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Cody’s Top 20 Twins Prospects: 11-15

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Recent Blogs


2 Newly Available Bats that May Interest the Twins

The Minnesota Twins are staring down the potential departures of their two most established run producers this winter, with a key decision on Eddie Rosario looming in a few days.

Should they be seeking out power bats to replace these lineup fixtures, the Twins may take interest in couple of righty sluggers that unexpectedly hit the market over the past week.
Image courtesy of Kevin Jairaj and Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Twins fans know all too well that just because a player is waived by one team doesn't mean he can't make a major impact for another one. David Ortiz lamentations aside, there are plenty of more recent examples to illustrate the point.

Two offseasons ago, the Twins filled a need at first base by grabbing C.J. Cron after he was placed on waivers by Tampa Bay. While he was slowed by a thumb injury in 2019, Cron lived up to his rep as a quality slugger, playing a key role for an offense that set the all-time home run record. More recently, Minnesota plucked reliever Matt Wisler off waivers from Seattle last October; Wisler went on to become a huge asset and is one of their entrenched bullpen fixtures going forward.

The two players we'll cover here already passed through waivers, unlike the two above who were claimed. This only underscores the fact that they are available, and probably at a pretty low cost.

Let's take a look at Hunter Renfroe and Renato Nunez.

Hunter Renfroe, OF
Age 28
Waived by Tampa Bay

The Rays have a history of waiving proven offensive producers with marginal defensive value. Cron, mentioned above, is one example. Corey Dickerson is another. Renfroe is a little less surprising than either of them, because he's coming off a rough season, but still – we're talking about a 28-year-old former top prospect with a .486 slugging percentage in the majors.

Before his down year in 2020, in which he slashed .156/.252/.393 for Tampa, Renfroe belted 26, 26, and 33 home runs over his first three MLB seasons with the Padres. Most critically: he's a right-handed hitter with a career .258/.339/.573 line against left-handed pitchers. Even amid his struggles in 2020, Renfroe still went deep five times in 51 plate appearances against southpaws. In 2019 he had a .906 OPS against them.

His clear strength would offset what was a clear weakness for the Twins in 2020. They slashed just .236/.309/.349 against left-handed pitching, and that was WITH Cruz posting a 1.456 OPS versus lefties. Renfroe is certainly no Cruz, but he'd be a good fit as a rotational player capable of filling in at DH as well as left field and right field (where the starters will presumably both be left-handed regardless of how the Twins decide on Rosario).

As a righty power hitter with a somewhat depressed market, Renfroe looks like a nice option for the Twins. But he's not the only player with such a profile to have recently become available.

Renato Núñez, 1B/DH
Age: 26
Waived by Baltimore

Like Renfroe, Núñez had a big offensive season in 2019, piling up 31 home runs and 90 RBIs for the Orioles as a 25-year-old. But unlike Renfroe, he didn't tail off in 2020 – Núñez homered 12 times in 52 games this season, putting up a career-high .256/.324/.492 slash line while splitting time between first base and DH.

His price tag wouldn't have been all that high in Year 1 of arbitration (likely in the $3 million range) but the rebuilding Orioles understandably have other priorities than a defensively limited, impatient power hitter. Núñez is not the kind of player who will be in high demand, but he could fit the Twins' needs fairly well if they move on from Cruz. He's an inexpensive right-handed hitter who is in the heart of his prime, turning 27 next April. In his age 25 and 26 seasons, he has hit 43 home runs with a .469 slugging percentage in 203 games.

There are two things that make Núñez less appealing than Renfroe for the Twins:
  • Núñez doesn't play the outfield, so he'd be more of a straight-up Cruz replacement at DH, capable of filling in occasionally at first. (He can play a little third base but he's not strong there.)
  • While he swings righty, Núñez hasn't specialized against mashing left-handed pitching. Eleven of his 12 home runs in 2020 came against righties, and he has a better career OPS against RHP.

These hold-ups aside, Núñez is a talented player at the peak of his athleticism, and bringing him aboard would add some reliable power production cheaply while enabling the Twins to redirect their savings elsewhere.

In an offseason landscape full of intriguing possibilities, we can add a couple more to the list, with the Winter Meetings suddenly just a week away.

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11 Comments

Do they really need 2 more guys that swing for the fences and are limited defensively? Seems to me they have enough of those type of players already.

    • alphanumeric, mikelink45, puckstopper1 and 2 others like this

With bat first players available it does bring the price of Cruz down. It should put some pressure on him to sign before the team moves on. You might not get the same production but the team might be able to add in better pitchers

    • adjacent and terrydactyls1947 like this

I thought the point of non-tendering Rosario and not re-signing Cruz was to bring up Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker, not sign some other teams throw-aways??

    • denarded, ScrapTheNickname, adjacent and 5 others like this

All I can say is Rooker, Kiriloff, Larnach

    • Twins33, DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan and 2 others like this

With the team built to win now they don't need reclamation projects unless it's for an extra bench spot or long-relief. I'd pass on both of these.

 

 

Hopefully the marginal starters get pushed by the prospects.

 

I'm also suspicious of any player who had a lot of HR in 2019 but a spotty history otherwise due to the juiced ball.

 

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Nick Nelson
Nov 30 2020 12:07 PM

 

I thought the point of non-tendering Rosario and not re-signing Cruz was to bring up Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker, not sign some other teams throw-aways??

Well, the idea is to save money, which you'd be doing. Obviously those prospects are all part of the long-term plan but throwing them directly into action for a World Series contender, with almost no combined MLB experience between them, is a bit dicey. There should be plenty of ABs to go around if both Cruz and Rosario are gone.

 

 

With the team built to win now they don't need reclamation projects unless it's for an extra bench spot or long-relief. I'd pass on both of these.

 

Hopefully the marginal starters get pushed by the prospects.

 

I'm also suspicious of any player who had a lot of HR in 2019 but a spotty history otherwise due to the juiced ball.

Fair enough, but not sure I'd label either of these guys a reclamation project. Renfroe struggled in a short 2020 season but the power was still there and he was a solidly above-average hitter in 2018-19. Nunez had his best season in 2020 and was above average in each of the prior two. Neither one's power output in 2019 seems like an outlier.

 

Let's look at it this way -- since the start of 2019, Nunez has 43 HR and Renfroe has 41. Only 4 Twins players had more than 41 HR over that span and two of them are Cruz and Rosario.

 

 

 

 

    • chpettit19 likes this

 

I thought the point of non-tendering Rosario and not re-signing Cruz was to bring up Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker, not sign some other teams throw-aways??

Could not agree more. If that's not the plan, we're using the wrong plan

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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tony&rodney
Nov 30 2020 05:43 PM

It would be tough to lose both Rosario and Cruz. I expect Rosario to be tendered, perhaps against the grain of public opinion. My issue with either of the two newly available bats, Renfroe and Nunez, is their Ks and OBP. The Twins have the money and the flexibility to aim higher.

    • DocBauer likes this
I am not directly opposed to either on a cheap 1yr. A little surprised they were cut loose considering relative youth and what I would suppose are rather inexpensive contracts.

Renfro could form at least a quasi-platoon with Cave/Wade if Kirilloff/Larnach and/or Roomer needed more time. But I believe the Twins feel they are ready so I probably say no. No matter how cheap of a 1yr Renfro may be, I think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Nunez actually intrigues me more. He will only be 26yo until April and has power. He can DH, sub at 1B and the fact that he can and has played a little 3B offers a little lineup flexibility here and there. His inability to dominate LH pitching doesn't really concern me as most arms remain RH. But again, no matter the cost, couldn't the money perhaps be better spent elsewhere?

I think the Twins can and should aim higher, even with questions about an undetermined payroll. But if utility, rotation and bullpen are addressed and there is just no room for Cruz, you could do a lot worse that adding an inexpensive power bat like this to finish out the roster.
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ToriiRules!!
Dec 01 2020 02:24 PM
No!!

I'm not interested in an impatient power hitter to replace Cruz. One of Cruz's trademarks is his unflappability at the plate, especially in crucial situations. Nunez might get his HRs, but I wonder how many will be in high-leverage at-bats. The Twins already have a free swinging right-hand power bat in Sano; I'm not keen on having two in the lineup. 

    • DocBauer likes this