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Article: Projecting The 2021 Twins Line-Up

royce lewis brent rooker nick gordon max kepler byron buxton
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 07:24 AM

One of the best parts of putting together the Twins Prospect Handbook is taking a deep dive into the players who will populate Target Field in the years to come. Projecting the future is one of the hardest parts of being a professional scout or being part of a baseball operations department. A look into the crystal ball can be a little cloudy but it can be a fun exercise to look at what is to come.

Roughly a year ago, I took a stab at projecting the 2020 Twins Line-Up. Some things have certainly changed since that point with one player no longer in the organization and another dropping on prospect lists. During a recent mailbag, I took another stab at the 2020 line-up including a handful of the team’s recent top picks.

Let’s look one year further into the future. Who will compromise the 2021 Minnesota Twins?C: Mitch Garver
Garver could be a regular part of the Twins line-up as soon as 2018. He got a brief taste of the big leagues at the end of 2017. In 46 at-bats, he went 9-for-46 with four extra-base hits. His time in Rochester (88 games) was much better as he posted a .928 OPS with 17 home runs and 29 doubles. Pitchers throughout the system like the way he manages games from behind the plate. If he can hit anywhere close to his 2017 numbers at Triple-A, he will be a very valuable catcher.

1B: Miguel Sano
Sano isn’t going to be able to stay at third base and Joe Mauer’s contract expires at the end of 2018. Even if Mauer wants to continue playing past 2018, I don’t know if he will still be in a Twins uniform by 2021. Before the recent allegations brought against Sano, a trade involving Sano might have been possible. For now, I think he sticks in Minnesota and he is going to have to find another home on the diamond. He could split time at first base with the other player I have penciled in as designated hitter.

2B: Nick Gordon
There have been questions about Gordon’s defense since the Twins drafted him. He’s only started 16 games at second base in his professional career but I think that will change in the years to come. Minnesota might have drafted their shortstop of the future with last year’s number one overall pick. Gordon showed more power this season but his averaged suffered. In the end, I think he finds his comfort zone at second base and becomes a solid regular with the potential to be an All-Star.

3B: Brian Dozier
This was the toughest spot to fill on the diamond. Like Mauer, Dozier’s contract expires at the end of 2018. However, I believe the Twins will find a way to keep Dozier in a Twins uniform. He is a veteran leader who the Twins will want to keep on the roster. Is he going to want to learn a new position later in his career? Time will tell. If Minnesota’s core continues to be made of young players, a veteran voice is going to be needed inside and outside of the locker room.

SS: Royce Lewis
Gordon is going to get to Target Field before Lewis so he will get the first shot at shortstop. Lewis is a better defender so he will force Gordon to move to second. Minnesota was already aggressive with Lewis in his professional debut as he quickly moved to Cedar Rapids. If that trend continues, there’s no doubt he will be quickly moving towards making his debut. Young shortstops like Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa have done well in recent years so Twins fans have to hope Lewis can outshine these other top players.

LF: Alex Kirilloff
Kirilloff, Minnesota’s 2016 first round pick, missed all of 2017 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Luckily, it shouldn’t hold him back in 2018. Kirilloff’s bat is his calling card which could make him a dangerous option in the Twins outfield. During his professional debut, he hit .306/.341/.454 with 17 extra-base hits in 216 at-bats. Even with his injury set-back, he should be able to debut by 2020 and become a regular part of the line-up by 2021.

CF: Byron Buxton
If the 2017 season was a sign of things to come, the future will be bright for Mr. Buxton. In the second half of the season, he hit .300/.347/.546 with 24 extra-base hits in 207 at-bats. Not to mention that he was arguably the best defensive player in the league for the entire season. Buxton will be in his late 20s by 2021 so he should be in the midst of the prime of his career. Will he be on track to be the American League’s Most Valuable Player? Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.

RF: Max Kepler
As Tom wrote about last week, Kepler might be poised for a breakout season in 2018. In the minor leagues, Kepler was able to figure out how to hit left-handed pitching. I think he will do that in 2018 and that could be a scary proposition for opposing pitchers. Kepler may never be a MVP candidate but he certainly has the ability to make an All-Star team. With Buxton and Dozier at the top of the line-up, Sano and Kepler can continue to hit in the middle of the order.

DH: Brent Rooker
If you’ve picked up a copy of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, you’ve no doubt seen that I am high on Brent Rooker. Minnesota’s supplemental first round pick destroyed the baseball in his professional debut. If he continues to hit that well, there’s a good chance he will make his debut in 2018. He can play first base or in a corner outfield spot, so this gives him some flexibility when other players need a day at designated hitter. Rooker is going to be good and he might have been one of the most important pieces of the 2017 MLB Draft.

What do you think the 2021 line-up will look like in Minnesota? Check back later this week as Tom tries to pick-out the 2021 rotation. Until then, leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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Cody Christie

#2 Han Joelo

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 07:57 AM

I'm having trouble envisioning this.  2021 means they would have played 2018, 2019, and 2020 (thinking out loud.). So three more seasons will have passed.  Man, that's just hard.  I'd need to see their ages and contract situations before commenting too much.


Pulling out of my hat, I'd suspect (or does it just reflect my personal preference?) that Rosario will be a grizzled vet and a WS hero and a fixture in LF.  Rooker will be the first baseman.  Dozier will have just retired after his 3 year contract expired.


Sano will be gone at some point, traded for prospects.  Bechtold will be the third baseman.  Javier, having gotten his feet wet in 2020, will take over at second.


That's all I've got.

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#3 Steve Lein

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:05 AM

Other than Lewis ending up a competent enough shortstop to play there in the majors (he has plenty of time to change that outlook for me), I like the look of this for the most part. 


I still believe in Gordon at shortstop, not sure why so many don't. I think he'll be a better defender there than Polanco has been, so I'd like the step forward. While that may be "average" instead of "below average," it's still an improvement.

Scouting Report: Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 45, Speed: 45. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but will sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)

#4 mikelink45


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:20 AM

I am willing to go with most of this, but 3B needs a serious adjustment - Dozier in three more years is not going to have 3B reflexes.More likely Polanco. 

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#5 slash129



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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:23 AM

My stab:


C: Rortvedt/Garver

1B: Rooker

2B: Dozier

3B: Polanco

SS: Lewis

LF: Rosario

CF: Buxton

RF: Kepler

DH: Sano


Bench: Wade, Javier


Polanco and Dozier could be flipped in the infield.


Gordon gets moved for pitching.


Kirilloff gets an extended look sometime in 2020 or 2021 (someone will get injured at some point).His options and the org's desire to have him play daily keep him in AAA longer than any of us would like (good problem to have).Eddie leaves via FA and Alex takes over for good in 2022.

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#6 gunnarthor


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:41 AM

That's a long way out. No way Garver will be our starting catcher. Dozier would be 34. 


Just looking at our system, I think it's more likely to be - 


C - Rortvedt - he'd be 24 in 2021 and on target to be in the majors by then. 

DH/1B - Sano/Rooker in some combination. I'm actually pretty excited about both these guys. Sano would be 28 and in his last season of team control. Rooker, 26, is a nice power threat to go with him. Other possibilities could include Diaz (25) or Kepler moving from the OF.

2B/SS - Nick Gordon and Wander Javier - lots of candidates for the MI but Javier might be the most likely to stick at short. Mayo expects him to break out this season. He'd be 23 in 2021 and has some pretty loud tools. 

3B - Andrew Bechtold - I liked this pick in the draft last year. I think he turns into a poor man's Koskie for us and keeps the spot open until Jose Miranda is ready.

LF/CF/RF - I think the Twins trade Rosario and Kepler in the intervening years to keep money to sign Buxton and Sano longterm. That opens the corners for Akil Baddoo and Royce Lewis. Butxton will be 27 but he will have already signed a longterm extension to stick. Baddoo and Lewis could make it an even rangier OF. 


The nice thing about the OF for 2021 is that the Twins will have a ton of options - Buxton (27), Kepler (28) and Rosario (29) would all be under team control for that season before getting to free agency. The minors OF depth is really, really good - Royce Lewis (22), Baddoo (22), Kiriloff (24) all have all-star upside in the OF. Pearson, Wade and Granite would all be under team control as well. We'll see how they develop over the next few years. 

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#7 Tomj14


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:48 AM

I hope Garver is good enough to be a starting catcher, but at this stage in his career Gimenez has on the surface better numbers than Garver and never became a starting catcher.

With this lineup either are pitching prospects worked out or we signed big time pitcher free agents, because we still have all of our top prospects.


#8 amjgt


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 09:52 AM

I'd put Baddoo over Kirilloff if I was guessing

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#9 JLease


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 10:35 AM

I'm having trouble spotting Dozier shifting to 3B at that point, but I suppose anything is possible? Hard to know if he really has the arm for the spot, but otherwise he could probably handle it defensively.


If Royce Lewis is already beating down the door at SS I have a hunch that Nick Gordon gets dealt to someone who wants his bat in their lineup.


The rest seems to be a good fit.

#10 slash129



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Posted 08 January 2018 - 10:37 AM


That's a long way out. No way Garver will be our starting catcher. Dozier would be 34. 



That's a pretty quick dismissal of the two-time TD minor league hitter of the year given the number of prospects in the line-up you propose.


Dozier, with his durability, might be 34 in 2021, but I'd bet he at least doubles whatever WAR figure Javier supplies and comes out ahead of Gordon as well.

#11 gunnarthor


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 10:46 AM


That's a pretty quick dismissal of the two-time TD minor league hitter of the year given the number of prospects in the line-up you propose.



Sure, but Garver's never been a top 100 prospect, let alone a potential elite one like many of the other guys in our system, the manager hasn't given him many shots when he was up here and the FO didn't feel the need to bring him up despite some positional openings - either as a backup catcher over Giminez or to give him some DH at-bats. 

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#12 Rosterman


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 11:02 AM

Supposedly Garver can handle the job defensively, if given the chance. This will be a telling season for him. Does he go back to Rochester and catch fulltime and work with future Twins, or stay in the majors as a very part-time backstop and bench bat.


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#13 bobs


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 11:24 AM

I 100% have no idea if this will be right.It's just fun to look at though isn't it?I don't think Dozier is at third, but who knows?

#14 bobs


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 11:25 AM

I would say the idea of Gordon being moved for pitching is good.Maybe Polanco moves to his more natural position of 2B then and Lewis is your SS.

#15 Respy


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 11:55 AM

I tried hard to find points of disagreement, but I don't have any strong arguments against this list, other than I'd expect about 2 of the lineup regulars in 2021, which is quite far from now, to be players who are not in our organization currently.My best guess is that those outsider players will occupy catcher, third base, or corner outfield.I personally don't think Dozier will be with the Twins, or at 3rd base, in 2021.I'd peg that spot as Bechtold, Chris Paul, or an outside RH bat.

Edited by Respy, 08 January 2018 - 11:55 AM.

#16 Matthew Lenz

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 12:05 PM

From what I know and am aware of, I think this is a fairly good prediction.As people have mentioned earlier this is three years away, so extremely hard to picture this.  


I have a hard time projecting Garver to be a starting catcher.I could see him being a valuable back-up, but not somebody who starts a majority of the games.  


Dozier moving to 3B seems very unlikely.I know the premise would be we need to find a spot for him, but I wonder if later in his career he becomes a super utility.An offensive player who can provide a little value at 2B, 1B, RF and LF or 3B on a limited basis.  

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#17 Ben Noble

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 12:48 PM


LF: Alex Kirilloff

RF: Max Kepler


What do you project happens with Rosario? Does he play himself out of a starting spot, or does he play himself into being traded for assets? 

#18 Deduno Abides

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 01:07 PM

Sano will be in his walk year in 2021. Because there is a very low chance that he will extend or renew with the Twins, he should be gone by 2021.

It is likely the 2021 catcher is not currently in the system, unless Rortvedt or Banuelos takes off. Garver - at 30 - could be OK, but he may already be in the decline phase from a not very high peak, so sights at this time should be set higher.

For 3B, at this date, you have to hope that Blankenhorn is the guy.

Interesting exercise. Where to fit Diaz, Kiriloff, Baddoo, Miranda, Javier, Bechtold, others? It seems the cupboard may be more full than it has been.
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#19 cmoss84


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Posted 08 January 2018 - 02:15 PM

C- Garver/Rortvedt 50/50

1B/DH- Rooker/Sano/Kiriloff

2B- Dozier (will be his last year)

SS- Javier

3B- Lewis

OF- Rosario/Buxton/Kepler/Baddoo/Kiriloff

*This will be the last year these 3 are together


Gordon/Wade/Polanco/Granite/Jay etc. need to get traded for Cole. 

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.



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Posted 08 January 2018 - 03:29 PM

Projecting these lineups when most the players mentioned have had less than 500AB's overall and haven't proven they can hit above A+ (sans the current 40-man/MLB guys) is kind of funny.In fact, most the minor league guys have also been sub .270 hitters with little power other than Rooker, who is beast. 


I get this is more crystal ball-like than statistical which is why having this discussion should occur and include players who are at AA and above.Or better yet, start another thread for players that are at A+ and below for the pie in the sky picks. 


Unfortunately, with a farm system that has so few project-able front of the rotation guys in the system, many of the projected position players shown will likely be traded for needed pitching, knowing that position players can come through the draft or via trades more predictably.  


Sorry if i am being a buzz-kill...Just trying to be realistic.

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