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  1. Results Mixed As Twins Replicate Florida Spring Training Experience

    Target Field saw its first baseball action of the season this week, as players began reporting for a delayed spring training. Excitement soon turned to chaos as a rogue alligator “gave a good old Everglades chomping” to numerous players, staff, and journalists.

    “The team wanted it to feel as much like a Florida spring training environment as possible,” said Larry Thurman, VP of Community Engagement for Orlando’s Wilderness Safari and Topless Frozen Yogurt Bar. “We sent up a couple gators to give it a real Sunshine State feel. I guess Earl got a bit peckish.”

    Earl was one of two gators loosed in the Twins clubhouse on Wednesday, where he terrorized and/or gnawed on multiple players and team officials.

    “(Max) Kepler came tearing through the clubhouse yelling about the green bear and I was very confused,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “Turns out Glen (Perkins, retired Twins pitcher and south metro handyman) told him that’s what alligators were when Max got here from Germany and no one corrected him. Anyway, that’s when I saw Earl going to town on a couple advance scouts and I got out of there.”

    Minneapolis Animal Control sedated the alligator, and team officials say that while there are multiple injuries and “extensive” gouging, there were no fatalities. Reports that Dan Gladden attempted to ride the gator like a motorcycle and compared it unfavorably to Steve Lombardozzi are unconfirmed at this time.

    The other alligator, Eugene, appeared to tire quickly and settled in for a nap on top of The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman. Officials say both the gator and Gleeman appear to be sleeping soundly and there are no plans to disturb them.

    A team spokesperson said the workouts at St. Paul’s CHS Field will go on as scheduled this weekend but with less immediately hazardous Florida effects. Sprawling retirement villages, championship golf courses that wipe out native wetlands, and extensive insurance fraud are all expected to take over the capital city's Lowertown neighborhood beginning Friday afternoon.

    • Jul 02 2020 02:28 PM
    • by RandBalls Stu
  2. Sano and Kepler Are Missing Their Age-27 Peak Season in 2020

    Over at ESPN.com, David Schoenfield wrote about all the players that would have played the 2020 season as their age-27 campaign. Besides Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, the list includes, Gary Sanchez, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Truner, Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Tim Anderson, and Matt Chapman. Multiple players on this list have already had great seasons in their careers, so what’s so special about being 27-years old?

    Baseball front office and fans have search for years to find out when a player reaches their peak performance. Bill James has done multiple studies on the subject dating back to the early-1980s. His aging patter study from 2017 confirmed his previous research that at age-27 players are in their peak season. Tom Tango did a different study and reached the same result with players peaking at 27 and having their best decade from age 23-32.

    Kepler was already coming off a breakout season where he hit .252/.336/.519 with 36 home runs and 32 doubles. According to Baseball Reference, he had the third highest WAR on the Twins while FanGraphs had him tied for the team lead. He finished in the top-20 for MVP voting, so it was certainly going to be tough for him to match those numbers again in 2020.

    Questions about Sano’s age have followed him since he was an amateur and there was even a documentary made about him being signed. When Twins Daily was first getting started, I wrote about Sano and the questions surrounding his age. Realistically, MLB investigated Sano’s situation and couldn’t verify his exact age and the topic has been largely forgotten.

    Last season, Sano set career highs in home runs (34), OPS (.923), slugging (.576), and RBI (79). He’s had three seasons where he has played more than 100 big-league games and he has averaged 29 home runs per season. His switch to first base was going to be an intriguing story line to watch this year because it might have allowed him to play more than 116 games, his career high from 2016.

    FanGraphs ZIPS projections for a full season had Kepler posting an .825 OPS while hitting 28 home runs and 31 doubles. The player comp for his was Trot Nixon and his WAR dipped from 4.4 in 2019 to 3.1 in 2020. This total only trailed the projected WAR total for Josh Donaldson. Sano was pegged for 35 home runs, 19 doubles, and a drop in OPS to .881. His player comp was Jay Buhner and FanGraphs had him tied with Nelson Cruz for fifth on the team in WAR.

    There are still plenty of questions swirling around baseball and if there will be any games played in 2020. That being said, it’s clear Twins fans are losing out on what could have been a pair of peak seasons from Sano and Kepler.

    Who do you think would have compiled better numbers this season, Sano or Kepler? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 22 2020 12:44 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Max Kepler and the Cost of Silence

    Our city, and many cities around the nation, have been thrown into turmoil. Long-brewing tensions are at a boiling point in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder, less than five miles away from Target Field.

    I was heartened to see Twins manager Rocco Baldelli speak up immediately, tweeting last Wednesday, "George Floyd should be breathing right now. We have a lot of progress to make. A lot. Remember his name. Remember what happened."



    Over the weekend, Twins center fielder Byron Buxton shared a heartfelt message on Instagram, accompanied by the image of a memorial for George Floyd. "It’s unbearable to even think about what’s happening in our city and throughout the country, but things have to CHANGE," Buxton pleaded. "African Americans have been slaughtered left and right for nothing more than the color of our skin. That is reality and it has been ignored far too long."

    [attachment=13819:buxtoninstagram.png]


    I can't help but wonder how Buxton feels about seeing the comparatively tone-deaf remarks from Kepler, who has long played alongside him in the Twins outfield.

    To recap the events that went down: On Thursday, Kepler shared a picture on Instagram of himself wearing a "Blue Lives Matter" face mask he'd received from some company. Evidently, he got a rush of negative feedback because he quickly deleted the post, adding a follow-up: "wasn't aware of what the mask supported. still not into politics," along with a peace sign emoji.

    [attachment=13820:keplerinstagrammask.jpg]


    [attachment=13821:keplerinstagramfollow.jpeg]


    Now, let me preface what I'm going to say here by being as clear as possible: I don't think Kepler had any malicious intent. Based on every interaction I've had with him, and every story I've heard from others, he's a genuinely good-hearted person. I can certainly believe he was unaware of what the mask represented, given the cultural disconnect from growing up in Germany. And I believe he means what he wrote in a later message: "Racism has no place in our world and I do not in any way support the actions that we all witnessed that led to George Floyd’s passing.”

    But Max being a good person and actively choosing to stay silent is exactly the problem. What really grinds on me is that first follow-up message. "Not into politics [peace sign]." This is the attitude that has gotten our society to this point: comfortable white people choosing to excuse themselves from the conversation, because it doesn't affect them personally. While I know he didn't intend it as such, Kepler's comments come as a slap in the face to a grieving and enraged community where he's supposed to be a leader.

    To paraphrase CNN's Chris Cuomo, what's happening right now isn't a political issue. It's a humanity issue. People like Buxton don't have the luxury of categorizing systemic injustice as "politics" and that's why Kepler's remarks, shared while the city of Minneapolis literally burned, landed with a total lack of empathy.

    If Kepler wants to stand on the sidelines, defining himself simply as a ballplayer while rejecting any personal stake in the situation, that is his prerogative. But it's precisely what perpetuates a lack of change that is destroying us.

    We live in a world now where the lines are blurred; Kepler and the Twins aren't playing baseball due to a global health crisis that has sadly been framed as "political" by some, but is much more fundamental to our civilization and society in general. What we now face here in Minnesota, and across America, is much the same.

    I don't know if Kepler will receive this message. But I know, based on the demographics, that our site's audience is predominately white, and relatively affluent. We are the voices needed most in this fight. I say this not to be judgmental, or to point fingers – I myself recognize a serious need to be more outspoken and active in my support and advocacy. Writing this article, despite the backlash it will inevitably receive, is a small step toward that end.

    Max: if you want the peace sign you included in your message to be anything more than a meaningless platitude, copping out with a "not into politics" comment is not an option. This isn't politics. This is life. This is the city YOU represent. Take a cue from your manager, who is again showing himself to be a true leader.

    We need to confront these issues seriously, not obscure them behind images of a dog fetching a tennis ball. These aren't happy or carefree times. Acting like they are will only make your fanbase lose touch with you. This is coming from one fan who already feels like he has.

    We're leaving the comments open on this post. We welcome a respectful and productive conversation around this vital topic. But we also need to look out for our overburdened moderators. If people can't keep things respectful, comments will be shut down.

    Thanks for hearing me out y'all.

    • May 31 2020 10:54 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  4. 2020 Minnesota Twins: Ten Questions

    I’ve got ten questions about players for you to consider. I’m not going to talk about the team topics like will the Twins win the World Series? The odds certainly favor the L.A. Dodgers to win the 2020 World Series, but the Twins should in no way feel intimidated. For them to reach that lofty goal, the offense will have to remain a strength. Today’s ten questions will relate to an offense that set the MLB record for home runs in 2019, and then added Josh Donaldson.


    Question #1: How will Mitch Garver perform after his breakout, Silver Slugging 2019 season?

    With his approach and eye at the plate, his still stance and his quick bat and elite power, Garver should continue to put up strong numbers with the bat.


    Question #2: If there is an 82 game season, how many games will Garver catch?

    In 2019, Garver caught 82 games despite missing about three weeks with an injury. He probably would have caught about ten of the 16 games played during that stretch.So, that about 92 games caught had he stayed healthy. Garver and the Twins front office supported the plan for rest. At that same pace, he would catch about 46 games of an 82-game season. However, you have to wonder if, because of the potentially shortened season, if he won’t get a few extra starts, maybe 50 or 55?


    Question #3: How will Miguel Sano transition defensively to first base?

    Listen, we all know he’s not going to be Joe Mauer over there. He won’t immediately look like Doug Mientkiewicz or Kent Hrbek or even Justin Morneau at first base. But expect that he will be adequate. We will find ourselves shaking our head, wondering what he was thinking, but those types of plays will be more about lack of playing time at the position. More important, Rocco Baldelli went out of his way during spring training to credit Sano for the work that he was putting in and the effort he was giving to be a good defensive first baseman.


    Question #4: Can Luis Arraez avoid a sophomore slump?

    So, if you’re expecting Arraez to his .330 and consider anything less than that a sophomore slump than the odds would tell us that you will probably be disappointed. Arraez has a great eye at the plate, and an approach that isn’t passive. He’s got great bat control. All those things create the comparisons to players like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. So expectations are high, and we need to temper them, but Arraez will always have the potential to hit over .300.


    Question #5: Will Jorge Polanco get to another All-Star Game in 2020?

    Well, there probably won’t be an All-Star Game in 2020, so the answer to this one is easy. No. But at the end of the season, will Polanco be a Top 3 shortstop in the American League? Will he be a strong candidate to start another ASG in 2021? Truthfully, it’s going to be tough, even if Polanco remains as good as he was in 2019, or even improves a little. Francisco Lindor is the definition of an All-Star. Xander Boegaerts is a star for the Red Sox. Marcus Semien of the A’s finished third in MVP voting in the AL last year. The Yankees are moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop from second base. Carlos Correa is a star. Tim Anderson doesn’t like to walk, but he won the AL batting title in 2019. Bo Bichette has incredible potential and had a strong showing in 2019. Adalberto Mondesi is very talented. Niko Goodrum will get a lot more playing time at shortstop in 2020. In short, Jorge Polanco is going to have to be really, really good to maintain All-Star status. That said, he’s got the talent to fit into that group just fine.


    Question #6: Can Eddie Rosario take another step forward as a player?

    For all his faults, and they have been written about over and over and over again, Rosario is an immensely talented player. You can’t be a bad player and still end the year hitting 32 home runs and driving in 109 RBI. He has his mental lapses at times, but he’s also capable of a game-winning strike from the Green Monster to home plate. Add in the fact that he played most of the second half of 2019 with an injured ankle and there is potential for Rosario to be even better in 2020 and going forward. Any improvement in his plate discipline and he could be great.


    Question #7: Can Byron Buxton stay healthy?

    I don’t know. None of us know. No one wants the “Injury Prone” tag attached to him, and all of Buxton’s injuries have been through playing the game. But it is important because he is a difference-maker when he is in the lineup. Obviously he is an elite defender. We all know that. But when his 2019 season ended, he had an OPS over .800. At the All-Star break, many argued that he was the most valuable Twins player, on a roster filled with immense talent.


    Question #8: What can Max Kepler do for an encore to his 2019 breakout?

    After three seasons of hitting between .230 and .240 with 18-20 home runs, Kepler signed an extension and went out and proved the Twins were wise. He still didn’t hit for average, but despite not hitting over the season’s final three weeks, he hit 36 home runs. There were some mechanical and technical adjustments that he made to his swing and his approach. Maybe it was hitting in the leadoff position. Kepler’s demeanor and personality would indicate that the improvements should stick.


    Question #9: Can Nelson Cruz continue to kick Father Time’s butt?

    On July 1st, shortly before the 2020 season could potentially begin, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday. A week before that, we will learn if he won the 2020 Mohammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs. In 2019, at 39 years old, Cruz put together, arguably, the best season of his career. He hit .311/.392/.639 (1.031) with 26 doubles and 41 homers in just 120 games. This spring, he was 10-for-23 with two doubles and three home runs. He also overcame a complete tear of a ligament in his wrist. Forget Father Time, Cruz is beating the fathers of medical science. Then again, Father Time is ultimately undefeated.


    Question #10: Will Josh Donaldson continue to crush pitches at Target Field?

    In 22 career games at Target Field, Donaldson has hit .373/.464/.819 (1.283) with seven doubles and 10 home runs. In 43 total games against the Twins, he has hit .395/.487/.852 (1.339) with 17 doubles and 19 home runs. The 19 homers are the most he’s hit against any team, four more than against any other team, despite playing in the AL East! The 2015 AL MVP is just a flat-out great overall hitter. He doesn’t swing outside the strike zone often and his approach is basically to crush any strikes, and he’s certainly done that. Some of his success at Target Field could be credited to him liking the batter’s eye in center field, and certainly some of it can be credited to getting to hit off of Twins pitchers.


    There you have it. Ten Questions about ten Twins hitters. How would you answer each of them?

    • May 25 2020 11:04 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  5. Twins Maintain Division Lead As Memorial Day Weekend Begins

    Minnesota fans had every reason to be optimistic entering the 2020 season. A relatively easy division, a potent 1-9 lineup, and improved rotation options all led to confident predictions of postseason baseball. Still, things sometimes just don’t work, be it a due to injury or regression or clubhouse strife. The Twins have surmounted those obstacles so far and are guaranteed to be in first place come Memorial Day.

    “There haven’t been any games,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “I mean, yes, technically we’re in first place, but so is everyone else.

    “There’s a pandemic,” he added.

    While the Twins have held their own, they are joined in first place in the AL Central by Cleveland, their consensus rival for the division crown. Joining them are the surprising White Sox, Royals, and Tigers.

    “I don’t know what this means,” said Twins outfield Max Kepler. “This is very confusing to me.”

    No team in the rest of the American League has broken from the pack. We asked Twins center fielder Byron Buxton if he felt this improved the odds for a deep postseason run.

    “What’s wrong with you,” said the speedy outfielder. “Stupid. Just stupid.”

    With the team competitive as June nears, we asked Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey if the front office was working the phones to make some moves in advance of a possible pennant run.

    “We are not in the office right now,” said Falvey. “There’s no season right now. Are you OK?”

    One thing is for sure, Twins fans are excited and ready to go for what promises to be a thrilling summer at Target Field!

    “We probably won’t be able to have fans in the stadium this summer even if we can play,” said Falvey. “You really seem like you’re not well?”

    Image license here.

    • May 21 2020 06:29 PM
    • by RandBalls Stu
  6. Twins All-Decade Team, the '10s (The Hitters)

    As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season.

    This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade.

    Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s.



    C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018)
    1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI.

    If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019.



    1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013)
    411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI.

    Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016.

    2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018)
    955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI.

    Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season.




    3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016)
    723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI.

    This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media!



    SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019)
    441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI.

    Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019.

    LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019)
    640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI.

    Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade.



    CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019)
    393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI.

    Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers.



    RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019)
    553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI.

    Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th.




    DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019)
    486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI.

    The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base.




    So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary.



    Share your thoughts?

    For more from this series, see below.

    Previous Installments
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)

    • May 12 2020 08:22 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. Recapping the All-Time Favorite Twins Player Bracket

    World Series Region
    After a Hall of Fame career and multiple heroic World Series moments, Kirby Puckett was named the tournament’s number one overall seed. Kent Hrbek was the number two seed in the region and these two seemed destined for an Elite Eight match-up. Both would advance before Puckett took out Hrbek to make the Final Four.

    Jack Morris might have been the one surprise in this region as he was able to defeat Tom Brunansky in the first round. Morris was the higher seed, but he only played one season in Minnesota. Still, his one season was a magical one and he pitched one of the greatest games in baseball history. It also helps that he has continued to have a media presence in the Twin Cities since retiring.
    [attachment=13580:World Series Region.jpg]
    Current Twins Region
    The Tournament Committee might have underestimated some of the players in the Current Twins Region. The biggest upset of the tournament happened in this region and it was the only region where a non-number one seed was able to make the Final Four. Nelson Cruz was given the number one seed in the region after being named the team’s MVP.

    Cruz made it all the way to the region final, but he was upset by Max Kepler, the region’s three seed. Kepler took out Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton along the way. The bracket’s biggest first round upset might have been Jose Berrios, the region’s number two seed, being taken out by Byron Buxton, a seven seed. Buxton’s Cinderella story ended in the next round, but he was able to handily beat the team’s two-time All-Star and scheduled Opening Day starter.

    [attachment=13581:Current Twins Region.jpg]
    Metrodome Region
    Of all the regions, this one might have included some of the biggest tournament snubs. Jacque Jones, Nick Punto, Doug Mientkiewicz and others were left out of the tournament with names like Lew Ford and Francisco Liriano beating them out. Joe Mauer was the easy selection as the number one and he had enough to beat out Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter to make the Final Four.

    The closest match-up in the entire tournament was between Johan Santana, the three seed, and Torii Hunter, the two seed. Heading into the final hour of voting it was deadlocked at 50-50. Hunter used a last-minute run to overtake Santana and head to the Elite Eight before eventually losing to Mauer.
    [attachment=13582:Metrodome Region.jpg]
    Early Twins Region
    Many fans on social media are far removed from the early Twins and their impact on this franchise. Harmon Killebrew earned the number one seed in the region and the number two overall seed and he seemed like the front-runner for the championship. He fell short of this goal, but it might have been connected to recency bias instead of his overall greatness.

    Minnesota has seven retired players eligible for this bracket and four of them made it through the first round. Realistically, the Mount Rushmore of Twins players includes multiple players from this region that wouldn’t be represented in the Final Four. Bert Blyleven and Tony Oliva weren’t able to upset the higher seeds and it set up a Killebrew vs. Carew final for the ages.
    [attachment=13583:Early Twins Region.jpg]
    Final Four
    Both semifinal matchups turned out to be no contests as the most recent legend in Twins history, Joe Mauer, beat out an all-time legend in Harmon Killebrew. Max Kepler, out of the Current Twins region, hasn’t made any big catches or hit any big home runs in the World Series, so it made sense for him to be demolished by Kirby Puckett.

    Puckett versus Mauer would be the final and it looked close at the beginning of the voting. After about eight hours of voting, both players were nearly tied for the top spot. Some on Twitter thought it would be atrocious for Mauer to beat-out Puckett, the World Series hero. Stronger heads prevailed and the top seed in the tournament, Puckett, cut down the nets.


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    • Mar 29 2020 09:38 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  8. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Center Field

    Projected Starter: Byron Buxton
    Likely Backup: Max Kepler

    Depth: LaMonte Wade Jr., Jake Cave
    Prospects: Royce Lewis, Gilberto Celestino

    THE GOOD

    Buxton's ability to rank among the best center fielders in the majors finally changed from theoretical to undeniable last season. When he suffered a (basically) season-ending shoulder injury on August 1st, his 2.7 fWAR was second-best among full-time CFs.

    There are plenty of excellent and athletic players who spend some time in center, or even a lot of time. This includes guys like Houston's George Springer, Arizona's Ketel Marte, Atlanta's Ronald Acuña, even Minnesota's Max Kepler. But among true, no-doubt center fielders – the guys you wouldn't dream of playing anywhere else on the field – only the eventual MVP Mike Trout was having a better season than Buxton through four months according to Fangraphs' all-encompassing metric.

    This shouldn't come as a surprise to any Twins fan who had the opportunity to observe Buxton's breakout showing. As usual the speedster was a spectacular force in the outfield, routinely taking away extra-base hits from the opposition and earning affinity from his pitchers. Meanwhile his bat finally emerged, as Buxton slashed .262/.314/.513 with 30 doubles, 14 home runs and four triples in 295 plate appearances.

    Looking vastly more comfortable at the plate after years of fits and starts, Buxton just played his game. He wasn't patient, but he was aggressive and intentional, reducing his career 32% K-rate to a far more palatable 23%.

    Because of his lineup depth, Rocco Baldelli was able to use Buxton as No. 9 hitter almost exclusively, keeping pressure off Buck's shoulders and also positioning him as a second leadoff man. Getting the league's fastest player on base as the lineup flips over gives the Twins a dynamic competitive advantage. That's beyond the simple fact of boasting an .827 OPS in the nine-hole, where American League peers averaged a .652 mark. Buxton seems very likely to return to that spot in this year's loaded batting order.

    Taking into account everything he adds, it's no coincidence Minnesota went 53-25 (.679) in games Buxton started last year, compared to 48-36 (.571) in those he didn't. For context, over a full season, that's the difference between a 110-win team and a 92-win team.

    Baseball is a game where the impact of individual contributors is inherently limited – what with nine players in the lineup and on the field, and 12-13 different pitchers in the mix at any given time. But when he's got it going like last year, Buxton makes an outsized impact that few others in the league can match.

    If you could guarantee me he'd be on the field and healthy for a vast majority of the Twins' games (however many they play), I'd pick the 26-year-old Buxton as preseason favorite for team MVP – ahead of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, everyone – without hesitation.

    Unfortunately, as we all know, this is far from guaranteed.

    THE BAD

    Throughout his pro career, dating back to his days in the minors, Buxton has continually been unable to avoid injuries, thanks to a style of play that often puts him in harm's way (plus a healthy dose of bad luck). Jammed thumbs, strained wrists, concussions, a broken toe... the center fielder has seen it all, and as a result he's played in 100 games only once in an MLB season since first arriving in 2015.

    His collision with the wall in Miami last August was not only another sobering reminder of the hazards incumbent in Buxton's game, but especially worrisome because of what it did to his shoulder. Buxton suffered a subluxation (or dislocation, essentially), and after the rest-and-rehab approach failed to take, he required surgery to repair his labrum.

    It's a pretty serious procedure, which is why six months later, he still wasn't quite ready to appear in spring training games and the Twins weren't fully committing to his Opening Day readiness. Having said that, all indications suggest things are going smoothly and with the delayed start to the season, he's got a good shot at being out there from the jump.

    But even if he's available for Game 1, it's gonna be tough for anyone to trust in Buxton's ability to stay consistently available for the balance of the season. As much as injury-prone tends to be a miscast label, it's one of the only things Buxton can't run away from.

    Life without their star center fielder is something the Twins have sadly grown accustomed to over the years, and they are fairly well equipped for it. Last season Kepler made 53 starts in center while the starter was sidelined, and he was perfectly serviceable there. It's a big part of the reason we named him our 2019 team MVP.

    Kepler remains an option if Buxton goes down for any length of time, and it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see him in center field on Opening Day. But it sounds as though the Twins would prefer to avoid taking Kepler out of right field, so they may be more inclined to go with LaMonte Wade Jr. or Jake Cave, especially in a shorter-term absence. Each has proven himself capable defensively there – albeit Cave to a lesser extent – and can hit enough to be a viable starter. A true backup center fielder is one of the few things missing on this roster, but I think the Twins are in decent shape make do.

    In the minors, much hinges on No. 1 prospect Royce Lewis and where he ends up. When he was drafted as a shortstop, many believed he was destined to end up in center, due to his rough edges as an infielder and his blazing speed. Every one of his defensive starts in the minors had come at short until his second-to-last one at Pensacola in September, when he was in center. He then started primarily out there in the Arizona Fall League, where he looked like a natural and was voted MVP.



    Lewis might be the heir apparent behind Buxton, who's still under team control for three more years. But in order to actualize such a plan, the Twins will need to get their top prospect more outfield reps. For the time being, it looks like they're intent on sticking with him at shortstop, leaving 21-year-old Gilberto Celestino as the most promising center fielder in the system.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Buxton is the most exciting wild-card factor in play for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. If his surgery takes and he returns to the field without losing anything, he'll be a transformative force for the lineup, defense, and pitching staff. If he can manage to stay out there, he elevates this team in drastic ways.

    But, if history repeats and he can't stay out there, the Twins are in better shape than most teams would be when losing a cornerstone talent. Kepler makes for a fine fill-in, and opens the door for Minnesota to tap its copious corner outfield depth in right.

    The Twins will be okay without Buxton. But with him? They might be unstoppable.


    ~~~


    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Left Field

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    • Mar 13 2020 05:49 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  9. Twins 4, Red Sox 1: Homers Help in Twins Win

    Homer Bailey signed a one-year deal with the Twins around the holidays. On Friday, he made his first appearance of spring. He worked two innings. He didn’t allow a run.

    He got two quick outs in the top of the first inning. JD Martinez hit a fly ball to right center. Bailey started walking off the field, thinking the inning was over. But the wind was blowing hard from left to right and the ball just kept going. LaMonte Wade leapt at the wall and robbed a home run. However, when his arm hit the wall, the ball trickled away. Martinez ended up on third base. But soon after, Bailey got a lazy fly ball to center for the third out.

    “I was actually walking off the mound, thinking it was a right-center gap, guy’s going to catch it on the run, inning over. Then you look the flag pole you see everything was drifting off to right field quite a bit. Big deal.” He continued, “I say ‘Big Deal, but if the next guy gets a single, I’m (upset) about it.”




    Kepler Returns

    Max Kepler also played in his first game for the Twins this spring. He’s been dealing with what has been called a “minor back issue.” He led off and played right field. He went 0-for-2, but he hit the ball on the nose at least once.

    Following the game, Baldelli said, “Max has been ready to go for a little while. He was happy - he was smiling - to be on the field. Hit a ball good, and made a couple of nice plays in the field, and we got him out of there.”

    Posted Image


    Kirilloff Launch

    In the sixth inning, Alex Kirilloff entered the game for Kepler, and he hit a single in his first at-bat. He later scored on an Eddie Rosario double.

    In the seventh inning, he came to the plate with Juan Graterol on first base.

    The new father got a pitch to his liking. “I just got a fastball in and was able to time it up, get the barrel on it and get a good swing on it.”



    Baldelli,”He's a pretty gifted young hitter. This is a guy that's always had good at- bats, can find the barrel on different pitches in the zone. He can do some pretty nifty things the way he attacks the ball. He would have what you probably call the opposite of a grooved swing. He can do different things, and find different angles, and find the barrel. So, he hit that one really well. We were just talking about him a little bit in the dugout right as he was taking the swing, and we saw it. Got a chance to see it live. Really nice.“

    On Saturday night, the Pirates come to Hammond Stadium to play the Twins. Baldelli said that Kirilloff is scheduled to play against his hometown team. “That's always fun, anytime anyone gets a chance to play...and the game's probably on, really all the games are on TV now. For a while, it was when you played the team from the hometown, that's when everyone got a chance to see you play, everyone from back home. So that's always a fun thing.”


    Nick Gordon Update

    Nick Gordon is yet to play in spring training games. He is working and at the ballpark each day. He is experiencing a gastrointestinal issue again this spring. Baldelli said after the game, “I can’t tell you that it’s the exact same issue but the way that it’s probably affecting him is probably somewhat similar.”

    “He’s been regaining strength and trying to gain some weight and start to feel better before he starts getting back to full baseball activities. So I can’t tell you that he’s fully there yet. We’re not pushing him to get him out on the field as fast as possible. It’s February. There’s no rush to really get him out there until he feels 100 percent and his body’s functioning right.”

    It’s really unfortunate for Gordon because there is no doubt he would be getting a lot of playing time this spring.


    Josh Donaldson Talking Shop

    Josh Donaldson went 1-for-3 on Friday. It was his first hit of the spring. He hit a double to the right-center field gap. So if you were worried about him not ever getting a hit during his career with the Twins, you can sigh a deep breath.

    Today was my first full day in Ft. Myers and at spring training, so I am last to this. However, what was really impressive to me, a half-hour after the game, we left the manager’s office and into the clubhouse. At a table, Donaldson was holding court with three Twins minor leaguers, talking hitting. Now I didn’t stand there and observe, but in the six seconds that I did see, all three players were glued to his every word.

    • Feb 29 2020 06:50 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  10. Can You Find The Twin? A Valentine's Day Challenge for Baseball Lovers

    You are a self-proclaimed Minnesota Twins and/or baseball fan. Baseball is your perpetual valentine, despite your actual relationship status. You proudly tell anyone who will listen that you watch every single game and even skip social events to do so. When you can’t get out of one, you purposely schedule meetups at sports bars so that you won’t miss a single inning.

    Instructions: Pick the Minnesota Twin from the three given options. Keep in mind that every option listed below is an actual MLB player from the same position. A correct answer is worth 1 point, and there is no penalty for an incorrect response. The bonus questions is also worth 1 point. As an extra challenge, try and guess the other two players in the group.

    1. Catcher: Mitch Garver

    A - 126 H, .246 AVG, .380 OBP

    B - 85 H, .273 AVG, .365 OBP

    C - 120 H, .273 AVG, .328 OBP


    2. First Base: Miguel Sano

    A - .247 AVG, 34 HR, .923 OPS

    B - .267 AVG, 36 HR, .896 OPS

    C - .260 AVG, 34 HR, .821 OPS


    3. Second Base: Luis Arraez

    A - .334 AVG, .399 OBP, .823 OPS

    B - .329 AVG, .389 OBP, .981 OPS

    C - .298 AVG, .353 OBP, .903 OPS


    4. Third Base: Josh Donaldson

    A - 36 HR, 91 RBIs, 3 3Bs

    B - 37 HR, 94 RBIs, 0 3Bs

    C - 35 HR, 118 RBIs, 10 3Bs


    5. Shortstop: Jorge Polanco

    A - 651 ABs, .285 AVG, 7 3Bs

    B - 631 ABs, .295 AVG, 7 3Bs

    C - 616 ABs, .287 AVG, 7 3Bs


    6. Right Field: Max Kepler

    A - .257 AVG, .856 OPS, 3.5 WAR

    B - .265 AVG, .922 OPS, 3.8 WAR

    C - .252 AVG, .855 OPS, 4.0 WAR


    7. Center Field: Byron Buxton

    A - .262 AVG, .991 Fielding Percentage, 14 SB

    B - .260 AVG, .994 Fielding Percentage, 18 SB

    C - .259 AVG, .993 Fielding Percentage, 14 SB


    8. Left Field: Eddie Rosario

    A - 98 R, 110 RBI’s, 138 SO

    B - 91 R, 109 RBI’s, 86 SO

    C - 110 R, 110 RBI’s, 132 SO


    9. DH: Nelson Cruz

    A - 26 2B, 0 CS, .412 OBP

    B - 20 2B, 3 CS, .343 OBP

    C - 26 2B, 1 CS, .392 OBP


    10. BONUS: Which player’s birthday is closest to Valentine’s Day?

    A - Sergio Romo

    B - Max Kepler

    C - Tyler Clippard

    D - Alex Avila

    The answers are beyond this point. Do not scroll past this conveniently placed video of one my most beloved grand slam if you have not completed the challenge.



    Answers:

    B, A, A, B, B, C, A, B, C, C

    Other Players:

    Catcher A: Yasmani Grandal, Catcher C: James McCann
    First Base B: Matt Olson, First Base C: Paul Goldschmidt
    Second Base B: Ketel Marte, Second Base C: Jose Altuve
    Third Base A: Matt Chapman, Third Base C: Eduardo Escobar
    Shortstop A: Marcus Semien, Shortstop C: Amed Rosario
    LF A: Michael Conforto, LF B: Jorge Soler
    CF B: Lorenzo Cain, CF C: Kevin Pillar
    RF A: J.D. Martinez, RF C: Juan Soto
    DH A: Yordan Alvarez, DH B: Shohei Ohtani
    Birthdays: Sergio Romo - March 4th, Max Kepler - February 10th, Tyler Clippard - February 14th, Alex Avila - January 29th

    If you got:

    8-10: You are a Twins champion

    5-7: It's no question that you are a Twins fan, but there is always room for improvement

    2-4: You watch a game here and there, but your television isn't loyal to Fox Sports North during the baseball season

    0-1: You aren't an expert....yet.

    How many answers did you get correct? Leave your score in the comments below.

    Happy Birthday Tyler!

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    • Feb 13 2020 11:55 PM
    • by renabanena
  11. Minnesota’s Previous Front Offices Deserve Credit For Current Core

    Terry Ryan Era(s)
    1995-2007 and 2012-2016

    Ryan oversaw one of the best drafts in team history, albeit having the second overall pick certainly helps to bolster a draft class. Byron Buxton was considered by many outlets to be the top prospect in the draft. So, when the Astros took Carlos Correa with the first pick, Buxton became the logical pick at number two.

    It didn’t take long for the Twins to find another regular player in the 2012 draft. Jose Berrios was selected with the 32nd overall pick as compensation for Michael Cuddyer leaving in free agency. Later in the draft, the Twins selected bullpen regulars Tyler Duffey (fifth round) and Taylor Rogers (11th round). According to Baseball Reference, these four players have accumulated 24.1 WAR since being drafted.

    Minnesota didn’t fare nearly as well in the 2013 MLB Draft with their top five picks accumulating a negative WAR total so far in their big-league careers. However, Mitch Garver was taken by the Twins in the ninth round and he has accumulated more total WAR than the other players taken that year in the same round.

    Ryan’s biggest international signing during his second stint as GM might turn out to be Luis Arraez. He signed out of Venezuela in 2013 and he looked like the second coming of Tony Gwynn in his rookie campaign. Based on his comments at the Twins Winter Caravan, he has the goal of winning the AL batting title and it might be within his reach.

    Bill Smith Era
    2008-2011

    Even though Terry Ryan’s retirement meant Bill Smith was given the GM role, Ryan was still part of the organization as a senior advisor. This likely means he had a say in some of the decisions being made below. Smith was also in a tough spot as he was hired and had to immediately trade two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Smith oversaw one of the best international signing periods in team history and identified a strong outfield bat in the fourth round.

    Back in 2009, the Twins signed three teenagers for $4.65 million in total signing bonuses and those three players are certainly key to the current roster. Miguel Sanó, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler were all signed in the same year and now they have all inked extensions to stay part of Minnesota’s core.
    “That’s an all-time great group,” Baseball America’s Ben Badler told the Athletic. “To get one player like a Polanco, or a Kepler or a Sanó from a signing class would be a good year. To get three of those guys in one class is like an all-time type of signing class.”

    Another important player from the Smith Era was Eddie Rosario in the fourth round. He and James Paxton are the only players from that round to accumulate more than 10 WAR in their careers. 2020 could be Rosario’s last year in a Twins uniform, but he has certainly provided value to the club through his Twins tenure.

    Minnesota’s new front office has certainly made some positive changes throughout the organization, but the success of the current roster couldn’t have happened without the foundation laid by previous front office executives. The Twins underperformed for most of a decade, but a winning culture was being cultivated in the minor leagues and Ryan and Smith were part of that process.

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    • Jan 27 2020 07:29 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  12. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of a Potential Jose Berrios Extension

    The Good
    Jose Berrios is a two-time All-Star and he has become Minnesota’s best starting pitcher. He’s ranked in the American League top-20 for ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP and opponents batting average. According to Baseball Savant, he ranks most closely to Mike Minor, Anthony DeSclafani, Joe Musgrove and Joey Lucchesi. These aren’t exactly perennial Cy Young candidates, but it is a combination of older and younger pitchers that are similar to Berrios.

    Last week, Matthew wrote about pitchers in their age-26 season, which he identified as the peak age for starting pitchers. Top pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Dallas Keuchel all hit peak numbers in multiple categories during their age-26 season. Minnesota needs Berrios to take steps next season to be even better than he has been over the last two seasons.

    The Bad
    Berrios and his second half slumps have been well documented over the last few seasons. His ERA is over a full run higher in the second half and his second half WHIP is 33 points higher. Opponents hit .229/.289/.391 (.679) against him in the season’s first half, while those numbers jump to .264/.343/.413 (.756) in the second half. There might be a small amount of bad luck involved in his numbers because his BAbip is 52 points higher in the second half.

    Since the Twins drafted Berrios, questions about his size and physical make-up. Berrios is roughly 6-feet tall and just over 200 pounds, so he isn’t exactly a daunting figure on the mound. Some have wondered if his body type is one of the reasons he has pitched more poorly in the second half. Most of his social media shows us that he gets into prime condition in the off-season, but even doing that doesn’t guarantee he will find second-half success.

    The Ugly
    Over the last two off-seasons, the Twins’ front office has been able to sign extensions with young core players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano. Reports last off-season mentioned the Twins also approached Berrios about a possible extension, but he they likely will have to “pay up” to buy out any free agent seasons from Berrios. Free agent pitchers have seen lucrative contracts this off-season and Berrios could be due a large contract if he hits the open market.

    As mentioned earlier, the Twins and Berrios couldn’t reach an agreement on his 2020 salary as part of the arbitration process. Berrios submitted at $4.4 million and the Twins filed at $4.025 million, which puts the difference at $375,000. Will the Twins and Berrios let this difference go all the way to an arbitration hearing? These can be ugly hearings with the team having to bring up flaws in a player that is a building block for the team.

    Do you think the Twins will be able to sign Berrios to a long-term deal? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jan 13 2020 11:38 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  13. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 4 (1-5)

    First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:

    • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
    • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
    • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
    • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
    • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
    Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown.

    TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (1-5)

    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    2019 Ranking: 1

    It was a trying year for Lewis. He slumped frequently and finished with a .236/.290/.371 slash line, striking out three times for every walk. The exaggerated leg lift in his swing came under greater scrutiny as he struggled against higher-level pitching. His defensive work at shortstop caused some analysts to harden in their stances that he's destined to switch positions. Even his trademark confidence was framed as a negative in one postseason Baseball America report.

    Through all this, the fact remains: He started the year as a 19-year-old and finished it at Double-A, punctuating his pedestrian regular season with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League. Lewis's elite physical tools haven't wavered, and most of his present shortcomings seem like the correctable flaws of a raw young talent. He still looks like a star in the making, even if that path is a bit less straight and short than initially hoped.

    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 5

    Health was the big caveat attached to Graterol a year ago, as he vaulted into the national baseball consciousness with his triple-digit heater. His (in)ability to hold up rose to the forefront again this year, as the right-hander missed nearly two months with a shoulder impingement. But upon returning as a reliever in August, he did enough to restore all confidence – and then some.

    Ticketed for a late-inning impact on a contending club at age 20, Graterol made quick stops at Double-A and Triple-A before joining the Twins in September, where he was extremely impressive as a rookie. The 4.66 ERA is inflated by one poor outing against Cleveland – three earned runs, zero outs recorded – but the righty otherwise allowed two runs in 9 2/3 innings (1.86 ERA) with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. He added a perfect inning of work against New York in the ALDS, with two strikeouts.

    Durability remains a pre-eminent sticking point, as does the uncertainty around his future role, but the battle-tested Graterol is one of the most valuable arms in the game right now.

    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 2

    Whereas Graterol is a poster child for the volatile health of pro pitchers, Berrios lives on the opposite end of the spectrum: a model of durability. He hasn't missed a start since joining the Twins rotation, and that's basically been the case ever since he was drafted. The right-hander checked off another accomplishment last year, reaching 200 innings for the first time, but for the most part he was his usual self: steadily excellent, just short of elite.

    Since being called up for good in May of 2017, Berrios ranks ninth among American League pitchers in fWAR. He's not quite an ace but looks the part at times, and as a 25-year-old he still has plenty of time to find another gear. As the only Twins starting pitcher under control beyond next year, he's the glue of the rotation. But with arbitration now upon him, Berrios is going to start getting expensive quickly and is three years from free agency. A sensible extension would move him to the top of this list.

    2. Max Kepler, OF
    2019 Ranking: 9

    Pretty much the best thing a team can do to increase a player's asset valuation is lock him up with a long-term deal at an established baseline, only to have the player immediately reset that baseline. This is what happened with Kepler, who broke a three-year trend of good-not-great performance by taking a star turn in 2019, fresh off signing a team-friendly five-year contract.

    Despite missing the final two weeks as a shoulder injury plagued him, Kepler shattered career highs across the board and launched 36 homers. He's a top-shelf defensive right fielder and perfectly capable in center, which is especially valuable to the Twins given Buxton's frequent unavailability. Kepler's new contract, which can keep him under control through 2024 at bargain rates, gives Minnesota plenty of flexibility to continually build around the stud outfielder.

    1. Jorge Polanco, SS
    2019 Ranking: 7

    At the end of the day, these rankings are about the big picture. When you take a step back, which players are most indispensable, when factoring in risk and contract value? As core players that signed favorable extensions just before immediately breaking out and achieving upper-echelon status, Kepler and Polanco naturally rose to the top under this framework. Between the two, I give Polanco a slight edge.

    First, he plays an extremely valuable defensive position – one that is otherwise not well accounted for in the system, especially with Lewis's question marks. Polanco doesn't play shortstop all that well but he can handle it. Second, he's even cheaper than Kepler with an even more favorable contract; Polanco is controlled through 2023 for just $17 million total, and has an additional two team options. All this, as a switch-hitting 25-year-old All-Star who received MVP votes in 2019.

    At this point, I see Polanco as he most valuable player to the organization, but he's not a superstar. Nor is Kepler, or Berrios. Getting a true premium player in this spot – whether because one of these three takes another step forward, or Buxton pulls it all together, or someone like Lewis emerges in a big way, OR the Twins swing a trade for a centerpiece-type asset (leveraging some of these assets to do so) – will be instrumental in this franchise turning the corner. They're definitely in good shape and on the right track, just not quite there.

    RECAPPING THE TOP 20

    20. Ryan Jeffers, C
    19. Eddie Rosario, OF
    18. Michael Pineda, RHP
    17. Nelson Cruz, DH
    16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
    14. Trevor Larnach, OF
    13. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    12. Taylor Rogers, LHP
    11. Miguel Sano, 3B
    10. Luis Arraez, 2B
    9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    7. Byron Buxton OF
    6. Mitch Garver, C
    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2. Max Kepler, OF
    1. Jorge Polanco, SS

    • Jan 09 2020 09:30 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  14. Can Max Kepler Reach Christian Yelich Status for the Twins in 2020?

    During 2019 the German native put up his best season in the big leagues. Posting an .855 OPS, he jumped his total over 120 points from the season before and added nearly 100 points on his career average. This was while playing through some injuries and being stretched to contribute more defensively than he’s ever had to.

    Garnering multiple MVP votes, Kepler finished 20th in the balloting among American League players, and there’s reason to believe he could make another leap in the year ahead. Before getting into the offensive numbers, 2020 was the fourth straight season in which Kepler has posted a positive DRS in the outfield. He picked up significant slack in centerfield, and while teammate Byron Buxton relies more on foot speed, Max generates positivity with his glove through well-targeted routes and closing decisions.

    No one is looking for Christian Yelich’s defense, however. The 2018 MVP has leapt to the upper tier of the game’s best because of his bat. Joining the Brewers during his age-26 season, Yelich had posted OPS marks of .859 and .807 in the two seasons prior. When taking home the award he swatted a ridiculous 1.000 OPS and won the batting title with a .326 average. Last season his triple slash of .329/.429/.671 led the league, and had he not gotten injured, a second straight MVP award would have been his. Before that transformation though, Yelich had drawn just a few MVP votes of his own, good enough for a 19th place finish in 2016.

    So, what changed?

    Baseball has long since become a sport of information. Whether through analytics or otherwise, adapting to how the game is played and the best avenues for success is something great players have jumped on board with. At the dish, elevating the baseball is now generally accepted as leading to the most positive outcome. That’s not to suggest swinging for the fences is a logical exploit, but the reality is driving the ball higher, harder, will produce optimum results. Major League defenders are too good to simply “hit it on the ground” and even when that strategy creates a desired result, the net gain is relatively minimal, at best.

    Although Kepler will be a year older than Yelich was before his MVP-winning season, 27 is an age that should genuinely be accepted as prime territory. Matthew did a wonderful job breaking down age curves as it relates to Jose Berrios earlier this week, and Kepler falls into a similar category. What’s maybe most important has been the implementation, intended or otherwise, of more desirable inputs. More succinctly put, Max is lifting the ball, and doing it with more force than he ever has.

    [attachment=13410:Capture.PNG]

    Starting in 2016, when Kepler entered the league, both Yelich and Kepler show very similar parallels. Having previously been hitters placing the ball on the ground, the former Marlin especially so, they’ve continued to show growth year over year. Results have followed suit as HR/FB rates have increased, and ground ball percentages have gotten out of a negative territory. Christian has always been a high-average hitter as well however, and that’s a talent Max has not had at his disposal.

    There’s a threshold of optimum launch angle, so continuing to increase loft isn’t the forever goal for Minnesota’s right fielder. From here, it’s about discipline and decision-making. Despite a career best OPS last season, Kepler actually posted a negative BABIP. With a .252 average, his .244 BABIP ranked 97th of 98 qualified hitters (min 500 PA) in 2019. As a pull hitter (career high 53.4% in 2019), lifting over the shift or settling back into career averages (46% pull 31% cent 22% oppo) is the next challenge.

    One of the most aggressive hitters in baseball, Kepler attacked on the first pitch in a whopping 98 plate appearances last season. Generating a .923 OPS in those instances, it was clear he goes to the plate with an immediate plan. The greatest deficiency comes when behind 0-1, where he posted just a .740 OPS. Making sure he can continue to own the plate, against either righties or lefties, when looking for the next pitch is a must.

    James Rowson is gone, Edgar Varela has stepped in, and one of the greatest opportunities in the year ahead remains the next step in Kepler’s development. Minnesota locked Max up to a five-year extension last winter because they saw what was yet to come. I don’t believe the 2019 version is the peak, and while Christian Yelich is among the best players on the planet, maybe Rozycki can get closer to that threshold in 2020.

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    • Jan 07 2020 07:45 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  15. Where Are We Now? (New Years Edition)

    The Twins front office has been busy this offseason. To this point, they have signed Jake Odorizzi to the qualifying offer. They brought back Michael Pineda on a two-year contract. They brought back Sergio Romo and brought in another veteran bullpen arm in Tyler Clippard. They took care of the backup catcher spot by signing veteran Alex Avila. And on Tuesday, they signed veteran starters Homer Bailey and Rich Hill.

    All that, along with the business-as-usual events such as minor league signings and bringing in new coaches throughout the organization. They have hired Mike Bell as bench coach, but they still need to hire an assistant pitching coach/bullpen coach.

    While the core of 2019’s 101-win team is largely still intact, Rocco Baldelli will have plenty of new faces as well.

    Let's take a look around the diamond and see what the Twins roster might look like if the season were to start today. Hopefully it gives Twins fans a glimpse at the work that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have ahead of them to fill out Rocco Baldelli's second Opening Day roster:

    Catcher (3) - Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo

    No question. Silver Slugger award winner Mitch Garver earned the Twins starting catcher gig. Alex Avila will be the #2 catcher, and yet we know that means he will likely catch a lot due to the team’s emphasis on rest. As the roster is currently comprised, Astudillo represents a good 26th roster option, at least until the team signs a first baseman or third baseman. Then he is an ideal 27th man for a 26-man roster.

    Non 40-man options: Tomas Telis, Juan Graterol

    Infielders (5) - Marwin Gonzalez (1B), Luis Arraez (2B), Jorge Polanco (SS), Miguel Sano (3B), Ehire Adrianza (UT)

    Clearly the Twins are going hard after third baseman Josh Donaldson. If they sign him, Sano moves over to first base and the infield is set. Sano at first base. Luis Arraez at second base. Donaldson and third base. Jorge Polanco at shortstop. Adrianza backs up four spots. Gonzalez backs up two spots and two outfield spots too. If they don’t sign Donaldson, Sano probably stays at third base and they bring in a Mitch Moreland type to play first base for a year.

    40-man Options: Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon
    Non 40-Man Options: Alex Kirilloff, Cody Asche, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Zander Wiel

    Outfielders (4) - Eddie Rosario (LF), Byron Buxton (CF), Max Kepler (RF), Jake Cave (4th)

    Rosario is still a Twin! He may not have had a great year, but when a guy hits .276 (.800) with 28 doubles, 32 homers and 109 RBI, he shouldn’t be traded for just anything. Hopefully Buxton and his shoulder will be ready by Opening Day. And hopefully Kepler can continue to grow upon the progress he made in 2019. Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade will likely battle it out for an outfield spot as Marwin Gonzalez can also play out there.

    40-man Options: LaMonte Wade, Luke Raley, Gilberto Celestino
    Non-40-man Options: Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach

    Designated Hitter (1) - Nelson Cruz

    I feel pretty comfortable with this one.

    Starting Pitchers (5) - Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill (maybe in June)

    As of now, the Opening Day rotation will consist of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Homer Bailey. Michael Pineda will have to miss about six weeks due to his suspension, and Rich Hill will be out until sometime in June after having a modified Tommy John surgery.

    The question becomes… who will make starts for the Twins until Pineda and Hill are ready to pitch?

    Short-Term Starter Options - Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Brusdar Graterol,

    Last week, I wrote about the idea of Brusdar Graterol being a “primary” pitcher. Another option would be for him to get starts until Hill comes back in June. At that point, a decision could be made about how to proceed. Keep him starting, or move him to the bullpen to limit his innings. Thorpe, Dobnak and Smeltzer all made starts for the Twins in 2019 and had varying levels of success. All four should be a part of future Twins plans.


    The Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler.

    Taylor Rogers became a top reliever in the league in 2019, and Duffey and May both took huge strides in the second half. So did Zack Littell and Cody Stashak who pitched well in their rookie seasons. Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard provide a veteran presence and know-how. Wisler is out of option, so he would have to make the team or be placed on waivers. He’s got impressive strikeout rates. The bullpen has a chance to be a strength and has plenty of good depth. It will be interesting to see how the pecking order changes over the course of the season.

    Other Bullpen Options
    40-man Roster: Ryne Harper, Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Jorge Alcala, (Graterol, Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe)
    Non 40-man Roster: Blaine Hardy, Ryan Garton, Mitch Horacek, Caleb Thielbar, Daniel Coulombe

    So, what do the Twins need to do over the remainder of the offseason?

    (There is likely no huge rush at this point. We have seen free agency trickle into spring training if not into the season. The trade market is always open..)

    • Corner Infielder - The Twins appear to be going after Josh Donaldson very strongly. Getting him would add a huge bat to an already potent lineup while improving the defense in the infield. If Donaldson signs elsewhere, it is likely that the Twins sign a first baseman in the Mitch Moreland mold.
    • Outfield - While it shouldn’t be a huge priority, a right-handed hitting outfielder might make sense as a platoon option with lefties Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler. It also makes sense for the guy to be able to play center field well when Byron Buxton is out of the lineup. Kevin Pillar makes a lot of sense.
    • Starting Pitching - I think the additions of Bailey and Hill on Tuesday likely signal the end of the Twins efforts in attracting starting pitchers. Unless teams drop their trade prices on possible ace-like pitchers (Jon Gray, German Marquez as examples), the Twins have improved their staff while giving themselves quality depth.
    That's where the Twins roster is right this moment, as well as some areas of need.

    What do you consider the Twins areas of strength, and how would you prioritize their areas of need the rest of the offseason?

    • Dec 31 2019 08:45 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  16. How Long is the Twins Championship Window?

    “Windows Close Very, Very Quickly”
    The Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are both in similar situations. Each team has won a title since 2016 and now they are facing some uncertainty. Rumors have swirled about the Cubs fielding offers for Kris Bryant and the Red Sox entertaining the thought of a Mookie Betts trade. These players were cheaper when each club won their title and now it might be time to move onto a less expensive player or prospect.

    “The two most important commodities in the game are payroll flexibility, No. 1, and young, controllable talent. Even if you’re a large-market team and have no payroll flexibility, you’re a small-market team,” said former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd. “Windows close very, very quickly within the game. Everybody wants to build a Bill Belichick model [of sustainability], but with guaranteed contracts and the way our sport works, it’s very, very difficult to do that.”

    Forbes baseball writer Maury Brown believes MLB expects windows to be open for roughly five years. Low revenue clubs can expect to be a little shorter and higher revenue clubs can expect to be a little longer. Multiple prospects need to hit at the same time and the organization needs to make appropriate supplemental moves, but he feels confident the league likes to tout five years as a bit of a “standard.”

    Minnesota’s Window
    Last off-season, Minnesota was able to sign Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to very team-friendly deals. Deals like these will help the Twins to keep their window open longer, but there are plenty of other players that still need long-term contracts. Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are all part of Minnesota’s young core and all three could be out of a Twins uniform by the time of the 2023 off-season.

    When it comes to revenue, Minnesota ranks near the bottom of MLB, so this likely means their window of opportunity will be less than five years. This makes sense when considering the core players mentioned above. Minnesota has one of baseball’s top-ranked farm systems and these up-and-coming players could help to keep Minnesota’s window open a little longer, but there’s no guarantees that prospects will pan out at the big-league level.

    Another option for the front office is to supplement the roster by trading away prospects. If Minnesota’s window is going to be less than five seasons, it makes sense to take full opportunity of the window being open. The 2019 season showed the front office a lot of things and last off-season they had a clear message to fans.

    “The best moves are made not when you’re trying to open the window to contend, but when the window is wide open,” said General Manager Thad Levine. “We’re very eagerly waiting for this window to be opened, and when it is, we plan on striking.”

    Many fans would agree that the window is now open and it’s up to the front office to take advantage of the opportunity.

    How long do you feel the window is for the Twins to win a championship? Can the front office do anything to extend the window? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 30 2019 05:35 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  17. Projecting Minnesota's 2023 Line-Up

    C: Mitch Garver
    Garver has been my pick for starting catcher in each of the last three years (see links below) and he did nothing to change those projections this season. By 2023, he will be 32-years old, so it will be interesting to see how his body handles the rigors of catching. The Twins are in search of a first baseman and there’s a chance Garver could spend more time at this position. This would keep Garver in the line-up on a more regular basis and it could help him keep his legs fresh.

    First Base: Alex Kirilloff
    Kirilloff started playing more time at first base last season. This will give him more defensive flexibility and allow him to reach the big leagues sooner. He has one of the best hit tools in the Twins system, but he saw his numbers dip a little last season after putting together a monster 2018 campaign. He has a good chance to make his big-league debut in 2020 and by 2023 he should be well entrenched as a regular in the Twins line-up.

    Second Base: Luis Arraez
    Arraez is one of the easiest picks for any future Twins line-up. The 22-year old burst on the scene last year and hit .334/.399/.439 (.838) across 92 games. He was a revelation in the batter’s box as he seemed to know the strike zone like a 10-year veteran. One of his most memorable at-bats came after he was a pinch hitter and entered the game with an 0-2 count. Arraez is never going to have huge power numbers, but he has been able to hit at every level where he has played.

    Third Base: Royce Lewis
    Royce Lewis was drafted by the Twins as a shortstop, but there are some that question whether he will be able to stick at that position long-term. To move to third base, Lewis is going to have to make some changes on the offensive side of the ball. He has a big leg kick and a lot of unnecessary movement with his hands. Minnesota has some time to tweak his swing before he debuts, and Lewis is athletic enough to make the changes.

    Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
    Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game and he is under contract through at least 2023. That being said, he had a negative ranking according to SABR’s Defensive Index, which ranked him eighth among qualifying AL shortstops. He made improvements last year, but he will be 29-years old in 2023. Will he have lost a step by that point? Would the Twins be able to move him to another defensive position?

    Left Field: Trevor Larnach
    Larnach had one of the strongest seasons among Twins top prospects. Between High-A and Double-A, he hit .309/.384/.458 (.842) with 44 extra-base hits. Because of his college experience, he is actually older than Alex Kirilloff and he is the same age as Luis Arraez. Like Kirilloff, he has an opportunity to debut in 2020, but it would likely have to be the result of an injury to one of the regular outfielders.

    Center Field: Byron Buxton
    Buxton will be in an interesting spot by 2023. Can he find a way to stay healthy for an entire season? Will last year’s offensive improvements continue? He has a lot to prove during the 2020 season, but fans can hope he clears up any doubts before 2023. He would be entering his age-29 season, which should put him at the peak of his value. Speed is a big part of his game and he will need to show that he can adjust as Father Time starts to slow him down.

    Right Field: Max Kepler
    Kepler was given the opportunity to be the Twins lead-off hitter last season and he certainly proved the team made the right choice. He compiled an .855 OPS on the way to cracking 36 home runs and 32 doubles. By 2023, Kepler could be one of the team’s leaders on and off the field especially after the team signed him to an extension last off-season. His contract does have a team option for 2024, so Kepler could be amid a contract year in the 2023 season.

    Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano
    Sano has seen some ups and downs throughout his Twins tenure and it’s interesting to think about what the future could hold for the burly third baseman. There’s a chance the 2020 season will be his last season on the defensive side of the ball. Nelson Cruz is under contract for one more year and then Sano is the likely choice to take over the DH role. There is no guarantee he will be with the Twins in 2023 since he can be a free agent in 2022. Could someone like Polanco take over this spot if Sano doesn’t re-sign with the club?

    What do you think the 2023 line-up will look like in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    PREVIOUS YEAR’S PREDICTIONS
    2020 Line-Up
    2021 Line-Up
    2022 Line-Up

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    • Dec 23 2019 01:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  18. Twins Offseason Trade Target: Matt Chapman

    What would it take to get Chapman?
    Chapman was an All-Star in 2019 while hitting 36 home runs and 36 doubles with an .848 OPS. He won his second Gold Glove Award at third base and it might not have been close. Chapman is in a close conversation with Nolan Arenado as the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball and Chapman could be in the discussion as one of the league’s best overall defenders.

    Minnesota also has one of the league’s best defenders, but he has been injured over the last couple seasons. Byron Buxton won the Platinum Glove back in 2017, but injuries have kept him off the field over parts of the last two seasons. Could the giant Oakland outfield be a better home for the budding superstar? He has more service time than Chapman and he can be a free agent in 2023.

    Chapman is nearly a year older than Buxton, but they have nearly the same amount of games played at the big-league level thanks to Buxton’s DL stints. Chapman might fit with the Twins, but it will take more than Buxton to land Chapman in a Twins uniform. Minnesota would likely need to add a prospect or two to the equation to get Oakland to consider a deal.

    Minnesota’s Line-Up Ramifications
    Adding Chapman to the line-up would mean Miguel Sano would no longer be needed at third base. This would allow the Twins to shift him to first base and designated hitter on a more permanent rotation. Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez would continue to get at-bats at those positions next season, but this would allow for some positional depth at all those spots, especially since none of those players played a full-season last year.

    If Buxton was out of the equation, Max Kepler would continue to play center field during the 2020 campaign. Then in 2021, Royce Lewis would be given the opportunity to play there and Kepler could slide back to a corner outfield role. Lewis’ defensive future has been in question over the last couple offseasons and this year’s Arizona Fall League only brought that more to the forefront.

    One of Minnesota’s biggest defensive weaknesses this offseason might be third base. Adding Chapman would take away from an area of strength and add to an area of weakness. The cost of adding Chapman might be steep, but the Twins would have him for multiple years with the opportunity to offer him an extension.

    What do you think Chapman would be worth in a trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Dec 02 2019 07:30 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  19. Who Could the Twins Trade this Offseason?

    Outfielders
    While Twins Daily has had plenty of Rosario trade discussion, MLB.com even identified him as a potential trade candidate. Minnesota’s other outfielders, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton, could be in play. Kepler is coming off a career-best season and the Twins signed him to a team-friendly contract last season. Could this make him more susceptible to a trade this year? It seems more likely for the Twins to allow him to continue to develop at the top of their line-up.

    Byron Buxton seemed to be on track for the best season of his career before being injured last season. He has been the league’s best defensive player and he showed some offensive promise last season before being sidelined for the year. Another organization could see some higher value in him and this might allow a trade to occur.

    Infielders
    Miguel Sano struggled through parts of the last two seasons, but he certainly ended last season in a flurry. In the second half of 2019, he posted a .939 OPS with 21 home runs and 55 RBI in 65 games played. He seemed to hit some of the team's biggest home runs as the team went on to win division title. Sano certainly isn’t perfect, but other teams might see significant value in him.

    As a 25-year old, Jorge Polanco was one of the American League’s most valuable players. He was named the AL’s starting shortstop and finished the year with a .356 OBP and an .841 OPS. Like Kepler, the Twins signed him to a team friendly deal prior to last season. This might make him more valuable next season, but the eventual appearance of top prospect Royce Lewis could make him expendable.

    Prospects
    The Twins will have few pitchers available to trade so the organization might have to dip into the minor leagues to find other options on the trading market. Fans wanted the organization to trade for more starting pitching at the trade deadline and this would likely have meant including top prospects Royce Lewis and/or Alex Kirilloff. Both players had up and down 2019 seasons, so their value might not be at the highest point.

    Top pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol and Jordan Balazovic seem more valuable to the Twins than to other teams. Minnesota needs to fill holes in their rotation and both of these players could offer long-term solutions to the team’s pitching woes. Digging deeper into the minors for pitchers like Jhoan Duran, Lewis Thorpe, and Blayne Enlow would probably produce little in trade value.

    Who do you think the Twins could trade this off-season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 18 2019 12:13 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  20. Minnesota’s Top Regression Candidates

    Max Kepler
    2019 Stats: .252 BA, .244 BABIP, .336 OBP, .855 OPS
    Few Twins fans knew what to expect when Kepler was named the Twins lead-off hitter during spring training. He actually was a bit unlucky when looking at his batting average and his BABIP, but it also doesn’t seem likely for him to approach 35+ home runs two seasons in a row. Baseball Reference projects him for 26 home runs and a .795 OPS. This is a slight decline from 2019 and it seems like an reasonable projection for the coming year.

    Luis Arraez
    2019 Stats: .334 BA, .355 BABIP, .399 OBP, .833 OPS
    Arraez had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory for the Twins, but few people saw this coming. He has been able to hit at every professional level, but it makes sense for teams to figure out his tendencies and take advantage of them with more repetitions. For next season, there seems little chance that his OPS stays above .800. Arraez has the offensive tools to be an above-average second baseman but the Twins will have to use him correctly in the years ahead.

    Mitch Garver
    2019 Stats: .273 BA, .267 BABIP, .365 OBP, .995 OPS
    Garver won a Silver Slugger in his first season of playing on a semi-regular basis but Jason Castro won’t be there as a safety blanket next year. Garver might be forced to take on a more regular role. What will that do to his production? He might have been a little lucky with a BABIP that was lower than his actually batting average. It seems more likely for him to be around 20 home runs and a .850 OPS.

    Jorge Polanco
    2019 Stats: .295 BA,.328 BABIP, .356 OBP, .841 OPS
    Polanco was the team’s lone position player All-Star in 2019 and he was elected as a starter. Baseball Reference projects him to accumulate an .803 OPS next year, while dipping from 22 home runs this season to 17 homers next year. He’s managed a .339 OPS over the course of his big league career so it will be interesting if he can continue at that level with other top prospects trying to take his big-league spot.

    Miguel Sano
    2019 Stats: .247 BA, .319 BBIP, .346 OBP, .923 OPS
    Sano struggled through parts of the 2019 campaign, but he seemed to settle into a routine as the season progressed. His batting average on balls in play seems destined for some regression and it’s hard to predict whether he will be able to stay healthy for an entire season. He has yet to play more than 116 games in one year and that was back in 2016. A full season of Sano could be dangerous or a full season could more fully expose his flaws.

    Which player do you think will regress this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 12 2019 09:20 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  21. 3 Creative Ways for Twins to Leverage Their Spending Flexibility

    In his Payroll Analysis feature for the Offseason Handbook, John Bonnes surmises that the Twins could plausibly push payroll to around $140 million this winter, giving them up to $70 million in spending flexibility. That total would push them past their 2018 and 2017 payrolls, but only modestly so. It's a reasonable target for a team that's in championship contention and experiencing a wave of renewed fan investment.

    In three shorts years since taking over as general manager under Derek Falvey, Thad Levine has already made some of the boldest free agent splashes in Twins history. The contracts given to Jason Castro, Addison Reed, Lance Lynn, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez may not be lofty signings relative to the rest of the league, but judged against the standard set by Terry Ryan, they were tremendously aggressive signings.

    With the exception of Castro, however, none of these pacts were for more than two years. The Twins reportedly backed out of the Yu Darvish derby two winters ago because of his contract length demands. Minnesota epitomizes baseball's general aversion to bulky free agent deals, and to committing enormous guaranteed sums to players in their 30s.

    You know what? It's undeniably smart, especially for a team with finite payroll constraints. Ongoing flexibility is a worthy aspiration and directive for this front office. Let's explore some ways the Twins could maximize their present cash surplus while staying true to their strategically prudent ways.

    Frontload a Free Agent Contract

    Are the Twins going to sign Gerrit Cole to a deal pays him $40 million as a 34-year-old in 2025? Probably not. In fact, they're likely aiming to avoid any huge financial obligations down the line. But let me throw a theoretical scenario at you.

    Say Minnesota is targeting Madison Bumgarner. (You can insert the name of another high-end free agent starter as you please.) He has a five-year, $100 million offer in hand from another team, with salaries evenly dispersed across the length of the contract, maybe even backloaded. Pretty standard framework.

    Okay, Twins might not want to go there. But what if they proposed this contract: five years and $96 million, with $30 million salaries in each of the first two seasons, followed by an opt-out clause, and then $12 million salaries in each of the final three seasons. This gives Bumgarner the ability to make an extra $20+ million over the next two years, then hit free agency again at age 32 for another big payday. Meanwhile, if things fall apart on him, he still has three years of solid paychecks guaranteed. Basically it gives him the ability to bet on himself while maintaining security.

    From Minnesota's perspective, the extra money up-front doesn't matter much, and they ensure they won't be saddled with a major payroll drain just as guys like Jose Berrios, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers are getting expensive or reaching free agency.

    You can tinker around with the specific terms and numbers, but in general I think the heavily front-loaded opt-out contract is a model that could help the Twins compete for prime talent in free agency while remaining nimble.

    Trade for a Hefty Salary

    Teams that are willing to take on a burdensome contract often give up less in prospect capital to acquire a player. As it happens, there are several teams looking to shed payroll this winter, even – if rumblings are to be believed – heavy hitters like the Red Sox and Cubs.

    With considerable short-term flexibility, might the Twins be able to land a player like David Price ($32M/yr owed through 2023) or Kris Bryant (due around $40 million his final two years of arbitration, pending his service time grievance) for a relatively light return?

    Frontload Internal Contract Extensions

    This might not be as exciting as flashy outside pickups, but team-friendly extensions for core players – like the ones inked with Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler in the spring – are critical to the franchise's long-term health, enabling the front office to making impactful additions year after year.

    In the cases of both Polanco and Kepler, the Twins gave large immediate raises in exchange for reasonable rates and team options during the latter portions (which also happen to encompass the players' primes). It'd be great to see the front office take a similar approach this offseason, maybe even bringing it a step further.

    Earlier this week, Cody Christie looked at five extension candidates, and of course Berrios was at the top of the list. The 25-year-old is projected to make somewhere around $5 million in his first turn at arbitration this offseason, but what if the Twins bumped that up to – say – $9 million, with an ensuant raise the following year? What kind of discount might that score for his first few years of free agency?

    The bottom line is that Minnesota has a ton of spending flexibility right now, but it's a fleeting reality if the Twins hope to keep their core intact. They have at least seven key players in the arbitration process now, which puts those fixtures on a rapidly rising pay scale.

    Moves like the ones above will serve the team's short-term and long-term goals, aggressively pursuing a winning window while maintaining the freedom to keep the band together.

    • Nov 07 2019 09:02 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Quantifying Byron Buxton's Defensive Value

    Byron Buxton, when healthy, is one of the best center fielders in the game. Baseball Savant has many metrics that can make this argument. Keeping Buxton healthy has been endlessly debated on Twitter and, without spending too much time on that, I think the answer may be found by improving his reaction time, per the graphic from Baseball Savant below.
    Posted Image

    I found their “jump” metric to be the most surprising. For being such a great outfielder (he was sixth in Outs Above Average among outfielders despite missing two months) he was rated as average in his “jump”, which takes into account a players reaction, burst, and route. Improving on reaction time is something much more realistic than asking him to change his instincts. Defense can be a hard thing to quantify in baseball, but using data Baseball Savant I will try to paint a picture of just how impactful Byron’s glove is in center field.

    For the majority of this exercise I will compare Buxton’s centerfield metrics to Max Kepler’s as he has the most meaningful data from the 2019 season. In 2019, the average batted ball had an average flight time of about five seconds, was hit about 65 feet away from the outfielder, and had a 97% catch probability. When looking at five second hang time data, the catch probability significantly drops from 85 feet (72.5%) to 90 feet (50.0%) and then again at 95 feet (27.8%), so this is the range I want to focus the comparison.

    Posted Image

    In the graphic above, I have put a black rectangle around that 85 foot to 95 foot range mentioned above. Your first reaction might be to notice that the specified range, specifically around the five second mark, doesn’t look much different. On that note, I’d remind you that Kepler had 419.0 more innings in the outfield than Buxton and thus had many more opportunities to get outs. If anything, you should compare the number of grey dots (hits) in each rectangle as well as the number of red dots (outs) to the right of the rectangle. More simply put, Buxton had three more Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in fewer innings than Kepler.

    Let’s look at the impact it had on Twins pitchers. Due to sample size, I did not include relief pitchers, and due to suspension or health issues, the only starters I decided to include were Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Prior to the Buxton injury on Aug. 1, Berrios and Odorizzi had a .968 and .830 OPS on line drives and fly balls hit to center field, respectively. After the Buxton injury, their OPS increased to 1.339 and 1.154, respectively.

    In short, it’s clear Buxton absence had a significant impact on their defense. With all that in mind, where do you sit on Buxton? Trade him? Buy out his arbitration years and sign him to a long-term deal? Continue playing the waiting game to see if he can stay healthy? Let’s discuss in the comments. Next week, I’ll be looking at what free agent starters we should target to compliment Buxton’s strengths.

    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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    • Oct 22 2019 09:15 PM
    • by Matthew Lenz
  23. The Defensive Future of Royce Lewis

    Shortstop
    Lewis was drafted as a shortstop and the Twins have given him every opportunity to stick at one of the most important defensive positions. Through three professional seasons, 94.7% of his defensive innings have been played at short. He has been charged with 48 errors in 1076 chances for a .955 fielding percentage. This might not seem terrible, but Jorge Polanco had a .957 fielding percentage this year and there were plenty of people critical of his defense this year.

    Even with Minnesota continuing to use Lewis at shortstop, there is no guarantee he stays there long-term. As Matthew Trueblood wrote, there have been some “dubious recent scouting reports” about his shortstop play. Lewis could be entering a critical time for his defensive future and shortstop might not be his position in the years ahead. In fact, he has yet to log a defensive inning at shortstop in the AFL.

    Third Base
    Minnesota currently has Miguel Sano at third base, but there have been questions about his ability to stick at that position long-term. In fact, he might be better suited for first base or even designated hitter. If there was an opening at third, Lewis might be given the opportunity to take over the hot corner.

    In 11 of his 18 AFL games, he has started at third base and he has yet to be charged with an error. His time at third was almost nonexistent before the AFL started. During his professional career, he had played four innings at third base and he had yet to start a game at that position.

    It’s also not like there is a better shortstop prospect ahead of him on his AFL roster. Tampa’s Vidal Brujan has played the majority of the time at short and his own organization rarely uses him at that position (377 2/3 innings over five seasons).

    Outfield
    Minnesota’s current outfield looks strong if Bryon Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario are all healthy and on the field. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen very often in 2019 and one must wonder what the future holds for the team’s outfield trio. It also seems possible for one of these players to be dealt for starting pitching help before the beginning of next season.

    Lewis has played four games in center field during his career and three of those contests have been in the AFL. That still hasn’t stopped him from making a highlight reel catch.


    Outfield seems like a good back-up plan for Lewis if he doesn’t pan out at either one of the infield positions mentioned above. He has the athleticism to shift to the outfield, but it would take a lot of work to get him accustomed to chasing down fly-balls.

    Where do you think Royce Lewis will play defensively in the future? Leave a COMMENT and join the discussion.

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    • Oct 21 2019 07:38 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  24. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Valuable Player

    Here's a rundown of all the Twins players who received at least one first-place vote in our balloting:

    • Taylor Rogers, ranked at the top of one ballot, was the glue that held a shaky bullpen together in the first half, and he remained steady down the stretch. He led all Twins pitchers in Win Probability Added and ranked second among American League relievers.
    • Byron Buxton, also ranked at the top of one ballot, was arguably the biggest difference-maker for the Twins whenever he was on the field. They were a vastly better team with him out there, going 62-25 (.713) in games he played, compared to 39-36 (.520) without him – not including a playoff sweep where his absence was deeply felt.
    • Mitch Garver, ranked No. 1 on two ballots, almost certainly delivered the most qualitative value, mashing 31 home runs and producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games as the Twins carefully managed his workload behind the plate. The combination of offensive and defensive impact he brought to the field was transformative for the Twins.
    • Jorge Polanco, also ranked atop a pair of ballots, led the team in bWAR (5.7) and recorded the highest mark for a Twin by Baseball Reference's metric since Brian Dozier in 2016. FanGraphs wasn't quite so accepting of his defensive shortcomings (4.0 fWAR) but from any perspective, Polanco was adequate at shortstop and was the team's iron man, playing in 153 games and making 100 more plate appearances than the next-highest player.
    • Nelson Cruz, picked as Twins MVP on three ballots, was a dominating force at the plate like we've rarely seen before. Overcoming a wrist injury that plagued him for much of the summer, he still bashed 41 homers with 108 RBIs while registering a career-high 1.031 OPS. He provided zero defensive value but the sheer offensive production and leadership were more than enough to offset it.
    Like I said, the Twins received vital contributions from across the board, and it's hard to single out one most essential player. However, the guy that ultimately rose to the top – and the only remote source of consensus for our panel, landing No. 1 on nine ballots and among the top two in all but one – is Max Kepler.

    Whether due to stylistic adjustments, changes in the baseball, or simply the developmental emergence of a 26-year-old with three seasons of experience under his belt – possibly all three – Kepler turned the corner in a big way:

    OPS+
    2016: 96
    2017: 95
    2018: 97
    2019: 122

    HR
    2016: 17
    2017: 19
    2018: 20
    2019: 36

    fWAR
    2016: 1.3
    2017: 1.5
    2018: 2.7
    2019: 4.4

    That fWAR led all Twins players, and was influenced heavily by his strong defensive ratings: Kepler posted a career-high 12.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and was credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), leading the team in both categories. He was exceptional in right field (third-best in baseball, according to UZR/150) and, crucially, also proved capable as fill-in center fielder – a role made necessary by Buxton's frequent unavailability.

    If the Twins don't have Kepler ready to step in for 53 starts and 459 innings at the position, Buxton's injuries take a much greater toll on the team. Speaking personally, this played a big part in my placing Kepler atop the ballot.

    But even when you take away that contextual wrinkle, Kepler was just a tremendously productive player all year long, setting the tone as unconventional leadoff hitter for one of the league's best lineups. He amassed 32 doubles in addition to 36 homers, drove in 90 runs, scored 98 times, and had the second-highest WPA among Twins hitters (behind Cruz).

    Unfortunately he succumbed late to a shoulder issue that had plagued him for much of the year, costing him the last two weeks of the regular season and seemingly turning him into a nonfactor in the ALDS, but the inauspicious finish doesn't offset the outstanding production Kepler delivered throughout the majority of a true breakout campaign.

    THE CANDIDATES
    It's an impressive bunch. Cruz, who finished second in our balloting, was officially named team MVP earlier this week and it's tough to knock that choice. Ultimately, Kepler's huge advantage in defensive value gave him an edge in our vote. Meanwhile, Polanco's defensive struggles likely dinged him in the eyes of many, even though he delivered high-caliber offensive output at a premium position – albeit output that tailed off in the second half. Garver, Buxton and Miguel Sano were bona fide stars when on the field, but a lack of volume detracted from the ultimate value provided. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios got some love as leaders in a resurgent rotation, as did Rogers and Tyler Duffey in the bullpen.

    One nugget of the final tallies I found surprising, yet telling: Eddie Rosario, last year's Twins Daily MVP recipient, received only one sixth-place vote, despite putting up 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. The misleading nature of his raw totals didn't fool our panel, and unfortunately, probably won't fool potential trade partners this winter.

    THE BALLOTS
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Nick Nelson: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
    John Bonnes: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Taylor Rogers
    Tom Froemming: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Cody Christie: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
    Steve Lein: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Matt Braun: 1) Byron Buxton, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Miguel Sano
    Andrew Thares: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Mitch Garver
    JD Cameron: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Taylor Rogers
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Nelson Cruz
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Nelson Cruz, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Nelson Cruz, 3) Jose Berrios
    Sabir Aden: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Jorge Polanco

    POINTS
    Max Kepler: 96
    Nelson Cruz: 78
    Jorge Polanco: 65
    Mitch Garver: 51
    Taylor Rogers: 31
    Jose Berrios: 21
    Miguel Sano: 18
    Byron Buxton: 7
    Jake Odorizzi: 5
    Luis Arraez: 3
    Tyler Duffey: 2
    Eddie Rosario: 1

    Previous Twins Daily MVP Winners
    2015: Brian Dozier
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Brian Dozier
    2018: Eddie Rosario

    • Oct 18 2019 06:13 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  25. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved Player

    Yesterday, we handed out our award for the 2019 Twins Rookie of the Year to Luis Arraez. In 2018, that award was presented to catcher Mitch Garver. Garver is no stranger to Twins Daily awards. He was named our Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 and again in 2017.

    After posting an OPS over 1.000 as a junior at the University of New Mexico, Garver went undrafted. He returned to the Lobos and put up a second great season. The Twins used their ninth-round pick (260th overall) to select Garver, their third catcher selected in that 2014 draft.

    There were always concerns about his defensive abilities, but he worked hard and kept hitting. He earned his first big-league promotion in August of 2017. In 2018, he hit a solid .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 335 plate appearances.

    It was a very solid season for a rookie who spent most of that season as the team’s backup catcher. Turns out, it was just a building block. Garver went to work.

    IMPROVEMENT AT THE PLATE

    In 2019, Mitch Garver went from a backup, part-time catcher role to being the must-play catcher late in the season and in the playoffs. Garver was given plenty of time off throughout the season. That is one potential reason for his improvement. Another reason might just be the confidence shown in him by new manager Rocco Baldelli. While Garver would typically hit near the bottom of the lineup in 2018, he was a middle-of-the-order bat much of 2019. In addition, Garver was usually in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.

    The results showed right away. He hit seven homers in 335 plate appearances in 2018. This year he hit his eighth home run on May 10th, within 75 plate appearances. I feel it important to point out that Garver had 359 plate appearances in 2019, just 24 more than he accumulated in 2018. He went from seven homers to 31 home runs. His batting average increased from .268 to .273, but his on-base percentage jumped from .335 to .365. His slugging percentage jumped from .414 to 630, and his OPS from .749 to .995. If you’re into wOBA, he went from .325 to .404. And, he did so while seeing his BABIP drop from .330 to .277 .In other words, it wasn’t based on luck at all.

    It was a concerted effort. In a post-game interview with Marney Gellner on FSN, Garver said, “It’s something that I wanted to do with this season. I want to be a force in the lineup.”



    He got more specific. He said he wanted to “focus on hitting it hard, pull side, in the air.”

    Well, he hit the ball hard. His Average Exit Velocity of 91.1 mph ranked behind only Miguel Sano (94.4 mph) and Nelson Cruz (93.7 mph) on the Twins roster. He was 13th in MLB in Barrels per Plate Appearance (4th on Twins). In 2018, he pulled the ball 38.8% of the time. In 2019, he pulled the ball 51.3% of the time. His Line Drive percentage dropped from 22.5% to 13.7% Meanwhile, he increased his Fly Ball percentage from 37.7% to 47.3% It’s fair to say that Garver gave his hitting philosophy a lot of thought, developed a plan and he not only stuck to it, but he succeeded with it. He succeeded with a season that should result in the American League Silver Slugger Award for catchers.


    IMPROVEMENT BEHIND THE PLATE

    It isn’t as easy to see, but as much as Garver improved at the plate, he took huge strides forward behind the plate as well.

    In 2018, according to FanGraphs, Garver’s DRS (Defensive Run Saves) was at -16.His FRM (Catcher Framing Runs Above Average) was at -9.2. Those are the kinds of numbers that create need for self-evaluation. Garver needed to improve, and he knew it.

    During spring training, Twins Daily talked to Garver, and he was very upfront about his need to improve on defense.

    “If I don’t fix things right now, I will not be in the game in two years, three years,” Garver says he told himself. “I won’t be a catcher anymore.”


    Garver went to work with the help of Twins Minor League Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson in the offseason. So, what did those defensive metrics look like in 2019?

    DRS: 0
    FRM: 0.8

    From those numbers, it is fair to say that Garver has made himself into an average defensive catcher. And while ‘average’ may not be exciting, when you consider how far he came in just one season, it was a huge improvement. Coupled with his offense, average defense makes Garver extremely valuable.

    Also something to consider, the bar for “average” is a moving target. Organizations much better understand the value of catcher defense. It has become more and more of a focus every year. In short, the “average” catcher has become a better catcher. So not only did Garver go from posting poor defensive metrics to average defensive metrics, but he moved up to the higher ‘average” level.And he did so without it effecting his throwing or blocking.


    DESIRE TO IMPROVE

    Garver has played with a chip on his shoulder going back to college when he was a walk-off. He wasn’t drafted after his junior year and became a “senior sign.” He was never considered a top prospect. People questioned his defense. And through it all, Garver was humble and kept on working.

    Late in the season at Target Field, Twins Daily asked Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about the improvement he's seen from Garver, particularly behind the plate. Baldelli said, “I think he’s coming into his own in a lot of ways.”

    The Twins rookie manager continued, “Experience matters behind the plate. It’s difficult to develop into a major-league player of any kind. There are challenges, but to develop into a major-league catcher. There are just so many more responsibilities that you have, and they're not even just personal responsibilities. You’re responsible for other people and what they’re doing out on the field. That’s tough for a lot of guys, but I think Mitch is certainly making huge strides in those areas. What we ask those guys to do behind the plate compared to what we ask everybody else to do, it’s kind of wild. Mitch has taken to it and he’s shown a very open willingness and desire to improve, whether it’s come to his flexibility and his body, or his receiving, or his game-calling, he spends a lot of time. He’s very diligent. I’ve been very happy with the work he’s put in this year.


    LOOKING FORWARD

    And as his college coach at New Mexico, Ray Birmingham, told us recently, that there just might be another level of improvement to come. “He has worked his butt off to get there, and he’s making an impact, and you haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s sure of himself now. He’s sure that he can do this now, and he will only continue to get better.”


    OTHER CANDIDATES

    While Garver was the runaway winner, as you can see from the results below that there were several strong candidates. After three seasons with very similar numbers, Max Kepler knocked 36 home runs, easily his best season. Jorge Polanco went from a solid start to his career to an All-Star Game starter. Miguel Sano showed great improvement midseason. He was struggling immensely while working on his swing. It took about a week, but after that, he took off. Tyler Duffey had been frequently up and down from the big leagues to Rochester over recent seasons and even began 2019 at AAA. He became one of the best, most dominant set-up men in the game in the season’s second half.


    THE BALLOTS
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 17 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Steve Lein: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    Matt Braun: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Andrew Thares: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    JD Cameron: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Max Kepler
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Byron Buxton
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Sabir Aden: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler


    POINTS
    Mitch Garver: 38
    Tyler Duffey: 20
    Max Kepler: 19
    Miguel Sano: 19
    Jorge Polanco: 10
    Jake Odorizzi: 2
    Byron Buxton: 1

    Do you agree with our pick? Who would be your choice for Most Improved Twin and why? How would your ballot look? Leave a comment and make your case.


    Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners

    2015: Aaron Hicks
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Byron Buxton
    2018: Kyle Gibson

    • Oct 16 2019 09:23 AM
    • by Seth Stohs