Thursday, December 22, 2016

Projecting The 2020 Twins Line-Up

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports
As Seth, Jeremy and I put the final touches on the 2017 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, it's always fun to look to the future. There are plenty of changes that could be coming with the new baseball operations department. The future is still a little cloudy with the trades of Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana looming.

The players on this list are subject to change. Minnesota could always add players on the free agent market or trade for other players that would be a better fit in the line-up. For now, here is a look at how the Twins could come together for the 2020 season.

C: Mitch Garver
The Twins recently signed Jason Castro to a three-year deal that runs through the 2019 season. Garver will be given every opportunity to evolve into a starter during the duration of the Castro contract. He ended this season at Rochester and hit .329/.381/.434 with six extra-base hits in 21 games. His defense and game management is praised by pitchers and coaches throughout the system.

1B: Miguel Sano
Joe Mauer's contract will expire at the end of the 2018 season. This could give the Twins the opportunity to move Miguel Sano to a less demanding defensive position. At first base, he can worry less about his defense and concentrate on hitting the ball over the fence. Other players might fit into the first base picture with Sano getting some DH at-bats.

2B: Travis Blakenhorn
When the Twins took Travis Blakenhorn with a third round pick, there were high expectations for his future. This season he was 2.5 years younger than the competition in the Midwest League. He combined for an .850 OPS between two levels. He was originally drafted as a third baseman but he played more second base this season. It will take him time to adjust to a new position but he should be ready to go by 2020.

3B: Jorge Polanco
With Sano shifting off of third base, the Twins will need to find another option at third base. Polanco has made big league appearances in each of the last three seasons. Last year in 69 games, he hit .282/.332/.424 with 23 extra-base hits. His defensive time at shortstop left a little something to desire as he committed 11 errors in 189 chances. Many believe he will eventually end up being shifted to a different position especially in the wake of Dozier being dealt. He could end up at second base or third base.
SS: Nick Gordon
Minnesota took Gordon with the fifth overall pick in 2014 with every intention of him being the team's future shortstop. There are still questions about his ability to stick at the position in the long-term. Offensively, he continues to show an advanced approach at the plate. Like the other infielders on this list, he might eventually need to move to another defensive spot. However, he has the best chance of staying there.

RF: Eddie Rosario
Out of all the players on this list, Rosario is one of the first that would move out of a starting spot. It seems likely for him to move into a fourth outfielder role. At this point, there weren't any other prospects in the Twins system that are knocking down the door in the outfield. If the Twins can get an outfielder from the Dodgers in a Dozier trade, they might be a better fit for the Twins in the long-term.

CF: Byron Buxton
Buxton finally seemed to put it all together during last September. He hit .287/.357/.653 with nine home runs, six doubles, and two triples. His defense continues to be outstanding in center field. Many Twins fans hope Buxton has become an All-Star caliber player by 2020. He can help to turn the franchise around by becoming one of the best players in baseball.

LF: Max Kepler
Kepler showed some positive signs during his rookie campaign but he also left some room for improvement. In 24 games from June 10 to July 5, he hit .284/.347/.580 with six home runs and eight doubles. Throughout the rest of the season, his average dipped to .228 but he still got on base over 30% of the time. If he can continue to mature at the plate and make more consistent contact, he should be a solid MLB regular.

DH: Daniel Palka
During his first season in the Twins organization, Palka showed the prestigious power he'd shown through most of his professional career. He surpassed the 30 home run mark for the first time in his career and he had an OPS over .845 for the second consecutive season. He's played corner outfield spots and first base so he could split time at first base with Sano or take over a corner spot from Rosario.

Change will be a common theme in the years to come. The next wave of prospects is getting closer to Target Field. Who do you think will fit into the Twins long-term plans? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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