What the Minnesota Twins’ 2022 Opening Day Lineup Looks Like After Surprise Carlos Correa Signing

We knew this MLB offseason was going to get wild after the 99-day lockout came to an end. But it’s been downright bananas, culminating in prized free-agent Carlos Correa signing with the Minnesota Twins.

The 27-year-old shortstop agreed to a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Twins days after Minnesota traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to the New York Yankees. Correa, who spent his entire seven-year career with the Houston Astros, is easily the biggest free-agent signing in Twins history and, by average annual value, one of the largest in baseball history.

With opt-outs after his first and second season, who knows how long Correa will reside in the Twin Cities? All we know is that the 2022 Opening Day lineup just became a lot more dangerous for a Twins club that believes it can contend in a crowded American League.

Carlos Correa joins Byron Buxton in the top-three of the Twins’ new lineup

Minnesota Twins teammates Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton share a laugh.
Byron Buxton #25 of the Minnesota Twins talks with new teammate Carlos Correa #1, formerly of the Houston Astros. | Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

1. Byron Buxton (CF), 2. Luis Arraez (DH), 3. Carlos Correa (SS)

Health is always the greatest concern with Buxton, who’s played more than 92 games once since making his debut in 2015. But when he’s on the field, the 28-year-old is a certified star. Buxton, who was selected one spot behind Correa in the 2012 MLB Draft, hit a career-high 19 home runs in only 61 games last season and slugged a whopping .647. There’s real 35-15 potential with Buck, giving Minnesota a lethal top-of-the-order bat so long as he avoids the injury bug.

The 24-year-old Arraez has played all over the diamond throughout his first three seasons, but for now, he’ll replace Nelson Cruz as Minnesota’s new DH. Arraez has no power to speak of, racking up just six home runs in over 950 plate appearances. But the Venezuelan knows how to hit, slashing .313/.374/.403 for his career. While he primarily led off last season, he can easily slide down to the two-spot.

Minnesota isn’t paying Correa $35.1 million a year to hit anywhere besides the heart of the order. The two-time All-Star is coming off one of his best seasons yet, slashing .279/.366/.485 with 26 homers and 92 RBI. He also won his first Gold Glove and finished fifth in MVP voting.

With an All-Star-caliber player like Buxton and a professional hitter in Arraez preceding him, Correa can do some serious damage in the three-spot for the new-look Twins.

The middle-of-the-order features a trio of international talents

4. Jorge Polanco (2B), 5. Max Kepler (RF), 6. Miguel Sano (1B)

After losing Donaldson and Cruz, Minnesota’s two most-popular cleanup hitters in 2021, manager Rocco Baldelli will have some options behind Correa. For now, let’s put the switch-hitting Polanco here. The 28-year-old has taken some time to develop, but his power emerged last season to the tune of 33 dingers, 98 RBI, and 97 runs scored. He also hit an impressive .333 with runners in scoring position with an OPS of 1.048, a perfect bat to follow Minny’s new star.

Kepler has flashed his potential for years, hitting 36 homers in a breakout 2019 campaign. But his 2021 was one to forget, as the German hit an anemic .211 with an OPS of .719. That said, he still managed to have 19 jacks and 10 steals in just under 500 plate apperances, so there’s enough talent there to warrant a heart-of-the-order spot. But it wouldn’t be surprising for Baldelli to use him in multiple lineup spots over the course of the season.

By now, Twins fans have to be sick of hearing about Sano’s limitless potential. If there’s one thing we already know about the 28-year-old, it’s that his power is in the upper echelon of all major league hitters. You just have to stomach a low average and a barrage of strikeouts, both of which keep him from becoming Minnesota’s obvious four-hitter.

Polanco, Kepler, and Sano have all crossed the 30-home-run threshold and could easily do so again in 2022.

A pair of former Yankees round out the Twins’ Opening Day lineup

7. Gary Sanchez (C), 8. Alex Kirilloff (LF), 9. Gio Urshela (3B)

Few players needed a change of scenery more than the 29-year-old Sanchez. After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2016 and securing an All-Star nod in ’17, Sanchez was viewed as an integral member of New York’s core. But he’s been a below-average hitter in three of his last four seasons, including a 2021 campaign where he hit .204 with an OPS of .730. The backstop still offers plenty of pop, so perhaps he’ll rediscover his All-Star ways at Target Field.

Kirilloff, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2016, received his first taste of big-league action in 2021. In 316 plate appearances, the 24-year-old hit .251 with eight homers but had an OBP of only .299. However, there’s still plenty of time for the lefty to deliver on the high expectations he held as a prospect. But you can expect Baldelli to keep him relatively low in the order, at least to start.

The Donaldson deal netted Sanchez as well as Urshela. Correa’s signing shifts the 30-year-old back to third base, where he primarily started in each of the last two seasons for the Bronx Bombers. But he also has a decent bat, slashing .267/.301/.419 in 2021. In 2019, Gio hit .314 with 21 home runs, exceptional production for a player who might close out Minnesota’s primary lineup.

Between two All-Star bats at the front, a tantalizing collection of power hitters in the middle, and intriguing upside at the bottom, the Twins should be well-positioned to compete in the AL Central.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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