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Article: Game Thread: Twins @ Astros, 9/4 @ 7:10pm CT

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Five Players to Watch Over the Next Two Months

On his excellent RandBall blog, the Star Tribune's Michael Rand wrote Tuesday that despite being out of contention, the Twins' approach at the deadline isn't as cut-and-dry as "trade anyone with a pulse." There is value, Rand argues, in working toward a better finish and changing a culture of losing.
Image courtesy of Photo by Joe Nicholson
I very much agree with the general sentiment expressed by Rand. The Twins desperately need to show more down the stretch this season than they have over the last three years. Another lifeless August and September would be unacceptable.

However, if that improvement is driven by players like Kurt Suzuki, Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia, who are not part of the long-term solution, what good does it do? At that point, all you're doing is costing yourself valuable draft slots, with no tangible positive takeaways to bring forward.

Maybe Terry Ryan will move those veterans before Thursday's deadline and maybe he won't. But regardless, these are the players we should be focused on here in the final two months, and what we should be looking for:

Oswaldo Arcia: His season has been one of the great disappointments of 2014, as he has taken a significant step backward following his promising rookie campaign. Any time he appears to be getting something going, he falls into another spell where he looks totally lost at the plate. An at-bat on Sunday that ended with him snapping a bat over his knee sums up his season pretty well, but a strong finish with a bunch of home runs would go a long way toward building optimism toward 2015.

Kyle Gibson: He has given us a lot to like this year, most notably an elite ground ball rate (fifth-best in baseball) and control that has improved substantially over the course of the season. But it's hard to get overly excited when he's giving up five-plus runs every other start. If he can eliminate most of the clunkers while staying healthy and working toward 200 innings, we'll be able to feel a lot more comfortable in his ability to help anchor next year's rotation.

Joe Mauer: We need positive signs. He was hitting .362 on a 12-game hitting streak before going down with an oblique injury, and now that he appears close to returning, he needs to pick up where he left off. It's tough to imagine the Twins returning to contention in the next couple years without Mauer being a major contributor. I'll be particularly interested to see if he can start evening out his K/BB ratio, which was still oddly unimpressive even while he was heating up.

Ricky Nolasco: Will the first season of his big new contract be an unmitigated disaster, or can he salvage something here at the tail end? Nolasco pitched hurt for months before landing on the shelf with elbow soreness. If he can't come back and perform for a stretch before the season ends, he's going to be a big question mark during the offseason that will make it difficult for the team to plan out its 2015 starting corps.

Byron Buxton: The top prospect may have positioned himself as the 2015 Opening Day center fielder if he'd remained healthy this season. Maybe he still can. He's finally got it going in Ft. Myers and should be moved up to New Britain very shortly. A good month there could possibly earn him a September call-up. With all their issues in center, the Twins have plenty of reason to want a look at him.


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28 Comments

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EephusKnuckler
Jul 29 2014 10:44 PM

Isn't a September call-up for Buxton being too optimistic, knowing the glacial pace this organization takes with its prospects? Look at how they're doing everything they can to avoid bringing up Meyer and/or May, despite the rotation being in shambles again. The recent injury gives them even more reason to put it off and the whole Hicks fiasco probably has them extra cautious. I'm gonna say we don't see Buxton in the bigs until the second half of next season. I hope I'm wrong and he goes on a tear and forces his way.

I would put Danny Santana on your players to watch list, and a reason to watch the Twins. As a rookie he's been the team's best hitter with an .807 ops. Out of necessity He has been playing CF, but I think most everyone involved wants him to end up at his natural position SS. What's exciting is he plays with passion, he's really fast, and came back from injury in a very ugly slump, but Gardy let him play through it, and he has recovered nicely. Gardy has described Santana as providing a spark, and you can see it when he plays.
I think the twins have hit rock bottom but it's going to be a long climb back up. Also, think their wealth of prospects makes them more reluctant to spend money in the off season which makes sense but probably slows down the climb. Also, seeing Mauer less relevant to their future because of it. But, yes, finally seeing how some of these prospects pan out will be entertaining.
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jul 30 2014 05:52 AM
I can also see success without Mauer, or a less prominent Mauer (batting sixth for example).

Look at how they're doing everything they can to avoid bringing up Meyer and/or May, despite the rotation being in shambles again. 

 

On the other hand, they've been quicker to promote position players than pitchers. On top of Hicks last year, Santana and Polanco have both seen major league time more quickly than expected. I wonder if Santana's early success balances out Hicks's lack thereof in their decision-making.

    • Sconnie likes this

I know there are concerns about Gardy's handling of young players, but I really like how he's used Santana and Arcia, and how he's keeping Arcia going without any sort of public doghouse despite his troubles.  I agree, a big last two months from Arcia would be a huge boost for next year.

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mike wants wins
Jul 30 2014 07:29 AM
My five.....

Arcia, Santana, Meyer, May, Buxton.....with a Rosario bonus, though he is not doing what I had hoped this year.

I was looking for a tweet from earlier this week about the Twins record with Mauer in the lineup and without and couldn't find it.

 

But I did stumble across this factoid:

 

  1. Carlos Santana leads the majors by pulling 53% of his air balls in play. league average of 29%. Joe Mauer last at 8%. second place is 50%

     

     

    Anyone want to comment and enlighten?

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beyondclarity
Jul 30 2014 08:48 AM

Gardy said it best when talking about Arcia after the game on Sunday...I'm paraphrasing...."the kid is working so hard, he comes in everyday and gives everything he has, I have no worries there with him, because he's working so hard"

 

Danny Valencia didn't get this sort of embrace, I'm sure because he was too busy "swagging out" to focus on baseball.

Isn't a September call-up for Buxton being too optimistic, knowing the glacial pace this organization takes with its prospects? Look at how they're doing everything they can to avoid bringing up Meyer and/or May, despite the rotation being in shambles again. The recent injury gives them even more reason to put it off and the whole Hicks fiasco probably has them extra cautious. I'm gonna say we don't see Buxton in the bigs until the second half of next season. I hope I'm wrong and he goes on a tear and forces his way.

This "The Twins never bring up prospects" meme in every single thread is getting a bit tiresome to be honest as it's not exactly true. May would have been up by this point if it wasn't for an injury, you don't just bring a guy back from the DL and immediately throw him in the majors for the first time. Meyer is going to be up very, very soon and will get a nice solid amount of innings at the major league level this year.

 

If Buxton presses the issue at A+ and AA over the next couple of months, I absolutely could see the Twins bringing him up for a cup of coffee in the majors to at least give fans a reason to get excited about some likely meaningless Sept baseball games.

 

On another note, I am very excited to see Mauer play again, I hope he can end the season on a positive note and ultimately the Twins can find a way to win at least 75-78 games. I think the goal is to play .500 ball from here on out which puts them right at 76/77 wins.

    • birdwatcher and James like this

This "The Twins never bring up prospects" meme in every single thread is getting a bit tiresome to be honest as it's not exactly true. May would have been up by this point if it wasn't for an injury, you don't just bring a guy back from the DL and immediately throw him in the majors for the first time. Meyer is going to be up very, very soon and will get a nice solid amount of innings at the major league level this year.

 

If Buxton presses the issue at A+ and AA over the next couple of months, I absolutely could see the Twins bringing him up for a cup of coffee in the majors to at least give fans a reason to get excited about some likely meaningless Sept baseball games.

 

On another note, I am very excited to see Mauer play again, I hope he can end the season on a positive note and ultimately the Twins can find a way to win at least 75-78 games. I think the goal is to play .500 ball from here on out which puts them right at 76/77 wins.

 

Surely a shred of truth exists to the Twins not bringing up prospects right?

 

I am guessing not every team in a clear rebuild position would have went out and filled their roster with veteran players with no upside and frankly, not certain to outperform the younger players they are taking reps from.I am thinking Pelfrey, Bartlett, Kubel, and Matt Guerrier to name a few.Then there is Pinto, who spent 60% of his time here DH'ing and a ton on the bench.

 

That is great you think Meyer will be up in August, but if he is on a pitch count like many believe he may see no more than five starts. IMO, other franchises would have used this throw away year to get him at least 10-15 starts.They could have brought him up after the 6/15 super 2 deadline most teams use and still had 10-15 starts.

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Brock Beauchamp
Jul 30 2014 10:27 AM

They could have brought him up after the 6/15 super 2 deadline most teams use and still had 10-15 starts.

 

The Super 2 deadline is no longer in June. It's now in the middle of July as of the latest CBA, which bumped the percentage from 17% to 20-22% (can't remember the exact numbers).

    • birdwatcher likes this

The Super 2 deadline is no longer in June. It's now in the middle of July as of the latest CBA, which bumped the percentage from 17% to 20-22% (can't remember the exact numbers).

22% not to mention the fact that Meyer had thrown several poor starts pretty much in a row in the early and middle parts of June.

    • birdwatcher likes this

Adding Buxton to the 40 man roster this year, after missing a lot of development time due to injury, would be a bad case of roster management. He does not need to be added this year.

Since the Twins now have one of the better stocked minor league systems, they will need all of the extra roster spots to protect players who will become Rule 5 eligible this offseason. The Twins system will be under extra scutiny this offseason as other organizations look to plunder it via the draft.

    • DAM DC Twins Fans, James and Brandon like this
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stringer bell
Jul 30 2014 10:56 AM

Buxton is going to the AFL, I sincerely doubt he will see the big leagues this fall no matter what he does.I know Polanco has a handful of ABs, but his promotion was out of necessity and convenience.I think he is at least two years away from getting a real audition to stay in the majors.I would like to see Meyer and May this week--I really don't think there is any service time issue whatsoever.They may be better served pitching for and in the playoffs for Rochester.I understand that Meyer will likely be shut down at some point, so I guess if he doesn't get to Minnesota in the next couple weeks, he probably won't make it until next year.

No to Buxton being up this year. So, replace him with Santana (who is maintaining this excellence so far . . . what the hell??) and this is a good list.

 

Pinto should be the sixth.

22% not to mention the fact that Meyer had thrown several poor starts pretty much in a row in the early and middle parts of June.

 

If Meyer is in AAA because of a super 2 deadline, then the "poor" starts are really a side show.The "poor" starts were mainly due to him not making it to the 4th inning.Here they are:

 

3.2 IP, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

3 IP, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

2 IP, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

 

If his pitch count was 100 instead of 75-80 and we add a full inning or an inning and a half to each of these three starts, nobody on this site is talking about the really awful stretch he had.7 ER in 3 outings?

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stringer bell
Jul 30 2014 12:24 PM

I vote for just about everyone under 30 on the Twins, plus top prospects.That is plenty of guys to keep me interested.Let's hope there are a couple of transactions in the next couple of days.

    • Sconnie likes this

Given (hopeful) trade of Suzuki and Willingham. Be nice to throw in Corriea.

 

I can't see Buxton in any scenario...even if he hits 88 for 88 in his last 88 At-bats.

 

I mentioned the trades in that they need to be in place and for non 40-man roster players (e.g. not like Pryor from SEA) toadd guys like Alex Meyer.

 

So my guys are guys that are already on 40-man roster.

 

The Candidates:

SS/CF - Santana

C/DH - Pinto

RF/LF/DH - Arcia

P - May

SS - Polanco

1B/DH - Vargas

 

I personally think the positions most in doubt for next year are CF, SS, and C. And those are the 3 most expensive positions in FA. So I'd like to see us try to figure out which of our young guys at those positions can play those positions.

 

Santana in CF/SS. If the plan is to put him in CF, then Polanco should be up playing SS until he loses all confidence or looks lost.

 

I think Pinto needs to put in and play 2-3-4 weeks in a row. See how he plays as a regular. He's got a better arm than Suzuki...just seemed flustered and lacked confidence as he didn't throw out his initial few runners.

 

I don't know what to do about Arcia. They say BB and K rates are the most easily discernable and unchanging in prospects (they: SABR) and can be picked up in as little as 500 PAs.

 

I don't know if his problem is his approach. Which can be taught more so, aka don't swing until you see a fastball or a strike...then whatever contingencies fit best for that pitcher/hitter situation. Or is it just his pitch recognition (tougher to teach). This again is more in the approach where most of the 'growth' is seen - just knowing pitchers tendencies - e.g. Phil Hughes is 80% likely to throw a 92-94 mph fastball first pitch, middle half of the plate. Either way, I like a Twins team where he's a top contributor. He's got fire, he's got a decent arm in RF and he seems to be in the game.

 

That leaves Varas, May, and Meyer....if I only get 5. I'd honestly like to see May then...and if the Willingham trade doesn't yield another 40-man roster guy, then Meyer. I'm not as curious about Vargas.

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DAM DC Twins Fans
Jul 30 2014 01:16 PM

I agree with Duluth fan.As much as I want to see Buxton in Target Field--it would be a HUGE mistake to bring him up this year. 

 

The Org. chart page is still being rebuilt--but I believe the now well stocked Twins farm system has about 15 players who become eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year and some (most) need to be added to the 40 man roster or they will be lost.Big names like Sano, Meyer, Rosario will be for sure.Others include Gilmartin, Goodrum, Grimes, Jason Wheeler, and Levi Michael.I believe my AAPBrett Lee should be on that list.Obviously, some will be left unprotected--but Buxton to the 40 man takes up a spot.This is the Twins future.

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mike wants wins
Jul 30 2014 01:38 PM

There are names.....some of the current chaffe could be cut though, imo, without much loss. I do agree, I would not add Buxton this year, as much as it pains me type that.

According to baseball-reference.com the Twins are 36-40 in games Mauer has played in this season.

There is no need to add Buxton to the 40-man. Just like there was no need to add Sano and Rosario this year. And a team, to Rule 5 a guy, has to keep him all year. The only reason a Kepler was added was that he might be enticing for another team to grab and the Twins didn't want to lose their investment. Levi Michael, Grimes, Lee, Wheeler will nto be given a major league 25-man spot. The Twins have to worry little about minor league free agents. Their AAA and AA club are full of guys they grabbed elsewhere. Their only major loses would be Guerra, Ibrarra, Rohlfing, Herrmann, Beresford at the most. Doubt that anyone would even take a flyer on Wimmers at this point. AND the Twins easily have a dozen spots to fill come November. Remember, you can't cut November guys once they are added until spring time, so expect to see Herrmann, Kris Johnson and maybe Eric Fryer still on board if a body needs to be moved for a free agent.

According to baseball-reference.com the Twins are 36-40 in games Mauer has played in this season.


Interesting. (And probably a bit off topic, but interesting.)

I ran the numbers:

Overall win percentage: .457
Win percentage NO Mauer: .413
Win percentage WITH Mauer: .473

I would guess without checking that the disparity was even larger when Mauer went out at the end of last year. Even though he's having a down year, his presence in the lineup remains pretty well correlated with more winning.

Interesting. (And probably a bit off topic, but interesting.)

I ran the numbers:

Overall win percentage: .457
Win percentage NO Mauer: .413
Win percentage WITH Mauer: .473

I would guess without checking that the disparity was even larger when Mauer went out at the end of last year. Even though he's having a down year, his presence in the lineup remains pretty well correlated with more winning.

 

Thanks.  I think the tweet I saw was over 2 or 3 years but since I can't find it back, who knows?


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