Monday, June 1, 2015
Shortstop, A Cry For Better Days
Looking at the baseball field as a whole, two positions can lay claim to a higher importance in the field than most; centerfield and shortstop. Both roles act as a field general of sorts and typically are manned by some of the best athletes on the team. Minnesota finds itself in a position where its shortstop ranks amongst the leagues worst in several defensive categories, and is offering little value elsewhere to boot.
After slashing an inflated .319/.353/.472 (mostly due to an unsustainable .400+ BABIP) in 2014, Danny Santana owns a paltry .226/.244/.305 slash line in 2015. He's walked just twice on the season, while accumulating 45 strikeouts. Despite being regarded as a speed threat, he has stolen just four bases while being caught three times (after being caught just four times in 24 attempts in 2014). On the defensive side of the ball, he's made 11 errors (just two in 34 games at SS in 2014), is worth -10 DRS (defensive runs saved), and owns a -5.1 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). All totaled, Santana is currently worth -0.7 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement) after posting a 3.3 value a season ago.
You absolutely had to expect a certain level of regression to hit Santana, his 2014 was otherwordly in context. What he's doing into 2015 however isn't regression. To put it simply, he's fallen off of a cliff. At this point, the Twins are nearing a crossroads where they must make a decision, and there's really only two options to consider. The first comes from within.
Jorge Polanco debuted with the Twins in 2014, making the leap from Single-A Fort Myers. Over the course of five games, he got eight plate appearances and collected a double and triple for his only two hits. This season in Double-A Chattanooga, he's continued his hot streak. The every day SS for the loaded farm team, Polanco owns a .323/.355/.435 slash line. He's hit four home runs, driven in 24 RBI, walked 10 times, and struck out in 30 at bats. His nine errors are somewhat indicative of his arm strength (or lack thereof), and being a better fielder is something he will need to continue to refine (35 errors in 119 games at SS in 2014).
Minnesota could take a long look at a Polanco for Santana swap sometime in the near future, but it may not rectify all of the issues. There's reason to believe Polanco could be a better hitter at the big league level, but he too could cede too many runs for the pitching staff's liking. That leads us to option number two, going outside of the organization.
Looking at what the Twins will do with promotions in 2015 and beyond, there's no shortage of logjams. From players like Polanco and Max Kepler, to pitchers like Stephen Gonslaves and Chih-Wei Hu, the Twins have plenty of other prospects not named Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton. Knowing that they may not be able to advance all of them through the system in it's current state, it may be time to deal some assets for immediate help.
Defensively, shortstop is a position that the Twins need to be sound. You probably need to go back to 2001 Cristian Guzman for a time you could point at the Twins having a true asset at the position. In going for a splash, the Twins could target a player like Andrelton Simmons to fill their vacancy. Not the aged All-Star that Troy Tulowitzki is, and potentially not commanding the same return that the Cubs Starlin Castro may require, Minnesota may find a match.
Undoubtedly, I'm not one to suggest trade scenarios, it's just not something I'm well versed in. That being said, Minnesota could be presented with pursuing that scenario on their own should they deem Polanco not the immediate answer. No matter what happens, the thing that remains most clear is that Danny Santana is not the option to roll with currently.
As the summer draws on and this team jostles for position, it will be in how the next few weeks play out that determine how the Twins position themselves for the stretch run.