Monday, November 30, 2020

If This is it for Eddie…


On Wednesday, the Minnesota Twins will need to decide whether or not they’ll tender a contract to left fielder Eddie Rosario for the 2021 Major League Baseball season. A 4th round pick in 2010, he’s been in the organization for a decade since he was a 19-year-old. A changing of the guard could be coming involving a core player, and it’s worth looking back on the impact he’s had.


Rosario was selected out of high school in Puerto Rico as a second basemen, and he stuck there pretty regularly through his first four professional seasons. At that point it was determined his arm was an underutilized asset, and his glove on the dirt simply wasn’t going to get the job done. By 2012 he’d cracked a top 100 prospect list (Baseball Prospectus) and prior to 2014 he landed 60th from the same publication.


It was in 2014 that adversity caught up with Rosario a bit as he received a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse. This was something that there had been rumblings about for some time but was brought to the forefront through the failed test. A maturation process was going to be necessary, and it was one that ultimately took place leading to a Major League debut in 2015.


To this point the Twins have had Rosario play in 697 career games with a .277/.310/.478 slash line. His last four seasons have amounted to an .810 OPS and some of the breakout power potential that was expected from him. He contributed 32 dingers to the 2019 Bomba Squad’s tally, and despite lacking any real on-base presence, remained a run producer at the plate.


In the outfield there’s been flashes of brilliance from a guy with such a strong right arm. Putting up gaudy DRS numbers on somewhat of a scattered basis, injury and an inconsistent motor are the only things that have held him back from entering elite territory when in the field. Any given night can result in Twitter faithful providing reminders not to run on his rocket arm, and that ability should carry well into his 30’s.


Should Minnesota decide to non-tender their home-grown outfielder it won’t be due to lack of talent. The OPS hovering around .800 is a strong number, but an arbitration figure teetering on $10 million is quite a lot for a player that has replaceable qualities and is battling with internal talent expected to be as good or better.


There should be no shock if Rosario goes elsewhere and flourishes. He did well with former Twins hitting coach James Rowson, and a mutual fit in Miami could make sense for a plethora of reasons. Rosario was among the prospects Twins fans waited on for years, and he’s parlayed that into six years of production that will be missed should his time be up.


No matter what happens, Minnesota’s hot stove gets cooking forcibly sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

2021 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot


There’s been some turnover with the IBWAA this year as long time founder Howard Cole stepped away from operations. Following an unprecedented season, a constant takes place this time of year. It’s Hall of Fame voting season. Coming a week earlier than the 2020 ballot, the 2021 hopefuls have entered my inbox.


This will now be my fourth year as an IBWAA member casting a vote. The BBWAA is the official voting contingency, but the IBWAA handles things very similarly. Voters may select up to 12 players, and there are a few that have already been enshrined by the IBWAA group (namely, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens).


Previous ballots:





Despite an initial backlog needing to be worked through, I have not voted for the maximum amount since my initial opportunity in 2018. While I do believe there are some very close cases, I have chosen to continue leaving off the same players I have previously passed over. Nothing about their resumes have changed, and I have previously had the space to include them deciding not to.


None of the newcomers made the cut for me, and that left just three players previously eligible for consideration.


Curt Schilling: 79.7 fWAR


Bloody sock nonsense aside, Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, and six-time All Star. He struck out 3,116 batters in his career and owns a 3.46 ERA while totaling more than 200 wins. Three World Series rings, an MVP, and a 2.23 postseason ERA do him favors as well. Since voting for him last year, Schilling has made plenty of splashes in the media. He's not well liked off the field, but the character clause is among the most dated pieces of inclusion into the Hall of Fame. On baseball merit alone, he's worthy of the nod.


Scott Rolen 70.1 fWAR


Vastly under appreciated, Rolen started as a Rookie of the Year winner, and went on to tally eight Gold Glove awards. He was a seven time All Star and among the best to ever field the Hot Corner. With an .855 career OPS, his bat more than does enough to supplement what was an exceptional defensive career.


Andruw Jones 67.1 fWAR


Jones's 17 year career is often going to be questioned as he held on for five uninspiring seasons to closer out his time as a big leaguer. That aside, the 10 year stretch from 199-2007 was one for the ages. With 10 Gold Glove's and five All Star appearances, he was easily among the greatest in the game for a decade.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thankful for Baseball’s Distraction


There’s no denying that 2020 has been arguably the most difficult year I’ve ever lived through. Dealing with a global pandemic while hobbies are shelved, and uncertainty runs rampant is quite the mental ringer. Add in the unexpected loss of a parent and the Minnesota Twins have seemed like nothing short of a bright spot through the clouds.


I remember back in March; I was sitting at Pott’s Sports CafĂ© on the 12th as Major League Baseball put a halt to Spring Training. The night before Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz threw the NBA into a pause, and not long after college basketball would follow suit. For months Major League owners and the MLBPA engaged in an ugly, extremely public, dispute between finances and resumption. How would the sport go on, and more importantly could it?


Fast forward to where we are now. Another lockdown is being instituted across the country. Thanksgiving isn’t the same, and the family prognosis for Christmas doesn’t look great either. For four months this year though, we had baseball. It didn’t always go smoothly, and leadership was lacking at times, but there was a season and there was a World Series Champion. For that, I am thankful.


The Minnesota Twins played one of their best season’s in franchise history during 2019. They set power records and looked like a team to mess with come October. While that didn’t come to fruition, so much promise remained for 2020. Despite having that all taken away, even a small sliver of normalcy was experienced during a 60-game sprint. Minnesota wasn’t as dominant as expected, but a second straight division title is nothing to scoff at. The Postseason woes continued, but opportunity was there once again.


During this week that’s normally spent eating good food with better company, the most important reminder is that it’s a time of thanks. I’m thankful for my health in a time when so many others are less fortunate. I’m thankful for the amount of time this change in situation has allowed me to spend at home, enjoying my family, seeing my kids grow on a daily basis. I’m thankful that there’s been an opportunity to slow life down and reflect. And yes, as silly as it may seem, I’m thankful that we had baseball.


As the calendar eventually turns to 2021, I can change that word of thanks into hope. I look forward to a renewed sense of normalcy. I am hopeful that there’s an ability to make the yearly voyage down to Fort Myers for Twins Spring Training. I am hopeful that we get 162 games to dissect what should again be a very good baseball team in Minnesota. As so many things hang in the balance, I’m thankful for the opportunities provided to this point, and hopeful for what’s ahead.


Baseball doesn’t define our lives, but it’s an extremely substantial part of mine. It was a light in what has otherwise been a very dark year, and I’m thankful for that. Being able to enjoy the sunshine once again in person, hoping on better times ahead, it’s yet again a child’s game that provided an opportunity for warmth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Dark Horse Rule 5 Addition for Minnesota


By the end of the week the Minnesota Twins must add their Rule 5 eligible prospects to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from selection. There are not too many candidates that are considered a lock, but there’s a dark horse from the 2016 MLB Draft that should absolutely make the cut.


The name you know by now is Jordan Balazovic. The Canadian native is arguably the Twins top starting pitching prospect and there’s no way he won’t be added. As a potential top of the rotation pitcher, protecting him from another club is common procedure. He could be joined by defense first backstop Ben Rortvedt, or maybe former high ceiling prospect Wander Javier. The name that’s less obvious however, and I’d contend it shouldn’t be, is Griffin Jax.


Drafted out of Air Force Academy in the 3rd round during the 2016 MLB Draft, Jax is a guy with plenty of upside. He doesn’t have the heavy fastball, and he isn’t a gaudy strikeout pitcher, but if you want the next coming of Randy Dobnak-like results it very well may be this kid. Across 250+ minor league innings he owns a 3.18 ERA with a 6.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. In other words, while he doesn’t mow everyone down, he very rarely gets burned.


Last season Jax, like every other minor leaguer, missed valuable game development time with the season put on the shelf. In 2019 at Double-A Pensacola, he worked 111.1 IP and tallied just a 2.67 ERA. While his three turns at Triple-A Rochester didn’t go as smoothly in the hits and runs columns, he continued to be an average strikeout arm with the ability to command the zone and limit free passes.


In just a couple of days Jax will turn 26 years old. He’s essentially a non-prospect, but plenty of those types contribute in the big leagues. While the ceiling shouldn’t be expected to be really high, the floor is where the intrigue lies here. Looking ahead to a season in which teams apparently are trying to limit payroll, a big-league ready arm on a minimum salary has a lot of appeal. There’s plenty of pitching-needy teams around the majors, and there’s no doubt Jax could find himself in an Opening Day rotation.


On the Twins front, the rotation is an area needing to be addressed this offseason. Gone are the likes of Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey. Needing to fill two spots behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda, the organization will likely turn to the outside for help in at least one of those roles. No matter what though, a full season (if that’s what we get in) will require no less than 10 starters to take a turn. Asking Jax to contribute in one of those spots is a very likely scenario, and one Minnesota should embrace.


The 40-man roster still has plenty of space on it, and while the Twins need to add this winter, it’s about quality more than it is quantity at this point. They should protect Griffin Jax, run him out there in 2021, and be excited about an arm that will put them in a position for the lineup to win games.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Should Twins Again Scoop Up Schoop?


This offseason one of the areas Minnesota must address is the utility role. A player that primarily plays the infield, with an ability to start for a significant stretch at either second or third base makes sense. Former Twins two-bagger Jonathan Schoop fits that bill, but should the organization be interested?


After a solid 2019 season with the Twins, Schoop signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. He stayed in the AL Central division, and it came at a $1.4M pay cut. Now having substantiated the success and being just 29 years old, it may be his best opportunity to look for a multi-year deal.


Schoop’s history is somewhat of an interesting one. He was an All-Star for the Orioles in 2017 posting an .841 OPS. Then in 2018 he took a step backwards, ultimately being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he was downright abysmal. Signing in the winter to be the Twins starter at second, he eventually would lose the role to rookie Luis Arraez. Playing in 44 games for the Tigers this past season, he was a steadying veteran presence on a bad club but put up a solid .799 OPS.


I don’t know that you can expect the .841 OPS again from Schoop as it was a career high and certainly represents an outlier over the course of his career. An OPS in the high .700’s with 20+ home run potential is a valuable asset, however. Schoop has starting experience and could spell either Arraez or Josh Donaldson for stretches if need be. Add in that he’s still in what should be considered his prime, and the familiarity with an organization could provide a smooth and productive transition.


Another interesting aspect of bringing Schoop back is exactly what his market will look like. He took a pay cut in 2020 despite rebounding well the season before. Now he’s coming off an even better year, albeit in a small sample, but ownership groups across the league are looking to spend less. Factor in that Schoop could also be eyeing a multi-year pact, and it’s hard to gauge what a realistic number for him may actually be.


In targeting Schoop, or any utility option, the Twins are needing to mitigate against what Marwin Gonzalez wound up being in 2020. His .606 OPS rendered him an unplayable asset, and the .713 OPS since 2017 really calls into question how much of a boost the sign-stealing scandal helped in producing a career best .907 OPS that year. With Arraez having knee issues in 2020, and Donaldson being a consistent injury concern due to calf issues, the next man up must be a high-quality player and not just a short-term fill in. On the surface it would be fair to suggest Schoop fits the bill.


There’s actually a decent amount of utility targets this winter, and more than a few of them have significant run playing in starting roles. Maybe Schoop doesn’t want to return to a team in which his job may be in jeopardy again. There’s plenty of reason to believe he could garner a few starts each week however and being a part of the Bomba Squad probably provides some pretty good memories.


The market is going to take time developing this offseason and expecting it to be depressed across the board is a pretty good bet. We may not have great inclinations as to what Minnesota will want to do for some time, but Schoop provides another avenue for them to explore.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Twins Must Get Creative as Options Dwindle


The Minnesota Twins entered the offseason as one of the best teams in baseball. Forget about the futility in the Postseason, this roster is loaded. They have some holes to fill thanks to departing free agents, but there’s a lot to work with. In the rotation Rocco Baldelli could use another horse, but that’s gotten more complicated now.


On the final day to decide, both Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman accepted the $18.9 million qualifying offer. The Giants handing a QO to Gausman seemed like a bit of a reach, and despite having multi-year interest from a few teams, was too tempting for him to pass up. With Stroman the situation was a bit more interesting. He opted out of the season on the day in which he accrued enough service time to reach free agency this winter. That left the Mets in a tough spot, but the business side of baseball played out in the form of a QO. I though Stroman would land the second largest deal of the winter, behind only Trevor Bauer, so this isn’t a great sign for an expected poor market.


As much as it would be great to see Derek Falvey reunite with former Indians colleague Bauer, it’s just not real logical. With two of the best alternatives off the board, there’s a ton of uncertainty left. Masahiro Tanaka is now probably the next best thing, with the injury-risk James Paxton and Corey Kluber behind him. It’s not as though the Twins need to go acquire an ace, but they can’t have a Homer Bailey situation play out over the course of 162.


It’s long seemed like a good bet that a trade would be swung for rotation help. Acquiring someone like Joe Musgrove or Jon Gray could be a very strong boost to the back end of the group. Derek Falvey flipped infield prospect Jermaine Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Jake Odorizzi, and Brusdar Graterol netted Minnesota Kenta Maeda. It’s not as though there’s a poor track record there and leaning on that success makes a ton of sense.


Speaking of Odorizzi, he looks like a nice piece at this point in the game as well. Although he dealt with injury virtually all of 2020, they could be categorized as fluky at best. He’s been nothing short of great for Minnesota when healthy, and while he’s not an innings eater by any means, the consistency when on the bump is more than a nice thing to lean on.


While Minnesota entered the offseason in a good place, it always was necessary to fill those few key holes. As options dwindle on the pitching front, they’ll need to navigate a minefield of uncertainty in the free agent market, and still look to shore up the group with more than a veteran dart throw. I don’t know if the answer is currently unemployed, but it should be plenty interesting to see which way they go.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Pair of Rebound Candidates for Twins


After the 2019 Major League Baseball season gave us the Bomba Squad, there was plenty of regression expected for the Minnesota Twins lineup. Knowing the group hit a Major League record of homers made it unlikely for a repeat in 2020. Now coming off the weird season that was, there’s a pair of contributors the Twins need back in form.


It’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions based on a 60-game season, and even less so when dealing with injuries or missed time. The slate in and of itself resulted in little more than September action, and with a handful of untested players, the competition was different as well. That said, I’ll make the argument that the greatest avenue for success regarding the Twins lineup in 2021 is a resurgence from Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco.


Maybe Nelson Cruz is back, maybe he isn’t. Josh Donaldson is an elite talent when his calves are cooperating, but the injury prognosis isn’t one we can predict. That same line of thinking follows uber-talented centerfielder Byron Buxton as well. It’s the backstop and shortstop though, that resemble keys to an offense never really defining a launch this season.


Looking back at the leadup to 2020, I think it was wildly suggested that Garver wouldn’t replicate his .995 OPS from 2019. He has always had a good bat, and has a great mind for hitting, but the .630 slugging percentage was truly otherworldly. That said, projecting him to post a .511 OPS would’ve been a foolish undertaking as well. Assuming the truth lies somewhere in the middle, getting the New Mexico native back to an .800 OPS in 2021 is a must.


A couple areas where things fell off for Garver in his batted ball profile start with the hard-hit rate. It dropped roughly 6%, and he hit line drives nearly 10% more often. The lack of elevation combined with a lesser burst behind the batted ball resulted in more outs and a severely diminished HR/FB ratio. Mitch was also clearly not himself when swinging. A disciplined and contact driven hitter through and through, he jumped his whiff rate up to a career worst 13% while posted a 64% contact rate (15% below his career average). Knowing he was put on the shelf with a muscle injury, there’s plenty of reason to believe that could be the cause for such a slide.


Moving out from behind the plate we get to Jorge Polanco. On one hand the Minnesota shortstop had a career year as he made impressive strides defensively. On the flip side, he parlayed an .841 OPS from 2019 into just a .658 OPS in 2020. Clobbering 22 homers last season, just four balls left the park this year for the Dominican native. It was clear he was often slapping at the ball with no strong base below him. The results turned him into little more than a singles hitter with a mediocre average.


Polanco saw a massive dip in his hard-hit rate, dropping from 39.5% all the way down to                 a career worst 24.3%. With a batted ball profile that generally generates gap power, traditional doubles were now outs with a lot more batted ball activity that never began with a high probability for success. Unlike Garver, the plate discipline metrics didn’t change much. For Polanco, this was almost entirely a reflection of a process lacking solid contact. Like the Minnesota catcher though, Jorge was dealing with an injury. Undergoing offseason ankle surgery there should be hope that was what was ailing him and causing a change in his abilities.


Neither of these two players are going to be replaced in the 2021 Minnesota lineup. While Ryan Jeffers stepped up in Garver’s absence, he’s more a tandem duty player until the 26-game sample size is substantiated and forces more of a lead role. Polanco is entrenched as the Twins shortstop, and even top prospect Royce Lewis may not immediately challenge that. Getting production from these two key areas, something that was missing a season ago, is an absolute must.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Caution on Youth for Twins


Going into this offseason there’s expected to be a couple of certainties for the Minnesota Twins. One is that payroll will reflect lost revenue and take a step backwards, the other is that a return of an intact 2020 roster likely isn’t going to happen. Both of those things lean towards a youth movement, but how much can the roster support?


Regardless of it being a truncated 60 game sprint, the 2020 season provided Minnesota their second straight AL Central division title. Although they went winless in the Postseason yet again, it was their second straight trip, and third time in the past four years. This organization hasn’t finished lower than 2nd in the division since 2016, and it’s during this window of competitiveness that capitalization must be executed upon.


At this point the two most likely avenues for a youth movement come at designated hitter and in left field. It’s far from a certainty that the Twins bring Nelson Cruz back. He’s been an integral part of their roster, but he’s also 40-years-old, worthy of a hefty paycheck, and time will eventually run its course. It probably is a certainty that Eddie Rosario isn’t back in left field, his arbitration number seems destined for a non-tender.


So, what do you do? The most generally accepted answer is that Brent Rooker could take over as the designated hitter with top prospect Alex Kirilloff parlaying his Postseason MLB debut into an Opening Day starter role. There’s a lot of talent in both of those bodies, but that reality is also asking a substantial amount.


Over two seasons with the Twins Nelson Cruz has launched 57 homers and posted an OPS of 1.020. In fact, the last time he finished a season with an OPS south of .800 was a decade ago as a 31-year-old. Brent Rooker has played in seven big league games, and his minor league OPS checked in at .861. I don’t think there’s any denying that Rooker’s bat is exciting, but it’s also much less disciplined than Cruz’s, and he’d be replacing someone with credentials worth of Hall of Fame consideration.


In the outfield things get a little bit easier. Rosario, while he has a cannon, plays left field, and has slipped defensively as the years have gone by. The Puerto Rican native has a general hollow slash line with a career OPS of just .788. He hasn’t been an excellent hitter since the .836 OPS in 2017, and even that was heavily carried by his slugging prowess. Kirilloff looks the part of a more advanced profile at the plate, but again, he’s stepping into expectations that will no doubt be through the roof.


I’m not one to believe that prospects need to force their way into opportunity consistently before they find it. I think sometimes there’s merit to allowing talent the opportunity to shine on its own. However, asking two prospects to fill the shoes of two key contributors on a team that’s once again aiming for 90+ wins and a Postseason berth is quite a tall task. Minnesota probably is better off signing a tested veteran with an expected floor to play at least one of those positions.


Maybe the answer doesn’t need to be a big spend on someone like Marcel Ozuna. Maybe asking Jake Cave to operate as the Opening Day left fielder isn’t aiming high enough. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle of those outcomes, but I’m not sure reality should allow it to be a youth overhaul without the expectation of growing pains.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Byron Buxton’s Next Great Act


The Minnesota Twins employ arguably the fastest player in Major League Baseball. Byron Buxton looks the part of a gazelle in the Target Field grass. As fast as he is though, it isn’t his speed that unlocks the next level for him, and Rocco Baldelli would be unleashing an absolute unit if the centerfielder can get there.


2020 may very well have been Buxton’s best year in the big leagues. Calling it that comes with some caveats. He was once again injured and playing in just 39 games is more reflective of a strong month. Nonetheless, every organization in the big leagues dealt with a 60-game sprint this year. For Buxton, there was a development I’ve been on for a while that should have Twins fans licking their chops. He has begun coming into his power.


During 2021 Buxton will play the entirety of the year as a 27-year-old. Across the past three seasons he’s gotten into just 154 games, but there’s no denying that talent has turned the corner on with regards to its uncertain arrival. Batting average be damned, Buxton is now a defensive stalwart that contributes at the dish as well. Here’s the caveat, just how much opportunity can he give himself?


Buxton’s .844 OPS in 2020 was a career best. In 2017 he garnered his first career MVP votes and did so with a .728 OPS. Across 87 games a year ago, his .827 OPS put distance behind the lost season that was 2018. Despite replicating a .314 OBP in both of those previous years, 2020 saw the Twins star get on base at just a .267 clip. He had a hilariously awful 36/2 K/BB on the season, and career worst plate discipline (51% chase 17% whiff).


It’s there that Buxton’s next act comes. Despite his speed, Byron has never swiped more than 29 bases in a season. Half of his big-league career he’s failed to record double digits, and in two stretches of roughly 40 games at the highest level he’s generated just two. That’s less indicative of a lacking skill as it is reflective of the type of player Buck is.

At the plate, Byron Buxton gets off his “A-swing.” He’s somewhat of a guess hitter, and that’s left him susceptible to opposing pitchers having their way with him, but his Statcast profile is reminiscent of teammates like Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz rather than a player like Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton. Barreling the baseball as often as he does, Buxton’s prognosis over the course of a full healthy season should be nothing shy of a 25-homer result. His 13 per 39 in 2020 is a 54 over 162 game pace, and while the sustainability is probably not there, being shocked at a 30-home run season would seem to be lacking foresight.


It’s not as though a step forward in plate discipline is beyond reach either. Buxton owns a career 34% chase rate and 14% whiff rate. He was attacked with first pitch strikes nearly 10% more often in 2020 than at any other point in his career, and he took his aggressiveness up a notch on his own volition as well (80% zone swing and 64% swing rates were well over career norms).


Edgar Varela stepped into the role of hitting coach for the 2020 Twins. Lots has been made about James Rowson leaving, and there’s no doubt he was an asset for Minnesota, but it’s not as though Varela’s teaching deviates much from a guy he worked alongside of. If the Twins can get Buxton into a level of comfort when it comes to battling and seeing pitches, what he’s able to do while making contact should only increase. An OBP over .300 would’ve put Byron within sniffing distance of a .900 OPS, and an already dangerous hitter then enters a whole new realm.


There were points this season that Buxton mentioned his desire to steal more bases. It’s unnecessary for him to steal third, and he won’t find opportunity while jogging the bases. The next step forward for Minnesota’s superstar is to sprinkle walks in between the loud base hits and doing so takes him to the tier projected for him as a previous top prospect in all of baseball.


Byron Buxton will always battle the health risks related to his play style, but he’s very close to being among the most productive players in the game, and the Twins should be salivating at that fact.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Twins Unlikely Byron Buxton Insurance

This offseason the Minnesota Twins needed to allocate some dollars into contingency plans. With Josh Donaldson having missed so much time, and Byron Buxton always an injury away, legitimate talent behind both is a must. For Buxton, that answer may be more exciting than initially anticipated.

When Rocco Baldelli was filling out his American League Wild Card Series roster in October, one of the biggest surprises in recent memory took place. Top prospect Alex Kirilloff not only made the roster, but he drew his Major League debut start in game 2. Kirilloff garnered rave reviews all summer from Minnesota’s alternate site, and so too did the other top Twins prospect, Royce Lewis.

There has been plenty written already wondering what happens with Jorge Polanco at shortstop, if a utility role makes sense, and if he sticks there long term. Offensively in 2020, the 2019 All-Star was a problem. He posted a career worst .658 OPS and lost all power at the dish. We now know that could’ve been related to his bulky ankle, and a strong improvement in the outs above average category means his may be taking steps forward defensively. Under contact until 2024 and just 27 years old, he’s not going anywhere any time soon. Maybe the position changes, but here to suggest maybe it doesn’t.

We now enter a scenario in which the 2017 first overall draft pick makes his debut in centerfield.

Last fall the Twins allowed Lewis to play centerfield in the Arizona Fall League solely for the purpose of allowing him the flexibility to generate more at bats. It’s a position he’s been suggested of potentially moving to, and there’s reason to believe he’s not necessarily a lock to stick at shortstop. Coming off such a weird year in 2020, the focus in 2021 will be offensively contributing as fast as possible, and then likely finding a way to get him up to the big league club.

Although shortstop would be the traditional and straightforward path of progression, Lewis could experience a similar scenario to his teammate Kirilloff. For much of the past year Minnesota has begun to groom the lefty slugger as a first basemen. Regardless of Miguel Sano currently occupying the position, Kirilloff has found more of a home on the dirt than he did in the corner outfield. It was right field though that provided the opportunity for his debut, and it’s left field where he could find a home should the Twins non-tender Eddie Rosario.

Back to Lewis, we are working with a scenario in which the roster becomes constructed with the most possible talent, and Royce finds the quickest opportunity to play. Whether or not Byron Buxton finds himself on the shelf in 2021 isn’t a situation Minnesota wants to dream on. By having Lewis ready for that possibility however, they have a ready-made fill-in that could represent a higher ceiling than any bench alternative brought in from the outside.

No matter how or where it happens, I’d bet a sizeable amount that Royce Lewis makes his Major League debut for the Minnesota Twins in 2021. I’d place a greater than 25% chance that it comes at a position other than shortstop, and it’s a decent bet that there won’t need to be an injury to Jorge Polanco in order to facilitate the opportunity.

I can definitely imagine that Minnesota would like to simplify things for a prospect with so much promise. Bringing multiple gloves to the yard each day, and positional uncertainty wouldn’t represent that. Lewis is a poised kid though, and once they feel the bat is ready to play, the athleticism and instincts will take him far on their own no matter which number designates his position.

Go out and get pitching. Go out and find a worthy fill in for Josh Donaldson. Minnesota Twins, you can skip the centerfield replacement, your top prospect has that covered.