In June 2021, Minnesota’s outfield was in shambles, and the team needed another outfielder on the roster. Gilberto Celestino was on the 40-man roster, but he was 22-years-old and had yet to appear in a game above the Double-A level. All minor leaguers were coming off a non-existent 2020 season, which made it even harder to predict how players would perform. Celestino was not being put into a position to succeed, and the results were disastrous.
During his first 23 games, Celestino went 8-for-59 (.136 BA) with 14 strikeouts and three walks. Five of his eight hits went for extra bases, so there were signs of the power he had shown throughout his professional career. Minnesota’s outfielders got healthy, and the Twins sent Celestino back to Triple-A, where he had yet to play a game. From that point forward, Celestino put himself back on the prospect map.
He wound up playing 49 games with the Saints, where he was 4.5 years younger than the average age of the competition. Celestino hit .290/.384/.443 (.827) with 13 doubles, five home runs, and a 43-to-24 strikeout to walk ratio. He only faced a younger pitcher in one game for the season, which accounted for three of his plate appearances. He also showcased his defensive versatility as he played all three outfield positions. Celestino was part of the front office’s long-term plans, even if it wasn’t evident as the offseason began.
As the front office made a plan for the 2022 roster, it was clear that pitching and shortstop needed to be a focus. Another area to consider was which players would contend for the fourth outfielder spot. Players like Jake Cave, Brent Rooker, and Kyle Garlick joined Celestino as potential bench players, but there were other things to consider with Celestino. He is still only 23-years-old with development ahead of him, while the other players are not viewed as prospects. Did it make sense to have him on the roster if he wasn’t guaranteed to play regularly?
Celestino has answered that question with a resounding, “YES!” Minnesota’s injury issues have played a role in getting him more regular playing time, but he has taken advantage of every opportunity. He went 1-for-12 (.083 BA) through his first ten games with a walk and four strikeouts. Over his last nine games, he has gone 12-for-27 (.444 BA) with three doubles and two walks. His hot hitting has helped his offensive value, but his defensive skills have also been on display.
MLB Statcast data has him among baseball’s best in various defensive metrics. Celestino currently ranks in the 92nd percentile for Outs Above Average (OAA), and he is also in the 60th percentile or higher when it comes to Outfielder Jump and Sprint Speed. Last season, his OAA was negative for his time in centerfield, and this season he has posted a positive OAA at both outfield positions he has played.
Moving forward, it seems likely for the Twins to continue to give Celestino regular time at multiple outfield positions. He may not get 500 plate appearances this year, but he can provide value while getting 300-350 plate appearances. His prospect stock isn’t necessarily on the rise, but Celestino is the type of player that can be a role player for multiple years.
What do you think Celestino’s role will be for the remainder of 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.