Earlier in the week, the Minnesota Twins announced that Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff, two everyday infielders would start their season on the injured list. Injuries have filled Kirilloff’s short career in the majors, limiting him to 359 plate appearances in 104 games in 2021 and 2022.
Fortunately, the Twins’ front office avoided going all in on Kirilloff, 25, as their everyday man without any backup options at first base. Therefore, Joey Gallo will most likely get the most playing time at first until Kirilloff returns.
Gallo has spent most of his major league career as an outfielder, and he has proven himself a strong asset for every team that has fielded him out there. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner, most recently winning one with the Texas Rangers in 2021.
However, Gallo has only played one inning at the position over the last four seasons. But his absence at first since 2018 should not be a reason to mistrust his abilities to play there. Gallo is seasoned at the position. He logged 59 games at first with the Rangers in 2017, a personal high.
The Twins have had Gallo frequently participating in first base drills throughout Spring Training and has played seven Spring Training games at first. Despite his long absence from first base, Minnesota’s coaching staff seems to trust him there.
Gallo has only committed one error at first in Spring Training all month, and he has a .995 career fielding percentage in 746 ⅔ innings for his career at the position. First base is the easiest position for many baseball players to adjust to as they age. Gallo will still see plenty of time in Minnesota’s outfield this season, but he will be the primary first baseman in the first month of the season.
However, Gallo will not be the only guy on the Twins’ projected Opening Day roster playing first base. The most recent signing for the team, Donovan Solano, will be a backup at first base behind Gallo, along with Kyle Farmer and José Miranda.
Miranda is the most interesting option at first base of the four. The Twins want to have him as their everyday third baseman this season after clearing the depth chart for him. However, Miranda may need to see more time at first to start the season if his right shoulder, which is his throwing arm, is still nagging at him next week in Kansas City.
He began playing in the field in a Spring Training game this last week and only played at first base. The Twins front office and manager Rocco Baldelli want to take their time with Miranda’s ailing shoulder. However, they have given no indication that he won’t be able to throw from third base on Opening Day next week.
Solano played the majority of his games (26 out of 80) defensively at first base for the Cincinnati Reds last season. The Twins will shuffle the 35-year-old former Silver Slugger winner at second base around the infield all season.
Without Polanco at second base to start the season, the Twins will platoon Solano at both positions on the right side of the infield as necessary throughout April. Solano’s games played at each position during Spring Training have been split between the right side of the infield. He has played six games out of 10 games at second, three at first, and one as the designated hitter.
The same can be said for Farmer, who the Twins will use in the same infield utility role as Solano. Farmer’s defensive strength at all other infield positions outside of first base will likely make him the last man in the depth chart Minnesota will play there. Baldelli has not put Farmer first in Spring Training, but he has played 28 games at the position throughout his career.
Thanks to the addition of Gallo, Solano, and Farmer this off-season, Minnesota’s defensive depth is not as dire as it could have been with Kirilloff on the IL to start the season and Miranda shifting over to third.
The responsibility of everyday playing time at first base now falls on Gallo to start the year. While his limited playing time at first since 2018 may raise some questions among Twins fans, the front office and coaching staff are fully confident the two-time Gold Glove outfielder can make a positive defensive impact at first that the Twins have not had recently.