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Seven possible first base replacements in the Twins organization

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If Joe Mauer retires, who could open 2019 at first base for the Twins?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think I’m truly ready to grapple with the emotional impact of Joe Mauer‘s potential retirement, but it’s probably time for a little speculation on what the fallout would be. The franchise cornerstone has provided the latest installment in an unprecedented run of positional stability at first base for the Minnesota Twins. Assuming Mauer does not start at first base on Opening Day 2019, his replacement will be only the sixth man to do so in the last twenty years. Ron Coomer and Chris Parmelee each served as the team’s opening day first baseman for one year, and outside of those two anomalies, only three men have been the Opening Day first baseman since 1999: Doug Mientkiewicz, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer.

Below are seven (because Mauer wears #7, get it?) internal options the Twins could consider starting at first base to open the 2019 season, assuming Mauer does not return. The order roughly represents how likely I think it is to happen. Of course, the Twins could always swing another trade or sign a free agent, and render this discussion moot.

Tyler Austin

The 27-year old first baseman is part of the return the Twins garnered from trading Lance Lynn to the Yankees. In 123 plate appearances since arriving in Minnesota, Austin has hit .241/.293/.500 with nine home runs and nine walks. These seem to line up fairly well with his career numbers. Austin has played in the big leagues in parts of three MLB seasons, and will be out of options. He seems to be a lock to make the opening day roster for the Twins, but the question is if he is their first baseman, designated hitter, or a bench bat.

Miguel Sano

For years now, a move to first base has been predicted for the big Dominican third baseman. Despite this, both the team and Sano seem committed to his playing third for as long as possible. Sano’s struggles at the plate in 2018 would make the move highly detrimental to the team, as he would be a vastly below average hitter for a first baseman, yet we all know the potential that exists in his bat. The team currently has no viable replacement for Sano if they did move him from third base, which should be a consideration as well.

Logan Morrison

The Twins technically hold an eight million dollar team option on Morrison for 2019. With only a million dollar buyout, it seems unlikely the team will exercise that option, but it’s not impossible. Morrison struggled mightily in 2018, but much of that can be attributed to lingering injuries. A more likely scenario is for the team to buy out Morrison, and offer him a smaller “prove-it” contract for 2019, if they still believe in the slugger.

Brent Rooker

Rooker is a relatively recent draft pick, but has been rocketing through the Twins organization. He spent all of 2018, his second professional season, at double-A Chattanooga. Rooker hit .254/.333/.465 in the Southern League this season, and is slated to play in the 2018 Arizona Fall League. A good fall showing could easily open the door to a Spring Training competition. Compared to other candidates, his relative lack of professional experience and significantly longer team control means Rooker is more likely candidate to open the season at Rochester. He is a versatile player, spending nearly as much time in left field as at first base, so that could factor into roster construction as well.

Willians Astudillo/Mitch Garver

Neither of these guys are actually a first baseman, but both have played there this season for the Twins. They are listed together because the Twins will have three viable catchers for 2019 — with these two plus Jason Castro — and may be hesitant to carry them all on the 25-man roster. Rather than shipping someone to Rochester, could they convert one or two to part time first basemen? Both bats would play at the position. Astudillo is the more likely player to move, as Garver is the team’s short-term future at catcher. Garver does have a nasty concussion situation he is recovering from though, so that could complicate his future behind the dish.

Kennys Vargas

Vargas has played in 236 games with the Twins over four seasons, but never quite seemed to put things together. He has hit .252/.311/.437 in the big leagues, but pairs those numbers with a lot of strikeouts and sub par defense. Vargas also seems to have fallen out of favor in the organization, being removed from the 40-man roster, and not receiving even a cup of coffee at the big league level in 2018.

Zander Wiel

Weil is a 2015 Twins draft pick that spent most of 2018 destroying baseballs in Chattanooga. He hit .311/.382/.446 against Southern League pitching. He was a late call-up to Rochester, and struggled in his 58 plate appearances at the higher level. Still, at 25-years old, its hard to call him much more than organizational filler, so if the team seeks a stop-gap and he has a good spring, there is a possibility he sees some time in the pros. It would take an incredible combination of injuries and spring struggles from other guys, plus a great showing from Wiel, for him to open the season with Minnesota.

Poll

Who will be the Twins’ Opening Day first baseman in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Tyler Austin
    (910 votes)
  • 8%
    Miguel Sano
    (136 votes)
  • 2%
    Logan Morrison
    (43 votes)
  • 4%
    Brent Rooker
    (67 votes)
  • 2%
    Willians Astudillo/Mitch Garver
    (36 votes)
  • 1%
    Kennys Vargas
    (24 votes)
  • 1%
    Zander Wiel
    (19 votes)
  • 25%
    Joe Mauer
    (430 votes)
1665 votes total Vote Now