Thursday, January 30, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Kohl Stewart

The 2014 season could be a lot better than the three previous seasons.  The Twins could threaten a .500 record.  They could have a decent offense.  They could have a competent rotation.  Sadly, using the word "could" that frequently means the season could also fall apart badly.  The present is uncertain, but the future looks bright.  The Twins just added a potential top-of-the-rotation starter in June, but he's just 19 and he won't throw an inning as a Twins pitcher in 2014.  That said...

The 11th most important Twins player in 2014 is Kohl Stewart.

Who is he? 

Stewart was the Twins' first-round selection this past June.  He's a teenager and he's miles from Minnesota, but he's a potential top-of-the-rotation starter and he could move quickly due to his repertoire and advanced approach.  While the Twins have shored up their rotation during the off-season, they still do not have a number 1 or even a number 2 starter on staff.  Stewart gives the Twins a chance to develop the front-end starter that is the stuff of dreams for any team.

Stewart was outstanding in his short-season debut last season.  He struck out 24 and walked just 4 in 20 innings.  While the average 19-year-old starter with just 20 pro innings under his belt would spend another season in Rookie ball, Stewart is no average anything.  He needs refinement, but his stuff is good enough to make him ready for Low-A in 2014.  Perhaps he won't start with Cedar Rapids in April, but he might get there sooner than other pitchers at a similar age/stage of development. 

Why is he important?

One word:  development.  Stewart's development is imperative in continuing the progress toward the Twins' long-term future.  He's a four-pitch pitcher at age 19 and as he develops into his "man body" he could really take a step forward with that advanced stuff.  Stewart has a big frame, a fastball that can hit mid-90s and a nasty slider that some prospect experts think is his best pitch.  He also has a curve and a change that are developing. 

In addition to his development, the Twins will hope that Stewart can stay healthy.  Stewart has Type 1 diabetes and he is a pitcher, so his arm will always be a concern.  That said, Stewart played baseball and football in high school and would have taken the reigns from Johnny Football at Texas A&M had he wanted to go that route.  He's clearly an athletic kid and he should be just as likely to make it through a full season as any other pitcher, if not more likely.     

Paul the Positive Puma's Take:

I remember hearing Stewart compared to Justin Verlander as a teenager.  I'll take that.  One of the things I like most about prospects is that they have promise until they don't have promise any longer.  That's a dual-edged sword, but it means that you can dream on a player for a very long time.  Prospects also have legend.  Stewart may be years from playing for my favorite team, but his legend will grow over the course of his Minor League career.  I'll enjoy the reports of his good starts and blow off the reports of his bad starts.  I'm a fan; I get to do that. 

The Twins have done a nice job building a competent rotation in the present, so not seeing Stewart in 2014 or 2015 or 2016 doesn't really bother me.  I can catch a couple Minor League games here and there, and hopefully, I'll get to see Stewart pitch in one of those.  I know for certain that I'll watch some of his highlights and I'll definitely read scouting reports and check his stats online.  By the time Stewart is ready, the Twins will have added even more assets and built an even stronger team.  Stewart's legend will be impressive at that point too.  It adds up to an exciting future. 

Peter the Pessimistic Puma's Take:

This is just typical Twins.  The fans have been so conditioned to wait for the future that one of the "most important" Twins in 2014 is a guy who won't see the Majors for half a decade.  Awesome.  How does Stewart help right now?  I want him to develop as badly as anyone, but the fact that the Twins need him so desperately really speaks to how poorly the Twins have addressed one of the most important parts of a successful team:  the "Ace" starter.  The Twins haven't had one since Johan Santana and they gave him away for spare parts. 

Even if Stewart does become the next Johan, many of the current Twins will be gone, if not all of them.  Stewart may reach the Majors quickly, but he won't be an "Ace" right away.  He'll have a couple of growth seasons just like every other young pitcher.  We're talking years and years now.  Who knows what will be different by then?  I really look forward to the Twins' 2021 American League North Title/first-round sweep at the hands of the Las Vegas Rays.

What to look for in '14:

Try your hardest to take his stats with a grain of salt.  Pay closer attention to any reports of his development and how he actually throws his pitches.  Minor League stats matter, but performance in the Minors is more than just numbers.  Often pitchers are working on specific things.  Maybe they aren't using their best offering to try to improve their lesser pitches.  Sometimes they just pump fastballs to keep their arm fresh. 

There are specific elements of his performance that really matter at this stage in his development.  If Stewart improves his velocity, command and ability to repeat his delivery, but does so with a 5.00 ERA, his season is a resounding success.  If Stewart dominates the lower Minors but does so while failing to develop his secondary pitches or losing his command, then the season just looks nice but doesn't mean as much.  If he simply overpowers weak hitters, the Twins will have learned little about Stewart's MLB future.  His development will take time, no matter what he does in 2014.  All that said, Stewart is advanced for his age and should dominate in 2014. 

I'll be back next week with the 10th most important Twins player in 2014.  Have a nice day, everyone!

If you haven't been paying close attention, I'm counting down the 14 most important Twins players for the 2014 season.  This was just one part in a 14-part series.  If you missed any of the previous installments, just click here as I have put them all in one nice, tidy location for you.  I'm the best.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Brian Dozier

The 2013 season was the third in a line of disappointing, consecutive 90+ loss seasons.  There was some hope at the beginning of the 2013 season, but by the end of September, the Twins had lost far too many games and generally disappointed their fans.  One player actually started off very poorly, continuing his poor play from 2012.  Then, in June, he took off and became one of the Twins' best players and a potential long-term building block for the franchise. 

The 12th most important Twins player in 2014 is Brian Dozier.

Who is he? 

Brian Dozier was a top prospect heading into the 2012 season.  Well, he was a good prospect with a lot of hype behind him, I should say.  He had an excellent 2011 season, winning the Twins' Minor League Player of the Year award and vaulting himself from 8th-round afterthought to shortstop of the future.  Dozier debuted with the Twins after just a month at AAA in May of 2012.  Dozier struggled offensively and defensively, posting a disappointing 67 OPS+ and making 15 errors in just 84 games with the Twins. 

Dozier had retreated to afterthought status and faced a position change going into 2013.  Even so, Dozier won the second base job out of Spring Training.  After a couple of rough months at the plate, Dozier came on strong in June and continued that strong play through the remainder of the season.  He finished the 2013 season with 33 doubles, 18 home runs, 14 steals and a .244/.312/.414 line that actually would look much better if those pesky April and May months weren't included.  He played great defense throughout the season and finished with 3.8 WAR (2.8 if you use FanGraphs and want to be a bummer). 

He also demonstrated excellent hair in 2013, including a brilliant hair flip immortalized in this short video clip (click here).

Why is he important?

Dozier finished the 2013 season with a 100 OPS+.  That kind of average performance is exactly what this Twins team needs!  Hold up, unnecessary sarcasm aside, Dozier was well above-average after May.  His OPS+ was in the 120 range, from June on.  Those first two months count, but the sustained above-average performance from June to September is encouraging.  If the Twins can get a 110 OPS+ from their number 2 hitter, the offense could generate a lot of runs.

Of course, if that number 2 hitter is also the team's second baseman, then we can add positional value to the equation.  Dozier can handle the defensive responsibilities at second.  Depending on which metrics you prefer, Dozier's defense was either good or very good or better.  The eye-test is on Dozier's side, as he consistently made dynamic plays and also dynamically made consistent plays.  If the Twins suddenly have a 3-4 WAR second baseman, they have a real, complete asset on their hands.

Of course, if that 3-4 WAR second baseman is also 26 (27 in May) and cost-controlled for the next five seasons, then, my goodness, what a player that would be!  Dozier could be that player.  He'll need to prove that his 2013 wasn't a one-year fluke and that he is that dynamic and valuable player in 2014.

Peter the Pessimistic Puma's Take:

I hate to be the one to always bring reality into focus for everyone, but are we getting just a little excited about two good months?  Dozier was awful through April and May, meaning he had been awful for about a full season.  Yet, he was given even more time in the lineup.  Now, he took advantage of those unearned at bats and I have to give him credit for that.  However, if you look closely at his season, there are major reasons to think that he could come crashing down to Earth. 

First, his power isn't real.  It just isn't.  I'd be shocked if Dozier doesn't retire with a career-high of 18 home runs, set in 2013.  Dozier hit 11 of his 18 home runs in June and August.  In those two months, his home run to fly ball ratio was over 16%.  His career rate is 8.7%.  Basically, his fly balls went out of the park at nearly double the rate he established in 2012 and carried through the other four months in 2013.  Unless Dozier can establish a new average rate, he won't hit home runs at that rate going forward.

Oh, and if you want to believe in Dozier, don't look at his lefty/righty splits.  They'll make you cry.  In 2013, he hit .328/.408/.570 against lefties, but just .219/.282/.367 against righties.  Guess which side of the platoon he faces nearly 3 times as often?  Most of his power comes against lefties, but he faces them only one-fourth of the time.  His BABIP against lefties in 2013?  .356.  Is that sustainable?  I doubt it.  Can the Twins still sell high?  

Paul the Positive Puma's Take:

I let Petey go first this time, because I knew that he would focus on those few splits that make Dozier look bad.  First, his BABIP against lefties in 2013 was .356, that I cannot deny.  However, what was his BABIP against righties?  .253.  Is that sustainable?  I doubt it.  Dozier's performance against right-handed pitching could improve in 2014, if that BABIP heads north to a more reasonable figure.  If it does, he could best his 2013 season significantly. 

I know that some will point toward Dozier's varied offensive performance by month.  He was bad in April and May, average in July and September, and great in June and August.  Which two months matter most?  Even if Dozier alternates average and great months in 2014, I'll be happy.  Why exclude the first two months?  I choose to believe that Dozier changed something or made an adjustment and it carried him to his solid performance from June on.  That makes sense to me, as he didn't have another bad month after May.

Look, there are always stats that make a player look better or worse than they actually are.  All I know is that Dozier was great from June to September and he finished the season as a nearly 4-WAR second baseman despite a very slow start at the plate.  I'm not sure he's a 5-WAR player or anything like that, but I do feel comfortable relying on Dozier in 2014 and going forward. 

What to look for in '14:

If you see the Dozier of 2013, all is well.  If the error-prone, low-contact, low-walk, high-strikeout Dozier of 2012 starts to seep in, then sound the alarm.  2013 Dozier and 2012 Dozier were very different players.  2012 Dozier was a rookie and maybe 2013 Dozier learned a lot from 2012 Dozier's experiences.  If Dozier was just going through a natural rookie transition, then perhaps he'll continue to improve as he did in his second season.  The Mike Trout experience of immediate domination is super rare.  Most players develop gradually and Dozier should be no different. 

I'll be back tomorrow with the 11th most important Twins player in 2014.  Have a nice day, everyone!

If you haven't been paying close attention, I'm counting down the 14 most important Twins players for the 2014 season.  This was just one part in a 14-part series.  If you missed any of the previous installments, just click here as I have put them all in one nice, tidy location for you.  I'm the best.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rookie Card of the Week: Kent Hrbek for $2

This past week, I wanted to find a rookie card on eBay that would have been released before my birth.  I was born in 1982, so any card prior to that year works just fine.  Turns out, cards from before my birth can be quite expensive.  The law of parsimony led me to look for 1982 cards, which just happened to be the year when Kent Hrbek's rookie cards were released.  He had a Topps and Donruss rookie card, but only the Donruss card looked like this:

And so, I bought it.  I got it for $1 dollar with $1 dollar shipping.  If you're scoring at home, that's 2 bucks.  Last week, I procured Shane Mack's rookie card for a buck.  Hrbek's was twice as expensive, almost certainly because he was twice as good, right?  As with all baseball arguments, WAR should settle the score.
Shane Mack was worth 19.6 rWAR for the Twins.  Hrbek was worth 38.2 rWAR.  Hrbek wasn't quite twice as valuable, but the discrepancy in price must be inflation-related.  I look forward to getting Mickey Mantle's rookie card for 6 bucks next week.  It's a shame I can't write about it because I can only write about cards under 5 bucks.

I'm not going to lie, I was never a big Hrbek fan.  That came out wrong.  It's not that I didn't like him.  I liked him.  He was just third banana in my tiny brain, behind Kirby Puckett and Frank Viola.  Also, Hrbek was a good player when I was cognizant, but he wasn't a great player.  By the time I was old enough to understand baseball beyond what my Dad told me, it was 1991.  I liked the Twins in the late 80s; I adored the Twins in the early 90s.

I really remember Hrbek for three things.  First, he pulled Ron Gant off of first base in the '91 World Series.  It's been over twenty years, it's okay to admit that he did that.  The Twins won't lose the series retroactively because we decide our eyes work.  For me, it's more awesome that Hrbek did that and got away with it.  It's wonderfully heelish and it makes me like him even more.

Second, I remember a litany of funny baseball cards, including these two:

Who is he talking to?  Who is he scowling at?  I was completely unaware of his Donruss rookie card, because it was made before I was born and probably cost more than 10 cents.  That said, it's pretty great.  He looks super young (because he is), but he also seems to be portraying just a slight bit of forced idiocy.  He's got that "I'm trying to look drunk" look on his face.  Perhaps this rookie card was his first attempt at trying to have fun at work, something Hrbek was classically good at.

Finally, I remember his grand slam in Game 6 of the '87 World Series.  Oh wait, no I don't.  I was just five.  I watched the game, that is certain.  I just don't remember that moment because I was a loser kid with a bad memory.  That grand slam was huge though, even if I don't remember it happening.  I can see Hrbek rounding the bases when I close my eyes at night, as I've watched the highlight many times.

Back to the rookie card.  I had a little yellow squeaky bat when I was a baby.  I carried it around everywhere and I cherished it until an embarrassingly old age.  The bat at the bottom of that Donruss rookie card looks just like my squeaky bat.  Now, I have a daughter and I should try to find that bat and give it to her.  Or, I could just play with it myself.  Whatever I decide, I'll be back next week with another fun rookie card.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Minnesota Twins POWER RANKINGS: January 27, 2014

Major shake-ups this week in the K-Slow POWER RANKINGS.  Our four-week number one is plummeting down the list because he is a freaking Judas and I hate him.  That's not true.  I don't know him, but he did betray me and the POWER RANKINGS and the entire state of hockey.  On the bright side, I don't have to retire the top spot forever.  Let's get to the rankin'.

Tanaka, you could have had it all.  I promised you the top spot in these rankings until you signed with the Twins, then I was going to retire the top spot in your honor.  Instead, you signed with the Yankees, meaning that 29 fan bases will loathe you, regardless of how cool you may be.  Oh, and good luck with that strikeout rate.  I notice it has dipped in each of your past three seasons.  Oh, but I'm sure it will jump back up as you transition to a much better league against much better hitters. 

I'm not bitter though.  Missing out on Tanaka could pave the way for a reunion with a high-strung pitcher with a spitting problem.

Crud.  Garza has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the Brewers.  The deal was reportedly done earlier in the week, but was reportedly finalized this weekend.  It is reportedly worth $50 million, or just a couple million more than the Twins paid for Ricky Nolasco.  Twins fans were reportedly upset, because the perception is that Garza is significantly better than Nolasco.  The peripheral stats might be close, but actual performance goes to Garza.  

I've seen some sentiment that the Twins should have signed Garza instead of Mike Pelfrey, as if the two are somehow related.  I tweeted that I wish the Twins had not moved to the Metrodome in 1982 and instead signed Garza.  That makes no sense, but as far as I am concerned, it makes just as much sense as trying to equate not signing Garza with signing Pelfrey.  Or maybe it isn't.  I haven't slept in days.  Of course, the reality is that the Twins still have tons of money to spend, so maybe they'll open up the pocketbook and upgrade a different position.

Apparently, the Yankees are considering Drew.  Whatever, they already have all the other players.  There were some reports earlier in the month that indicated that Drew might need to take a one-year deal or move to second base or even third base.  And yet, the Twins still have Pedro Florimon penciled in at short for 2014 and some fat wads of cash just chilling in the basement of Target Field.  If you went to TwinsFest, you should have went down there.  Drew would be an offensive upgrade at short and is still pretty young. 

I had written previously that I would not sign Drew, but a lot of that had to do with a Tanaka/Garza pipe dream that appears to have ended.  Now, I'd go grab Drew, tell him he can stay at short, give him some of the cash wads and improve the offense.  Of course...

7.  The Eddie 400

The Eddie 400 picked up some mainstream steam this week, appearing on the front page of Twins Daily.  The post generated an impressive three comments, two of which appeared to in support of the campaign.  I've been horrible at promoting this idea of the past few weeks.  I had actually forgotten about it myself until I saw it on Twins Daily.  If you need a refresher, here's The Eddie 400, in all its glory. 

In the inaugural edition of these rankings, I wrote about how Balfour was lucky to have failed his physical with the Orioles because the whole city of Baltimore smells like crab cakes.  I did later learn that this is not true, but Balfour ended up on his feet in the end.  Last week, he signed a two-year deal with the Rays and will take over as their closer/intense Aussie.  Without looking, how old do you think Balfour is?

36.  Did you think he was that old?  He looks great.

The Twins were thwarted in their attempt to sell Chris Colabello to Korea for some fast cash.  They almost certainly would have used that cash to sign Tanaka, but Colabello had to be a real sick in the mud and want to stay in this country.  In an ironic twist (irony more in the way that everyone but English majors use it), the Twins lost Andrew Albers to the Hanwha Eagles in South Korea.  Albers was unlikely to be in the Twins rotation, at least to start the 2014 season, but he was a nice story last year and he did pitch relatively well with the Twins.  Ah well.    

So this tweet pissed me off:
Nothing against Mason, he does a fine job.  Nothing against Suzuki really either, I just don't think he should be a starting catcher for any team that has ambitions of playing MLB baseball.  He's a fine backup and I liked his signing when I thought he would in fact back up and mentor Josmil Pinto.  As a starter, he's going to hit poorly, meaning the Twins will have at least two poor hitters in their lineup on a regular basis.  Of course, Pedro Florimon is good at defense, so he has some value.  Does Suzuki have defensive value?

3.  jorgenswest

Nope, Suzuki does not have defensive value.  An excellent post from Twins Daily member jorgenswest pretty much denies any narrative that indicates Suzuki's positive defensive prowess.  He's a poor pitch framer and pitchers seem to get worse when he catches.  You should read his post for more detail/analysis.

I am a big fan of jorgenswest's work.  I consider jorgenswest to be Twins Daily's pitch framing expert and his posts are insightful and highly analytical.  He doesn't blog too often, but he's a regular in the forums and provides great analysis using analytics in his forum posts. 

Buxton was named MLB Network and's number 1 overall prospect.  I could have written that sentence two months ago, long before the list was announced.  Buxton's placement was a foregone conclusion.  He's the best prospect in baseball and one of the best prospects of all-time.  According to Jim Callis of, Buxton is a better prospect than Mike Trout was:
Buxton's lore just keeps expanding.  Twins fans shouldn't have to wait long until Buxton starts his MLB lore.

Update!  He was also named Baseball Prospectus' number 1 overall prospect this morning.  What a man!  

Knoblauch was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame this past week.  He is a very deserving choice, as he provided the Twins with 37.8 rWAR over seven seasons as a good offensive and defensive second baseman.  He is one of the best players in franchise history and an exciting player in his prime.  Knoblauch's tenure with the Twins ended famously, but time heals all wounds.  I, for one, cannot wait until his induction:
Some people just can't let go.  In case you're seething right now, I was kidding.  I recycle my batteries.  Have a great week, everyone!

Brad Swanson doesn't know what power rankings are.  He is most proud of his 100% accurate semi-colon use.  He also buys a donut at the gas station 100% of the time.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I found some Minnesota Twins items on eBay for you

Are you a true Twins fan?  Oh really, then why don't you have a bunch of Twins crap on your walls and in your cubicle?  You need more clutter, my man/woman.  If the majority of your stuff doesn't have a TC logo on it, you're just not doing it right.  Let me help. 

If you're looking for great Minnesota Twins items, you could do a lot worse than eBay.  If you simply search "Minnesota Twins" you will get over 77,000 items, each available for your bid/purchase.  Starting with such a massive sample can be overwhelming.  So, I am here to help you narrow your choices.  I sought out sweet Twins items that will improve your fan cred. 

The key to finding good Twins items is to look in the right place.  You can pretty much ignore the "cards," "fan apparel," and "vintage memorabilia."  If you want those things, just head to your corner memorabilia store.  Support that local business.  Plus, everyone has cards and pennants and hula hoops.  Finding the perfect Twins item requires you to dig deeper.  Because I care about you, here are the ten best items for a REAL Twins fan.  Click the titles to view the items.  

Hey cool, someone else's dirty clothes.  Who used them?  Doesn't matter!  What matters is that you can now own a different person's socks for just $20 and $6.42 shipping.  How does one arrive at that figure for shipping?  It seems strangely precise, as if this person sells other peoples' socks often.  Oh, if you need seven pictures of this unknown player's socks, you're in the right place.  This seller is also offering one game-used Mike Pagliarulo batting glove and an Emil Brown game-used bat.  Yes, the seller does combine shipping.

Do you have a dog? Does your dog love things that touch its ears and sit on its head?  Really?  Your dog is weird.  Well, here is a cap that your weird dog can wear.  It comes in one size (25 lbs +, which pretty much accounts for most dogs, what luck!).  According to the description, the hat is dark blue!  It has embroidered patches!!  It's a great gift idea for any Twins fan!!!  Of course, if that fan does not own a dog, the gift may be confusing.  I guess a human or cat or like a really big turtle could wear it too.  It's a bargain at only $6.59 plus $2.50 shipping. Act fast as only 2 are available!

If you've ever thought, "I love the Twins, but I really love skulls," then this is the item for you.  This is the perfect item to spruce up your very expensive vehicle.  You can show your love for the Twins while also conveying the message that you might be a dangerous individual.  If nothing else, you can finally cover up that pointless rear windshield.  Or put it up at work to get to know your HR person better.  This item comes in many different colors and will be yours for just $7.50 and $1 shipping. 

Do you love posters?  How about mysteries?  Rubber bands?  Are you unwilling to read even one word about what an item could possibly be?  This item has it all!  What's on the poster?  Who cares!  Why didn't the seller unroll it and take a picture?  Who cares!  Why does it seem like that rubber band is so loose?  Who cares!  This rolled-up mystery poster can be yours for just $11.89 with free shipping.  As far as you know, there's a treasure map on the back.  Treasure and Twins!  What a combo!

This listing eschews the whole "banana for scale" motif and uses a shaggy man on the couch eating a sandwich.  At least, I think he's eating it.  He might just be admiring it.  Anyway, this poster is huge.  It's so big it has a seam down the middle!  Mauer's sideburns are actually four feet long.  If you have a giant wall that needs decorating, this is best possible solution.  It's just $24.95 with $9.95 shipping.  There are more than ten available, so you could literally line your house with them.  Just consider it.

Whoa!  This one is a bit more famous; my wife knew of it.  That said, if you don't own it, you're missing out.  With this cookbook in hand, you can learn how to make the following dishes in your very own kitchen:
  • Opening Day Apple Dip
  • Gold Glove Garlic Bread
  • Base Balsamic Swordfish 
  • Strike Out Salmon
  • Broadcast Booth Black Bean Soup
  • Metrodome Meatloaf
  • Bleacher Seat Black Olive Pasta
  • Crack of the Bat Crackers and Crab
This cookbook should be updated every year with new recipes from current players with better wordplay.  Pedro Floriflan?  For now, this relic will have to do.  It's just $8.25 with $3.88 shipping.  If you teach a man to fish...

This item could work for any team, it's just a Twins hat on top.  The estimated retail value is $29.95, but you can have it for $20 and $7 shipping.  That's a savings of nearly $3, which you can start to apply to any of these other items.  If that's not enough to get you to buy, this item comes with instructions!  Hopefully those instructions will clear up whether the controller controls the car, or if it's the other way around. 

If you are a fan of the creepiest tiny statue that one can find, then this is the item for you.  New Twins bench coach Paul Molitor is featured holding a loaf of french bread and smiling like someone just sprayed him in the eyes with pepper spray.  He's got a sweet pompadour too.  This item sells on the secondary market for $15!!  I'm not sure what kind of secondary market exists for such an item, but at just $8 on this primary market, this is the creepy figurine you just cannot pass up.  If you want a tiny Paul Molitor on your desk who will haunt your dreams, then act fast!  Free shipping too!

All the personality of the real Joe Mauer, but with the ability to stick to legos!  The Oyo figure does not have sideburns, so I don't see a resemblance.  This tiny figure is $12.50 with shipping, which seems a bit steep.  If you buy this and the creepy Molitor figure, you wouldn't be able to sleep at night for fear that your new Twins purchases will rise up and enslave us all.  There are more than ten available, so it's not impossible that this could happen. 

Very few people remember that the character "Powder" was played by Harmon Killebrew.  You can remember his signature role with this absolutely terrifying coin.  There's a better than average chance that this coin will steal your soul immediately after you click "buy it now."  This coin is yours for just $149 and that which makes you immortal. 

With that, we have completed your new collection.  Now that your dog has a hat, your rooms are lined with giant posters, you've created an army of tiny Joe Mauer legos, you know how to cook, your soul has been stolen forever and you can keep your socks from falling down, you're a true Twins fan.  Congratulations!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Josh Willingham

Like all fans, I hope the 2014 season is much, much better than the 2011-13 seasons.  However, I am realistic and I understand that the Twins are still in the middle of a rebuilding effort.  I think that a good chunk of that rebuilding has been completed, but the team could use a few more pieces here and there.  The 13th most important player for 2014 is not part of the future.  With a big start in 2014, he could regain his lost trade value and bring the Twins an important asset in July or August.

The 13th most important Twins player in 2014 is Josh Willingham.

Who is he? 

You may remember Willingham from his home run party back in 2012.  Or, you may have a shorter memory and you remember his low batting average/strikeout party in 2013.  I was at both parties and I really enjoyed the first one.  Even in his "bad" 2013 season, Willingham still showed the ability to reach base, posting .342 OBP despite a putrid .208 batting average.  The ability to take a walk is nice, but is that all Willingham can do at this point?

Sadly, his trademark power nearly disappeared in 2013.  His home run total plummeted, falling from 35 in 2012 to 14 in 2013.  His slugging percentage cratered from a mighty .524 to a Rivas-esque .368.  He even lost doubles, going from 30 to 20.  Some of the counting stats fell as a result of a knee injury that stole nearly two months from Willingham's season.  The slugging percentage plunge is harder to explain.  His BABIP and home run to fly ball ratios dipped as well, so perhaps some of his struggles were luck-related.  Of course, he'll be 35 when the season starts, so he could be showing signs of his age. 

It wouldn't be civil to discuss his defense in mixed company.  Let's just say that his best position should be one where he is designated to hit.    

Why is he important?

Willingham is important for two reasons.  First, if the Twins actually want to have a good 2014 season, they will need production from one of their more talented hitters.  Even in his down 2013 season, he still managed a 98 OPS+.  Only Joe Mauer, Oswaldo Arcia and Brian Dozier topped that number among returning regulars.  Arcia and Dozier barely cleared that number.  You can still make a decent case that Willingham is the Twins' second-best offensive player.  If he continues to trend downward, the Twins offense could be brutal.

Second, Willingham is still signed to a reasonable contract.  According to FanGraphs, Willingham was worth $16 million in 2012 and zero dollars in 2013.  That averages out to $8 million per year.  Math!  If Willingham can even be somewhere in the middle of those two seasons, he would be worth the $7 million that he'll make in 2014.  Come July/August, the Twins could look to unload a productive Willingham for a decent prospect.  If he's an unproductive Willingham, the Twins could be looking at a trade more in the Delmon Young vein.  If you remember, the Twins received a pretty mediocre reliever (Lester Oliveros) for Young.  

Willingham has been much better than Young in his career, but he's a lot older and could be going the wrong way.  Let's hope a good season is coming. 

Paul the Positive Puma's Take:

Perhaps I have rose-colored glasses on, but I think Willingham is going to have a huge season in 2014.  Between 2006 and 2012, Willingham posted a 125 OPS+.  When he played 130 or more games, he was good for 25+ home runs.  He was on base 36% of the time.  I find it hard to believe that he just fell off a cliff at 34 last season.  34 isn't young, but I don't consider it to be "old" or washed up either. 

I think a lot of Willingham's struggles came from his knee injury (which he returned from pretty quickly considering the severity) and some wrist issues he had early in the season.  As was pointed out earlier, a couple of major luck stats were lower than his career average.  I'm not sure Willingham will be as good as he was in 2012, but I do expect a good bounce-back campaign.  I'll guess 25 home runs, .475 slugging and a .360 OBP.  I also predict he'll finish his contract as a member of the Twins.    

Peter the Pessimistic Puma's Take:

This is typical Twins.  They finally make a smart move and then they blow it by being complacent.  I'll give the Twins credit, they signed Willingham to a fair (not outstanding) contract and then got great value from him in 2012.  Then, they screwed up by holding on to Willingham instead of trading him at peak value.  He had his best season as a pro in 2012 and I saw a regression in 2013 coming a mile away.  Even I didn't expect what I saw in 2013. 

On July 28, 2012, Willingham hit his 27th home run.  He's hit 22 since.  At the end of July, Willingham was hitting .272/.385/.566.  He was 33 years old and signed to a very reasonable contract.  Now, he's coming off a .208/.342/.368 season.  He's 35, he's got a balky knee, he's a poor defensive outfielder and he's a free agent after the season.  What team is going to want an old, powerless DH with a bad knee who might be available on a cheaper one-year deal the following season?  Freaking Twins.

What to look for in '14:

Were Willingham's struggles in 2013 due to his age, his injuries, a fluke, vampires, or something else?  Whatever caused his poor performance in 2013, the Twins have to hope that he approaches his 2012 performance in 2014.  If Willingham can return to the 125 OPS+ that he had averaged for the previous 7 seasons, the offense will be much better than it was last season and Willingham just might recoup some of the trade value he lost last season.  I'll be keeping a close eye on his April performance.  If he can continue to take walks and crush extra-base hits, his 2013 season will be long forgotten.  If he can't, his 2012 season will feel like it happened in 1912. 

I'll be back next week with the 12th most important Twins player in 2014.  Have a nice day, everyone!

If you haven't been paying close attention, I'm counting down the 14 most important Twins players for the 2014 season.  This was just one part in a 14-part series.  If you missed any of the previous installments, just click here as I have put them all in one nice, tidy location for you.  I'm the best.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rookie Card of the Week: Shane Mack for $1

In yesterday's POWER RANKINGS, I devoted the number 7 spot to a touching story about how I bought Shane Mack's rookie card for $1 on eBay.  Jealous?  When I hit "buy it now" for that card, it gave me a chill.  It was almost as if I had just bought a time machine.  I was transported back to my youth, when buying baseball cards made me feel like a big man.  I want to repeat that feeling over and over, until I get bored or numb or whatever.

Each week, I am going to go on eBay and buy a new rookie card for less than $5.  I'll mostly buy baseball cards, but I might venture to other sports if the thrill is there.  Then, I'll open up Microsoft Word and write about the card, for you, the loyal reader.  I'll continue this pursuit until I get bored or I run out of money.  If you ever have the inkling to do the same, I'd be happy to post your tale on this very site.  You would literally have the eyes of eight people and about 400 spambots.  

As you already know, i bought this card this week:

I have written many times about my retro-love for Shane Mack.  I didn't love him as a kid because I was a stupid idiot, but I do love him as an adult because I am smart.  This card is fantastic.  First, Mack looks genuinely confused about what is going on.  He may have never seen a camera before, he may not understand why anyone would want to buy pictures of people on cardboard, or he may be working on some math homework in his head.  He was in school at this time, you know.  UCLA.  That's a good school.

Second, this card serves as proof that Shane Mack always had a sick mustache.  I'm 99.99% sure that Mack had that mustache on the day he was born.  I'd make a photoshop, but I don't feel good about defacing babies.  You can just imagine.  

Third, I think it's awesome that Mack was on Team USA.  That means he played for my favorite country AND my favorite team.  That type of two for one bargain is just too dope to pass up.  He was good for Team USA too.  He hit .287 with 4 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs, 4 stolen bases and 20 walks.  He did all of this in just 34 games because he was the man.  He was the first Bruin to play for Team USA, so he was a trailblazer too.

Finally, I want that hat.  It's deliciously generic.  It's hard to see in the card, but that USA team was sponsored by G.E., so it's possible that there exists a photo of Mack with that awesome mustache shaking hands with a young Jack Donaghy.  I'd pay a dollar for that picture.

Anyway, most dorks wanted the Mark McGwire USA card from that set, but I was mostly interested in the Kirby Puckett rookie card.  This set also has Roger Clemens' rookie card.  Mack was but an afterthought.  Shane Mack took zero steroids, so he shoots to the Puckett zone within this set.  I now have both of those cards and I secretly still want the McGwire.  Unfortunately, it costs $7 and is waaaaaay out of the budget.  I own the Mack and that's enough for this week.  

Next week, I'll look for another iconic rookie card on eBay and use my paltry budget to procure it.  You'll be the first to know.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Minnesota Twins POWER RANKINGS: January 20, 2014

Welcome to another epic week of POWER RANKINGS!  If you haven't noticed already, there really isn't a lot of rankin' goin' on here.  Essentially, I just wanted to find an adorable way to recap the past week in Twins and Twins-related baseball.  This is a secret that I am letting you in on, so please do not tell anyone.  Especially ESPN.  If we want to get an ESPN Minnesota, we'll need to have some POWER RANKINGS and Who's Nows ready to go. 

Ok, enough dancin', let's hit the RANK button!

10.  Elmn Yung

If you recall, I refer to Delmon Young in that manner because he offers no "O" or "D" and because I don't really like him.  Yung signed a Minor League contract with the Orioles last week, putting all of the hot dogs in Baltimore at risk.  That's not fair.  Apparently Young is in good shape right now.  He's had some transgressions in the past, but I can forgive and forget.  He's somehow just 28, even though he's been in the Majors for a record 56 seasons.  We'll see if he can revive his career in 2014.

9.  Fred Manrique the Timecop?

In the event that I can't find ten stories from the past week, I reserve the right to shameless self-promotion.  Last Friday, I unveiled my latest Forgotten Twins? player - Fred Manrique.  In that post, I uncovered the fact that Manrique is/was a Timecop.  If you missed it, you can read it here.  The evidence is scant, but compelling.  Here's a image to further convince you:

The Expos Nationals signed Carroll to a Minor League deal last week.  Carroll is one of the last former Expos players left in the Majors.  He will be 40 on Opening Day and might have a decent avenue to the Nationals' roster as they shipped off former utility man Steve Lombardozzi in the Doug Fister trade.  Carroll has EXACTLY 1000 hits, which means he either needs to not make the team, or hang around long enough to retire with exactly 2000 hits.  I prefer the second option, as I love the idea of a 61-year-old Carroll on the 2035 Twins. 

7.  Shane Mack's 1985 Topps Rookie Card

When I was a kid, there were three baseball cards I wanted more than anything in the world. 

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr

1984 Topps Don Mattingly

1985 Topps Kirby Puckett

The last one is pretty obvious, as I am a Twins fan with a pulse.  Back in the day, each of these cards cost upwards of and including 100 dollars (actually, the Puckett and Mattingly cards were around 50 each, but that seemed like 100 dollars in my tiny head). I couldn't possibly save that much money, as that would mean not buying 40 packs of Bazooka cards at a time.  Now an adult with an adult income, each of these cards are easily within my budget.  That said, my interest has waned.  I did buy the Puckett a few years ago for 5 bucks, mostly out of principle.  The other two are on my eBay watch list and have been for well over a year.

What does this have to do with this card?

I bought that card last night for one dollar.  I never wanted that card as a kid and I probably could have gotten it for 2 or 3 bucks back in the 90s.  Now, as a 31-year-old human with a wife, a child and a weimaraner, I decided that I couldn't live without it.  Life is super weird. 

If anyone wants a mess of Bazooka cards from the early 90s, just DM me.

The Twins shelled out about $5 million bucks to retain these guys, while I spent 1 dollar on that dope Shane Mack card.  Now you tell me who won?  In all seriousness, these three will likely earn that money next season.  I think I like Swarzak the most, as he filled that "long-man" role very well last season.  Plouffe gets ripped by fans at times, but he's had a 100 OPS+ over the past two seasons.  Duensing still owns lefties, but hit a rough patch of luck last season.  The Twins are a better team with these three in the fold, even if they aren't stars. 

5.  Paul Molitor

As the Twins new bench coach, Molitor is going to be in charge of defensive shifts.  Yep, the Twins are going to try some new stuff.  I guess when you lose almost 300 games in 3 years, you have to be willing to try some of that new-fangled cybermetrics and whatnot.  Twins Daily's Parker Hageman analyzed this development about 8 billion times better than I ever could.  If you missed it, you can read it here.  There's a clean chart and some skeptical commenters too.   

If you follow the Canadian Baseball Network website as closely as I do, you're already aware that it was Andrew Albers week.  If you don't follow that site, Seth Stohs at Twins Daily has you covered.  There was not one, but two stories about Albers this week.  First, it was reported that Albers will compete with Vance Worley, Scott Diamond (also Canadian, as pointed out in the story), and Sam Deduno for the final rotation spot.  I think Kyle Gibson is in that mix too, but he's not Canadian.  I'd say Albers is the darkest of dark horses in that race, but he did look good last year.  He did use the word "neat" in a sentence twice, tying Joe Mauer for the World record. 

The second story chronicles Albers' Winter job as a substitute teacher at his alma mater in Saskatchewan.  I'll always remember Saskatchewan as the place where Bret Hart won the WWF title from Ric Flair.  Albers probably remembers that too.  Anyway, good for Albers.  Substitute teachers are truly unsung heroes.  There is nothing more terrifying than walking into a classroom filled with 7th graders who know full well that you are not their permanent teacher and you'll probably be gone tomorrow either by plan or by force.  I subbed for a few months and I loved it, but it was exhausting. 

On a related note, I thought Mounties taught school in Canada.

3.  Trevor May

May was a guest on the always entertaining Talk to Contact podcast last week.  He was really engaging on the podcast, and you should listen (click here).  May is a really interesting player.  He repeated AA last season and saw incremental, but minor improvements in his performance.  He almost certainly will start with AAA in 2014 and since he is on the 40-man roster, he could join the Twins at some point. 

May's stats aren't eye-popping, but that's probably better for your sight.  He hasn't missed a start in three seasons, and that kind of durability is extremely valuable.  I'm on record:  Trevor May is underrated.  I think that his durability and stuff will almost certainly make him an MLB starter within the next couple seasons.  I think he could fill the Kevin Correia/Mike Pelfrey innings-eater role at a tenth of the price. 

This was a banner week for me.  A real, live Twins player followed me on Twitter.  Dan Rohlfing officially became my favorite player of all-time when he clicked that fateful button.  Rohlfing is a catcher who finished the 2013 season with the Rochester Red Wings.  He hit .314/.402/.430 in 26 games with the Red Wings last season.  He also hit a home run in his first AAA game.  My greatest wish for the 2014 season is that Rohlfing makes his MLB debut.  Thanks for the follow!  You should follow him, if you don't already.  

I never break a promise, Mr. Tanaka.  I plan to honor my pledge to keep you in the top spot of the weekly POWER RANKINGS! until you officially sign with the Twins.  I can't help but notice that you went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season.  Here are a few fun facts related to the number 24:

  • 24 is a Harshad number.  Cool!
  • The Barnes-Wall lattice contains 24 lattices.  Sweet!
  • 24 is the atomic number of chromium.  Nuclear!
  • Tom Chambers wore the number 24 for the Phoenix Suns.  Dope!
  • 24 is the maximum number of Knight Companions in the Order of the Garter.  WHAT?!?
Mr. Tanaka, once you officially sign, I'll show you how to use Wikipedia just like me.  It's going to be swell. 

Another week ranked!  If you're a fan of this blog, you can look forward to another profile of one of the 14 most important Twins for the upcoming 2014 season and potentially something else if I decide that I don't want to be lazy.  I've got ideas.  No matter what happens, I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Forgotten Twins? Fred Manrique

Hey all, time for another installment of Forgotten Twins?  If you don't remember, I scour the most important websites in the universe to determine if a particular Twins player is forgotten by society.  I decided to sub out Bing for Fangraphs going forward.  I thought it would be funny to use multiple search engines, but they're all the same, so the joke is on me.  ENOUGH EXPLAINING!

My memories of Fred Manrique

This is going to sound awful, but I remember his dork glasses.  I can picture him now...

See?  He could.  Because of the glasses.  Now, making fun of someone who wears glasses is really uncool.  I know this now.  I was only aware of Fred Manrique as a seven-year-old with perfect vision.  It was hard to keep my anti-glasses feelings to myself.  Well, this joke is also on me, as this is what I look like today:

Fate is weird.  Let's move on.

Baseball Reference

Manrique played just one season with the Twins.  He hit .237/.254/.346, or as I like to call it "Rivas Style!"  Manrique accumulated 1459 plate appearances over his nine-year career.  He racked up 340 hits and 65 walks.  He barely played three years' worth of games in those nine seasons.  He played 376 of his games at second base, including all but one of his games with the Twins.  Manrique very nearly went his career, ending with 20 bombs and 18 base bombs (a term I am trying to coin for stolen bases).   

Oh, and he was traded for Sammy Sosa.  Don't look at the rest of the trade, just leave it alone.


I'm adding Fangraphs to appeal to the saber crowd.  From what I can ascertain on Fangraphs, Manrique was gritty.  Wait.  He had a .105 isolated power, which is poor.  He had a 4.5% walk rate, which is poor.  He had a .294 BABIP, which is about average.  Manrique accumulated 2.0 fWAR in his career, almost entirely from some solid defense he played in the 1987 season with the White Sox.  It's cold, but you could probably call him Fred Man-reeky.


Wikipedia tells me that Manrique is a fifty-year-old former second baseman.  That's a solid lead.  He was born three weeks before my Dad, which is conveniently left out of his entry.  He is from Bolivar State, Venezuela.  Another former, forgotten (?) Twins player is from Ciudad Bolivar and you'll never guess who.  Les Straker.  It's Les Straker.  According to his entry, he was a solid second baseman and an above-average shortstop.  Whoever wrote this entry must have known something that his managers didn't know.  In 1981, he was the youngest player in the Majors.  Trivia!


A cursory Google search brings back many glasses images of Manrique.  I did find this card and he isn't wearing glasses:

I gotta say, he's pretty handsome.  He looks good in his glasses too.  A few pages into the search, I found this article about Manrique's ejection from a random June game in 1990.  Apparently, he didn't like Jim Joyce's strike zone.  Or, he knew that Joyce would one day rob us (and Armando Galarraga to a lesser extent) of a perfect game and staged a protest 20 years in advance.  All I'm saying is that Manrique might be a Timecop. 

Oh, and apparently Manrique is a member of Twins Daily.  See.  Now, he hasn't blogged or posted, so I'm guessing he's feeling self-conscious.  Please Mr. Manrique, share your wisdom.  Don't be afraid. 


Most Manrique-related items on eBay are baseball cards.  However, I did find this curious 8 x 10 autographed photo.  It appears that Manrique wanted people think that he peed his own autograph.  Don't believe me, check it out.  I'm not sure what that accomplishes, but I imagine it makes for a good urban legend. 

If you don't like peeing autographs, here's a 50 baseball card lot of all Manrique!  There are only 21 different cards for some reason.  One of the cards appears to be a math cheat sheet or something and another has the word "glossy" on top.  You can check the lot out for yourself.  Was Manrique a Timecop nicknamed "Glossy?"


Manrique does have a Facebook fan page, but it's just his Wikipedia entry.  He doesn't even get a picture.  Perhaps we could use this image:

See, he's a Timecop!  18 people like Manrique.  I'd "like" him too, but I wouldn't be able to deal with his constant updates.  I'd probably block him like I block all my friends and co-workers.  Just for the record, Manrique has three more likes than this blog.  You can fix liking Manrique's page and righting the ratio. 


I found a few cool Manrique-related tweets:

This one makes me laugh because it would be so easy to find a card with Manrique actually in a Twins uniform. 

I'm not sure what to say...

I really like that one.  It humanizes him.  Even if he does like to make signature urine.


Sadly, our beloved Fred Manrique is not represented on Youtube.  You can blame MLB and their totalitarian video policy for that.  Instead, here are a couple of youngsters also named Fred Manrique, each showcasing their skills.  First, a catcher:

Then, a pitcher:

Looks good to me.

Random Person

I stopped someone in the hallway at work today and asked if they remembered Fred Manrique.  He said, "Was he a math teacher?"  Interesting that he would ask that without even knowing that Manrique wore glasses.  I told him no, Manrique was on the Twins for a season in 1988.  He replied, "Oh, I was two, so no, I don't remember that."  I set him on fire.

Verdict:  Not sufficiently remembered!

Manrique is remembered solely for his glasses and that is a shame.  He was a useful back-up infielder who liked to suggestively autograph photos and very likely is a Timecop.  He probably saved Ferris Bueller's girlfriend from some past future murder and then went on with his mall shopping.  If nothing else, Manrique was a short-time Twins player with a big-time heart.  I made that last part up, but doesn't it make you feel better about him?

If you enjoyed this trip down Twins memory lane, why not check out the archives for more Forgotten Twins?  You can just click here, you don't have to move or anything.  If you'd like, make a request and I'll run him through my database. 

Brad Swanson is the inventor of Tae Bo.  He forgot how much he enjoyed writing by-lines.  He is a frequent contributor to that group of people who are in your way at the grocery store.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Peduardo Florscobar

The 2014 season is just 12 short weeks away.  I decided it might be fun to count down the 14 most important players for the 2014 season.  14 for 14, right!  If I had thought of this two weeks ago, I could have written one per week and the world of symmetry would be in order.  Instead, I'll have to overcome the discomfort this causes and figure out a way to get all 14 in during the next 12 weeks.  To help me out, I have enlisted assistance from my two talking puma friends, Paul and Peter. 

If you don't remember those fine felines, here are their pictures once more:

Now that we're all on the same page, let's discuss the 14th most important player in the organization for 2014:  Peduardo Florscobar

Yikes, I promise to never do that again.

Who is he? 

I promise that this will be the only amalgamation on the list.  Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar are very similar players.  These two are going to be the Twins shortstop in some form or another.  Jason Bartlett may find his way into the mix, but I think the odds of that happening are pretty low.  Florimon is the incumbent and he provided great, but sometimes inconsistent defense and consistently poor offense.  Escobar is a similar player, but two years younger and a bit more exciting. 

Why is he important?

Shortstop is a cornerstone defensive position.  The best teams have a shortstop capable of producing on at least one side of the ball.  Last year, the Twins received good defense and almost no offense from Florimon.  Because of his offensive shortcomings, some "prominent" bloggers are hoping to see more of Escobar in 2014.  Regardless of who plays short for the Twins in 2014, the team will need that player to take care of the balls that are hit his way.  No one expects even average offensive production from Florimon or Escobar, so their defense has to be good enough to provide value. 

Florimon was on pace for a 3.0 WAR season about halfway through 2013.  Then, his defense dipped a bit as he had lapses.  In addition, his offense went from "passable" to "putrid."  Florimon was basically a AAA player in the second half, which is exactly why the door may be open for Escobar.  Escobar is two years younger, has better Minor League stats and might actually be a better defender.  He'll have to impress in March to earn the job as the Twins seem to like Florimon. 

With little available on the free agent market and in the organization, one of these two guys needs to seize their starting opportunity and prove that balls hit toward short will be fielded successfully.  Any offense will be a nice bonus. 

Paul's Take:

I think that the Twins will receive better production at short than we are expecting.  I like watching Florimon.  He makes flashy plays.  He has good range and a good arm.  He might not be the best hitter, but he improved in 2013.  I think he can continue to improve as he learns how to handle MLB pitching.  Florimon was basically a rookie last year, so growing pains are to be expected.  He got better in 2013, so why can't he get even better in 2014? 

If I'm wrong about Florimon, I have faith in Escobar.  The little bits I've seen have impressed me.  He looks flashy in the field; reminds me a bit of Alexi Casilla.  He hit really well at AAA last year too.  He's still super young also.  I also like Escobar because he can play other infield positions.  Just think of how great the left side of the infield would look defensively with Escobar and Florimon.  I've very optimistic about this tandem in 2014. 

Peter's Take:

Ugh.  Seriously, we have to sit through another year of this?  Florimon was awful last year.  He had a 70 OPS+ and that's only because he had a really lucky first half.  He only had one good offensive month and that was May.  He had a .351 BABIP in May.  Good luck doing that consistently!  He hit .201 in the second half!  .201!  If he's such a good fielder, why did he make 18 errors?  I saw him make some pretty boneheaded plays last year.  He's nothing special.

Escobar isn't any better.  He's Florimon but shorter and younger.  Big deal.  His Minor League stats are unimpressive.  His Minor League OPS is under .700.  That's terrible.  Sure, he can play a few positions, but does he play any of them well?  I didn't think he looked great last year.  He's been in the Majors for three years and hasn't earned consistent playing time.  Why would the Twins give him a job now?  The Twins need to upgrade this position fast.  I have no confidence in the Twins' shortstop next year, regardless of who wins this job.

What to look for in '14:

One of these men will win the job.  If that player doesn't produce early, will the team try the other guy?  Florimon has proved that he can be a passable MLB shortstop, at least defensively.  Escobar is an interesting player, but might have a utility ceiling.  Regardless, if one of these two can produce a 2.0 WAR season in 2014, the Twins can be reasonably pleased with their production at short.  If both guys flounder, the Twins may need to take a long look at the free agent options next off-season. 

The Twins do not have a bona fide shortstop prospect on the doorstep.  They have some interesting guys though.  Danny Santana might be in the same mold as Escobar and Florimon and he could be ready in 2015.  Jorge Polanco is a better prospect, but he might be two or even three years away.  Niko Goodrum has great tools and has produced pretty well, but he's an even more long-term project than Polanco.  Looking at the roster right now, the Twins need Peduardo Florscobar to produce for at least one season, if not more.