Twins 2014 positional preview: Shortstop
Mar 25, 2014 at 6:00a ET
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.
Pedro Florimon (.221/.281/.330, 9 HR, 44 RBI in 134 games)
Eduardo Escobar (.236/.282/.345, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 66 games)
2013 IN REVIEW
The shortstop position has been a revolving door for the Twins over the past several years, as no player has held down that job for more than a year or two. In 2012, no player made more than 81 starts at shortstop for Minnesota. In 2011 it was even less stable: the most starts by a shortstop that season was 59. So when Florimon played in 134 games -- including 127 starts -- at shortstop in 2013, it was a breath of fresh air for a Twins squad searching for an everyday shortstop.
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.
Florimon's 2014 spring training didn't exactly get off on the right foot. The 27-year-old Dominican Republic native had his appendix removed in mid-February and missed several weeks as he recovered. It wasn't until last week -- more than a month after his appendectomy -- that Florimon made his Grapefruit League debut. He has now played in five games and is 3-for-14 with two RBI. Though there was initially a chance that Florimon would have to start the regular season on the disabled list, it appears as if he will indeed be ready to go for Opening Day next Monday.
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.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Find a way to get on base. The Twins aren't worried about Florimon's ability to play defense in 2014, as he's demonstrated in the past that he handles shortstop just fine. But he has yet to prove he can hit -- or get on base, for that matter -- at the major league level. His .281 on-base percentage was the lowest in Minnesota's lineup. If he can get on base more frequently in the No. 9 spot, it would help players like Dozier and Joe Mauer at the top of the Twins' order when the lineup turns over.
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