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  • Twins Future Position Analysis: Corner Outfield


    Cody Christie

    For the last six seasons, Eddie Rosario has manned a corner outfield spot for the Minnesota Twins. That will change in 2021 as the team didn’t offer him arbitration and now, he is a free agent. Luckily, two of Minnesota’s top position player prospects happen to play in the corner outfield. So, what does this mean for the 2021 Twins and what does the future hold for the organization’s corner outfield spots?

    Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports (Kepler, Kirilloff), John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports (Larnach)

    Twins Video

    Current Corner Outfielders: Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff

    Minnesota locked up Max Kepler at the right time as the 27-year-old is under team control for four more seasons with a team-friendly deal. Over the last two seasons, he has hit .246/.332/.499 with 45 home runs and 41 doubles in 182 games. Not to mention, he represented MLB in Germany last winter by “promoting baseball and inspiring the next generation of players.”

    Kirilloff’s 2020 debut was well documented because he became the first player in league history to make his debut by starting a playoff game. He went 1-for-4 in the game as the Twins were swept by the Astros. Kirilloff has been one of the team’s top prospects since he was drafted in the first round back in 2016. Entering last season, he was a consensus top-100 prospect with MLB.com and Baseball America having him ranked in the top 32.

    40-Man Options

    While Kirilloff is expected play the majority of the team’s games in the outfield, Jake Cave has a chance to start the year in left field so they Twins can control Kirilloff’s service time. Since joining the Twins, Cave has hit .254/.321/.451 while showing the ability to play all three outfield positions. He does a good job of fitting into the fourth outfielder role, but some of the younger players mentioned below might start encroaching on his playing time in the coming year.

    Brent Rooker made a strong impression last year as he hit .316/.381/.579 with three extra-base hits. Unfortunately, his season only last seven games as he suffered a fractured forearm on a hit by pitch.

    LaMonte Wade Jr. has played 42 big-league games over the last two seasons and he has compiled a .684 OPS. Defensively, the Twins have used him at all three outfield positions, and he has even seen some time at first base.

    On the Farm Options

    Outside of the options mentioned above, there are other corner options in the minor leagues including some strong prospects.

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    Trevor Larnach is actually older than Kirilloff and he has been right behind him when it comes to prospect rankings in the organization. He spent the 2020 season with Kirilloff at the alternate training site after coming off a 2019 season where he was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. Larnach likely fits into the team’s long-term plans in the outfield which allows Kirilloff to switch to first base in the years to come.

    Kerrigan showed some up in the upper levels of the minor leagues last season as he accumulated 31 extra-base hits in just 98 games. He adds to the organizational depth and he can play all three outfield positions. Wallner was drafted out of college in 2019 and saw time in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids in his professional debut. He posted an .810 OPS with 31 extra-base hits in 65 games with all his defensive innings coming in right field.

    Soularie and Rosario joined the Twins as part of the 2020 draft class. Soularie was the team’s second round pick out of the University of Tennessee. In his two collegiate seasons, he hit .336/.448/.586 with more walks (49) than strikeouts (47). Rosario was Minnesota’s final draft pick in the 2020 draft since it was shortened to five rounds. He has a lot of raw power and impressive exit velocities for a prep player. Aguiar, a native of Venezuelan, has been in the Twins system for two years. In 2019, he was limited to seven games, but he was the youngest player on the GCL Twins.

    What do you think about the future of corner outfielders in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES

    -Catcher

    -Second Base

    -First Base

    -Third Base

    -Shortstop

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    Corner OF is where we have an abundance of quality players. Although Kiriloff will make a jump to AAA St.Paul to start 2021, he has the starting ML LF position. A pure hitter that has shown he's athletic enough to improve his defense. He's the present & future LF to match up w/ Kepler in RF. Rooker should be used as platoon, Larnach should be called up sometime into the season . Unfortunately the future of          Cave & Wade will be stuck at AAAA although they are capable to start for a different MLB team

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    Below Larnach the list does not look that great to me, but luckily we have Rooker, Kiriloff, Larnach, Kepler, Cave, Wade at the top - too many to get playing time.  I do hope the Twins get over the keep him in the minors for two months routine.  When players are good they get extended before arbitration ends. 

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    It's the easiest position to fill, so I'm not too terribly worried about it right now. They're probably going to want to invest a high draft pick there in the next year or two just to keep the pipeline going, but right now they're in excellent shape.

     

    Finding playing time for everyone who has shown they are MLB-ready (Rooker, Cave, Kirilloff, Wade, and Larnach) is going to be the biggest problem. I like that problem.

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    I think Kirilloff starts the year in AAA and Cave + a cheap Gonzalez-like utilityman that the Twins will sign this offseason will share left field duties. I could see Rooker and Kirilloff spending time at 1B in AAA because the Twins will want to move away from Sano sooner rather than later. I think both Kepler and Sano will have average to above-average years in 2021 and they both will be traded in the '21 offseason. Hopefully getting a decent starting pitcher in return. Larnach will then replace Kepler in right field in 2022, and Rooker/Kirilloff will share 1B/LF until Aaron "Babe Ruth Jr" Sabato comes in and takes the 1B spot. 

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    I would like to see Sano traded and Kiriloff at 1B, Larnach, Rooker, Buxton and Kepler as our outfielder mix. Maybe move Cave in a Sano deal too.

     

    This is what I've been promoting for some time now.  Larnach, Rooker, and Kirilloff are just going to keep getting older if we let them stay in AAA.  If we happen to package Larnach or Rooker, that would open up space for Cave or Wade.

    If we don't move Sano, it would still bother me immensely if we choose to start Kirilloff in AAA.  The organization clearly stated they feel he is better than Wade and Cave by starting him in the playoffs.  By putting him back in the minors would show they only want to save his service time.  Pretty contradictory if they'd want to field the best team they can.

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    Cave has a nice career OPS, but he showed little power in 2020 and plenty of swing-and-miss ability. It's telling that Kiriloff got the start over him in the playoffs. I can't feel confident about him in 2021, especially with the abundance of lefty OFs.

     

    Having Kirlioff, Larnach, and Rooker is a nice luxury. A prospect is never a sure thing, but when you have several high caliber ones, it's hard to go wrong with all of them. I wonder if we might see a Kiriloff-Kepler-Larnach OF by midseason - unless Buxton is healthy for once, and then we'd have quite the rotation. 

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