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Live baseball in 2020: Bay Stars 2 - Swallows 8

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2020 Twins Transactions

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2020 Minnesota Twins: Ten Questions

We all want baseball to be played in 2020. There are hurdles to be figured out and negotiated between the players and the owners, but June 10th is coming soon. NFL and NBA facilities have started opening up. Maybe baseball is in the near future. So, let’s think 2020 Twins and play a quick game of 10 Questions. It’s a variation of the popular 20 Questions game. It’s about half as good, but it’s still fun.
Image courtesy of Sam Navarro, USA Today
I’ve got ten questions about players for you to consider. I’m not going to talk about the team topics like will the Twins win the World Series? The odds certainly favor the L.A. Dodgers to win the 2020 World Series, but the Twins should in no way feel intimidated. For them to reach that lofty goal, the offense will have to remain a strength. Today’s ten questions will relate to an offense that set the MLB record for home runs in 2019, and then added Josh Donaldson.


Question #1: How will Mitch Garver perform after his breakout, Silver Slugging 2019 season?

With his approach and eye at the plate, his still stance and his quick bat and elite power, Garver should continue to put up strong numbers with the bat.


Question #2: If there is an 82 game season, how many games will Garver catch?

In 2019, Garver caught 82 games despite missing about three weeks with an injury. He probably would have caught about ten of the 16 games played during that stretch.So, that about 92 games caught had he stayed healthy. Garver and the Twins front office supported the plan for rest. At that same pace, he would catch about 46 games of an 82-game season. However, you have to wonder if, because of the potentially shortened season, if he won’t get a few extra starts, maybe 50 or 55?


Question #3: How will Miguel Sano transition defensively to first base?

Listen, we all know he’s not going to be Joe Mauer over there. He won’t immediately look like Doug Mientkiewicz or Kent Hrbek or even Justin Morneau at first base. But expect that he will be adequate. We will find ourselves shaking our head, wondering what he was thinking, but those types of plays will be more about lack of playing time at the position. More important, Rocco Baldelli went out of his way during spring training to credit Sano for the work that he was putting in and the effort he was giving to be a good defensive first baseman.


Question #4: Can Luis Arraez avoid a sophomore slump?

So, if you’re expecting Arraez to his .330 and consider anything less than that a sophomore slump than the odds would tell us that you will probably be disappointed. Arraez has a great eye at the plate, and an approach that isn’t passive. He’s got great bat control. All those things create the comparisons to players like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. So expectations are high, and we need to temper them, but Arraez will always have the potential to hit over .300.


Question #5: Will Jorge Polanco get to another All-Star Game in 2020?

Well, there probably won’t be an All-Star Game in 2020, so the answer to this one is easy. No. But at the end of the season, will Polanco be a Top 3 shortstop in the American League? Will he be a strong candidate to start another ASG in 2021? Truthfully, it’s going to be tough, even if Polanco remains as good as he was in 2019, or even improves a little. Francisco Lindor is the definition of an All-Star. Xander Boegaerts is a star for the Red Sox. Marcus Semien of the A’s finished third in MVP voting in the AL last year. The Yankees are moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop from second base. Carlos Correa is a star. Tim Anderson doesn’t like to walk, but he won the AL batting title in 2019. Bo Bichette has incredible potential and had a strong showing in 2019. Adalberto Mondesi is very talented. Niko Goodrum will get a lot more playing time at shortstop in 2020. In short, Jorge Polanco is going to have to be really, really good to maintain All-Star status. That said, he’s got the talent to fit into that group just fine.


Question #6: Can Eddie Rosario take another step forward as a player?

For all his faults, and they have been written about over and over and over again, Rosario is an immensely talented player. You can’t be a bad player and still end the year hitting 32 home runs and driving in 109 RBI. He has his mental lapses at times, but he’s also capable of a game-winning strike from the Green Monster to home plate. Add in the fact that he played most of the second half of 2019 with an injured ankle and there is potential for Rosario to be even better in 2020 and going forward. Any improvement in his plate discipline and he could be great.


Question #7: Can Byron Buxton stay healthy?

I don’t know. None of us know. No one wants the “Injury Prone” tag attached to him, and all of Buxton’s injuries have been through playing the game. But it is important because he is a difference-maker when he is in the lineup. Obviously he is an elite defender. We all know that. But when his 2019 season ended, he had an OPS over .800. At the All-Star break, many argued that he was the most valuable Twins player, on a roster filled with immense talent.


Question #8: What can Max Kepler do for an encore to his 2019 breakout?

After three seasons of hitting between .230 and .240 with 18-20 home runs, Kepler signed an extension and went out and proved the Twins were wise. He still didn’t hit for average, but despite not hitting over the season’s final three weeks, he hit 36 home runs. There were some mechanical and technical adjustments that he made to his swing and his approach. Maybe it was hitting in the leadoff position. Kepler’s demeanor and personality would indicate that the improvements should stick.


Question #9: Can Nelson Cruz continue to kick Father Time’s butt?

On July 1st, shortly before the 2020 season could potentially begin, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday. A week before that, we will learn if he won the 2020 Mohammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs. In 2019, at 39 years old, Cruz put together, arguably, the best season of his career. He hit .311/.392/.639 (1.031) with 26 doubles and 41 homers in just 120 games. This spring, he was 10-for-23 with two doubles and three home runs. He also overcame a complete tear of a ligament in his wrist. Forget Father Time, Cruz is beating the fathers of medical science. Then again, Father Time is ultimately undefeated.


Question #10: Will Josh Donaldson continue to crush pitches at Target Field?

In 22 career games at Target Field, Donaldson has hit .373/.464/.819 (1.283) with seven doubles and 10 home runs. In 43 total games against the Twins, he has hit .395/.487/.852 (1.339) with 17 doubles and 19 home runs. The 19 homers are the most he’s hit against any team, four more than against any other team, despite playing in the AL East! The 2015 AL MVP is just a flat-out great overall hitter. He doesn’t swing outside the strike zone often and his approach is basically to crush any strikes, and he’s certainly done that. Some of his success at Target Field could be credited to him liking the batter’s eye in center field, and certainly some of it can be credited to getting to hit off of Twins pitchers.


There you have it. Ten Questions about ten Twins hitters. How would you answer each of them?

  • tarheeltwinsfan, MN_ExPat and In My La-Z-boy like this

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11 Comments

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JosiahDeBoer
May 22 2020 09:05 AM

Last year we had one of the best backup catchers in the majors. This year, Avila, while capable, is not special. Garver will catch 75-80% of games this year, and would likely do that in the future as well. (For reference that's 120-130 games over a full year, probably with another 15-20 at 1B and/or DH)

    • TopGunn#22 likes this

Our answers will be somewhat dependent, Seth, on knowing which baseball they will be playing with.

 

1:I suspect Garver's numbers will be down a bit from 2019, but still amongst the best for catchers in MLB.

 

2: Garver will catch 45 games.

 

3: Expect Sano will not be as good defensively as we like, but better than we fear.

 

4. Luis Arraez will avoid a sophomore slump with an average over .330 and OBP very near .400.

 

5: Polanco's performance at the plate will be similar to 2019.Does that mean he is an all-star?As you have stated the competition is stiff, so probably not.

 

6: Not only can Rosario take another step, he will. Gonna force the Twins to make a real hard decision next winter...whatever that decision is.

 

7: Not only can Buxton remain healthy, I pray he will as the Twins are so much better when he is healthy and on the field.

 

8: I have long believed that Kepler will continue to get better and when it is all over will be considered for the HOF.The next step in 2020 is to improve his average while maintaining the power he found in 2019.I question, however, how the lack of a normal spring and full year will effect his and all players progress.

 

9: Yes, I see Cruz as continuing to be very, very good.Will that be a small step down from 2019, probably.But definitely good enough to merit a one year extension come December.

 

10: Yes, but it seems impossible to continue with the lofty numbers he had while in the visitor's dugout. 

 

Thanks for getting us back to thinking about playing on the field.Stay safe, Seth. 

    • Seth Stohs, glunn, tarheeltwinsfan and 2 others like this

 

Last year we had one of the best backup catchers in the majors. This year, Avila, while capable, is not special. Garver will catch 75-80% of games this year, and would likely do that in the future as well. (For reference that's 120-130 games over a full year, probably with another 15-20 at 1B and/or DH)

 

I would be shocked if he ever starts over 110 games behind the plate in a 162 game season. The Twins front office, coaching staff and even Garver believes in keeping those legs rested and strong.  

    • glunn, Minny505, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this

I agree that Sano will not be as good as Mauer defensively but he will be better than Cron. I bet Polanco's throwing errors are down this year.

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In My La-Z-boy
May 23 2020 06:21 AM

It is fun to re-boot the mind and contemplate a baseball season. I love our chances and I love our team. I am bullish on all the above mentioned. Garver and Arraez maybe regress, but just a little - I am in the "Rosario will be a monster" camp - I love Kepler's chances to continue improvement.
The veteran leadership on this club combined with the continuity of the young core that has been together since they were teenagers, a shortened season my be very much in our favor. Start hot - Stay hot - no batting slumps and competent pitching. This season will be a sprint. Thanks Seth

    • glunn, MN_ExPat and rdehring like this
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Nine of twelve
May 23 2020 06:27 AM

 

I would be shocked if he ever starts over 110 games behind the plate in a 162 game season. The Twins front office, coaching staff and even Garver believes in keeping those legs rested and strong.  

I completely agree. Baseball people in the modern era know how wearing, and therefore detrimental to performance, it is to catch a lot of games. Keep him fresher for the stretch run and the postseason and extend his career behind the plate.

    • glunn likes this
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Nine of twelve
May 23 2020 06:32 AM

We don't know yet exactly how the 2020 season will look (if it happens at all) but my optimism pre-Corona extends into whatever happens this season. I think the answer to all ten questions will be favorable to the Twins. That includes #5, sort of, because there should not be an ASG this year.

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tarheeltwinsfan
May 23 2020 11:36 AM

Now let's do 10 questions about pitchers, the most unpredictable position. 1) Can Berrios be a a league leading "Ace" for this short season? 2) Will Hill successfully pitch the whole short season? 3) Will Pineda's suspension start when the games start? 4) Can Taylor Rogers continue his dominance as a lefty closer? 5) Will Jake O. continue his success with the high fastball or will the batters adjust? 6) Who will be the 5th starter? 7) Will May have a monster season? 8) Can Duffy be dominant again this year? 9) Which rookie pitcher will become a successful starter for the Twins? 10) Will Bert Blyleven come out of retirement to start the first game of the World Series?

    • MN_ExPat likes this

 

Now let's do 10 questions about pitchers, the most unpredictable position. 1) Can Berrios be a a league leading "Ace" for this short season? 2) Will Hill successfully pitch the whole short season? 3) Will Pineda's suspension start when the games start? 4) Can Taylor Rogers continue his dominance as a lefty closer? 5) Will Jake O. continue his success with the high fastball or will the batters adjust? 6) Who will be the 5th starter? 7) Will May have a monster season? 8) Can Duffy be dominant again this year? 9) Which rookie pitcher will become a successful starter for the Twins? 10) Will Bert Blyleven come out of retirement to start the first game of the World Series?

Taking the Under on #10 there.

    • glunn, adorduan, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this
In regard to the original 10:

1] Garver: HR% numbers could drop league wide depending on the ball. But the HR and launch angle trend in MLB is real. So is Garver's power, approach and swing. Can we even really call last year a true "breakout" season when it was really his first year as the "primary" receiver and only 2nd season overall? I think he's for real.

2] Garver games caught: Ugh, math. Still a good platoon partner. But a short season. 50 games, which is 60%.

3] Sano at 1B: He's going to miss a few balls and botch a few plays. He's played there before but is learning the nuances. He won't be great right away, but he will be solid. He will also use his natural athleticism to make a few plays that will make you say; "Whoa! If he could just do that more consistently...."

4] Arraez: You won't see such a natural hitter slump even if he doesn't hit .330 in his second season. Even a dip to .310-.315 with a .390ish OB is excellent. He'll improve defensively and might even muscle up on the XB production.

5] Polanco: No, probably, because there won't be an All Star game. Not unless they want to have one after the season, similar to the NFL, which I doubt for various reasons. But he could make an All Star 1st-3rd team All Star post season selection team.

6] Rosario: He's been bothered the 2nd half of each of the last 2 seasons with different injuries. Healthy, smart enough talented enough, still young enough, healthy and just a small improvement in approach lifts an already good game to a more consistent level. And he will be back in 2021 Because he's good, still won't be overly expensive, and there are doubts anyone will be ready to replace him considering how weird this whole year is going to be.

7] Buxton: He will be dinged, like most players, and miss a few games. But not only should experience be teaching him how to save his body better, and it's a short season, but law of averages will come in to play here to balance some bad luck.

8] Kepler: Reference the law of averages again while factoring in youth, talent, approach, great swing and adjustments being made. At some point his ridiculous BABIP will adjust, even a little. We still haven't seen the best from Max.

9] Cruz: Father time will beat him. But it won't happen this year. Witness not only 2019 but the ST he was having before thjngs shut down. Now factor in a half season. He might not have another career season, even in an abbreviated one, but he will be fine. I would have said the same thing in regard to a full and complete 2020 season, with the idea Father Time would start to pull ahead in 2021. But in a Twins uniform or not for 2021, I'm thinking a short 2020 may put off the inevitable by another year.

10] Donlaldson: He won't be crushing on Twins pitching, but he has crushed about anyone, anywhere, in his career when healthy. I have no doubts he will continue to do so for the first 2-3yrs of his contract, as long as he remains healthy. Guy is a stud hitter. Like Cruz, the half season may actually work to an advantage.

Yep, I'm an optimist, but I think all of this is logical and true.
    • glunn, Sconnie, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this

I will only answer the questions I have much to add.  

 

1) Garver will continue to hit well.His approach is very good and he will not get himself out.Sure, he may take some called third strikes but he will never chase either.He will make that ump call that third strike on the edges.Pitcher will try to throw get me over curves at time, but my guess Mitch will figure that out and crush those as well.

 

3) Sano will be terrible at first for awhile.He will drop some easy pop ups just like he did at third.He will drop some good throws.However, we will not care when he is crushing the ball.If he is not crushing the ball then he will see the bench more often and will not see his terrible defense.Crazy to think he was signed as a SS and even played there a little in his very young years.

 

4) Arraez will not slump, depending on what you call a slump.Will he hit as well as first year maybe not, but he will have good OBP. and I think eventually he will get more benefit of doubt calls by umps when he looks and shakes his head at pitches that go by. 

 

7) Buxton will not stay healthy, not because he is injury prone, but because he plays the game with reckless abandon and crashes into walls at full speed because he believes he is superman that can catch every thing.Until he dials it back a tiny bit to be more prepared to jump into the walls he will keep getting hurt, no way around it.Torii needs to teach him how to set yourself up for a good wall jump.Really, the issue is Buxton covers so much ground so quickly that he does not get set up with proper technique to protect himself on jumps and dives.Hopefully the kid learns this for his own sake.Starting back a few more steps and letting a couple of singles drops will help. 

 

9) I expect Cruz will continue to hit well.I agree father time is undefeated but some guys go longer.There has been many good hitters that can play into 40's, some maybe with a little chemical help, but when all you are expected to do is crush pitches and nothing else you can still do it.What in Cruz recent years suggest he will just fall off cliff?He has short quick swing without much movement that helps.  

    • MN_ExPat likes this

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