The Twins inserted Jason Bartlett into their starting lineup late this spring and all
indications are that as is the case at catcher and first base, the Twins have
another young star who will likely man the position for many years. Considering
that Nick Punto will probably stay at
third base, the Twins are in need of a player who can capably fill in at short
should Bartlett spend any time on the disabled list.
Luis Rodriguez will return as a utility
player, however, he is better suited for second or third. Therefore, the Twins
will be looking for another utility player for their roster or a AAA shortstop
that can fill in at short, if needed.
The Rochester Red Wings (AAA) had
three shortstops, none of whom are considered top prospects, man the position
this season after Bartlett was recalled by the Twins.
Gil Velazquez, 26, (#47/#63)
was promoted to Rochester to replace Bartlett. Velazquez, who had
previously been thought of as a defensive specialist, put up his best offensive
numbers in nine minor league seasons with a .375 Average in 16 at bats for New
Britain and a .250Ave with 4 doubles, 1 home run, 26 runs scored and 17 rbi in
164 at bats. When Velazquez went on the disabled list, the Twins brought up fan
favorite Tommy Watkins, 25+,
(#27/#53). Like Velazquez, Watkins had
previously been known for his defense and hustle, however, after his promotion
to the Red Wings Watkins bat became a plus for the Wings during their run for a
championship. Watkins hit only .218Ave in 101 at bats at New Britain. At
Rochester, Watkins had the highest batting average of his career when he hit
.276Ave with 10 doubles, 4 home runs, 25 runs scored and 23 rbi in 174 at bats.
When Watkins was battling injuries late in the season, the Twins signed minor
league free agent Donaldo Mendez,
28+, (#22/-) who performed well in his limited time with the
Wings, hitting .276Ave in 29 at bats. His #22 ranking is somewhat of an anomaly
because of his hitting 3 home runs in only 29 at bats. All three are minor
league free agents and if any return to Rochester in 2007, they would be
available as a temporary replacement should the need arise in Minnesota.
The New Britain Rock Cats (AA) began
the season with Velazquez and Watkins as their shortstops. After
both moved up to Rochester, Matt Tolbert, played some shortstop as did
J.R. Taylor, 23, (#42/#28)
prior to his return to Ft. Myers. While with the Rock Cats, Taylor hit
.207Ave with 10 doubles, 1 home run, 20 runs scored and 13 rbi in 203 at bats
with 5 stolen bases in 9 attempts. At Ft. Myers, Taylor hit .222Ave with 5
doubles, 17 runs scored and 11 rbi in 126 at bats with 7 stolen bases in 9
attempts. Taylor had more walks (20) than strikeouts (18) at Ft. Myers with 35
walks and 37 strikeouts at New Britain. After the all-star break, the Twins
promoted **Alexi Casilla, 21+,
(#1/-) to New Britain where he took over as their every day
shortstop. Casilla has been discussed with the second basemen based on his play
at Ft. Myers during the first half of the season. While at New Britain, Casilla
was successful in his first 16 steal attempts finishing with 19 stolen bases in
23 attempts. In 170 at bats for the Rock Cats, Casilla had a .294Ave with 10
doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 28 runs scored, 13 rbi, 18 walks versus only 20
strikeouts. Following the season Casilla was called up by the Twins and
although he has seen limited action, his call up clearly indicates that he is
the front runner for their second base job whenever it opens up.
The Ft. Myers Miracle had J.R.
Taylor playing some short following his return from New Britain, however,
former first round pick Trevor Plouffe,
19+, (#24/#18) was their primary
shortstop. Plouffe has been moving through the system rapidly and at nineteen
years old at the beginning of the season was very young for a Hi-A league.
Plouffe was coming off a season at Beloit where he struggled offensively and
defensively, leading the system with 35 errors. Plouffe again led the system
with 29 errors while struggling offensively early in the season when he hit only
.226Ave from April through July, before closing strong with a .304Ave in
August. Plouffe was the Miracle’s hitting star in the playoffs when he hit
.500Ave (7 for 14). For the season, Plouffe finished with a .246Ave with 26
doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs, 60 runs scored and 45 rbi in 455 at bats.
Although Plouffe, who is in the Fall Instructional League, needs to work hard on
all aspects of his game, he is very young and should begin 2007 at New Britain
which places him as a serious candidate for a future role with the Twins.
As discussed previously, the Beloit
Snappers (A) lost all of their starting infielders to injury prior to the
end of the season. Paul Kelly,
19, (#18/#40), had a tremendous year
defensively with only 10 errors in 95 games (compared to Plouffe’s 35 errors in
127 games for Beloit in 2005). Kelly also was one of the Snappers’ top hitters
with a .280Ave with 22 doubles, 4 triples, 3 home runs, 58 runs scored and 48
rbi in 378 at bats. Toby Gardenhire,
23, (#86/#85) had been a utility
player, however, following Kelly’s injury he became their primary shortstop.
Gardenhire hit only .198Ave with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 22 runs scored and 18 rbi
in 258 at bats with 1 stolen base in 8 attempts. Kelly, who is playing in the
Fall Instructional League, may be the top shortstop prospect in the system and
will likely begin 2007 at Ft. Myers.
Yancarlos Ortiz, 21, (#72/#37)
began the season with Beloit where he hit .200Ave in 65 at bats before returning
to the Elizabethton Twins (Rookie) when the Appalachian season began. He
hit .275Ave with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 21 runs scored and 11 rbi in
102 at bats with 13 walks and only 11 strikeouts during his second season at
Elizabethton. Ortiz is a solid defensive player who had only 5 errors in 34
games. The Elizabethton Twins top hitter was this season’s 11th round pick,
Steven Singleton, 20,
(#54/-). Singleton hit .340Ave with 9 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs, 26
runs scored and 24 rbi in 144 at bats with a .368OBP, .556SLG while striking out
19 times compared with only 5 walks. Singleton will likely move up to the full
season Beloit Snappers next year.
The Gulf Coast League Twins
(Rookie) had two young Latin players sharing shortstop.
Juan Delgado, 19+, (#77/#87)
played the most, hitting .228Ave with 4 doubles, 3 triples, 1 home run, 17
runs scored and 15 rbi in 136 at bats with 8 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
Delgado also was an emergency replacement for the Miracle in a few games where
he got 3 hits in 9 at bats including a home run.
Estarlin De Los Santos, 19,
(#81/-) saw limited action due to his being on the disabled list for part of
the short season. De Los Santos hit .195Ave with 1 double, 2 triples, 12 runs
scored and 2 rbi in 82 at bats with 8 stolen bases in 10 attempts.
The shortstops in the system included the
highest ranked player in the system, Alexi Casilla. Casilla played second base
at Ft. Myers and shortstop at New Britain, therefore is included in this review
of shortstops although he likely is the Twins future second baseman. The eleven
players playing shortstop this season had an average ranking of #42 out of 88
position players. The top shortstop prospects include:
Alexi Casilla (#1) - New Britain
Paul Kelly (#18) - Beloit
Trevor Plouffe ( #24) - Ft. Myers
Like catcher and first base, the Twins will not be looking for a starting
shortstop in the near future. They do need either another utility player who is
competent at shortstop or a solid prospect or minor league veteran playing short
at Rochester, someone who could be called up if needed because of an injury.
Casilla will be playing either second or shortstop at Rochester. Although he
may eventually be the Twins second baseman, he would be available to step in at
shortstop or a utility role in 2007. Their other top prospects, Kelly and
Plouffe, are both very young and were playing in A leagues this season,
therefore, both are several years away from being ready for the Twins.