With the news that Jorge Polanco will miss 80 games this season due to a failed PED test, the shortstop position in Minnesota has suddenly become available. The Twins could try looking outside the organization for help, but they likely knew this suspension was coming and haven’t done anyhting yet. Having already sent down top infield prospect Nick Gordon, it looks like the team is planning to rely on veterans Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, and Erick Aybar (this article should be brought to you by the letters E and A).
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what each of these veterans brings to the shortstop position.
Escobar is a fan favorite, and according to reports, one of the most popular guys in the Twins’ clubhouse (it’s not hard to see why). Escobar has served as a utility guy for most of his career and was expected to serve as Miguel Sano’s primary backup at third base — particularly important should Sano miss time due to suspension or injury. In 2017, Escobar only played 16 games at shortstop for the Twins, but didn’t commit an error in his 45 chances. He’s played 307 games at shortstop in his career, including 98 in 2014, and 71 in each of 2015 and 2016 for the Twins.
While the Twins have never fully committed to Escobar as a shortstop, he has acquitted himself well, with an overall .979 fielding percentage at the position. Last season, his bat was hottest while playing short, hitting .326/.431/.581, which are huge numbers from a traditionally defensive position. The same trend holds true throughout his career: his best offensive position is shortstop. He has hit .277/.322/.437 while playing there.
Adrianza is hitting .290/.333/.484 this spring, and despite his reputation as a glove-first guy, he also put up decent numbers for the Twins last season, hitting .264/.324/.383. He played 29 games at short in 2017, and only committed two errors in 102 chances, good for a fielding percentage of .980. In 75 career games at shortstop, he has a fielding percentage of .976. He hit fairly well when called upon to play short last season, sporting a .312/.352/.429 line, but has only hit .237/.300/.363 when playing there over his entire career.
A newcomer to the organization, Aybar brings a ton of experience, and was signed to provide depth in the Twins infield. The 34-year-old Dominican is a non-roster invite to camp, but Polanco’s suspension opens a 40-man roster spot he could slide into with ease. In 11 games with the Twins this spring, he has been hitting well at .296/.321/.407. He spent ten years as the primary shortstop for the Angels, before splitting 2016 between the Braves and Tigers, and spending 2017 with the Padres. Last season, he played 99 games at short for the friars, committing only nine errors with a fielding percentage of .977. In his twelve-season career, he has played 1337 games at short, and his fielding percentage is .973 overall. As a shortstop in 2017, he hit .238/.303/.356, and in his career he has hit .272/.314/.375 at the position. While the numbers last season weren’t great, if he can mount a bit of a renaissance, he could be an asset for Minnesota in the first half.
In contrast to these veterans, Jorge Polanco played 130 games at short for the Twins in 2017, with a fielding percentage of .964. He hit .260/.314/.416 with 13 home runs. If you take the moneyball approach of replacing the production, not the player, the Twins should be okay with missing their young shortstop. The issue, however, is that at 23 years old, Polanco was a popular breakout candidate for 2018. While the Twins can replace his production, there are questions about how this suspension will impact his development. Furthermore, what was a fairly deep position for the Twins is not just an injury away from having to rely on untested prospects or career minor leaguers.
What do you think is the best shortstop option for the Twins?
This poll is closed
Some kind of mix
Someone from outside the organization
Someone else from the minors