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  • Minnesota’s Internal First Base Options


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota made the decision to non-tender C.J. Cron and this leaves Minnesota in search of a different starting first baseman for the second straight offseason. Cron could be brought back on a cheaper deal but it could also mean the Twins will turn to an internal option for next season. What does the future look like for one of Minnesota’s important corner infield positions?

    Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Miguel Sano

    Over the last two seasons, Sano has played 20 games at first and he has logged 31 games at the position throughout his career. Sano has always had a strong arm at third base and that skill would be taken away with a move to first base. Besides his arm, he has struggled at the hot corner as he was the third lowest ranked AL third baseman according to SABR’s Defensive Index. Sano missed all of spring training last season due to an offseason injury and that could have hindered some defensive improvement.

    Mitch Garver

    Garver clocked 31 home runs last season and he was able to do this while being limited to 93 games. Health wasn’t an issue for Garver as the team used a rotation of Garver and Jason Castro behind the plate. Over the last three seasons, Garver has played parts of nine games at first, but he has made only four career starts at the position. If Minnesota could sign an underrated free agent like Alex Avila, it could open more time for Garver to move out from behind the plate.

    Marwin Gonzalez

    Gonzalez was signed last season because of his versatility and the veteran presence he would add to a young line-up. He’s played over 200 games at first base during his career and the Twins used him for over 160 innings last year at first. Minnesota was forced to use Gonzalez for 59 games in the outfield last season because of injuries to multiple players. If Gonzalez is penciled in as the everyday first baseman, that takes away some of his value because his versatility would be taken away.

    Alex Kirilloff

    Minnesota’s future at first base might be Alex Kirilloff, one of the team’s top-rated prospects. During his first two professional seasons, Kirilloff had played only in the outfield, but last season he accumulated over 300 innings at first base. His bat is his best tool so being able to play first base might be a way to fast-track him to the big leagues. He played all last season at Double-A and posted a .756 OPS, so it might be unlikely for him to play significant time at first for the 2020 Twins.

    Will any of these options be the Twins everyday first baseman next season?

    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Sano, 6 errors in his 31 games at 1B. I'm not saying he can't work himself into a quality ML 1B. What I am saying is that a team with WS aspirations isn't going to stick Sano at 1B and hope that he becomes one someday. If we wanted him to be our 1B this should have been done years ago when we were not a good team.

     

    Either promote or sign or trade for a quality 1B. We can't afford experimenting on the go with Sano. Donaldson or Rendon is a pipedream at this point. We have Cruz as DH, Sano is more 3B now than he is a 1B so he needs to stay there.

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    Gonzalez isn't  the bat to be an everyday 1B.

     

    I like pursuing a trade with Baltimore for Trey Mancini to be our longterm solution at 1B. They are rumored to be shopping Trey. Maybe Rooker is a piece to be used in this trade. Kiriloff and Larnach can stay as OF's if we have a true 1B. If one of them proves ready this season then Rosario can potentially be moved mid-season.

     

    My hunch though is Sano stays at 3B and Kiriloff has the present edge for our 1B. I prefer Mancini but I'm OK with this option.

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    Raley, Rooker and Wiel are my guesses at the moment, though maybe not until May-ish. Maybe they bring back Cron with the intention of letting one of the young guys getting to push him out of the starting lineup, or if the team is healthy coming out of spring training, starting with a platoon of Sano/Gonzalez/Garver.

     

    I think the three Rochester 1B/OF are quite a bit closer than Kirilloff at this time.

     

    I don't have much interest in trading for a 1B unless it's an inexpensive short-term stop gap.

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    Personally I don't see the Twins paying for the available 3rd basemen out there so I think Sano stays at 3rd this year.  I think Garver does get rotated to 1st base some but is good in the catcher spot and will need days off so likely not a primary 1st baseman candidate.  Gonzales doesn't really have the power or OPS you would like out of that spot so while he can play there I don't think that is an optimal use of the position.

     

    Depending on how you feel about his K rate Raley seems like the most likely player to get an opportunity at 1st base to me.  He is already on the 40 man he can play 1st and rotate out and play the outfield as well.  Is his K rate too high to give him a try? I don't know the answer to that but I think he could be a good option there.

     

    Kirilloff makes better contact but he is not on the 40 man and he needs to prove he can handle AA pitching better as well as AAA IMO.  If he is hot to start the year he could land there.  He has that sweet swing and can play the outfield as well.  I think 1st base would be a good long term home for him but it feels a little too early to put him there this year to me.

     

    If Rooker can prove he can K less and walk more then his light tower power would play at 1st base as well.  I know there are questions about his defense at 1st base but he is your typical 1st base DH type of hitter.  He is not on the 40 man though and he needs to get that K rate down to get his shot.  I don't think he would be an early option for 1st base for the Twins.

     

    Looking at these options the reality is they may need to find someone from outside to fill that spot. I guess it depends on how you feel about the internal options.

     

     

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    I think there are a bunch of reasonable internal options to fall back on, but i think they are exactly that: fall back plans. I think they try to sign someone in FA, either to fill 1B or 3B and adjust from there, and if they can't get the guy they want that way, they're re-looking at Cron, and then option 3 is to see if Rooker or Raley or Weil can handle it out of spring training and if not, plant Marwin there as the primary with Garver, Adrianza and Sano all seeing time there.

     

    I'm interested in Rooker, but I'd be a lot happier if he wasn't prolifing a little like a poor man's Adam Dunn. (If he's actually an Adam Dunn who is ok on D at 1B...then that'll be fine)

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    With Raley, Rooker and Kirilloff all realistic options by mid year I’d target a one year contract for a veteran infield bat.

     

    Travis Shaw makes so much sense on a one year deal hoping for a rebound. Can play 1B or 3B and even sprinkle in a little 2B. With the way the Twins love to mix and match lineups that versatility would be very useful and 2019 was such an outlier for him you’ve got to assume he’s a good candidate to bounce back. If he flops you’re maybe forced to bring up one of the prospects sooner than hoped, if he thrives you can let the youngsters develop longer or flip him in a trade.

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    Really liking the idea of Shaw on a rebound 1yr deal. While nothing outstanding, his precious 3yrs average out nicely. And there is. the versatility factor. I could be sold.

     

    But we are talking INTERNAL options. IMO, that still includes Cron despite the latest roster move. Offense and defense, I still think he might just be the best 1yr option available. But my crystal ball is still in the shop and I just know how his hand is going to be come time for ST.

     

    If not selected in rule V, Wiel and Raley would be the best 2 options to battle it out initially. I see Rooker needing a little more time for polish and to get in a groove and similar for Kirilloff, who I agree could be up quickly.

     

    Sticking strictly internal, and Cron not ready/available, I'd bet on Raley as the guy to start the season.

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    I think if you were going to go with Shaw, you should have just coughed up whatever it took to keep Cron here on a 1-year deal. That is, unless his hand is really not healing.

    With plenty of internal options you’re probably looking for a one year deal either way. The advantage of Shaw over Cron besides the wrist concerns is similar production with the bat with the added benefit of positional flexibility and a left handed bat.

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    Gonzalez isn't  the bat to be an everyday 1B.

     

    I like pursuing a trade with Baltimore for Trey Mancini to be our longterm solution at 1B. They are rumored to be shopping Trey. Maybe Rooker is a piece to be used in this trade. Kiriloff and Larnach can stay as OF's if we have a true 1B. If one of them proves ready this season then Rosario can potentially be moved mid-season.

     

    My hunch though is Sano stays at 3B and Kiriloff has the present edge for our 1B. I prefer Mancini but I'm OK with this option.

    A Trey Mancini trade isn't going to be based around Rooker. He's arguably their best player and has 3 years of control. A trade would likely start at one of the prospects in our 3-5 range and knowing the Orioles needs would likely involve Balazovic, Duran or Graterol.

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    Rooker is nearing his time where he's going to need to get his feet wet with some Major League ABs. I still believe he's trade bait because he's basically CJ Cron lite and has a super replaceable profile. He also doesn't have much of a long term role at 1B between Sano or Kirilloff if they move either to that spot.

     

    The problem with handing Rooker the keys to 1B is that this is a team coming off 101 wins, and it's not a great idea to trust a position with such a high floor of offensive production to a rookie. They may sign a veteran like Thames or Zimmerman to platoon with Marwin and let Rooker compete in the Spring with Marwin or Sano as a fallback if all else fails. 

     

    They may also just re-sign Cron to a lesser deal and all of our speculation was pointless.

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    I hope they find an external option, but if not, there are so many ways to plug this hole.

     

    I could easily see a 1B/2B/3B rotation between Sano, Adriana, Gonzalez, Arraez, Austudillo, and maybe Gordon based on match-ups, injuries, rest, etc. where each player starts at multiple positions multiple times each week. Sano at 3B/1B 50/50 and the others filling the gaps.

     

     

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    Well, let's hope the front office has a plan in place. They do have a plan, right? I just hope it's NOT moving Sano to first base. As I've said before, I think we're better off leaving him at third for another year and then moving him, not to 1B but as the DH after Cruz leaves. As for first base this coming season, I'm not sold on any of the in-house names, although I agree that we need to stick Rooker or Raley out there soon and see what they can do.

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    I guarantee that Sano is in Dominica right now with Tom Kelly, going over 1B footwork and how to scoop bad throws.

     

    He wasn't good at 3B and it will be a long time before he's good at 1B, but when you factor in risk of injury trying to make sprawling, charging, chasing pop-up plays at 3B, it's a no-brainer decision.

     

    Three days in a row at 1B, a couple days at DH, a day off, and that Sano bat will play up. Big time.

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    Whatever the solution, I think we need a plus field at either first or third -- one of the two at a minimum. I don't think Sano at 3rd and Garver at 1st does this. If Sano's at 3rd, we need a 1B good enough to mitigate Sano's problems. If Sano's at 1B, we need a 3B good enough to take pressure off Sano at 1B. The only exception might be if Kiriloff comes in a has the potential to get better defensively quickly. I'd put Kiriloff into intensive 1st Base boot camp ASAP.

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    For a team ready to compete now, a healthy Cron in 2020 is a better option that most being thrown around in this thread, other than...

     

    Sano (but what do you do about 3rd, then)

    Garver (zero indication Rocco plans on playing him at first for significant games/innings)

     

     

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