The Twins May Have To Make A Difficult Decision In October

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins front office has stuck with most of the offensive players from their Opening Day roster all year. Even when they’ve really struggled. For example, Joey Gallo has had a .107 batting average in 28 at-bats since he went 4-4 against the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 12 and only 13 hits in 81 at-bats since the All-Star Break, tallying a .160 batting average.

Yet, even with players a Triple-A crushing the ball better in the minors than he is in the majors. The Twins front office has refused to cut him. Gallo has bought time on the roster because of all the injuries, such as Alex Kirilloff aggravating his shoulder in late July. That time may be coming soon because the Twins can activate Kirilloff from his rehab assignment as early as Friday. Kirilloff has continued to crush Triple-A pitching in his short time on rehab, going 12 for 27 (.444/.444/.778 slugging percentage, with a 1.222 OPS) over six games.

The Twins have been using Gallo exclusively as a defensive replacement and pinch hitter. However, it seems unlikely Minnesota will start him in meaningful September games. Kirilloff plays the same positions as Gallo and was one of the Twins best hitters before injuring himself again. The Twins activated Kirilloff on Friday, and placed Gallo on the injured list.

Michael A. Taylor is also the next injured player expected to return from the injured list. He has been playing through a bruised hamstring and will likely be good to go on rehab after 10 days of rest. If all goes well, he could be activated from the injured list before the Twins finish their September 18-20 series in Cincinnati.

When that time comes, the Twins will probably send Stevenson down to Triple-A for Taylor. They have a greater need for right-handed hitting outfielders than left-handed. With Castro serving as a primary backup to Taylor, Stevenson would be filling space on the bench that someone else can better serve.

The toughest decision to come for the postseason roster is possibly leaving off one of the three rookies who have stepped up as offensive leaders: Matt Wallner, Edouard Julien, and Royce Lewis.

The only fortunate thing about the Twins pausing Byron Buxton’s rehab assignment is that it delays Minnesota’s timetable for demoting one of these guys. Wallner, Julien, and Lewis have been crucial for the Twins offense this season, and they have all stepped up in big moments.

If Buxton resumes rehab and shows signs of improvement before September ends, his return may force the Twins to send one of these three players down. If they don’t send either Wallner, Julien, or Lewis down, Jordan Luplow would likely be the next player to go for Buxton.

Luplow is serving a sole purpose as an extra right-handed hitting platoon outfielder and has hit .222/.314/.400 with a .714 OPS in 21 games with the Twins. Buxton’s numbers (.207/.294./438 with a .732 OPS) aren’t that much different than Gallo’s. However, even if he’s performing only a quarter of a percent better than he had been as a full-time designated hitter, the Twins could make some real noise in their first postseason series.

We still don’t know the timeframe of Buxton’s return, leaving the hard decision of who will go down for his roster spot in the distant future. But even if he doesn’t return for the regular season, Buxton could still present a tricky situation for the postseason roster in this same way with either cutting a rookie or the platoon bat.

The playoffs are less than a month away. Even if the Twins all but secured the AL Central in Cleveland taking two out of three games, they will still want their best players present on the field to get reps going into the postseason. The healthier Minnesota’s best players are, the more likely the Twins will win their first postseason game since 2004 and first postseason series since 2002.

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