A new core of the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects are starting to come up to the big leagues after years of growing in the Twins farm system, and it’s an exciting group. Some of the first names that come to mind are top prospects like Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis, both of whom are considered among baseball’s best prospects.
This new group of Twins’ prospects is deep though. Aside from the Top 5 (Kirilloff, Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic, and Jhoan Duran), there are some other guys on the horizon, including outfielder Brent Rooker.
A first round choice by the Twins in 2017 crushed his way through the SEC at Mississippi State and raked in the minors on his way to being ranked as Puckett’s Pond’s No. 11 Prospect from midseason last year.
Rooker made his big league debut in 2020 and played in just 7 games for the Twins before a serious forearm injury that required a procedure that ended his season ended his big league Those seven games were quite impressive though, as he did rack up 5 RBIs on 6 hits, with 2 doubles and his first major league home run along with a .960 OPS.
With multiple options in the Minnesota Twins’ outfield this year, the question has to be asked: Where can Brent Rooker find a home on the Twins in 2021?
There is no question that he can hit the ball and hit it far. His 65 grade power is some of the best in the system. One big question for Rooker’s future is his strikeout rate. Consistently making contact is something the Twins will want Rooker to improve on as he continues to get big league at bats.
In 2019, he had a strikeout rate of 34.7 percent while in AAA and nearly 10 percent higher compared to his time in AA in 2018. For comparison, Miguel Sano usually hovers around a strikeout range of around 34-38 percent.
While hat’s not to say that Rooker can’t be a productive hitter, there’s a good chance he will be but his issues with swinging and missing might hold him back from earning a starting spot. That and the fact that a loaded Twins team (outfield especially) means he doesn’t truly have an easy path to playing time.
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Rooker has moved all over the diamond in the minors and has spent time in the outfield, at first base, and as a DH. With that in mind, there are a few other spots possible. He could end up in left field with the departure of veteran Eddie Rosario, but that seems unlikely with the Twins already calling up Kirilloff in the postseason. He’s the clear favorite for that corner outfield spot
Rooker doesn’t have the defensive ability or speed to play center field, and with Byron Buxton and Max Kepler locked in at those spots, it doesn’t look like he’ll be there anyway. On top of that, Larnach is working his way up the pipeline, and Jake Cave is the fourth guy, so it seems like that might not be his home without drastic changes or injuries.
Designated Hitter is probably the most ideal spot for Rooker, as it allows him to only hit and not showcase his defense. Up until last week, when the Minnesota Twins re-signed Nelson Cruz, that option might have played out, but with Cruz now back, it’s not likely. DH also isn’t really a spot that teams like putting a young player at so early in their career.
The last spot he could go is first base, but Sano just moved there and the Twins likely won’t want to move him again so fast. Both of them are right-handed power hitters as well, so there isn’t much use in splitting time for matchup purposes. The bottom line here really just boils down to bad timing and a log jam of players at his positions.
With that being said though, Rooker has the talent and the power to be a good big league bat, especially off the bench. He’s already proved his time in the minors and will be 26 on opening day, so he’s looking to find a spot somewhere.
For now, his 2021 role will most likely come as a platoon player who gives guys in the lineup a day off and an important injury insurance player. There is a lot of value in a player like that. The Minnesota Twins loved having that lineup flexibility with players like Marwin Gonzalez, who saw plenty of action in that kind of role.
While it doesn’t look like Rooker will be a primary starter for the Minnesota Twins in 2021, he can still be a big part of this lineup. If he can find a way to get some at-bats and bring the strikeout rate down just a bit, there’s no doubt he’ll find an everyday position at some point.