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Article: Twins Daily Roundtable: Grading the Front Office

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Week in Review: Status Quo

'Pretty much status quo,' was Paul Molitor's response Saturday when asked for an update on Joe Mauer. That's also a pretty apt description of his team, which turned in another uninspiring week that saw them further fade in a division race that represents their only real shot at reaching the postseason.

On Sunday we learned that Mauer is headed for a rehab assignment. Things are hopefully headed in the right direction for him.

Tougher to feel that way about the Twins in general.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/4 through Sun, 6/10

***

Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 28-34)

Run Differential Last Week: 0 (Overall: -11)

Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (5.5 GB)


HIGHLIGHTS

While a few crucial players have failed to deliver on offense for the Twins this year, others have stepped up in a big way. Namely, I'm talking about Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar.

The continued growth of these two at the plate is invigorating to behold. Rosario and Escobar have not only been among the best power bats on the team, but in the league.

Escobar had a monster week, collecting multiple hits in five of seven games and pushing his XBH total on the season to 39, tied for the major-league lead. Esco's late three-run homer in Tuesday's first game salvaged a victory and he added three more hits in the nightcap. He's slugging .895 this month and suddenly finds himself on track for the best power-hitting season in Twins history:



At this point we should just call them Esc-tra base hits. Right?

Rosario, meanwhile, stayed in the zone after capping last week with a three-homer game. He delivered four multi-hit games and one big home run. I mentioned last time that the most deeply encouraging part of his progression was the enhanced plate discipline. That continued as he drew three walks against three strikeouts.

HIs improvements in this regard over the course of the year have been evident, and have bolstered his overall production:



The rotation also saw some notably strong performances last week, with Jose Berrios picking up a complete-game victory on Thursday, Lance Lynn turning in his fourth consecutive quality start on Friday, and Kyle Gibson firing seven strong innings on Saturday.

LOWLIGHTS

On days like Thursday, it's easy to dream on this squad and the kind of run they're capable of putting together. Berrios cruised through nine, Escobar and Rosario powered the offense with five RBIs, and Minnesota enjoyed a comfortable lopsided victory.

But those types of games have been few and far between. Much more often, the Twins have been entangled in close battles, and they've usually come out on the losing end, as illustrated by a 3-13 record in one-run contests.

Bullpen lapses have played their role of late, with Ryan Pressly suddenly getting clobbered and Addison Reed continually giving up gopher balls in key spots.

But the biggest culprit is a punchless offense, which went back in the tank after seemingly breaking out the previous week. The Twins lineup was more or less shut down by every starter it faced other than James Shields and Nick Tropeano. Minnesota scored more than four times only twice in seven games, all played in their home park.

Unless the Eds are doing heroic things, or someone like Jake Cave puts together a random outburst, it seems this offense can't muster much of anything. That kind of isolated production is the opposite of what we hoped to see from a unit that, late last year, was spectacular in its depth and relentlessness.

While no one other than Rosario and Escobar is hitting much, the flabbergasting futility of Miguel Sano is most conspicuous and upsetting.

As Sano came out of the gates this year striking out an egregious 40%+ rate, it stood to reason that he'd eventually shake off the rust and rein it in. The big man has always been K-prone – an acceptable consequence of swinging as hard as he does – but he's mostly kept it within reason.

If he continued to fan at the same rate he did in 2017, Sano was probably going to lead the league in K% this year, and very possibly set the all-time record for strikeouts in a season. But you live with it, because all those whiffs were to be accompanied by lots of walks and thunderous power.

Instead, his K-rate has climbed, maintaining at 40% after 11 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances last week. He drew one walk and has only seven on the season. Sano has lost any semblance of pitch recognition, lacking either the will or ability to lay off two-strike breaking balls well out of the zone. He has become remarkably easy to pitch to.

This is a nightmarish situation with no clear solution. The Twins could justifiably send Sano down to Rochester, as he has two options remaining, but it'd be to send a message more than anything. Maybe that's necessary at this point. But he isn't going to learn to read MLB-caliber spin while facing inferior pitchers at Triple-A.

Sano needs to wake up and get it together. It's hard to feel like this stagnation isn't stemming in some way from a lack of commitment on his part. Rust is no longer a credible excuse. Lingering hamstring tenderness wouldn't explain the consistently subpar quality of his at-bats.

This is a 25-year-old at a crossroad in his career and life. Sadly the "what ifs" are louder now than ever before.

TRENDING STORYLINE

The Twins need to get more out of the catcher position. Bobby Wilson is playing like you'd expect from a 35-year-old journeyman who's never been able to find sustained work in the majors. Mitch Garver is batting .215 with five extra-base hits in 89 PA since Jason Castro went down, and hasn't been impressive defensively.

Early last week, the Twins signed Cameron Rupp after he opted out of his minor-league deal with the Rangers. The 29-year-old backstop has a fair amount of experience in the majors, and was hitting very well in Class-AAA Round Rock with an .886 OPS. If he produces like that in Rochester it won't be long before he gets a chance in Minnesota.

Of particular interest is Rupp's penchant for mashing left-handed pitching. He has at an .879 career OPS vs. southpaws in the big leagues, and was at 1.304 in Triple-A this year before coming over. The Twins are slugging just .381 against lefties as a team.

DOWN ON THE FARM

It's safe to say that Brent Rooker made a very strong impression on the crew here at Twins Daily. Coming into this season, we had him ranked as the No. 7 prospect in a fairly stacked system, which he'd only been part of for a few months after being drafted last June.

Sure, he's a big powerful hitter who posted strong numbers in his pro debut. But what really stood out about Rooker was his studious mindset when it comes to hitting – his deep commitment to understanding and mastering the craft. It felt like whatever hurdles the Mississippi State University product encountered, he'd find a way to overcome them.

His 2018 season has been a perfect demonstration of what makes Rooker so exciting. The Twins sent him to Double-A to open the year – a fairly aggressive assignment, but one the organization clearly thought he could handle. And they were right.

Rooker endured his struggles in the early going, posting a brutal .213/.234/.320 line with 25 strikeouts and one walk. But, exactly as you'd hope, he started making gradual adjustments and getting things on track. Over his next 20 games he would hit .256/.300/.427. And now, after turning in a spectacular past week for the Lookouts (10 hits and 10 walks in 28 PA) he's at .342/.437/.698 over his past 19.

Just as we hoped, Rooker is establishing himself as a potential late-season reinforcement for the Twins offense. If he keeps raking they way he has recently, his potent right-handed bat will begin to look very appealing around August – especially if Mauer has setbacks and/or Logan Morrison never finds a prolonged groove.

Capable of making a more immediate impact, perhaps, is LaMonte Wade, who was promoted to Rochester over the weekend after hitting .298/.393/.444 over 46 games in Chattanooga. That those numbers very closely match his career line in the minors (.296/.402/.438) speaks to the consistency with which Wade has produced since joining the Twins as a ninth-round draft pick in 2015.

He's a high-OBP, low-power corner outfielder in the mold of Robbie Grossman, which might not make him the sexiest prospect, but it's a nice piece to have around on the cheap.

LOOKING AHEAD

It's not over yet. If the Twins are able to put together a good week on the road, winning their series in Detroit and Cleveland, they'll be in much better position than they currently find themselves.

I wish they'd done anything to make us confident that is going to happen.

TUESDAY, 6/12: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Blaine Hardy
WEDNESDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Matthew Boyd
THURSDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Michael Fulmer
FRIDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Corey Kluber
SATURDAY, 6/16: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Fernando Romero v. RHP Carlos Carrasco
SUNDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jake Odorizzi vs RHP Adam Plutko

Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

More on Twins Daily
  • The MLB Draft took place last week, and Andrew Thares covered it beautifully here at Twins Daily. Check out his Twins 2018 Draft recap, and find links to his write-ups on the top two picks and more within.
  • In Cody Christie's latest roundtable piece, many TD contributors weighed in with a diverse range of opinions on which player contracts the Twins should be focused on extending.
  • I took a look at the some potentially available targets and called out three potential catcher upgrades on the trade market.

  • Cory Engelhardt, mikelink45 and Platoon like this

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32 Comments

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Old Twins Cap
Jun 10 2018 09:02 PM

The word on the street is that if Sano thinks you are doubting or trying to discipline him, then he takes it personally and goes the other way.

 

That, the only way to "work with" Sano is to build him up and let him know how much you buy into the Sano narrative of "can't miss superstar".

 

If true, and if coddling is going on while Sano is setting records for K's and trying to kill every pitch that is low and away -- and they all are at this point, why throw him a strike? -- then Twins' Manager and FO are, in fact, the real problem.

 

As for Twins, they can get by without Sano.It's the high OBP of Mauer, the D-fence of Buxton, the pop of Polanco, and just needing a Catcher that is really hurting them.

 

And where is Brian Dozier, the supposed clubhouse guy, when your team desperately needs leadership?

 

Even making a Qualifying Offer on him at this point seems like a questionable decision.

    • Dantes929, Cory Engelhardt, mikelink45 and 5 others like this

My biggest issue now is that the Twins are looking completely helpless against lefties and especially the soft tossing ones.How long will it be before clubs with decent depth will call up soft tossing lefties for one start against the Twins expecting to win.  

    • bighat likes this

"He's a high-OBP, low-power corner outfielder in the mold of Robbie Grossman"

 

Who can play defense!  

 

Grossman is the person I most want replaced due to his woeful one-dimensional contributions (at best). 

    • mikelink45 and birddog like this
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TheLeviathan
Jun 10 2018 09:17 PM

Dozier is playing himself into an extension with us!Yay!

 

Wait.....

    • Sconnie and Minny505 like this
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Aerodeliria
Jun 10 2018 09:37 PM

I know that the Twins have been hard-pressed to score runs in their losses, but as was mentioned astutely here, the Twins have been abysmal in one-run games. This includes games that they have tied and then given up the winner, and this includes games in which they have taken a tiny lead (usually one run) and proceeded to give it right back. It seems as though the relief pitching performs far better on paper than they do in the actual game. (What I mean by that is the relief pitching tends to be lights out when the Twins are down by a couple or ahead by three or four, but when the game gets tight, they cough up the critical run(s).)

 

The 4-2 loss to the Angels is a case-in-point, and it was especially aggravating to watch (remember, it's only the second game I've been able to watch this year) because Pressly just kept throwing breaking balls and eventually they started mashing them. Someone should have rattled his cage after Maldonado's double, but he continued to rely on the breaking ball despite having the 97+ mph fastball. After Kinsler's two-run homer, he finally "resorted" to throwing four straight fastballs to Trout, who was clearly over-matched. I was baffled and frustrated by that inning to be quite frank. In any case, it summed up the way the Twins have been playing.

 

If I thought they were awful (as I did two years ago), it would be much easier to swallow, but as it seems as if there is potential around every corner, it becomes that much more frustrating.

 

Let's see if we can finally turn the corner...

 

Go Twins!

    • mikelink45, bighat, Original Whizzinator and 1 other like this
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Kelly Vance
Jun 10 2018 11:08 PM

Such good news about Joe. Hope he comes back strong. 

 

This is a young team,.  You expect veteran teams to win one run games. Young teams, uh no. But these guys are learning. 

 

The Rupp move wasn't an accident. 

 

I don't believe for a second that Sano is at a cross roads of his career. He is still just a young 25 and coming off an injury. He needs to learn to hit to the opposite field. He is strong enough to hit homers with the push away swing. 

 

Buxton too. Can you imagine how many triples he could hit in a year if he would learn to hit to right field?

    • Dantes929 likes this
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Aerodeliria
Jun 11 2018 12:09 AM

BTW, speaking of catchers, I notice that there isn't much scuttlebutt about Willians Astudillo. I am wondering why his name hasn't been bandied about on Twins Daily as a possible call-up to the bigs. I am sure someone on this list is more clued-in than I am, but it seems like he has hit fairly consistently at all levels. What's the scoop on him?

    • Minny505, bighat and Doctor Wu like this

Sano needs to ride buses for a couple of weeks. And learn to wait, and swing naturally. Time for the message two weeks ago.

BTW, speaking of catchers, I notice that there isn't much scuttlebutt about Willians Astudillo. I am wondering why his name hasn't been bandied about on Twins Daily as a possible call-up to the bigs. I am sure someone on this list is more clued-in than I am, but it seems like he has hit fairly consistently at all levels. What's the scoop on him?


I hear Astudillo doesn't have much of a defensive rep. Also, his offensive game is largely predicated on not striking out, which is very intriguing but raises questions about how it translates to the bigs.

Not sure if you can really swap him for Garver at this point, or if it would cause too much inconsistency to pair him with Garver...
Sorting Fangraphs leaderboard on K% indicates that 21 of 30 “leaders” in K% have a negative offensive contribution to total WAR. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect high K% players like Sano to be carrying a team.
https://www.fangraph...ers=0&sort=10,d

Furthermore, if you look Fangraphs leaderboard by WAR, only 2 of the top 60 players have a K% of 30 or more (Judge and Stanton of the Yankees at 30 and 31%, respectively). The odds are completely against Sano becoming an all-star caliber player unless he significantly improves plate discipline. Anything is possible because Eddie Rosario has been able to improve this aspect of his game. I have less confidence that Sano will take an equivalent step.
    • mikelink45 and Minny505 like this

Dozier is playing himself into an extension with us! Yay!

Wait.....

If he continues this pace, he’d have to accept the QO huh?
    • beckmt, TheLeviathan and Minny505 like this

"On Sunday we learned that Mauer is headed for a rehab assignment. Things are hopefully headed in the right direction for him.

Tougher to feel that way about the Twins in general."

 

Its kind of one and the same. Mauer heading in the right direction is directly linked to the Twins heading in the right direction. Same could be said of Buxton. And the starting pitching.

    • Minny505 likes this
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killertwinfan
Jun 11 2018 06:21 AM

Thanks for your comments, very interesting. It hurts to think that this Sano streak won't turn around and it might not this season.Your comment about Dozier was interesting.The fewtimes I have been unable to observe him in the dugout I have thought is has been more reserved and less of a leader than he has been in the past. Are you seeing or hearing the same thing?

The word on the street is that if Sano thinks you are doubting or trying to discipline him, then he takes it personally and goes the other way.

 

That, the only way to "work with" Sano is to build him up and let him know how much you buy into the Sano narrative of "can't miss superstar".

 

If true, and if coddling is going on while Sano is setting records for K's and trying to kill every pitch that is low and away -- and they all are at this point, why throw him a strike? -- then Twins' Manager and FO are, in fact, the real problem.

 

As for Twins, they can get by without Sano.It's the high OBP of Mauer, the D-fence of Buxton, the pop of Polanco, and just needing a Catcher that is really hurting them.

 

And where is Brian Dozier, the supposed clubhouse guy, when your team desperately needs leadership?

 

Even making a Qualifying Offer on him at this point seems like a questionable decision.

 

Excellent report, Nick.Thanks.

    • Nick Nelson likes this

Ehire Adrianza should at least be mentioned in the Highlights section, especially since this is a one week review.I understand mentioning a good week from an MI other than Dozier or Escobar may not fall in line with the broken record whining in the comments sections for Gordon's debut, but Ehire put up an OPS well over 1000 this past week.If Jake Cave can get attention in other articles after one good game (albeit after a good showing in Rochester), Adrianza at least should be more than an afterthought after a good week.I don't expect him to stay this hot, but on the season he's now OPSing over 700.I'll take that from a glove-first, reserve infielder, and it's even passable as a starter for the short term until Polanco returns.

 

You could add a "comment board theme" section to the weekly review, because that would be status quo too.

 

1) Rip on Sano

2) Rip on Dozier

3) Cry about Gordon

 

Those have been the themes all year, and it was certainly a status quo week.

    • Thrylos, Minny505, Dave The Dastardly and 3 others like this

 

Sano needs to ride buses for a couple of weeks. And learn to wait, and swing naturally. Time for the message two weeks ago.

Someone ought to get out the big razor and shave Sano's head. Maybe that will wake him up!

Sano is not the only problem with the Twins offense, and he is continuously unfairly and maliciously singled out.

 

Only 3 of the current Twins regulars have wRC+ higher than the league average (Rosario, Escobar, and Kepler).As a matter of fact Sano has higher wRC+ than Morrison, Grossman, Garver and whomever happens to play CF for more than 2 games.

 

It is not like Sano is hitting .156/.183/.200, with a -3 wRC+ like his fellow former top prospect does... 

    • Sconnie and bighat like this
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woolywoolhouse
Jun 11 2018 09:07 AM

Opposing teams' management should impose fines on their pitchers: $500 for every pitch they throw Sano in the strikezone. 

Two years ago, the Twins were bad--but not as bad as their final record seemed to say.  They (collectively) managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and went through horrible collective slumps.

 

This year feels similar in many respects, with the one-run record as the notable symptom.  Last year there was much ado about chemistry and veteran leadership.  This year I sense the same dysfunctionality as before as two years ago--no "chemistry" and the team rarely seems to be firing on all cylinders.

 

It's almost like the team performs on a macro level as Dozier does on a micro level--season long team wide slumps versus Dozier's half season slumps.

 

There can be nothing more frustrating than seeing every spark (Romero, Gibson, a huge game from Rosario, etc.) summarily snuffed out.

    • Nick Nelson, bighat and rdehring like this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 11 2018 09:41 AM

Sano is not the only problem with the Twins offense, and he is continuously unfairly and maliciously singled out.

Only 3 of the current Twins regulars have wRC+ higher than the league average (Rosario, Escobar, and Kepler). As a matter of fact Sano has higher wRC+ than Morrison, Grossman, Garver and whomever happens to play CF for more than 2 games.

It is not like Sano is hitting .156/.183/.200, with a -3 wRC+ like his fellow former top prospect does...


Grossman and Garver aren’t supposed to be starters. The starting CF is on the DL. And plenty has been said about his lack of productivity. Plenty has been said about Morrison as well. The fill ins are just that. Fill ins.


Sano is hitting about .150 OPS below his career mark. His HR rate is down 1% of his career avg. his K rate is 5 % higher than career avg and BB rate is 3% lower than career rate. This is a player in his 4th season who is supposed to be the cornerstone of the offense. He should be PROgressing not REgressing at this stage of his development.

If he doesn’t develop into an all star caliber hitter rapidly, this franchise will be back at square one offensively by mid 2019.

Unfairly singled out? No. Sano not hitting is simply THAT big of an impact to this team. That’s the price that comes with the hype that this organization has fed us for the last half decade.
    • Nick Nelson, USAFChief, mikelink45 and 4 others like this

 

Such good news about Joe. Hope he comes back strong. 

 

This is a young team,.  You expect veteran teams to win one run games. Young teams, uh no. But these guys are learning. 

 

The Rupp move wasn't an accident. 

 

I don't believe for a second that Sano is at a cross roads of his career. He is still just a young 25 and coming off an injury. He needs to learn to hit to the opposite field. He is strong enough to hit homers with the push away swing. 

 

Buxton too. Can you imagine how many triples he could hit in a year if he would learn to hit to right field?

 

Boston and New York are younger on offense, why are they winning so many games? Do you have any evidence that young teams don't win as many 1 run games? It isn't really that young of a team. There are zero rookies in the projected starting lineup. There are zero second year players in the projected starting lineup. 

    • mikelink45 and wsnydes like this

 

 

Unfairly singled out? No. Sano not hitting is simply THAT big of an impact to this team. That’s the price that comes with the hype that this organization has fed us for the last half decade.

 

How about Buxton and his hitting?Or there was no hype surrounding the top overall prospect in baseball according to many? You never hear anyone many questioning his abilities and/or motivation, like they do Sano's. 

 

Yes he is singled out, which is status quo for certain people

    • Mike Sixel likes this
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RatherBeGolfing
Jun 11 2018 10:25 AM

 

Boston and New York are younger on offense, why are they winning so many games? Do you have any evidence that young teams don't win as many 1 run games? It isn't really that young of a team. There are zero rookies in the projected starting lineup. There are zero second year players in the projected starting lineup. 

 

It's almost as if that's just a go to excuse that carries no weight when applied to this team.

    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel and Taildragger8791 like this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 11 2018 10:29 AM

How about Buxton and his hitting? Or there was no hype surrounding the top overall prospect in baseball according to many? You never hear anyone many questioning his abilities and/or motivation, like they do Sano's.

Yes he is singled out.


1) I believe I mentioned that Buxton’s lack of productivity has been discussed plenty. Not recently because he’s on the DL, which I believe I also mentioned.

2) A big part of Buxton’s impact was always going to be and is always going to be defense. The offensive impact was always expected to be less than Sano’s.

3) Sano was never expected to be a plus defender. Indeed, the hope was for at least close to league average. Therefore, his entire value depends on him hitting.

4) Discuss Sano’s “motivation” with someone else. I’ve never mentioned it and could care less about it. I care about results. His are terrible.

5) As I also mentioned, Sano is “singled out” because his not hitting is THAT big of a deal. Buxton not hitting hurts too. Him being on the DL hurts. But his bat was simply never expected to be anywhere close to impactful as Sano’s. The entire offense is built around Sano. If he can’t be the third or fourth place hitter the Twins need him to be, literally nothing else matters. Because the Twins won’t contend for a title with this core if he isn’t in the middle of it.

 

How about Buxton and his hitting?Or there was no hype surrounding the top overall prospect in baseball according to many? You never hear anyone many questioning his abilities and/or motivation, like they do Sano's. 

 

Yes he is singled out, which is status quo for certain people

He could lose some weight, stay on the field, recognize a pitch every now and again, and produce.

 

That'd change the status quo for me.

    • snepp likes this

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