How Twins look at first base ahead of '24

January 14th, 2024

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There’s no way around it: This has just been a weird position for the Twins throughout Rocco Baldelli’s managerial tenure. That doesn’t look like it’s going to change in 2024. There’s intrigue, upside and a veritable hodgepodge of possibilities -- but no real clarity and probably not a ton coming.

As part of the 708 regular-season games managed by Baldelli in five seasons, no one player has made more than 198 appearances at first base. The biggest chunk went to the Miguel Sanó experiment, and nine other players have made at least 20 appearances for the Twins at the position in that time.

They are, in descending order of games, , C.J. Cron, Donovan Solano, , Luis Arraez, Joey Gallo, Willians Astudillo, Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza.

Traditionally, first base has been a position for one of a team’s best hitters. For the Twins, it recently has been more of a situation of somebody standing there because that’s where the guy fits that day with the lineup mixing and matching. It’s a position that the Twins have really used more for the sake of flexibility due to the less demanding defensive needs.

With that flexibility comes plenty of options -- but each of those options comes with a big question mark.

Where things stand 
Current MLB depth (with 2023 stats):

Kirilloff: Age 26, 88 G, 0.4 bWAR, 120 wRC+, 11 HR, .270/.348/.445
Miranda: Age 25, 40 G, -0.2 bWAR, 57 wRC+, 3 HR, .211/.263/.303
Edouard Julien: Age 24, 109 G, 2.6 bWAR, 136 wRC+, 16 HR, .263/.381/.459
Kyle Farmer: Age 33, 120 G, 1.7 bWAR, 101 wRC+, 11 HR, .256/.317/.408

Also on the 40-man roster:

Yunior Severino: Age 24, 120 G in Minors, 35 HR, .272/.352/.546

As the roster stands, the Twins could use a Kirilloff/Miranda platoon as their primary first-base options, with another bat from each side of the plate available behind them in Julien (left) and Farmer (right). The Twins, however, really tried hard in 2023 to keep Julien at second base, and the need for Farmer was more at second, shortstop and third.

The Twins still believe in Kirilloff’s bat -- why wouldn’t they, considering he has hit well when healthy? They would love for him to seize the position and run with it and bring that stability -- perhaps even limiting the need for a platoon at all. He’s the closest thing they have on the roster to a more traditional big bat at the position.

The next man up on the 40-man roster is Severino, a late bloomer whose power suddenly exploded in 2022. He tied for the Minor League lead in homers last season, convincing the Twins to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. There are still questions about the bat -- he’s going to strike out plenty -- but he can hit the ball hard, a long way, from both sides of the plate.

Key questions: Many 
There’s enough talent here on paper that it’s difficult to say the Twins are in bad shape, but every option comes with a big asterisk.

For Kirilloff: Can he finally stay healthy? 
Recurring right wrist issues led to two surgeries, and then a lingering shoulder problem troubled Kirilloff throughout the 2023 campaign and led to his removal from the club’s ALDS roster. Health has never been his strong suit -- he also underwent Tommy John surgery as a Minor Leaguer -- which has left the Twins waiting for Kirilloff to fully unlock his sky-high potential. Could this be the year?

For Miranda: What on earth happened in 2023? 
The hope was that Miranda would build off his productive rookie campaign with a breakout sophomore season. Instead, he was never at full health due to a nagging elbow injury and ineffective when on the field, leaving significant questions about his future. Can he build back into form and be a viable half to the platoon?

For Julien: Will he be needed at second base instead? 
There’s little to no question that Julien will be a productive hitter. But will it be at second base? There’s a crowd with Royce Lewis fixed at third base and -- for now -- Jorge Polanco fixed at second, though that’s where Julien took over at the end of ’23, pushing Polanco to the hot corner. If Polanco is traded, Julien is presumably the everyday second baseman -- but what, then, happens when Brooks Lee enters the mix?

For Farmer: Will he even be on the roster? 
The Twins agreed to a one-year deal with a 2025 mutual option with Farmer at Thursday’s deadline to exchange salary arbitration figures. But as a trade candidate all offseason, will Farmer even still be in the mix when the season arrives?

In the pipeline 
There’s nobody among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects for the organization.

This isn’t a huge surprise, considering prospect lists usually prioritize athleticism and potential. The Twins’ most notable first-base prospect was 2020 first-round pick Aaron Sabato, whose struggles to hit in the low Minors have led to his falling off prospect lists.