Thursday, November 17, 2011

Could Valencia lose third base?

The Twins made the signing of Jamey Carroll official on Wednesday and now the team should be set at the shortstop position for 2012. The team will enter Spring Training next year with Carroll penciled in as the Opening Day shortstop and the number two hitter in the batting order. There is always a possibility that those plans could change during the course of the early portion of the spring but right now the Twins are heading in that direction.

One interesting proposition involving the infield situation for the Twins was made by Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune. In a blog post from yesterday, he brought up the possibility of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla having a great spring. If that situation were to occur, the Twins could place Nishioka at shortstop and Casilla at second base. That would leave Carroll to man third base in front of Danny Valencia.

Would the Twins move Valenica out of the line-up in favor of these other players?

During his rookie season with the Twins, Valencia helped to solidify his spot at third base with adequate defense and some surprising offensive output. His batting line was .311/.351/.448 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 86 games. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Neftali Feliz and Austin Jackson. With good shortstop play to his left side, he was able to play solidly at third base with a 5.9 UZR.

Valencia struggled on defense last year and he found himself on the wrong side of manager Ron Gardenhire on more than one occasion. That awesome UZR from his rookie campaign plummeted from 5.9 to -6.1 and he committed the second most errors for all AL third basemen. His offensive production also dipped a little from his rookie campaign but the Twins need a right-handed bat with some pop. He offers that option but there have been other players in the past who have been but in the Twins doghouse and never made it out.

During his career, Carroll has actually played more games at third base than at shortstop. But many of those appearances have come as a defensive replacement and not as a starter. Carroll's play at third base might not be much of a defensive upgrade as he has a 0.0 UZR for his career. Last year he logged 77.1 innings at third and the year before he had 156.0 so teams have trusted him there in a limited role. The Twins might have already taken a chance with Carroll so would they also trust him with third base?

Going into next year, it is clear that the Twins want Carroll to take on the shortstop role and run with it. There are always things that can happen to make teams have to adjust their plans. One of these adjustments could be to change the positions of some of the infielders during the season. Carroll's ability to play multiple infield positions is going to be a very welcomed addition for Gardenhire as he is composing his everyday line-up card.

Valencia is safe for now but he better keep himself out of the doghouse... if he wants to keep his job.

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