Who Will the Twins Send Down When Royce Lewis Returns?

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Royce Lewis is on a rehab assignment with the St. Paul Saints, and his return to the Minnesota Twins lineup before his 25th birthday on June 5 appears to be a real possibility.

Lewis has been out of the Twins lineup since the third inning of Opening Day following an oblique strain that removed him from the game. He went 2-for-2 before his exit, hitting a lead-off home run.

Whenever Lewis returns, the Twins must make a roster move that will shake up their lineup. There are three candidates for being sent down to Triple-A or cut from the team once Lewis is activated: Trevor Larnach, Edouard Julien, or Kyle Farmer.

Larnach has hit well following his three-run home run on Monday in the Twins’ 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals, but he has minor-league options. However, his last 15 games have been better than his first 12 with the Twins this season. He’s cooled off significantly, posting a .188 batting average, a .250 on-base percentage, and a .250 slugging percentage in his last 40 at-bats.

However, keeping Larnach on the roster gives the Twins more flexibility for players like Willi Castro and Alex Kirilloff because they don’t have to be the full-time platoon in left field. But they could option him if Larnach’s bat doesn’t heat up before Lewis returns.

Conversely, Julien is going through a sophomore slump. The 25-year-old French-Canadian has shown meaningful improvements defensively, but he’s being too selective at the plate.

As of Monday, he’s only drawn two walks in his previous 40 plate appearances, a baffling stat for the team leader in walks (23). Per FanGraphs, his strikeout rate is sixth in MLB (34.1%), solidifying that he is becoming too selective of a hitter. Julien is still showing flashes of his hitting abilities in May, but he’s posted a .188/.288/.203 and a .491 OPS.

Many of his stats indicate that he should be sent back down to St. Paul when Lewis returns. He’s overcompensating to swing at the perfect pitch every time. They can get by at second base by shifting Willi Castro into the full-time starting role against righties and starting Farmer in a platoon of left-handed starters.

If they don’t send Julien down, they could demote Farmer. A month ago, it looked like his career was all but over. He finished the month of April with a .121/.250/.190 triple slash and a .440 OPS. However, he turned things around in May, hitting .250/.300/.357 and a .657 OPS in 30 plate appearances.

Farmer’s poor performance in March and April limited his playing time in May. Minnesota’s front office needed signs of improvement to keep him on the roster. And they got them. Farmer has looked much better and regained confidence. Therefore, they aren’t going to cut him when Lewis returns.

Furthermore, Minnesota doesn’t have much MLB-ready infield depth in Triple-A. Tony Kemp, 32, is one option, but he’s also a left-handed hitter who’s only hitting .203/.330/.351 in 22 games with the Saints. Brooks Lee is still on rehab assignment himself. However, he has moved up to continue that assignment with Low-A Ft. Myers. Long-time Twins farmhand Michael Helman is another option; he’s coming off a hot week in Buffalo, hitting .250/.354/.468 with a .822 OPS for the Saints.

Regardless of how players perform at Triple-A, the Twins can’t afford to risk any depth in the organization as summer begins. That’s why optioning Julien for Lewis makes the most sense.

Julien has shown throughout May that he is not his best self at the plate. He needs to do something to fix it in Triple-A, where there is not as much pressure to deal with the daily grind. The Twins can manage with Castro and Farmer splitting time at second base in his absence. Hopefully, while they do, Julien can tear up Triple-A pitching and find his way back to form.

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