I know it’s not a fun thing to think about. Cross your fingers, knock on wood, rub your rabbit’s foot, say your prayers. But what happens if Miguel Sano, or Nelson Cruz, or Josh Donaldson, sustains a long term injury?
Nelson Cruz is 39 years old. Miguel Sano has an extensive injury history (although he does seem to be authentically in good shape this spring). Josh Donaldson’s injury history has been exaggerated (he’s only played under 150 games in a season as a full-timer twice, and one of those was a 113-game season), but there is always that possibility. What would the Twins do if one of these guys went down for an extended period of time?
If Cruz Goes Down
Here’s what I would forecast happening if Nelson Cruz goes on the DL for an extended amount of time:
Miguel Sano picks up the majority of at-bats at DH
Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza split first base duties
Twins call up Jake Cave (or Willians Astudillo, depending on which makes the squad)
Obviously, losing Cruz would be a huge blow for the Bomba Squad. However, the Twins have the depth to handle the loss without dropping off too much. Miguel Sano would probably do the majority of DH-ing in this scenario, although I’m sure the Twins would keep working him in at first base to keep him sharp. However, Gonzalez and Adrianza are capable (but not great) first basemen and would be able to handle the duties passably. On days when Sano plays in the field, you’d probably see Gonzalez or Ehire Adrianza spelling Donaldson at third, who could then DH. Assuming Jake Cave doesn’t make the team, he would get called up to perform fourth outfielder duties while Gonzalez is playing lots of infield.
If Donaldson Goes Down
Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez split third base duties
Twins call up Jake Cave (or Astudillo)
This would probably be the easiest scenario to deal with for the Twins, even though losing Donaldson would obviously be a big blow to the lineup. Third base was Gonzalez’s best defensive position last year (versus first base, which was his worst meaningful-sample-size position), which makes this a more attractive option than if Cruz went down. Again, Cave would get called up to help handle the outfield duties while Gonzalez is preoccupied.
If Sano Goes Down
Marwin Gonzalez splits first base duties with....
Brent Rooker gets called up and he platoons at first base
This is the scenario I was really interested in talking about today. If Miguel Sano goes down, that leaves the Twins without a true first base-type on the roster. Gonzalez and Adrianza could split the duties, but if the Twins were going to be without their everyday first baseman for an extended period, I would guess they’ll give the new kid a shot. The reason I don’t think they’d do this if Cruz got hurt is that with Sano, Adrianza, and Gonzalez all in the fold, I would guess they’ll just use DH as a rest spot and rotate those three in at first, which would be somewhat of a log-jam. If Sano were to be out for awhile, it would be a good opportunity for the Twins to see what they have in Rooker while he is still able to play every other day or so.
Rooker may have been called up last year, if not for a groin injury in the second half. He scorched the ball at Triple-A after June 1st, hitting .319/.463/.572 in 41 games. That’s a guy that has figured out Triple-A and is ready for the majors. Rooker has hit well at every level of the minors and has made necessary adjustments. He does strike out quite a bit (think Miguel Sano), but he also can mash (54 dingers in 254 career games). He’s another corner outfield/first base type in the Twins system, and so has been overshadowed by his younger peers Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach. However, he’s a promising player in his own right, and I’m excited to see what he can do if he gets a cup of coffee in the majors this year.