Minnesota Twins 2018 positional recap and 2019 predicitons, part 6: Outfield
By Matt Smith
Join us for part 6 of a series recapping the 2018 Minnesota Twins season position by position as we examine the past, present, and future of the outfield.
If you’ve missed any previous episode recapping the Minnesota Twins‘ season and predicting 2019, here are some links where you can get caught up with what we’ve already covered:
The outfield was one of the more stable places in the Twins’ lineup in 2018. Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave, and Robbie Grossman took care of the majority of the time in the outfield, with Byron Buxton, Ryan LaMarre, Johnny Field, and several others getting some time as well. With LaMarre and Field no longer with the team, we’ll focus in on the others.
Heading into the season, the Minnesota Twins’ outfield was pretty well set. Rosario would take left, Buxton would take center, and Kepler would take right. No surprises there. There was more room for debate over who should get time as backup. Robbie Grossman had experience and has played decently enough in the past, so he figured to get some time. Zack Granite hadn’t had a ton of success in his 40-game stint in 2017, but was an intriguing player to consider given his blazing speed and history of success in the minors. In the end, it was Grossman and Ryan LaMarre that earned spots on the active roster to start the season after Granite had a disappointing spring training that would set the tone for the rest of his year.
For a while, the grouping was set. Then, less than a month into the year, Buxton suffered the first of multiple injuries in 2018 after migraines forced him to miss enough time to warrant a DL stay. LaMarre took over as the primary center fielder, performing well to start the year with a .283/.340/.283 line through May.
Buxton returned to action on May 10th, lasting only until May 29th before returning to the DL thanks to a reoccurring issue with a fractured toe. It would wind up being the last time that Buxton would play in the MLB in 2018.
In a rehab stint in the minors in July, he had an injury to his hand, and later, his wrist, which lingered until late August. Then on August 1st, Buxton learned he would not be recalled for September, ending his season. In what was hoped to be a year where he could take some steps forward, it was another incredibly disappointing season for Buxton.
Meanwhile, LaMarre and Jake Cave split time in Buxton’s absence before LaMarre was claimed by the White Sox after being DFAed to make space for Jorge Polanco, opening the door for consistent playing time for Cave. He took advantage of this opportunity, playing solid baseball for the Minnesota Twins. Cave would end the year with a .265/.313/.471 triple slash along with 13 home runs in 91 games. He showed some incredible power as well, hitting some baseballs to places very few people have done before-
The corner outfield positions, meanwhile, were much more stable. Eddie Rosario had a fantastic season in left, finishing with a line of .288/.323/.479 and 24 home runs in 138 games. Max Kepler was a mainstay in the outfield as well, appearing in 156 of the Minnesota Twins’ 162 games. Kepler played mainly right field, but also got some time in center.
By average, Kepler had a down year, hitting just .224. But his OBP of .319 was right on with his career averages, and he reached the 20-home run mark for the first time in his career after finishing with 17 in 2016 and 19 in 2017. Robbie Grossman played well in 2018 too, finishing the season with an OBP of .367, best on the team.