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Report from The Fort: Out of Left Field

alex kirilloff josh donaldson
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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 12:58 AM

FORT MYERS - We thought we knew what was going on in left field. We do not. Which is just SO left field.The English language is full of idioms that have a relationship to baseball. “Out of left field” is one of them. It essentially means “crazy” or at least “unexpected” but its origin is debated. Some point to an early New York ballpark that had a sanitarium beyond the left field wall. Others think it labeled the kids or fans that purchased a (cheaper) ticket to watch Babe Ruth in left field at Yankee Stadium. Except that Ruth played in right field. While they were out in left field. [sad trombone sound]

Today, its usage transcends the sport, so much that almost nobody recognizes it as being attached to baseball. Honestly, before this minute, have you ever even tied it to baseball? Or wondered where it came from? I hope not, because I’m about to use it both figuratively and literally….

We got some news out of left field today.

Due to the financial and team-control benefits of limiting a player’s service time, most of us expected #1 Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff to start the season in AAA-St. Paul, and get promoted to the Twins sometime in late April. By doing so, the team would be able to push off his free agency for a year so they would have control over him through 2027 instead of 2026.

Which naturally raised the question: who would be playing there in April? Presumably, left-handed batting Jake Cave and right-handed batting Brent Rooker would make a capable platoon. But when Luis Arraez reported to camp and talked about becoming accustomed to left field, Twins fans were reminded that he started in that spot eighteen times his rookie year , which was more than he played any other position other than second base. Given that he’s so valuable in the lineup, perhaps he would get most of the April at-bats?

If that’s the plan, there’s some news out of left field. It doesn’t sound like the Twins are planning on investing a lot of spring training time in teaching Arraez that position. Manager Rocco Baldelli talked about seeing a lot of his players, particularly Arraez, play in different positions. But he also indicated he would be almost exclusively in the infield. “He's going to play mostly in the infield,” stated Baldelli. “He's probably going to split between second and third while in the infield. There's a chance he could get a few innings at short or even at first base, but that's not a priority.”

This isn’t because the Twins don’t want to find a spot for Arraez in the lineup. That much Baldelli made abundantly clear. “Louie’s going to get a ton of at-bats this year and do a great job,” Baldelli emphasized. “He’s certainly a guy we want in the lineup.”

Ok. But where? Is he regularly displacing Jorge Polanco at second? Josh Donaldson at third? Nelson Cruz at designated hitter? It sounds like the plan is to have him move around, and maybe move some other pieces around? “With our roster looking the way it does, we may ask a few guys to do some different things,” Baldelli explained, and then started listing some examples. “Miguel [Sano} is going to get some work at third base, in addition to first base. [Polanco] is going to get some work at shortstop, in addition to second base. Kirilloff is going to play first base and corner outfield.”

Hold it. Who? Yep, Kirilloff was casually mentioned with several starting lineup players. Does he actually have a non-zero chance to make this roster, regardless of the future financial implications? For what it’s worth, during a discussion about the evils of manipulating player service time yesterday, Donaldson was asked about Kirilloff’s situation. He walked a tightrope.

“I think Thad, and the relationship I have with Thad and Derek, is that they want to have the best team out there. That’s going to be for them to answer,” he replied. But it’s clear what Donaldson, a team leader and veteran, thinks should happen. “I’ve seen Alex for a short time as far as being at the alternate site. I think the kid is really good. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. What they do is what they do. I don't know who everybody is gonna be on our roster at this moment. But I would assure Twins fans that everything I’ve seen, Derek and Thad want to put the best team out there.”

We hope so. Donaldson (and I imagine, a large chunk of the MLB Players’ Union) are watching.

So are we. And wondering. From left field.

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#2 ToddlerHarmon

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 02:54 AM

Arraez not taking any outfield reps does indeed sound like Kirilloff is the starter in LF. It also sounds like Rooker is the on the roster, and the preferred 4th outfielder.

I always assumed "out of left field" meant the ball coming in to the plate to surprisingly prevent you from scoring. Like playing slow pitch catcher and having runners stunned that I had the ball in my glove after that single landed in front of our Division II left fielder.
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#3 Doctor Gast

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 04:59 AM

I like the idea of Sano transitioning back to 3B because he's our best option and giving time to Arraez at 1B. I'd like Arraez at 1B all the time when Sano is not there because that's the best place for him and we need him in the line up. Although there could be some instances where Kiriloff could fit there but that shouldn't be our priority.

#4 Fatbat

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:32 AM

"The best team out there" is AK in LF. Zero% chance he won't be there opening day in Milwaukee. Now that sounds like a great plan! What could go wrong?
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#5 jimbo92107

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:42 AM

Sounds like positional flexibility is the order of the day, with super-utility Arraez getting as many AB's as possible. 

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#6 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 05:56 AM

 

I like the idea of Sano transitioning back to 3B because he's our best option and giving time to Arraez at 1B. I'd like Arraez at 1B all the time when Sano is not there because that's the best place for him and we need him in the line up. Although there could be some instances where Kiriloff could fit there but that shouldn't be our priority.

 

Sano is an average-at-best (or, average, if kind) third baseman defensively. Josh Donaldson is a plus-defensive shortstop. Arraez is average-at-best defensively at second base, much less first base. Sano is actually a pretty solid first baseman. Donaldson also is one of their top 2 or 3 hitters. 

 

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#7 Thegrin

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 06:30 AM

I don't like the idea of a player having his service time manipulated by keeping him back.A new season is a new season, and it shouldn't shorten or lengthen a players service time regardless of when he is brought up.I blame the players union.This can build up resentment between your best players and their club.Sometimes those resentments last for a career.:)


#8 adjacent

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 06:47 AM

What it is said here about third base, plus what Donaldson was saying yesterday about being there at the end of the season, tells me that at the beginning Donaldson is going to have a lot of days off. 

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#9 rv78

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 06:55 AM

So Donaldson said that Thad and Derek want the best team out there. Does this mean they learned their lesson when they held Buxton back to gain an extra year of service time with him? 

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#10 Channing1964

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 06:57 AM

This is truly out of left field as well.....whats wrong with seeing how Polanco does out in left? That would solve a lot of lineup question marks. I never heard of Arraez playing any outfield before they threw him out there in 2019.

#11 old nurse

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 07:02 AM

If they think Kirikkoff is going to be a superstar level they will manipulate service time. I don’t think they expect that level out of him.Given the contracts of the above average players they have extended, another above average outfielder is not going to break the bank, nor has it been that difficult to replace.


#12 mikelink45

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 07:33 AM

Fun article.Filling the position is becoming the talking point of ST so far and the fact that we are talking quality and not just fillers really makes it a great topic to speculate on.Now Alex needs to make our dreams come true (I had to match your slang with old lyrics), https://youtu.be/5sLnQ9R9j5A

 

 


#13 Major League Ready

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:04 AM

 

Due to the financial and team-control benefits of limiting a player’s service time, most of us expected #1 Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff to start the season in AAA-St. Paul, and get promoted to the Twins sometime in late April. By doing so, the team would be able to push off his free agency for a year so they would have control over him through 2027 instead of 2026.

Which naturally raised the question: who would be playing there in April? Presumably, left-handed batting Jake Cave and right-handed batting Brent Rooker would make a capable platoon. But when Luis Arraez reported to camp and talked about becoming accustomed to left field, Twins fans were reminded that he started in that spot eighteen times his rookie year , which was more than he played any other position other than second base. Given that he’s so valuable in the lineup, perhaps he would get most of the April at-bats?
 

 

None of the members of "Most of us" have ever made a case based on performance that Kirilloff is the best option on opening day. All of "most of us" have only seen Kirilloff play one game in the last year and his Milb performance prior most certainly does not suggest he is the best prepared on opening day. Therefore, the premise that it is service time manipulation has a very weak foundation. I would bet that Rookers family is 100% convinced he has the better resume in terms of readiness. Jake cave has proven he can play at this level and he is a better defender. A case could even be made for Garlic being the better prepared on opening day based on the fact he produced a 1057 OPS at AAA with 300ABs and has ML experience.

 

Point being that the accusation of service time manipulation is not as logical as your statement suggests. Now, if the Twins feel the alternate site was a reliable predictor or readiness, so be it but none of the people in the group of "most of us" had access to that evidence.

 

I also did not agree with the assumption Arraez would start in LF. As I stated previously, he is very poor defensively in the OF and his bat does not profile as a corner OFer. Had we targeted a free agent with the exact profile the FO would have been ridiculed so I don't understand the surprise Arraez wont be played in LF.

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#14 Seth Stohs

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:31 AM

 

So Donaldson said that Thad and Derek want the best team out there. Does this mean they learned their lesson when they held Buxton back to gain an extra year of service time with him? 

 

It probably doesn't mean anything. Falvey and Levine are going to do what's best for the organization short-term and long-term. Right now, that probably means he plays 15 games in St. Paul. And that's absolutely justifiable because the difference between Kirilloff and Cave is probably miniscule over 15-18 games. 

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#15 rdehring

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:31 AM

With what we have seen from the Pohlads the last year, everything they have done has been positive. When teams weren't paying their minor league guys, the Twins paid them the entire season. When teams were laying off employees, the Twins didn't. When local teams were donating dollars to social causes, the Twins tripled or better their donations.

 

Recently there were comments that they would not be cutting payroll this year to make back losses from last year. The Twins are a 'class' organization, so I will say that I don't expect them to manipulate AK's service time. He may start at AAA, but if he does it will be because that is where his play this spring says is the best place for him to be.

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#16 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 08:46 AM

I really would be surprised if the decisions have been made at this early juncture. Plus, I don't see any of this written in stone. Like Donaldson,I have confidence in the FO and the manager. 

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#17 Dman

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 09:32 AM

Color me surprised especially about Arraez.I just couldn't see a way for them to get him his at bats that they seemed to indicate he deserved without playing there.I wonder if they don't see a ton of difference between Polonco and Arraez so he plays more 2nd than I initially thought and I think the entire infield has had leg problems at one time or another so giving guys more time off is probably going to be a good thing.

 

I can see putting all three guys in left field to start the season so I just assumed they would keep Alex down but maybe if he has a really good spring they have him start the season there.I still think he is going to need to show out in spring training to get there otherwise it would be easy to justify putting other players there to start the season.

 

I forgot who said it up above but the Twins currently and likely into the future shouldn't be short on 1st baseman, right or left fielders into the distant future as they have plenty of opportunity to draft those types of players (i.e. they have taken that type of player 5 straight times in the 1st round) and develop themAlso they are generally the easiest to find in free agency. So if they did decide they didn't care about the extra year it shouldn't matter too much.

 

In conclusion they might not be that worried about losing the extra year or maybe it is just a smokescreen to say, hey we were considering it, but we feel better with the other guys and will have Alex start in AAA. I honestly don't know what to think but thanks for the great writeup and letting me know how little I really do know about how this FO will operate.

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#18 dex8425

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:55 AM

Color me surprised to hear that Arraez is not expected to play corner OF. 

 

I also wouldn't be surprised if Baldelli and the FO put the best team out there which involves Kiriloff starting the season in St. Paul. Rooker could easily out-hit Kiriloff this year. He set the world on fire in a small sample size last year and has hit at every milb level.  

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#19 dxpavelka

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Posted 25 February 2021 - 07:03 PM

 

I don't like the idea of a player having his service time manipulated by keeping him back.A new season is a new season, and it shouldn't shorten or lengthen a players service time regardless of when he is brought up.I blame the players union.This can build up resentment between your best players and their club.Sometimes those resentments last for a career.:)

 

 

I don't like the idea of a player having his service time manipulated by keeping him back.A new season is a new season, and it shouldn't shorten or lengthen a players service time regardless of when he is brought up.I blame the players union.This can build up resentment between your best players and their club.Sometimes those resentments last for a career.:)

That's nice.Too bad.Nobody cares.


#20 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 February 2021 - 07:58 AM

FWIW, there's definitely a growing sense among the beat writers here that the Twins might play this straight up so Kirilloff has a real chance to be on the Opening Day roster. I have trouble believing that. But we'll see. 




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