In the next installment of Rebuilding the Twins, we look at the shortstop position.

As with second base, shortstop this year has been filled with inconsistent play and a rash of injuries for the Twins. Over the offseason, the team signed Japanese player Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a 3-year deal to replace J.J. Hardy. Nishioka has greatly underperformed in his first year in the U.S., showing an inability to hit major league fastballs as well as having a hard time making routine plays.

The Twins have tried several players in the middle infield with mixed amounts of success from each. Most recently near the end of the season; Trevor Plouffe has received a majority of the starts at short, possibly setting himself up for the starting job next season. But before I give the job to Plouffe outright, let’s look at the other candidates:

Nishioka: Due to his prolonged struggles both offensively and defensively, I think Nishioka has taken himself out of consideration for the starting job next season. This has just become a signing the Twins should have never made. Nishioka has not been able to catch up to a fastball for most of the year, and pitchers have been exploiting this whenever he does play. He has also had lapses on the field in addition to the superb plays he also makes.

Plouffe: When the Twins fell out of contention this year, they began to look toward the future. Plouffe, who had been up with the club earlier in the year, was given a look at multiple positions to see where he would fit in order to get his bat in the lineup on a regular basis. The position that seemed to work the best was shortstop. Plouffe has shown great minor league power, and has also had some in the majors. He is also a young player with the potential to become a regular fixture in the Twins lineup if given the opportunity.

Prospects: Currently the Twins have most of their 40 man roster on either the disabled list or on the major league roster. Trevor Plouffe represents the most major league ready prospect in the Twins system.

Free Agents: The most attractive free agent on the shortstop market has to be Jose Reyes formerly of the New York Mets. However there is no guarantee that he wouldn’t resign with the Mets if given enough money. Reyes is a dynamic player that is going to command a large contract for the skill set he brings to the field. This would most likely put him out of the Twins budget. Other free agent options include Alex Gonzalez, Marco Scutaro, Rafael Furcal, and former Twin Nick Punto.

Gut Feeling: I believe that this is Plouffe’s job to lose. While he may be a young player and will go through growing pains, if given enough playing time he could become a serviceable major league player.

Next Up: Third Base