Gilberto Celestino Gets On Track After Slow Start

Image credit: Minnesota Twins

April in Iowa can be hard on ballplayers, but this seemed different.

A week into May, 20-year-old Dominican outfielder Gilberto Celestino was batting .178/.252/.208 at low Class A Cedar Rapids. He was averaging a strikeout per game, well above his career pace.

“He was having trouble. He was getting to balls (inside), but really anything away from him was just kind of punched the other way,” said Alex Hassan, the Twins’ new farm director. “But he worked with (Kernals hitting coach) Ryan Smith to get a better base, get set a little bit earlier in order to start his swing a little bit earlier. And it really freed him up, helped him see the ball.

“Instead of punching at those pitches, he was able to hit them with more authority, with power.”

The adjustment lasted all season. Celestino, acquired in a 2018 deadline deal with the Astros for reliever Ryan Pressly, hit .304/.378/.467 over the next three months, clubbed 10 home runs and ultimately earned an August promotion to high Class A Fort Myers.

“The evolution of his swing from when he got to us to now—I’d say the work he’s put in is really showing,” Hassan said. “For a guy whose defense is his biggest tool, the addition of those bat-to-ball skills really give him a bright future.”

Perhaps sooner than Celestino expected. The Twins, fearful that his tools would outweigh his inexperience in the eyes of other teams, added the center fielder to their 40-man roster in November. That made him ineligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft.

“We think he’s got a really bright future, and has the skill set that teams are looking for,” Hassan said. “He certainly can play center field at a high level—our coaches and coordinators rave about his defense.

“Now that he’s showing such confidence at the plate, he could really move fast and impact games in a lot of different ways.”


— Edgar Varela, who spent the past two seasons as the Twins’ minor league hitting coordinator, was promoted to hitting coach for the big league team. Varela, a 39-year-old Long Beach State grad, replaces James Rowson, who accepted a job as the Marlins’ bench coach.

Ryan Costello, a 23-year-old third baseman who spent the 2019 season at high Class A Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola, was found dead in his New Zealand hotel room on Nov. 18, days before he was to begin playing for Auckland in the Australian Baseball League. Costello, a Hartford native drafted by the Mariners in 2017 and traded to the Twins a year later, died in his sleep, the team said. No cause was immediately announced.

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