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Helfand: “early June start appears out of picture”

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:37 PM
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Good Cuts.

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:15 PM
Mark Salas blocked the heck outta that plate.  
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Recent Baseball America Milb Organization Rankings

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 09:33 PM
Since I'm not giving everything away, assuming it's OK to just mention the Twins here. BA ranks the Twins 8th going in to the 2020 season...
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Athletic article on the 2019 postseason baseball

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:11 AM
For those who have a subscription to the Athletic, there is a very interesting article I saw that was a deep dive into the 2019 postseaso...
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Get to know each other

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 05:48 PM
I did this once about 2-3 years ago, but it was during the offseason and well, it's been a long time ago... Let's get to know each other...
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3 X-Factors for the 2020 Twins

Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz should shine, José Berríos will post an ERA lower than 4.00, and Taylor Rogers will continue to make hitters look foolish. They are not X-factors. The sports definition of an X-factor is a player with a strong but unpredictable influence on the outcome of the team. Who are the Twins’ three biggest X-factors?
Image courtesy of © Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
1. Byron Buxton

Buxton could single-handedly dictate whether the Twins are eliminated or championed in October. The Twins were 53-25 when Buxton started and 48-36 when he didn’t in 2019. After saving 24 runs and receiving MVP votes in 2017, Buxton hit .156/.183/.200 in just 28 games in 2018. With a new manager and service time manipulation behind him, he broke out and hit .262/.314/.513 with 44 extra-base hits in 87 games last year. His magical season ended Aug.1 when he separated his shoulder colliding into the wall at Marlins Park.

Buxton has moved swiftly in his recovery from labrum surgery and even took live batting practice Wednesday in Fort Myers. Buxton ranked fourth among centerfielders in success rate added in 2019, per baseball savant, and his 26 outs-above-average in 2017 ranked first among all defenders. Buxton was always an elite defender, but his career high 114 OPS+ in 2019 suggests that his immense upside as a prospect has not disappeared. Max Kepler is a plus defender in right and can keep his legs fresh with Buxton in center. Starting further back toward the warning track and getting regular days off should help Buxton stay healthy in 2020, and if he does, the sky is truly the limit.

2. Lewis Thorpe

Thorpe first pitched in the Twins’ system in 2013 and has posted phenomenal strikeout numbers in every year since. In five seasons in the minors, Thorpe put up a 3.50 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine. The Twins are seemingly very high on him even after he allowed 19 runs in 27 2/3 big league innings in 2019. Righties hit .330/.371/.549 off him in 97 plate appearances. Thorpe’s swing-and-miss stuff played well though as he struck out 31. The underlying numbers suggest that bad luck was a key contributor. Thorpe had a 3.47 FIP, almost three full runs below his ERA.

Thorpe’s elite stuff shined through slightly in his debut. His 11.8% swinging strike rate would’ve ranked 22nd among qualified starters, ahead of Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor, and Sonny Gray. Thorpe’s slider and curveball were rated highly through the minors and translated decently into the majors. His slider was swung on and missed 44% of the time and generated just a .285 expected wOBA. He threw his curve 86 times and got only 15 swinging strikes. His upside as a mid-rotation starter would be welcomed with open arms to this club, and he has a serious opportunity to hold a rotation spot before Opening Day.

3. Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi was a quiet key to the Twins’ success in 2019. He allowed a sterling .620 OPS in the first half en route to his first All-Star Game. The Twins went 21-9 in 30 Odorizzi starts and his ability to shut down right-handed hitters especially shined in the AL Central. Odorizzi held the Indians to a .177/.278/.304 line and just four runs in 22 1/3 innings. He struck out 32 White Sox in 22 innings with a 2.86 ERA. Odorizzi struck out a career high 10.1 per nine while posting the lowest home run per fly ball rate among pitchers with 150 or more innings pitched (8.8%).

He had a treacherous July and allowed 19 runs in 23 innings. Take out Odorizzi’s start against the Yankees on July 24 (4 IP, 9 ER) and his ERA on the season drops to 3.07. That would’ve ranked 12th among pitchers with at least 150 innings, and firmly ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Walker Buehler, and Shane Bieber. Odorizzi started game three of the ALDS and pitched five strong innings, holding the potent Yankees to two runs and giving the Twins a chance to extend the series. Averaging just 5.3 innings per start in 2019, Odorizzi put in more work at the Florida Baseball Ranch this winter and is looking to take another step in 2020. If he posts another 131 ERA+, the Twins will flirt with 100 wins again.

Who do you think is the Twins' biggest X-factor for their success in 2020? Comment below!

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Feb 22 2020 12:29 AM

Really most of the NRI starting pitchers could be considered an X-factor. Getting anything from Chacin would be excellent in particular.

Feb 22 2020 09:02 AM
I consider Rosario a X factor. I assume he is healthy. Can he field his position? Can he show some plate discipline so that opposing pitchers will have to throw the ball near the strike zone? If the answer to both is "yes", that Twins lineup will be very scary.
    • Nine of twelve likes this

I agree with 2/3.  The Twins need at least one established SP to take a significant step forward, or else we’re looking at another disappointing Fall (unless the offence just scores 10 runs per game, which would be great), so Odorizzi is as good a choice as any.  Buxton is an obvious choice and has been talked about endlessly.  

I wouldn’t have gone with a minor league SP though.  Not because I’m down on Thorpe, but because the Twins have pulled in so many established SPs, who are going to be given the chance to make good, that I just don’t think that one of the few minor league options will be able to pitch enough to make that true “X-factor” difference.  Sure things can change and injuries happen but if that’s your rationale then you could throw in Rooker or Kirilloff there if you are playing that angle.


think that Sano or Rosario (both of whom could be argued to have not done their best the last couple years) are much better choices because they are much more likely to be around enough to actually have the chance.

    • DocBauer likes this

I agree, I wouldn't have included Thorpe.I would have mulled the following players for that #3 spot:


Mitch Garver.He was SO GOOD last year.Can he even come close to what he did ?


Jorge Polanco.He started at SS in the All Star Game.Have you seen how many really GOOD SS's there are in the American league ??


Max Kepler.Last year he put everything together and bashed 36 HR's.Can he do it again ?


Tyler Duffy/Trevor May. The guys were light out over the 2nd half of the season.Can they be even better ??


When a team wins 101 games and sets a record for HR's in a season it's hard to come up with "conventional" X-Factors.Garver, Kepler, Polanco and many others had the BEST seasons of their careers.How do they follw that up in 2020 ??It's going to be so much fun to see.

    • DocBauer likes this
Yes on Rosario. We know how good he can be. Raw talent. He can have a huge presence.
While I am very high on Thorpe and am basically predicting he is one of the starting 5 in 2021, with so many SP options in the chute for 2020, it would be easy to also list Dobnak, or even Chacin, as was mentioned.

Kind of nice to reflect back on Odorizzi's year and realize that if he just repeats, and doesn't progress any further, that is a very, very fine pitcher right there! No 100% he's an X factor as Berrios taking a step forward, or Pineda being the same guy we saw from June 1st on could be named just as big of X factor, IMO.

However, Buxton, no question, biggest X factor in 2020.

Sano is missing.....and with all due respect to thorpe, he is 1b to Buxton's 1a..... if they both get going.....it may not even be fair for other teams

    • Nine of twelve likes this