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  1. MIN 3, LAA 1: Pitching Great, Sano Homers Late

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 63.3% strikes (57 of 90 pitches)
    Home Runs: Sano (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (3-for-4), Kepler (2-for-4, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .297, Sano .295
    WPA of -0.1: None
    [attachment=12551:Win520.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    It was a pitchers duel tonight in Anaheim as the Minnesota Twins faced off against the Los Angeles Angels for the second time in a week. However, only one team sent out a starting pitch in the first inning.

    The Angels did something we saw from them in game two of last series, and something that was started by the Tampa Bay Rays last season. It’s the same thing as what a closer does, but they actually open up the game with it. Instead of having a conventional starter, you put in a pitcher hoping for 1-2 innings to start the game and Taylor Cole was put into that role today.

    Cole pitched one inning before Felix Pena came in to finish up the starter's job. He went for five innings and they finished a combined six innings giving up six hits, one run, one walk, and three strikeouts.

    Another Solid Start
    Jake Odorizzi was the starter for the series opener, and came into the game looking for his seventh straight win. His pitching set him up for that, however the bats didn’t help. Odorizzi pitched five shutout innings, giving up three hits, two walks, while striking out six. After three straight starts of going at least six innings, his last two have failed to go over 5 1/3 innings.

    His pitch count was at 90 at the end of the fifth, but he would have been facing the heart of the Angels lineup in a one-run game. A big part of his pitch count came in an at-bat in the fourth against Lucroy who fouled off seven pitches in a 12-pitch at-bat before lining out to end the inning. Odorizzi has got his ERA down to 2.38 but was unable to continue his win streak.

    Even though he had a shorter start and didn’t pick up the win, he still had a great outing and set the Twins up for success.

    Quiet Offense
    It was another slow day for the Twins offensively as they have now had 17 hits in the past two games, with 16 of them being singles. Last night the Twins had seven hits and seven singles and tonight they had ten hits and nine were singles.

    Luis Arraez has been great in his first three games of his career, getting a hit in each game. He continued his early success, adding three more hits and another run tonight. This isn’t unlikely of him either, the 22-year-old is a two-time minor league batting champion.

    Max Kepler added two hits of his own from the leadoff spot, but the Twins couldn’t really get much going after the second inning until the eighth. Miguel Sano came up with a huge two-run homer in the top of the eighth for his second of the season to put the Twins back in front 3-1 late in the game.



    Bullpen's Work
    Ryne Harper came in right after Odorizzi exited the game and had a solid 1 1/3 innings in relief with two strikeouts. He made quick work in his first inning, but gave up a hit after he retired his first batter of the seventh. He was charged with a run as Goodwin came around to score later in that inning.

    Taylor Rogers came in to try and finish up the seventh, but saw Albert Pujols, who he walked, as a pinch hitter. Rogers was a little off tonight as his last appearance was six days ago against the Angels. He gave up a two-out, 0-2 count, hit to La Stella to allow the Angels to tie the game in the seventh. He was able to strike out the next batter, Mike Trout, looking, to end the inning.

    Rogers was able to come back out and have a great eighth inning, though two Angels were injured during the inning. The first happened on a strike three when Shohei Ohtani checked his swing but ended up getting hit on the hand leading to a strike. The next injury happened to the next batter, Andrelton Simmons, on a bang-bang play at first as Simmons tried to extend his stride to reach first base.

    Blake Parker came in to close out the ninth and try to pick up his eighth save of the year against his former team. He faced four batters but it was never a worry as he got two ground outs to close out the game. The Twins improve to 31-16 on the season and continue to stay hot following a loss moving to 16-3 after a loss.

    Postgame With Arraez

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12552:Pen520.png]
    Next Game
    Tue at LAA, 9:07 pm CT (Pineda-Cahill)

    Last Game
    SEA 7, MIN 4: Sweepless in Seattle

    More from Twins Daily
    Let’s Talk About Byron Buxton’s Swing
    New Baseballs Impacting Triple-A Numbers
    Twins Minor League Report (5/22): Kernels Cruise

    • May 21 2019 04:29 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  2. MIN 8, LAA 7: Twins Squeak Out Victory

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 64.3% strikes
    Home Runs: Buxton (2), Castro (6)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4, 3B), Schoop (2-for-4), Adrianza (2-for-3, 2B, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Adrianza .121, Buxton .109
    WPA of -0.1: None
    [attachment=12511:Win515.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Pitching
    Jake Odorizzi has been one of the Twins best pitchers recently, and entered this game with 20 straight scoreless innings. He was able to extend his streak to 22 before giving up a one-out home run in the third inning. Odorizzi didn’t have his cleanest start of the season, giving up a season-high nine hits, but was able to hold the Angels to only three runs.

    The bullpen was a little shaky today, and in the seventh when Matt Magill gave up a sac fly to Goodwin, which was the first run given up by a bullpen pitcher, who isn’t Trevor Hildenberger, in 12 games. Magill wasn’t charged a run on this as May had given up back-to-back singles right before he was taken out.

    Trevor Hildenberger continued to struggle on the mound today as he gave up three runs on three hits. He has given up runs in five of his last six outings and it hasn’t been just one run each time either. He has given up two runs four of those outings and three in today’s. It might be time to send Hildenberger down to Triple-A to hopefully get his confidence back up.

    UPDATE: Hildenberger was optioned to Triple-A after the game.

    The Angels put together a ninth inning rally, after Hildenberger retired the first batter. The Angles put together four straight hits to get the game to 8-6. Mike Morin came in and surrendered a hit on his first batter, struck out the next batter, but then hit Mike Trout with the bases loaded to bring the game to 8-7. Morin was able to strand three runners as he got Ohtani to ground out to pick up the save.

    Errors Early
    Both teams were a little off in the field at the beginning and it ended up turning into runs for the Twins.

    In the second inning, C.J. Cron was able to reach off a dropped third strike, and two batters later, Schoop reached on an infield single, and thanks to an error by Cahill, he advanced to second while Cron moved to third. Ehire Adrianza was able to make the Angels pay with a 2-RBI double for the first runs of the game.

    On the Twins side, the error occurred on one of the weirdest plays. It happened with Odorizzi and Cron, after Ohtani hit a weak comeback that Odorizzi was able to collect. However, Cron was looking for Jonathan Schoop to field the ball, and didn’t even realize Odorizzi had it. This led to Odorizzi throwing to an unprepared Cron, which allowed Ohtani to reach second base. Luckily the Twins were able to make it nothing as Simmons grounded out the next at-bat.


    Offense
    Byron Buxton was able to hit his second home run of the season in the fifth inning, with Castro adding another the next inning for his sixth of the season. Rosario was able to pick up a hit for his third straight game and get his average back up to about .250. Polanco added two hits, one of them being his fifth triple of the season, as he sits at .331.

    What really helped in today’s game was the Twins’ fifth inning on offense when they put together four runs on three hits and a walk. It came at a perfect time when the score was 2-1 to put them up 6-1. Another key component in today’s game was not leaving runners on base, which the Twins kept to only five compared to 14 for the Angels

    What’s Next?
    The Twins get right back in action tomorrow as they travel to Seattle to play the Mariners in a four-game series. They will see the Angels again next week as they travel to LA for a three-game series.

    Miguel Sano has also just been activated and could be seen in the lineup within the next week. Adding him to this already powerful lineup will just add fuel to the fire and give the Twins another weapon in the lineup.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12512:Bullpen515.png]
    Next Three Games
    Thu at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Pineda-Swanson)
    Fri at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Perez-Gonzales)
    Sat at SEA, 9:10 pm CT (Berrios-LeBlanc)

    Last Game
    MIN 4, LAA 3: Throw Down

    • May 15 2019 10:30 PM
    • by AJ Condon
  3. MIN 6, DET 0: Odorizzi Deals (Again), Twins Win Fourth in a Row

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 69.4% strikes (66 of 95 pitches)
    Home Runs: Garver (8), Kepler (8)
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .290, Polanco .150, Garver .130
    WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.130
    [attachment=12497:Win510.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Things didn’t start as well as one might think for Odorizzi. He gave up a double while facing his second batter of the night and saw a lot of hard contact from Tiger hitters, but he went on to retire 20 consecutive batters, before leaving the game in the end of seventh inning. His ERA now drops to 2.32 overall and 0.86 in his last five outings. That was also his third consecutive scoreless start, all in which he pitched at least six innings.

    The offense also came up big in support of Odorizzi. Jorge Polanco drove in three runs and Mitch Garver and Max Kepler each hit home runs. Minnesota has the third-best run differential in the AL at +50 and has hit 66 home runs, which is tied for third in the league.

    Story of the Game
    Odorizzi gave up a double in the top of the first, but that was pretty much all that happened in the inning. The top of the Twins' lineup couldn’t get anything done against Tyson Ross, who pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Both starters cruised through the second as well, retiring all the batters they’ve faced.

    In the top of the third, Odo kept dealing, with another 1-2-3 inning, with two strikeouts, but this time the offense showed up in the bottom half. After loading the bases with a couple of walks (Garver and Kepler) and a single in between (Jonathan Schoop), Polanco came through with a two-run double.

    Still no problems for Odorizzi in the fourth, as he retired all batters with only wight pitches, making it 11 consecutive. Then Garver did some more damage, blasting a two-run home run to the second deck in the left field making it 4-0 Twins.


    Tiger hitters had no answer to Odorizzi, whatsoever. He had another three up, three down inning in the fifth, with over 73% strikes at this point (50 strikes in 68 pitches), making it fourteen consecutive batters retired. And he got some more run support later on, as Kepler hit a solo shot to right field, driving in the fifth run of the night.

    Once again the Tiger hitters were dominated in the top of sixth by the Twins starter, who reached seventeen consecutive batters retired. He made it look easy. The offense continued to be effective, as Polanco drew a walk with the bases loaded, making it 6-0 Minnesota, earning his third RBI of the night.

    Odorizzi completed his majestic outing by getting yet another 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. And even though the offense didn’t produce any more runs, things didn’t get any easier for Detroit’s bats. Matt Magill pitched a three up, three down eighth. Fernando Romero gave up two hits to leadoff the ninth, but he got some fielding help from Ehire Adrianza and Buxton to secure the win and the shutout.

    After the game it was announced that Martin Perez would be going on the paternity list. Kohl Stewart will take his place on the 25-man roster and is slated to pitch the second game of tomorrow's doubleheader. The bonus 26th man for the doubleheader will be announced Saturday.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12496:Bullpen510.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sat vs. DET, 1:10 pm CT (Pineda-Turnbull)
    Sat vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT (Stewart-TBD)
    Sun vs. DET, 1:!0 pm CT (TBD-Norris)

    Last Game
    MIN 9, TOR 1: Twins Steamroll Toronto

    • May 11 2019 08:34 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  4. Martin Perez and a Cutter’s Birth

    Maybe fans shouldn’t have doubted the Twins front office. Thad Levine was very familiar with Perez from his own days in the Rangers front office. Before joining the Twins, Derek Falvey might have been best known for what he was able to do with the Cleveland pitching staff.

    Everything’s Bigger in Texas
    Perez was a regular part of the Ranger’s rotation from 2016-2017. During that time, he averaged over 190 innings per season, but he struggled to get consistent outs. He ranked near the top of the league in earned runs allowed and walks. Also, he wasn’t striking out batters on a consistent basis. He averaged just over five strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

    Statcast paints an even bleaker picture of what he was doing on the mound. His XBA ranked in the bottom 6% in the league for three consecutive seasons. In his last full season as a starter, his XSLG was in the bottom 7% of the league and his WOBA was in the bottom 1% of league. His strikeout percentage was also in the bottom 7% of the league for three straight seasons.

    Moving to the bullpen in 2018 didn’t help many of his numbers. His WHIP ballooned to 1.78, a career high. His strikeout and walk rates also stayed nearly the same. Perez’s hits per nine and home runs per nine average jumped to twice his career average.

    It was time for a change.

    The Birth of a Cutter
    During spring training, Perez got some advice from Johan Santana and Jake Odorizzi. From this advice, he was able to add a cut fastball that has kept batters off-balance. This pitch has become a secret weapon as hitters have been unable to solve this new addition to his pitching repertoire.


    Perez has thrown his new found pitch 34.8% of the time this season. He has 39 strikeouts and 13 of them have been as a result of the cutter. When facing Houston’s potent line-up, he limited the Astros to four hits over eight shutout innings. In that start, he threw his cutter on 43 of his 100 pitches.

    Perez seemed to put it all together on Monday night against Toronto. He collected a season high nine strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Five of his nine strikeouts came on the cutter. Out of his 102 pitches against the Blue Jays, he threw his cutter 34 times. Blue Jays hitters only managed one hit against the cutter.

    Will Perez be able to keep this up in the months and weeks ahead? Will the league eventually be able to figure him out? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 09 2019 05:38 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Aggressiveness in a New Area for Twins

    As of Tuesday, Wes Johnson’s staff is sending first-pitch strikes into the zone at a 62.1% rate. That’s ninth in all of baseball, and fourth in the American League. Right now, the major league average sits at 60.6%, and it’s a far cry from where this team has been previously. A year ago, Minnesota’s first-pitch strike percentage was 58.4% (28th), with preceding years sitting at 60.5% (13th), and 60.0% (16th).

    Getting the ball into the zone early doesn’t create a benefit in and of itself, but it allows for an increased opportunity to gain the upper hand. Trailing only the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota has given opposing batters fits with 0-2 counts showing up 29.4% of the time. Putting the pitcher in a dominant position nearly one-third of the time, the opportunity to force chase swings or generate less than ideal contact only rises.

    Often, good pitchers aren’t giving away at-bats either. In 2018 Minnesota’s staff turned in 91 four-pitch walks. That was the ninth-worst mark in baseball, and certainly did no favors for a group that needed to avoid extra baserunners at all costs. Through their 33 games in 2019 the Twins have allowed just 13 four-pitch walks, fifth lowest in baseball.

    Throwing more strikes, and more early strikes also, isn’t going to transform pitchers into strikeout stalwarts. Right now, Baldelli’s group owns the 19th-best strikeout rate in baseball. That says they can't easily put the ball past opposing hitters, and it’s evidence that that’s not the strength of this group. What we should see though, is the results be reflective of lackluster chances for the opposing batters. That has played out.

    Batted balls off Twins pitches have resulted in soft contact exactly one-fifth of the time. Exit velocities in the soft contact realm are the easiest to convert into outs, and Minnesota is getting the fourth most chances at them in all of baseball. As would also be expected, the 36.8% hard-hit rate ranks well, checking in at the 10th lowest in the sport. As pitchers get ahead, batters are forced to react as opposed to dictating the action at the plate. Regardless of who’s on the mound, being in a position of control helps to heighten the effectiveness of each offering.

    While this isn’t an exercise you may want to undertake before making sure you’ve got the correct ratios down, Minnesota has flipped the script on a long-time mantra for the organization. Pitch to contact is predicated on getting ground ball outs and allowing your fielders to do the work. Right now, the Twins' 39.5% ground ball rate is third lowest in all of baseball. If they were allowing hard hit balls, and getting behind in counts, that would be a recipe for disaster. Instead, this group is giving up the fifth-lowest HR/FB rate because it’s a perfect storm for dominance.

    Over the winter, and really since this front office has taken over, the emphasis has been on overhauling processes and putting people in place to drive quality results at the highest level. Most notably this offseason things took shape on the pitching mound, and that’s helped to drive a results that include getting ahead early, throwing strikes often, and generating weak popups that become immediate outs.

    In a strikeout-driven league, the Minnesota Twins have a stable of starters that include just one pitcher (Jake Odorizzi) with a current K/9 over 9.0. I’d imagine Jose Berrios will push this total to two by the end of the season, but the reality is that this group isn’t relying on dominance by way of the K. Pitching to their strengths, Johnson has his starters working ahead and dictating the action. When and if the strikeouts do pop up in any given game, it only raises the effectiveness of the blueprint up another notch.

    We are at a place where the sample size is not substantial relative to a full season, but ignoring the current merits would be a foolish proposition as well. Minnesota is challenging opposing batters, forcing their hand, and benefiting from it. The plan is working right now, and there’s no sign of an impending slow down.

    • May 07 2019 04:18 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  6. Week in Review: Battery Power

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/29 through Sun, 5/5

    ***

    Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 20-12)

    Run Differential Last Week: +0 (Overall: +25)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (2.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: DNP last week :-(


    Quick housekeeping: Adalberto Mejia was placed on IL with a calf injury following a brutal outing in Tuesday's loss. Replacing him (and newly added to the 40-man roster) is Mike Morin, who looked solid in his Twins debut at Yankee Stadium on Friday, allowing one run on a solo homer in two innings but striking out three. Meanwhile, our guy Willians Astudillo remains sidelined, but he's eligible to return this week!

    HIGHLIGHTS

    Last year, Twins catchers posted a collective .675 OPS, which sounds pretty bad but actually ranked right in the middle of the MLB pack, tied for 15th. One just can't expect much offensive production from the position. Right?

    Don't tell that to Jason Castro and Mitch Garver, who've been lighting things up through the first month. The duo has helped vault Minnesota to the top of this year's AL ranks for catcher OPS, at an astonishing 1.084, and both were instrumental in the team's success this past week.

    Castro played a big role in Thursday's series-clinching win against Houston, putting Minnesota on the board with a home run in his first at-bat amidst a four-RBI day. The previous week he'd also homered against his former team.

    On Saturday in New York, it was Garver opening up the scoring with a two-run blast – his sixth of the season already. Last year when he was named Twins Daily's top rookie, mostly because of his impressive work with the bat, he hit seven home runs in 335 plate appearances. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of so many strong offensive starts, but Garver's early improvements on both sides have been astounding.

    Speaking of astounding improvements, the ones we're seeing from Martin Perez have potential to be transformative for the Twins rotation. Following three impressive performances out of the gate as a starter, the lefty took it to another level on Wednesday, firing eight shutout innings against an Astros offense that ranks among the league's best. He now has a 2.08 ERA through four turns in the rotation.

    Perez's newfound superlativeness owes to several factors: better health, a pumped-up fastball buzzing in at 94 MPH on average, vastly superior control (he's throwing 67% strikes and averaging 1.7 BB/9 as a starter; last year those figures were at 62% and 3.8). But the biggest driver may be a cutter that's replaced his slider and become a HEAVILY utilized (35%) offering:



    The Twins took a chance on a guy who posted a 6.22 ERA while yielding a 329/.389/.527 hitting line in Texas last year, and it's paying off bigtime. Especially when you keep in mind that he's only 28 and his contract includes a $7.5 million club option for 2019.

    Perez isn't the only pitcher who has Minnesota's front office looking savvy. Jake Odorizzi turned in two stellar performances against top-tier offenses last week, holding the Astros and Yankees scoreless on six hits over 13 innings and improving his ERA to a team-leading 2.78 in the process. Odorizzi is averaging a strikeout per inning with a 13% whiff rate, and what's been most remarkable is the way he's completely flipped his greatest weakness upside-down.

    By the end of his tenure in Tampa, Odorizzi was obscenely homer-prone – part of the reason the Rays traded him for minimal return. In 2017 he surrendered 30 bombs in 143 innings, and that carried over last year to Minnesota where he coughed up 14 through 63 innings in April and May. At that very point in time, a switch just flipped. He allowed no home runs in June, and only six total the rest of the way. This year, he has given up two long balls in seven starts, despite facing the Phillies, the Astros (twice) and the Yankees.

    I mean, look at this ridiculous split:

    Odorizzi, start of 2017 through May 2018: 40 GS, 206 IP, 44 HR (1.9 HR/9)
    Odorizzi, June 2018 through present: 27 GS, 136 IP, 8 HR (0.5 HR/9)

    It seems unfathomable he could continue to avoid home runs at an elite rate as a fly ball pitcher who throws so many high fastballs, but he just keeps on doing it. In case you were wondering about the prospect they traded to Tampa for him, Jermaine Palacios is slashing .160/.236/.200 at Class-AA Montgomery after posting a .575 OPS between Single-A and Double-A last year.

    Like I said, the front office is lookin' pretty good these days.

    LOWLIGHTS

    From red-hot to ice-cold: Eddie Rosario has been slumping badly of late, with a hitless stretch extending to 28 plate appearances before he finally snapped it on Saturday. So it goes for the streaky slugger, who had registered an OPS north of 1.200 in 15 games prior to the outage.

    As I shared in one of the first Week in Review columns this year when discussing Rosario's mini-slump to open the season: "I've come to learn that any drought in production for Eddie is usually the precedent for a scorching hot streak." He followed by hitting eight home runs in his next 10 games. Take that as you will.

    While Perez and Odorizzi have emerged alongside Jose Berrios atop the Twins rotation, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have had a harder time distinguishing themselves.

    Gibson took the L in New York on Friday, although poor defense played a big part. Three of the five runs he allowed in five innings were unearned. But the fact remains: Gibby has yet to deliver a quality start against a non-Baltimore opponent.

    At least Gibson feels headed in the right direction. The struggles of Pineda are more troubling. Since opening the season with a trio of strong efforts, the big right-hander has been totally ineffective, with an 8.53 ERA over 19 innings in four starts. He hasn't completed six innings in any of those outings, with his control eroding and gopherballs piling up.

    On the bright side, Pineda did notch eight strikeouts and 18 swinging strikes against the Yankees on Sunday – both season highs. The quality of his stuff, along with the circumstance of re-acclimating to the major-league mound after 17 months away from it, makes me inclined to show continued patience.

    In the bullpen, Trevor Hildenberger had a really rough week. He made two appearances and allowed two runs on three hits in each, though thankfully the Twins had large leads in both cases. Rocco Baldelli has noticeably eased up on Hildy's usage, with only three appearances in the last 12 days after calling upon him a dozen times through Minnesota's first 21 games.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    Miguel Sano's comeback is officially in motion. He got his rehab stint underway on Tuesday in Fort Myers, though he didn't stay there long; after going 4-for-4 with a home run in his second game for the Miracle, he was quickly moved up to Double-A. Sano wasted no time getting acclimated in Pensacola, where he launched a prodigious three-run bomb in his first at-bat on Sunday:



    Obviously, it's foolish to draw any substantive conclusions about a tiny sample from a 25-year-old in the minors. Sano has played only four games. But in those games, he has already blasted two home runs, which matches his total from a 23-game, 94-PA, five-week stretch in Fort Myers and Rochester last summer. He slugged .410 over the course of that midseason demotion. His lack of dominance against younger, less experienced minor-league pitchers was another clear sign that Sano just was not right, and so it was unsurprising he continued to look underwhelming upon being recalled.

    This year, no one could describe his early showing as a "lack of dominance." Very encouraging to see. Bringing his bat into the mix for a club that already leads baseball in slugging feels like an almost ridiculous proposition. Sano figures to replace Marwin Gonzalez, who is the only Twins regular slugging below .433.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Even beyond Sano, it was a week of big returns in the minors. On Thursday, Twins Daily's #2 prospect Alex Kirilloff finally joined the Pensacola lineup after missing the first month with a wrist injury. He's 4-for-13 through his first four games. On the same day, #11 prospect Nick Gordon made his season debut for Rochester, collecting three hits and then adding three doubles in his next two games. If the mission is to quickly put that nightmarish 2018 campaign behind him, so far so good.

    Getting back these two heralded prospects will hopefully provide a jolt for a position-player group in the system that's been surprisingly quiet thus far. Here's what the hitters among Twins Daily's preseason Top 10, other than Kirilloff, have been able to accomplish through one month:
    • Royce Lewis (#1): Hitting .227/.323/.273 with zero home runs at Fort Myers after hitting 14 last year
    • Trevor Larnach (#4): HItting .279/.325/.369 with zero home runs 28 games at Fort Myers, belying his power profile
    • Wander Javier (#5): Still in extended spring training
    • Brent Rooker (#6): Hitting .210/.269/.484 with five home runs in Rochester, but striking out in 45% (!) of PAs
    • Akil Baddoo (#1): Hitting .208/.292/.416 at Fort Myers
    On the flipside, we continue to see plenty of positive developments on the pitching prospect front. Brusdar Graterol has a 2.23 ERA and .177 opponents' batting average at Pensacola. Devin Smeltzer, who'd been dominating alongside him in the Blue Wahoos rotation, moved up to Rochester last week and hurled seven shutout innings in his Red Wings debut on Friday. Jordan Balazovic, himself freshly promoted from Low-A to High-A, spun seven perfect innings with 10 strikeouts in his Miracle debut on Sunday.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    As a testament to their consistent play this year, the Twins have lost only four series so far this season. And only one of those can you definitively say they *should have* won. It was their four-gamer against Toronto at home back in mid-April. Now they'll have a chance to go on the road and avenge it, in another ballpark where they haven't fared particularly well. Then, the Twins return home for a weekend series against the Tigers, including a makeup doubleheader on Saturday.

    MONDAY, 5/6: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Marcus Stroman
    TUESDAY, 5/7: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Aaron Sanchez
    WEDNESDAY, 5/8: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Trent Thornton
    FRIDAY, 5/10: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Spencer Turnbull v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    SATURDAY, 5/11 (1): TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Michael Pineda
    SATURDAY, 5/11 (2): TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP Martin Perez
    SUNDAY, 5/12: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Norris v. RHP Jose Berrios

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • May 05 2019 07:14 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. MIN 7, NYY 3: Curse This

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 65.0% strikes (65 of 100 pitches)
    Home Runs: Garver (6), Cron (6), Cruz (7)
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (3-for-5, HR), Schoop (2-for 3), Buxton (2-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .316, Garver .215
    WPA of -0.1: None
    [attachment=12469:Win54.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    It’s only one game in early May, but this victory carries a lot of weight across Twins Territory. Even with the team's excellent start, a sweep at the hands of the Yankees would have been pretty devastating to fan morale. We now know that’s not going to happen.

    Jake Odorizzi held New York to just two hits over six shutout innings and the offense was relentless. The Twins tallied 12 hits and scored in six different innings. When the Yankees scored two in the seventh off Trevor Hildenberger, the Twins responded with a run. When New York added another run in the eighth, the lineup responded again with a run and topped off with another in the ninth just for good measure.

    Odorizzi finished strong, something he's struggled with over his career. He had to face the meat of the Yankee lineup in his sixth and final inning. It was that dreaded third time he was working through the order, so there was plenty of cause for concern, but he got Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez to ground out. He surrendered a single to Miguel Andujar, but then struck out Gleyber Torres on three pitches to end an incredibly encouraging performance on a high note.

    And it could have been even worse for the Yankees. Jonathan Scoop appeared to have hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, but Cameron Maybin made a sensational catch to rob the home run and end the inning. It was all good, because Mitch Garver, C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz all managed to homer. It’s nice to see a Twins team able to take full advantage of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium, though Cruz’s shot was a no-doubter.

    That constant stream of run scoring took a ton of pressure off the bullpen. Taylor Rogers pitched an efficient 1-2-3 ninth inning to secure the victory and put the mind of Twins fans at ease. Yes, this is a beat up Bronx Bombers team, but a win in New York is a win in New York.

    These suckers have been tough to come by. Enjoy it.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12470:Bullpen54.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sun at NYY, 3:05 pm CT (Pineda-German)
    Mon at TOR, 6:07 pm CT (TBD-Stroman)
    Tue at TOR, 6:07 pm CT (TBD-Sanchez)

    Last Game
    NYY 6, MIN 3: All Too Familiar at Yankee Stadium

    • May 04 2019 03:55 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  8. Minnesota's Rotation: Better than Advertised?

    Gibson’s Pending Free Agency
    Kyle Gibson is a free agent at season’s end. Don’t shout that too loud in Twins circles. The man Minnesota took ahead of Mike Trout is headed for free agency and he might just be coming into his own. Among qualifying pitchers, only Jose Berrios ranked higher on the team in WAR for last season. His xFIP was just 0.02 points away from the team’s top pitcher.

    So far this season, there were some rough starts to begin the year. He didn’t pitch more than 5.1 innings in his first three appearances. He also allowed three runs or more during that stretch. In his two start since then, he has averaged 6.5 innings pitched while limiting opponents to three earned runs. He’s struck out twelve during that span and largely kept the ball in the park with one home run

    Odorizzi’s Mirage
    Jake Odorizzi was unbelievable against the Astros on Monday. He was certainly lucky the Twins picked him up in a close game. That’s far from the norm for the team’s middle of the rotation starter. In his first season with Minnesota, he posted a 4.49 ERA with more walks and runs allowed than the majority of the league. The Twins continued to start him, but he soaked up losses while the Twins struggled in the middle of the season.

    As this season has progressed, he dominated Cleveland with 11 strikeouts in six innings. His start against Toronto was also strong as he pitched into the sixth and allowed one run on six hits. He’s faced Houston in his last two appearances. During that time, he’s limited one of the AL’s best offenses to two runs on 12 hits over 12 2/3 innings.

    Perez’s Wild Card
    Martin Perez was certainly a wild card when the Twins signed him. He hadn’t had much success in Texas, but the front office saw something in him. To start the year, Perez was used in a piggy-backing role, so he was used for less than four innings in his first three appearances. Since joining the rotation, Perez has certainly looked like more than a wild card.

    In his first four starts, he has pitched 26 innings while limiting opponents to six earned runs on 23 hits. He has posted an 18 to 5 strikeout to walk ratio over this stretch. Batters are hitting .242 against him with a .632 OPS. Granted two of his four starts have been against Baltimore, but he certainly held his own against Houston on Wednesday night.

    What are your thoughts on the rotation so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 02 2019 09:05 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. MIN 1, HOU 0: Let’s Go Crazy

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 66.3% strikes
    Home Runs: Adrianza (1)
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .473, Parker .170, Rogers .124, Adrianza .123
    WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.100
    [attachment=12446:Win429.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    There are certain things, even in the early going, that can give you certain vibes as a fan that your team may be on the verge of something special. Certain events just hit you and let those “this is our year” vibes to start flowing.

    Jake Odorizzi and the Twins bullpen shutting out the Houston Astros lineup would be one of those things. Ehire Adrianza hitting a home run off Justin Verlander for the only run of a game would be another one. Both those things happened tonight.

    It took Odorizzi just 86 pitches to get through seven innings. That’s a solid mark for any pitcher, but Odo isn’t exactly known for his efficiency. He got 13 swinging strikes on those 86 pitches, improving upon the career-high rate he carried into this outing. Odorizzi has gotten swinging strikes on 13% of his pitches this year. Last season, only nine qualified starters had a swinging strike rate above 13%, and Odorizzi was at 10.2%.

    Not surprisingly, the strikeout rates are also encouraging for Odorizzi in the early going of this season. He's now struck out exactly a quarter of the batters he's faced so far. That would represent a career high and a nice boost from his 22.8 K% from last year.

    Odorizzi needed a grand total of just 21 pitches to get through the third through fifth innings. He ran into trouble in the sixth, issuing a one-out walk followed by a single. We’ve seen him unravel in similar situations before, but he struck out both Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to end the threat.

    While Odorizzi was cruising, Justin Verlander was also carving up the Twins. But there was a different look to the lineup tonight. They entered this game with a league-low 3.76 pitches per plate appearances. Tonight, they had a batter work an at-bat of six pitches or more in each of Verlander’s six innings. The longest of those was a 10-pitch walk for Max Kepler to lead off the first inning. Eddie Rosario had a nine-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout, and one of those longer plate appearances produced the game’s only run.

    In the third inning, Ehire Adrianza fell behind Verlander 1-2. He fouled off the fourth pitch to extend the at-bat, then watched two balls go by. Ehire deposited pitch No. 7 into the stands.


    Verlander was nasty, but all that work resulted in him needing 100 pitches to get through six innings. He turned things over to the bullpen at that point. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a drop off. The Houston bullpen held the Twins scoreless for two innings.

    Taylor Rogers looked incredibly nasty in a scoreless eighth inning before Blake Parker took care of business in the ninth. Parker gave up a leadoff single, but managed to induce a double play ball from the next batter.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12447:Bullpen429.png]
    Next Three Games
    Tue vs. HOU, 6:40 pm CT (Pineda-Cole)
    Wed vs. HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-McHugh)
    Thu vs. HOU, 12:10 pm CT (Berrios-Peacock)

    Last Game
    MIN 4, BAL 1: Kepler Sets Tone, Gibby Brings It Home

    • Apr 29 2019 09:06 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. Week in Review: Bounceback in Baltimore

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/15 through Sun, 4/21

    ***

    Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 12-7)

    Run Differential Last Week: +8 (Overall: +20)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: 5-for-21 last week (Season AVG: .295)


    Outscoring their opponents by eight over the past seven days, the Twins now find themselves tied with Houston for the third-best run differential in the American League. Minnesota has spent 12 out of 25 days since the season started in first place.

    It was a positive week for Willians Watch, as La Tortuga delivered some big hits and – most importantly – saw plenty of playing time. Rocco Baldelli was quite creative in finding spots for the unconventional utilityman, who made appearances at four different positions (C, 1B, 3B, RF). More this, please.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    Last summer, as I put together these weekly recaps for Twins Daily, one practice became quite familiar: writing about Eddie Rosario in the "Highlights" section. It was a Sunday night tradition as reliable as pre-workweek dread. And Rosie has wasted no time resetting that routine here in 2019.

    Following a strong finish to the previous week, Rosario was simply unconscious against the Blue Jays and Orioles, going 8-for-30 with six home runs, a double and nine RBIs. At one point, he launched five homers over a span of 11 plate appearances, and seven over a span of 24.

    His monstrous performance during the doubleheader on Saturday was part of an 11-homer barrage by the Twins offense. Baltimore's pitching didn't navigate The Minefield very successfully.



    Others who enjoyed strong offensive weeks:
    • C.J. Cron, who went 7-for-23 with a pair of homers and five RBIs, and has quickly pushed his OPS into the .800 range following a slow start
    • Byron Buxton, who collected six hits, all of them doubles. His total of 12 now leads the majors
    • Mitch Garver, who didn't see a ton of action (just two starts) but made the most of it with a double and two more home runs
    • Jorge Polanco, who went 7-for-22 with a 3-to-5 K/BB ratio and finished the week with the fourth-best batting average in the American League (.362)
    • Nelson Cruz, whose 7-for-24 owed mostly to a four-hit night on Saturday

    After his victorious outing on Wednesday, Jake Odorizzi gave an in-depth self-assessment to The Athletic's Dan Hayes. "I think I'm a lot more consistent with these first four starts, just from stuff-wise, not results-wise, than any point last year," the right-handed opined. It can be tough to explain away poor outcomes without sounding like you're making excuses, but I think Odorizzi hit the right notes. And his confidence is warranted: Through his first four turns, he has held opponents to a .172 average with a blistering 14% swinging strike rate. Those are outstanding numbers.

    Odorizzi's disastrous second start, on a cold and rainy night in New York, will inflate his overall numbers for a while. But if you take it away, he's got a 2.76 ERA and 20-to-6 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. He's generating whiffs at one of the highest rates in the league. If he can keep the bouts with control at bay, there's something special here. Monday's road date with the Astros presents a big test.

    The most notable performer in the bullpen was actually Ryne Harper, who pitched three times and allowed zero runs on three singles while recording 15 outs. He's fast changing his narrative from "good story" to "good reliever."

    LOWLIGHTS

    It was a rough week for the bullpen. The unit's questionable depth came into frontal focus on Monday night, when Adalberto Mejia entered in the eighth inning with Minnesota protecting a two-run lead, and completely bombed. The left-hander allowed four runs before recording his first out, effectively turning a win into a loss.

    Mejia is ostensibly slotted as more of a low-leverage long man in this pen, but Baldelli's hand was forced by necessity: Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May had all thrown 20-plus pitches the previous day, while Trevor Hildenberger was coming off appearances on consecutive days.

    But those types of situations are going to arise often, and the Twins need to be ready for them. They can ill afford to have a single reliever on the roster they can't trust. To his credit, Mejia bounced back with a solid scoreless outing two days later.

    Tuesday night featured another bullpen botching. After Rosario tied the game with an invigorating three-run bomb, May came on for the seventh and just couldn't throw strikes. He gave up a single and walked the bases loaded before giving way to Hildenberger, who's been thrown into some obscene pressure spots early on. This time Hildy couldn't bail the Twins out, as Teoscar Hernandez's two-run single was the difference-maker in another loss.

    Betraying the high expectations he set with a dazzling showing in 2018, May just hasn't looked right this year. His command seems to go amiss every other outing. Swinging strikes are way down. And to whatever extent body language matters, his hasn't really inspired confidence since the start of spring.

    Of course, this is a guy who had thrown 25 total innings in the past two years coming into 2019. Hopefully he just needs a little time to settle into his groove. There's no question that he's an absolutely critical factor in a successful turnaround for this relief corps.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    For the foreseeable future, it seems likely the bullpen will be this team's most pressing issue – specifically, what the front office can do to bolster it. Fernando Romero wasn't overly impressive during his brief appearance on Saturday. Tyler Duffey (while intriguing) is probably not the answer for late-game leverage. The current IL members (Matt Magill, Addison Reed, Gabriel Moya) can't be counted on for much. If the Twins want to sustain in the division race, they absolutely must avoid leaning too hard on their top relievers early on, which means infusing more high-quality depth.

    Naturally, there is a continual fan focus on Craig Kimbrel, given his availability in free agency. I myself favor the idea of pursuing the trade market, where the Twins could procure a prime-aged player with multiple years of control on reasonable financial terms. Through savvy drafting and "sell" moves, Minnesota's front office has built up considerable prospect depth in the minors. If the Twins can acquire an equivalent talent to Ryan Pressly, for an equivalent price that Houston paid, they should be looking to make that move at least once.

    Granted, it's early for in-season dealing. But the landscape has never been better, with so many teams unabashed in their tanking intent. Indeed, reports are already arising that the hopelessly irrelevant Giants are open for business:



    There are impact arms in that bullpen. Will Smith, Sam Dyson and Nick Vincent, to name a few. And as it happens, the Twins have already swung two trades with San Francisco in the last month (Michael Reed and Tyler Austin). One would hope Thad Levine is already getting on the horn.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    For two members of this system's "Big Three," the 2019 season is off to a low-key start. Alex Kirilloff still hasn't played as he recovers from a wrist ailment, and Royce Lewis is hitting .214/.357/.286 at Fort Myers. But there's been nothing quiet about Brusdar Graterol's arrival at Double-A.

    The 20-year-old flamethrower was flat-out brilliant on Tuesday night, hurling seven shutout innings with one hit, one walk, and eight strikeouts. Our guy Tom (whose Twitter account is an absolute must-follow for any Twins fan on the platform) has the grisly highlights:



    Through three starts at Pensacola, Graterol has allowed one run on seven hits in 17 1/3 innings. If things keep going this way, there's no telling how quickly he could become a factor in the majors.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Orioles, Astros, Orioles, Astros. A weird quirk in the schedule (which have been plentiful early on) has the Twins alternating between these two opponents exclusively for a two-week period. It'll be interesting to see what they do on Wednesday; Jose Berrios was slated to start, but with Friday's rainout he'll be on three days rest. For the purpose of my probable listings below, I'm assuming the Twins slot in another starter (Mejia?) and push everyone else back a day.

    MONDAY, 4/22: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Brad Peacock
    TUESDAY, 4/23: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Wade Miley
    WEDNESDAY, 4/24: TWINS @ ASTROS – TBD v. RHP Justin Verlander
    FRIDAY, 4/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dan Straily v. RHP Jose Berrios
    SATURDAY, 4/27: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Alex Cobb v. LHP Martin Perez
    SUNDAY, 4/28: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Kyle Gibson

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Apr 21 2019 08:47 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  11. MIN 4, TOR 1: Pitching Staff Redemption Night

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 63.3% strikes (64 of 101 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-3, 2B, BB), Cruz (2-for-3, 2B, BB), Gonzalez (2-for-3, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .211, Cruz .175
    WPA of -0.1: Rosario -.120
    [attachment=12404:Win417.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Odorizzi had an encouraging outing after back-to-back poor starts, Adalberto Mejia recovered from his most recent poor performance with a scoreless outing and Blake Parker, who looked pretty lost over the weekend, got the save in a scoreless ninth inning. Oh, and in between all that Taylor Rogers did his thing in the eighth, turning in a scoreless frame with a pair of strikeouts.

    Nelson Cruz returned to the lineup and provided a pair of run-scoring hits. He drove in the Twins’ first run with a single in the first, then hit an RBI double in the third inning. Jorge Polanco had yet another excellent game. His OPS is up to 1.242.

    If you want to put a number on how much more relaxed tonight’s game was compared to the first two of this series (which, of course I’m going to want to do that), Leverage Index would be a good place to look. Tonight, the LI maxed out at 1.95. Last night, 18 plate appearances exceeded that mark with that max at 5.40. There were five plate appearances topped that mark on Monday night, the highest being at 3.41.

    Postgame With Parker


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12405:Bullpen417.png]
    Next Three Games
    Thu vs. TOR, 12:10 pm CT (Pineda-Buchholz)
    Fri vs. TOR, 6:05 pm CT (TBD-Cobb)
    Sat vs. TOR, 6:05 pm CT (TBD-TBD)

    Last Game
    TOR 6, MIN 5: Gut Punch

    • Apr 18 2019 04:36 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  12. NYM 9, MIN 6: Forever of a 5th Inning

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 57.7% strikes
    Home Runs: Garver (3)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4, 2B), Schoop (3-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of +0.1: Odorizzi .168, Kepler .126
    WPA of -0.1: Astudillo -.110, Hildenberger -.120, Vasquez -.414
    [attachment=12389:Win410.png]
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    That rough fifth inning could have actually been even worse. The Mets gifted their 14th out of the game to the Twins, as Jeff McNeil ran halfway home from third on a passed ball and then just kinda stood there for a moment. He was thrown out trying to get back to third.

    But the Twins could not get out of their own way.

    Jake Odorizzi gave up a single and walked the bases loaded prior to that McNeil baserunning gaffe. Instead of taking advantage of the miscue, Odorizzi re-loaded the bases by walking Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard.

    That was it for Odorizzi, as the recently recalled Andrew Vasquez came in to make his 2019 debut for the Twins. It did not go well. Vasquez hit the first batter he faced to force in a run, then walked in two more runs.

    Trevor Hildenberger came in … he walked in another run. Then he gave up a two-run single. Finally our good ol’ buddy Jeff McNeil came up to hit again and ended the inning by striking out.

    The Mets managed to scratch across six runs that inning despite recording only two hits, both of them singles.

    Martin Perez was the next Twins pitcher up. He gave up three more runs over the next two innings. He’s given up 11 hits and walked nine batters in 8 1/3 innings pitched this season.

    The lineup heated up as soon as Syndergaard was out of the game. They scored four runs in the eighth and Mitch Garver added a solo homer in the ninth.

    It was an ugly game, but the Twins head home having completed a winning road trip. Another positive: They don’t have to play another road game in a National League stadium until after the All-Star break.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12388:Bullpen410.png]
    Next Three Games
    Fri vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT (Pineda-Norris)
    Sat vs. DET, 1:10 pm CT (Berrios-Ross)
    Sun vs. DET, 1:10 pm CT (TBD-Zimmermann)

    Last Game
    MIN 14, NYM 8: Beating the Best

    And One More Thing

    • Apr 10 2019 09:17 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  13. Week in Review: Opening Salvos

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 3/25 through Sun, 3/31

    ***

    Record Last Week: 2-1 (Overall: 2-1)

    Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: +7)

    Standing: Tied for 1st Place in AL Central


    HIGHLIGHTS

    The powered-up Twins pitching staff is already on display, setting a new franchise record with 39 strikeouts through their first three games.

    On Thursday and Saturday, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi became the second starting duo in history to open a season with back-to-back double-digit strikeout totals. The feat was only previously accomplished by Arizona's Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 – arguably the greatest SP tandem in major-league history. No biggie.

    On Sunday, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez piggybacked for 11 strikeouts over 7 2/3 combined innings, continuing the run of rotation dominance against a diminished Cleveland lineup (sans Francisco Lindor).

    You can knock the quality of the opposition, but I would respond with two points:

    1) There's nothing misleading about the results this group achieved. Everyone looked fantastic. Berrios unleashed a barrage of filthy breaking balls and mixed in an upgraded changeup. Odorizzi was changing speeds and eye levels expertly. Pineda pounded the zone with heavy stuff. Perez constantly worked inside with the same 95-97 MPH heat he was flashing in spring training. There was no smoke-and-mirrors behind this magic.

    And, 2) The Indians aren't THAT beat-up. They're missing their best hitter in Lindor, yes, but fellow absentee Jason Kipnis hasn't been a factor in recent years. I mean, the fact that Tyler Naquin and Jake Bauers were Cleveland's #3 hitters in this series is really quite stunning. The qualitative difference between these two offenses was starkly apparent.

    One of the most interesting aspects of this Twins team coming into the season, from my view, was the legitimately high-powered starting corps, which has come along so far since five years ago. In total, the four starters combined for 47 swinging strikes on 310 pitches, a remarkable 15.1% whiff rate. For context, only three qualified MLB starters induced swinging strikes at a higher percentage in 2018: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Carlos Carrasco (who the Twins knocked around in Sunday's series finale).

    Meanwhile, the bullpen was effective for the most part. Rocco Baldelli rotated through all six of his relievers and got scoreless appearances from five of them, with Taylor Rogers going twice and looking particularly crisp.

    So, early returns on new pitching coach Wes Johnson and his staff are resoundingly positive.

    The offense was mostly quiet in the opening series, facing the unenviable assignments of Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in the season's first two games. Both enter this campaign as Cy Young frontrunners, and each looked the part in helping hold Minnesota's potent lineup to three runs on six hits through 18 innings.

    But Nelson Cruz made an impact in all three games as the Twins' new #3 hitter. He set up Marwin Gonzalez' game-winning hit on Thursday with a leadoff single in the seventh against Kluber. He drove in Minnesota's lone run on Saturday with some impressive bat-handling against Bauer. And he keyed the offense's breakout on Sunday by going 3-for-5 with the club's first home run of the year.

    The other most noteworthy performer was Byron Buxton. Fears of a post-spring drought quickly disappeared as he went 4-for-10 with three doubles and only two strikeouts in his first series. Last year, his third double came on May 12th. In 2017, he didn't get his fourth hit until almost two weeks into the season.

    It's certainly a modest benchmark but this is easily the best start of Buxton's career. Seeing him fired up and pumping his fists at second on Sunday after delivering a key two-run double – with two outs, on an 0-2 count – was the most invigorating sight for me on a weekend that offered plenty to choose from in that regard.

    LOWLIGHTS

    There wasn't a whole lot to dislike in these first three games. The Twins won two of them in fairly convincing fashion, and fell short by one run in the other. The final inning of that loss provides the only real fodder for grievances.

    Blake Parker was the only Twins pitcher to struggle in the entire series, and it wasn't because he got hit hard. The Arkansas native simply could not find any semblance of control in the chilly weather on Saturday. Carlos Santana singled, then moved from first to third on a pair of wild pitches. Parker walked Hanley Ramirez and fell behind Greg Allen 2-0 before allowing a sacrifice fly to deep center.

    The outing was uglier to watch than it looks on paper: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB. All things considered, if that's your most disastrous pitching performance in a series you can feel pretty good.

    And the Twins were well positioned to get that run back in the bottom half. Buxton led off against Cleveland closer Brad Hand with a wind-aided "double" to the shallow outfield. Baldelli then curiously elected not to use a pinch-hitter for Max Kepler, despite Hand's record of pure dominance against lefty swingers.



    Kepler struck out, and the rally went on to fall short. Presumably, Baldelli is just trying to show confidence in his core guys, but turning to a contact machine like Willians Astudillo in that spot – speedy runner on second, no outs, deepest bench the Twins will have all year – seemed like such an obvious call that it was surprising not to see it from the ostensibly analytical thinker. Will loyalty outweigh logic in the future? Something to watch.

    In general, Kepler is off to a slow start, as is fellow corner outfielder Eddie Rosario (combined 1-for-22), but there's no reason to worry about either.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    There's only one active Twins pitcher we haven't seen yet. It's kind of crazy that the rotation showed such incredible swing-and-miss proficiency in the opening series without its reigning whiff leader.

    Kyle Gibson spent his spring trying to regain strength and weight following a nasty winter bout with E. coli. He admitted after his last exhibition start – an ugly clunker against the Red Sox – that he still wasn't quite back to where he ideally wanted to be. So it's not surprising to see the Twins giving him as much time as they possibly can; Gibson's first start will come after Berrios takes his second turn on Tuesday in Kansas City.

    How will he look? Gibson's success last year was fueled by career-high velocity, so any sapped voltage might have a material impact. But if he's mostly back to form, this rotation has a chance to start generating some real enthusiasm in short order.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Minor-league games haven't started yet, and in fact official rosters for the affiliates haven't even been announced yet. But that will all come this week, with Minor League Opening Day on Thursday.

    Make sure you stay tuned into Twins Daily for unparalleled coverage of the team's system and prospects. I'll be recapping the most noteworthy developments in this space each Sunday night, but the day-to-day minor-league coverage on this site is beyond robust and comprehensive. Thanks in advance to all of the people who work hard to make it possible: Seth, Cody, Tom, Steve, Ted, Matt... can't wait to read all of your reports this summer.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Following a successful home kickoff, the Twins embark on a seven-game road trip with four off days sprinkled in. Baldelli will have a deep bench and rested bullpen as he tours through two National League parks, starting with Philadelphia next weekend.

    TUESDAY, 4/2: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Brad Keller
    WEDNESDAY, 4/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Homer Bailey
    FRIDAY, 4/5: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Nick Pivetta
    SATURDAY, 4/6: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Jake Arrieta
    SUNDAY, 4/7: TWINS @ PHILLIES – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Zach Eflin

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Apr 01 2019 09:35 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  14. CLE 2, MIN 1: Odorizzi Strikes Out 11, Wild Parker Surrenders Go-Ahead Run

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 62.0% strikes
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi .235, Buxton .206, Rogers .111
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.237, Parker -.289, Cron -.472
    [attachment=12343:WinChart330.png]

    Despite Odorizzi’s excellent effort, the Twins entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 2-1. Byron Buxton lifted what appeared to be a routine flyball out to lead off the inning, but it was misplayed and he ended up at second base.

    Max Kepler struck out and Jorge Polanco lined out to center field, allowing Buxton to advance to third base. Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to bring up Eddie Rosario, creating a left-on-left matchup with Brand Hand on the mound. He worked a walk to load the bases, bringing C.J. Cron to the box.

    Cron took a massive hack at the first pitch, a fastball over the heart of the plate, but whiffed. He popped the next pitch up to short right. Game over.

    On Odorizzi

    Through the first three innings, Odorizzi was completely overwhelming Cleveland. He had a no-hitter going and six strikeouts already in his ledger.

    With two outs in the fourth inning, Odorizzi fell behind 3-0 to Hanley Ramirez, missed his spot and left a ball right over the middle of the plate. Ramirez did exactly what you’d expect a major league hitter to do, depositing the ball 416 feet away in the seats.

    Last season, there were plenty of instances where Odorizzi got off to a brilliant start but ended up watching it all fall to pieces as his outing progressed. Not today.

    Odorizzi was at 80 pitches through the first five innings, but he went out for the sixth, which also was the start of his third trip through the Cleveland lineup. That’s spelled doom for him in the past, but he got a bunt popout, then struck out both Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin to end his outing with an exclamation point.



    Odorizzi had 16 swinging strikes on his 92 pitches and was untouchable in the upper third of the zone. Here’s the location of those swings and misses:
    [attachment=12346:OdorizziSwingingStrikes.png]

    Breaking Down the Bullpen

    Trevor May took over in the seventh, but he pitched to just two batters. After surrendering a single, Adalberto Mejia was called upon to pitch to a lefty, except Terry Francona countered that move by pinch hitting with a right-handed hitter, Jordan Luplow. All those chess moves ended in Mejia striking out Luplow on three pitches.

    That brought up Roberto Perez, who has a .724 OPS against lefties as opposed to a .602 mark against same-sided pitching. Mejia stayed in to face him and ended up getting him on strikes, as well.

    Not an entirely impressive string of managing decisions by Baldelli, in my opinion, but there’s certainly no arguing against the results. Even just beyond the numbers, is Mejia really the guy you want pitching in a tie game with the go-ahead run on base when you have a fresh bullpen?

    Interesting. Again, it worked perfectly, but … interesting.

    It’s only one outing, but Mejia getting off on the right foot is just another of the many great signs we’ve seen these first two games. This bullpen looks a lot better if Mejia can find his footing out there.

    Taylor Rogers came on for the eighth and did his Taylor Rogers thing of pitching a scoreless inning. Guy is automatic right now. With only 11 pitches today and an off day coming Monday, it’s entirely possible Rogers could pitch in every game of this first series.

    Maybe all these extra days off aren’t so bad.

    Blake Parker made his Twins debut in the ninth and had some control issues. He gave up a hard single to Carlos Santana, then allowed him to advance all the way to third thanks to a pair of wild pitches. He eventually scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.

    Just a gut punch of a way to give up the game-winning run.

    The Framing Factor

    And what of the guy behind the plate today, Mitch Garver? He had a very good day, here are all the called strikes and balls:
    [attachment=12345:GarverChart.png]

    On the Offense

    In the bottom of the fourth, Jorge Polanco hit a one-out triple and new Twins slugging designated hitter Nelson Cruz clobbered … an 86-foot dribbler between the mound and first base. Hey, whatever works. Polanco took off on contact and scored the game-tying run.

    That Polanco triple and Buxton’s “double” were the only two hits of the game for the Twins. Cruz was hit in the wrist by Trevor Bauer, who was pitching him up and in all game, but was able to stay in and finish the game.

     

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=12344:Bullpen330.png]

    Next Three Games
    Sun vs. CLE, 1:10 pm CT
    Tue at KC, 7:15 pm CT
    Wed at KC, 12:15 pm CT

    Last Game
    MIN 2, CLE 0: Berrios Dominates, Sets Twins Opening Day Record for Ks

    More from Twins Daily
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    • Apr 01 2019 07:01 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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