The Twins set a Major League single-season record with 307 home runs in 2019, outdoing the previous record (set by the Yankees one year earlier) by 40. Minnesota's full-season Minor League affiliates collectively hit exactly 500 homers, eighth-most among the 30 farm systems and the tops by an organization without
The Twins set a Major League single-season record with 307 home runs in 2019, outdoing the previous record (set by the Yankees one year earlier) by 40. Minnesota's full-season Minor League affiliates collectively hit exactly 500 homers, eighth-most among the 30 farm systems and the tops by an organization without a Pacific Coast League club.
The Twins value power, and Trevor Larnach knows it.
"I'd say it's something we talk about quite a bit," said MLB.com's No. 81 overall prospect. "And they're not just emphasizing home runs. Even with speed guys, it's a discussion of how we can touch as many bases as we can on one swing. Power is a home run, but it's also a double and a triple. Some of that has to do with our approach. Some of it is mechanically. But it's always about production."
That's why power has been such a point of emphasis for Larnach entering his second full season. Not only is he looking to stand out against his Minor League competition, he's looking to fit in as a potential Major Leaguer for Minnesota.
On the surface, the 22-year-old outfielder's power numbers were solid across the board in his first full professional season after getting taken 20th overall in 2018. He finished with 13 homers in 127 games, six at Class A Advanced Fort Myers (where he spent the majority of the season) and seven at Double-A Pensacola. His .459 slugging percentage in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League -- a circuit Larnach said he was "relieved" to leave behind -- was almost identical to his .455 slugging percentage at the higher level of the Southern League. In fact, his .842 OPS was the same at both spots.
However, the former Oregon State standout separated himself more in other offensive categories. His .309 average and 147 hits were both tops among Twins Minor Leaguers, while his 148 wRC+ placed second. Minnesota named the left-handed slugger its Minor League Player of the Year because of his overall offensive package, but there was still a little to be desired from a player who shows plus to plus-plus raw power from the left side and yet finished with a .149 isolated slugging percentage (16th among 31 qualifiers in his system). After all, Larnach checks in at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds and jumped up Draft boards when he went deep 19 times and posted a .652 slugging percentage and a 1.116 OPS for the Beavers as a junior in 2018.
One of the main culprits last season was Larnach's prowess of going up the middle or the other way. His 41.2 percent pull rate was fifth-lowest among qualified Minnesota Minor Leaguers. While it's typically advantageous for a young hitter to spray the ball all over the park, an extreme version of that can deaden power if the batter isn't playing to his pull-side strength.
"Since I grew up, my dad always said to use the whole field, but where it got really emphasized was in the college game," Larnach said. "A player at my position with my height and my weight and my levers, college pitchers always wanted to stay away and get me to chase. They would throw changeups or even fastballs away. Now it's pro ball. They'll work you in, out, up, down all over the place. You can't rely on just looking away."
As Larnach adjusted over the course of his full season, it was clear his power was moving away from the opposite (i.e., left) field and more toward center. Consider his Class A Advanced (left) and Double-A (right) spray charts for extra-base hits.
When it comes to home runs, Larnach evenly spread them around during his time in Fort Myers -- three to left, one to center, two to right-center. With Pensacola, he didn't go oppo at all, sending six of his seven long balls to center and one to right. The Double-A double sample size is too small to draw firm conclusions, but compared to the full combined picture of the two, it definitely skews closer to right and center than its Class A Advanced variation.
That change came thanks to adjustments made by Larnach over the course of the season, even as he changed levels. With pitchers attacking him more evenly across the zone, he realized he couldn't sit back and react as well as he did in his NCAA days.
"The main thing is timing," he said. "There were gaps throughout the year where I was missing pitches, and I knew it was timing that was making me do that. I adjusted my load to make sure I was ready to hit, instead of being late and trying to react to where the ball was going. ... It was mostly the mechanics. I knew I had plenty of power to right field. I had worked so much on going to center and left that I got carried away. But once I got my timing down and my load slow and ready, I was ready for when teams pitched me inside. I was producing more to the pull side and getting exactly where I wanted to be."
Spray charts aside, it won't surprise anyone who has heard Larnach speak about his batting technique that he's more of a feel hitter than one who relies on a constant stream of analytics. In fact, while there were reports of Larnach putting up impressive exit velocities in college, he preferred to focus more on the numbers of the competition than his own.
"I wouldn't say I'm a big numbers guy," he said. "I'm more process-based. If I'm doing the right stuff and putting myself in the best situations to hit, the numbers will speak for themselves. There's a lot of information out there, for sure. But what I've learned is that not knowing all of it is the best route for me. It can make you go crazy. I'd rather know what the pitcher is doing, what he throws, how he throws it, that type of stuff. I'll take care of everything else."
Larnach continues to stick with that process-based approach as he traverses his second offseason in the Twins system. While working out back on the West Coast, he has tried to keep his slow and early load locked into place through dry swings and has focused on adding more power during weight-room sessions.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has kept him feeling like a big part of the club's bright future by making him a feature of TwinsFest last month alongside fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, current Major Leaguers like Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler and former stars Joe Mauer and Rod Carew. They also issued him a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training for the first time.
He's scheduled to head down to Fort Myers on Sunday for early workouts. By then, the Twins may complete the rumored deal that would bring Major League pitcher Kenta Maeda to Minnesota for pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol. It's a deal that should help Minnesota get closer to a World Series title after last year's 101-win season. It also cost them a Top-100 prospect. That can be a complicated deal to swallow for a player like Larnach. But he also knows that if he can add a little more power to the foundation he established in 2019, the former College World Series winner isn't far from a chance to help Minnesota capture its first title since 1991.
"On one hand, you don't know how to react because of the business of it all," he said. "All I can do is be the best player and let things go the way they'll go. But on the other hand, you see what the front office is doing, and personally, I've become very excited. They're changing the way they do things and trying to find ways to win a championship. That's what I like. I want to win as many championships as I can here. So whether it's offense, defense, pitching, everything, I have to commend them for doing whatever they can.
"Being a Minor Leaguer, yeah, that's how the business works. I could be moved. But right now, this is exciting."
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.