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Projecting the Defensive Future of Minnesota's Top Prospects


Many of Minnesota's top prospects have played multiple defensive positions in the minor leagues. This raises some questions as the team sorts out their long-term plans. What is each prospect's long-term defensive position?

 

Three of Twins' top position prospects have a chance to debut during the 2022 season. Minnesota's front office must consider each prospect's defensive future when making a blueprint to be competitive in 2022. Here is a look at how some of the team's top prospects stack up on the defensive side of the ball. 

Royce Lewis
Current Position: SS

One of the Twins' questions to decide this winter is what position Lewis will play for the long-term. If Minnesota feels like he is still a shortstop, there is no reason to spend big money on the current free-agent class. There were defensive questions about Lewis before this recent injury, and those questions will follow him moving forward. He is back on the field, but he hasn't taken any defensive reps in game action yet. He has the speed and athleticism that should make him an above-average player at multiple positions.  
Future Position: Center Field

Austin Martin
Current Position: CF/SS

Martin played six different defensive positions in college before settling in at third base. During the 2021 season, he got reps at shortstop and center field. After being traded to the Twins, Martin finished the year playing at Double-A, and he logged more innings in center than at shortstop. There are questions about his infield arm, which might push him to the outfield for the long term. However, he has shown the ability to play multiple defensive positions, which can be valuable to a big-league team. 
Future Position: Outfield

Jose Miranda
Current Position: Infield

During his breakout 2021 season, Miranda logged over 200 innings at first, second, and third. This defensive flexibility should help him to find a role at the big-league level. It was a little surprising he didn't make his MLB debut at the end of 2021, but he certainly cemented his place in the team's long-term plans. If Josh Donaldson is traded this winter, Miranda can slide into third base for the 2022 season. Even if Donaldson stays, nothing is saying he will be healthy for the entire season. This should give Miranda the chance to be part of the big-league roster at some point in 2022.  
Future Position: Third Base

There are other off-season decisions tied to each of these players. Will Minnesota sign Buxton to a long-term extension? That can change the long-term plan for Martin or Lewis. Will the Twins trade Donaldson? That can open up third base for Miranda. Depth is essential when creating a big-league roster, and these prospects have the defensive flexibility to add long-term value to the team's outlook. 

Which player do you think has the best chance to stick at their current defensive position? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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Polonco at second, Lewis at short and Miranda at third.  Keep Buxton and Kepler in center and right.  Add Larnach and Martin in left field with Martin moving around to center and right as needed.  Arraez gets a lot of at bats as DH, while also backing up Polo and Miranda at second and third.  Kirilloff is the first baseman with Sano as DH and AK's backup.  

Would be heck of an every day lineup without the need to go out and sign any expensive free agents.  But it all starts with Lewis being able to handle short.  As for who plays short when Lewis needs a day off, could be Polo, Martin or another backup utility guy...maybe Gordon?  

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A couple of issues here.  I think you are correct on Miranda, assuming his bat will play here.  As I hope the Twins sign buxton to an extension, you have more outfield prospects than positions.  

1.  Assumption Kirloff and Sano rotate between 1B and DH, with Kirloff in the outfield at times, this blocks up one position. And I would not give up on Sano this early, he could wind up being a game changer.  Laurach is going to need a place to play unless he cannot cut it, too early to tell, but I doubt it. 

2. By 2023 you are going to need a place for both Lewis and Martin.  That to me  would  mean leaving Lewis at SS until other positions are sorted out.  I like Martin (he like Arraez, can be a pest and put pressure on other teams, both by extending AB's, and running when be gets on).  Will he hit enough, I am guessing yes.

3.  That leaves you, with the Kepler issue.  RIght now he does not have a lot of trade value, this all depends on buxton. 

If you extend Buxton, I would wait until late winter and see what he would bring.  There is always going to be a cost controlled club (Miami, Tampa, Oakland, Cleveland), who would give you a pitcher if Kepler was packaged with another player.  I can see this happening.  

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I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, but I don't see any young player in this organization staying at any one position throughout their career.  I would say Miranda has the best chance, but this organization believes playing multiple positions is more valuable than excelling at one and playing there full time.  Correct me if I am remembering wrong, but we only had 3 players on the entire roster (non pitchers and catchers, and even Garver sneaks over to first once in a while) that played one position only the entire season, and they were long established veterans.  I wouldn't expect any of the rookies to settle in at one position, again with Miranda having the best chance, any time in the near future.  

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I wonder if we could get the OP to give us percentages at various positions. For example, on Lewis, is it 50% CF, 40% SS, or (in his opinion) is it a 90% chance that Royce will be in CF? Same for Martin. Same for Miranda. 

I am disappointed to see someone as plugged in as Cody sees neither Martin or Lewis as a long-term shortstop. It would be great to plug in one guy for five years at that crucial defensive position. 

I haven't seen much of either Lewis or Martin firsthand. I did see Lewis take Wheeler deep in an exhibition game in March of 2020, but when ST comes along next year that will be two years ago. What I am reading says that Lewis has superior tools and could develop into a special player. Martin has shown OBP skills and would have a floor of being a solid major league player. Miranda had a monster year at the highest level of minor league ball. Any or all of them could be playing for the Twins next year.

 

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I look forward to all of them.  Put Lewis at SS and let's judge him then.  Keep Buxton in CF.  Flexibility is fine, but look at Houston - how often do their players move around - they have found a lineup and stay with it.  I like letting players get comfortable where they belong.  Then use flex when necessary.  I do not know much about Martin, he has not been with us long enough for TD to educate me so I will wait on him, but I want Lewis and Miranda on the club this year. 

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1 hour ago, roger said:

Polonco at second, Lewis at short and Miranda at third.  Keep Buxton and Kepler in center and right.  Add Larnach and Martin in left field with Martin moving around to center and right as needed.  Arraez gets a lot of at bats as DH, while also backing up Polo and Miranda at second and third.  Kirilloff is the first baseman with Sano as DH and AK's backup.  

Would be heck of an every day lineup without the need to go out and sign any expensive free agents.  But it all starts with Lewis being able to handle short.  As for who plays short when Lewis needs a day off, could be Polo, Martin or another backup utility guy...maybe Gordon?  

This sounds like a great best case for the post-Donaldson future. Assuming this gives you Sano, Garver, Kirilloff, Polanco, MIranda, Lewis, Larnach, Buxton, Kepler, Jeffers, Arraez, and Martin. So, you do have room for Gordon, Palacios, or some other Adrianza-esque SS backup. But leaves Rooker or any other bench slugger out of the picture.

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2 hours ago, beckmt said:

A couple of issues here.  I think you are correct on Miranda, assuming his bat will play here.  As I hope the Twins sign buxton to an extension, you have more outfield prospects than positions.  

1.  Assumption Kirloff and Sano rotate between 1B and DH, with Kirloff in the outfield at times, this blocks up one position. And I would not give up on Sano this early, he could wind up being a game changer.  Laurach is going to need a place to play unless he cannot cut it, too early to tell, but I doubt it. 

2. By 2023 you are going to need a place for both Lewis and Martin.  That to me  would  mean leaving Lewis at SS until other positions are sorted out.  I like Martin (he like Arraez, can be a pest and put pressure on other teams, both by extending AB's, and running when be gets on).  Will he hit enough, I am guessing yes.

3.  That leaves you, with the Kepler issue.  RIght now he does not have a lot of trade value, this all depends on buxton. 

If you extend Buxton, I would wait until late winter and see what he would bring.  There is always going to be a cost controlled club (Miami, Tampa, Oakland, Cleveland), who would give you a pitcher if Kepler was packaged with another player.  I can see this happening.  

 

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The problem at SS does not magically disappear in any of these scenarios. The position requires range, speed, a good glove, a strong arm and mental toughness. I suppose the closest is Lewis, but his arm is being questioned in MiLB, so it seems unlikely that it will play well in MLB. As much as I disliked Simmons bat, I still liked his play at SS. He had the highest defensive WAR on the team outside of Buxton (I believe). My hope is to go get an all-star SS who can hit a bit better than Simmons, but if the plan is to stick a sub-par SS there who can hit, I think we're spinning our wheels. I'd rather sign Simmons to another one-year deal in that scenario.

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Time will tell for sure, but I always get the impression that when it comes to the shortstop position, most pundits and fans only see the players' defense as a pass/fail proposition. But it isn't black or white, there's plenty of scenarios where a below average defender is acceptable. I mean statistically, half of the starting shortstops in the league are going to be below average.

No one wants Jorge Polanco as a starting shortstop, but the team did win 100 freakin' games with him at the position. It's not ideal but it's not like it's going to destroy the season. Obviously, aim for higher quality defense than Polanco, but I don't want the team to get so caught up in the defensive side of things that they don't regularly put the optimal offense into the lineup.

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3 hours ago, roger said:

Polonco at second, Lewis at short and Miranda at third.  Keep Buxton and Kepler in center and right.  Add Larnach and Martin in left field with Martin moving around to center and right as needed.  Arraez gets a lot of at bats as DH, while also backing up Polo and Miranda at second and third.  Kirilloff is the first baseman with Sano as DH and AK's backup.  

Would be heck of an every day lineup without the need to go out and sign any expensive free agents.  But it all starts with Lewis being able to handle short.  As for who plays short when Lewis needs a day off, could be Polo, Martin or another backup utility guy...maybe Gordon?  

Almost exactly what I was thinking earlier. Additional thought is Larnach in RF and Keplwr gone with Martin flying solo in LF. Of course, we have Celestino for a 4th OF as well.

Wallner and/or Cabbage as an OF/DH on the bench?

As to backup SS, think Steer or Julien perhaps?

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Whoever comes up there is one thing that was clear.  Gardenhire in St Paul needs to do a better job of teaching the fundamentals of how to play a wall! Not one of the prospects including Kiroloff at first, Larnach, Rooker or Celestino in the OF had a clue on how to play a wall. They either run into it or shy away from it. That's on the organization.

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3 hours ago, beckmt said:

...3.  That leaves you, with the Kepler issue.  RIght now he does not have a lot of trade value, this all depends on buxton...

 

Kepler's trade value is high, it's just not elite. In fact, it's higher than some names like Buxton, Balazovic, Woods-Richardson, Ryan, Ober, Canterino and Rogers on Baseballtradevalues.com. That site isn't perfect, but it presents a much less biased view of players than fan sites have. Before people absolutely lose their minds at the audacity of Kepler being ranked higher than Buxton in terms of trade value, the valuation website just uses data.

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SS and CF are the most important  and most demanding positions, almost all candidates don't make it let alone excel there. I don't know if Lewis or Martin will stick at their proposed positions, odds are they won't. 

We won 100+ games in '19 because we had an awesome line up that were all hitting on all 8cyl.s (with a juiced ball) and a top rate rotation ( where Pineda was the # 5 and he was raking) until the BP blew up. The rotation (especially a sick Gibson and a transformed BP Perez, they pitched much more innings than Odorizzi and Pineda) were overextended and limped across the finish line. 

We can't ever expect these conditions to exist and ignore our defense. Our goal isn't to be lucky & win a 100 games but to advance in the post season and even win the big one again.

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2 hours ago, Karbo said:

This is why I can see Arraez as trade bait

As long as you don't expect much in return. I don't think he moves the needle in a package deal for a significant pitcher either. What's the point of trading him if the return is near zero?

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4 minutes ago, Wax off said:

As long as you don't expect much in return. I don't think he moves the needle in a package deal for a significant pitcher either. What's the point of trading him if the return is near zero?

What's the point of keeping him if he has no value (which I disagree with, btw)?

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6 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

What's the point of keeping him if he has no value (which I disagree with, btw)?

Just keep him and hope he hits better and has more value than his trade value which I'm guessing  is very low considering his knees and recent performance at the plate. You probably don't get the same return as Lamonte Wade did last season, and we'd have been better off not trading him.

 

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I'm continually gobsmacked by people wanting to basically keep a horrible team together......if players don't have trade value, they don't belong on the MLB roster of a winning team (unless that lack of trade value is due to high, fair or not, pay).

edit to add: to be clear, this is NOT aimed at one poster, but this site. Which seems to want to keep nearly every player on last year's 40 man ......that isn't a fungible RP.

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9 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

I'm continually gobsmacked by people wanting to basically keep a horrible team together......if players don't have trade value, they don't belong on the MLB roster of a winning team (unless that lack of trade value is due to high, fair or not, pay).

edit to add: to be clear, this is NOT aimed at one poster, but this site. Which seems to want to keep nearly every player on last year's 40 man ......that isn't a fungible RP.

I don't think they're horrible, but they aren't a winning team. Arraez is a lottery ticket going into next year. I don't think he has any substantial trade value but what's the alternative to keeping him and seeing what next year brings? Trade him for Shaun Anderson?

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Austin Martin could very well end up at 2nd .. 

I will continue to say this exercise reaffirms my belief that now would be the time to sell high on Polanco for pitching. Arraez likely doesn't bring back what you'd aim. Deal from positions of strength, depth is there.

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4 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

I'm continually gobsmacked by people wanting to basically keep a horrible team together......if players don't have trade value, they don't belong on the MLB roster of a winning team (unless that lack of trade value is due to high, fair or not, pay).

edit to add: to be clear, this is NOT aimed at one poster, but this site. Which seems to want to keep nearly every player on last year's 40 man ......that isn't a fungible RP.

I am with you, Mike.  Time to shake it up.  We have relatively poor roster construction.  Reshape it.  We also need to invest time in developing pitching and many here are unwilling to make that  investment.  Many ardent fans just can't accept investing in development.  Their answer is to buy a team through free agency and  trade away prospects for the here and now.  This is simply not an effective approach for a below average revenue team and this has been proven around the league.  I am (using your word) gobsmacked by how often the tactics of successful and unsuccessful teams are ignored.  The Mets, Phillies, and Padres made all kinds of trades and invested in free agents.  They all failed.  In the case of the Mets and Phillies, repeatedly.  Boston and San Francisco tweaked rosters.  Tampa Bay traded Snell and let Morton go.  They got  lambasted by everyone.  The national media proclaimed they were punting 2022.  Some inferred they were incompetent.  We should all pay a little more attention to how winners are built.

Sure the big trades can be impactful but how many under the radar trades for A ballers turns out huge.  Sure, trading for Tatis Jr. is a little lucky but there have been plenty of great players acquired for next to nothing.  Those are the trades that really tilt the scales.  Gil and Ynoa are not all that proven yet but how much better would we look if we had those two now.  Fans are hyper focused on the right now and the block buster trades and that's not how a mid market team builds a contender.  Tampa's trade for Snell was brilliant.  Mejia is not as valuable as Snell but he is a good inexpensive role player will 4 years of control.  They also got a SP that might be better than Snell with the exception of Snell's one exceptional year.  He is already playing at the MLB level.  Plus, they got a 50 FV catcher and a 21 yo A ball pitcher that had a .857 WHIP last year.  This is how a team without limited financial resource builds a contender.  

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I hear you.  Recently on another forum a writer gave an opinion about what next years roster might look like; it looked almost identical to the roster we ended the season with, give or take a couple of possible additions in the off season.  I looked at it and thought.......hmmm.......isn't this the same team we just watched?  And when talking about trades, no one seemed to think anyone would bring a haul except Bux, of course.  Which, I am guessing, is why the roster (in his forum) looked quite similar to the one we ended 2021 with.  

Individually, not very many players we have right now bring much back in return.  A package, however, might be worth exploring, as it would fill a few holes we need filled.  Maybe more than one package, but that would take courage and insight.  And a few acquisitions in the FO market, primarily in the pitching department.  Boy, isn't this fun?  Thinking about what a team with a purpose would do to be a contender right now?  Yeah, well, that is what a long winter is for, I guess; dreaming of what it could be like if only........ahem.........sorry, I lost my head there for a second.  Back to reality.  Fun while it lasted, though.  :)  

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18 minutes ago, Tim said:

Austin Martin could very well end up at 2nd ..

Yea, why didn't the OP list that as a potential for Martin. He doesn't even explore the possibility Instead, he just pigeonholes him into corner outfielder. Because of his arm? You don't need a rocket arm to play 2nd base but it's also handy as an OF. Incomplete analysis on that aspect.

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To be clear, I think the team is better than its record if it gets a couple SPs.....and has better luck / outcomes from the RPs. But, this team wasn't good. Keeping it largely intact seems odd to me.

I really want Martin in LF, and ASAP in the minors. He can hit and field. Other than that, I don't know what I'd do with the roster. Like, AK could be your LFer...as could Larnach. Maybe (I have my doubts) Rooker. Like, the construction seems redundant and off to me, which means they should make some trades.....

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Kepler's trade value is high, it's just not elite. In fact, it's higher than some names like Buxton, Balazovic, Woods-Richardson, Ryan, Ober, Canterino and Rogers on Baseballtradevalues.com. That site isn't perfect, but it presents a much less biased view of players than fan sites have. Before people absolutely lose their minds at the audacity of Kepler being ranked higher than Buxton in terms of trade value, the valuation website just uses data.

I still think the teams that would trade for a full year of Buxton are likely to give up more than a team that's trading for 2-3 years of Kepler. If those guys were set to hit the open market today, it's not even a discussion who would be more valuable. 

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Arraez has quite a bit of value, I think. He does have elite contact skills and is an average defender. I remember listening to Joe Nathan say that if Arraez stayed healthy, he was a candidate for 3000 hits. I know he was speaking to a Twins audience, but that’s a pretty strong endorsement. 
 

There probably are 5-10 teams with better 2B, but many clubs would want an on-base machine with three years of team control, and he’s only 24. 

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4 minutes ago, stringer bell said:

Arraez has quite a bit of value, I think. He does have elite contact skills and is an average defender. I remember listening to Joe Nathan say that if Arraez stayed healthy, he was a candidate for 3000 hits. I know he was speaking to a Twins audience, but that’s a pretty strong endorsement. 
 

There probably are 5-10 teams with better 2B, but many clubs would want an on-base machine with three years of team control, and he’s only 24. 

He’s the market inefficiency right now. Batting average for MLB was below .240. If he’s on the trade block, teams will be calling about him, no doubt. 

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