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Ranking the Minnesota Twins' Depth at Each Position

The Minnesota Twins have the top-end talent to compete for an American League pennant in 2020, but do they have the depth to hold up through a 162-game season? Let’s take a look by ranking the Minnesota Twins’ depth at each position.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
For this exercise I will be ranking the Minnesota Twins’ depth at each defensive position (excluding pitchers) by ranking them from 1 (most depth) to 7 (least depth). I will be looking at their depth in terms of names on the 40-man roster.

1. Corner Outfield
Starters: Eddie Rosario & Max Kepler
Depth: Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez, Lamonte Wade, Jr., Luis Arráez, Willians Astudillo, Ehrie Adrianza

Corner outfield is undoubtedly the deepest position on the Minnesota Twins roster. It’s the reason they were so willing to part with Jaylin Davis in the Sam Dyson trade last year as well as Luke Raley in the Kenta Maeda trade this year. In 2019, Marwin Gonzalez saw the most depth appearances in the corner outfield spot, however I would expect Jake Cave to be the first depth man to appear should anything happen to Rosario or Kepler. Outside of Cave and Gonzalez, Lamonte Wade showed last year that he was a capable backup in the corner outfield, and even Arraez got some run in left field when Rosario was injured.

2. Third Base
Starter: Josh Donaldson
Depth: Ehrie Adrianza, Miguel Sanó, Luis Arráez, Marwin Gonzalez, Travis Blankenhorn

The Twins were forced to show their depth at third base to start the 2019 season when Miguel Sanó entered the season injured and unable to play for the first 40 games. Marwin Gonzalez stepped in during this time and throughout the year and played well for the Twins at the hot corner, tallying up four defensive runs saved and a 2.6 UZR in 291 innings at third base in the 2019 season. After Gonzalez, the Minnesota Twins have Miguel Sanó as third base depth along with Arráez who played 130 innings at third base last season.

3. First Base
Starter: Miguel Sanó
Depth: Ehrie Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez, Mitch Garver, Willians Astudillo

The Twins are fairly well set up at first base with four different players on the 40-man roster able to provide solid first base defense. Mitch Garver was a guy who Twins fans were clamoring for getting time at first base last year, which didn’t come to fruition. If Baldelli can get Garver some reps at first base on his catching off days in 2020, their first base depth would skyrocket in potential.

4. Second Base
Starter: Luis Arráez
Depth: Ehrie Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez, Nick Gordon, Travis Blankenhorn

If we would have made this list at this same time last year, second base would have been towards the bottom as Luis Arráez was completely off the radar at that point. Going into 2020, the depth at the second base position looks promising with Adrianza and Gonzalez having already shown the ability to play the position well and two prospects in Gordon and Blankenhorn who could get the opportunity to come up and flash potential like Arráez did last year. In 2019, Nick Gordon played 250 innings at second base in AAA, hitting .298 with a .801 OPS. Blankenhorn reached as high as AA in 2019, playing 572 innings at second base and committing just eight errors. At the plate, Blankenhorn had his best season yet, hitting .278 and belting 18 home runs.

5. Catcher
Starter: Mitch Garver
Depth: Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo

One of the first moves that the Minnesota Twins made this offseason was moving on from Jason Castro in favor of Alex Avila. Nick Nelson did a really good job analyzing the switch from Castro to Avila and categorized the move as “at worst lateral switch with with a bit more upside.” Defensively, Avila is known for having a very strong arm, but has also become an adept pitch framer. Offensively, Avila does well against right handers but really struggles to hit lefties (.617 career OPS against LHP). Should anything happen to Garver the Twins would be in a tough spot where they would either be forced to trot out Avila against lefties, or count on Astudillo who is not good defensively and has shown his bat is not what it appeared in 2018. There are some other catching options in the system (Jeffers, Telis), but in terms of the men on the 40-man roster, Garver proves invaluable.

6. Center Field
Starter: Byron Buxton
Depth: Max Kepler, Jake Cave, Lamonte Wade, Jr.

The Minnesota Twins center field depth was put to the test in 2019, when Byron Buxton missed out on nearly half of the season due to injuries. While he was out, Baldelli tried to play Jake Cave (-19.2 UZR/150) and Lamonte Wade, Jr. (-34.7 UZR/150) in his stead, but the results showed that they just couldn’t get the job done. What Baldelli had to do, then, was play Kepler at center field. In this spot, Kepler performed well (9.5 UZR/150), but clearly below the capabilities of Buxton, and also left his right field position where he plays like a gold glover. Buxton’s value in center field is undeniable for the Twins and his health will be huge for the 2020 season.

7. Shortstop
Starter: Jorge Polanco
Depth: Ehrie Adrianza, Nick Gordon

The Minnesota Twins should thank their lucky stars that Jorge Polanco was so durable in 2019, because the depth behind him at shortstop is pretty bare. The primary backup for shortstop for the Twins in 2019 was Ehrie Adrianza, who played 152 innings with a -14.1 UZR/150. Adrianza figures to be the primary backup shortstop for the Twins in 2020, but should something happen to Adrianza the only guy on the 40 man roster who could seemingly play the position with any sort of competence would be Nick Gordon. In 2019, Gordon played 322 2/3 innings at shortstop, committing eight errors. The wildcard option who the Twins could choose to go with at shortstop in 2020 would be Royce Lewis, who isn't listed because he is not on the 40-man roster. Shortstop is such a difficult position to play, and with such limited options behind him, Polanco figures to be the most indispensable player for the Minnesota Twins in 2020.

Where do you think the Twins have the most and least positional depth heading into 2020? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

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17 Comments

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Channing1964
Feb 16 2020 11:13 PM
i agree that second and short are trouble spots, but the team is ten times better with Buck out in center. He is the Most indispensable.
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Aerodeliria
Feb 17 2020 04:10 AM

Even with a weaker bat, I like the idea of Gordon on the roster. His defense is something we should cherish up the middle.

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Doctor Gast
Feb 17 2020 05:55 AM

Totally agree w/ you about where are strength lies. Our problem spots are up the middle. Hopefully Buxton & Polanco stays healthy along w/ Polanco & Arraez improve defensively w/ the addition of Donaldson. I look to Gordon to improve down at AAA but I see him having difficulty making the transition to ML. My greatest hope is that Lewis takes that big step w/ Donaldson mentoring. He could fill those 3 problem spots very nicely.Therefore Lewis is our greatest prospect asset which should be guarded & not sacrificed

    • mikelink45 likes this

I would have a hard time seeing Gordon make the opening day roster unless there are significant injuries.I think he has fallen down the prospect list now and might be a future utility type player at best. His defense will never be Adrianza level and he won't be called up because of his bat.

    • mikelink45 likes this

Cave is way over rated. Hope Twins trade him before season starts. Rather have Wade.

Luis Gil was traded to Yankees for Cave and Gil is now the Yankees 4th rated prospect.

Bummer. Rather we had kept Gil.

 

    • birdwatcher likes this

CF is one of the bigger areas of concern; as much as I like Max Kepler we're much better off with him crushing it in one of the corners. I'm guessing this is one of the reasons they put Celestino on the 40 man this year to ensure they had a plus defender in CF in the pipeline. Kepler is fine in CF, but moving him means shuffling multiple positions which is never great. We don't have a true backup defensively right now. Cave & Wade are just overstretched there.

 

Catcher is a little bit of a concern, but that's an issue on every team: if they lose their primary catcher, they're almost certainly going to be thin/stretching a guy/hoping someone from the minors can step up before they're "ready". Frankly, the Twins are better off than most with Avila having been a quality starter before, Astudillo being functional back there and Rortvedt & Jeffers getting close.

 

SS is probably the 2nd area of depth concern not because they don't have guys who can play there but because they don't have a true plus defender there who is ready to step in at need. Adrianza is solid enough, but stretched as a starter. Arraez is not a SS. Nick Gordon can play there, but is more valuable for his bat. It's like the CF question all over again. If Polanco goes down for an extended period, it's going to hurt. Of course, losing an all-star for an extended period hurts regardless of depth!

 

Overall, the Twins depth is in really good shape right now. The MLB roster has quality and positional flexibility and there are multiple players in AAA or even in AA that look ready to contribute now or soon. 

    • In My La-Z-boy likes this

Good article - I would like to see the prospects who slot in to each position and whether they are close to replacing someone on the 40 man.For example if one of our starting OF goes down I would want to see Kiriloff take the position (except CF).CF is a real problem if Buxton has more downtime because even Kepler is not really acceptable out there.Is our minor league CF prospect close enough to push if needed?

 

I think 2B is very strong - Arraez has plenty of backup in our utility guys and Gordon and Lewis, but SS if Lewis is not ready to come in is our real weakness and is the most important of the middle positions.

 

Catcher is strong with the three we have and the two prospects.

    • lukeduke1980, In My La-Z-boy and SteelDodo like this

I'd probably move Catcher to #7, but that would be an issue with most teams. There's no reasonable replacement if something happens to Garver. I don't think Avila is more than a decent backup catcher and Astudillo having to get significant playing time back there would be a disaster. 

SS is the biggest concern. Gordon needs to step up this year if there are injuries.

 

CF is a distant second. Kepler is a very good CF, but Cave and Wade aren't up to playing full-time at that position. Celestino is the only notable prospect and he's at least a year away

 

The good news - there needs to be two injuries before there is a big problem. . 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

Is there an over/under yet on when Buxton takes himself out with self inflicted injury?

Weakest up the middle, Buxton great when playing dropoff if not playing, Unsure of potential backup/replacement Celestino/Lewis? Kepler, Cave, and Wade were not the answer last year. Arraez and Polanco good offensively but limited on defense. Adrianza and Gordon don't look like long term solutions. Unsure of prospects at SS/2B beyond Lewis and Blankenhorn. Maybe Lewis next supersub at 2B/SS/3B/CF.

Gonzalez has played 130 more games at shortstop than Adrianza, and his career grades are about equal. He seems to do OK at 3B, where about 25% of the time he has to cover the whole left side of the infield. Even if he has declined in the past year or two, he might be used in an emergency over Gordon, unless this is the year Gordon is really deserving of a promotion.

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Nate Palmer
Feb 17 2020 08:26 PM

Well Done, Matthew! 

 

I do wonder if we undervalue Kepler at times due to Buxton's amazingness. It is hard to figure exactly how to, but I might try to bump centerfield up the list. 

I'm 52.Life long Twins fan.Honestly, this is about as deep as I've seen this club.

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Matthew Taylor
Feb 17 2020 09:01 PM

 

Well Done, Matthew! 

 

I do wonder if we undervalue Kepler at times due to Buxton's amazingness. It is hard to figure exactly how to, but I might try to bump centerfield up the list. 

 

Thanks, Nate! It's a great point, Kepler's ability to competently play CF is the reason that I had CF ahead of SS in terms of depth on this team. However, we saw last year just how big of an impact Buxton's absence was on the teams defense. Losing Buxton impacts two positions as Buxton to Kepler is a significant downgrade in CF and Kepler to Cave/Wade is a significant downgrade in RF. That dual position downgrade is why I have CF so low.

A couple people have mentioned Celestino.Given that he's on the 40-man, I'd include him as depth.I can't imagine that we'll see him if Buxton stays healthy, but if Buxton goes down, Celestino is supposed to already play pretty good defense and if he continues to hit as he did the last half of the year...it wouldn't be the first shortish, fast CF we've brought up directly from A ball.

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jorgenswest
Feb 18 2020 08:27 AM
Should he Twins be looking for a shortstop to add? Is Tovar enough additional depth? There may be some shortstops DFA’d as teams set their rosters. Some will have options. Others will not. If the player doesn’t have options the Twins might put them on as the 26th man temporarily and then hope the pass them through waivers later. If a player has options the Twins might have to offer something in return so that he isn’t lost to a team with an earlier claim.