Twins Daily: Infield defense may be a bigger problem than pitching for the Twins

How much will Josh Donaldson help the rest of the infield defense?
Author:
Publish date:
Jorge Polanco

Last season Minnesota’s starting rotation ranked seventh across baseball and fourth in the American League when it came to fWAR total. While not glowing in any one specific category, the sum of all parts was representative of a strong unit. There’s no denying that Randy Dobnak was in a tough spot for an ALDS game, and that Rocco Baldelli doesn’t have the horses other teams do. That needs to be addressed, but what happens when the ball is put in play?

The Twins ranked 21st defensively in 2019 and their 26th overall infield outs above average valuation was even worse. They posted a -14 number when it came to the newly unveiled Statcast metric, and that number is buoyed by performances by the since departed C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. With only Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Luis Arraez locked into the infield configuration prior to signing Josh Donaldson, they'd have been one of the worst units in baseball.

From an individual standpoint, Sano and Arraez both fare poorly on their own. It’s shortstop Polanco though that ranks dead last, 138th, with -16 outs above average. He’s joined in that position by none other than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is seen as a surefire designated hitter, and maybe by the time he’s 22 years old.

ccs-6683-0-32823300-1579037969

Before there’s consideration regarding the deficiency having to do with shifts, it’s worth understanding that infield OAA (Outs Above Average) takes starting position into account. 

Polanco posted his worst metrics while beginning at shortstop, as opposed to being adequate when shifted to the second base side of the diamond. Sano struggled the most when needing to guard the line, likely because of the additional ground placed between him and the shortstop. For Arraez’s efforts, he saw the largest slide when playing in the hole but staggered either to the left or right at second base. What the sum of all parts continues to point to is a glaring hole on the left side.

Enter Josh Donaldson!

Donaldson posted the 12th highest DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in baseball a season ago. His 8 infield OAA ranked 18th in baseball, and the 15 DRS tally trailed only Matt Chapman (18) among all big-league third basemen. The mark posted at third base nearly doubled the efforts of Nolan Arenado and did double up the abilities of Alex Bregman. To put it simply, he’s more than a very good hitter.

Now to be fair, Donaldson doesn't solve all of the issues facing the Twins, but he’s certainly the type of player that can assist them. In an ideal world Minnesota would have a better defensive shortstop (more on that here). Moving Polanco off that position gets tricky with Arraez currently manning second base. Neither Jorge nor Luis have the arm to play third, and that leaves more bodies than opportunities.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine landed a strong defensive third basemen to assist Polanco in range and positioning. If Jorge can play more up the middle and a bit further in, there’s ability for Arraez to benefit on his side as well. By driving up the baseline of the group the hope would be that everyone starts with a better chance to succeed.

Jorge Polanco wasn’t the worst shortstop in baseball by any means in 2019; heck he even posted a posted 1 DRS. The problem is that his -9.1 UZR was dead last (of 128 players to record an inning at the position), and his -8.4 ErrR is reflective of a guy who struggled to throw more often than he didn’t. Arm strength and positioning has been an area of development since Polanco assumed the role full time, but mediocrity seems to be the ceiling there.

We don't yet know what Miguel Sano looks like as a full time first baseman. We have no idea if Polanco and Arraez are capable of taking further steps forward. We do know that Minnesota just addressed their worst unit in a massive way, and Donaldson should be a key cog in any sort of a real turnaround.

This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 9.08.16 PM

Tributes pour in after MN Supreme Court justice's daughter found dead

Olivia Chutich died near the campus of Iowa State University.

Image from iOS (96)

Early Saturday fire damages Burger King in Richfield

The fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. / Gopher Basketball

Maryland hands Gophers first home loss of season

The 17th-ranked Gophers fell to the Terrapins 63-49 on Saturday afternoon.

Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville.

Minnesota Department of Health files lawsuit against Alibi Drinkery

The Lakeville bar has been in the news for defying orders.

Iron Tap snowmobile delivery

This MN restaurant will deliver to your ice house... on a snowmobile

Just in case you work up an appetite fishing on Lake Waconia.

Klobuchar and Trump

Klobuchar reacts to report Trump plotted against his attorney general

The NYT story alleges further tactics to overturn the election.

snow, plow

Snowy Saturday: Here's how much snow is forecast in Minnesota

Snow will reach the metro area by the early afternoon.

Cam Talbot

Wild improve to 4-1 with victory over Dubnyk, Sharks

The 4-1 win gives the Wild four victories in five games to start the season.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 9.08.16 PM

Daughter of MN Supreme Court Justice, Allina Health CEO found dead in Iowa

The 21-year-old was found dead in the parking lot of a sorority, according to police.

Related

Jorge Polanco

Which Twins are most likely to regress in 2020?

Twins Daily explains why some big hitters could have drops in production next season.

Luis Arraez

Is infield defense really that important for the Twins in 2020?

Twins Daily breaks down all of the defensive details.

Jorge Polanco

Left side, strong side: The bar has been raised for the Twins

Gone are the days of a weak left side of the infield, as Twins Daily explains.

Nelson Cruz

Do the Twins have a possible problem with right-handedness?

It's a balanced lineup overall, but what if Minnesota's best hitters are all righties?

Jorge Polanco

Twins Daily: How long can Jorge Polanco remain at shortstop

Cody Pirkl breaks down Polanco's future in the infield.

Luis Arraez

5 candidates to hit leadoff for the Twins in 2020?

The Twins have a handful of really good options. Twins Daily has the details.

Miguel Sano

Twins making sweeping changes on the diamond

If Rocco Baldelli wants that to take a step forward, shuffling some pieces on the dirt makes some sense.