DETROIT -- A discussion of baseball instincts with longtime Brewers coach Mike Guerrero began with Luis Sardinas, the barely-22-year-old who has opened eyes during his debut week with the Major League club. Eventually, the talk turned to another young shortstop who once similarly impressed.
"The guy that we signed and we knew he was going to be real good was Alcides Escobar," said Guerrero, whose father, Epy, signed Escobar in 2003. "He came from Venezuela, we brought him to extended spring [camp] and we thought, 'OK, let's leave him in the Arizona League.' And we didn't, because he developed so quick. His baseball instincts were so good that we sent him to [advanced Rookie-level] Helena, and at , he held his own at Helena.
"That's the difference. You think, 'Well, he's so young.' But a player who has those tools and those instincts, the age doesn't matter."
Sardinas just turned 22 on Saturday, a day after joining the Brewers as a replacement for injured shortstop Jean Segura. Sardinas had a hit and scored a run in each of his first four starts for the Brewers, who acquired him from the Rangers in January along with closer prospect Corey Knebel and starting prospect Marcos Diplan for Yovani Gallardo.
On Tuesday, Sardinas had two hits, including his first career triple. He also made the best defensive play of the night when he hung with a sharp grounder that had caromed off third baseman Aramis Ramirez's glove or wrist toward shortstop, where Sardinas plucked it out of the air and threw in one motion to first base for an out.
"What's exciting to me is that I feel like he's gotten better since Spring Training," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He plays really easy with a good clock in the field. His at-bats have been tough at-bats. He plays almost older than he is. He's been impressive with how he's carried himself."
Guerrero cited Sardinas' baseball instincts.
"You develop those instincts before you even sign," Guerrero said. "It's a tool that you don't measure that gives you the ability to play out there. You evaluate a player on five tools? No you don't. You evaluate a player on seven tools, sometimes eight. The instincts and the guts, those are two tools that no one counts out there, but they are part of a player."
And what's the elusive eighth tool?
"The heart," Guerrero said. "Those are the three extra tools that you look at in a player, but no one evaluates them from the stands. You evaluate them from the inside. A young player like [Sardinas], he has all that."
As a result of targeting the position in recent years, the Brewers are stocked with shortstops. Besides Hector Gomez (27), Segura (25) and Sardinas, the team has Yadiel Rivera (23) at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Orlando Arcia (20) at Double-A Biloxi, Jake Gatewood (19) at Class A Wisconsin and Gilbert Lara (17) in extended spring training. Arcia is No. 1 on MLB.com's list of top Brewers prospects, Gatewood is No. 5, Lara No. 6 and Rivera No. 23.
Acquiring those players was a mix of professional and amateur scouring. Segura and Sardinas came in trades; Gomez was a waiver wire pickup; Gatewood and Rivera were First-Year Player Draft picks; Arcia and Lara were international signees, Lara to a club-record-shattering bonus last summer.
Some of those players may eventually move off shortstop, but for now the position is a strength.
"I don't know if you remember, three years ago, we didn't have any [shortstops]," Guerrero said. "Now you look at it, we are well-suited, not only at short, but those guys can also play second base, can also play third base. We are secure in those positons. We'll be fine."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.