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Twins Future Position Analysis: Corner Outfield


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Minnesota has a surplus of corner outfielders, so will the team trade from a position of strength this winter? Here's a look at how the organization's corner outfielders stack up for 2022.

Current Corner Outfielders: Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff
Max Kepler is under team control for the next three seasons, and he is coming off a three-year stretch where he has a 111 OPS+. He provides defensive flexibility with the ability to play centerfield occasionally. This might make him one of the team's most valuable trade assets. Minnesota needs starting pitching, and trading Kepler can open a corner outfield spot for one or more of the names discussed below. 

Alex Kirilloff got off to a tremendous start to his rookie campaign before a wrist injury sapped his power. He tried to play through the injury, but he was clearly impacted and underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right wrist. Minnesota's best option with Kirilloff is to move him to first base because he is a superior defender compared to the team's other options. Chances are Kirilloff will still get some time in the outfield, but he will get plenty of reps at first base too. 

40-Man Roster Options 
Besides Kirilloff, the Twins turned to another rookie outfielder in 2021. Trevor Larnach showed some positive signs before ending up in a slump that sent him to St. Paul for the remainder of the season. Entering the 2021 season, Larnach had never appeared in a game above the Double-A level, so he was likely pushed a little faster than the organization planned. He should still be in the team's long-term plans, even coming off a poor year. 

Brent Rooker also had an interesting 2021 campaign. It looked like he had a chance to win a backup outfield job during spring training, but his lack of defensive positions pushed him back to the minors. At 26-years-old, this was intriguing, especially since he had little left to prove at Triple-A with a career .932 OPS. Rooker got over 200 big-league plate appearances in 2021 and posted a 75 OPS+. With his age-27 season looming, he has an uncertain future with the Twins.

On the Farm Options
Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's corner outfield depth. Minnesota has multiple corner outfield options populating the rosters throughout the minor leagues.

After signing Derek Fisher, the Twins have eight outfielders projected at the Triple-A level. Obviously, this is more than the team will need at one level. Jake Cave and Kyle Garlick are more veteran options at Triple-A, with big-league experience. Mark Contreras, Jimmy Kerrigan, and Ernie De La Trinidad are all over age-25 and Rule-5 eligible this offseason. Some of these players may shift to Double-A with an overload of Triple-A outfielders.

Matt Wallner is projected for the Double-A level, and he is one of the most exciting prospects on this list. Minnesota selected Wallner with the 39th overall pick in 2019, and he's coming off a 1.011 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. Joining Wallner at Double-A will be Leobaldo Cabrera and Michel Helman. Last winter, the Twins signed Cabrera as a minor league free agent, and he combined for a .786 OPS at three different levels. Helman was an 11th round pick in 2018, and he posted a .798 OPS in 111 games at High-A in 2021.

In the lower levels of the minors, Kala'i Rosario is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. He was the team's fifth-round pick back in 2020 out of Hawaii. Last year, he made his pro-debut with the FCL Twins and hit .277/.341/.452 (.794) with 19 extra-base hits in 51 games. Rosario should make his full-season debut in 2022. 

Overall, Minnesota has corner outfield depth that is ready to impact the big-league level. What do you think about the organization's corner outfield depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
Catchers
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Center Field


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This is a very good series, Cody, thank you.  I am not sure I see a big surplus here, at least for this year, especially if Kepler is traded.  I am not sure who would patrol the third outfield spot next to Buxton and Kirilloff.  Jack Cave, Kyle Garlick, and Derek Fisher are not the answer.  Rooker has significant defensive issues and has yet to prove he can hit major league pitching.  Maybe he just needs more at bats, but then again maybe he one of those AAA players who can't make the leap.  Larnach I still believe in, but I doubt he will spend much of this year in the majors--I hope I am wrong.  Wallner is going to need time to develop.  If they try instead to trade Rooker or Larnach for pitching they will be trading them at their lowest value.  Plus, if they trade either Larnach or Wallner they will really have issues in 23 as I suspect Kirilloff will go to first base once Sano leaves, leaving two outfield positions open.  If Kepler is traded, who do you see being the Twins four outfielders this year?  Again, thanks for your great articles.

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Out of the gate in ‘22, Kepler, Larnach, Fisher, Celistino, Rooker, Arraez, yadda yadda, yadda, are the most likely to see time in the corner OF spots.
 

Ultimately, I think you are missing the two most likely to bracket Buxton - Martin and Lewis (and I’m not talking about that famous comedy duo). Although we all hope Royce can play SS, neither likely projects as a plus fielder at that position. With their speed and arms, both, however, probably do as corner outfielders (as well as backup CFs for Buxton when needed) and should have the desired combination of power and OBA at the plate as well.
 

It could be in ‘23 (and hopefully for an additional several years after that) we see a starting outfield of Martin, Buxton, and Lewis with some combo of Larnach, Wallner and Celestino in the important platoon roles. That could be one great outfield. 

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I just wanted to comment on the trade aspect.  I find the value of corner OF very low.  Unless they are top hitter and fielder.  If they are just a good hitter or good fielder they are easy to find replacements.  Of course elite hitters have value, but you are not trading them away unless you have several elite hitters in those spots.  Even then, you can normally use them as DH or 1B to get their bat in the line up.  

They can be part of deals, but I personally do not think corner OF should be part of a deal unless they are elite, and then you are not trading them unless you are selling. 

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When I read through the entire essay I find the comment, "Minnesota has a surplus of corner outfielders" to be overstated. We have an underperforming Kepler who peaked and has at no time come close to repeating.  We have no glove Rooker, Larnach who fell apart last year.  Then there is Kiriloff who will be a 1B.  Then we have a stack of mediocre OF with no upside, but enough MLB experience to be emergency fill ins.  The AAA OF prospects are getting older and Wallner is too young.  

Our corner OF survives if Buxton is there to cover for them.  

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Add me to the growing list of those who cringe every time I read the comment, "Minnesota has a surplus of corner outfielders."  

Yet, the more I think about it, you are technically correct.  There is a surplus of corner outfielders, however, other than Kepler, Larnach and Kirilloff all have lots of tarnish on their star or are far away from being major league ready..  And many of you will debate whether Kepler should or shouldn't remain with the Twins.  Add the fact that Kirilloff is headed to first base and you have Larnach as the only top level prospect who is close. 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I hope we never again see Arraez, who I see as a tremendous asset for the Twins, or Rooker in left field again.  Should Rooker's bat return to what it was pre-broken wrist, let him be the primary DH.

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One of the thing that this series has revealed to me is that the Twins lack QUALITY depth (or top prospects) at several positions.  Lots of maybes, wishes and hope they pan outs.

To be successful beyond 2022 they need several players to develop into quality big league contributors including (but not limited to) Larnach, Rooker, Miranda, Martin, Lewis and possibly Celestino.  That is a lot to hope for.  Short of these guys panning out, trades or free agent signings will be needed.

And this does not, of course, adress pitching...

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I'm with the crowd that is saying the only surplus of COF the Twins have is bodies. This list is lacking greatly in upside. Looks like Kepler, Larnach, a 1B (Kirilloff), and a bunch of AAA/AAAA guys.

I'm also with the crowd that hopes to see Martin in LF and Lewis in RF with Buxton in CF. My plan for July/August 2022 (assuming they're not really competing for a division title) would be Martin-Buxton-Lewis OF. Donaldson-Story-Polanco-Kirilloff IF. Garver-Jeffers C. Gordon, Miranda, Arraez, Celestino bench. With the emphasis on lifting the ball and looking for extra base hits I'd move both Martin and Lewis to the OF and have what would likely be the best defensive OF in baseball (when Buxton is healthy). But my plan A this offseason has always been to sign Story to allow the fringy SS prospects to move. If that doesn't happen then I'm good with Martin-Buxton-Kepler and Lewis at SS.

Kepler is the only COF guy with trade value right now. If we're not competing and you can flip him for another young arm at the deadline I'd do that. This list is not encouraging, though. I don't see the depth, or surplus, that others talk about. Not many ML quality players on this list.

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Larnach should probably start in AAA. Major league pitchers exploited his weaknesses last year.

Celestino probably will join him unless he can win a regular role of at least 4 games a week in spring training. His glove in LF would be an asset if his bat is ready.

They need a right handed bat that can play some corner OF. I would give Miranda a shot. Miranda needs to find at least 4 games a week between corner OF, 3B, 2B and 1B. If his bat is real LF might be the spot he can get regular play next year.

I would start Kirilloff, Buxton and Kepler with Miranda, Gordon and Arraez filling in. Larnach, Celestino and Martin can battle for the first guy to get called up when injuries strike.

 

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5 hours ago, terrydactyls said:

A couple months back there was a very insightful article I read that suggested Palacios at SS, and Lewis and Martin playing the corners with Buxton in center.  I will have to admit that I was the one who wrote that article. 😁😁😁. Yea me!!!!!

Your shameless self promotion seems incomplete without a link! 😆

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Larnach getting a call before midseason seems unreasonable based on how badly he struggled against almost anything other than a 4 seam fastball last year at the MLB level and how he failed to turn it around after a demotion to AAA.

Rooker is much quicker than he gets credit for, but he gets bad jumps on balls. He's probably a servicable corner outfielder, but he needs to prove it was crazy bad luck that kept his production low rather than the shift, etc. 

Wallner has 40 grade speed with a projection of 35 speed on fangraphs (ouch). He's a DH unless he can improve the athleticism.

Garlick could maybe handle a corner spot if given the opportunity. He just doesn't have a lot of track record and he's not a good option for a 4th outfielder because he can't cover center.

Kirilloff would be worth a lot more in the corners than 1B. Fangraphs has Kirilloff as a 30 grade speed, though I'm not sure how they came to that conclusion and MLB has him as a 50 grade. Kirilloff managed a 27.4 ft/sec sprint speed (60th percentile in MLB) which is more than enough for the corners.

Kepler is a solid corner outfielder. He's dropped some speed in the past couple years so he's probably no longer a valid option in center field like he was in 2019. He's a known quanitity worth starting as an everyday player.

Martin is seen as a second baseman by most scouts. He doesn't appear to have the range for center field or the arm for SS or 3rd base.

Celestino is a center fielder, not a corner outfielder. It would be a waste to stick him in the corners where his limited bat would do far less for value creation. Considering Buxton is going to be hurt for 80-100 games next year, Celestino is best used as a replacement there.

Cave profiles as a AAAA player.

Fisher has generated a grand total of -0.1 fWAR in his career. He's MiLB depth as far as I'm concerned.

The rest of the farm options are not ready, emergency backups or MiLB depth, IMHO.

I think it would be fair to say the Twins have a lot of players who technically play corner outfielder at some level or another. They have precious few proven MLB caliber corner outfielders.

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It would seem that the Twins have poorly positioned themselves for an everyday replacement for the departed Eddie Rosario..  They need to "clear the decks" of players in the pipeline that do not profile as holding down a permanent corner outfield position.  They also need to clearly define and execute a long range positional plan for Alex Kirilloff. 1B? OF?  The team is in a (contractual) good long term place with Max Kepler.  Fact is, it is easier to "bury" a less than stellar defensive corner outfielder in RF than in LF.  Having a LHSP or two, also takes some of the defensive pressure off of whomever is patrolling RF.  Why is it that the Twins continue to play Kepler in RF?  I thought I read somewhere that Kepler prefers to play LF?  If Kepler played LF, his glove hand would be at the LF line.  What direction is Buxton better at moving towards in terms of reading fly balls and breaking off the bat?  Although I can understand the reluctance of the Twins to dive into the NPB posting pool after their regrettable prior experience, a foray into the Seiya Suzuki posting pool would seem to be a no-brainer.  The Twins already have a fellow countryman on their roster who could provide support to Suzuki and make the transition to MLB  that much smoother and perhaps provide and edge in negotiations.  Such an addition would provide a contractually stable, long term Outfield alignment of: Kepler - Buxton - Suzuki!!

 

 

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Rooker is a perfectly serviceable COF. He's as fast as Kiriloff and runs better routes. A little quicker first step would do him wonders.

But as a lefty-mashing, weak-side platoon COF, he's a great fit. Unless the brass give Miranda the LF gig out of ST, the Twins would benefit from having two RHB COF for platooning.

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1 hour ago, Minny505 said:

Rooker is a perfectly serviceable COF. He's as fast as Kiriloff and runs better routes. A little quicker first step would do him wonders.

But as a lefty-mashing, weak-side platoon COF, he's a great fit. Unless the brass give Miranda the LF gig out of ST, the Twins would benefit from having two RHB COF for platooning.

For the Saints or some Japanese team.

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The best young corner OF ready for the MLB player in the organization is Miranda. He needs a place to play next year and has played some OF. The problem is that there's no place for Kirilloff to play every day with Sano, Donaldson and Arraez on the roster. Those 3 have 1b and 3b covered so we can't even move Sano back to 3B to give Kirilloff 1B. I think Kiriloff is the opening day LF next year and stays there for at least 1 season. The rest of that group doesn't look like much except for Larnach. 

   

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