When spring training began for the Minnesota Twins, one of the intriguing position battles was who would start on opening day at shortstop. The candidates to start at short weren’t exactly all-stars, but the Twins did have a few options to choose from in Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar.
Of all the options, Escobar was the least likely to win the job as he is better suited as a utility infielder off the bench. Carroll would be a sufficient option, but the fact that he is getting up there in age doesn’t help his case for a rebuilding team in search of long-term answers at shortstop. The reason that Carroll won’t get the nod to start on opening day has nothing to do with his skill set because he is definitely the most polished product out of the three candidates. What hurts Carroll is that the Twins need to find out what they have in Florimon or Escobar and out of necessity, will give them playing time to evaluate them.
With Carroll, the Twins know what they are getting and are confident in his abilities. With Florimon or Escobar, there are still a lot of unknown factors that need to be ironed out through more observation and evaluation. What we know about Florimon is that his strength is his defensive ability, but what we do not know is if he can hit at a respectable level over the course of a season.
In 47 career games at the majors, Florimon has a career batting average of .214 with one HR and 12 RBI. While those statistics aren’t very impressive, Florimon’s career fielding percentage is .962 with eight errors over 385.2 innings played. Defensive statistics are the type of numbers that the Twins are apparently trying to focus on because Florimon’s offense doesn’t show a lot of promise. It is probably too early to give up on Florimon’s offensive ability after only 47 games, but he will need to improve drastically if he is to make a significant impact on this team offensively.
It is not unheard of for the Twins to start a player at short solely because of his defensive ability. Heck, the team started Nick Punto and Juan Castro for extended periods of time and neither of them were accomplished hitters by any standard. I have no problem with a team putting a premium on defensive stability, especially at the shortstop position, but long-term I do not know if the team can survive having a shortstop who cannot hit above .225.
With a pitching staff that, currently, has pitchers that will rely on having a superb defense behind them, it is important that the Twins’ shortstop is able to stabilize the position and make few errors. Florimon fits the mold of a player who could hold his own defensively and it appears as if that will be enough for the Twins in the short-term.
The Twins may not have long-term aspirations for Florimon anyway as Danny Santana appears to be the best shortstop in the Twins’ minor league system, but is a few years away from being ready to contribute as an everyday starter in the majors. With that being said, it makes it even more understandable why the team is willing to give Florimon ample opportunities to demonstrate his ability at the majors. This will allow them to get the best evaluation of his skill sets and figure out if he fits into their long-term plans or not.
All in all, the shortstop position may have found their answer in 2013 with Florimon, but the future at short still remains cloudy. Crazier things have happened and even Punto had a couple great years as a big leaguer, so maybe Florimon will be able to have a few good years too. I just wouldn’t count on it if I were you.