To become more athletic, Twins collecting young shortstops

Published 7:48 am Monday, July 3, 2017

By Mike Berardino

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Fred Guerrero smiled as he heard the question. It concerned the Twins’ stockpile of young shortstop prospects and the apparent logjam they could soon encounter at the position.

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“That’s a good problem to have, right?” Guerrero, the Twins’ Latin American scouting coordinator, said as he watched pregame work from the visitors’ dugout at Fenway Park in Boston. “”It’s true. We have a good shortstop at every level.”

From Jorge Polanco, who turns 24 next week, in his first full season at the big-league level, down through slick-fielding Engelb Vielma (Triple-A Rochester) and former first-round draft pick Nick Gordon (Double-A Chattanooga) at the top two minor-league levels, the Twins seemingly are well-stocked in the near term.

Gordon, 21, was the Twins’ only selection for the July 9 All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park in Miami, where older brother Dee Gordon is a star second baseman after breaking in as a shortstop.

Down the road the Twins could see the likes of Jermaine Palacios, recently promoted to Class A Fort Myers; Gorge Munoz (low-A Cedar Rapids); and 2015 international signee Wander Javier, now at rookie-level Elizabethton, push for playing time.

And two weeks after introducing California high school star Royce Lewis, drafted first overall with a $6.725 million signing bonus, the Twins are set to spend another $3 million on 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Jelfry Marte, according to multiple people with direct knowledge, as the headliner of their 2017-18 international amateur class.

All of which prompts the question: Just how many shortstops do the Twins think they can play at one time?

“It’s a position that we’re going to continue to layer in as many as possible,” Twins general manager Thad Levine said. “I don’t think there’s any front-office person who’s ever said, ‘I have too many athletic shortstops who can play the position.’ “

That’s because shortstops, typically regarded as the most athletic players on the diamond, traditionally have the ability to switch to any number of other positions as needed.

“They can play anywhere,” Guerrero said. “Most of the positions they can play. Look at Hanley Ramirez here in Boston. He was signed as a shortstop. He’s played outfield. He’s played first. He’s played shortstop, third and now he’s a DH. They’re good athletes.”