Week in Review: Little to Like
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/3 through Sun, 9/9
Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 65-77)
Run Differential Last Week: -11 (Overall: -70)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (15.5 GB)
Although it started on a rough note with a costly error, his fourth in a five-game span, Jorge Polanco did end up having a pretty nice week. He collected hits in five of six games while striking out only twice. The shortstop continues to be one of Minnesota's most consistent offensive performers, earning his regular nods in the second, third and fourth spots in the order.
While it's a bit disenchanting to see him batting cleanup, as he did Sunday, Grossman is quietly enjoying a solid late-season run. His eye at the plate has been immaculate of late; last week he drew six walks with no strikeouts, registering a .478 on-base percentage over six games.
Since returning from a hamstring injury in mid-August, Grossman is slashing .306/.433/.388 in 17 contests. His production hasn't been all that meaningful for the irrelevant Twins, but the 28-year-old is importantly building his own personal stock for a likely date with the open market this offseason.
On Tuesday, Kohl Stewart enjoyed his finest outing as a big-leaguer. Having failed to get through five innings in any of his four August starts, the rookie crossed that threshold by delivering five scoreless frames after following up Trevor May's clunky effort as the "opener" in the first. It still wasn't the most impressive showing for Stewart, who induced only four swinging strikes on 73 pitches and relied on some luck, but he got it done.
Making his Twins debut on Sunday, Chase De Jong (acquired via the Zach Duke trade) turned in a fine effort, holding the Royals scoreless on one hit over four frames, with five strikeouts. The 23-year-old showed some decent stuff, though he also struggled with control in issuing four walks.
De Jong joins Stewart and others as fringey 40-man roster holds during the offseason, so these late impressions do matter.
Speaking of making impressions, how about Willians Astudillo?! The lovable 26-year-old is not getting many chances, but he's certainly making the most of them. He entered Wednesday's game and homered before being pulled for Mauer in the seventh. On Sunday he started again, and went 2-for-4 with a walk-off two-run blast in the ninth.
It seems evident, based on their sparing usage of him, that the Twins don't see Astudillo as part of their future plans. I guess he is sort of an odd fit despite his unique talents. But I'll miss watching that dude play.
It's just not clicking for Stephen Gonsalves. Making his fourth MLB start on Friday against the Royals, the lefty was pulled after just 2 1/3 innings, having coughed up five runs on five hits and three walks, with just one strikeout.
This marked the third time in four starts Gonsalves has failed to complete even four frames. His overall MLB numbers are nothing short of brutal: 11.68 ERA, 6-to-13 K/BB ratio, 6% swinging strike rate, and opponents slashing .414/.528/.621.
The Twins might as well keep running him out every fifth day in the final weeks, but the 24-year-old's performance is serving to validate widespread doubt that suppressed his national prospect rankings despite amazing minor-league stats.
The stuff is hittable and the command flashes too inconsistently. Gonsalves' long limbs and quirky delivery aren't doing nearly enough to cover up these vital flaws.
Tyler Austin has cooled off considerably following his torrid start as a Twin. After going 1-for-10 with five strikeouts against the Astros, he missed the Royals series with a stiff back. Austin is hitting just .107/.219/.214 since his two-homer outburst against Oakland, and maybe the ailing back has something to do with it. Or maybe it's just his sky-high K-rate catching up to him.
The guy ahead of Austin in line at first hasn't been much better of late. Joe Mauer is dragging toward the finish line in what might be his final season. Last week he went 2-for-18 with a walk and two singles, and he now finds his OPS sliding toward the 600s.
The Twins need to be making other plans at first base for next year, awkward as it may feel.
We've already seen the last of another veteran staple on his way out. Ervin Santana won't pitch again this season after receiving PRP treatment in a finger that continues to give him trouble. The Twins will surely decline his $14 million option for 2019, and Santana may in fact struggle to land a major-league deal this offseason.
Staying in the Dept. of Lingering Injury Concerns: If there was any question that Miguel Sano's surgically repaired leg was going to be an ongoing problem, we may have gotten our answer Wednesday. On a poorly executed – yet seemingly innocuous – slide into second base, Sano wound up writhing in pain on the ground, grabbing that left leg, before being carted off the field.
Thankfully, he was diagnosed with only a contusion and not something more serious. But the incident served as a sobering reminder of the lasting ramifications a serious injury and surgery can carry. Given that Sano was scuffling badly at the plate before getting hurt (.087 average in his past 14 games), the Twins might be best off shutting him down regardless.
At this point, Minnesota's primary concern is protecting its key assets, and sending players into the offseason healthy. That's why they shut down Romero and it's (ostensibly) part of why they shut down Buxton.
With this in mind, how much do they push it with Gonsalves, who's working some high-stress innings here in September after logging 120 in the minors? Or Jose Berrios, who's approaching a career-high workload? Or any number of relievers who've gone through long seasons of heavy usage, and could plainly benefit more from resting their arms than throwing meaningless innings?
DOWN ON THE FARM
While the Twins won't be in the playoffs, followers of the organization's minor-league system are being treated to plenty of thrilling postseason action. The Fort Myers Miracle (High-A), Cedar Rapids Kernels (Low-A) and Elizabethton Twins (Advanced Rookie) have all been making their runs, powered by premium prospects.
Alex Kirilloff has been absolutely sensational. He tallied two hits, including a homer, in the Miracle's Game 1 win on Tuesday, then added five knocks in a Game 2 victory, which propelled Fort Myers to the Florida State League Championship. In that best-of-five series, Fort Myers jumped to a 2-1 lead over the weekend, with Royce Lewis launching three home runs.
In the Midwest League, Cedar Rapids made quick work of Beloit in the first round, with Ryan Jeffers' two home runs helping lift them in Game 1, before falling to Peoria in the finals over the weekend. Blayne Enlow gave up five runs over three innings in Sunday's elimination game.
Meanwhile, Elizabethton swept its best-of-three series against Princeton to repeat as Appalachian League champs. Plenty of good young talent on that roster to monitor going forward, especially uber-talented infielder Yunior Severino.
The Yankees come to town for what figures to be a lopsided affair, and then Minnesota heads to KC for four more games against the Royals. Only three weeks left to go.
MONDAY, 9/10: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Kyle Gibson
TUESDAY, 9/11: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Luis Severino v. RHP Kohl Stewart
WEDNESDAY, 9/12: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Masahiro Tanaka v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
THURSDAY, 9/13: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. RHP Jorge Lopez
FRIDAY, 9/14: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Ian Kennedy
SATURDAY, 9/15: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Zack Littell v. RHP Jakob Junis
SUNDAY, 9/16: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Brad Keller
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 136 | HOU 4, MIN 1: Astros Take Advantage of Pivotal Polanco Error
- Game 137 | HOU 5, MIN 2: Rough Opener, Strong Stewart Homecoming
- Game 138 | HOU 9, Twins 1: The Astros Are Really Good At Baseball
- Game 139 | MIN 10, KC 6: It’s a Lot Easier to Beat Bad Teams
- Game 140 | KC 4, MIN 1: Good, Great, GRAND, WONDERFUL!
- Game 141 | MIN 3, KC 1: Walk-Off Willians
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