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Important season for Wander Javier of Cedar Rapids Kernels
Signed for $4 million as a 16-year-old in 2016, shortstop will be free agent after this season if not added to Minnesota Twins 40-man MLB roster
CEDAR RAPIDS — Royce Lewis made his major league debut Friday night for the Minnesota Twins.
The 22-year-old shortstop was the first-overall pick of the 2017 MLB draft but missed all last season after knee surgery. There was no 2020 minor-league campaign because of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That Lewis was able to rebound from so much missed development time and a subpar 2019 in Double-A was incredibly encouraging for both him and the franchise. He had a very good first month in Triple-A, hitting .310 with about as many walks as strikeouts and picked up his first big-league hit in his final at-bat of Minnesota’s 2-1 win over Oakland at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, Wander Javier went 0-for-2 win a walk in the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ 6-2 loss at home to Quad Cities. At one point, Javier was considered the Twins’ shortstop of the future, a kid who signed for $4 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2016.
Like Lewis, Javier missed an entire season because of injury (2018 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder), as well as 2020. However, he has yet to rebound.
Javier is hitting .175 in 23 games. It’s his third go-around with the Kernels, for whom he hit .177 in 80 games in 2019 and .225 in 96 games last season.
This can’t be what the Twins expected.
“He’s had his spurts,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “Had a couple of hits in Beloit (last week) for extra bases, another one (earlier this week). So, yeah, he’s been kind of up and down, here and there. Hopefully we can get him on a good roll, and he can swing the bat well.”
On the positive side, Javier has been good defensively, showing why he has generally been considered plus on that side. He has just two errors, both of those coming in the same game earlier this week.
He’s only 23 years old as well, has just 248 professional games under his belt despite beginning his career seven years ago.
“Anytime you lose time due to injuries, development, that always hurts everybody,” Dinkelman said. “He had that injury, then we had the year 2020 where we didn’t play at all. I mean, he’s a young kid, only 23, so he’s still a young kid for baseball. More experience, more at-bats, gain that value of just playing the game. Hopefully he can have a nice season for us. He’s had some big hits, some good at-bats.”
There’s no question he needs more of those, though.
You don’t find Javier’s name on any prospect lists anymore. That’s going to happen when your career batting average is .221 and you’ve struck out in 36 percent of your at-bats.
Unless the Twins decide to place him on their 40-man major league roster after this season, Javier will become a free agent. This is a big season for him.
A very big season.
“He needs to go out there and perform well,” Dinkelman said. “He’s playing for us, but he’s also playing for 29 other organizations. We’re going to give him a chance to play and perform well, and hopefully he can.”
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