Organizational Depth Chart: Middle Infielders

31 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here.

 Last week, I started looking at the depth throughout the Twins system. I reviewed the catchers, first basemen and third basemen. After a weekend at Twins Fest (which I’ll write about very soon), I thought it would be good to get back into the Organizational Depth Chart series. Today, I am going to write about the Middle Infielders. I decided to put the shortstops and second basemen together because so many of these players can and will play both positions. As I’ve said before, the purpose of this series is two-fold (if not more). First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.

I need to reiterate that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended

Minnesota Twins  

Jamey Carroll (SS), Alexi Casilla (2B), Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes

About the time spring training starts, Carroll will turn 38 years old. Most consider him a utility player, and he probably is because he plays multiple positions. He has accumulated more than 350 plate appearances five of the last six years. The last two years, he has combined for 924 plate appearances. He played 129 games at second base, and another 135 and shortstop. The Twins are bringing him in for the next two seasons to be their starting shortstop. He’s an on-base machine, perfect for the #2 spot in the lineup. Alexi Casilla has proven himself to be a solid utility infielder but has often shown that he can’t handle an every day job. I thought last year was his last chance to prove that, but he’s getting another opportunity in 2012. I’m not going to say Luke Hughes is the answer, but Casilla has received so many opportunities, I’d rather Hughes get a shot at the regular, daily second base job with Casilla as a role player. We don’t know if Hughes will hit, but he does have some pop in his bat. We know that Casilla won’t do much. I’m understanding that Nishioka needs and deserves to start 2012 with an empty slate. 2011 was an awful year for him. He was adjusting to so many things on and off the field, and then he was hurt within the first week and never fully recovered. The best thing would have been for him to get a lot of time in the minors last year. Maybe that can happen in 2012.  

Rochester Red Wings

Brian Dozier (SS), Pedro Florimon (2B), Ray Chang, Brian Dinkelman

Brian Dozier was the minor league player of the year in 2011 and hopes to build upon that starting in spring training in 2012. There is little chance he’ll open with the Twins. In fact, there’s a better chance he returns to New Britain and based on the past, I would not be shocked if he did start the season with the Rock Cats. But he’s ready for AAA, and nearly ready for the big leagues. Part of why I would like to see Hughes get the starting gig with the Twins, is because by June, he could move to the bench with Carroll shifting to second base and Dozier jumping to the Twins. But, let’s see how he starts the 2012 season before counting any eggs, or something like that. The Twins claimed Florimon from the Orioles in December, but nearly immediately placed him on waivers. He cleared and was outrighted to Rochester. He jumped from AA to the big leagues with a September call-up. He will certainly get plenty of time at shortstop with Dozier moving to second. Chang will play all around the infield. He was the Red Wings starting shortstop while he was with the team last year, before his broken leg. Dinkelman finally got his chance with the Twins last year and hit .301. He struggled in Rochester. He can play second base but can also play the corner outfield positions.

New Britain Rock Cats

James Beresford (SS), Estarlin de Los Santos (2B), Chris Cates

James Beresford is tremendous with the glove. He is a smooth fielder with soft hands and a strong arm. He can play both middle infield positions well and is a leader on the infield. His play in international competition has really been impressive. He has hit for average in his minor league career. He takes really good, quality at bats. But because he is almost exclusively a singles hitter, he will not be walked often. He also doesn’t strike out much. He works very hard to gain weight, and hopefully that will happen soon to give the opponents a little concern for extra base hits. De Los Santos was once considered a quality prospect in the Twins system. He was added to the 40 man roster, but that lasted just a year. 2011 was a lost year for him. He spent most of the season on the Disabled List, rehabbed quite a bit in the GCL. He got a little time at Ft. Myers, played second base before he finally ended his season with elbow surgery. Although he could have become a free agent at the end of the season, he signed quickly to remain with the Twins. Cates is a strong defender at both middle infield positions. He also has a very strong arm.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Tyler Grimes (SS), Danny Santana (2B), Reggie Williams, Adam Bryant

Grimes was the Twins 5th round pick just last year out of college baseball power house Wichita State. He missed a little bit of time after signing with the Twins and reporting to Beloit. He can hit. He’s another on-base percentage guy with some pop in his bat. He has good speed and plays solid defense. Santana primarily played shortstop in Beloit, but he will likely get time at second base and in centerfield as well in 2011. He has great range, soft hands and a very strong arm. He does have pop in his bat although his 2011 numbers don’t necessarily show it. He has a immense talent and all the tools, but he will need to start putting it together. Reggie Williams was a fourth round pick in 2007 out of high school. He is a terrific athlete, and he will play all around the diamond in 2012. He can play four infield positions and probably all three outfield positions. He primarily plays 2B, 3B and LF, but who knows, we may even see him behind the plate this year.

Beloit Snappers

Levi Michael (SS), Eddie Rosario (2B), AJ Pettersen, Stephen Wickens, Nick Lockwood

One question we’ve been hearing all offseason is Where will Levi Michael start his 2012 season? The Twins have had top college pitchers jump straight to Ft. Myers. All indications are the Michael will begin the season with the Beloit Snappers. Making me want to get to Beloit early in the season is an infield that should include Michael, Rosario and Miguel Sano. I would also expect that Michael would get no more than a half-season in Beloit before being promoted. Rosario was the Appy League co-MVP last year when he hit .337 with 38 extra base hits, including 21 home runs in 67 games. He also is a tremendous center fielder. During Instructional League, he was moved to second base. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I would assume he will continue to get some time in the outfield as well. Sano will likely see some time at shortstop. Minnetonka native and former Gopher and last year’s 25th round pick AJ Pettersen said he is willing to play anywhere, but he is a natural shortstop who started there for the Gophers four years. Wickens is a Canadian who is a four year college shortstop as well with very good on-base skills. I would expect that Michael will be promoted in mid-June with Niko Goodrum moving up to take his spot. Nick Lockwood is a tremendous defensive second baseman. Although he didn’t hit much at E-town last year, he has a strong, line drive swing and uses the whole field.

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Niko Goodrum (SS), Jorge Polanco (SS), Wander Guillen (2B)

Goodrum had a very strong season with the Elizabethton Twins, even if it was lost behind the big seasons of Sano and Rosario. He is a tremendous athlete who will take a while to develop. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season at Extended Spring Training. I would, however, be surprised if he spends any more time with Elizabethton. I would expect him to be promoted to Beloit whenever there is a need, or whenever Michael is promoted. Polanco signed with the Twins for over $750,000 two years ago. He and Miguel Sano split 2010 between the DSL and GCL. Polanco returned to the GCL in 2011 and didn’t do much with the bat. Touted for his terrific defense at shortstop, he played 19 games there in 2011, 14 at third base and 11 at second base. He also played all three outfield positions. He will spend 2012 in Elizabethton. Wander Guillen is a third baseman, but with Travis Harrison around, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Guillen play more at second base, where he has played a little the past two seasons. He also should advance to E-Town in 2012 after splitting 2011 between the DSL and GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Eddie Rosario, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Levi Michael, 4.) Niko Goodrum, 5.) Danny Santana, 6.) James Beresford, 7.) Tyler Grimes, 8.) Jorge Polanco

SUMMARY

After what Twins fans saw at the shortstop position in 2011, it was pretty clear that the Twins needed a change in 2012! Alexi Casilla started the season as the shortstop and through five weeks was hitting about .150. Trevor Plouffe got a couple of games. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was given an opportunity. It wasn’t pretty all season. Jamey Carroll should bring consistency to the position. He may not have a ton of range, but he will make most of the routine plays and it winds up that trait is pretty important. Cailla and Hughes may be a solid platoon and the Twins should see again what they have in Nishioka, if anything. Brian Dozier is on the cusp and we should (or at least could) see him by July. The lower levels of the system actually provide a bunch of solid prospects to at least be excited about. Rosario is intriguing as a second baseman. Scouts love Levi Michael and he could move fairly quickly. He was one of five college shortstops the Twins drafted in 2011 (Michael-1, Grimes-5, Bryant-9, Pettersen-25, Wickens-33), each of which should get a lot of playing time in 2012. Accumulating a lot of talent in the lower levels is great, and hopefully a couple of them will continue to progress through the system.  

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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12 Responses to “Organizational Depth Chart: Middle Infielders”

  1. TT January 31, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    “We don’t know if Hughes will hit, but he does have some pop in his bat. We know that Casilla won’t do much.”

    Proving “what we know” is often wrong. Luke Hughes is the same age a Casilla. Last year he hit the same number of home runs as Casilla did in 2008. Last year, Casilla had 27 extra base hits in 365 plate appearances, Hughes had 19 in 317. And it wasn’t just that Casilla hit better, a higher percentage of Casilla’s hits went for extra bases. In short, the numbers would indicate Casilla is not only a better hitter, but has more “pop” than Hughes. And defensively there is no comparison. At best, Hughes is barely adequate at second base. You apparently are comparing Casilla’s frustrating youthful struggles with an imaginary future Hughes. I think the real issue with Casilla is whether he can stay healthy for a full season.

    I also think Trevor Plouffe ought to be on this list. If Brian Dinkelman is a middle infielder, so is Plouffe. The Twins are moving Plouffe to the outfield, but he has as much ability to play shortstop and second as Hughes. Depending on how the utility spot plays out, I could see the Twins letting Hughes go. I have a hard time figuring out where they would use his bat. He could pinch hit for Drew Butera, but who else?

  2. thrylos98 January 31, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I think that the Twins will not move Florimon from SS. He has exceptional range and a strong arm. I had a chance to see him in a couple of games in the DWL this winter (on line) and he looked really good on the field. I think Smith said in the annual New Britain thing this year that Dozier and Herrmann will be back there, so I anticipate Dozier with the Rock Cats. Most people are thinking of Dozier as a better fit at 2B as well. His ceiling on the field is like a Greg Gagne-type player at SS

  3. Shane Wahl January 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    There is a lot of prospect depth in the middle infield. 2012 will be a good year to sort it all out. Have you read Casilla’s comments about his winter ball play? It is pretty funny–he is very cocky about his ability to get on base as “I’m sick of getting on base so much” (sarcasm) may actually be a direct quote. Hopefully that works out this year, but I think Casilla should probably be traded mid-season as long as Dozier does well and Hughes isn’t terrible. They might be able to get some kind of arm in exchange from some team that has a middle infield injury or something.

    Anyway, I would like to see Casilla and Hughes start with the Twins and Nishioka play every day in Rochester to actually *become* a utility infielder and not just a backup shortstop. People seem to assume that he is that utility infielder right now, but I don’t see any evidence of that at the moment. Some injury is bound to happen by mid-May, so he can be called up then. They have invested decent money in Nishioka, so one would think that they might want the most out of the second half of his 3-year contract. It would seem that being on the bench to start the season is not the best way to go about that.

  4. MrHockey January 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Your prospects’ book rocks! Just got it in the mail.

  5. Jim H January 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    “Most people are thinking of Dozier as a better fit at 2B as well. His ceiling on the field is like a Greg Gagne-type player at SS”

    Thrylos, I have heard that many baseball people think Dozier is a better fit at 2nd. I haven’t heard him compared to Gagne before. Gagne had good range and a strong arm. In his prime, he was considered a near gold glove quality SS. If Dozier has his ceiling, I wouldn’t think anybody would want to move him off of SS.

    Lots of shortstops in the system who should be at Beliot. Will be interesting to see what the Twins do with all of them.

  6. jimcrikket January 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    I’ll be keeping an eye on Beresford. Hear he’s worked hard at adding muscle this offseason and if he can start finding some gaps with the bat, this could be the season he makes a strong case for figuring in the Twins’ future plans.

  7. lew January 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Great report Seth. I’m so curious why the Twins continue to keep 23-24 year old guys in Beloit when guys like Santana, Lockwood and Polanco are young guys just reaching stride. I have done some research on Lockwood via some people I know and he was a 5’11” 175 pound guy when drafted in 09. I’ve now been told he is 6’1″ 200 pound guy that is just reaching maturity. Considering the upside physically for guys like the three I’ve mentioned above, why are the older guys even in this discussion (Bryant, Grimes and Peterson)? The Twins need to continue the progress with youth and not waste time on college guys that have peaked physically and are not at a higher minor league level by now.
    Thanks for the information.

  8. Jim H January 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    The Twins drafted 5 ss in the last draft. The guys you are citing have just joined the organization. The Twins do have a problem in that some of young guys you cite plus the guys just drafted all probably belong at Beloit. There might not be much room at Fort Myers either if Seth’s speculations are right. It will be interesting to see how the Twins sort it out. Maybe some will end up at another position.

    • lew February 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      The problem is 23 and 24 year old guys in low A ball. The Twins are terrible at moving youth (HS draftees) through the system and have some really good 20, 21 year old guys that should form the entire Beloit roster. If a 23 or 24 year old player with 3 or 4 college seasons isn’t in high A by his 2nd year (outside of pitchers), release him. Take a look at Midwest League rosters from other organizations there last year, they are comprised of younger players being pushed to perform at a higher level…not 23/24 year old marginal college guys!

  9. shane January 31, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Has anyone heard about the Cub Foods promotion going all season? I heard the will be handing out brown paper bags so you don’t have to be embarrassed to be seen watching what was once a good franchise turn into the Cleveland Browns of baseball. So sad isn’t it…
    I am such a huge fan of the Twins and they are making so difficult to get psyched up for the new season.

  10. mike wants wins February 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    I agree with the general sentiment of frustration of the speed of promotion….but I’ve harped on that enough already, so I’ll just say I agree to the many above comments.

    Why would Sano play SS? There is 0% chance he plays SS in the future. It makes no sense to have him play SS, not when there are guys on the roster who might play SS someday. I don’t understand the philosophy at all. Put the guys where they will play, and get them time and experience there.

    I think the MLB infield is going to be rough this year, hopefully not as bad as last year. Carroll will at least get on base, but the D makes me nervous.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thursday Links - Groundhog Edition - Puckett's Pond - A Minnesota Twins Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More - February 2, 2012

    […] other Minor League notes, Seth Stohs continued his series or Organizational Depth, ranking Middle Infielders and Outfielders.  From the Two groups, I think that Jamey Carroll and Josh Willingham will have […]

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