2016: The Year In Review
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA TodayAs we take a look back at the 2016 season there are a lot of memories and storylines, both positive and negative. Today we reflect on the Minnesota Twins of 2016.
At the end of 2015, the Twins won the rights to acquire Byungho Park. He was going to help provide additional power to the lineup maybe even making up for some of the offense the team might be losing with Torii Hunter's retirement. Park hit some homers, but by July 1st, he was sent to Rochester where he hit more homers, until he needed surgery for his wrist.
Spring taining was deemed successful. The team generally played well, and they went into the season relatively healthy. (Here are the Twins Daily Reports from the Fort.)
And then… they started the season by losing their first nine games. On May 13, the team was 8-26. On May 24, they were 11-34. On August 17, the team was 49-71. However bad that record still is, there was a 75-game stretch where they went 38-37. That was the team that we all expected, a .500 team or slightly better. Unfortunately, they ended the season by going 10-32 over their final 42 games.
59-103. The worst record in Minnesota Twins history, “besting” the 1982 Twins team that went 60-102.
And because of it Terry Ryan was fired in mid-July, after 30 years in the organization. Rob Antony was appointed the interim GM and left in charge with an important trade deadline looming.
Eduardo Nunez came into the season expected to be the team’s utility player, able to play four to six positions. When Eduardo Escobar was injured in the season’s first few weeks, Nunez took over at shortstop and played tremendously. He didn’t give up the job. In 91 games for the Twins, he hit .296/.325/.439 (.764) with 15 doubles and 12 home runs. He also had 27 stolen bases which led the league at the time of his trade. Nunez earned his spot on the American League All-Star team.
Rob Antony turned the veteran utility infielder into left-hander Adalberto Mejia who had just been ranked #91 in Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 prospects.
On August 1, Antony traded veteran lefty Fernando Abad - who had been signed to a minor league contract and pitched well for the Twins - to the Red Sox in exchange for hard-throwing 25-year-old Pat Light. Light was awful in his brief big league time, but he has the velocity to make him intriguing, a nice lottery ticket.
Later that day, Antony surprised many by dealing Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz. Twins fans were shocked that he was able to find a taker for Nolasco, sending him home to California,where he pitched OK for the Angels. Santiago struggled through his first four starts with the Twins, but settled in after that.
Several Twins players made their Major league debuts in 2016:
- Byungho Park - April 4th
- Taylor Rogers - April 11th
- Jose Berrios - April 27th
- Pat Dean - May 11th
- JT Chargois - June 11th
- Adalberto Mejia - August 20th
- Alex Wimmers - August 26th
- James Beresford - September 10th
Even in a 103-loss season, there were some positives.
- Brian Dozier’s season was remarkable, one of the best in Twins history. His 42 homers were the most by any Twins player not named Harmon Killebrew. He set the record for most homers for an American League second baseman. Despite hitting just .185 in late May, he was amazing the remainder of the season. It was a remarkable turnaround.
- Ervin Santana had a good season.
- Minor League Signings
- Brandon Kintzler came up at the end of April and pitched very well. With the injuries, especially Perkins', he became the team’s closer and saved 17 games.
- While most fans wanted the Twins to pony up for lefties like Tony Sipp or Antonio Bastardo, the Twins signed Fernando Abad to a minor league deal and during his time with the Twins, he pitched very well.
- When the Twins signed Buddy Boshers, we assumed there was little chance he would surface with the Twins. He ended up spending about half the season with the Twins and pitched well, with about two exceptions.
- Juan Centeno was brought in for catcher depth, but when John Ryan Murphy tanked early in the season, Centeno came up and hit pretty well. He's not a good defensive catcher, but he did provide some offense.
- Robbie Grossman was signed the day after he opted out of his minor league deal with Cleveland. He spent one day in Rochester before coming up. His approach at the plate, patience and ability to crush left-handed pitching made him a valuable piece for the Twins. His defense… not so good.
- Max Kepler and Brian Dozier each had a three-homer game.
- The Twins added OF Torii Hunter and broadcaster John Gordon to the Twins Hall of Fame. The ceremonies were in August.
Let’s be honest, there was a lot of bad, and I’m sure I’m only catching a small part of it.
- Kevin Jepsen was so good for the Twins after they acquired him at the July 2015 trade deadline from Tampa. He pretty much couldn’t get anyone out in 2016 for the Twins. He was DFAd by July. Chih-Wei Hu, the pitcher the Twins sent to Tampa in the deal, has become one of the Rays top prospects.
- Casey Fien came back and was DFAd by the end of April. The Dodgers claimed him. He spent time in their bullpen. He recently signed an MLB contract with the Mariners.
- The Twins 2014 Rule 5 pick, JR Graham, came to spring training 2016 down about 40 pounds, but it didn’t help him on the mound. He struggled in AAA and came up out of desperation. He made one appearance and the Twins DFAd him. He was claimed by the Yankees.
- Kyle Gibson posted a 5.07 ERA on the season. That was second-best among Twins starters with more than 58 innings.
- Miguel Sano in right field. I don’t blame the Twins for trying it, for asking Sano to work at it. It wasn’t an unrealistic hope. It went badly, and hopefully has come to an end. In addition, his injuries cost him the opportunity to show whether or not he can play third base.
- Remember the David Murphy situation? The Twins signed him in mid-April and asked him to spend two weeks in Rochester at which point they would call him up. They made room for him by designating catcher John Hicks. Hicks was claimed by the Tigers, which (of course) isn’t a big deal at all. But when Murphy decided that he didn’t want to play anymore and went home to his family, it didn’t look good.
There certainly were some injuries throughout the season. Yes, every team deals with injuries through the season, but the Twins were hit hard.
- Less than a week into the season, Danny Santana went on the DL. It was his first of three trips to the DL.
- Ten days - and two blown saves - into the season, Glen Perkins went on the DL. He stayed on it the whole year and ended up having major shoulder surgery.
- Trevor Plouffe went on the DL on April 19, July 4 and September 10th.
- On April 26, Kyle Gibson and Ervin Santana both went on the DL. Santana missed just two weeks. Gibson missed six weeks.
- Eduardo Escobar went on the DL on May 8th.
- Miguel Sano went to the DL on June 1st for about a month.
- Phil Hughes and Trevor May went on the DL on June 10th. Hughes didn’t pitch again during the season and ended up having thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. For May, it was his first of three trips to the DL.
TWINS DAILY AWARDS
Minor League Hitter of the Year - Daniel Palka
Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year - Stephen Gonsalves
Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year - Trevor Hildenberger
Short-Season Hitter of the Year - Lewin Diaz
Short-Season Pitcher of the Year - Huascar Ynoa
Twins Most Improved - Brian Dozier
Twins Best Rookie - Max Kepler
Twins Pitcher of the Year - Ervin Santana
Twins Most Valuable Player - Brian Dozier
On October 3rd, the Twins were given the OK to announce that they had hired Derek Falvey as the Chief Baseball Officer of the Twins. He would not report to duty for his job until Cleveland’s playoff run came to an end, which it didn’t until after Game 7 of the World Series.
On November 3rd, the Twins announced that Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine was taking over as the Twins General Manager.
The two have said all the right things but they know they have their work cut out for them. Rob Antony remains as the Twins assistant GM. Most of the rest of the current front office also remains and will likely be evaluated by Falvey over the next nine or ten months. How will they handle the expectations that are changing? How will they adapt to the thinking of Falvey? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Terry Ryan joined the Phillies as a special assignments scout. Bill Smith was also told he will not be back with the organization.
The organization also announced that Deron Johnson had been promoted to Senior Adviser of the Scouting Department. Also, Sean Johnson was promoted to Director of Scouting.
In late November, the Twins announced the former players, Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter were coming back as special assistants in the Baseball Operations department. They will be involved in all aspects of the organization, on field and off the field.
The Twins front office has stayed busy since the new guys took over. They immediately went to the GM meetings and have taken a lot of time to learn the way things have worked for the Twins in the past, as well as everything they can learn about every player in the organization.
They added six players to their 40-man roster. That was after non-tendering Trevor Plouffe, DFAing Adam Brett Walker, and releasing Yorman Landa. The six players added to the roster were pitchers Fernando Romero and Felix Jorge, catcher Mitch Garver, infielder Engelb Vielma and outfielders Daniel Palka and Zack Granite.
The Twins targeted former Astros catcher Jason Castro, and they got him. They signed the defensive-minded backstop to a three year, $24.5 million contract. While he won’t hit, the theory behind the signing is that his pitch-framing efforts will directly help improve the team’s pitching.
We woke up on December 10th to the news that Yorman Landa had passed away in an auto accident in Venezuela. Last week, Bravos de Margarita honored him by retiring his number.
In November, it was announced that hitting coach Tom Brunansky and first base Coach Butch Davis would not be back in 2017. The rest of the coaching staff remained. In early December, it was announced that James Rowson would be the new hitting coach. Then in late December, it was announced that Miracle manager Jeff Smith would become the Twins new first base coach. Jeff Pickler was also added to the MLB coaching staff. He will also be the team’s coordinator for MLB development.
So there is your way-too-long 2016 Minnesota Twins Year in Review. Is it possible I left anything out?
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