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Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 1 (16-20)

In each of the past two winters, right around the turn of a new year, I've put together series of lists ranking the top 20 Minnesota Twins players and prospects in terms of their specific asset value to the organization. (See: 2018 and 2019.)

It's a fun exercise and prompts some interesting discussions, so let's do it again as 2020 gets underway.
Image courtesy of Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
First, here are the parameters and stipulations:
  • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
  • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
  • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this respect, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
  • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
  • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's start the countdown.

TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (16-20)

20. Ryan Jeffers, C
2019 Ranking: NR

An early example of positional scarcity playing a role in these rankings. There are better Twins prospects than Jeffers who will not appear on this list, but his presence in the system is especially vital. The 2018 second-round draft pick is a 22-year-old catcher who has already reached Double-A, hitting at every level. Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially.

Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets. Luckily, the Twins already have one of those in place at the major-league level, which is one of the only reasons Jeffers is even this low. (Spoiler: Fellow high-grade catching prospect Ben Rortvedt didn't make the Top 20, but is a short step behind Jeffers and is definitely an honorable mention.)

19. Eddie Rosario, OF
2019 Ranking: 8

I found Rosario's 2019 campaign a tad disappointing, despite the precedent-shattering HR and RBI totals, and I know I'm not alone. But we shouldn't be totally consumed by recency bias in evaluating him. The prior two years he was the team's second-most valuable player behind Brian Dozier (per fWAR) and I hope we can all agree his practical impact in 2019 was greater than OBP/defense-hampered metrics suggest. (To what extent is debatable.)

The fact remains: Rosario has yet to put together a completely transcendent season, and he's now 28 with two years of team control remaining. His expected salary via arbitration in 2020 (~$7-9 million) is reasonable – hardly a bargain. Rosario absolutely a guy you like to have around, but with all the corner outfield depth, and crystallizing deficiencies to accompany his almost unparalleled "unstoppable when hot" dynamic, he slides down in this ranking.

18. Michael Pineda, RHP
2019 Ranking: NR

Two years of team control at an extremely reasonable cost. When signed, I estimated that Pineda's newly minted contract will be looked back at as the best one executed by Minnesota's front office this offseason, and that's why he ranks here despite the evident drawbacks.

Yes, he'll miss ~12% of those two years due to suspension. But this might actually be beneficial in terms of workload management, and Pineda's established high-end performance level in the rotation is critical for the Twins. His injury history can't be ignored, but the mix of ability, recent health record, and contract appeal make him an essential short-term fixture.

17. Nelson Cruz, DH
2019 Ranking: NR

Cruz has some major things working against him on a list like this. He's 39. Offers zero defensive value. Nagging wrist problem lingers as a concern. Only under contract for one more year. As you zoom out to the big-picture view, the designated hitter's significance diminishes. But when it comes to 2020 – a critical year brimming with opportunity – few figures on the roster loom larger.

Cruz was one of the best hitters in the American League this year. The two players ahead of him in wOBA were Mike Trout and Alex Bregman, who finished 1-2 in the AL MVP voting. Even with his circumstantial detriments, Cruz's elite hitting ability and elder statesmanship – in a clubhouse where he's older than the manager – are irreplaceable at this moment.

16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
2019 Ranking: NR

There are a lot of players on this year's list who were not on last year's. (This speaks to both the volatility of pro baseball and my general ineptitude in such endeavors.) I don't think any newcomer would've ranked lower last year than Duffey, a 28-year-old failed starter who was failing to catch on as a reliever, and nearly out of options.

In 2019, he completely flipped the narrative. Suddenly, the tantalizing upside that long intrigued onlookers surfaced. Armed with a 94 MPH fastball and a harder, sharper version of his ever-impressive breaking ball, Duffey became an overpowering force in the late innings. Over 57 2/3 innings with the Twins, he posted a 2.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 rate while holding opponents to a .201 average. His 5.86 K/BB ratio ranked 14th among MLB relievers.

Duffey is entering his first turn at arbitration and has three years of team control remaining. This puts him solidly ahead of the similarly impactful Trevor May, who is one year from free agency and a narrow miss in the Top 20.

Check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of these rankings.

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24 Comments

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strumdatjaguar
Jan 05 2020 07:12 PM
With Rortvedt and Jeffers in the wings, it looks like the Twins could move Mitch Garver to First Base or DH to get his bat into the line-up more often. Good idea?
    • Nick Nelson, DocBauer, TwinsFan268 and 1 other like this
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TwinsFan268
Jan 05 2020 07:12 PM

CRUZ 17????

WHY???????

(ok now realize it was stupid to say why because you explained but still! WHY???)

    • Nick Nelson, mikelink45 and MN_ExPat like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 05 2020 07:50 PM

 

With Rortvedt and Jeffers in the wings, it looks like the Twins could move Mitch Garver to First Base or DH to get his bat into the line-up more often. Good idea?

If Jeffers emerges in the next couple years as they hope, it's going to create a nice lil situation for the Twins.

 

One thing I haven't really heard anyone talk about this offseason is Garver's trade value. Which makes sense, cuz, why would they move him right now. But if he has a remotely similar year, his appeal is gonna be off the charts – a bona fide MVP-caliber catcher with three years of control. We're talking Realmuto type trade value if not more.

 

If the Twins are feeling pretty good about Jeffers at that point, what kinda pitcher could Garver net them...? (Not to shift the convo to Garver too much because of course he'll be featured in an upcoming installment.)

    • JDubs likes this
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tony&rodney
Jan 05 2020 08:23 PM

Re: Garver and trade value.

From a Cody Christie post 18 November -

 

Posted 18 November 2019 - 12:24 PM

"What would Garver bring back? Grandal, Avila, and others could be signed. Of course we love a contract controlled slugger like Garver, but what would other teams offer? Atlanta? Cincy? San Diego? If not FA signings the Twins must explore all trade ideas."

 

I have wondered about Garver's value since October. I have no idea though and nobody seemed to think this noteworthy. My idea was to gamble early for an ace dangling Garver plus. I was curious to know what the market was at the time. Still am.

    • Nick Nelson likes this

I think Garver stays and splits time with Jeffers - hopefully soon.I am not a big Avila fan.Astudillo is not going to last as a catcher or even a bench player even though I love to watch him.

 

It is hard to comment on the placement of Rosario or Cruz without seeing the entire list, but you have me intrigued.  

 

Duffey???? Not sure what to think about him.I do understand him over May, but who else is he above?

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Doctor Gast
Jan 06 2020 06:30 AM

Very interesting article, to me Cruz `s influence & mentoring is invaluable

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theBOMisthebomb
Jan 06 2020 06:39 AM
This list gives me faith in the strength and depth of the Twins organization. It's time to focus on the potential of this club and put the disappointing offseason up to this point in the rear view mirror. The Vikings won yesterday and spring training is in sight if you squint.
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Doctor Gast
Jan 06 2020 06:40 AM

I was criticized in a previous article for not wanting to trade Jeffers for the same reasons you mentioned just because we have Garver. We need him desperately for back up, hopefully he`ll be called up by next Sept, & like was mention we could use Garver more at 1st to take advantage of his bat especially when Rortvedt is ready. PS I haven`t given up on Astudillo

Always fun to follow this series, Nick. 

 

 

    • Dman likes this
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TwinsFan268
Jan 06 2020 07:05 AM

 

we could use Garver more at 1st to take advantage of his bat

IDK, but I think I read somewhere that Garver plays better at catcher/doesn't want to play 1B. Now, DH, that's a new story...

If Cruz needs a day off, Garver's one of the best to replace him at designated hitter.

    • SQUIRREL and wabene like this
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puckstopper1
Jan 06 2020 01:32 PM

 

IDK, but I think I read somewhere that Garver plays better at catcher/doesn't want to play 1B. Now, DH, that's a new story...

If Cruz needs a day off, Garver's one of the best to replace him at designated hitter.

 

The Twins have a dilemma IMO with respect to the DH for this season.

 

They have one of the best in the business in Cruz, which is awesome.

 

But they also have two others who should/could be getting at bats at DH - Sano and Garver.

 

People say "play Garver or Sano at first", but that does not fly either as BOTH are even weaker defensively at first than their normal positions.

 

I'm not sure how this will all play out, but it will be interesting to see!

 

 

I have watched Jeffers catch several times and I would be flabbergasted if there are people "in the know" that rave about his defensive skills as a catcher.He is a very big guy and is not very mobile, has some extra steps in his throw to 2nd, and his arm is not overly accurate.

 

Maybe they are looking at his improvement,Maybe I just saw a few of his poorer games.Maybe they are just looking at different variables.

 

But, from my observations it is doubtful that Jeffers can stay at catcher at a major league level on a regular basis.

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puckstopper1
Jan 06 2020 01:35 PM

Thanks for compiling this again Nick.  

 

I look forward to it!

 

It is VERY interesting to see the turnover in the list from year to year.

 

IMO that is not your "ineptitude in such endeavors" - it is the nature/volatility in the game - and one reason it is so interesting from season to season.

    • 70charger and Battle ur tail off like this
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jorgenswest
Jan 06 2020 02:17 PM
Nick- Always fun

I know that trade asset is different from the definition of asset in your post but I was interested what the computer algorithms at baseball trade values placed the top 20 Twin trade assets. Numbers 20-16 ranked by median trade value.

20: Astudillo (8.0) - Already shakes my faith in the valuation system. Willians position, options, control and contract all give him trade value.

19: Sano (8.1) - two years of control, inconsistency and arb status hurt his trade value

18: Duffey (8.3) - a year ago I didn’t perceive any value. Thanks to Wes Johnson and tunneling he has become an asset.

17: Matt Wallner (8.3) - power hitting corner prospect drafted 35th overall in 2019. The next wave behind Kirilloff and company. I don’t buy the values put on players who haven’t played AA yet but encouraging to see the depth here.

16: Misael Urbina (8.3)- 17 year old centerfield prospect with good speed, walks and few strike outs. A long way away but encouraging to see.
    • Nick Nelson, birdwatcher, VOMG and 1 other like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 06 2020 02:50 PM

 

IMO that is not your "ineptitude in such endeavors" - it is the nature/volatility in the game - and one reason it is so interesting from season to season.

I appreciate that! But I definitely was looking back at last year's and cringing at some of the inclusions (Adalberto Mejia wtf). I honestly feel some of the convos that played out in the comments on those pieces helped refine my thinking, and this year's will turn out a lot better. But of course the volatility will never change... 

    • 70charger and DocBauer like this
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Battle ur tail off
Jan 06 2020 03:53 PM

 

Nick- Always fun

I know that trade asset is different from the definition of asset in your post but I was interested what the computer algorithms at baseball trade values placed the top 20 Twin trade assets. Numbers 20-16 ranked by median trade value.

20: Astudillo (8.0) - Already shakes my faith in the valuation system. Willians position, options, control and contract all give him trade value.

19: Sano (8.1) - two years of control, inconsistency and arb status hurt his trade value

18: Duffey (8.3) - a year ago I didn’t perceive any value. Thanks to Wes Johnson and tunneling he has become an asset.

17: Matt Wallner (8.3) - power hitting corner prospect drafted 35th overall in 2019. The next wave behind Kirilloff and company. I don’t buy the values put on players who haven’t played AA yet but encouraging to see the depth here.

16: Misael Urbina (8.3)- 17 year old centerfield prospect with good speed, walks and few strike outs. A long way away but encouraging to see.

 

How can Sano be worth less than 2 prospects that low in the system? I understand the controllable aspect, but Sano on a full season might hit 50 hrs, drive in 130 and score 100 runs.  

    • jorgenswest likes this

How can Sano be worth less than 2 prospects that low in the system? I understand the controllable aspect, but Sano on a full season might hit 50 hrs, drive in 130 and score 100 runs.


But Sano has never played even close to a full season.
Nobody is going to pay for a 162 game/ 50 HR Miguel Sano just because that "could" happen.

They are going to pay for his most likely outcome, which historically is 95 games, 25 HR, and below average defense that adds up to 1.5 or so bWAR.
    • jorgenswest, Twins33, Oxtung and 2 others like this
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TwinsFan268
Jan 06 2020 05:02 PM

 

The Twins have a dilemma IMO with respect to the DH for this season.

I wasn't technically disrespecting the DH, Cruz is one of my favorite Twins players. I was just pointing out that he is 40 and may need days off at some time. Not many players play in 162 games in a season.

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Cap'n Piranha
Jan 07 2020 11:59 AM

Call me crazy, but I'd rather have Cave or Wade as my full-time left fielder over Rosario this year.

 

Call me crazy, but I'd rather have Cave or Wade as my full-time left fielder over Rosario this year.

OK, you're crazy! Which of those three do you think would reap a greater reward in a trade? You'd probably get more for Rosario than Cave and Wade combined.

 

Call me crazy, but I'd rather have Cave or Wade as my full-time left fielder over Rosario this year.

 

I'll ask the obvious question, why?Having Wade or Cave as a 4th or 5th OF seems great, but would you want either full-time over Eddie?

    • 70charger likes this

 

OK, you're crazy! Which of those three do you think would reap a greater reward in a trade? You'd probably get more for Rosario than Cave and Wade combined.

 

I think it'd be pretty close and I think it would really depend on the team inquiring. A team that is cash strapped, like the Rays or A's, might very well prefer the controlability of Cave or Wade. 

 

Rosario was the worst defensive outfielder in baseball last year according to statcast and he's not much better by other metrics. That significantly erodes his offensive value. On top of that he is no longer cheap and all of a sudden he doesn't have much trade value.

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Cap'n Piranha
Jan 08 2020 11:27 AM

 

I'll ask the obvious question, why?Having Wade or Cave as a 4th or 5th OF seems great, but would you want either full-time over Eddie?

 

100%.See below for a comparison;

 

Player A--.276/.300/.500, 103 wRC+, 38.8% hard hit, 15.4% soft hit, 1.2 WAR.

Player B--.251/.351/.455, 113 wRC+, 52.3% hard hit, 5.5% soft hit, 0.9 WAR.

Player C--.196/.348/.375, 98 wRC+, 38.3% hard hit, 14.9% soft hit, -0.2 WAR.

 

Player A, is Rosario, B is Cave, and C is Wade.Cave put up 75% of the WAR Rosario did, but needed only 39% of the plate appearances to do so, meaning he's a much more efficient player.While Cave's babip and hr/fb rate both seem high (particularly the hr/fb rate), at least some of that can be contributed to Cave's ability to make a lot of medium to hard contact.

 

Wade was victimzed by an insanely low babip of .200, which is not sustainable, and clearly based on SSS (he only had 69 PA's).Wade is far better than Rosario at controlling the zone (17.5% out of zone swing rate, compared to Rosario's 46.3%--this leads to Wade getting more pitches to hit; 44.4% zone rate compared to Rosario's 37.6%) and making contact (Wade had a 5.8% swinging strike rate and 92.5% zone contact rate; Rosario was 11.6% and 85.1%)

 

Both Cave and Wade are also better OBP options than Rosario, which is where this team could use some help.Further, they are both, younger, far cheaper, and have much more team control than Rosario, all while being, if not better, really not that much worse.

 

So to sum up, unless Eddie was playing the last 2/3rds of the season hurt (from June 1 on, he OPS'd .766 with a 94 wRC+, with under 38% hard contact and over 16% soft contact, with a 12.3% swinging strike rate, all while swinging at almost half the pitches outside of the zone), it makes way more sense to roster both Cave and Wade for 10% of what it would cost to roster Rosario.

    • Oxtung likes this
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Cap'n Piranha
Jan 08 2020 11:36 AM

 

OK, you're crazy! Which of those three do you think would reap a greater reward in a trade? You'd probably get more for Rosario than Cave and Wade combined.

 

I think Cave and Wade would both individually go for more than Rosario in a trade, based on my summation in my post above.When you combine the fact that they're younger, cheaper, and more controllable, all while being reasonably comparable in on-field production (unless, as I said, Rosario was injured for most of last year), the only team I can see preferring Rosario would be Gardy and the Tigers.


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