Remember When Edouard Julien was Bad at Defense? Those Days are Over.

Edouard Julien, Minnesota Twins
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when the Minnesota Twins weren’t sure whether they could move on from Jorge Polanco this past offseason, even with Edouard Julien’s emergence in 2023 as a viable MLB 2nd baseman.

Much of that had to do with concerns surrounding Julien’s defensive liabilities. Making his way through the minors, Julien made his MLB debut last season. His bat played immediately. His defense, unfortunately, did not.

A 2019 18th round pick out of Auburn, Eddie Julien originally decided to return for another year of college after being picked by the Twins. That was until Derek Falvey & Co found some additional draft pool funds to sway his decision.

Edouard Julien suddenly more than serviceable at 2nd base

Looking back at recent success stories for the Minnesota Twins, and there are certainly a few, Edouard Julien stands out among the best of them. And those defensive concerns started to dwindle late last year. Now, he seems to have pulled a complete a 180 at 2nd base.

In 2023, Julien owns a -3 DRS (defensive runs saved) in 2023, he was able to push the OAA (outs above average) total to a neutral zero by season’s end. This year, those improvements have gone into overdrive.

In 2024, Eddie owns a four OAA tally through the first third of the season, which ranks him in the top-five among big league second baseman.

Minnesota Twins infield teammates helping Edouard Julien

Making sense of how this is happening requires a multi-faceted approach. First, Julien has certainly put in work on his own. With a range factor now ranking in the 94th percentile (as opposed to the 58th).

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Eddie has also bumped up his arm strength from noodle territory (14th percentile) to something slightly better (27th percentile). His arm will never be a calling card, which is why he plays second base, but combined with his range, he is putting it all together and the work is paying off.

Then there’s the Carlos Correa factor. Now fully healthy from a bout of plantar fasciitis that clearly slowed him last season, the Twins shortstop has been able to cover ground once again. Specifically up the middle, Correa has made a greater amount of plays to his left, which drastically cuts down on the demand for Julien to go that direction.

Minnesota has seen their second baseman excel most when charging the ball this year, and having a standout defensive first baseman in Carlos Santana to guard the line, means the lateral area has never been smaller.

Edouard Julien’s offense going the other way…

Unfortunately, Julien’s offense has gone the opposite direction of his defense. At the plate, he’s been one of Rocco Baldelli’s biggest disappointments this season. A 3-hit Memorial Day pumped his OPS+ up to 99, pretty much league average.

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Still, that’s a far cry from the 132 OPS+ he posted last season, as Minnesota’s mainstay in the leadoff spot. He could be selling out for more power, and both his strikeout and walk rates are trending in negative directions. His defense though has been a bright spot.

We aren’t yet at a place where the Twins should be planning Gold Glove ceremonies for their second baseman, but he’s playing a better second base than Polanco ever did. Although the bat has slumped out of the gate, Minnesota is benefitting by having a guy that is now an all-around contributor.

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