Minnesota Twins: The Rise of Kyle Garlick, the Lefty Killer

Minnesota Twins left fielder Kyle Garlick heads to first base after being walked. (Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Twins left fielder Kyle Garlick heads to first base after being walked. (Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Minnesota Twins got news late Sunday that Kyle Garlick would be back from a rehab assignment and would be activated for this week’s massively important series against the Cleveland Guardians (who are right on the Twins’ heels).

This is massive news for the Twins, who need Garlick’s bat back in the lineup as soon as possible. How does a player who has averaged 26 games per season become such a key member of the Minnesota Twins lineup? It’s easier to explain when you first take a look back at when he arrived in Minnesota.

How did Kyle Garlick become one of the Minnesota Twins’ most indispensable players?

In 2019, Garlick first debuted in the big leagues as a 27-year-old with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was never a top prospect, but the 28th-Round pick in 2015 slowly made his way to the majors. Despite producing well (.842 OPS and 117 OPS+ in 30 games), the Dodgers didn’t have room for him next to Joc Pederson, AJ Pollock, Alex Verdugo, and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger.

He was shipped to the Phillies for a pitching prospect, and after an unproductive season he was waived in the 2020 offseason twice, first by the Phillies, then by the Braves. The Twins claimed him the second time around, bringing him to Minnesota for the 2021 season.

If you look at his overall numbers from last year, it’s easy to be a little unimpressed. His .232/.280/.465 slashline is rough (outside of an above average slugging percentage), and his .745 OPS and 102 OPS+ are simply average. In a down year for the Twins though, he got extended play, and Rocco and the front office confirmed one thing: Garlick could mash lefties. Here were his stat lines against lefties and righties in 2021:

  • vs. RHP: 22 G, .175/.250./.300, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4-13 BB-K, 53 OPS+
  • vs. LHP: 22 G, .271/.302/.576, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 2-19 BB-K, 133 OPS+

They kept in on the roster for this season, with the plan of emphasizing those splits even further, playing him against almost exclusively against lefties, putting Garlick in a spot to succeed. With the struggles that both Max Kepler and Trevor Larnach had against lefties in the past, it was a good plan. This year, it’s gone even better than the team could have expected. Here are his splits and overall line in 2022:

  • vs. RHP: 15 G, 30 PA, .179/.233/.321, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2-4 BB-K, 58 OPS+
  • vs. LHP: 21 G, 38 PA, .313/.395/.781, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 4-9 BB-K, 222 OPS+

Garlick has become a legitimately elite bat against lefties this year. He’s more patient, striking out less, swinging for more power, and dominating. What’s more, the Twins are winning when Kyle Garlick is playing.

In games when Garlick plays, the Twins are 17-11 (.607 winning percentage) and 11-5 (.688) when Garlick starts. He might never become an everyday player with a below average glove and serious struggles against righties, but Garlick has turned himself into an invaluable member of this team.

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