Celestino Looking to Impress this Spring, Debut this Summer(?)
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyThe same day that the Twins signed infielder Wander Javier (July 2, 2015), the Astros signed Gilberto Celestino to a $2.25 million signing bonus. Celestino ranked as a top ten international prospect. At the time, he was known for his defense but also had a polish to his game.
A great athlete, the Twins acquired him along with reliever Jorge Alcala in exchange for reliever Ryan Pressly. Alcala has made his mark already after a strong rookie showing in 2020. It’s entirely possible that Celestino will join him at some point in 2021.
Celestino has already impressed many throughout the organization in a number of ways including his spring training manager.
Rocco Baldelli spoke glowingly of the 22-year-old, “Celly’s an easy guy to say some positive things about on both sides of the ball. I’ll start though with talking about him and his makeup and his character. He’s a young man, but he has some wisdom to him. I would say he’s wise beyond his years. He’s got a great relaxed heartbeat. He’s got great feel. He’s a sharp young man, too. There’s a ton in the clubhouse that I think his teammates respect and enjoy about him.”
Celestino was added to the Twins 40-man roster in November of 2019. That season, he had played in 117 games at Low-A Cedar Rapids before finishing the season with eight games in High-A Ft. Myers. Combined, he hit .277/.349/.410 (.759) with 28 doubles and ten home runs. He also had 14 stolen bases.
But, let’s start with the defense. Celestino has made his mark on an international level. After the 2018 season, he represented the Dominican Republic in the U23 World Cup. He made a couple of incredible highlight-reel plays in center field.
Celestino noted, “I think I take pride in my defense. It makes me proud. Not just here, but any team that I am playing with, I take pride in my defense as well. I consider myself a good outfielder.”
The following catch is the one that caught the attention of a huge audience, and it is the one that he considers his favorite catch to date.
He recalled the play, “The leap, going back. When the ball left the bat, I knew it was over my head, and I just put a lot of effort and concentration into catching that ball. At the end, I had to leap and it was in my glove. It was a great feeling, having that opportunity to make that play and represent my country.”
Wearing the uniform of the Dominican Republic is something that Celestino has done going back even before signing a professional contract. It’s something he doesn’t take for granted.
“It feels really good. It’s pride. One always is proud when you go out there and represent your country.”
Here is one more great defensive play by Celestino. This one was from November of 2019 at the Premier12 tournament.
Baldelli, who was a very good center fielder in his playing days, said of Celestino, “Defensively, he can play all three outfield positions. You have no hesitation putting him in center field. Once again, he’s got good feel out there. He looks like a very good outfielder with his movements, with his actions. And he’s very comfortable on a baseball field. He never looks like the game speeds up on him.”
And in spring training, Celestino gets to work with Gold Glover winner Byron Buxton. “I talk to him every day. I try to pick his brain. He’s obviously a great defender, so when I go out there with him, I ask him questions. One of the things that impressed me is his first step defensively, reading the ball. The first step is the most important one and he does a great job at that, and that’s why I think he’s a great outfielder. So I pick his brain on that, and I want to be like that too. Looking forward to that and keep learning from him.”
Offensively, Celestino has been a little more streaky, but he has a lot of potential with the bat too. In 2019, he began the season by really struggling in the cold weather of Cedar Rapids. In April, he hit just .203 with a .506 OPS. In May, he hit .229 with a .644 OPS. He hit .240 in June, but he started hitting the ball with more authority, posting a .694 OPS thanks to ten extra base hits.
Then in July, things clicked. Celestino hit .369/.430/.563 (.993) with seven doubles, two triples and three home runs. In August, he hit .327/.396/.500 (.896) with eight doubles and three homers. That included his final eight games in Ft. Myers.
Celestino describes himself as “a line drive hitter that is developing more power in the future.”
Baldelli agreed, “At the plate, he’s got really good contact skills. He can have a really good at-bat, the kind of at-bats you might expect a more veteran player to have. But he has those kinds of at-bats. I’d call it a line drive, doubles type bat. There’s some pop in there. He really does find a way to put the bat on the ball.”
His offense was something that Celestino focused much of his time working on, especially at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul last summer.
“During summer camp last year, I was focused on hitting, my mechanics, slowing down the movements and recognizing pitches. Those were my main focus last summer during that camp.”
The time spent in St. Paul last year wasn’t easy, but it was time that Celestino appreciated and took advantage of. He said, “The way I looked at it, it was a great opportunity for me for growth, and taking advice from veteran players that were at camp as well. Learning a little bit from those guys and picking their brains. It was a good opportunity for me to be there.”
Celestino is now in his second big-league spring training.
He said, “I think last year I came into camp, and I wanted to do things right and learn. This year, I want to keep learning obviously and leave a good impression.”
His goals for the upcoming season?
“It doesn’t matter where I start, but I want to end up in the big leagues in 2021. Rather than thinking about any statistics, that will be my main goal for 2021, to make the big leagues.”
Like most of us, getting to the big leagues is something Celestino has dreamed about.
“I’ve imagined it before. I’ve been thinking about it. If it happens, it’ll be a dream come true, not just for me, but also for my family and the people who have surrounded me in my career and the people who have been there for me. It will be important for them too. It’s not only my dream, but it’s also their dream. Like my parents, they’ve always been there supporting me. It’ll be a dream come true for me. I’m looking forward to it ”
Baldelli sums it up well, “We’re excited about Celly.”
Twins fans should be excited about the potential impact that Gilberto Celestino can have on the Twins.
Special thanks to Elvis Martinez (Twins Communications Coordinator and Spanish Interpreter) for translating the interview with Celestino.
For more information on Gilberto Celestino:
- Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: 11-15 (February 2021)
- Twins Future Position Analysis: Centerfield(Dec 2020)
- Trade Retrospective: How did the Twins do in the Ryan Pressly Trade? (Aug 2020)
- Break Glass in Case of Emergency: Could Celestino Cover Center in Case Injury (Feb 2020)
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