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Front Page: The Future Value of Luis Arraez

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:16 AM
Major League Baseball has rookies every season that are deemed as the next wave of stars. However, this rarely comes to fruition as plent...
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Front Page: Mission Accomplished: An Elite Twins Bullpen

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:16 AM
As the month of July came to an end, Minnesota Twins fans watched with anticipation hoping that their club was going to make the necessar...
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Front Page: Twins Game Recap (9/17): Twins Win Wild Game...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:16 AM
This game had pretty much everything you could ask for from a great baseball game. An historic home run, three different comebacks to tie...
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Magic Number Thread

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:42 AM
Why no magic number thread?     Why can't I post pictures?      BYTO was fun.    
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VOTE NOW: Team captain nominations

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:11 AM
Surprised to discover that the Twins have not had a team captain since Harmon Killebrew. Leadership counts when a club is playing for the...
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Thrift Shop: 3 Sneaky Finds by the Front Office

If the Minnesota Twins are going to return to contention, it'll be primarily on the strength of their nucleus, which needs to rebound after a down year in 2018. But getting over the top will require a full team effort. That means identifying the right complementary pieces.

Finding quality supporting parts was a continual struggle as the Twins failed to push their last formidable core past the first round of the playoffs. But this reconfigured front office has managed to add a few potentially key assets on the sly. It could prove to be a major positive amidst an otherwise dreary campaign.
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today
Through two drafts and two deadlines worth of "sell" trades, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have netted a bounty of minor-league talent, supplementing the long-term pipeline. But the front office has also acquired more immediate help through low-key maneuvers

While these players aren't going to be stars, they could all bring real value for essentially no acquisition cost. Let's take a look at three current contributors of modest origins who may factor for years to come.

Jake Cave, OF: Acquired in March from NYY for RHP Luis Gil

The Twins took notice of Cave while scouting the Yankees system during trade discussions at the 2017 deadline. They ended up getting back two pitchers for Jaime Garcia at that time, but later snagged Cave via trade this spring when he landed on waivers.

Last summer, Cave was amidst a slugging breakout at Triple-A, hitting 15 home runs in 72 games after previously totaling 24 in 568 career contests.

"He made some adjustments that we thought led to the power surge that he had, and we think those will continue going forward," said Falvey when the Twins acquired Cave in March. So far, that assessment has proven astute.

The 25-year-old outfielder has launched a dozen home runs, which would've been a career-high before last year's 20. Six of those have come in the majors, including an absolutely majestic blast to straightaway center on Sunday that flashed his raw strength. Cave went to a part of Target Field only three have reached before: Jim Thome, Byungho Park, Miguel Sano.

Through 164 plate appearances in the big leagues, Cave has tallied 17 extra-base hits with a .480 slugging percentage – awfully impressive for a guy who slugged .398 through four minor-league seasons prior to 2017. As a semi-random comparison, Michael Cuddyer slugged .399 with 14 extra-base hits through his first 164 plate appearances in the majors.

The MLB sample size remains small, but Cave has looked very capable at the plate and he's also a strong runner – albeit not a burner – with the makings of an asset in the outfield. He's a bit stretched in center, and his rookie season has been marred by some painful defensive blunders, but that'll happen.

Given what the Twins risked to get Cave – Luis Gil, a 20-year-old righty currently at rookie ball in the Yankees system, and Kennys Vargas, who was DFA'd to make room but ended up back here anyway – the move looks like a slam dunk. Cave probably won't be a full-time starter but he can be a valuable bench piece or platoon mate, and the Twins control him through age 30.

Tyler Austin, 1B: Acquired in July from NYY along with RHP Luis Rijo for RHP Lance Lynn

Last offseason, one of Minnesota's top needs was a right-handed masher for the bench, to complement a predominantly left-handed lineup. It went unaddressed, and still existed when the Twins were able to bring Austin aboard in the Lance Lynn trade.

Scavenging 40-man casualties from one of baseball's best systems is a strategy that's now paid off in the form of multiple instantly productive power hitters. Austin was the odd bat out in a loaded mix for the Yankees, but offers a welcome infusion for Minnesota. Through eight games in the new uniform he already has three homers, a double, and six RBIs.

With 298 plate appearances under his belt, Austin has a .487 slugging percentage in the majors, and a 1.075 OPS against left-handed pitching. He's solid at first, and can play the outfield corners in a pinch. In others words, he's pretty much exactly what this offense needed – a gem of a find. And all the Twins had to do was expend four months, several groans, and a few million bucks on a non-performing malcontent.

Oliver Drake, RP: Acquired in August off waivers from TOR

We're dealing with small samples in all cases here, and Drake's is tinier than either of the above. So the praise here needs to be qualified with that. However... he has looked really, really good.

On Monday night, Drake ran his hitless streak as a Twin to 8 1/3 innings by tossing two perfect frames with four strikeouts. He has now averaged 10.1 K/9 rate as a big-leaguer – albeit with a 4.67 ERA and 1.48 WHIP – and his Triple-A numbers are immaculate: 1.80 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12.7 K/9.

Much like lefty bullpen counterpart Gabriel Moya, Drake plays up his unspectacular fastball with a quirky delivery and standout offspeed pitch that give hitters fits. The 31-year-old has pitched for a record five different MLB teams this season, which speaks to his perceived expendability, but in a way, it also speaks to the opposite.

He's hardly entrenched already as a long-term bullpen cog, but Drake adds another very intriguing arm to the mix going forward. Like Cave and Austin, the Twins can control him very reasonably for a long time if they desire.

These sort of pickups aren't necessarily the flashiest, but they're crafty, and each could pay immense dividends as affordable components alongside those central building blocks in the sustainable winner Falvey envisions.

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104 Comments

All 3 have been significantly better than I would have hoped for! Austin has been a pleasant surprise, but I can’t believe a major league hitter can miss a pitch so completely, and then manage to make contact on the following pitch! Kudos to the FO for these pickups!
    • glunn and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this

 

All 3 have been significantly better than I would have hoped for! Austin has been a pleasant surprise, but I can’t believe a major league hitter can miss a pitch so completely, and then manage to make contact on the following pitch! Kudos to the FO for these pickups!

 

Yeah, I don't recall ever seeing an MLB hitter swing and miss by as much as he does so often... but when he does hit it... wow!!

    • glunn, GP830 and MN_ExPat like this
Nick, I have not previously heard Lance Lynn referred to as a malcontent. Could you shed a little light on this?
    • Monkeypaws, adorduan, GP830 and 2 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2018 11:31 PM

The ball really jumps off Austin's bat and he has been a much needed "type" here - corner fielding righty.

    • glunn, Twins33 and bighat like this
Cave needs to work on plate discipline. But he has shown exuberance matched by Rosario and the since departed Escobar. (Sorry, but I find that intriguing). He's played a very nice OF with a few bad plays here and there. As stated, that will happen. There is definitely some hit tool there, along with decent power and power potential. I've also seen hustle and decent speed. I actually think he's a 4th OF keeper, though me may have to fight off Wade in the not too distant future.

I'm really unsure of Austin, though there are things to like. Despite not being a slugger, you can see the power potential. His milb numbers don't show big HR power, but show consistently solid numbers: .285/ .363/ .474/ .837 quad slash line. Still only 26, don't those numbers translate to some ML potential? Maybe, maybe not. Call me crazy, but I see him as a less disciplined but better version of Grossman. By that I mean, if he can be even average in the OF on occasion, he can play 1B, which Grossman can't, and bring power that Grossman can't.

In my dream scenario, the Twins would sign or trade for a decent OF/1B/DH RH hitter. Could Austin be a 26yo potential steal who just needed opportunity and a change if scenery? Meh. Maybe. But I'm at least intrigued.

Drake? Forgetting the great chagrin we all felt when signed, his ML career SO per 9 is over 10. Though his BB per is just shy of 4 and his WHIP isn't anything to write home about. He would not be the first or last guy, or Twin find, to get himself together at age 30ish. Early returns are good. But unless he really shows something, he is NOT a guy you keep on the 40 man vs a 25-26yo at Rochester you aren't quite sure enough yet. That would be short sighted and down right idiotic IMO.
    • glunn and caninatl04 like this

A very interesting article and very well written.

 

If only one of these guys sticks that will be a very good thing.

    • howieramone2, caninatl04 and MN_ExPat like this
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twinstalker
Aug 21 2018 02:56 AM

Jake Cave wasn't a sneaky find. He was an outfielder who wasn't good enough to stick on NY's 40 man, and that sort of tells you what we're dealing with here. He's a guy who might stick around a 25 man roster, but he's nothing more than replaceable. If Jake Cave is the standard for your team, you will never beat the Yankees or anyone else.

 

Austin has flaws. He might be a good fit vs lhp, but he was certainly well-known. Oliver Drake is on his fifth team this year. The whole baseball world's gotten a look at him.

 

I love the front office. They are doing things the right way. But they also let go of Rosario, Chargois, and D. Rodriguez. Finding three mediocrities (two, really) doesn't even make up for what they gave away, probably, and they had to spend most of $12 million to get a guy (Lynn) to trade for one of these "finds."

 

So, forgetting about Austin whom we dealt for with Lynn, we found two bodies on the scrap heap and lost three. This feels like random baseball noise to me, and it feels like you're trying to read something into that. To me, neither Cave nor Drake has shown anything special that was "missed" by their previous clubs.I sort of doubt that the Twins will drop Cave after the season, but if they let these two guys go, it won't affect a thing and is probably the best move on them if you need to protect guys on the 40-man roster this winter.

    • Steve Lein, Mike Sixel, Highabove and 5 others like this

I think it was noted in another thread that there are plenty of expendable pieces on this 40 man roster at this time.Cave looks like a 4th outfielder and I agree he will have to fight of Wade next spring, Austin looks like a decent platoon player and the Twins will need his bat next year against LHP.Drake I do not know what to make of, and have little feeling if the Twins need to keep him on the 40 man or not.Twins have a lot of young pitchers to look at and will need spots for some of them, or maybe some of the young relief pitchers will be deemed expendable.

    • caninatl04 likes this

You missed the F.O. biggest pick-up Belisle, what a steal!!! I do think Cave was a big pick-up, Austin-Ok,Drake-its just a matter of time before he fails. I'll give the F.O. credit for Cave and Austin, but I do question why they seem to downplay the guys we already have like Mejia,Moya,Curtiss. I mentions theses guys and I could add Vargas or Astudillo because of the Massive failure of Morrison.What took so long. I think the F.O. is on the right road now, but we'll see come Sept call-ups and who Molitor lets play. We still need a key RH-DH,OF type, I'd like a Vet like Hunter was and One more STRONG arm in the Pen for next year.Otherwise stay young and let these guys play.  

    • blindeke likes this
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notoriousgod71
Aug 21 2018 05:02 AM

That these three are among the highlights of the season says everything you need to know about how 2018 has gone.

    • Steve Lein, Thrylos, gil4 and 6 others like this
Isn't the prospect in the Cave trade a Yankees top 20 prospect? The Yankees farm system is higher ranked than the Twins,so he probably a higher ranked prospect than any of the prospects we picked up at the deadline.
    • mikelink45 and caninatl04 like this

Isn't the prospect in the Cave trade a Yankees top 20 prospect? The Yankees farm system is higher ranked than the Twins,so he probably a higher ranked prospect than any of the prospects we picked up at the deadline.


Depends on the source. MLB indeed ranks Gil 21st for NYY with a 45 Future Value, but Fangraphs has him 38th with a 35 FV.
    • birdwatcher, howieramone2, Minny505 and 1 other like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 21 2018 05:37 AM

Not sure I'd call Cave a cast off just yet. He's a late bloomer on a loaded roster where there was no room. He could end up being very good. Right now, he's an upgrade over Grossman (which we need). If we're lucky, he becomes another Brian Dozier.

    • Twins33, 70charger, Sconnie and 6 others like this
Don't most front offices add a few of these types most years? I mean, they still might be interesting guys to analyze, but I hesitate about giving too much credit to the FO for acquiring them yet.

It's kind of like the offseason last year -- acquiring Odorizzi and the free agents we signed was considered solid by most, but honestly felt more like a minimum acceptable standard given our needs and resources -- had we done less than that, I think it would have felt like a disappointment.

Likewise, us failing to acquire a few complementary pieces in 2018 on the current level of Cave, Austin, and Drake would probably have been bad, considering the alternatives. (Imagine if Vargas was back in Minnesota, or Boshers, or Belisle -- wait, scratch that last one :) ).
    • birdwatcher, Mike Sixel, beckmt and 5 others like this

Glad they are filling holes, but I do not go very far in praising this FO.Drake is like a 100 journeymen relief pitchers.Good streaks and then failure.Develop our own.

 

I am against high K guys so Austin will never be among my favorites.Cave is definitely the best of the lot and if he moved Grossman on I will be pleased.

 

Now lets see some more young players.

    • DannySD likes this

I had to suffer the wisecracks from KC fans in the ballpark when Cave made the diving stab that turned into an inside-the-park HR, so he is dead to me. :)

    • gunnarthor, big dog, blindeke and 4 others like this

I think Austin is indeed a nice find, and has a good chance to be valuable as a lefty masher for several years. 

    • Twins33, Major League Ready, Ben Noble and 2 others like this
Cave would definitely be an upgrade as a 4th OF over Grossman, but that's about it. If we aim higher than that, we do have problems. And Austin sort of fits that category. RH platoon bat, but that's sort of limiting with the short benches. Drake? 31 yrs old. Funky RH arm? 5th team this year? Hmmmmmm, what could go wrong. If your claim to fame as a FO is thinking that you alone can find something in a player with that resume, then you are like that blind squirrel they talk about. Yes, he will find an acorn. But he also will likely starve, since one acorn does not take you through either a winter, or a season! :(
    • Mike Sixel likes this

I think Austin could turn out to have value in the long run. The other two fill their current role nicely, but I don't see them bringing much to the table in the future.

 

Yeah, I don't recall ever seeing an MLB hitter swing and miss by as much as he does so often... but when he does hit it... wow!!

Check out some Ryne Sandberg at-bats. He could look brutal on one pitch, then drill the next one to Wrigleyville. I always thought it was kind of his game plan ... hehe.

    • glunn and birdwatcher like this

 

Not sure I'd call Cave a cast off just yet. He's a late bloomer on a loaded roster where there was no room. He could end up being very good. Right now, he's an upgrade over Grossman (which we need). If we're lucky, he becomes another Brian Dozier.

 

Maybe it's just me, but he even kind of looks like Brian Dozier.

    • glunn and ThejacKmp like this
Poppin' tags when they have $20 in their pocket is fine. This off-season they should have more money to shop at Macy's instead of the thrift store.
    • ashbury, Mike Sixel, beckmt and 3 others like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Aug 21 2018 07:38 AM

Poppin' tags when they have $20 in their pocket is fine. This off-season they should have more money to shop at Macy's instead of the thrift store.

They had a broken keyboard, we traded for the broken keyboard :)

Cave is a good upgrade from Grossman, and Austin could be strong nice bat. Not sure about his glove or potential to platoon at 1B, seems doable.
    • birdwatcher and caninatl04 like this

 

Jake Cave wasn't a sneaky find. He was an outfielder who wasn't good enough to stick on NY's 40 man, and that sort of tells you what we're dealing with here. He's a guy who might stick around a 25 man roster, but he's nothing more than replaceable.

That is true but coming into the season they also had Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks along with guys they weren't going to just walk because they were paying them too much in Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner and one of their top prospects Clint Frazier.They didn't have a lot of room for Cave either.A week into the season or whenever the injury bug hit them, they could have used Cave.

    • glunn, SwainZag, howieramone2 and 1 other like this

I like Cave and Austin and I'm not ready to call for the heads of Falvey and Levine yet but one of the principle jobs of the guys in the FO should be to know what the team has and looking at some of their transactions, they didn't.

 

Relief pitchers like JT Chargois (3.45 era 116 ERA+ 31ip 38k for Dodgers), Randy Rosario (2.83 era 155 ERA+, 35ip for Cubs), and Nick Burdi (recovering from TJ) would probably help the Twins and we let them all leave for nothing.

 

Starting pitchers Derek Rodriguez (6-1, 2.25 era 180 ERA+, 80ip, 2.5 WAR 12 starts for SF), Anibal Sanchez (9-4, 3.13 era 126 ERA+, 97ip, 1.7 WAR, 17 starts for Atlanta) would have looked good in our rotation or as trade bait but we let both leave for nothing.

 

Daniel Palka and Niko Goodrum are dinged a lot by dWAR but both have some power and are only 26 and yet we let them both leave for nothing.

 

And while getting Austin for Lynn is nice, it's worth remembering that Lynn cost us a draft pick and the corresponding draft pool amount. Looking at the transactions over the year (including the deadline trades), it looks like the FO sent away more talent than it brought back.

    • glunn, birdwatcher, Mike Sixel and 10 others like this

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