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The Twins’ front office debated an important topic last summer: Would the season lost to the coronavirus pandemic delay the development of their best prospects more at the plate, or in the field?
After hosting their best players from the lower minors at instructional league in October, they were in agreement that, according to president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, “the lost season has affected offensive progress a little more than defensive development.”
Part of the reason for that observation? They watched third baseman Seth Gray spear, rifle and dive for baseballs around their camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
Gray, a 2019 fourth-rounder from Wright State, can play shortstop and is a passable outfielder. But the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Gray’s play at third base has the Twins, who have committed to improving their defense at the major league level in each of the past two offseasons, excited to watch him gobble up ground balls in 2021.
“We loved his defense at third base in the draft,” Twins farm director Alex Hassan said. “He has shown great tools and feel for the position, both in his pro debut in 2019, and during our instructional camp.”
The 22-year-old Gray also showed impressive power at Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2019, hitting 11 home runs over two months, and he ended the season on a 10-game hitting streak.
The lost 2020 season prevented him from improving on his .231/.337/.436 slash line between Elizabethton and Low-A Cedar Rapids, but it didn’t cool the Twins’ enthusiasm for his 60-grade instincts at a position where reflexes are key.
“He’s tall, lean and athletic, with good range to both sides,” Hassan said. “He’s got very sure hands and a strong arm, too.”
Gray could start the season at High-A, with his defense playing a large role in determining when he’s ready to move up.
“Run prevention is more than just pitching,” Falvey said. “A run saved with your defense counts just as much as one your offense scores.”
— The Twins fired three minor league coordinators—hitting coordinator Donegal Fergus, infield coordinator Billy Boyer and catching coordinator Micheal Thomas—after the trio was found to have violated Covid-19 protocols at training camp. With minor league camp about to open, the positions were expected to be filled internally.
— Fort Myers manager Aaron Sutton announced his retirement from baseball in order to return home to Idaho and help run the family restaurant. Sutton, hired in late 2019 after four seasons as head coach at Montana State-Billings, never managed a Mighty Mussels game because of the 2020 minor league season was canceled.