The Twins were leading the American League Central division for much of 2022. However, injuries mounted throughout the season and the Guardians surpassed them for good in September, eventually finishing 14 games ahead of Minnesota. Better health and depth will be key for the Twins if they are to have better results this year, and the club even went so far as to hire a new head athletic trainer, getting Nick Paparesta to jump over from the A’s. “I think he’s going to have a huge impact,” manager Rocco Baldelli told Dan Hayes of The Athletic recently. “I’m not just confident of it — I know he’s going to have a huge impact in what goes on inside those doors.”
One of the players whose health will be in focus in 2023 is Royce Lewis. The first overall selection in the 2017 draft, he’s long been considered one of the best prospects in the league. However, he struggled a bit in 2019 and then saw the minors wiped out by the pandemic in 2020. That was followed by a lost season in 2021 as he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in February, requiring season-ending surgery. He got things back on track nicely in 2022, hitting .313/.405/.534 in 34 Triple-A games and .300/.317/.550 in his first 12 major league games. Unfortunately, he tore the ACL in his right knee a second time in June, wiping out what remained of that season.
There were times this season that it seemed Carlos Correa would sign with the Giants and then Mets, leaving the future shortstop job open for Lewis to retake once healthy. However, Correa’s deals ended up getting scuttled by disagreements with those clubs about his physical and he wound up back with the Twins. His new deal comes with six guaranteed seasons and he could stick around for four more years via vesting options. While he might eventually move off shortstop at some point, it seems Lewis is blocked from that position for the foreseeable future. To help get into the lineup more last year, he played a little bit of outfield and third base in the minors, as well as some outfield in the majors. He tells Hayes that he would prefer to play on the infield but is open to time in the outfield again.
It likely won’t be an issue for a while, since his surgery was initially estimated to require a 12-month recovery period, meaning he likely won’t return until midway through the upcoming season. Though Lewis doesn’t have an update on his timeline, he did start hitting three weeks ago. Whenever he does return, he will be looking to crack an infield that should consist of Correa at short, Jorge Polanco at second, José Miranda at third and Alex Kirilloff at first.
There are some injury concerns elsewhere in that mix. Correa, of course, has a checkered injury past and the issues with the Giants and Mets raise questions about how his health will develop in the future. Polanco, meanwhile, was limited to 104 games last year by a pesky knee issue that eventually put him on the injured list for good in early September. He has declared himself to be healthy for the upcoming campaign, telling Hayes “I’m trying to really be out there playing, playing hard, letting the young guys know that I’m here to play hard. I want to set an example for them. I just want to be part of it.” Despite the nagging issue last year, he still hit 16 home runs and walked in 14.4% of his plate appearances for a batting line of .235/.346/.405 and a wRC+ of 119.
As for Kirilloff, the former first round draft pick has been dealing with persistent wrist issues, with each of his past two seasons ended by surgery. He’s back to swinging a bat now but is still sore. “They cut my bone so there’s definitely some aches and stuff to go along with that, but from a pain standpoint it feels good,” he says. “I think they’re expected to go away. I think anytime you break your bone it can take a lot longer than expected to heal. From my understanding, it gets to that certain point where it’s healed enough to do whatever you need to do and then it keeps healing for a while after that.”
He’s produced monster numbers in the minor leagues but the wrist issues have seemingly hampered him in the big leagues so far. Since starting 2019 in Double-A, Kirilloff has hit .305/.378/.484 in 574 minor league plate appearances for a wRC+ of 143. But in 387 major league appearances thus far, he’s slashed just .251/.295/.398 for a 91 wRC+. The club declined an option on Miguel Sanó and traded Luis Arraez to the Marlins, leaving the first base job wide open for Kirilloff if he’s healthy enough to take it.
Another player who could be in the mix at first is Miranda, though he seems to be ticketed for the third base job after Gio Urshela was traded to the Angels. Miranda made his debut last year and spent more time at first with Urshela across the diamond, but he can now go back to third, where he spent more time in the minors. His first season in the show went quite well, as he hit 15 home runs and batted .268/.325/.426 for a wRC+ of 117. He apparently felt worn down late last year and has been on a new workout program and diet, trying to eat more chicken and vegetables in lieu of sweets. “He looks sexy,” Correa said about Miranda. “You see that body? He looks sexy. He looks really good. He looks in shape, he looks ready to work.”
Nick Gordon and Kyle Farmer will be on hand to give the club some infield depth, though Lewis will also be trying to get back on the field and into the mix. His odds of helping the team here are probably better than their crowded outfield mix of Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino and Matt Wallner, with Gordon and Kirilloff potentially in the mix there as well. It’s possible that a trade thins out the outfield depth chart a bit, but it remains packed for now, with just two weeks to go until Spring Training.
What makes Rocco so sure about the new head trainer’s abilities to prevent injuries?
Bubble wrap on the fence posts. Wall in left field now breaks away when u run into to prevent injury. And batters to wear bast stealing mitten to prevent finger injury in batters box.
Sure fire plan ! Go Twins !
It’s gotta be a little awkward w Kyle farmer. Hey we signed ya to play short…
He’s Dutch who cares.
Actually they traded for him and probably promised nothing. Farmer will see plenty of action at 3B if Kiriloff’s wrist is still a problem and Miranda has to slide across the diamond
Comrade Tipsy McBlotto
I’m just glad Miranda looks sexy. One more reason to go to a game.
Really? I think he’s unattractive lol
Hey, I like it! But are you sure you’re not talking about his cousin?
The Twins every year have more injuries than anyone. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have crazy depth right now all over the field.
Sadly though, they only let you have 26 guys on the roster and many of their dudes have no business wasting their time in AAA, if they’re even allowed to option them.
I dunno. Wallner and Larnach both seem like guys who wouldn’t be hurt by a 1/2 season in AAA. Real issue is next year when Martin, Lewis, Lee, Julien are all in the mix.
Damn that team needs to trade an OF in the worst possible way. Get a 1B/DH type in case Kiriloff needs more time or can’t hack 1B.
Trade isn’t necessary with Yuli Gurriel and Luke Voit still lingering in free agency
If things get hairy they could put Miranda at 1B and slide Farmer or eventually Lewis to 3B.
Yet they have traded for one, Taylor, and signed one, Gallo, the is offseason. Usually a team has 13 position players
13) ?????? Urshela would like nice here
Larnach? TBD? Wallner? Some call for Yuli or Voit but neither of them push the needle. Might as well bring back sano. I was really hoping for a Yandy Diaz trade
Garlick makes a lot of sense for 13. RH power bat that platoons nicely with the LF bats.
I’m thinking the Twins eventually sign either Yuli Gurriel or Luke Voit. A RH option at 1B/DH is definitely needed.
With Taylor on board now I would imagine Buck is the RH DH. Larnach has been good and earned the spot really. However the team is built like you say with the biggest hole being a RH 1B
No worries for Lewis, by the time he is healthy Correa will be injured. Or Buxton
TERRY MULHOLLAND FAN CLUB PRESIDENT
“To help get into the lineup more last year, he played a little bit of outfield and third base in the minors, as well as some outfield in the majors.”
Not really sure if three innings in center field immediately preceding tearing his ACL again is really considered legitimate time in the outfield. Plus his time on the grass in St Paul was one game if I remember right. The Twins are to blame for putting him out there like that. He needs more OF experience in St Paul if he is expected to play in the outfield.
Over/Under 1250 combined AB’s for Kirilloff, Correa, Buxton this season?
That’s an easy under. Even if one makes 600 that’s 650 combined for the others. I would bet on Correa being healthy but Bux and Kirilloff miss half the year each. 1000 even is a better over/under.
I don’t think being in the “best shape of his life” [sic] is going to make Miranda a passable 3B.
sign Gurriel to play 1st when kirloff gets hurt and trade Kepler for a prospect to thin the outfield out.
Twins could have a high ceiling, but could easily just be bad all around. It’s a lot of finger crossing that people will be healthy or turn it around… as well as those without a long history the team is hoping can continue success like Miranda.
Beyond starting and lineup, I for one worry about the bullpen. They got overused last year and weren’t as a whole that great. Jose Ramirez must have won 5 games for Cleveland in the late innings. Duran is the one I have the most faith in.
(Also – one bright spot is on the defensive side of things. I believe they’ll be one of the top defensive teams in the league)
You can start a sentence with meanwhile. I promise you it’s ok.