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Still Looking Up for Larnach


Twins Daily Contributor

Trevor Larnach was front and center for a brief moment in 2021, crushing homers and brightening the future of the offense. But just as quickly as he showed up, he was gone. What can we expect from the slugging left hander moving forward?

Fellow first-round picks Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have been near each other on the Twins prospect lists for years and had similar ETAs to make their debuts at Target Field. It was only natural that when Kirilloff got the call, Larnach made the jump shortly thereafter. Kirilloff showed that a trip back to the minors was unlikely despite his season-ending injury. Larnach’s 2021 however is a bit tougher to piece together.

The Good
Despite just 13 at-bats in his AAA career, Larnach looked far from overmatched upon his arrival. He posted an .845 OPS through his first month with an incredible eye at the plate. The left-hander was showing off some tremendous power as well with some tape-measure home runs and hit a ball 116 mph, a strong indicator of raw power.

In the outfield, Larnach did surprisingly well in some facets. Left field appeared to be a bit of a struggle, but in right field, he played the overhang incredibly well, posting an Outs Above Average of 2 and 4 Defensive Runs Saved. We've heard Larnach isn't the fleetest of foot throughout his minor league career and there's been little in the way of excitement over his defense. That being said, he showed that he not only has the ability to be a difference-maker at the plate, but that he could surprisingly be a plus defender as well.

The Bad
Despite Larnach’s .845 OPS in his first month, he finished with a final OPS of just .672. It’s not hard to imagine the steep decline it would take for such a drop-off. From June 1 forward, Larnach posted a slash line of .222/.301/.320, a .621 OPS. The issues were completely obvious: Larnach stopped seeing fastballs. He hit .165 and slugged .215 against breaking balls in 2021 as well as .143 and .179 against off-speed pitches. 72% of his strikeouts came against pitches other than fastballs.

Further complicating his struggles was an injury sustained after fouling a ball off of his foot. It’s hard to say whether the nagging foot pain contributed to the hitting woes, but after his demotion to St. Paul Larnach struggled mightily and played in just 10 games before being shut down for the season.

What’s Next?
With his significant struggles fresh in our minds, it’s understandable that the former top prospect has lost some shine in some fans' eyes. He’s shown a very significant weakness that will surely be abused at the Major League level over and over again until he shows he can overcome it. That being said, Larnach is far from the stereotypical slugger.

Comparing him to a similarly tremendous slugger in Brent Rooker, for example, Larnach has a much better plate approach and his eye at the plate has held up at every stop of the minor leagues. He’s also been graded as having a far superior hit tool to Rooker, meaning more contact should be expected moving forward. He still has his issues to fix against the soft stuff, but his advanced offensive approach should prevent him from collapsing into the pool of hitters who can crush the ball on the rare occasion they make contact. These adjustments would likely be easier to make if he’s 100% healthy in 2022 as well.

Larnach’s early showing defensively, especially in right field, is extremely encouraging. The Twins have a rash of depth in the corner outfield with more on its way in the minors. If Larnach can be more than just a body to put out there to get his bat in the lineup, he could easily grab that job if the necessary adjustments are made at the plate.

These results also have to be encouraging for the front office, who will likely have to part with controllable pieces to get the arms needed to fill out the rotation effectively. Max Kepler has long been a rumored trade asset for example. While he’s had his incredible defensive seasons in right field, Larnach being competent at the position with a step up on offense would make Kepler much easier to part with. Larnach has possibly already shown more of a ceiling against left-handed pitching with 15 hits in 90 plate appearances against southpaws in 2021.

Like much of the Twins 2021 season, Larnach’s year had an encouraging start only to collapse down the stretch. That being said, such tendencies are not uncommon when it comes to rookies getting their first taste of Major League pitching. He may not be as highly rated as a possibly generational hitter such as Kirilloff, but Larnach is a pure hitter capable of adjusting. Regardless of the teams’ plans to compete in 2022, he should spend a few months in St. Paul before getting another crack at cementing a roster spot for the next six years. Come this time next offseason, we may just be talking about Trevor Larnach as a staple in the heart of the Twins 2023 lineup.

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Along with Buxton in center, some combo of Martin, Lewis, Larnach, Celistino, and Wallner in the corner and backup outfield positions ideally in 2023. Cheap, interchangeable, mix of power, speed, OBP, and fielding strength - and at least two decent CF backups in Lewis and Celestino (and possibly Martin) when needed. 
 

Gravy would be that they all work out, Lewis is the everyday SS, and we get an outstanding RP for Kepler. 

 

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The Twins have always had more success with offensive prospects than pitching, I think that’s a big reason 2021 was so disappointing. At least one of Larnach, Kirilloff, Rooker or Celestino should have popped. They all crashed in one way or another. Need this to happen this year.

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27 minutes ago, nicksaviking said:

The Twins have always had more success with offensive prospects than pitching, I think that’s a big reason 2021 was so disappointing. At least one of Larnach, Kirilloff, Rooker or Celestino should have popped. They all crashed in one way or another. Need this to happen this year.

I think Kirilloff would have been fine if healthy, so I'm not sure that I'd lump him in with the rest of those.  But, health is always a factor (see Buxton, Byron).

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I think Larnach will be fine long term.  I don't think he compares to Rooker at all, for many of the reasons you identify, Cody.  Plus, he is a smart guy.  He studies the game and will do what is necessary to adjust.  I never write off a great prospect after one trip to the majors.  Look at Torii's struggles early on.  Plus, he was injured.  I think he will likely start at St. Paul, do well and be promoted next year.  I think he will be an important piece long term.  

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17 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

I think Kirilloff would have been fine if healthy, so I'm not sure that I'd lump him in with the rest of those.  But, health is always a factor (see Buxton, Byron).

Kirilloff would have been fine.  I think the other call ups were rushed because of injuries and ineffectiveness.  I think Larnach and Celestino will both be good major league players when it is their time.  Between Martin and Celestino, we should have some good CF depth in case Buxton is out for a period of time.  

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6 minutes ago, baul0010 said:

Kirilloff would have been fine.  I think the other call ups were rushed because of injuries and ineffectiveness.  I think Larnach and Celestino will both be good major league players when it is their time.  Between Martin and Celestino, we should have some good CF depth in case Buxton is out for a period of time.  

Yes, injuries elsewhere rushed the call up of Larnach and Celestino in particular.  I'm not really concerned about any of it at this point.  That was just the nature of how last season went.

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47 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

Yes, injuries elsewhere rushed the call up of Larnach and Celestino in particular.  I'm not really concerned about any of it at this point.  That was just the nature of how last season went.

Agreed Larnach was rushed up which was bad management. Eventually he'll come around and hit the weird stuff and he'll mash. But I disagree with his defense, yes he's a better glove in RF but he doesn't have the arm IMO. So I'd like to see him at 1B before Kiriloff

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5 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

Agreed Larnach was rushed up which was bad management. Eventually he'll come around and hit the weird stuff and he'll mash. But I disagree with his defense, yes he's a better glove in RF but he doesn't have the arm IMO. So I'd like to see him at 1B before Kiriloff

I think he was called up out of lack of other options.  I don't think it was their first choice.  Though, I don't think his situation was as dire as Celestino where they really didn't have any other CFer's.  I could be remembering wrong, however.

The issue with putting Larnach at 1B instead of Kirilloff is that Kirilloff's best position is 1B (from my understanding) and that he's quite good there.  And I wasn't able to see Larnach play enough to agree or disagree with you on the arm.  This is the problem with drafting hit first corner types all of the time.  It's been my view that the pieces are getting more difficult to fit into the puzzle. 

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35 minutes ago, wsnydes said:

I think he was called up out of lack of other options.

  This is the problem with drafting hit first corner types all of the time.  It's been my view that the pieces are getting more difficult to fit into the puzzle. 

This is what I meant by bad management. :)

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3 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

This is what I meant by bad management. :)

Fair enough, but I can't blame management for the injuries and various other craziness that went on.  I'm sure there's some things that were within their control, but that can't all be on them.  Especially in the first half.  There were long stretches where at least half of the starting lineup was hurt or had Covid.

Plenty of things to blame the FO for last season, but I can't hang that one on them.  And having all of the corner types was/is going to bite them eventually, no doubt.  I don't want to get into that though.  Don't need to hijack the thread.

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3 hours ago, Nashvilletwin said:

Along with Buxton in center, some combo of Martin, Lewis, Larnach, Celistino, and Wallner in the corner and backup outfield positions ideally in 2023. Cheap, interchangeable, mix of power, speed, OBP, and fielding strength - and at least two decent CF backups in Lewis and Celestino (and possibly Martin) when needed. 
 

Gravy would be that they all work out, Lewis is the everyday SS, and we get an outstanding RP for Kepler. 

 

I could use a hit off whatever Tennesseans use to chase away the winter blues.

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I had actually forgotten Larnach had only 13AB at St Paul before his promotion. I think he just wasn't prepared as of then once pitchers made adjustments. I know each step up the ladder is tougher than the level before, and MLB is the hardest. But Larnach hit in college...it was the power that took a little while to develop...and he's hit so far in his milb career. So I'm still all in on him being a quality ML hitter once he acclimates and makes somes adjustments. My only concern, and it's minor, is that he didn't finish strong at AAA. But then again, he also became injured.

As for his defense, my understanding when he was drafted was that he had plenty of arm for RF. I believe part of the reason he played RF when Kirilloff was in LF was he has the stronger arm of the two. He won't be Kepler, but I think he has enough ability to play the spot we'll enough.

I do think AK is just fine in the OF. And I believe he was going to have a solid year until he hurt his wrist. But I think he will slide to 1B eventually, if not soon, because he just looks so natural there and there are other options for the OF corners. That includes the mentioned Martin.

Celestino was brought up because there was literally no-one else to play CF due to all the injuries. Remember, even Refsnyder got hurt after Buxton, and after Kepler. He WAS healthy and finished AAA strong. 

I think Larnach is going to be fine. I just don't know if he's going to be ready day 1 for a job, of he's going to take a few weeks, or a couple months before getting his next opportunity.

 

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5 hours ago, DocSavage said:

Oswaldo Arcia.. with  No arm

Distinct possibility! I would compare him more to a Travis Snider out of the Blue Jays and later the pirates organization. because he athletic enough to play the OF and has shown some patience at the plate in the minors and the majors.  But like Arcia didnt spend much of anytime at AAA before getting up to the big leagues.  With Arcia pitchers found that Arcia couldnt lay off or even make contact with the high fastball and it spend him up to try and catch up to it that the breakingball made him look silly.  

 

Also hope that sometime at AAA making some adjustments with breaking balls helps him get things right and can come up and contribute.  I believe Morneau raved about his work ethic and willing to learn and thirst for hitting knowledge.

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It’s a league of adjustments. He will have to adapt and improve to what the pitchers are doing to him. He will likely do this but if he doesn’t he won’t be the first good prospect to die from big league off speed pitches. I see nothing that would suggest he is a plus defender but could be average. He has an ugly hitch in his throwing motion that contributes to an average throwing arm. 

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Hopefully he can adjust to the off-speed stuff. The other thing he needs to work on is hitting to all fields. What I saw was a deadpull hitter with little attempt to hit the ball the other way. It's great to pull HomeRuns into the seats but if you can slash doubles to the opposite field gap then you become a much tougher out. The bomba squad in 2019 hurt this team more than it helped them cause now everyone outside of a guy like Arraez think all they have to do is hit HRs.

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From the small sample size of what I observed, he needs to figure out some things at the plate yet and when he was playing left field any hit to the gap seemed to be a double for anyone with at least average speed.  Hopefully he gains some experience in St Paul to start the season and improves.

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On 1/28/2022 at 1:03 PM, wsnydes said:

Yes, injuries elsewhere rushed the call up of Larnach and Celestino in particular.  I'm not really concerned about any of it at this point.  That was just the nature of how last season went.

He was rather polished college bat when the Twins took him in '18. I know '20 was a wash but I don't think getting him ABs last season was rushing things. Ideally, "older," players should move more quickly through the minors. His debut was great, and then he wasn't able to make necessary adjustments. That's not uncommon, especially for young players. 

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It should be clear to a Larnach this off season where he needs to work. If he does that work and figures it out the time he spent in the majors last year would have been worthwhile. If instead he had spent most of 2021 in AAA and did OK in a September call up maybe the need for that work isn’t realized.

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