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Twins middle infield, a great problem to have

What to do with the Twins middle infield

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Twins shocked baseball nation (or at least me) when they signed Carlos Correa to a three-year, $105.3 million deal, signaling the team's focus on, not the future, but the 2022 season. He is getting $35.1 million this year and has an opt-out after each of the first two years. On top of that the Twins dumped Josh Donaldson and acquired Gio Urshela along with Gary Sanchez.

This is all nothing new - what is new, is Carlos Correa landing on the IL with a bruised middle finger. This put the Royce Lewis, 2017 #1 overall draft pick, in the Twins lineup, to fill in for the 2012 #1 pick. Lewis being called up is something many have been waiting to see for years, especially after a year of ACL recovery in 2021. After batting .310 with 3 HR and 8 SB in St. Paul this year, Lewis has proven that he’s ready to regain his top prospect form.

He’s worked on lowering his leg kick and shortening his swing, and he’s proven that he can be a dominant defender. He’s the Twins’ top prospect, and his speed makes him a threat on the basepaths. The Twins will likely run into an issue though when Correa is healthy and they have no spot for Lewis up the middle or anywhere else.

It’s a good problem to have, but a problem indeed. Will sending Lewis back down be the answer? It seems inevitable to get him the at-bats he needs, especially after missing two critical development years.

Jorge Polanco is locked in at second base. The 2019 All-Star is off to a steady, if unspectacular, start for the Twins and has proven himself defensively on this team.

Luis Arraez also does not have a steady spot with this team, which is a travesty because in my opinion Arraez should be playing every single day, and you may have to convince me that he is not the best player on the team aside from a healthy Buxton. As it stands, in four MLB seasons Arraez is batting .312/.374/.400. He hits for contact, isn’t strikeout prone and has found his place nearly everywhere in the infield as well as left field. He needs to play every day, yes, even with a lefty on the mound. As of early May, Arraez is on the IL with COVID-19, but after that, ideally, the Twins need to find a permanent spot for him. I’m unfortunately not sure if it exists.

And then there’s Jose Miranda... The guy had a breakout season in the minors in 2021 batting .344/.401/.572 with a career-high 30 home runs. In fact, his AAA debut with the Saints happened to be on his birthday, June 29th. Oh, and he hit three home runs in that debut, one being a grand slam. Those are obviously some of his career highlights so far, but the 2016 second-round draft pick is another player who could make a name for himself on this Twins roster, but probably not this year, barring Twins injuries.

Arraez, Correa, and Polanco, when healthy, are the Twins' core men up the middle with now Kirilloff at 1B and Urshela at 3B. Sending Royce Lewis back to triple-A is what will likely happen, but what good is the number one Twins prospect across the river, especially when Correa, 27, has expressed interest in staying with the Twins long-term. Sure, AAA at-bats are beneficial, no doubt, but when looking ahead, do we see Royce Lewis as trade bait? Perhaps it’s too early to tell.

All in all, this is a good problem for this team. We have already seen the Twins’ depth be critical with a rash of early injuries. It also makes for a great experience at CHS in St. Paul for fans, and when there is an injury on the big squad, the callups already have chemistry with their teammates on the diamond, many of them playing together throughout the Twins farm system.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Lastly, we need to touch on another infielder, Miguel Sano. Sano tearing his meniscus could be detrimental to the 29-year-old’s career. He is finishing up a 3-year, $27 million contract extension he signed in January 2020. The Twins can give him $14 million next year or pay a $3 million buyout next winter. Sano has been a major disappointment for the Twins, but it’s not worth giving up on him yet. He is out indefinitely though, and his recovery will be crucial to his future with the team.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Oddly this is the second time Sano has been severely injured celebrating baseball success. In early 2019 he hurt his foot celebrating a winter league championship in the Dominican Republic. That injury landed him in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for a week. This knee injury - sustained during a Twins walkoff win - will be a much longer recovery.