The Twins announced that outfielder Max Kepler and first baseman Miguel Sano have been placed on the 10-day injured list. Kepler has a toe fracture, while Sano is dealing with left knee inflammation. In corresponding moves, outfielder Mark Contreras was called up from Triple-A and the Twins selected the contract of infielder Tim Beckham from Triple-A, while Bailey Ober was moved to the 60-day IL to create a 40-man roster spot for Beckham.
Kepler hasn’t played since he was hit by a pitch on July 24, and his IL placement is retroactive to the 27th. While he hasn’t been on the field, Kepler has been taking part in limited baseball activities and even running drills, so it is possible he might only miss the minimum 10 days if he continues to show good progress (or if the fracture doesn’t continue to limit his ability to run).
It has been a curious year for Kepler, who has hit .244/.344/.390 over 337 plate appearances, good for an above-average 113 wRC+. However, between a wealth of excellent Statcast metrics and a .361 xwOBA, Kepler is actually underachieving compared to what he “should” be hitting based on his advanced numbers. For the third straight season, opponents are deploying shifts against Kepler almost every time he steps to the plate, which has largely neutralized much of Kepler’s hard contact.
Still, Kepler has been a very productive player overall, between his still-solid batting numbers and his excellent right field glove. His absence will further hamper a Minnesota outfield that has already been shorthanded by Byron Buxton’s lingering knee issues, as Buxton has been getting a lot of DH time rather than his customary spot in center field. The left-handed hitting Contreras will fill Kepler’s role to some extent, as the Twins will now be juggling Buxton, Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff and reserves Contreras, Gilberto Celestino, and Kyle Garlick around the three outfield spots.
Sano was only just activated from the 60-day IL earlier this week, making it troubling that he has already been sidelined again by issues with his surgically-repaired knee. His latest injury actually occurred when Sano was on his minor league rehab assignment, as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park) that Sano hurt his knee while sliding in his last rehab game. An MRI is scheduled for Sano on Monday.
Sano underwent his surgery in early May, and has only played in 20 games this season, posting a measly .345 OPS over 71 PA. There was some thought that the Twins might move on from Sano entirely given that he now seems like the odd man out on the roster, yet this latest IL placement will hold off any decisions on that front. If Monday’s MRI reveals bad news, it could mark the end of Sano’s 2022 season, and quite likely his Minnesota tenure — the Twins will very likely buy out (for $2.75MM) their $14MM club option Sano for the 2023 season.
Beckham signed a minor league deal with the Twins in February, and he might now be in line for his first taste of MLB action since 2019. The former first overall pick didn’t play anywhere during the canceled 2020 minor league season, and spent all of 2021 in the White Sox organization with their Triple-A affiliate. Beckham has played all over the infield and also seen some time as a left fielder in his career, so he’ll provide the Twins with some utility depth off the bench.