With a number of starters who rely on their defense one key to the Twins success will be its defense up the middle. There are three young players Hicks, Dozier and Florimon who look like they will join Mauer int he center of the team defense. Other options are Escobar and Carroll. In addition to their defense, these players are also likely to provide the leadoff and number two hitters who will set up the potent middle of the order. For the Twins to successful, they need their three youngsters to avoid mistakes in the field and to do enough damage on offense.
Hicks won the center field spot. Sandwiched between Parmelee and Willingham, Hicks is going to have a bigger job than recent center fielders who have usually shared the outfield with at least one corner guy with good range. He has the speed and arm for the position. The question is whether he can avoid rookie errors. On offense, he will be the leadoff hitter. The Twins have been raving about his leadoff skills, especially that way he sees so many pitches. He will need to sustain that approach as pitchers start to adjust to his patient approach.
Dozier failed at shortstop last year. But he has received very high marks for his defense this spring after making the transition to second base. He can only improve with more experience there after spending most of his career on the other side of the infield. The real test for Dozier is whether he can hit enough. He has been slotted into the number two spot this spring and will likely start the year there. The Twins need for him to produce as a number two hitter since they have no one else who really fits in that role.
Florimon was all but handed the shortstop position based on his defense last fall. The question is his ability to hit. He has done nothing in spring training to change either one of those. He is likely to be the number nine hitter. The question is whether he will hit enough even there that his defense makes up for his liability on offense.
The Twins have a lot bet on these three. Darin Mastroianni gives them a good fallback both in center if Hicks fails. But his leadoff skills, while probably acceptable, don't compare to those projected for Hicks. Jamie Carroll and Eduardo Escobar give the Twins two guys who could step in if Dozier or Florimon fail. Carroll may be the best offensive player of the middle infielders, but the Twins seem convinced he needs time off to stay on his game. Like Florimon, Escobar is a slick fielder. He is a plus defender at any of three infield positions. But his bat is also suspect.
For the Twins to be successful they need to have solid defense up the middle with players who can get on base enough to give the middle of the order RBI's opportunities. Hicks, Dozier and Florimon proving they can fill that rather large role is a key to the Twins success this year.