Questions can range from the big leagues, spring training, roster or lineup, minor leagues, prospects, the Twins Prospect Handbook, or pretty much anything (within reason).
Fill up the Comments with Questions. I'll answer them, and then you can discuss my responses.
Here we go:
TarheelTwinsFan: "Would you trade straight up any of the current Twins' starting OF for Aaron Hicks? According to Nick, Hicks was the 15th best rated OF in the majors last year."
Any of them? Probably all of them. Aaron Hicks was incredible last year. The only concern with him over the years has been staying on the field. But, he's immensely athletic. He's very good in centerfield. He has worked very hard. He has built his body and is very strong. He has a very good approach at the plate. He's got power, and playing in Yankees Stadium 81 times a year helps his HR numbers.
I like all three of the Twins starting outfielders, but Aaron Hicks earned that contract, and you could argue that he took a low-ish deal to stay with the Yankees.
nasu1970: "Are the Twins done with extensions this spring? I was hoping for a Berrios deal, especially with framework available from the Nola and Severino deals.Everything has been quiet though.Is Berrios just going to wait and attempt to put up more of a Nola or Severino-esque season before inking?"
I don't think that the Twins are done talking to players this spring about contract extensions. But there may not be any more signings. Understandably, Berrios and Rosario would be looking for contracts larger than what Kepler or Polanco got. I think, and wrote, that that Severino and Nola deals may have given a good framework for a possible Berrios deal. But those guys took the security over the maximum earning potential. To this point, Berrios hasn't done that. Of course, we don't know what the Twins' offer, if there was one, was.
Generally speaking, those talks end on Opening Day,, though we occasionally see an in-season extension.
From Glanzer: "What Twins-related insight do you feel you are best equipped to provide compared to the many other bloggers, writers, insiders, and publications that provide Twins mailbags? I suspect you know a lot more about the minor leagues than the typical writer. What do you think?"
I am best equipped to provide my opinions or thoughts on topics better than the others you mentioned are at providing my opinions or thoughts. I'm' just a guy. Nothing special. Just enjoy following the Twins. I do think that I can provide some differing perspective and/or opinions on the Twins minor leagues and minor leaguers. As most know, I've got some relationships with people in and around the Twins system and talk to a bunch of people. Still all just presented as my opinions, but I like to think that it is based on some different things (conversations with a variety of people and different levels, in-person evaluation of most of the players, some video review, etc.)
From Mike Frasier Law: "If the Twins are in contention this summer, do you see them making a big acquisition to bolster their starting rotation?"
I think so. Obviously it will depend on which pitchers are available and how many other teams are searching for the top available pitchers, but I have little doubt that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would be open to moving prospects for elite pitching talent. And, as we know, the Twins have bolstered their minor league system in several ways (draft, international, minor league signings, trades, Rule 5, etc.) If "Falvine" has shown anything, it's that they won't be afraid to make moves.
From the Mask of Zoilo: "Let's say Kirilloff lives up to his "best hitting prospect not named Vlad" status and destroys AA this season. Will the Twins bring him up this year or hold off til 2 weeks into the 2020 season for service manipulation reasons? Will it make a difference if the Twins are contending for a playoff spot?"
Again, it's dependent upon several things, including if the Twins are in contention. If they aren't, there is no reason to not play the game, play the system. If they are in contention, and Kirilloff is dominating, then I believe they will be willing to bring him up in July. But even then, that's dependent upon how Rosario, Buxton and Kepler are doing, as well as the first base situation. They wouldn't (and shouldn't) call him up to sit on the bench.
From Sconnie: "Huge coaching shakeup in the off season. What is the impact in spring training so far? How are the players accepting and adapting to the new techniques and points of view? How is this perceived as rippling through the minor leagues?"
I haven't spent time in Ft. Myers yet this spring, so the Twins Geek might be better equipped to answer that one. However, everything we've read, and the few conversations I've had with some players, it seems like they enjoy it. Shorter, but more efficient practices and workouts. Not as much standing around. Get their work in. And, everything I've heard on the coaches has been positive so far too. Of course, at this early stage, it's not like there is a lot of controversy.
From the minor league side of it, again, not being there, it's' hard for me to know for sure. But, there are a lot of minor leaguers down there. They are being coached to some degree by coaches who have been working in lock step with the big league staff. Also, I think it's neat that every game, several of the minor leaguers who arrived early get to go and play in the big league games. That's motivating too.
From IMissJoeMauer: "How much do you miss Joe Mauer?"
While I think that the Twins will miss Mauer defensively at first base and the quality of at bats he puts together, I will miss Joe Mauer a bit, but I'm nearly certain it won't be as much as you miss Joe Mauer.
From Rather Be Golfing: "Why does our front office feel the need to bang our heads against the wall with Miguel at 3B and not just move him to 1B/DH now when that's what he's obviously going to be in 2-3 years?"
When healthy and when in decent shape, Sano can play an adequate third base. Not great, but he can make most of the plays. We've seen his athleticism at times. He has an incredible arm. And, frankly, he's much, much more valuable to the team if he can play third base.
By Sano being able to play third base, the Twins could go out and add a great bat like Nelson Cruz to DH. They could pick up another 30 homer guy like CJ Cron, and having Marwin Gonzalez around for depth makes a lot more sense.
From Carlos Figueroa: "Thoughts on the 2020 starting rotation? Worrisome to me that they only have one starter inked for next season and no spots in the rotation this season for any of the young arms to audition."
Starting with Jose Berrios is pretty good. Don't be surprised if the Twins bring back Gibson (or even Odorizzi or Pineda). Fernando Romero and Adalberto Mejia can factor into that again. And those young arms will continue to make their adjustments in Rochester. Also, the reality is that the Twins will likely need 8-12 starting pitchers in 2019, so there will be more audition opportunities.
From Tyler Roepke: "Do you think Buxton has any right to be upset about how he was managed towards the end of last season? I know if I performed terribly at my job I would be fired or at least disciplined, and I don't make boatloads of money like he does. I like that he responded by worked out like crazy and working on his skills in the offseason, but I don't think that being a top pick should guarantee anything. I get that he was heating up in Rochester toward the end of the year, but come on baseball is a business. Maybe he needed this wake up call to get him motivated to work out like an animal this offseason."
I absolutely think that Byron Buxton had every right to be upset about not getting a September call up. Buxton established himself as a big leaguer in 2017. After a slow start that year, he earned those MVP votes with enough bat and great defense. 2018 was an injury-filled season, so if he was truly healthy, there was no baseball reason to not call him up.
Likewise, it was clearly within the Twins front office's rights to do what they did and hold him back for service time issues. Well, they couldn't say that too loudly, but it was clear that was the reason. We chuckle at it when it happens to Kris Bryant and Vlad Guerrero and Ronald Acuna at the very beginning of their career and we say it makes sense. It isn't normal with guys once they establish themselves.
Most important, Buxton handled it incredibly well. I have no problem with him voicing his anger and disappointment. I can only imagine how much he wanted to be there for the Mauer stuff at the end of the season. Good for him for voicing it. But better for him for putting in the work, for using that anger as a motivation to get bigger, stronger. We'll see how it pans out, but the key with Byron is health. If he's healthy, he can be incredible. In 2018, he was just not healthy.
From Mike Sixel: "When do you think we'll see Lewis playing in Minnesota, thanks!When do you think we'll see Lewis playing in Minnesota, thanks!"
My assumption is he will start the season in Ft. Myers and spend half of the season in Chattanooga. That timeline would be identical to what Joe Mauer did in his second full minor league season. Mauer began that next season (2004) on the Twins Opening Day roster. So, I think that is the aggressive route, and well, 15 years later, service time is a much bigger deal to teams and Lewis would likely spend the first 3 weeks of the season in Rochester next year.
I think that, like Terry Ryan, Falvey and Levine won't be afraid to rush an elite hitter prospect to the big leagues if they deem him ready. But, if you asked me for the most likely range of time when Lewis will debut, I would say July 1, 2020. And if things go incredibly for Lewis, and there is a need in the big leagues, I won't be completely shocked (though quite surprised) if he is in the big leagues by July 15th, 2019.
From goulik: "Kiriloff and Lewis seemed to really connect last year. Their relationship reminded me a lot of Joe M. and Justin M coming up together but with more chemistry that affected their teams. Any chance they are both together in AA to start the season or are they going to be separated this year due to the bigger role defense plays at short? How far behind Kiriloff will Lewis be in making his debut?"
There are some similarities between the Lewis/Kirilloff combo and the Mauer/Morneau combo, but there are plenty of differences too. Lewis is the most charismatic of that group of four. Kirilloff and Morneau are pretty similar. My assumption is that Lewis will start at Ft. Myers because he got there about 4-5 weeks later than Kirilloff. Also, the Twins can and should be very cautious with Lewis's oblique situation so that it doesn't linger. I think Kirilloff starts in AA. But I do expect them to spend time in Pensacola together this year.
Using my previous answers on their timelines, I think that the Twins could have them debut together, if all goes well for them. I could see them both getting called up together three weeks into the 2020 season. I think that's aggressive and realistic for both. Who knows? Maybe Rooker gets called up that same day? And maybe Graterol too?
From rdehring: "First, how have you been?Still juggling two jobs, TD and that window company?Also, still living up on the border?"
Hey Roger... we need to go out to eat again sometime if/when I get back down there! Things are OK. Just had an appointment and have a bit of TMJ, so that isn't fun! Ha! Yup, still two jobs. Window Company and Twins Daily. And parent... Still up on the border. Good times!
From DannySD: "Who is an under-the-radar guy in the system you think will make their big league debut this year?"
Good question because a lot of the starting pitchers we will see in 2019 made their MLB debuts in 2018. Lewis Thorpe isn't under the radar. Jake Reed has been on the radar for so long but could he be under the radar?
So, going more under the radar... How about... Cody Stashak as a long-ish relief pitcher. He had a real strong 2018 season. We've talked a ton about Tyler Wells at Twins Daily in 2018 and if he continues to take strides, we could see him. As for a hitter, we might see Zander Wiel at some point in 2019.
From The Billy Goat: "Looking at the top of the national prospect lists, Lewis and Kiriloff are among a small amount of top prospects who are not expected to graduate in the first half of this year. Do you think that there is a chance that the Twins could have 2 of the top 3 or 4 prospects in all of baseball by the end of the year? Also, who do you see following Kiriloff's last year by making a big jump in prospect rankings?"
Assuming things progress nicely across the board, there is a decent chant that both Lewis and Kirilloff are Top 5 prospects in baseball one year from now. As a Brusdar believer, I think if he can have success in the upper levels, stay healthy and improve those secondary pitches just a little (I know, that's a lot of IFs), he could be a Top 10 type.
Guys who could jump like Kirilloff nationally? I'm a big believer in Wander Javier, and I think that if he can stay healthy, he could fit into a Top 50 or two nationally. He was 90-something in Baseball America a year ago, as was Kirilloff before 2017, so it would be a very similar story.
From bobs: "Your best bets to have big/bounce back year among...bullpen, rotation, lineup?"
Bullpen: I expect Hildenberger will have a strong year, but I don't think that would surprise anyone. I do believe in Matt Magill's stuff, and if he gets the opportunity, I think he'll take advantage.
Rotation: I think Odorizzi will have a solid year. I think Pineda gives them a nice power arm. I actually think that Perez has the kind of stuff that could make him good. I feel like the likelihood of a bounce back is probably in that order (Odo most likely).
Lineup: I think Jonathan Schoop will have a really big year again offensively. I think that Sano and Buxton will both make strides as well. If those two are healthy, I have no doubt they'll be valuable players. I don't 'think Kepler needs a bounce back as much as just to take the next step.
From iowaguychris: "Tell us more about Michael Pineda - I know we signed and let him sit an entire year - is he a potential difference maker that will get us 20 wins in 2019?"
Pineda was an All-Star back in 2010 with the Mariners. Then he was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero. He's now had two Tommy John surgeries, but in between, he had three solid, mid-rotation type seasons for the Yankees (ERAs mid-4s). He throws hard (95-97). Big guy. Strikeouts. Has a chance to be good if healthy.
From iowaguychris: "Haven't heard much from Spring Training about us trying the "opener" pitching role.With the manager's first hand experience with it - do you think we'll try it at all from the beginning of the season - or just wait until the standard rotation potentially doesn't work out so well for us?"
I don't think anyone WANTS to use an opener. Ideally, a rotation has five guys who can get through 6-7 innings most times out and don't have a huge slide in the third time through the rotation. I don't think they've gone into spring training hoping to use it, but obviously they wouldn't be against it. Tampa Bay used it, let's not forget, in large part becuase 2-3 of the young starters they anticipated in their rotation had Tommy John surgery (I'm remembering DeLeon and Honeywell?) so they had to be creative. The Twins used it to give more guys a look in September. But by the end of spring training, if Pineda isn't fully ready, they could do that with him.
From bluechipper: "Stephen Gonsalves was sitting in the low 90's in his first spring start compared to mid 80's at this time last year. What type of impact do you think he can have with that regained velocity?"
If Gonsalves is at 87-89, he has to be very fine. And in doing so, the walks can go up because of just-missing spots. If he can be 91-94, he can be a little more aggressive. Also, it will make his plus-changeup an even better pitch, as well as his other secondary pitches. It will certainly help. But he can be successful around 90 as well.
From Tuba: "Whats your Twins bench look like right now? Gonzalez/Garver/?/?"
For me, assuming a four-man bench, I would say Garver, Cave, and Gonzalez (though Gonzalez would start likely 135-145 games at a number of positions). The fourth spot is tough. If it was me, I think I'd keep Adrianza, but I think that Astudillo is currently the favorite for that final bench spot.
From Dantes929: "Don't see much on here or the mlb site about daily game summaries for Spring Training. Is therea site to go to for that? I see Kepler's name as a possibility for 1st base in the near future.I assume that is with the idea that Kiriloff would be playing right field. Who is faster?Kepler plays a pretty good right field.Do you think it would make more sense for Kiriloff to be slated as 2020 1st base or Kepler?"
Tom's Game Reports will start with the regular season. If anyone would like to start writing up Game Threads in the forum, I'm sure that would be just fine!
Personally, I would have Kirilloff spend a couple of days a week playing first base and also move from RF over to LF once in awhile. Kepler is a great athlete. He's faster. He can play 1B, but he's a great defensive OF. Kirilloff can be a good outfielder. Not quite as fast. Similar arms.
From EGFTShaw: "Warroad? Former EGF-er myself. Who will they draft this year?If not a player, a position and H.S versus College. I remember Keith Law being down on their selection of Berrios, I think he was a supplemental pick, but that has turned out awesome."
Yes, from Warroad. Big Warroad/EGF game tonight. It's hard to know what direction the team will go in the draft, especially when they have a draft pick in the teens. They will subscribe to the Best Player Available thinking since the player won't be (likely) ready for a couple of years (more if it's a high school kid). Michael Busch from North Carolina (via Simley High School) and Matt Wallner (via Forest Lake HS) are two legit possibilities.
Thank you for all of the questions. Now feel free to use the Comments to discuss.
- NoCryingInBaseball, Sconnie, ToddlerHarmon and 2 others like this