Twins

Trevor Larnach Can Work His Way Back Into Minnesota's Plans

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s first draft leading the Minnesota Twins front office was a unique circumstance. They had the first overall pick and took Royce Lewis. But the following year offered a better look into the team’s draft philosophy at a more standard draft slot when they had the 20th overall selection. Falvey and Levine used that pick on Trevor Larnach, a left-handed hitting corner outfielder from Oregon State.

Larnach debuted in 2021 and immediately looked like a first-round pick ready to contribute. Through the first 54 games of his career, Larnach slashed .247/.343/.412 with 7 home runs, a 112 wRC+, and a 32.9 percent strikeout rate. However, a left hand injury limited his production during his rookie season. He played only 25 games after July 17 that season, slashed .167/.275/.205 with no home runs (43 wRC+) and struck out 38.5 percent of the time.

Larnach has been inconsistent the past two seasons. He hit .222/.309/.411 with 13 home runs (101 wRC+) and struck out 32.9 percent of the time. Groin and core injuries limited his 2022 season to 51 games. Despite being the Opening Day left fielder, Larnach played 58 games over the last season, mainly due to poor production from a 99 wRC+ and a 34 percent strikeout rate in 2023.

Last season, Matt Wallner jumped Larnach in the organizational depth chart thanks to an incredible 144 wRC+ rookie campaign to become the everyday left fielder. While Larnach’s future in the Twins franchise is still uncertain, there’s still a path for him to earn his way back into the good graces of Minnesota’s decision-makers.

Selecting Larnach offered some insight into Falvine’s draft tendencies. They typically choose left-handed college hitters. They took Aaron Sobato 27th overall out of the University of North Carolina in 2020 and Brooks Lee from Cal Poly 8th overall in 2022. It allows the team to get experienced hitters who may not have the highest ceilings, but they have more tape and data to scout for a better idea of what they’re getting.

The Twins have occasionally strayed away from that strategy with their first-round picks, like when they took Walker Jenkins out of high school in 2023. However, they lucked into the No. 5 overall pick, placing them in a spot to take a player with too much upside to turn down, even if Jenkins has a longer path to the big leagues.

It sounds too simple to be true, but one of the most significant factors for Larnach’s resurgence may just be time. There’s a case to be made that Larnach still hasn’t reached his peak. He has three different seasons of MLB experience, but injuries limited him to only 188 career games.

It would help him to total more at-bats with some steady playing time. Larnach can be a streaky hitter, so giving him consistent playing time would be beneficial. But Wallner and Kepler have claimed the corner outfield spots, and all three are left-handed hitters, which doesn’t allow for a platoon. It’s a long season, so there will likely be some opportunities for Larnach. However, he must make the most of whatever opportunity he gets in the big leagues next season.

Larnach is 26, which is still young for a major-league hitter. But it also isn’t that young. Ryan Jeffers, 27, debuted only one year before Larnach. Jeffers also didn’t have a clear path to playing time and was injured for most of the second half of the 2022 season. Matt Wallner also had more sustained success than Larnach in a shorter amount of time. Wallner racked up a 1.9 fWAR season in only 76 games compared to Larnach’s 2.1 fWAR over three seasons and 188 total games. Injuries haven’t impacted Wallner’s young major league career like Larnach’s, but it means he’s lower on the team’s outfielder hierarchy.

Larnach needs more time to show he can put up serviceable volume stats. But his 96 career wRC+ is a below-average clip. So what can he do to raise his overall production?

One answer is to strike out less. Larnach has always struck out a lot. It comes with the power that enticed the Twins to select the 2018 College World Series champion. But somewhere between his 33.6 career strikeout percentage and the 22.1 league average strikeout clip would be ideal for Larnach’s big-swinging bat. It’s not like Larnach is a free-swinging hitter. His 12.7 percent walk rate in 2023 was a career-high and well above the 8.4 percent league-average walk percentage.

There’s no magical formula to consistently putting the bat on the ball more consistently. It can be different for every hitter. In Larnach’s case, he needs to develop his ability to hit different pitches. Larnach has hit the fastball and slider passably for Larnach, but he has struggled to hit the curveball. According to BaseballSavant, he recorded a -2 run value over each of the last two seasons against the breaking pitch. Trouble with the curve also meant it was his lowest-rated pitch according to that same metric.

He doesn’t necessarily have to get better at hitting the curve if he can crush the fastball in the coming years. Edouard Julien had a solid rookie season built on the foundation of crushing fastballs with a 12-run value off of the four-seamer in 2023. The secondary pitches he faced were a mixed bag, with no other pitch being higher than a 3-run value. If Larnach can’t time up the curveball, he needs to use his patience to get a fastball over the plate and do damage against the heater.

Trevor Larnach still has plenty of time before we call him a bust. However, time is running out for him to be one of Minnesota’s core hitters. Getting some consistent at-bats is a start. But he needs to limit strikeouts while learning to hit curveballs or absolutely crush fastballs instead. There is not a wide-open path for Larnach on Minnesota’s current roster, so Larnach needs to take advantage of his opportunities in 2024 if he wants to work his way back to becoming a core player.

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