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  • Are Twins Top Prospects Destined for Injury?

    Cody Christie

    Royce Lewis’ recent injury news means he is following a long line of top Twins prospects that will miss time in their development process. Is this a trend that can be avoided, or are the players destined for injury?

    Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    This was supposed to be a critical year for Royce Lewis. Back in 2019, he struggled for the first time in his professional career as the Twins were aggressive and pushed him up to Double-A. He was projected to head back to that level in 2021 with a chance to make his big-league debut before season’s end. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case and Lewis will go over 900 days without getting a professional at-bat.


    Minnesota is no stranger to top prospects being hit by the injury bug. Alex Kirilloff, Twins Daily’s highest rank Twins prospect, missed the entire 2017 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Even with the missed season, he came back with a vengeance in 2018 as he was one of MiLB’s best hitters that season. Obviously, Kirilloff was able to recover and put himself back on the prospect map, which is something Twins fans can hope for with Lewis.


    Before Lewis and Kirilloff, Byron Buxton was widely considered the team’s top prospect and many national rankings had him as one of the baseball’s best prospects. Buxton’s injury history has been well documented as he was limited to 103 combined games between his third and fourth professional seasons. Those injury woes have followed him to the big-league level as he as he has only had one season where he has played more than 95 games.


    Prior to Buxton, Miguel Sano was the team’s top prospect, and he was widely considered one of baseball’s top-10 prospects. He was forced to miss all his age-21 season after needing Tommy John surgery. It still didn’t stop him from making his big-league debut the very next year and he’s been with the Twins ever since.


    Kyle Gibson had a short stint as the Twins’ best prospect, and he seemed to be rocketing to the MLB level. Entering the 2011 season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus had him in their top-55 prospects. Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery in November 2011 and wouldn’t be back until the end of the 2012 season.


    Going further back, there certainly more examples of prospects hit by the injury bug. Francisco Liriano famously blew out his elbow while the 2006 Twins seemed like they would have been unstoppable in the playoffs. Joe Mauer’s career started on a bad note as he needed knee surgery shortly into his rookie campaign.


    One player some people might forget is Jason Kubel. He seemed destined to be a middle of the order power bat that could bring above average defense at multiple outfield positions. Entering the 2005 season, Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s 17th overall prospect. He was able to return from injury and have a decade long big-league career, but his outlooked was significantly changed after his leg injury.


    Many of the players on this list went on to have solid big-league careers, but there will also be questions about what could have been. How good could Kubel have been? Would the Twins have won the 2006 World Series with a healthy Liriano? How much better would Mauer’s numbers look with another full season?


    Lewis finds himself among some of the best Twins players in recent memory, but it is a list that he never wanted to join.



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    Injuries will always plague prospects, but I think the Twins have had an unordinary rash of season-ending injuries to our hitting prospects over the years. Even Arraez missed a whole year due to injury. I know it's pretty common for pitching prospects to get injured in all sorts of ways, but for the Twins those injuries seem to hit the position players instead.

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    I would bet that the Twins have no more and no fewer injuries than any other MLB team.


    I looked on the internet but couldn't find any team comparisons. E.g. It would helpful to compare "time spent on the IL" per team over the last 10 years.


    If anybody out there can help I would greatly appreciate it! (Maybe others would too.)

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    A painful reflection...pun intended...of history of some top prospects having to overcome injury.


    I hate to sound flippant in any way regarding Lewis's injury, but I'm just not worried about his recovery. I have complete faith in his youth, modern medicine and recovery, as well as his athleticism and attitude. What stinks is the timing of his injury in regard to already missing a milb 2020 season, despite his participation and hopeful/reported improvements at St Paul last year.


    I truly think he's going to be OK, but set back a full season.


    Twins history, however, I think most of us will forever wonder how good Kubel and Liriano may have been without a pair of rather devastating injuries.


    For that matter, if you really want to go down a dark path, why does it seem the Twins endured more concussion injuries to top players more than anyone else? Koskie was pretty special until his. Both of the M&M boys saw their careers curtailed. Oh what might have been without a couple of those unfortunate injuries.


    I just don't believe in curses, even though a part of me has the "of course, Minnesota fan" angst that seems to be built in being a fan. But I do believe "bad luck" just happens sometimes.


    But Sano's injury, Arraez and Kirilloff the same, has not come back to derail their careers. I expect the same for Lewis.

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