Eduardo Escobar has been playing third base, but sometimes positioned differently in shifts.
When Kyle Seager came to the plate in the fourth inning of Monday’s game against the Mariners, Twins shortstop Ehire Adrianza looked to the dugout for a sign, turned around and jogged 100 feet into left field. For the second time this season, the Twins shifted into a four-outfielder defensive alignment, with third baseman Eduardo Escobar left to patrol the entire left side of the infield.
“Baseball’s changed a little bit, hasn’t it?” Adrianza said. “Now it’s four outfielders; first, it was the shift. It’s always something with the computers. But if it helps us win, we have to make adjustments.”
That attitude is critical to a shift’s potential success, something that wasn’t always there. Pitchers tend to notice when balls are hit to vacated areas, so buy-in wasn’t automatic.
“When we moved to the infield shifts, there was a hesitancy of acceptance, just because we weren’t embracing the fact that it wasn’t going to work 100 percent of the time,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Pitchers have gotten better at understanding, OK, a ground ball is going to go through a large hole every once in a while, and it doesn’t seem to turn anybody upside down. But when you start spreading your outfielders and you look and you have the whole side of the infield [vacant], I don’t know if we’re ready to accept that someone might get a hit, and the next guy might hit a two-run homer. The [pitcher] might say, ‘What the heck are we doing?’ ”
It took Molitor some time to get there, too. Coach Jeff Pickler examines the data and maps out potential shifts, but Molitor said he doesn’t implement every one.
“I’m not going to do it unless I have some confidence in it,” Molitor said. “I’ve turned down opportunities a couple of times, just because of feel. I’ve gone with them a couple of times. We’ll see if that picks up some momentum.”
So far, Pickler said, the shifts have been a success, including when Seager grounded out to Escobar.
“We haven’t been 100 percent, but we’re on the plus side of the ledger at this point,” Pickler said. “Over the past two weeks, our pitchers are top-five in baseball on balls in play, so that’s a really good sign.”
The Twins signed Royce Lewis, the overall No. 1 pick in the amateur draft, for $6.725 million last June. They will have approximately the same amount to spend this year, too — on their first 10 picks.
Major League Baseball on Tuesday finalized the selection order for the 2018 draft, confirming that the Twins will own the 20th, 59th and 74th picks in the June 4-6 process, but will forfeit their third-round selection (96th overall) for signing free agent righthander Lance Lynn last March. They’ll also own the 20th pick in each subsequent round.
The Twins will have a budget of $6,705,500 to spend on their first 10 selections; only six teams will have less. Last season, the Twins were allotted a bankroll of $13.8 million under MLB rules, which assigns bonus values to each draft slot and penalizes teams for overspending. Minnesota, for instance, was allowed to spend $7.4 million on Lewis, but negotiated a contract of roughly $675,000 less, money the Twins were allowed to spend on other players.
The Twins’ first-round pick, 20th overall, has a slot value of $3,120,000, while their second-round pick, the 59th overall, comes with a suggested $1,140,600 bonus. The Twins received a competitive-balance pick between rounds 2 and 3, the 74th selection, with a budget of $812,000. MLB assigns a slot value to each pick in the first 10 rounds, and that constitutes the total bankroll that each team can spend. (For picks beginning in the 11th round, only bonus amounts over $125,000 count toward the total.)
Kansas City, which will receive compensation picks for losing Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, has the largest bankroll: $12.8 million. The Tigers own the overall No. 1 pick, which comes with an $8,096,300 suggested bonus.
• Escobar and Byron Buxton will hand out more than 3,000 baseball gloves to players in the age-8-and-under RBI baseball league Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Sibley Park in Minneapolis.
• Miguel Sano ran the bases and took batting practice, but there is no change in his condition, Molitor said. “We’re still, from my vantage point, not seeing max effort, which we’re going to need to see,” Molitor said. “He’s swinging the bat fine. It’s just making sure he can do everything he needs to on a baseball field.”