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Royce Lewis Highlights

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A Different Advantage for the Twins

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 19 November 2018 · 1,320 views

minnesota twins derek falvey thad levine rocco baldelli wes johnson
Last summer during a late season Minnesota Twins game Thad Levine sat on stage with Aaron Gleeman during the now annual Baseball Prospectus event at Target Field. There was a myriad of topics discussed but on point stood out to me. The general manager quipped that while Minnesota may not be able to outspend the competition in the form of player acquisition, they were committed to adding talent and spending dollars in other facets of the organization. Fast forward to today, and we’re beginning to see that all take shape.

Recently announced skipper Rocco Baldelli certainly is a step outside of the typical candidate pool. He’s just 37 years-old and has no previous managerial experience. While that is something that would’ve been unheard of years ago, it’s a decision that has become more common recently. Alex Cora just won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in his debut season, and Aaron Boone faired well with the Yankees out of the same division. It’s not just the managerial role that the Twins have committed to a different structure though, and it’s felt throughout the organization.

Behind the scenes Minnesota has beefed up its analytics department, adding bodies in the front office that should be expected to push the needle. Formerly of Baseball Reference, Hans Van Slooten was brought into the fold prior to the 2018 season. A glance through his timeline will highlight the multiple intern, baseball operations, and baseball research positions the organization has committed to. It’s not just off the field talent though, and that has really played out as Baldelli’s staff has been named.

After working with the Twins as an Advance Scout, Jeremy Hefner has been added to the field staff for 2019. He’s just 32 years-old and was pitching professionally as recently as 2017. Despite a lack of coaching experience, he has been named the Assistant Pitching Coach. The man he’ll be working next to is green in the big leagues as well. Wes Johnson was plucked from Arkansas after a successful stint with Mississippi State. He’s well regarded as a forward thinker using TrackMan and Rapsodo technologies, as well as being billed a velocity savant.

On the diamond during play, Tony Diaz joins the Twins organization at the age of 41 after holding a base coaching position with the Colorado Rockies last season. Tommy Watkins is just 38 and joins the field staff after serving as a minor league manager and drawing rave reviews from all those he interacted with. Bringing both diversity as well as youth to the highest level of Twins baseball, there’s a very visible shift in dynamics taking place here.

It was assumed that Paul Molitor would’ve been on his way out following the 2017 season had he not won Manager of the Year. Not handpicked by the front office, the collective obviously had plans of how they wanted things run and see those interacting with players as an avenue to get more production in the box score. Looking at how this new staff has been filled out, it’s plenty apparent to see that Molitor (by no fault of his own) wasn’t anywhere close to the ideal profile.

From a top down view, and before the games begin to matter, it’s plenty fair to suggest that this whole blueprint has a very real chance to go up completely in flames. With so many coaches lacking experience at this level, and youth being a very common thread among them, it will be necessary to overcome hurdles in the process. However, the Twins are very clearly going out on a limb in the vein of innovation. If their competitive advantage isn’t going to come through outspending, looking to exploit market inefficiencies is a very astute way to go about gaining ground.

We will still need to see if everything comes together and this formula ends up being worthwhile. That said, innovation doesn’t happen for those unwilling to take the first step, and the Twins front office has committed to a process that bucks the trend of retreads being selected as new hires first. Investing in the opportunity to pioneer a new process, and hopefully benefit both the 25-man active roster as well as the organization, the Twins could certainly be venturing down a path that helps to ever-so-slightly tip the scales in their favor.

There’ll come a point in which we can look back and judge how it all worked out, but that remains at least a couple of years in the future right now. Reasoning and process alone make this plan appealing, and there’s little reason to cast aside the hope that it works.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • brvama and nclahammer like this

We all hope it works!Even when we are skeptical.

    • sloopjont likes this
Agreed this could go up in flames. In most everything in life, experience does matter. Professional baseball, or any sport, is no exception. I think it also begs the question, what does "experience" mean? Baldelli has never managed. And that bothers me. There is a lot of subtlety involved, from the clubhouse to the lineup, to in game management. Not only should Shelton help with that, and be and Rocco have a history together, but Baldelli himself has played the game and filled in different roles since his playing does. So if we question his "experience" factor, I guess we also have also ask ourselves in what areas, and how much those areas matter in regard to playing and post-playing. Maybe I'm just the eternal optimist, but the more I reflect and examine the coaching staff, the more I see diversity. Diversity in MLB experience, coaching experience, ethnic diversity, progressive thinking, and what appears to be great communication skills.
    • brvama likes this
IF analytics is what it is supposed to be, then the strategy of the game should be in those books the coaches all now hold. I am not being snarky either. The match ups and order of lineups is now mathematically delineated. Assuming you are not going to deviate excessively from those numbers, that leaves the managers importance more in the realm of organizing procedures and managing "people". While that always has been an important part of coaching any sport, it's import is now more pronounced.
Kelly Vance
Nov 22 2018 09:41 AM

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


I think experience matters more than people realize. But if you are smart, you don't need as much in the way of experience. Learning from your mistakes is key. Learning from others mistakes means you can avoid making those mistakes yourself.


Baseball is a team sport that depends on individual achievements.Motivating players to excel is one of the most important things a manager can do. I think understanding stats and what they mean is critical these days, but so is convincing players not to swing at a curve ball in the dirt, and motivating them to keep pushing to get better.  


I hope this young team invests in success, mentally and emotionally and physically. For example, last year Sano showed up out of shape and he had a reason. Nobody expected him to jog much on a injured leg. But that doesn't mean he couldn't watch his diet a little. He looked like he spent the whole off season getting fat. How he shows up this spring will tell us a lot about him. If he is the Stay Puff Marshmallow man, we will know he is under motivated. In that picture, I gotta like having a manager named Rocco. 


My concerns fall more into the pitching staff. Molly abused the bull pen. Rocco needs to have more and better ideas what to do in different situations and not rely on the same arm day after day. Many of us lost faith when the BP seemed to give up two run leads far too often. I am thinking the FO made the changes that they did knowing this. But we will also need to see what the hunter gatherers in the FO do to re-stock the shelves.