Sorting Out the Middle Infield

With the free agent departure of Alexi Casilla, the Twins are left with 5 middle infielders on the 40 man roster: Brian Dozier, Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar, and Pedro Florimon.  Trevor Plouffe and Darin Mastroianni also have some experience up the middle, but will more than likely fill the 3B and CF roles, respectively.  22 year old shortstop Daniel Santana holds a roster spot as well, but it would seem highly unlikely that he would be a factor in the major leagues this season.  Santana played the entire 2012 season at High A Fort Myers.  I could certainly see another rotation of middle infielders happening, but I think the organization would love to see one guy step up in spring training and take the reigns at each spot.

Brian Dozier became the starting shortstop for the Twins on May 7th last season, and held the job until mid-August.  Dozier was then optioned to Rochester and didn’t see a big league stadium the rest of the season.  Dozier made 15 errors in only 84 games with the Twins, 9 of those being throwing errors.  His offensive and defensive WAR were both 0.5 last season, which isn’t terrible, but definitely not starting shortstop levels.  He is definitely a below average defender when it comes to his range and overall defensive abilities.  Dozier hit .234 last season, showing a little pop in his bat from time to time; but he also struck out every 5.4 at bats.  His minor league history shows that he is a more solid defender at 2B, which may end up being a better fit for him if he can get his bat going.  Dozier is a career .298/.370/.409 hitter in 4 seasons throughout the minor leagues, so there is hope that this can translate into a solid major league career.

Jamey Carroll is the wily veteran of the group.  Carroll will turn 39 in February and is 5 years older than the 2nd oldest player on the roster, Josh Willingham.  He struggled at the plate somewhat in his first season with the Twins, hitting .268, his lowest batting average since 2007.  Carroll is maybe the most solid defender in the group, only committing 26 errors in his entire major league career (11 seasons).  Carroll did end 2012 with a career best 3.2 WAR, which is a solid starter quality player, in 138 games.  According to Fangraphs Carroll has above-average range at 2B, SS, and 3B; and his range definitely did not diminish, but improved last year over previous years.

23 year old Eduardo Escobar was sent to the Twins in the Francisco Liriano trade with the White Sox last July.  Escobar hit only ..214 in 131 at bats in 2012 with his two clubs, but showed some potential defensively.  He committed only 2 errors last season, playing 2B, 3B, and SS.  According to Fangraphs, Escobar has above average range at SS and 3B, but struggles a little more on the right side of the infield.  He has spent 7 seasons in the minors, never really putting together a solid offensive season (career .267 hitter in the minors), but does have speed and some defensive ability.

26 year old Pedro Florimon was claimed off of waivers in December of 2011 from the Baltimore Orioles.  He replaced Dozier on the roster in mid-August and ended up playing 43 games for the Twins at shortstop.  Florimon, like Dozier and Escobar, struggled mightily at the plate.  He finished 2012 hitting just .219.  He is a career (7 seasons) .249 hitter in the minors, so the hope of him becoming a force offensively is somewhat slim.  Although he made 7 errors in those 43 appearances with the Twins in 2012, his upside is his flash with the glove.  He has fantastic range at shortstop, and in my opinion is by far the best infielder on the squad.

Of these 4 middle infielders, what I could see is Florimon playing the everyday shortstop role.  That would mean Dozier would become the everyday second baseman, with the veteran Carroll playing the role of utility infielder.  Depending on whether Terry Ryan signs another 3B to compete with Plouffe, Carroll could potentially play 4-5 days a week filling in at 2B, 3B, and SS; much like we have seen from Nick Punto in the past.  I like what Florimon’s defense brings to the table, and Dozier’s potential offensively could make a great fit at 2B.  Carroll’s versatility and overall solid abilities would make him a perfect utility man to give the other guys a break every few days.  This leaves out Escobar, who at only 23, certainly could become part of the mix after showing improvement in Rochester.

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