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  • 3 Bench Players Demonstrate Minnesota’s Depth

    Cody Christie

    With three games in the books, the Twins are off to a strong start to the season, but there are still 57 games remaining in the shortened season. A hidden aspect from this weekend’s series was the influence of three players that were projected to be bench players. Who are these players and how did they impact the series against Chicago? Let’s find out…

    Image courtesy of © Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Cave, OF

    Byron Buxton’s injury is one of the biggest reasons Cave was given the opportunity to play in two of the team’s first three games. He certainly made his presence felt in Sunday’s game by cracking a first inning grand slam that put the Twins on the way to a blowout win. For the series, he finished 3-for-9 with six RBI. The argument can also be made that he is the best fourth outfielder in baseball.


    Defensively, Cave has been playing in centerfield, which could be viewed as an interesting choice by manager Rocco Baldelli. Max Kepler is the better defender in center as he played nearly 460 innings there last season and was worth 4 DRS and 3.6 DEF. Cave was worth -3 DRS and -2.1 DEF, so there is little question that Baldelli should put Kepler in center. However, Cave’s impact was felt in both of the team’s victories this weekend so maybe this formula works (for now).


    Ehire Adrianza, IF

    Adrianza played in one of the team’s games this weekend and it was the only game the Twins lost, but he still can impact the game. He went 1-for-4 and scored one of the team’s three runs that game. His biggest influence comes on the defensive side of the ball because he is the best defensive infielder on the roster not named Josh Donaldson.


    Last season, he played 59 innings or more at second base, first base, shortstop and third base. Looking at the regulars penciled in at those positions, it is going to be tough for Adrianza to get playing time at any of those spots this season. This means he will likely have to settle for being used sparingly unless an injury were to occur (knock on wood).


    Marwin Gonzalez, OF/1B

    Gonzalez entered the 2020 season in a different spot than last season. Miguel Sano started 2019 injured and this meant Gonzalez started the year as the team’s everyday third baseman. Sano isn’t injured this season, but his positive COVID-19 test kept him out of the start of Summer Camp, and he could have put his swing a little behind schedule. This allowed Gonzalez to start two games over the weekend and he went 2-for-8 with a homer.


    One of the most impressive things from Gonzalez this weekend might have been his professional approach at the plate. On Saturday afternoon, he faced off against former teammate Dallas Keuchel who was rolling through the early innings. Gonzalez did his best to mess with Keuchel’s timing and even Justin Morneau made note of it from the booth. He did the same thing on Sunday when Reynaldo Lopez was struggling early in the game. Out of players still on the Twins, Gonzalez had the fifth most plate appearances last season, so it will be interesting to see how the club finds him at-bats this year.


    Which player adds the most to the Twins depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.



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    #1] Cave produced his first go round. For whatever reason...pressing perhaps...he really struggled the first part of 2019 before getting his legs under him. While I doubt he is any late start STAR in the making, his strong start shouldn't surprise. My #1 problem with Cave has been he absolutely has the tools to be a decent CF, allowing him to fill in there, and allowing Kepler to stick in RF most of the time. And he's made some nice plays there. He's also made some terrible plays there and either not tracked the ball well or tried to make a tremendous play vs a safe play. If experience and/or work can allow him to play a solid CF defensively, he just raised his value to another level. I know it's only a couple of games, but he just looks more comfortable there to me. More importantly, Rocco seems to think so.


    #2] Adrianza has done nothing since the Twins signed him but come off the bench and contribute. He is, absolutely, a utility player. And he is no member of the Bomba squad. But he has done nothing but hit decently, maintain a decent contact rate and OB, pop some XBH here and there, and play quality defense. What more could ever be asked? As much as I love former contributors such as Newman, Reboutlet, Hocking and Pinto over the years, I think I'd take Adrianza over all of them.


    3] Gonzalez did last season pretty much what he has done his entire career: produce and play well. His OPS in 2019 basically matched his career line. No matter how much we can debate about roster construction, depth and versatility, as well as flexibility, some guys are just everyday starters and some guys are role players. All he does is come off the bench a few days a week and play solid to good defense at a number of spots, hit, take professional AB, club double digit 2B and HR and make a real contribution to the lineup/team.


    IMO, there are very few teams in MLB that have a 3sum off their bench like the Twins have. Now, there is hope that soon we could have guys like Gordon, Blankenhorn and others...maybe even Lewis as he breaks in...who could be as good or better but this is a really, really good bench to work with right now. And I'm not sure that all 3 won't be back in 2021.


    I kind of wish, Cody, that "bench depth" might have included pitching. Or is that a 2nd article you have planned?

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    that is a tough question because all of them are so good. since i cant say 1a, 1b, and 1c, i have to say Marwin, Ehire, then Jake. Key points, Marwin is a better hitter than Adrianza. Marwin and Adrianza are switch hitters, Cave is not. Cave may have the best power but in a playoff game without Buxton the lineup will have Gonzalez in left, Kepler in center, and Rosario in right. In reference to a previous comment about pitchers being included in this article, i am sure there will be an article about bullpen depth and rotation depth. Never have i heard of pitchers being part of bench depth.(unless you are Lorentzen, Ohtani, or Mckay-Rays).

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    Depth is crucial to winning in both the regular and post-season. All three of these players are important. IMO, Adrianza is the key reserve. He is the only capable backup SS on the team.


    Let's not forget Avila either. He's a solid backup catcher.

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    All three will be key contributors to whatever success the Twins have in 2020.


    What I am interested in is whether any or all will return in 2021 when we hopefully have a regular baseball season. With the talent coming up from the minors, which may be delayed due to inactivity this year, I see Gonzalez as the least likely to return in part due to his higher cost. I see and hope the Twins resign Adrianza to a reasonable one or two year contract to return as their main infield utility man.


    Not certain what the future holds for Cave. His biggest value to the team may be the return he would bring in a trade. As stated above, yes, he is better than many current starters on other teams including some who consider themselves contenders. Will Cave continue to play like he started this year and continue to get opportunities? If so, the return could be very high. But the Twins may also see his value to them for this short season and wait to pull the string on a trade until the off season.

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     But the Twins may also see his value to them for this short season and wait to pull the string on a trade until the off season.


    I feel as if his value would be highest during the season. During the offseason, teams can sign free agents, so there'd be a bigger pool of talent to choose from without necessarily having to give up MLB talent or prospects.


    Cave is probably not the headliner of a deal, but may be a piece added to not have to give up both Lewis and Kirilloff to get a top notch starter.


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    I feel as if his value would be highest during the season. During the offseason, teams can sign free agents, so there'd be a bigger pool of talent to choose from without necessarily having to give up MLB talent or prospects.


    Cave is probably not the headliner of a deal, but may be a piece added to not have to give up both Lewis and Kirilloff to get a top notch starter.

    Just as the Twins haven't gone all in to sign a top notch free agent starter, I am not certain they are going to try to get one in a trade. Whether its dollars or assets, the Twins may be adverse to putting too much into one top line pitcher. The reason I think this could be true is the risk associated with all those top arms. 


    Rather see them building a pitching staff like last winter, assemble a group of good starters so they have depth to overcome injuries to any one or two starters. Then work the system to develop several starters who have the potential to be above average. 

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    It is nice to see fans not trashing any of these backups.  Keep in mind that whoever you think is the worst player on a team's 60th player pool is way better than fans who disrespect them unless they themselves played in the big leagues.  Having a second cousin who was a starting pitcher in the big leagues for a few seasons taught me how terrible some fans and some sports writers can be.  With that said, Adrianza has turned into a very valuable utility infielder.  Cave has done very well but if Buxton can stay healthy the best thing for Cave might be to be traded so he can be a starter somewhere and we receive something in return.  We have outfielders ready to come up next season if not sooner.  Marwin is solid and played an important role last year but I see Adrianza and Cave contributing more this year.

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    Or keep Cave, Kiriloff, and Larnach and trade Buxton for an ace pitcher, someone at the level of Syndergaard. Buxton is who the Mets asked for.


    An ace with a big contract is a risk, but Buxton won't be cheap much longer himself. Add a front line pitcher and this would be the team to beat and a popular world series pick.


    Of course Buxton can make a lot of pitchers look like an ace with his defense. I'm not trying to run him out of town. I love seeing him in center field. I'd rather get an ace by seeing Balazavic or Duran break out. I'm just saying, in keeping with the topic of this post, our outfield depth is such that we could afford to trade Buxton for a star pitcher of that's what it took. And that is a good option to have.

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