Edouard Julien grounded out to first base in his first MLB at-bat on Thursday against the White Sox, then walked and grounded out to go 0-for-2 out of the 8-hole before batting lead-off the next day against the Yankees and getting his first hit, a single, and going opposite-field for a home run in a nine-run first inning for the Twins.
The 23-year-old second baseman finished Wednesday’s game 2-for-5 and had a 1.089 OPS through his first two games.
Julien had a bang-up spring, batting .348 with a 1.114 OPS and 3 homers in 8 games, but was sent down to Triple-A. He was off to a solid start for St. Paul, posting a triple-slash of .290/.421/.548 with 2 homers and a steal in 9 games. The Twins have been decimated by injuries, with Joey Gallo, Max Kepler and Kyle Farmer recently joining Jorge Polanco, Alex Kiriloff, Royce Lewis and Gilberto Celestino on the IL. With Polanco nearing a return, Julien may need to get his ABs at DH when Byron Buxton can play the outfield or slide in at first base, where he played 21 games in 2021 at the A levels. He played first and third base in 2021 too, as Minnesota has been searching for a place that the defensively-challenged Julien can play.
So what can we expect from the 6-foot, 195-pounder in his rookie season? Looking at projection systems, not much, but we’re here to heartily disagree, as we had him very high in our Top 500 rankings. The most optimistic system is ZiPS rest-of-season projections, which has Julien drawing walks (13.9 BB%) and showing double-digit power and speed (11 HR, 10 SB) in 442 PAs, but doing so with a paltry triple-slash of .220/.337/.365. We’re betting that if Julien is able to produce enough to stay in the lineup and accumulate 550 PAs, it would come with 15 homers, 15 steals and a .255/.365/.435 triple-slash.
Drafted in the 18th round in 2019 out of Auburn, he didn’t make his pro debut until 2021 thanks to the pandemic. Julien quickly established what he was best at – drawing walks and getting on base, posting a 24.5 BB% and .490 OBP in 47 games for Low-A Fort Myers before a 19.4 BB% and .397 OBP in 65 games for High-A Cedar Rapids. He combined for 18 homers and 34 steals in those 102 games. He kept it up in 2022 for Double-A Wichita, recording a 19.3 BB% with a .441 OBP, 17 HR and 19 SB in 113 games. He played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic this spring, putting up an amazing triple-slash of .538/.667/1.154 with 2 HR and 1 SB in 4 games, drawing 5 walks. We’ve taken to calling him the “Canadian God of Walks,” an homage to Kevin Youkilis, nicknamed the “Greek God of Walks” during a 10-year MLB career starting in 2004.
The worry is that if he doesn’t hit enough while so many Twins are on the IL, he would get sent back down when the team starts getting healthy. Julien could hit enough to stay in Minnesota, but still find himself in more of a part-time role and only accumulate 200-300 PAs.As for the long-term future, Julien could take over second base by next year after the expected departure of Polanco to free agency. Or if Lewis and Miranda wind up taking second and third base in either combination, then Julien could become the primary DH. If Julien can play his way into a regular role, he could use his tremendous patience to land in the top of the lineup and become a premium table-setter. If everything goes right, Julien could become in his prime a regular producer of 100 runs, 20 homers, 20 steals, a .280 average and a .390 OBP.