Sunday, December 20, 2015

Building the Twins 2018 Line-Up

The final touches are being put on the 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook and fans can look for ordering details shortly after the new year. In the aftermath of writing profiles on every prospect in the Twins system, it's hard not to get excited about the direction the team is heading in 2016 and beyond.

Predicting the future can be a tough task when it comes to prospects especially when trying to decipher who will part of the next playoff team in Minnesota. There are a plethora of high-end prospects ready to make an everyday impact but the crystal ball can be a little murky when gazing into the future. 

Let's do our best to try and have our own lightsaber Force vision of the future. When the Twins are ready to make consistent playoff runs, what will the line-up look like in 2018?
Catcher: This position is one of the hardest to get a read on as we look into the future. The Twins have a group of young catchers moving through the system. Mitch Garver, Brian Navarreto, and Alex Swim could all play well enough to get some big league playing time. For now, it seems like Stuart Turner will be the team's likely option at backstop. The Twins have been aggressive with him during his time in the organization and he could make his big league debut this season. He has an experienced approach at the plate but his offense isn't his calling card. Turner is a defensive first catcher but that could be enough to give him the starting job by 2018.
2018 Prediction: Stuart Turner, Back-Up Plan: Mitch Garver

First Base: It's crazy to think Joe Mauer's contract will come to an end at some point but that's exactly what will happen after the 2018 season. Mauer can be a free agent as he will be in his mid-30s at the time with the potential to still have some baseball in front of him. It's hard to know if that future will be in Minnesota but there doesn't seem to be a situation where he won't be part of the line-up in 2018. There will be other options on the roster. Newly signed Korean slugger Byung Ho Park has experience at first and he could be getting more playing time at first in the next few years. As Miguel Sano continues to grow into his body, it wouldn't be surprising to see him end up playing at first as well. 
2018 Prediction: Joe Mauer, Back-Up Plan: Byung Ho Park

Second Base: Brian Dozier is coming off an All-Star season but he's struggled offensively in the second half of 2014 and 2015. Minnesota just signed him to a deal through 2018 and he will be 31 years old by the end of that deal. This makes it pretty easy to hypothesize that Dozier will still be there by 2018. The Twins do have other infielders making their way through the system. Jorge Polanco has ranked high on Twins prospect lists and he's had a brief taste of the big leagues. There are some questions about his defensive abilities at shortstop so a switch to second base might be just what the doctor ordered. If Polanco continues to show promise, the Twins might be willing to deal Dozier before his contract expires.
2018 Prediction: Brian Dozier, Back-Up Plan: Jorge Polanco 

Third Base: The Twins have seen Trevor Plouffe evolve into a very good player at third base. The former first round pick will be a free agent before the 2018 season so it seems likely that the organization will part ways with him. This could mean a shift for Miguel Sano back to the hot corner. There is talk from the Twins of Sano playing some outfield this season and that might be the only way to get all of their sluggers in the line-up at the same point. Sano will be entering his fourth big league season and he could still have something to prove if he hasn't played a ton of third base up to this point in his career. While someone like Polanco could switch from shortstop to third, the other options at third might be someone like Trey Cabbage. 
2018 Prediction: Miguel Sano, Back-Up Plan: Jorge Polanco

Shortstop: Shortstop has been a black hole in the Twins organization. The Twins have added multiple players like Nick Gordon and Wander Javier over the last couple seasons to try and turn a weakness into a strength. Javier signed for a ton of money but he won't be ready by 2018. This means the Twins future shortstop could be left in the hands of Nick Gordon. He has the potential to be an All-Star and a top-of-the-order hitter. The Twins have been aggressive with him so far in his professional career so it wouldn't be a surprise for him to spend the 2018 season as the club's primary shortstop. Engelb Vielma is another top-20 prospect that has all of the defensive skills to stick at the position. If Gordon isn't ready in '18, look for Vielma to fit the role. 
2018 Prediction: Nick Gordon, Back-Up Plan: Engelb Vielma

Right Field: Minnesota's 2018 outfield could be littered with talent. Top prospects like Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario will all need homes especially if they establish themselves as everyday players. All three of these players have shown the ability to play center field so two of them will have to get pushed to the corners and combine for a solid defensive grouping. Kepler seems like the logical choice for right field since he could grow into his body more and he's played the position in the minor leagues. After being named the team's minor league player of the year, hopes will be high for Kepler but he has the chance to be an All-Star. A back-up plan could be slugging outfield Adam Brett Walker especially if he keeps mashing home runs.
2018 Prediction: Max Kepler, Back-Up Plan: Adam Brett Walker

Left Field: With Kepler occupying right field, Eddie Rosario gets the reigns to left field. Rosario is coming off a very good rookie campaign where he showed some positive signs at the plate. If he can continue to develop offensively, he could nestle snugly into a everyday player that fits nicely into the second half of the line-up. Walker would be another back-up option for this position as he has played both corner outfield positions during the last two seasons. A middle of the order with Sano, Park, and Walker could be a murder's row for opposing pitchers in the American League.
2018 Prediction: Eddie Rosario, Back-Up Plan: Adam Brett Walker

Center Field: The land once occupied by the likes of Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter seems close to becoming the land of Byron Buxton. Baseball's top rated prospect for much of the last two seasons should be a regular by the time the 2018 season roles around. He has all the skills to be a five-tool player and he could be on his way to multiple All-Star appearances and potential MVP awards. There is still a lot left for him to prove but most of the baseball world seems confident that Mr. Buxton will be able to put it all together to be a well above-average player. 
2018 Prediction: Byron Buxton, Back-Up Plan: Max Kepler

Designated Hitter: When Minnesota signed Park this offseason, they made sure to refer to him as a designated hitter. Twins general manager Terry Ryan made reference to his ability to play first base but the Twins have another player entrenched at first base so this means Park will have to get playing time at another spot. There are also plenty of other names on this list that could fill into a DH role by 2018. Mauer might be aging too much to play first base or a combination of Sano and Walker could definitely add some power to the DH role. As long as Park adjusts well to baseball in the States, it seems like the DH role is his to lose. 
2018 Prediction: Byung Ho Park, Back-Up Plan: Mauer/Sano/Walker

What would your 2018 line-up look like? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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