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  • Twins Future Position Analysis: Shortstop

    Cody Christie

    In recent years, shortstop has been a revolving door for the Minnesota Twins. Since Cristian Guzman left in 2004, no player has been the team’s Opening Day starter in three consecutive seasons. During the current 16-year stretch, 11 different players have opened the year as the team’s shortstop. Jorge Polanco is under contract for multiple more seasons, but what does that mean for the future of shortstop in Minnesota?

    Image courtesy of © Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports (Royce Lewis), © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports (Jorge Polanco), Seth Stohs-Twins Daily (Nick Gordon)

    Current Shortstop: Jorge Polanco

    Polanco is signed thru the 2023 season when he would be age-29, but the team has a $10.5 million option for 2024 and a $12 million for 2025. After signing his extension, Polanco rewarded the Twins with a tremendous first half to the 2019 campaign as he hit .312/.368/.514 with 41 extra-base hits in 85 games. He’d be named as the starter for the AL All-Star team, but things have changed over the last calendar year.

    In the second half of 2019, his OPS dropped by nearly 100 points and there have been some defensive concerns throughout his professional career. The 2020 campaign didn’t go much better as he posted a career worst .658 OPS. In each of the last two offseason, Polanco has been forced to have surgery on his right ankle. So, what does this mean moving forward?

    40-Man Options

    With Ehire Adrianza hitting free agency, there’s only one other 40-man option with significant shortstop experience. Nick Gordon was the team’s first round pick back in 2014 and he spent the 2019 season at Triple-A where he hit .298/.342/.459 in 70 games. Unfortunately, he spent much of the 2020 season trying to recover from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He was never able to report to the team’s alternate site camp in St. Paul. By the time he recovered, he spent the rest of the season recovering in Fort Myers.

    While Gordon has shortstop experience, the 2019 season was the first time he spent roughly half his defensive innings at second base. The lack of a minor league season and his battle with COVID-19 really hurt Gordon’s chances to make improvements in 2020. He already turned 25 and he has yet to make his big-league debut.

    On the Farm Options

    Outside of Gordon, there are other shortstop options in the minor leagues including some of the team’s top prospects.


    Lewis has been considered the organization’s top prospect and he spent the entire 2020 season at the team’s alternate site. He struggled through parts of 2019 at High- and Double-A before going to the Arizona Fall League and being named the league’s MVP. Questions have been raised about his long-term ability to stick at shortstop, but he still should be knocking on the door to the big leagues in 2021.

    Lin was picked up on a minor league deal at the beginning of December. He was a former top-20 prospect for the Red Sox before serving in a utility role over the last four seasons. For his career, he is a .223/.298/.316 with 13 extra-base hits in nearly 220 big-league plate appearances. He has also shown the ability to play nearly every defensive position.

    Javier and Holland have taken different routes to this point in their career. Javier signed for $4 million as an international free agent back in 2015, but he has been limited to 130 games as a professional. Holland was drafted out of Auburn University in 2019 after posting an .812 OPS over three collegiate seasons. Both have a chance to reach Double-A next season.

    Cavaco will be one of the more intriguing names to watch on this list since he was a first-round draft pick under the current front office regime. Coming into the draft, he was viewed a late riser, but the Twins liked the tools he possessed. Will the Twins bump him up to Low-A as a teenager?

    What do you think about the future of shortstop in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


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    Holland was a really nice pick...drafted later than expected after a somewhat disappointing season IIRC...but he has a way to go. Cavaco has an even longer climb considering age plus a missed season.


    I may be stubborn, but I refuse to give up on Javier based on tools and age. But can we just have a healthy and actual milb season for him? (Still believe he and Miranda could be a 3B option in the future).


    I honestly can't recall a prospect as "snake bit" as Gordon. Despite some ailments...reportedly determined and under control...he then runs in to injury to de-rail a possible promotion given to Arraez. Now, that looks pretty good so far for Arraez and the Twins. But then, Gordon gets wiped out by Covid for 2020. I still think he has a shot as a future, versatile utility player. MAYBE a starting 2B for someone. There is some offense there and defensive versatility, but I think versatile utility infielder is his calling at this point.


    Two big elephants in the room: 1] How good is Polanco REALLY and 2] How good is Lewis POTENTIALLY.


    POLANCO: Despite being a very good athlete, he just doesn't have the IT factor to be a top SS. But does he have to be? The game has changed! His new throwing motion has allowed for great improvement and he's worked hard on his hands. Shifts have also helped. But his #1 obstacle is just getting healthy and staying that way. Over the past 3 seasons we have seen a HEALTHY Polanco play at least acceptable/solid defense and perform as a borderline elite offensive SS who can be productive in various spots in the lineup. And HOPEFULLY his 2nd ankle surgery will be minor and have him 100% right and ready to go in 2021. Is that a BIG hope? I "hope" not. But if you haven't watched a healthy Polanco over the past few seasons and seen his value, then I can make no valid arguement to you. His future role may yet to be determined. But right now, HEALTHY he's the guy.


    LEWIS: Look, I don't pretend to be an expert on the potential of prospects. But I have to laugh sometimes when others pretend to be. The little I've seen of Lewis defensively is post game footage and a few innings of milb games. Of course, I read reports as well. What I've seen and heard and read is a great athlete who seems to make plays, sometimes great plays, but is still feeling his way a bit. And we should be shocked that a super athletic young 21yo has all the skills and makes amazing plays but is still learning and growing a bit at the position? Please.


    Lewis had an amazing 2018 before being promoted late in the year. Even with an injury affected 2019, the FO saw enough to promote him to AA to finish the year. Fully healthy, he goes to the AFL and plays around the field and ends up garnering the MVP.


    This kid is a top 100 prospect and the Twins #1 prospect for a reason. But that doesn't mean there aren't growing pains and development taking place and that he's ready for a full time gig in 2021.


    At some point, I still think Lewis will be the SS. And I think his debut may be in 2021 as a fill-in, if not more. But if Polanco can be 100%, he is the SS for the next season or two.


    How aweful it would be to try and figure out how to get Arraez, Polanco and Lewis on the field every day with Sano and Donaldson at the corners and even DH.


    Polanco PROBABLY short term before transitioning, and Lewis long term.

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    Always thought Polanco should play 2B. He is over extending himself at SS. His 1st full season he came up w/ sore ankles & still is plaguing him. W/ Donaldson at 3B, Polanco is adequate at SS but          when          Donaldson is down we  suffer tremendously. We need an upgrade at SS & back up position. FO is looking at Hernandez which is finally a step in the right direction which would also help out as a CF back up. 

    I see no future for Gordon w/ the Twins. He has difficulty to adjust to each level he progresses. He`s a light hitting, average at best SS/2B. He could play   average   SS/2B for some MLB team that has the patience for him to adjust to MLB but I hope not the Twins.

    I don't know about Lin. Maybe he could help fill in as utility, he has plenty of experience

    Lewis is the only viable near future in  house        solution to SS. How great he'll be or if he sticks there, time will tell. He's athletic & great baseball sense but many believe he's too young to step in now. I won't disagree more time to prepare won't hurt.

    Getting back to Polanco, they need to take their time       not push him into the line up, let him heal 100%. When he's ready I think        it'd be good idea to keep him at 2B & not utility. It seemed to me especially in the beginning Polanco was insecure in how to deliver the ball, that uncertainty caused a few throwing errors. Playing utility would increase that problem. At 2B he'd be w/o the physically & psychological stress he could be transformed into a gold glove  all-star much like Dozier. 

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    It's Polanco for the short term (and yes, he's just got to stay healthy).  

    It could be Lewis but I've just got a CF vibe on him. 

    But I'd rather Lewis NOT end up in CF if we already have Kiriloff, Larnach, Kepler etc...


    I also do not want to give up on Wander Javier but this is his make or break season.

    He either stays healthy and shows us something or he's history.  

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    As GNess said. Polanco is ideally suited for the super utility role. That would leave short stop to either Gordon or Lewis. But not right away. Start the season with Polanco at SS and Gordon in in the utility role so that Gordon can display what he has. (I mean, after all these years if Gordon can't at least be a good utility guy how will he ever be a position player). Mid season bring up Lewis and add to the mix. Their play will determine their roles but one thing is for sure. The utility player better play a good third base because he could play extended time at a moments notice :(

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    With all the shifts, how do we define the SS position now?  Half the time the 3B must now be in the SS position.  


    It would have been better without the box of slash lines (just kidding) - that was really depressing.  Lewis is the only one and lets hope this was just a down year and his fall stats represent the real player.  I am not excited about Javier and Cavaco - I need to see some production before they make the prospect list for me. 


    And for some reason I think we will see Gordon on the team this year.

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    With all the shifts, how do we define the SS position now?  Half the time the 3B must now be in the SS position.  


    It would have been better without the box of slash lines (just kidding) - that was really depressing.  Lewis is the only one and lets hope this was just a down year and his fall stats represent the real player.  I am not excited about Javier and Cavaco - I need to see some production before they make the prospect list for me. 


    And for some reason I think we will see Gordon on the team this year.

    You bring up a good question about how we define SS... Range used to be one of the most important traits before extreme shifting came into play. Now I don't think range is important as much as it used to be. Arm strength is still a must, since now they're throwing to first base from shallow CF. And frankly, they need to be really good with the bat now. SS is no longer a position for the slick fielding slap hitting guys. 

    Shortstops as a whole in 2020 batted .263/.325/.423 for an OPS of .748. Their BA is the highest out of all position groups, and their OPS was 5th highest. I think now more than ever we need bat first guys who can be shifted into success defensively. Which makes the slash lines in our pipeline very depressing. 

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    I like all the dialogue here.  I think the Twins would need Polanco to fit the utility roll more than Polanco needs it.  He's sufficient when healthy at short.  However, in order for the Twins to keep Jorge's bat, Arraez at 2B, and allow Lewis to blossom, we'll need someplace to put him.


    Then there's the 2B route for Jorge.  I would hate to push Arraez out of that spot.  Jorge may be the better defender there w/more pop, but I truly believe Arraez will be a career .300+ hitter.  Which is more important?


    Gordon...man I keep regretting the Twins not trading him and Gonsalves, and Jay was it, for Gerrit Cole.  Woof.  The poor kid can't keep it together in one way, shape, or form.  I wouldn't hate him getting an opportunity, but I'd prefer utilizing Polanco, Arraez, and Lewis.


    As for Lewis, we're going to LOVE his Torii Hunter-like passion for the game.  He is full of enthusiasm and charisma, not to mention insane amounts of God given talent.  As long as his game continues to improve, he will be our team leader w/a corner locker for a decade.  I'm not concerned about his defense, his work ethic, or intangibles.  I'm concerned about his bat.

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    Having watched Nick Gordon in 2018-19 for the Red Wings, I have serious doubts that he will ever be more than a fringe utility player in the majors. Draft position aside (terrible overreach by the Ryan FO), Gordon doesn’t show great baseball instincts , is far better suited for 2B than SS due to limited range and arm, plus rarely drives the ball . The best scenario for the Twins would be to include him in a package - with the receiving team hoping that a “change of scenery “ will work wonders.

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    Jorge Polanco was the  American League starting shortstop in the 2019 All Star Game. I agree that his ankles have been a real hindrance in his performance, both in the field and at the plate, but unless the Twins doubt his ability to regain the strength needed for a full season he is our shortstop. 

    If there are reports that Polanco is diminished or that his speed or agility is compromised and the evaluator's view of Royce Lewis puts him in the outfield, then Falvine better get to work on a trade (Marte, Story) or signing (Semien).

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    2 things.


    Maybe Palanco is the one we should be trading.


    I don't really think Kike Hernandez is more than a short term fill in at shortstop. He is pretty good defensively at 2B, and the outfield corners. He looks less than adequate at 3B, and stretched at shortstop. And he doesn't hit much. In other words, maybe the same as Gonzalez.


    And if I remember right, he showed some less than stellar defense in last year's World Series at 2B.

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