Nelson Cruz agreed to a one-year, $13 million deal to stay with the Minnesota Twins late Tuesday night and that means the Boomstick is back in the middle of what should again be a dangerous lineup in a competitive American League.
Here are the projected starting nine:
- C: Mitch Garver
- 1B: Miguel Sano
- 2B: Jorge Polanco
- SS: Andrelton Simmons
- 3B: Josh Donaldson
- LF: Alex Kirilloff
- CF: Byron Buxton
- RF: Max Kepler
- DH: Nelson Cruz
MLB rosters will feature 26 active players, and if the Twins keep 13 pitchers that leaves room for four bench players. Who those players will be will be finalized in in spring training, but the best bets at this point are Ryan Jeffers (catcher), Luis Arraez (utility), Jake Cave (outfield) and Brent Rooker (first base, outfield).
So what will the batting order look like? Here's an educated guess:
- Max Kepler
- Josh Donaldson
- Jorge Polanco
- Nelson Cruz
- Alex Kirilloff
- Miguel Sano
- Byron Buxton
- Mitch Garver
- Andrelton Simmons
Kepler was the Twins' leadoff hitter to start the 2020 season so it makes sense to see him back at the top of the order again, especially since Arraez is projected be on the bench.
Donaldson is a lock to bat early in the order and there's no reason to think he won't be the No. 2 hitter just as he would've been most of 2020 had he not dealt with calf injuries.
Polanco battled an ankle injury last season, but if his back picks up where he left off during his 2019 All-Star season, he'd be a perfect fit in the No. 3 slot until someone like Kirilloff forces manager Rocco Baldelli to move him up in the order.
Cruz is the cleanup hitter for sure. After the top four the lineup gets a little tricky, but Baldelli has no shortage of options. Kirilloff may not be in the five hole to start, but if he lives up to his potential he'll without a doubt be in the middle of the order at some point this season.
Sano struggled last summer but he played the majority of his games batting fifth or sixth.
Simmons played just 30 games with the Angels last season, but when he was in the lineup he batted leadoff nine times and ninth 15 times.
Buxton batted seventh, eighth or ninth most of last season and he excelled in those spots prior to injuries again getting the best of him. Remember, Buxton has 13 homers in 35 games, so his potential to be an extremely dangerous bat in Minnesota's lineup still exists.
Garver had an awful 2020 so letting him find his groove in the back of the order is a no-brainer, and Simmons in the No. 9 slot is an easy call (he batted ninth in half of his 30 games with the Angels last season).