2021 and 2022 held a lot of similarities for Trevor Larnach. In both cases, he burst onto the scene showing a glimpse of the lineup-changing hitter he’s capable of being. Unfortunately in both cases he tailed off in his production only for an injury to eventually come out as the main cause. So what do we think of Larnach moving forward?
In 2021 Larnach began his season with a .845 OPS in May before the league adjusted. He posted a .704 mark in June and a brutal .518 in July. He would finish the season in St. Paul eventually being shut down with a hand issue, an injury that turned out to be nagging him for longer than Twins fans had known about.
In 2022 Larnach looked even more encouraging. In March and April, Larnach posted a modest .703 OPS, actually above average for the offensive environment at the time. Then in May he posted an absurd 1.077 OPS. In addition to his hitting, his brief time in the majors was enough for teams to stop running on him in the outfield, as his throwing arm became a weapon against runners trying to get an extra base. Once again, however, he faded off in a huge way, posting an OPS of .429 in June before getting shut down at the end of the month for a core muscle injury he had been dealing with for the entire month.
His timeline was 6-8 weeks putting him at a mid to late August return. At the time of this writing in mid-September, however, Larnach is finally making his first rehab appearance in the minors. With the calendar dwindling, it's likely at this point that Larnach’s 2022 season has come to an end, but he finishes with a modest .231/.306/.406 batting line which was heavily weighed down by a brutal final month. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 51 games played alludes to the possibility of an everyday regular in the lineup moving forward. But can we trust Larnach to fill such a role?
The first concern at this point has to be health. Larnach has failed to reach 100 games played in each of the last two seasons due to injury. The hand contusion in 2021 may have been a fluke, but 2022's core muscle injury that cost him half the season is more of a concern. Larnach relies on such muscles for every swing he takes, every route to a fly ball he runs, and every rocket he throws into a base. The delay on his return alludes to the Twins making sure he’s at as little risk of aggravating this injury as possible. Headed into 2023 we have to hope it pays off.
The second concern is whether Larnach can consistently channel his talent into on-field production. While injury has hampered his numbers to an extent these last two years, it’s easy to be concerned about him long-term given his swing-and-miss tendencies. Easily the biggest knock on his offensive profile, his incredible power and fantastic eye at the plate can easily be outweighed if he fails to make contact with pitches in the strike zone as we’ve seen at times in his young career.
It would be nice if Larnach was more of a known commodity after two years of MLB exposure, especially given the murky futures of fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Of the three, Larnach appears to be the most stable however due not only to the flashes of offensive and defensive value, but because of the nature of the injuries that have ended each of their seasons.
Headed into 2023 it’s hard to be 100% confident in Larnach, but there has to be some hope that he can be the Opening Day left fielder and hold onto the job for the next 4-5 years. He’s shown a tremendous ceiling but he doesn’t have to reach it to be a valuable player. Max Kepler has spent the last three years providing league average offense at best and has still added value because of his defense. Larnach’s 2022 should provide hope that he can at the very least do the same while providing a much more balanced offensive profile aside from the strikeouts.
Certainly, we have to be disappointed with Larnach’s 2022, but like most disappointing seasons, there are some redeeming qualities. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to argue against handing Larnach the keys to a starting job and seeing if it’s finally the year that it comes together. The Twins don’t have any immediate alternative options and it’s safe to say that if they want to prioritize replacing any outfielder, it should be the aforementioned Max Kepler. Larnach should be given another chance to make himself a piece of the Twins future. Do you agree?