Mailbag: Duda In, Gordon’s Future, Contention Time
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
My first thought to this question was I hope so. That being said, the Twins don’t necessarily need him to be what Logan Morrison was supposed to be last year. Morrison was brought in to be the team’s regular designated hitter. Lucas Duda is certainly not going to be give that responsibility with Nelson Cruz on the roster. Plus, Duda isn’t guaranteed any money under his deal with the Twins. He must be on the roster and contributing to get paid.
Duda is left-handed so that could help him to find a place on a very right-handed heavy Twins line-up. Last season, he hit .241/.313/.418 with 29 extra-base hits in 107 games between Kansas City and Atlanta. He has a pair of 30 home run seasons under his belt including one as recent as 2017. CJ Cron, Tyler Austin, and Duda will all be battling for time at first base. A platoon with Cron or Austin versus lefties and Duda versus righties could add some power to the Twins line-up.
I certainly believe the Twins think they can contend this season especially in a very open AL Central. One of the biggest keys for 2019 is making sure the young core is ready to take the next step. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have plenty to prove after last season. Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios were two of the team’s best players last year but they each could be more consistent this season. Max Kepler destroyed every level of the minor leagues and he hasn’t shown that ability at baseball’s highest level. Prospects don’t always pan out, so the club needs to continue to add depth throughout the minor league system. They were able to do that in last year’s draft and by trading away assets at last year’s deadline.
Last year’s club was a good example of why one-year deals don’t typically work. There were a bunch of players with no connection to the club and very little team chemistry. Minnesota is never going to outspend other teams and I doubt many big-name free agents are identifying the Twins as an ideal destination for their talents.
As much as fans don’t want to hear it, the Twins need to see what their young core can do this season. Everything could come together and be great or things could crash and burn. We will have to see what players are up to the challenge.
There has been some talk of teams offering Manny Machado and Bryce Harper shorter-term deal with more annual money associated with each contract. I believe both players and their agents are looking for more long-term stability. They are each reaching free agency at a young age so the next contract they sign could take them through the bulk of their formative (and defining) years in the big leagues. They need to make sure the city and team are the right fit and that the contract works for their future.
I think there are a few reasons as to why the Twins wouldn’t be interested at four-years and $40 million per season. Adding another $80 million to the payroll seems like quite the jump. Minnesota needs to get into a situation where they can make more money on their television contract and that could help open the coffers for more payroll funding. I also don’t know if these two players want to be on the same team. They both have big egos and each wants to be the face of a franchise.
Nick Gordon is coming off his worst season as a professional. Most of last year, Gordon was playing at Triple-A where he was four and a half years younger than the competition. He struggled mightily with Rochester by hitting .212/.262/.283. His power hasn’t developed, and he doesn’t show much patience in the batter’s box. He’s spent the off-season adding some weight to his frame, which could help him in the power department.
He was a consensus top-100 MLB prospect in each of the last four off-seasons, but he didn’t make any top-100 lists this off-season. Here at Twins Daily, he dropped from the organization’s third best prospect to the club’s 12th best prospect. He was added to the 40-man roster this off-season, so I think he will make his big league debut this season. Gordon needs to find his swing at Triple-A and then he will be just a phone call away.
There are certainly some trickle down effects from the big-league level all the way down to Double-A. Players throughout the system are impacted by those already ahead of them on the organizational depth chart. With that in mind, there are a lot of things that will impact who is starting at which level.
I believe pitching continues to evolve and organizations are going to start taking a unique approach to the roles of starters. Chattanooga likely starts the year with a six-man rotation, but the organization most assuredly will be using more openers during the season. The Blue Wahoos’ bullpen will be equally important.
If I am picking the rotation today, I think it will include Jorge Alcala, Tyler Wells, Sean Poppen, Daniel Camarena, Charlie Barnes, and Clark Beeker. Alcala was acquired from the Astros last season as part of the Ryan Pressly trade. Wells made five starts at Double-A last season and should start the year there again. Poppen spent the majority of 2018 in Chattanooga but there is depth ahead of him that will likely keep him at Double-A. Camarena was signed as a minor league free agent and hasn’t pitched yet in the Twins organization. Barnes pitched all last year at Fort Myers so he should move up a level. Beeker will be 26-years old this season, so he likely starts in Pensacola.
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