Minnesota Twins: Giving the players their final letter grades
By Chris Schad
Grading the infield
C.J. Cron: B+
When the Twins picked up Cron last offseason off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, many Twins fans were having Logan Morrison flashbacks. Instead of matching Morrison’s ineffectiveness in the Twins lineup, Cron brought some much-needed power to the first base position after beating out Tyler Austin and Lucas Duda in spring training. Although a thumb injury slowed him down, he still smashed 25 home runs and added a potent bat in the middle of the order.
Marwin Gonzalez: C+
Gonzalez was a late addition to the Twins roster after signing in spring training, which may have contributed to his slow start (.167 BA in April). Once he got going, however, he was a solid bat in the lineup and his defensive versatility was a blessing once the Twins got hit with the injury bug. With his final numbers (.264, 15 HR, 55 RBI) falling in line with his career averages per 162 games (.264, 16 HR, 62 RBI), the Twins pretty much got what they paid for.
Schoop was another one of the Twins’ trademark bargain basement signings, but he still put up solid numbers (.256, 23 HR, 59 RBI) that were worthy of his $7 million salary. The issue was getting Schoop to hit in the clutch, hitting .218 with one home run and four RBI in Baseball-Reference’s late and close situations while raking (.273, 10 HR, 27 RBI) when the Twins were either four runs ahead or four runs behind.
Luis Arraez: A
While Schoop left some things to be desired, the rise of Arraez was one of the biggest storylines of 2019. Originally called up during Nelson Cruz‘s first stint on the injured list, the 22-year old continued his rampage through the Twins system by hitting .334 with four home runs and 28 RBI. With Schoop’s impending free agency, Arraez appears to be on track to be the Twins’ second baseman in 2020 and beyond.
Jorge Polanco: A
It’s possible not even the Twins could have predicted the type of season Polanco had even as they signed him to a big contract extension last spring. The 25-year old had a career year, hitting .295 with 22 home runs and 79 RBI and even started for the American League in the MLB All-Star Game. His emergence was well received at the major league level but might cause questions as top prospect Royce Lewis rises through the system.
As the Twins’ utility infielder, Adrianza was fine during the season. His .765 OPS was a career-high and his .416 slugging percentage was his best in a full season. The 29-year old is what he is at this point in his career and as a fill-in to help some of the players get their days off, he was an admirable fill in when he was called upon.
Miguel Sano: B
To put Sano’s season in perspective, he came out of his “Heavyweights” inspired demotion from 2017 and dropped about 40 pounds before injuring his heel in a Dominican League championship celebration. After missing most of the first two months, Sano came back and delivered the power the Twins expected with a career-high 34 home runs and .923 OPS. On the negative side, Sano struggled with his consistency and struck out 41 percent of the time.
Mitch Garver: A+
As much as the Twins were surprised with Polanco, the real shock for the Twins was the rise of Garver. Coming into this season with just seven home runs on his resume, the backstop exploded for 31 in 2019. His rise was also accentuated by his improvement defensively, as he improved his pitch framing to squeeze everything he could out of the Twins beleaguered starting rotation.
If we were factoring in entertainment value, we might be bumping up Astudillo to an A. However, there’s a lot of things that are to be desired. Sometimes the theatrics get the best of La Tortuga and his .678 OPS was a sign of his lack of patience at the plate (five walks in 240 plate appearances) and a BABIP (.258) that fell off dramatically from his 2018 campaign (.341).
Jason Castro: B
After two underwhelming seasons with the Twins, Castro bounced back from his knee injury that ended his 2018 season to post solid numbers this season. While he was originally signed to be the Twins’ everyday catcher, he became a fine platoon-mate with Garver, hitting .254 with all 13 of his home runs coming against right-handers. As a pending free agent, it will be interesting to see if he comes back or looks for a starting role somewhere else.