Week in Review: Stumbling and Grumbling
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/6 through Sun, 8/12
Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 54-63)
Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -33)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (12.0 GB)
After going 3-for-28 through eight August games, dropping his average to .186, Logan Morrison finally succumbed to a hip impingement that's been bothering him for much of the season. He's set to undergo surgery that'll knock him out for the rest of the year.
This is good news for a couple of reasons. We finally have some clarity around the root causes in a hugely disappointing season for Morrison, who can hopefully rehab and get his career back on track. Meanwhile, the Twins can now give his at-bats to others more likely to figure into their future plans.
One such player is Tyler Austin, who's been called up to fill Morrison's roster spot and role. Making his Twins debut on Saturday, the Austin launched a two-run bomb against old friend Francisco Liriano.
The thunderous smash plated Miguel Sano, whose encouraging week included his first home run since being recalled and four walks. Yeah, he's still striking out a ton, but that's just okay when he's notching hits and coaxing walks at respectable clips.
Look. I get that, to some extent, expressing dismay over a deadline talent dump is part of being a leader. We saw it from Brian Dozier last year and now we're seeing it from Ervin Santana.
"We’re not giving up, but they did," Santana lamented of the Twins front office after Friday night's loss, on the heels of Fernando Rodney being dealt to Oakland.
I'm sure he's channeling the mood in the clubhouse, and in essence, that's fine – you want your players to be fired up at times like this. I'd be disappointed if they weren't ticked off.
But Santana is striking all the wrong notes, with this entirely unwarranted bitterness toward a baseball ops department that's only doing its job. For the right-hander to be proclaiming his team is "only 10 games out" in mid-August seems almost comically oblivious. They have the largest deficit for any second-place team in baseball, in the worst division.
And the Twins have reached this point largely because of lifeless, underwhelming efforts like the one put forth in Friday's series-opening loss to Detroit. While it's convenient for Santana to insinuate that this lackluster showing against one of the AL's worst teams was due to shell-shock, or the absence of key pieces, we saw too many such performances in the first four months for that notion to hold water.
I don't blame Santana for getting hurt, nor do I hold it against him, but the fact remains: he wasn't here for those first four months. And now that he's back, he looks terrible. He gave up five runs against an abysmal offense on Friday and hasn't contributed one quality start since returning. In four turns he has surrendered six home runs with an almost impossibly low 4.2% swinging strike rate. Out of 451 MLB pitchers to throw 20+ innings this season, his mark ranks dead-last.
The Twins would surely love to dump Santana's remaining salary, and $1 million option buyout, and generally counterproductive attitude. But his play has turned even a modest return like Rodney's into wishful thinking. No one's going to give up so much as a Dakota Chalmers type lotto ticket on the hope that Santana suddenly finds his stuff as he approaches 36. The veteran's got nothing right now.
And so he, like many others on the roster, slogs forth through these final weeks. Frankly if anyone has grounds for complaining, it's the potential future contributors being held back by the presence of Santana's depleted arm on the roster.
The same night Erv was getting knocked around by Detroit, Stephen Gonsalves was delivering another quality start in Rochester with nine strikeouts over six innings. He has a 3.15 ERA in Triple-A but remains unable to crack the Minnesota rotation. Fernando Romero looked better at his worst than Santana has it his best this year, but continues to compile innings in the minors.
At least Kohl Stewart got his chance on Sunday, starting against the Tigers and looking more or less as advertised. The 23-year-old former top draft pick flashed mid-90s heat on a fastball with good movement, but allowed tons of contact with only two swinging strikes on 74 pitches. He finessed enough grounders to make it work through four frames, but things fell apart in the fifth as Detroit strung together four straight hits and a walk to break through and knock him out of the game.
On merit, Stewart certainly doesn't deserve to be promoted ahead of Romero or Gonsalves, but I suppose the Twins have a more urgent need to give him a look, given his status as a fringe 40-man roster hold this offseason. Presumably we'll see more of him going forward. Personally, I'd be curious to see if the pitches play up in relief at all.
With Rodney shipped out, the Twins can use these final weeks to evaluate internal closer options for 2019. Unfortunately, no one's exactly rising as a prime candidate.
Ryan Pressly would've likely been first in line, but of course, he's gone. Trevor Hildenberger got the call on Saturday night and almost blew a three-run lead, coughing up a two-run homer and putting the tying run on base before closing out the win. The ugly outing extended a very poor stretch for Hildenberger, who hasn't looked like himself for weeks. Since the All-Star break, he has allowed 19 hits and five home runs in 11 innings of work. He had previously surrendered nine total homers in 88 MLB innings.
A natural choice for the closer nod would be Addison Reed, if he were throwing well at all. He's not. It doesn't appear his three-week stint on the DL did much to repair his arm, which continues to produce jarringly low velocity readings. The stuff just isn't there for Reed, who has induced only one swinging strike on 39 pitches in three appearances since returning from the shelf.
Who else might get a look in the ninth inning? Gabriel Moya? Taylor Rogers? Matt Magill?
One reliever I'd like to see get a few chances is Tyler Duffey, who was a very successful collegiate closer at Rice. He was recalled alongside Austin last week after posting a 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in Triple-A.
DOWN ON THE FARM
The ascent of Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was about as smooth and optimal as one could hope for from a No. 1 overall pick out of high school. He cruised through the minors, developed into an elite prospect by the end of his first full pro season, and reached the majors at age 20, becoming an instant superstar and Rookie of the Year.
The pace that Royce Lewis is currently on makes Correa's look decidedly sluggish. The shortstop is crushing High-A and hurtling toward a 2019 Twins debut.
He and Alex Kirilloff have taken the Florida State League by storm. Among players with 100 PA in the league, they rank seventh and eighth in OPS; at 19 and 20 they are the youngest members of the Top 25.
Kirilloff snapped a 13-game hitting streak when he went 0-for-2 on the final day of July, but now has another going, pushed to 10 last week as he tallied at least one knock in each game. Among FSL players with 150+ PA, he has the highest average and the seventh-lowest walk rate. Kirilloff swings at everything and hits everything.
On Saturday, Michael Pineda made his first rehab start at Fort Myers, and he looked excellent, tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks. The big righty induced seven swinging strikes on 33 pitches and reportedly touched 95 MPH. All signs are positive as he works his way back from 2017 Tommy John surgery.
The Twins will get a look at Chris Archer in his new Pirates uniform on Wednesday. He hasn't looked great since coming over from Tampa at the deadline. On Saturday, the Tigers will get another look at Stewart as the 23-year-old makes his Target Field debut.
TUESDAY, 8/14: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Jameson Taillon v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
WEDNESDAY, 8/15: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Jose Berrios
THURSDAY, 8/16: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Francisco Liriano v. RHP Ervin Santana
FRIDAY, 8/17: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Matthew Boyd v. RHP Kyle Gibson
SATURDAY, 8/18: TIGERS @ TWINS – Undecided v. RHP Kohl Stewart
SUNDAY, 8/19: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Blaine Hardy v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 111 | CLE 10, MIN 0: Who Needs Chris Gimenez?
- Game 112 | MIN 3, CLE 2: Mitch Garver Makes it Rain
- Game 113 | CLE 5, MIN 2: Cleveland Prevails on Lindor Walk-Off Homer
- Game 114| CLE 5, MIN 4: Walks and a Walk-Off
- Game 114 | DET 5, MIN 3: Is There Anything Left?
- Game 115 | MIN 4, DET 3: Austin Homers, Hildy Survives Save Chanc
- Game 116 | DET 4, MIN 2: Stewart Debuts, Bats Slump in Loss
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