Spring heat on Twins' young trio

Arcia, Santana, Vargas eye rebounds in '16

Spring heat on Twins' young trio

MINNEAPOLIS -- After their breakout performances with the Twins in 2014, Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas were expected to be a big part of the club's future.

After all, the Twins' official magazine had a cover with Arcia, Santana and Vargas, proclaiming them as "The First Wave" of Twins prospects to reach the Majors and make a mark. The trio impressed that season as 23-year-olds despite the club's struggles, as Arcia clubbed 20 homers in 103 games, Santana hit .319 with 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases in 101 games and Vargas hit .274 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 38 RBIs in 53 games.

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But the three failed to replicate their strong showings in 2015. Arcia played in just 19 games and never returned to the Majors after suffering a hip flexor strain in early May, then struggled to find his form at Triple-A Rochester. Santana started the year as the club's Opening Day shortstop but hit .215/.241/.291 in 91 games, while Vargas opened the season as the club's regular designated hitter, only to bat .240/.277/.349 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 58 games.

So now the Twins have to weigh how much each can contribute in 2016, as all three still have potential, and have had some success at the Major League level, yet also have a lot to prove.

Arcia is arguably the most interesting case, as he's out of Minor League options and still possesses tantalizing power from the left side. He'll compete for a spot in the outfield alongside Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano.

Arcia could be used as a platoon player or a power bat off the bench, but also could be dealt this spring if the Twins feel he doesn't have a meaningful spot on the 25-man roster. He doesn't turn 25 until May 9, so a bench role won't help his development. But being out of options complicates things, as he can't be sent to Triple-A Rochester without clearing waivers, which is unlikely. He's been training at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., this offseason to get ready for the start of year.

"Most definitely he's still in the mix," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He's spending the offseason training in Fort Myers with our guys. We're getting really good reports on how hard he's been working. I think last year was a tough season for him, but I think it made him realize nothing is a given and he has to work to get back."

Vargas, 25, was hurt by the fact the Twins signed Korean slugger Byung Ho Park to serve as the club's everyday designated hitter. With Joe Mauer entrenched at first base, Vargas doesn't seem to have a spot on the roster, as he's not someone the Twins believe can move to the outfield like Sano.

He's more likely to start the year at Triple-A Rochester and will provide insurance in case of injury or if Park has trouble adjusting to the Majors. There were rumors of him potentially being sold to a club in Asia early this offseason, but the Twins intend to hold onto him for depth.

Santana snags soft liner

Santana, 25, is helped by his versatility, as the natural shortstop filled in capably in center field as a rookie in 2014. He could serve as a super utility player for the Twins, as he can handle second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots, if needed. Whether his offense returns to its 2014 form or not, he still can be a competent backup player.

"We'll let it play out, but we know he's played center and is an option for us," Antony said. "He could be a utility guy who plays infield and outfield. We know he can run. He's a switch-hitter who could come off the bench. But I just think he needs to relax. Last year, he came in and it looked like he had the weight of the world on him because he was thinking about how he was going to back up 2014."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.