Minnesota Twins: Projecting a Twins Infield for the Playoffs
By Otto Johnson
With just eight games remaining for the Minnesota Twins, it’s time to look forward to what the Twins’ infield would look like in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Twins are marching towards the playoffs, with their spot as a Top 5 seed guaranteed. With that locked in, it’s time to start making some guesses about the 26-man postseason roster.
While we’ve already gone over some of the tough decisions the Twins have had to make as well as questions they’ve had to answer, we’re getting down to the end of the road for season, with a playoff series against the New York Yankees looking more and more likely (again).
Over the past three days, I’ve gone over a possible postseason rotation as well as what a potential playoff bullpen, so now it’s time to check out the infield. The infield has been a little banged up throughout the season, but as they get healthy at just the right time, no one is off limits for the postseason run. Let’s get started with the catchers.
Minnesota Twins Catchers
2020 Stats: 20 G, .148 BA/.243 OBP/.197 SLG%, 7 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 7-30 BB-K, -0.3 WAR
Yes, Mitch Garver has been absolutely awful in 2020. This is the worst season of his career, and he has only played for a third of it. The batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage are all worst on the team. I know this. You know this. But he will still make the team.
The Twins like to stick with what they know, and that’s Garver. Despite his awful year, he was a Silver Slugger winner last year and was the catcher for all three games in the playoffs last year. On top of that, he’s still a very good defender, even improving some of his defensive metrics behind the plate.
2020 Stats: 22 G, .191/.367/.298, 6 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 11-21 BB-K, 0.4 WAR
Alex Avila has also had a rather awful season. Avila has the third worst batting average and slugging percentage on this team. On the flip side, Avila has been very very good at one thing: getting on base. Billy Beane would be thrilled.
Avila’s .367 OBP is third best on the team among players who have played at least ten games. That’s really solid for a secondary catcher. In addition, he has 35 postseason games under his belt and he’s playing some of the best defense he has in his career. I also think he’ll make it here.
In my opinion, Ryan Jeffers should be the first catcher to make this team. He may be a rookie, but he leads all Twins catchers in games, homers, RBI, average and slugging. On top of that, he has the least number of strikeouts and trails Alex Avila by just two points in OBP.
In addition, neither of the above catchers have been as good defensively as Jeffers, as he has looked like one of the top defenders behind the dish since getting settled in at the major league level.
I want the Twins to take Jeffers over Garver, but Jeffers hasn’t started since Garver was activated, and they aren’t fond of rookies in the playoffs. I think we are looking at the highest performing catcher missing the roster in favor of a couple of veterans. This would be a mistake.
Minnesota Twins Middle Infielders
2020 Stats: 51 G, .264/.313/.363, 20 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 13-31 BB-K, 0.0 WAR
We’ll start with the easiest call to make. Jorge Polanco will start at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins in the playoffs. Polanco has played in more games than any other player but one this season, making 51 appearances and doing a solid job.
No, he hasn’t been the All-Star and MVP contender threat he was last year, but he’s consistently been an average hitter when the rest of the team has struggled to find that consistency. That’s good enough to be mentioned first here.
2020 Stats: 30 G, .288/.336/.337, 14 R, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 8-11 BB-K, 0.4 WAR
Luis Arraez hasn’t been the batting average competitor we expected him to be in 2020, but he’s arguably been a better overall player in 2020. His slash line is pretty solid for a contact guy, and he was on quite a hot streak before his injury. But that’s not even his biggest improvement.
Arraez’s defense has improved by LEAPS AND BOUNDS from 2019. He has turned himself into a plus defender, an area where he struggled last year. He’s an absolute lock to start almost every game at the keystone in the playoffs.
2020 Stats: 48 G, .209/.283/.323, 13 R, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 16-37 BB-K, -0.2 WAR
Marwin Gonzalez has been forced into a key starting role in 2020, playing more games in than all but four players in 2020 and it simply has not gone well for him. He has been a negative player and simply not a good starter.
However, he has proven to be a valuable utility bench player throughout his career, and though this should be his last season in Minnesota, he has 33 games of playoff experience and will be a key reserve on this playoff roster.
2020 Stats: 40 G, .177/.270/.241, 9 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 10-19 BB-K, -0.2 WAR
Another player who likely won’t return in 2021, Ehire Adrianza should be replaced by Nick Gordon as the infield utility man next year. Adrianza has been dreadful as a starter forced into duty by injuries. With that being said, the Twins trust him, and the Twins won’t bring up a rookie this late into the season.
Minnesota Twins Corner Infielders
2020 Stats: 49 G, .212/.287/.512, 30 R, 13 HR, 25 RBI, 17-84 BB-K, -0.1 WAR
The league leader in strikeouts for 2020 (he’s currently 10 ahead of second place), Miguel Sano has not had a fantastic season in 2020. Yes, he had a bit of a hot streak midseason, and yes, strikeouts and batting average aren’t everything. But he has struggled a little bit both offensively and defensively.
It’s ok though. His defense will improve at first, and he’ll bounce back to hit for more average next year. He’s still a very valuable power bat and a pretty good clutch hitter. Settle in, because Sano will be at first in the playoffs.
2020 Stats: 25 G, .243/.380/.514, 13 R, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 16-23 BB-K, 0.6 WAR
Josh Donaldson hasn’t been healthy for most of 2020, but when he has, he’s done exactly what he was expected to do. Donaldson has been a phenomenal defender, hit home runs, and has gotten on base often, all while proving to be a fiery addition.
He hasn’t hit for average, but that’s not his biggest strong suit. Twins fans should be very comfortable with Donaldson manning the hot corner. On top of all that, Donaldson has 39 postseason games to his name, and has been very good, adding playoff experience to a team that needs it. He’s been worth the money.