The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 15, 2013

Thoma column: Who's on second?


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The Twins have invested two years in turning Eddie Rosario into a second baseman.

Now it appears that effort may not have been necessary.

Even as the 21-year old Puerto Rican sharpened his defensive skills at the keystone in the middle levels of the Twins farm system, Brian Dozier was emerging as a Gold Glove candidate. Even as Rosario continued to impress scouts with his ability to hit line drives — the so-called hit tool — Dozier, 26, transformed into power threat in the major leagues.

So the Twins have what appears to be a surplus at second base. Dozier, of course, is already in the majors; Rosario finished the season at Double A and isn’t far from being major-league ready.

Which means decision time is approaching.

The two are, or project to be, different players. Rosario, converted from the outfield, may never be as good with the glove at second as Dozier. Dozier is unlikely to hit for average; there is some thought that Rosario will not continue his power production as he climbs the ladder.

Assuming that Dozier’s power production (51 extra base hits this year, 26 since the All-Star break) is real and not a small-sample mirage, he fits in the bottom half of a contender’s lineup. (It speaks to the problems of the Twins lineup that he’s spent most of this season hitting first or third.) Rosario has a higher ceiling as a hitter but also a lower floor.

I see three options here for the Twins front office:

■ Trade one;

■ Return Rosario to the outfield;

■ Return Dozier to shortstop.

I rule out the third immediately. Dozier established in 2012 that he simply doesn’t have the arm for shortstop. That caused him to play too shallow; that, in turn, reduced his range. Dozier is either a second baseman, or he can’t play.

Returning Rosario to the outfield carries a different kind of risk. His slugging percentages in the lower levels of the minors were above .500, but the power largely dried up in his half-season at Double A (.412 slugging percentage). A .300 batting average that is almost all singles can play at second base or center field; it won’t work in an outfield corner. (And Rosario isn’t keeping Byron Buxton out of center.)

Rosario is going to play in the Arizona Fall League, and the word is that he’ll get some outfield time. Still, it’s possible that he won’t merit regular playing time as an outfielder.

This leaves the trade option as the most likely course.

Which to trade? Well, that depends not only on which one the Twins prefer for themselves, but on which will bring the larger return. And the Twins have sufficient needs that the return probably should be the primary concern.

Then there’s this: Jorge Polanco hit .308/.362/.452 at Cedar Rapids this season, following up on a .318/.388/.514 2012 in Elizabethton.

And yes, Polanco is a second baseman.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.