the best defensive SS the Twins have had in at least 25 while wearing the laundry. He's so fun to watch. His offense was brutal, but don't let that tint your judgement of his fantastic defense. He was absolutely a top 5 defensive SS in MLB this past season. Call me old school, but I'll take the tradeoff of offense for defense from my SS. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    3 hours ago, Minny505 said:

    The gold glove committee seems to differ with your take as Simmons is a GG finalist https://www.mlb.com/news/gold-glove-2021-finalists

    He was the best defensive SS the Twins have had in at least 25 while wearing the laundry. He's so fun to watch. His offense was brutal, but don't let that tint your judgement of his fantastic defense. He was absolutely a top 5 defensive SS in MLB this past season. Call me old school, but I'll take the tradeoff of offense for defense from my SS. 

    It's based on DRS/Range Factor. DRS/Range Factor uses total put outs to determine how well a fielder performs, but it assumes players get he same number of opportunities to field balls. That seems pretty reasonable at a glance. The Twins use defensive shifts more than nearly any team in baseball, which puts fielders in position to have more opportunities to field balls than their peers playing the same position on other teams. Since all DRS/Range Factor really cares about is total outs recorded while assuming all fielders get the same number of chances, the shift artificially and sometimes dramatically inflates middle infielder defensive value.

    From a UZR perspective, Simmons was below average, which makes sense based on his average-ish range (slow speed but good reactions) and below average fielding rate.

    Simply put, Simmons' DRS/Range Factors look good because he got more chances due to the high level of shifting than many of his peers in the first place. Just the same way "Wins" once determined Cy Youngs, DRS/Range Factors are a very outdated and problematic metric now.

    Simmons is an average fielding shortstop in swift decline.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

    Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...