Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twins must end revolving door at shortstop

It has been a continuous quest for the Twins to solidify their options up the middle. In recent seasons, it has seemed like a revolving door at some key positions on the field and this hasn't been beneficial to the club. One of the most problematic areas for the Twins in recent memory has been their search for a shortstop that could fit into their long-term plans. This search continues and it's hard to see an end in sight.

In the last decade, the Twins have used eight different Opening Day starters at shortstop. The only men to make the list twice in the last decade were Cristian Guzman and Jason Bartlett. Otherwise, it has been a continuous revolving door. In four of the last five seasons, the man to earn the job for Opening Day has failed to start the most games at shortstop over the course of the season.


When the Twins traded away Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza to get Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, it ended a nice run of consistency at shortstop. For the early part of the 2000s, the Twins had Cristian Guzman consistently leading the team at the shortstop position. Bartlett was there to take over after the team parted ways with Guzman. Since that point, it has been a hodgepodge of players at one of the most important positions on the field.

The only year in recent memory with a semblance of consistency at shortstop was in 2010 after the Twins traded for JJ Hardy. He was the Opening Day starter and he led the team in games played at the position. There were still injury concerns with Hardy as he only played in 101 games but it was still more consistent than the last two years.

In 2011, the Twins put a lot of stock into Tsuyoshi Nishioka and this plan failed miserably. He didn't work out at second base and he was even more of a disaster when they moved him to shortstop. After spending almost all of last season being less than mediocre at Triple-A, he went back to Japan. One of the biggest regrets besides Nishioka being horrible might be the fact that the team parted ways with Hardy to make room for their Japanese import.

Last season, the Twins started the year with newly signed free agent Jamey Carroll at shortstop. Brian Dozier was coming off a very good season in the minor leagues after being named the team's minor league player of the year. Carroll didn't exactly hit the cover off the ball so the Twins handed the reigns to Dozier. It wasn't pretty for Dozier either and he ended the year in the minor leagues.

The future of the shortstop position doesn't look to be getting any better in Minnesota. Pedro Florimon looks to have the upper hand at the Opening Day start in 2013 but there is still plenty of time before the Twins face the Tigers. Carroll, Dozier, and others might be in the mix for the starting role but the long-term solution doesn't seem like it will be in camp when the Twins head to Fort Myers.

As far as prospects go, Daniel Santana looks like the next best potential shortstop in the organization. He spent all of last season at High-A with the Fort Myers Miracle. He put together the best season of his professional career by batting .286/.329/.410 with 38 extra-base hits. Levi Michael, the 2011 First Round Draft pick, split time at both middle infield positions for Fort Myers. Baseball America also named him the best defensive infielder in the Twins system.

If Santana or Michael is the long-term solution at shortstop, they are still multiple levels away from cracking into the line-up for the Twins. There is always a chance the Twins could get a shortstop back in a trade this offseason but starting pitching is most likely the priority. At this point, the hope of 2013 looks to be a little bleak.

The revolving door at shortstop needs to stop or the rest of Twins Territory is going to continue to have a sick feeling in their stomach.

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