This season has been full of ups and downs - mainly downs, honestly - but two of the ups have been the performances of a pair of shortstops on the roster. Well, one of them is supposed to be a shortstop, but the presence of the other has moved him to another position on the field. Eduardo Escobar got off to a hot start this season and while he's been cooling down a bit, he's still on the leaderboard for doubles this year. The other is Danny Santana, who I don't think anyone predicted to play a huge role this season but has been hitting over .300 ever since his midseason call-up.
Because of these two, it seems like the Twins are set at shortstop for the 2015 season. Even better, it doesn't seem like a Pedro Florimon situation from last year, where he is a good defender but hit only .220 with little power, and quickly showed this season that 2013 may have been his ceiling. Between Escobar and Santana, there's no way that shortstop will be a black hole next year, right?
Here's the thing, though. Santana and Escobar have been extremely lucky hitters this season. The stat batting average on balls in play (BABIP), or the batting average when not striking out or hitting a home run, is extremely favorable for both Santana and Escobar. The major league average always hovers around .300, so typically if a player is significantly above or below that mark, he can be considered either a lucky (if above .300) or unlucky (if below) hitter.
Santana has a BABIP of .393 this season while Escobar is at .349. Therefore, we can say that both have been lucky hitters. Granted, there is a bit of a caveat as well. Some hitters can actually consistently be lucky or unlucky based on the type of hitter he is. If the player hits plenty of line drives (Joe Mauer) or is a groundball speedster (Ben Revere), he can run a very high BABIP over multiple years. Meanwhile, a player that hits tons of fly balls (Brian Dozier) or is a slow runner (Jose Molina) will consistently have a low BABIP.
In Santana's case, he's been a combination of Joe Mauer and Ben Revere this season. He's hit tons of liners while also displaying his speed to beat out infield grounders, and has actually posted high BABIPs in the minors as well. Still, a .393 BABIP is simply unsustainable, simply because the qualifying league leaders in BABIP are more in the .360 range. I saw someone in a Twinkie Town comment thread a few days ago say that he felt Santana could stick around a .360 BABIP, but considering that would be among the best for a full season, I'm not as confident. I'd definitely expect something more around .320 or .330 for Santana, and that would translate to a ~.275 batting average, which is certainly still above-average for a shortstop.
As for Escobar, his BABIP is a bit more sustainable at .349, but at the same time it's extremely high for him. The last two seasons, his BABIPs were under .280. Yes, he's been hitting more line drives this season, but his minor league numbers suggest he shouldn't be hitting this well.
There is always the possibility that they're still improving as hitters as Escobar is 25 and Santana is 23, but I still prefer to err on the side of caution. I personally would prefer that the Twins sign a shortstop this offseason to push Escobar into a reserve role and Santana back into the minors for 2015. Hanley Ramirez is a pipe dream, but I think Asdrubal Cabrera or J.J. Hardy could be a reasonable yet slightly expensive acquisition for the Twins. If Escobar or Santana happen to prove that this season wasn't a fluke, well then that's an excellent problem for the Twins to have. However, I fear that the Twins are complacent with Escobar and Santana at shortstop for next season. It's not the move I like, but if it works out, I promise you I'll be writing another article midseason next year about how I was wrong.
What do you think? Should the Twins find an expensive but proven commodity for shortstop next season, or should they stick with the risky but cheaper option?