It has not been easy for this team to find long-term stability at the shortstop position. Jason Bartlett was the team’s starting shortstop in 2007 and it’s been a revolving door since then. Nick Punto, Orlando Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar have all been the every day shortstop for the team at one point or another in the last seven years.
Once again, the team goes into Spring Training not knowing who the starting shortstop will be.
First year manager Paul Molitor announced last week that Danny Santana would be moving back to his natural position – shortstop – after spending most of his rookie season in center field. This pins him in a competition with Eduardo Escobar, who spent most of last season as the starting shortstop in Minnesota.
Escobar, who was traded to the Twins for Francisco Liriano in 2012, got his first shot as a regular in a Major League lineup last season and turned some heads by hitting .275 with six home runs and 37 runs batted in. That stat line isn’t bad for a guy who was hitting just .228 with three homers and 19 runs batted in over the three previous seasons.
It’s fair to say that Santana turned an equal amount of heads in his rookie campaign by hitting .319 with seven home runs and 40 runs batted in, all while spending most of his time in an unknown position to him. In a year where countless American League rookies shined, such as All-Stars Jose Abreu, Mashiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances, he was able to finish 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting.
This is a very interesting position battle because the team is deciding between people who each had a strong season last year, which is good problem to have if you’re Molitor. It’s easy to say that Santana is the clear favorite to win the job when camp breaks. He’s not only the younger option, but his ability to tear up the base paths can not be overlooked. Santana notched 20 stolen bases throughout the season and legged out seven triples, placing him 8th in the league. Escobar only has four stolen bases and five triples in his entire career.