It’s probably fair to assume that guys like Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff, and Trevor Larnach will all make their Major League debuts in 2020. Each had already been knocking on the door and 2020 seemed logical prior to the change in circumstances. Given his ceiling and less than consistent 2019, Royce Lewis would likely be an unworthy bet to play for Minnesota this season. Those are all names you know however, it’s the ones you may not have considered that could instead step up.
Luis Arraez arrived on the scene last year and not only stole Jonathan Schoop’s job, but also took the spotlight thanks to one at bat against Mets closer Edwin Diaz. His ability to control the strike zone and hit for average never waned, and it’s why he’s one of the best bets to lead the league in hitting this year. What happens if he goes down though?
The immediate indication might be that former 1st round pick Nick Gordon would be worthy of promotion. That’s a fair assessment given his resurgence in year two of Triple-A action (a trend he’s continued through the minors), but it’s actually Travis Blankenhorn that could pick up the slack. Recently added to the 40-man roster, Blankenhorn has played all over the place but second base has become somewhat of a home.
At Double-A last year Blankenhorn posted a .786 OPS while failing to generate much in the way of on-base percentage. He’s a pretty big strikeout guy, but he’s often done a bit more in the walks department. There’s legit pop in his bat, and while he’s not even close to the same player Arraez is, the former 3rd round pick could find his opportunity to make an impact.
At first base Minnesota has plenty of options, including at least two of the aforementioned top prospects. It’s a guy not on the 40-man though that is being brought to Minneapolis worthy of some discussion. Former Vanderbilt star Zander Wiel could play in the majors for a handful of clubs right now. Prospect status isn’t really here given he’s 27, but at Triple-A in 2019 Wiel posted an .834 OPS.
There’d need to be some things go right (or wrong depending on how you look at it) for Wiel to rise up the ladder, but his game could help to get the Twins by in a pinch. Last season saw a rise in strikeouts and decline in walk rate, but that hasn’t been a career norm for him to this point. A bopper that is athletic at first base, he doesn’t get the power praise of Rooker and Larnach, but the ability to launch isn’t far off.
Rounding out the talkers here is a guy that could routinely find himself routinely on the three-man taxi squad. Minnesota will have three catchers on the active roster, and then long-time veterans Juan Graterol and Tomas Telis are in the mix as well. If they want to play with upside however, it’s 2018 2nd round pick Ryan Jeffers that gets a shot.
It’d be a big blow for the Twins to lose Mitch Garver for any portion of time this year, but Jeffers is his heir apparent. Drafted as a bat first guy, he’s worked to become more than capable behind the dish. It was only a 24-game sample size at Double-A in 2019, but the then 22-year-old hit .287/.374/.483. He’s not a .300 hitter, but he’s not a .250 hitter either. Jeffers takes walks and does a good job staying within the zone. Home run power is there, and he’ll reach double digits over the course of any full season. You might be asking him to do a bit much jumping up to the big leagues, but there’s a ton of talent here and it’s why he’s rocketed up the Twins prospect rankings.
No matter how the 2020 Major League Baseball season shakes out, I think we’re going to have a fair amount of oddities. The year is already being played under weird circumstances, and how teams handle the hands they’re dealt will be as much the narrative as the actual results on the field. It’s always been a “next man up” type of sport, but that resonates now more than ever.
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