Aaron Hicks named Twins’ starting center fielder

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Three weeks ago when Aaron Hicks had a three-homer game against the Phillies it seemed all but certain that he’d be the Opening Day center fielder in Minnesota and now the Twins have made it official.

Hicks, who ranked among Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects this year for the fourth time, will be making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues at age 23 after the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere for young pitching help this offseason. He has very good range and an exceptional arm, and the switch-hitter batted .286 with 13 homers, 79 walks, and an .844 OPS in 129 games at Double-A last season.

By starting Hicks on Opening Day the Twins are not taking service time considerations into account in order to delay his eventual free agency, but if that was ever a part of their decision-making process with the former first-round pick it became tougher and tougher to justify a short, season-opening stint at Triple-A as he hit .350 in 18 spring training games.

Kris Bryant exits game with sprained right ankle

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The Cubs had a scare on Wednesday night when third baseman Kris Bryant left with an apparent ankle injury. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a pop up that veered just into foul territory near the third base bag. Bryant caught it but his momentum took him back into fair territory. In doing so, he stepped awkwardly on the third base bag and appeared to twist his ankle. Bryant needed the assistance of manager Joe Maddon and the team trainer to get off the field.

Bryant was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Bryant was 2-for-3 on the night before departing and being replaced by Jeimer Candelario. He’s now hitting .264/.395/.520 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI in 329 plate appearances. Needless to say, the 39-39 Cubs would see their playoff odds hurt immensely if Bryant were to miss a significant amount of time.

Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

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Hector Gomez reports Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, to be held in two weeks at Marlins Park in Miami. So far, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the only other confirmed participant.

Sano, 24, is having an outstanding season, batting .274/.375/.548 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 293 plate appearances. According to MLB’s Statcast, only Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (96.7 MPH) has a higher average exit velocity than Sano (96.4 MPH).

Brian Dozier was the last member of the Twins to participate in the Home Run Derby. In 2014 at Target Field, Dozier failed to make it into the second round after hitting only two home runs. Justin Morneau is the only Twin to have ever won the Home Run Derby, as he beat Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals of the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium — although Hamilton out-homered him in total 35 to 22.