For the past five years leading up to 2019, the Minnesota Twins have had a steady first basemen in Joe Mauer. For the first time in those five years, the Twins had to make a decision on a new first basemen, so they took a chance on 29 year old C.J. Cron. The Twins picked up Cron off waivers from the Rays and gave him a $4.8 million contract. He is a solid first basement who will hit .250/.320/.490 and hit over 20 home runs but most Twins fans don’t seem to like Cron at all from what I see on Twitter. Lucky for them, they may not have to deal with him for much longer if a few key prospects pan out.
Heres the first key basemen at each of the first three levels:
- MLB: C.J. Cron, Marwin Gonzalez
- AAA: Brent Rooker
- AA: Alex Kirilloff?
With Marwin Gonzalez under contract he may be the first basemen next year but it’s much more likely we see him stay in a utility role. Instead I would expect to see a lot of Brent Rooker in 2020. He played 47 games at first base last year while also spending some time in the outfield at the AA level. Over 130 total games last season he hit for a .798 OPS but that is overshadowed a bit from a stretch from May 7th to July 30th he hit for a .292/.368/.578 line (.946). He also hit 22 total home runs in 2018.
Someone I would compare him to is the White Sox Jose Abreu. Both have relatively the same build, both are right handed and they have a lot of the same strengths. Abreu has consistently hit 25-30 home runs with an OPS of .870 which should be Rookers ceiling. If Brent Rooker continues to mash pitchers at AAA this year then we could see him here at the all star break but expect to see him in September at the latest.
The other player who is definitely in the Twins future plans is on base machine Alex Kirilloff. He has played outfield for his entire minor league career but with Rosario, Buxton and Kepler already holding down the three outfield spots, Kirilloff may need to move positions and throughout the 2019 season he will get some playing time at first base. Both Rocco Baldelli and Derek Shelton have talked about him moving there and I think it would be a great fit for Kirilloff.
Coming into the 2018 season, Alex Kirilloff was a bit of a question mark after missing all of 2017 due to a Tommy John surgery but he certainly crushed those questions and went off for an unbelievable season. He hit for a line of .348/.392/.579 (.971) over A and A+ and was clearly one of the most elite hitter in all of the minors.
A player comparison for Kirilloff is Joey Votto. They both hit left handed, both are 6 foot 2 coincidentally and will hopefully play the same position soon. Oh and Alex Kirilloff’s nickname is literally "baby Votto". They both get on base at an elite clip and will both consistently hit about 20 home runs. Votto is on a hall of fame track and I believe the ceiling for Kirilloff is definitely Joey Votto. The bat plays and he will force his way onto the roster. He has to play somewhere and that will likely be first base.
Overall I feel that first base is one of the best suited positions for the future, behind maybe only shortstop. Two of the Twins top six prospects will soon be playing there and will force their way onto the roster at some point. Expect to see Rooker at some point this season and then Kirilloff sometime in 2020.