It seems like there’s a new player added to the Injured List every other day as the Twins have found themselves filling out the daily lineup card with players we never imagined they’d be relying on. Outfield, catcher, pitchers of all roles, there’s nowhere the Twins haven’t felt the sting of injury. For them to get back on the right track, I’ve ranked the top 3 players in order of importance to how the Twins may wind up finishing their season.
3. Alex Kirilloff
Number three is close between Max Kepler and Kirilloff, although Kepler seems like much more of a certainty return given his ailment being a straightforward broken toe. Unlike Kepler, Kirilloff has consistently shown off an impact-level bat when healthy. While his outfield defense isn’t exactly a plus skill, his presence keeps players such as Mark Contreras out of the lineup. His ability to switch over to first base and his possession of a DH-worthy bat also makes the lineup not only better, but more flexible when Alex Kirilloff is healthy.
As for the odds of his return, they remain to be seen. His wrist is now a consistent issue, as it’s been a problem more often than not this season. At this point we have to worry not only about his impact on the 2022 Twins, but about his entire career. He recently received another cortisone injection, and if we cross our fingers perhaps he’s available before the end of the season again.
2. Ryan Jeffers
Many complained about Jeffers’ bat, myself included for much of the season. While he hasn’t lit the world on fire, it’s hard to deny that Jeffers has a superior glove to Gary Sanchez who’s played nearly daily since Jeffers went down. Gary Sanchez, a bat-first catcher, has given us a newfound appreciation for Jeffers’ modest offensive skills since he’s become the everyday catcher. Gary was 24% below the league average hitter in June, and a Drew Butera-esque 59% below in July. Not only is his defense not up to Jeffers’ standards, but the Twins have basically been giving away 3-4 free outs per game to their opponents from the catcher’s spot for over a month.
It’s possible Sandy Leon begins significantly eating into Gary’s playing time as he can at least provide stellar work behind the plate, but the Twins certainly would benefit from Jeffers return sooner rather than later. The floor of his framing work behind the plate and occasional hot streak sounds far superior to the current setup behind the plate. It’s hopeful Jeffers returns towards the end of August and certainly for the stretch run in September.
1. Bailey Ober
The Twins had a fantastic trade deadline, there’s no disputing that. They had a significant amount of needs and addressed the most important ones in a market that many teams called difficult. Had they made one more move, another filler starting pitcher likely would have been the best play. The Twins are in an interesting spot with the rotation. Joe Ryan has begun to surpass previous career highs in innings pitched. It’s hard to expect more than four innings pitched from Bundy and Archer every time out, and there’s little to no help on the way in the minors aside from Devin Smeltzer. A lot will hinge not only on the rotation staying healthy, but on the duo of Bundy and Archer occasionally providing starts that give the Twins a chance to win, which is no sure thing.
Having Ober back even under the premise that he’s a solid #4 starter would be a game changer for a Twins rotation that lacks any kind of depth. It’s unclear what Ober’s timeline is, but we’ve been told we can expect him back this season still at this point. Hopefully, good news starts to emerge sooner rather than later, as the Twins could sure use one of their lone bright spots from the 2021 rotation.
Admittedly this list is plenty interchangeable ad there are several options not even listed here. Let's be honest, we have plenty of injured players to choose from! Do you agree with the order of the list? Do you think someone not listed here deserves to be at the top? Let us know below.