The Twins shortstop dilemma

Eduardo Escobar

Eduardo Escobar

In 2014 Eduardo Escobar took over as the Twins regular shortstop in spite of team’s attempts to give the job to a number of other players. Escobar responded by playing well in the field and better than expected at the plate by hitting .275 with 35 doubles and six home runs in 433 at bats. Escobar does not steal many bases, not sure why that is, and his OBP was only .315. Escobar is a fun player to watch and when he plays he seems to make the team around him play better.

This spring the 26 year-old Escobar has the second most at bats of anyone on the team and he is hitting .319 with three home runs and a team leading 14 RBI but his OBP is only .313. What you see is what you get with the popular Escobar, he will never be an on base machine but he plays well in the field and he has some pop in his bat. Although Escobar prefers shortstop, he has also played 3B, 2B, and he can play some outfield in a pinch.

Danny Santana

Danny Santana

The Twins however; seem to have their heart set on Danny Santana becoming the teams regular shortstop. The 24 year-old Santana is also a natural shortstop but the Twins threw him out in to center field last year and he responded well by playing good defense for someone with so little outfield experience and with the stick he was even better with a .319 average and seven home runs, 40 RBI and 20 stolen bases in just 405 at bats at the big league level. When you add in his .353 OBP, primarily from the lead-off spot you are looking at a pretty nice rookie season for the young switch-hitter. I know manager Paul Molitor would like to see his lead-off hitter with a .370 or so OBP but Santana is still very young and he probably will raise his OBP as he matures.

Meanwhile, back in the black hole the Twins call center field no one has stepped up and taken the reins to win the job since the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere after the 2012 season. The team has tried to give the job to Aaron Hicks for the last several seasons and this year he was expected to at least play center in a platoon role but just the other day the team sent him packing to look for a home in AAA Rochester. Everyone knows that center field will be the new home of Byron Buxton in the very near future so the Twins are only looking for s place holder for that role until Buxton shows up to claim his spot. By sending Hicks down the Twins seem to be saying that Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson will share the center field job. Personally, I think that by All-Star time Buxton will be patrolling center field at Target Field.

The Twins claim they want to be a better team, but who doesn’t. I am not sure I understand the Twins logic in playing Schafer/Robinson in center, Santana at short, and Escobar in a utility role.  To me it makes more sense to play Santana in center five days a week and two days a week at short and play Escobar at short when Santana is in the outfield. It seems to me that I would prefer Escobar in the line-up most of the time over a Schafer or Robinson. I understand that Santana needs to continue playing some shortstop if that is going to be his long-term position. I love Santana in my line-up but has he proven he can play short in the big leagues? Not on a long-term basis. Assuming that Buxton really is the knight in shining armor and will coming riding in to Target Field on his white horse before September of 2015 why not get the best sticks in the line-up.

Both Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar deserve and have earned more playing time than Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson and it’s time for the Twins to man up and put their best players on the field. It will be best for the team and for us fans that pay good money to buy the tickets to watch this team play ball.

One things that really bugs me is when Twins management and Twins fans complain that this player can’t do this and he can’t do that. Everyone is always looking for a player with all five tools. What the hell are they thinking? How many five tool guys are there in the big leagues playing ball today? They are rare as hen’s teeth, they are perennial all-star’s and future Hall of Famers, they don’t grow on trees. If you find one each decade you are doing great. Most big league players have flaws, canker sores, warts and other issues. We all have to quit thinking that every player the Twins bring up has to be the next Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Jim Kaat, Johan Santana, or Kirby Puckett.

There is nothing wrong with good baseball players that have some warts. Twins management needs to realize that it is OK for some of these young players to come up to Minnesota with shortcomings in their game that they can improve on and learn from while they earn big league dollars. Not everyone can do it all, so don’t keep waiting on perfection.

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