As the 2021 season began, most felt Twins outfield prospect Trevor Larnach would get the chance to break into the Twins’ big league lineup at some point in 2021, or at least be at the ready when the need arose. That time came on Friday when Byron Buxton headed to the injured list with a hip strain and with fellow prospect Alex Kirilloff already on the IL.
Larnach was in uniform for the Twins’ opener at Detroit on Friday. The 24-year-old said he “shed a few tears” upon learning of the callup.
“There's a whirlwind of emotions, and I wish I could let you guys understand how this feels,” he said, speaking with reporters over Zoom prior to the game. “But it's something that I’ll never forget. It's definitely amazing. I’ve worked my whole life for this.”
Larnach, the organization’s No. 3 prospect and No. 68 overall on the Top 100 list, has hit pretty much wherever he’s been. The Twins’ first-round pick, No. 20 overall, in the 2018 Draft, left Oregon State with a career .311/.428/.517 line, numbers that all shot up after a huge junior season (.348/.463/.652) on a team that also included fellow 2018 first-rounder Nick Madrigal, now with the White Sox, and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, currently the Orioles’ top prospect.
He’s carried those tools over to his pro career to date. He reached full-season ball in his first pro summer and hit a combined .303/.390/.500 in 42 games. That trend continued during his first full season in 2019, when he reached Double-A and finished with a .309/.384/.458 line. After going 0-for-3 in the Triple-A opener with St. Paul this year, he went 3-for-10 with a pair of homers over his next two games.
“Trevor’s a guy that's put himself in position by just going out there and putting up numbers and working hard and doing everything he [could possibly be asked] to do,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He's got a very potent left-handed bat. When you hand him a bat, he's a guy that knows what he's doing, he has good at-bats, he knows the strike zone, he's a big, strong young man. He can drive the ball to all fields. He’s a good hitter.”
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect more of the same from the left-handed hitter. He was drafted as an advanced college hitter with a solid approach and that’s exactly who he is. He makes consistent hard contact and controls the strike zone incredibly well, with his career .384 on-base percentage as proof. The strikeouts have gone up a bit (22.9 percent K rate in 2019 to bring his career rate up to 21.8 percent), but he continues to draw a lot of walks (10.9 percent BB rate in his career). His ability to manage the zone will help him mitigate any slumps and his ability to adjust to another level of pitching will be another plus in his favor. This is a player who has the chance to hit .300 in the big leagues on a regular basis.
It’s not just empty average, either. Larnach’s power took a jump forward during his junior year at Oregon State, when he homered 19 times, thanks to a swing adjustment. He hasn’t found the seats quite as consistently, but he has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He had 30 doubles and 13 home runs in his first full season and hit two balls out during his time in big league camp this spring, not to mention the pair of homers he hit once the Triple-A season began. While he’s never going to be the type to sell out to get to his power, there will be more as he keeps improving at turning on pitches on the inner part of the plate to his pull side.
Larnach is a below-average runner, but he’s not completely devoid of defensive value. He has a strong arm and has shown enough instincts to play a solid right field, the spot he’s largely played during his pro career.
During his time up, look for him to get opportunities in either corner, while Jake Cave and/or Max Kepler can take over in center for the injured Buxton. It’s unclear how long either Buxton or Kirilloff will be out for, but it’s reasonable to expect Larnach to make the most of his opportunity and swing the bat well. It’s his ability to hit that got him to the big leagues and it’s what will keep him there, even if this first opportunity is limited to the amount of time his teammates are on the shelf. And that’s exactly what Twins fans can hope for if Larnach is given the chance to take his hacks against big league pitching.