Wetmore: 5 thoughts on SS Danny Santana's upside, and a short roster
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Joe Mauer missed his second consecutive start after getting pulled from Sunday's game with low-back spasms.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Tuesday's game against Cleveland.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Sam Fuld hit second for the Twins with Mauer out of the lineup. Sam Fuld shouldn't hit second.
2. Shortstop Danny Santana made his first career start after collecting his first career hit off the bench Monday night. The first thing I've noticed about watching him is how strong his arm is. Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said last week he graded it a "7 or an 8" on an 8-point scouting scale (or somewhere in the 70 to 80 range, if you prefer that scale).
Santana has the arm to be a shortstop. Does he have the glove?
3. Is the offense Santana provides worth the tradeoff of losing Pedro Florimon's glove? I've been asked this question several times and I don't know the answer because I didn't scout Santana in the minor leagues. All I can go off is what I've read, that Santana's glove is a work in progress.
As a 22-year-old last season in Double-A, Santana hit .297/.333/.386. Those are good numbers for a shortstop, and that's in 587 plate appearances. He walked in 4.1 percent of his plate appearances, however, and struck out in 16 percent. This is not to compare the two players, but that's a fairly similar batting line to what the Brewers' Jean Segura posted in the Majors last season, although Santana struck out a shade more often and hit for less power.
Power is not part of Santana's game, but speed is. In that season for the New Britain Rock Cats, he stole 30 bags and was caught 13 times (70 percent).
None of which really answers the glove-for-bat tradeoff question with Florimon, who deserves a lot of credit for his fielding. Just remember, Florimon's career batting line in 678 Major League plate appearances is .208/.268/.306, and in a small sample size of 72 plate appearances this season, Florimon is hitting .109/.186/.156. Numbers like that wipe out any positive value he contributes with the leather.
A note on one small contribution Tuesday: In the 8th inning, Santana was on first base when Brian Dozier tapped to Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, and it looked like an opportunity for a double play. Santana got on the second baseman so quickly that he discrupted the relay throw and broke up a potential double play.
4. Eduardo Escobar probably should be the Twins' starting shortstop right now. His upside might be a utility infielder, but he's currently the team's best option. His minor league offensive numbers don't inspire hope that he can make it as a regular without a top-shelf glove, but at 25, he's the best Major League-ready shortstop in the organization, in my opinion. Unless the plan is to play Santana regularly, I don't expect to see three shortstops on the roster for an extended period of time.
5. Ron Gardenhire is hamstrung with the current roster, and he isn't allowed to do much managing. With Mauer on the shelf and a 13-man pitching staff, Gardenhire had two players available on the bench Tuesday: Josmil Pinto and Pedro Florimon.
Some of this is the Twins fault and some can be blamed on the misfortune of injuries to Mauer, Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham and Arcia. (It seems doubtful the team needs a 13-man pitching staff right now, and one of several players on the 40-man roster could be called up to provide position depth and flexibility. Alternatively, they could add a player like Chris Parmelee back onto the 40-man roster and call him up.)
An example how this hurt the Twins against Cleveland on Tuesday:
Minnesota had runners at first and third with two outs in the seventh inning and the left-handed hitting Chris Herrmann (right fielder) at the plate facing lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Down three runs, you might ordinarily see a manager pinch-hit Josmil Pinto in this spot for Herrmann, because Pinto is the superior hitter and bats right-handed. That didn't happen Tuesday, however, because Pinto would need a defensive substitute in right field after that plate appearance. Pedro Florimon, the last available option on the bench in that hypothetical pinch-hit situation, is not an outfielder. Furthermore, that would eliminate the only backup catcher, which could cause headaches on the outside chance Kurt Suzuki got hurt in the final three innings, or in extra innings. (I believe Eduardo Escobar could be an emergency catcher, but these are scenarios you hope to avoid.)
A healthy Oswaldo Arcia clearly would help in this situation.
5(b). Emergency outfielder?
In the top of the 9th, Herrmann's spot was due up as the potential tying run with two outs. Escobar had doubled home Suzuki to make it 4-2. Gardenhire pinch-hit Pinto, who popped out to end the game. What if the Twins had tied it?
That defensive inflexibility problem would arise again (see thought 5), but apparently Gardenhire had a plan for that. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, if the Twins had tied it, Pinto would have moved to catcher and Suzuki would have played right field. I have no idea how well that would work but it's clear that playing shorthanded is hurting the Twins right now.