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Does Aaron Make It In All-Time Best Outfield?

Other Baseball Today, 05:03 PM
He makes my all time outfield: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron. But think of whom is left out - Roberto Clemente, Ted Williams, Willie...
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R.I.P. Hank Aaron

Other Baseball Today, 04:25 PM
Hank Aaron passed away this morning. He was 86 years old. Feels like we're losing MLB legends every week, unfortunately. 
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Who do you think is the Twins best/worst Free agent that...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:34 AM
Who do you guys think is the one who got away? Was a free agent and the Twins let them walk? No not Johan Santana as they traded him, I...
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Winter league update

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All the usual winter leagues are playing baseball, but there is not a lot of news.   Jose Miranda has played 15 games for the Crioll...
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Horse Trading

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:59 AM
Horse trading is an art of making shrewd negotiations. In the MLB, TB is well known when a player reach a high value, they put them on th...
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Reasons For Optimism

On Monday, the Minnesota Twins topped the Boston Red Sox by a score of 7-2. The win, coupled with the Tigers loss, puts the Twins in second place in the AL Central, just two games behind the Kansas City Royals.

It’s still early, but we are 42 games in, over one-quarter of the season is complete. That means that three-quarters of the season remains. A lot can happen, good and bad. However, there are several reasons to believe that the team can continue to play well, and maybe even compete long into the season.
Image courtesy of Marilyn Indahl, USA Today
NOT OVER THEIR HEADS

The Twins are eight games over .500 and yet they aren’t being led by any players who are playing over their heads. Looking at the stat sheet, there are some players having solid 2015 seasons, but not to a point where it seems unsustainable. Only three players – Brian Dozier (.835), Trevor Plouffe (.826), and Torii Hunter (.796) – have an OPS over .720.

Brian Dozier’s not going to hit 35 home runs (most likely) this season, but we know he can hit 20. Torii Hunter could hit 20, and so could Trevor Plouffe.

Joe Mauer has been OK (.712 OPS)

It is fair to say that the Twins can get more from Oswaldo Arcia. Kennys Vargas was already sent to AAA to become more productive, and Danny Santana certainly could return to Rochester at any point. It’s not surprising that those two sophomores are slumping, or regressing, if you prefer.

Center field was always going to be a stopgap position with Jordan Schafer. He was putting in time until the team deemed Aaron Hicks ready to return. That happened recently and although he hasn’t hit yet, he has played some really strong defense.

On the pitching side, Glen Perkins has shown he is healthy and he’s been one of baseball’s best closers all season. That isn’t something that I would consider over his head. His fastball/slider combo is devastating, and he is an All-Star.

The bullpen has performed well. Aaron Thompson was very good in the first month, and Blaine Boyer has been far better than expected. However, the Twins have been successful in recent years with signing relievers to minor league contracts, giving them a chance and seeing success. That was the case with Jared Burton and Casey Fien. Speaking of Fien, he hasn’t been a part of the bullpen most of the season, and he’s been very good the last two years.

The Twins starting rotation has been the big reason for the team’s success. They are giving up about a run less per nine innings and that difference has been huge to the Twins success. Ricky Nolasco has won five games in a row since a clunker in his first game and a DL stint, but he hasn’t pitched out of his head. He’s had good success in the past. Kyle Gibson may not post a sub-3.00 ERA all season, but there has always been at least some belief from many that he could be a successful ground ball pitcher. Mike Pelfrey hasn’t been good for several years, and he’s not going to post a 3.00 ERA, but he is finally healthy. Phil Hughes has a 4.50 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He certainly can be better. And, Trevor May has been all right, and better of late.

As important as anything, it's important to note that the manager, Paul Molitor, does not appear to be in over his head. I know some were concerned since he had no game-managing experience at any level. However, he's been involved in the game for nearly 40 years and knows it well.

DEPTH

For a team to win and win over the course of the season, it must have depth. We know that a team won’t go through a season with only five starting pitchers. The Twins have already used six. Odds are, they will need more. Injuries are part of the game. Demotions and promotions are part of the game.

The Twins minor league system has been touted as one of the best in baseball the last couple of years. Some of those prospects are getting close to being ready to contribute.

This time, let’s start with the starting rotation. The current starting five has been solid. There should be no question that Tommy Milone is a big leaguer. He is a solid back-half of the rotation starter. He’s toiling, and dominating, in Rochester right now. He should be up, but he’s going to have to bide his time until needed.

I also believe that if it came down to it, the Twins could get competent starts from the likes of non-roster pitchers Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers. Who knows? By the end of the season, it’s possible that J.O. Berrios could debut in 2015.

In the bullpen, AJ Achter and Lester Oliveros have been terrific in Rochester. Caleb Thielbar has been struggling with his control some in Rochester, but Logan Darnell and Ryan O’Rourke are also pitching well out of the Red Wings bullpen as well. Zack Jones has clearly been Chattanooga’s top reliever, though both Nick Burdi and Jake Reed have been significantly better since the calendar turned to May. Those last three guys can all hit 96+ mph consistently. And now, Alex Meyer is pitching out of the Red Wings bullpen. If he can go with his elite fastball and slider, dropping the other pitches and re-finding his control, he can be an upper-echelon reliever in time too.

Look around the diamond too. If there were an injury at any position, there would be someone who could come in and not hurt the team. Prospects could also come up and gain experience. Eddie Rosario is a good example of this. He has shown some glimpses of what he can become, but he’s also had moments that show that he’s got more improvement to make before coming up full time.

At catcher, Josmil Pinto and Eric Fryer are at AAA. Pinto is slumping, but the general belief is that he will hit. Stuart Turner is in AA.

At first base, Kennys Vargas is now at AAA. The Twins signed Ryan Wheeler last week to a minor league deal. He’s still just 26 years old and has big league time in each of the last three seasons.

At shortstop, Eduardo Escobar could take over should the Twins decide to send Danny Santana back to AAA. Jorge Polanco is producing well in that stacked Chattanooga lineup. He could play shortstop or second base if needed.

Miguel Sano has been on fire since the beginning of May. His defense could aptly be called spotty, but he can make the plays and has the arm to play the position. He would likely strike out a ton if called up for a couple of weeks or a month, but he could also hit a few home runs.

In the outfield, Rosario and Hicks are already there. Oswaldo Arcia is starting a rehab stint in Rochester now. Byron Buxton appears to have come out of his slump recently. He’s been really streaky this season, but his athleticism and talent have been on display. He could be an option at some point this season too.

SUMMARY

The Twins have been one of the bigger surprises so far during the 2015 season. There are still a lot of question marks with the roster, but it’s not hard to be more optimistic than we have been in recent years. Aside from some bullpen guys, where variability should be expected, there aren’t a lot of Twins performing way over their heads. And should some players struggle or get hurt the organization now has some depth that should help it overcome. And finally, some of that touted, elite prospect talent is starting to get close.

If nothing else, isn’t it nice for Twins fans to have reason for optimism?

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44 Comments

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blairpaul715
May 26 2015 12:45 AM

Always optimistic, before season i was hoping for .500 ball, now i will almost be dissappointed if we dont reach that, but these last few weeks have been fun :)

One move I'd make right now is Jorge Polanco up and Danny Santana down to AAA. Santana has that overwhelmed look that Hicks had before he got sent down. Less pressure and more coaching might get him back up fairly soon. Meanwhile, I wants to see me more of that fun Polanco baseball that I saw last fall. He already plays with that aggressive, pressure style that the Twins have been putting on display so far this season.

    • scottz, eLee612, hybridbear and 2 others like this

One move I'd make right now is Jorge Polanco up and Danny Santana down to AAA. Santana has that overwhelmed look that Hicks had before he got sent down. Less pressure and more coaching might get him back up fairly soon. Meanwhile, I wants to see me more of that fun Polanco baseball that I saw last fall. He already plays with that aggressive, pressure style that the Twins have been putting on display so far this season.


^^^ this x10.

I love Danny and want nothing more than to see him succeed, but I don't think the best place to foster that growth for him right now is in Minneapolis. As others have already noted, Polanco has been the Lookouts greatest source of consistency on the roster... and has the added bonus of being fun as hell to watch. Sube sube!!! Bring em up!
    • gunnarthor likes this

I'm enjoying itand making a point of listening to them every game. I couldn't say the same late last year and even early this year after a poor start and lots of negative comments about their prospects this year.

They need to get a good relief pitcher up here for me to feel comfortable about the bullpen.

 

Duensing needs to go. Good guy but not good results.

    • hybridbear likes this
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Paul Pleiss
May 26 2015 07:39 AM

Let the good times roll!

 

I don't know how long this happy streak continues, but it sure is fun to watch winning baseball. Hoot and hollar!

    • SQUIRREL, JB_Iowa, brvama and 2 others like this
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drivlikejehu
May 26 2015 07:41 AM

The Twins aren't getting production from LF, CF, SS, 1B, DH, and C. The favorable sequencing that has carried the offense won't last forever. There are reasons to think production will improve from some of those, or at least that the Twins have options that may improve them, but it is an issue.

 

The bullpen is another weakness that hasn't been exposed; again, the Twins have some options that could improve it (e.g., let Stauffer go), but will they be proactive or wait for it to implode?

The options in the minors are a big part of the optimism, because if they have to make a call on someone, they now have options.

    • SQUIRREL, JB_Iowa, birdwatcher and 2 others like this

After four years of home-team horrors, it is fun to watch the Twins again. Three keys:

  • The starting rotation has provided a decent proportion of quality starts. 
  • I no longer cringe when our outfielders have to make a play.
  • Generally smart, aggressive base running.

This is a flawed team with a bright future. Prospects at nearly every position, potential trade chips and a solid corps at the major league level. There will be another year of growing pains as the youngsters gain experience, but from here on out, I'm going to enjoy the ride.

 

    • SQUIRREL, birdwatcher, brvama and 2 others like this

I consider myself a big Twins fan, and have been even during the past few down years.That being said I found it difficult to watch them the prior four years.When I did watch I just assumed they were going to lose.Now however I can't wait to watch games every night and actually go in with an assumption they are going to win.

 

I can only imagine the players themselves having similar thoughts.After losing regularly you get a losing mentality, however the same can be said for winning.Lets hope they keep rolling along all summer.

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Brock Beauchamp
May 26 2015 08:12 AM

I find it interesting that after all the teeth-gnashing about the "slow" rebuild, the Twins are lock-step with the Astros (though having watched many Astros games this year, I believe them to be the better team) but they got there one year faster than Houston.

 

I rolled my eyes as much as anyone during the Kevin Correia-type signings but ultimately, it didn't matter or hinder the team's long game (on the other hand, moves like releasing Worley surely did). The Twins are rotating in younger players by the week and are in a very good position to keep racking up wins for the next half decade.

    • SQUIRREL and birdwatcher like this
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MileHighTwinsFan
May 26 2015 08:43 AM

I think if the team is going to compete over the long haul, they will need a veteran presence at shortstop.  

Santana is not the answer right now and I don't think Polanco is the guy we want out there during a stretch run. Escobar might be able to fill the role - but his versatility is such a huge asset, it would be a shame  to lock him in at short.

 

Is there someone at the end of their contract that could be an option to fill the role for the rest of the year?

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HitInAPinch
May 26 2015 08:45 AM

A few things come to mind....

 

Nolasco has won 5 in a row because Twins batters have put up big numbers.Nolasco needs to replicate last nights numbers.

Twins hitters seem to have figured out that jumping on pitchers early can lead to greater success.Last nights fun fact:every starter got a hit.Big deal.Every starter 4-9 in the lineup had at least 2 hits!

Has the move of Escobar back to starting SS begun? 

Is Danny Santana having pressure issues playing SS?Is that why he had so much success when playing CF last year?

Twins still need Hicks to hit.

Kennys Vargas looks like he getting relaxed at AAA

And once and for all, this just in from Terry Ryan..............

 

The move to the bullpen is only temporary, Ryan reiterated. “He’s got probably the best stuff we have in the organization, as a starter. Maybe this will be a good situation for him,” the general manager said. “We want to get him straightened out and back in the rotation.”

 

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HitInAPinch
May 26 2015 08:50 AM

 

 

I think if the team is going to compete over the long haul, they will need a veteran presence at shortstop.  

Santana is not the answer right now and I don't think Polanco is the guy we want out there during a stretch run. Escobar might be able to fill the role - but his versatility is such a huge asset, it would be a shame  to lock him in at short.

 

Is there someone at the end of their contract that could be an option to fill the role for the rest of the year?

They need Eduardo Escobar at SS full time.He needs AB's on a regular basis. 

    • gunnarthor likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
May 26 2015 08:53 AM

Nolasco has won 5 in a row because Twins batters have put up big numbers.Nolasco needs to replicate last nights numbers.

That's... Partially true. Nolasco has somewhat lucked his way into so many wins this month but he's been a better pitcher, despite being unlucky with a .374 BABIP. He has struck out 25 hitters in 28 innings while walking just six during that span. If he keeps it up, he's an above average pitcher (though I'm as skeptical as anyone about his ability to keep that up).
 

The move to the bullpen is only temporary, Ryan reiterated. “He’s got probably the best stuff we have in the organization, as a starter. Maybe this will be a good situation for him,” the general manager said. “We want to get him straightened out and back in the rotation.”

I always assumed this to be the case. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Meyer is in Minnesota by season's end, pitching out of the pen. That might be the best thing for his development.

    • gunnarthor likes this

Remarkably, the Twins are doing all of this without their top FA signing, Mr Ervin Suspended Santana. But it says a great deal about how much deeper the rotation is this season as opposed to previous years. Guys that would have been slotted in easily as the 4th or 5th starter in previous years wouldn't even be in contention as the next guy up from AAA this year, and that's very encouraging. Would I like a little more star-power at the top of the rotation? Sure, but Hughes has developed into a legitimate #1, and we're finally seeing the improvement and talent from other spots of the rotation.

 

Nolasco clearly has the off-speed stuff to succeed and if he can spot his fastball better and finish off hitters more efficiently going forward, he could finally put up the kind of season we had in mind when we signed him. (he still seems to be tiring right around 90 pitches or so, losing his release point, and there goes the control)

 

Gibson is lowering the BB's, raising up some additional K's and with his GB% he should continue to be a very good innings-eater, especially with the defense improving behind him.

 

May is still figuring some things out, but his last 2 starts have been encouraging, and he's been solid overall. He's giving up a few too many hits right now, but his stuff is good enough to bring that down as he learns how to work batters in MLB. More importantly, he's not walking everyone in sight and he's been a little unlucky so far.

 

Pelfrey is the one who should be the first to go when Santana is ready to come back. He's not part of the long-term future here, his peripherals aren't good, he's clearly going to fall back to earth at some point and be the mediocre pitcher with limited upside he always was. Frankly, I'm hoping he keeps it up to the all-star break and someone desperate for pitching will let up flip him for a prospect, but if not he has to be the guy who heads to the bullpen. 

 

But consider this situation in relationship to last season: we're talking about which decent pitcher is going to get bumped from the rotation, as opposed to begging for basic competence. Last season we gave 26 starts to Yohan Pino, Sam Deduno, Anthony Swarzak, Logan Darnell and Kris Johnson. Only one of these guys is even with the franchise any longer (Darnell, who is back in the minors where he belongs), one is out of baseball (Johnson), and of the other three only one is starting in MLB (Deduno) and he's been terrible. And that's not counting the 37 starts handed to Nolasco, Pelfrey, and Milone last season when none of them were any good.

 

This team isn't giving away starts this year, unlike last season. This is why the projections for the Twins being a 70 win team again (before Santana's suspension especially) were foolish. I don't expect them to keep up this pace all year; there are still holes in the lineup and Pelfrey's success is unsustainable. The bullpen still has some issues. But it's amazing what happens when you're not tossing every 3rd start on the scrap heap.

    • birdwatcher likes this

I, like others, think the depth is key here.  Some guys might not improve but we have real options behind them.  Buxton, Santana, Sano, Meyer, Oliveras, Milone, Pinto etc could all come up this year and help in some capacity.  I'm still a big believer in a healthy Arcia.

 

I agree with others that it's time to put Escobar back at short and Santana in AAA for a bit.  

 

But this has been a fun team to watch, no question.

    • SQUIRREL and howieramone2 like this

The Twins have had a bunch of games in a row where they scored first.When they get back to the normal routine of giving up first runs mixed with scoring first runs, it will be interesting to see how well they come back, after falling behind. 

Last year we learned to keep watching when the Twins fell behind. They never quit, even though they often fell far behind.Molitor commented on that "never quit" attitude and he counts on it to continue this year.If the Twins can establish a pattern of coming back to win those games about 1/2 the time, the Twins shouldl continue to play .500 + ball.:)

    • Willihammer likes this

I am not sure yet if this good start indicates that the team has turned the corner.I hope so and kind of think so but there is a lot of baseball yet to be played.

 

The reason I am optimistic is that when they turn the corner, they will not be going back.Their farm system has been so strongly stocked that once they start winning, it should last for a good long while.

    • birdwatcher and gunnarthor like this

Feeling optimistic... Already been to Target Field three times this year. Saw Plouffe's grand slam a few weeks ago and his three-run homer yesterday. My son is talking playoff tickets! 

 

    • birdwatcher, gunnarthor and Ex-Iowegian like this
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birdwatcher
May 26 2015 10:16 AM

To me, the second most encouraging aspect of all this is that Arcia, Vargas, Santana, Buxton, Sano, Hicks, Rosario, Polanco, and Pinto have not been in any way responsible for the impressive offensive showing we're seeing. Some of these guys may never emerge as above-average position players, but think about it, this is a full lineup worth of prospects at the cusp. And I didn't mention a few guys at AA having nice years in Kepler, Harrison, and Walker.

 

The first most encouraging thing is that the real strength of our minor league system, according to most pundits, is pitching.

    • twinsnorth49 likes this

I hope Sano and Buxton force their way up this summer.......that would be fun. I'll keep typing it, Sano should be getting time in RF right now, Plouffe is a legit MLB 3B.

    • twinsnorth49 and sdtwins37 like this
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MileHighTwinsFan
May 26 2015 10:32 AM

Whether the start is an illusion or an indicator of a team turning the corner is irrelevant. The team finds itself in contention - now it is up to the front office to find a way to parlay it into a real playoff run.

 

The team clearly has holes, the question is which ones to fill and at what price. We know the Twins well enough that they will not sell the farm for a single season run.  However, we have seen the team make moves that paid off big in the short term.

 

Those who think that the help for the stretch fun will come exclusively from the minors is mistaken.  The team will need to make a trade or two to solidify their chances.  The question is who they will pursue, when they will pursue them and who they will be willing to part ways with to get there.

    • Jerr likes this
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Gene Larkin
May 26 2015 10:34 AM

 

To me, the second most encouraging aspect of all this is that Arcia, Vargas, Santana, Buxton, Sano, Hicks, Rosario, Polanco, and Pinto have not been in any way responsible for the impressive offensive showing we're seeing. Some of these guys may never emerge as above-average position players, but think about it, this is a full lineup worth of prospects at the cusp. And I didn't mention a few guys at AA having nice years in Kepler, Harrison, and Walker.

 

The first most encouraging thing is that the real strength of our minor league system, according to most pundits, is pitching.

I would argue the team really started to click after Rosario and then Hicks entered the lineup. After yesterday's 2-hit game, Rosario is hitting .273 (just 2 points below Mauer, although in fewer at bats) has 9 RBIs and his average with RISP is above .400. Hicks in a small sample size is hitting .244 but has come up with some key hits and walks. That's not even talking about the plus defense they're provided.

    • birdwatcher, blairpaul715 and DaveTMpls like this
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drivlikejehu
May 26 2015 10:41 AM

 

The first most encouraging thing is that the real strength of our minor league system, according to most pundits, is pitching.

 

Not really... the key to a minor league system is the elite talents, and the Twins' top two are position players. They do have some pitching depth, to be sure, but Meyer and Stewart have both slipped in terms of their prospect stock, so it's more quantity over quality at this point.

    • stringer bell likes this

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