Matt’s 2019 predictions
The first factor in predicting the Minnesota Twins’ first base scenario for 2019 is deciding whether or not Joe Mauer will retire. If I had to guess right now, I would say Mauer is leaning towards retirement. I don’t have any insider information or anything, but the vibe I’m getting is that while he still feels like he has some gas in the tank, he’s leaning towards calling it a career to prevent any more potential concussion issues and to be able to spend more time with his family.
With Mauer retiring, we’d be left only with Tyler Austin. I think Austin is a great candidate to become our next starter, and I’m really interested to see what he can do over a full season. But, the Twins will want a backup as well so they can give Austin some off days. This is where things get a little more difficult to predict.
I think 2019 will be a great time for Brent Rooker to debut and start getting some experience. There’s certainly an opportunity for him, with Austin the only other first baseman currently in the organization and close to or in the majors, and Rooker is getting pretty close to being MLB-ready and has some skills that should play well. But, I think the Minnesota Twins organization would prefer to give him a few more months in AA or AAA rather than starting him in the majors. There’s certainly a chance that he could win a roster spot out of spring training, particularly if the Twins don’t bring in any outside competition, but I think in a perfect world, Rooker wouldn’t debut until midseason.
That makes things a little difficult, though. You don’t want to sign a free agent to be a backup for half a season (and I really don’t want to bother with any of the first base free agents not named Joe Mauer, anyways), but half a season is a little bit too long to try make it work with the people we have know. We could go back to the situation of having Garver play more first base and let Castro and Astudillo catch, but I still think that’s less than ideal.
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Thus, I’m not entirely sure what the Minnesota Twins will do at this point. Austin is a given to make the roster, and he should be the starter for the majority of the season. If Mauer doesn’t retire, then this dilemma has an easy solution, as Austin and Mauer will be the guys, probably with Rooker still debuting at some point. If Mauer does retire, then it’s more of a tossup to me. If I was forced to decide what to do in that situation, I would have Austin as the starter and Rooker as the backup out of spring training, just because there’s not an ideal backup first baseman already on our roster, and no free agent outside of Mauer seems worthwhile to me at first base. However, if Rooker struggles in spring training or doesn’t appear to be ready for whatever reason, I don’t have a good prediction of what will happen to start the year.
At the end of the day, Austin is a lock, with whoever is behind him being more of a tossup. It will be one of the many story lines to watch throughout the offseason.
The 2018 Minnesota Twins first basemen had a pretty disappointing season. Logan Morrison, to put it nicely, didn’t work out, and Miguel Sano wasn’t a weapon. We did see another solid season from Joe Mauer, perhaps the last season of his career, and Tyler Austin gives us something to look forward to in 2019. First base will likely be one of the positions with the most changeover from 2018 to 2019 for the Minnesota Twins, and it will be interesting to see what comes of the position behind Tyler Austin.