The Minnesota Twins are celebrating their 60th season and bringing back the powder blues in 2020. A slugger that wore those uniforms prior to them becoming throwbacks was none other than Harmon Killerbrew. Known as Killer, Harmon clubbed a ridiculous 573 career homers. Twice, in 1964 and 1969, he blasted 49 in a single season. As a no-doubt Hall of Famer it’s hard to fathom Sano reaching that rarified air, but matching him for a calendar year? Yeah, I can get behind that.
During the 2019 season Sano played in just 105 games. He missed the beginning of the year after suffering a gash on his heel in a freak accident. After debuting in mid-May, the Dominican native posted an .853 OPS through his first 23 games. There were seven longballs hit in that stretch, but it was bookended by an ugly five-strikeout affair in a 0-for-7 performance against the Boston Red Sox.
Working with the since departed James Rowson on a teardown and rebuild of his swing while facing Major League pitching, Miguel performed admirably. Given the determination he’d shown throughout the offseason, it shouldn’t be a surprise he’d work tirelessly to get this right. Over his final 82 games he tallied a .944 OPS and 27 homers. From July on that OPS was at .955, and in September alone it was a whopping 1.067.
Owning a top five barrel rate and one of the best hard-hit rates in all of baseball, it’s not a surprise to see the pill leave the yard when Miguel makes contact. He’ll obviously whiff plenty, but even a 36% strikeout rate couldn’t keep him down a year ago. The mix tells us everything we need to know. This is a three true outcomes guy that recorded an insane 36% HR/FB rate. Now what happens if he’s on the field more?
Moving over to first base could present some challenges for Miguel, and he’ll definitely need to grow into the new position. If he can continue to separate his play on the field from that in the batter’s box, the rigors of the role should put less of a strain on him, however. Also, barring some unfortunate development, he’ll be entering the year with a clean bill of health.
Extrapolating Sano’s numbers over the course of a full season surpasses the 50-home run plateau. It’s something that Killebrew never did and reaching 43 would put him beyond Nelson Cruz’s number last year (41) as well as Brian Dozier’s in 2016 (42). For a guy that was sent down to Single-A less than two years ago to now be capable of the heights Miguel is achieving is nothing short of extraordinary. He’s put in the work, he’s committed to be the best version of himself, and in 2020 it could culminate into some chart-topping tallies.
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- Jan 30 2020 03:35 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
10: Outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota (4/12/10)
On April 12th, 2010, the Twins christened their new ballpark, hosting the Red Sox on a cloudy and cool Monday afternoon. It wasn't the team's first game at Target Field (a pair of exhibitions against the Cards had been played there 10 days earlier) but this one made it official. For the first time in almost 30 years, Twins fans were able to watch meaningful baseball at home under blue skies rather than a Teflon roof.
It was a crisply played 5-2 victory for Minnesota, keyed by Carl Pavano's six strong innings along with three-hit games from Jason Kubel and reigning MVP Joe Mauer. The Twins went on to win their first four series at Target Field and finished 53-28 (.654) at home in the new stadium's inaugural season.
9: Byron Buxton races for record-setting inside-the-park home run (8/18/17)
As with many of the moments on this list, I picked this one because it is emblematic of the man behind it. Buxton has had plenty of amazing moments at Target Field since debuting there in 2015, but his inside-the-parker against Arizona in August of 2017 epitomizes the electricity and incredible athleticism that make him such a tremendous joy to watch.
Blazing around the bases in 13.85 seconds after his towering drive caromed off the wall in right-center, Buxton set a new Statcast record for the feat, breaking... his own. (Of course.)
8: Ben Revere channels Willie Mays in center field (8/22/11)
Target Field has seen its share of phenomenal defensive plays, and Mr. Buxton has been responsible for quite a few of them. In my humble opinion, however, none can top this dazzling catch from Revere, which to me is one of those "You remember where you were and who were you with when you saw it" kinds of moments. Defensive play of the decade for Minnesota, from my view.
7: The Rally Squirrel becomes legendary (8/21/19)
The beauty of outdoor baseball is that it brings so many variables into play: wind, weather, and the occasional wildlife.
In the first year at Target Field, there was the famous moth-eating falcon, which came to be known as Kirby the Kestrel. But the most beloved unticketed visitor waited nearly until the end of the decade to make its appearance: The Rally Squirrel.
He (or a cohort) had scampered out the previous night, during a losing effort, but this time the squirrel's appearance coincided with a big comeback and flurry of runs for the Twins, who rallied to blow out the White Sox and earn the newly minted mascot its nickname.
6: Eddie Rosario homers on first MLB pitch (5/6/15)
From the Department of Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up: Rosario's big-league debut. Stepping up for his first major-league at-bat in 2015, with his family watching from the Target Field stands, Eddie offered at the first pitch he saw from A's lefty Scott Kazmir and sent it over the left-field wall.
For fans, it was the perfect introduction to Rosario, conveying his confidence, aggressive approach, and flare for theatrics.
5: Brian Dozier caps epic comeback against Tigers (7/10/15)
Two months after his splashy arrival, Rosario played a role in one of the most exhilarating victories of the decade, setting the stage for Dozier's heroics.
The Twins, flirting with contention for the first time in years, were looking to finish out the first half strong with a series against Detroit heading into the break. They'd fallen in the first game and were at risk of another setback, with a 6-1 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth.
Rosario delivered an RBI single to bring Minnesota within four. A bases-loaded HBP from Kurt Suzuki and two-run single from Danny Santana trimmed the Tigers' lead to one. Then the lineup turned over and up came Dozier – days away from his first All-Star Game – with two on and one out. Joakim Soria hung a breaking ball, and he paid for it.
Any "Best Twins Player of the Decade" discussion should probably start with Dozier. He was the beating heart of those upstart, fringy playoff teams in 2015 and 2017. His 42-homer outburst in 2016 was one of the sole positives in a trainwreck campaign. Twins Daily named Dozier team MVP three straight times. That walk-off shot was perhaps the most transcendent moment in a career full of special ones.
4: Johan Santana is elected to Twins Hall of Fame (8/4/18)
While it's fun reminiscing about the last 10 years, and thinking back to the days of Ben Revere catching a Vladimir Guerrero drive off of Carl Pavano, it does emphasize just how LONG ago that was. As we head into the 2020s, distance grows from a bygone era of Twins baseball filled with so many great players, moments, and memories.
Johan's Hall of Fame induction in August of 2018 was a big highlight of this decade for me, because it channeled so much of the franchise's past into Target Field – if for one fleeting ceremony. Santana will forever be one of the great success stories in Twins history, and to see him celebrated alongside many of those cherished fellow fixtures from the late Metrodome run – Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Eddie Guardado – was cool. Especially on a day where Jose Berrios, who is striving to inherit Santana's mantle (an ace that can ACTUALLY beat the Yankees in October), was Minnesota's starting pitcher.
3: Glen Perkins closes out the 2014 All-Star Game (7/15/14)
When he retired after the 2017 season, I wrote that if a Twins Daily Hall of Fame were ever established, Perkins would be the first inductee. He was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence. He once bought a round of beers from the bullpen for TD Pub Crawl attendees. He's an amazing homegrown success story. Oh, and in his post-playing days he's now being described as "Minnesota's Ron Swanson."
Sadly, Perk's career peak aligned directly with the grimmest part of the decade for the club. He was an elite closer on a terrible team, and his shoulder gave out just as the Twins began to finally emerge from the struggle. Perkins flat-out deserved to have things play out exactly as they did when the All-Star Game came to Minneapolis in 2014 and shined a national spotlight on Target Field.
Trailing early, the American League came back to take a two-run lead, setting up a save opportunity for Minnesota's shutdown closer. Perkins trotted out to his mound, with Twins batterymate and fellow All-Star Kurt Suzuki on the other end, and retired the side in order to seal a win for the AL. You could have hardly scripted a better sequence for his All-Star appearance in front of the home crowd.
2: Jim Thome blasts first Target Field walk-off HR against White Sox (8/17/10)
Choosing just one Thome moment (Thoment?) for inclusion on this list was a challenge. In his brief but spectacular Target Field tenure to start the decade, the Hall of Famer gave us plenty of lasting memories, which would largely come to define the ballpark's early legacy.
There was the mammoth flagpole dinger against the Royals in September of 2010. There was his epic moonshot to right-center the next summer, estimated at the time as the longest in the stadium's short history at 490 feet. There were his two jacks against Tampa Bay in July of 2010 to tie and then surpass Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list.
But for me, nothing can beat the clutch tater that Thome thumped against the White Sox in August of 2010. With the Twins down by a run in the bottom of the 10th, the slugger launched a majestic two-run bomb into the plaza, notching the first walk-off home run in Target Field history. That legendary blast sealed a key division win for a team just three games up in the standings, and led to one of the best photos in Twins history.
It's a tough moment for any other to top. More than eight years would pass before it finally happened.
1: Joe Mauer dons catcher's gear for one last time (9/30/18)
A lot of things needed to go right, and an array of carefully crafted plans had to reach fruition, for Mauer's farewell to play out as it did. Dan Hayes meticulously detailed the story for The Athletic, and it's one of my favorite things he's written.
When everything fell into place on the final day of the 2018 season, pure magic was the result. Mauer hadn't explicitly confirmed he was playing his last game as a big-leaguer, but that sense was palpable throughout the afternoon, and became crystal-clear in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With the Twins leading 5-4, Mauer stepped onto the diamond in catcher's gear for the first time in more than five years. He tearfully saluted fans during a lengthy ovation, received one pitch from Matt Belisle, and then walked off Target Field into the proverbial sunset, leaving behind an extraordinary 15-year career.
Mauer's best days came in the Metrodome, no doubt. When Target Field was built, he was widely viewed as the best player in the AL, if not in all of baseball, a distinction he wouldn't hold onto for long. In the eyes of many, the portion of his career spent in Target Field will always be associated more with bilateral leg weakness and concussions and production that failed to live up to his mega-contract, signed a month before the park opened.
But don't overlook the many moments he left his mark on Target Field. There was the walk-off homer against Boston in May of 2017. The ridiculous catch behind the foul net in 2010. The tallying of his 2,000th career hit in 2018 – a seeing-eye single up the middle, naturally.
It's only right that from 2020 forward, no Twins player will ever wear No. 7 again. Joe was one-of-a-kind, up until his last day and heartfelt final moments in the uniform.
I'd love to hear you all sound off. Did I miss any of your favorite moments? Would you change the order? Let's think back to our most cherished summer days as we experience the full brunt of Minnesota's winter.
- Dec 29 2019 07:47 PM
- by Nick Nelson
The American League award for pitchers has been dominated by Dallas Keuchel since 2014 with him winning four of the last five years. Marcus Stroman took home the award back in 2017 to break-up the Keuchel three-year run. Both of those pitchers are in the National League now and this means there will be a first-time winner in the AL.
Berrios will be facing off against Chicago’s Lucas Giolito and Seattle’s Mike Leake. Both of these players rank better than him according to SABR’s Defensive Index. According to SABR, the SDI will be used to help select the winners for the seventh consecutive year and it accounts for approximately 25 percent of the selection process. In the last SDI update, Leake led all AL pitchers with a 2.2 SDI, while Giolito (1.0 SDI) came in tied for third. Out of qualifying pitchers, Berrios ranked second to last with a -1.5 SDI.
Ranking defenders can be a tough endeavor even in the Statcast era and ranking pitchers can be an even more challenging. In the AL, the league fielding percentage for pitchers was .945 and Berrios was well above that mark with a .969 fielding percentage. Giolito wasn’t charged with an error all season and finished with a perfect fielding percentage. Leake ended the year in the NL, but he accumulated a .966 fielding percentage in his AL appearances.
Another important defensive skill for pitchers is the ability to hold runners, but some of this stat is on the catcher too. In the AL, the league caught stealing percentage was 27% for the season. Giolito allowed three stolen bases and had three runners caught for a 50% caught stealing %. Leake had a slightly higher caught stealing percentage (56%) as he allowed five steals and four stolen bases. Berrios had the worst mark by far (8 CS%) as he allowed 12 steals and only had one caught steal.
Defensive runs saved is another common defensive metric. Again, Berrios ranks at the bottom when compared to the other two finalists. Leake was worth three defensive runs saved during his time in the AL and Giolito was also able to collect three defensive runs saved. Berrios was worth zero defensive runs saved, his lowest total since he had a negative defensive runs saved in 2017.
It seems like there are multiple metrics that put Giolito and Leake ahead of Berrios. Historically, that might not always matter when it comes to voting for the Gold Glove Awards. Brian Dozier was a surprise winner for the Twins back in 2017 when he beat out Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia.
Could Berrios surprise and win in 2019? It might not be likely, but there’s always a chance.
- Oct 30 2019 05:50 AM
- by Cody Christie
As is to be expected from any National League club, the Nationals are relative strangers to Target Field. This will be their first visit without Bryce Harper, and thankfully for the Twins, Max Scherzer is not scheduled to pitch in this set either. Washington is wrapping up a brief two-city road trip and is just 1-3 after leaving Atlanta with a series loss.
What They Do Well:
You have to start this section with their resolve and resilience. Expected to be a postseason team when 2019 began, the Washington Nationals raced out to an awful 20-31 start. By the beginning of June it looked like Davey Martinez’s squad was left for dead owning a 24-33 record and trailing in the NL East by nine full games.Since that point they have gone 55-30 being one of the hottest teams in the sport, and are now firmly entrenched in the first wild card spot.
It’s not a surprise that a team with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin in its rotation would pitch well. At fifth in overall fWAR as a staff, it’s the rotation that does the heavy lifting on this club. Washington’s starters own the best fWAR in baseball and have generated a full win more than the second-place Dodgers.
Just because they can pitch doesn’t mean they don’t hit as well. Bryce Harper’s departure wasn’t ever going to be inconsequential but the lineup has had plenty of players step up. The lineup has produced a top third fWAR and they’ve scored the seventh most runs in all of baseball.
What They Do Not Do Well:
Technically we could put fielding in this category as the Nationals own the 19th-rated team in terms of defensive WAR. That’s essentially middle of the pack though, and it’s only two spots shy of the Minnesota Twins.
Relief pitching has been atrocious. Washington owns the 25th overall fWAR from a relief perspective, and the poor performances have come from all over the place. Sean Doolittle looked like a lock-down lefty until just shy of the trade deadline, and now he’s got a 4.09 ERA. Tanner Rainey is the only arm with an ERA south of 4.00 to pitch more than 25 innings for the Nationals, and they’ve turned to Oakland Athletics castoff Fernando Rodney as a steadying presence. The bullpen is a hodgepodge of no-names and has-beens, while the group as a whole has hardly lived up to expectations (or performed right on par with them depending on how you look at it.)
Individuals of Note:
You know all about Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin. You probably know that Juan Soto is one of the best young players in the game right now. The outfielder has a .968 OPS through 131 games and he’s making it look incredibly easy. Former divisional foe Yan Gomes is on this club, and previous fan favorite Brian Dozier comes back to town for the first time as well.
The most important individual, and one that flies under the radar most often, is none other than Anthony Rendon. Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger have gotten all of the NL MVP hype in 2019, but you best believe the Nationals third baseman is deserving of consideration as well.
Rendon is just 29, has a 1.047 OPS and has blasted 32 dingers this season. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he does it all while playing a strong third base. If it’s Gerrit Cole being handed a blank check on the bump this free agency cycle, teams should be lining up to pay Rendon whatever he wants to join their lineup.
Minnesota last played Washington in 2016 going 0-3 against them. The last time the Nationals were in Minnesota the Twins still played at the Metrodome. In 2008 the Twins swept the Nats over a three-game series in June.
Minnesota has gone 6-4 over their last ten games but are coming off a dropped series to begin this six game home swing. The Nats are 5-5 in their last 10 and went 1-4 against the Braves to start this trip.
Tuesday: Berrios vs Sanchez
Wednesday: Perez vs Strasburg
Thursday: Gibson vs Corbin
For whatever reason I was convinced that the Twins were scheduled to play the Nationals in 2020. That isn’t the case though, and Stephen Strasburg will be making his Target Field debut this week.
Juan Soto was all of 9-years-old when Washington last came to Minnesota.
This is going to be a clash of two good, likely playoff-bound, clubs. The Twins need to get healthy, and showing a lineup that resembles that during this series is a must. With the starter tipped in their favor just once, the Twins are in an uphill battle, but this team has risen to the occasion often in 2019. I’ll say the Fightin’ Rocco’s take two and keep the train moving.
- Sep 09 2019 08:12 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
The Twins had a lot of questions when it came to replacing Brian Dozier this off-season. Jonathan Schoop seemed to be a nice, short-term solution at second base. Ehire Adrianza has always seemed to fit the role of utility infielder and few could have predicted the impact Luis Arraez would have at the big-league level.
Over the last two seasons, Adrianza has hit .254/.319/.384 with 40 extra-base hits in 176 games. He has also shown defensive flexibility by playing all over the infield including over 660 innings at shortstop during that stretch. Schoop is limited to playing second base as he has logged less than 230 innings at other positions throughout his seven years at the MLB level.
The rise of Arraez has also cut into Schoop's time on the field. As a 22-year old, Arraez has put together some unbelievably professional at-bats in his 182 plate appearances. Entering play on Tuesday, he is hitting .356/.429/.444 and he might have a strong argument to be named the AL Rookie of the Year. First year manager Rocco Baldelli certainly has faith in Arraez and if the playoffs started today Arraez would be penciled in at second base.
Schoop has compiled some strong numbers in a Twins uniform and Baseball Reference has he accounting for 1.2 WAR. May was a good month for him as he posted an .835 OPS with six home runs and five doubles. He hasn’t had more than four home runs in any other month and his OPS dipped to .622 in June and .787 in July.
Since the calendar turned to August, he’s gone 1-for-5 with no extra-base hits. He’s also only started one game in that stretch, Saturday’s contest with the Royals. Currently, the Twins have gotten by with having him relegated to a bench role. What happens if the club needs another relief pitcher? This could force the front office to make a choice between Schoop and one of the other infielders. At this point, Schoop might be the odd man out.
While Schoop has been worth more than replacement level when it comes to WAR, his win probability added total is one of the worst totals of his career. He entered play on Tuesday with a -1.28 WPA. His only year with a lower total was 2014 with the Orioles when he accounted for a -3.00 WPA. Schoop has the lowest WPA among qualified batters on the Twins roster and he’s over a full win lower than the next closest qualified batter.
Schoop could have some big hits for the Twins in the weeks ahead but he shouldn’t be taking at-bats away from Arraez. At season’s end, Schoop will be a free agent and Arraez will enter the year as the team’s starting second baseman.
It helps to have Schoop to add depth to the roster, but it’s getting closer to the point where he might be holding the team back from adding other players (especially pitchers). Do you think it’s time to cut Schoop loose? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Aug 06 2019 06:51 PM
- by Cody Christie
Polanco is setting a record pace to start the season. Since the team moved to Minnesota, Rod Carew is the only middle infielder to post an OPS+ of 144 or more. Polanco entered play on Monday with a 165 OPS+. Polanco is on a record pace, so let’s see how the other top seasons stack up.
Brian Dozier (2016): 134 OPS+
Dozier’s 2016 campaign finished just outside the top-5 on this list but it seems fitting to include him as an honorable mention. He clubbed 42 home runs that season. He’s the only player not named Harmon Killebrew to pop more than 40 long-balls in one season. Unlike the other players on this list, Dozier didn’t hit for a high average. His 134 OPS+ was the highest total of his career. He finished 13th in the AL MVP voting, but five players in front of him had a lower WAR.
5. Chuck Knoblauch (1995): 136 OPS+
The Twins teams of the mid- and late-90’s were tough to watch but these are some of my first concrete baseball memories. During the strike-shortened 1995 season, Minnesota only won 56 games. Knoblauch finished with the second highest batting average of his career. His .911 OPS was aided by 34 doubles and eight triples. He had led the league with 45 doubles in 1994 but some of those balls went out of the park in 1995. He cracked double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. He finished 17th in the MVP voting but his 6.7 WAR ranked him fourth among position players.
4. Chuck Knoblauch (1996): 143 OPS+
Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was clearly the best season of his career. He finished third in WAR trailing only Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He hit .341, a career high. In fact, he would never hit above .300 for the rest of his career. He led the AL with 14 triples, but he also had 13 home runs and 35 doubles. Minnesota was closer to .500 as the club finished 78-84. Clearly, the MVP voters paid little attention to the happenings in Minnesota. Knoblauch finished 16th in the MVP race. His 8.7 WAR was more than double that year’s MVP, Juan Gonzalez.
3. Rod Carew (1973): 144 OPS+
There were lots of firsts for Carew during the 1973 season. His first time leading the league in hits. His first time leading the league in triples. He would also finish in the top-5 for the AL MVP for the first time. All 24 first place votes went to Oakland’s Reggie Jackson, but a theme starts to emerge with Carew’s seasons. His WAR total was higher than the players between him and Jackson. Carew’s batting average was over 50 points higher than Jackson. Carew stole 41 bases during the season and the Twins finished 82-80.
2. Rod Carew (1974): 150 OPS+
For the first time in his career, Carew led all of baseball in hits. He would do this one other time during his MVP season. His .364 batting average was the second highest of his career and his .433 OBP was only 16 points behind the 1977 campaign. His 7.5 WAR was the third highest total of his career. He finished seventh in the MVP voting. However, only Fergie Jenkins had a higher WAR total out of the players ahead of him in the voting.
1. Rod Carew (1975): 157 OPS+
Carew’s best season for OPS+ wasn’t even the year he was named AL MVP (1977). For that season, he started all but five games at first base, so that season doesn’t qualify for this list. He posted a 178 OPS+ that year, a career high, and led the league in runs, hits, triples, batting average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+.
The 1975 campaign was his last season playing in the middle infield. He won his fourth consecutive batting title and his fifth batting title overall. That season marked on the second time he had led the league on OBP, which was assisted by a league high 18 intentional walks. He was hitting above .400 into the middle of June and flirted with getting back there in late July. He finished ninth in the MVP voting but his 7.9 WAR that season was higher than all but one player ahead of him in the voting.
Will Polanco be able to break the record? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- May 13 2019 06:52 PM
- by Cody Christie
As you would expect in a season that was disappointing and July gave us four trades, those would be some pretty important and discussed articles on the site, so let’s jump into it.
10. Report Ryan Pressly traded to Houston - July 27
Ryan Pressly was arguably the Twins player who received the most interest from other teams. He had a terrific career with the Twins when you recall that he came to the Twins as a Rule 5 draft pick. The last year or so he put up some very good numbers. As important in today’s game, front offices were able to look at his peripheral numbers and other things, like spin rate, to determine that he could be even better. Houston acquired Pressly for two high-ceiling prospects.
9. Minnesota Twins 2018 trade deadline report card - August 1
A day after the trade, Tom Froemming took a look at the 12 players that the Twins acquired in the various late-July trades, specifically the ten minor league prospects. He also gave grades to each trade and provided reasons why. For me, it’s fun to look back to see what our thoughts were on the players acquired before we got to see them play in the minor leagues for a month (or some in the big leagues for a second month).
8. Offseason Blueprint Hey Big Spenders - November 4
Following the release of the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook, we decided to write up a few blueprints with varying schedules. Tom wrote about a trade-based offseason. I wrote about a build-from-within focused offseason. Nick was tasked with writing about what an offseason of Big Spending might look like. Probably no surprise to anyone which one our readers enjoyed the most.
7. Top 20 Minnesota Twins assets Part 4 (1-5) - January 2
Nick’s annual rankings of the Twins most valuable assets has been a big hit. He just posted his 2019 choices for Top 5 Twins assets. Last year’s version was a success as well, ranking this high. Three of the five in the Top 5 are the same. It’s fun to look back at this series to be reminded of how much can change in one year, one season.
6. Deadline Deal Twins Trade Brian Dozier to Dodgers - July 31
We all knew it was happening. He knew it was happening. Right at the trade deadline, the Twins finally worked out a deal with the Dodgers, sending Brian Dozier in exchange for Logan Forsythe, Luke Raley and Devin Smeltzer. Dozier provided the Twins with a ton of power production over his six seasons with the Twins. He was an All-Star and clearly a leader.
5. Twins Acquire Jake Odorizzi for Jermaine Palacios - February 17
A day after signing Anibal Sanchez, the Twins made a trade with the Rays. They acquired RHP Jake Odorizzi in exchange for talented shortstop Jermaine Palacios. Palacios was coming off of a strong rebound season, split between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. Odorizzi had been a quality, mid-rotation starting pitcher in the AL East for several seasons. While Twins fans acknowledged that Palacios does have a chance to be a big league shortstop, most were happy with receiving two years of a solid, mid-rotation starting pitcher in return.
4. Report Twins to Trade Eduardo Escobar to Arizona - July 27
The first trade chip to be dealt was Eduardo Escobar. Escobar rarely was handed a full-time job over his time with the Twins. But every season, it didn’t take long for a spot to open up and with the playing time, he proved worthy of being in the lineup every day. He was the team’s best hitter (or right there with Eddie Rosario) during most of the first half. The Twins acquired three prospects in return, hard-throwing Jhoan Duran and outfielders Gabriel Maciel and Ernie de la Trinidad.
3. The Rise and Fall of Miguel Sano - June 26
Miguel Sano played in the 2017 All-Star Game a night after finishing runner-up to Aaron Judge in the home run derby. Since then, it’s been one issue or another and few were good. He had a major injury late in the 2017 season and had a titanium rod put in his leg. He wasn’t able to work out a lot in the offseason. He has had a couple of off-the-field issues as well. Early in the 2018 season, the issue was a very poor approach at the plate. Things got bad enough that the Twins felt their best option was to send Sano all the way down to Ft. Myers for a reboot. Nick Nelson did a great job of providing a great insight into the situation.
2. :Nelson Cruz agrees to deal with Twins - December 27
Most experts predicted that the Twins would land Nelson Cruz this offseason. Around the Winter Meetings, there were rumors that it was between the Twins and the Rays. Before Christmas, it became known that the Astros were also interested in the 38-year-old DH. But just last week, the reports came out that the Twins and Nelson Cruz had agreed to terms on a one-year deal with a club option for 2020. The move became official this year.
- Minnesota Twins 2018 MLB Draft signing tracker - June 8-July 15
So now you have seen the Top 30 most-viewed articles on Twins Daily in 2018. What do you think? What were your highlights and favorite Twins stories of 2018?
- Jan 04 2019 05:29 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Wow, Judy bringing it! That’s both scorching and direct, exactly the kind of stuff that makes these fan forums unique. The team deserves some credit for allowing that question to come through. They could have very easily rejected her request, I’m sure there were many more fans waiting in the queue who didn’t have the opportunity to ask their questions.
Thad Levine apologized for what transpired last season and admitted the season didn’t go the way they had hoped it would. He added this:
“Our goal and our commitment to the fans is we want to put together a team that has the ability to complete year-in and year-out and have a long window for success. So we’re clearly in the building process – we’re not rebuilding, we’re building – and I think we’re building off of the successes of each of the last two seasons with the hope that we’ll take a meaningful step here in 2019.”
I’m not sure how Judy from Big Lake received that, but I’m guessing any Twins fans thirsty for success weren’t exactly swept off their feet by that answer.
Derek Falvey and new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli were also on the call. One of my favorite exchanges from Baldelli included this quote: “I tend to be curious and like to surround myself with curious people who like to stay open minded.” He also stressed creating a fun atmosphere and making sure the players enjoy showing up to work every day.
Here are some other interesting items of note to come out of the forum:
-Baldelli is going to try to get down to Georgia over the winter to visit with Byron Buxton.
-Miguel Sano will continue to get every chance to play third base.
-While Levine rained praise upon Willians Astudillo for both his performance and clubhouse presence, he also said “he’s going to need to earn it again,” implying he’s not being penciled into the Opening Day roster.
-Falvey anticipates some changes revolving pace of play going into next year. He didn’t make any predictions as to what they may be, but he made it sound like nothing was off the table for the upcoming Winter Meetings.
In his column for the Pioneer Press over the weekend, Charley Walters had some quotes from Jim Pohlad that should temper expectations for this offseason. Here’s what Pohlad said regarding Joe Mauer’s contract coming off the books: “It’s not like ‘OK, we’ve got this money now, and we didn’t have it before, so we can do so much more. I don’t feel that way.”
The stove has been extremely cold so far this offseason, but since there have been so few moves, the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook remains very fresh. Just a reminder that the handbook is available as a PDF at whatever price you’re willing to pay.
I’m also very happy to report that the Twins Prospect Handbook is progressing along quite nicely. There were a ton of additions to the minor league system at the trade deadline, so you’re definitely going to want to pick up a copy of this year’s edition to study up on all the new names.
Speaking of prospects, Mike Berardino recorded a podcast for Baseball America in which he and Kyle Glaser reviewed his top 10 prospect list. Of course there was a lot of talk about the individual prospects on the list, but they also opened things up for a big-picture discussion on where the Twins are headed and made some good observations.
Paul Sporer of FanGraphs took a look at what went wrong for Brian Dozier in 2018. I doubt a reunion with the Twins is in the cards, but Dozier does seem to be a really good buy-low option among this year’s crop of free agents.
The first huge move of the offseason went down last night (no offense, Eduardo Escobar), as Jeff Passan of Yahoo reported the Yankees had a deal in place to acquire lefty starter James Paxton from the Mariners. Seattle won 89 games last season and Paxton still has two seasons of team control, though he’s projected to make $9 million through arbitration this upcoming year and obviously more than that in 2020. Still, I don’t think it’s a good thing in the grand scheme of things that a competitive team from the prior year is already apparently throwing in the towel for 2019.
The Yankees gave up MLB Pipeline’s No. 31 overall prospect in baseball Justus Sheffield and two more players in Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams who both slot in as top-15 prospects in the Mariners’ system. Given Sheffield’s prospect status and the fact that he already reached the Major Leagues it’s difficult to come up with a similar package the Twins could have offered had they been interested in Paxton.
MLB Trade Rumors held a reader poll on where the top 10 free agents would sign. More than 6,800 people voted and the only player the Twins had more than two percent on was J.A. Happ. Minnesota was the destination selected for him 3.1 percent of the time, which trailed the Yankees (30.9), Blue Jays (9.2), Angels (8.2), Brewers (6.5), Phillies (4.7), Astros (4.4) and Nationals (3.7).
Along with all the free agents already available on the open market, several more players will be added to the pool of available talent shorty. Brandon Warne highlighted some intriguing names who could be non-tendered over at Zone Coverage. I thought he made a particularly compelling argument for current Marlin Derek Dietrich, pointing out that he’s actually been a better hitter than Marwin Gonzalez over his career and brings comparable positional flexibility.
Former Twins prospect Chih-Wei Hu has joined a division rival. He was traded from the Rays to Cleveland on Monday. Originally sent to Tampa Bay in the Kevin Jepsen trade, Hu has pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings with the Rays over the past two seasons.
Ballpark Digest honored the Twins with their Best Renovation award for Target Field’s switch from the Metropolitan Club to Bat & Barrel. I know that change rubbed some season-ticket holders the wrong way, understandably, but the difference in utility between the Met Club and Bat & Barrel is night and day.
The Met Club was mostly a giant waste of space and the few times I visited there was very little atmosphere. It was just way too stuffy. The few times I visited Bat & Barrel this past season it was a completely different vibe, it was always buzzing in there. I also love the Adam Turman murals and all the awards on display. Here’s hoping the Twins can be a repeat winner for their renovations taking place at Gate 34.
- Nov 20 2018 02:43 PM
- by Tom Froemming
You can create your own blueprint using Twins Daily's Offseason Handbook, which you can download immediately and name your own price.
Philosophy - This is the easiest position to fill. The Twins have a desperate need, but also have several middle infield prospects approaching the majors. The free agent market is deep, especially with second basemen. It makes sense to sign someone to a short contract, filling the need for the present and giving the future the time it needs to develop.
Targets - I’d look to the more competitive shortstop market initially, moving Jorge Polanco to second base. Put shortstop Freddy Galvis at the top of the list, who is 29 years old, cost $15M over two years (per the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook) and brings a solid glove to help out the left side of the infield along with a little (13 HR in 2018) pop. I’d also stay involved in the bidding for shortstops Jose Iglesias and Jordy Mercer.
If that doesn’t work, there are a ton of second basemen to consider even if the team is determined not to guarantee more than two years at a cost of $7M or so per year. Candidates include Ascrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and even old friend Brian Dozier. (Hey, he and that left field porch were a good match.) This is the one area it’s almost impossible to screw up. The market will come to the Twins.
Philosophy - In an ideal world, this is the area that the Twins will spend a lot of money. They need a middle-of-the-order hitter, and with spots open at first base and designated hitter, they should be thinking bat first and figure out where to play them later. Plus, this free agency has some bats, even beyond Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, that fit that bill. (Nelson Cruz seems like an ideal fit.)
But this is supposed to be a frugal list, so I’m going to focus on strategy that leads to a couple of budget options. And those options start in-house, because after a few big names, this free agency class falls off a cliff.
Targets - I expect the Twins will keep Tyler Austin in their plans for next year. Acquired from the Yankees, he is 27 years old and has posted a 937 OPS against southpaws over his career. Adding a left-handed bat to pair with him makes sense, even if it costs a bench spot.
At the top of my wish list is 30-year-old Matt Adams, who slugged 21 home runs in only 306 AB - and twenty of those came against right-handed pitching. ‘Nuff said. He costs about $8M. A backup plan is Lucas Duda (~$4M), who is 32 years old and posted a 813 OPS against right-handers last year.
I’ll tell you who I would’ve liked the second name to be: Joe Mauer. I wish him the best in his next career, but it’s a bummer that he is moving on when he was such a good fit for the Twins. He is cheap ($7M), gets on-base, good defensively, a veteran role model and hungry for the postseason. He would've been a nice fit.
Instead, I suspect the Twins could just hang onto Robbie Grossman who can be sort of a Joe Mauer Lite: he gets on base (.355 OBP over his career, .367 last year), is just 29 years old, can play outfield in a pinch, and most importantly for this list, is still relatively cheap (~$4M).
Those names likely will not generate any High Fives at your favorite watering hole, but such is the life of the bargain shopper. Tomorrow we'll look at two other markets that look promising as well: starting pitcher and relievers.
- Nov 15 2018 11:02 AM
- by John Bonnes
The 2018 Twins team will go down in infamy as the club that suffered 15 walk-off losses. That mark tied a team record, and fell just one shy of the MLB record. But it wasn’t all bad.
The Twins had six walk-off victories of their own, and each one tied in nicely with a major story line from the 2018 season.
Max Kepler, April 11 vs. Houston
Ah April, when hope was still alive all across Twins Territory. Minnesota actually held a two-run lead heading into the ninth inning in this one, but closer Fernando Rodney blew the save, allowing Houston to tie it up.
Houston managed to retire the first two Twins batters of the bottom of the ninth but Max Kepler, who had already gone deep early in the game, hit a rocket over the right field wall to end it. This victory gave the Twins a series win over the defending champion Astros. Again, hope was still alive and well.
As for Max, this was one of many bright moments he had early in the season. Through April, Kepler was hitting .299/.358/.563 (.921), but he failed to keep that pace going, mirroring the team as a whole in some ways.
Ryan LaMarre, April 18 vs, Cleveland (in Puerto Rico)
To me, this was the high point of the entire season. Jose Berrios pitched seven shutout innings on his home island, but this game was scoreless through the first 13 innings. Cleveland finally scored in the top of the 14th, but a Miguel Sano home run tied it back up in the bottom of the inning.
Things stayed knotted up until the bottom of the 16th, when the Sire of Fort Myers became the Hero of Puerto Rico. Ryan LaMarre was one of the feel-good stories of spring training. The 29-year-old minor league free agent broke camp with the Twins, but saw little playing time and was eventually sent to Rochester for a few games, then recalled to be the 26th man for this series.
LaMarre came off the bench in the 10th inning of this game and ended up going 3-for-4 with the walk-off single to top Cleveland and put the Twins back on top of the AL Central standings.
The Twins relinquished the lead over the weekend that followed and never recovered.
Eddie Rosario, June 3 vs. Cleveland
What an incredible performance this was from Eddie Rosario, who was recently named Twins Daily’s Most Valuable Player for 2018. Rosie socked three home runs, the third of which finished things in walk-off fashion. His WPA on the game was a sky-high .547. To put that into perspective, WPA is designed so that the entire winning team’s roster will combined for .500 WPA.
Rosario’s big day gave the Twins their third straight win over Cleveland, pulling them up from 6.5 games back to just 3.5. Eddie had a .317/.352/.573 (.926) batting line at the conclusion of this game, but (similar to Kepler) he eventually faded.
Brian Dozier, July 15 vs. Tampa Bay
Remember how the Twins climbed back in the race after Rosario’s three-homer day? Well, they followed that up with a stretch in which they went 9-18, dropping them all the way back to 12 games behind Cleveland.
The Twins bounced back with a stretch of great play in which they won nine of their final 11 games heading into the break. This was the final game of that hot streak, and it was capped off with a walk-off grand slam from Dozier.
It was a wild game to finish the first half. Dozier scored the go-ahead run on a balk he induced in the seventh inning, the Rays appeared to respond by intentionally throwing at Eduardo Escobar (and missing) and the benches cleared.
The Twins were winning, showed they had plenty of fight left in them and pulled back form a dozen down to 7.5 back in the division. Poor time for the All-Star break to come.
This ended up being Brian Dozier’s final home run with the Twins.
Mitch Garver, July 30 vs. Cleveland
The Twins failed to make up anymore ground once the second half got rolling, which set the front office into sell mode. Eduardo Escobar was already dealt and the Zach Duke and Lance Lynn trades were announced shortly before the start of this game. It appeared as though the Twins were conceding the division to Cleveland at that point. Somebody forgot to tell Mitch Garver.
Garver crushed a walk-off double to beat Cleveland, but despite the big win the Twins still trailed by eight games. More trades were to come ...
Willians Astudillo, Sept. 9 vs. Kansas City
Plenty of Twins fans tuned out after the trade deadline, which is a shame because there were a few guys who took advantage of the opportunities created by all the roster shake ups. Willians Astudillo was a treasure. A unicorn in today’s baseball landscape, La Tortuga quickly became a fan favorite, and quickly proved he was much more than just a sideshow act.
A veteran of eight minor league seasons coming into 2018, Astudillo had never hit more than four home runs in a single season. He found his power stroke in the Twins org, slugging 12 home runs in Rochester before adding three more with the Twins. This walk-off shot was his final round tripper of the season, but Willians would provide plenty more memorable moments through the rest of September.
This walk-off win served as another turning point in the Twins’ season. They had won just three of their prior 14 games prior to this game, but went 14-7 to close out the year.
That does it for the walk-off highlights, which was your favorite?
- Oct 06 2018 04:51 PM
- by Tom Froemming
Michael Davis grew up in west Texas, in the city of Lubbock. That is football country, to be sure, but there is a lot of great baseball. In fact, Davis noted that the Little League team the year before him went to the Little League World Series. His team finished one game shy of playing in Williamsport.
Davis played some football into his high school years, but it was baseball that he loved. It was baseball that he loved to play, all the time.
“I didn’t watch a lot of baseball growing up. I didn’t watch too much TV. I lived in a neighborhood where I had 13 buddies that we would play wiffle ball or some other sport. We went to a few Rangers games, it was fun. I wasn’t really glued to the TV. I cheered for them when they made their World Series run, but same with the Astros. I like the teams from Texas. That’s just kind of the way it’s always been for me.”
Out of high school, Davis had some thoughts of going to a junior college. He had several offers and often thought it might be fun to leave home for a bit, but in the end, he stayed right in Lubbock and played four years for Texas Tech.
As a freshman, he was a part-time player, splitting time around the infield. As a sophomore, he earned playing time nearly every game. He responded with a 20-double season.
As a junior, he started seeing and talking to more scouts. He noted, “All the teams kind of talk to you and want to get to know you, and the teams were interested. They said I had a good arm, and I could play infield.”
Teams told him that there was a chance that he could be drafted. Unfortunately, a late-season injury cut his season short and he ended up going undrafted.
He returned for his senior season and really put together a terrific season. He hit .281/371/.524 (.895) with 18 doubles and 12 home runs. The 12 home runs was one more than he had hit over his previous three seasons.
But even more than his individual success, Texas Tech returned to Omaha to play in the College World Series. It was a great way to end his college career.
“I enjoyed it so much more the second time. Instead of taking phone pictures of everything, I was just able to take it all in.”
Scouts were a bit different during his senior season. “The first question is ‘Do you want to keep playing baseball?’ Yeah. I do. And then just hoping the right team finds you.”
The Twins liked him and took him in the 24th round of this past June’s draft.
The Twins area scout is Trevor Brown. Davis said, “Trevor had called me a few days before, and talked to me a little bit about it. He said ‘We’ll see what happens.’ A couple other teams had done that also.We were actually at practice and just finished when that round came up. Trevor called me probably 30 seconds after (the pick) and talked to me for five or six minutes. I went in and celebrated with my teammates. Then I think we had three or four more guys got off the board in the next four rounds.”
At that point, it was a bit of a whirlwind for awhile. Following the College World Series, Davis signed. He went to Ft. Myers briefly before joining the Elizabethton Twins. He played just three games for the E-Twins before being promoted to Cedar Rapids where he was able to spend the final seven weeks and the playoffs with the Kernels.
Davis’s biggest worry at that time might surprise you. “Trying to find some wood bats. That’s what I was focused on, making sure I had a couple to hit with after I got moved.”
But Davis, already 22 years old, was ready for the challenge. “It was quick, but I was ready for it. When I got to Elizabethton, I felt like I was playing with college kids. When I got moved up, I thought the same thing. They would have me here if they didn’t believe in me. Got there and just went after it.”
Shortly after his arrival, the Kernels went on a bit of tear and carried it into the playoffs where they won a series before losing in the Midwest League Western Division championship series. After doing a lot of winning at Texas Tech, being part of a winning team in his professional debut was something Davis really enjoyed.
“Awesome. We got on a huge hot streak. It was hard for us to lose. We won 16 or 17 out of 20. That’s more fun, I think. You don’t even worry about making the postseason or playoffs. You just go and play. To do it with those guys, that’s a lot of fun.”
While he struggled with some swing-and-miss early in his time with the Kernels, he really turned it on late and provided a lot of power near the bottom of the lineup. In his 42 games in Cedar Rapids, he hit .294/.327/.559 (.886) with nine doubles, a triple and nine home runs.
The increased power that he showcased in his senior season at Texas Tech carried over into his pro debut. He credited his maturity and adjustments in college, but also showed appreciation for his Kernels coaching staff.
“I think it has a lot to do with both. My knowledge of hitting is much higher. With the Twins, Dink (Brian Dinkelman) and Toby (Gardenhire) were able to help in a short period of time. They worked with me to find something that was comfortable and worked well for me. You get on a role that’s really nice to have. I think my consistency was getting better. I wasn’t necessarily getting a hit every time, but I was making more hard contact instead of striking out.”
After playing around the infield in college, primarily at second base, Davis stepped right into the Kernels lineup at shortstop and played there the rest of the season. He thinks that his defense might be his biggest strength right now, but he also thinks his time at Texas Tech has really prepared him for this next challenge, professional baseball.
“Probably playing defense right now. Just having a knowledge of the game. When you get to play four years at a college, you learn so many things and do so many things. Bringing that, and my ability to play defense at a pretty high level. You always want to say Hitting, but hitting comes and goes as a strength. I think it’s something I’ll continue to grown on and hopefully I’ll continue to get better.”
While he played short, he’s fully aware that Royce Lewis is in the system. He sees that as a good thing. “It’s not always the easiest thing to have a guy like Royce Lewis in front of you, but I see it as a blessing because I know they believe I’ll get a chance as I’m doing the right thing for the organization.”
But it will also be important for him to play around the field and provide himself, and the organization, with options to keep him moving on up.
“I’ve played third a little bit throughout college here and there, but I’m comfortable anywhere you want to put me. I may not be the best out in centerfield, but Akil (Baddoo) does pretty well out there. If you need me to go stand out there because something happened, I can do it. I’m not nervous about playing anywhere. But I am really comfortable playing in the middle of the field and that’s where I want to stay.”
It is middle infielders that Davis enjoys watching and tries to emulate as well.
“I really enjoy watching Brandon Crawford play defense. I think the way he does it is really hard for anybody to emulate, and he does it at such a high level. I see myself similar to Jed Lowrie of a Ben Zobrist. I can play around the field. I’m not going to Wow you with any numbers, but I can play the game the right way and play hard.”
Davis is looking forward to his first offseason from baseball. It’s not something that college players are really used to. He’s got a lot of questions on how to handle his time off, but he’s got the right idea.
“I think just everything that they had me build on once I got to Cedar Rapids. The working out aspect. Making sure I’m doing it the right way, the way they want me to do it. And also just taking care of myself and knowing my limits. It’s a little different than college baseball where you play in the fall and the spring, and then you can play summer ball. You can kind of play all year round. I’ve kind of had breaks like this before, but not for four to five months. So, trying to get ideas on what guys do in the offseason and asking questions and making sure I’m staying on top of things.”
And in his spare time, his time away from the game of baseball, Davis enjoys doing something that a lot of Minnesotans can relate to.
“I’m an avid hunter. I really love to hunt and be out at my buddy’s ranch. Work on guns. Anything hunting wise, you can pretty much count me in on it.”
2018 was a pretty special year for Michael Davis. He returned to college and played in his second World Series. He was drafted in the MLB Draft. He played really well in his pro debut and helped a winning team. It was certainly a nice block upon which to build.
- Sep 26 2018 09:53 PM
- by Seth Stohs
With a 5-for-5 night on Thursday night at Target Field, Logan Forsythe is now 22-for-49, hitting .449/.500/.531 (1.031) with four doubles in his 14 games since joining the Twins. Obviously that is a very small sample. In his 70 games with the Dodgers this year, he had hit just .207/.270/.290 (.560) with ten doubles and two home runs.
It appears this will be a trade that could be beneficial to both teams. Brian Dozier has also played in 14 games since joining the Dodgers. He is hitting .255/.400/.532 (.932) with four doubles, three homers and 12 RBI (including a walkoff sacrifice fly in extra innings on Wednesday night in LA.
So what should the Twins do as it relates to Logan Forsythe? There really may be three options.
Should The Twins Try to Capitalize on Forsythe’s Hot Start by Looking to Trade Him?
There is just under two weeks before the August trade deadline. The Twins should try to trade him for something. While they aren’t going to find a GM in baseball willing to overlook his past two seasons because of two really good weeks, the Twins clearly want to continue accumulating talent for the future. They won’t get anything resembling a blue-chip prospect for five weeks of Forsythe, but they might find a suitor remaining for the versatile infielder.
Should The Twins Try to Sign Forsythe Right Now to a Contract for 2018?
The Twins could decide that Nick Gordon needs more time in AAA next year to continue his development. They may determine that they would like to have a one year stop gap, like Forsythe, to play second base until Gordon is deemed ready. Again, based on his struggles over the last couple of seasons in Los Angeles, and his injuries the last couple of years, he likely is a guy who would get a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $2 million. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could reach out to Forsythe right now and make him that offer. There would appear to be little reason for Forsythe to accept it, though he could just as easily struggle over the next two or three weeks.
Should The Twins Sit Back and Let It Play Out?
Or they could just let it play out. Let Forsythe work to continue gain value the rest of the season as he looks to become a free agent at season’s end. From the Twins perspective, they certainly can see his value, especially on a one year, stop gap type of deal. No matter how strong Forsythe finishes the season, his next contract likely will remain a one-year deal at less than $3-4 million. The financial risk of waiting isn’t huge. The risk of him going to one of the other 29 teams if he becomes a free agent might be a little bigger.
Truthfully, there isn’t a wrong (or bad) answer in that group. Signing him to a one-year, low-cost deal makes a lot of sense. Forsythe is and has always been a very professional hitter. It’s great to see him playing like he did during much of his time in Tampa. So if the Twins can add another prospect with a chance, that’s not a bad deal for a three week rental. Or the Twins can just let him keep playing and see what happens.
Following the game, in an interview with FSN's Audra Martin, Forsythe said (regarding his 5-for-5 night), "Sometimes you get lucky."
Maybe in this case, the Twins got a little bit lucky.
Is there a best option in your opinion? Share your thoughts below.
- Aug 17 2018 05:32 AM
- by Seth Stohs
While rising through the minors, these three now-former Twins never graced the higher ends of top prospect lists. Each has his own rags-to-riches backstory that should inspire any underdog out there toiling away in perpetuity.
Let's run through a quick retrospective on each.
BRIAN DOZIER'S TRANSFORMATION FROM TWEENER TO TREASURE
If it seemed like Dozier always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, who could blame him? Back in 2009, he fell to the eighth round of the draft despite a prolific collegiate career at Southern Miss. "Scouts saw Dozier's tools as average in most respects and he was generally projected as a utility player or strong organizational talent," recalls John Sickels.
During his first few years as a pro, Dozier looked the part. To give you an idea of how he was viewed in 2011, Seth had him ranked as the 44th-best Twins prospect. Dozier's stock rose that summer with a strong showing between Fort Myers and New Britain, but he was still hardly viewed as a top-tier talent by the time he reached Minnesota in 2012.
Alas, three years later he was an All-Star. Then in 2016 he set the all-time AL record for home runs by a second baseman. And from '14 through '17 he produced the 13th-most WAR among all hitters in baseball.
Good ol' No. 2 departs as an indelible figure in franchise lore. In his book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the Minnesota Twins (which I highly recommend), Aaron Gleeman ranked Dozier as the 30th-best player in the team history, calling him "literally the only slugging second baseman in the history of the Twins."
It must've been a surreal chapter for my guy AG to write, five years after profiling Dozier as a prospect and dinging the infielder's "iffy" power potential and shaky defense at shortstop. "Even as a singles-hitting second baseman Dozier would be plenty useful," Gleeman had noted.
Now, this is not by any means meant to drag Aaron, because I viewed Dozier the same way at that point and so did most others. The guy had hit 14 total home runs in 317 minor-league games.
But through steady work, and the honing of a mousetrap-like swing, Dozier developed into one of the game's most deadly pull hitters, joining Harmon Killebrew in the ranks of Minnesota single-season home run royalty.
It took Dozier 126 games to hit his first professional home run. It took him one to launch his first as a Los Angeles Dodger. In the context of his unlikely ascent, a glorious sight to behold:
EDUARDO ESCOBAR'S CAREER THAT ALMOST WASN'T
Back in June, Mike Berardino wrote a great story in the Pioneer Press recounting Ozzie Guillen's discovery of Escobar on a back field in Tucson 10 years ago. At the time, Escobar was a scrawny 19-year-old backup shortstop, on the verge of being released. As the story goes, a highly impressed Guillen went to bat for him with Kenny Williams, and persuaded the general manager to give Escobar a real shot.
The young infielder would go on to glance the fringe of Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list in 2011, at No. 91, his only appearance in any prominent national rankings. Around the same time, Minor League Ball pegged him as the seventh-best talent in the White Sox system: "Great glove," wrote Sickels, "but will he hit enough for it to be relevant?"
The Venezuela native made his big-league debut that season, then played sporadically over the first half of 2012 before being shipped to Minnesota alongside fellow countryman Pedro Hernandez for two months of Liriano (the bad version).
Escobar posted a meager .628 OPS in his first full season with the Twins, resembling very much the no-bat utility man of billing. Then in 2014, out of nowhere, he hit 35 doubles. And in 2015 he added 31 more, plus 12 bombs. Last year Escobar clubbed 21 home runs and this year he leads baseball in doubles.
His defense has deteriorated and he's no longer really viable at short, but now, he's hitting enough to make that irrelevant.
RYAN PRESSLY POWERS UP
Midway through the 2012 season, Pressly's fledgling career was at risk of running off the rails. The former 11th-round pick was taking his second shot at the High-A Carolina League at age 23, and floundering with a 6.28 ERA through 76 innings.
In July, Ben Cherington's Red Sox made a decision that looks outrageously savvy in retrospect: they promoted Pressly to Double-A, despite his immense struggles, and converted him to full-time relief duties. Pressly turned in a 2.93 ERA over 28 innings the rest of the way, although it came with a modest 6.8 K/9 rate.
He'd go on to post an 18-to-1 K/BB ratio in the Arizona Fall League, and that was all the Twins needed to see. They took him in the Rule 5 draft after three other teams passed him up.
"He's always had a good arm," acknowledged Boston's scouting director Jared Porter at the time. "He's got good stuff."
Of course, the arm and stuff weren't deemed good enough to warrant a 40-man roster spot, which is why the Twins were able to snag Pressly away. Porter surely didn't envision how far along that arsenal would come over the next five years.
During his first season with the Twins, Pressly wasn't an especially impressive reliever, posting mediocre strikeout and walk rates with a so-so FB/CB combo. But with each successive season, the righty added velocity and learned to harness his innate ability to spin the ball, with results following suit. In six MLB campaigns his swinging strike rate has gone from 7.8% to 8.5% to 9.0% to 11.7% to 12.2% to 17.6%.
He's now in elite range, with that 2018 mark ranking as the fifth-best in baseball, and this made Pressly a hot commodity – the most coveted of pieces sold by Minnesota at the deadline, netting the organization a legitimate top prospect in Jorge Alcala.
Who would've guessed it when he was a middling 23-year-old starter in Single-A?
What's the point of these look-backs? Well, for one, it's nice to reflect on three of the most unlikely and inspiring Twins careers in recent memory. But also, I think it's instructive.
No, the prospect bounty yielded by Minnesota's array of deadline trades wouldn't be considered top-tier. Outside of Alcala, none of the players received really have much hype beyond the occasional advocate or prospect hound. But neither did Dozier, or Escobar, or Pressly.
In fact, Escobar came over in a deal quite similar to several just now orchestrated by Minnesota — a package of unheralded minor-leaguers acquired in for a two-month rental.
So as we look at the collective talent amassed during the front office's deadline purge, we'd do well to keep these case studies in mind.
- Aug 08 2018 08:27 AM
- by Nick Nelson
I'd like to introduce Twins Daily readers to something new. You may have noticed - or maybe not - that my writing and commenting has been much more sporadic this season. There are plenty of reasons for that... mostly growing kids and more responsibilities at work. But my interest in the Twins and their affiliates has never waned. I don't follow any less and I'm still certainly not short of opinions.
What became of that is that I'd have a lot of Twins conversations with my neighbor. I'd be out with my dog or getting the mail or rolling the garbage to the end of the driveway and sometimes my neighbor, John Miller, would be outside. Our conversations would typically be about the Twins. We'd have these conversations across the road that splits our property, Meadow Lane. (Which is where we came up with our somewhat cheesy name.)
He's been a long time reader of Twins Daily. (But never attended Winter Meltdown or a Touch Em All Pub Crawl. We'll have to fix that.) We'd talk about different things that have been written or commented on these very pages and he's said a number of times that he was thinking about starting a blog. And he should!
At some point in time - probably after attending Gleeman and the Geek's first Taproom Tuesday of the year - we started talking about doing a podcast together. And last week, leading up to the trade deadline, that finally happened. If you're into podcasts, give it a shot. Give us feedback.
We've jumped through the hoops to get our podcast on iTunes. You can listen to the Trade Deadline Preview (Episode 1) or the Trade Deadline Review (Episode 2). It's also available on our Across the Meadow website.
We'd love for you to listen and let us know what you think. John also mans our Twitter account and will definitely engage with you.
- Aug 02 2018 03:20 PM
- by Jeremy Nygaard
There’s been plenty of hand-wringing over the decisions made by the front office over the past week. The reality is that each one of them were both the right and correct move. Flipping veterans set to become free agents for tangible assets usable down the line is a logical concept. Maximizing the peak value of a relief pitcher, one of the most unstable roles on a team, is also a good bet. There’s no denying that the Twins shed a lot of talent at the end of July, but the reality is that in September that same talent would have left and there’d be nothing to show for it.
Getting past the heartache of Dozier's and Escobar’s smiles being gone from the clubhouse, we can look toward the future. That’s where things come back into focus, and the reality is that for 2019 and beyond, the blueprint remains unchanged for the organization.
Coming into 2018, the Twins were fresh off a postseason berth and had added plenty of talent through free agency. Supplementing a developed core of players, the front office positioned the active roster for a season of competitiveness within a weak AL Central division. Looking ahead to 2019, that same formula remains.
The core for Minnesota will continue to revolve around players like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. The breakout of Eddie Rosario has been much welcomed, and the emergence of Jose Berrios continues. Getting more from Max Kepler is a must and picking up steam from a couple of additional guys like Jorge Polanco or Mitch Garver would be a nice boost. This collection of talent that has largely risen through the system together, will continue to be the backbone of any progress going forward.
You can’t recap the 2018 season without noting the frustrations circling around that established core however. Both Buxton and Sano experiencing lost seasons is a significant setback. Kepler failing to really break out is unfortunate, and Polanco missing half of the season due to poor choice is suboptimal. For all their faults and failures however, it’s because of those guys that supplementing and signing free agents even made sense in the first place.
Going into 2019, the same opportunity will be afforded Minnesota’s front office once again. There’s less than $70 million of committed money in the upcoming year, and the organization should be expected to nearly double that amount when the payroll hits it's ceiling. Whether going all in on a premiere name, or spreading the wealth around a bit, reinforcements should help to bolster what will once again be a talented group on paper.
Outside of the organization, the same positive factors will also be in favor of the Twins. While the Indians window of competitiveness should remain open, the rest of the AL Central will continue to be bottom feeders in the foreseeable future. Although the White Sox system is loaded, the talent is not yet ready to emerge. The Tigers remain in the middle of a rebuild, and the Royals have yet to start a very necessary overhaul. For a Twins team that should be well positioned to feast on poor competition, they’ll have plenty of opportunities presented to them over the course of their schedule.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the talent Minnesota has been banking on for years. Sano and Buxton are two of the highest rates prospects to ever come through the system and doing so at the same time should make them cornerstone pieces on a team that provides years of relevance. It’s probably beginning to get late a little early, but they are also just 25 and 24 years-old respectively. We aren’t at all past the point of no return, but there’s no denying that it will be a direct result of their efforts if this team takes the next step forward.
As Minnesota’s core has arrived together at the big-league level, it’s become time that spending finally makes sense. The front office, and ownership showed a commitment to that belief this offseason. They’ll get an opportunity to hit the reset button prior to 2019, and the trajectory of this team doesn’t need to change at all. From a year in which things fell flat, there’s a very real opportunity to make noise in the immediate future.
- Aug 02 2018 08:59 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
All right, first thing’s first, here’s where all the players the Twins acquired are headed:
Minnesota: Logan Forsythe
Rochester: Chase De Jong, Tyler Austin.
Chattanooga: Devin Smeltzer, Luke Raley, Jorge Alcala (on the DL)
Fort Myers: Ryan Costello, Ernie De La Trinidad
Cedar Rapids: Jhoan Duran, Gabriel Maciel
Elizabethton: Luis Rijo, Gilberto Celestino
So who are the best prospects the Twins acquired? Well 10 of the 12 guys the Twins added (everyone but Forsythe and Austin) still qualify for prospect status. I’m still getting up to speed on a lot of these guys, especially the ones acquired this week, so I’ll defer to another source.
Baseball America published a fun list today. They ranked all the prospects dealt at the deadline, and the order they had the new guys in made a lot of sense to me.
-Chase De Jong
-Ernie De La Trinidad
Personally, I’d strongly consider putting Celestino on top. I also might put Rijo and Maciel above De Jong. Anyway, BA has capsules written up on those top three guys, and it’s just kind of interesting to see where they have them listed among all the prospects on the move. But, I’m going to make you click the link to go check out the rest of that stuff if you’re interested.
All right, so let’s take a look at each trade individually. On each of these, I’m going to provide the link to the Twins Daily article published when the deals broke and also link to the Baseball Prospectus Transaction Analysis piece for each. Friend of the site Aaron Gleeman and the rest of the staff at B-Pro did an excellent job at breaking down each piece of each of these trades, so again, I’ll tip my cap to another outlet and encourage you to check those out. The grades though, those will be all me. Any grade disputes must be taken up with the Dean
Friday, July 27
Twins give: Eduardo Escobar
Twins get: OF Ernie De La Trinidad, RHP Jhoan Duran, OF Gabriel Maciel
Additional info: Twins Daily | Baseball Prospectus
Tom’s grade: B
Escobar was my favorite Twins player, but it just made too much sense to trade him away. It’s encouraging to hear the Twins approached him about an extension prior to shipping him off, and here’s hoping they engage with his camp again once he becomes a free agent.
Eduardo was having a career year and will hit free agency at the end of the season, so it was difficult to envision the Twins netting a huge haul. I think Duran is a nice add, and he already made a great first impression, throwing seven no-hit innings in his Cedar Rapids debut. It sounds to me like he has a better chance at reaching the majors as a starter than Alcala does, though he doesn’t have quite as high of a ceiling.
Maciel will skyrocket up prospect lists if he ever develops power. He’s a switch hitter who’s billed as a legit center fielder with elite speed, so even if the power never arrives he could be a fourth outfielder. De La Trinidad was a college draftee taken in the 19th round last year. His upside seems limited, but hitters hit. He’s got a career .874 OPS so far in the minors, so that at least makes him an intriguing throw-in.
Friday, July 27
Twins give: Ryan Pressly
Twins get: RHP Jorge Alcala, OF Gilberto Celestino
Additional info: Twins Daily | Baseball Prospectus
Tom’s grade: A
I love this deal. Pressly was the only player they moved who was going to still be under team control next season, but in parting with him, they acquired what I consider to be the two most valuable pieces among the dozen players that were acquired.
Yes, Alcala was immediately placed on the DL with a right trap strain, but I think it’s a good sign that happened before he threw a single pitch in the Twins’ org. That suggests two things to me: 1) The Twins’ staff was able to uncover something in Alcala’s medicals and is getting out in front of this issue, and 2) I’d be willing to bet they used that information to leverage this deal with Houston.
Celestino signed out of the Dominican Republic for a big bonus and he's living up to that billing so far. Not many guys put up the kind of numbers he was in the New York Penn League. He was fourth in batting average, sixth in OBP, seventh in slugging and was 14-for-14 on stolen base attempts in the NYPL.
Pressly throws absolute filth and was having a strong season, but bullpen arms are so unpredictable and I feel like there are a lot of different ways the Twins could replace a guy like Pressly.
Monday, July 30
Twins give: Zach Duke
Twins get: RHP Chase De Jong, 1B/3B Ryan Costello
Additional info: Twins Daily | Baseball Prospectus
Tom’s grade: C
To Twins fans, Duke may not seem like much of a prize, but he is among the best left-handed specialists in baseball. Duke has faced 425 left-handed hitters since the start of the 2014 season, and southpaws have hit just .214/.286/.316 off him. Since he was on an expiring contract, Duke was never going to fetch anything similar to the Pressly haul, and I’m not real impressed with what the Twins netted from Seattle.
De Jong might be an interesting candidate to stick in the bullpen and see what happens, but it’s very difficult to see him ever working his way into the picture here as a starter. Maybe Costello is going to make me eat my words someday, but he was a 31st-round pick last year. Despite that underwhelming pedigree, he certainly deserves respect for putting up some of the better power numbers in the Midwest League this season. Again, hitters hit.
Monday, July 30
Twins give: Lance Lynn
Twins get: Tyler Austin, Luis Rijo
Additional info: Twins Daily | Baseball Prospectus
Tom’s grade: A
I love this deal too, but for very different reasons than the Pressly trade. I just didn’t think Lynn had this kind of value. He fits the profile of exactly the type of pitcher a contending team should be looking to replace. Don’t get me wrong, he did really turn things around from May forward, but in my opinion he’s a second-division big league pitcher even at his best. Maybe the Yankees are onto something in using him in long relief, I don’t know.
It’s worth noting that the Twins are paying half of Lynn’s salary, but this is still a really good return in my eyes. Tyler Austin could be a platoon 1B/RF/DH right now. The contact issues are a concern, but he crushes lefties and Target Field has been a pretty kind environment for right-handed power hitters.
Honestly, if this was Lynn for Luis Rijo straight up I would have been impressed. Rijo has an insane 8.36 K:BB ratio in 125 ⅓ innings over his minor league career. He also tops out at 93 mph, so it’s not like it’s all just smoke and mirrors. And on top of all that, Lynn’s departure from the team opened up a spot for Adalberto Mejia to get a much-deserved chance in the rotation. Win, win, win, it’s looking all good here to me.
Tuesday, July 31
Twins give: Brian Dozier
Twins get: 2B Logan Forsythe, OF/1B Luke Raley, LHP Devin Smeltzer
Additional info: Twins Daily | Baseball Prospectus
Tom’s grade: D
I’m certain this was the best deal the Twins could get on July 31, less than an hour before the deadline. What I’m not certain of is if that was the best time to deal him. You never know how these things work out, and both Ian Kinsler and Jonathan Schoop entering the trade market late had to have complicated things, but I suspect the Twins could have gotten a better package if they had made the deal earlier, or may have even been able to find a better waiver trade partner this month.
Of course, there was always the option to keep Dozier and extend a qualifying offer to him. Maybe he would have accepted, but I’m of the mind that there’s really no such thing as a bad one-year deal. Why did I think this was the Twins’ worst trade? Mainly because of who they were forced to take back.
Logan Forsythe, the only major leaguer the Twins acquired in all these deals, actually has extreme negative trade value. This seems to defy logic, but the business of baseball is funny. His inclusion basically made this deal cash neutral. There was probably never going to be a deal with the Dodgers that didn’t have to include Forsythe, since they’re trying to avoid luxury tax penalties, but that’s exactly why you don’t make a deal with them in the first place.
I typically don’t care much what happens to the Pohlad’s money (did you see how I just suggested they give Dozier $18 million?), but you’ve still got to acknowledge that money is an asset to a baseball team. If you get rid of Dozier, I think you need to find a way to get rid of that money too.
If Forsythe’s not in this trade, I give it at least a C, maybe even a B. Heck, if I just look at this deal in a vacuum, which is what I originally did yesterday, I might give it a C. But when you zoom out and look at the big picture of what happened across baseball leading up to and on deadline day, it definitely feels like the Twins may have hurt their odds at maximizing a return. Tough thing for me to say from the outside looking in, but that’s how I feel.
Raley is putting up really good numbers in Double A, but he’s already 24 and it’s just really hard to break into the bigs as a corner outfield/first base type. On the plus side, Raley also sounds like the type of guy in terms of makeup who goes out and proves idiots like me wrong, so I’m excited to see how this plays out.
Smeltzer is left-handed, that’s always a plus. He’s also relatively close to the majors (he’s spent all year in Double A) and his strikeout numbers saw a boost when he recently shifted to the bullpen. However, it sounds like he has a fairly straight, fairly slow fastball, so …
All right, so there’s my report card. The front office comes away with a 2.8 GPA. Not exactly Ivy League material, but in my eyes they get a solid passing grade for what was a difficult trade deadline to navigate for them. Maybe they also deserve some extra credit for the non-move they made by keeping Kyle Gibson.
So now it’s your turn, how would you grade the Twins’ trade deadline?
- Aug 01 2018 09:23 PM
- by Tom Froemming
Like Dozier, Forsythe is on an expiring contract. His inclusion in the deal seems to be 100 percent about money moving around. Raley was the No. 19 prospect in the Dodgers' org per MLB Pipeline. Smeltzer was not included in LA's top 30.
Raley, 23, has spent all season with the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, and has posted a .275/.345/.477 line while splitting his time between first base and the outfield. He's been particularly hot of late, hitting .303/.366/.529 (.896 OPS) in July. He bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the seventh round back in 2016.
Smeltzer, the Dodgers' fifth-round pick back in 2016, has also spent his entire season in Double A. The 22-year-old lefty has a 4.73 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 3.53 K:BB ratio over 83 2/3 innings. He made 14 starts to open this season, but his most recent nine appearances have all been out of the bullpen. In his first two seasons as a pro, Smeltzer averaged 10.1 K/9 over 153 innings, but that figure has dropped to 7.2 K/9 so far this season.
Dozier, of course, was set to be a free agent this upcoming season. The Twins could have extended him a qualifying offer, a one-year deal somewhere between $17-$18 million. If Dozier turned that deal down and went on to sign for more than $50 million, the Twins would have received a draft pick in between the first and second rounds. If his eventual deal would have been for less than $50 million, a pretty safe assumption at this point, the Twins would have gotten a pick between the second and third rounds.
With this deal the Twins have added another couple of pieces to the system, but if the value Dozier brought back was any indication of what's to come once he reaches free agency, it seems to me at least it would have been likely he and his camp would have accepted the qualifying offer.
So what happens now? It'll be interesting to see if Forsythe sticks around as a hopeful waiver trade deadline piece for the Twins to market to other clubs. There's not an obvious replacement for Dozier at second base. The leading option was Ehire Adrianza with Gregorio Petit, Taylor Motter and Nick Gordon all factoring in somehow from Triple A.
- Jul 31 2018 03:28 PM
- by Tom Froemming
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/23 through Sun, 7/29
Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 48-56)
Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: -31)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (9.0 GB)
Despite holding their own on the East Coast leg of their post-break road trip, the Twins essentially waved the white flag over the weekend by trading away key pieces of their lineup and bullpen.
Their prospect haul was solid, and featured some pretty clear themes. The top two position players received (Gilberto Celestino and Gabriel Maciel) are speedy outfielders, with presently limited power, who can play center. The top two pitchers (Jorge Alcala and Jhoan Duran) are hard-throwing righties that can miss bats but need work throwing strikes.
Alcala, acquired in the Pressly trade, is generally considered the top prize among newly acquired assets (none of which need to occupy 40-man spots yet). The 23-year-old was at Double A in Houston's system and is the only prospect added who's anywhere close to the majors. ESPN's Keith Law writes that Alcala has "shown enough aptitude on the mound that scouts I've talked to feel like he has a chance to start or end up as a high-leverage reliever."
Although he's seen his name sprout up in various rumors and rumblings, Kyle Gibson is still a Twin for now. Ken Rosenthal reported on Friday that the Twins would need to be "blown away" to move the right-hander, and with good reason; one night earlier he'd shut down the Red Sox, allowing one run over eight innings.
By silencing the league's best offense in their own yard, Gibson put forth his most impressive performance in a season that's been full of them, another convincing sign he's really pulled it together. If they're maintaining a focus on short-term contention, the Twins are wise to hang onto Gibson for 2019 and perhaps consider negotiating an extension this offseason, when they have some leverage.
Although we lost one Ed, we've thankfully still got our Eddie Rosario. On Friday night, as Minnesota's clubhouse reeled from the loss of Escobar, Rosario stepped up and put on a show. With two outs in the top of the ninth, he banged a go-ahead two-run double off the Green Monster against All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. In the bottom half of that inning, he made a dazzling defensive play at third base – yes, third base, where he'd ended up due to a short-handed bench:
Although there hasn't been much for Twins fans to rejoice over the past few months, Mitch Garver is a very notable exception. The rookie backstop has taken off following a slow start, batting .296/.386/.452 in his last 40 games. He's been stellar in July with a .969 OPS and 10-to-9 K/BB ratio in 63 plate appearances.
Garver's past week included a four-hit, five-RBI effort in Toronto as well as a crucial RBI double in the opening victory at Fenway. It was also nice to see him draw five starts – four at catcher, one at DH.
Hopefully Garver can continue to see that kind of regular usage the rest of the way. If he maintains his strong production he'll solidify himself as a valuable property heading into 2019, while considerably reducing overall concern around the catcher position.
One might argue the turning point of this starkly divided week arrived when news of Escobar's departure came down on Friday afternoon. After all, as mentioned earlier, the Twins didn't win another game after that.
But really, the turning point came in the ninth inning of Friday night's game. After Rosario's clutch double had given the Twins a lead, Fernando Rodney came in and promptly coughed up a game-tying home run to Rafael Devers. Rodney's sixth blown save came one night after he converted No. 22 in harrowing fashion, walking the bases full with a one-run lead and then going to 3-0 against Jackie Bradley, Jr. before managing to throw three strikes and avert disaster.
Rodney had a fantastic run in May and June but has been far less effective of late. In 11 1/3 July innings he has allowed 15 hits and four walks. Last week he surrendered six hits and three walks in four appearances. As the deadline approaches, Rodney is losing some luster as a trade chip.
So too is Brian Dozier, whose walk-off grand slam heading into the break failed to serve as a launching pad. Since then, Dozier has zero home runs and a .175 average. Last week he produced one double and two RBIs in seven games.
“It stinks," said Dozier of the team's decision to trade Escobar on Friday. He likely feels the same way about enduring such a letdown season on the brink of free agency. Dozier must recognize that his underwhelming play – he's been a net negative at the plate per Win Probability Added – is a direct contributor to this current state of affairs.
Miguel Sano, another prime culprit, made his unceremonious return to the Twins roster over the weekend. He hadn't exactly forced the issue with his play at Rochester, where he was 2-for-14 in a brief stint, but Minnesota needed a third baseman after dealing Escobar, and didn't have much to gain by having Sano tread water perpetually at Triple A.
Commendably, the slugger looks noticeably leaner now than when we last saw him, but that's where the good news ends. Sano went 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in his first two games back, looking flat-out terrible at the plate.
His offensive regression has just been astounding. Once a supremely dominant force with an advanced understanding of the strike zone, he now seems to be guessing in every at-bat. The 2017 All-Star failed to clobber minor-league pitching and now, once again, looks overmatched by big-league arms. By all accounts he's fully healthy, and he's been playing regularly for two months so rust can't really be pegged as a factor.
What are the Twins to do other than keep running him out there and hope he improves?
Of course, the "Lowlights" section wouldn't be complete without our weekly lament of Matt Belisle and his lingering presence on the roster. As Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz and others toil in the minors, and Matt Magill goes mostly unused in the Twins bullpen, Belisle continues to throw consistently sub-par innings. He lost Friday night's game on two pitches, yielding a walk-off home run to Mookie Betts leading off the 10th.
By trading Pressly, who was projecting as a key member of the 2019 bullpen, the Twins have an even greater need to evaluate possible righty relief options going forward. They're doing themselves and the fans a huge disservice by continuing to waste a roster spot and valuable innings on Belisle.
It's going to be a tense stretch leading up to Tuesday afternoon. Escobar and Pressly are out, with more players sure to follow. Gibson is most likely safe, but he'll be sweating a little as he awaits his next start just after the deadline falls.
Lance Lynn is slated to start on Wednesday afternoon. Will he make it there? He made a pretty good impression in his latest effort on Friday, tossing six innings of one-run ball against Boston.
Dozier seems almost certain to go – it's only a matter of when, where, and who replaces him. Nick Gordon's quiet arrival in Triple A (he went 1-for-22 in five games last week) suggests he could use more seasoning. Ehire Adrianza would probably be the main replacement, and he deserves a prolonged look; the slick-gloved infielder has an .826 OPS in his past 35 games and could easily play a significant role on next year's team.
Rodney and Zach Duke are also on Hug Watch, along with Jake Odorizzi, Logan Morrison and a few others.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Another week, another series of eye-popping performances from Alex Kirilloff. He ran his hitting streak with the Miracle to 13 last week by collecting hits in every game, finishing 15-for-27 (.556) with six doubles and eight RBIs. Among players with 100 or more plate appearances in the Florida State League, the 20-year-old ranks first in batting average at .384. No one elsse is close.
On Saturday night, while Kirilloff was extending his streak, Brusdar Graterol enjoyed a breakout showing for Ft. Myers, striking out 10 over 5 2/3 innings of two-hit, one-run ball. It was a big step forward from his first four starts in the FSL, in which Graterol had yielded a .346 average and managed a mere 6% swinging strike rate.
On June 11th, in a game at Scranton Wilkes-Barre against the Yankees' Triple A affiliate, Stephen Gonsalves allowed nine earned runs on nine hits, both the highest totals of his pro career. He has responded to that blip with an absolutely incredible eight-start stretch, in which he has allowed four runs on 23 hits over 46 innings for a 0.89 ERA.
During this six-week span, the left-hander has faced 176 batters and given up one extra-base hit. It was a triple, yielded in otherwise sterling effort on Tuesday in which Gonsalves hurled seven scoreless frames. He followed on Sunday with six innings of two-run ball.
The most encouraging aspect of last week's work was the crisp control, cleaning up one of the few recurring weaknesses in his performance; across his two last outings, Gonsalves threw 66% strikes and issued two walks in 13 innings. Despite the fine work in his previous six turns, he'd handed out a troubling 21 free passes in 33 frames with 61% strikes.
Gonsalves has achieved outstanding results at every level of the minors, so his relative lack of traction among national prospect analysts is conspicuous – especially his ranking 10th among Twins prospects in the updated Baseball America rankings released last week, amidst this untouchable run in the International League.
Clearly, many aren't sold on the lanky left-hander, and it isn't too hard to see why. His relatively soft arsenal doesn't match the imposing frame and control issues like his tend to manifest against big-league hitters. For this reason, it'll be key for him to sustain the strike-throwing improvements from last week. One way or another, I suspect we'll see him up in September, if not before.
Another lefty who is having no such trouble throwing strikes: Lewis Thorpe, who turned in another pristine performance in Chattanooga on Friday, scattering two hits and a walk over seven scoreless frames with seven strikeouts. He too is riding an amazing eight-start stretch: 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA, 53-to-5 K/BB ratio and one homer allowed in 41 innings. Thorpe is quietly becoming a candidate to play a role for the Twins very early next season.
If things had gone more to plan, this week would shape up as an absolutely pivotal one for the Twins. With the trade deadline looming on Tuesday afternoon, they've got three home games against the division leaders followed by an ostensibly winnable weekend series against the lackluster Royals. From there, Minnesota will head to Cleveland for four more games against the Indians.
If they were in the race the Twins would have an opportunity to make a charge for the top of the AL Central over the next 11 days. As things stand, they'd still be six games behind Cleveland even with a sweep at Target Field, and will find it exceedingly difficult to make up the rest of that gap without Escobar, Pressly and whoever else departs in the next couple days.
MONDAY, 7/30: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. RHP Ervin Santana
TUESDAY, 7/31: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Trevor Bauer v. RHP Kyle Gibson
WEDNESDAY, 8/1: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Carlos Carrasco v. RHP Lance Lynn
FRIDAY, 8/3: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Heath Fillmyer v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
SATURDAY, 8/4: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Burch Smith v. RHP Jose Berrios
SUNDAY, 8/5: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Danny Duffy v. RHP Ervin Santana
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 98 | MIN 8, TOR 3: Twins Cruise Over Toronto
- Game 99 | MIN 5, TOR 0: All-Star, Indeed
- Game 100 | MIN 12, TOR 6: More Like Er-win Sweep-tana!!!
- Game 101 | MIN 2, BOS 1: Gibby the Great
- Game 102 | BOS 4, MIN 3: No Escobar, But At Least We Still Have Belisle
- Game 103 | BOS 10, MIN 4: Twins Blow Lead in Spectacular Fashion
- Game 104 | BOS 3, MIN 0: Fenway Freefall Continues
- With Sano returning to the fold, Parker Hageman broke down some video and pictures to see what might've changed during a minor-league reset
- Andrew Thares looked at what kind of return the Twins might be able to get for Gibson if they end up moving him.
- SD Burh (unsuccessfully) urged the Twins not to sell.
- I wrote that despite some setbacks, the vision for a contending team in the near future remains intact.
- Jul 30 2018 07:38 AM
- by Nick Nelson
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/16 through Sun, 7/22
Record Last Week: 0-3 (Overall: 44-53)
Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -28)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (9.5 GB)
Kauffman Stadium. That's almost it, really. I traveled down to Kansas City with my fiancée for the weekend and we enjoyed the hell out of that ballpark with its terrific views, monster Jumbotron and all-around high-caliber fan experience. Not so much the baseball.
The Twins played in a legendary yard under beautiful weather over the weekend, but that's where the positive vibes ended.
Okay, I shouldn't go quite that far. Jake Odorizzi turned in an excellent outing on Sunday afternoon, firing six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts while allowing only two hits and one walk. Since punctuating a rough midseason stretch with his worst outing on June 23rd (6 ER in 1 2/3 innings), Odorizzi has rebounded in a big way, turning in a 2.96 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 27 innings in five starts.
Crucially, the right-hander has finally started keeping the ball in the park. After coughing up 14 home runs in 12 starts between April and May, Odorizzi has surrendered only two long balls in nine turns since the start of June.
By remedying his biggest weakness while maintaining a career-high strikeout rate, the 28-year-old may be building himself some legitimate trade value as the deadline approaches.
Joe Mauer tallied two hits on Friday and three more on Saturday, including his 415th career double, which made him the franchise's all-time leader. Another awesome accomplishment in a widely underrated career.
In spite of Mauer's efforts, the offense couldn't muster much of anything against the American League's worst pitching staff. Heading into the break, it seemed as though the lineup was finally turning a corner – they'd managed double-digit run totals in seven of their last 16 games after doing so just once in their first 77 – but Twins hitters came out completely flat in KC.
This sweep basically punched Brian Dozier's ticket out of town, but his punchless performance won't do anything to help Minnesota drum up a decent return. Entering the series, Dozier had an OPS over 1.000 for the month of July, and he was riding high after ending the first half with a walk-off grand slam, but the second baseman's momentum came to a screeching halt as he went 1-for-12.
Jake Cave's luster is quickly wearing off. After sitting against left-hander Danny Duffy on Friday, Cave started on Saturday and went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. On Sunday he went 0-for-2 at the plate and, in center field, misplayed a Drew Butera single into an inside-the-park three-run homer.
Following a strong start to his MLB career, Cave's inexperience and poor plate discipline (31% K vs. 6% BB) are coming home to roost. All the more reason to give him plenty of playing time the rest of the way.
Conversely, I think we'd all be cool with Lance Lynn seeing zero playing time as a Twin for the remainder of eternity. His laborious start on Saturday – 118 pitches needed to get through five innings as six walks pushed his league-leading total to 61 – solidified Lynn's standing as the most inefficient pitcher in Twins history.
There's been a lot of chatter this summer about the declining watchability of Major League Baseball, and Lynn feels like a microcosm of the loudening complaints. Saturday's outing wasn't terrible where the scoresheet is concerned, as he allowed three runs on three hits with six strikeouts over five frames and kept things within reach, but he made the game a complete chore to spectate – for the fielders as much as the fans, I'd suspect.
It'd be great if the Twins did us all the favor of removing that chore from our August and September agendas. But with the way he's pitched, finding a taker for Lynn's ~$5 million in remaining salary won't be easy. Hard to imagine many legit contenders viewing him as an upgrade.
With just over a week left until the trade deadline, the rumor mill is sure to get popping over these next seven days.
Now that the dream of having him lead another improbable late-season surge has died, the Twins really have no reason to keep Dozier around. The quiet series in Kansas City threw a bit of cold water on his ascending stock, but Dozier still has six home runs and 20 RBIs over 25 games in the last calendar month, to go along with an outstanding rep.
The Twins will find a willing trade partner on Dozier, I have little doubt. Milwaukee looks like a solid bet. But will Thad Levine be able to reel in any assets of value, or simply achieve salary relief? If it comes down to it, I'm guessing he'd settle merely for the latter.
Ownership green-lighted a record payroll this year only to watch the team go down in flames, so recouping whatever they can will be a deadline priority for the front office – albeit an unexciting one.
Lynn is owed more than Dozier, and as mentioned above, the Twins would undoubtedly love to unload his remaining commitment. They'd most assuredly get nothing else of consequence in a deal, but that's okay. Same goes for Logan Morrison; he's owed only $2 million or so after August 1st, but has a $1 million buyout on his 2019 option.
Both Lynn and Morrison have obviously been quite bad this year, but they are veterans with track records, and in each case there are underlying signs to suggest the ugly numbers aren't an entirely accurate reflection of their play.
Maybe other generals managers are open to taking such leaps of faith, given the meager return that'll be required. If the Twins can trade Dozier, Lynn and Morrison without having to cover any salary, they'd shave around $10 million, which would theoretically go toward the 2019 cap. Recent evidence suggests $10 mil can stretch pretty far on the free agent market, so it's not for nothing.
If they want to get back any young talent worthy of excitement, the Twins will probably have to move players with a bit more allure. The most interesting name in that camp, from my view, is Eduardo Escobar. Although his power has dissipated a bit here in July, he still ranks seventh among big-leaguers in extra-base hits. His versatility, and ability to play shortstop especially, will make him a commodity even though he's due for free agency in November.
Some might disagree, but I see Escobar as Minnesota's only valid candidate for a qualifying offer. If he accepts, he'll make around $18 million next year, which is clearly an overpay but probably one the Twins can live with, given their scarce commitments elsewhere and the convenience of keeping Esco on a one-year deal while we see how things shake out with the rest of the young infielders.
I also don't think it's entirely a given that Escobar accepts a QO. No, he won't make $18 million annually on a long-term contract anywhere, but is it unrealistic to think someone bids, say, three years and $45 million? Coming off a probable career year at age 29, Escobar may well be eyeing security and stability. Should he sign elsewhere, the Twins would receive a high draft pick, helping negate what they lost this season by signing Lynn.
Two pitchers, Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, will be the other names to keep an eye on. Each is throwing well and controllable for 2019 at a reasonable cost, so they are only moving if another club is really prepared to pony up.
DOWN ON THE FARM
The legend of Royce Lewis just continues to grow. The 19-year-old is making himself right at home against advanced competition in the Florida State League, where he is sporting a .313 average and .840 OPS through eight games. This week saw him notch a pair of multi-hit games and his first home run with the Miracle. Most expected the power would come along gradually for Lewis, who isn't all that physically developed yet, but he already has 10 home runs and a .483 slugging percentage in 83 games between the two levels of A-ball.
His teammate Alex Kirilloff returned from a successful showing in the Futures Game last Sunday, and got right back to work by posting a leisurely 12-for-22 (.545) with three doubles, a triple and a homer. My goodness can this man hit.
Brusdar Graterol, who rounds out the trio of top prospects on display in Fort Myers, picked up his first FSL win on Friday, and while it wasn't a spectacular outing (4 ER in 6 IP), it was definitely a step forward as he struck out seven and limited Lakeland to five hits.
Upon returning from a short leave of absence, Miguel Sano received a bump to Rochester, pushing him closer to a big-league return. Looking noticeably slimmer in a Red Wings uniform, Sano has opened up his time in Triple-A by going 0-for-8 in two games.
The Twins are 1-12 in their last 13 road games, and the going gets no easier. First they travel to Toronto, where they've historically had a very tough time, for three against the Jays. Then it's off to Boston for a four-gamer against the best team in baseball.
Minnesota is reeling, and traveling to a couple of road destinations that have proven vexing over the years. Adalberto Mejia, who was lit up in his last Triple-A start, is scheduled to face two high-powered offenses in very hitter-friendly yards.
Don't bother uncovering your eyes, Twins fans, because things are likely to get even uglier this week.
MONDAY, 7/23: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – LHP Adalberto Mejia v. RHP Marco Estrada
TUESDAY, 7/24: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Jose Berrios vs LHP Ryan Borucki
WEDNESDAY, 7/25: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Sam Gaviglio
THURSDAY, 7/26: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Brian Johnson
FRIDAY, 7/27: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Chris Sale
SATURDAY, 7/28: TWINS @ RED SOX – LHP Adalberto Mejia v. RHP Rick Porcello
SUNDAY, 7/29: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Drew Pomeranz
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Jul 23 2018 04:50 AM
- by Nick Nelson
Sponsored by Bye, Goff, and Rohde, SotaStick, and SeatGeek.
- Jul 16 2018 08:55 AM
- by Parker Hageman
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/9 through Sun, 7/15
Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 44-50)
Run Differential Last Week: -2 (Overall: -23)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (7.5 GB)
The offense was cooking this week, producing 48 runs in seven games. The unit's fine work included strong showings against two of the American League's hottest starters; Minnesota chased All-Star Blake Snell (4-0 with a 0.63 ERA in his previous four starts) after three innings on Thursday, and jumped all over Nathan Eovaldi (2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his previous three starts) for eight runs on Friday.
Contributions came from all corners.
Jake Cave continued to entrench himself with his best week as a big-leaguer, starting five of the Twins' seven games and going 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, two triples and a pair of runs batted in. It'd be nice to see a little more discipline – he drew one walk last week and has only four in 81 plate appearances, to go along with 23 strikeouts – but at least he's connecting and driving the ball. Cave is looking like a hell of a find by the front office.
It's that time of year: Brian Dozier is finding his zone. The now-customary slow start for Dozier was lengthier and uglier than usual this time around, but as usual, he's finding his stroke here around the All-Star break. Last week he went 9-for-28 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, punctuating his first half with a walk-off grand slam. He also showed a better eye at the plate, drawing five walks (one intentional) after posting a 9-to-0 K/BB ratio the previous week.
Speaking of reviving patience, Joe Mauer drew twice as many walks from Friday through Sunday (4) as he had in 24 previous games since coming off the disabled list. Coupled with his generally exceptional output during the week (11-for-30 with a homer and seven RBIs), it's a further sign Mauer is starting to see the ball better – a much-needed development.
Also chipping in on offense: Eddie Rosario, who had at least one hit in all seven games and now ranks 8th in the AL with a .311 average. Robbie Grossman who hasn't seen his name pop up in the "Highlights" section often but earned it this week by going 8-for-18 (.444) with three doubles and three walks. Heck, even Bobby Wilson joined the fun, following up his first multi-hit game of the season last Saturday with two more in his four starts. His average is all the way up to .177!
On the pitching side, Kyle Gibson stayed hot with another brilliant performance on Thursday against Tampa. The righty struck out nine and walked none over eight innings of one-run ball, inducing 16 swinging strikes after setting a career-high with 20 in his previous turn against Baltimore. Gibson has completed seven or more innings six times in his past nine starts; he did so nine times in 2016 and 2017 combined.
Right now, Gibby is throwing as well as he has at any point in his career. The timing is interesting as the trade deadline approaches, with Minnesota in sell mode (?) and plenty of contenders seeking impact arms. We'll see what happens.
Mitch Garver continued to come up on the short end of the catching timeshare, making three starts to Wilson's four, and for once he was actually out-hit by his counterpart. Garver actually failed to pick up a single knock in 17 plate appearances.
That sort of thing is going to happen – his .375 average in the previous 20 games, buoyed by a .432 BABIP, wasn't going to stay propped up forever – but what's nice to see is Garver taking solid ABs and still managing to get himself on base during a hitting slump, as he drew four walks against four strikeouts. He also laid down a key two-strike bunt on Sunday to set up Dozier's walk-off.
Even during a down stretch, it's nice to see Garver get playing time, and it's easy to see the value in it. That's not true of Matt Belisle, who has now become a primary source of frustration with this club.
When the Twins added the veteran right-hander back in early June, seeking an infusion of leadership to right their wayward ship, it appeared to be a harmless enough move. He hadn't been good with Cleveland but he was to be the last option in the Minnesota bullpen, a mop-up man whose arm they didn't need to worry about. How much damage could he do?
Well, he's done his share. After a hideous outing on Saturday in which he coughed up five runs in one frame, pushing the game out of reach and opening the door for an ill-equipped Willians Astudillo to take the mound in the ninth, Belisle has now surrendered 13 earned runs on 23 hits in 12 1/3 innings for Minnesota. He hasn't recorded six outs in an appearance. If he's still on the roster coming out of the break, the Twins are doing it wrong.
On Sunday, Ervin Santana made his first rehab start at Triple-A, stretching out to 5 2/3 innings and 86 pitches. The results weren't great – he gave up a pair of homers and has allowed five total in six starts in the minors. However, his arm strength should be sufficiently built up to rejoin the big-league club and I don't suspect the Twins will waste any time.
He'll likely be reinserted into the rotation immediately after the break for two main reasons: 1) they're having a hard time finding answers for that fifth rotation spot, as Aaron Slegers was shelled on Tuesday and Fernando Romero couldn't get through five innings on Sunday, and 2) they have precious little time to showcase Santana as a deadline chip.
Santana may quietly be one of Minnesota's best assets to dangle. He was among the AL's top pitchers last year and started a playoff game. He's an experienced vet with an excellent recent track record. His contract, containing a $14 million team option for 2019, offers convenient flexibility. And if other teams are convinced he's beyond his finger issues, they might actually value the fact that he has hardly pitched all year, as it could improve his odds of staying strong through September and October.
Of course, convincing others that Erv is back to 100% will be tough as time runs short. Reports on Santana during his rehab stint have been as mixed as his results. He is lined up to start the first game of the second half on regular rest, and if the Twins plug him in at Kansas City on Friday he'd be able to get in three turns before the July 31st deadline.
Would a trio of 2017-caliber efforts be enough to restore Santana's status and generate some competition for his services? That should certainly be the hope as we look ahead to the rest of July.
DOWN ON THE FARM
At long last, Royce Lewis received his much-deserved promotion to Fort Myers. In moving up from Low-A to High-A, Lewis becomes one of the youngest players in the Florida State League, but that didn't stop him from making a fast impression with four hits in his second game on Sunday. Lewis was, of course, the consensus No. 1 prospect in our recently wrapped midseason top 40 rankings.
While the shortstop was bursting onto the FSL scene Sunday, Alex Kirilloff wasn't in the same lineup, because he was starting for Team USA in the Futures Game. He started in right and batted sixth, notching singles in both his at-bats before coming out.
Also participating in the showcase was Lewis Thorpe, who didn't fare so well – he came in to pitch the fourth but couldn't complete it as he yielded four runs three hits, including a single to Kirilloff and two home runs, while recording two outs (both on K's).
On Tuesday, Jose Berrios will represent the Twins at the 2018 All-Star Game. Then, following a couple days off, the second half will kick off with a series in Kansas City. Minnesota needs to make hay against the last-place Royals because after that the path steepens, with their road trip bringing them through Toronto and Boston before returning home to face Cleveland.
The probable starters below are very much subject to change as both the Twins and Royals may reshuffle their rotations over the break.
TUESDAY, 7/17: MLB ALL-STAR GAME – Go Berrios!
FRIDAY, 7/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Danny Duffy
SATURDAY, 7/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Jake Junis
SUNDAY, 7/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Brad Keller
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 88 | MIN 3, KC 1: Minnesota’s All-Star Shines
- Game 89 | KC 9, MIN 4: Slegers Slayed by Royals
- Game 90 | MIN 8, KC 5: Twins Recover from Rough Start
- Game 91 | MIN 5, TB 1: Who’s the Snub?
- Game 92 | MIN 11, TB 8: Twins Get a Scare on Friday the 13th, Prevail Over Pesky Rays
- Game 93 | TB 19, MIN 6: This Never Happened
- Game 94 | MIN 11, TB 7: Dozier Grand Slam Ends Wild Game, First Half
More on Twins Daily
- In the latest roundtable, a panel of Twins Daily writers weighed in with their choices for Minnesota's biggest second-half performer
- Andrew Thares took a look at potential suitors for Brian Dozier as the deadline approaches
- I theorized about how a trade for Miami's All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto might take shape
- Reporting from Cedar Rapids, SD Buhr wrote of the leadership shown by infielder Jordan Gore and pitcher Randy Dobnak for the Kernels
- Jul 15 2018 05:25 PM
- by Nick Nelson
Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
Fernando Romero: 35 Game Score, 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 1 K, 0 BB, 65.4% strikes
Bullpen: 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 4 BB
Lineup: 6-for-12 w/RISP, 9 LOB
WPA of 0.1 or higher: Dozier .550, Rosario .293, Busenitz .254, Mauer .210, Polanco .134, Rogers .111
WPA of -0.1 or lower: Hildenberger -.800, Romero -.235, Garver -.196
First thing’s first, here’s the Dozier grand slam to end it:
There were a lot of noteworthy things that thankfully didn’t end up mattering in the end. Without knowing what really happened it’s difficult to say for sure, but it definitely seemed weird that Escobar was the only player ejected in this one. Both teams cleared the benches twice, but no punches were thrown.
It’s still not clear what started the tension, but it appeared as through Tampa Bay took exception to Dozier celebrating a run-scoring balk he drew and as a result they threw a pitch inside to Escobar. We’ll learn more as the details come out, but it would be really strange if the guy who was the target was the only one kicked out of the game. Don’t get me wrong, Eduardo was heated, but it seemed like he had reason to be.
After seeing some more video from the Tampa Bay feed, it's obvious that the 101 mph pitch was intended to hit Escobar, and then Rays manager Kevin Cash said, well, some things I can't repeat here.
Then in the bottom of the eighth, it appeared from the replays that Jake Cave got his toe on home plate before Tampa catcher Jesus Sucre got the tag on him. That run would have inceased the Twins’ lead to two runs and would have extended the inning. But the original call was out, and that somehow stood even after a review. That out ended the inning, keeping the Minnesota lead at just one run.
Paul Molitor decided to use Fernando Rodney to finish out the fifth inning today. That meant it was Trevor Hildenberger’s job to close out the game for the Twins. Hildy blew the lead in the eighth, giving up a two-run double that put the Rays up 6-5, but the bats stormed back in the bottom of that inning to give Trevor a second chance. He blew that as well.
Hildenberger gave up the game-tying run in the ninth, ending the day with three earned runs on four hits and a walk over his inning of work.
But none of that mattered.
All that really mattered in the end was that Dozier slugged a walk-off grand slam to give the Twins an 11-7 victory. Just the result of this game alone is a positive way to send things into the All-Star break, but the Twins also concluded their homestand with a 9-2 record.
Cave hit a leadoff double in the 10th then was bunted over to third by Mitch Garver. Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario were intentionally walked to set up a potential double play, bringing up Dozier.
Rosario had another outstanding game to cap off a great first half. He was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs. He'll have the next four days off, but his .311 average and .890 OPS indicate he should probably be heading out to Washington DC right now.
Postgame With Dozier
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
AL Central Standings
MIN 44-50 (-7.5)
DET 41-57 (-12.5)
CHW 33-62 (-19)
KC 27-68 (-25)
Last Three Games
TB 19, MIN 6: This Never Happened
MIN 11, TB 8: Twins Get a Scare on Friday the 13th, Prevail over Pesky Rays
MIN 5, TB 1: Who’s the Snub?
- Jul 15 2018 09:57 PM
- by Tom Froemming
Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
Lance Lynn: 36 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 K, 3 BB, 57.9% strikes
Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 K, 0 BB
Lineup: 3-for-7 w/RISP, 9 LOB
WPA of 0.1 or higher: Dozier .399, Pressly .227, Wilson .208, Cave .144
WPA of -0.1 or lower: Lynn -.275, Escobar -.107
Credit to Lynn, he got back on track despite the awful start to the game. He struck out the leadoff man, gave up a single, but then appeared to induce a potential inning-ending double play. Instead, Jorge Polanco couldn’t handle the feed at second and everybody was safe. Perez went down and launched a three-run homer on a ball that was below the zone. From there, Lynn gave up just one more run through five innings.
Lynn went back out for the sixth inning and opened things up with a hit-by-pitch followed by a walk. Ryan Pressly came in and hit a batter of his own to load the bases with nobody out and the Twins holding just a one-run lead. Pressly retired the next three batters he faced to keep things clean in the top of the sixth. The bats provided some breathing room in the bottom of that inning, as Brian Dozier hit a two-run homer and Logan Morrison added a solo shot.
Wilson had a great day at the plate. For real! He hit an RBI single with two outs in the second inning, added a run-scoring double in the fourth frame and then singled in the seventh. Altogether, the Twins had 15 hits with three from each of Wilson, Dozier and Joe Mauer. Jake Cave was 2-for-4 with a triple.
After Pressly’s impressive Houdini act in the sixth, Zach Duke followed with a scoreless seventh and Alan Busenitz, who was activated as Addison Reed hit the DL, handled the final two frames. Busenitz gave up a solo homer with two down in the ninth.
Next up for the Twins is a four-game series against the Rays at Target Field to close out the first half. After getting off to a bit of a sluggish start, Tampa Bay has gone 20-10 over its last 30 games.
Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
AL Central Standings
MIN 41-49 (-8)
DET 40-55 (-11.5)
CHW 30-61 (-19.5)
KC 26-66 (-24)
Next Three Games
Thu vs. TB, 7:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. Blake Snell
Fri vs. TB, 7:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Nathan Eovaldi
Sat vs. TB, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Chris Archer
Last Three Games
KC 9, MIN 4: Slegers Slayed by Royals
MIN 3, KC 1: Minnesota’s All-Star Shines
MIN 10, BAL 1: Twins Pick Up First Sweep of 2018
- Jul 11 2018 04:29 PM
- by Tom Froemming
I get that there is still somewhat of an ongoing debate about whether or not it is the best decision for the Twins to move Dozier at the deadline or wait until this winter and give him a qualifying offer. While I agree that both sides of the debate are still up for discussion that is not the point of this article. Instead, we will be looking into which teams have the most to gain by adding Brian Dozier to their roster before the deadline to try and assess what kind of value Dozier might have.
Boston Red Sox
For the past decade, the Boston Red Sox have been a team with very little concern about second base with Dustin Pedroia manning the position. However, with the combination of age and injury, question marks have started to arise for the Red Sox at second. Pedroia has played just three games all season and is currently on the disabled-list with no clear timetable for his return.
With Pedroia out, the Red Sox have used a combination of Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt at second. Nunez is coming off a couple of okay years in 2016 and 2017 (combined 5.1 fWAR), but has been absolutely dreadful this season to the tune of a -0.4 fWAR. On the other hand, Holt has been a better option for the Red Sox at second, but his best attribute to the team is as a utility man so he isn’t exactly their full-time answer for second base.
With Dozier on the team, he provides an immediate upgrade over Nunez. He also brings a lot more upside than does Holt, who has just a career 4.3 fWAR spread across seven Major League seasons.
Los Angeles Dodgers
If there is a contending team that would see the biggest upgrade at the second base position by adding Brian Dozier, it is the Los Angeles Dodgers. A couple of years ago the Dodgers were linked as the team with the most interest in trading for Brian Dozier, but those talks inevitably feel through as the Dodgers decided to go for Logan Forsythe instead.
That move hasn’t panned out too well for them, as Forsythe had an okay season last year, but has been terrible in Dodger blue this year with a .202/.260/.301 slash line to go along with just two home runs, good for a 54 wRC+ (100 being league average). The other main option for the Dodgers at second base has been an aging Chase Utley. Much like Forsythe, Utley has had a down year at the plate with an OPS of .621 and a wRC+ of 71.
Combined the Dodgers have received -0.6 fWAR at the second base position in 2018, which ranks 28th in all of baseball. By comparison, Brian Dozier has been worth 1.0 fWAR this season and is on pace for a league average season despite how poorly it seems like he has played. That alone would be a big upgrade for the Dodgers.
Another contending team that could use an upgrade at second base is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers improved on an 86-win team from a year ago with the additions of Lornezo Cain and Christian Yelich, along with the breakout performances from Josh Hader and Jesus Aguilar. However, one area where the Brewers could use some help is in the middle-infield.
Coming off a strong season in 2016, Jonathan Villar has been nothing but a disappointment over the last two years. This year Villar is hitting .265/.312/.388 with six home runs. He also has just 13 stolen bases this year, so the additional production he has brought on the base paths has been limited.
The Brewers have also tried out Hernan Perez and the recently DFA’d Eric Sogard at second base, but neither has given them much production. With the Brewers squarely in the middle of a divisional race with the Chicago Cubs, they will almost certainly be looking to upgrade one of their weakest areas on the team.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants made a statement this winter that they wanted to compete in 2018 with the additions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Even though things havenot gone exactly as planned with their pitching staff, the Giants find themselves at 48-45 and just three games out in the NL West and four games back of the second NL Wild Card position.
Joe Panik has served as the team’s second baseman since their World Series run in 2014 but has dealt with some injuries this year. Panik missed all of May after having surgery on his left thumb and was just placed back on the DL on Saturday with a groin injury. Even when Panik has been healthy, he has struggled his way to a .654 OPS.
With an organization that clearly has a mind set on winning now, and a team that is very much in the hunt, it would not be a surprise if the Giants look for a short-term answer at second base as they try to continue their push back into the postseason.
Other Available Second Basemen
Now that we have established that there will be a market for second basemen at the trade deadline, the other thing to consider is what other second basemen are available for teams to choose from. Unfortunately for the Twins, the list of seemingly available second basemen is pretty strong.
Scooter Gennett – The Cincinnati Reds second basemen has been one of the better players at that position in major league baseball over the past couple of seasons. So far this year Scooter Genett has a .322/.366/.509 slash line with 14 home runs, and ranks fifth among all second basemen with a 2.9 fWAR. Gennett is under control through 2019, but with the Reds being unlikely to compete next season they should be looking to move him now to maximize his value.
Jed Lowrie – The A’s have exceeded many people’s expectations this year, and a big part of that has been the play from Jed Lowrie, whose 3.3 fWAR ranks second among all MLB second basemen. The A’s have gotten hot of late and pulled within six games of the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot. If the A’s can stay hot over the next few weeks that will be great news for the Twins as they will look to be buyers instead of sellers at the deadline, thus taking Lowrie off the market.
Starlin Castro – Another second baseman who could be on the move by the end of this month is Starlin Castro. If nothing else, the salary conscious Marlins will be looking to get his contract off their books. Despite being in his eighth MLB season, Castro still is only 28 and under control for $11 million in 2019 with a team option of $16 million in 2020 ($1 million buyout). For every team except the Marlins this is a pretty affordable contract for a player who is still producing at a quality level.
Given these circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to wait until right up before the deadline before Brian Dozier is traded away (if he does get traded). I think buying teams will be waiting to see what happens with Scooter Gennett and Jed Lowrie before they make a move on Brian Dozier. I also think the Twins might hold off on Dozier as long as they can, hoping he might get on one of his patented hot streaks and increase his trade value before the deadline.
- Jul 11 2018 05:43 AM
- by Andrew Thares
Mon, 7/2 through Sun, 7/8
Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 39-48)
Run Differential Last Week: +13 (Overall: -21)
Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (9.5 GB)
When previewing the upcoming slate in last week's edition of this column, I noted that the "four-game home set against Baltimore in the latter portion would look like a huge opportunity if the Twins hadn't already essentially buried themselves. That Orioles team is really, really bad."
True to form, Baltimore came to town and played terribly, dropping all four games to push its MLB-leading loss total to 65. After being swept out of Target Field, the O's find themselves on pace for a 44-118 finish. A good reminder that it could be worse.
But things still aren't anywhere near good for the Twins, whose first sweep of the year came on the heels of a gut-wrenching 1-8 road trip that torpedoed their remaining hopes of vaulting into contention. As we head into a new week, the Twins find themselves nine games below .500 and 9 1/2 out in the division despite their modest four-game winning streak.
When a season goes south as this one has, one silver lining is the opportunity to extensively evaluate some potentially useful pieces going forward. One of the most interesting names in this category at present is Jake Cave, who's been enjoying regular playing time with Byron Buxton demoted and Ryan LaMarre designated for assignment.
Cave has been taking advantage in a big way.
The numbers have been solid – he went 6-for-21 with a pair of doubles this week and has a .785 OPS overall through 20 big-league games – but more noticeable is the energy and hustle. He runs hard on the bases, risked injury with a gutsy headfirst slide into home on Saturday, and has already made several highlight-reel plays in the outfield, including a home run robbery Friday night that earned him some noteworthy praise:
When acquired, Cave was described (even by Derek Falvey) as a somewhat fringy center fielder better suited for the corners, but he looked awfully capable making six straight starts in the middle this past week.
We'll see where things go from here, but right now Cave is building his case to be part of the 2019 picture. One theoretical outfield mix would have the Twins carrying four lefty-swinging outfielders (Cave, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, LaMonte Wade) on the active roster next year. We might even see that combination in place this September.
Speaking of Kepler, he also put forth a strong effort over the past seven days, going 8-for-25 with a pair of home runs while starting all seven games. During Minnesota's nightmarish road trip Kepler had produced zero extra-base hits and one RBI in 34 plate appearances, so it was good to see him hit some balls hard and drive in four during the Baltimore series.
Returning to the fold after his 80-game PED suspension to open the season, Jorge Polanco had an assuring first week of action. Starting every game at shortstop, the 25-year-old went 7-for-26 with a pair of doubles and two walks. He's looked sharp on defense, and ended Saturday's game with an excellent backhand play in the hole.
On the pitching side there were some impressive performances as well. Aaron Slegers made his first start of the season for the Twins on Thursday and he was money, tossing six very efficient innings with one run, one walk and three hits allowed to pick up his first MLB win.
Because his stuff and strikeouts have never matched up with his intimidating frame, the 6-foot-10 righty has never been viewed as a high-end prospect, but the consistent results are hard to ignore. In his tidy victory over Baltimore, Slegers showed why a manager likes to have him around – he worked quickly, pounded the strike zone, and kept his fielders busy while limiting hard contact.
Adalberto Mejia, sent back to the minors after getting one chance to start in unbearable heat, certainly deserves another look. So does Fernando Romero, who has put up a 1.45 ERA in three starts at Rochester since an arguably unearned demotion. But Slegers, much like Cave, is one of those borderline players the Twins should be using this second half to assess. It's gonna be tough to find room for holding all these auditions in the rotation unless Minnesota can open up some vacancies, which is why the trade deadline will be key.
One candidate to be dealt further bolstered his stock over the weekend. Kyle Gibson shook off a rocky first frame to get through seven innings of three-run ball with nine strikeouts. He set a new career-high by inducing 20 swinging strikes, second-most for a Twins starter all season (Lance Lynn tallied 21 at Detroit in mid-June).
Granted, the sterling effort came against a truly lousy Orioles squad, but it was another reminder of Gibby's vastly improved arsenal. There were reportedly scouts on hand to watch the right-hander's previous outing, and if any were in the house at Target Field on Saturday they undoubtedly came away impressed.
My stance is that the Twins shouldn't move Gibson unless they're blown away by an offer. But that's not an implausible scenario.
Another strong week worth mentioning: Trevor Hildenberger bounced back from his weird implosion at Wrigley Field with three scoreless appearances, striking out five while allowing one hit and two walks. That's more like it.
And finally, in the Baby Steps Department: At Triple A, Buxton collected seven hits, including a two doubles and a homer, while scoring seven times and keeping his K-rate below 25%. At Single A, Miguel Sano went 7-for-21 and is sporting a .340 average.
Before his monster sixth inning on Sunday, in which he hit both a leadoff double and a subsequent three-run homer, Brian Dozier was 4-for-24 (.167) with nine strikeouts and zero walks on the week. Like much of the second baseman's scant production this year, his big blast – a signature upper-decker yanked to straightaway left – didn't exactly come at a pivotal time, as it extended the team's lopsided lead from seven runs to 10.
This trend has led Dozier to a -1.67 Win Probability Added, worst on the team by far, and magnifies the disappointing nature of his performance this season. According to Baseball Reference, the 31-year-old is hitting .123/.206/.193 in "Close and Late" situations, compounding a conspicuous career-long weakness (Dozier's lifetime OPS in such spots is nearly 200 points lower than his overall mark).
None of this will do much to prop up his value in the eyes of shopping contenders as the deadline approaches.
The only longer-tenured Twin, Joe Mauer, also had a quiet week, picking up five hits in 24 at-bats (.208) with one RBI and one walk. Mauer's keen eye has disappeared since his return from the disabled list. He's coaxed only two free passes in 79 plate appearances (2.5%) after drawing 28 in 167 PA (16.8%) before stirring up concussion symptoms in May. As a result, his OBP has gone from .404 before the injury to .253 since.
When answering a fan's question about whether Mauer might return on a one-year deal in 2019, Star Tribune beat reporter La Velle E. Neal III responded, "He wants to play next year, so yes." If it's a true reflection of the organization's mindset, it's annoying. With all due respect, Mauer's desires and preferences should not be dictating the team's plans.
He is a leadoff man who, over the past month, hasn't been able to get on base. A first baseman who can't hit for power (subtracting those weird two games at Wrigley Field at the end of June, Mauer has slugged .266 in 18 games since coming off the DL). A lineup staple and ostensible team leader with a 0.3 WAR through half the season.
Maybe this is just a short-term slump, and Mauer will soon get back to the level he was at before. But given his history of prolonged droughts following concussion issues, it's not easy to feel confident in that.
Bobby Wilson badly needed a game like the one he had on Saturday. The "backup" catcher was sporting an unsightly .114/.191/.203 slash line before breaking out with two hits and three RBIs in the victory. Obviously his overall numbers still aren't pretty, and it's fairly clear Wilson doesn't belong in the majors, much less starting on a semi-regular basis.
I put the word "backup" in quotes above because Wilson really hasn't functioned as one – more of a straight-up timeshare partner. Since the start of June, Mitch Garver has made 18 starts behind the plate to Wilson's 17, and the two have been pretty close in total plate appearances (72 for Garver versus 56 for Wilson, despite the former out-hitting the latter by 500+ points of OPS during that span).
In recent weeks, the catching workload has actually swung very much in Wilson's favor, as he's made 10 starts behind the plate to Garver's seven over the past 17 contests. That Paul Molitor has shifted the balance this way, despite a massive offensive chasm, speaks to a pretty evident lack of faith in Garver's receiving skills.
While that's understandable enough given his relative lack of MLB experience, the Twins can't exactly afford to exhibit endless patience with Garver, who turns 28 in January. If he's this far away now from where he needs to be, is he going to get there? How's it gonna happen when he's not getting regular reps? And even if they are unenthused with his defense, why aren't the Twins finding Garver more starts at DH or first? Why was he batting ninth on Friday despite a .333/.393/.451 line over his previous 20 games, and eighth on Sunday after chipping in two hits and a walk on Friday?
The handling of Garver has been odd, and the present state of the catcher position is unacceptable. One would think something's gotta give.
DOWN ON THE FARM
It's been a little bit of a weird season for Lewis Thorpe. The lefty, who returned successfully to Single-A last season after losing two full years to injury and illness, has now taken the step up to Double A where he has dominated... kinda.
The core numbers don't reflect it. Through 82 2/3 innings Thorpe has a 4.04 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, which are hardly eye-popping numbers for a 22-year-old in the Southern League. But he has also posted a stellar 104-to-24 K/BB ratio.
His stuff has by all accounts been excellent, and at times that has clearly manifested, like on June 21st when he struck out 12 over seven shutout innings while allowing one hit and one walk. But then he has weird games, like his dud in early June where he coughed up nine runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings, even though he induced 16 whiffs on 85 pitches. There was another start in April where he yielded 10 hits over 4 2/3 despite striking out seven, walking none, and again drawing 16 swings and misses.
Thorpe has struck out hitters in droves while showing good control, but he's been haunted by a .370 BABIP and elevated pitch counts. Luckily, the folks assembling the Futures Game rosters looked past this and handed the Melbourne native a spot on the World team. He'll likely take the mound at some point next Sunday in DC during the prospect showcase.
Maybe he'll even get a chance to face Alex Kirilloff, who will represent the Twins on the U.S. team.
The most impressive week on the farm belonged to Brent Rooker, who collected multiple hits in five of seven games and doubled in the winning run for Chattanooga on Saturday. Sporting a 1.047 OPS since the start of June, the 2017 draftee is a compelling candidate to spend time in Rochester or even Minnesota later this season.
If they want to keep this winning streak going, the Twins could hardly ask for a better slate in the final week before the All-Star break. The Royals, closely trailing Baltimore for most losses in the majors at 64, arrive on Monday for a three-game series. Then it's a four-game set versus the mediocre Rays.
If the Twins were able to go, say, 6-1 in the coming week while cutting into Cleveland's sizable division lead, one wonders if the front office's deadline calculus would change at all.
MONDAY, 7/9: ROYAL @ TWINS – LHP Danny Duffy v. RHP Jose Berrios
TUESDAY, 7/10: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Ian Kennedy v. RHP Aaron Slegers
WEDNESDAY, 7/11: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jason Hammel v. RHP Lance Lynn
THURSDAY, 7/12: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Blake Snell v. RHP Kyle Gibson
FRIDAY, 7/13: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Nathan Eovaldi v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
SATURDAY, 7/14: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Jose Berrios
SUNDAY, 7/15: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Matt Andriese v. RHP Aaron Slegers
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 81 | MIL 6, MIN 5: Oh, That Rodney Experience
- Game 82 | MIL 2, MIN 0: Strikeouts Galore
- Game 83 | MIL 3, MIN 2: Pushing Against a Stone
- Game 84 | MIN 5, BAL 2: Slegers, Cave Lift Twins Out of Slump
- Game 85 | MIN 6, BAL 2: Jake Cave Is the Hero We Deserve
- Game 86 | MIN 5, BAL 4: More Baltimore, Please
- Game 87 | MIN 10, BAL 1: Twins Pick Up First Sweep of 2018
- Jul 08 2018 08:34 PM
- by Nick Nelson