Questions surrounding the 2021 Twins in spring training
Can Mitch Garver find his swing again?
Garver tore the cover off the baseball in 2019, mashing his way to a .273/.365/.630 slash line and 31 homers in 311 at-bats. Last season, however, was a different story. Garver missed about a month of the 2020 campaign with a right intercostal strain. He played 23 games and slumped to a .167/.247/.264 slash line and two homers in 81 plate appearances. Of course, Garver isn’t the only player to have had a rough 2020. We don’t put much emphasis on spring training stats, but a solid camp would give the Twins confidence Garver can be the main guy behind the dish.
Will the Jorge Polanco experiment at second base go smoothly?
Polanco was the Twins’ opening day starter at shortstop in three of the past four campaigns. However, free-agent signee Andrelton Simmons will fill that role in 2021, shifting Polanco to second base. Polanco has five big-league starts at second, all coming in 2016, but he did play 200 games (193 starts) there in the minor leagues. The transition should go smoothly, but it’s worth keeping an eye on during camp.
Who will start the season in left field?
Every spot in the Twins’ lineup looks set for opening day besides left field. And there aren’t a shortage of names competing for the starting role in spring training. Jake Cave has the most experience of the bunch, having played 205 games for the Twins from 2018-20, although just 15 of those have been starts in left field. Alex Kirilloff, a consensus top-two prospect in the Twins system who made his MLB debut in the 2020 playoffs, is another option. If everything goes in the Twins favor, Kirilloff will be the long-term solution in left. But will he be ready for the role right away? Brent Rooker, who played seven contests for the Twins in 2020, would be a nice option to platoon in left and get a few at-bats at designated hitter. And are there at-bats in left available for Luis Arraez in his new utility role? Speaking of which …
Just how many positions will Luis Arraez play?
In 2019, utility man Marwin Gonzalez played six different positions (RF, 3B, 1B, LF, 2B, SS) in the field. Last season, Gonzaelez appeared in 23 games at third base, 21 at second, 14 at first and eight in right field. With Gonzalez out of town, Simmons at shortstop and Polanco at second base, Arraez will don the utility role for Rocco Baldelli. Over his two-year career Arraez has played 73 games at second base, 18 in left field, 15 at third base and eight at shortstop. He’ll likely see the most action in the infield, but it will be interesting to watch how much action Arraez gets in left field during spring training.
Who will win the fifth starting spot?
The top four positions in the Twins rotation are set with Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pierce and J.A. Happ on the rubber. The fifth spot looked like it was Randy Dobnak’s job to lose until Minnesota reportedly signed Matt Shoemaker ahead of camp. When Shoemaker is healthy, he’s a solid pitcher, logging a 3.86 ERA and 8.1 K/9 over 112 career appearances (104 starts). However, Shoemaker hasn’t pitched more than 31 innings in a season since 2017. Does he have anything left? If Shoemaker can prove he’s healthy enough and performs well in spring training, the job might be his, solely because Dobnak has minor-league options remaining.
Who are the non-roster invitees to watch for?
Minnesota invited 19 players not included on its 40-man roster to spring training. In a typical season, there are usually one or two players on this list who end up making a big impact on the club. Of course, Twins fans will keep a close eye on Trevor Larnach and Royce Lewis, a couple of former first-round picks who are likely a year or so away from the big leagues. One of the dark horses to make the big-league club is Keon Broxton, a 30-year-old outfielder known more for his glove than his bat. After smacking 20 homers for Milwaukee in 2017, Broxton has bounced around the big leagues, but he could push the Twins young players for the fourth outfielder spot. Juan Minaya could help out the bullpen. The 30-year-old right-hander allowed 12 runs and fanned 27 hitters in 27 2/3 innings (3.90 ERA) for the Chicago White Sox in 2019. He was signed by the Twins last season but never appeared in a game.