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A Closer Look at the 2015 Twins

Last week, when I wrote that the Twins have only one major need to address during the coming offseason, I expected the piece of generate some animated conversation.

You guys did not disappoint.
The article here on Twins Daily generated nearly 200 comments. The re-post on the Star Tribune added another 70. Multiple people nominated me on Twitter for KFAN's Preposterous Statement Tournament, and on Friday the proprietor of that tournament ridiculed the column on his show.

If you want to listen to that bit, you can click here and zoom ahead to the 37-minute mark or so. It's good stuff. Common suggested that I must either be working for the team or that I may actually be a Pohlad. He called the sentiment "insane" and roused the crowd to show agreement with applause. It was awesome.

Common's tirade was flush with hyperbole -- a staple in his always-entertaining shtick -- but as the crowd's cheering can attest, his general reaction was not out of the ordinary. Many people are flat-out repulsed at the notion that this roster needs anything less than major work.

I wanted to examine that mind set a little more closely, because it's interesting. I'm sure a lot of it is borne from frustration with a winning drought that has now stretched to four years.

But how can you look at this lineup and not credit the organization for what they've brought together? The Twins have scored the fifth-most runs in baseball, and the offense has been clicking most in recent weeks with a lineup consisting almost entirely of players who are 28 or younger (Joe Mauer and Kurt Suzuki being the lone exceptions).

Is statistic regression likely in some cases? Sure -- that's the nature of baseball. But it will be offset to some degree by young players getting better, and eventually by the arrivals of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and others. If you're not feeling confident in the offensive outlook right now, you're just not paying attention.

The pitching staff seems to be the main sticking point for a lot of people, and I can relate with that. Ricky Nolasco was crushed again on Sunday and is having an incredibly bad year, the worst of his career, but he'll be back in 2015 and he'll be better. At least we've got to hope so, because he isn't going anywhere right now.

Nolasco, along with Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, will have spots cemented. Trevor May has nothing left to prove in Triple-A and as much as he's struggled in the majors, he's learning right now. The Twins need to just give him a full year and see what he can do. It's worked out OK for Gibson, who was coming off a miserable late-season MLB debut.

So what it comes down to is that fifth rotation spot. The existing group of contenders includes Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey. If you're not enthralled by that trio (especially with Meyer ending his season on a note of health uncertainty), I can't blame you, but I still think it's a stretch to expect the club to go add another starter who would be guaranteed a spot.

I just don't see much room for addition, and I think that if anyone takes an honest look at the situation they'd have to reach the same conclusion. Maybe the Twins will get creative and trade a few back-end arms to make room for a more reliable, high-quality starter who could slot as a No. 1 or No. 2, but I doubt it.

The accusations that I'm acting as a shill for the organization with this line of thinking are more bemusing than offensive, but I am a little surprised. I never said they'll have a surefire playoff team in 2015. I never said I'm happy with how long it's taken them to get to this point.

But while going through this demoralizing stretch of losing baseball, the Twins have assembled premium minor-league talent and put together one of the best farm systems in baseball. That pipeline is already beginning to feed the big-league club -- with some undeniably strong results -- and the best is still on the verge of arriving.

The other common disagreement I saw was that switches need to be made on the coaching staff or in the front office, rather than on the roster. That's a fair stance to hold, and probably one worth exploring in a little more depth here in the final weeks.

But from a roster standpoint, I think the 2015 Twins are already mostly lined up. And it doesn't look that bad to me.

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114 Comments

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Secondary User
Sep 02 2014 12:08 AM

It's amazing how often that schill insult gets thrown around at anyone who dares take a positive outlook on the future of the Twins organization.  It comes from the crowds that don't pay attention to the organization as a whole, and simply watch the product at the major league level.  They look at Wins and losses, ERA, and RBI as their key indicators for how good a player is performing, and often times don't understand the role advanced metrics play in evaluation and prediction.  Then they play the "How, as a fan, can you not be outraged by this horrible team" card, and follow it up with "Prospects are just prospects until they've proven something in the majors" as if that isn't a concept that you're aware of. 

 

Kudos to you for clarifying and doubling down on your statement.

    • Dantes929 and hybridbear like this
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flatlanddad
Sep 02 2014 05:16 AM

Thanks for your last two articles. We usually have to wait until the off-season to get to the "wait until next year" phase, but as you've explained, we can start seeing glimpses of next season right now. Next year will not be without some growing pains, but it should be fun to see them play.

    • birdwatcher likes this
My oldest son made this point yesterday when talking about the Twins. To paraphrase, we have become satisfied with the level of play. We are satisfied to have a SS in CF, a utility guy playing short, someone in left we picked up, a third baseman who is at best mildly ordinary, and collectively possibly the worst SP staff in the majors, a catcher who cannot throw out runners. I excused Dozier because he can field with the best, and Arcia because he is 23 and has potential where he is. So does Santanna, but not out there, with us not having a SS. His point, and I agree is this team has lost 90 games 3 (4) years in a row. And this team as it is now fielded will continue to lose. Maybe the question should be, IS there only one spot open? Or SHOULD there only be one spot open. In theory, if you lose 90 for four years in a row, there should be 25 spots open!
    • westvanson and chpettit19 like this
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SarasotaBill
Sep 02 2014 05:56 AM

Here's my plan:

1. Sign Lester (back up is Shields) - you need a Ace to make Hughes a very good 2 and Gibson a good 3. Besides being better than the #6 pitcher, an Ace will greatly reduce the load on the bullpen.

2. Sign a cheap RH LF to platoon with Shafer (Ideal would be Rios but probably too expensive).

3. At trade deadline, if you can't sign Hughes to an extension, then try to trade him for a top ten prospect (like the Cubs did with Samardzija).

4. Have Milone and the Meyer/May (whoever doesn't win #5 spot) in AAA ready to fill in.

5. Have Hicks, Sano, Buxton earn their way onto the team next year (July - September).

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diehardtwinsfan
Sep 02 2014 06:28 AM
This is baseball not football. You cannot just cut a guy if he's not perforing. They are under contract, and baseball contracts are guaranteed. You also won't typically find much in terms of impact pitching out of the FA market. Likewise, the younger players take a lot more time to adjust and become good players. Very few walk in and suddenly become stars.

That, to me sums up the big problems b/c Nolasco and Pelfrey in particular aren't going anywhere. Gibson and May will need time to improve. Meyer and Berrios aren't ready. The offense has been pretty good since the young guys have been brought in, and while it can always be tweaked (particularly in CF until Buxton is ready and a long term decision about LF), I think Nick's point is generally valid.

What I find amusing about this is that the Twins did exactly what we asked them to do last offseason and essentially blow up the roster. They went out and got 3 pitchers. 2 of the 3 can only be described as failures (which I might add is not terribly unusual in the FA market) and one of those two has 3 years left on his contract. Now we ask that they go do this again. The problem is that there's about 40 million left on the books, and we cannot just recoup it by cutting the guy. I'm not a fan of the Pohlads by any means, but if we want a case study on why that doesn't work, we should go look at how the Cubs have been run for the past 50 or so years. It rarely works.
    • Cris E, DAM DC Twins Fans, Dantes929 and 4 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Sep 02 2014 06:32 AM
 

My oldest son made this point yesterday when talking about the Twins. To paraphrase, we have become satisfied with the level of play. We are satisfied to have a SS in CF, a utility guy playing short, someone in left we picked up, a third baseman who is at best mildly ordinary, and collectively possibly the worst SP staff in the majors, a catcher who cannot throw out runners. I excused Dozier because he can field with the best, and Arcia because he is 23 and has potential where he is. So does Santanna, but not out there, with us not having a SS. His point, and I agree is this team has lost 90 games 3 (4) years in a row. And this team as it is now fielded will continue to lose. Maybe the question should be, IS there only one spot open? Or SHOULD there only be one spot open. In theory, if you lose 90 for four years in a row, there should be 25 spots open!

 
I think your oldest son is being a bit unfair to Escobar and Plouffe. Plouffe hasn't been a star, but he's been a top 10 3B this season, so solidy above average. Escobar has been above average both defensively and offensively. Santana looks like he could be better in boht categories (though playing CF isn't helping him), but I'd caution on using the term 'utility' to describe Escobar. He gets that term b/c he plays several positions, but he's played them very well.

This team's problem is mostly pitching related, and unless Nolasco gets better, Hughes keeps doing what he's doing, and we see improvement from May and Gibson, the problem will continue to be pitching.
    • birdwatcher, Dantes929, stringer bell and 2 others like this
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stringer bell
Sep 02 2014 06:51 AM

I continue to believe Escobar has earned starting shortstop for the start of 2015, although his recent slump makes the argument more tenuous.  I reluctantly agree that Santana should get the majority of starts at short the rest of the way.  I don't think he will produce major league defense despite very good tools.  He sure didn't look good in Spring Training.  It is time to see.  The bat has proven to be legit. 

 

It is unfair to Parmelee, but Schafer should be a regular through September.  He has been very good in left field and a real spark plug from the bottom of the order.  The walk he took to start the eighth inning yesterday was outstanding and his presence on the base paths changed everything that inning.

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mike wants wins
Sep 02 2014 07:18 AM

I think counting on Buxton or Sano is a bit premature. Neither can even play baseball right now.

 

Meyer? Ryan basically said again he's not ready. Gibson looks like a 3/4. Nolasco is terrible. Hughes is a nice pitcher. Then there are a bunch of question marks. There are at least 2, if not three, holes there. The Twins can choose to eat Nolasco's money, or trot him out there. We know what they will do there. The SP is not good, despite signing three free agents and graduating the one guy most ready to pitch. No idea why anyone should feel good about this group at all.

 

The bullpen is filled with old guys w/o options, leaving the team with no roster flexibility. There are surely 3 holes there.

 

CF is manned by a guy the GM says is a SS long term. LF....black hole. RF.....he's ok, but not good right now.

 

There might not be "room" to add many players, but that is a function of what is available in FA, their willingness to spend money or not, the lack of SP ready in the minors (or OF ready)......not a function of this being a good team at all that has no holes. What it is, is a team likely to lose more than 85 games again next year, unless there are changes.

    • Trautmann13, Platoon and chpettit19 like this
Basically, if you do not accept Hicks as an outfielder and don't think Buxton should be counted on then there are two spots to fill. Plouffe was 10th in war this season so while it is fair to not be satisfied it I also obvious he is not the problem. If you think Escbar is a good shortstop then you still put Santana in the outfield for his arm and speed and then you are left with one position to fill. Again, fans that think more changes need to be made don't seem to accept or believe the part about the Twins scoring the 6th most in baseball. Actually, I guess if the don't believe it, technically they would be correct because the Twins are now 5TH!!! The Twins have the worst rotation so really the problems start and end with the pitching and any ideas of blowing up the rest of the team are not founded in logic at all. I have never been a proponent of going big in free agency but this year I do like the idea of going big on one starter for all the reasons stated by Sarasota. If they don't, I do believe May has the stuff to be good and so does Gibson and Nolasco should rebound to at least keep his ERA under 5. The future really isn't bleak unless by future you mean the rest of September. Some guys simply need to step up.

I think counting on Buxton or Sano is a bit premature. Neither can even play baseball right now.

 

Meyer? Ryan basically said again he's not ready. Gibson looks like a 3/4. Nolasco is terrible. Hughes is a nice pitcher. Then there are a bunch of question marks. There are at least 2, if not three, holes there. The Twins can choose to eat Nolasco's money, or trot him out there. We know what they will do there. The SP is not good, despite signing three free agents and graduating the one guy most ready to pitch. No idea why anyone should feel good about this group at all.

 

The bullpen is filled with old guys w/o options, leaving the team with no roster flexibility. There are surely 3 holes there.

 

CF is manned by a guy the GM says is a SS long term. LF....black hole. RF.....he's ok, but not good right now.

 

There might not be "room" to add many players, but that is a function of what is available in FA, their willingness to spend money or not, the lack of SP ready in the minors (or OF ready)......not a function of this being a good team at all that has no holes. What it is, is a team likely to lose more than 85 games again next year, unless there are changes.

 

Personally I wouldn't mess with the offense that much as things are clicking and we have Sano, Buxton and Polanco to add to the mix likely by the end of next year.  Also Pinto, and Herman have been hitting well in AAA and Hicks appears to have gotten better but who knows. At any rate there just isn't room for everybody as it is.

 

The pitching stinks for the most part but what will the Twins do about it?  Probably hope they get better.  Hughes is the only pitcher I can watch and actually pay attention to as I love that he throws strikes and forces guys to be aggressive at the plate.

 

Although I agree with the article that nothing much will be added via FA I also agree with Mike in that how can we expect a different result with virtually the same pitching staff as last year?  We need a boost there if we plan to get better.  Please,  Berrios or Meyer have ace stuff and get moved up soon.

I do believe we have a good young core of players. They need time to play, and most of them are already proving themselves. Yes pitching is a concern. Nolasco had an off year, but you cannot bail on him after one year. Meyer and May need a chance to play to prove they can complete. You can't keep bringing more pitchers in to block them.

This is rebuilding. It's taken longer then any of us like, but I think we're finally close.

 

Ohh and ignore anything Common Man says. I may be in the minority but I can't even listen to his show. He drives me nuts.

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Sep 02 2014 08:19 AM
We had several guys discussed as legitimate all stars this year. A couple other guys like Plouffe who had solid seasons. Young guys like Santana who have surprised. Tell me the players are the reason we are a 90 loss team.

My oldest son made this point yesterday when talking about the Twins. To paraphrase, we have become satisfied with the level of play. 

 

This reminds me of the question I asked last week:  "Do we even recognize good baseball any more?"

 

Have we simply watched so many years of dismal ball that we are willing to lap up any signs of improvement?

 

The Twins may have been 5th in runs scored in August but their record was still 11-18 (worse than their season average if I am doing my math correctly)  .... and it wasn't all due to pitching.  The Twins were able to pad that run total by beating up on AAAA pitchers but when it came to facing ML average or better pitchers, it often seemed like they were stymied.

 

I understand the argument that there aren't many roster spots available to fill and I'm willing to see how these players develop but I'm not sure how much more palatable that is going to make 2015.  I just don't see the pitching as being there.  The defense will continue to be spotty.  And the hitting will be unpredictable.

 

It isn't a very pleasant picture when we come to year 5 of the debacle.

    • Winston Smith, Halsey Hall and chpettit19 like this

I'm probably just reiterating what others have said above, but I really think that the problem with a lot of talk shows and casual fans is the application of football/basketball strategy and economics to baseball.  They're the most visible sports news due to ESPN's television contracts with those leagues and the ensuing coverage that the network gives to them.  People are used to a path to success based on "acquire one superstar -> profit."  Baseball doesn't work like that, but it doesn't prevent radio talk shows or casual fans from believing that it does.

 

I agree with a lot of the posters that there is some degree of complacency with the level of play right now.  We focus in on a few gleaming signs of hope to distract us from the whirling pit of despair the last few years have been.  I can't fault anyone for taking hope in a few young players and good signings (Hughes/Suzuki) because a rational fan knows that the Twins can't solve all of their problems with FA acquisitions.

 

I think that Nick is very articulate in these articles.  He has good logic and isn't throwing around insults or accusations, something that we can't say for all radio talk shows.  I also think Nick is close to the truth, and fans get upset about it.  Fans want to hope that there is a magic bullet to solve all the problems, and when faced with the reality that there is no magic solution, they're angry.

    • Obie likes this

This reminds me of the question I asked last week:  "Do we even recognize good baseball any more?"

 

Have we simply watched so many years of dismal ball that we are willing to lap up any signs of improvement?

 

The Twins may have been 5th in runs scored in August but their record was still 11-18 (worse than their season average if I am doing my math correctly)  .... and it wasn't all due to pitching.  The Twins were able to pad that run total by beating up on AAAA pitchers but when it came to facing ML average or better pitchers, it often seemed like they were stymied.

 

I understand the argument that there aren't many roster spots available to fill and I'm willing to see how these players develop but I'm not sure how much more palatable that is going to make 2015.  I just don't see the pitching as being there.  The defense will continue to be spotty.  And the hitting will be unpredictable.

 

It isn't a very pleasant picture when we come to year 5 of the debacle.

 

You undersold the Twins, they were first in runs in August. But alas the record was the same.

    • JB_Iowa likes this

I must add that Nick accusing someone of using excessive hyperbole is especially funny.

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Nick Nelson
Sep 02 2014 09:03 AM

I must add that Nick accusing someone of using excessive hyperbole is especially funny.

That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard!

    • ChiTownTwinsFan, ashburyjohn, USAFChief and 5 others like this

I'm not sold on Oswaldo Arcia and I think the Twins could do better in right field.  He's hitting .220/.288/.429 with 101 strikeouts in only 81 games... and not to mention the bad defense.  I know he's young, and I know he's conquered AAA already, but he needs to step back and collect himself because I'm not impressed with how he's played.

 

I'm also not sold on Trevor May being part of the rotation immediately in 2015, leaving Nolasco, Hughes, Gibson, and... Mike Pelfrey?

 

I guess what I'm saying is that I disagree with the premise that the Twins don't need to make any major moves in the offseason.

    • birdwatcher and Kwak like this

I'm not sold on Oswaldo Arcia and I think the Twins could do better in right field.  He's hitting .220/.288/.429 with 101 strikeouts in only 81 games... and not to mention the bad defense.  I know he's young, and I know he's conquered AAA already, but he needs to step back and collect himself because I'm not impressed with how he's played.
 
I'm also not sold on Trevor May being part of the rotation immediately in 2015, leaving Nolasco, Hughes, Gibson, and... Mike Pelfrey?
 
I guess what I'm saying is that I disagree with the premise that the Twins don't need to make any major moves in the offseason.

Milone really shouldn't be discounted so much since he does have a pretty good AL history so far. One big contract for a guy like Lester or Shields would go a long way. Its not an easy fix since you aren't comfortable that the talent is ready but don't want to block them either. This year we went with more youth on offense and I would be fine with doing the same on the pitching side even if it means taking a few more lumps but I understand that I have more patience than most.

 
The Twins may have been 5th in runs scored in August but their record was still 11-18 (worse than their season average if I am doing my math correctly)  .... and it wasn't all due to pitching.  The Twins were able to pad that run total by beating up on AAAA pitchers but when it came to facing ML average or better pitchers, it often seemed like they were stymied.
 
I understand the argument that there aren't many roster spots available to fill and I'm willing to see how these players develop but I'm not sure how much more palatable that is going to make 2015.  I just don't see the pitching as being there.  The defense will continue to be spotty.  And the hitting will be unpredictable.
 
It isn't a very pleasant picture when we come to year 5 of the debacle.


Hitting is always unpredictable. Average or better pitching will often stymie anyone's hitting. If anyone was average for us this year it was Gibson but look how awesome he was half the time and poor the other half. You can't discount the Twins at #5 because of who they beat up on. Not only do other teams beat up on those pitchers as well our offense never got to face the worst rotation in baseball. Our offense showed marked improvement in better at bats but they are young so I am hoping for more improvement, particularly from Arcia. It may not be all pitching but it is mostly about that.
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TheLeviathan
Sep 02 2014 09:38 AM

There are two outfield spots to fill and the top of the rotation still needs help.  I'd say those are some mighty big holes to fill.

 

Any expectation and Buxton and Sano are there to help is hope talking, not logic.  I'm ok with hoping they have an impact next year, but the roster should be addressed by logic, not hope.

    • USAFChief, SD Buhr and Sconnie like this

There are two outfield spots to fill and the top of the rotation still needs help.  I'd say those are some mighty big holes to fill.

 

Any expectation and Buxton and Sano are there to help is hope talking, not logic.  I'm ok with hoping they have an impact next year, but the roster should be addressed by logic, not hope.

 

And the bullpen could use serious upgrades as well.

 

The way I would plan with Buxton and Sano is to plan on nothing next year, but to pretty much avoid a long commitment at those positions.

 

From August 31, 2014 to April 1, 2015 I would anticipate 2 different hitters (not counting Pinto for Fryer) and 5 different pitchers at a minimum.

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stringer bell
Sep 02 2014 09:49 AM
An ace, yes. More Nolascos, Correias, etc., not so much. Adding an outfielder who can play decent defense in either center or left also makes a lot of sense. Beyond that, I like the position players and believe totally that barring further injuries, the Twins have two perennial All-Stars on the horizon in the next two years.

The bullpen needs to be turned over and either from within or without, the startng rotation needs to take giant steps.

I am hoping for a new manager and pitching coach next year. It is not that Anderson and Gardenhire aren't competent, but a new voice needs to be in charge.
    • birdwatcher, Hosken Bombo Disco, DocBauer and 1 other like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Sep 02 2014 10:00 AM

I'm not sold on Oswaldo Arcia 

...

 

I get it, but Arcia has that Pierzynski/Hunter/Mientkiewicz competitive quality that this team hasn't seen since, well, Pierzynski Hunter or Mientkiewicz. (With the exception that Arcia doesn't seem to have any of the negative personal aspects that those three did to varying degrees.)

 

I personally hope the Twins stick with Arcia. I can live with his erratic play in the field.

I get it, but Arcia has that Pierzynski/Hunter/Mientkiewicz competitive quality that this team hasn't seen since, well, Pierzynski Hunter or Mientkiewicz. (With the exception that Arcia doesn't seem to have any of the negative personal aspects that those three did to varying degrees.)

 

I personally hope the Twins stick with Arcia. I can live with his erratic play in the field.

 

I like him too, but his play has been awful and not deserving of a major league spot.  He hasn't even shown any improvement since last year.

 

While we're on the subject of outfielders, the Twins are still lacking a left fielder for 2015 as well.

    • Kwak likes this