Twins' No. 1 prospect has 'near-perfect camp'

Larnach homers as bid for Opening Day roster spot heats up

March 18th, 2023

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Brooks Lee earned an invitation to his first Major League camp this spring, soaked up all he could in 12 Grapefruit League games and on Saturday, the Twins’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline was reassigned to Minor League camp.

And what did Lee take away from more than a month with the Twins?

Just being with Major Leaguers; that's all that matters. I just want to feel comfortable and feel like I'm at home, and that's how I feel right now. I'm just excited at some point to get up there and reconnect with a lot of these guys.”

Lee, who finished 1-for-4 with a run-scoring single in Minnesota’s 7-4 loss to the Pirates at LECOM Park on Saturday, will likely start the 2023 season with Double-A Wichita, where he finished his short but remarkable ’22 campaign.

It wasn’t an unexpected reassignment, given the 22-year-old has only 31 games of professional baseball experience. Still, it was a disappointment to those who hadn’t yet seen MLB Pipeline’s No. 31 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline in action, as much as it was to Lee’s potential teammates like Carlos Correa, who was effusive in his praise for the youngster.

“Man, that kid is a stud,” Correa said earlier this month. “I really, really, really like this kid. I’m very, very high on him. Don’t be surprised if we see him up this year.”

“He had what I would call a near-perfect camp -- because nothing’s ever perfect, but he did everything and showed us everything that we would be hoping to see from him,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “… I’ll bet on the kid.”

Lee, a shortstop and the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, packed a lot in a small dose of baseball last season, slashing .303/.388/.451 across three Minor League levels and earning a late-season promotion to Double-A.

In addition to some more seasoning and being exposed to his first full professional season, Lee will likely also earn some reps around the infield, as his path to the Majors as a Twins shortstop was effectively blocked when Correa re-signed with Minnesota on Jan. 11 on a six-year deal worth $200 million.

Minnesota native Matt Wallner was also optioned to Minor League camp on Saturday. The outfielder, who debuted with the Twins in 2022, hit .207 across 11 Grapefruit League games.

Larnach continues to barrel forward
Whether Trevor Larnach will make the first Opening Day roster of his career depends on a number of factors, but the 26-year-old outfielder continues to do what he can to push his name into conversation.

On Saturday, Larnach -- who’s in the running for the fourth-outfielder gig as the club monitors Alex Kirilloff’s slow recovery from his second right wrist surgery -- finished 2-for-3 with a single, a homer and a walk to boost his spring average to .273 with five RBIs in eight games.

“You can just control everything that you can control and tackle it day by day and do what you need to do,” he said. “There will be some stress there, but at the same time, you just want to do the little things right and then throughout the period of time with Spring Training, hopefully, you'll have some good results.”

Larnach’s most recent successes included a line-drive single in the first inning off Pirates starter Mitch Keller, which came on a payoff pitch with two outs and left his bat at 104.5 mph.

Larnach also homered to lead off the fourth, boosting his second home run of the spring a Statcast-projected 408 feet to center field with a 100.4 mph exit velocity.

Kirilloff saw his first spring action on Saturday during a Triple-A matchup, finishing 0-for-2 and playing four innings at first base. Should he miss Opening Day, the door is wide open for Larnach. He admitted the opportunity to break camp with the Twins for the first time is on his mind from time to time, but only outside of the park.

“When you're in the game, you'd better not be thinking about that,” he said. “When you're in between the white lines, you're just in compete mode.”