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Gilberto Celestino's quiet dominance


Most of us knew the name of Celestino going into the season, as he was a key component of the widely ridiculed Pressly trade in 2018. And, over the course of a few seasons, Celestino was regarded as a decent-but-unspectacular centerfield option. His upside looked like he could be a complementary contributor, an MLB starter that does the job but never posts a stat line that jumps off the page at us.

And those prospect scouting reports and evaluations were backed up by his stat line in the Twins organization:

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2018 19 -1.3 Elizabethton APPY Rk MIN 27 117 109 13 29 4 1 1 13 8 2 6 16 .266 .308 .349 .656 38 3 1 0 1 0
2019 20 -2.4 Fort Myers FLOR A+ MIN 8 33 30 6 9 4 0 0 3 0 0 2 4 .300 .333 .433 .767 13 0 0 0 1 0
2019 20 -1.3 Cedar Rapids MIDW A MIN 117 503 450 52 124 24 3 10 51 14 8 48 81 .276 .350 .409 .759 184 20 4 0 1 1
2021 22 -4.6 St. Paul AAAE AAA MIN 18 76 64 9 18 4 0 4 15 1 0 11 15 .281 .395 .531 .926 34 2 1 0 0 0
2021 22 -2.1 Wichita AACN AA MIN 21 96 84 10 21 5 0 2 7 0 1 11 24 .250 .344 .381 .725 32 1 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/24/2021.

Then 2021 happened. Celestino, due to an absurd flurry of outfield injuries in Minnesota, was rushed straight from AA to the Twins not once but multiple times, never logging an official stop in St Paul along the way, other than for the required paperwork. And oh boy did we see how unprepared he was to face MLB pitching... which wasn't his fault, as no one reasonable expected him to successfully make that jump as a middling prospect who didn't even play in 2020.

After scuffling in Minnesota and being mercifully sent back down to AAA - where he never even had a single plate appearance before this month - he has shown life in his bat most of us didn't expect to see, especially after having his face punched in against the highest level of talent for a good portion of the season.

But that's exactly what he has done. Here is his stat line after the demotion:

Date G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Aug 1 to Aug 22, 2021 18 76 64 9 18 4 0 4 15 11 0 15 1 0 0 0 1 0 .281 .395 .531 .926 .311
per 162 games 162 684 576 81 162 36 0 36 135 99 0 135 9 0 0 0 9 0        
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I think he's your starting LF next year, until he fails or Buxton is traded (if he is)......Though I'd put Martin in LF if Buxton is signed and they decide he's not a SS.......Larnach, you ask? LF or RF or DH or in AAA to start the year.

However....sorry, that's what I'd do. I bet he's the 4th OF (assuming Buxton is in MN).

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10 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

I think he's your starting LF next year, until he fails or Buxton is traded (if he is)......Though I'd put Martin in LF if Buxton is signed and they decide he's not a SS.......Larnach, you ask? LF or RF or DH or in AAA to start the year.

However....sorry, that's what I'd do. I bet he's the 4th OF (assuming Buxton is in MN).

A Celestino/Buxton/Kepler outfield is an amazing defensive outfield that will remain healthy for no fewer than two outs into Opening Day.

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It is a nice line but very SSS.  Still it is good to see him hitting that well at AAA.  I think MLB ball might have been a good wake up call for him though.  If he can keep that eye at the plate going when he gets back to MLB I think he will be OK.  Has to hunt better pitches to hit at the MLB level.  Sure hope he keeps it going we could really use him next year.

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It's nice to see Celestino having success in AAA, which is where he should have been playing for much of the year and not getting his brains beaten in at the MLB level that everyone knew his bat wasn't ready for. I'm not terribly surprised to see him do well, although the extra pop in the bat is a bit unexpected. that may be maturation as he's gotten a bit older, but it also might be the dreaded Small Sample Size. We'll have to see, but he's clearly got some nice upside and is a good defender in CF. I'm 100% certain he would have gotten snapped up in Rule 5 if he hadn't been added to the 40-man...and this is why.

He'll definitely be in the mix for a roster spot next year if he keeps hitting in AAA. The fact that he bats righty certainly helps and makes him a good fit as a 4th OF if Buxton stays. An OF of Kirilloff/Buxton/Kepler with Larnach & Celestino as the bench guys? If Larnach can get his confidence back up and start teeing off on off-speed pitches, that's a nice OF.

 

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13 minutes ago, 4twinsJA said:

Is your glass always half full. Celestino is a good case to argue early advancement of prospects. Let them move up, find out what they are lacking, then go back down and work on it.

I mean, sometimes... but Celestino was put into a really bad situation. He didn't play in 2020, barely played in AA, then was shipped straight to the majors and unsurprisingly was destroyed by MLB pitching. In a normal situation, that's a guy you want to see in AAA for at least 100 plate appearances before even considering him as an MLB option.

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Good to see Celestino is doing well, and at a young age (still 22). Although minor league numbers make me a little nervous, they just don't translate very neatly to MLB competition.

Name PA wRC+
Rob Refsnyder 80 174
Jake Cave 36 169
Jose Miranda 224 161
Gilberto Celestino 76 147
Brent Rooker 267 140
Jimmy Kerrigan 276 130
Mark Contreras 259 123
Trevor Larnach 39 120
Drew Maggi 276 117
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I'm unsure what to think of his defense. Don't recall seeing him play in real-time. In very SSS the defensive stats in the majors don't like him.  But even in the minors his CF range factor (PO+A/IP/9) look low.  Is he a CF or not?  If not, the requirements on his bat go up .100 OPS points.

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1 hour ago, ashbury said:

I'm unsure what to think of his defense. Don't recall seeing him play in real-time. In very SSS the defensive stats in the majors don't like him.  But even in the minors his CF range factor (PO+A/IP/9) look low.  Is he a CF or not?  If not, the requirements on his bat go up .100 OPS points.

I thought he looked fine but remember a few head scratchers that I basically wrote off as nerves, a lot like we saw with Hicks early on.

Every scouting report I’ve heard seems pretty confident he’s a CF, though maybe not a plus glove. The kind of guy who stays at the position through age 27-28 and then is moved, perhaps. 

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Celestino wasn't ready for MLB pitching, but getting that exposure may well have helped him identify holes in his game. It is a small sample size in AAA, but he's reached base almost every single game with the Saints and he's only struck out 2 times once. The K rate is still higher than I'd like to see, but the walk rate is right next to it. 14.4% BB vs 19.7% K. That's encouraging. It's not all coming from a couple big games, he's been consistently getting it done at the plate and there aren't any huge red flags.

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11 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Celestino wasn't ready for MLB pitching, but getting that exposure may well have helped him identify holes in his game. It is a small sample size in AAA, but he's reached base almost every single game with the Saints and he's only struck out 2 times once. The K rate is still higher than I'd like to see, but the walk rate is right next to it. 14.4% BB vs 19.7% K. That's encouraging. It's not all coming from a couple big games, he's been consistently getting it done at the plate and there aren't any huge red flags.

This is what I'm wondering as well. Sometimes, failing spectacularly can teach us things that common failure might not, fundamental things we may have covered up and missed otherwise.

I hope that's the case with Celestino, as it'd be great if he learned *something* from being so unfairly overmatched.

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16 hours ago, ashbury said:

I'm unsure what to think of his defense. Don't recall seeing him play in real-time. In very SSS the defensive stats in the majors don't like him.  But even in the minors his CF range factor (PO+A/IP/9) look low.  Is he a CF or not?  If not, the requirements on his bat go up .100 OPS points.

From my understanding he doesn't have elite speed I saw it rated 55 to 60 at least early on but the word was he gets a good jump on the ball and tracks it well.  No idea if he can stay in center or not but I think he projects more average to slightly below average defensively than Elite.  

I agree with you that if he isn't really an option at center then his bat in its current state doesn't fit real well in the corners.  I still think he ends up a solid center fielder but I don't think he will be the long term choice there but we'll have to wait and see how much he can improve first.

 

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Celestino is 22 years old and he last played professionally in 2019, when he was 20.  

I'm surprised anybody would have anything negative to say about him right now, whether considering his recently impressive performance or not.  Hopefully when he starts next year in the minors, as he should, no one holds that against him.

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Sometimes rushing from AA to the majors works and sometimes not. Mauer bypassed AAA. Vlad Guerrero Sr bypassed AAA. they are HOFers.  Sano didn't hone his k-skills at AAA 😆. Celestino had one brutal game defensively when he was thrown into the fire. ..cost the Twins a 'W' that night. And clearly he couldn't hit. He's 22. He has time.

Anyone following the career of Cedric Mullins? He came up 2 years ago and hit so poorly that they sent him down two levels because he also failed miserably at AAA. Now, this year he is top 5 to top 10 in many offensive categories for a team that would embarrass  a little league squad. He could lead the AL in hits. He is in the 20-20 club....when nobody is stealing bases anymore. He is great defensively and still learning. is Celestino a Mullins perhaps??? Only time will tell.

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22 minutes ago, Dman said:

From my understanding he doesn't have elite speed I saw it rated 55 to 60 at least early on but the word was he gets a good jump on the ball and tracks it well.  No idea if he can stay in center or not but I think he projects more average to slightly below average defensively than Elite.  

I agree with you that if he isn't really an option at center then his bat in its current state doesn't fit real well in the corners.  I still think he ends up a solid center fielder but I don't think he will be the long term choice there but we'll have to wait and see how much he can improve first.

 

Fangraphs has Celestino as 60 grade speed (50 for Austin Martin, 60 for Royce Lewis)

MLB has Celestino as 55 grade speed (55 for Austin Martin, 70 for Royce Lewis, 55 for Cave back in 2017, 50 for Kepler back in 2015)

Celestino should have the speed to play center field. He's probably faster than Austin Martin, Cave and Kepler.

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Celestino's situation is one of the many things I dislike about present CBA. Celestino gets promoted to MLB because he is on 40 man roster, while others non-40 man roster players were actually out performing Celestino but FO did not want to DFA anyone so promoted Celestino. In theory, the present system makes some sense- to prevent teams from stockpiling players. But seems there should be exemption for short-term callups besides having to DFA someone to make room or 60 day IL. I am sure Kerrigan, Contreras, or Whitefield would have been trilled to spend a couple weeks with Twins.

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3 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

This is what I'm wondering as well. Sometimes, failing spectacularly can teach us things that common failure might not, fundamental things we may have covered up and missed otherwise.

I hope that's the case with Celestino, as it'd be great if he learned *something* from being so unfairly overmatched.

The game probably seems a lot slower to him in AAA.  He was probably so amped up in the majors trying to compete that when he was sent down everything slowed down for him and he is now used to the faster paced MLB.

 

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1 hour ago, 4twinsJA said:

Celestino's situation is one of the many things I dislike about present CBA. Celestino gets promoted to MLB because he is on 40 man roster, while others non-40 man roster players were actually out performing Celestino but FO did not want to DFA anyone so promoted Celestino. In theory, the present system makes some sense- to prevent teams from stockpiling players. But seems there should be exemption for short-term callups besides having to DFA someone to make room or 60 day IL. I am sure Kerrigan, Contreras, or Whitefield would have been trilled to spend a couple weeks with Twins.

And to that matter, service time also factored into Celestino going back to the minors when he did.

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1 hour ago, Dodecahedron said:

And to that matter, service time also factored into Celestino going back to the minors when he did.

We're going to accuse the Twins of service time manipulation every time they option a young player now? Particularly a guy that was struggling and wouldn't have been there without multiple injuries and 40-man considerations?

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Celestino is a perfect example of our current "wait and see" Twins.  They aren't going to win  anything so we must watch and wait and see what they can do.  Celestino is showing promise. So was Jax until the Yankees lit him up last night.  Now we will have to wait and see what he does in his next start.  Many players that looked like failures after their first exposure to MLB (see Berrios) come back and dominate.  Let us hope that Celestino is one of those.  We need more good hitting, speedy, good fielding players.

:)

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19 minutes ago, Taildragger8791 said:

We're going to accuse the Twins of service time manipulation every time the option a young player now? Particularly a guy that was struggling and wouldn't have been there without multiple injuries and 40-man considerations?

Not accusing them of anything.  I simply noticed that Fangraphs still has him at 0.00 service time, and pointed out a fact.  To me, his sample size looks fairly large, so I'm guessing he was sent down strategically.

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3 minutes ago, a-wan said:

The strategy was overmatched player was sent back to AAA.

One would think, and in a normal year I'd agree, but:

  1. This team is full of overmatched players who are hanging around.
  2. If Celestino did not spend the maximum amount of time with the team, it was very close.
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2 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

Not accusing them of anything.  I simply noticed that Fangraphs still has him at 0.00 service time, and pointed out a fact.  To me, his sample size looks fairly large, so I'm guessing he was sent down strategically.

You flat out said service time factored into sending him down. That's a pretty unfounded guess. The guy has barely played above A ball and was hitting .136/.177/.288 in the majors. He needs quite a bit more development time.

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7 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

One would think, and in a normal year I'd agree, but:

  1. This team is full of overmatched players who are hanging around.
  2. If Celestino did not spend the maximum amount of time with the team, it was very close.

Cave and Refsnyder both returned from injuries. They no longer needed to force an undercooked marginal prospect into the daily lineup. He belongs at AAA where he can focus on daily development.

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It is really good news that Celestino is doing well. I have been watching the AAA stats, too, and have been surprised. 

My main concern is how poorly he played the outfield. The defense was his calling card, and he made horrible decisions and it was baffling how poorly he played the outfield, to me. That is not a MLB or AAA thing. Being on the ball and making good decisions on where to throw etc is the same no matter what level. I hope he does keep improving.

Larnach is still in a horrible hole since being back in AAA, and he hit great at that level before.

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