Entering 2013, few thought the Minnesota Twins would contend in the division or league for a playoff spot and thus, a youth movement—in some capacity—was underway. The Twins opted to start a youngster in centerfield—Aaron Hicks—who hadn’t had an at-bat above Double-A and chose to give the two middle infield spots at second and shortstop to two players who were relatively inexperienced. While it may be sufficient to argue that both Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier earned the starting jobs at both shortstop and second base to start the year, it wouldn’t be sufficient to say that the Twins don’t have other options to fill in at either position.
Florimon’s main competition for shortstop seemed to be Eduardo Escobar over the season’s first few weeks, but Florimon has begun to distance himself in the competition after going on a miniature hot-streak at the plate over the last seven days when Florimon has hit .278 with five hits, five runs, one homerun and four RBI over 18 at-bats. While those are good enough numbers to hold down the shortstop position for the Twins, as sad as that may be, Dozier has started to struggle mightily at second base after getting off to a decent start in April.
Over the last seven days, Dozier has gone 2-16 with two hits and one run, good enough for a .125 batting average. This had led to decreased playing time for Dozier and increased playing time for Jamey Carroll and Escobar. The question I have wondered throughout the early weeks of the season is why isn’t Carroll given a shot to play every day?
Carroll was signed last off-season to be a veteran presence in the Twins’ lineup and a stabilizing force defensively in the infield. What you know you are going to get every time Carroll steps onto the field is hard work, little power, professionalism and average hitting and defensive ability. That consistency cannot be undervalued on a team that is full of inconsistencies. So far in 2013, Carroll is hitting .291 with 16 hits, 12 runs, zero HR and five RBI over 55 at-bats in 18 games played. With the struggles of Dozier at second and Florimon at short, at times, why not give Carroll a shot to earn a starting position?
It is obvious that when Carroll is in the lineup, he is a stabilizing force and can contribute when given the opportunity. On a team that is still, relatively, in the hunt for a playoff spot, there is no need to not play the best players available in order to give your team the best chance to win. In the Twins’ case, I do not blame them for starting Dozier and Florimon because they are both young and they need to prove whether or not they belong in the future plans of the organization; but once the team starting playing good ball and remaining within striking distance of .500 for the majority of April and May, you have to play the best players on the roster in order to remain in contention.
Right now, Carroll is the best option at second for the Twins and deserves to hold down the starting position for the foreseeable future. If and when the Twins fall far enough out of contention that the team begins looking back toward the future through transactions and playing time, then you can return to playing the likes of Dozier and Florimon based on age and future potential alone. I understand that this may hinder the development opportunities of these young players, but why not put the future plans on hold to try and contend in the present?
It isn’t as if Dozier and Florimon have huge and very talented futures in front of them—not saying that they couldn’t be serviceable players, but not star players anyway— because if they did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. Neither have taken the position and solidified it; thus, it is time to give the veteran Carroll what he deserves: more playing time and a starting job.