Twins Haven't Ruled Out Hidalgo's Bat At Hot Corner





FORT MYERS, Fla.—When the Twins signed Anderson Hidalgo six years ago, they projected (or perhaps hoped) the teenager would develop into a solid 6-footer, a middle infielder with the power to clear fences.

Hidalgo's body stopped growing, though, at 5-feet-9. Good thing his talent didn't stop maturing.

As the Venezuelan third baseman enters his seventh season in the system, the Twins have adjusted their appraisal of Hidalgo's future to fit his size. They haven't changed their regard for him, however.

"His whole game is based on aggressiveness, and you have to like that," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "He swings the bat like a weapon."

He may not hit home runs the way Twins scouts once envisioned, but Radcliff said the 23-year-old makes up for it with gap power and a reasonably good understanding of the strike zone.

Hidalgo "didn't have the fluidity" or the speed to hold a middle-infield job, Radcliff said of an early attempt to make him a second baseman, where his size wouldn't stand out. But it's a testament to Hidalgo's offensive potential that the Twins converted him to third base, where only outliers like 5-foot-8 Chone Figgins or 5-foot-9 Alberto Callaspo hold up over the long term in the majors.

Heading into 2011, Hidalgo had hit .312 and reached base nearly 39 percent of the time in his career, but his success stalled at high Class A Fort Myers. He batted .274/.332/.395 in 347 at-bats in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League last season.

Hidalgo did manage to hit six home runs, and he demonstrated an ability, Radcliff said, to reach the gaps.

"He's gotten a lot stronger in the past year, and that should help," Radcliff said. "He doesn't have power per se, but he's got some pop. He's not a slap hitter, not like most guys his size. He can pull the ball with some authority, and we think that will translate into extra-base power."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins claimed fleet-footed 26-year-old Darin Mastroianni off waivers from the Blue Jays, and they expect him to compete for a reserve outfielder job in the big leagues. He batted .276/.358/.389 in 79 games with Triple-A Las Vegas last year, and he has amassed 200 stolen bases in five pro seasons.

• Aussie Luke Hughes played first, second and third base for the Twins last season, but he'll miss at least the first two weeks of spring training after spraining his shoulder while playing in the Australian Baseball League playoffs.