Kyle Farmer is, to be kind, an obscure baseball presence. A former catcher, raised in the blue-blood Dodgers farm system—something he has in common with his Twins garlicky brother in Kyle—Farmer’s major league impact has been a ripple, not a wave. There was the time he walked off the Giants in his major league debut, but two full seasons OPSing at a below-average rate with the Reds doesn’t place you on many radars. At least, not worthwhile ones. At a cursory glance, the Twins may have sent away Gio Urshela just to acquire an older, cheaper, and slightly worse Gio Urshela.
But that narrative sells Farmer short; his OPS over the past two seasons is nearly bang-on league average for a shortstop (.716 for Farmer, .714 for the league), while, at least in 2021, Statcast’s OAA measure clocked Farmer as one of the finest glovemen at his position, crediting him with six outs above average while handling shortstop. That placed him as the 9th-best fielding shortstop that year. His defense in 2022 was not as sparkling, though, and which Farmer the Twins will receive defensively appears to be an open question—one made murkier with shift-aided success in 2021.
With new rules limiting where infielders are allowed to stand, those bonus outs to the right of 2nd base will no longer exist; whether Farmer can regain his form at the traditional shortstop position will be up to him.
His bat, however, has remained consistent, especially against lefties. As the great Tom Froemming has pointed out, Farmer is infield Kyle Garlick, pillaging southpaw villages while leaving fire and rubble in his wake. Lefties loathed facing Farmer, allowing a .948 OPS against him in 2022, a significant step up from his already hefty career line of .288/.345/.492 against them. The Twins, as pointed out by this author, have struggled against lefties since the 2019 season; any extra boost rounds out the team offensively.
The debate now focuses on where he fits on the team. While he could technically start as the everyday shortstop, a certain 28-year-old Puerto Rican is the preferred target of Twins fans. The Great Carlos Correa Question remains unanswered, and until his pen touches paper once again, the Twins’ shortstop position will operate with split-pea soup haziness.
It’s unlikely that the team will open business in late March with Farmer as the starting shortstop; instead, this author guesses he will operate as a super-utility infielder focusing on playing against lefties. Farmer has played every position in the infield—indeed, that means every position—and even subbed in for four frames in the outfield. The Twins lack a player in that mold, especially one who has flashed an ability to hold down shortstop at an exceptional level.
But who knows? The Twins relish acquiring baseline players early to set up bigger splashes later. Trying to guess Farmer’s roster contribution in November is like being a stockbroker in 1929. More moves will fill in the roster, creating a much clearer picture, but for now, the Twins appear to have a helpful infielder who can mash lefties, something they have needed for years.