The Twins Already Have A Matt Wallner At Home

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After a slow start in the major leagues, Matt Wallner is killing it at Triple-A St. Paul. The Minnesota Twins outfielder has been on a tear, hitting .305/.395/.695 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI since May 25, and has reason to believe a call-up is imminent.

However, as much as the Twins could use a bat like Wallner’s in the corner outfield, it’s not as simple as bringing him up. It’s like when you begged your parents for McDonald’s as a kid. Sure, you could use a Happy Meal, but your parents were ready to inform you that you had food at home.

In Minnesota’s case, it’s unlikely that Wallner will be snacking on a Happy Meal in the bowels of CHS Field. Still, they have Trevor Larnach, a version of Wallner who’s already in the majors.

Wallner’s season has been well-documented. After being part of a core that included Royce Lewis and Edouard Julien, Wallner couldn’t follow up on his 2023 success. He went 2-for-25 at the plate with a home run and 17 strikeouts in his first 13 games. The Twins sent him down on April 16, and Larnach has taken his spot on the roster since.

Fans may see a mirror image while comparing the two players. Wallner and Larnach players were first-round picks relegated to left field, with Byron Buxton and Max Kepler manning center and right field. They’ve both had their highs and lows in the majors, and their tale of the tape indicates that they are in the same class.

Thanks to his extended time in the majors, Larnach has an advantage in quantitative stats such as hits, home runs, and RBI. However, Wallner has produced more quality, hitting for a significantly higher on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ over his 107 games with the Twins.

Looking at a statistical comparison, you can argue Wallner should reclaim his spot in Minnesota’s lineup, especially since he’s obliterated Triple-A pitching for the second straight summer.

Wallner made a few cameos with Minnesota early in the 2023 season. However, he did most of his damage at St. Paul, hitting .291/.403/.524 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI over 67 games. Still, the Twins were reluctant to call him up due to what they had in the majors.

Kepler was hitting below the Mendoza line, and they were on the verge of designating him for assignment. Still, he’s a player the front office trusted, which could be what’s happening with Larnach this season.

Larnach hasn’t put up mind-blowing numbers with the Twins, hitting .256/.306/.440 with eight homers and 28 RBI in 50 games this year. Still, he’s a player Minnesota valued enough to select him in the first round of the 2018 draft.

While Larnach has struggled in previous stints in the majors, he has shown signs of improvement this season. He cut down his whiff rate from 36.5 percent in 2022 to 26.1 percent in 2023 and produced more line drives to create a higher average exit velocity from 90.1 mph to 92.2 mph.

Larnach also has an advantage in the field. In 2022, Larnach had nine defensive runs saved while playing left field for the Twins. However, a limited sample size in 2023 and a turf toe injury have brought him down to -3 DRS over the past two seasons.

While Wallner had just one defensive run saved last season, we know Larnach can be a strong defender in left field. However, Wallner has yet to show that side of his game — even with a better arm.

But while you can make the case to keep things the same, the Twins need something in left field. Minnesota’s left fielders are 12th in on-base percentage (.320) and 13th in batting average (.239), slugging percentage (.404), and OPS (.724) this season. However, an added boost could make a formidable lineup more dangerous as they come down the stretch and relieve pressure on a team that has been streaky throughout the year.

A solution would be to recall Wallner and sort the at-bats out. However, that creates another problem. Austin Martin has solidified himself as a reserve outfielder in left and center field, and Manuel Margot has carved out a role against left-handed pitching.

The Twins could trade Kepler at the deadline to create a spot for Wallner. However, the front office has repeatedly trusted Kepler, making any departure unlikely before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Even then, Wallner could follow Brent Rooker‘s path. Rooker was good enough to be a major leaguer but couldn’t stick because players like Larnach, Kepler, and even Eddie Rosario were blocking him. It took a trade out of Minnesota to truly become a major leaguer. Even then, he had stops in San Diego and Kansas City before sticking with the Oakland Athletics.

That could make Wallner a trade chip at the deadline and help the Twins upgrade another area, such as the starting rotation or the infield. Still, the Twins could also use Wallner’s skill set unless they know they already have him at home.

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