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  1. Baseball Is Running Out on Its Future

    In a normal season finances aren’t great for the future players of Major League Baseball. They are paid pennies on the dollar and make substantially less than minimum wage over the course of a full year. During spring training, they go unpaid, and the only financial help they get equates to little more than meal money.

    Earlier in the development of this global pandemic teams around the league negotiated to pay something like $400 per week to each minor league player. That money was always tied to a date as a deadline, and it’s now less than a week away. Once May 31 hits there are no more guarantees in place. In fact, we already know that the upcoming amateur draft is being shortened to just five rounds, which furthers the plan to scrap something like 40 affiliated teams.

    While the casual assumption is that big bonuses are paid out to all draft picks and everyone is capable of supporting themselves on their journey, it’s hardly a thought rooted in reality. It’s a very small percentage of players that receive hefty bonuses, and there are plenty of guys on top prospect lists that are simply looking to make ends meet. Without some sort of a renegotiated agreement minor league players will essentially go a year and a half without receiving a “real” paycheck.

    Obviously, the above assumption is working out of the premise that we won’t have minor league baseball in 2020. While it’s been shot down that the season will be cancelled, I think we can all agree that it’s going to be dramatically altered. With major league teams trending towards an extended taxi squad, we’re probably looking at something where just a few players not on the 40-man roster end up being utilized. Given the logistics of playing fanless games across the country in smaller locales at ballparks that are traditionally lightly manned, it’s an uphill battle that doesn’t seem worth fighting.

    A developmental league of sorts makes a ton of sense. Having minor league players housed at their spring training facilities and then playing what would amount to intrasquad games could certainly work. Not having a full year of development would no doubt hamper even the best of prospects. Asking guys to get work in without competition doesn’t seem like a beneficial path either.

    Contractually obligated to their parent clubs, minor leaguers face the reality of being virtually unemployable in the general workforce. Not only is unemployment through the roof with many businesses on hold, but it’s really only gig work that lends itself to accepting a schedule that could drastically change at a moment’s notice.

    There’s no denying that the grind through minor league baseball is not for the faint of heart. There’s a substantial percentage of the population that will never make it. Weeding out talent on the basis of economic malpractice doesn’t seem like an intelligent path to take, however. Should nothing be done, the futures of major league clubs across the sport will be forever impacted. Even if the finances are set in order, the havoc wreaked by this pandemic on the lifeblood of big league baseball is going to have ripple effects well into the future.

    We have already seen some clubs take a stand and commit to their future. The San Diego Padres are the most exemplary model of this as they’ll stand by their employees and players through this storm. On the other end of the spectrum the Oakland Athletics and their billionaire owner John Fisher will cease payments to players on May 31, also holding them to their contracts making the ineligible for unemployment and not able to seek opportunity within another organization.

    Franchises are cutting ties with massive amounts of players right now, and it seems that Major League Baseball will be granted its wish to downsize the pipeline to the majors. No matter when baseball returns, and what the optics of the Major League discussions look like, it’s these minor leaguers that are constantly hung out to dry.

    UPDATE: The Minnesota Twins organization is stepping up once again. They've built a strong system and infrastructure by going about things the right way since instituting a new front office. They've invested so much, and to turn from it now would be tough to swallow. Good on this organization.

    Huge nugget from Twins Daily's own here as well. Despite other organizations releasing 30 or more minor leaguers in the past few days, all Twins players will be retained for the time being.

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    • Yesterday, 12:30 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  2. MLB Proposal Seeks Bigger Cuts From Premier Players

    Since publicly asking players to consider a revenue split and going back on the already agreed upon prorated pay for 2020, Major League Baseball ownership had yet to put forth any concrete proposal. Tony Clark and the Major League Baseball Players Association were given that proposal this afternoon. Clark publicly stated that contracts would not be renegotiated, and that ownership needed to figure out a way forward for 2020.

    Despite turning annual revenues near $10 billion, it was suggested today that Major League Baseball would still bring in around $3 billion in 2020 should an 80-game slate with no fans be the route taken. There's a possibility that net revenues could still dip into the red, but baseball has opportunity to at least break even as well.

    With the afternoon meeting coming to a close reports of the proposal began to leak. New York Post writer Joel Sherman outlined what can be described as a sliding scale. In this structure the players making the most money would be paid the smallest percentage of their agreed upon contract. Those players who are set to make less money would retain a higher portion of the prorated dollars.

    Defining it as simply and most straightforward as possible, the owners are looking for their highly compensated players to provide them relief. Gerrit Cole inked a deal with the Yankees this winter and was expecting a $36 million annual paycheck. Instead of getting that, he’d be taking a substantial cut in order for lower compensated players to receive a higher amount of their annual expected take home.

    Jeff Passan of ESPN relayed some specific details of the plan on Twitter:

    In a season where expanded rosters will increase the number of players making closer to the league minimum, Major League owners would get the benefit of savings from high dollar contracts while handing out minimal sums to a few more players. It’s the exact reason why service time manipulation exists, in that ownership is able to keep lower payrolls by owning a player’s low dollar years. Getting a discount on the highest contracts, having those well compensated players foot the bill, and paying a bunch of minimum salaries sounds like nothing but roses for the owners.

    At the end of the day this argument is always going to be between millionaires and billionaires. For some fans, the economics will never present an opportunity for logic. While it’s difficult to insert yourself into the situation, the total sum of money shouldn’t change the optics of what is going on here. Imagine a situation in which the CEO of a company asks a manager to take a substantial cut in pay so that the intern can receive their full wages. There’s a morality issue here too, but logic doesn’t hold up across the entire example.

    Also noted in Sherman’s breakdown of MLB’s proposal is what could be an underlying desire to cause cracks within the union. Most teams are represented by veteran players, many of which would fall into the highly compensated category. The group of lesser compensated players is far larger and would have no reason to oppose this deal. Those taking the hit, however, are often vocal decision makers and have earned the contracts to which they have been signed.

    It should have been expected a storm was brewing between MLB and the MLBPA. With CBA expiration on the horizon, a lockout was thought potential in the not-so-distant-future. Now we have MLB ownership using the time constraints of a global pandemic as a negotiation tactic in hopes that players act quickly on a less than advantageous deal.

    Suppose that Harold Steinbrenner wanted to leverage Gerrit Cole’s contract and defer the money he’ll lose to a future time, I’d imagine that would be met begrudgingly but fine. Asking players of that ilk to simply foot the bill and then pitting them against guys in the same clubhouse, I certainly can’t see it going over well.

    While this is just the first proposal, it doesn't seem like a good foot to start on. Maybe the first week of June isn't a hard and fast deadline. Maybe a goal of dividing the players is of further importance. Maybe any cash flow relief is the greatest goal for ownership. We're dealing with lots of maybes here, but in unprecedented times we're likely in store for more unprecedented measures than we can imagine.

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    • May 26 2020 07:49 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  3. Five Best Signatures in Twins History

    I don’t think it’s burying the lede here to note that Harmon Killebrew’s signature is going to be number one on this list. He’s got some of the greatest penmanship we’ve seen in any era, and it was a craft he took great pride in. You’ll often hear stories from more recent players where they’ll quip about the times Harmon noted they needed to clean up their signature.

    Given the recent explosion of the trading card collecting hobby it seemed only fitting to explore the guys that have followed his advice best. Surprisingly, there’s more than a few modern candidates on this list. Without further ado, let’s get into it:

    5. Paul Molitor

    After playing 15 years in Milwaukee for the Brewers, Molitor ended his Hall of Fame career with the hometown team. The St. Paul native was well past his prime when he joined the Twins, but Molitor still put up an .858 OPS at age-39. There was no shortage of autograph requests given the local fanfare, and those continued when he became manager, and eventually Manager of the Year, following his playing days.


    The signature is a compressed one, and the letters are all tight together, but getting every character is something rarely seen today.

    4. Bert Blyleven

    This is a weird case in which the signature is awesome, but it’s one that typically comes with caveats. Blyleven is also a Hall of Famer and played 11 of his 22 big league seasons in Minnesota. He is still connected to the team as a broadcaster, and while his capacity is slowly being phased out, it will never not be true that he was among the best to put on the uniform.


    Much like Harmon’s style, Blyleven makes sure to get out his full name fully and visibly when signing. For collectors he’ll generally ink his name in undesirable places or attempt to devalue whatever he is signing for the fear of secondary market flipping. At any rate, the signature itself is a gorgeous one.
    3. Torii Hunter

    As the first modern day inclusion on this list Torii Hunter represents a guy bound by principles. He has often talked about things gleaned from his time listening to Harmon, and he too represents that type of retired veteran constantly passing information down. Hunter played the role of mentor and leader on multiple teams, and it’s not hard to see why doing things the right way would be of importance to him.


    Hunter’s autograph is loopier and more cartoonish than the previous two entries, but it’s plenty obvious who the inscription belongs to when reading it. Often accompanied by his number, Torii takes any piece of memorabilia up a notch by putting his name on it.

    2. Michael Cuddyer

    One of my favorite autographs in all of baseball, Cuddyer combines principles from the three players before him. He was a Twins for 11 of his 15 Major League seasons and there was never a time in which he wasn’t fighting to cement his place as a regular. Often seen as the utility player that could contribute everywhere, Cuddyer went about all of his processes the right way.


    Without sounding too sappy Cuddyer’s signature has an elegance to it. As a fan of photography, often taking pictures at away ballparks, maybe there was even an artistic tie to the swoops of his pen. Each time his name came out though, it looked as good as the last.

    1. Harmon Killebrew

    As I said when starting this off, it’s pretty impossible to look at any group of people under this subject and not determine Harmon as the gold standard. Playing 21 of his 22 illustrious seasons with the Minnesota franchise (after relocating from Washington seven seasons in) the Killer racked up accolades like no one’s business. An inner circle Hall of Famer doesn’t need to bother themselves with signature requests, but Killebrew took it upon himself to treat each as if it were his last.


    There will never be a time that the importance Killebrew placed on a well-respected signature isn’t a story that’s shared fondly among Twins fans. Although it doesn’t resonate with every future player, it’s great to see the trickle-down effect and know that his presence remains even though he has left us.

    Who's missing that you would add to this list?

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    • May 21 2020 11:53 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  4. Twins Positioned Well for Short Draft

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the top of the front office prior to the 2017 season. While a substantial part of the scouting and draft focused contingent remained in the organization, the overall infrastructure has changed. Falvey and Levine have instituted a significant expansion of analytical models, as well as people to cultivate those initiatives. Developmental staff has been brought in across the farm, and voices through the system seem more aligned than ever.

    Although the post-draft process of skill development and progression remains the most vital piece in generating a big leaguer, it’s also very much about nailing the makeup and tools of each guy selected. With just five rounds to get it right this year, it’s worth looking at how the last three tries in that same space have gone.

    2017 Picks: Royce Lewis (1, 1), Brent Rooker (1, 35), Landon Leach (2, 37), Blayne Enlow (3, 76), Charlie Barnes (4, 106), Andrew Bechtold (5, 136)

    In their very first draft Falvine went big on upside. Royce Lewis was selected over players like Hunter Greene and Kyle Wright. He’s got the makeup of a star player and still trends towards being a difference maker up the middle for the Twins. Rooker was a bat only prospect, but it’s played as expected at every level thus far. The power is real and he’s near Major League ready.

    In going after Leach, Minnesota was able to bank some money to entice Enlow. Landon hasn’t established himself much in pro ball yet, but Enlow looks to be one of the better arms in the entire system. Barnes has been a consistent lefty without much flash. He reached Triple-A last year and could project as a back-end starter. While Bechtold was seen as a very nice JUCO get he’s still waiting to establish himself. The Appy League debut was a good one but a .738 OPS at Single-A, where he was old for both leagues, didn’t light the world on fire.

    Overall, this group looks to have two guaranteed Major League talents, and one that could absolutely be a star. Throw in Enlow’s upside and another potential lottery pick on one of the remaining to call it a very solid first showing for the front office.

    2018 Picks: Trevor Larnach (1, 20), Ryan Jeffers (2, 59), DaShawn Keirsey (4, 124), Cole Sands (5, 154)

    Just four picks in the top five rounds this year, Minnesota had to do more with less. Larnach was a College World Series star and brings exit velocity in spades. He’s since become a very similar comp to another Twins prospect, Alex Kirilloff. That’s great company and there’s a significant ceiling to be fulfilled. Jeffers is the best catching prospect in the organization, and while touted for his offense, he’s transformed into more of a complete player.

    Until now Keirsey hasn’t yet taken hold. He posted a .798 OPS in his pro debut but owned just a .436 OPS last year playing 43 games. Cole Sands looked like a gem when he did debut last year. He made it all the way to Double-A and dominated to the tune of a 2.68 ERA with a 10.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.

    Once again, this looks like a strong core group. Larnach and Jeffers are great headliners with Sands trending way upwards. Keirsey could be a miss, but three of four looking like Major League assets this early is a solid set of circumstances. A smaller group, but a good one here.

    2019 Picks: Keoni Cavaco (1, 13), Matt Wallner (1, 39), Matt Canterino (2, 54), Spencer Steer (3, 90), Seth Gray (4, 119), Will Holland (5, 149)

    The Twins went with the helium to start last year’s draft. Cavaco vaulted up boards but was not necessarily expected to go this high. He really struggled from the get-go but showed up to Spring Training looking very strong. Wallner is a local product and was a standout at Southern Miss. Both he and Matt Canterino looked like tested amateurs that can contribute at a very high level.

    Adding infield talent was the theme of a run in rounds three through five. Steer made quick work of the Appy League and held his own for the Kernels. Gray showed well for Elizabethton and made a brief cameo with Cedar Rapids. Holland was the pride of a very good Auburn squad and is seen as a very good defender. The bat didn’t play in year one but it’s far too early to make assessments there.

    Lots of uncertainty in regards to trend lines for this group at an early stage, but I think it’s fair to say both Wallner and Canterino impressed.

    Looking back at the last three drafts Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown there’s people in all of the right places across the Twins organization. It’s hard not to be excited about the top of any of these groups, and even moreso considering the futility the previous regime showed in regards to recent top picks. Minnesota only has four picks (27, 59, 99, and 125) to make in June and they’ll need to supplement the system as best they can. With an unlimited number of undrafted signees also on the docket, enticing amateurs with the revamped development infrastructure should be a selling point as well.

    Before we’ll get any live action in 2020 the draft is going to take place, and thankfully for Twins fans, there’s a group in place capable of hitting a home run.

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    • May 19 2020 08:41 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  5. Everyone Hits as Baseball Embraces the DH

    For every Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke, there are literally hundreds of guys that look the part of a hitter who hasn’t stepped into the box in literal years. The entire premise of paying hurlers significant sums of money only to have them haphazardly compete against 100-mph darts remains questionable at best. Doing it under the guise of strategy or uniqueness only further complicates the situation.

    Going into 2019 the Minnesota Twins put up $14 million (with another $12 million likely) on a player that had no value besides his bat. Nelson Cruz hasn’t routinely played a defensive position since 2016, and a position hasn’t been his primary responsibility since 2013. He is very good at hitting the baseball, and the designated hitter role allows him to focus on just that.

    In an effort to create uniformity and allow pitchers a heightened ability to focus on their intended job, proposals for the 2020 season include a universal DH. While any hitter presents a greater probability of success in the batter’s box than a pitcher, it is true that National League teams are not specifically equipped with a resource solely intended for that role. In former times, no NL team would get in a contract discussion with a player like Cruz, and only 15 of these jobs traditionally existed within the sport.

    Expanding the designated hitter rule this close to the start of a season presents more than fair arguments in respect to preparedness. Given the shifting landscape of squeezing a season in amidst a pandemic though, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the advantage. With the assumed 82 game regional schedule, teams would only be competing against a traditional DH if the American and National League’s were to regularly intermingle. Keeping the divisions as is would entirely wipe out a discussion about one team having an advantage over another on a nightly basis.

    Then there’s the fan experience that Rob Manfred has been so aimlessly seeking. In an effort to rejuvenate the game, he’s given us pitch clocks and limited mound visits, but it’s in allowing a traditional hitter to bat in all nine spots of the order that you’d see a more substantial impact. Jobs open up for players on 15 new teams, and careers are lengthened solely by continuing to execute on the most foundational skill in the game.

    There’s no denying that baseball, and many that follow it, are traditionalists in every sense of the word. Not early adopters, and often risk averse, changing the game in any significant way is going to be met with hesitation. A monumental move such as this being forced by an outside force likely doesn’t make the acceptance any easier. However, taking a step back it’s hard to see how this isn’t a positive for everyone.

    Regardless of any outside feelings, the Twins are in a good place here. Nelson Cruz was brought in to fill this role, and Miguel Sano may be waiting in the wings. We don’t yet know if this rule will be instituted going forward, but on a trial run basis, I’d hope for a best foot forward approach and a strong desire to not regress after such an exciting step ahead.

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    • May 12 2020 07:24 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  6. Baseball is Back? Where Does that Leave the Twins?

    For some time, I’ve tried to wrap my head around what the 2020 schedule may look like given its fractured state. If teams aren’t going to go through a temporary division realignment, how will there be a level playing field in regard to common foes. Will games be rescheduled or shuffled around, and how do you traverse the logistical nightmare that would present?

    The most straightforward avenue to all of these questions is to simply suggest, play it out. Beginning July 1st, play the schedule through as it stands. Include an extra team or two in the postseason if you wish but keep the opponents and locations exactly as they are. We have a blueprint for that, and that’s where this discussion begins.

    On July 1st, the Twins would be slated to take part in Opening Day at Comerica in Detroit. It would be the first of 11 games with the Tigers, and count as one of 46 total games against the AL Central Division. From that day forward there are exactly 76 games scheduled, and a 61% clip against divisional foes would not be an unwelcome reality for Minnesota.

    Within the division Minnesota has another 13 games scheduled with both Cleveland and Kansas City, while having to face the White Sox just nine times. Only 10 games are scheduled against teams outside of the Central that made the postseason in 2019, and all five of the games against the Dodgers (2) and Astros (3) would be played at Target Field.

    Traditionally a difficult matchup for the Twins, AL East teams are seen only on three separate occasions. Minnesota would not reap the benefit of facing the Orioles, but they also would avoid the Yankees altogether. Seven games would be split between a Mookie-less Boston (4) and Tampa Bay (3) on the road, while the Blue Jays travel to Target Field for a four-game set.

    Although it’s not quite a 50/50 split, the Twins are looking at being the road team in 40 of the 76 contests. Last season they owned a strong .568 winning percentage at the home yard, but they generated a ridiculous .679 winning percentage on the road. I think it’s safe to say that given the talent of this team, they’ll likely be in a strong position to compete on a nightly basis.

    Now, there are two outliers that I think could factor into any 2020 schedule with these established parameters. One, July 4 makes substantially more sense for Opening Day than July 1st does. Capitalize on the patriotism towards our great country and realize there’s nothing more American than baseball and apple pie. Two, stretch the currently laid out schedule to incorporate at least five more games, creating an 81-effort affair. The former seems incredibly doable, and the latter to a certain extent as well.

    Major League Baseball has noted that teams will likely have expanded rosters this season, and the inclusion of doubleheaders will also become somewhat of a regular occurrence. Needing to add just five games, playing two on that few occasions seems simple. Should baseball push for something closer to a 100-game season, they’d need to add doubleheaders (or remove off days) on roughly 30% of the currently scheduled action.

    It’s also safe to assume that minor league baseball won’t be what we have traditionally seen. Having guys play in some sort of spring training back-field league makes a good deal of sense. Housing players at the complex, still getting in important development time, and having players ready to be called upon seem like benchmarks worth striving for.

    We’re still in the infancy of this all coming to fruition, but things appear to be trending in a positive direction. Following Plouffe’s initial report Jeff Passan noted that MLB is finalizing a proposal for MLBPA to review and agree upon. That would act as one of the last obstacles to overcome and should then lead quickly to the announcement of “Play Ball!”

    Initially feeling apprehensive about one of the best Twins teams in history being wasted on a goofy year, the blueprint laid out for what may be ahead is worth salivating about. The sport returns, the schedule remains soft, and close to 100% health for baseball’s beloved Bomba Squad could foster the most talked about World Series title in the history of the sport.

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    • May 07 2020 07:34 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  7. Forgotten Twins Pitcher Impresses in Spotlight

    Hailing from Neenah, Wisconsin, Drew Rucinski is nearly “one of us.” The 31-year-old went to The Ohio State University and went undrafted. His major league debut came in 2014 and he compiled just over 50 career innings. After briefly playing on some good Angels teams he spent 2016 at Triple-A for the Cubs. With Minnesota scuffling, he parlayed success at Triple-A Rochester into a big league call-up during the 2017 season.

    Rucinski made just two appearances for the Twins. His initial output was 3.1 innings against the Red Sox in early May. Giving up five hits he surrendered two runs while fanning five and walking just one. His final outing would come at the hands of that infamous, World Series-winning, Houston Astros team. Pounding the Twins to the tune of a 16-8 score, A.J. Hinch’s club hung three runs on five hits against Rucinski in just one inning of work.

    The 2018 Marlins needed help almost everywhere on their roster, and Rucinski was able to carve out a regular role throwing over 35 innings for the club. His 4.33 ERA was respectable, but the peripherals didn’t provide much promise. Looking for a more lucrative opportunity, he journeyed abroad. After 177 innings with a 3.05 ERA in 2019, the former Twins was named the NC Dinos Opening Day starter for 2020.

    After a rain delay (because why not with the way this year has gone) threatened the opening salvo, we eventually got both Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez up at 1am eastern time to call action across the globe. It was an experience, and one that Ravech noted he’ll never forget multiple times. No fans were in the stands, but baseball being back prompted plenty of Americans staying up until the wee hours of the morning to catch the action.

    Rucinski wasn’t dominant, as he issued four free passes, but he also was unfazed. Allowing just three hits and fanning six against a superior team on the road is no small feat. The contingent of fans tuning in to a major league game didn’t see it, and the competition isn’t on the same playing field either. Even with those caveats, you couldn’t water down the performance for Rucinski who is now on center stage getting airtime he was never received to here in his homeland.

    Until we have a semblance of normalcy return, and a set parameters of how major league baseball will return to our lives, it’s the KBO that will take center stage. There are plenty of talented Koreans brandishing their abilities on a daily basis, but it might just be the random stories that pop up with the names you used to know that take hold. Tune in for the bat flips, stay up for the craziness, and really just enjoy the fact that we have baseball again.

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    • May 05 2020 01:03 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  8. Twins Hopeful Slugger May Finally Be Here

    Back in December 2015 the Minnesota Twins paid just north of $12 million for exclusive rights to hammer out a contract with KBO superstar ByungHo Park. He then signed a four-year deal that would pay him $12 million in total. Unfortunately, he ended up playing in just 62 major league games and residing in American pro ball for just two seasons. After having watched him for nearly a decade, the Twins and Park went their separate ways with no real positives ever playing out.

    It was easy for fans to cherry pick an unrelated Asian signee in Tsuyoshi Nishioka as a reason why the Park deal went belly up. The reality is that neither player came from the same league, had a similar background, or were tied by any other means aside from their descent.

    Park had relocated to an entirely new country and was trying to acclimate in an entirely new environment. After being among the stars of the show in the KBO, he was just another face in the crowd for the Twins. Minnesota was coming off a 2nd place finish in the AL Central, and would be on their way to a disastrous 103-loss 2016. Park developed wrist issues early on in his first season with the club, and despite some time off, contended that it wasn’t an issue. Eventually in August he’d undergo further testing and cede to season ending surgery.

    In his first 32 Major League games Park posted a .917 OPS and 9 longballs. The power threat from the KBO had delivered out of the gate. As his malady nagged however, it became more difficult for him to continue producing. He’d post just a .444 OPS over his next 30 games, which turned out to be his last in the big leagues. Playing through injury is often commendable, but in this instance, likely cost him any future favor.

    Spring Training went well for Park in 2017 but he was ultimately sent to Triple-A Rochester where he dealt with a hamstring injury and posted just a .723 OPS in 111 games. Deciding the Twins weren’t the right fit for him, the final two years of his contract were forgone, and he returned home to Korea. Now back in the KBO for the past two seasons, the 33-year-old has picked up where he left off.

    Initially returning to the Nexen Heroes, Park Bang did exactly that. In 2018 he played in 113 games posting a ridiculous 1.174 OPS with 43 dingers. It wasn’t the 53 tally he launched in 2015 before signing stateside, but something had changed since his return from the big leagues. Park had an approach that posted a career best .457 OBP. After whiffing at a 2:1 K/BB clip in 2015, he’d dropped that number all the way down to 1.5. Repeating similar success in 2019, Park posted a .959 OPS with 33 homers and an identical 1.5 K/9.

    The largest knock on Park prior to entering the Majors was that his swing was long and an already strikeout prone hitter would whiff substantially for the Twins. His nearly 4.0 K/BB ratio with Minnesota proved that to be true, but again we never got to see what a healthy version of a man with his own home run song could do. Returning to Korea, it appears a level of plate discipline was learned and expanded upon only furthering his ability to produce as he rose in age.

    Now with the Kiwoom Heroes (same organization but a new sponsorship deal signed with Kiwoom Securities began in 2019) Park and former (albeit brief) Twin Taylor Motter will kick off the season together. Park is aging, but it doesn’t appear his abilities are going anywhere soon. We never got to see the best version of him stateside, and while this isn’t the same caliber of baseball, the guy that could have helped to transition towards the Bomba Squad may once again be on broadcasts in Twins Territory.

    In recent memory it’s Park that sticks out as a player that defines what could have been for me. We’ll never know, but now we can enjoy watching from afar.

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    • Apr 28 2020 10:29 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  9. Mining the Twins Top 5 Draft Gems

    Drafting in baseball is a ridiculously nuanced practice. Not only are you trying to project future ability, but you’re doing so with athletes that have not yet even began to experience body maturation. On top of that you have the split between scouting acumen and analytical importance, and then add in a pool that spans 40 rounds. To say the practice is hard is putting it lightly.

    When looking back over the course of Twins history, there are certainly some gems that have stuck out, however. Excluding anyone taking before a double-digit round, and focusing entirely on hitters, here’re the top five gems ever uncovered by the Minnesota Twins:

    5. Marty Cordova 4.8 fWAR (1989 10th round)
    Cordova was taken by the San Diego Padres in the eighth round out of high school but did not sign. After going to college and being eligible two years later, he fell to Minnesota in the 10th round. Cordova reached the big leagues in 1995 at the age of 25. Posting an .839 OPS in 137 games, he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year edging out names like Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, and Troy Percival.

    Despite an even higher .849 OPS in 1996, Cordova’s 3.6 fWAR in his debut season was easily a career high. He went on to play for another eight seasons and compiled just 1.2 fWAR in that stretch. What began so promising eventually led to Cordova leaving Minnesota in 2000 after five relatively mediocre years. Kicking this list off with one of Minnesota's one-hit wonders should only highlight how hard drafting truly is.

    4. Lyman Bostock 9.3 fWAR (1972 26th round)
    Taken in the 26th round Bostock burst onto the scene as an incredibly special talent. He debuted for the Twins at the age of 24 in 1975 and put up a .282 average. Although not a power hitter, he established himself as a very talented outfielder and earned MVP votes in 1977 thanks to an .897 OPS. Playing just three years for Minnesota, he became one of the first players to cash in on the new free agency opportunity and signed with the Angels for a cool $2 million.

    Sadly, he played just one season in California as his life was tragically ended at the age of 27. On a trip home to Gary Indiana he was in a car that was fired upon and the bullet damage ended up taking his life within a few hours. A few years ago, Twinkie Town did a nice story on the former Minnesota outfielder.

    3. Matt Lawton 9.3 fWAR (1991 13th round)
    Taken by the Twins in the 13th round out of Community College, Lawton would make his big-league debut four years later. It was just a 21-game sample in 1995, but he posted a .317/.414/.467 slash line to kick off his major league career. Lawton wound up playing parts of seven seasons with the Twins and made his first All-Star appearance in 2000 as he posted a strong .865 OPS.

    Following the departure from Minnesota, Lawton went on to play for another six organizations. It was in Cleveland that he found another stable home, being there for three years from 2002-2004, and eventually made his second All-Star team. He posted 138 career long balls and tallied a .785 OPS over a 12-year Major League resume.

    2. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR (1994 26th round)
    Taken in the 26th round out of Canada, Koskie went on to have a nine-year career that placed him 10th all-time among fWAR for Twins hitters. He spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota and is one of the most under-recognized stars in franchise history. In six full seasons he averaged an .840 OPS and never once posted a mark in the .700 range. Koskie earned MVP votes in 2001 and ripped 25 dingers in a season twice.

    For the early part of the 2000’s Koskie was among the most stable things in baseball. He was a staple at the hot corner for the Twins and was a big part of teams that ripped off three-straight AL Central Division titles. Still plenty active in the Minnesota baseball scene, Koskie is a strong contender as one of the best draft gem selections in baseball history.
    1. Kent Hrbek 37.6 fWAR (1978 17th round)
    Just missing the top five in fWAR among hitters in Twins history, Kent Hrbek was the local kid that stayed home to make good. From Minneapolis and drafted out of Bloomington Kennedy High School, Hrbek was in The Show just three years after his pro debut. He was an All-Star during his rookie season and finished runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting to some guy named Cal.

    Kent finished just seven dingers shy of 300 for his career. He owned an .848 OPS and should have won the American League MVP in 1984 (Willie Hernandez grabbed both the Cy Young and MVP award that year). Hrbek is a two-time World Series champion, and there’s no doubt that he’ll tell you Ron Gant was out.

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    • Apr 23 2020 03:35 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  10. Five Biggest Bomba Squad Blasts

    The Twins have been no stranger to the deep fly. Thome’s massive launch was projected at 590 ft by the Twins (though that would seem a bit lofty given the landing spot and other projections). ByungHo Park reached Minnie and Paul’s, while Giancarlo Stanton nearly lefty the yard entirely during the 2014 Home Run Derby. Game action provided some massive shots last season and a trip down memory lane is certainly worthwhile.

    Not all of these came while playing at home, but the traveling efforts of the Bomba Squad didn’t leave the boomsticks packed away either.

    5. 466 ft – Nelson Cruz 8/3 vs Royals

    Lefty Danny Duffy was on the bump for Kansas City in this one and the visitors were already down 6-2. An 80-mph slider was flipped into the zone, and Cruz used his patented upward trajectory to lift the ball into the third deck. He just missed sending it down a set of stairs onto the concourse, but there was no denying that this thing was absolutely mashed. It also was the middle contribution of a three-dinger game.

    4. 467 ft – Jonathan Schoop 5/23 @ Angels

    Maybe most impressively about this blast was that it took place in May. Sure, it was in California, but the temperatures had not yet reached peak launching season. The Angels were hoping to reinvent Matt Harvey for a portion of 2019, but the experiment did not go well. He left a hanging curveball in the middle of the zone to Schoop and the ball was sent a long ways. If there’s a description of where and how not to throw a bender, this is it.

    3. 469 ft – Nelson Cruz 6/29 @ White Sox

    The best part about this dinger is probably the announcer stating that “a ground ball would be mighty fine” literal seconds before Nelson Cruz found himself admiring the blast from the batter’s box. He sent this baseball over the greenery in center and deep up into the camera well. Going to the deepest part of the park isn’t something that everyone does, but it’s a spot Cruz has worn out for quite some time.

    2. 473 ft – Nelson Cruz 7/25 @ White Sox

    Facing Lucas Giolito, Cruz turned this pitch around and immediately drew a smile from the Chicago starter. I’m assuming his thought process was something like “welp, what can I do?” This shot cleared the entire seating area and made it up onto the walkway. It appeared the fan attempting to make the catch dropped the ball, but can you really blame him where you’re trying to barehand an actual rocket?

    1. 482 ft – Miguel Sano 9/17 vs White Sox

    This howitzer was the dinger that did it for the Twins. Sano’s 30th blast of 2019 cemented Minnesota as the only team in Major League history to have five separate players reached the 30-home run plateau. This sounded absolutely deafening off the bat, and upon a quick moment of admiration, the Twins third basemen dropped the lumber and began his trot.

    It’s not at all surprising to see Cruz and Sano highlight this list. They ranked 2nd and 3rd in average exit velocity per Statcast last season, and they were 1st and 5th in terms of barrels per plate appearance. Nomar Mazara of the Rangers was the only player to break the 500 ft mark last season, and Sano’s 482-foot blast was tied for the third-longest shot of the year.

    The 2020 Twins don’t need to be the reincarnation of the Bomba Squad, and I’m sure they’d appreciate creating their own identity. Whatever happens though, you can expect a lineup to produce a significant amount of pop once again.

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    • Apr 21 2020 08:59 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  11. The Greatest Twins Season that Never Happened

    The date is July 7, 2010. It’s the top of the eighth inning and Justin Morneau is playing in front of his home nation. After driving a single to center field off Scott Downs, Morneau finds himself a part of Jason Kubel’s 4-6-3 double play. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t routine. Justin slid into the bag and upon doing so took a knee to the head from Toronto second basemen John McDonald. As a former hockey player, it wasn’t his first concussion, but this one would definitely be the most memorable.

    Morneau went on to play another 597 games from that point forward. He did it in uniforms for the Twins, Pirates, Rockies, and White Sox. His .764 OPS was a lackluster one, and while he did win a batting title in Colorado during 2014, there was no denying the guy was never the same. It’s that moment during the 2010 season though that begs the question: What did we actually miss out on?

    Going into that year Morneau had played seven big league seasons. He owned an .851 OPS and had already won an MVP at the age of 25. He was a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger. To say that the Twins had a superstar first basemen to go along with their elite catcher was nothing short of obvious. In 2010 though, things had reached otherworldly levels.

    That season, the first of Target Field’s existence, Morneau played the first half like a man of legend. He owned a .345/.437/.618 slash line. In just 81 games he’d blasted 18 dingers and recorded 56 RBI. He was on pace for 50 doubles, which would have been a career high, and he was tracking toward surpassing 200 hits in a season for the only time in his career. To say the production at that point was unprecedented would be selling it short.

    It wasn’t like Morneau was impressive just among Twins hitters either. That 2010 team won 94 games, the AL Central, and appeared in the ALDS. Through those first 81 games Morneau compiled more than 300 plate appearances. His 183 wRC+ was first in the game, topping Hall of Fame teammate Jim Thome. His .448 wOBA bested superstar Josh Hamilton. Producing 5.0 fWAR to that point, he would’ve cleared Hamilton’s league leading 8.4 fWAR by more than a full win..

    Looking back on some of those numbers since the year 2000, only 16 times have we seen a player surpass 183 wRC+. Six of those instances have been generated by either Barry Bonds (4) or Albert Pujols (2). In that same time we’ve gotten 10.0 fWAR seasons just 9 times, half of those from Bonds and another two from Mike Trout. That’s the company of numbers Justin Morneau was among. He was also compiling those while playing a defensively overlooked position and without the aid of any performance enhancers.

    You won’t find many (maybe any) fans around Twins Territory that don’t fondly remember Justin Morneau. It was weird seeing him in a White Sox uniform, and odd celebrating him winning that batting title with the Rockies. He’s become a mainstay in Minneapolis now, and his presence on Fox Sports North broadcast has immediately been celebrated. There’s nothing that could take away from his on-field production, and the unity as part of the M&M Boys with Joe Mauer are feelings that will never leave. None of that stands in comparison to how good 2010 could have been.

    Rod Carew gave the Twins 8.6 fWAR back in 1977. Joe Mauer produced 8.4 fWAR in 2009. They both went on to win MVP in each of those years. Justin was on track to do that and more in 2010 and we all had that taken away. It’s unfair to speculate on what could have been, but it’s foolish not to recognize what was.

    I’m certainly glad that the career of Justin Morneau didn’t end that July day in Canada. I’m also beyond disappointed that season was robbed from us and what was ahead became stunningly different from anything we could have expected.

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    • Apr 16 2020 07:20 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  12. Twins Greatest One Hit Wonders

    When attempting to compile names for this list I couldn’t help but enjoy the trip down memory lane. I’m not big on re-watching previously completed sporting contests. The idea of the already known result isn’t all that exciting to me. Specific plays or portions can be fun, but much of the programming we’re being delivered doesn’t hit home here. Without needing to relive a full season, these snapshots provide pop up excellence amidst otherwise static careers.

    There really aren’t any specific parameters other than the season in question truly had to be an outlier. I utilized fWAR to designate that, but a bar to clear wasn’t a hard and fast rule. Before getting into the top five here’s a relatively recent honorable mention:

    2014 Phil Hughes 6.3 fWAR (17.7 career)

    The first season in a Twins uniform was one for the ages when it comes to Hughes. The former Yankees top prospect and World Series winner entered Twins Territory and went on to set the All-Time MLB single-season strikeout-to-walk record. It was the only time he surpassed 200 innings in his career, and he posted a career best 3.52 ERA. With a 2.65 FIP Hughes was every bit as dominant as could be hoped for. The team wasn’t any good, but that didn’t stop him from getting serious steam in terms of Cy Young consideration.

    5. 1995 Marty Cordova 3.6 fWAR (6.5 career)

    It’s not surprising that a Rookie of the Year winner would put up a good season, and it’s also not unfathomable they’d fall off from there. Cordova wasn’t otherworldly in his debut, but he was better than he’d ever be again and that’s why he makes this list. He trumped the 114 wRC+ in 2001 with the Indians, but the 24 longballs always remained a high-water mark. Within two years Cordova had turned into a negative asset for the Twins and he lasted just five with the big-league club. Bouncing around between three organizations in his final four major league seasons, the magic of that debut was never recaptured.

    4. 2006 Nick Punto 3.6 fWAR (15.1 career)

    There has never been a team that Nick Punto was on and he didn’t provide value. The light hitting utility man was a swiss army knife that did little at the dish but was exceptional in the field. For a guy that owned a career .646 OPS and .245 average, the .725 and .290 marks in 2006 were amazing. He played five different positions that year and helped to propel Minnesota to a 96-win season capped off with an AL Central division title. More of a complimentary asset throughout his 14 years in the majors, Punto was absolutely a strong contributor on that Ron Gardenhire squad.

    3. 2001 Cristian Guzman 3.9 fWAR (8.2 career)

    Debuting in 1999, things didn’t go well for the Twins new shortstop. He contributed -3.1 fWAR and there wasn’t value on either side of the diamond. Fast forward two years and the script had flipped entirely. Guzman made his first All-Star Game appearance and owned a .302/.337/.477 slash line. He led the league in triples (14) for the second straight season and launched a career best 10 dingers. He wouldn’t again eclipse 2.0 fWAR in his career until 2008 with the Nationals at the age of 30 and had made a career of being slightly above replacement level by then. The 2001 Twins paved the way for a great 2002 club, and Guzman’s performance arrived just a year too soon.

    2. 2004 Lew Ford 3.4 fWAR (5.9 career)

    Owner of arguably the most interesting career in recently memory, Lew Ford just misses out on the top spot for this list. He played in the big leagues for just six years but had a five-year gap between year five and six. On top of that, the now 43-year-old is still playing professional ball with the Long Island Ducks and has 21 years under his belt. 2004 was Ford’s first full major league season and he contributed in a big way. The .299/.381/.446 slash line was easily a career best, and his 15 homers were 43% of his career total. He swiped 20 bases being thrown out just twice, and he posted an impressive 11 DRS.

    1. 2002 Jacque Jones 5.0 fWAR (12.5 career)

    The best season of any hitter on this list, Jones easily had the largest outlier year of recent Twins memory back in 2002. A team that wins 94 games and goes to the ALCS needs stars, and Jones was one of them. His .852 OPS was a career best, and it was one of only two times in his career that he batted .300. The 27 homers were also a career best, and 132 of his 149 games came with him starting in the leadoff spot. His 11 outfield assists were a high career high, and he had completely embodied an offensive and defensive threat. At no point throughout his career did he ever surpass 2.0 fWAR in a single season aside from that magical 2002 run.

    What other one-year wonders can you think of in Twins history? Who do they come from further back in history?

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    • Apr 09 2020 10:14 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  13. Twins Stockpiled for a Crazy 2020 Season

    On Sunday night I hopped on Leading Off the Podcast with fellow Twins Daily writers Matthew Braun and Cooper Carlson. During the course of our discussion the Twins bullpen got brought up. In this space previously I wrote about how Minnesota may have the best bullpen in baseball. That’s still crazy to think about given where we were entering 2019, but it’s a very real possibility. What’s also plausible is that their pitching depth could serve them extremely well in what may materialize this year.

    When looking at the prospects of a shortened season it stands to reason that no division winner is better off. Their margin for error becomes less, and the nuance normally sorted out over the course of 162 games gets lost in the fray. If, however, Major League Baseball is set on increasing double-headers, lessening off days, and expanding rosters, well then Rocco Baldelli’s crew could be in luck.

    As things stood at the time of play stoppage, Jhoulys Chacin was locked in a battle with Randy Dobnak for the 5th starter spot. The veteran had performed far worse over the course of Spring Training, but the ALDS game two starter has options remaining. Chacin was awful in 2019 but was great the year prior. With weeks remaining prior to the scheduled Opening Day, a decision was bound to force itself.

    On top of figuring out who specifically would round out the rotation Minnesota would need to juggle things a little over one-month in, and then again mid-summer. Both Michael Pineda and Rich Hill have been expected to assume rotation spots although neither were destined to begin the year there. Given his exploits when healthy, and the impact prior to suspension in 2019, both Hill and Pineda respectively could be looked at as significantly impactful arms.

    Before ever assessing who slides in where, we can then take a further look down the line. Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran, the Twins’ top two pitching prospects, were never likely to debut in the year ahead. However, both Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe had made strong contributions in 2019 and would be called upon to repeat those performances when the opportunity presented itself this season.

    So far what the year ahead looks like remains little more than a guessing game. Any suggestion of a single-site operation in Arizona would have to get unexpected buy-in from players, and then also address the numerous staff and operations people necessary solely to produce a televised contest. It’s certainly a nice thought to dream on, but until we have more concrete answers as to where we’re at with things, the pieces remain moving parts in a hypothetical bubble.

    No matter how the deployment of baseball in 2020 happens however, it should be fair to assume that the league will attempt to get in as many games as possible. Noted above, that likely includes significant condensation in the form of limited off days and doubleheaders. For an organization like the Twins, having something like 10-12 big league caliber starting arms on the 40-man roster suddenly becomes a substantial asset.

    All offseason it was the goal of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to acquire an impact arm, someone capable of displacing Jose Berrios at the top of the staff. Now more than ever though, it may come down to their ability to assemble a stable that never begins the game as a significant underdog. A chief reason that a lesser schedule hurts the best teams is because the impact of the top players is felt less. Conversely that means that the ability of the floor, or the fringes of the roster, become that much more impactful.

    Depth is the key to sustenance over time, and when you shrink time, being able to realistically rely on more contributors is a must. Baseball is going to get weird this season if it gets going at all. Maybe the Twins can grab a weird World Series along the way. Virtual parade or otherwise, we’ll celebrate just the same.

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    • Apr 07 2020 06:41 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  14. Opening Day Hope Still Unites in Twins Territory

    You’re reading this, and are here at Twins Daily, because of baseball. This day matters because you invested time and emotion into a 2019 Bomba Squad that put up arguably the most legendary regular season performance in franchise history. Target Field would have been filled to the brim with fans because of what was, and the expectation of what is to come.

    Today we won’t have the opportunity of hitting up a local watering hole, and then grabbing that first roller grilled hot dog. There will be no pyrotechnics, and TC Bear will need to wait a while for his photo opportunities. All those things are saddening, and maybe even maddening, but the celebration can go on.

    It is because of what we are doing right now that has baseball on track to return. By joining together for the greater good, we are mitigating future disaster, improving the pace in which normal can return, and ultimately providing the quickest roadmap for the National Pastime to once again deliver a first pitch. While we do that there’s still no reason not to celebrate what was, and the expectation of what is to come.

    As I said before, think back on that 2019 squad, we may never see something like that again. A regular season home run record that could take substantial time to break. A win total that was outdone by just one other campaign in franchise history. A rookie manager that made his mark en route to a rookie Manager of the Year designation. Those are just some of the highlights, but the reel sharing all of them could’ve ran forever.

    You can bet that prior to first pitch from a Minnesota arm today, there would have been plenty of recaps involving that special 2019 team. Sure, the club would’ve played a road trip and had a few wins under their belt at this point, but one last hoorah to the groundwork that was laid for the year ahead seems more than fair.

    Then the jets fly over, fireworks pop, and the first pitch is delivered. In what was scheduled to be the first of 81 home games the journey towards what was to come begins. This Twins team was set up in a way we haven’t seen for over a decade. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine supplemented an already talented squad with some legit pitching additions and the largest free agent contract in team history. Already viewed as the AL Central division favorite, Minnesota had a legitimate shot to represent the American League in the World Series.

    We don’t know what the schedule will look like when play resumes. There could be significant changes to who is on the roster, or where the Twins ultimately find themselves. None of that takes away what was though, and the uncertainty of what is to come remains driven by a very strong and successful front office that has repeatedly shown a capability to win.

    Today we don’t get the home opener as desired. I go without a beer and bowl of potato soup from O’Donovans before entering Target Field. There are no free giveaways to all fans in attendance, and that first lap around the concourse will have to wait. None of us are alone in those realities though, and as much celebration at Twins Territory enjoys together, this too is a uniting moment and one that will ultimately lead to a glorious reunion when those first grass stains are brought back to us.

    Share your traditions for what the home opener day generally looks like. Talk through the disappointment of the void we are currently experiencing. Creating further anticipation for the story yet to unfold will only lead to thunderous roars when it is again inevitably upon us.

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    • Apr 02 2020 10:32 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  15. A Decade of Difference from Twins Walkoff Ways

    The 2009 squad hit a grand total of 172 round-trippers. Only four guys launched more than 15 on the year, and in the decisive 6-5 walkoff victory just two balls left the park for the home team. One of them came from a traditional slugger in the form of Jason Kubel, while the other was deposited into the very first row of the left field seats by Orlando Cabrera. No, the 2009 Ron Gardenhire club was not a Bomba Squad in any right, and how they played would be seen as a massive outlier today.

    In watching the replay of that game, it became increasingly obvious just how much of an extinct skillset guys like those defined as Piranhas encapsulated. Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris, and Alex Casilla are all defined by that mold. Speedy, defense first, light hitting bats were littered throughout that Minnesota lineup. Although bunts weren’t entirely prevalent over the 12 innings played that evening, they were a staple of the season.

    The aforementioned Punto dropped down a whopping 13 sac bunts on his own in 2009. Denard Span was on his heels with 12, while Tolbert rounded out the top three reaching double digits with 10. Fast forward to the analytical age, and objectively the launch angle revolution that was 2019, and the decade couldn’t have produced a more opposite result. Last season Minnesota had a grand total of 10 sac bunts, and no one player owned more than two of them.

    Obviously, it makes little sense for the likes of Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver, or Nelson Cruz to cede and out in an at bat, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been encouraged in previous seasons. As a guy who’s always been viewed as a bomber, Cruz has a total of just two sac bunts to his credit in more than 6,900 career plate appearances. Sano has never been asked to drop one down in just north of 2,000 trips to the dish.

    Being shocked that home run hitters aren’t dropping down bunts is rather unimpressive. Where the trend is positive though comes through in a guy like Jorge Polanco. During his first full big-league season back in 2017 there we seven instances in which he gave up an out. That number dropped to three the next year and was just two in 2019. Obviously, Jorge has grown a substantial amount as a hitter, but the climb to a .773 and eventually an .841 OPS is reflective of a guy that should be swinging the lumber.

    If there’s a guy cut from a cloth that early-2000’s Ron Gardenhire would have salivated over, it’s definitely Byron Buxton. Although it’s clear he’s got pop in his bat, the speed profile and slow start would likely have caused him to be utilized differently. Buck’s largest total of sac bunts, five, came in the 2017 season under Paul Molitor. Since then, he’s been asked to drop down outs just three times in the past two campaigns.

    The takeaway here seems to be two-fold. One, it’s painfully obvious that there wasn’t a more drastically different set of Twins teams than the two separated by 10 years. The Bomba Squad became synonymous with pulverizing the baseball and beating teams into submission. The 163 group played 44 one-run games and nearly split them down the middle. Two, we can see that the sport has continued to move away from a station-to-station approach. You can effectively advanced bases in a multitude of ways, but by giving up the one finite commodity in the game to do so is a losing proposition.

    Thanks to Out of the Park Baseball 21 we're getting a glimpse of the 2019 and 1991 Twins squaring off. It'd be a pretty stark difference to see the style of the 2009 club thrown into the ring as well. Eras change how competition is handled, and it'll be interesting to look back after advancements take place ten years from now.

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    • Mar 31 2020 08:51 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  16. 91/19 World Series, Game 6: Timely Hitting Forces a Game Seven

    The visiting 2019 Twins threw out their young ace Jose Berrios to try and force a Game 7, while the 1991 Twins countered with Cy Young runner up Scott Erickson to close the series out tonight. While this set up to be a great dual between two young phenoms, it wasn’t that. The bats got to both of these starting pitchers early tonight.

    After the 2019 Twins went down 1-2-3 to leadoff the top of the first, the 1991 Twins got a little rally going, thanks to a one out double from Kent Hrbek and a two-out walk from Shane Mack. However, with two on and two out, Jose Berrios got Chili Davis to role over on a groundball to short to get out of the inning. Miguel Sano got the 2019 Twins on the board in the 2nd, when he drove a 1-2 slider from Scott Erickson over the baggy in right, to give the 2019 Twins an early 1-0 lead.

    The Bomba Squad opened up the floodgates in the 3rd, starting with C.J. Cron’s leadoff bomb over the wall in center field to push the lead to two. After a couple of quick groundouts from Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco, Luis Arreaz got a two-out rally started with one of his patented gritty plate appearances, drawing a walk after falling behind 0-2. Arraez then advanced to second on a wild pickoff attempt and was driven home by Nelson Cruz who cam up with a clutch base hit. Mitch Garver then roped a double down the third base line, advancing Cruz to third.

    Often times, in this situation, the 1991 Twins might have elected to go ahead and walk the lefty Max Kepler to set up a more favorable right-on-right matchup with Miguel Sano to get out of the inning. However, with Sano having taken Erickson deep his last time up, the 1991 Twins elected to go ahead and pitch to Kepler. This decision turned out costly, as Kepler came through with yet another two-out base hit, this time bringing home both Nelson Crus and Mitch Garver to bust this game open by a score of 5-0. This was the end of the night for Erickson, who was replaced by Carl Willis, who came in and got Miguel Sano to end the inning.

    Willis settled things down for the 1991 Twins by stifling the bottom of the 2019 Twins order in the top of the 4th, giving his team a chance to get back in the ball game. It took five pitches in the bottom of the 4th to do just that. Catcher Brian Harper smacked a first pitch single up the middle to leadoff the inning, before Jose Berrios plunked Gene Larkin with the very next pitch. After falling behind 2-0 to Greg Gagne, Jose Berrios settled in for an all-important pitch. Here is the call from Twins radio announcer John Gordon on the call. “Berrios is in the stretch and delivers, Gagne swings and hits a blast, to deep right center, way back, it’s gone! Touch ‘em all, Greg Gagne!” That blast from Gagne brought the 1991 Twins back into the game, now down by a score of just 5-3.

    Both Carl Willis and Jose Berrios put up zeros in the fifth, so Tom Kelly decided to trout Willis back out for another inning of work, something that Willis was quite accustomed to doing when the Twins received a short start from the starting pitcher. However, it was clear that the Twins bats were ready to get to Willis the second time through the order. Mitch Garver lead off the inning with a blast down the left field line, and it took an amazing grab in the corner by left fielder Shane Mack to bring back what would have been a home run.

    Max Kepler then proceeded to rip a double into the left-centerfield gap, and that was the end of the line for Willis, but the bleeding didn’t stop. Kepler got a good read and stole third base on the second pitch to Sano, getting himself to third with just one out. This paid off on the very next pitch, as Kepler scored on, from all things, an infield single from Sano, extended the 2019 Twins lead back up to three.

    The seventh inning was an eventful one. In the top of the inning, Jorge Polanco reached on error from shortstop Greg Gagne. Then after a couple of failed sacrifice attempts by Luis Arraez, he eventually reached on a fielder’s choice, retiring Polanco at second. Nelson Cruz drew a walk before Mitch Garver came through with a base hit to bring home Arraez from second, giving the 2019 Twins a 7-3 lead. Jose Berrios was relieved in the bottom of the inning, and 1991 Twins scratched back two runs, thanks to a double from Mike Pagliarulo, and singles from Chuck Knoblauch and Shane Mack, cutting the lead back down to two.

    With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Tyler Duffey came in to get the Twins out of the inning, and he did just that on only three pitches, thanks to a line-drive double-play off the bat of Greg Gagne. Taylor Rogers came in to protect the 2019 Twins two run lead in the bottom of the 9th, a similar spot to the one he was in at the end of Game 4. However, this time Rogers shut the 1991 Twins down, retiring all three batters he faced, and evening the series at three games apiece.

    You can find the box score and pitch-by-pitch results for Game One attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park Baseball 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. You may also want to read the recaps for:

    Game 1
    Game 2
    Game 3
    Game 4
    Game 5

    • Mar 30 2020 09:35 AM
    • by Andrew Thares
  17. 91/19 World Series Game 5: Nelson Goes Bomba to Stay Alive

    Jack Morris was the pick for Tom Kelly in this one while Rocco Baldelli turned to Jake Odorizzi. Although Odo gave up five runs (four earned) and failed to make it out of the 5th, that bested the effort from Morris who gave up five and departed in the third. It was a multi-arm approach for TK’s club the rest of the way while Baldelli needed to rely upon only curveball master Ryne Harper, and a surprising appearance from Gabriel Moya.

    The World Series winning 1991 club tallied the first run when Kirby Puckett raced home from second base on a Chili Davis single to center. Baldelli’s group evened the score in the bottom half when Cruz notched his first RBI of the day, scoring Jorge Polanco on a double.

    Things remained status quo in the second, and a single run in the top half of the third inning paved way for the original dam to break. A four spot was hung by the Bomba Squad on a pair of two-run dingers from Cruz and Max Kepler. Now with a three-run lead, the newer generation needed to lock things down.

    That lead would hold until the 5th, at which point the World Series winners hung a crooked number of their own. Chuck Knoblauch stepped in with Greg Gagne at second following a successful steal attempt. He brought him home on a single, and then hulking Minnesota first basemen Kent Hrbek served up some tater salad of his own. The two-run blast put the 1991 club back out in front, this time by a score of 6-5.

    After drawing back even in the bottom of the 5th, the Bomba Squad was ready to put some distance between them and their opponent. Eddie Rosario scampered home on a wild pitch before Luis Arraez drove in C.J. Cron with a single. Then, bases still chucked, Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate. He blasted his second dinger of the day, this one of the grand variety, to punctuate a six-run rally. Miguel Sano would put a stamp on the inning following a Kepler triple with a ground out to drive him in. When the dust had settled the new score read 2019 Twins 13, 1991 Twins 5.

    Both teams took a breather in the seventh for just the third scoreless frame of the day. In the 8th however, the 1991 club looked to make it a game again. Davis was looking to make another mark on the action, and he delivered following up a Hrbek single with a two-run shot of his own. Still looking up at their opponents, the runs scratched away making it 13-7.

    As if the six-run lead wasn’t good enough, Baldelli wanted to make sure his guys kept the gas pedal down. Rosario lifted a solo shot to double up the 1991 squad and send things to the 9th. With such a commanding lead Rocco allowed Moya to trot back out for the final frame after giving up two in the 8th. He promptly plunked Gene Larkin but then bounced back getting Gagne to ground into a 3-6-3 double play. Mike Pagliarulo popped out to right for the final out and this one was over.

    Target Field fans were sent home happy and will see a Game 6 in the series. Still needing to take another with hopes of evening the series and forcing a decisive game seven, this was the type of performance Rocco Baldelli had to have hoped for from his guys. Nelson Cruz played the leadership role in a big way tonight, and the momentum may be swapping sides.

    You can find the box score and pitch-by-pitch results for Game One attached below. If you would like to learn more about Out of the Park Baseball 21, please click on this link. If you would like to try it, you can also download it for 10% off the regular price using the code TWINSDAILY. You may also want to read the recaps for:

    Game 1
    Game 2
    Game 3
    Game 4

    [attachment=13570:MLB Box Score, Minnesota 2019 Twins at Minnesota 1991 Twins Game 5.pdf]
    [attachment=13572:Twins series Game 5 Game Log.pdf]

    • Mar 26 2020 02:37 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  18. Twins Ready for a Re-Up with Nelson Cruz?

    Signed to a two-year $26 million pact prior to the 2019 season, Cruz was brought in for his age 39 and 40 seasons. Yes, he’s an elder statesman, but he keeps himself in impeccable shape and didn’t make his big-league debut until age 24. Last season he was among the chief reasons Minnesota was dubbed the Bomba Squad as he went on to blast 41 dingers. Posting a career high 1.031 OPS it would be hard to fathom a reason to bet against him in the immediate future.

    Looking at Cruz’s slash line provides some beautiful imagery. He finished 9th in the American League MVP voting despite being active solely as a designated hitter. His .311 average was the best in a single season dating back to 2010, and he hit 40 homers for just the 4th time in his career. Virtually anywhere you looked in the counting digit fields, you left impressed.

    Statistics aren’t generally indicative of future production however, and a fall off can seem drastic if and when the production disappears. Fortunately for Cruz, who turns 40 on July 1st, the process is what suggests a positive trend of results can continue.

    Venturing from his Baseball Reference page, both Baseball Savant and Fangraphs tell an equal exciting story. It was Cruz that topped the 2019 leaderboards across baseball in terms of barrels per plate appearance (12.5%). His average exit velocity trailed only the Yankees Aaron Judge and teammate Miguel Sano. He also sat third in batted balls of 95+ mph exit velocities, producing those instances over 51% of the time. The .351 BABIP doesn’t suggest a great deal of luck was in play, and that’s to be expected when you’ve got a 52% hard hit rate and 31% HR/FB output.


    Not only was Cruz absolutely murdering baseballs, but he was staying within himself to do so. His 13.8% whiff rate sat right on his career average, and then 30.5% chase rate mimicked that as well. While his 69.7% contact rate was a career low dating back to 2009, he was successfully contacting 80% of the pitches he offered at within the strike zone.

    This isn’t entirely unprecedented ground either. Fellow countryman David Ortiz retired following his age 40 season in 2016. Despite a wildly successful career, his final season was among his best. Posting a 1.021 OPS with 38 dingers, the former Twins slugger went out at what could certainly be considered the peak of his existence. Like Cruz, Ortiz had become a full-time designated hitter, and focusing on the craft of obliterating pitches took significant strain off a much less athletic frame.

    This isn’t to say there won’t be a decline in store for Cruz. Father time is undefeated, and some of the percentages Nelson produced a year ago are at a level even he has never before seen. However, what he has going for him is that hitting is a craft he’s mastered and the only one tasked of him. He’s intimately in tune with his body, and although the wrist tendon issue could prove more cumbersome as time goes on, risk for future problems should be relatively mitigated.

    What Cruz has brought to the table from a production standpoint makes both years of his deal a steal. What he has contributed in the clubhouse, and most importantly imparted upon Miguel Sano, has taken that value up another level on its own. We’ll see what baseball has in store for us in the coming months but asking Nelson to put on a Twins uniform for a couple of seasons into his 40’s seems like more than a reasonable ask.

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    • Mar 26 2020 08:54 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  19. The Five Most Underrated Players in Twins History

    When teasing this piece on Twitter recently I found myself inundated with names that all fill this bill. From Kevin Tapani to Jason Kubel, there were dozens of replies reflective of compelling cases. Many of them I found myself nodding in agreement. While this is obviously opinion, I tried to create some objective parameters.

    To truly be underrated there was a need for a sustained level of greatness. No player below a career fWAR mark of 20.0 would be included. That’s a modest bar to clear for the established veteran, but one that generally comes with some substantial highlights along the way (for the sake of comparison, Justin Morneau produced exactly 20.0 fWAR as a Twin).

    That numerator was the only hard and fast rule. If I was going to blueprint another, it was that the player needed to be given a higher level of appreciation than I felt they’d been shown. There’s nothing more subjective than that, but again, opinion.

    Honorable Mention: Shane Mack 17.9 fWAR

    He doesn’t meet the numerical parameters and therefore could never have been fully under consideration. However, for a guy that played in just north of 600 games for the Twins after being out of the big leagues the year prior to joining the club, he made his presence felt. After two seasons with the Padres, Mack showed up and posted an .854 OPS across parts of five seasons. He batted .309, had some pop, and played all three outfield positions. A 130 OPS+ is nothing to make light of.

    4. Cesar Tovar 21.6 fWAR

    Of all players in Minnesota history, Tovar owns the 13th highest fWAR. Despite playing in fewer games, he’s ahead of guys like Roy Smalley, Justin Morneau, and Greg Gagne. Often brought up during the yearly debate regarding the Twins Hall of Fame inductions, Tovar gave the Twins eight seasons of a good average and great plate discipline. He played all over the diamond and earned MVP votes in five straight seasons. Not often considered among the best in franchise history, this is a guy too often forgotten in those discussions.

    3. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR

    Maybe the most impressive on this list given the games played, Koskie compiled the 10th best fWAR in franchise history despite playing in the 25th most games. He tallied better totals than both Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier, all while being a relative footnote on those early 2000’s teams. He earned MVP votes one time, but never drew any other accolades. His .836 OPS with the Twins matches Eddie Rosario’s best year, and is nearly 50 points above Rosario's career average.

    2. Brad Radke 38.7 fWAR

    Arguably the most overlooked member on this list, Radke was the reliable anchor on some clubs that faced significant uphill battles. His contributions trump those of Frank Viola and Jim Perry while getting only a smaller amount of runway. An All- Star just once in his career, Radke earned a top-3 Cy Young finish in 1997, starting 35 games. He pitched 200 innings in nine of his twelve major league seasons, and it was because of his efforts that Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire had a go-to arm they could count on. Nothing was flashy about Brad, but he never was going to beat himself, and he gave Minnesota that luxury for 377 career starts.

    1. Joe Mauer 52.5 fWAR

    We can argue all day long about whether Joe was better than Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, or Harmon Killebrew but I don’t see any questions around which one struggles to get his due. Minnesota’s top trio are all enshrined in Cooperstown while the generational catcher is often questioned about his inclusion by a hometown fan base. One-third of Mauer’s career was dragged through a period in which injury altered his trajectory (though he became one of the best defensive first basemen in the game). Poor press releases and an out-of-position contract further complicated his narrative. There’s no reason for a future Hall of Fame catcher to have a questioned legacy.

    Because of the subjective nature here, let’s see your list. Who do you agree with and what would you change?

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    • Mar 24 2020 08:43 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  20. A Virus Can't Stop Baseball After All

    You’ve likely heard of the Sony Playstation exclusive before, and it’s the only baseball simulation on the market. Prior to MLB developing their own “RBI Baseball,” competition was nonexistent (and to be fair, even with RBI, it still is). This is the last year The Show is a Playstation exclusive however, as the game will be released on multiple consoles in the year ahead.

    Expecting everything from a traditional sports game in The Show is a good place to start. You’ve got your “Play Now” modes, as well as season and franchise-centric modes. Where baseball fans can really sink their teeth in and get lost in an alternate reality is the Diamond Dynasty experience. Driven from the view of a card-collecting hobby, it’s a full-fledged baseball experience that brings Fantasy Baseball to life.

    Going back to early versions of EA Sports’ Madden series, you’ll find the origination of these card-based game modes (with that one being dubbed “Ultimate Team”). Baseball ties this in perfectly as Sony San Diego uses the Topps license to provide actual card art from the physical cards purchased at retailers across the globe. In collecting players, the goal is to assemble a team worthy of competition either against multiple computer modes, or a more difficult run against other human opponents.

    Although Diamond Dynasty has not been around as long as Ultimate Team, it may have made more substantial advancements. Content has been king for The Show in recent years, and this season The Show 20 married it with gameplay improvements that greatly enhance the overall experience. Much of what made The Show 19 great within the Diamond Dynasty game mode returns, and the small additions such as the new “Showdown” game mode take it over the top.

    A significant addition to the player pool has been made in 2020 as well. Each year new legends are added to the roster in hopes of drawing heightened interest. Now not only are former MLB stars included, but up and coming prospects are put into the action (although they are not paid for the use of their likenesses).

    It can’t be overstated how much fun creating your dream lineup of current and former MLB stars only to deploy them in a seemingly endless amount of game modes truly is. Although the time commitment to generating an upper tier squad is immense, the rewards as you progress through certain achievements along the way become addicting and grow in value as well. Having thought I would forego this year’s version and focus entirely on the real thing, a cease in baseball had me scouring Craigslist for a Playstation and grabbing a copy of The Show 20 on Monday.

    Countless reviews are on the market in regard to the game as a whole. Diamond Dynasty remains a different beast entirely, but it’s potentially the most rewarding. Fangraphs' own Paul Sporer put together a great tutorial for newcomers, and while lengthy, it’s a great dive into everything the mode has to offer.

    As has been the case every year, you can follow the exploits of my Hardball Kekambas on Twitter and utilize #HBK to sort through some of the notable events. I committed last night to making sure we’ll have a Twins box score every day from a simulation on the game that was intended to be played as well. Finally, check out Cooper Carlson’s run through the 2020 season through the eyes of The Show 20 right here at Twins Daily.

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    • Mar 19 2020 11:28 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  21. Twins Chances Shrink in Muted Season

    Right now, baseball continues to suggest that a full season is going to take place whenever play resumes. While that’s a great though, and obviously what would favor the almighty dollar, any logistical hurdles that would impose seem certain to have other ideas. With there only being so many teams in warm weather portions of the country, and a 2021 season to consider on the back end, some sort of alternative schedule would seem to make sense.

    In digging through what the Twins have planned for 2020, there are 18 games scheduled against the National League. Of the 162 games played during 2019, 47% of them were against divisional opponents. Adjusting for travel and removing what could be deemed non-essential contests, interleague opponents could quickly be wiped off the map this year. With divisional races often being tightly contested, it would stand to reach that playing that same volume remain imperative.

    A year ago, Rocco Baldelli’s club played the AL Central to the tune of a 50-26 record (.658 winning percentage). The Chicago White Sox have taken steps forward, while the Cleveland Indians have taken steps backwards. It’s mainly status quo at the bottom of the grouping, but Kansas City and Detroit should be expected to take plenty of lumps regardless of who is in the other dugout.

    We’re in uncertain times to be sure, and no one really knows when baseball will return. Soon doesn’t appear to be a good descriptor though, and that leaves any number of things on the table. Maybe a year in which only division games are player, or some construction of around 100 games makes sense. At any rate, some baseball would be better than none at all.

    I recently touched on how the timelines of players like Byron Buxton and Rich Hill could be impacted by this delay. Certainly, having them healthy for a new Opening Day would be more ideal than not. The flip side could be losing a substantial portion of what may be Nelson Cruz’s final contributions. Outside of the individual impact though, we can turn back to that nuance lost by playing a shortened campaign.

    Fangraphs recently ran simulations utilizing ZiPS to provide context to what impact may be felt in a diminished season. Gone is the opportunity to run away and hide at that top, and what is generally a marathon turns into an all-out sprint.

    Heading into what was scheduled for 2020, the Twins owned a Postseason probability of 75.4% (5th highest in the game). Shrink the schedule to 110 games and that drops to 63.4%. If we’re talking about a June or July start, something like an 81-game schedule could commence, and that scenario has Minnesota’s odds to make the Postseason at just 55.5%. That’s a significant 19% drop and more importantly is an amount eaten up by the competition.

    With less variables in play it’s the fringe teams that find themselves in the most ideal position to benefit. When looking at Postseason percentage gains, AL Central foe Chicago is third highest in baseball at just north of 16%. Even the Kansas City Royals go from being non-factors to having a 14% probability of playing after the regular season. If this division was the Twins to lose in the year ahead, it certainly becomes much easier for them to do so without much room for error.

    Again, we aren’t yet in a place where we know what tomorrow looks like much less how October or November baseball may play out. What we do know is that once the first pill is delivered in 2020, there will be an immense amount of pressure to make sure every result acted upon with a high level of execution.

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    • Mar 17 2020 03:08 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  22. Suspension Presents Twins a Silver Lining

    Despite what little information we have on where Byron Buxton had been in regards to appearing in game action, there seemed to be a zero percent chance he’d have been ready for Opening Day. Having just begun to face live pitching this week, and take some hacks at near 100%, the runway for ramp up time simply was not long enough. Less than 10 games remaining before Opening Day, getting acclimated would have been a problem.

    As good as Minnesota is, there’s arguably no more valuable player to the team than their centerfielder. In games he played last year, the Twins went 62-25. A .713 winning percentage is truly unprecedented, and while his .827 OPS is glowing offensively, it’s the glue he provides to the defensive strategy as a whole. Max Kepler is a potentially elite fielder but is a bit more stretched in center. Utilizing Marwin Gonzalez or Jake Cave in the outfield is a step back as well. The Twins curbed some of their overall defensive issues by acquired an elite stopper at third in Josh Donaldson, but it’s Buxton that’s the linchpin for the greater whole.

    Now with something like a month to prepare for Opening Day, Buxton should have ample opportunity to get right. He was progressing towards game action and will now have a similar opportunity to everyone else in regards to ramp up. Healing can continue to take place, and regardless of the direction players are given, process driven drills can continue to happen.

    The other substantial come up here is on the mound. All offseason the front office sought impact pitching. Eventually they acquired an arm that fit the bill in the form of Kenta Maeda, but it was his former and current teammate Rich Hill that also posted numbers of importance.

    Expected back sometime in the early summer, Hill is coming off a campaign in which he posted a 2.45 ERA and 11.0 K/9. Yes, injuries have been his bugaboo, but they’ve also been something he’s come through unscathed while being more than dominant when healthy. Rather than trudging through a couple months’ worth of games piecing together the back end of their rotation, Hill could provide a spark just weeks into the season.

    Having pushed their chips in this offseason, it would only make sense that the Twins look at acquiring more arm talent around the trade deadline. We won’t know how that could be impacted until the logistics of this whole scheduling mess get figured out, but internally Minnesota will now see an intended boost on the bump sooner rather than later.

    In all of this, we continue to wade through uncharted territory. The vibe around Twins camp was different over the past couple of days, and the measures put in place were like things never before imagined. Ultimately though, baseball will return. There will be another day, there will be a season, and the same opportunity to push towards a World Series is on the horizon for Rocco Baldelli’s squad.

    We’re going to need to wait a bit longer this time around, but the reward of two substantial assets being more readily available is one that could pay big dividends.

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    • Mar 13 2020 08:53 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  23. Royce Lewis Is Putting It All On Display

    Although not all minor league players develop at the same rate, it’s become clear that Lewis is knocking on the door to the big leagues. He’s not a realistic shot to crack the major league roster for 2020, but a debut this season is trending more towards a possibility.

    Having enjoyed plenty of run in big league camp thanks to an injury sustained by starter Jorge Polanco, Lewis has been provided ample opportunity to show what he’s capable of. More than in any other instance, the results on Tuesday in Clearwater provide a strong depiction of what’s currently taking place.

    In his first at-bat Lewis stepped in and cranked a homer way out to left field. The wind was blowing in that direction, but with a distracted focus, my immediate reaction was to drop a four-letter word in simply saying, “Holy s***.” He got every bit of the pitch and cranked in over the Tiki bar down the line, eventually leaving the stadium. Although not seen as a hulking power threat, it was in that swing that Lewis displayed his advanced ability to send the pill on a ride.

    Not long after his exploits at the dish, Lewis was making an impact in the field. Over the course of his day in the field it appeared there was a level of comfort between he and second baseman Luis Arraez (and a nice heads up prior to his home run). Fluid double plays were turned, and a level of communication seemed apparent. It was on a grounder deep in the hole, inducing a throw that Hall of Famer Derek Jeter would’ve been proud of, that we saw Royce’s defensive skill on display.

    Plenty has been made about both his leg kick at the dish and the ability to stick at shortstop. It’s in instances like the two big contributions made against the Phillies that should give pause to any concerns. His home run came against big ticket free-agent acquisition Zack Wheeler, and the defensive effort was put up against a respectable runner in Adam Haseley. If we dream on an extrapolation of those results, it’s easy to see why he’s touted as one of baseball’s best prospects.

    The flip side introduces us to the potential pitfalls of Lewis’ projection. He played a sound game defensively so there was nothing to be concerned with there. However, it was at the dish that we saw the negative effects of timing induced by a pronounced leg kick. There were not any strikeouts today, but his third at-bat included a lunge I’m sure he’d rather not replicate.

    When utilizing a leg kick to work through rhythm and timing, a heavy emphasis must be put on getting that foot back down. If there’s a guess made to the pitch selection then any sort of incorrect thought process will likely result in a substantial weight transfer, wider base, and lack of impact at the point of contact. You’re certainly going to be fooled at times as a hitter, but the door left open for a pitcher to exploit it more often can be opened wider with a leg kick or moving hands at the plate.

    Overall, this game was a very good representation of where Lewis is right now. The athleticism and talent are legit, he’s got the ability to be a bona fide star. There are a couple of refinements still be added however, and that will dictate his timeline to the big leagues, and his eventual impact when he arrives in Twins Territory.

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    • Mar 11 2020 07:36 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  24. The Twins 2018 Draft Class is Loaded with Talent

    Now that the Twins 2018 Draft Class has had a chance to play their first full season of professional baseball, we are starting to get a clearer picture of how the they are shaping up. While some of these players haven’t had a number of opportunities to show what they can do, the ones that have had the opportunity have really impressed. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable players from this class.

    Trevor Larnach

    With their first-round pick, the Twins took soon to be national champion outfielder Trevor Larnach out of Oregon State University. After a strong professional debut in 2018, Larnach began the 2019 season in High-A Fort Myers. In 84 games with the Miracle, Larnach hit .316, with and .842 OPS, both of which were easily league highs among qualified hitters in the very pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 2019. This performance led to Larnach’s call up to AA Pensacola mid-season, where he continued to hit the ball well over the final couple months of the season. This helped Larnach secure the ranking as Twins Daily’s 3rd highest ranked prospect in the Twins farm system.

    Ryan Jeffers

    In the second round, the Twins turned some heads when they supposedly reached on UNC Wilmington catcher Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers was thought of by many scouts as a great hitting college catcher, who would have a tough time staying behind the plate as a professional. However, the Twins scouts thought differently, and have since been proven dead right. Not only has Jeffers mashed in his 698 career professional plate appearances, but he has also proven to be more than capable enough to hold his own as a catcher defensively, all of this leading to Jeffers being ranked the 7th best Twins prospect here at Twins Daily. Look for Jeffers to knock on the MLB door in the near future and give the Twins a dynamic duo behind the plate with Jeffers and Mitch Garver.

    Cole Sands

    The first pitcher that the Twins took in this draft didn’t come until the fifth round, when they took Florida State right-hander Cole Sands. After not pitching professionally in 2018, Sand made his professional debut at Cedar Rapids in 2019, and quickly moved his way up to make one start at AA Pensacola before the end of the season. Among the 545 pitchers who threw at least 90 innings in affiliated minor league baseball in 2019, Cole Sands’ 2.45 FIP was the 5th lowest. This was due in large part to his tremendous 5.68 strikeout to walk ratio. This is a number that even the great Johan Santana couldn’t top during his time with the Twins. I expect great things from Sands again in 2020, which could vault him way up the Twins prospect ranking leader board by seasons end.

    Josh Winder

    The second pitcher that the Twins took in the 2018 MLB draft was Josh Winder out of the Virginia Military Institute. After a solid pro debut in Elizabethton in 2018, Winder was one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League in 2019. In 21 starts for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Winder tossed 125 2/3 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA, which was the fourth lowest mark among Midwest League pitchers with at least 100 innings pitching in 2019. In 164 1/3 combined professional innings, Winder has struck out 160 batters, while allowing just 36 walks and 11 home runs.

    Chris Williams

    Taken as a college senior in the eighth round of the 2018 MLB draft, Clemson 1B/C Chris Williams signed with the Twins for just $10,000, which was well below the $162,100 slot value for that pick. However, Williams hasn’t played like just some random-pick-to save-money, as he quickly established himself as a legit power threat at the professional level, belting 26 home runs in just 545 pro plate appearances. While Williams didn’t spend anytime behind the plate in 2018, he almost exclusively caught in 2019. If he can stay behind the plate, he has potential to make a splash, with his rare power behind the plate.

    Willie Joe Garry Jr.

    It has been a bit of a slow start from a production standpoint for the Twins ninth-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft, but Willie Joe Garry Jr. did show signs of improvement in 2019, and with his raw athletic ability the ceiling is very high for this young high school prospect out of Mississippi. Seth Stohs did a great piece on Willie Joe Garry Jr. earlier this week, if you want to learn more about this young Twins prospect.

    Other Notable Prospects

    - 15th-round pick Kody Funderburk struck out 9.9 batter per nine innings and had a 3.25 FIP in 50 innings pitched for Cedar Rapids in 2019.
    - 17th-round pick Erik Cha has a 2.21 ERA, with 65 strikeouts and 21 walks in 61 innings pitched out of the bullpen, pitching mostly for the GCL Twins and in Elizabethton.
    - 18th-round pick Andrew Cabezas has made 31 starts in his two seasons of pro ball, accumulating a 3.31 ERA in 160 1/3 innings pitched.
    - 19th-round pick Austin Schulfer has made 41 appearances (20 starts) in his two seasons at the professional level. In that time, Schulfer has posted a 3.27 ERA and has struck out an impressive 158 batters in 137 2/3 innings pitched.
    - 21st-round pick Gabe Snyder blasted 19 home runs for Cedar Rapids in 2019. That was good for second most among all Mid-West league hitters last season.
    - 31st-round pick Zach Neff pitched 39 innings for Cedar Rapids in 2019, before getting called up to Fort Myers, where he threw another 33 2/3 innings. Neff’s 2.11 FIP for Cedar Rapids was the fifth lowest among the 251 Midwest league pitchers who threw at least 30 innings pitched last season, while his 2.27 FIP for Fort Myers was the 17th lowest among the 178 Florida State League pitchers who threw at least 30 innings in 2019.

    As you can see, there are a number of good prospects in the Twins farm system that came from that 2018 Draft Class, even though the Twins weren’t blessed with a number of high-end selections. This upcoming season will be a great year to follow these guys, as they are now mostly settled into the professional ranks and are looking to move their way up the Twins minor league system.

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    • Mar 07 2020 07:46 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  25. Is Luis Arraez Really Just Ben Revere?

    Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson recently workshopped a couple of ideas on Twitter regarding the Minnesota second basemen. Chief among them was that his hard-hit rate was in the 4th percentile, he posted a 19th percentile exit velo, and he didn’t cover the inside part of the plate. Coupled with defensive questions, and those exist to the tune of a -8 DRS at second, you’ve got a light-hitting combination of mediocrity.

    An immediate response would be to look at the track record of Arraez in the minors. He posted a career .799 OPS formed almost entirely by average and on-base skills. That same line of thinking could be applied to Ben Revere, who posted a .777 OPS across nearly 2,000 minor league plate appearances. The parallels are more than evident from a production standpoint, but their athletic profiles begged us to dig a bit deeper.

    Before we get to the good stuff it’s worth noting that results had similar parallels at the big-league level as well. Although we’re working with just 366 MLB plate appearances for Arraez, he posted a 7.9% strikeout rate, 2.8% whiff rate, and 26.9% chase rate last year. Revere was at 9.2%, 3.4%, and 26.8% over the course of his career. Again, nearly identical. Looking for a differentiator, it’s time to turn results on their head and look at process (which also would incorporate athletic style).

    In his final two seasons Revere averaged just north of 27 feet per second on the basepaths. Arraez held his own at 26.9 ft/sec last year but has never been considered the burner Ben was early on in his career. Couple the thought process with approach and this is where the paths change. Revere posted just a 17.9% hard hit rate over his career while generating line drives only one-fifth of the time and hitting ground balls a whopping 61.3% of the time. Conversely, Arraez owned a 34.7% hard hit rate, 29.4% line drive rate, and only a 41.5% ground ball rate in 2019.

    In short, Luis understands that the path to success is solid contact on an upward trajectory.

    [attachment=13527:Luis Arraez.png]

    Although Arraez hasn’t yet developed into much more than a contact hitter, Matthew Taylor recently outlined why that isn’t a narrative to be shocked by should it come to fruition. Despite his lighter hitting profile, Arraez generated a .336 xwOBA in 2019 while Revere’s best season (2015) produced a .305 mark. Further exemplifying his desire to lift baseballs, Arraez owned an 11.4-degree launch angle last season, while Revere never was above 4.4-degree dating back to Statcast’s inception in 2015.

    There won’t be any point in Arraez’s career that he becomes the second base version of Miguel Sano. He’s also not the swinging bunt player that the Twins traded to acquire Trevor May. Ben Revere and Luis Arraez posted nearly identical slash lines during their time on the farm, but the how they got there couldn’t be more different.

    Obviously the 100th percentile of Arraez is in reaching the heights of those to whom he’s been compared. What he’s done from a statistical measure is much more than the comparison to Revere however, and that floor (Revere) is one he should remain well clear of, barring significant change. Ben Revere was a tough guy to get it past, but Arraez is a disciplined bat with a workable plan that can be implemented and projected for consistent success many years into the future.

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    • Mar 04 2020 07:25 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler