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Twins May Need to Shuffle Opening Day

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 15 July 2020 · 1,176 views

minnesota twins miguel sano marwin gonzalez byron buxton jake cave
There’s no denying that the Minnesota Twins are one of baseball’s most exciting teams. Their bullpen should rank among the league’s best, and the lineup is one that provides envy to virtually every other group out there. Kicking off a weird 2020 season though, they may need to make some changes.

When Byron Buxton went down in a heap after tracking a fly ball on Monday night the worst was feared. Fortunately, it’s just a mid-foot sprain, and while that may have some lingering effects, there’s still reason to believe the recovery could be sooner rather than later. Unfortunately for the Twins, their starting first basemen is uninjured but has yet to show up to Summer Camp.

Miguel Sano received a positive test diagnosis upon returning to Target Field. Quarantined and awaiting two negative COVID-19 tests before his return, the runway to ramp up for the season is running out. The Twins travel to Chicago in five days, play an exhibition against the Cubs in six, and open their 2020 campaign against the White Sox in eight. Calling a return that quickly rushed would be putting it lightly.

So, where does that leave us?

Let’s tackle the more probable scenario, who plays first base? That answer should be relatively straightforward with utility man Marwin Gonzalez sliding in. MarGo has started 154 games at first base in his career and has logged over 1,400 innings there. He’s still best suited in left field, but there really isn’t a position besides shortstop that he’s overly stretched in. Certainly, Sano’s bat would be preferred, but having Marwin trend back towards the .900 OPS he compiled while listening to the trash can would be a nice resurgence.

Assuming Buxton isn’t back for Opening Day, or even a few games thereafter, Gonzalez is actually piece of that puzzle as well. Sliding Max Kepler to center and filling a corner spot with the utility man makes a ton of sense. With him already in the lineup, the next turn would logically be Jake Cave. While LaMonte Wade Jr. has a strong on-base presence, Cave is the more complete player. He should be avoided in center but has a good enough bat to play on the corners.

Last season Cave finished with an .805 OPS, but what’s even more impressive is having done that after bottoming out at a .615 OPS prior to a May demotion. From his mid-June return through the end of the year he posted an .855 OPS. In 141 plate appearances from July 7 onward he generated a very nice .964 mark. The bat may be inconsistent, but it’s plenty capable.

Both of these should be relatively short-term scenarios. For Sano, we see the effects of COVID-19 and what the virus is going to do to this season. A player with no symptoms tests positive and costs the team their services over a specific stretch of games. In a 60-game season, that missed time could be catastrophic, especially if said player is Josh Donaldson or Jose Berrios.

On the Buxton side, contingency plans in the outfield remain a must for Minnesota. Unfortunate and unlucky as he is health wise, any absence by Byron will need to be evaluated in the short and long term. Immediately a Cave or Wade replacement makes sense. Knowing that him being out of the lineup opens a corner spot, both Brent Rooker and Trevor Larnach could then find themselves in the mix for a more prolonged absence.

Let’s hope we aren’t discussing these scenarios too long into 2020, and their realities are few and far between. Minnesota has a shot at the World Series this year, but they’ll need all contributors for as much time as necessary.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz




I am not pleased that Marwin Gonzalez is the easy answer to the problems the Twins face - I prefer Rooker, Kiriloff, Larnach - this is Marwin's last year - I want the future now.Gonzalez +94 OPS does nothing for me.In the OF Wade and Cave are better that Gonzalez.Nice to have a utility man, but this year we have 60 players to choose from. 

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Ted Schwerzler
Jul 15 2020 12:56 PM

 

I am not pleased that Marwin Gonzalez is the easy answer to the problems the Twins face - I prefer Rooker, Kiriloff, Larnach - this is Marwin's last year - I want the future now.Gonzalez +94 OPS does nothing for me.In the OF Wade and Cave are better that Gonzalez.Nice to have a utility man, but this year we have 60 players to choose from. 

 

I don't disagree with you at all if this is game 20 we're talking about. I think to throw Rooker or Kirilloff in on Opening Day for what could be a very brief absence by either player would be a mistake. Maybe less so if this team could afford them the acclimation process or had 162 games to work with.

    • bighat likes this
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Channing1964
Jul 16 2020 10:48 AM
I think that it's important to keep in mind that players like Gonzalez, and Rosario, and even to a certain extent Cruz are here on this team in 2020 basically to win NOW. Players are under contract to produce right now and win the World Series. And im talking about Cruz, and Romo, and Clippard, and Pineda etcetera. We all know they are prolly gone when their contracts are up. They are the guys that were signed for the present. guys in A, AA, and AAA, ARE FOR 2-3-4 years away. Why does everybody want to debate the talents of Kiriloff/Rosario when they will never prolly even compete for the same job at the same time?. The teams you saw in the scrimmage is the team we have. There is no competition for a roster spot in Twins Summer Camp. This team is set barring any injuries. believe that.

Look. EVERY team is going to be dealing with COVID-19. The winner this year could very well be the team that avoids it the most or gets luckiest. While the loss of Buxton and Sano will hurt, they have been out of the lineup before. You need guys like Gonzalez to be the fill-in for various positions so we need to use him. I'd like to see Kiriloff get playing time because he will be better than anything we have right now. However, we have to win this year so he may get squeezed out. But I WOULD play him if I were the manager (though I might sit him against the top pitchers).

I think Sano could step in and be ready for opening day....anyone else?

It's purely anecdotal, but to my eye Marwin Gonzalez rarely looked right at first base last year. Something about his footwork and/or positioning often put him in awkward situations to receive throws from an often erratic infield. With Donaldson at third, maybe this is less of an issue. But I think Gonzalez is best at corner OF or 3b.

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Ted Schwerzler
Jul 18 2020 07:49 PM

 

It's purely anecdotal, but to my eye Marwin Gonzalez rarely looked right at first base last year. Something about his footwork and/or positioning often put him in awkward situations to receive throws from an often erratic infield. With Donaldson at third, maybe this is less of an issue. But I think Gonzalez is best at corner OF or 3b.

He's best suited statistically in LF, but I think he ends up being the 1st man up when it comes to a logic based analysis at 1B. However, here's to hoping Miguel doesn't miss time.