The sixth installment of the nine-part series previewing each position for the Minnesota Twins takes a look at shortstop. Pedro Florimon held down the job for most of the 2013 season and looks to do the same again in 2014.
Defensively, Florimon wowed for Minnesota and earned the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Although he committed 18 errors at shortstop, Florimon’s UZR (ultimate zone rating) of 4.3 ranked seventh-best among American League shortstops. His 12 defensive runs saved were the most of all AL shortstops. Florimon’s 133 games played at shortstop were the most by a Twins player at that position since 2007, a testament to how unstable Minnesota has been there over the years.
Offense was a bit of a different story for Florimon, who batted just .221 in 403 at-bats. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .611 was easily the lowest of any regular in Minnesota’s lineup and the second-lowest in the AL of all shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances. Though Florimon almost always batted ninth in the Twins’ lineup, his bat was well behind his defense in 2013.
On the occasion that Florimon wasn’t in the lineup at shortstop, Minnesota had a trio of backups who filled in. Escobar started 21 games at shortstop in 2013, while Doug Bernier made 12 starts late in the season. Jamey Carroll made two starts at shortstop before he was traded to Kansas City in August.
Along with second baseman Brian Dozier, Florimon helped make up a middle infield that contributed to the Twins turning a major league-high 178 double plays. Minnesota feels confident once again in the middle infield defense and Florimon has a chance to establish some consistency at a position that has lacked it in recent years. Like he was last year, the light-hitting Florimon will likely be the Twins’ No. 9 batter in the lineup.
It’s likely that Escobar will break camp with the Twins out of camp and earn a spot as a utility infielder. While he’ll also fill in at second and third base, Escobar has spent more time at shortstop (51 big league games) than any other position.
There’s also an outside chance that veteran infielder Jason Bartlett makes the team, although it appears a long shot at this point. If Bartlett is on the roster, he’s another backup option at shortstop. The 34-year-old Bartlett was almost exclusively a shortstop during his previous nine years in the majors.