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Could Brooks Lee follow Royce Lewis's path to the majors?

Brooks Lee's strong Grapefruit League performance could have the Twins asking questions ahead of Opening Day.

The Minnesota Twins have a bright future and one of the biggest reasons is Brooks Lee.

Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said Lee is "getting close to major league ready" at the beginning of spring training and the eighth overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft has responded by going 6-for-23 with three doubles and a pair of RBIs going into Sunday's action. 

With a strong performance, Lee is making a case to make the Opening Day roster. But it also brings up a question Twins fans have been asking throughout the offseason: Do the Twins have too many infielders?

It's a question that has Lee's path to the majors complicated as Minnesota sits just over two weeks from their season opener in Kansas City on Mar. 28. Lee might be ready to contribute in the majors but a glut of veterans has his path blocked and it may take an injury or two for him to arrive in Minneapolis this summer.

The Twins infield problem began late last season. With Eddy Julien breaking out at second base, the Twins needed to find a way to get him at-bats with Jorge Polanco returning from injury. The issue led Polanco to get time at third base where every groundball became an adventure and created another log jam when Royce Lewis returned from an oblique injury.

Putting Lewis at his natural position of shortstop wasn't an option with Carlos Correa at shortstop and first base was also jammed up despite injuries to Alex Kirilloff and Jose Miranda.

Eventually, Lewis suffered a hamstring injury late in the season which allowed Polanco to play at third base during the Twins' playoff run last October. But it also created a surplus that would lead to a trade to Seattle this winter.

The move, which brought back right-handers Anthony DiSclafani and Justin Topa as well as two prospects, cleared some of the log jam but the Twins still have plenty of infielders as Opening Day approaches.

The left side of the infield appears ready to go with Lewis coming off a strong rookie season and Correa looking like himself after battling plantar fasciitis last year. The right side has a few more question marks although Julien is poised to be the Twins' Opening Day second baseman.

Julien's bat is worthy of a spot in the lineup after hitting .263/.381/.459 with 16 homers and 37 RBI in his rookie year. But his defense is a long-term question mark and could be the opening that Lee needs to get to the majors.

A natural shortstop, Lee has been doing defensive work at second base and third base during spring training but taking over for Julien could create another problem on the depth chart.

While Falvey suggested Julien could play first base, the Twins already have several options. Alex Kirilloff and Carlos Santana are expected to form a platoon at the major league level and Jose Miranda should be knocking on the door after recovering from a shoulder injury that washed out his 2023 season.

With utility man Kyle Farmer also in the mix, the Twins' log jam could send Lee back to Triple-A St. Paul. However, that might not be a bad thing when you consider what the 23-year-old needs to work on.

Lee's overall numbers were solid last season, hitting .292/.365/.476 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI at Double-A Wichita before getting called up to the Saints last August. But Lee's numbers dipped after the promotion, hitting .237/.304/.428 with five homers and 23 RBI in 38 games at Triple-A.

Part of this is a prospect fighting through the rigors of a long season but it also reflected a split against left-handed pitching. While Lee hit .287/.366/.494 with 14 home runs and 70 RBI against right-handers last season, he hit just .231/.266/.337 with two homers and 14 RBI in 104 at-bats against southpaws.

With Julien's strength against right-handed pitching (.274/.401/.497, 16 HR, 36 RBI), putting Lee on the roster might be redundant. With Farmer also on the roster, Lee might need to take the same path Lewis did to cement his spot in the lineup.

Lewis was coming off an ACL tear in 2022 when he began the season in St. Paul. After hitting .310/.430/.563 with three homers and 11 RBI in 24 games with the Saints, Lewis was called up to the majors and performed so well the Twins prepared him for a super-utility role.

The experiment proved costly as Lewis tore his ACL for the second time in 15 months while playing in center field but it also benefitted him when Miranda injured his shoulder early last season and cleared a path at first base.

Twins fans know what happened from there. Lewis hit six homers during a 14-game minor league assignment and hit .309/.372/.548 with 15 homers and 52 RBI while taking over as Minnesota's primary third baseman after being activated on Memorial Day.

Could an injury in the infield clear a similar path for Lee? Or will Lee force the issue in the next two weeks leading to a trade that adds depth elsewhere?

It's a good problem for the Twins to have coming into the season, but there might be too many infielders in Minnesota for Lee to make an immediate impact.