The Twins have agreed to a minor league deal with free-agent outfielder Derek Fisher, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 SKOR North. The former Astros top prospect will presumably be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Fisher was eligible to sign a minor league deal amid the MLB lockout by virtue of the fact that he was not on a Major League roster or 60-day injured list at season’s end. (The Brewers outrighted him to Triple-A in June.)
Now 28 years old, Fisher was the No. 37 overall pick by the Astros back in 2014. MLB.com ranked him among the sport’s top 100 prospects heading into the 2017 season after he posted a .290/.347/.505 batting line in his Triple-A debut in 2016. He struggled in his MLB debut that year but posted even better numbers in subsequent stints at Triple-A in 2017 and 2018. Fisher still carried enough promise in 2018 that the Blue Jays acquired him as the centerpiece in the trade that sent Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini to Houston, but things didn’t pan out for Fisher in Toronto either.
Fisher has now seen action in parts of five MLB seasons with the Astros, Blue Jays and Brewers but managed only a .195/.285/.387 batting line. He has above-average power and excellent speed, evidenced by 35 extra-base hits (17 homers, 12 doubles, six triples) and 10 steals in just 466 plate appearances. He’s also drawn a walk in 10.7% of those plate appearances, but his overall production is weighed down by a sky-high 35.4% strikeout rate. When Fisher does make contact, it’s typically loud (91.2 mph average exit velocity, 42.3% hard-hit), but the punchouts have simply been too plentiful.
The Twins’ outfield is full after Byron Buxton signed a seven-year extension prior to the lockout. He’ll be flanked by right fielder Max Kepler and a combination of promising youngsters Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach — both of whom come with some uncertainty. Kirilloff, a former first-round pick and top-15 overall prospect in MLB, attempted to play through a torn tendon in his wrist for most of the his time on the active roster in 2021 before ultimately succumbing to season-ending surgery. Larnach, also a former first-rounder and a former top-50 prospect, had just 43 Double-A games under his belt when he was called up out of necessity. He hit the ground running in Minnesota, batting .262/.341/.455 through his first 50 games. However, he posted just a .442 OPS over his next 29 games before being sent back down, dropping his overall batting line to .223/.322/.350.
Like Kepler, Kirilloff and Larnach, Fisher is a left-handed hitter. He’s played all three outfield spots in the big leagues, albeit sparingly in center, with just 91 innings. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating peg him as a quality left fielder, but scouting reports have never been enamored of his throwing arm, so he’s best-suited for reps in left field. Should the Twins wish to ease Kirilloff and/or Larnach back into the season in Triple-A, that’s where Fisher would project to spend time anyhow. If he doesn’t make the club, he’ll head to Triple-A St. Paul and give the Twins an experienced depth option.