Twins Following Rays and Cubs with Defensive Flexibility
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsCatcher
Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are penciled in to get the majority of the innings behind the plate. However, Willians Astudillo is making the Opening Day roster and he can be used occasionally at catcher. Garver and Astudillo’s bats are strong enough that they may be used at other defensive positions as well. Jeffers is the best defensive catcher as his pitch framing skills are among baseball’s best.
Miguel Sano is set to be the primary first baseman, but his long-term role might end up being DH. Reports praise Alex Kirilloff and his athleticism at first, but he is starting the year in the minor leagues. Mitch Garver might be the team’s best back-up option at first until Kirilloff is called up. Max Kepler and Willians Astudillo also have some experience at first, but the Twins can get creative and use other players at first.
Jorge Polanco has shifted from shortstop to second base, but he certainly isn’t anchored at that position. Luis Arraez will see time at second along with Astudillo. It is going to be intriguing to see how good Polanco can be in his transition to a new position. His previous defensive flaws won’t be magnified as much at second and some think he can be above average at second.
As Twins fans saw last season, Josh Donaldson might not be able to be in the line-up for 162-games. Baldelli will need to find days off for him to get rest as he continues to age. Sano has the most experience at third among Twins players and the team sounds open to him making periodic starts at the hot corner. Arraez and Astudillo will also get opportunities at third.
If Andrelton Simmons is in the line-up, he is going to be the starting shortstop, because he has proven to be one of the best defenders at that position in baseball history. On the Opening Day roster, Polanco is the most likely player to take over if Simmons needs a day off. On the team’s official depth chart, Arraez is listed as the third option at short, but that would be in an emergency situation.
One of the biggest question marks entering spring was who would take over for Eddie Rosario. Minnesota’s initial answer will be a platoon of Kyle Garlick and Jake Cave. Brent Rooker and Kirilloff were in the mix, but they didn’t make the club. Arraez has a chance to make starts in left, but he has very limited outfield experience and that inexperience showed itself during the spring.
Much like shortstop, Byron Buxton is the primary center fielder, but he isn’t the club’s only option. Kepler has shown the ability to fill in nicely and he is an underrated defender in center. Also, Cave has experience starting in center even if he is the worst defender of the three.
Max Kepler is one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball and he should start here on a regular basis. Many of the same options from left field can fill in for Kepler if he is needed in center field or if he needs rest. Garlick and Cave can shift to either corner spot so that adds even more flexibility.
How many different defensive alignments will Baldelli use in 2021? What’s the team’s best defensive line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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