Twins Outfielder Matt Wallner Has Renewed Confidence Heading Into 2022
The best thing about his impressive month in the Arizona Fall League, Matt Wallner said, was his good health—which is a funny thing for a guy to say who still sports a scar on his chin from the experience.
Wallner dug in against Mesa lefthander and Athletis prospect Hogan Harris on Oct. 28, having already hit his fourth homer of the fall. Next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground, his mouth bleeding.
“Just an up-and-in fastball, and I couldn’t get out of the way,” Wallner said. “I ended up getting 13 stitches on the right side of my chin. I had to sit out a week to make sure (the wound) didn’t bust open again.”
Once he returned, the 24-year-old corner outfielder, a 2019 supplemental first-rounder from Southern Mississippi, resumed one of the most heartening stretches of his career. Wallner wound up leading Scottsdale in homers (six) and RBIs (15) in just 18 games, and capped an up-and-down season with a .303/.405/.606 slash line in the AFL.
“I focused on hitting the ball to all fields, more than I ever have,” said Wallner, who grew up in Forest Lake, Minn., less than an hour from Target Field. “I hope to utilize that to my advantage next year, see where that takes me.”
So far, thanks to the pandemic and a broken hamate bone suffered while fouling off a pitch in May 2021, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound outfielder has only reached High-A. He returned before his hand fully recovered from surgery, and his injury-interrupted season at Cedar Rapids—.264/.350/.508, with a 33% strikeout rate—left him unsatisfied.
His strong fall gives him renewed confidence for 2022. The Twins feel the same way.
“That’s one of my favorite things about the Fall League, that guys who missed time or played hurt can go into the winter feeling better about where they’re at,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said in November. “Matt’s hand healed, and he got a good head start on 2022.”
And he suffered no ill effects of that beaning. Well, almost none.