Heading down to Fort Myers to being Spring Training and kick off the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the Twins have plenty of storylines. With players such as Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Alex Meyer all possibly debuting in 2015, the prospect wave will finally get off of the ground. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Twins may have somewhat of an issue when it comes to first base.
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In 2015, Joe Mauer will be 32 years old. He is once again coming off a season in which he missed a considerable amount of time. Not to mention, he posted the worst season of his career after moving over to first base. Although I do believe he will bounce back in a big way during the 2015 season, first base could be a cause for some concern.
Mauer has never played in more than 147 games in a season during his career. Over the course of the last two seasons, he played in 113 and 120 games respectively. Injuries happen, and it’s part of the game, but the Twins contingency plan doesn’t appear to be in sight either.
Kennys Vargas is currently slated to start as the opening day designated hitter for the Twins. He will rotate through that position with Mauer, and backup catcher Josmil Pinto. In the field, Vargas is Mauer’s backup, despite being less than ideal defensively. Therein lies the problem. Should Joe Mauer miss time again this season, who picks up the slack?
On the 25 man roster, the only true option would appear to be Vargas. Both utility players, Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez would be completely foreign at the position. Should the Twins call up Miguel Sano, it would stand to reason that Trevor Plouffe could play the spot, and maybe even to a higher ability level than that of Vargas. Plouffe has played first for the Twins previously, and an eventual move to the position, or to a corner outfield spot seems likely. Maybe the Twins could even try out Sano at first base. The problem is that behind those patchwork possibilities, there is nothing.
A quick look through the Twins farm system provides very few answer. Minnesota has no first basemen on amongst their top 20 prospects. Brock Peterson, who plays first base at Triple-A Rochester, is 31 years old and is a career minor leaguer. Mike Gonzales and Nate Hanson both play first base for Double-A Chattanooga, but neither would be ideal candidates to play at the major league level. Dalton Hicks, the Fort Myers Miracle first basemen, may be the prospect with the highest upside. At 24 years old in Single-A however, it’s hard to count on him ever contributing.
What it all boils down to is that should Mauer miss significant time again, the Twins will no doubt have to get creative. In a season that they should take significant strides forward, Minnesota will once again lean on Joe Mauer to shoulder a load he hasn’t in recent seasons. There are in-house options that could fit, but the Justin Morneau replica is nowhere in sight.
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