Twins Notes: Larnach, Miranda, Rotation, Winder

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The Twins announced this afternoon they’ve optioned corner outfielder Trevor Larnach and infield prospect Jose Miranda to Triple-A St. Paul. Neither player will break camp with the big league club.

Larnach played in just under half of Minnesota’s games as a rookie last season. The former first-rounder and top prospect only managed a .223/.322/.350 line in 301 plate appearances, striking out at a 34.6% clip. Those swing-and-miss concerns resulted in the Twins optioning Larnach back to Triple-A in August, and he’ll start this season in the minors as well.

With a projected regular outfield of Alex KirilloffByron Buxton and Max Kepler, there weren’t everyday at-bats to afford to Larnach early on. The 25-year-old is still a valuable long-term piece for the organization, and they’d evidently prefer to get him regular run in the minors as opposed to having him start the year as a part-time player.

That’s also the case for Miranda, a 23-year-old who broke out with a huge .344/.401/.572 line between the minors’ top two levels. That earned him a place on the back half of Baseball America’s and FanGraphs’ Top 100 Prospects lists this winter, but he’ll head back to St. Paul to start the year. Minnesota has offseason acquisition Gio Urshela at third base, with Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez options at the keystone and designated hitter. Miranda, added to the 40-man roster in November, figures to get his first big league look at some point this year. That’ll be put on hold by the Twins enviable collection of infield depth.

Strong as Minnesota’s position player group looks, the team’s rotation is still a major question mark. The Twins entered the offseason likely needing to add three starters from outside the organization. They’ve done so, acquiring Sonny Gray from the Reds and signing free agents Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer. Each of Bundy and Archer comes with durability and performance questions related to tough 2021 seasons, though.

The Twins were recently connected to A’s starters Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea, both of whom would still be marked upgrades to the starting staff. The latest reports suggest Oakland could elect to keep both of those hurlers, and Montas in particular now seems unlikely to be moved before Opening Day. The Twins were linked to Montas/Manaea before they signed Archer on Monday, and it now appears they’ll break camp with a rotation of Gray, Bailey Ober, Archer, Bundy and rookie Joe Ryan.

In an appearance on SKOR North’s Mackey & Judd podcast this week, Darren Wolfson noted the Twins talks with the A’s had “stagnated.” Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press hears the A’s never made a formal ask for anyone from Minnesota in Montas and Manaea discussions. Wolfson suggests the Twins could be willing to revisit discussions on Montas and Manaea at some point, but Minnesota chief baseball officer Derek Falvey indicated this week the team is content with their existing rotation options. “We’ll always stay open-minded to everything,” Falvey said about the possibility of acquiring another starter (via Helfand). “I know I always say that, but that’s true. It’s just at this late stage as we approach Opening Day, it feels like the group is probably in this room.

Like every team, the Twins will need to rely on more than five starters throughout the course of a 162-game season. Righty Josh Winder, Baseball America’s #6 prospect in the organization, would appear to be the top depth option out of the gate. Winder has yet to make his MLB debut, but he pitched to a 1.98 ERA with excellent strikeout and walk rates (31.3% and 4.8%, respectively) in 10 Double-A starts last season. The Twins could start him in the St. Paul rotation, but manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com) today they’re open to carrying him with the big league club as a long relief option.

The organization no doubt views Winder as a starting pitcher long-term, but keeping him in the MLB bullpen could allow him to stay stretched out and get his feet wet in the big leagues. Given the rather thin rotation, the VMI product figures to be starting games before long.

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