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The Value of Prospects

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Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Valuable Player

The 2019 Twins were propelled to 101 victories by a wide range of contributions, and that dynamic was reflected in our polling for team MVP, which brought out a crazy amount of variance from our esteemed panel. You can scroll down to see the individual tallies, but here's the rub: Across 18 ballots, six different players were selected at No. 1.

And you know what? You can make a valid case for any of them, depending on your perspective.
Here's a rundown of all the Twins players who received at least one first-place vote in our balloting:
  • Taylor Rogers, ranked at the top of one ballot, was the glue that held a shaky bullpen together in the first half, and he remained steady down the stretch. He led all Twins pitchers in Win Probability Added and ranked second among American League relievers.
  • Byron Buxton, also ranked at the top of one ballot, was arguably the biggest difference-maker for the Twins whenever he was on the field. They were a vastly better team with him out there, going 62-25 (.713) in games he played, compared to 39-36 (.520) without him – not including a playoff sweep where his absence was deeply felt.
  • Mitch Garver, ranked No. 1 on two ballots, almost certainly delivered the most qualitative value, mashing 31 home runs and producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games as the Twins carefully managed his workload behind the plate. The combination of offensive and defensive impact he brought to the field was transformative for the Twins.
  • Jorge Polanco, also ranked atop a pair of ballots, led the team in bWAR (5.7) and recorded the highest mark for a Twin by Baseball Reference's metric since Brian Dozier in 2016. FanGraphs wasn't quite so accepting of his defensive shortcomings (4.0 fWAR) but from any perspective, Polanco was adequate at shortstop and was the team's iron man, playing in 153 games and making 100 more plate appearances than the next-highest player.
  • Nelson Cruz, picked as Twins MVP on three ballots, was a dominating force at the plate like we've rarely seen before. Overcoming a wrist injury that plagued him for much of the summer, he still bashed 41 homers with 108 RBIs while registering a career-high 1.031 OPS. He provided zero defensive value but the sheer offensive production and leadership were more than enough to offset it.
Like I said, the Twins received vital contributions from across the board, and it's hard to single out one most essential player. However, the guy that ultimately rose to the top – and the only remote source of consensus for our panel, landing No. 1 on nine ballots and among the top two in all but one – is Max Kepler.

Whether due to stylistic adjustments, changes in the baseball, or simply the developmental emergence of a 26-year-old with three seasons of experience under his belt – possibly all three – Kepler turned the corner in a big way:

OPS+
2016: 96
2017: 95
2018: 97
2019: 122

HR
2016: 17
2017: 19
2018: 20
2019: 36

fWAR
2016: 1.3
2017: 1.5
2018: 2.7
2019: 4.4

That fWAR led all Twins players, and was influenced heavily by his strong defensive ratings: Kepler posted a career-high 12.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and was credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), leading the team in both categories. He was exceptional in right field (third-best in baseball, according to UZR/150) and, crucially, also proved capable as fill-in center fielder – a role made necessary by Buxton's frequent unavailability.

If the Twins don't have Kepler ready to step in for 53 starts and 459 innings at the position, Buxton's injuries take a much greater toll on the team. Speaking personally, this played a big part in my placing Kepler atop the ballot.

But even when you take away that contextual wrinkle, Kepler was just a tremendously productive player all year long, setting the tone as unconventional leadoff hitter for one of the league's best lineups. He amassed 32 doubles in addition to 36 homers, drove in 90 runs, scored 98 times, and had the second-highest WPA among Twins hitters (behind Cruz).

Unfortunately he succumbed late to a shoulder issue that had plagued him for much of the year, costing him the last two weeks of the regular season and seemingly turning him into a nonfactor in the ALDS, but the inauspicious finish doesn't offset the outstanding production Kepler delivered throughout the majority of a true breakout campaign.

THE CANDIDATES
It's an impressive bunch. Cruz, who finished second in our balloting, was officially named team MVP earlier this week and it's tough to knock that choice. Ultimately, Kepler's huge advantage in defensive value gave him an edge in our vote. Meanwhile, Polanco's defensive struggles likely dinged him in the eyes of many, even though he delivered high-caliber offensive output at a premium position – albeit output that tailed off in the second half. Garver, Buxton and Miguel Sano were bona fide stars when on the field, but a lack of volume detracted from the ultimate value provided. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios got some love as leaders in a resurgent rotation, as did Rogers and Tyler Duffey in the bullpen.

One nugget of the final tallies I found surprising, yet telling: Eddie Rosario, last year's Twins Daily MVP recipient, received only one sixth-place vote, despite putting up 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. The misleading nature of his raw totals didn't fool our panel, and unfortunately, probably won't fool potential trade partners this winter.

THE BALLOTS
Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

Seth Stohs: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
Nick Nelson: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
John Bonnes: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Taylor Rogers
Tom Froemming: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jorge Polanco
Cody Christie: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
Steve Lein: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
Matt Braun: 1) Byron Buxton, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
Cooper Carlson: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Miguel Sano
Andrew Thares: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
JD Cameron: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Mitch Garver
AJ Condon: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Taylor Rogers
Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
Patrick Wozniak: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jose Berrios
Sabir Aden: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Jorge Polanco

POINTS
Max Kepler: 96
Nelson Cruz: 78
Jorge Polanco: 65
Mitch Garver: 51
Taylor Rogers: 31
Jose Berrios: 21
Miguel Sano: 18
Byron Buxton: 7
Jake Odorizzi: 5
Luis Arraez: 3
Tyler Duffey: 2
Eddie Rosario: 1

Previous Twins Daily MVP Winners
2015: Brian Dozier
2016: Brian Dozier
2017: Brian Dozier
2018: Eddie Rosario

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25 Comments

I explained it more in a video I have that I might drag up but if you're wondering why I had Buxton as my number 1, here it is:

 

Really it came down to the level of play the team had with Buxton on the field and with him off it. With Buxton, they played at an astonishing level as you can see by their record and without him they were just solid. He is the backbone of this team in my opinion and is the most irreplaceable player on the squad and that is what I define value to be. 

    • AceWrigley, DannySD and Huskertwin like this
My top four, in no order....

Kepler, Cruz, Berrios, Garver.... Though I might vote for Odorrizi with more thought

My ballot:

 

1) Polanco

2) Kepler

3) Cruz

4) Garver

5) Rogers

6) Sano

    • USAFChief likes this
The fact that there really is no true consensus is fine with me. Kepler deserves it as much as anyone. I've been a supporter and believer in Max for some time and have been just waiting for him to break through. I still think I'd vote Cruz #1 not only for production, but for leadership and example. Not so sure influence went beyond production. I hate to "rob" Kepler of AB's next season, but I'm thinking Arraez at #1, with Max hitting #4 And letting Rosario hit 6th behind Sano.
    • rdehring and DannySD like this

I think I had Kepler as my number one a few weeks ago and also said there should be a little more love for Odorizzi.I am curious about the"misleading nature of his raw totals didn't fool our panel"comment about Rosario.I probably don't have him real high either but more because of the performance of the others rather than his performance. No matter how you cut it 109 RBI is a lot.His defense wasn'tgreat but he still had the best and most crucial throw of the season. think he deserves a little love.  

Unnecessary dig at Rosario who was having a career year before battling hamstring and ankle injuries. For most of the first half he showed patience (for him) and was turning into the player we hoped he could be. The talent is unquestionably there. The team largely went as he went. He was a leader his teammates looked up to, often the voice of the team. I'd give him a first baseman's mitt before I traded him. We have guys we need less who will fetch more, imo.
    • SQUIRREL, scottz, rdehring and 1 other like this
I too am bothered by the constant digs at Rosario. On a team that I would argue had no MVP because it was such a team effort I find it strange that so many articles on TD seem to be intent on making Eddie the LVP. If we trade him for real value I am fine but not because I want him out of the lineup.
    • SQUIRREL, scottz, Jham and 1 other like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 18 2019 06:58 AM

Cruz was the first name that came to mind when I read the title, but it's really hard to argue with any of these to be honest...  

 

There are several clear cut MVPs on this team.

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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 18 2019 07:03 AM

 

I too am bothered by the constant digs at Rosario. On a team that I would argue had no MVP because it was such a team effort I find it strange that so many articles on TD seem to be intent on making Eddie the LVP. If we trade him for real value I am fine but not because I want him out of the lineup.

 

I don't see him off the team next year. There's no replacement ready for him... so trading him means you fill another hole.

 

Rosario when hot would be the team's MVP... no doubt there. He will singlehandedly change several weeks worth of games when he's hot... I think the flip side is when he gets cold and of course the occasional boneheaded play that he makes from time to time. I get the frustration, but he's a regular and no way an LVP... we have a few early season relief pitchers that qualify for that role. 

 

Hopefully, as has been suggested here his play in the second half was due to injury... because Rosie posting a career year would be a huge thing for this team.

    • scottz, mikelink45 and DannySD like this

Was going to leave baseball alone for awhile. Astros up 3-1 over Yankees has me feeling better, and feeling good enough to comment.

 

MVP - It's Cruz. We have lots of deserving baseball players, but my goodness, it is Cruz. He exudes leadership that doesn't show in WAR. He provides value while he sits in the dugout and 9 of his teammates are playing defense that also doesn't show anywhere. The Twins got it right, and in my opinion, TwinsDaily got it wrong. That's OK. Opinions are nice.

 

Rosario - Speaking of opinions. Some of the negativity towards Eddie is deserved - I get it. He's an extreme free swinger that pitchers are able to take advantage of, and he only got on base exactly 30% of the time. Can he change that? Maybe. But he's not a nothing player, and he's not a guy you just cast aside - this year he played more games than anybody on the team except Polanco. Maybe everyone is ready for one of the prospects to step in and play 137 games, but if not, is Jake Cave going to out produce Eddie? Is LaMonte Wade?

 

Also don't forget, Rosario clearly had some form of lower body injury that he was nursing over a couple of stretches, and he still played 137 games and struck out less than these players: Garver, Cron, Schoop, Polanco, Sano, Kepler, Cruz, Gonzalez, and Castro.

Eddie probably wouldn't bring back a big name pitcher because of his flaws. So don't trade him! I think he's exactly the kind of player you just keep paying through arbitration (through 2022) unless he gets injured or doesn't make any adjustments. He was 27 years old this year only made $4 million. That number isn't going to jump to $15 million. Keep him, and pay him whatever happens in arbitration.

 

I expect a big year out of Eddie in 2020. I hope it is in Minnesota.

    • SQUIRREL, Steve Lein, h2oface and 2 others like this

 

My ballot:

 

1) Polanco

2) Kepler

3) Cruz

4) Garver

5) Rogers

6) Sano

I think Seth nailed it. 

 

 

    • Danchat and Vanimal46 like this
Polanco got robbed. He leads all Twins position players in bWAR by a significant margin. Just by the eye test alone I never consistently felt that Kepler was the most valuable player on this team.

I like Eddie, but he hasn't stayed healthy for a full season yet, has he? He doesn't miss a lot of games, but he seems to get more nagging ailments that affect his play in the second half.

 

Or maybe it's in my head.

 

I like Eddie, but he hasn't stayed healthy for a full season yet, has he? He doesn't miss a lot of games, but he seems to get more nagging ailments that affect his play in the second half.

 

Or maybe it's in my head.

2017-2019 total games played

Kepler - 437

Rosario - 426

Cruz - 419 (SEA, MIN)

Schoop - 412 (BAL, MIL, MIN)

Gonzalez - 393 (HOU, MIN)

Cron - 365 (LAA, TB, MIN)

Polanco - 363

Sano - 290

Adrianza - 267

Buxton - 255

Garver - 218

Castro - 208

 

If you're looking across MLB, Rosario is tied for 51st in games played (Kepler tied for 37th). Eric Hosmer has played the most at 479. I think Rosario's been pretty healthy, both relative to our own team and to everyone else.

    • Mike Sixel and Sconnie like this
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Crackedfungo
Oct 18 2019 06:19 PM

I am going to repeat what I detailed on another thread regarding the Rosario bashing.In the last 25 years prior to this year, how many Twins had the following totals or MORE?

 

32HRs

109RBI

.276+ BA

 

One....Justin Morneau.This year, Eddie and Nelson delivered these numbers.These are numbers the homer, Mauer, NEVER achieved.Tip of the cap to Eddie, whom also nursed multiple injuries, but played on....which is what you want

    • scottz and h2oface like this
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Crackedfungo
Oct 18 2019 06:25 PM

Next point.What is the possibility that Rooker, Larnach, AK, or ? puts up those numbers (or better) in one of the next THREE years?I would put those odds at <10%.How do I know, take a look at their minor league numbers.If you correlate the length of season and at-bats, only AK has exceeded those numbers at A level two years ago - which doesn't have anywhere near the pitching of MLB.Good luck replacing Eddie's numbers, and note that he is reaching his peak, and will be healthier next year.Arm chair GMs like those this board is bursting with, are embarrassingly ill-informed.

Rosario's batting average with runners in scoring position was .340 in 156 opportunities.

Cruz was .368 in 108 opportunities.

Garver was .344 in 61 opportunities.

Polanco was .333in 123 opportunities.

Arraez was .327i n 55 opportunities.

Kepler was .309'in 97 opportunities.

also

Cron was .299 in 107 opportunities.

Gonzlalez was .298 in 94 opportunities.

Adrianza was .295 in 44 opportunities.

Buxton was .282 in 71 opportunities.

 

Eddie more than held his own with the most opportunities. (Rocco, batting Eddie 4th all season was a good decision.)

This stat alone makes my choice of Eddie Rosario as MVP.  :) 

 

 

 

    • h2oface likes this
Polanco or Cruz. Cruz, probably. It’s not like Polanco or Kepler were needle-movers defensively...despite the artificial boost Kepler’s defensive metrics got from his time playing center. And while both had very good years offensively, neither were that close to Cruz’s level.

 

2017-2019 total games played

Kepler - 437

Rosario - 426

Cruz - 419 (SEA, MIN)

Schoop - 412 (BAL, MIL, MIN)

Gonzalez - 393 (HOU, MIN)

Cron - 365 (LAA, TB, MIN)

Polanco - 363

Sano - 290

Adrianza - 267

Buxton - 255

Garver - 218

Castro - 208

 

If you're looking across MLB, Rosario is tied for 51st in games played (Kepler tied for 37th). Eric Hosmer has played the most at 479. I think Rosario's been pretty healthy, both relative to our own team and to everyone else.

That doesn't say how many games he's played at full health.

 

As my original post said I feel like he's frequently battling nagging injuries that drag down his second half performance. He's young. I hope he learns how to condition and avoid that.

 

That doesn't say how many games he's played at full health.

As my original post said I feel like he's frequently battling nagging injuries that drag down his second half performance. He's young. I hope he learns how to condition and avoid that.

Obviously there’s no stat for playing at full health. I think it’s a pretty logical leap that over a three year period, the pains and aches of nagging injuries across all the players of baseball would even out.

But who knows. Maybe Eric Hosmer feels fresh all season long and maybe Rosario will someday learn to be healthier than all other professional baseball players.

Respect all the great opinions on this article, tough decision for many.

 

For me it's Cruz by a long shot, there is no way the clubhouse was this close without him.  That is based on 0 analytics, just knowing that he made this young group of players closer.

 

I believe Polonco, Kepler and Garver are all legitimate and Odo too.  But somehow I don't think this was even close.  I think he made the kids become men so to speak or more professional.  We had to have him in the clubhouse .

    • scottz likes this

 

I like Eddie, but he hasn't stayed healthy for a full season yet, has he? He doesn't miss a lot of games, but he seems to get more nagging ailments that affect his play in the second half.

 

Or maybe it's in my head.

Compared to Buxton, He's Lou Gehrig.......

To me the only player I can see the team crumbling if they lost him is Berrios. There are so many good hitters that no one of them is indispensable. Berrios is the only indispensable player on the team, IMO.

The other player they could not have done without this year is Rogers.

I know the hitters carried the team; as a group they are clearly why they won the division.

They just had so damn many of them! Doesn't mean any one of them didn't contribute hugely. It just makes any one of them less crucial.

When you have five 30 HR guys, losing one means you still have four. The team doesn't fall apart. Take out Cruz and you still have seven 20 homer guys and ten in double digits! You could live without him.

I'm fine with saying it's Cruz, or Kepler, or any if those guys. They all came up huge. Just depends what you mean by most valuable. If it means, couldn't have done it without then, I'd put Berrios and Rogers above them. If it means, how much did they contribute, you have a wonderful problem because so many contributed so much. But my top five would probably be Berrios, Rogers, Kepler, Cruz... and then either Odorizzi, Polanco, or Garver.

Damn, that's a solid team when Sano and Buxton don't make your top eight! No disrespect to them!

 

I explained it more in a video I have that I might drag up but if you're wondering why I had Buxton as my number 1, here it is:

 

Really it came down to the level of play the team had with Buxton on the field and with him off it. With Buxton, they played at an astonishing level as you can see by their record and without him they were just solid. He is the backbone of this team in my opinion and is the most irreplaceable player on the squad and that is what I define value to be. 

Wow.I am speechless.

Only goes to show two people can be watching the same thing day in and day out and come to completely different conclusions.

Previous Twins Daily MVP Winners
2015: Brian Dozier
2016: Brian Dozier
2017: Brian Dozier
2018: Eddie Rosario

 

I guess that means the faithful will be turning on Kepler next year. It seems to be a curse to be named MVP by Twins Daily.


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