Minnesota Twins 2017 Season Review: Outfield

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 20: (L-R) Eddie Rosario
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 20: (L-R) Eddie Rosario /

With the season completed, its time to look back on the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. Let’s take a look at the team’s outfield.

The Minnesota Twins have completed their season, and it’s now time to take a look back at was an exciting ride for Twins fans!

Puckett’s Pond staff are reviewing the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. This is the second installment of our position reviews. Be sure to check out our review of the catchers and infield. Here is a look at the 2017 outfield:

Left Field Starter: Eddie Rosario

Coming into the season, there was uncertainty surrounding what to expect from Rosario. He had shown flashes of a good hitting with a special knack for hitting pitches that it seemed he had no business hitting. That willingness to swing at pitches outside the zone was also was his biggest weakness. As a free swinger, strikeouts were too often the results of his at-bats.

By the middle of the season, it was apparent that Rosario had made some significant changes to his approach at the plate. From July 1st through the end of the season he hit .300/.338/.545 and added 17 home runs and 23 doubles. Rosario even threw a 15-game hitting streak into the mix.  Rosario’s success at the plate gave Molitor confidence in him to make him a regular in the middle of the lineup.

Making a judgment on Rosario’s defense is a bit tricky. The eye test said he was a plus for the team defensively in left field. However, defensive metrics don’t give Rosario quite the same positive review. No matter what the discrepancy is between those two evaluations, Rosario looks a lot more comfortable fielding than some of the left fielders the Twins have rostered in the past.

Center Field Starter: Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton continued to be a spectacle to watch in 2017. The leader of the #nothingfallsbutraindrops movement may have been the most significant non-pitcher involved in the Twins pitching staff’s improvement in 2017. So often we were able to follow Statcast and have it confirmed that Buxton had just made another incredible and near-impossible catch.

Buxton finished the season 2nd overall in defensive WAR only trailing shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Buxton remained in the lineup early in the season even amidst extreme struggles at the plate. The willingness of the coaching staff and teammates to stand by Buxton as he struggled at the plate were a testament to how valuable it is to have Buxton roaming center field day in and day out.

The Twins were greatly rewarded for sticking by Buxton’s side throughout his early season struggles. Buxton was slowly improving and then exploded in July. He went on from July 1st to hit for a .309 average, hit 12 home runs, and steal 16 bases. If this is the Buxton that starts 2018, the Twins may be seeing the All-Star center fielder they were expecting when that drafted him.

Right Field Starter: Max Kepler

Max Kepler rounds out the Twins trio of young outfielders. He may not have taken the leap forward that some expected of him or were hoping for him, but he was still a very solid everyday right fielder. He finished the season batting .243/.312/.425 and 19 home runs.

What hurt Kepler this season was as a left-handed batter he began to struggle greatly against left-handed pitching. On the year he only batted .152/.213/.240 against left-handers. Thankfully by the end of the season, it did seem as though he had figured out how to take better at-bats against lefties.

What also is a little concerning is that Kepler almost disappeared to finish the season. He only managed a .215 batting average from August to the end of the season. While he is defensively a plus for the Twins in right field, having the athleticism to cover center if needed, there appears to be work needed with his approach at the plate if he doesn’t want to end up in a platoon situation.

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Primary Backups: Robbie Grossman, Zack Granite

Robbie Grossman finally started to get some of the recognition he deserves in 2017. He may be awful in the outfield defensively but is a big asset with his ability to get on base. While playing both left and right field through the season when he wasn’t the primary designated hitter, Grossman hit .246/.361/.380. The Twins will need to make a decision on Grossman as he is up for arbitration this winter, but there is no question that he played his role well in 2017.

Next: Twins announce Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year

The next outfielder off the bench for the Twins was Zack Granite. After impressing at AAA Rochester with his speed and on-base ability Granite debuted in the majors on July 8th. He was unable to carry that incredible minor league performance to the majors as he hit .237/.321/.290. Granite did fill in well as a 5th outfielder and someone who could be used as a defensive replacement.

Others played minor roles in the outfield, netting stints in the outfield, but their primary position was elsewhere, like infielders Ehire Adrianza, Eduardo Escobar, Niko Goodrum, and Danny Santana before he was traded to Atlanta. Catchers Mitch Garver and Chris Gimenez also saw minimal time in the outfield.