MINNEAPOLIS – Playing in the Arizona Fall League a year ago after a strong season at double-A, Edouard Julien remembers watching the Toronto Blue Jays play the Seattle Mariners in the wild-card round and wishing he could take on his childhood team at the Rogers Centre.
“Now,” the Minnesota Twins second baseman from Quebec City says, “I’m going to play them at home here in Minnesota. It’s going to be even better.”
In that way, the 24-year-old will enjoy a full-circle moment when he takes the field for Game 1 on Tuesday afternoon, the latest achievement in a very impressive rookie season.
Julien represented Canada at the World Baseball Classic during spring training, going 7-for-13 with two homers, two doubles and five walks in four games, debuted in the big-leagues April 12 and soon established himself as an essential part of the Twins lineup.
In 109 games, he batted .263/.381/.459 with 16 homers, 16 doubles and 64 walks, usually batting leadoff or second. While he’s struck out a lot – 128 times in 408 plate appearances, or 31.4 per cent – he simply doesn’t budge at the plate, with a 100th percentile chase rate of 14.3 per cent and a 98th percentile walk rate of 15.7 per cent.
And when Julien does make contact, he makes good contact, with a sweet spot percentage of 38.8 per cent (91st percentile), a barrel percentage of 13.1 (86th percentile) and hard-hit percentage of 44.9 (70th percentile).
All the success reinforced to Julien that “my approach would work at the next level and I could trust it and go out there and have the same (plan) I did was when I was in the minor-leagues.
“No matter all the information I get here and all the good pitchers we’re facing here, at the end of the day, it’s the same game, they’re just a little better at what they do,” he says. “I showed in the minor leagues that I could take balls and take my walks and that’s the main thing I saw at first when I came here, even though these pitchers, they’re going to try to nibble and make you chase and try to swing at balls and you don’t want to swing at. That’s my biggest strength, is to not swing at those balls, to not chase and not do those things.”
That skill-set will make him a problem for the Blue Jays in the wild-card series, as they need to keep him from setting the table for Jorge Polanco, Carlos Correa (who said Monday the plantar fasciitis in his left foot is better and he expects to play in the post-season), Alex Kirilloff and Max Kepler atop the Twins lineup.
Either way facing the Blue Jays, whom he’s cheered for since he was six years old, will provide an interesting book-end on a full season.
“It’s been a pretty unique year for sure,” he says. “Represented my country in the World Baseball Classic and now I have a chance to kind of beat my country’s team. It’s going to be cool and hopefully we come out on top.”