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How might the Twins deploy their utility players in 2020?

With only nine positions to go around, who might see the field... and where?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
“If all utilities are owned, rent in opponents’ heads is 10 times the amount shown on the dice.”
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

While the Minnesota Twins prepare for the 2020 season this spring, observers have already mentally set the projected starting lineup and several key reserves. However, the versatility of those reserves raises the question as to where they will play when set in the lineup, especially given the offensive potency of the starters. Let’s go over these players one by one.

(Note that below, “appearance” means playing any part of a game in a certain position, so a player who starts a game at second base then moves to shortstop receives an appearance at both positions despite only playing in one game. If total appearances exceeds games played, this is why. All stats from Baseball Reference.)

Marwin Gonzalez

Primary positions: corner infield & outfield

González played in 114 games in 2019, most frequently in right field (44 appearances) due to Max Kepler shifting to center with Byron Buxton injured, but also often at third base (40 appearances) with Miguel Sano missing part of the season. As Josh Donaldson has played in at least 155 games in five of the last seven seasons, González’s appearances there may be limited this season. His outfield appearances will depend on Buxton’s health, so first base may be his best option if either Sanó or Nelson Cruz (with Sanó presumably shifting to DH) needs a spell. Additionally, if the Twins elect to ease Buxton into the season, a strategy I suspect Buxton would resist, González could step in some games in right field with Kepler (84 appearances last season in right, 60 in center) shifting to center as before.

Ehire Adrianza

Primary positions: infield

In each of his three seasons in Minnesota, Adrianza has played in more games than he ever did in a season as a Giant. His 84 games in 2019 featured 24 appearances each at third base and shortstop and 20 at first base. The corner spots have been discussed above, so Adrianza’s use could mirror González’s there. However, Adrianza’s appearances in the middle infield suggest more usage there... or rather, they would if Jorge Polanco hadn’t led the Twins with 155 games played last year, and Luis Arraez missed just 10 games during his temporary and permanent call-ups. Still, Adrianza may appear there if Rocco Baldelli emphasizes defense in certain lineups.

Willians Astudillo

Primary positions: catcher, corner infield

In just two seasons as a major leaguer, La Tortuga, a catcher by trade, has appeared at every defensive position except shortstop, and in his first 16 appearances last season batted in every spot in the lineup. Over the course of 2019, Astudillo played in 58 games, his most frequent appearances coming at catcher (21), first base (15), and third base (13). Astudillo’s potential appearances at the corner infield spots fall into the same discussion as above, so let’s shun repetition and focus on catcher. With Jason Castro now an Angel, the Twins signed Alex Avila, a defensive rather than offensive catcher (.235/.348/.396 career slash line), as Mitch Garver’s primary backup, while Astudillo (3-8 in a three-game sample size this spring) is not considered a lock for the 26-man roster. Still, should he make the team, he should receive cameos at catcher when Baldelli rests Garver and wants Astudillo’s contact-heavy bat in the lineup.

Of course, it is still February, and much may change between now and the start of the 2020 regular season. Between potential injuries, trades, and players over- or underperforming, the Twins roster is not nearly set in stone. A month will pass before fans have a chance to learn how these players are utilitized, and the only certainty is that they will be on the field, no matter where, if Baldelli and company believe they have a chance to help the team. In recent seasons, they have.