Carlos Santana Looks Like Twins’ Everyday Starter at 1B, Meaning Alex Kirilloff Needs to Mash

carlos santana minnesota twins starting 1st baseman
Photo: Minnesota Twins - @Twins (X)

Most of the Minnesota Twins’ starting lineup was predetermined entering spring training. We know Carlos Correa is going to play SS, Royce Lewis is going to start at 3B, Edouard Julien 2B (for now) and Ryan Jeffers earned the starting catcher role with a great 2023.

Max Kepler will play RF, after surviving yet another offseason on the trade market. Byron Buxton will start in center and newly acquired Manuel Margot is a high-end CF insurance plan. The healthier Byron stays, the more platooning Margot will do with Matt Wallner in LF.

So the only real question entering spring training was at first base. The Twins signed longtime Cleveland Guardian, Carlos Santana, who’s entering his 15th year in the MLB, a career that includes 1,930 Major League Baseball games, 1,200 of which he’s been written in at 1B.

Minnesota Twins everyday plan at 1B appears to be Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana - Spring Training - Minnesota Twins
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

And according to Aaron Gleeman (The Athletic), it doesn’t look like that will change or slow down in 2024. He believes the Twins’ everyday plan at 1st base, no matter what hand the pitcher throws with, is the switch-hitting Santana.

When the Twins signed Santana, I assumed he’d platoon with Kirilloff versus lefties and play sporadically versus righties, but I’m now convinced he’ll be the primary first baseman no matter the matchup. They think highly of Santana’s glove and seem to believe he’s still an everyday-caliber hitter at age 38.

Aaron Gleeman – The Athletic

Related: All Royce Lewis Does is Hit Grand Slams… Even in Spring Training

What about Alex Kirilloff?

What does that mean for Alex Kirilloff? Again, Gleeman has the scoop, noting that the Minnesota Twins’ plan, at least when facing right-handers, is to move the 26-year-old lefty to more of a full-time DH role. I thought Aaron’s final thought on the subject was most interesting, that a full-time job as designated hitter could help keep Kirilloff healthier.

[Santana’s everyday status at 1B] doesn’t change much for Kirilloff, other than that he’ll likely be starting less at first base and more at designated hitter. Either way, he needs to stay healthy and consistently productive at the plate, and there’s some thought that the DH spot will make both easier to accomplish.

Aaron Gleeman – The Athletic

If there is any position where a player’s glove wrist might be in danger, it’s 1st base. Remember, it’s Kirilloff’s right wrist that has given him issues. As a lefty thrower, Alex’s right wrist is his glove wrist. Catching bullets across the diamond from Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis for 5 months, both in practices and during games, can’t be good for a chronically injured wrist.

That’s before we even factor in difficult tags, diving plays, collisions or other accidents that occur somewhat frequently throughout the course of a 162-game season. Come to think of it, keeping Alex away from first base as often as possible might be a really smart move, at least for this season.

Related: Denard Span Hired as TV Analyst for Minnesota Twins Games

But as Gleeman notes, none of this conversation matters if he doesn’t hit. And now that Kirilloff isn’t needed in the field anymore, it’s obvious the clock is ticking on his time with the Twins, possibly worse, if he doesn’t stay healthy and produce offensively.

Much like Byron Buxton, we have chalked his early career issues up to injuries. At some point, however, the “why” of a player’s reality doesn’t matter as much as the reality itself. If the 26-year-old doesn’t stay relatively healthy and prove himself as a legitimate big league hitter this season, his professional career could be in jeopardy.

The Minnesota Twins are expected to be the best team in the American League Central this season. In fact, MLB projection models and sportsbooks all have the Twins winning the division rather handedly. Some of the more optimistic outlooks even have them pegged as a top-5 MLB team.

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