Twins position breakdown: outfield

The Twins traded for Michael A. Taylor in late January, expecting he would serve as a backup for Byron Buxton. Instead, Taylor played in 129 games and Buxton did not see a single inning in center field.

Over in the corner outfield spots, right fielder Max Kepler overcame a slow start to the season to become one of the Twins’ most productive players, and Matt Wallner established himself in left field.

2023 RECAP

When the Twins first devised a plan ahead of last season to ease Buxton in, the expectation was that he would start the season at DH and then eventually shift back to the outfield when his knee allowed.

That never happened.

It wasn’t until the very end of the season that the Twins tried Buxton out in center field — and that was in a single minor-league game. With Buxton out of the center field picture, that opened up every-day playing time for Taylor, where the former Gold Glover played Buxton-level defense and contributed a career-high 21 home runs.

Willi Castro also logged more than 250 innings at the position (and nearly 300 in left field) while utilityman Nick Gordon saw some time in center and left as well before a broken tibia ended his season in May.

In right field, Kepler, who hit .207 with a 279 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage over the first half of the season, followed that by slashing .306/.377/.549 after the all-star break. He ended up leading the team with 24 home runs.

Wallner, who started the season in Triple-A and was optioned twice, came up for good in July and finished his rookie season hitting .249 with an .877 OPS and 14 home runs in 76 games.

Trevor Larnach, who started the season with the Twins, wound up spending most of the season with the Triple-A Saints, never really grabbing hold of a spot. Veteran Joey Gallo, who spent the most innings of anyone out in left field, tailed off after a strong start in April and is not in the Twins’ plans moving forward.


The Twins hold a $10 million club option on Kepler, which they are expected to pick up. Wallner looks ready to be the team’s primary left fielder, while Castro can be expected to bounce around the infield and outfield.

Larnach, a former first-round draft pick, has really yet to find his footing as a major leaguer but should see some playing time at the corner spots throughout the season, too, even if he winds up starting the season in Triple-A.

But the big question is what the Twins will do in center field.

Buxton underwent a second knee surgery earlier this month, this one to excise the plica on his right knee. The hope, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said, is to get him back out into center field.

But expecting Buxton to be the team’s starting center fielder next year is not realistic at this point and won’t be until there is proof that his knee is capable of handling that kind of workload. That should put the Twins in the market for a center fielder this winter as they must make alternate plans to protect themselves.

Taylor is a free agent and the Twins could either try to bring him back or look at other options that they would feel confident putting out there if Buxton is unable to play the position consistently. The Twins have a couple of options in the minors in Austin Martin and DaShawn Kiersey Jr. who could potentially play the position at the major-league level eventually, but it seems likely they would look elsewhere to begin the year.

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