2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Corner Infielders
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA TodayBelow you’ll find the corner infielders throughout the Twins organization.
Minnesota Twins -
1B - Joe Mauer (33), Kennys Vargas (26)
3B - Miguel Sano (23), Eduardo Escobar (28)
Miguel Sano is going to get his shot to prove whether or not he can be the third baseman of the future. His offense struggled some last season and yet he still hit 25 home runs. Hopefully he will start showing us what his full potential is very soon. Eduardo Escobar will likely play the three non-first base infield positions.
Joe Mauer is solid at first base. His overall offensive numbers in 2016 were a career-worst. However, if you’re looking for a silver lining, if his season had ended in mid-August when he got hurt, he was hitting .284/.384/.417 (.801). If he can put up those numbers, we’d all be happy. Kennys Vargas appears to be the primary DH to start the season, though he can also play some first base. He posted an .833 OPS in 2016, though in just 47 games.
Rochester Red Wings -
1B - Ben Paulsen (29), Reynaldo Rodriguez (31), Byungho Park (30)
3B - Matt Hague (31), Dan Gamache (26), Leonardo Reginnato (26)
It was certainly surprising that the Twins DFAd Byungho Park. His big league debut was disappointing, but it also ended early with wrist issues and eventually surgery. But there is no denying the power potential that he’s got. He cleared waivers and will be in spring training.
Ben Paulsen has 517 plate appearances over the last three seasons with the Rockies. He played 116 big league games in 2015 and was then DFAd following the 2016 season. He signed with the Twins and will go to spring training with an opportunity to play first base and the corner outfield positions. Reynaldo Rodriguez is now in his fourth season in the Twins organization. He was suspended for 80 games last year, but he’s been a strong source of power.
Matt Hague was the International League MVP in 2015. He spent 2016 in Japan where he struggled. He returns to the States this year. Gamache comes over from the Pirates organization. He hit .244/.338/.324 (.662) in just 79 games in AAA last year. Reginnato came to the Twins as a minor league free agent last year. He spent most of the season in Chattanooga before ending the year with the Red Wings.
Chattanooga Lookouts -
1B - Dalton Hicks (26), Trey Vavra (25)
3B - Niko Goodrum (24), TJ White (25), Tom Belza (27)
Dalton Hicks has spent the last two seasons in Chattanooga, but both years he missed time due to injury. When he’s played, he continues to be a major run producer. Trey Vavra struggled some in 2016 in Ft. Myers and yet he still hit eight home runs for the Miracle. He is finally back to healthy after the ankle injury (and surgery) from 2015. Belza was signed recently. He split last year between AA and AAA with the Diamondbacks and Brewers organizations. He has played the corner infield and outfield positions in recent years.
Niko Goodrum could have been a minor league free agent, but he quickly re-signed with the Twins. He’s a great athlete who missed half of the 2016 season with a stress reaction in his foot. He primarily played third base, but he can also play shortstop and center field and more. TJ White was primed for a solid season in Ft. Myers last year, but weeks into the season he was pushed to Chattanooga as an injury replacement. He struggled, but he did have his moments that remind us of the talent (speed and power) that he has.
Ft. Myers Miracle -
1B - Zander Wiel (24), Chris Paul (24)
3B - Nelson Molina (21), Chris Ibarra (24)
Zander Wiel ended his season very strong and led the Midwest League in RBIs. He was a Twins Daily organizational all-star last year. He was drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2015. In 128 games, he hit .259/.333/.459 (.792) with 27 doubles, eight triples and 19 home runs. When TJ White moved up to AA, Chris Paul was moved up to the Miracle. He played mostly third base, though he had played mostly first base the years before.
Nelson Molina was also a Twins minor league all-star in 2016 after his surprise success at Cedar Rapids. He hit .300/.374/.381 (.755) with 15 doubles for the Kernels. He played shortstop most of his career as well as in the playoffs for the Kernels. Chris Ibarra signed out of the independent leagues last year and split his season between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers.
Cedar Rapids Kernels -
1B - Lewin Diaz (20), Amaurys Minier (21)
3B - Mitchell Kranson (23), Caleb Hamilton (22)
Lewin Diaz was the Twins Daily Short-Season Minor League Hitter of the Year. In 46 games in Elizabethton, he hit .310/.353/.575 (.928) with 15 doubles and nine home runs. He was the Twins big international free agent signing in 2013. Their big international free agent signing in 2012 was Amaurys Minier. Things have been more of a struggle for him. In E-Town in 2016, he played 48 games and his .222/.318/.449 (.767) with eight doubles and ten home runs. He was signed as a third baseman, spent one year there, moved to the outfield, spent one year there, and has been at first base, and really DH, since.
Mitchell Kranson played a lot of third base at California. He was the Twins ninth-round pick last year and went to Instructional League as a catcher. He will likely spend a lot of time behind the plate. He’s got a ton of power potential. Caleb Hamilton can play all over the diamond. He was the Twins 23rd-round pick last year out of Oregon State.
Extended Spring Training -
1B - Zach Featherstone (21), Roni Tapia (19), Kolton Kendrick (20)
3B - Trey Cabbage (19)
Trey Cabbage was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2015 out of high school. He fought some back issues right before the Elizabethton season got started. He’ll likely repeat at Elizabethton, although an opening could move him up to Cedar Rapids earlier.
Featherstone was the team’s 12th-round pick last year out of junior college. He hit .212 in 34 games in the GCL in his pro debut. Roni Tapia signed with the Twins in 2013. He debuted in 2014 in the DSL. He’s hit .160 and .127 over the last two season in the GCL. Of his 58 plate appearances, he had 29 strikeouts. Kolton Kendrick was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2015. He really struggled in 2016, striking out 24 times in 49 plate appearances.
1.) Lewin Diaz
2.) Trey Cabbage
3.) Amaurys Minier
4.) Zander Wiel
5.) Niko Goodrum
6.) Nelson Molina
7.) TJ White
There are a lot of question marks at the corner infield positions throughout the system. What can Joe Mauer do in 2017. Can Kennys Vargas handle a full load of DH time? Can Miguel Sano play third base well enough? Will any of those AAA veterans need to be called upon at some point this season? The prospects are at the lowest levels, so watching their development will be very important as well. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below.