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One Game Wild Card

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:29 PM
Assuming the Angels keep being the Angels, and the Twins can pound on the hapless Tigers, or just back into the one game WC, if you have...
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Should the Twins offer Mauer a Koivu-like extension?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:27 PM
Wild GM made a shrewd move I thought giving Koivu an extension at an affordable price in a cap-driven world.   No cap in baseball. N...
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Article: MIN 12, DET 1: Once Again, The Twins Bounce Back

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:29 PM
That’s more like it! After a demoralizing sweep, the Twins opened up a stretch in which they’ll face the Tigers in seven of their final 1...
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Game Thread: Twins @ Tigers 6:10pm cdt 9/22/2017 ad

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:23 PM
Last Monday a conductor wore a T shirt with what i presume was a profile of Leopold Stokowski, holding baton up towards his chest such th...
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Tigers not bringing Brad Ausmus back for 2018

Other Baseball Today, 04:16 PM
News coming out this afternoon that the Tigers will NOT be bringing back their manager, Brad Ausmus.
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2016 Report Cards: Outfield

Yesterday, we graded out the 2016 Minnesota Twins infield. Today, we'll continue our player-by-player review with a breakdown of the outfield. This unit saw many significant developments this year, especially with young talents experiencing breakthroughs and setbacks.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Dyer, USA Today
As with the infielders, our criteria for inclusion on this list are that the player made at least 50 plate appearances and remains on the roster as of now. Let's dig in.

Byron Buxton, CF
2016 Stats: 331 PA, .225/.284/.430, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R, 1.7 WAR
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

It took Buxton a little longer than we hoped to turn the corner, but he did so quite definitively late in the year. Following months of struggles, and multiple demotions to Triple-A, the 22-year-old caught fire upon returning in September, posting a .287/.357/.653 line with nine homers and 24 runs scored in 29 games. The torrid streak was profound enough to raise his overall numbers back to respectability by year's end.

His final OPS of .714 – up more than 150 points from when he was recalled with five weeks to go – wasn't far off the league average for center fielders (.730) and came attached to elite, game-changing defense at a vital position. His contributions in the field were deemed valuable enough by FanGraphs that his 1.7 WAR ranked second on the team among position players, behind Brian Dozier.

The prolonged slumps that forced him to spend stretches in Rochester (where he dominated) and the ghastly 36 percent strikeout rate cannot be ignored, so Buxton's grade gets dinged, but in the end it's hard to come away from his season with a negative view.

2016 Grade: B-

2017 Outlook: Buxton will be locked in as center fielder and seems likely to bat leadoff if he displays a good plate approach in spring training. Should he come anywhere close to picking up where he left off at the plate, he's a strong bet to be the best player on the team and one of the most valuable in the league.

Robbie Grossman, LF
2016 Stats: 389 PA, .280/.386/.443, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 49 R, 0.7 WAR
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

In a generally tough year for the front office under Terry Ryan, uncovering Grossman goes down easily as one of the club's best strokes. To some extent it was just fortuitous circumstance; the outfielder had opted out of his minor-league deal with Cleveland in mid-May, around the same time Minnesota was desperately seeking outfield help with its youthful alignment scuffling badly. Still, Grossman was a good find and enjoyed a breakout year after joining up with the Twins.

His production tailed off considerably following an initial tear, but he continued to draw walks and get on base even while his bat sagged, and he finished strong. Grossman ended the year with a .386 on-base percentage, which ranked 14th in the majors among players with 350-plus PA. His proclivity in this regard was much needed in a lineup that generally struggled to get aboard consistently.

On the downside, Grossman's defense was not good. He made several misplays and showed stunningly little range for a guy who moves reasonably well.

2016 Grade: B

2017 Outlook: Grossman certainly has a strong case for a starting job. He was the best hitter on the team outside of Dozier, and his patience is a handy changeup within an aggressive, power-hitting lineup. However, his extremely poor defensive ratings will work against him with an analytically inclined front office that is emphasizing run prevention. Could he be a darkhorse for DH?

Max Kepler, RF
2016 Stats: 447 PA, .235/.309/.424, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 52 R, 1.1 WAR
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Recalled on June 1st after a scalding hot streak in Triple-A, it didn't take Kepler long to heat up again in the majors. During a dominant run that stretched from mid-June through mid-August, Kepler looked like a premier middle-of-the-order run producer, racking up extra-base hits and averaging nearly an RBI per contest. In one game he homered twice and drove in seven runs; in another he launched three bombs with six RBIs. They were among the most spectacular offensive performances we've seen from a Minnesota rookie.

But the once red-hot 23-year-old finished his season encased in ice. Over his last 40 games he hit .197/.263/.276 as the quality of his at-bats deteriorated and his power dried up. In contrast to Buxton, it appeared that pitchers were figuring Kepler out rather than the other way around. The slide led to overall numbers that, while solid, were not special.

2016 Grade: B-

2017 Outlook: He's penciled in for right field, although one wonders how firm his hold is. Kepler blasted through Rochester in 30 games but the back half of his stint with the Twins leaves open the possibility that he needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A. The long-term view remains very optimistic.

Eddie Rosario, LF
2016 Stats: 354 PA, .269/.295/.421, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 52 R, 0.9 WAR
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

An exciting rookie year led to speculation about what kind of impact Rosario might be capable of if he evolved and matured. Unfortunately, in his sophomore campaign, he did no such thing. Rosario was much the same player in 2016, with some frustrating habits lingering if not worsening. Whether in the batter's box, on the base paths or in the outfield, his aggressiveness often crossed into recklessness, much to the manager's aggravation.

Along with the bad – blasting through stops signs, sailing throws aimlessly, striking out four times in several games – we saw the good. When he came back from his demotion he was mashing everything that came his way for two months. And aside from the all-too-frequent miscues he was a clear asset in left, combining center field range with right field arm strength. But the negatives were enough to offset the positives in an ultimately vexing year.

2016 Grade: C

2017 Outlook: He will be a corner outfield starter, unless he's a complete mess in camp. There's little hope for Rosario to develop any sort of meaningful selectiveness at the plate, so it's imperative that he lay off pitches nowhere near the zone while cutting down defensive mistakes. If he can do so, the 25-year-old certainly has plenty to offer.

Danny Santana, CF
2016 Stats: 248 PA, .240/.279/.326, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 29 R, -0.7 WAR
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Among 353 players with 200 plate appearances, Santana ranked 334th in OPS. He was thrown out nine times on 21 steal attempts. He played six different positions, but wasn't particularly sharp at any of them.

As an athletic and versatile switch-hitter, Santana is theoretically a nice bench piece. But in reality, he's been one of the worst players in the league over the last two years.

2016 Grade: F

2017 Outlook: The signing of J.B Shuck to a minor-league contract – whose defensive prowess actually makes up for his light hitting – earlier this month puts Santana, who is out of options, on notice. It's unlikely Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will see much they like but apparently they're inclined to let Santana compete for a job in spring training since they kept him on the 40-man roster through the Rule 5 draft.


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65 Comments

Area of strength.

    • Nick Nelson, twinssouth and HitInAPinch like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Dec 27 2016 10:21 PM
Like Grossman and Rosario. Love Kepler and Buxton! This outfield has the foundation to be the centerpiece of a once again competitive Twins team.
    • bluechipper and HitInAPinch like this
I think my expectations for Buxton are fairly tempered right now, but my hopes for him (and the team) are sky high.
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HitInAPinch
Dec 28 2016 04:52 AM

Development/progress will the be key this year. 

 

Buxton [working Tom Brunansky] started to turn the corner.I'm very disappointed that he didn't followup the year by playing in Winter Ball. 

 

Grossman:a slow-footed OF with a weak arm playing in LF.A position where he has to turn a 180 to reach a ball into the corner an heave the ball to 2nd.How could that possibly work out?Yes, the Twins need much more OBP.Just don't believe that makes up for his defense.There must be better alternatives...No?

 

Kepler:Not worried.MLB pitching caught up with him.Adjust.

 

Rosario:Sophomore slump much?Same as Kepler.

 

D. Santana:He played 6 different positions.That's all I got.Despite his speed, his base running was awful.No doubt here that Falvey and Levine will be making a change.

    • Platoon likes this

Isn't Kepler out of options? Doesn't that make more seasoning at Rochester highly unlikely since he'd never clear waivers?

 

I was at the game where Grossman had two errors on one play ... so, no, he doesn't have a strong case to start anywhere.

    • Doomtints likes this

Since the best War is still under 2 and the deficiencies and inconsistency is outlined in the text I would give Buxton and Kepler a C+, Rosario a C-, and Grossman needs a special category between batting - B and fielding F.  Santana has to go the F is right. A "B" should be special and one good month is not special, just exciting.  I love the potential for Buxton and Kepler, but they are not there yet and we need to see progress to get more excited.  

    • Mike Sixel and goulik like this

 

Since the best War is still under 2 and the deficiencies and inconsistency is outlined in the text I would give Buxton and Kepler a C+, Rosario a C-, and Grossman needs a special category between batting - B and fielding F.  Santana has to go the F is right. A "B" should be special and one good month is not special, just exciting.  I love the potential for Buxton and Kepler, but they are not there yet and we need to see progress to get more excited.  

 

I'm good with these grades, agree completely.

 

How DanSan still has a job is just confusing me...

    • Cory Engelhardt and mikelink45 like this

Rosario's swing rate dropped marginally last year, but his contact rate dropped along with it.His WAR also dropped but that was mostly due to his defense also taking a step back.

 

I'm not sure what to think of Rosario at this point, but one thing is for certain:He needs to perform in 2017 unless he wants to be a bench player for the rest of his career. 

Buxton still needs to prove himself.Many times us fans have felt that Buxton turned the corner after performing well for a short period of time.After his strong finish to 2016 we are doing that again.His OPS+ is right there with Rosario, who was given a C grade.Buxton needs to put together 2-3 consecutive good months for me to be convinced that he has turned the corner. 

 

Kepler's production fell over a cliff down the stretch.But we should not be worried about that -- he outperformed expectations as a rookie and had a great July.There are no signs that he will regress in 2017. 

 

Grossman, Santana:Who cares.Neither of them are the future of the team.Grossman hit very well in 2016 (and, in spite of what people say, his production did NOT get worse as the year went on), but it's difficult to believe he won't regress.His defense is terrible and a liability so he should not be the 4th outfielder, and the Twins have better options as bench bats.Grossman profiles as the typical White Sox player.As for Santana, I'm not convinced that his injuries have not been the source of his problems.The drop off he has experienced from 2014 is steep.Be that as it may, unless he pulls a Nunez this year he won't last long with the team ... and Nunez's turnaround was somewhat predictable.Santana doesn't look like he has such a turnaround in him.

    • HitInAPinch likes this
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Nick Nelson
Dec 28 2016 10:12 AM

 


Buxton still needs to prove himself.Many times us fans have felt that Buxton turned the corner after performing well for a short period of time.After his strong finish to 2016 we are doing that again.His OPS+ is right there with Rosario, who was given a C grade.Buxton needs to put together 2-3 consecutive good months for me to be convinced that he has turned the corner. 

 

Kepler's production fell over a cliff down the stretch.But we should not be worried about that -- he outperformed expectations as a rookie and had a great July.There are no signs that he will regress in 2017.

I'm just not sure why you're dubious over Buxton "performing well in a short period of time," but in the next breath you express zero concern over Kepler doing the same thing.

 

Difference is that Buxton did so at a younger age while playing fantastic defense in center field, as opposed to so-so defense in RF. They graded out the same but if you're arguing that Kepler should have a higher mark I don't see it.

    • Cory Engelhardt, nytwinsfan, HitInAPinch and 2 others like this

I expect Buxton, if he is not moved to the top of the order, to be a 20HR, 252B,80R, 80RBI .275 hitter.

But if they move him to one of the top 3 spots, I think the pressure will bring those numbers down.  He is a small town guy, and he simply isn't used to being in the big spotlight.  At least for 2017.

 

Rosario may have personality flaws which may hold him back from fulfilling his potential.  Its sad, because when he is paying attention he is a wonderful player.

 

Kepler will be a fine player.  I doubt that 2017 will be a breakout year, but I expect his overall numbers will improve if he gets the additional at bats.

 

Grossman was a surprise to us all. In 2017 I expect that both his BA and defense will improve while maintaining a similar OBP.  He will stay in Left field and take at bats from the other 3 outfielders by moving Rosario around the OF.

 

Santana. Worst player on the Twins for 2 straight years.  Can he make it 3 ?

Nick - Kepler is not the one with the reputation of being good for a few weeks and then hitting .150 for a month and a half.True, Buxton is combating some extremely high expectations which is a demon most of us won't have to suffer through as we n00b our way through a new job. Kepler does not have this pressure. 

 

I'm not arguing that Kepler deserved a higher mark at all.I compared Buxton to Rosario, not Kepler. 

 

The gist of my post was that all of these guys need to get better.Rosario is further along so his leash will be shorter (though ultimately he goes to the bench if he stumbles, no doubt).He needs to improve quickly.Buxton is still in danger of being bounced to the minors because his very low floor seems to match the very high expectations.Kepler is the newest of the bunch and at this point he has proven himself adequately.Of the three, he deserves the most slack.

 

As for defense -- we all know that Buxton plays marvelous defense.But you have to hit the ball if you want to play in the major leagues.Did we forget about Aaron Hicks and Pedro Florimon already?Buxton has shown flashes but he still needs to show consistency.No one is saying the consistency won't come, but it may not be there until the end of next year. Does Buxton get another B- if he sucks until September in 2017?

 

I expect Buxton, if he is not moved to the top of the order, to be a 20HR, 252B,80R, 80RBI .275 hitter.

But if they move him to one of the top 3 spots, I think the pressure will bring those numbers down.  He is a small town guy, and he simply isn't used to being in the big spotlight.  At least for 2017.

 

I think they should leave Buxton at the bottom of the order for at least half a year, or even a full year, let him gain some confidence, let him learn how to handle slumps without the pressure of leading off.Take the long term view of whats best for Buxton's development.

 

I also hope he stays healthy....

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

The gist of my post was that all of these guys need to get better.Rosario is further along so his leash will be shorter (though ultimately he goes to the bench if he stumbles, no doubt).He needs to improve quickly.Buxton is still in danger of being bounced to the minors because his very low floor seems to match the very high expectations.Kepler is the newest of the bunch and at this point he has proven himself adequately.Of the three, he deserves the most slack.

 

 

I don't know that hitting .230 is proving himself adequately. He's certainly showed he has the physical ability to hit major league pitching. Now the real proving comes. The league has real information on him and will attack his weaknesses now. He needs to show he can make the adjustment to that. He didn't make the adjustment at all at the end of last year.

 

The optimist in me thinks the last 2 years have been great for Buxton. I think he's strong mentally and the struggles didn't crush him like they can. He's been forced to make adjustments and has shown he can do it. His struggles showed the glaring weakness we have in developing players as they tried to make him into a player he isn't and took away his athleticism. The hope that September was for real is in the fact that he started being an athlete again. He used his leg kick no matter the count and stopped being so robotic. He was just out there playing baseball and being the athletic freak that he is.

    • Doomtints likes this
Buxton and Kepler are the keys to the OF for the next playoff caliber team. Rosario IMO would be the ideal 4th OF, but I can understand giving him another shot to start in LF this year.

No surprise, I want D Santana and Grossman off the team. Grossman because of putrid defense, and Santana because he does nothing well.

Hopefully one (or both) of Palka and Granite does well to deserve a call up this season.
    • Mike Sixel, Cory Engelhardt, LA VIkes Fan and 3 others like this

How many of these OFs would be starting with Cleveland or the Cubs last season?Even with the Heyward woes and the Bradley injury, hard to see any being able to start with either team.

 

Hopefully it will be a different answer after 2017.

 

That's where the bar should be set.

 

How many of these OFs would be starting with Cleveland or the Cubs last season?Even with the Heyward woes and the Bradley injury, hard to see any being able to start with either team.

 

Hopefully it will be a different answer after 2017.

 

That's where the bar should be set.

 

I would expect that over time, that hitters would get better at their craft. Two of these OFers were pretty much rookies.....so I guess I'm not sure what the point of the first sentence is, are we expecting fully formed MLB players in rookie seasons?

    • LA VIkes Fan, Doomtints, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this
And it's really not *that* far fetched that Buxton could be better than every Cub and Indian OF as soon as this year.
    • howieramone2 and spinowner like this
I'm bullish on Der Kep and Buxton. Both get B+.
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diehardtwinsfan
Dec 28 2016 06:07 PM

guess I'm not quite sold on Buxton just yet.I really hope I'm wrong there, but he showed promise in Sept of 2015 too only to start out horrid in 2016.I'm not sure I'd be sold handing him CF for 2017 just yet.I'd probably have a plan B

No matter what you think these top four 2016 Twins outfielders MIGHT become, there is no possible way they deserve three B's and a C.

That's crazy talk. If They get three B's, what letter do you give Mike Trout?
    • Vanimal46 likes this
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Nick Nelson
Dec 28 2016 11:55 PM

 

No matter what you think these top four 2016 Twins outfielders MIGHT become, there is no possible way they deserve three B's and a C.

That's crazy talk. If They get three B's, what letter do you give Mike Trout?

Well, expectations and context come into play to some extent. The standards are a little different here.

 

Not a guy in this bunch had a season with 500 MLB plate appearances before this year. I don't think it'd be a very interesting exercise if I gave everyone D's because they fall very short of being Mike Trout.

    • DJSim22, nytwinsfan, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this

Trout is the guy that destroys the grading curve for everyone. He gets his own scale, while the mere humans get another.

    • ChiTownTwinsFan, glunn, Mike Sixel and 5 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Dec 29 2016 04:30 AM

sigh....... One more time.Maybe  ;)

 

http://www.startribu...rded/383534181/

So far Rosario and Buxton have made about 270 plate appearances in Triple A and Kepler about 125. I think these players are receiving minor league lessons and development time at the Major league level. If they all start and play over 130 games and receive over 400 plate appearances this year (2017) at the Major league level, maybe by 2018 we will be able to see what kind of players they really are. 

 

 

Hopefully better development plans are being put in place for the teams future pitching pieces.

    • DocBauer likes this
Grossman a B, and Kepler a B-? Grossman with a case to be the starting LF, or the DH? While not having RG in LF anymore would make TD GT far less entertaining, I will be more than happy to suffer that withdrawal. In the Old West, some towns made you check your guns on entering the city limits. I feel that policy should also extend to Robbie's fielding gloves at the Ft. Myers border. Btw, I apologize for using the words "fielding" and "gloves" in the same sentence with regards to RG. :). And as for DH? When you have a hitter who's main weapon is drawing walks, and not doing much damage to strikes, it doesn't take long for MLB pitchers to narrow their zone.
    • Mike Sixel, Vanimal46 and jud6312 like this

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