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Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2021: Part 3 (6-10)

We've reached the top 10 in our ranking of the most indispensable assets to the Twins organization. The five players we'll look at today can be viewed as building blocks, but at this time... probably not cornerstones?
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 11th-through-15th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway.
10. Trevor Larnach, OF
2020 Ranking: 14

Ranked as Twins Daily's No. 3 prospect coming into the season, Larnach didn't have a chance to raise his stock in 2020. He spent his summer practicing and scrimmaging in St. Paul, and never seemed to be in serious consideration for a call-up (unlike fellow top prospect Alex Kirilloff, who debuted in a playoff elimination game).

With that said, it's not as if Larnach forgot how to play. The former first-rounder had already established himself as a polished hitter ready to make an impact. Turning 24 next month, he's a plug-and-play corner outfield bat with a solid floor and real upside, controllable through much of his prime.

The main thing holding him back on this list is redundancy. As a corner outfielder he's stuck behind Kirilloff and Max Kepler indefinitely, and while first base is a possible destination, Larnach has yet to play the position professionally. He's the prime example of a player who'd have much more value to another team than to the Twins, making him a trade candidate.

9: Byron Buxton, CF
2020 Ranking: 7

The 2020 season was much like the 2019 season for Buxton and his valuation. He showed signs of being an elite difference-maker, but was unavailable often – including at the end when the Twins needed him most. Buxton's health struggles have been so chronic and unshakable that they've defined his career more than anything else up to this point.

Which is a real shame because when you take them out of the equation, he's one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Unparalleled speed, transformative defensive impact, and high-end power: all offered by a 27-year-old who will earn around $15 million in his final two years of team control.

If he can stay on the field, Buxton could be the single most vital key to a championship for this franchise. But he continually hasn't been able to, and now the clock is ticking on his opportunity to fulfill all that potential as a Twin.

8: Mitch Garver, C
2020 Ranking: 6

Garver's drop-off in 2020 was dramatic to say the least, but I'm inclined to mostly write it off. He got hurt in spring training, missed tons of time with a strained oblique, and never appeared fully comfortable at the plate. His brutal stats – .167 average, .511 OPS, and an eye-popping 46% K rate – were vastly out of line with any prior benchmarks.

Still, the question remains whether Garver is capable of sustaining anything close to the MVP-caliber level of performance shown over 93 games in 2019. Is he a star or merely a quality rotational piece behind the plate, as he appeared in 2018? The uncertainty, combined with a price tag that's beginning to rise as he progresses into arbitration, places Garver just one peg below the meteoric riser up next on the list.

7: Ryan Jeffers, C
2020 Ranking: 20

Last year, when Jeffers edged into these rankings at the No. 20 spot as a relative unknown, I wrote that "Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially ... Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets."

Affirming those beliefs in 2020 caused Jeffers to make a huge leap in these rankings. No longer is his impact theoretical; at age 23, his rookie contributions were crucial, coming in cold from the alternate site and filling in admirably for the injured Garver. All the strengths we'd heard about in those glowing reports – powerful bat, unusual poise behind the plate, natural instincts for pitch-framing, arm strong enough to deliver a bullet to second from his knees – were on display, under incredibly difficult circumstances.

When I started putting these rankings together, catcher was a clear point of organizational weakness. In 2018 Jason Castro was the highest-ranked backstop at No. 17. Now, we've got two proven commodities, both under the age of 30 and controllable for several years, in the top 10. What a turnaround.

6: Jorge Polanco, SS
2020 Ranking: 1

From No. 1 to outside of the top five: how did it happen?

The main thing is that 2020 reinforced some of the concerns that shrouded Polanco even when he sat atop this list. Namely: that his second-half production in 2019 (.788 OPS) was more representative than his All-Star first half (.882); that his balky ankle – now requiring surgery for a second straight winter – was no isolated issue; and that he doesn't really have the defensive chops to play short.

That last one is most glaring, and is reflected by the front office's apparent pursuit of a new shortstop this winter. Polanco remains a fixture-type building block with a highly favorable contract – controlled for three years at a total of $18 million, with multiple team options on the back end. But it's becoming clearer that he'll play out these remaining years as either a utility man or a blatant defensive liability at short, which is a far cry from the American League's starting SS in the 2019 All-Star Game.

THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021


20. Keoni Cavaco, SS

19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

18. Josh Donaldson, 3B

17. Taylor Rogers, LHP

16. Jorge Alcala, RHP

15. Miguel Sanó, 1B

14. Tyler Duffey, RHP

13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP

12. Jhoan Duran, RHP

11. Luis Arráez, 2B

10. Trevor Larnach, OF

9. Byron Buxton, CF

8. Mitch Garver, C

7. Ryan Jeffers, C

6. Jorge Polanco, SS

1-5: Coming tomorrow!


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25 Comments

Would you trade Buxton for Jeffers, Garver or Polanco? I would not.

 

Arraez is also too low. I wouldn't trade him for Larnach at this point. I like Larnach as a prospect but he's not on the same level as a proven 3 WAR player with five years of control. At an IF position, no less. I'd put Arraez above the two catchers too, because the Twins have two good catchers!

 

Love the series, Nick.

 

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 07 2021 07:40 AM

 

Would you trade Buxton for Jeffers, Garver or Polanco? I would not.

 

Arraez is also too low. I wouldn't trade him for Larnach at this point. I like Larnach as a prospect but he's not on the same level as a proven 3 WAR player with five years of control. At an IF position, no less. I'd put Arraez above the two catchers too, because the Twins have two good catchers!

 

Love the series, Nick.

 

Yes for Polanco. 2 years of control vs 4 years for Polanco. With Jeffers it depends on how they project his bat but probably given 5 years vs 2. Garver is a toss up with 3 years vs 2.

 

The Rays have been able to compete despite a substantial revenue disadvantage. They maximize asset value in part by valuing years of control. Philly lost big in the Realmuto trade. They were still a 500 team for the two years of service they got by trading for Realmuto for Sanchez. How much better would the Philly's future look with Sanchez?

    • amjgt, Oxtung, wabene and 2 others like this
I generally agree with the players on the list but not the order. For me, Buxton, Donaldson, Maeda and Berrios are the most important Twins. The Twins are a different team when Buxton is playing. He adds speed and world class defense, things no other Twin offers. He’s always at the top of the team WAR when he plays. Donaldson’s defense and drive make him #2 for me. The two pitchers are steady and reliable. I’d put Pineda there but he’s either suspended or injured too often. Duffey is better than the nebulous minor league pitchers.

I like to think that last year's numbers should be disregarded because of so many issues related to COVID. Yet, I can't get over the disappointment I had from Garver's terrible summer. Also believe his 2019 may have been an outlier, thus, am of the opinion that he is too high on your list.

 

Also believe that Buxton is the most valuable player on the Twins roster, when on the field. If he was able to play in 75% of the games every year, I would still have him as my MVP. I continue to hope that the Twins extend him, if not this off-season then this summer once they know that fans will be back in the stands and things are returning to normal. So for me Buxton belongs in the top 3, especially considering there are two years of control remaining.

 

And like those above, would definitely have Arraez higher than Larnach, even though I believe he is going to have an excellent career. 

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Major League Ready
Jan 07 2021 09:23 AM

 

I generally agree with the players on the list but not the order. For me, Buxton, Donaldson, Maeda and Berrios are the most important Twins. The Twins are a different team when Buxton is playing. He adds speed and world class defense, things no other Twin offers. He’s always at the top of the team WAR when he plays. Donaldson’s defense and drive make him #2 for me. The two pitchers are steady and reliable. I’d put Pineda there but he’s either suspended or injured too often. Duffey is better than the nebulous minor league pitchers.

 

I think you might be confusing quality of player with asset value. A 4 WAR player that cost $35M is probably a better player than a 3 WAR player at $5M. However, the 3 WAR at $5M is a more valuable asset because the $30M delta can be invested in Cruz / Odorizzi and a RP.

 

The equation that best represents value is WAR/$ weighted by years of control. No matter how you slice it or dice it, funds are NOT unlimited and production per dollar equates to value when trying to construct a team (assets). Another way of looking at it is that players who produce a high WAR to cost ratio make it possible to sign players like Donaldson or free agents in general where the cost per WAR is very high.

 

    • Nick Nelson, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 5 others like this

Gaver at 8 is ridiculous.

 

Great writeup, agree with everything else you've written. But IMO, Garver's days as a primary backstop are numbered.

 

Also, with Jeffers' emergence, that should automatically make Garver's rank plunge by default.

    • mikelink45 likes this
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Major League Ready
Jan 07 2021 11:36 AM

 

Gaver at 8 is ridiculous.

 

Great writeup, agree with everything else you've written. But IMO, Garver's days as a primary backstop are numbered.

 

Also, with Jeffers' emergence, that should automatically make Garver's rank plunge by default.

 

IDK about that. He sucked last year but so did a lot of otherwise elite players. In 2019 his OPS was by far the highest in all of baseball.175 points higher than JT Realmuto.

    • wabene likes this

Twins should not trade Larnach. I really think he's the Twins RF of the future. Kepler is a career .237 hitter with a career OPS of .763. Those are not extraordinary numbers and I think Larnach will be able to match and even surpass those numbers after a year or two in the MLB. Give Kepler one more year in RF to potentially boost his trade value after a terrible 2020 and then shop him. 

    • James Rivah Twins Fan, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 4 others like this

 

Twins should not trade Larnach. I really think he's the Twins RF of the future. Kepler is a career .237 hitter with a career OPS of .763. Those are not extraordinary numbers and I think Larnach will be able to match and even surpass those numbers after a year or two in the MLB. Give Kepler one more year in RF to potentially boost his trade value after a terrible 2020 and then shop him. 

Yeah, I don't get the love for Kepler. He was great in 2019, but his bat has consistently been middling the other 4 years he's played. His deal is pretty cheap, but he's starting to get more expensive. Kiriloff and Larnach have similar ceilings to him, and will be much cheaper.

 

Also, Larnach is #10 and Kiriloff is in the top 5? Methinks they're very close as prospects and should be closer together in the rankings. Larnach's had the better minor league track record, but Kiriloff is younger (and younger compared to the competition throughout the minors).

    • James Rivah Twins Fan, mikelink45 and MNT1996 like this
Buxton is way too low, IMO.
    • rdehring likes this
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Original_JB
Jan 07 2021 12:57 PM

So final 5 will be? (not in any order)

Lewis

Kirilloff

Berrios

Maeda

Rogers

    • James Rivah Twins Fan likes this

I love me some Ryan Jeffers.The kid checks all the boxes and passes the eye test.He and Garver should make a terrific tandem behind the plate, even if Garver settles somewhere between 2019 Good Mitch and 2020 Bad Mitch.

    • Dman, DocBauer, wabene and 1 other like this

 

Yeah, I don't get the love for Kepler. He was great in 2019, but his bat has consistently been middling the other 4 years he's played. His deal is pretty cheap, but he's starting to get more expensive. Kiriloff and Larnach have similar ceilings to him, and will be much cheaper.

 

Also, Larnach is #10 and Kiriloff is in the top 5? Methinks they're very close as prospects and should be closer together in the rankings. Larnach's had the better minor league track record, but Kiriloff is younger (and younger compared to the competition throughout the minors).

Won't disagree that Kirilloff and Larnach have ceilings equal to Kepler, at least their bats. I do believe, however, that Kepler's bat has another level yet to be seen.But most player's also must play a defensive position and it is in the field where Kepler's value far exceeds either Kirilloff or Larnach. 

    • Oxtung and Melissa like this

Some fun discussions.I have Arraez higher, Garver much lower.I think you did a good job avoiding the Byron has to be at the top because he is so good when he is on the field - because the weakness is keeping him on the field and soon those injuries are going to dampen his greatest asset - speed.  

 

Like many on here I like Larnach above Kepler.I just do not get the Kepler love and Polanco fills an important position but that is not enough to keep him that high - time to slide him down to utility ranking even if he is the starting SS.

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Major League Ready
Jan 07 2021 02:51 PM

 

If I was looking to place a bet on the biggest bounce back it might be Garver. He was not just good in 2019.He was also our best hitter the 2nd half of 2018. Garver also takes very good ABs. I don't expect him to hit at the torrid pace he did in 2019 but it would not be a bit surprising if he is among our highest OPS+ players. We should also give the guy props for putting in the effort to improve defensively.

    • Nick Nelson, DocBauer and wabene like this

 

Yes for Polanco. 2 years of control vs 4 years for Polanco. With Jeffers it depends on how they project his bat but probably given 5 years vs 2. Garver is a toss up with 3 years vs 2.

 

The Rays have been able to compete despite a substantial revenue disadvantage. They maximize asset value in part by valuing years of control. Philly lost big in the Realmuto trade. They were still a 500 team for the two years of service they got by trading for Realmuto for Sanchez. How much better would the Philly's future look with Sanchez?

 

It's like the Rays have an internal rule to never let a player reach their final year of arbitration, which, to be honest, is a pretty interesting concept if you're disciplined enough to do it. 

 

    • wabene likes this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2021 06:19 PM

 

So final 5 will be? (not in any order)

Lewis

Kirilloff

Berrios

Maeda

Rogers

You're close. Rogers was #17

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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2021 06:26 PM

 

Also believe that Buxton is the most valuable player on the Twins roster, when on the field. If he was able to play in 75% of the games every year, I would still have him as my MVP. I continue to hope that the Twins extend him, if not this off-season then this summer once they know that fans will be back in the stands and things are returning to normal. So for me Buxton belongs in the top 3, especially considering there are two years of control remaining.

Good points. Believe me you're preaching to the choir in some ways. I have a hard time separating the idea of Buxton from what he has actually been. In terms of pure potential, absolutely he's in the top 3, but the reality is that he's got a .289 career OBP, .719 OPS, and has averaged 72 games played/season. 

 

My dream scenario for 2021 is that he finally stays healthy, produces like the MVP-caliber player he is, signs a long-term contract, and vaults back to the top of these rankings. Unfortunately, based on all past evidence, it's a big stretch.

    • railmarshalljon likes this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2021 06:36 PM

 

Gaver at 8 is ridiculous.

 

Great writeup, agree with everything else you've written. But IMO, Garver's days as a primary backstop are numbered.

 

Also, with Jeffers' emergence, that should automatically make Garver's rank plunge by default.

Ridiculous? I mean I get that 2020 was ugly, but he's still a 30-year-old catcher with an .824 OPS and good defense.

 

The uncertainties around both Garver and Jeffers (the small-sample caveats of 2020 work both ways with those two) led me to place them both in the top 10, and right next to each other. Catcher is such a crucial position and it's super vital that at least one of these guys clicks. I'd rank either one higher if not for the presence of the other.

    • Twins33 likes this
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Aerodeliria
Jan 07 2021 08:23 PM
Yes, I would trade any of them for Buxton because to have 'real' value, one actually has to be on the field. I floated the idea two years back that he might be the Jacoby Ellsbury of Twins--loaded with speed, agility, hitting prowess and leather skills but someone who spends the majority of the time on the DL. Buxton giving the Twins even 100 games in good health (not 70% OK) seems like a 20 to 1 longshot at this point. Let the poison arrows fly.
    • MNT1996 likes this
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James Rivah Twins Fan
Jan 08 2021 05:12 AM

I agree with not trading Larnach. Somebody will get hurt in the outfield and he'll reward that decision and then he'll rise up these rankings big time. Fitting all of our outfielders into a lineup is a good problem to have. Starting pitching is what we really need but I hope we don't trade Larnach or Kirilloff to get it.

    • wabene, MNT1996 and SkyBlueWaters like this
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SkyBlueWaters
Jan 08 2021 04:31 PM

Nick Nelson writes that Larnach is"the prime example of a player who'd have much more value to another team than to the Twins, making him a trade candidate."

 

My concern with this is Buxton' inability to stay healthy. I agree with those above who see Larnach as insurance if Buxton gets hurt again. 

 

Kepler isn't as flashy as Buxton in center, but he can play the position and an outfield of Kiriloff, Kepler and Larnach could be pretty good--possibly very good at the plate.

    • wabene likes this
With all due respect, I cannot imagine any GM giving up more for Garver than Buxton.
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railmarshalljon
Jan 08 2021 11:33 PM

 

I think you might be confusing quality of player with asset value. A 4 WAR player that cost $35M is probably a better player than a 3 WAR player at $5M. However, the 3 WAR at $5M is a more valuable asset because the $30M delta can be invested in Cruz / Odorizzi and a RP.

 

The equation that best represents value is WAR/$ weighted by years of control. No matter how you slice it or dice it, funds are NOT unlimited and production per dollar equates to value when trying to construct a team (assets). Another way of looking at it is that players who produce a high WAR to cost ratio make it possible to sign players like Donaldson or free agents in general where the cost per WAR is very high.

 

Steve Cohen might not agree...

Won't disagree that Kirilloff and Larnach have ceilings equal to Kepler, at least their bats. I do believe, however, that Kepler's bat has another level yet to be seen. But most player's also must play a defensive position and it is in the field where Kepler's value far exceeds either Kirilloff or Larnach.


I think we need to pump the brakes on Kirilloff's and Larnach's perceived lack of defensive ability. Maybe we should watch them play a little. Kirlloff seems as cool as a cucumber and looked great sliding for the catch in a playoff elimination call-up. Larnach is 6'5" with a slightly thicker build than Kepler. He might surprise with his athleticism. I'm excited to watch.
    • SkyBlueWaters likes this

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