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Game Thread: Twins vs. Detroit, 7/22/2017, 6:40-ish PM CDT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:29 AM
Greetings, and welcome to the game thread.     1.) As almost all of us know, this weekend the organization is recognizing the 3...
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Article: Twins Minor League Report (7/22): Perkins Return...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 08:32 AM
Injuries can be devastating to the careers of players. Some of the best players in baseball history have seen their careers cut short bec...
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Should the Twins give a contract extension to Brandon Kin...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:34 AM
Wondering if anyone else is thinking about this question. What do a lot of you TD fans think. I have been impressed with Kintzler the las...
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Article: No Garcia Trade: Braves Balk At Twins’ Prospect’...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:20 AM
The reason Jaime Garcia pitched a gem in an Atlanta Braves uniform last night -- adding a grand slam at the plate for good measure -- rat...
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Do we HAVE TO call a grown man "ROBBIE"?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:20 AM
There is something about adding "ie" or "y" to the ends of adult male names that chafes me a little with a few exceptions. To me, Eddie i...
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The First Half Of The Twins Core Four

In every group of Minnesota Twins teams that have had sustained success, there has been a core of young players that came up together and learned to win together. It happened in the mid-to-late '60s. It happened in the late '80s. It happened again after the turn of the century.

And, as we get to the All-Star break, it appears that the Twins and their fans, might just be seeing a new core. Hopefully they will be able to lead the Twins back to sustained winning ways.
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today
On Monday, I was digging around online, looking for something to write about the Twins first half. As per usual, that meant spending a little bit of time digging around Baseball-Reference.com. Right there on the main 2017 Twins page, it was clear what I needed to write about.

Baseball Reference has its own version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement, or bWAR). Each day, they highlight the top 12 on each team's roster with their mug shots.

The Twins Top 5 Players in 2017 (by bWAR) are:
  • Ervin Santana - 3.4
  • Max Kepler - 2.1
  • Miguel Sano - 2.0
  • Byron Buxton - 1.9
  • Jose Berrios - 1.7
Ervin Santana has obviously been a very key contributor to the Twins. The next four have been the Core Four for the next wave of quality Twins teams. And they have been that for at least three years.

Terry Ryan may not have been able to lead the big league team to many wins between his return and 2016, but he has always been greatly respected in the industry for his scouting capabilities, for his ability to see high-end talent.

While he would probably never have said it publicly, so as not to disrespect other prospects, but he knew he had something special in Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios.

Those four have all been Top 100 prospects.


THE CORE FOUR

Max Kepler was Baseball America's #30 prospect before the 2016 season. Jose Berrios came in at #36 and then #28 in their pre-2015 and pre-2016 rankings. Byron Buxton was their #10 prospect before the 2013 season, and then was their top prospect before 2014. Before both 2015 and 2016, they ranked him #2 in all of baseball.

Miguel Sano became a regular in the Baseball America preseason rankings. He entered it before the 2010 season at #94. Before 2011, he ranked #60. He was their #18 prospect before the 2012 season. That year, he and Eddie Rosario put together video game numbers in Elizabethton, and Sano jumped up to #9 before the 2013 season. Before the 2014 season, he was BA's #6 prospect. Despite missing that entire season, he still ranked #13 before the 2015 season.

With those rankings come high expectations, fair or not. Each of these players has less than two years of experience in the big leagues. They've all experienced some ups and downs. While there are a few prospects who jump up to the big leagues and experience immediate success, most do struggle.

Sano illustrates both sides of this. He came up in early July of 2015 and hit great the rest of that season. He struggled more in 2016, and still hit 25 homers. So far in 2017, he's put up his 2015 numbers. Now he'll have to show it's for real. While he may hit 40 homers, he may also break the single-season strikeout record.

Buxton has followed the path of the likes of Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. Those guys moved up and down from AAA to MLB for a couple of years before their careers took off. They had long and very successful careers. At the same time, he has been as good as any defensive outfielder in baseball, and has the ability to change games with his speed and his arm. He showed the type of power potential he has last September, but that hasn't translated to this point in 2017. Yet, we continue to see glimpses of what he will be.

Max Kepler was able to hit lefties almost as well as righties during his breakout season of 2015 in Chattanooga. In the big leagues, he has struggled against right-handers. He's been streaky, but again, you can see the talent. He is a good defensive outfielder with good range and an above average arm. Offensively, he has a perfect swing and often hits the ball real hard. An assumption might be that over time, he'll adjust some and add some lift to those line drives which could produce a lot of home runs.

Fans wanted the Twins to call up Jose Berrios late in the 2015 season. We had to wait until last May, and his 2016 in the big leagues was a mess. He had almost no command of any of his pitches. This year, after spending a month in Rochester to start the season, he has been fantastic. For the most part, he has had much better command of his mid-90s fastball. While still inconsistent, he's shown he is capable of a plus-plus breaking ball and changeup. He's been better than expected so far in 2017.

In other words, it's very exciting to see these four players continue to develop. However, what is most exciting for me is knowing that each one of them still has a lot of room for growth and should continue to get better, even much better, in coming years.


CORES FROM BEFORE

Those '60s teams had a core that included the likes of Killebrew, Oliva, Allison, Kaat, Perry, Pascual and more. Later in the decade, they continued to win while adding Carew and Tovar and then Blyleven.

Those '80s teams had a core of Puckett, Gaetti, Brunansky, Hrbek and Viola. They added some veterans in 1987 and 1991 and won World Series titles.

Then in the early '00s, the Twins had nearly a decade of success, with several division titles. They also had a core of young players, including a season which included nearly 20 rookies. Their core included Koskie, Mientkiewicz, Hunter, Jones, Radke, and it continued with the likes of Mauer, Morneau, Santana, Cuddyer and others who fit in with the original guys.


FanGraphs TOP TWINS

Since we know that they tend to be a little different, I thought I'd look at the FanGraphs version of WAR (fWAR) and see if it showed much different.

Top 2017 Twins according to FanGraphs (fWAR)
  • Miguel Sano - 2.2
  • Max Keper - 1.5
  • Ervin Santana - 1.3
  • Jose Berrios - 1.3
  • Joe Mauer 1.1
  • Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Eduardo Escobar - 0.9
While the order and the numbers appear different, each of these player is on pace for nearly (or more than) 2 fWAR in 2017. That's a lot of value for a bunch of 23-24 year olds still working through the trials and tribulations of learning major league baseball.


BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE

Even more encouraging is that they are joined by a few other young players who are either taking their early-career lumps or working through some AA and AAA development.

Adalberto Mejia turned 24 this year, and he's been a good find. He was at the back end of the Baseball America Top 100 last year at midseason. He's done a nice job, particularly his last four starts. The left-hander has had a couple of clunkers, but watching him shows that he has the stuff and makeup to be a mid-rotation starter. He should be a part of the Twins starting rotation, along with Berrios, for years to come.

Jorge Polanco has had a tough season. He's been better than expected defensively at shortstop, though still average at best. Offensively, he has struggled this year, more than he has in the past in the minors or his stints in the big leagues. He's also just 23, so taking lumps and experiencing a longer slump should not be surprising.

Eddie Rosario is like that basketball player that catches and shoots a 28-footer. The coach yells, "NO!!" and when the ball goes in says, "Good shot!" Rosario can be about as frustrating a player as there is in the game. He doesn't walk enough, wanting to swing at everything. He catches most everything close in left field, and he has a strong arm, but sometimes those throws go to the wrong base, or miss its intended target by a long way. For the last three or four weeks, he's been hitting great, including showing some of the power he's got.


BUT WAIT... THERE'S MORE COMING


And there are more players coming. Later in the week, we'll take a look at the next wave of prospects, several guys who are (hopefully) going to be able to contribute to the next winning teams. While there may only be a couple that fit into the Top 100 type of prospect as The Core Four, there are a bunch who are nearly ready to contribute to the Twins, and contribute to the Twins over the next half-decade.

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35 Comments

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HitInAPinch
Jul 11 2017 02:02 AM

An awful like to like.  Would like to see a veteran or 2 added.  Just to see how far they could push this year in the 2nd half.

 

An awful like to like.  Would like to see a veteran or 2 added.  Just to see how far they could push this year in the 2nd half.

We have Mauer, Dozier, Grossman, Castro, Belisle, Santana, Breslow - that is enough veteran presence.  Lets just concentrate on bringing up more youth.  

    • Thrylos, Mike Sixel, Sssuperdave and 3 others like this

Lets hope the core four can stay together and stay healthy!! It will be fun to watch them in the future!!

 

I'm also glad that you mentioned Rosario. He has all the physical tools in the world but he just needs to clean up some of the mental mistakes.

    • hybridbear and dbminn like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Jul 11 2017 07:10 AM
There are similarities between this core four and the group from the 1980s that actually won a few titles. The next 5+ years could be really exciting in Twins territory.
    • Mike Frasier Law, 70charger, Sssuperdave and 3 others like this

With Polanco's struggles I'd kind of like to see him sent down to AAA and let Escobar start at SS for now. It seems redundant to have both Escobar & Adrianza on the bench.

I'm also glad that you mentioned Rosario. He has all the physical tools in the world but he just needs to clean up some of the mental mistakes.

Exactly! I really want to like Rosario, but he's frustrating to watch quite often. I hope he can get it together. Thinking back about some of his history (like his suspension a few years ago) I feel like he might not put in as much effort as other players do. I worry that the Twins will get frustrated with him & trade him, just to watch him become a perennial all-star with another team.

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ashburyjohn
Jul 11 2017 07:56 AM

With Polanco's struggles I'd kind of like to see him sent down to AAA

This keeps coming up. He's out of options.

    • Han Joelo, Danchat, bluechipper and 5 others like this
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drivlikejehu
Jul 11 2017 07:58 AM

It's not clear how many of the core are actual 4+ win players, which a club needs a few of to realistically contend. That's my main concern, more so even than pitching depth.

 

It's not clear how many of the core are actual 4+ win players, which a club needs a few of to realistically contend. That's my main concern, more so even than pitching depth.

 

Agreed--Outcome Uncertain.  That is what makes it fun for me.  I'm really intrigued to see how these guys weather the next couple of weeks.  It would be nice to give them a shot in the arm with a little pitching help.  Maybe Colon will provide that...

 

It's not clear how many of the core are actual 4+ win players, which a club needs a few of to realistically contend. That's my main concern, more so even than pitching depth.

 

I dunno, Kepler and Sano could both get there this season based on bWAR and Buxton could even get there if his hitting is more like May/July for the rest of the season than April/June. both are showing all-star potential.

 

Berrios is doing exactly what we're asking for this season, and I'm hopeful that he'll continue on this track. he gets into trouble when he nibbles too much and loses control of the strike zone, but I think that's correctable especially with a strong catcher like Castro working with him and calling a good game.

 

Polanco is really struggling and could end up busting, but the good thing is we have multiple prospects moving up at middle INF positions.

 

Rosario is going to need to keep hitting to hold his spot, because Granite is coming for him. but it's hard to see him taking another big leap with his flaws. (weirdest Rosario bit? look at his home-road splits this season. At home he hits like sano, on the road like Buxton in April)

    • Sssuperdave likes this

The magic number of the core 4 is 4.That's the number of seasons of collective team control for all of them, including 2017.I would think that it will be almost impossible for the Twins to be able to extend all 4 for longer (unless they are willing to extend Sano starting next season.)So they really need to retool and make sure that they are building a team that can contend in the post-season in the next 4 years.

 

I would add Polanco to the core for sure.He is just slumping the last month or so and is hitting better than Buxton

    • Sssuperdave likes this
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yarnivek1972
Jul 11 2017 11:23 AM
Good article. One mistype: you put that Kepler has struggled against right handers in the big leagues.

We knew what you meant though. 😉
    • Mike Sixel, Sssuperdave and Taildragger8791 like this

Amazing that Buxton provides so much value just as a defender.

 

 

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Sssuperdave
Jul 11 2017 12:14 PM

 

Amazing that Buxton provides so much value just as a defender.

 

Yup, and I'm guessing that's the driver of the difference between his bWAR of 1.9 and fWAR of 0.9. In this case I believe the bWAR. Santana is dramatically outperforming his FIP, and I think Buxton is a huge reason why.

Rosario is at peak value right now.Granite will have a solid outfield spot soon, and it's not going to come at the expense of either Buxton or Kepler. 

 

They are going to have to package Rosario and probably somebody else in exchange for pitching. 

I absolutely include both Rosario and Polanco as part of the core. Rosario has tons of talent and potential and similar number of AB as Sano last time I looked. And thus really a rookie season for Polanco. His first real opportunity to play daily and gain experience.

Add Granite, Gordon and Garver as 3 more solid to very good young players and this player roster is nearly complete.

The roster is filled with nice players, but it takes elite players (and lots of nice players) to be champions. It's hard to see any elite players other than Sano and maybe Berrios right now. It's very nice to have no gaping holes, but that's not enough, most likely, to win in the playoffs.

 

Buxton could be elite if he hits close to league average. And learns how to steal more/more efficiently. 

    • sftwinsfan likes this
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yarnivek1972
Jul 11 2017 02:23 PM

The roster is filled with nice players, but it takes elite players (and lots of nice players) to be champions. It's hard to see any elite players other than Sano and maybe Berrios right now. It's very nice to have no gaping holes, but that's not enough, most likely, to win in the playoffs.

Buxton could be elite if he hits close to league average. And learns how to steal more/more efficiently.


Over the last two seasons Buxton has 26 steals and has been caught 3 times. Not sure anyone can be more efficient than that. He will steal bigger numbers when/if he gets on base with greater regularity.
    • goulik and RaoulDuke like this

 

Over the last two seasons Buxton has 26 steals and has been caught 3 times. Not sure anyone can be more efficient than that. He will steal bigger numbers when/if he gets on base with greater regularity.

 

good point!

 

Over the last two seasons Buxton has 26 steals and has been caught 3 times. Not sure anyone can be more efficient than that. He will steal bigger numbers when/if he gets on base with greater regularity.

 

Here is the thing:Buxton is right on top of the league in SB success, but right in the middle of the pack in attempting to steal.

 

Career numbers:

 

Buxton: 146 Opportunities (*) (H+BB-2B-3B-HR), 28 SB, 5 CS, 33 attempts, 22.6% attempt, 87.5 % SB success

 

Hamilton: 460 opp , 222 SB, 45 SB, 267 att, 58% attempt, 83.1 % SB success
Dyson 465 Opp, 196 SB, 35 CS, 231 att, 49.6% attempt, 84.8% success
Turner: 171 opp, 70 SB, 14 CS, 84 att, 49.1% attempt, 83.3 % SB success
Gordon: 724 Opp, 250 SB, 71 CS, 321 att, 44.3% attempt, 77.9% SB success 
Broxton: 125 opp, 41 SB, 10 CS,51 att, 40% attempt, 80.3% SB success

 

 

Andrus 1486 Opp, 261 SB, 90 CS, 351 att, 23.6% attempt, 74.4% SB success
Maybin: 839 Opp, 156 SB, 39 CS, 194 att, 23.1% attempt, 80.4% success
Betts: 488 Opp, 69 SB, 15 CS, 84 att, 17.2% attempt, 82.1% SB success
J. Ramirez: 394 Opp, 52 SB, 17 CS, 69 att, 17.5% attempt, 75.3% SB success

 

Billy Hamilton goes for it 60% of the time he has an opportunity. Dyson and Trea Turner about half of the time. And Buxton is much more effective base stealer. He tries to steal at the rate of Elvis Andrus who is a pretty horrible base stealer. His attempts have to be close to 50% for the kind of speed he has.

 

(*) The calculation of "opportunities" is ballpark and simplified, because it does not reflect the number of times the base ahead of him was occupied.By subtracting double (which is an opportunity to steal third) and not adding HBP, I kinda balance the two.Just looking for a quick way of calculating.

 

Here is the thing: Buxton is right on top of the league in SB success, but right in the middle of the pack in attempting to steal.

Career numbers:

Buxton: 146 Opportunities (*) (H+BB-2B-3B-HR), 28 SB, 5 CS, 33 attempts, 22.6% attempt, 87.5 % SB success

Hamilton: 460 opp , 222 SB, 45 SB, 267 att, 58% attempt, 83.1 % SB success
Dyson 465 Opp, 196 SB, 35 CS, 231 att, 49.6% attempt, 84.8% success
Turner: 171 opp, 70 SB, 14 CS, 84 att, 49.1% attempt, 83.3 % SB success
Gordon: 724 Opp, 250 SB, 71 CS, 321 att, 44.3% attempt, 77.9% SB success
Broxton: 125 opp, 41 SB, 10 CS,51 att, 40% attempt, 80.3% SB success


Andrus 1486 Opp, 261 SB, 90 CS, 351 att, 23.6% attempt, 74.4% SB success
Maybin: 839 Opp, 156 SB, 39 CS, 194 att, 23.1% attempt, 80.4% success
Betts: 488 Opp, 69 SB, 15 CS, 84 att, 17.2% attempt, 82.1% SB success
J. Ramirez: 394 Opp, 52 SB, 17 CS, 69 att, 17.5% attempt, 75.3% SB success

Billy Hamilton goes for it 60% of the time he has an opportunity. Dyson and Trea Turner about half of the time. And Buxton is much more effective base stealer. He tries to steal at the rate of Elvis Andrus who is a pretty horrible base stealer. His attempts have to be close to 50% for the kind of speed he has.

(*) The calculation of "opportunities" is ballpark and simplified, because it does not reflect the number of times the base ahead of him was occupied. By subtracting double (which is an opportunity to steal third) and not adding HBP, I kinda balance the two. Just looking for a quick way of calculating.


Where do the Twins rank among teams in attempts per opportunity?
Is it possible that his lack of aggressiveness is a reflection of the team philosophy?

 

Where do the Twins rank among teams in attempts per opportunity?
Is it possible that his lack of aggressiveness is a reflection of the team philosophy?

 

I suspect that Molitor is part of the reason here. Looking at teams attempts/opportunity will not get you anywhere, because the Twins have at least a few non threats (Mauer, Vargas, Sano etc.)  Interestingly enough, the Twins are tied for 9th in SB in the majors FWIW

Why is everyone in such a hurry to dump Rosario  for Granite? I don't get it. We don't have a clue if Granite can hit at the MLB level yet.

    • 70charger, KGB, dbminn and 2 others like this

 

Over the last two seasons Buxton has 26 steals and has been caught 3 times. Not sure anyone can be more efficient than that. He will steal bigger numbers when/if he gets on base with greater regularity.

That's kind of a big if at this point.

    • jimmer likes this

Why is everyone in such a hurry to dump Rosario  for Granite? I don't get it. We don't have a clue if Granite can hit at the MLB level yet.


I completely get this response and tend to agree but Granite has forced his way up and now we need to make room for him possibly permanently. If he proves he can hit MLB pitching, Trading Rosario is one option and the other is trading Grossman. With our need for so many pitchers in the BP, we cannot afford 5 outfielders can we?
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HitInAPinch
Jul 12 2017 01:30 AM

 

We have Mauer, Dozier, Grossman, Castro, Belisle, Santana, Breslow - that is enough veteran presence.  Lets just concentrate on bringing up more youth.  

How about if I changed that to "talented veteran or 2"?   


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