Week in Review: Cooked
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/25 through Sun, 7/1
Record Last Week: 1-5 (Overall: 35-45)
Run Differential Last Week: -18 (Overall: -34)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (8.0 GB)
This might have been the worst week of baseball the Twins have put forth all year (really saying something!) so extracting highlights isn't easy, but there were a few standouts worth mentioning amidst the wreckage.
Firstly, it was great to see Joe Mauer finally flashing some pop. After a quiet series against the White Sox, he busted out at Wrigley Field, going 5-for-10 with two doubles, a home run and eight RBIs on Friday and Saturday. In those two games, Mauer drove in more runs than he had in his previous 39 combined, and collected half as many extra-base hits.
That of course speaks to the lack of any power dimension in Mauer's game this year – he entered the Cubs series with an egregiously bad .322 slugging percentage. It's been disappointing to see after he slugged .417 with 36 doubles last season, both his highest marks since moving to first base. But over the weekend he at least showed that some hint of pop remains in his bat, which was very much in doubt.
Making a potentially more important offensive statement was Ehire Adrianza, who's been producing at the plate for a while now. His week included a four-hit game at Guaranteed Rate Field, and saw him go 9-for-21 (.429) overall while striking out only once.
Back in March, when the Jorge Polanco news came down, I wrote about Adrianza and his big opportunity to prove that last year's solid showing at the plate was no fluke. Having shaken off a slow start, he's basically doing that, as his .724 OPS is a notch above last year's (.707) with his 100+ OPS pegging him as a league-average hitter.
That might not sound too special, but for a defensive specialist who can play shortstop regularly it's nice, and there is reason to believe Adrianza is still developing at the dish. The 28-year-old has launched four home runs in his past 26 games; previously, he'd hit five total in 224 major-league games.
I'll admit to being at the end of my rope with Adrianza during his blunderous April and May, but I'm glad the Twins showed patience and stuck with him. He's making a very good case to return next year as Polanco's backup or possibly even a starter.
Speaking of Polanco, he is set to return this week and looked very sharp during his ramp-up in the minors. After a quick stint in Fort Myers, the shortstop moved up to Rochester and went 6-for-13 in four games, so he appears locked in and ready to go. Twins fans could really use some good news, and a big second half for Polanco back in the fold would certainly qualify.
One week ago I mentioned that "Willians Astudillo sure seems deserving of a shot," and on Friday he got it, called up to join the Twins ahead of the Cubs series. Astudillo singled in his first MLB at-bat on Saturday and picked up two more hits – including a two-run triple – in his first start on Sunday.
A stout free swinger capable of getting the bat on almost any pitch, he plays third base and catcher (and center field, apparently). He was responsible for the coolest highlight of spring training. Now, at 26, with more than 2,300 minor-league plate appearances, he's finally getting his first chance in the big leagues. Astudillo will be a fun one to root for as the rest of this season plays out.
It's hard to choose. Last week the "Lowlights" section of this column covered a majority of the roster and this time the same is warranted.
Pitchers were terrible, lit up for eight or more runs in four of the six games.
The lineup struggled against lousy White Sox pitching, managing seven runs in 31 innings. They were able to get it going a little in the scorching heat at Wrigley but couldn't keep pace with the home squad's relentless attack.
Even players among the select group who've reliably gotten it done for Minnesota this year fell into this contagious spiral. Eduardo Escobar went 3-for-23. Trevor Hildenberger allowed a hit or walk to eight of the nine batters he faced on Saturday, and was charged with five earned runs while recording one out; he'd entered the appearance with a 0.92 WHIP. Jose Berrios looked as bad as he has all season on Friday, inducing only four swinging strikes on 78 pitches.
But at least those guys have all done their part for the bulk of the first half. The same cannot be said for Brian Dozier, who drove in two runs on the week with solo homers in his first and second-to-last plate appearances. In between, he produced two singles.
The first half has been a slog for Dozier, who holds a .221/.311/.397 slash line through 79 games. His power has gone amiss and he's been dreadful in key spots, with a -1.67 WPA that ranks as the team's worst.
What has happened to Dozier, who'd seemingly evolved into a steady veteran stalwart? It's clearly not a question of effort or motivation, given the extremely high personal stakes for him this season.
The most likely explanation is that age is catching up as Dozier moves past his ostensible prime at age 31. But perhaps there's something more going on. I found this cryptic quote from the second baseman in a recent piece from Dan Hayes at The Athletic to be a curious one:
He backed up that last promise on Sunday when he nearly blew out his leg stretching for an infield single with the team down 9-1, going on to score three times as Minnesota mounted a late (but failed) comeback. On balance, however, even 100 percent of Dozier isn't nearly adequate right now, because it's a mere fraction of the player he's been for the past half-decade.
“It has been a little different,” Dozier said. “There’s some other stuff that only a couple people know about that I haven’t really shared with anybody else and probably won’t until later on down the line. That’s been the most frustrating thing.
“But it kind of is what it is. I’ve still got a job to do here and that’s help lead these guys back into the postseason. With that being said, you’re going to get 100 percent of me.”
The bright side, I guess, is this: It's already been more or less ordained that Dozier isn't in the plan beyond 2018. So while his ill-timed drop-off is a major bummer for him and his financial future, it doesn't really alter the club's big-picture outlook. More perturbing on that front is Byron Buxton's continued inability to find a workable approach at the plate.
While he claims to now be pain-free, Buxton's numbers rehabbing haven't reflected it. He did have a two-hit game in Rochester on Sunday, but it raised his average to .214. In 11 games, he has two doubles and one homer to go along with 15 strikeouts and two walks.
Yes, it is a small sample size. But keep this in mind: When Buxton was last in Triple-A, rehabbing in 2017, he went 5-for-12 (.417) with two homers in three games. In 2016 during his brief time there he hit .400 /.441/.545 in 13 games. Now at age 24 he's failing to gain traction, striking out in one-third of his plate appearances. His rehab window is approaching its end, and you've gotta think if all remains as is, the Twins will option Buxton and keep him in the minors.
They've already taken that step with Miguel Sano, who remains on an every-other-game regimen in Fort Myers. He actually had a good week down there as he collected eight hits in five games, including a home run Sunday – his first since May 31st in Minnesota. But it's clear that the 25-year-old has a long way to go.
Now that we're in July, the trade deadline is visibly on the horizon. Their inability to get anything going over the past few weeks has placed Minnesota firmly in the "seller" category, and even though he's having a tough season, Dozier is the most likely candidate to go among core players.
His sterling reputation around the league, as well as his known penchant for getting hot and powering up an offense, will boost his value beyond the lackluster stats. That's not to say the Twins will get a haul for him but someone is gonna make it worth their while, especially because – unlike fellow impending free agent Escobar – Dozier's viability as a qualifying offer candidate is no longer really part of the equation.
By dealing their back-to-back-to-back team MVP, the Twins can signal the start of a new era by ushering in Nick Gordon alongside Polanco in the middle-infield, or they could keep giving Adrianza regular ABs. But it's a sad way for one of the best careers in recent franchise history to come to an end.
It'll be interesting to keep an eye on Dozier's trade market as it starts to take shape in the coming weeks.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Let's brighten things up a little bit. The Twins have got some absolutely premium bats rising through the system.
When Baseball America released its midseason top 100 prospects list last week, Alex Kirilloff moved up 50 spots from the preseason rankings. The 2016 first-round pick is garnering plenty of national attention with his spectacular return from a yearlong absence due to Tommy John surgery.
After a quiet first half of the week with Fort Myers, Kirilloff got back to business with a trio of two-hit games against Lakeland. He's batting .341 for the Miracle.
Kirilloff was the second-highest Twins prospect on BA's midseason list, behind Royce Lewis, who has now graduated to elite territory at No. 12 overall. Lewis enjoyed another stellar week in Cedar Rapids, tallying 10 hits, including four doubles and a homer, while drawing five walks and swiping three bases on three tries.
Fort Myers awaits.
Brusdar Graterol, who you can expect to find jockeying with Lewis and Kirilloff for top-three positioning in Twins Daily's midseason top 40 (now underway!), received his promotion from Low-A to High-A and made his debut for the Miracle on Sunday, though it didn't go well as he coughed up five runs on nine hits over three innings.
It'll be a full week, bisected by the holiday on Wednesday. The four-game home set against Baltimore in the latter portion would look like a huge opportunity if the Twins hadn't already essentially buried themselves. That Orioles team is really, really bad.
MONDAY, 7/2: TWINS @ BREWERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Brent Suter
TUESDAY, 7/3: TWINS @ BREWERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Junior Guerra
WEDNESDAY, 7/4: TWINS @ BREWERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Chase Anderson
THURSDAY, 7/5: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Andrew Cashner v. LHP Adalberto Mejia
FRIDAY, 7/6: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Lance Lynn
SATURDAY, 7/7: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Kevin Gausman v. RHP Kyle Gibson
SUNDAY, 7/8: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Alex Cobb v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 75 | CHW 8, MIN 4: South Side Slip
- Game 76 | CHW 6, MIN 1: Gibby Gets Got
- Game 77 | MIN 2, CHW 1: Walking Away With a Win
- Game 78 | CHC 10, MIN 6: Hey, Remember Joe Mauer?
- Game 79 | CHC 14, MIN 9: It’s Not the Heat, it’s ... Actually, It Is the Heat This Time
- Game 80 | CHC 11, MIN 10: Epic Comeback Falls Short
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