After the All-Star break, the Twins appeared ready to start a rotation of Joey Gallo, Donovan Solano and Alex Kirilloff at first base, with Kirilloff as the primary starter.
Initially, the Twins’ scheme worked well, highlighted by Kirilloff winning AL Player of the Week for July 17-23, hitting .345/.394/.793 (1.187) with three home runs, two doubles, one triple and four multi. -Hit games. Unfortunately, Kirilloff was placed on the 10-day IL with a shoulder problem in late July and has been out ever since.
Twins Current Status at First Base
With Kirilloff placed on the 10-day IL, the Twins have given significant playing time to Gallo and Solano.
On the surface, Gallo and Solano’s numbers since Kirilloff went to 10-day IL are shockingly incredible. Let’s look at their numbers from July 30.
- Joey Gallo: .240/.406/.600 (1,006), 32 PA, six hits, three home runs, 40.6% Strikeout Percentage (K%), .360 Isolated Power (ISO), 177 wRC+
- Donovan Solano: .500/.538/.542 (1,080), 26 PA, 12 hits, zero home runs, 15.4% K%, .042 ISO, 213 wRC+
To begin with, these numbers are incredible. But, if you dig below the surface, there’s more than meets the eye.
If you took Gallo’s 4-for-4 performance against the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend, he’s hitting .095/.296/.238 (.534) in 27 plate appearances with two hits, zero home runs, 48.1% K %, .143 ISO and a wRC+ of just 64.
Gallo’s incredible 4-for-4 game shows how one meaningful game can manipulate how great or innocent a player’s numbers can look in a small sample, but it also changed the way those who follow the Twins perceive Gallo , at least in the short term.
Had Gallo not gone 4-for-4 with a walk and instead gone 1-or-4 with a single and a walk, Twins followers would have been just as willing to move on from Gallo as less than one. week before. Gallo bought more time, but his one-off performance shouldn’t be seen as the start of an uptrend for Gallo, but rather as an isolated event that likely won’t happen again.
On the other hand, Solano has been a good player and the numbers he’s put up since Kirilloff was put up in the IL are nowhere near Gallo’s mirage. The only problem is that Solano suffered a sprained right knee while facing the Detroit Tigers last week, which looked much more serious in the initial game.
Solano returned on Sunday, going 3-for-5 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite hitting well, Solano seemed to struggle physically during the game, showing signs of pain during his at-bats.
In the game Solano returned to the Twins lineup, catcher Christian Vázquez played first base. Vázquez starting at first base won’t become normal, but it shows how the Twins are desperate to find capable players to play first base for now.
Another new element to this equation is Jordan Luplow. Despite being designated as a first baseman, Luplow has only played 113 1/3 league games at first base, with 107 1/3 of those coming with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2021.
Luplow, in theory, could play first base, but the Twins seem willing to play him in left field against left-handed starters, as evidenced by the fact that he has played 27 innings in left field and just three innings in first. base with GEMINI.
Gallo, Solano, Vázquez and Luplow would work as a rotation at first base, but what if another member of the Twins’ 26-man roster could play first base? And what if that player had been stuck in a positional lease with the aforementioned Vázquez, yet deserved more at-bats?
Why not Ryan Jeffers?
Jeffers has been incredible since Kirilloff was placed on the 10-day IL and deserves increased playing time, and this is where he could slot in perfectly at first base. Here are Jeffers’ numbers as of July 30:
- .278/.381/.694 (1,075), 42 PA, ten hits, four home runs, 33.3% K%, .417 ISO, 191 wRC+
Jeffers’ numbers are impressive and fit the criteria for what an above-average first baseman’s ideal stats would look like.
Despite matching the first base archetype, there is a caveat. Jeffers, 26, has pitched five career innings at first base, which came in 2021 with Triple-A St. Louis. Paul Saints.
Jeffers’ lack of playing time at first base is a cause for concern, and despite popular belief, first base is not a rudimentary position that anyone can adequately play. There are nuances and complex placement assignments that can be difficult for players to learn, especially on the go.
That said, first base is one of the lower positions on the defensive spectrum, and as seen with Vázquez, the Twins seem willing to push their limits at the position. So why not put in a player who has contributed at a near-elite offensive level for some time?
Another asset Jeffers has is that he is a right-handed hitter. Playing the right-handed hitting Jeffers at first base would give the Twins more flexibility on when to platoon against left-handed starting pitchers.
For example, the Twins could play Jeffers at first base, Vázquez at catcher, Solano at designated hitter, Luplow in left field, and so on.
The Twins are in a pinch at first base and have been forced to play Gallo in almost every game, even when facing left-handed. With Solano still injured and Kirilloff likely not back until at least late September, the Twins may be forced to take an unconventional approach at the position for the final months of the season.
Instead of continuing to give significant at-bats to a struggling Gallo and an injured Solano, or being forced to play Vázquez in a position where his defensive value is essentially diminished, the Twins could get the best of both worlds by playing offensively and broad. -frame Jeffers.
Do you think the Twins should give Ryan Jeffers a look at first base? Comment below.
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