Monday, February 20, 2017

Twins Blunder Polanco's Development

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Shortstop has been a revolving door for the Twins for the greater part of the last two decades. Minnesota is set to enter the 2017 season with Jorge Polanco as the newest member of the Opening Day shortstop club. As I wrote about last week, the spot is Polanco's to lose.

However, the Twins blundered with Polanco's development during the 2016 season.

Throughout his professional career, Polanco has played over 3300 innings at shortstop. Unfortunately, he didn't play an inning at short to start the 2016 season. Before being called up in July to take over the Twins shortstop role, he started 64 games at second base and two games at third base.

Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked about Polanco's handling during the 2016 campaign. He told the Star Tribune, "I wish I had a better explanation for you. But I think myself, a lot of other people, realized we didn't handle it the right way."

To be clear, this shouldn't be something Molitor has to worry about or apologize for in the press. His job is to run the major league squad on a daily basis. There would be reports coming from the minor league level but a directive for positioning of players would need to come from the front office.

As the Twins were getting close to calling-up Polanco, the team was also in the midst of firing general manager Terry Ryan. It was also nearing the trade deadline where the Twins would make multiple moves. Polanco's positioning at Rochester might have got lost in the shuffle but this still shouldn't be an excuse for it falling through the cracks.

Polanco isn't a perfect shortstop. There are questions about his arm at the position and if he has the range to make all of the necessary plays. In over 400 MLB innings last year, he committed 11 errors in 189 chances (.942 FLD%). This fielding percentage was 10 points higher than his professional average.

Some of his defensive flaws at shortstop came out in some of the other defensive metrics. Defensive runs saved (DRS) had him at -8 runs below average. Ultimate zone rating (UZR) was even lower as it put him at -10.9 runs below average. These numbers will obviously need to improve for him to stick at shortstop throughout the coming season.

There are benefits of having infielders that are versatile. However, it also helps for players to get as much experience as possible at the position that could be their ticket to the big leagues. Polanco was in his age-22 season and he lost half a year of development at shortstop.

Polanco's 2016 season might have included an organizational gaffe but spring is a time to turn the page. The Twins might have blundered but he will get every opportunity to prove he can stick at shortstop.

Who's to blame in the Polanco blunder? Should Molitor have been monitoring more of the minor leagues? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

1 comment:

TT said...

This is really pretty simple. Polanco isn't a shortstop. He is playing there only because he is blocked at second base. What it does show is a lack of clear communication between the minor league development side and the major league manager. The manager had Polanco on the depth chart at shortstop, player development didn't.