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.
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.
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.