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  1. Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

    Projected Starters: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez

    Depth: Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell, Chase De Jong
    Prospects: Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Lewis Thorpe, Blayne Enlow, Gonsalves

    THE GOOD

    It's been a long time since the Twins have boasted this kind of quality atop their rotation. Berrios and Gibson each ranked among the top 15 American League starters in WAR last year (per FanGraphs), and both are poised to sustain their excellence on the backing of legitimate high-powered stuff.

    Their respective bursts of brilliance were balanced by stretches of steady solidness, leading to overall results that were well above average. And each proved admirably durable, answering the call every fifth day and setting new career highs for workload while tossing almost 200 innings apiece.

    A pair of stallions fronting the rotation is nice obviously, but it's not unprecedented for the modern Twins. Two years ago they had Berrios breaking out alongside Ervin Santana. Going back a little further, to the last playoff team, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano presented a memorable pairing.

    But what the Twins lacked in both those instances was a viable third horse. In Pineda, they might finally have one. After rehabbing him from Tommy John surgery in 2018, the Twins are now looking to cash in on their $10 million investment from a year ago. When healthy, Pineda is a big bad man pumping mid-90s heat from a 6-foot-7 frame, piling up whiffs and strikeouts at rates that overshadow Berrios or Gibson.

    The back part of the rotation is less distinguished, but not without intrigue. Odorizzi averaged a strikeout per inning last year and was perfectly serviceable in his worst MLB season. He's playing for a contract at age 29. Perez seemed like a low-wattage pickup but is raising eyebrows with mid-90s heat (and strong results) in spring camp.

    Even when accentuating their positives, we must acknowledge the uncertainty with players like Pineda and Perez, which is why depth looms large. And while you can knock the dearth of established credentials in Minnesota's second starter tier, the reality is that this inexperience is a necessary evil.

    If calamity strikes the Twins rotation, it's a sign the season is probably not headed anywhere meaningful. In that scenario, the team needs to get extended looks at pitchers like Gonsalves, Stewart, Mejia and Littell. These are all respectable talents with strong minor-league résumés, ready for their MLB shots. While contention is a hopeful aspiration for Minnesota this year, the absolute imperative is to gain more clarity around what they have going forward, especially in a rotation that is almost totally undefined after 2019.

    And these guys are no scrubs. Each of them offers his own legitimate level of promise, especially with an innovative new pitching coach on hand. Stewart is a former top draft pick with sinking stuff as heavy as any hurler you'll find. Gonsalves has a 2.46 ERA in the minors and is catching eyes with increased velocity this spring. Mejia has looked capable in every MLB stint. Littell pitched his way to a big-league debut at age 22. Thorpe, who has yet to get his first chance in the majors, is another prospect with real upside who's close.

    I can't remember the Twins ever having this degree of first-level depth. If multiple injuries strike the rotation there is certainly no assurance this starting corps will fare well, but there will at least be value in giving starts to the replacements.

    THE BAD

    Unless Berrios or Gibson take a step forward, there's no real ace in this deck. The Twins are lacking compared to pretty much every other contender when it comes to a #1 starter. One of their highest-ceiling options is evidently out of the picture for 2019, with Fernando Romero billed for the bullpen. Even the best-case scenarios for guys like Stewart and Mejia and Gonsalves slate them more as middle-of-rotation guys than frontliners.

    It wouldn't be stunning to see Berrios or Gibson (or even Pineda) graduate to that top tier of starters, but there's no tangible reason to expect it. And realistically, the Twins probably shouldn't be counting on much from Pineda or Perez, given their recent histories. You might lump Odorizzi into that group also.

    Their extended mix of starting pitchers is respectable, and very possibly the best Minnesota has carried into a season since the division title days. But it's not flashy or fierce, relative to those clubs the Twins are trying to pass – namely the Indians, who project as vastly superior.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Among players lined up for the Opening Day rotation, only one (Berrios) is under team control after this year. The Twins have an option on Perez, which could prove sneaky beneficial given that he's only 27 and throwing as well in camp as ever, but we're talking about a guy who posted a 6.22 ERA last year.

    If none of the expiring contracts (Gibson, Pineda, Odorizzi) prove worth extending, and no one emerges from the crop of borderline Triple-A arms, the Twins will find themselves searching for pitching answers via the free agent and trade markets that they steadfastly eschewed this past winter.

    So the long-term outlook here is somewhat questionable. But for the immediate future, this team has no shortage of worthwhile arms to trot out for starts.

    You've gotta really lean toward the bright side to see a unit that's anything more than average, but if the offense holds up its end, maybe that's all the Twins need.

    ***


    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Left Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Center Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Right Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter

    • Mar 17 2019 09:23 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  2. Mailbag: Adding Keuchel, Opening Day Rotation, Angry Fans


    Dallas Keuchel would be a strong addition to the Twins rotation, but I don’t think it is going to happen. I truly don’t understand why he is still a free agent. Houston’s front office knows him the best, but they haven’t bitten the bullet on adding him back to staff. There must be more to the Keuchel situation. There are some health and durability concerns about Keuchel, especially if he wants a long-term deal.

    He’s only 31 and he has a Cy Young, four Gold Gloves, and two All-Star appearances. He’s not going to pitch the same way he did in 2015, his Cy Young year, but he could be a nice number two or three pitcher on a contending team. At this point, it seems like his agent might be waiting for a key injury to a starting pitcher to drive up the Keuchel cost.


    When it comes to the final rotation order, some of the pieces are already decided. Jose Berrios has been named the team’s Opening Day starter. It seems likely that weather will impact some of the team’s early season games and the club wouldn’t need a fifth starter for the first couple of weeks.

    Behind Berrios, Kyle Gibson seems like a logical number two pitcher. From there, things get murky. Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, and Martin Perez are the next three in line for starting spots. Odorizzi got crushed in his last Grapefruit League start but he might have been working on some specific pitches. Perez has some experience in relief so he could start the year in the bullpen. A couple more rough starts and Odorizzi could switch places with Perez.

    Twins Opening Day Rotation
    • Jose Berrios
    • Kyle Gibson
    • Michael Pineda
    • Jake Odorizzi
    • Martin Perez (begins in the bullpen)

    Minnesota has focused on power this offseason, but I don’t think it is enough to reach the 350-home run mark. Last year, the Yankees hit 267 home runs and that was the most in big league history. Minnesota ranked 23rd with 166 home runs. Only five teams in MLB history have hit over 250 home runs and that might have been what you meant.

    With Minnesota’s revamped line-up, I believe the club can crack the 200-home run mark. This would put them near the top-10 in the league. Most of the Opening Day line-up should have the potential to hit 20 home runs or more. Also, Nelson Cruz certainly helps any club’s home run total.


    In the last week, the Twins announced some family friendly pricing on items at concession stands in Target Field. Unfortunately, there are only two stands with these family friendly prices. Target Field still lets fans bring in any outside food that they want as long as it is in an appropriate container. I took advantage of this policy multiple times when I lived in the Twin Cities.

    Unfortunately, I think Twitter allows fans to be negative when it isn’t necessary. People can hide behind their computer screens or their phones and complain about things that don’t have that much of an impact on them. The Twins made an effort to lower prices at Target Field. They didn’t have to do it. If you don’t want to wait in the lines, bring in your own food or go to a more expensive stand.

    I love the food options at Target Field. I only make it to a couple games per year so I’m going to buy the food I want and pay full price.

    What do you think about this week’s questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Mar 11 2019 08:46 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Sunday Twins Game Notes: Jays Power Past Twins

    Spring Training stats don’t matter at all. We know that. And whenever a player or pitcher struggles in spring training, we repeat that sentence over and over. That is the key point when looking at veteran Jake Odorizzi’s pitching line from Sunday. He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning.

    Odorizzi noted after his outing, “Hopefully it (today’s outing) means good things because I think I gave up one run last year and it didn’t go very well. So I hope so. It’s spring training; I was trying to work on offspeed a lot today.”

    Veteran starting pitchers come to spring training knowing their sole job in the spring is to be ready by Opening Day. Sometimes that means working on fastball command, or offspeed pitches. For Odorizzi on Sunday, it was the secondary stuff.

    “I mixed all my pitches. I didn’t throw too many fastballs, but that was by design. It probably played a bit of a role getting behind in counts, but I’m not going to my good stuff that I know well while spring training when I want to work on getting the other stuff that’s not as good up to that. I could have very easily started throwing my pitches how I would have in the game, but that’s not going to make you any better.”

    Rocco Baldelli came out of the dugout and removed Odorizzi from the game with two outs in the first inning. Pat Dean needed just one pitch to end the inning.

    Baldelli said, “Odo has a very mature approach to everything he does. He’s got a very good head on his shoulders. He went out there today and he was using this as one, a way to prepare and get himself in shape and also work on some things.” He continued, “He was able to go finish his work and complete his preparation on the side. These sort of things do happen, and in the regular season the leash is probably also a little bit longer than it would be in a fairly early spring start.”

    Odorizzi’s work was not complete. Because he didn’t reach a total pitch count goal for the day, he went down to the bullpen where he continued to work. He wanted to throw 36 more pitches. While he didn’t get more game-situation work, he tried to replicate it as much as possible in the bullpen.

    “I had (assistant pitching coach) Jeremy Hefner stand in and bounce back and forth from righty and lefty. And I would do up-downs. So I would throw 12 pitches, sit down, watch whoever was hitting at that point, and just treat it as a game situation. Obviously it’s not the same max effort as a game, but I treated it just like a normal game with batters in the box. So it was good. Got the same sweat I got going on in the bullpen as in the game. It was a little warm out there. For us, it’s really about the up-downs, and building your pitch counts in the spring.”

    In years past, Odorizzi threw both a slider and a cutter, but he decided in the offseason to just focus on one of the two and put all his efforts into the cutter.

    He said, “I decided this offseason I wanted to focus on one pitch and give all my effort to that instead of spreading it out where you have two average pitches and maybe one's even below-average. You take that away, and just focus on one and make it as best as you can. It's worked out really well for me so far.”

    “And like a good teammate, he has been sharing information on his pitches. “I actually taught it to Martín (Perez) the other day, and it's been working well for him in spring training so far from everything I've been told. So I'm helping guys with it while helping myself at the same time. If we can make each other better in here.” He continued, “It's good for me to sometimes talk it out with people. It helps me talk about my mindset, if I'm trying to teach it to somebody, it kind of gives you that teaching point as well. ”

    GAME NOTES/QUOTES

    Blue Jays Prospects

    The Blue Jays announced before the game that top prospect Vlad Guerrero, Jr. will miss about three weeks due to a mild oblique strain. If I were to venture a guess, it will likely cause him to start the season in Triple-A before being called up to the major leagues about three weeks into the season.

    Other top Blue Jays prospects made the trek down from Dunedin and were very impressive. Shortstop Bo Bichette led off the game with a home run. In his next at bat, he lined a double down the left field line. Later in the game, he hit an opposite field homer off of Michael Pineda.

    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs

    Slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez had three hits including a first-inning homer off of Odorizzi and a sixth-inning homer off Pineda. Cavan Biggio was in a car accident a couple of days ago. On Sunday, he went 2-for-5 with a home run off of Matt Magill.

    Pineda Throwing Ball “Pretty Well”

    Pineda gave up three runs over his three innings of work, including the two home runs. However, Baldelli believes he is healthy and throwing the ball well.

    “He's healthy and ready to go. He's actually throwing the ball pretty well. His arm strength is good. He's spinning the ball well, and for him, that's what it comes down to in a lot of ways. He's a guy that, when he's been very good in the past, a big part of his game is spinning the ball and cutting the ball and doing things like that. He is back to that now. You could look at a couple of different pitches here and there, but overall, I thought it was a very successful outing for him. Just getting out here and making some good pitches and doing it in this sweatbox that we do it in every day -- it's good for all the players, especially the pitchers, to get out there and do the work in that environment. I think it's helpful in preparing them for the year. I think Michael looks great."

    Posted Image

    Return of Marwin

    A look at Monday’s lineup shows that Marwin Gonzalez will be leading off and playing third base. He has been out of the lineup in recent days due to a shoulder injury.



    Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli said that Gonzalez is ready to return. “Marwin declared himself beyond ready to go today but we wanted to give it one more day and we had it scheduled and we ended up rolling with it. Yeah, we expect him out there and all systems go.”

    That has long been a Twins thing. When a player says that he’s ready to play, and the training staff agree, give him one more day to be more certain. Especially in spring training, it’s the right thing to do.

    Tyler Austin Making His Case

    On Friday, Tyler Austin went 3-for-3 to raise his spring batting average to .318. On Sunday afternoon, he went 3-for-3 again and now has a .400 batting average.

    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs

    CJ Cron is most likely going to be the Twins primary first baseman. However, Austin is out of options and it’s hard to imagine that the team is going to want to lose him for nothing. Could he compete with Willians Astudillo for the final roster spot? Could a trade be possible?

    Torreyes Impresses

    Ronald Torreyes, playing third base on Sunday, made a couple of really nice defensive plays. He is not a big man, but he also can hit. He has impressed his new manager both on and off the field.


    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs
    “He does everything right. He does everything right from the moment he walks on the field every morning. He's got a great energy. He's a clubhouse favorite. The guys love him. The staff loves him. He couldn't handle himself any better in the clubhouse or on the field. He's a good player. Move him anywhere. He makes all the plays. He's a headsy player. He's a baseball player. He has all good at bats. I enjoy being around him. I know I'm not alone in that thought.”

    • Mar 11 2019 06:32 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  4. Report From The Fort: Looking For A Bounceback (Part 1)

    Jake Odorizzi
    Almost exactly a year ago, the Minnesota Twins traded for Jake Odorizzi, coming off (for him) a substandard year for the Tampa Bay Rays. Mind you, that meant a 4.14 ERA, which looked pretty good for a pitching-starved Twins franchise. I was especially optimistic about him given that his struggles appeared to be injury-related.

    That optimism faded fairly fast. Odorizzi had an even worse year, posting a 4.49 ERA, though he did stay healthy and eat up 164.1 innings. So if the problem in 2017 was injuries, what was the issue in 2018? “I was just fighting mechanics and stuff all of last year,” Odorizzi says matter-of-factly.

    Getting that corrected was the focus of the offseason. “Just tried to smooth, do more range of motion. I started doing some more mobility stuff this offseason.” The struggles that he experience became a motivating factor, a recurring theme in the players I talked to. “I want to do well for the Twins because I didn’t do well for them last year.”

    A look at his numbers as he faced batters repeatedly were especially jarring. The first two times through an order, opponents posted only a .627 and .659 OPS against him. But the third time they saw him that OPS exploded to 1.159. He had similar struggles in 2017, though not nearly as pronounced. However, he didn’t have that problem in his first three years in the majors. He says that kind of struggle is the case for all pitchers, and it is, though not usually as pronounced.

    It remains to be seen if he’ll run into a similar issue this year, and what the team will do about it. As of the time we talked, he had not heard any talk about the Twins using an “Opener” role and thinks with the veteran starters the Twins have, he thinks they might not need one.

    It is a key year for him, not just because he wants to redeem himself. The 29-year-old also needs to show the market that he’s the same guys who posted a 3.72 ERA and average 175 inning between 2014 and 2016. He’s a free agent at the end of this year. But to him, that’s not a distraction. “You have to focus on now,” he says. “Take care of a season right now and let everything fall into place after that.”

    Michael Pineda
    Unlike Odorizzi, Pineda wasn’t expected to contribute much last year. He had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017, so the Twins signed him to a 2-year deal for $10 million. He got $2 million while he rehabbed from surgery and will make $8 million this year.

    Pineda has always been perceived as a high upside pitcher who struggles with injuries. He strikes out more than a batter per inning, and his walk rate is low. But he’s struggled with home run (which is not unusual in Yankee Stadium) which has led to a career 4.05 ERA, which seems high for his pedigree. But the big know against him has been his durability; the 6’ 7” 30-year-old has never pitched more than 175.2 innings in a season.

    So it was seen as a good sign last year the he recovered quickly enough that the organization considered bringing him up to the majors in a bullpen role late in the season. Cue injury. He tore the meniscus in his knee and had to undergo surgery. Should that be a concern?

    It’s not to Pineda. In fact, he is quick to point out that not only does he feel fine, but that the late season surgery didn’t impact his preparation at all. “It’s like a normal offseason,” he says. “I had six weeks for my [meniscus tear] recovery and then started working out.”

    So two members of the Twins rotation are hoping to regain the form they showed back in 2016. Odorizzi hopes his range-of-motion training helps him be more consistent with his mechanics, while Pineda hopes that 20 months of recovery and a full offseason will bring back his effectiveness. Tomorrow we’ll talk to two other bounceback candidates, both of whom started the year strong but were ambushed by … well, you’ll see.

    • Feb 20 2019 01:26 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  5. Mailbag: Stewart's Spot, Win Total, Trading for Starters


    When it comes to Kohl Stewart, there are no guarantees he will make the club out of spring training. There are certainly some locks when it comes to the starting rotation. Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and Jake Odorizzi are all but guaranteed a starting spot. Michael Pineda should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and this allows him to slide into the back half of the rotation.

    This leaves the fifth rotation spot in question. Adalberto Mejia was off to a strong start last season before he was sidelined with a nerve issue. Other players in consideration for the final starting spot would be Stephen Gonsalves, Chase De Jong, Zack Littell, and recently signed Martin Perez. My guess is Stewart starts the season at Triple-A but he will get some time at the big league level throughout the 2019 campaign.


    Predicting win totals can be quite the exercise in futility, especially over the course of a 162-game MLB season. FanGraphs currently has the Twins pegged to finish the season at 82-80. This would place them in seventh place in the American League and second place in the AL Central. At this point in the off-season, I feel like this is a pretty accurate prediction. If everything breaks right, the Twins could pick up a few other wins throughout the year, especially if Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano take the next step. Minnesota should win 80+ games but do they have enough to catch Cleveland? That still remains to be seen.


    Minnesota’s payroll has been a hot button issue over the last week or so. The Pohlads run the Twins like a business so they typically spend 50% of their revenues on the payroll. According to Forbes, Minnesota ranks 22nd in MLB team valuations. The club made $261 million in revenue last year and spent $133 million on player expenses. Currently, the Twins are projected to start next season with a payroll around $100 million.

    There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to the Twins and their finances. Those that feel that the Twins are spending roughly what they should based on their market size and revenues. Others feel the Twins are spending money very similarly to how they did during the end of the Metrodome era.

    A source in the Twins front office told Phil Mackey, “We need to get the nucleus right first. Teams that hit the gas too early wind up mistiming their window. We’ll pounce when the time is right.” Later, he brought up the fact that the Twins market size (19th) and TV revenue rank (20th) also play a factor in their ability to spend.

    Aaron Gleeman has been vocal about his frustration with the team’s payroll. When the Twins moved into Target Field, there was a three-year spike in the team’s spending in comparison to the MLB average. After 2012, the club’s relative spending is back to the same level as during the Metrodome years.

    Should the Twins payroll be higher for 2019? Yes, but it’s important to make smart financial investments and those players might not currently be available.


    Next year’s potential free agent class includes numerous starting pitchers making some significant money in 2018. Some of the players include Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. Many of these players are projected to be on winning clubs this year so their current clubs are likely to hang on to them through the 2019 season.

    Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez might be the most likely trade candidates on this list. Bumgarner had pitched 200 innings or more in six straight seasons before injuries limited him to less than 130 in each of the last two seasons. Hernandez has run into his own struggles in recent years. After posting a career ERA of 3.16 through 2016, he was limited to 86.2 innings in 2017 (4.36 ERA) and his ERA jumped to 5.55 last year.

    Make sure to follow me on Twitter so you can participate in next week’s mailbag segment. Now it’s your turn. What do you think about this week’s questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Jan 21 2019 04:04 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  6. The Twins Should Extend Odorizzi, Not Gibson

    This is not a dismissal of Gibson. Far from it. I'm a believer in his emergence. Finally healthy and harnessing the full potential of his arsenal, he alternated between solid and filthy. His fastball clocked in at a career-high 93 MPH. Both his slider and curveball were among the league's toughest to hit in their respective categories.

    Gibson has STUFF and SPIN, at a time where those assets are being scrutinized and valued as much as ever. If he follows up with another strong campaign next year, he's gonna be in demand, and he knows it. While I'm sure he'd like to stick with the Twins, I doubt he'll be cutting them any ultra-sweet deal.

    Meanwhile, Odorizzi is coming off a second straight down year, by his standards anyway. Why extend him over Gibson?

    I'll give you five good reasons.

    1. Gibson is 31. Odorizzi is 28.

    Odorizzi has thrown fewer career innings and has a strong bill of durability, with 28+ starts every season since 2014. Gibson isn't old, per se, but you could ink Odorizzi to a two-year extension and he'd be the same age when he finishes it as Gibby is now.

    2. Odorizzi has a better track record than Gibson.

    He's got a 3.95 career ERA and 1.24 WHIP, compared to 4.47 and 1.41 for Gibson. What's more, Odorizzi has achieved those superior numbers mostly as a fly-ball pitcher in the AL East. Yes, Odo is coming off a career-worst 4.49 ERA in 2018, but that's nearly identical to Gibson's career mark.

    It troubles me that even in his big breakout season, Gibby's flaws were still evident as his control wavered and he allowed a fairly steady stream of baserunners, evidenced by an unspectacular 1.30 WHIP (we can't count on him replicating his career-high 75.5% strand rate).

    3. Odorizzi might have turned a corner.

    One could make an argument that this is the perfect time to strike a multi-year pact with Odorizzi. He was quietly very effective in down the stretch, erasing his problematic long-ball vulnerability with only three home runs allowed over 10 starts between August and September. During that span he held opponents to a .203/.292/.318 slash line. Taking it back a step further, he surrendered just six homers in 20 starts after June 1st.

    Meanwhile, Odorizzi finished with the highest strikeout rate (8.9 K/9) since his rookie year. It sure seemed like the righty figured a few things out around the middle of the summer, and if he can build upon that with new pitching coach Wes Johnson, you've got something.

    4. Contract security could make Odorizzi more open-minded about his usage.

    Odorizzi is a model candidate for the "opener" strategy, as he allowed the highest OPS his third time facing opposing lineups (1.135) of any qualified pitcher in the game this year. This was noted by Parker Hageman in his feature for the Offseason Handbook, but so too was this reality: it's tough to screw around with the usage of a starting pitcher who's staring down free agency and unsure of his future.

    “Hold on a sec, I’m a starter. I’m going to get paid as a starter,” Twins director of personnel Mike Radcliff empathized in the story, speaking not of Odorizzi specifically but the general conundrum of asking an established veteran to fill an experimental role.

    With some income certainty for the coming years, the right-hander (or more accurately his agent) may be less inclined to protest such an arrangement, which could benefit the team greatly.

    5. Odorizzi will be cheaper.

    While you can easily find some positives in his numbers and trends (I did so above), the fact remains: Odorizzi is coming off a subpar season, just after the team that watched him blossom into a quality mid-rotation starter traded him for peanuts rather than pay him $6 million. I've gotta think he'd be amenable to a three-year contract on reasonable terms.

    I get that Gibson is the hot commodity right now. But taking a step back, Odorizzi has consistently shown a much higher floor, and given his reliable domination of opponents in the first meeting of a game (.645 OPS allowed and 24% K-rate, career) he's a good bet to at least excel as a reliever if it comes to that.

    Oh, and here's the other thing: if Gibson does have a beastly season next year, the Twins can extend a qualifying offer. That seems like a less viable scenario with Odorizzi.

    So, there you go. Where do you weigh in? Have I convinced you on the merits of an Odorizzi extension? Or do you lean more toward Gibson? Maybe you'd try and extend both? Neither? Let's hear it.

    • Dec 18 2018 10:30 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. Arbitration Decisions Looming

    So, by Friday's deadline, the Twins need to either offer these players arbitration or non-tender them in which case they become free agents. Sometimes the two sides will reach an agreement before the deadline on a 2019 contract. That likely involves the Twins reaching out to the player and saying, "Hey, we will offer you $X to sign, otherwise we will non-tender you." Sometimes that can create a situation where the sides reach a deal on a multi-year contract. Sometimes they agree to a one-year deal and make it clear that they are open to a multi-year deal. Trades are also possible.

    It is also important to remember that arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed. The Twins could DFA these guys and depending on when, they will only owe them a portion of the total salary.

    Let's take a look at the eligible players.

    Jake Odorizzi (5.042) - $9 - 10 million

    Odorizzi certainly had his ups and downs in 2018 with the Twins. He often wasn't able to get through six innings, but he ended pretty strong While the 2019 projected salary seems pretty high, the Twins have plenty of payroll, and Odorizzi does take the ball every time. There is value in that. Ideally, he's the Twins fourth starter.

    Prediction: Tendered


    Kyle Gibson (5.039) - $7.5 - 8.5 million

    A year ago, many were surprised that the Twins offered Gibson arbitration. But he ended the 2017 season strong (after a couple of minor league stints earlier in the season) and the Twins brought him back. At this point, it's' a no brainer that the Twins want Gibson back for 2019 after a strong 2018 season. If Gibson is open to it, I'm sure the Twins may be interested in a two or three year extension, but Gibson is now one year from free agency and may want to experience that.

    Prediction: Tendered


    CJ Cron (4.097) - $5.0 - $5.5 million

    Dude hit 30 home runs. The Rays just let him go for nothing. The Rays will go with Jake Bauers at first base and sign someone for cheap. $5 million for a guy coming off of the season Cron just had is a bargain. Easy choice to tender Cron a contract and get his bat in the lineup often. I mean, unless they go get Paul Goldschmidt.

    Prediction: Tendered


    Eddie Rosario (3.120) - $4.5 - $5.0 million

    Rosario has hit well in three of his four big leagues seasons. Even though he tailed off over the final month of 2018, in large part due to injury, Rosario had a great year. He was in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game and really deserved the opportunity. There''s not much to say here. Easy choice for his first arbitration.

    Prediction: Tendered (long-term discussions possible)


    Robbie Grossman (4.060) - $3.5 - 4 million

    Many seem to think that the decision on Grossman will be easy. He isn't a great defensive outfield and isn't versatile, so he's mostly a DH. He doesn't have a ton of power. But, he does get on base, and he does take very professional at-bats. And, $4 million isn't a lot. This decision shouldn't be as easy as many think. But...

    Prediction: Non-Tendered


    Max Kepler (2.152) - $2.8 - $3.2 million

    Kepler's primary value to this point has been that he is a tremendous defensive outfielder, and there is a lot of value in that. Overall, there hasn't been as much year-over-year improvement as many would like to see with the bat, though there have been improvements made (vs LHP, plate approach). And, 20 home runs is never something to completely sneeze at.

    Prediction: Tendered (and if it was me, I'd work for a long-term deal)


    Miguel Sano (3.066) - $2.8 - $3.2 million

    2018 was an awful year for Miguel Sano on and off the field. There were a couple of off-field investigations. There were a lot of strikeouts. There was a demotion all the way to Ft. Myers. But arbitration figures factor in more than just one season, and Sano was an All-Star in 2017, so this will be an interesting case. But, it's an easy decision.

    Prediction: Tendered


    Ehire Adrianza (4.131) - $1.5 - $2.0 million

    This is another one that is probably a much more easy decision that one might think. Adrianza was a waiver claim by the Twins a couple of seasons ago, and he has been productive in his role has a utility infielder. He's probably been forced into more action than most would have planned and held his own. He can play four infield positions and left field adequately. Less than $2 million for a solid utility infielder is standard, maybe even low.

    Prediction: Tendered

    UPDATE (3:00 pm Thursday)




    Taylor Rogers (2.145) - $1.5 - $2.0 million

    Rogers was great in the first half of 2017 and struggled in the second half. In 2018, he put it all together and became one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball. Paul Molitor relied on him heavily, especially in the second half, and Rogers came through.

    Prediction: Tendered (maybe a two-year deal discussed)


    Byron Buxton (2.160) - $1.0 - $1.5 million

    Another interesting case. Buxton's 2018 season was derailed by the early-season broken toe that affected him in the field and at the plate. He spent a lot of time on the DL and in Rochester. As you can see from his service time, that cost him an extra season before free agency. But again, in 2017, he received several MVP votes and won a Gold and a Platinum Glove for his elite defense.

    Prediction: Tendered (and I would still be very open to a long-term deal)


    Trevor May (4.012) - $1.0 - $1.5 million

    May racked up a year of service time on the Disabled List, but he came back strong late in the 2018 season. In fact, he looked the part of a closer in September. Regardless of role or innings he may pitch, May is a guy who can be a real factor out of the Twins bullpen (or even as an opener).

    Prediction: Tendered (consider a multi-year deal)


    So there you have it. I'm predicting that the Twins will offer 2019 contracts to 10 of their 11 arbitration-eligible players. Most are no-brainers, and even the two players that many seem to think could be non-tendered are not easy decisions.

    What will the Twins do with each of these players, and what should they do? That's up for debate and discussion. You can do so below.

    • Nov 29 2018 05:17 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  8. Offseason Blueprint: Changing the Course

    The way I see it, the Twins have two options: 1) Try and go for it again in 2019 and build around the current roster, or 2) work to set things up better for 2020 and beyond.

    Sure, there are some moves that would accomplish both of those things, but I don’t envision the Twins signing a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

    Instead, I believe the best way to realize that eventual World Series potential is to continue to stockpile depth for 2020 and beyond while at the same time creating more opportunities for the young players who either debuted in 2018 or were in the high minors showing signs that they were close.

    I can already hear the groans as I’m typing this. I understand why a lot of Twins fans won’t take kindly to this blueprint. When the rebuilding will ever stop? I’m more curious if it ever truly started in the first place.

    The most frustrating thing about the Twins under Derek Falvey so far has been all the half measures taken. The first offseason, the team’s biggest need was addressed in the signing of a catcher, but there were no other efforts to upgrade the club. Then there was the buy/sell move at the trade deadline later that season, one of the biggest examples of indecisiveness I can ever recall by any front office.

    Last winter (and even into spring), there was another honest effort to upgrade the team, but primarily in the short term. Given that was the case, it was all too easy to tear down the roster at the deadline.

    Even how they’ve treated the manager situation has been very half-hearted up to this point. Falvey had no choice but to accept Paul Molitor as manager, but the three-year deal he signed after the 2017 season appeared to have been a commitment to stability in that spot. We all know how that turned out.

    I’m not saying I disagreed with all those moves, but taking a look at the big picture, you’re certainly left with an image of a leadership group that’s done a very poor job at committing to anything. Flexibility can be a valuable attribute, but at some point this front office is going to need to pick a lane and stay in it.

    The next big wave of Twins talent is topped by Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis and Brusdar Graterol. It’s conceivable all three could be September callups this coming season, but it is more reasonable to expect all three arrive in 2020. But those are just the headliners. There will be plenty of other prospects who will blossom between now and then.

    There will be a ton of seeds all continuing to germinate in the high minors next season. Not all of them are going to maturate, but It seems likely the foundation of the next great Twins team will come from that crop of players. As we’ve seen with the current wave of homegrown Twins, there will be some who surprise and some who experience more growing pains than we expect.

    But where does that leave the current team?

    The great news is several of the players on the team right now will still be under team control long enough for there to be some overlap with the next wave. Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano will be around through 2021. Jose Berrios, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers will be around through 2022.

    Before we get going, this blueprint is in some ways a companion piece to the article I wrote for the Offseason Handbook. You may understand where I’m coming from a little better if you read that piece. OK, let’s get into my moves. Brace yourself, this might hurt.

    Love me tender.
    Everybody gets tendered a contract! I'm going to be both removing some outfield depth and some veteran leadership, so Robbie Grossman still makes plenty of sense on a one-year deal projected to be around $4 million. With Ehire Adrianza, the Twins are so shallow in the infield right now that I think he’s worth hanging on to for the projected $2 million.

    Free agency? No thank you.
    I’m going thrift shopping, and not for the Lance Lynn/Logan Morrison types. We’re talking bottom of the barrel. There have been some real valuable pieces acquired over the past several offseasons among the players who were non-tendered or became minor league free agents.

    The Twins saw both sides on the coin in terms of minor league free agents last year. They lost Dereck Rodriguez to the Giants, but added Willians Astudillo. You’re really mining for diamonds in the rough in this universe of players, but when you hit it’s an incredible value. You get multiple years of team control on a player who’s going to be affordable. You’re probably not going to find stars among the guys in this market (though it does happen), but a multi-year role player or bullpen piece would be a really savvy pickup.

    We don't know who will be non-tendered yet and I haven't scoured the list of minor league free agents to be, so I don't have specific names, but this is definitely an area in which the Twins should be aggressive.

    Trade away Max Kepler, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi.
    Here’s the knockout blow. This would hurt. Gibson was a rare bright spot from the 2018 season and one of the most likable guys on the team. That level of attachment isn’t there with Odorizzi, but he had a very nice season and turning over two-thirds of the established rotation would be very tough. On the other hand, Gibson, Odorizzi and Michael Pineda (more on him in a minute) are all set to become free agents after this upcoming season.

    Dealing away Kepler has the kind of disaster potential that could get somebody fired. It could end up being Aaron Hicks all over again. So why deal him? Well there’s already an argument to be made that Jake Cave deserves regular playing time over Kepler in 2019, but this has as much to do with making room for Alex Kirilloff than anything. It seems highly likely Kepler will be passed up one way or another.

    Why Max? Eddie Rosario is already what I think we all believe Kepler could be at his peak and trading Byron Buxton has even more disaster potential, mainly because his value is so low right now. Cave showed promise, but his track record is too short to garner any real trade value at this point. Trading Kepler has the best balance of potential risk vs. potential reward among the current crop of outfielders.

    The Twins have invested more than 1,600 plate appearances in Kepler and have seen very little progress at the plate. Being a strong and versatile defensive outfielder who is affordable and has upside, Kepler still figures to have plenty of trade value despite his lack of progress to this point.

    Make sure you grab a copy of the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook, which features an excellent article on Kepler written by Aaron Gleeman.

    The primary reason for listing these guys as trade bait is because they’re valuable. This isn’t a knock against them, if anything it’s quite the opposite. I think they could be flipped for additional pieces that help usher in a glory run in Twins Territory.

    So what would I be looking to acquire in these deals? Primarily infielders and high-velocity pitchers. The closer to the majors the better. The Twins don't really have a second baseman right now and I'm not sure anybody believes that Miguel Sano is going to stay at third base long term.

    On the pitching need, velocity isn’t everything but it sure helps. Plenty of pitchers are effective in the low 90s, but if you watched the postseason you know the Twins are seriously lacking in high-velocity options.

    Throughout the entire year, only a grand total of four pitches were thrown 98.5 mph or harder by the Twins staff, three of which came from guys who are no longer in the organization (two from Pressly and one each from Fernando Rodney). In the five World Series games there was a grand total of 97 pitches thrown at least 98.5 mph.

    Alright, let’s get into specifics. It’s nearly impossible for me to sit here and try come up with actual trades that make sense. The trade market is a mysterious beast. I did my best. My general theory was to take what I think the Twins could get, then lower that expectation a bit.

    Max Kepler to the Angels for Jahmai Jones, Keynan Middleton and Jake Jewell
    A consensus top 100 prospect last offseason, Jones hit .239/.337/.380 (.717) between High A and Double A. He was primarily a center fielder prior to being converted to second base last season. He still has some things to iron out at the keystone, but I love the fact that he has some flexibility. Jones doesn’t have a single tool that projects to be below average. He’s currently turning heads in the Arizona Fall League.

    Middleton, a right-handed reliever, has the ability to sit 96 mph and topped out at 99 for the Angels last year. He has a 3.43 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and has even racked up nine saves in 76 major league innings over the past two seasons. He's a guy that could finish off games for years to come. The catch? He had Tommy John surgery in May.

    Another right-handed reliever, Jewell is also coming off an injury. He suffered a fractured fibula while covering home plate, but should be recovered sometime in December. He made his MLB debut for the Angels this year and topped out at 97 mph. He hasn’t posted big strikeout rates in the minors despite the velo, but Jewell gets a ton of ground balls with his hard sinker.

    Every year you have a Mike Trout in your organization is a year you need to be going for it, so the Angels have that incentive to improve. Shohei Ohtani had Tommy John surgery, but for now they’re expecting him to be available to DH next season. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. The Angels do have Jo Adell, one of the top outfield prospects in baseball, but Kepler is a guy they can bank on to at the very least deliver similar production to what he’s given the Twins the past three seasons. There’s a lot of value in that to a team like the Angels who have question marks.

    Kyle Gibson to Milwaukee for Lucas Erceg
    Erceg, a left-handed hitting third baseman, is coming off a disappointing 2018 season in which he had a .688 OPS for the Brewers Double-A affiliate. He dealt with back issues in spring training, then was hit in the head by a pitch in April. Not sure if those things caused a slow start but they certainly couldn’t have had a positive impact. He played much better over his final 57 games of the season, posting a .761 OPS while slugging eight of his 13 homers on the season. In more than 500 plate appearances, Erceg had just 82 strikeouts, and there are no questions about his defense or especially his arm strength at third base. I think he’s also going to hit for power.

    Milwaukee had an incredible run this past season, but they need starting pitching help. Erceg is among their better prospects, but even with Mike Moustakas hitting free agency they still have Travis Shaw to play third base. Again, Gibby's only under contract for one more season.

    Jake Odorizzi to Oakland for Eli White
    White posted an .838 OPS in Double A last year while playing second base, shortstop, third base and even a little bit of center field. He has an advanced approach at the plate, but his tools aren't loud. Seems like the type of guy who, if he develops, could be a nice utility player. He's putting together a strong run in the AFL right now.

    Oakland’s already pretty stacked on the infield, but they could really use some more starting pitching. Billy Bean has indicated that payroll room won’t be an issue for the A’s in 2019, so they should have no trouble finding room for Odorizzi’s salary. This would be the fourth time Odorizzi would be traded.

    Trade Jason Castro, Michael Pineda and Addison Reed at the deadline.
    Unlike the names I mentioned above, this trio needs to build up value before teams are going to give up anything of significance to acquire them. All three need to prove that they’re healthy.

    Castro needs to show his knee is fully repaired and ready for the rigors of catching. Pineda’s arm should be recovered, but he’s now coming off knee surgery. Reed ended last season on the active roster, but his velocity dip is a huge red flag. All those question marks may dissolve with a few good months, and if that happens these guys could be hot commodities at the 2019 trade deadline.

    Depending on how things are progressing, at some point it would probably also make a lot of sense to trade away Trevor May, who’s only under team control through 2020. Ouch. That hurt to say too.

    What about all that money coming off the books? The big concern with implementing a plan like this is the message you’re sending to the guys you want to keep around. The best way to ease their minds would be to engage in extension talks with virtually every player you see fitting into the big picture, long term.

    You’re not going to work out a deal with all of them in one winter, but if you sign a couple extensions and at least show the other players you’re willing to invest in them further, I think the tear down becomes an easier pill to swallow. With this blueprint, it would definitely be possible to front load some extensions, providing guys with significant raises right away. I'd have to think that would be a nice motivational tool. I'm going to avoid throwing out any specifics here. If the trade market is a mysterious beast then projecting extensions is a mythical creature.

    With that said, let’s take a look at my projected 2019 Opening Day roster:

    Rotation: Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero and the winner of the fifth starter spring training battle royale.
    Bullpen: Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Addison Reed, Oliver Drake, Gabriel Moya and Jake Jewell.
    C: Jason Castro
    1B: Tyler Austin
    2B: Nick Gordon
    3B: Miguel Sano
    SS: Jorge Polanco
    LF: Eddie Rosario
    CF: Byron Buxton
    RF: Jake Cave
    DH: Robbie Grossman
    Bench: Mitch Garver, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo

    Among the candidates for the fifth starter would be Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Chase De Jong, Aaron Slegers, Lewis Thorpe and any of the bargain free agents. Out in the bullpen, Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Matt Magill and Andrew Vasquez would all also be in the mix plus any of the thrift shop additions.

    This team might honestly get the Twins into hot water with the MLB because the payroll would be so ridiculously low. At the same time, I also think this team could probably still finish second in the AL Central in 2019. If Cleveland collapses and this team somehow finds itself in first place at the deadline, the front office would have both the payroll room and prospect capital to make some massive moves if they saw fit.

    Yes, I'm basically going to dare Nick Gordon to take over as the everyday second baseman. I know he had a terrible end to 2018, but that seems to be a bit of a trend for him. Adrianza is there and in this scenario you'd also go out and acquire another bargain bin insurance option a la Gregrio Petit.

    New additions Jahmai Jones and Eli White would be back in the high minors to start the year, but could pushing for promotions in the second half. If Gordon falters, one of those guys is next up. If nobody sticks come July ... Royce Lewis time?!?! Lucas Erceg would also be knocking at the door and would push Miguel Sano to a 1B/DH role upon his arrival. Out in the bullpen, Keynan Middleton would join that unit sometime in the second half once he was recovered from TJ. Even with trading away Kepler, there's still enough outfield depth that allows LaMonte Wade to start the year back in the minors. Brent Rooker would also be waiting in the wings for a shot at 1B/DH.

    This team would look a heck of a lot different after the trade deadline.

    There’s no way the Twins would do anything similar to what I’m suggesting here, right? Well, two moves made later this past season indicate to me that this front office already has 2020 vision. If they thought this team was going to be a legit contender next season, I don’t think they would have traded away Ryan Pressly and they would have prioritized getting Buxton more plate appearances in September over gaining another year of team control.

    Throughout the coming days there will be more blueprints offered up by others here at Twins Daily. I bargain that most of them will focus on how to build this team up to compete in 2019.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody comes up with, and it’s possible that I’ll fall in love with someone else’s blueprint even above my own. Again, the one thing I want to see from the Twins going forward more than anything else is decisiveness. If they’re going to go for it, dive in head first. No more half measures.

    Please let me know what you think of this blueprint. If you’d like to take a crack at building a blueprint of your own, I think I speak for the entire Twins Daily community in saying we would love to read it. The best place to do that would be in the blog section or in the forum thread Nick started.

    • Oct 31 2018 06:11 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  9. 2018 Twins Highlights: Top Pitching Performances

    If you read the game recaps here at Twins Daily you should at least have some familiarity with the term Game Score. It’s a fun stat originally created by Bill James as a way to evaluate a starter’s performance. Tom Tango then built on that idea and developed Game Score 2.0. Here’s a link to some more information on how it works.

    On the downside, Game Score isn’t the most scientific of stats, but on the other hand it’s fairly simple and straightforward. Without further adieu, here are the top five Twins pitching performances of 2018 per Game Score 2.0:

    5. Jose Berrios, 85 Game Score vs. STL on May 15
    7.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K


    4. Jose Berrios, 86 Game Score vs. TEX on June 24
    7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K

    3. Jose Berrios, 86 Game Score vs. CHW on June 7
    9.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
    *I used total outs recorded as the tiebreaker between this and the the other 86 score.

    2. Jose Berrios, 87 Game Score vs. CHW on April 12
    7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K

    1. Jose Berrios, 92 Game Score at BAL on April 1
    9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

    That’s right, Berrios had all five of the best starts for the Twins as measured by Game Score 2.0. Kyle Gibson was the more consistent pitcher, but it was Berrios’ ability to go out and toss a gem that helped him earn a narrow victory in the voting for Twins Daily Pitcher of the Year.

    Speaking of Gibson, he just missed the cut, topping out at 84. He achieved that score on July 12 against Tampa Bay when he pitched eight innings of one-run ball with five hits, no walks and nine strikeouts. Jake Odorizzi’s best Game Score was a 78. That was the game where he carried a no-hitter late into the game, but ended up giving up a run on one hit and three walks over 7 1/3 innings, picking up five strikeouts in the process.

    In case you missed them, here are the previous installments of the 2018 Highlights Series:
    Walk-Off Wins | I took a look back at all six of the Twins’ walk-off wins from 2018.
    Super Rosario and La Tortuga | Eddie Rosario and Willians Astudillo provided excitement in an otherwise down season. Here I reviewed some of their most entertaining moments.

    • Oct 22 2018 10:32 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. MIN 11, DET 4: Bats Bust Out, Bullpen Shuts Out Detroit

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 27 Game Score, 3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 54.7% strikes (41 of 75 pitches)
    Home Runs: Field 2 (9), Austin (17)
    Multi-Hit Games: Astudillo (3-for-5), Polanco (2-for-4, 3B, BB), Grossman (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Field (2-for-4, 2 HR), Gimenez (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Duffey .212, Field .200, Austin .163, Grossman .152
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Odorizzi -.320
    [attachment=12062:WinChart926.png]
    This was Odorizzi’s shortest start since June 23 and just the second time all season he failed to at least record an out in the fourth inning. Things got off on the wrong foot right out of the gate, as Odorizzi walked the leadoff man on four pitches then nearly gave up an inside-the-park home run to Christian Stewart. Jorge Polanco made a nice relay throw to nail him at the plate.

    Odorizzi will end the year with a 4.49 ERA, the worst he’s posted over a full season in his career, but he also recorded 162 strikeouts in 164 1/3 innings pitched. That 8.9 K/9 is his highest rate since his rookie year back in 2014.

    Odorizzi gives the Twins three pitchers with 160 punchouts this season, joining Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. Coming into tonight, the only three Twins pitchers who’ve reached that mark since Target Field opened are Ervin Santana (2017), Phil Hughes (2014) and Francisco Liriano (2010).

    The last time the Twins had multiple pitchers reach 160 strikeouts was 1987 (Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven). To find the last time they had at least three pitchers reach that mark was in 1967 when they had four guys accomplish the feat (Dean Chance, Jim Kaat, Dave Boswell and Jim Merritt).

    As soon as Odorizzi exited, this game turned around. The bullpen held down Detroit, and in the meantime, the Twins’ bats heated up. Tyler Duffey earned the win, pitching two no-hit innings. Andrew Vasquez turned in a perfect inning of his own in the sixth and Addison Reed pitched a scoreless seventh before John Curtiss and Matt Belisle each turned in a perfect inning to finish things off.

    Tyler Austin hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Johnny Field hit a solo blast in the second and added a two-run homer in the fourth. Jorge Polanco capped the five-run fifth inning with a bases-clearing triple.

    Next Three Games
    Thu vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Francisco Liriano
    Fri vs. CHW, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Reynaldo Lopez
    Fri vs. CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Chase De Jong vs. Lucas Giolito

    Last Three Games
    DET 4, MIN 2: Mauer Reaches Milestone, Hildenberger Flops
    MIN 5, OAK 1: Gibby’s Arm, Cave’s Bat and Adrianza’s Glove Lift Twins to Victory
    OAK 3, MIN 2: Willians Astudillo Collects Three More Hits

    • Sep 26 2018 10:00 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  11. A Refreshing Shift in Twins Territory

    When the dust settles on the 2018 season, the Minnesota Twins will close out a September that has featured starters such as Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and Stephen Gonsalves. Sure, all those guys have taken their lumps at times, but the coaching staff has used these meaningless games to get a handful of prospects some very important big-league exposure. When it comes to the rotation, depth is present, and there’s more than a couple of names ready to be written in.

    Right now, today, we can safely suggest that Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Pineda will start the season in the Twins rotation. That foursome is plenty capable of leading a club to the playoffs, on paper, and that’s a very good place to start. Berrios has flashed the ability of a budding star, Gibson is rounding into his expected form, and the numbers suggest that Odorizzi isn’t far behind. Pineda didn’t debut due to a knee injury, but he should be virtually 100% this spring.

    During 2018 Twins starters have posted an 8.25 K/9 which was the 14th best mark in the majors. A season ago, they ranked 26th in that category with a 7.08 K/9 mark. Although they’ve stepped back a bit in terms of ERA ranking, the 4.58 mark trumps the 4.73 tally they were at in 2017. To suggest that the front office has begun to make it’s mark on the bump would be an understatement.

    Certainly, it’s Berrios who gets all the praise, and he’s been more than deserving of it. His 3.81 ERA on the year isn’t much of an improvement from the 3.89 mark set last year, but he’s fanning more batters and issuing fewer walks. Jose’s key will continue to be limiting the homers, having given up 1.2 per nine this year.

    When dissecting both Odorizzi and Gibson, it’s hard not to look at both in a similar context. Gibson is the guy who appears to have taken the largest steps forward, but there’re a few areas of suggested regression. Nonetheless, he’s transformed himself into a reliable middle-of-the-rotation piece, and that has significant value for the Twins. Jake took his lumps for a while with his new team but has turned it on down the stretch. Since August 3rd, the former Rays starter owns a 3.83 ERA and 3.49 FIP. Another guy who is middle-of-the-road, Odorizzi is a solid option.

    It’s certainly fair to question what the Twins will get in Michael Pineda. Although Tommy John surgery is plenty routine at this point, he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July 5, 2017. With the Yankees, he was a hard thrower who generally outshined his ERA with his FIP and could benefit from a more pitcher-friendly ballpark. Another strikeout arm, it’s a solid addition to the Minnesota stable.

    Yes, you’ve counted correctly, that’s only four starters in total. Right now, Minnesota could opt to turn the reins over to Fernando Romero from the get go. He got a good deal of experience this season and has always been a guy projected to profile at the top of a starting rotation. The front office also will have significant money to spend, and while Dallas Keuchel is the household free agent name, Patrick Corbin is probably the cream of the crop.

    With only one spot open, and internal depth built in, Minnesota has the luxury of not needing to load up on veteran retreads. Any arm brought in should be at the quality of Gibson and Odorizzi or better. Allowing the new guy to bump each starter back a rung only helps to further solidify the overall water level of the group. For the first time in a while, this organization doesn’t need to completely remake the position group, and they really shouldn’t want to.

    The Twins are doing a lot of things well on the mound. They’re striking batters out, and they’ve got sustainable answers on a rolling weekly basis. When it comes to searching from within, the likes of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and others need to display a notion that they’re capable of more. That piece of the puzzle remains to be seen, but it looks like the Twins have the bump covered.

    • Sep 20 2018 03:56 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  12. MIN 5, DET 3: Odorizzi Turns In Another Quality Start

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 68 Game Score, 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 66.7% strikes (56 of 84 pitches
    Home Runs: Gimenez (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Austin (2-for-4, 2B), Gimenez (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi .240, Magill .151
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Sano -.118
    [attachment=12050:WinChart918.png]
    Odorizzi was aggressive tonight, needing just 84 pitches to go 6 1/3 innings. He only walked one batter and struck out six. It’s nice to see him finishing strong.

    Matt Magill took over for Odorizzi with one out and a runner on third in the seventh. He struck out the next two batters, getting swinging strikes on six of the nine pitches he threw that inning. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

    Tyler Austin was back in the lineup after taking a game off to give his back a break after he tumbled over a railing in Kansas City. His presence was much appreciated, as Austin had an RBI single and a two-run double.

    Miguel Sano also returned to the lineup, playing for the first time since injuring himself on a slide Sept. 4. During the telecast, Dick Bremer noted that Sano hadn’t attempted a slide since the injury.

    Huh?

    You’d think it’d be a good idea to have the guy take some practice slides to make sure everything feels OK before throwing him into a game. Nick wrote a piece last night that touched on some of the questionable choices made by the Twins in concern to how they’ve handled injuries. Add this one to the list.

    Anyway, Sano looked terrible at the plate, striking out in all four of his at-bats.

    Trevor Hildenberger gave up a run on two hits in the ninth. He’s having a tough go of things of late, giving up seven earned runs in his last 2 1/3 innings.

    Postgame With Gimenez


    Next Three Games
    Wed at DET, 12:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Spencer Turnbull
    Thu: Off
    Fri at OAK, 9:05 pm CT: TBD
    Sat at OAK, 8:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 6, DET 1: Stewart Impresses, Rosario Exits Due to Injury
    MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep
    KC 10, MIN 3: It’s a Hard Road

    • Sep 18 2018 09:12 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  13. MIN 3, NYY 1: Odorizzi Carries No-No Into 8th Inning

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 78 Game Score, 7.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 57.5% strikes (69 of 120 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-4), Kepler (2-for-3, 2B)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi .377, Adrianza .151, Hildenberger .126
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Polanco -.163
    [attachment=12038:WinChart912.png]
    This was the first time all season Odorizzi recorded an out in the eighth inning, and he set a new season high for pitches in a start with 120. The only real big difference for him tonight was he threw his four-seam fastball a bit less often than usual. He typically deploys that pitch 54.6 percent of the time, but per Baseball Savant only went to it 51 times (42.5 percent).

    As is typically the case in any no-hit bid, there were some great defensive plays, including one from Odorizzi himself. Logan Forsythe and Robbie Grossman also made web gems while the no-no was intact and Max Kepler made an outstanding catch in the ninth.

    Luis Severino was looking really good himself tonight, holding the Twins to one hit through the first five innings, but the Twins finally broke through in the sixth inning. Max Kepler hit a one-out single and came around to score on an Ehire Adrianza double.

    The Twins added two runs off David Robertson in the seventh thanks to a hustle double from Jake Cave, a seeing-eye RBI single from Willians Astudillo and an RBI double from Max Kepler. La Tortuga hauling Astudillo scoring all the way from first made for one of the most fun moments of the entire season.


    Once Odorizzi was out, Taylor Rogers came in and struck out Gleyber Torres, then Trevor Hildenberger got Andrew McCutchen swinging to end the eighth. Hildy stayed in for the ninth and earned his sixth save.

    In the second inning, Mitch Garver took a hard foul ball off the mask and appeared to be dazed by the blow. He was checked on by the medical staff and stayed in to finish that inning, but was replaced in the third by Astudillo.

    Postgame With Odorizzi

    Next Three Games
    Thu at KC, 7:15 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Heath Fillmyer
    Fri at KC, 7:15 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Jorge Lopez
    Sat at KC, 6:15 pm CT: Chase De Jong vs. Ian Kennedy

    Last Three Games
    MIN 10, NYY 5: Joe Mauer Grand Slam Highlights Big Night for Bats
    NYY 7, MIN 2: It Was Close, Until It Wasn’t
    MIN 3, KC 1: Walk-Off Willians

    • Sep 13 2018 04:18 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  14. CLE 5, MIN 3: Odorizzi Fades, Busenitz Blows It

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 55 Game Score, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 56.4% strikes (53 of 94 pitches)
    Home Runs: Adrianza (6), Sano (13)
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Adrianza .218, Odorizzi .103
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.116, Busenitz -.416
    [attachment=11997:chart (2).png]
    Odorizzi’s third time through the order issues are well documented. He got off to a great start the third time through, striking out Francisco Lindor to end the fifth. He also got Michael Brantley to pop out to open the sixth.

    Then came the consecutive four-pitch walks and the hook, but Odorizzi still exited this game with the Twins up 2-1.

    Busenitz came in and gave up a game-tying single to Yonder Alonso and then a three-day homer to Jason Kipnis.

    All the Twins’ runs came via the longball, as Ehire Adrianza hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Miguel Sano hit a solo shot in the ninth.

    Jorge Polanco's sat for the third straight game and Eddie Rosario left this one in the sixth inning due to a leg injury.

    This game was broadcast on Facebook, and their booth crew, including Glen Perkins, asked Paul Molitor during an in-game interview about future roster plans. He said a decision on Byron Buxton would be coming sometime in the next 24 hours and some of the specific names he mentioned among September callups were Tyler Duffey, John Curtiss and Zack Littell.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11998:Screenshot_20180830-152420~2.png]
    Next Three Games
    Fri at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Drew Hutchison
    Sat at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Yovani Gallardo
    Sun at TEX, 2:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 4, CLE 3: Astudillo Gets First Homer, Mauer Scores 1,000th Run
    CLE 8, MIN 1: Where Did the Runs Go?
    OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss

    • Aug 30 2018 07:59 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. Week in Review: Mauer Passes Carew

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/20 through Sun, 8/26

    ***

    Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 61-69)

    Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -37)

    Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (13.0 GB)


    HIGHLIGHTS

    On Friday night, Joe Mauer notched his 2,086th career hit, surpassing Rod Carew for second place in Twins history. On that list, Mauer now trails only Kirby Puckett (2,304). He probably won't catch Puck but Mauer has admirably carved out a place in franchise lore.

    All-around, Mauer had an okay week by his current standards, collecting seven hits in 26 at-bats (.269) but it sort of epitomized his greatly reduced offensive impact. All seven hits were singles and he drew two walks, so the end result was a .590 OPS with one run scored and one driven in.

    On the same night Mauer made history, Jake Odorizzi ended his own (less favorable) run at the record books. Prior to completing seven innings against Oakland, Odorizzi had gone 30 consecutive starts without recording an out past the sixth, the sixth-longest streak ever.

    It was a very strong performance from the righty (7 IP, 1 ER), and a high point in what's been an up-and-down season. The aforementioned streak speaks to Odorizzi's lack of length – he's completed six innings only eight times in 27 starts this year – but altogether he's been about exactly what the Twins should have expected: an average starter and respectable back-end piece in the rotation. His ERA+ of 100 is nearly identical to last year's 101 and his career mark of 103.

    Some other good news: Tyler Austin just keeps mashing. The slugger launched three more home runs over the weekend, including two on Sunday (Minnesota's only offense in a 6-2 loss) and is now rocking a jaw-dropping .333/.370/.786 since coming over from New York at the deadline, with six home runs in 12 games.

    As I wrote last week, Austin is looking like a hell of a pickup by the front office, with a chance to play a key role in 2019.

    LOWLIGHTS

    The much-anticipated major-league debut of Stephen Gonsalves on Monday didn't exactly go as hoped. Facing the White Sox at Target Field, Gonsalves made it through one inning without much trouble but was ambushed in the second, allowing seven of eight hitters to reach base (triple, double, two singles, two walks, HBP) before getting the hook.

    His second turn on Saturday was an improvement, as he made it through five innings against Oakland, but he still wasn't sharp. He threw only 48 of 90 pitches for strikes, and while three of the four runs scored against him came on one swing of the bat, Gonsalves earned the poor results by allowing seven hits and four walks with just two strikeouts.

    Through two MLB starts, the left-hander has allowed as many earned runs (8) as in his last seven at Triple-A. It's a different ballgame up here, as Gonsalves is quickly learning. Hopefully the experience will ultimately benefit him.

    On Wednesday, Kyle Gibson failed to complete five innings for the first time since April, coughing up seven runs (four earned) in 4 2/3. He issued four walks, his highest total in two months. It wasn't pretty, but there's also not much reason for concern. Gibby did induce 14 swinging strikes (highest total in four August starts) and he had a 3.27 ERA over his previous five turns. Everyone has a hiccup here and there.

    The hiccups have been far too routine for Addison Reed, who continues to throw utterly hittable junk with the expected results. In three appearances last week he allowed three runs on six hits over four innings while striking out only one of the 18 batters he faced. On Friday night, the A's launched a pair of homers against him on meatballs left out over the plate.

    His once-powerful fastball has lost any semblance of effectiveness. This velocity chart via Brooks Baseball pretty much says it all:


    [attachment=11985:reedFBvelo.png]


    With Jim Thome fittingly in attendance, Miguel Sano had a very loud hit on Saturday – the 13th-longest home run in Target Field history, per Twins communications boss Dustin Morse – but it was one of only two knocks for him in a week that saw his average sink to .212.

    It's now been almost a full month since Sano returned from his banishment to Single-A, and during that span he has hit .226/.305/.441 with a 33.3% K-rate. It's encouraging relative to what we saw early in the season, but still not entirely reaffirming.

    Sano would do much to bolster the team's 2019 outlook by putting together a convincingly excellent final month.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    September call-ups are around the corner. With rosters expanding on Saturday, the Twins will have some important decisions to make regarding their team's makeup. (Though they may wait until minor-league seasons end a few days later to make the majority of decisions.)

    On the position player side, it's a fairly straightforward situation. The only big question is whether or not to recall Byron Buxton, though his improved play since returning to Rochester's lineup might be answering it – after collecting three hits on Sunday, Buxton's batting .333 with a .583 slugging percentage in eight games since his latest DL stint.

    If he does come back, it'll be interesting to see how much playing time Buxton can siphon away from Jake Cave, who's absolutely earned the right to keep seeing regular reps.

    The pitching side is more complicated. There are a lot of starters on the 40-man deserving of looks as potential 2019 contributors: Gonsalves (who should stay up), Fernando Romero, Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, maybe even Chase de Jong. It's a matter of finding innings for all of them, as there's not much point in calling anyone up to sit on the bench.

    As a possible solution, Paul Molitor has discussed a "piggybacking" approach, wherein multiple starting pitchers work in the same game (say, three or four innings apiece). This would make a lot of sense.

    But then there's the issue of a crowded bullpen picture. Desperately needing to evaluate options amidst an uncertain relief outlook, the Twins need to prioritize who they want to see. Sadly, there just won't be room for all of John Curtiss, Nick Anderson, Luke Bard and Jake Reed (the latter three would require 40-man roster moves). It's already been tough enough to find regular work for the bullpen's current occupants.

    We'll see how things play out next week.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On Sunday, Tyler Wells celebrated his 24th birthday. One day earlier, he'd turned in his fifth strong outing since being promoted to Class-AA Chattanooga, logging six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. So far for the Lookouts, Wells has a 1.67 ERA and .196 BAA, with just one home run allowed in 27 frames.

    The former 15th-round draft pick is firmly in the second tier of Twins pitching prospects, but Wells is not one to overlook. It's hard enough to do so given his towering 6'8" stature, but the results are also plenty eye-catching. In 114 innings between High-A and Double-A this season he has a 113-to-27 K/BB ratio and opponents are slashing just .192/.245/.286.

    Elsewhere: Jhoan Duran, acquired in the Eduardo Escobar trade, put together another dazzling performance at Cedar Rapids, where he's got a 2.25 ERA and 41-to-7 K/BB rate through 32 innings after fanning 10 over six scoreless frames on Friday. Another standout in the farm's second tier of pitching prospects.

    Also in Cedar Rapids, first-round draft pick Trevor Larnach had a monster week, flashing his big offensive potential by going 9-for-26 (.375) with two doubles and a homer.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    It's the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine reunion tour, as Minnesota travels to take on both of the top execs' former organizations. This road trip extends into the following week, when they'll visit Houston. The Twins will need to reverse their immense struggles away from home (22-40) to avoid pushing the modest goal of a .500 finish out of reach.

    TUESDAY, 8/28: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Carlos Carrasco
    WEDNESDAY, 8/29: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Kohl Stewart v. RHP Adam Plutko
    THURSDAY, 8/30: TWINS @ INDIANS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Mike Clevinger
    FRIDAY, 8/31: TWINS @ RANGERS – LHP Stephen Gonsalves v. LHP Mike Minor
    SATURDAY, 9/1: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios vs. RHP Drew Hutchison
    SUNDAY, 9/2: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. LHP Martin Perez

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Aug 26 2018 08:37 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. OAK 7, MIN 1: Puckett 2,304, Mauer 2,086, Carew 2,085

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 68 Game Score, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 66.7% strikes (72 of 108 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4), Grossman (2-for-3)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Rosario .143, Odorizzi .139
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Sano -.107, Drake -.215
    [attachment=11977:WinChart824.png]


    Jake Odorizzi pitched seven innings … wait, hold up, that can’t be right.

    Odo, as was on his Player’s Weekend jersey, managed to hold Oakland to two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk, throwing 108 pitches in the process. This was the first time Odorizzi recorded an out in the seventh inning for the Twins. The last time he completed seven innings was July 17, 2017.

    The bullpen was not as good. Not at all. Oliver Drake gave up three runs in the eighth and then Addison Reed gave up a pair of runs in the ninth.

    Mauer’s big milestone hit was the highlight of the night for the bats, as the only run of the game for the Twins was driven in on a Miguel Sano sacrifice fly. Memorable accomplishment for Joe, forgettable night for the Twins.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11978:Bullpen824.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sat vs. OAK, 6:10 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Mike Fiers
    Sun vs. OAK, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Brett Anderson
    Mon: OFF
    Tue at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 6, OAK 4: Twins Top Red-Hot A’s
    CHW 7, MIN 3: Sox Get to Gibby
    MIN 5, CHW 2: Wild Final Inning Puts Twins Over

    • Aug 24 2018 09:31 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  17. MIN 5, DET 4: Late Rosario Homer Lifts Twins to Elusive One-Run Victory

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 53 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 7 K, 2 BB, 59.6% strikes (59 of 99 pitches)
    Home Runs: Kepler (16), Cave (5), Rosario (22)
    Multi-Hit Games: Austin (2-for-3)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Hildenberger .226, Rosario .224, Kepler .120, Austin .100
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: None
    [attachment=11960:WinChart819.png]
    Here’s Rosario’s rocket ...


    … and a fun note from Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:

    I’m sure Super Rosario has some kind of a kryptonite, but it’s starting to seem the best hope opposing pitchers have is that he becomes too aggressive and gets himself out.

    Twins starter Jake Odorizzi exited this game with the Twins leading 4-1, but also created a mess. He left the bases loaded with Tigers and no outs in the sixth inning. Matt Magill took over a threw his first seven pitches out of the zone. He walked in a run, another runs scored on a double play and a third run came across on a single.

    Odorizzi’s line looks much worse than he actually pitched this afternoon, thanks to Magill allowing all those inherited runners to score. Still, this was the 15th time in 26 starts this season where Odorizzi failed to record an out in the sixth inning.

    As it is, Magill will get credit for two scoreless innings of work. Taylor Rogers recorded the first two outs of the eighth inning before giving way to Hildenberger, who recorded the final four outs to earn the victory. Detroit managed to get two runners in scoring position in the ninth, but Hildy struck out Niko Goodrum to end it.

    Jake Cave hit one of the most impressive home runs we’ve seen at Target Field all season. His 430-foot blast to dead center field landed in the “Catch” area above the batter’s eye. Max Kepler also homered in todays game.

    If it seems like the Twins have been mashing lots of taters lately, well, they have. Here’s an interesting fact from Phil Miller of the Star Tribune:

    There was quite a bit of roster news to come out of Target Field the last 24 fours. Ervin Santana was placed back on the DL, Johnny Field was optioned back to Rochester. Alan Busenitz and Robbie Grossman are on their way back up.

    Also, Stephen Gonsalves will make his Major League debut tomorrow. Gonsalves won’t be the only significant debut the Twins see this week, as the White Sox are calling up Michael Kopech, ranked the No. 13 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, to face the Twins Tuesday. The Twins will need to make a move to add Gonsalves to the active roster. Logan Forsythe cleared waivers and can be traded to any team in baseball ...

    UPDATE: Tyler Duffey will be sent back down to Rochester to make room for Gonsalves.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11961:Bullpen819.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 71-52
    MIN 59-64 (-12)
    DET 51-74 (-21)
    CHW 46-77 (-25)
    KC 38-86 (-33.5)

    Next Three Games
    Mon vs. CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Lucas Giolito
    Tue at CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. TBD
    Wed at CHW, 1:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. TBD

    Last Three Games
    DET 7, MIN 5: Stewart Bombs Second Audition
    MIN 5, DET 4: Take a Bow, Joe
    MIN 15, DET 8: Five Hits for Forsythe in Busy Night on the Bases

    • Aug 19 2018 04:02 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. MIN 5, PIT 2: Odorizzi, Polanco Spark Comeback

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Jake Odorizzi: 65 Game Score, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB, 65.7% strikes
    Home Runs: Miguel Sano (9)
    Multi-Hit Games: Joe Mauer (2-for-3, BB), Jorge Polanco (2-for-4, 2B), Max Kepler (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Duffey .170, Polanco .100
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Forsythe -.109
    [attachment=11938:WinChart814.png]
    Outside of that rocky second inning, Odorizzi was outstanding. He held Pittsburgh to two runs on four hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings while striking out nine. He ran into some trouble in the sixth and was lifted after giving up back-to-back singles.

    It was a big spot in the game, as the Twins were clinging to a 3-2 lead, and Paul Molitor turned to Tyler Duffey. He got Francisco Cervelli swinging to end the threat. Duffey stayed in and delivered a 1-2-3 seventh inning as well.

    The Twins’ big three-run fourth inning was kicked off by a Joe Mauer single, followed by an Eddie Rosario double then a two-run single from Jorge Polanco. He scored on a Mex Kepler single later in the inning. The Twins got a pair of insurance runs in the eighth thanks to a Miguel Sano home run that plated Polanco.

    Trevor Hildenberger earned his second save of the season.

    Postgame With Molitor


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11939:Bullpen814.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 68-51
    MIN 55-63 (-12.5)
    DET 50-70 (-18.5)
    CHW 43-76 (-25)
    KC 36-82 (-31.5)

    Next Three Game
    Wed vs. PIT, 12:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Chris Archer
    Thu vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Francisco Liriano
    Fri vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Matthew Boyd

    Last Three Games
    DET 4, MIN 2: Stewart Debuts, Bats Slump in Loss
    MIN 4, DET 3: Austin Homers, Hildy Survives Save Chance
    DET 5, MIN 3: Is There Anything Left?

    • Aug 15 2018 05:33 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  19. Q&A: Offseason Plans, Molitor's Status and Much More

    “with no immediate heir apparent at 2nd base, first base, catcher, and the need to bolster the 8th inning setup man and if things went well, I’d imagine front of rotation, how do you think the FO will fill those roles? There’s maybe 50/60 mil in payroll to play with, and all those prospects to dangle. It’s a huge roster turn over, can they get it all done in one offseason/up to all star break?”

    -Sconnie


    An Eduardo Escobar reunion makes so much sense. He can fill your opening at second base as well as provide insurance at third. I’m of the mind you can stick pretty much anybody over a first base. There will be plenty of options out there in free agency, but I’m also interested in what Tyler Austin can do. Max Kepler has experience there, though he’s also a borderline Gold Glove right fielder, so it may be a waste to put him at first. I believe LaMonte Wade played there some in college. Either way, I don’t think the Twins should be falling over themselves to bring Joe Mauer back. Still, a reunion would make a lot of sense, so I would project Mauer to be the Opening Day first baseman in 2019.

    I personally don’t see a huge need at catcher. I think a lot of teams would love to have a duo of Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, assuming Castro comes back healthy. Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos would be significant upgrades, but I feel like other teams are going to be more desperate to get them.

    I believe the front office made a strong effort to land Yu Darvish last year, but your big free agents just aren’t going to be jumping at the chance to come play in Minnesota. No matter how much money there is sitting around, guys aren’t coming here until this club has shown it’s a legit World Series contender. I think the front office can reload and put together a competitive roster over the offseason, but taking it to the next level would probably be delayed until the trade deadline.

    “Why Belisle? Rosario for real?”

    -USAFChief


    I’ve been blowing off so much steam about Matt Belisle on Twitter that Seth threatened to unfollow me over it :) I don’t have an answer to that question. My best guess is that the front office is trying to secure a better draft pick next year and they know Paul Molitor can’t resist using him. Now that Fernando Rodney has been traded, it wouldn’t shock me at all if Belisle becomes the closer once he’s activated off the DL. Yuck. The only thing I'm certain about when it comes to Belisile is he truly must be a really awesome guy.

    Eddie Rosario’s free-swinging tendencies are cause for concern, but I still have to say he’s absolutely for real. Since the start of last season, Rosie has hit .294/.333/.503 (.837 OPS) in 1,079 plate appearances. To put that into context, Justin Morneau had an .832 OPS in his time with the Twins. Eddie drives me nuts sometimes, but he’s also probably my favorite Twin now that Escobar is gone.

    “Do you really believe that Molitor is the manager who can take us to the WS?

    How big of a diffence do you think it will be between what the Twins could/should do and what they will actually do this off-season?

    What do you really think went on behind-the-scenes and in the clubhouse regarding the rumors about a toxic clubhouse?”

    -Carole Keller


    I think a manager’s impact on wins and losses is generally overstated, but no, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Molitor is a manager who could lead a team to a World Series title. That being said, Ned Yost did it … so anything’s possible. I'll circle back to Molly in just a sec.

    Taking a look at the free agents that are expected to be available, I’m not really sure what I think the Twins should do. I’m sure the expectation from the majority of the fan base will be that they go out and fill in the payroll to a level that’s similar to this year, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to attract any of the big names like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado and I don’t expect them to spend just for spending’s sake. I’d bet they have a savvy offseason, but get ripped to shreds for not bumping the payroll up higher.

    It’s tough to speculate on anything regarding the clubhouse from the outside in, but I think it has more to do with losing than anything. Losing sucks. The roster turnover couldn’t have helped either, and I’m not just talking about the new guys. Ervin Santana, Jason Castro, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco were all expected to be regulars. With those guys being out in combination with adding a crop of free agents who were mostly bitter about their lack of a market, it would be no surprise if there was some turbulence.

    Now that, however, is something I think a manager should be able to have an impact on. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that some of the players are frustrated by the front office turning the page, but that should be an issue that's addressed internally.

    I still don't think Molitor is going anywhere. It's clear ownership loves him, hard for me to see them moving on until maybe this time next season.

    “Will Odorizzi be back next year? Will Fernando Romero make the starting rotation out of spring training next year?”

    -FormerMinnasotan


    Yes, I would expect Jake Odorizzi to be in the 2019 rotation. He should be expected to perform at about a league-average level. You don’t just let a starting pitcher like that walk unless you’re trying to slash payroll. A lot of what happens with Romero will depend on how the next couple months play out, but I would predict that he’ll start next year in Triple A.

    At this point a year ago, it would have been really hard to envision a scenario in which Adalberto Mejia wasn’t going to be in the rotation for this year, but he’s only made four starts with the Twins. I could see something similar happening to Romero. I also wouldn’t be shocked if Romero was pushed into a multi-inning relief role, similar to how Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano got their feet wet in the bigs. But again, that’ll also depend on who they go out and add.

    “What should TD be paying you per game recap?”

    -TheLeviathan


    Well, how much would you pay me per game recap as a reader? Probably nothing. It’s really hard to make money on the Internet. I’ve contributed to a lot of other places online and this is by far the best situation I’ve been in. TD could probably make some more money if the site was bombarded with ads, like some other places, but I like things the way they are.

    “What's your favorite Target Field food?”

    -scottz


    I will often bring my own food into Target Field, but my go-to concession stand item is the Turkey to Go sandwich. I like how they have the seasonings and sauce at the stand so you can flavor it to your liking. A pretty simple item, but an old standby.

    “How many five year olds could you take in a fight before they overpower you?

    Be honest.”

    -Mr. Brooks


    Oh boy, probably not very many. I don’t think I’ve been in a fight since middle school and all five-year-olds do is fight. So even though I’m older, they’ve definitely got the upper hand in terms of experience. I’ve got the size and the strength, but the five-year-olds would have a considerable advantage in the stamina department.

    This was a real brainteaser, so I did what any responsible human would do in 2018 and looked it up on the Internet. It says I could take on 21 five-year-olds, but that sounds like a really high number to me. Since you specifically asked me to be honest, I’d say 11. That’s assuming we’re talking about 11 five-year olds who are really gung-ho about scrappin’.

    Alright, that's it from me. Thanks for reading, please add your two cents in the comments and let me know if you'd be interersted in similar Q&As becoming a regular feature here on the site.

    • Aug 11 2018 12:27 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  20. MIN 6, KC 4: Long Day at the Office

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Jake Odorizzi: 42 Game Score, 3.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 K, 0 BB, 68.1% strikes
    Multi-Hit Games: Eddie Rosario (2-for-5), Jorge Polanco (2-for-5, 2B), Miguel Sano (2-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Cave .142, Polanco .136, Sano .114
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Garver -.115, Moya -.142
    [attachment=11897:WinChart83update.png]
    The Twins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to a Miguel Sano two-run double and Joe Mauer RBI single. Salvador Perez destroyed a two-run homer in the third, and not too long after that the first storm rolled through.

    The first rain delay stopped the game in the fourth inning and caused a break of about 90 minutes, so Twins starter Jake Odorizzi’s night was done. Gabriel Moya took over once play resumed and eventually coughed up the lead, but the bats stormed back (sorry) to tie it up on a Logan Forsythe RBI groundout and a bases-loaded walk from Jake Cave.

    Trevor May took over in the sixth and was bringing heat. He was consistently hitting 95 mph on his four seamer and touched 90 mph with the slider. He struck out three of the four batters he faced.

    The Twins tacked on another run in the sixth thanks to a Jorge Polanco double that plated Eddie Rosario from first base. Then came the second rain delay. The grounds crew struggled to get the main tarp all the way over the diamond and had to pull in a second tarp to get the job done.

    After the rain had stopped, the crew basically had to put the entire playing surface back together. Countless bags of diamond dust were applied to the infield and all the warning tracks. Water on the grass had to be swept into the drainage vents under the field. The base lines and batter's box had to be redrawn.

    I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in Phoenix this game was going to pick back up again, but those glorious grounds crew members made it happen. Why it was so necessary in a game between two of the worst teams in the American League, I'm not so sure.


    The final three innings and change were uneventful, as the 6-4 advantage held up to give the Twins a victory. A long, wet victory.

    Mid-Delay With Aaron From St Cloud

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11896:Bullpen83update.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sat vs. KC, 6:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Burch Smith
    Sun vs. KC, 1:10 pm CT: Ervin Santana vs. Danny Duffy
    Mon at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    CLE 2, MIN 0: Carrasco Stars in Dominant Performance
    CLE 6, MIN 2: Deadline Day Ends in Defeat
    MIN 5, CLE 4: Awesome Sauce!

    • Aug 04 2018 06:33 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  21. BOS 10, MIN 4: Twins Blow Lead in Spectacular Fashion

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Jake Odorizzi: 34 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, 64.4% strikes
    Home Runs: Logan Morrison (13)
    Multi-Hit Games: Joe Mauer (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Polanco .133, Dozier .122
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Rosario -.124, Moya -.144, Odorizzi -.290
    [attachment=11877:WinChart728.png]
    Let’s go around the horn …

    First Base
    Ryan Pressly made his Astros debut and gave up a solo homer in his inning of work. Eduardo Escobar started at third and hit fifth in his D-Backs debut. Seeing him in another uniform makes me want to throw my computer out the window.


    Second Base
    Anyway, let’s get to the guys who are still here. Well, for now, at least. Paul Molitor was in Cooperstown to celebrate Jack Morris’ induction into the Hall of Fame. That meant bench coach Derek Sheldon took over as manager, and that meant Matt Magill actually got to pitch.

    Magill gave up a run on two hits over 1 ⅔ innings, but he also struck out three batters.

    Third Base
    That’s where Miguel Sano was, making his first appearance with the Twins since June 13. Parker wrote a great article titled Ready Or Not Here Comes Sano earlier today, I encourage you to check that out. Well, I don’t know if you could necessarily say that Sano didn’t look ready, but he certainly didn’t shine in his return. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

    Home Plate
    Gabriel Moya, the other guy who was just added to the 25-man roster, didn’t look so great himself. He faced four batters and gave up a double, a walk, a single and threw a wild pitch. I thought it was a little curious that the Twins would add a third lefty to the pen.

    Zach Duke hasn’t pitched for three games now. Duke was already a likely trade candidate, but putting two and two together tells me his days in a Twins uni have to be numbered.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11878:Bullpen728.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 56-47
    MIN 48-55 (-8)
    DET 45-61 (-12.5)
    CHW 37-67 (-19-5)
    KC 32-72 (-24.5)

    Next Three Games
    Sun at BOS, 12:05 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Nathan Eovaldi
    Mon vs. CLE, 7:10 pm CT: TBD
    Tue vs. CLE, 7:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    BOS 4, MIN 3: No Escobar, but at Least We Still Have Belisle
    MIN 2, BOS 1: Gibby the Great
    MIN 12, TOR 6: More Like Er-win Sweep-tana!!!

    • Jul 28 2018 09:23 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  22. Week in Review: Kansas City, Misery

    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)


    HIGHLIGHTS

    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.

    LOWLIGHTS

    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.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    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.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    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
  23. KC 5, MIN 3: Royals Sweep Twins, Butera Hits Inside-the-Park Homer (Seriously)

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Jake Odorizzi: 72 Game Score, 6.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 67.0 % strikes
    Bullpen: 2.0 IP, 3 ER, 0 K, 2 BB
    Lineup: 1-for-4 w/RISP, 3 LOB
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Dozier .107
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Hildenberger -.349
    [attachment=11849:WinChart722.png]
    First Base
    Before we even get to the game, there is quite a bit of roster news to go over. Logan Morrison was activated from the DL, and as a corresponding move Willians Astudillo was optioned back to Rochester. Morrison started at first base and hit fifth in the Twins order, going 0-for-3 with a run-scoring groundout and a walk.

    There figure to be plenty more transactions in the coming days, as Adalbero Mejia (who is scheduled to start tomorrow) and Ervin Santana (who’s scheduled to start Wednesday) need to be added to the active roster. Santana will be coming off the 60-day DL, so the Twins will even need to create a spot on the 40-man roster for him.

    Second Base
    The Twins have had a very strange year when it comes to replay, and Sunday they had yet another one that left some people scratching their heads. Jake Cave sent a line drive out to left field and Alex Gordon appeared to make a really nice diving catch. The slow-motion replays seemed to tell another story. Here’s the video:


    The ball definitely bounced, however, it’s possible that it still hit the thumb side of Gordon’s glove and simply bounced inside his mitt. It’s hard to say for certain by the replay above, but I’d be willing to bet if there was a better angle it would show that ball hit the grass first. The call stood, but what do you think?

    Third Base
    So, this happened …

    … I don’t wanna talk about it.

    Home Plate
    You know what, let’s just not talk about anything having to do with this game. Or this series.

    Matt Magill was not used at all in Kansas City and hasn’t pitched since July 10. He’s only pitched three times this month. Sure, some of that is due to the All-Star break, but Magill only appeared in five games all of last month.

    Alright fine, we’ll talk some about the game. On the plus side, Jake Odorizzi was really good, giving up just two runs (one earned) on two hits and one walk while striking out eight batters in six innings of work. Max Kepler hit his 12th home run of the season. Also, um … Alan Busenitz pitched a scoreless eighth inning. That’s all I got.

    The Twins could only muster three hits and racked up 10 strikeouts. Joe Mauer had a particularly rough afternoon, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

    UPDATE: After the conclusion of this game it was announced that Busenitz was being sent back down to Rochester to make room for Mejia. Matt Belisle is bulletproof.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11848:Bullpen722.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 54-43
    MIN 44-53 (-10)
    DET 42-58 (-13.5)
    CHW 34-63 (-20)
    KC 30-68 (-24.5)

    Next Three Games
    Mon at TOR, 6:07 pm CT: Adalberto Mejia vs. TBD
    Tue at TOR, 6:07 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Ryan Borucki
    Wed at TOR, 3:07 pm CT: Ervin Santana vs. TBD

    • Jul 22 2018 05:48 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  24. Twins Daily Roundtable: Second Half Star

    Nick Nelson
    I would hope to see a few big second halves after so many members of the Twins came up well short of expectations in the first three months. If there's one name that really stands out though, it's Max Kepler.

    In a sense, the outfielder's season has more or less met expectations — his .721 OPS and 98 OPS+ are directly in line with his MLB marks of .732 and 95 coming in, and he's on track to finish right around career norms in most counting stats. But most of us hoped for much more than the status quo from Kepler. His inability to take a step forward has been disconcerting, and a little surprising given the underlying components of his performance.

    Compared to his previous standards, strikeouts are down for Kepler (15.2% this year, 20.5% prior) while walks are up (11.0% this year, 8.7% prior). His batted ball profiles are also improved, as Kepler is sporting career lows in soft-hit and medium-hit percentage, while his career-high hard-hit percentage of 38.1% ties him with Eddie Rosario for third on the team (behind Eduardo Escobar and Joe Mauer).

    But despite all these positive indicators, Kepler is batting .229 with just six extra-base hits since the start of June. I can't see that continuing. Eventually Kepler's results will have to start trending up to match the process. I believe we'll see a breakout in the final months with several big games, which would be a hugely reassuring sign going forward.

    Tom Froemming
    I'd love to say Byron Buxton, but it's not clear to me how much longer he's going to be down in Rochester ... or what the situation there is, exactly. Instead, I'm going to go with Mitch Garver.

    Garver has already started to catch fire, as he's actually the team leader in both batting average and on-base percentage since late May. He hit just .220/.281/.341 (.622 OPS) over his first 89 plate appearances of the year, but then turned things around to post a .320/.400/.453 (.853 OPS) over his next 85 plate appearances. I think what we're seeing is a guy becoming more comfortable.

    Now that he's caught fire, here's hoping he starts to also catch more baseballs, HA!

    I wasn't a big fan of how Garver was handled in the minor leagues, and I think we're witnessing some of the problems his relative lack of reps behind the plate has caused. Still, I do think he's looked better of late, and here's hoping a familiarity with the pitching staff fosters more comfort. He'll probably never be best suited as a primary catcher, but I believe Garver's bat is good enough for him to get reps at first base or DH. He's exactly the type of player the Twins should go out of their way to give opportunities to in the second half.

    Cody Christie
    Something needs to click with the starting pitching and I think Jake Odorizzi is going to make some strong strides in the right direction during the second half. His strikeout rate is over 9.3 SO/9 for the first time in his professional career. He’s also been keeping the ball in the ballpark at better rate than the last couple of seasons. Both of these things could help him to improve down the stretch.

    Entering this season, he carried a career 1.22 WHIP with an 8.0 H/9 and a 3.0 BB/9. This season his WHIP has ballooned up to 1.42 because he is giving up more hits (8.7 H/9) and more walks (4.1 BB/9). June was a rough month with an ERA close to 6.00 and a 1.68 WHIP. With the calendar flipping to July, Odorizzi seems to have found something he was missing in the beginning of the year.

    Jose Berrios as the ace and Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson behind him could be a strong top of the rotation in the second half.

    Andrew Thares
    There have been many Twins players who have underperformed during the first half, and one would assume that at least one or two of these guys would bounce back and have a big second half. For me I’m looking at Logan Morrison.

    While we knew going in that it was unlikely Morrison would repeat his success from 2017, it wasn’t exactly like Morrison was a slouch before then either. While his first half numbers haven’t looked all that appealing at .192/.289/.357 with 10 home runs, Morrison has the potential to find his home run stroke and break out at any second.

    Logan Morrison’s peripheral numbers also support the case that he will have an improved second half. The first glaring number that sticks out to me is his .212 BABIP. While Morrison is the ideal candidate to have a lower BABIP than most given how often he is shifted against and his lack of speed, but at .212, he is still well below his .268 career average.

    The Statcast metrics also support the case that Morrison has been hitting the ball better than his results show. Here are what a few of Logan Morrison’s actual stats look like compared to his expected stats via Statcast.

    AVG: .192
    Expected: .249

    SLG: .357
    Expected: .483

    wOBA: .287
    Expected: .356

    Those are all really big gaps that suggest that Logan Morrison has been hitting the ball much better than his results show.

    Seth Stohs
    I believe that Jorge Polanco will have a big second half (or, first half for him?), I think he'll wind up hitting second or third for much of the second half and do well.

    If you've been to the last two Twins Daily Winter Meltdowns, you heard me answer the same question the same way each year. During the Twins Daily panel round table, we've been asked who we think will lead the Twins in home runs. Both years, I've answered "Max Kepler."

    It's been a somewhat disappointing first half for the Twins outfielder, but he's shown signs. His improved approach and improved results against left-handers is encouraging. With that approach, the numbers against right-handers should bump up. Kepler has so much talent and a ton of power potential. At some point it's going to click for him. Maybe it will be in the second half.

    Jeremy Nygaard
    It might be the easy answer, but I think the second half is going to belong to Jorge Polanco.

    He proved it last year by hitting 293/359/511 after the break and will have the added motivation of having let his team down/proving it wasn't a PED-enhanced stretch of hitting.

    When you look into the crystal ball of the Twins infield, there is very little certainty. But one thing is certain: Jorge Polanco is going to be in it for the foreseeable future. His second half is going to prove it.

    Jamie Cameron
    For me, it's Jorge Polanco. Regardless of how you feel about Polanco's suspension, he was a key catalyst for the Twins' outstanding second half last year. In the second half, Polanco hit .293/.359/.511 with 10 HR and a wRC+ 128. He'll be looking to replicate that form to spark a pedestrian Twins offense which should benefit from having the second easiest second half schedule in all of baseball.

    Polanco was right around an average defensive short stop in 2017, it'll be interesting to see if he can build upon that and cement his position in the field. If not, he may find himself moving to second base when Ehire Adrianza returns if Brian Dozier is traded. Either way, Polanco will feel like he has something to prove to a team he let down in the first half of the season.

    Ted Schwerzler
    I think the easy answer here is Brian Dozier if we're looking at nothing but track records. That being said, I think the two most intriguing options are Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. A year ago, Polanco was arguably the Twins greatest player down the stretch. He's still settling into the lineup after missing half the season due to his PED suspension. While Adrianza filled in fine, I thin we'll see some offensive firepower from Polanco sooner rather than later. On Kepler, I just can't believe he's going to scuffle like this all season long. He looked so great out of the gate and has gone in the tank of late. I'd be far from shocked if he doesn't use a hot stretch to get it going.

    SD Buhr
    Assuming the question is, “who do you expect to have a big second half FOR THE TWINS,” I’m going to go with Jorge Polanco. He’s a guy who has not been tainted by having to go through the frustration of the first three months of the season and I suspect he feels he has a lot to prove, coming off his suspension.

    If he’s traded (and accepts the trade, of course), I do think Joe Mauer could have a terrific second half of the season somewhere. I happen to think he’d be a great fit for the Yankees or, to a lesser degree perhaps, in Cleveland. If he suddenly found himself on a team that’s virtually a shoe-in for the post-season, I think he’d be very focused and very motivated.

    Steve Lein
    If I was fully confident that he'd be around for it's entirety, I'd peg Brian Dozier as that has seemed to be his M-O over the past few seasons. But since I'm not that confident in that happening at this point, I'm looking at #DasWunderkind, Max Kepler.

    I'm not going to dig into numbers to describe it, but I've had the impression Kepler's overall numbers should be better than they currently are. For the first month of the season he was looking great and continually having fantastic at-bats. He had even worked himself up into the number three spot in the lineup. Then... I'm not sure what happened.

    As Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario heated up, he no longer was getting those big hits.

    Kepler had been my favorite prospect to follow since watching him play Spring Training games on a roster that included Rosario, Miguel Sano, and Kennys Vargas. That experience all the way back then made me believe he'd become the best overall player of the group. Let's say that starts coming to fruition after the All-Star break.

    If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
    Sell, Sell, Sell?
    Fixing the Offense
    Romero’s Rotation Spot
    Top Prospect Timelines
    Minnesota’s All-Star Selection

    • Jul 11 2018 02:02 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  25. MIN 10, BAL 1: Twins Pick Up First Sweep of 2018

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Jake Odorizzi: 69 Game Score, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, 65.3% strikes
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 K, 0 BB
    Lineup: 4-for-8 w/RISP, 4 LOB
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi 360, Garver .158
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: None
    [attachment=11807:WinEx78.png]
    This game was actually scoreless through the first four and a half innings. Mitch Garver hit an epic two-run homer to give the Twins the lead in the bottom of the fifth. The Orioles, on the other hand, only got three runners as far as second base in the six innings Odorizzi pitched. Their only run came in the ninth, once the game was already well in hand.

    The Twins really broke through in what was an ugly sixth inning for Baltimore. Here’s how the start of that inning unfolded:

    -Brian Dozier double
    -Eduardo Escobar two-run home run
    -Logan Morrison shift-beating bunt single
    -Robbie Grossman single
    -Max Kepler single

    Then with the bases loaded, Garver hit a ground ball to shortstop. Manny Machado went home, but his throw pulled the catcher off the dish and everybody was safe. Jake Cave followed with an RBI single. The Twins got another run that inning without the ball leaving the infield, as Jorge Polanco hit a ground ball right at first baseman Chris Davis, but he hesitated to throw home and was only able to record the out at first base instead.

    Oh, and then Dozier's three-run homer. Bad opponent or not, it’s been great to see the Twins take advantage.

    Things don’t get any more difficult for the Twins, as they’ll go from playing the worst team in baseball to the second-worst team in baseball. The Royals are coming into town for a three-game series.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11808:Bullpen78.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 49-39
    MIN 39-48 (-9.5)
    DET 40-52 (-11)
    CHW 30-60 (-20)
    KC 25-63 (-24)

    Next Three Games
    Mon vs. KC, 7:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Danny Duffey
    Tue vs. KC, 7:10 pm CT: Aaron Slegers vs. Jason Hammel
    Wed vs. KC, 12:10 pm CT: Lance Lynn vs. TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 5, BAL 4: More Baltimore, Please
    MIN 6, BAL 2: Jake Cave Is the Hero We Deserve
    MIN 5, BAL 2: Slegers, Cave Lift Twins Out of Slump

    • Jul 08 2018 07:42 PM
    • by Tom Froemming