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Article: Two Under the Radar Starters the Twins Should Ta...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:29 AM
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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:29 AM
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Article: Let's Make A Deal, Part I: 2020

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:26 AM
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Article: Arraez Is What Minnesota Has Craved

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:20 AM
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Twins Select Contract Alejandro De Aza from NB Bees

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 11:26 AM
Odd to see Indy ball 35 year old. Is this to replace Schoop? I assumed it would be a pitcher.
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Week in Review: Home Cooking

Another successful week in front of packed houses at Target Field. Who could complain? The Twins celebrated a franchise legend over the weekend, retiring Joe Mauer's No. 7, and won four out of six against lesser competition.

Your full recap lies ahead.
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/10 through Sun, 6/16

***

Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 47-23)

Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +116)

Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.0 GA)

Willians Watch: 12-for-25 with 2 HR last week at Triple-A


First of all, I must point out that the "Willians Watch" tracker, which has been a depressing sight for the past many editions, is firing up again. During his first full week back at Triple-A, Willians Astudillo made a pretty strong case that it's beneath him, putting up the absurd numbers you see above. In eight games since his demotion, Astudillo is now hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBIs. He's come right back out of his shell.

There wasn't too much activity on the transaction front last week. On Thursday, the Twins sent down reliever Ryan Eades and recalled Fernando Romero, who was himself demoted a day later (for reasons you'll read about in the Lowlights section below). Zack Littell was recalled to replace him following a very successful run in the Rochester bullpen (2.35 ERA, 13/1 K/BB ratio in 7.2 IP).

HIGHLIGHTS

Like any other week, it'd be appropriate to start out by shoveling praise on the offense. The bats were tremendous once again, averaging nearly six runs while extending their games-with-a-homer streak to 14. We'll cover some top performers in a moment. But first, let's give a shout-out to this team's starting rotation, which continues to amaze.

On Wednesday, Jose Berrios was on his game once again, holding a potent Seattle lineup to one run over 6 2/3 innings. It was his fourth straight turn pitching into the seventh inning, a feat he's accomplished in six of eight starts since the beginning of May. He's been a workhorse and a stud. After striking out six with two walks in this latest effort, Berrios is now rocking a 4.94 K/BB ratio, which ranks sixth in the American League.

Closing in on Berrios in those rankings is Kyle Gibson, who's now seventh with a 4.53 K/BB after notching six strikeouts and zero walks on Friday night in one of the best outings of his career. Dueling head-to-head with Kansas City's top starter Brad Keller, Gibby fired eight shutout innings, matching Berrios' gem on Opening Day for the highest Game Score by a Twins pitcher this year (84).

Slowed by an offseason illness, Gibson was running a little behind in his spring build-up, and it showed early on: In his first three starts, he allowed eight walks and 18 hits over 14 2/3 innings with a 7.36 ERA. In 10 starts since, the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 65-to-9 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings. He also has a 14.9% swinging strike rate during this span; that'd rank fifth in all of baseball between Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg.

Gibson is every bit as good as he was last year, if not better. That's a huge development for this unit.

Even Michael Pineda joined the fun this week with his finest start as a Twin. On Thursday, the big righty tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits. He left the game with a zero on the board, but reliever Ryne Harper quickly let an inherited run score, depriving Pineda of his first clean outing for Minnesota.

Still, it was another positive step forward from the 30-year-old, who's shown a noticeable velocity bump after returning from a two-week stint on the Injured List:

Attached Image: pinedavelo.png

The reasonable expectation for Pineda was always that he'd improve over the course of the season as he ramped up in the wake of Tommy John surgery. That's exactly what we're seeing, and I really like how the Twins are managing his workload to keep him fresh for the second half. His IL stint was seemingly designed to give him a breather (with no real downside, as Devin Smeltzer pitched well in his stead) and Pineda has yet to throw 100 pitches in a start.

Okay, on to that offense. Once again there were plenty of monster performers last week, so let's just run through them in bullet-point fashion:
  • Max Kepler has been on an absolute tear. After collecting four hits in Sunday's series finale against Kansas City, he finished at 9-for-23 on the week with two homers and three doubles. He drew five walks, and is working a free pass in nearly 20% of his June plate appearances.
  • Ehire Adrianza is earning himself regular playing time on merit. The utilityman started four of six games last week, as Rocco Baldelli found him opportunities at third, short, and first. Adrianza responded by continuing to rake, with five hits in 15 at-bats. He's hitting .404 in his last 22 games.
  • Mitch Garver had a magical night on Friday, delivering a dramatic two-run homer that broke a scoreless tie and propelled Minnesota to victory over KC. He was 4-for-15 on the week and has mostly picked up where he left off since coming off the IL, with nine RBIs in 10 games.
  • Marwin Gonzalez continues to be an incredibly value asset. Last week he played in all six games, starting five. He appeared at four different positions while tallying eight hits (including a pair of home runs) in 23 at-bats.
  • Nelson Cruz provided further evidence his wrist is feeling okay as he collected six hits in 20 ABs, including a pair of big homers.
  • Jonathan Schoop rebounded from a quiet week with a 7-for-19, sprinkling in a home run and a double.
  • Jorge Polanco just kept on doing his thing, finishing 8-for-27 with as many walks (3) as strikeouts. It wasn't even really a highlight week by his standards, but that alone seems worthy of calling out.
LOWLIGHTS

Can anyone fix Romero? As he rose rapidly through the minor-league ranks, the hard-throwing righty gained repute as the system's best power arm in years. He looked decent last year as a rookie for Minnesota, but the decision to shift him into a bullpen role here in 2019 made all the sense in the world, from my view.

Unfortunately, it's been pretty much a total disaster. His latest call-up wasn't exactly earned by his performance in the minors (he posted a 6.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over a month in Rochester following his early-May demotion), but the Twins evidently wanted to take another look and have their big-league coaches work with him more closely. It took only one appearance to reverse that plan. Romero was unbelievably brutal when called upon to pitch with a nine-run lead on Thursday, allowing all four batters faced to reach on two hits and two walks. He threw just six of 16 pitches for strikes and induced zero swings-and-misses.

The good news, I guess, is that Romero's arm appears to be healthy; he was bringing upper-90s heat with movement. Yet he lacked any semblance of command, and hitters were feasting, as they have all year. Getting him on track seems like one of Minnesota's best bets for impactful late-inning bullpen help, but sadly, it now feels like more of a long shot than ever.

His absence looms large in a bullpen that showed its problematic lack of depth last week, especially with Taylor Rogers unavailable for a few games due to back tightness. Harper continues to dazzle but the unit is lacking for other trustworthy options. Blake Parker looks so bad right now it's semi-shocking the Twins haven't found an excuse to put him on the shelf; he has coughed up nine earned runs, and five homers, in his last seven appearances. Tyler Duffey is filthy at times, but prone to clunkers like the ugly 10th inning that cost Minnesota Wednesday's game and spoiled Buxton's big moment. Trevor May navigated a precarious save conversion on Tuesday, then struggled through a shaky outing the following night. He's still having a really hard time getting opponents to chase, resulting in prolonged counts and plenty of stress. Matt Magill's been filling the bases with runners all month, including last week when he yielded two hits and three walks in four innings. None of three runs allowed by Mike Morin on Sunday were charged as earned, preserving his misleading 1.17 ERA, but he didn't look good.

This bullpen is a problem. We already knew that, but it was resoundingly reaffirmed last week, even against substandard competition. Anxiety is going to run high if any tight late-inning situations develop against the imposing Red Sox lineup in the coming series.

Minnesota generally had an ugly week defensively (which is, refreshingly, uncharacteristic). But no one's poor glovework stuck out more than Miguel Sano's. He had a fine week at the plate (4-for-14 with a home run) but Sano butchered a couple of plays at third base, and they were both costly. On Wednesday in extra innings, he mishandled a grounder and then airmailed it to first, allowing two critical runs to score. He was charged with two errors on the play, a rarity. Sano logged a third error for the week when he let a bad hop eat him up on Sunday, allowing yet another key run across.

When Sano is able to secure the ball and whip it across the diamond, it's a beautiful thing. His arm strength is unassailable. But overall consistency has been amiss, and to my eye, Sano has missed quite a few plays he should've made. He already has five errors in just 21 games.

With Cruz and C.J. Cron entrenched at DH and first, the Twins have little choice but to run Sano out at third base and hope he improves if they want his bat in the lineup. I did find it quite curious that Baldelli put Sano at third and Adrianza at first with Cron sitting on Sunday, though Adrianza did have his own ugly defensive gaffe at the hot corner one night earlier.

TRENDING STORYLINE

The first domino has fallen, so to speak. On Saturday, the Yankees traded for Seattle's Edwin Encarnacion, adding the American League's leading home run hitter to their lineup (which already features No. 2, Gary Sanchez). The Mariners, apparently, are completely open for business:



There are some interesting candidates there from the Twins' perspective (albeit no game-changing bullpen additions). The bigger story is that Buying Season is officially underway. Minnesota isn't compelled to wait until late July to pull the trigger on improvements. Although the Twins don't really need to worry about their division lead – still in double-digits as we head into the second half of June – they do need to be thinking about building for primetime. The aforementioned bullpen issues make clear that there is some work to do.

One tidbit to file away: Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press wrote over the weekend that Minnesota is pursuing a deal for San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner...

DOWN ON THE FARM

As the Twins evaluate internal relief options, Sean Poppen is a name we should probably be paying attention to. He's been fantastic since a promotion to Rochester in late May, working as a starter but showing traits of a guy who might level-up in the pen. On Thursday he struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball; through four starts with the Red Wings, he has a 1.13 ERA and 29-to-9 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. A former 19th-round draft pick out of Harvard, the 25-year-old righty owns a 3.17 career ERA in the minors, averaging a strikeout per inning.

Of course, Poppen is likely behind a couple of fellow Rochester starters in line. Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are both already on the 40-man roster, and making their own strong cases for consideration. Smeltzer struck out 10 with zero walks over 5 2/3 frames on Sunday, while Thorpe had fired five shutout frames on Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out nine. The Twins could really use another left-hander in the pen (they had none available when Rogers was sidelined in the early part of last week) so I'd expect to see one of these two get a look soon. Both have the potential to be legitimate difference-makers.

LOOKING AHEAD

Big test on deck. The Twins have taken care of business thus far in a home stand full of also-rans, winning series against Detroit, Seattle and Kansas City, but now they'll wrap it up with a tough challenge against the Red Sox. Don't be fooled by Boston's third-place standing in the East and pedestrian record. They started 6-13 but have been rolling since with a 33-21 record since, and they head into Minnesota on a five-game winning streak. Can Berrios, Pineda and Gibson back up their latest performances against a far better lineup?

Next weekend, the Twins will head down to Kansas City. As will I, along with a large group of rowdy fellows on a big booze-filled bus for my bachelor party. Which is to say, when you read this column next week, it'll be authored by someone else. Hopefully that person will have plenty of happy things to write about.

MONDAY, 6/17: RED SOX @ TWINS – RHP Rick Porcello v. RHP Jose Berrios
TUESDAY, 6/18: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP David Price v. RHP Michael Pineda
WEDNESDAY, 6/19: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Kyle Gibson
THURSDAY, 6/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Glenn Sparkman
FRIDAY, 6/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Jakob Junis
SATURDAY, 6/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Danny Duffy
SUNDAY, 6/23: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Homer Bailey

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15 Comments

Congratulations, Nick. Have fun and stay out of tattoo parlors! 

    • birdwatcher, Don Walcott, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this

Sure hope the Bumgarner talk is more than just wishful thinking. But even that addition wouldn't be transformative enough to beat the Yankees or Astros in the postseason. After the 6th inning, the Yanks, Rays, Red Sox and Stros will bring in some of the best RPs in the game, while the Twins would embarrass themselves with the current collection of:

 

>misfit castoffs,

>neer-do-wells,

>smoke-and-mirrors afficianodos and

>Hot-and-Cold Houdini-Wannabees.

    • Dman, adorduan, KFEY93 and 1 other like this
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Aerodeliria
Jun 16 2019 09:53 PM

Thanks for this as always! Let's go and get some of those arms!!

    • Don Walcott likes this
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Don Walcott
Jun 16 2019 10:47 PM

Great summary of the week. There are a lot of positives to this team. We should continue to emphasize them. This team is a lot of fun, and it can get even better.

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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 17 2019 05:58 AM

 

Sure hope the Bumgarner talk is more than just wishful thinking. But even that addition wouldn't be transformative enough to beat the Yankees or Astros in the postseason. After the 6th inning, the Yanks, Rays, Red Sox and Stros will bring in some of the best RPs in the game, while the Twins would embarrass themselves with the current collection of:

 

>misfit castoffs,

>neer-do-wells,

>smoke-and-mirrors afficianodos and

>Hot-and-Cold Houdini-Wannabees.

 

I know it sounds weird, but I'm hoping they aim higher. I think there's better options out there and they need long term help. Pay the price and get Boyd, Syndergard, or Castillo (or someone of that ilk who is pitching at a #1 level now and has some control)...Bumgardner is a rental and he's been decent (in the NL), but definitely not the Bumgardner of old. I get that he has playoff experience, which is valuable, but I'd rather pony up some of the blue chip guys to get someone under control for a bit longer. Other than 2B, this lineup will all be here next year. We have some big pitching gaps, especially not knowing what happens to Odorizzi or Gibson. I'm not going to cry if they get him, but unless there's an extension for Gibson in the works, we're looking at filling 3 spots next season. 

 

I'm still interested in Will Smith though. 

    • DocBauer and Minny505 like this

This isn't quite "fun" enough for Fun With Numbers. But... Jake Cave's OPS in the majors this season is .615 - his reward is an all-expenses-paid vacation to beautiful Rochester NY. Willians Astudillo's is .630, and he likewise is strutting his stuff in the International League for the time being. Among all the other non-pitchers, Marwin Gonzalez's OPS is next lowest, at .762.

 

The AL OPS so far in 2019 is .752.

 

Literally every position player on the major league roster is at the moment an above-average hitter.

 

I'm too lazy to compute the league's OPS if Minnesota wasn't propping everyone else up, but our worst hitter's disparity over the league would be even greater - that's just Math!

    • denarded, Dman, MN_ExPat and 2 others like this

 

This isn't quite "fun" enough for Fun With Numbers. But... Jake Cave's OPS in the majors this season is .615 - his reward is an all-expenses-paid vacation to beautiful Rochester NY. Willians Astudillo's is .630, and he likewise is strutting his stuff in the International League for the time being. Among all the other non-pitchers, Marwin Gonzalez's OPS is next lowest, at .762.

 

The AL OPS so far in 2019 is .752.

 

Literally every position player on the major league roster is at the moment an above-average hitter.

 

I'm too lazy to compute the league's OPS if Minnesota wasn't propping everyone else up, but our worst hitter's disparity over the league would be even greater - that's just Math!

 

 

Speaking of "just Math":

 

My stathead son pointed this very fact out to me last week. I increduously replied, "That sounds like the '27 Yankees."

 

He then informed me that that Yankee team only had 5 players above league average in OPS.

    • ashbury, Minny505 and Original Whizzinator like this

Another good week for the Twins. Sure there were some misfires, but 4-2 is 4-2. Makes it hard for a team to gain much ground on them when they keep winning 2/3 of their games and we're seeing a lot of really good, but non-fluky performances.

 

Gibson is right back to last year's run and is lining himself up for a very nice contract in the offseason. The changed approach he brought last year works for him and now that he's past the injury-driven start (a major illness like an e.coli infection is just as much an injury as a pulled muscle or a staph infection and it takes time to get past all the rehab) he's looking very strong and a good partner for berrios.

 

The success from Polanco and Kepler is really exciting. two guys who signed long-term extensions where there was a real question whether they would be worth the commitment (not necessarily even in the dollars but for the spot in the lineup) and both have crushed it.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Congratulations on your pending marriage, Nick.

 

I am beyond excited that Gibson is settling into the Gibby we came to know last year.Now with all questions of what effect his offseason illness will have, it is time for this FO to get him signed to an extension.Need starters next year and all indications are that Gibby wants to stay.

 

What a fun week for the Twins and Twins fans.But the cracks in that bullpen are getting wider with little help internally for a repair.One partial fix that to me should be easy is picking up a lefty specialist rental.Something like the Zach Duke deal last year, although hopefully someone a bit better.Shouldn't cost a ton and there should be someone out there who is now available.Won't solve the problem of that late inning shutdown righty to go with Rogers, but someone that can surely help the bullpen.Coming into the season we thought we had three candidates for this spot, Mejia, Moya and Vazquez.Although a good plan, it didn't work out.Let's see them fix it...soon!  

    • DocBauer and Original Whizzinator like this

 

 

I know it sounds weird, but I'm hoping they aim higher. I think there's better options out there and they need long term help. Pay the price and get Boyd, Syndergard, or Castillo (or someone of that ilk who is pitching at a #1 level now and has some control)...Bumgardner is a rental and he's been decent (in the NL), but definitely not the Bumgardner of old. I get that he has playoff experience, which is valuable, but I'd rather pony up some of the blue chip guys to get someone under control for a bit longer. Other than 2B, this lineup will all be here next year. We have some big pitching gaps, especially not knowing what happens to Odorizzi or Gibson. I'm not going to cry if they get him, but unless there's an extension for Gibson in the works, we're looking at filling 3 spots next season. 

 

I'm still interested in Will Smith though. 

 

I think I'm like most Twins fans, forever mired in the "Why can't we have nice things?" mode.

 

Also in the "don't you dare trade our favorite prized prospect!" mode.... :whacky028:

    • Minny505 likes this
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Original Whizzinator
Jun 17 2019 12:29 PM
The Yankees proved now is go time. When everybody's healthy over there we are talking a heavyweight scrum for top AL (MLB) lineup. We gotta move, man. Sign Gibby now! I think he will be easier right now than Berrios and maybe a hair cheaper right now than in the off season. I think he has more value than MadBum. A trade for bullpen help too. We need two one really good and another mid level maybe specialist type. A good starter like MadBum won't move the needle for this team like BP help. Yeah we could move Perez or Pineda to the pen but how did Perez look there early this year? Straight up BP help is priority #1 & 2.
    • Minny505 likes this

In a 162 game schedule, sometimes a hot team with tons of momentum, starts playing poorly several games before results actually turn sour. Hopefully, that isn't what started last week, because the Twins didn't play well at all. They played 6 games at home against two really, really bad teams and outscored them 35-31..most games could have gone either way. Rather than looking/hoping/wishing that the Twins make a move for pitching...and least in the very near-term...I'm going to be looking for some better play in the upcoming week. Maybe the reality of a Red Sox team that seems to be turning the corner will be enough to cut through the issues and distractions of the past week and sharpen the Twins play on the field.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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jorgenswest
Jun 17 2019 02:43 PM
On June 16, 2006 the Tigers had the best record in the AL and an 11 game lead over the Twins.

A good week but I hope they don’t regret the two wins they left on the table. Let’s hope this is a great week.
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Nick Nelson
Jun 17 2019 03:24 PM

 

On June 16, 2006 the Tigers had the best record in the AL and an 11 game lead over the Twins.

A good week but I hope they don’t regret the two wins they left on the table. Let’s hope this is a great week.

Of course, the Tigers also made it to the World Series that year, so... not the most dire comparison :) 

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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jorgenswest
Jun 17 2019 03:44 PM

Of course, the Tigers also made it to the World Series that year, so... not the most dire comparison :)


Yes. They made the wild card but there wasn't an extra wild card game.

There is a lot of season left. Let’s hope for a great week this week.

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