FORT MYERS, FLA. – Trevor Larnach admitted how nerve-racking it was a year ago as he waited for his name to be called in the major league baseball draft. Then he went to the Twins with the 20th overall pick — just days before his Oregon State Beavers eliminated the Gophers in an NCAA super regional.
“I thought it was like a test to see if fans were really going to like me or what,” Larnach said. “That was a lot of fun. Minnesota had a really good team last year. I miss college, but you move on, you know?”
Onward and upward, Larnach figured. Like the way he would like to hit baseballs.
The 6-4, 223-pound Larnach is batting .308 with 10 homers, 59 RBI and an .874 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 99 minor league games. This season at Class A Fort Myers, he is batting .312 with five homers and 33 RBI in 57 games. He entered Saturday third in the Florida State League in batting average and OPS and second in on-base percentage.
A corner outfielder, Larnach is built to bash baseballs, which hasn’t happened frequently yet. But he is showing early in his professional career that he can make adjustments and could see a power surge with more experience.
The lefthanded-hitting Larnach clubbed 19 homers in his final season at Oregon State, showing the ability to hit the ball hard the opposite way. He hit .303 between rookie league Elizabethton and Class A Cedar Rapids last season, but teams pounded him inside enough that he knew he needed to address that pitch.
“Since the offseason I’ve been doing everything I can to get this inside pitch down, and I’m getting better at it,” he said. “I’m not where I want to be. I don’t think anyone is where they want to be because most guys try to work and want perfection, and this is a game of failure, but I know I’m getting closer.”
He is looking to attack inside pitches, and getting his hands in position to get the bat through the zone in those situations. Of his five home runs, one has been to the right of the batter’s eye and one pulled to straightaway right.
He has done enough at the plate — even without hitting for power — that a second-half promotion is possible.
“He’s a kid that knows his swing really well and he knows how to work, and he does everything right,” Miracle manager Toby Gardenhire said. “He’s getting to that inner-half pitch better than I’ve seen him. He’s driving balls all over the place. He’s been pretty fun to watch.”
Shortstop Royce Lewis, the top prospect in the organization, went 0-for-4 Saturday after hitting .346 over his previous six games. That stretch followed a horrendous slump that pulled his batting average down to .218 at the beginning of the week.
In the first inning Monday against the Florida Fire Frogs (what a name), the 20-year-old took strike one, fell behind 0-2, then chased a pitch off the plate to strike out. Many of his at-bats had been going that way, according to observers.
While his recent spurt is timely, he has one walk and 22 strikeouts in his past 18 games. He is trying to swing his way out of his slump instead of stacking good at-bats.
“He’s a kid, though,” Gardenhire said Monday. “He’s going through a tough spell. He still does things that other guys can’t do. Even when he’s scuffling, his numbers aren’t that bad. And he still does some things that are pretty impressive.”
La Velle E. Neal III covers the Twins for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @LaVelleNeal