Cuban Shortstop Signing Not Looking Promising

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Twins’ interest in a couple of Cuban prospects, shortstop Aledmys Diaz and outfielder Dariel Alvarez.  Knowing the desperate need in the middle infield, the one that intrigued me the most was Diaz.  Currently, slick fielding Pedro Florimon seems to have the edge to be the starting shortstop heading into spring training; but his lack of offensive prowess does not guarantee him the job.  It sounds like Brian Dozier projects to be more of a second basemen, leaving the long term future at shortstop open for competition.

Now there’s this, from Darren Wolfson:

On Friday, Ben Badler of Baseball America reported that there is some dispute over Diaz’s age.  He claims to have just turned 23 earlier this month, which would make him exempt from the international signing bonus pool.  In other words, he can make more money if he was 23, rather than 22 or even 21 years old – which multiple other sources are claiming to be his age.

It’s not looking good, no matter what way you look at it, that the Twins would take a chance on this kid after all of this.  As I read more about the situation, I get more concerned about the prospect of a signing like this.  Badler closes his article by saying this:

“Age questions and unblocking issues aside, scouting reports on Diaz’s talent remain modest. Though Diaz has played shortstop in Cuba, scouts have said he doesn’t have the lateral range, quickness or footwork to stay at the position. Diaz has shown some ability with the bat, hitting .315/.404/.500 in 313 plate appearances for Villa Clara in his final season in Cuba, albeit in a high-offensive environment in which he ranked 30th in the league in OBP and tied for 20th in slugging.”

So, where does that leave the future at shortstop in the Twins organization?  22 year old Daniel Santana would be the logical choice.  Santana is entering his 6th season in the organization, is currently on the 40 man roster, and had a solid season last year at High A Fort Myers.  He hit .286 last season in 121 games, but walked only 29 times, and committed 26 errors at SS and 2B.

Jorge Polanco is just 19 years old, and enters his fourth season in the organization this year.  Polanco played Rookie Ball last year for Elizabethton, and had an outstanding season in 51 games.  He hit .318, a career high, with 15 doubles and 5 home runs.  In the field, he played the majority at 2B (35 games) and spent 15 games at SS, making 8 errors in those 51 games total.  Polanco could be somewhat of a wild card at his age, if he can continue to make the significant improvements like he made last season.

Minnesota drafted Levi Michael in the First Round of the 2011 draft and played his first season last year alongside Santana at Fort Myers.  Michael hit only .246, but showed much better plate discipline, walking 56 times in 117 games.  He committed only 16 errors splitting time between 2B and SS as well.  Michael is 21 years old.

Aderlin Mejia is an interesting name to watch.  Mejia, age 20, hit .324 for the Gulf Coast Twins last season in his third year in the organization out of the Dominican Republic.  He hit 13 doubles, stole 11 bases, walked 14 times, and struck out only 13 times in 192 plate appearances.  Splitting time mostly between SS and 3B, Mejia made only 6 errors in 48 games last season.

The failure of the Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment, and the trade of J.J. Hardy to Baltimore left the future at shortstop pretty thin to say the least.  The list of remaining free agent shortstops include names like Alex Gonzalez and former Twin Jason Bartlett, but it seems unlikely the Twins would spend any significant dollars on a 35 year old (Gonzalez) with injury issues, or a 33 year old (Bartlett) who has been average at best outside of one season with Tampa Bay.  Unless one of the young players emerges in the next year or two, the Twins may just have to piece together their middle infield for the next few seasons with defensive gems like Pedro Florimon.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.

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