After a couple weeks of spring baseball are in the books, the most intriguing position battle for the Minnesota Twins is probably at first base. Returning slugger Tyler Austin is competing with waiver claim C.J. Cron and veteran Lucas Duda to earn the nod as the Twins primary first base option—and with Marwin Gonzalez, Mitch Garver, and eventually Miguel Sano all able to handle the position—quite possibly only one of the three will make the squad.
Here are the three viable options for the Twins’ “regular” first baseman’s spring training (through Wednesday night) batting line, presented without names:
Player A .313/.476/.438
Player B .364/.533/.909
Player C .211/.211/.263
It sure looks like we already have an odd-man-out, but spring training stats are meaningless and highly variable, so let’s look at a couple larger samples. The players are in the same order.
Player A .241/.313/.418
Player B .253/.323/.493
Player C .230/.280/.471
Player A .242/.337/.452
Player B .260/.311/.461
Player C .232/.290/.469
Are you starting to see the same pattern I am? Players A and B are far superior bats to Player C, with a slight edge going to Player B. You also may have figured out by now who the players are. Player A is Lucas Duda, Player B is C.J. Cron, and Player C is Tyler Austin.
Defensively, all three players profile similarly, with a slight edge going to Austin, but not by nearly enough to offset the offensive gap.
Despite the fact that he is the youngest of the three options, I don’t see an obvious path for Austin to land on the 25-man roster, and he will likely be traded or lost on waivers before the end of March.
That leaves us with Cron, the obvious favorite anyway due to the contract he signed with the Twins this offseason, and Duda. Since Cron has outperformed Duda consistently, he is likely the top option even with the contract factor taken out. Duda being on a minor league contract means he can start the season in Rochester, and step up in case of injury or poor play.
There is a chance, however, for the Twins to build a great platoon. Duda is a left-handed batter with strong splits. Cron hits from the right-handed side of the plate, but has nearly no platoon split for his career. DH Nelson Cruz, however, is a right-handed batter with a heavy platoon split. Could you use Cron more-or-less every day, while bringing in Duda as either the first baseman (with Cron at DH) or as the DH on days when tough lefties are pitching? I think it makes a lot of sense.
If you keep Duda on the bench, you do lose a bit of versatility — at this point in his career, its probably a stretch to ask him to even fake it at any other position, but a team with Marwin Gonzalez and likely either (or both) of Ehire Adrianza and Willians Astudillo has plenty of positional flexibility anyhow, and allows the Twins the luxury of carrying an old-school “bench bat.”
In all likelihood, Cron will go to Minneapolis at the end of the month, while Duda and his minor-league contract will be sent a few hours east, to Triple-A Rochester. Austin, who is out of options, will likely not make the cut, and will be traded or lost on waivers. Which player do you think the Twins will make their first baseman to start camp?
Twins starting first baseman—who ya got?
This poll is closed