Should the Twins continue to stand by young Danny Santana or turn things back to Eduardo Escobar? Should they look outside the organization for an option, or should they take a shot and hand over the job to Jorge Polanco?
Let’s start by considering the internal options.
A year ago, Santana was a surprise call-up to the Twins. He stuck and shocked most who had paid any attention to his minor league statistics. He hit .319 and showed good power to go with his speed. Of course, he played primarily centerfield instead of shortstop and finished seventh in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
To call his sophomore season a slump would be kind. For the most part, 2015 has been a disaster for Santana. As I went to look at where his statistics compare to other MLB second baseman, I hit a wrong button and ended up with a report that showed me 248 players with 200 or more plate appearances. It was ranked by WAR and guess who came in at the bottom of the list? That’s right. Danny Santana’s -1.7 WAR is worst in baseball. 247th on that list was Jimmy Rollins at -0.9 WAR.
Put another way, if the Twins had gone with a replacement level player such as Doug Bernier or Argenis Diaz instead of Santana this season, they likely would have had significantly better production from the shortstop position.
Among 29 shortstops with over 200 plate appearances in 2015 Santana ranks last with a .241 On-Base Percentage and his .547 OPS. His .306 Slugging Percentage ranks 27th of 29, while his .221 Batting Average comes in at 26th.
Santana came into the season with the full support and backing of Terry Ryan and Paul Molitor. They wanted to give the 24-year-old every opportunity to improve. As late July approaches and the Twins remain a legitimate playoff hopefully, it’s hard to imagine he has too much more rope.
One other consideration is that Santana is out of options in 2016.
Last year, as a 25-year-old, Eduardo Escobar earned the Twins starting shortstop job. In fact, many would argue that he did enough to have been handed the gig in 2015. Of 32 shortstops that accumulated 300 plate appearances in 2014, Escobar ranked 21st with a 1.1 WAR.
All spring, Escobar said the right things, but he had to be disappointed to return to a utility role. He has played in just 18 games at shortstop this year, less than Eduardo Nunez. Meanwhile, he has inexplicably played in 32 games in left field, including 27 starts. He has been average, or slightly below average at both positions.
After hitting .275/.315/.406 (.721) with 35 doubles and six home runs a year ago, his bat hasn’t taken off this year either. He is hitting .254/.284/.400 (.684) with 19 extra base hits. Although not great, it would be around average for an MLB shortstop.
Polanco’s Major League stat line looks pretty impressive. He has hit .333/.500/.667 (1.167). Of course, that’s just 12 plate appearances though.
Signed for his glove work as a 16-year-old in 2009, Polanco’s offense has been what has carried him to AAA and those short stints with the Twins. He played in 67 games with Chattanooga this season and hit .301/.347/.409 (.755) with 14 doubles, two triples and four home runs. Upon his promotion to AAA Rochester, he has hit .298/.317/.351 (.668) in 14 games.
The issue with Polanco at this point looks like his ability to play shortstop. He had 16 errors and a .939 fielding percentage in AA. He has seven errors and an .865 fielding percentage in 14 games with the Red Wings. However, it is important to note that he had six errors in his first six games for Rochester.
Do the Twins need to look outside for a shortstop option? Head over to Twins Daily to read about four possible shortstops who could be on the Twins radar.