The Twins have hired David Popkins as their new hitting coach, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). Popkins will take over for Edgar Varela, who was reassigned from the position earlier this month.
Popkins has worked in the Dodgers’ minor league system for the last three years, including working this past season as the hitting coach for high-A ball Great Lakes Loons. This represents the highest tier of Popkins’ coaching experience, though as teams have increasingly looked to expand the scope of coaching hires, prior experience on a big league staff or even in the upper minors is no longer the prerequisite it once was.
Popkins also brings a fresher perspective to the mix, as he doesn’t turn 32 years old until next month and isn’t far removed from his own playing days. An undrafted free agent, Popkins caught on with the Cardinals and played in their farm system for three seasons, reaching as high as the Double-A level in 2014. He then went onto play three seasons of independent ball before calling it a wrap on his on-field career.
The Minnesota lineup lacked consistency in 2021, as while hitters combined for a slightly above-average 101 wRC+ (ranking 11th in baseball), the team’s overall .241/.314/.423 left something to be desired. Overall, the Twins still showed plenty of power in finishing fifth in the league in home runs, but finished around the middle of the league in several other offensive categories. Getting more out of Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, and Trevor Larnach could be the top priority on Popkins’ list, though the Twins also have some very dangerous bats in Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, and (when healthy) Byron Buxton.