In the last two weeks, we’ve reviewed the catchers, the first basemen and third basemen so far, and today we will be looking at the middle infielders in the Minnesota Twins organization. As much as I would like to separate the shortstops and the second basemen, so many of them can (or will or have) played both positions that I will consider them as one group of players.
As it sits today, it appears that the Twins may start the same middle infield combination for the first time in a decade, when Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas were roaming the center of the diamond together.
The Big Leaguers
Unless something happens over the next month or so, Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier will be the Twins keystone combo to start the season. Both spent time as the Twins starting shortstop during the 2012 season and didn’t perform very well. In 2013, Dozier made the transition to second base, and at least defensively, the Twins were strong up the middle.
Offensively, you all know that Dozier got off to a slow start, but at the end of May, he made an adjustment and started producing with the bat. Dozier provided the Twins with 33 doubles and 18 home runs while committing just six errors. Can he keep up his second-half success, maybe even hit for more power?
As expected, Florimon struggled with the bat. He hit just .221/.281/.330 (.611), though he had 17 doubles and nine home runs. Florimon makes his money with his glove. Defensively, his reputation of having great range and a strong arm both proved true. Can the defense overcome the offensive struggles? Can he make some adjustments with the bat?
Eduardo Escobar is out of options, so he is all but assured of being on the Twins roster to start the season. As in 2012, he will most likely be the Twins utility infielder as he can play all three spots pretty well.
The Twins have typically preferred having a second utility infielder. Doug Bernier surfaced last year after last playing in the big leagues in 2008. The Twins also brought back Jason Bartlett, who has not played since May 14, 2012. At 34, he is attempting a comeback. For defensive purposed, James Beresford may be the best option. He just turned 25 and between AA and AAA in 2013 he hit .306/.363/.346 while primarily playing 2B. If I had to pick a favorite of that group to start the season, I would lean toward Beresford, though Bartlett at 100% could make things interesting.
2013 Draft Picks
The Twins drafted four middle infielders in the 2013 draft. Three of those players came from the college ranks. Their first middle infielder they took was in the 11th round, and he came from the prep ranks.
Nelson Molina was the Twins 11th round pick, coming from high school in Puerto Rico. He played for the GCL Twins and it would be fair to say he struggled to start the season. In his first 19 games, he had just one hit in 52 at bats (.019 BA). He hit .193 over the final 17 games. At 6-3 and 175 pounds, there is some confidence his offense will come around. There is more confidence about his glove, and they believe he will be able to stay at shortstop.
In the 18th round, the Twins took Ryan Walker out of UT-Arlington. He hit .267 in 42 games with Elizabethton; he also played in six games with Cedar Rapids. He is a speed player who plays very solid defense, with good range and a strong arm.
In the 30th round, the Twins went with a player they know well. They drafted second baseman Tanner Vavra. The son of Twins 3B coach, Joe, Tanner went to Valparaiso where he hit very well. No surprise with a coach’s kid, but he is a grinder. He hit just .246 in E-Town, but got on base about 36% of the time.
Two rounds later, the Twins went to Cal State-Dominguez Hills shortstop Carlos Avila. He hit just .206 in Elizabethton, and is known more for his glove than his bat.
The Twins top middle infield prospect certainly affects the opening day roster. Eddie Rosario (My Twins Prospect #5) will begin the season with a 50-game suspension. That said, Rosario remains a top prospect because he can hit. After hitting .329/.377/.527 (.903) in 57 games with the Miracle, he hit .284/.330/.412 (.742) in 70 games in New Britain. Brian Dozier’s level of success with the Twins in 2014 may determine whether the Twins keep Rosario at second base or move him back to the outfield.
Jorge Polanco (#6) struggled his first two years of pro ball, but in 2013 in Cedar Rapids, he showed that his 2012 stats an Elizabethton weren’t a fluke. In fact, in a loaded Kernels lineup, he hit third most of the season. Overall, he hit .308/.362/.452 (.813) with 32 doubles, ten triples and five home runs. Polanco split his time between shortstop and second base, though he really only played shortstop when Niko Goodrum was hurt.
Goodrum (#20) had a solid first full season with the Kernels. He plays a very solid shortstop with good range, soft hands and a strong, accurate arm. Offensively, he hit .260/.364/.369 with 30 extra base hits. He has never hit for average, but his career IsoD is .096. He is long and lanky and still growing. He has a nice swing from both sides of the plate and could add some power.
Danny Santana (#15) has shown the ability to hit for average (.297) and steal a lot of bases (30). He is allergic to walking, but he’s got the pop to hit a lot of doubles and triples. Defensively, he has the tools (great range, rocket arm) to be a great shortstop but to this point he has been very inconsistent on the routine plays.
Levi Michael was not in my Top 30 prospects and barely makes the Top 50 after the former first-round pick has struggled two straight years in Fort Myers. In two seasons with the Miracle, he has hit .239/.336/.323. The Rosario suspension could mean he gets pushed to New Britain to start the season. He will be 23 throughout the season.
Aderlin Mejia is another guy who isn’t a Top 30 prospect, but he came out of nowhere to be a likely Top 50 guy. He was supposed to go to Elizabethton, but while at Extended Spring Training, the Miracle had a need. It was supposed to be short-term, but he hit so well (.308 in 75 games), they couldn’t take his bat out of the lineup until a late-season injury.
In each installment, I’ll make my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all this, and that’s why it is important to have more than just two or even three at each level. There are also always players put on the disabled lists. So again, most likely there won’t be four catchers at Cedar Rapids, but this gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
- Minnesota: Pedro Florimon (SS), Brian Dozier (2B), Eduardo Escobar (UT)
- Rochester: Doug Bernier (SS), James Beresford (2B), Eric Farris (UT), Jason Bartlett (UT), Nate Hanson (UT)
- New Britain: Danny Santana (SS), Levi Michael (2B), Eddie Rosario (2B-SUSP), AJ Pettersen (UT), Brad Boyer (UT), Corey Wimberly (UT)
- Fort Myers: Niko Goodrum (SS), Jorge Polanco (2B), Aderlin Mejia (UT),Stephen Wickens (UT)
- Cedar Rapids: Ryan Walker (SS), Logan Wade (2B), Carlos Avila (UT), Joel Licon (UT), Tanner Vavra (UT)
- Extended Spring Training: Jonatan Hinojosa, Engelb Vielma, Nelson Molina, Will Hurt
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.
Then head on over to Twins Daily where there is a tremendous amount of Twins content.
- Parker wrote about defensive shifts, showing that there is more than one way to think about it.
- Jim Crikket wrote about the Minnesota Twins Caravan/Cedar Rapids Kernels Hot Stove event on Monday night with quotes from Paul Molitor, Jake Mauer, Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressly.
- Seth interviewed Twins minor league infielder and 2013 draft pick Ryan Walker. There are several more interviews with Twins minor leaguers lined up in the coming week.
- Trevor May was a guest on last night's Talk to Contact podcast. Great interview!
- Seth was a guest on the Minnesota Sports Weekly podcast last night, breaking down many of the Twins prospects.
- Follow Twins Daily on Twitter, as well as Seth Stohs, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson and John Bonnes.