How Much Can the Twins Lean On Their Depth?

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

While it isn’t the way they would have wanted it, the Minnesota Twins’ recent spate of injuries has been a boomlet for fans who love to track prospects. Carlos Correa’s hand injury allowed the Minnesota Twins to call up Royce Lewis. Gilberto Celestino is getting playing time while Byron Buxton recovers from a knee injury. And José Miranda is getting playing time at first base because Miguel Sanó had surgery to repair his corn meniscus.

“You need quality players everywhere you look,” said Rocco Baldelli. “You need good depth because this is baseball. There are a lot of players that are going to be dealing with injuries, especially these days. Talk about the COVID seasons and guys coming back. Injuries are up, and they’re not going to go down, so you need guys to turn to, and we have some guys to turn to who are doing a good job.”

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspect of the turnover. Correa got hurt in what could be his only season in Minnesota, Buxton continues to battle injuries, and Sanó was playing his way out of the Twins’ plans before getting hurt. It’s fair to be a little upset right now. Correa is Minnesota’s highest-paid free agent; Buxton and Sanó were expected to turn the franchise around.

But Buxton and Sanó no longer have to be saviors. A cavalcade of young, talented players has arrived, and few of them are getting an extended opportunity because of the constant roster churn. Lewis (1st overall, 2017) is Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s first-ever pick. They traded Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros for Celestino and Jhoan Duran in 2018. And the previous regime took Miranda in the second round of the 2016 draft.

  • Lewis didn’t play in 2020 because MLB canceled the minor league season and then missed all of 2021 with an ACL injury. Still, he entered Sunday hitting .310/.310/.483 after only 107 Triple-A at-bats.
  • Celestino hit .136/.117/.288 in 23 games as a rookie last year, but injuries forced him into action. However, Celestino has played better this season, hitting .333/.396/.417 in 22 games and holding his own defensively.
  • And Miranda has had a slow start (.114/.152/.227), but he only broke out last year. The Twins left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft in 2020, only to see him hit .344/.401/.572 in Double- and Triple-A last season.

However, Minnesota’s fate does not rest on Lewis, Celestino, and Miranda’s success. They join a team full of young, talented players who should form the core of a competitive club for years to come. Many of them were drafted and developed by the Falvey-Levine regime. These aren’t the Twins of yesteryear that called up 30-somethings like Rob Refsnyder to fill in for injured players. Nor are they at the end of a competitive cycle, where these call-ups are joining a veteran squad that’s competitive window is rapidly closing.

Still, the Twins have created expectations for themselves. Because many of Falvey and Levine’s prospects have reached the majors, the rosters in the high minors are thinning out. That means we’re getting a good look at how effective Falvey and Levine’s draft-and-develop strategy is. Furthermore, because the Twins have gotten off to a 20-15 start, it’s fair to expect them to compete for the AL Central and a playoff spot.

The Twins have a stretch of 18 games against sub-.500 teams coming up. They play the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals on the road. Then they face the Detroit Tigers and Royals at home, followed by five games in Detroit. Those 18 games provide them with the opportunity to create separation between themselves and the rest of the AL Central. Should they take, say, 15 of those games, the Twins will give themselves some much-needed cushion in the standings.

However, a soft spot in the schedule won’t matter if they can’t get production from the players they bring up – even if the Twins rush them up. Someone will have to fill in at center field until Buxton can play every day. They will need production from first base, and Luis Arraez isn’t a prototypical hitter for the position. And the Twins will have to decide on Lewis once Correa comes back.

“We’ve been trying to stay ahead of a lot of things with all of our guys,” said Baldelli. “We’re not the only ones dealing with injuries. We know that. Everywhere you look in the game, teams are dealing with a lot of different things, and there’s not one way to get ahead of all of it. But we just stay conscious, pay attention to our guys, work with our medical staff, who do a great job, and they keep us pretty informed.”

The Twins are as deep as they’ve been for a long time. That’s a credit to their scouting and player development. It’s been exciting to see some of the team’s top prospects reach the majors. Many of them have been incubating in the minors for a long time. Still, Minnesota isn’t a team in rebuilding mode. They need to win now. And to do so, they’re going to need prospects who have reached the majors earlier than expected to play like they’ve been here for a long time.

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