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Who's the Fourth Outfielder?

It’s going to be a good battle for the fourth outfielder position. The Minnesota Twins still have a lot of questions to answer before the 2019 season, but one thing they probably don’t have to worry about is finding a fourth outfielder. The Twins currently have eight outfielders on their 40-Man Roster. That’s more than enough and by the end of Spring Training, that number will likely be lower as there are three players who will battle it out in the Spring for one position. The two players who fail to win that competition might have to be moved because they look like they are ready to be major league ballplayers.
Image courtesy of © Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
We’re going to assume the starting outfielders for the 2019 Minnesota Twins will be Eddie Rosario in left field, Byron Buxton in center field and Max Kepler in right field. Is that a certainty? No, injuries are always a possibility, but that’s not what we’re discussing today. It appears the fourth spot on the outfield will come down to Jake Cave, Zack Granite and Michael Reed.

LIKE BUTTER, ON A ROLE
First, we should define the role of a fourth outfielder. Any non-starting position is a completely different role compared to a starting position. You’re not playing every day which makes it difficult to get a feel for your game from an offensive standpoint. Your at-bats are scattered into a pinch-hit here and there and a start once or twice a week. As a fourth outfielder, your defense should be a big and very good part of your game. Fourth outfielders are often late-inning replacements to protect a lead.

Role players or bench players are backups, but that doesn’t make them less important. There’s really no way to practice being in a backup role. Players progress through the minors by playing and playing every day. Teams aren’t trying to develop prospects into backups or utility players. Those players end up playing their way into the lineup so they’ll start to focus on playing a or many different positions. Either way, it will take some time for any player to get used to that role.

One thing that’s similar to being a starter is you always have to be ready to play. Maybe the better way of describing it for a bench player is you have to figure out how to stay ready while you’re not playing. You have to know how to get your body ready quickly so you can enter the game at any time for any reason. It could be for an injury, as a pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner or as a defensive replacement and it could happen at any point in the game.

IN THIS CORNER (OR IN THE CENTER)
Jake Cave, Zack Granite and Michael Reed will compete to decide who makes the team out of Spring Training. Jake Cave appears to have the upper hand in this competition because he played every day for the Twins for the last three months of the 2018 season, producing a 1.5 bWAR result. Zack Granite could disagree because if it wasn’t for him injuring his shoulder in Spring Training last season, Twins fans might not even know who Jake Cave is. Michael Reed was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 31. We don’t know a ton about him since we haven’t seen him play, yet. Looking at his past stats reveals that he has some power, on-base skills and he plays okay defense.

A fourth outfielder should be able to play every outfield position and play them all well. The Twins are pretty set with good defensive outfielders and both corner outfielders, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, can play center field if the need arises so maybe defense won’t play as big of a role in the fourth outfielder decision but not playing good defense would lower their opportunities for playing time.

Most people will put Jake Cave in the lead to win this spot, but the truth is it’s probably a lot closer than people think.

TO THE JAKE CAVE
Jake Cave is coming off a good season where he was able to show some power with the bat and some ability in center field. He hit .269/.316/.481 (AVG/OBP/SLG) going 76-for-283 with 17 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 45 RBIs, two stolen bases (in three attempts) and 54 runs scored while drawing 16 walks and striking out 102 times in 91 games (78 starts.)

He was better against right-handed pitching, a lot better at home than away and better in the first half than the second half of the season. The first versus second half is partly due to small sample size (26 vs. 65 games.) He produced very well in high leverage situations, two outs with runners in scoring position (RISP) and when the game was tied. He also did most of this while batting in the bottom third of the lineup. He was given some time hitting third (nine games) by Paul Molitor in the last month of the season and produced well there, too.

He does have a leg up in this battle but none of that will matter once spring training begins with the first full workout just 15 days from today on February 18th.

REEDING IS FUNDAMENTAL
We haven’t seen enough of Michael Reed to have much of an opinion on him, yet. That means we have to Reed the stats. He had a really good year for the Braves AA and AAA teams last season. He hit .341/.450/.515(AVG/OBP/SLG) going 116-for-340 with 26 doubles, 11 home runs, 39 RBIs, 10 stolen bases (in 13 attempts) and 70 runs scored while drawing 62 walks and striking out 101 times in 103 games. He did start the season in AA but was promoted to AAA at the end of May and he didn’t miss a beat. His season did end a little early in September with a back strain.

He can play every outfield position with most of his time spent in right field but since 2016, he’s seen more time in center field. He was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 out of a Texas high school. He got a taste of the big leagues in 2015 then struggled in the Arizona Fall League. He got back to the big leagues for another taste in 2016 after playing in AAA all season but didn’t produce much in a small eight-game sample and it looks like he was starting to struggle with the better pitching of the upper levels of the minor leagues. In 2017, he started at AA and only played 54 games dealing with injuries. He eventually elected free agency and signed with the Braves and has now put himself in a position to play for a big league job.

If you’ve seen pictures of Mr. Reed, you can tell he likes working out. He looks like he’s a lot more than 215 lbs listed in his bio.

DON’T TAKE ZACK FOR GRANITE
For Minnesota Twins prospect Zack Granite, it’s what have you done for me lately? A bad season can do serious damage to a prospect’s stock. Zack Granite was up with the Twins late in 2017 and showed his ability with the bat, his on-base skills and on defense. Now, it’s like he’s been completely forgotten because he just hit .211/.282/.245 by going 50-for-237 with eight doubles, four RBI, nine stolen bases (in 13 attempts) and 28 runs scored while drawing 22 walks and striking out 28 times in 68 games at AAA. Obviously, that’s a bad season but it’s largely due to a shoulder injury sustained in Spring Training that never fully healed and actually ended his 2018 season early.

He was the Twins Minor League Player of the Year in 2016 (with 56 steals). He took that momentum into 2017, just tearing up the International League by hitting .338/.392/.475 by going 96-for-284 with 16 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 29 RBI, 15 stolen bases (in 21 attempts) and 46 runs scored while drawing 24 walks and striking out 34 times in 71 games.

He showed a keen eye in a in only 93 at-bats in that 2017 cup of coffee. That included 22 starts.

SO, WHO YOU GOT?
Mr. Cave definitely made it look like he belongs in the major leagues. Some of those were home runs were very large and everyone loves power. The problem with power is it usually brings along with it lots of swings and misses and empty plate appearances. Jake doesn’t look as good defensively on paper.

Michael Reed is similar to Cave with the power and the strikeouts but he brings better plate discipline in terms of drawing walks and a little better defense. He’s an unknown to Twins fans but the scouts and the front office probably know him pretty well.

Zack Granite is a comeback candidate as injuries marred his 2018 season and could just be a speed bump in his baseball career. He also might have the most elite all-around skills.

If you look at their baseball tools, Cave has power, defense and arm. Reed has power defense, arm(?) and he draws walks. Granite has hitting, speed, defense and on-base skills (draws walks, doesn’t strike out much.) I’m not sure how Reed’s arm is but considering the size of the man, I suspect it’s pretty good. That would be the same reason for me thinking Granite’s arm isn’t very strong.

Also, Jake Cave was given a starting job in the major leagues for two plus months. That’s rare for most prospects. Neither Reed or Granite has had that chance. They’ve been backups when they’ve been in the majors. They all look to have a shot at the spot, though, and that’s why this should be one of the more interesting battles in Minnesota Twins 2019 Spring Training.

Research/Notes/Links:
https://www.mlbtrade...market-snapshot
https://www.mlbtrade...nter-field.html
https://www.mlbtrade...r-outfield.html
https://www.jsonline...vera/454700001/
https://puckettspond...e-zack-granite/

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73 Comments

I will take Cave.He has the versatility and the bat.I think he stays.Granite will regret 2018 for a long time. 

    • TwinsTakes-RD likes this
Would not be shocked if Austin makes it.
    • TwinsTakes-RD, Ryan Atkins and Sconnie like this
Is LaMonte Wade not in consideration? I think he’ll be a better player then those 3 long term.
    • TwinsTakes-RD, ChrisKnutson and SF Twins Fan like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 03 2019 09:45 AM
Do they all have options? A fourth who doesn’t have an option is Tyler Austin.

Reed looks intriguing. With two starting lefties in the OF corners, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the bench guy be right handed?
    • TwinsTakes-RD, Sconnie, Dman and 3 others like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 03 2019 09:47 AM
I should have said, in keeping with the spirit of the article, “let me put forth a fourth fourth” in Austin.
    • woolywoolhouse, tarheeltwinsfan, PDX Twin and 2 others like this

 

I should have said, in keeping with the spirit of the article, “let me put forth and fourth fourth” in Austin.

Ah but is the competition so fierce you need a fifth to mull over the fourth?

    • ashburyjohn, snepp, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this
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sweetmusicviola16
Feb 03 2019 10:09 AM

I honestly don't think there is a contest in regard to the 4th OF at all. It is Cave. The only contest that I see in regard to the position players, barring any injuries, is whether we carry 12 players or 13. If we carry 13 then that last one will be Austin. If we carry 13 pitchers, and I for one hope not, then Austin is cut.

 

I think the biggest place of competition is those last couple of spots in the Pen.

    • bighat likes this

Options will be a factor, both if one is available or is not. 

 

This could be a crapshoot all the way down to the last day of camp.Does one player make it because he is out of options and Player Y is not? 

 

Am I correct that Cave and Reed are out of options and Granite is not?

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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 03 2019 10:25 AM

Ah but is the competition so fierce you need a fifth to mull over the fourth?


I plead the fifth on whether I will need a fifth to mull over the fourth.
    • snepp, MN_ExPat and Original Whizzinator like this
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Post-Concussive Blues
Feb 03 2019 10:54 AM
Adam Jones will play RF. Kepler in CF. Buxton will be our 4th OF.

Surprised that Granite is still on the 40-mn after his season. He had a missed opportunity last year, and Cave stepped it up and took a position for regular play.

 

But, I think, Cave still ahs options. So if the Twins feel a need to keep the bat of Austin he could start in the minors (with the excuse that they want him to play regularly).

 

Reed and Wade are further insurance. So, it looks like the Twins are set for the outfield for 2019.

I can't figure out how Granite is on the forty man. If it's him, and not Cave or Reed, I will increase my belief this FO is bad at their jobs.
    • adorduan and Tomj14 like this
I think it will be Cave or Austin. But it should be Cave. If it is Austin, someone should ask why he didn't play OF last fall.... Not that this press corps will.
    • Tomj14 likes this
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Regular Sized Rudy
Feb 03 2019 11:19 AM

I don't think Austin is good enough defensively to make the team as the team's sole fourth outfielder.

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sweetmusicviola16
Feb 03 2019 12:10 PM

 

I don't think Austin is good enough defensively to make the team as the team's sole fourth outfielder.

I would think Austin will not be the primary backup OF. He does have extensive experience in RF in the minors for NYY. In view of that I expect him to make the team as the 1B against lefties and as an emergency/fill in OF.

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TheLeviathan
Feb 03 2019 12:33 PM

I wish we had a right-handed Jake Cave.

    • birdwatcher, snepp, Sconnie and 3 others like this
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jorgenswest
Feb 03 2019 01:52 PM
They don’t need a good glove as a 4th OF. Kepler and Rosario can play all three spots.

It could be Austin or Astudillo. Cruz can finish a game. Cave is a call away if a starter goes down.
    • Sconnie and SF Twins Fan like this

Am I correct that Cave and Reed are out of options and Granite is not?


You are incorrect. :)

Cave is not out of options. 2018 was his first option year, so he has two option years remaining.

Granite has 1 option year remaining.

Reed is out of options (as is Austin).
    • TwinsTakes-RD, Sconnie, Dman and 4 others like this

Is LaMonte Wade not in consideration? I think he’ll be a better player then those 3 long term.

I think he needs to hit better at AAA first. I think he has a similar ceiling to Cave (4th OF). Granite and Reed are fine for depth, but I don’t think the Twins need either of them.

I don't think people realized how injured Granite was last year. If affected everything. His hitting. His defense. Everything. Dude is a player! He obviously doens't have the power o Cave, but he plays far superior defense. Granite is also one of the most professional hitters in the organization, a true leadoff hitter. 

I'm personally glad he is still on the 40-man roster, especially since he still has options remaining. Great depth option. 

 

Reed, I believe, is out of options. His value is that he rakes against lefties, so he makes a lot of sense for a lineup with a couple of lefty outfielders. 

 

They should just have a 28-man roster... ha!

    • ashburyjohn, TwinsTakes-RD, birdwatcher and 7 others like this

 

Is LaMonte Wade not in consideration? I think he’ll be a better player then those 3 long term.

 

Probably not at Opening Day. But at some point. 

    • TwinsTakes-RD, Dman, ChrisKnutson and 1 other like this

 

I don't think people realized how injured Granite was last year. If affected everything. His hitting. His defense. Everything. Dude is a player! He obviously doens't have the power o Cave, but he plays far superior defense. Granite is also one of the most professional hitters in the organization, a true leadoff hitter. 

I'm personally glad he is still on the 40-man roster, especially since he still has options remaining. Great depth option. 

 

Reed, I believe, is out of options. His value is that he rakes against lefties, so he makes a lot of sense for a lineup with a couple of lefty outfielders. 

 

They should just have a 28-man roster... ha!

I agree that Granite has great range in the outfield, but his "far superior defense" is partially negated by his arm. He has a weak arm and won't be able to throw out runners going to third or home.

 

Plus I think some here might have soured on him due to some of the most head-scratching plays we've ever seen - throwing to first base when the runner was going home and nobody was there at first to catch the ball, and Granite also forgetting to step on first when running out a hit in a playoff game. 

    • SF Twins Fan likes this
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ChrisKnutson
Feb 03 2019 03:41 PM
If he performs well in ST I really think the FO should consider Wade for the 4th OF role even more so than Cave because of his ability to get on-base at a high rate (12.9% in a down year); something our projected lineup really lacks. Besides that, Wade doesn’t even really have any outstanding flaw either, except for maybe his lack of power, although he does seem capable of hitting around 10-15 HR if given enough AB’s.
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sweetmusicviola16
Feb 03 2019 04:02 PM

One problem I have with Wade is he did not really prove himself at AAA Rochester. His performance was quite Gordonesque tbh.

 

A problem I have with Cave were the K's. 102 in his 309 PA's is very high. OBP was nothing to write home about either.

 

Granite also with an awful 2018 in AAA. Michael Reed has done little to show that he can be depended on in ML either.

 

I would love to see Astudillo on the roster, I personally favor him over Austin, but I believe his having an option remaining will be his downfall. Please FO Keep Willians. His desire for the game and his personality are things that can't be measured by the analytics. But he has shown he has the talent to compete at the ML level.

    • TwinsTakes-RD likes this

OK I think I am starting to better understand why the FO is keeping all the 4th outfielders.I always thought Reed and Granite were redundant but since Reed is a righty he might fit better as a mix and match for Rosario or Kepler who are left handed.

 

The Twins don't want to give up on Granite after an injured\bad season because even if they don't like him long term in the fourth outfielder spot since he has an option, there is worse case, an opportunity for him to build better trade value for next year or best case prove he deserves the 4th outfielder spot.

 

I really like what Cave was able to do last year and I think he proved he belongs in the Majors.That being said I don't know what his lefty, righty splits are but if they are worse than Reed when it comes to lefties and he has option years left I think the Twins might prefer Reed.

 

IMO spring training is going to be important for all three guys.I think whoever looks best defensively and offensively will likely get the job.That being said I think Reed actually has the inside track as he has no options left.If he has a decent spring and proves himself worthy I think he remains on the 25 man to start the season.Should be a fun and interesting competition to watch this spring.

    • TwinsTakes-RD, ChrisKnutson, SF Twins Fan and 2 others like this

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