Week in Review: Status Quo
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/4 through Sun, 6/10
Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 28-34)
Run Differential Last Week: 0 (Overall: -11)
Standing: 3rd Place in AL Central (5.5 GB)
While a few crucial players have failed to deliver on offense for the Twins this year, others have stepped up in a big way. Namely, I'm talking about Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar.
The continued growth of these two at the plate is invigorating to behold. Rosario and Escobar have not only been among the best power bats on the team, but in the league.
Escobar had a monster week, collecting multiple hits in five of seven games and pushing his XBH total on the season to 39, tied for the major-league lead. Esco's late three-run homer in Tuesday's first game salvaged a victory and he added three more hits in the nightcap. He's slugging .895 this month and suddenly finds himself on track for the best power-hitting season in Twins history:
At this point we should just call them Esc-tra base hits. Right?
Rosario, meanwhile, stayed in the zone after capping last week with a three-homer game. He delivered four multi-hit games and one big home run. I mentioned last time that the most deeply encouraging part of his progression was the enhanced plate discipline. That continued as he drew three walks against three strikeouts.
HIs improvements in this regard over the course of the year have been evident, and have bolstered his overall production:
The rotation also saw some notably strong performances last week, with Jose Berrios picking up a complete-game victory on Thursday, Lance Lynn turning in his fourth consecutive quality start on Friday, and Kyle Gibson firing seven strong innings on Saturday.
On days like Thursday, it's easy to dream on this squad and the kind of run they're capable of putting together. Berrios cruised through nine, Escobar and Rosario powered the offense with five RBIs, and Minnesota enjoyed a comfortable lopsided victory.
But those types of games have been few and far between. Much more often, the Twins have been entangled in close battles, and they've usually come out on the losing end, as illustrated by a 3-13 record in one-run contests.
Bullpen lapses have played their role of late, with Ryan Pressly suddenly getting clobbered and Addison Reed continually giving up gopher balls in key spots.
But the biggest culprit is a punchless offense, which went back in the tank after seemingly breaking out the previous week. The Twins lineup was more or less shut down by every starter it faced other than James Shields and Nick Tropeano. Minnesota scored more than four times only twice in seven games, all played in their home park.
Unless the Eds are doing heroic things, or someone like Jake Cave puts together a random outburst, it seems this offense can't muster much of anything. That kind of isolated production is the opposite of what we hoped to see from a unit that, late last year, was spectacular in its depth and relentlessness.
While no one other than Rosario and Escobar is hitting much, the flabbergasting futility of Miguel Sano is most conspicuous and upsetting.
As Sano came out of the gates this year striking out an egregious 40%+ rate, it stood to reason that he'd eventually shake off the rust and rein it in. The big man has always been K-prone – an acceptable consequence of swinging as hard as he does – but he's mostly kept it within reason.
If he continued to fan at the same rate he did in 2017, Sano was probably going to lead the league in K% this year, and very possibly set the all-time record for strikeouts in a season. But you live with it, because all those whiffs were to be accompanied by lots of walks and thunderous power.
Instead, his K-rate has climbed, maintaining at 40% after 11 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances last week. He drew one walk and has only seven on the season. Sano has lost any semblance of pitch recognition, lacking either the will or ability to lay off two-strike breaking balls well out of the zone. He has become remarkably easy to pitch to.
This is a nightmarish situation with no clear solution. The Twins could justifiably send Sano down to Rochester, as he has two options remaining, but it'd be to send a message more than anything. Maybe that's necessary at this point. But he isn't going to learn to read MLB-caliber spin while facing inferior pitchers at Triple-A.
Sano needs to wake up and get it together. It's hard to feel like this stagnation isn't stemming in some way from a lack of commitment on his part. Rust is no longer a credible excuse. Lingering hamstring tenderness wouldn't explain the consistently subpar quality of his at-bats.
This is a 25-year-old at a crossroad in his career and life. Sadly the "what ifs" are louder now than ever before.
The Twins need to get more out of the catcher position. Bobby Wilson is playing like you'd expect from a 35-year-old journeyman who's never been able to find sustained work in the majors. Mitch Garver is batting .215 with five extra-base hits in 89 PA since Jason Castro went down, and hasn't been impressive defensively.
Early last week, the Twins signed Cameron Rupp after he opted out of his minor-league deal with the Rangers. The 29-year-old backstop has a fair amount of experience in the majors, and was hitting very well in Class-AAA Round Rock with an .886 OPS. If he produces like that in Rochester it won't be long before he gets a chance in Minnesota.
Of particular interest is Rupp's penchant for mashing left-handed pitching. He has at an .879 career OPS vs. southpaws in the big leagues, and was at 1.304 in Triple-A this year before coming over. The Twins are slugging just .381 against lefties as a team.
DOWN ON THE FARM
It's safe to say that Brent Rooker made a very strong impression on the crew here at Twins Daily. Coming into this season, we had him ranked as the No. 7 prospect in a fairly stacked system, which he'd only been part of for a few months after being drafted last June.
Sure, he's a big powerful hitter who posted strong numbers in his pro debut. But what really stood out about Rooker was his studious mindset when it comes to hitting – his deep commitment to understanding and mastering the craft. It felt like whatever hurdles the Mississippi State University product encountered, he'd find a way to overcome them.
His 2018 season has been a perfect demonstration of what makes Rooker so exciting. The Twins sent him to Double-A to open the year – a fairly aggressive assignment, but one the organization clearly thought he could handle. And they were right.
Rooker endured his struggles in the early going, posting a brutal .213/.234/.320 line with 25 strikeouts and one walk. But, exactly as you'd hope, he started making gradual adjustments and getting things on track. Over his next 20 games he would hit .256/.300/.427. And now, after turning in a spectacular past week for the Lookouts (10 hits and 10 walks in 28 PA) he's at .342/.437/.698 over his past 19.
Just as we hoped, Rooker is establishing himself as a potential late-season reinforcement for the Twins offense. If he keeps raking they way he has recently, his potent right-handed bat will begin to look very appealing around August – especially if Mauer has setbacks and/or Logan Morrison never finds a prolonged groove.
Capable of making a more immediate impact, perhaps, is LaMonte Wade, who was promoted to Rochester over the weekend after hitting .298/.393/.444 over 46 games in Chattanooga. That those numbers very closely match his career line in the minors (.296/.402/.438) speaks to the consistency with which Wade has produced since joining the Twins as a ninth-round draft pick in 2015.
He's a high-OBP, low-power corner outfielder in the mold of Robbie Grossman, which might not make him the sexiest prospect, but it's a nice piece to have around on the cheap.
It's not over yet. If the Twins are able to put together a good week on the road, winning their series in Detroit and Cleveland, they'll be in much better position than they currently find themselves.
I wish they'd done anything to make us confident that is going to happen.
TUESDAY, 6/12: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Blaine Hardy
WEDNESDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Matthew Boyd
THURSDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Michael Fulmer
FRIDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Corey Kluber
SATURDAY, 6/16: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Fernando Romero v. RHP Carlos Carrasco
SUNDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jake Odorizzi vs RHP Adam Plutko
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 56 + 57 | Escobar Hits Dramatic Home Run, Twins Split Doubleheader
- Game 58 | CHW 5, MIN 2: Time is Running Out
- Game 59: MIN 7, CHW 2: Berrios CG, Power from the Eds Fuel Twins Victory
- Game 60 | LAA 4, MIN 2: Bullpen, Bats Spoil Strong Start from Lynn
- Game 61 | LAA 2, MIN 1: Is This a Rerun?
- Game 62 | MIN 7, LAA 5: Jake Cave Sparks a Fire
More on Twins Daily
- The MLB Draft took place last week, and Andrew Thares covered it beautifully here at Twins Daily. Check out his Twins 2018 Draft recap, and find links to his write-ups on the top two picks and more within.
- In Cody Christie's latest roundtable piece, many TD contributors weighed in with a diverse range of opinions on which player contracts the Twins should be focused on extending.
- I took a look at the some potentially available targets and called out three potential catcher upgrades on the trade market.
- Cory Engelhardt, mikelink45 and Platoon like this