Minnesota Twins – Injuries and Promotions

Matt Wallner, St. Paul Saints, August 2, 2022. Photo credit Minda Haas Kuhlman, @minda33 on Twitter, and @minda.haas on Instagram

As we finish off the 2022 season with the upcoming World Series, I wonder to myself if the Minnesota Twins could have been in the same boat as the Cleveland Guardians, having just played important #Postseason baseball. One of the reasons that they are not is because injuries plagued their season. It was mid-August, and the team was holding lead in the American League Central over two other teams that hadn’t necessarily earned the right to be the division leaders themselves. It was a surprise to me that this team was holding off the completion, but then on August 10th they would relinquish said divisional lead and never regain it the rest of the way.

The question as to why this happened can be summed up with one key and ugly word: injuries. The team had been holding off their opponents through timely hitting, unheralded pitching, and a bit of good luck, but all of that only took them so far. The Twins were so ravaged by injuries this season, that they had to use so much of their farm system in order to not only field a team but also remain in the hunt for the division title. In total, Minnesota sent 32 players (tied for third most in MLB) to the Injured List in 2022, for a total of 2,363 days (second most in MLB), leading to a lot of makeshift roster construction.

As a result, the long-term planning for their future had to be accelerated, since fielding a team in the majors supersedes proper development in the minors. Looking back, there was a long list of players that made their Major League debut due to varying circumstances. Below are some thoughts on the players that were called up due to necessity, as opposed to being a part of the plan.

Louie Varland

2022 Minor League Accolades – Jim Rantz Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award Winner
2022 Minor League Numbers – 126.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 146 SO (AA and AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – 2023
Performance – 26.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 SO
Thoughts – Varland got better as his time with the team went on, which included a great performance to end his season against the White Sox.
Next Season Projections – He will likely get sent back down to properly develop in AAA, as he was only given a handful of games to do so. His call-up was rushed to the point of being almost a full year earlier than expected.

Matt Wallner

2022 Minor League Accolades – Sherry Robinson Twins’ Minor League Hitter of the Year Award Winner
2022 Minor League Numbers – .277/.412.542/.953, 27 HR, 95 RBI, 9 SB (AA and AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – 2023
Performance – .228/.323/.386/.709, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB
Thoughts – Originally thought of as aggressive, this call-up seemed to fall in line nicely, since he looked comfortable at the plate and gave him important at-bats heading into next season.
Next Season Projections – It’s unknown what the outfield will look like for the Twins, but Wallner definitely should be given a chance to compete for a spot. With Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, and Alex Kirilloff scuffling through injuries this year, it could be Wallner’s time to shine.

Jermaine Palacios

2022 Minor League Numbers – .283/.341/.462/.803, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 12 SB (AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – September 2022
Performance – .143/.184/.229/.413, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB
Thoughts – Palacios was never really a big part of the plan, but when Royce Lewis went down, the team needed some depth. He wasn’t ready for this, and he looked overmatched and unqualified.
Next Season Projections – Claimed off waivers by the Tigers.

Caleb Hamilton

2022 Minor League Numbers – .233/.367/.442/.808, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB (AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – 2023
Performance – .056//.227/.222/.450, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB
Thoughts – Similar to Palacios, Hamilton might have been someone that the Twins’ organization wanted to see if they could develop him into someone more than they had, but timing and circumstances forced their hand.
Next Season Projections – Claimed off waivers by the Red Sox.

Simeon Woods Richardson

2022 Minor League Accolades – Longest last name in MLB history
2022 Minor League Numbers – 107.1 IP, 2.77ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 115 SO (A and AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – 2023
Performance – 5.0 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3 SO
Thoughts – One of the team’s prized possessions, Woods Richardson made a somewhat surprising start for the team to end the season, and showed everyone why he’s so highly touted.
Next Season Projections – He will likely compete for a spot in the rotation, and be called up shortly after the season begins should he not make the big league roster. He is the real deal, and next season might be the one for him.

Ronny Henriquez

2022 Minor League Numbers – 95.1 IP, 5.66 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 106 SO (AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – 2024
Performance – 11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9 SO
Thoughts – It was originally believed that Henriquez needed two years to develop, but with how his year was going, that could have been accelerated somewhat. That said, this seems early.
Next Season Projections – He could be a piece of their bullpen going forward and an option for spot starts should the team need him unless they want to give him more seasoning in the minor leagues.

Mark Contreras

2022 Minor League Numbers – .237/.317/.418/.734, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 23 SB (AAA)
Estimated Original Timeline – mid-2023
Performance – .121/.148//.293/.441, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB
Thoughts – Despite being 27 years old, Contreras likely needed more development this year and next to see if he can build upon last year’s growth. Nonetheless, this may be who he is.
Next Season Projections – He will probably start the year in the Minor Leagues, though if he can’t continue to develop, his current performance might be his ceiling, which may also result in him being a deep-depth piece for the team.

Going forward, the Twins have a lot of decisions to make. As a result of adding so many new names, they currently have a plethora of extra players listed on their 40-man roster right now. While some decisions are easier than others, such as the Palacios and Hamilton ones, others may result in key pieces being let go due to the numbers game catching up with the team. A lot of development that usually takes place slowly against talent from an equal playing field had to be put on the back burner as these players were thrown into the fire.

Any team that is striving to compete for the playoff spot should not have players like Mark Contreras and Jermaine Palacios getting at-bats and playing time, and both have already been claimed by other teams for their development system. Digging even deeper, other players like Gilberto Celestino and Louie Varland both had their playing time accelerated due to the fact that Minnesota could not field a fully healthy team. It will be interesting to see how the team trims its roster heading into the Rule 5 Draft, who they protect, and what they do in the offseason as we head towards a likely competitive season next year. The minor league system has been compromised due to the competitive nature of the Twins in 2022, and decisions will be made by the team that will tell us what the future holds for the franchise. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota will spend money in free agency for next season or build from within. Those decisions will be important as the team figures out whether or not continue promoting players or restocking their somewhat-depleted farm system.

Dave Funnell covers the Minnesota Twins minor leagues for Prospects1500. Located just south of Toronto in the city of Hamilton, he's an hour away from Buffalo (and the Bisons). He's been a fan of baseball his entire life and doesn't have a favorite team, which hopefully gives way for objectivty in analysis. Dave is in multiple keeper fantasy baseball leagues and is active on Twitter at @sportz_nutt51.

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