Minnesota Twins 2018 positional recap and 2019 predicitons, part 6: Outfield

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 20: (L-R) Eddie Rosario
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 20: (L-R) Eddie Rosario /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 13: Jake Cave #60 of the Minnesota Twins hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 13: Jake Cave #60 of the Minnesota Twins hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Looking forward

Rosario, Buxton, Kepler, Cave, and Grossman are all under contract though 2019 and beyond, so the Minnesota Twins have a lot of options for the upcoming season. Eddie Rosario will return to left field, and a healthy Byron Buxton will get a fresh start at another year in center. Though he’s under performed thus far in his career, Buxton still has MVP-caliber talent, so the Twins will give him every opportunity to succeed. Max Kepler has been solid in his 3-year career, posting WARs of 2.2, 2.0, and 2.8, and as an all around solid player, will likely be the final starter in the outfield in 2019.

Jake Cave makes things a little bit interesting. He had a great start to his career and ultimately could develop enough to challenge one of the starters for an everyday role. He will likely start the year as the Twins’ main 4th outfielder and get fairly consistent playing time while giving the starters off days, potentially drawing starts at DH as well. Cave showed the Minnesota Twins a lot of potential, so the team is going to want to keep him in the lineup and let him continue to develop as much as possible.

While Robbie Grossman isn’t a great defender and doesn’t have much power, he’s been a solid hitter over his 3-year tenure with the Twins and could prove to create an interesting situation for the team. He’s entering his 2nd year of arbitration and likely would be looking for an increase in pay after earning $2 million last season.

He’s a solid guy to have around as he gets on base at a great rate, but he’s fairly one dimensional as a hitter and doesn’t bring as much to the table as other options the Twins have. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back with the team for another year, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins try to trade him to another team for a meager return.

He simply doesn’t fit in to the long term picture and shouldn’t take away at bats from someone like Cave. While spending a few million on Grossman wouldn’t at all hurt the Twins, there’s also other ways the team could use that money given that they already have enough options in the outfield.

Zack Granite is worth mentioning here as well. He’s clearly on the outside looking in in terms of earning a spot on the active roster to start 2019, but he will be looking to put a disappointing, injury-plagued 2018 season behind him and get back to what has been a pretty successful track record in the minors. It’s hard to imagine him knocking off Cave as the 4th outfielder out of spring training, but Granite could get some time at some point in the upcoming season, particularly if someone goes down with an injury.

That’ll more than likely pretty much do it for the Minnesota Twins’ 2019 outfield. With 2 starters in Rosario and Kepler that’ll be good for a full season, another spot reserved for Buxton as we hope he’ll figure things out and become the perennial All Star he very well could be, and another slot reserved for Jake Cave, there’s no good reason for the Twins to look too hard at an outfielder in free agency. There’s a couple guys that could be interesting options, but our outfield is pretty well set already, so I doubt there will be any surprising news on that front.

Finally, we have to mention Alex Kirilloff. After missing all of 2017 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he exploded back onto the scene, finishing 2018 with a .348/.392/.578 line along with 20 home runs and 101 RBI in 130 games, 65 with A level Cedar Rapids, and 65 with A+ level Fort Myers.

The fantastic season earned him rave reviews, and he is currently listed as the 10th best prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline’s rankings. While the future is very, very bright for him, it’s doubtful that he makes his MLB debut in 2019. The highest level he’s played at this far is A+, so he’ll likely start there to start the year and, if all goes well, earn an early promotion to AA after picking up where he left off.

It wouldn’t be impossible for him to earn a September call to the bigs, but it’s much more likely that he debuts at some point in 2020. If he continues to rake this year, the Minnesota Twins could have an interesting situation with 5 solid outfielders competing for 4 slots, but that would be a good problem to have. Regardless, the team will wait to cross that bridge when they come to it.