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Over/Under 2021 Preview: Eddie Rosario

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:09 AM
The SB Nation site, Let's Go Tribe, they're doing some over-unders for their players. Today they discuss Eddie Rosario. I mainly just lik...
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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: Recap

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 08:29 AM
What did we learn while updating our annual Twins top prospect rankings after a year that offered no minor-league games, and very little...
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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #1 OF Alex Kirilloff

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 08:29 AM
How much can a prospect raise his stock in a year where there is no minor-league season and he doesn't make a regular-season appearance i...
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Hopefully Simmons "issues" are not like Romero...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:57 AM
Per multiple sources, new Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been delayed to the team's camp by visa issues. The exact detai...
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Timeline for Top Prospects: 2021 Edition

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 06:21 AM
The Minnesota Twins will enter 2021 as one of the best teams in baseball, and whether they’re projected to win the AL Central or not, a f...
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Previewing Spring Training Battles: Starting Left Fielder

Derek Falvey was quoted as saying the Twins are “likely done adding big ticket contracts” this offseason, which gives us an idea of the Spring Training battles we’ll have this year. This is the second article that previews these battles with under a week until workouts begin.
Image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this week, I previewed the battle for the last rotation spot, and later this week I will look at the players competing for the last bench spot. The competition for left field is a very hard one to predict as there are many different layers to consider aside from just simply picking the best left fielder. Whether the players and fans like it or not, the service time game is always one factor while making sure guys are getting consistent at-bats is another factor. At the end of the day, we may end up seeing somewhat of a rotation or platoon in left field based on who’s hot, match ups, and the need to get some at-bats. Like the fifth starter piece, this article is not meant to make a prediction, but is to provide a quick snippet on each of the players competing for the spot.

Jake Cave
Of the undermentioned guys in this article, Cave has the most big league experience and has been a regular part of the active roster for the last three seasons. He’s been the primary beneficiary anytime Buxton has missed time and has found moderate success with a career OPS of .795 and 21 home runs over 481 at-bats through his first two seasons with the club. He had established himself as one of the better fourth outfielders in baseball before really struggling in 2020 and casting doubt on whether he could really sustain the production he previously had, especially with news that Major League Baseball is deadening the ball. Furthermore, he may have the least upside of the others he’s competing with. Realistically, I think Cave is better than the 2020 but worse than the 2019 versions of himself and will spend another year as a fourth outfielder with the Twins.

Brent Rooker
Before fracturing his forearm on Sept. 12, Rooker looked all the part of a Major League hitter through 21 plate appearances sporting a 161 wRC+ including a 390 no-doubter off of Daniel Ponce de Leon. Although a small sample size, I would think that Rooker’s early success would make him a front runner for the starting left field spot and slot in the middle third of the batting order. The Twins, likely planning for Rosario’s departure, had Rooker spend the 2019 season in left field, but he also has the experience to spell Miguel Sano at first from time-to-time which gives him an edge in the competition. They aren’t going to keep Rooker on the active roster to sit on the bench, so if he makes the team expect him to get a lot of reps in left field.

All that said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to Rooker who has always been susceptible to strikeouts and, according to his scouting report on MLB.com, doesn’t project to be a very good defensive player. As promising as the first 21 at-bats looked, he will undoubtedly face some of the same swoons and criticism that has plagued Sano throughout his career while offering less power although does have a better knack at drawing walks. Rooker’s calling card is and likely always will be his hitting, which is why I really like having Cruz back, so it will be important he learns to adjust to Major League pitching and cut down on the strikeouts.

Luis Arráez
With the addition of Andrelton Simmons, Arráez all of a sudden found himself as the odd man out of a starting role as it’s expected that Jorge Polanco will slide over and be the everyday second basemen. Although he may lose some at-bats over the entire season, we will likely see Arráez in the line up on nearly a daily basis as he has previously established himself as a versatile defender which includes left field. He actually spent 161.0 innings in left field in 2019 and ended up with a UZR/150 of 3.6 per FanGraphs, and although that’s too small of a sample to project it’s worth noting that FanGraphs defines that as being “average”. Aside from currently being the most passable option in left field, ZiPS projects him to win the batting title in 2021 which also makes him the best option offensively of the group. I’d imagine that Arráez will still get most of his at bats from Polanco, Simmons, and Josh Donaldson needing rest days but he could also be a nice platoon type against righties if Rooker is the other left field option.

Prospects
Rooker is still technically a rookie/prospect, but being that he had already debuted in 2020 and would likely have exceeded the minimum 150 at-bats if not for breaking his forearm he was left out of this group. The Twins have Alex Kirilloff (#26 prospect in all of baseball), Trevor Larnach (#80 prospect in all of baseball), and Travis Blankenhorn (#17 Twins prospect in 2020) who are all ready for their shot at the big leagues despite the circumstances of 2020. The challenge of having any one of these guys on the roster, Rooker included, is making sure they are getting consistent playing time, as it would be wasteful to have them sitting on the bench more than once or twice a week.

Kirilloff, of course, became the first player ever to make their Major League debut by starting in a playoff game. Furthermore, he is probably the long term solution to left field and expected to be a major part of the Twins organization moving forward. On top of playing either corner outfield position, he’s actually played some first base which gives the Twins some nice versatility. I think the only thing that keeps him off the opening day roster is the Twins playing the service time game, but I’d suspect that we will see him some time this season.

Larnach probably isn’t quite as ready for the Big Leagues as Kiriloff as he’s only had 43 games above High-A ball back in 2019. That said, he has a lot of the same hype and expectations as Kiriloff despite being drafted two years after him. He’s in a tough spot as he’s probably behind the aforementioned players on the depth chart while also competing with Royce Lewis (#17 prospect in all of baseball) who is primarily a middle infielder, but does have some outfield experience. More to come on that ...

Blankenhorn doesn’t have the tools to be an everyday outfielder but will still be competing for a roster spot as a super utility. That said, with Arráez and (probably) Rooker as utility options for the Twins I don’t see him getting at-bats he would need for the Twins. He’s still only 24-years-old and may be the Marwin Gonzalez type for the future, but he’s stuck behind the same group Larnach is.

Free Agents
I think most would be shocked if the Twins made any other moves outside of a relief pitcher, but there also isn’t really anyone out there outside of Jackie Bradley Jr. The Twins already have a logjam in the outfield so signing a free agent just wouldn’t make sense.

Trading for a Starter
One thing I’ll briefly expand upon, is the logjam the Twins currently have and the possible need of improving the rotation at some point. Happ and Shoemaker are solid adds and could provide a lot of value, but the Twins have some young, intriguing prospects mentioned in this article that could allow them to add an even better arm at the deadline. Time will tell.

Who would you like to see in left field? One player specifically or a rotation of players?

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22 Comments

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BeatTheRich
Feb 19 2021 03:11 PM

Arraez and Rooker platooning to begin the year, with Kirilloff given a chance to make the position his own a month or two into the season.

 

What happens in left field should be fun to watch. I liked Eddie at the plate, but tired of his casual play in the field. I don't think we'll see any of that from these guys.

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Doctor Gast
Feb 19 2021 03:18 PM
My hope is that Broxton finds himself and start hitting. Because he's our best backup to Buxton. Our best way of keeping him him on the roster is platooning him at LF. He could starting platooning with Cave and Arraez and later Kiriloff. I like Rooker but that'd leave him odd man out.

I think we will have to wait and see how Caves bat looks this spring to see how this plays out because I think Arraez has the lead on left field as his bat is so valuable to the team.Not sure what the lefty righty splits are for Cave and Arraez but can see Rooker in left or right with a lefty on the mound.Keplers splits are concerning against lefty's so the Twins might want to platoon there from time to time. 

 

If there is an odd man out I think it will be Rooker.If Cave struggles look for a switch.Once they bring up Kirilloff all bets are off.Injuries will likely determine how much Rooker plays this year IMO.

 

Personally I think this is Cave's last year on the team as once they decide to add Larnach they won't want to carry that many outfielder's on the 40 man.Would be nice if Cave played well to build some trade value but we'll have to wait and see how things play out.

    • Doctor Gast and Joey P like this

Arraez gets most of the starts until Kirilloff is up, with Rooker getting the rest. Cave for pinch-running, late game defense for Rooker. Once AK is up (can he have #47?) then...not sure.

 

I'd like to see Rooker get a bunch of ABs and see how it goes. I sure liked what I saw in his tiny sample last summer.

    • jun and DannySD like this

Rooker to start the year, while they gain a year of service on Kirilloff. Arraez has very little outfield experience so he will most likely rotate in the infield. Twins have enough outfielders on roster or in the minors, no need to get only infield utility guy hurt. Give rooker the chance and experience this season, next season have a platoon of DH possibilities. 

    • Dave The Dastardly likes this

"Kirilloff, of course, became the first player ever to make their Major League debut by starting in a playoff game."

 

First Twins player. I believe it's been done twice before across MLB.

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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 19 2021 07:09 PM

I predict Arraez is the Opening Day LF to get his bat into the lineup. He'll play 5-6 days a week, half in the IF and half in the OF. I think Rooker gets the first look on the days Arraez isn't in LF, and Cave gets an occasional day there, or Broxton if he beats cave out for the 4th OF job. There isn't room for both of them. With Arraez playing some significant innings in LF, wouldn't surprise me if we kept another utility IF. Just hope it's a guy who can field, not Astudillo.

 

All of this changes around May 1 when Kirilloff comes up and starts playing everyday in LF. Then Arraez will rotate more in the IF. Chances are an injury will happen and determine who plays where by then.  

    • Dman likes this

"Kirilloff, of course, became the first player ever to make their Major League debut by starting in a playoff game."
 
First Twins player. I believe it's been done twice before across MLB.


Nope, Kirilloff is the first to START a playoff game for their MLB debut. The other position players debuted as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement IIRC.
    • Danchat and Nine of twelve like this
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lukeduke1980
Feb 19 2021 07:58 PM
How about Kirilloff tears the cover off the ball in Spring Training and starts opening day.
    • jrod23, rdehring, Nine of twelve and 1 other like this
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specialiststeve
Feb 19 2021 09:15 PM

Just give "special K" the job and be done with it.. Not sure with Chicago as good as they appear to be we should not put our "best" out there from day one. 

    • rdehring likes this
What happens if Buck is healthy all season and plays 140+ games? Arraez gets enough at bats to win the batting title since no position player will get more than 150 games. AK gets left field in May. Rooker gets 4th out fielder most of the season. Cave gets traded as soon as another team needs a big league ready OF. Broxton and Garlick will be in St.Paul or waived. Larnach will be in St Paul with Blankenhorn but both will be in a Twins uniform at some point this season. La torga will be in St.Paul until Garver or Jeffers gets hurt.... Everything changes if Buck goes down.
What happens if Buck is healthy all season and plays 140+ games? Arraez gets enough at bats to win the batting title since no position player will get more than 150 games. AK gets left field in May. Rooker gets 4th out fielder most of the season. Cave gets traded as soon as another team needs a big league ready OF. Broxton and Garlick will be in St.Paul or waived. Larnach will be in St Paul with Blankenhorn but both will be in a Twins uniform at some point this season. La torga will be in St.Paul until Garver or Jeffers gets hurt.... Everything changes if Buck goes down.

I think for now the most reasonable fix is Arraez in left whenever hes not filling in on the infield. Twins need his bat in the lineup and with a little more time he shpould be an acceptable left fielder. after that is probably Rooker early with Latnach coming along in late April or early May. I agree that one (or more) of these prospects will and should be dealt for quality arms by the deadline. Lets just hope the F.O. can get a great return.

I expect AK to do well in spring training and be on the roster for opening day.

 

Does Broxton have an out in his contract if not on the big league roster by X day?

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Major League Ready
Feb 20 2021 10:55 AM

Arraez does not have a bat that profiles in the OF. He is also quite poor defensively. Rooker had an OPS 150 pts higher last year and he cant be much worse than Arraez in the OF. Obviouly Rooker's sample size was small but its reasonable to expect a 100 point higher OPS from Rooker.

 

Cave would also have a higher OPS and he is a much better defender than Arraez. Broxton would definitely provide better defense. He could potentially be platoonedwith Cave.

I think the Twins will have 8 regular starters and then a rotation for the 9th, mostly in LF but probably a lot of days off for Donaldson too.

 

2B will be interesting, as Polanco has (going off memory and I may be wrong) started the most games of the position players the past couple years. But I think they want Arraez playing 5 days/week.

 

Is Polanco the backup SS or is this a permanent change like Sano?

 

How about Kirilloff tears the cover off the ball in Spring Training and starts opening day.

...which is exactly what he did last year until everything was shut down.

 

21 AB's

2 Doubles

2 Dingers

4 RBI

.429 BA

3 SO

...only 1 BB though

 

I would hope the Twins put the best player available at the position and compete for the right now, and chuck service time out the window.However, service time is going to be completely redone on the next CBA, so maybe they'll want to grandfather him in under the current terms.

 

The logjam spoken of needs to be addressed.Too many cooks in the kitchen.

I think they will only keep 3 bench guys, so its a choice between Cave or Rooker to pair with Arraez.Rooker is the obvious platoon bat while Cave is the proven guy.

 

Barring anything unforseen Kiriloff takes is over as soon as service time allows and its his to run with.

 

I think Larnach will be the trade piece they are most trying to move in any deal.Great looking prospect but expendable with Kiriloff and Kepler in the corners long term.

    • Nine of twelve likes this

This is a tough one, but a really good problem to have.I really like our young guys, Kiriloff, Rooker, Larnach and would hate to see any of them traded.But something has to give somewhere.I also think that I have more respect for Caves' game than most.Very versatile outfielder, very steady.Arr'aez should stay in the infield IMO.(for some reason I'm not totally sold on him).I know, but just a gut feeling.So, who has to go? I guess I'd trade whoever I could get the best deal (very good SP)for. Maybe two of the above.But definitely not AK.I see future Superstar here.

 

 

    • RaoulDuke and Nine of twelve like this
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Nine of twelve
Feb 21 2021 01:14 PM

Rather than limiting the discussion strictly to LF I think the team should probably look at the outfield as a whole. Ideally there would be four players, each of whom can play at least two positions, with at least two players able to play at each position. Moreover, it would be best to have two LH batters and two RH batters. SH batters would be a bonus. Also a bonus is having Arraez available as an occasional fifth outfielder when it's necessary to get him in the batting order, especially against right-handed pitching.

 

Looking ahead to the second half of 2021 and to 2022 it appears that Kiriloff has a good chance of playing a lot. Assuming that Buxton and Kepler are locks, that leaves one spot open. Cave is not a bad fourth outfielder but it would be better to have a right-handed batter. Even after trading Wade we still have a surplus of left handed bats in our outfield depth. I think Cave will be a strong candidate to be traded during spring training. My hope is that Rooker has a strong spring and is one of the 26 players going north.

    • DocBauer likes this
The problem with Rooker is that he is an absolute butcher in the field. I don’t want him anywhere but DH and pinch hitting.

If they could get something for him I would also trade Cave and have a right handed option on the bench.
The service time issue is an eleohant in the room to be sure. But it only becomes one if Kirilloff has an outstanding ST and hits .500. Even then, let's not forget the service time issue is something agreed on by both the owners and the union. Yes, it will undoubtedly change going forward, but it exists TODAY. Further, it still depends on AK's ST, AND we don't even know if the FO will even play that card.

But let's say they do.

From a pure roster construction perspective it could make viable sense. Why not Arraez and Rooker to begin the year? Arraez needs to play 5 days a week and isn't Rooker a quality prospect? Didn't be show well in his initial appearance?

You want the best and deepest team you can have. But aren't those two guys part of the equation? No matter how you slice it, no matter Kirilloff's future...which I think will be outstanding...a AAA jump-start to 2021 letting those guys get a chance is not a bad thing.
    • LA VIkes Fan likes this