How the Twins Are Preparing for the Impact of Injuries
Image courtesy of © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsFirst of all, in this stats oriented sports era you can find numbers to quantify virtually anything within the game. In 2017, Roster Resource came up with a very interesting metric to show which teams have been hit hardest by injuries, as explained here by Jason Martinez. It’s called Roster Effect Rating and its formula takes into account a player’s projected value to his team and the number of days that he has spent in the DL. It’s pretty neat.
To exemplify, the Angels had the highest Roster Effect Rating in the majors last year, with 16.97. They weren’t the team with the most DL stints (they ranked third, with 32), but among the 23 players they’ve had going to the DL last year, three of them were extremely valuable: Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons and Shohei Ohtani spent 54 days sidelined. The team that suffered the least with injuries during 2018 were the Astros, having the smallest Roster Effect Rating of the MLB with 3.44 and the second fewest trips to the DL, with 17.
So, how much did injuries affect the Twins last year? More than twice as much in comparison with the year before. To be more exact, 2.3 times more.
Two years ago, no more than 16 Twins players went to the DL. And the most important players to do so didn’t stay there for long, with the exception of Miguel Sanó. He practically missed the final month and a half of the season, totaling 40 days out of action. Joe Mauer, Byron Buxton, Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman didn’t spend more than 18 days on the DL. Overall, Minnesota had a Roster Effect Rating of only 3.93, which ranked as MLB’s ninth smallest. But that was about to change.
It certainly is too shallow to say that injuries were the biggest reason for the drop off in 2018, but they absolutely took quite a toll. According to the DL Tracker, Minnesota’s most missed player was Byron Buxton, who spent 58 days recovering from a fractured toe and a sore wrist, not to mention the strong migraines. If by any chance some of us don’t remember, Buxton was the position player with the second highest fWAR of the Twins in 2017, with 3.5. Right after him in 2018 there’s Ervin Santana, who spent the second most amount of time on the DL with 286 days as he was recovering from finger surgery. Santana was one of the most important players of the 2017 campaign, tying with José Berríos for most fWAR among pitchers, with 2.9. Two of the additions that came to the Twins via free agency also were sidelined for quite a while last year. Logan Morrison was out of action for 184 days, whereas Addison Reed couldn’t play for 18 days.
The 2017 Twins had only five players who spent 100 or more days on the DL, with none of them spending more than 183. In 2018 they had six such players, with four of them going over 200 days. Still comparing the last two seasons, Spotrac shows that last year Twins players spent a total of 1,099 days on the DL, with those players accounting for $33,774,552 in salary. The year before that, they had had 942 days and the club had spent $14,184,723 on those players.
Needless to say, the Twins had a much worse record, going from 85-77 to 78-84. It’s hard to say how many of those extra seven losses came as a result of those injuries, but it’s impossible to deny they did contribute a lot. But it seems like this year the club is working on the best way to prevent injuries having such a big impact, which is investing in depth.
Opening Day is very far away and the roster will (hopefully) still be improved. There are many ways to do so. But if we take a look at the roster they way it’s designed right now, we can tell that it is deep in most of its areas.
Of the nine positions, only three of them have only one player listed, which are 3B, RF and DH. But that shouldn’t be an issue, given the multitude of players who can fill in, especially in the OF, which is currently carrying seven players. All of the others have at least two players available.
Catchers: Jason Castro, Mitch Garver, Willians Astudillo
First basemen: C.J. Cron, Tyler Austin
Second basemen: Jonathan Schoop, Ronald Torreyes, Luis Arraez
Shortstops: Jorge Polanco, Ehire Adrianza, Nick Gordon
Third basemen: Miguel Sanó
Right fielders: Max Kepler
Center fielders: Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Zack Granite, Michael Reed
Left fielders: Eddie Rosario, LaMonte Wade
Designated hitters: Nelson Cruz
We always hope that nothing bad happens, but using 2018 as an example, we would have gladly welcomed the Astudillo-Garver duo instead of Bobby Wilson for 47 games, after Castro had a season ending surgery. Buxton was deeply missed, but having Cave right out of the gate could have been much better in comparison with Ryan LaMarre for 34 games. Besides Cron, Austin and Astudillo have also given some nice indications that they could fill in decently in the event of a (God forbid!) Nelson Cruz injury. Last year, while Morrison suffered with injuries, Robbie Grossman was having a nothing-better-than-average first half of the season. So things look, at least in theory, a bit better this year.
Starting Pitchers: José Berríos, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Martín Pérez
Starting depth: Adalberto Mejía, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe
Relief pitchers: Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Addison Reed, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Tyler Duffey, Matt Magill, Gabriel Moya, Andrew Vasquez
The fight for a spot in the Twins rotation probably hasn’t been this fierce in years. The Pérez signing was tricky, but we have tried to show how he could represent good backend of the rotation help. Really, it’s even confusing to try to work out the Twins pitching staff right now. There are literally too many options.
Minnesota currently carries more than two rotation's worth of starting pitchers. Of course, Pineda and Pérez are question marks at this point, but Mejía (who doesn’t have minor league options left, so would have to start the year out of the bullpen, if not DFA’d) is hungry to prove he belongs in the rotation. The same works for Romero. The bullpen is also crowded, with the players I’ve listed as depth being all options as well. A lot of good arms will have to start the year in Triple-A Rochester. And that’s exciting, if you think about it.
Rocco Baldelli can complain about many things, but slim pickings is not one of them. Most of Twins fans are mad because of the front office’s lack of bold moves that we believed they could’ve done. But let’s tip our hats to their construction of a better and deeper roster, as of now.
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