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It's Never Too Early for Magic Number

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:36 AM
Just a little Spreadsheet fun for those interested in knowing how many wins/losses the Twins need to clinch a playoff spot  ...
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Article: MIN 10, DET 4: Twins Blow Out Tigers Bullpen

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:19 PM
One moment it looked like the Twins were going to blow a quality start from Ervin Santana, the next moment they were blowing out the Tige...
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Game Thread: Twins @ Tigers 9-23 5:10 PM CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:58 PM
  ANNND Welcome! To Minnesota Twins Whine Line: Re-write edition! I am your host for the next 2 days, Vanimal. How NEAT was that ga...
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Walt's daily odds

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:40 PM
Here is daily odds for Twins make playoff levels. Is base from win percent and binomial function.   Win Second Wall Car: 0.62 Win To...
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Happiest surprise for you this season?

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 10:49 PM
Since there isn't a lot going on in the minor leagues right this second, I figured I'd ask what your favorite surprise was this season fo...
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2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Corner Infielders

So far, we have projected the rosters for Twins catchers, outfieldersand middle infielders. Today, we’ll look at the first basemen and third basemen (And a bunch of DHs too). Pending any last minute moves, the Twins’ opening day corner infielders are likely set.

Joe Mauer will play a lot at first base, but he’ll be given time off, and we’ll see Kennys Vargas there also. Miguel Sano will finally get the opportunity to be the third baseman, and we’ll get to see how that pans out. Will the Twins still bring in a veteran to play some first base and DH, or will Byungho Park be in Rochester, ready to help?

There are plenty of AAA veterans ready for another big league shot. There are some prospects, but most are working through the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today
Below you’ll find the corner infielders throughout the Twins organization.

Minnesota Twins -
1B - Joe Mauer (33), Kennys Vargas (26)
3B - Miguel Sano (23), Eduardo Escobar (28)

Miguel Sano is going to get his shot to prove whether or not he can be the third baseman of the future. His offense struggled some last season and yet he still hit 25 home runs. Hopefully he will start showing us what his full potential is very soon. Eduardo Escobar will likely play the three non-first base infield positions.

Joe Mauer is solid at first base. His overall offensive numbers in 2016 were a career-worst. However, if you’re looking for a silver lining, if his season had ended in mid-August when he got hurt, he was hitting .284/.384/.417 (.801). If he can put up those numbers, we’d all be happy. Kennys Vargas appears to be the primary DH to start the season, though he can also play some first base. He posted an .833 OPS in 2016, though in just 47 games.

Rochester Red Wings -
1B - Ben Paulsen (29), Reynaldo Rodriguez (31), Byungho Park (30)
3B - Matt Hague (31), Dan Gamache (26), Leonardo Reginnato (26)

It was certainly surprising that the Twins DFAd Byungho Park. His big league debut was disappointing, but it also ended early with wrist issues and eventually surgery. But there is no denying the power potential that he’s got. He cleared waivers and will be in spring training.

Ben Paulsen has 517 plate appearances over the last three seasons with the Rockies. He played 116 big league games in 2015 and was then DFAd following the 2016 season. He signed with the Twins and will go to spring training with an opportunity to play first base and the corner outfield positions. Reynaldo Rodriguez is now in his fourth season in the Twins organization. He was suspended for 80 games last year, but he’s been a strong source of power.

Matt Hague was the International League MVP in 2015. He spent 2016 in Japan where he struggled. He returns to the States this year. Gamache comes over from the Pirates organization. He hit .244/.338/.324 (.662) in just 79 games in AAA last year. Reginnato came to the Twins as a minor league free agent last year. He spent most of the season in Chattanooga before ending the year with the Red Wings.

Chattanooga Lookouts -
1B - Dalton Hicks (26), Trey Vavra (25)
3B - Niko Goodrum (24), TJ White (25), Tom Belza (27)

Dalton Hicks has spent the last two seasons in Chattanooga, but both years he missed time due to injury. When he’s played, he continues to be a major run producer. Trey Vavra struggled some in 2016 in Ft. Myers and yet he still hit eight home runs for the Miracle. He is finally back to healthy after the ankle injury (and surgery) from 2015. Belza was signed recently. He split last year between AA and AAA with the Diamondbacks and Brewers organizations. He has played the corner infield and outfield positions in recent years.

Niko Goodrum could have been a minor league free agent, but he quickly re-signed with the Twins. He’s a great athlete who missed half of the 2016 season with a stress reaction in his foot. He primarily played third base, but he can also play shortstop and center field and more. TJ White was primed for a solid season in Ft. Myers last year, but weeks into the season he was pushed to Chattanooga as an injury replacement. He struggled, but he did have his moments that remind us of the talent (speed and power) that he has.

Ft. Myers Miracle -
1B - Zander Wiel (24), Chris Paul (24)
3B - Nelson Molina (21), Chris Ibarra (24)

Zander Wiel ended his season very strong and led the Midwest League in RBIs. He was a Twins Daily organizational all-star last year. He was drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2015. In 128 games, he hit .259/.333/.459 (.792) with 27 doubles, eight triples and 19 home runs. When TJ White moved up to AA, Chris Paul was moved up to the Miracle. He played mostly third base, though he had played mostly first base the years before.

Nelson Molina was also a Twins minor league all-star in 2016 after his surprise success at Cedar Rapids. He hit .300/.374/.381 (.755) with 15 doubles for the Kernels. He played shortstop most of his career as well as in the playoffs for the Kernels. Chris Ibarra signed out of the independent leagues last year and split his season between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers.

Cedar Rapids Kernels -
1B - Lewin Diaz (20), Amaurys Minier (21)
3B - Mitchell Kranson (23), Caleb Hamilton (22)

Lewin Diaz was the Twins Daily Short-Season Minor League Hitter of the Year. In 46 games in Elizabethton, he hit .310/.353/.575 (.928) with 15 doubles and nine home runs. He was the Twins big international free agent signing in 2013. Their big international free agent signing in 2012 was Amaurys Minier. Things have been more of a struggle for him. In E-Town in 2016, he played 48 games and his .222/.318/.449 (.767) with eight doubles and ten home runs. He was signed as a third baseman, spent one year there, moved to the outfield, spent one year there, and has been at first base, and really DH, since.

Mitchell Kranson played a lot of third base at California. He was the Twins ninth-round pick last year and went to Instructional League as a catcher. He will likely spend a lot of time behind the plate. He’s got a ton of power potential. Caleb Hamilton can play all over the diamond. He was the Twins 23rd-round pick last year out of Oregon State.

Extended Spring Training -
1B - Zach Featherstone (21), Roni Tapia (19), Kolton Kendrick (20)
3B - Trey Cabbage (19)

Trey Cabbage was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2015 out of high school. He fought some back issues right before the Elizabethton season got started. He’ll likely repeat at Elizabethton, although an opening could move him up to Cedar Rapids earlier.

Featherstone was the team’s 12th-round pick last year out of junior college. He hit .212 in 34 games in the GCL in his pro debut. Roni Tapia signed with the Twins in 2013. He debuted in 2014 in the DSL. He’s hit .160 and .127 over the last two season in the GCL. Of his 58 plate appearances, he had 29 strikeouts. Kolton Kendrick was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2015. He really struggled in 2016, striking out 24 times in 49 plate appearances.

Top Prospects
1.) Lewin Diaz
2.) Trey Cabbage
3.) Amaurys Minier
4.) Zander Wiel
5.) Niko Goodrum
6.) Nelson Molina
7.) TJ White


There are a lot of question marks at the corner infield positions throughout the system. What can Joe Mauer do in 2017. Can Kennys Vargas handle a full load of DH time? Can Miguel Sano play third base well enough? Will any of those AAA veterans need to be called upon at some point this season? The prospects are at the lowest levels, so watching their development will be very important as well. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below.


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22 Comments

Besides Diaz, a pretty uninspiring bunch for these positions in the minors....

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, Dantes929 and 1 other like this
"Joe Mauer will play a lot of first base..."
------------------------------------------------------

Sad. Mauer expected to be at 1B again? Anyone care to ask him what his 2017 goals are? Let me guess... the goal is to simply "feel good"? What's the point of having him in the lineup so much if he can't demonstrate that he can produce extra-base hits and RBI?

Question that every MN sports reporter asks Joe:
* "How are you feeling?"

Why even ask how he's feeling? Guy just lies anyway. Ask the guy a real question for once. Anyone who is covering the Twins this much really need to address a few things with him. Would like some actual reporting on Joe, rather than trying to be chummy.

Example of a few simple questions that no MN reporters DARE ask Joe Mauer:

* "Joe, have you done anything different in your training this off-season this year in order to increase your power or bat speed?"

* "Why aren't you producing?"

* "What is your plan for getting more RBIs and extra-base hits this year?"

* "How is the "blurred vision" coming along? Doing any better? Why did this story come out shortly after you reported "feeling good" in consecutive spring trainings? Why did you wait 2.5 years to tell the media (let alone team)? Why did you get 500+ ABs with vision problems? Do you predict you will see the ball any better in 2017?

Seth, I challenge you to ask the guy a few tough questions this spring.
I remain absolutely convinced that Sano will be at least an adequate 3B given opportunity and work. Coming up, we heard he worked hard on his defense and took pride in such. His first couple seasons, he has seen time, perhaps too much, at DH to allow Plouffe time in the infield, and, of course, the I'll planned experiment in RF last season before being moved to 3B after not being allowed to play there, per Molitor. (Or something to that affect). He's working hard this offseason, lost a bit of bulk, and probably got humbled a bit and frustrated last season. He charges the ball well. He's got a cannon. And for the umpteenth time, look no further than the Twins own past excellent 3B to see it takes a little time to settle down and learn.

Mauer is quality at 1B and can still contribute offensively if used properly. SSS or not, look at the OPS Vargas put up, look at his milb track history, read about the adjustments he's made begining last season, and then tell me he doesn't deserve a real shot!

I may have included Palka on this list, despite being an OF, because of the DH and 1B option. I've been thinking for a while now he could be the heir to Mauer there while still being able to play some corner OF as needed.

Bit of a man crush on Goodrum. Seems he's been around forever. But he's only 24, has had a couple injury setbacks, and is a talented athlete. I am hoping his 2016 was not a mirage. If not, we could see him sooner rather than later, and he could be what we all hoped and thought DanSan might be: a guy who can play 4-6 positions adequately and provide a mixed bag of overall production.

Other than Cabbage, maybe White and Molina, I find the rest to be "meh". There is some potential there, but I think 2017 is a prove it or lose it for a lot of these guys.
.800+ OPS stats were cited twice for Joe's 2016, but those were not his full season's stats. OPS was like .750-something. Also noteworthy were the following meager stats:

* 11 HR
* 49 RBI
* .389 SLG
    • mikelink45 and jud6312 like this

I may have included Palka on this list, despite being an OF, because of the DH and 1B option. I've been thinking for a while now he could be the heir to Mauer there while still being able to play some corner OF as needed.


Palka getting some ABs would be sweet. He has some great bat speed and whip. Powerful swing.

I have this unwarranted feeling that really good players hit the majors by the time they are 25 so when I look at the upper levels and see ages that are closer to the time when MLB peak (30) has passed - 1B - Ben Paulsen (29), Reynaldo Rodriguez (31), Byungho Park (30)  3B - Matt Hague (31), Dan Gamache (26), Leonardo Reginnato (26) it is disappointing.  

 

Even Chattanooga has old players from my development perspective.  Given that they would probably move to AAA for a year you would have to add another year to their potential MLB age and now we are getting to the veteran MLB stage - 1B - Dalton Hicks (26), Trey Vavra (25) 3B - Niko Goodrum (24), TJ White (25), Tom Belza (27)

 

All of which emphasizes what has been said before, our future, at least on the corners, is in the low levels. 

    • Willihammer likes this

Wouldn't surprise me if Ben Paulsen became a dark horse 40 man add. Given his previous MLB experience and more position flexibility than Park. 

That is a woeful list of prospects, frankly. There weren't many exciting OF prospects either. The FO has some serious work in front of them.

    • KGB likes this

Need to add Tommy Field to the list in AAA. As a matter of fact he is the best fielding third baseman in the organization and has a bit of MLB experience. 

 

Lots of names in AA & AAA and not sure that all of them will make it though ST...

 

17 year old Victor Tademo who can play both 3B and SS is another guy who will likely be in EST and one to keep one's eye on.    .311/.388/.429 age 16 season in the Dominican was very promising. 

 

Not much of an apparent third base pipeline here, in general, so the hope is that Sano will be able to hold the position on his own for a while.Few current SS (eg. Gordon) could potentially be included in the list as well, which makes the picture a bit better.

 

What's the point of having him in the lineup so much if he can't demonstrate that he can produce extra-base hits and RBI?

 

You can't judge a baseball player solely on extra-base hits and RBI. Joe Mauer faded due to injury down the stretch but still finished with the second best OBP on the team after Robbie Grossman. Grossman had a career year at the plate, Mauer had a down year. Not crazy to say that Joe Mauer is clearly the best OBP option for the MLB club this year.

 

I know HRs and RBIs are sexy and we get stuck behind outdated concepts of what a first baseman is but if we ignore that drivel, Mauer's OBP is really valuable. It is especially vital for a team like the Twins that has a lot of pop and a lot of high-K guys (e.g. Sano, Buxton, Rosario). Mauer being on base (hopefully in the 2 hole) should lead to a lot of RBIs for guys behind him. Joe's skill set may not be worth $23 million anymore but the Joe-bashing goes way too far. Someone was talking about DFAing him on another thread - that's insane.

 

In spite of injuries, Mauer put up close to an .800 OPS against right handed pitchers last year (70% of pitches thrown are by right handers) so he'll be a vital part of the Twins this year. He'll likely be platooned more than he has before -- and that's a good thing. He'll be less likely to be injured if he's getting regular rest and his stats will jump if he's used mainly against right handed pitching (though unlike many Twins platoon options, he hits lefties well enough that it isn't dire if a team brings in a LH reliever late in a game). 

 

I'm excited to see what Mauer can do this year if he's used more judiciously. He'd be one of my top candidates to have a better-than-expected year.

    • ChiTownTwinsFan, brvama, Dantes929 and 3 others like this

As to the organizational weakness at corner infield, it's certainly not a strength but a look at the MLB squad shows you why this isn't particularly dire.

 

Sano is penciled in at 3B (or 1B potentially) for the next half decade. Vargas is a nice switch-hitting prospect. Mauer is an acceptable platoon at 1B for the next two years (and if he prospers as a platoon bat, there's no reason he couldn't come back after this huge contract is done - Mauer for $5-8 million per year would be very palatable in the right platoon/bench bat role). Third base depth is a bit weak but as long as Sano can stick there for two to three seasons without being a total disaster, there should be some nice prospects coming up the ladder (Goodrum, Cabbage or one of the Twins many SS/2B prospects who are blocked).

 

Not to mention that 1B/DH are places that regularly have cheap solutions via free agency, especially as the Twins begin to be a more attractive destination as the young guys start to mature.

 

I'm not worried about the Twins corner IF. It's not the source of strength that the OF or middle infield is (weird to say that latter one) but it's not going to be crippling. The starting pitching on the other hand . . . 

2015 pennant run was fueled by Santana, Duffey, Sano and Mauer. Basically it was Mauer got on and Sano drove him home. He has never been a big RBI guy mostly because he takes too many walks which doesn't provide the drama and excitement crave but is very valuable because it has allowed Morneau, Thome and Cuddyer to provide that drama.  Runs produced is an underrated stat. One week a couple years ago I kept track of what Mauer did to contribute to runs and what he got credit for. I definitely picked the right week because his walks and hits moved guys over that then scored on hits, sac flies and fielders choices. In a week he contributed to 8 runs and what showed up on his stat sheet was 0 RBI and 1 run scored.  If a guy walks and Mauer gets a hit that gets him to 3rd with one out and the next guy hits a sac fly there is an RBI and a run scored and Mauer gets credit for neither but it has happened with him as much or more than any guy in the majors over the years.

    • ThejacKmp and sploorp like this

If you want context free offensive measure, pick wRC+ or something....

 

if you want context, look at win probability measures.

 

That way, you can compare him to other players......

 

you probably won't like how Mauer compares to other 1B.......

 

You can't judge a baseball player solely on extra-base hits and RBI. 

 

This is true. However, if the baseball player hits primarily in the 3- or 2-hole, has no speed element to his game, and fields a position (like 1B) where you should insert a heavy bat, the lack of extra-base hits and RBI become all the more critically harmful. If Mauer played an elite fielding position (like CF, SS or C) and stole 30 bags, all of these arguments for his OBP would be valid. His hitting approach (take 5 pitches per AB) would be great if he was a speedy leadoff hitter. For a 3-hole hitting 1B, you need the guy to knock in some runs and he is simply not doing that. 

 

49 RBI is ridiculous for a 6'5" AL 1B with 500 ABs. He needs to be platoon-only at this point. 

 

That being said, I'd be excited to see Mauer perform better as well. I rooted for him like crazy when he was on fire last summer for those few weeks. 

    • sploorp likes this

By 2020, Sano will be 1B, Polanco 2B, Gordon SS, but who's the 3B?  

 

By 2020, Sano will be 1B, Polanco 2B, Gordon SS, but who's the 3B?  

 

Manny Machado!

    • Mike Sixel, Riverbrian and Vanimal46 like this

 

By 2020, Sano will be 1B, Polanco 2B, Gordon SS, but who's the 3B?  

Definitely someone who is not currently in the organization. It's tough enough to forecast this season's 25 man roster... Forecasting 3 years in advance will melt our brains. 

    • Mike Sixel and sploorp like this

 

Manny Machado!

Or 35 year old Justin Turner! Gotta have that veteran presence every season! 

    • Mike Sixel and Riverbrian like this
Photo
HitInAPinch
Feb 10 2017 03:12 PM

 

By 2020, Sano will be 1B, Polanco 2B, Gordon SS, but who's the 3B?  

"I don't know" is on 3rd.At least that's what Abbott and Costello said...

    • diehardtwinsfan, Riverbrian, Danchat and 1 other like this

Little disappointing to see guys like Cabbage and Kendrick lagging behind guys drafted last year in Kranson and Hamilton. Lets hope for good health for Trey and better contact rates from Kolton.

 

"I don't know" is on 3rd.At least that's what Abbott and Costello said...

And "who's" on first.

Photo
Buddy Holly
Feb 12 2017 05:56 PM

How about moving Dozier to 3rd base. Less ground to cover, ARM? His bat would fit this position fine for the next 5 years. 


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