Thursday, February 16, 2017

Five Position Player Headlines

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports
Man, does it feel good to finally have real baseball news coming out of Florida. At the beginning of the week, Glen Perkins threw off the mound for the first time on his way back from injury. Phil Hughes might turn his removed rib into jewelry.  I also ran through multiple headlines fans could follow as pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Myers. 

Many position players are already in camp but their official reporting date will be this weekend. Here are some headlines to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead.

Sano Starts At Third
Minnesota's attempt to use Miguel Sano in the outfield was a disaster. His offensive numbers also took a dip after tremendous rookie campaign. Sano will start this season as the team's Opening Day third baseman. As a prospect, there were questions about his defensive skills at the hot corner. With Trevor Plouffe no longer on the roster, Sano should get every opportunity to prove he can handle playing on both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to see if he starts to get any reps at first base since Joe Mauer's contract expires after the 2018 season.

Dozier Tries To Replicate
After a huge offensive season, Brian Dozier will try and prove that 2016 was not a fluke. He's been a very streaky hitter throughout his career. Let's not forget that last season he was barely hitting over .200 with five home runs through the season's first two months. I've been critical of Dozier's defense for the better part of two seasons and it's getting late in his career to make some major improvements on that side of the ball. It seems unlikely for Dozier to crank out another 40 home runs but he still can show some improvements by avoiding long offensive slumps and playing better defense.

Young Outfield Pieces
The Twins could enter the year with Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario as their starting outfield. This is a very young outfield core that is lacking in the experience department. Buxton showed some positive improvements in the last month of 2016. Kepler had an up and down rookie year as the league adjusted to him. Much like Sano, Rosario came back to the pack in his sophomore season. If these players can reach their full potential, this group might be the key to leading the Twins back to the playoffs.

Battling For DH and First Base
With Byung-Ho Park clearing waivers last week, this might leave the door open for other players to make the Opening Day roster. Joe Mauer will likely be penciled in to first base or DH for most of the season, Kennys Vargas is an intriguing option after he hit double-digit home runs for the first time at the MLB level. It also sounds like the Twins are interesting in adding a veteran bat and the list includes former fan favorite Justin Morneau. Other players will likely get some at-bats in the DH spot as the Twins try to figure out their best offensive and defensive alignments.

Polanco's Spot To Lose
Minnesota's revolving door at shortstop will likely continue in 2017. All indications are that Jorge Polanco will be given the opportunity to start at shortstop. This would leave Eduardo Escobar as a utility player off the bench. Escobar would be familiar with this role. In each of the last three seasons, he has played the most games at shortstop but there was only one season where he was the team's Opening Day starter (2016). It seems likely for Polanco and Escobar to both get plenty of opportunities this year. However, Minnesota needs to decide if Polanco can handle shortstop as the team waits for other prospects, like Nick Gordon, to develop.

What position player headlines will you be watching this spring? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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