Wednesday, March 11, 2015

40-Man Roster Dissection: Middle Infielders

With the emergence of Danny Santana last season, the Twins have a little more confidence in their middle infielders than a season ago. Brian Dozier is coming off a strong season and Eduardo Escobar showed that he could be a very useful member of this team. There are still some questions surrounding this group.

Santana played most of last season in center field so he will be charged with sticking at shortstop. Dozier saw a decline in his numbers during the second half of the year. Escobar finished in the American League's top 10 for doubles and he enters the spring without a starting job. Polanco made his debut last year but it was a big job from High-A to the big leagues.

Brian Dozier
.242/.345/.416, 23 HR, 33 2B, 71 RBI, 112 R, 21 SB
In his age-27 season, Dozier got off to a tear at the beginning of the season to put him in consideration for the All-Star team. He wouldn't make the team but he was asked to participate in the Home Run Derby contest as part of the week's festivities. His hot start put him on pace to become the sixth player in Twins history with a 20 HR- 20 SB season.

Dozier is never going to be a high average guy but he finds a way to get on base and his ability to steal bases continues to improve. One big area of improvement for this season could be his defensive skills. If he can make some big strides on the defensive side of the ball, he could move into baseball's top tier of second basemen. 25-Man Roster Prediction: Yes

Eduardo Escobar
.275/.315/.406, 6 HR, 35 2B, 37 RBI, 52 R
Entering last season, Escobar had never played more than 66 games in a season. He was able to more than double that total and put together some impressive offensive numbers. He knocked 25 doubles in the season's first half and his entire slash-line improved in the second half. Escobar proved to be a valuable member of the team and it will be interesting to see what his role is moving forward.

In 98 of his appearances, he played at shortstop and the Twins are committed to Santana at shortstop so this could mean Escobar will be asked to fill a utility role. His ability to play multiple infield positions will help his cause. It's still uncertain if Santana will be able to stick at shortstop or if the Twins will have to go in a different direction. 25-Man Roster Prediction: Yes

Jorge Polanco
.333/.500/.833, 0 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R
Polanco got a very brief taste of the big leagues last season (8 plate appearances in 5 games) when the Twins found themselves in a little bit of a roster crunch. He became the first 20-year old to debut with the Twins since Joe Mauer back in 2004. Minnesota limited his on-field experience but he finished the season at Double-A which puts him a phone call away from the big leagues this season.

The Twins are going to want to see some continued improvements from Polanco as this season progresses. After splitting time between both middle infield positions during his first four minor league seasons, Polanco played almost 120 games at shortstop. He played under 40 games at Double-A so there's a good chance that's where he'll start in 2015. 25-Man Roster Prediction: No

Danny Santana
.319/.353/.472, 7 HR, 27 2B, 40 RBI, 70 R, 20 SB
Santana's rookie campaign couldn't have gone much better. He hit better than any level during his professional career and he did all of this while learning a new defensive position. In 55 fewer games than Dozier, Santana almost matched Dozier's steal total and fell six doubles shy of his output. A full season with both of these players in the middle infield could be one of the best speed/power combos in the American League.

There are plenty of people that look at Santana's track record and are expected some regression this season. His defensive transition back to shortstop will also be something to keep an eye on. If he is able to play average defense at shortstop and combine that with above average offense, he will be very valuable. It will be interesting to see how long the Twins will be willing to stick with him if his defense isn't up to par. 25-Man Roster Prediction: Yes

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