Jamey Carroll, .290 BA, 17 RBIs, 10 steals, 52 runs in 2011
Carroll might be 38 years old, but the Twins are counting on him to hold down the every-day shortstop role this season. Signed as a free agent this winter, Carroll will be entering his 11th year in the majors. Despite his age, Carroll still played a career-high 146 games last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I think if you're playing that many games, you must be doing something right, so hopefully that'll be the case," Carroll said earlier this spring when asked if he thinks he can match that number of games in 2012.
Minnesota will be Carroll's fifth team of his career, as he's also played for the Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians. He's spent more time at second base throughout his career 507 games there, compared to just 207 at shortstop. But the Twins see him as the starting shortstop, with Alexi Casilla starting at second base.
While 24-year-old shortstop Brian Dozier has been impressive in camp, it's still likely Carroll's job to lose.
"I'm always going to think that way," Carroll said earlier this spring. "I'm not taking anything for granted. I'm just trying to prepare and help this team as much as I can. I'll run out on the field. I'll be prepared for it whenever they tell me."
The veteran Carroll has struggled offensively this spring, batting just .156 (5-for-32) with two RBIs in 12 games. Four of those hits came in the last few days, including a two-hit performance on Sunday.
"I don't worry about a veteran shortstop like that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said earlier this month. "He worries about it, but I don't worry about it. I just want him to keep playing, catch the ball and do those things. I know he's a contact guy. He's not going to drive the ball a long way. He's got to get going. He knows that. But he's been around. He's 38 years old. He knows what he's doing."
The Twins are also hoping Carroll can shore up the defense in the middle infield. Both shortstop and second base were issues defensively in 2011 for Minnesota. Carroll has a career .991 fielding percentage and committed nine combined errors in 470 chances at both shortstop and second base.
Carroll hasn't played a regular-season game in a Twins jersey yet, but he's already asserted himself as a role model for the team's younger players.
"I have a great mentor, one of the best I believe, Jamey Carroll in front of me," Dozier said. "It doesn't get any better than that. He plays the game the right way, does everything the right way on and off the field. I just look up to him and continue to get better."
Alexi Casilla, .260 BA, 21 RBIs, 15 steals in 2011 (97 games); Brian Dozier, .318 BA, 7 HRs, 34 RBIs in 78 games at Double-A in 2011
Casilla will likely be the backup shortstop, but he'll spend most of his time as the starting second baseman. He split time between both positions last year, but played more games at second base (54) than shortstop (36).
"I've played a lot of shortstop. I know what to do there. I'm ready," Casilla said. "I like second base, but I like shortstop, too."
Casilla committed five errors at shortstop in 162 chances last season, compared to six errors in 265 chances at second base. He has a higher career fielding percentage (.975) at second base than at shortstop (.969). Casilla did post a higher ultimate zone rating (UZR) at second base in 2011 (0.9) versus shortstop (-1.1).
Dozier has been impressive this spring for the Twins, his second camp with Minnesota. Through Wednesday, he's batting .273 (6-for-22) with a home run and a triple (which appeared to have been a home run against Tamp Bay but was ruled a triple). Still, it's not certain whether Dozier will even make the 25-man roster out of spring training. Earlier this month, he told FOX Sports North that he expects to start the season in the minors.
"Obviously, in all (reality), I'm not going to make the team out of spring training," Dozier said earlier this month. "But at the same time, just continue to work hard. If it's Double-A or Triple-A, which I haven't been told yet I'm assuming Triple-A either one in our organization is pretty good. So just looking forward to it and continuing to get better."
Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka was also a possible candidate for a backup shortstopsecond base role, but he was optioned to Triple-A Rochester earlier this week.
OTHER AL CENTRAL STARTERS
Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians); Alcides Escobar (Royals); Jhonny Peralta (Tigers); Alexei Ramirez (White Sox).
Cabrera earned his first All-Star appearance last season, his fifth year with the Indians. In 151 games with Cleveland, he batted .273 with 25 homers and 92 RBIs. Prior to last year, Cabrera hadn't hit more than six homers in a season, but his power surge helped him earn a Silver Slugger award. He also tied a career-high with 17 stolen bases.
Escobar, who was acquired by the Royals in a trade with Milwaukee that sent pitcher Zack Greinke to the Brewers, was signed to a four-year extension earlier this spring. The 25-year-old shortstop batted .254 with 46 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 158 games last season, his first year in Kansas City. Ramirez has been steady during his four seasons with the White Sox and hit .269 with 70 RBIs. Peralta has spent nine seasons in the AL Central, including the season and a half with Detroit. His seven errors last season were second-fewest among American League starting shortstops.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.