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Minnesota’s Top Regression Candidates

Minnesota surprised much of the baseball world on their way to a 101-win season and an MLB-record 307 home runs. Plenty of players had breakout seasons, including a young core of Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Luis Arraez. It seems unlikely for the Twins to break the home run record in back-to-back seasons, so what players are likely to see some regression during the upcoming season?
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Max Kepler
2019 Stats: .252 BA, .244 BABIP, .336 OBP, .855 OPS
Few Twins fans knew what to expect when Kepler was named the Twins lead-off hitter during spring training. He actually was a bit unlucky when looking at his batting average and his BABIP, but it also doesn’t seem likely for him to approach 35+ home runs two seasons in a row. Baseball Reference projects him for 26 home runs and a .795 OPS. This is a slight decline from 2019 and it seems like an reasonable projection for the coming year.

Luis Arraez
2019 Stats: .334 BA, .355 BABIP, .399 OBP, .833 OPS
Arraez had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory for the Twins, but few people saw this coming. He has been able to hit at every professional level, but it makes sense for teams to figure out his tendencies and take advantage of them with more repetitions. For next season, there seems little chance that his OPS stays above .800. Arraez has the offensive tools to be an above-average second baseman but the Twins will have to use him correctly in the years ahead.

Mitch Garver
2019 Stats: .273 BA, .267 BABIP, .365 OBP, .995 OPS
Garver won a Silver Slugger in his first season of playing on a semi-regular basis but Jason Castro won’t be there as a safety blanket next year. Garver might be forced to take on a more regular role. What will that do to his production? He might have been a little lucky with a BABIP that was lower than his actually batting average. It seems more likely for him to be around 20 home runs and a .850 OPS.

Jorge Polanco
2019 Stats: .295 BA,.328 BABIP, .356 OBP, .841 OPS
Polanco was the team’s lone position player All-Star in 2019 and he was elected as a starter. Baseball Reference projects him to accumulate an .803 OPS next year, while dipping from 22 home runs this season to 17 homers next year. He’s managed a .339 OPS over the course of his big league career so it will be interesting if he can continue at that level with other top prospects trying to take his big-league spot.

Miguel Sano
2019 Stats: .247 BA, .319 BBIP, .346 OBP, .923 OPS
Sano struggled through parts of the 2019 campaign, but he seemed to settle into a routine as the season progressed. His batting average on balls in play seems destined for some regression and it’s hard to predict whether he will be able to stay healthy for an entire season. He has yet to play more than 116 games in one year and that was back in 2016. A full season of Sano could be dangerous or a full season could more fully expose his flaws.

Which player do you think will regress this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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27 Comments

Yet another reason why pitching needs to be fortified if we expect to compete

 

This team is not promised even 90s wins next year much less playoff success without aggressive moves to improve.

 

Pohlads, What's in YOUR wallet?!

Also, Cruz was a fantastic player and teammate this year.

 

I expect him to be every bit as good of a teammate next year, but he cannot be expected to match the production he had this year with one more year of tread worn off the tires...

 

Another obvious regression candidate to no fault of his own

    • dcswede likes this

Ok, Ok, last one...

 

I believe Arraez will NOT have a large regression.

 

Plate discipline, intelligence and lack of holes in a swing go a long way toward combating regression.....

 

4 out of 5 arm-chair-scout/manager/GM/owners agree!

    • dcswede, wavedog, Platoon and 1 other like this
"I believe Arraez will NOT have a large regression."

Agree 100%. I could tell that this guy was going to be special after being with the club for a few games. I don't think he will regress at all. If anything, he's going to develop more power, and become a .300 hitting RBI machine.
    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

Yet another reason why pitching needs to be fortified if we expect to compete

This team is not promised even 90s wins next year much less playoff success without aggressive moves to improve.

Pohlads, What's in YOUR wallet?!


No one is promised anything, look at the Red Sox coming off winning a world series??
    • h2oface likes this
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the_brute_squad
Nov 11 2019 10:30 PM

We know the ball was juiced this past season. Let's assume MLB will go back to a less juiced ball. When this happens it stands to reason the entire team will regress in regard to power production. A record breaking HR season will be out of the question. Since that's the assumption, what percentage will it go down? 10%, 25%, more?

With the bats regressing because of the less juiced ball it will put an larger imperative on the Twins signing a front line pitcher. If they leave free agency without a true ace then we can certainly expect a first round elimination in the playoffs... that is, if we can finish ahead of the pitching strong Cleveland Indians.

    • wavedog and mikelink45 like this

I think of all the people in this group to be least likely to regress, I feel it is probably Polanco.  His hit tool has only gotten better and he was was solid when he started.

 

I also think it could be crazy to assume Garver will end up at around 20 home runs.  He squares up balls has a good approach.

 

To me the most likely would be Arraez.  .334 over a full season?  He's got the intangibles, but give him 600 at bats, hard to see him sustain in a full season.

Kepler would be next.

 

 

    • brvama, LA VIkes Fan and ewen21 like this
I still see Arrez as a solid hitter. Still above .300. More or less the same for Polanco. He could always hit, and likely still will. Cruz? Maybe he will be ageless like Big Papi? Garvers regression may/will come mostly from the HR. He hit HR's at an extrapolated rate of 54 for a 162 games. I know catchers won't play that many games, but looking at his history he can hit to a degree, but there is nothing there that puts him at that elite power level. More or less the same for Kepler. Decent bat but the HR's will drop significantly.

I said it last year and will say it again, Kepler is just scratching the surface.Don't know when, but I believe he will be in the hunt for the 'triple crown' at some time in the future.Assuming he has a reasonably long career, I expect Kepler to receive consideration for the Hall of Fame 20 or so years from now.

 

And Arraez will be the player he is.That's a young kid who knows the strike zone as well as anyone in the game.That will keep his OBP very high.Said last year that I expect him to consistently put up years with an OBP near or over .400 with batting averages in the low/mid to mid .300's.  

 

Assuming MLB does something about the baseball, Garver and Polanco both may hit less home runs in 2020.Sano on the other hand will hit more as he should have a full season.Most of Sano's home runs are way beyond the fence, thus, hitting them 10 or 20 feet shorter isn't going to cause the frequency of his home runs to decrease a lot.  

 

I don't see a huge regression from any of these players.Expect Garver will continue to play about half the time, although maybe more like 100+ games next year.Considering the expected change in the ball, would expect his numbers to dip a bit.  

    • brvama, woolywoolhouse and mikelink45 like this

This is a fascinating topic - I see the projections and find it interesting, but the question I have is where regression is usually found - is it BA, OPS, Power or some other stat.It would seem to me that plate discipline is like speed - it is less likely to regress?

 

Secondly, if MLB removes the rabbit ball do we consider a lesser HR total to be regression?

    • ashbury and brvama like this

Twins do not play in isolation. There is a thing called The Competition. Key to playoffs is winning the Central; wild card a distant second due to too many variables and all it gets you is one game. No reason to expect Detroit, KC and White Sox to be vastly improved. So a simple basic question emerges one more time. How will the Twins stack up against the Indians? Leads to the conclusion...if the Twins allow the Indians to out spend/out recruit them shame on the Twins. Only exception is if the Indians cripple themselves by signing a supposed savior free agent to a huge long term contract which I hope they do because that would be advantage Twins. So can the Twins be smarter in their personnel management than the Indians? That is the question for 2020.

    • brvama and dcswede like this
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John Bonnes
Nov 12 2019 09:23 AM

I've got to go with Garver. It was just such a crazy good breakthrough. Plus, he'll face more right-handed pitching, and probably wear down a bit with more games as a catcher. 

 

I'd probably expect some regression from all of the above, which also raises the question: is there one guy of the five ho you think will actually be better this year? 

 

My pick for that would be Sano. Arraez might be second, just because he's still so young. 

    • brvama and JLease like this
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stringer bell
Nov 12 2019 09:59 AM

Garver's 2019 was so good and comparitively out of the blue. He would be an obvious choice. At 40 for most of next season, Cruz can't be expected to continue to put up the numbers he had in 2019. I've always expected Kepler to hit for a higher average, although I doubt he can slug as many homers consistently.

 

Regression also has a lot to do with health. Cruz missed about 25-30 games with his wrist problem (and sat out essentially the entire road portion of interleague play). That might have been just enough rest for the rest of his body. Garver wasn't overrused and did miss about three weeks with his ankle injury, again perhaps conditions kept him fresh until late September. On the other hand, I believe Kepler's injury late in the season kept him from serious consideration for a Silver Slugger and doomed the Twins' playoff chances. 

    • brvama likes this
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stringer bell
Nov 12 2019 10:03 AM

 

 

 

I've got to go with Garver. It was just such a crazy good breakthrough. Plus, he'll face more right-handed pitching, and probably wear down a bit with more games as a catcher. 

 

I'd probably expect some regression from all of the above, which also raises the question: is there one guy of the five ho you think will actually be better this year? 

 

My pick for that would be Sano. Arraez might be second, just because he's still so young. 

I think Sanó will continue to improve, but that he also will continue to frustrate. He'll have periods of time, where he's a huge force and then strike out 50-75% for a couple series. 

 

We know the ball was juiced this past season. Let's assume MLB will go back to a less juiced ball. When this happens it stands to reason the entire team will regress in regard to power production. A record breaking HR season will be out of the question. Since that's the assumption, what percentage will it go down? 10%, 25%, more?

With the bats regressing because of the less juiced ball it will put an larger imperative on the Twins signing a front line pitcher. If they leave free agency without a true ace then we can certainly expect a first round elimination in the playoffs... that is, if we can finish ahead of the pitching strong Cleveland Indians.

 

But the Twins' (and everyone else's) pitching should be expected to improve with the less lively ball. The Twins were more reliant on power than speed (which is less affected by the ball change), so they will regress more on offense.

 

But I'd expect that Berrios, for example, will be much more effective when hitters can't launch super-balls into orbit without swinging hard. Perhaps Odorizzi, too, if the Twins retain him. 

All position players, or is a companion piece coming (that I missed)?

I would pick Garver off this list too, just because he had a Bonds-ian HR rate. I think he'll have a fine year as the primary catcher, but he literally was at 1 HR every 10 ABs. Expecting that to continue is unrealistic.

 

Second choice is Arraez, because the BABIP was really high, sophomore slumps are real (especially as sophisticate teams get god tape on players at the MLB level), but I don't expect him to fall off the table. He's got great control of the strike zone and the fact that he doesn't expand the zone to hack at everything (even though he can get the bat on almost anything he wants) will serve him well. The bigger question will be his power potential; it's never been an area of strength for him and he was nearly at career highs in SLG% this year. It wouldn't take a big dropoff for him to show real regression, but I do like his future. 

 

I think Kepler and Sano are the least likely to regress, and could still take another step forward. Kepler wasn't hitting a bunch of cheap ones and still has room to refine his approach to rip some more line drives that could increase that low BABIP. Sano had a really rough stretch that dragged his total down and any dip in his SLG% could be matched by more selectivity at the plate. We'll see, but he's a legit slugger who could hit 50 HRs if he stays healthy.

 

It's important to remember that with any projection system, they're almost always going to project a regression to the mean. It's really hard to predict who took a sustainable leap forward vs who had a fluke year. but every player on this list is young enough that their production could be sustainable. Garver & Kepler are the vets who never showed this before, but Polanco and Sano have. Arraez is a rookie, so anyone who absolutely knows about him needs to either be in Vegas or working in the FO...

Poor Max Kepler... He was discussed 3 years in a row to break out. Now that he played better he's a regression candidate :(
    • ashbury, brvama, h2oface and 3 others like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Nov 12 2019 11:17 AM

Depends a little on how you define "regression". Is Arraez likely to hit .334 next year? No, but I think he can and will hit .285-.315. Is Kepler likely to hit 35+ HRs next year? Also No, but I think he should hit .260/.340/.480 or better with 20-25 HRs. Will Garver hit for a .995 OPS?No, but I see him as a .260/.340/.480 or better guy, just like Kepler. If that's regression for those 3 guys, I'll take it. Polanco is what he was last year. That should continue or even get a little better.

 

The big candidates are Cruz because of age and Sano because he lost his hitting coach and Sano without plate discipline is a day without sunshine.I see Cruz hitting .275-.285 with roughly 30 HRs and a .900 plus OPS. Not as good as last year but still pretty darn good. Sano? On an annual pace (600 plate appearances) of anywhere from .220 with 20 HRs and 250 SOs to .275 with 40 HRs and 150 SOs. Cut the power and strikeouts stats by his plate appearances - will it be 600? 500? 400? 200? Who Knows? Biggest mystery on the team.  

 

 

Miguel Sano
2019 Stats: .247 BA, .319 BBIP, .346 OBP, .923 OPS
Sano struggled through parts of the 2019 campaign, but he seemed to settle into a routine as the season progressed. His batting average on balls in play seems destined for some regression

 

 

a. His 2019 BABIP is 5 point lower than his MLB career average BABIP, which makes any difference insignificant and any regression discussion moot. BABIP for hitters (unlike the pitchers') is individual-dependent and it is supposed to regress towards someone's mean and not towards a league mean.

b. Sano had a career high walk rate, IsoD, and led the league in HR/FB; all 3 have nothing to do with BABIP.

c. Since when .923 OPS is "struggling"?

 

BABIP is not a good measure for an argument here...

 

On the other hand, Buxton with .340 wOBA vs. .309 xwOBA, is a prime candidate for regression, if he stays on the field

 

    • Jham likes this
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Cap'n Piranha
Nov 12 2019 12:41 PM

Arraez is going nowhere.Out of 241 hitters with 350+ PA's, he was 30th lowest in soft contact rate, #1 in opposite field rate, #2 in bb/k, #1 in contact rate, lowest in swinging strike rate, #3 in zone contact rate, and #1 in out of zone contact rate.And all of this in his first ever taste of the bigs, in a season in which he started at AA, and turned 22 after the season started.Barring something shocking happening, Luis will be an elite hitter in the league for at least the next decade.Guys who walk more than they strike out, have elite contact ability, and generally make medium+ contact while being among the handful of youngest players in the league don't regress.They progress.

    • scottz, rdehring and Battle ur tail off like this

 

I've got to go with Garver. It was just such a crazy good breakthrough. Plus, he'll face more right-handed pitching, and probably wear down a bit with more games as a catcher. 

 

I'd probably expect some regression from all of the above, which also raises the question: is there one guy of the five ho you think will actually be better this year? 

 

My pick for that would be Sano. Arraez might be second, just because he's still so young. 

Agree with Sano because he should play and entire year and Arraez because he will have some experience.But I really believe that Kepler will be better next year and better yet in years beyond.

With all the regression predicted, it seems the FO has no need to spend big on pitching, and the window is already closing fast. Gone are the days that players can get better 2 years in a row. 

 

Time for a rebuild. SELL!!!!!!!

 

I've got to go with Garver. It was just such a crazy good breakthrough. Plus, he'll face more right-handed pitching, and probably wear down a bit with more games as a catcher. 

 

I'd probably expect some regression from all of the above, which also raises the question: is there one guy of the five ho you think will actually be better this year? 

 

My pick for that would be Sano. Arraez might be second, just because he's still so young. 

I think Kepler is in the running for MVP next season

Nelson Cruz is an easy regression pick for me.Career high in OPS at 39 years old, highest BA since 2010, highest OBP since 2008.


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