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Who Would the Twins Protect in an Expansion Draft?

League expansion talk pops up every now and then in the MLB. Before this season’s difficulties, baseball was thriving. There was likely plenty of room for another team or two, and that may remain a possibility in the future. As proposed by the MLB Trade Rumors article, I wanted to explore who the Twins should protect in an expansion draft if we were looking at one this coming winter.
Image courtesy of © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
The rules of this hypothetical are based on the previous expansion draft in 1997. What that boils down to is that each team protects 15 of their players during the winter after the 2020 season (with finer guidelines in place to protect top prospects such as Lewis, Kirilloff, etc.). The article does the leg work of selecting 11 “no brainer” protected players listed below which are pretty difficult to disagree with:

The Keepers:
Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, Kenta Maeda

That leaves 4 spots to protect in this scenario with a decent list of players we have to choose from.

Up For Grabs:
Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave, Lamonte Wade Jr., Willians Astudillo, Jorge Alcala, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Duffey, Zack Littell, Sean Poppen, Devin Smeltzer, Cody Stashak, Lewis Thorpe, Matt Wisler

I’ll preface this by saying that if you think the list is missing any big names like Cruz and Odorizzi, they’ll be free agents next winter. There are two factors to look at when considering this list: 1. How likely is each player to be taken? 2. What kind of effect would losing each player have on the team both immediately and long term? Considering that, I plucked out the four players that I think are most appropriate to protect.

Lewis Thorpe:
Thorpe didn’t dazzle the league in his debut, but all signs point to some bad luck (6.18 ERA, 3.47 FIP). He gets swings and misses at a healthy rate and has a strong pedigree in the minors. An upstart team would love to pluck up an MLB ready arm with so much potential and years of control. He’s too likely to figure into the Twins not so distant future plans to let him go to another team. Thorpe has to be a keeper.

Randy Dobnak:
Dobnak showed he’s MLB ready last season with good peripherals to at least partially back his 1.59 ERA. He assaults the strike zone and rolls up grounders at an impressive rate, which makes him a great candidate to shore up the back of the rotation for an expansion team at the very least. He was likely headed to crack the opening day rotation in 2020, and anything near what he did last year is just too valuable for the Twins to lose out on for free. Randy’s got to stay.

Tyler Duffey:
The Doof has had an up and down career and finally figured it all out in 2019. He became a lights out back of the bullpen option who I argue would be closing games if not for the dominance of Taylor Rogers. An expansion team would absolutely snag Duffey as an immediate bullpen monster with 2 more years of control. He’s sure to slot into an important role for a contending Twins team over the next few years, and letting him go after he finally found his groove would be a mistake.

Zack Littell:
Littell may not be quite the sure thing the other 3 are, but he broke through in 2019 after converting to the bullpen. We saw shade of his potential, as his fastball/slider combo made for a great pairing to attack hitters. We may take him for granted because of the strength of the rest of our bullpen, but at only 24 years old Zack Littell would be a fine bullpen piece on any roster. He’s not needed in high leverage immediately in our bullpen, but allowing him to continue his development as a middle reliever gives him time to make some more strides. The potential for Littell is just too high.

Notably missing from the four is Eddie Rosario. I’ll just say it: In this case, Eddie Rosario is manning left field for whichever expansion team picks first. He’s clearly an asset, but with one year remaining on his contract and replacements right around the corner, it’s just not worth protecting one year of Eddie at the expense of another player being taken that factors into the long term stability of the team. Jake Cave would likely factor into covering for him until the prospects are ready in short order assuming he isn’t taken himself.

While this exact scenario may not be an issue presently, we may find ourselves here in a few years. It’s just a fun exercise, but it shows how difficult this choice could end up being to leave several home grown players exposed to just be taken for nothing. Who would you prioritize in an expansion draft?

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7 Comments

I think this is a great exercise, thanks.

 

I will say to think Duffy would be a closer somewhere else, even an expansion team is kinda silly.  Like you I think he has figured it out and could be really good moving forward, but besides his first starts way early and his late charge in the bullpen last year he has been nondescript.

 

I think Little has way more upside.  Albeit a smaller resume.

 

Still good stuff.

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Doctor Gast
May 24 2020 07:15 AM

Agreed a good exercise just in case. Very difficult to choose, pre-trades might also resolve some the problems. But this covid fiasco has put to rest any idea of this. It might be hard to keep the teams that we have. 

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The Wise One
May 24 2020 07:39 AM

the last expansion draft this was the rule for prospects

 

All Players in an organization are eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who have less than three years service if signed at age 19 or older or have less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.

\After this off season Kiriloff, Lewis,Larnach and Balazovic would all have to be protected or risk losing.Duran could also be lost

 

If it is like the last draft the team protects 3 players after the first and second rounds. Upside may be a better thing to protect than average players. There is no need to initially protect Maeda initially under those rules. It might be doubtful if you would need to protect Pineda as they would only be getting one year of service or hoping like crazy he could be trade bait. 

    • Rigby likes this
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The Wise One
May 24 2020 07:54 AM

The reason baseball would expand of course is money. 2billion per franchisedivided 30 ways offsets the 700 million of a national television contract being shared by 2 more teams.Placement of the franchises would likely be to maximize local television revenue. The best uneducated guess of where would be a Canadian team and either a Mexican team or Charlotte. Then comes the real debate, how do you realign baseball? 8 4 team divisions? Complete do over of leagues and teams to promote rivalries? Is Manfred up to that task? 

 

 

the last expansion draft this was the rule for prospects

 

All Players in an organization are eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who have less than three years service if signed at age 19 or older or have less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.

\After this off season Kiriloff, Lewis,Larnach and Balazovic would all have to be protected or risk losing.Duran could also be lost

 

If it is like the last draft the team protects 3 players after the first and second rounds. Upside may be a better thing to protect than average players. There is no need to initially protect Maeda initially under those rules. It might be doubtful if you would need to protect Pineda as they would only be getting one year of service or hoping like crazy he could be trade bait. 

 

My thoughts exactly when I first read the MLBTR article. They apparently missed the eligible MILB players. 

 

I think this is a great exercise, thanks.

 

I will say to think Duffy would be a closer somewhere else, even an expansion team is kinda silly.  Like you I think he has figured it out and could be really good moving forward, but besides his first starts way early and his late charge in the bullpen last year he has been nondescript.

 

I think Little has way more upside.  Albeit a smaller resume.

 

Still good stuff.

Everything Duffey did last season looked legit. He made a measurable change by throwing his curveball more and increasing his fastball velo and it resulted in him almost doubling his K%. His season as a whole was incredible, but he was one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half with a 1.53 ERA and 47 Ks in 29.1 IP. I would almost rather have Duffey close and use Taylor Rogers in a Josh Hader fireman role, but that's a different conversation. Duffey would definitely be gone in my opinion.

 

the last expansion draft this was the rule for prospects

 

All Players in an organization are eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who have less than three years service if signed at age 19 or older or have less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.

\After this off season Kiriloff, Lewis,Larnach and Balazovic would all have to be protected or risk losing.Duran could also be lost

Actually now that I look at it, you're correct. I think that almost starts to beg the question of protecting guys like Pineda, Dobnak, etc. Probably even Littell.