Fresh Meat: Grading the 2020 Twins Rookie Debuts
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodayBrent Rooker, RF
The powerful bat from Tennessee was activated as a result of Max Kepler being placed on the 10 day IL in September. Unfortunately for Rooker, his 2020 season was cut short after seven games due to a fractured forearm.
What we did see from Rooker was nothing but delightful. In just 19 at-bats the right handed hitter put together a .316 batting average with six hits and five RBI. The rookie even got his first big league HR out of the way on September 8 against St. Louis.
Expect Rooker to play a significant role in 2021, especially if the Twins outfield doesn’t feature Eddie Rosario. The 25 year old could play a crucial role in a corner outfield platoon alongside names like Jake Cave and Alex Kirilloff.
Final Grade: A
Edwar Colina, RHP
Known for his triple digit fastball and gnarly slider, Colina received the big league call up the last weekend of the regular season as a result of the Twins releasing Homer Bailey. His Major League debut was far from sunshine and rainbows, as the 5’11 reliever lasted just 0.1 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks against Cincinnati.
Even though Colina’s debut wasn’t pretty it’s tough not to imagine him playing some sort of role on the 2021 Twins. He fits the mold of a hard throwing reliever (with great breaking stuff) that the Twins haven’t seen come through town in the past. Arms like him, Trevor May, and Jorge Alcala could provide valuable diversity to craftier pitchers like Caleb Thielbar and Taylor Rodgers who don’t have the MPH factor.
Expect the Twins to continue to groom Colina in the farm system and bring him up at an appropriate time during the 2021 season.
Final Grade: C+
Travis Blankenhorn, 2B
The Twins brought up power-hitting Blankenhorn for one game in September as a result of Luis Arraez’s ongoing injuries. Blankenhorn didn’t disappoint, going 1 for 3 with a double and a walk on September 15 against the White Sox. He was optioned one day later to make room on the roster for Alex Avila and Jake Odorizzi.
Blankenhorn’s future with the Twins is up in the air...for now. Much of his fate for 2021 will rely on if the Twins choose to sign a ‘super utility man’ such as Kiké Herbandez or Tommy La Stella to fill the role that Marwin Gonzales has carried out. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Blankenhorn back up with the parent club next year at some point, it just may not be in large amounts.
Final Grade: B+
Aaron Whitefield, CF
The Australian native played a key role in patching up the Twins outfield early on in the 2020 season when Byron Buxton was not healthy. And while Whitefield was a solid placeholder in the outfield he did have much of a chance to prove himself at the plate, racking up just one MLB at bat.
It is improbable that Whitefield will play much of a role on the 2021 Twins. While the layout of next year’s outfield is up for debate, there are a variety of options that feature better hitting and defense then what Whitefield has to offer. He certainly could prove valuable if the Twins are plagued with injury (knock on wood), it just doesn’t seem probable.
Final Grade: C-
Alex Kirilloff, RF
The highly anticipated lefty bat of Kirilloff debuted for the Twins in the American League Wild Card Series against the Astros. In just one game, Kirilloff proved that he could play in the big moments, gaining one of the few hits that the team mustered together in a disappointing series.
It would be crazy to say that Kirilloff won’t somehow play a role in the Twins outfield next year. His strong defense and lefty bat make him almost a sure-lock if the Twins decide to go with the platoon option for the 2021 outfield.
Kirilloff’s talent is all but untapped thus far. Obviously he needs some more time to get his feet wet but the future looks bright for the Plum, Pennsylvania native.
Final Grade: A-
Ryan Jeffers, C
Saving the best for last, Jeffers is arguably the first positive outcome that many Twins fans will think of in regards to 2020. The rookie catcher looked like anything but a rookie, playing in 26 regular season games and racking up a .273 batting average. Manager Rocco Baldelli showed his confidence in Jeffers by starting him behind the dish in both postseason games.
There are multiple layers to Jeffers bright future. The UNC-Wilmington grad has proven that he can hit at the big league level. Don’t overshadow Jeffers behind the plate through; the Raleigh, North Carolina native is a rock-solid defender and there is nothing more beautiful than watching a catcher throw runners out from his knees.
2021 will be a big year for arguably the best catching prospect the Twins have seen since Joe Mauer. He’ll have the chance to learn the ropes in a regular 162 game season and work alongside Mitch Garver and (insert seasoned veteran) to help furnish one of the best potential catching squads in the league.
Final Grade: A+
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