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Kirilloff - LF or RF?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:37 AM
The linked post from MLB Trade Rumors suggests that Kirilloff will play RF come opening day.I assumed he would be in LF, since Kepler is...
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Looking Back at Lewis Thorpe's Last Dominant Stretch

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:57 PM
Back in April of 2019, Lewis Thorpe put together back-to-back 12 K starts. Here are some highlights from those starts. He struggled to sh...
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Hopefully Simmons "issues" are not like Romero...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 05:43 PM
Per multiple sources, new Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been delayed to the team's camp by visa issues. The exact detai...
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Park: Newly "dialed in" Thorpe Ready to Compete i...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 03:44 PM
Do-hyoung Park penned an absolutely fantastic article on Lewis Thorpe.    https://www.mlb.com/...ically-mentally   Check o...
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Reusse: Modern Game Unkind to Dozier, Plouffe

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 07:37 AM
I thought thatPatrick Reusse wrote an interesting article, something I know I have been thinking for the last few years.    htt...
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Recent Blogs

Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter

Nelson Cruz has one job, and he did it absurdly well in 2019. Defying the ostensible effects of age, he looked as good as ever at the plate, leading the charge in Minnesota's record-setting power display and earning team MVP honors.

Cruz's debut season with the Twins will be a tough act to follow, and once he's gone, the same will be said for him.
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Projected Starter: Nelson Cruz
Likely Backup: Miguel Sano

Depth: Jorge Polanco, Willians Astudillo
Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker


It's almost impossible to overstate how good Cruz was at hitting last year. Forty-one homers and 108 RBIs would be outstanding production in a full campaign, but he amassed those numbers while limited to just 120 games.

Among qualified MLB hitters, Cruz ranked fourth in OPS, behind only Christian Yelich, Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger – two MVPs and a runner-up. His wOBA he was behind Trout, Yelich and Alex Bregman. Same for wRC+. By almost any of today's most trusted offensive measures, Cruz was absolutely elite, placing alongside the very best players in the game.

He hit for average (.311, T-4th in the AL) and power (second to Trout in SLG at .639). He got on base at nearly a .400 clip. He was good in the first half (.921 OPS) and absolutely unconscious in the second half (1.147 OPS). He elevated his performance in clutch situations of all types. His Statcast measurements, much like Josh Donaldson's, were nuts.

Attached Image: cruzstatcast.png

There is really not one single valid thing to nitpick about Cruz's 2019 performance, other than the quantity, which suffered from his bouts with a wrist injury and his inability to play anywhere in the field during interleague play.

The Twins are wise to anticipate a similarly partial workload in whatever form of season lies ahead, and in fact they might be wise to plan for it, giving the veteran slugger – who turns 40 in July – plenty of rest and downtime. Their abundance of depth makes it easy to rotate guys like Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano through the DH spot to keep legs fresh.

Let Cruz get his naps in plentifully during the summer, so that he'll be a sleeping beast ready to awaken in October. (And November? December?)


The parallels between Cruz's first year with the Twins in 2019, and Jim Thome's first year with the Twins in 2010, are unmistakable. Both were legendary sluggers verging on 40 when they signed with Minnesota to provide seasoned power at the DH spot. Both surpassed all expectations on the way to stunningly great seasons, dotted with memorable moments and jaw-dropping dingers. In fact, their OPS figures were almost identical (1.039 versus 1.031).

But both also showed the initial signs of wavering durability, with Thome's finicky back limiting him to 108 games and Cruz's nagging wrist limiting him to 120. Neither was much worse for the wear, but Thome came nowhere near the same level during his encore in 2011, dropping to a far more human .243/.351/.476 in 71 games before getting dealt to Cleveland in late August. His back was a constant issue.

Not many ballplayers remain productive into their 40s. Once you get to this point, skills can diminish sharply and the body becomes far more prone to breaking down. These are just physiological realities.

Aaron Gleeman did some research for The Athletic, and found that Cruz faces long odds to repeat in his age-39 season. "At that age, declines appear suddenly and are often irreversible — a cliff no one saw coming until they’re plummeting down it." Some examples you might recognize: Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Edgar Martinez.

While this is technically supposed to qualify as Cruz's age-39 season, there's a strong likelihood that he'll have celebrated his 40th birthday on July 1st before another meaningful game is played. His ruptured wrist tendon is of course a volatile factor in his outlook. The slugger played through it with remarkable effectiveness last year, posting a 1.023 OPS in 33 games after suffering the injury, but it's tough to count on this sort of superhumanity lasting forever. Easy as it is to believe Cruz is some sort of demigod, he is to my knowledge a mortal man.

The good news is that even a fairly significant reduction in output would still make Cruz a valuable designated hitter. And if he reaches the cliff, there's no shortage of quality bats to step in. The Twins could shift Sano to DH and replace him with Marwin Gonzalez, or rotate regulars through the position with backups filling in defensively. They could call up Brent Rooker, whose prodigious bat looked ready in Rochester last summer. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach are not far behind.


Cruz is a linchpin in the lineup, but Minnesota is a long way from being scarce on good hitters if he can't keep Father Time at bay.

In that respect, there is one other player comp I'd like to close with – one bearing some familiarity. Gleeman's analysis found that "only two players in baseball history have hit as well and played as often at 39 as they did at 38: Barry Bonds and David Ortiz."

David Ortiz. Now there's an interesting name. A highly gifted and sturdily built Dominican player who started his career with the Twins and went on to become one of the greatest designated hitters the game has ever seen. He hit 35 homers with an .873 OPS for the Red Sox at age 38, then improved to 37 and .913 at age 39.

The real pièce de résistance came at age 40, Ortiz's final season, when he went off for .315/.401/.620 with 48 homers and 127 RBIs as Boston won the AL East.

Cruz is a highly gifted and sturdily built Dominican player who's ending his career with the Twins, and has grabbed Ortiz's torch as the game's foremost DH. Wrist issues notwithstanding, he showed no signs of fading last year, and was absolutely cranking in exhibition action before spring training shut down. In 23 at-bats he hit .435 with three home runs.

We have every reason to believe Cruz will keep playing at a high level, and the Twins have reportedly even discussed extending him through age 41, so the end isn't necessarily imminent. But needless to say, his time is fleeting. And that's mostly fine, because the organization is deep on bat-first players capable of becoming assets in the DH spot, both now and in the future.


Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Left Field
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Center Field
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Right Field

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Uplifting. I needed that.


As an aside, regarding the final season of David Ortiz. When he was putting up those insane numbers, I thought, nah, this is too good to be true. I smell a rat. (steroid era suspect) As far as I know, no rodent was uncovered, which is great. I love Big Papi, both the player and larger than life persona.


Anyway, back to Nelson Cruz. His 2019 season was truly awesome, and I'd like to believe he was clean, and can continue his Ortizian productivity.


Apropos of nothing in particular,Tom Hanks said "there's no cryin' in baseball" , but there sure is cheatin'.

    • mikelink45 likes this

I think that the way this season is playing out is to the disadvantage of Cruz.As we look ahead he is not only facing age, but uncertainty.Staying sharp, being ready is a challenge to everyone, 39 year old bodies have less flexibility.

Mar 26 2020 06:54 AM
Teddy Ballgame led the league in hitting at 39, slumped a bit at 40, and then turned in a 1.096 OPS at age 41.

Of course, I suppose one could say he was starting to slide, since his OPS+ at age 40 “only” matched his career average of 190.

With the way Cruz was swinging the bat in Spring Training, there was no reason to believe that he would fall off the table- at least this year. His production will decline some but I would guess he could hit 35 homers and bat .280 in 130 games if healthy. Maybe even stay productive at 41. He seems to take care of himself well.

This season is going to be either shortened or cancelled.How does that play into Cruz returning in 2021?Will he be more likely to want to extend his career with 2020 being either brief or not exist?With an extended lay off and another off season, will his abilities suffer?Lots of questions.


The great news is the Twins have lots of young bats ready to step in.The most likely scenario I see is Kirilloff playing lots of first base with Sano moving to DH for a good part of 2021. 

    • Nick Nelson and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Good analysis .. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
Mar 26 2020 10:56 AM

Good article about a good player who is a good man.

Mar 26 2020 06:00 PM
what a great man, great player, and a great addition to our family. Im not lying when i say i liked him since he broke in with the Strangers.

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