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  1. Gibson’s Departure Throws Your Dad’s Preseason Banter Into Turmoil

    As of Wednesday, the latter is in flux.

    Gibson signed a 3-year, $30 million deal with the Texas Rangers after spending his entire career with the Twins organization. Your dad’s opinion on the matter was hard to gauge in a brief pre-Thanksgiving phone call.

    “He was more upset about the city plowing in his driveway after he just got done shoveling,” you told your spouse, who nodded disinterestedly as she watched a Hallmark Christmas movie with Candace Cameron Bure. “I don’t think he’s quite processed what happened.”

    Gibson’s signing takes one more option off the table for his former team, as the Twins look to build a rotation that can complement a playoff-ready lineup. It also means your dad’s perennial Spring Training opinion may change or go away entirely.

    “I don’t know where his head is at. These are uncharted waters,” you said to your teenage daughter, who nodded disinterestedly as she browsed TikTok videos. “I don’t think he’s ever said word one about the Rangers, but maybe he’s genuinely invested in Kyle Gibson and his career.”

    Prior to Gibson’s arrival in 2013, your dad’s most commonly expressed preseason thoughts were wishing Justin Morneau could get healthy and that Phil Cuzzi should be tried in The Hague.

    “Maybe once they sign somebody, or if they make (Brusdar) Graterol a starter again, that’ll get him focused on 2020,” you said to your dog, who nodded disinterestedly before unleashing another volcanic fart due to the turkey and ham your brother kept feeding him at dinner. “I don’t know where this goes from here. I don’t know if he does either.”

    Your dad was unavailable for comment on the matter, but he did characterize the potential of another winter storm this weekend as “bullcrap.”

    • Nov 28 2019 01:40 PM
    • by RandBalls Stu
  2. Who Could the Twins Trade this Offseason?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Nov 18 2019 12:13 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Reason to Believe Brusdar Graterol Could Start 2020 in Twins Rotation

    The young Venezuelan, who was the organization’s No. 3 prospect last year, made his much-anticipated MLB debut as a September callup. Including the postseason, he appeared in 11 MLB games, posting a 4.22 ERA out of the bullpen. He has electric stuff, and if it wasn’t for one bad outing against Cleveland, he would have had a 1.68 ERA in his first month as a major leaguer.

    Giving Graterol a rotation spot early would be a real shot in the dark, but it could definitely work out. One example that in particular stands out in particular is Mike Soroka of the Braves.

    Soroka made his MLB debut in 2018, also at age 21. He was the team's top prospect at the time. He went through Atlanta’s minor league system quickly, also taking advantage of his Canadian National Team experience.

    Along with their age and pedigrees, Graterol and Soroka's minor league performances are comparable. Soroka posted an ERA of 2.84, held opposing batters to a .605 OPS and averaged 8.04 K/9 in the minors. Graterol had a 2.48 ERA, held opponents to a .574 OPS and averaged 9.67 K/9. The biggest difference would be that Soroka (370 2/3) pitched a lot more innings down on the farm than Graterol (214) has.

    Just like Graterol, Soroka pitched very little in his first major league callup. Soroka started five games for Atlanta between two separate stints, posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He then went on to deliver an out-of-this-world 2019 season for the Braves, becoming one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year award. He pitched 174 2/3 innings this season, was worth 4.0 fWAR and had a 2.68 ERA.

    Between Double A and Triple A, Graterol pitched less than 60 innings this year. His shift to the bullpen was part of that limited innings count, but so was a shoulder injury. Odd coincidence: Soroka only 30 2/3 innings in the minors in 2018 and was also sidelined because of shoulder inflammation.

    These two kids are similar even when you check their pitch arsenal. According to Baseball Savant, Soroka relies on four pitches: sinker (44.6%), slider (24.3%), four seamer (18.7%) and changeup (12.4%). Those are the very same four pitches that Graterol uses, in a very similar ratio: sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four seamer (18.1%) and changeup (2.1%). The key-differences are that Graterol has much greater velocity (99.0 mph on his sinker, against 92.3 mph from Soroka) and Soroka adds much more movement to his pitches (2,372 spin rate average on his pitches, against 2,045 from Graterol). For more details on Soroka’s mechanics, you can check this out.

    There’s very little to ensure that Graterol will have the same outcome as Soroka did, but it seems foolish to rule out the possibility that he can’t be effective in the Twins rotation immediately.

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

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    • Nov 02 2019 09:48 PM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  4. Mark Contreras Named 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Winner

    Contreras was drafted by the Twins in the ninth round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft from the University of California, Riverside. He spent all his pro debut in Elizabethton hitting .275/.319/.421 (.740) while logging innings at all three outfield positions. During the 2018 season, he played the majority of the season as the left fielder in Fort Myers with a .689 OPS.

    He’d start the 2019 campaign back in Fort Myers but 85 of his 112 games came in Pensacola. Miracle. In 182 total chances, he made no errors and recorded 13 outfield assists. For the Blue Wahoos, Contreras played 46 games in left field, 16 in center field, and seven in right field, totaling 576.1 innings in the Pensacola outfield while maintaining a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.

    “It’s crazy to think that I just won the Gold Glove for all the minor leagues in left field,” Contreras said. “It’s an honor to be recognized for my defense. It’s awesome and it just goes to show that the hard work is paying off. Everything we did during spring training with the outfield coordinator got us ready to do the right things.”

    So, what does the award mean to him?

    “It means a lot. At a young age, every coach I had said ‘Defense helps wins games,’” Contreras added. My Pops always told me if it’s not working with the bat today, you can always go out there and make a play and change the momentum. It means a lot that it’s not only just offense getting recognized, it’s defense.”

    Contreras got to play with some very good players in 2019 and the culture seems to be changing in the Twins organization.

    ““It’s a great group of guys. We work hard in spring training with one goal in mind, to play hard and showcase that the Twins aren’t just about winning in the big leagues, but across the minor league system. A lot of the Blue Wahoos from Opening Day ended up making their big-league debuts. It shows that it’s a great group of guys out there doing their jobs and we all are a big family. To say that we made the playoffs again, that’s awesome. That’s the end goal. It was a great year as a whole.”

    Contreras is still working hard this week even after winning one of the minor league’s top honors.

    “I’m going back to Fort Myers in November for [off-season instructional] camps,” Contreras said. “It keeps us on our toes and working on the right things in the off-season. It tunes us up for what the organization expects us to show up with in spring training. It’s very helpful to get pointers and work with the coordinators one-on-one. I really enjoy it and it keeps the players on the right track and gives me an understanding of what I need to keep working on.”

    Congrats to Contreras on the honor.

    • Oct 15 2019 04:17 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. State of the Twins Rotation

    Again, at a minimum, the Twins will either bring back some of the starters who will become free agents (Jake Odorrizi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson) and/or sign and trade for new pitchers. But this exercise will give us an idea of the current strength, or lack thereof, of the organization’s starting pitching.

    The Given
    We’ll start with the only “lock” for the 2020 starting rotation – Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine will prioritize adding a starter or two in the general talent vicinity of Berrios, but there is no doubt that he will be at or near the top of the rotation. At times Berrios has looked like a true ace, especially in the first half of seasons. Even if he's more of a number two when factoring in his overall numbers (including his annual August meltdown – career 5.96 ERA), he is a nice piece and still young enough to improve.

    Highly Likely
    Randy Dobnak’s ascent from Independent ball all the way to the big leagues was one of the great stories of 2019. Ranking him this highly could be an overstatement, but we are simply looking at what the rotation would look like with no external additions. Through that lens, Dobnak is a near lock to make the rotation.

    Aside from his postseason start, in which expecting much from the rookie was a tall order, Dobnak was great throughout his minor league season and didn’t skip a beat after joining the big-league rotation (1.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Dobnak has great command and throws a sinker (36.5%), curve (27.9%), four-seamer (22.7%), and changeup (12.9%). The velocity on his four-seamer (93.4) and sinker (92.2) is respectable and he got a lot of whiffs (46.3%) on his curve. The fact that he was called upon to start Game 2 in New York says a lot about Manager Rocco Baldelli’s confidence in Dobnak.

    Probable
    This next group of young starters all debuted in 2019. We’ll start with the first who was called up, Devin Smeltzer. Besides topping Dobnak in the heart-warming backstory department by beating cancer in this youth, Smeltzer also did a fine job in his first big-league stint.

    Like Dobnak, Smelter wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he was even relegated to the bullpen while in Double A last season. He was given another opportunity to start in 2019 and made the most of it. He reached high levels of success in both Triple A (3.63 ERA) and the majors (3.86 ERA), although his FIP suggests some regression (5.05 AAA, 4.58 MLB). While big in heart, Smeltzer in small in stature and lacks big velocity (89.1 mph four-seamer), however, he does have the fact that he is left-handed going for him. Like Dobnak, he seems unfazed by the big stage.

    The next “probable” is another southpaw, Australian Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe was a more highly-regarded prospect than both Dobnak and Smeltzer, and he seemed the most likely of the group to reach the majors this year.

    Thorpe has better swing and miss stuff than his previously mentioned peers, but his results in both Triple A and the MLB were a bit of a mixed bag. His ERA was high at both levels (AAA – 4.58, MLB – 6.18), but his FIP suggests better results (AAA – 3.72, MLB – 3.47) and he has pitched well in the past. Thorpe’s walk rate was high (3.25 BB/9) but he struck a lot of batters out (10.08 K/9). He has a good pitch mix (four-seamer (51.2%), slider (19.7%), curve (17.5%), and changeup (11.6%)) with his fastball averaging 91.2 mph. Thorpe hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter.

    Finally, we finish this group with the most exciting of the bunch. Brusdar Graterol debuted, as a 21-year-old September callup. Although a starter by trade, he pitched out of the bullpen as he was coming back from a shoulder condition and best served the Twins in that capacity.

    Graterol’s stuff is electric, as he features a sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four-seamer (18.1%), and changeup (2.1%) and averaged 99.0 mph on his sinker. His slider has the potential to be devastating and if his changeup develops, he could be a front end of the rotation starter. The right-hander’s durability may determine of whether he is destined for the rotation or relief, but either way his future is bright.

    Outside Looking In
    With the hypothetical “Twins do nothing” rotation set, we turn to the next group of starters who are close, but not quite ready. Some of these pitchers are closer than others, and naturally some also offer much higher upside. Since none of them will be starting the year in this hypothetical MLB rotation, they should all get a bit more time to develop in the minors, and in reality, not all of them are expected to be MLB ready in 2020. I’ll break them down into a few different groups.

    High Upside, Not Quite Ready
    This first group consists of guys who have good stuff, good numbers, and could potentially see some big-league action in 2020. They are ranked in order of who would be most likely to be called up first and not on prospect status (in which case the order would be reversed).

    Baily Ober (RHP) – Ober was very good in 2019 and has been great throughout his minor league career. He has battled injuries, but his numbers have been remarkable (2019 high-A: 0.99 ERA, 26.7% K-BB%, AA: 0.38 ERA, 38.1% K-BB%). The 24-year-old has yet to pitch in Triple A, but if he continues to pitch as he has and stays healthy, he could be ready for an MLB audition.

    Edwar Colina (RHP) – Colina was another pitcher who flew through the system this year, starting in High A, moving up to Double A, and finishing with a brief stint in Rochester. Colina is short for a starter but throws hard and put up very good numbers (2.34 ERA high-A, 2.03 ERA AA). If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could end up being a high-velocity, late-inning arm.

    Jhoan Duran (RHP) – Duran is another high-upside starter who has a chance to pitch for the Twins in 2020. He throws hard and made it all the way to Double A this year. His ERA rose from 3.23 in High A to 4.86 in Double A, but his FIP (2.76) suggests that he outperformed his ERA.

    Jordan Balazovic (RHP) – Balazovic may be a bit further away, as he spent 2019 pitching between Low A and High A, but he should start 2020 in Double A, and he probably ranks second only to Graterol in stuff. He pitched to a 1.61 FIP in Cedar Rapids with 14.37 K/9 and continued to pitch very well after moving up to Fort Myers (2.28 FIP, 11.84 K/9).

    Further Away
    This second group is a bit further away, but still offers a lot of upside.

    Cole Sands (RHP) – Sands is another guy who pitched really well this year, going all the way from Low A to a brief stint in Double A. The 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t pitch in upon joining the organization, so this was his first season in the minors. He will likely begin 2020 in Double A and could move fast.

    Chris Vallimont (RHP) – Vallimont came to the Twins as part of the Sergio Romo trade and was more than just a throw-in. Like Sands, Vallimont pitched very well in 2019, spending the entire season in High A, and should begin 2020 in Double A.

    Dakota Chalmers (RHP) – Chalmers isn’t as polished as Sands or Vallimont but he offers plenty of upside. The 23-year-old came to the Twins in exchange for Fernando Rodney and is another fire-baller. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but his future will depend on whether he can improve his control. Chalmers is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

    Blayne Enlow (RHP) – The Twins went over slot to sign Enlow in 2017 with the 76th overall pick, and he has pitched pretty well since joining the organization. Enlow’s ERA improved upon being called up to High-A (from 4.57 to 3.38), but he regressed in groundball rate and strikeouts, only striking out 6.62 per nine. However, Enlow is still just 20-years-old so he has plenty of time to develop.

    The Others
    There are plenty of other young starters who could see time with the Twins in 2020. Kohl Stewart (RHP) was up in 2018 and 2019 but his upside is limited and he may not stay on the 40-man roster. This was more or less a lost year for Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), but if healthy he could re-emerge in 2020. Sean Poppen (RHP) also pitched for Minnesota this year and both Griffin Jax (RHP) and Charlie Barnes (LHP) made it all the way to Triple A. This group doesn’t scream upside, but neither did Dobnak or Smeltzer coming into this season.

    Minnesota will probably look to add a minimum of two or three arms this offseason and we needn’t worry about seeing our hypothetical rotation. However, a lot can happen throughout the year, and several of the pitchers who were mentioned will see time with the Twins in the next year or two. With the competitive window blown fully open in 2019, the front office will need to prioritize improving the team’s one glaring hole, but it is reassuring to have plenty of alluring depth in the system to be called upon if needed. Besides, Gerrit Cole may need an occasional breather.

    • Oct 11 2019 09:55 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  6. Twelve's a Crowd: Handicapping the Playoff Pitching Staff

    In projecting the playoff bullpen, we need to set a few parameters. We'll presume that the Twins carry 12 pitchers, which is generally the most you'll see given the reduced need for starting depth. Even the Brewers, who last year bullpened their way through the playoffs, carried only 12 pitchers.

    So, we can safely assume that six of those pitchers will be Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Sergio Romo. Next, there is a batch of borderline locks: Randy Dobnak, Martin Perez, Devin Smeltzer. The length these guys provide is essential, especially with Minnesota possibly planning on multiple bullpen games in a series. One might quibble with Perez's presence in that second group, but I think his effectiveness against lefties (.592 OPS) solidifies his bid, given the lack of specialist alternatives.

    That leaves us with, at most, three open spots for the taking. And that's if the Twins elect to carry a shorthanded bench in favor of additional pen flexibility. Here are the candidates, listed from most-to-least viable as I see it:

    1. Cody Stashak, RHP

    Stashak has ever-so-quietly put together a dominant showing in his major-league debut, posting a 23-to-1 K/BB ratio through his first 22 innings with an elite swing-and-miss rate. Control and stuff: two traits you absolutely want in your bullpen against imposing lineups filled with sluggers. The only question is how Stashak, a former 13th-round draft pick who opened this season in Double-A, will handle the pressure of such a stage. There's been zero indication to this point that he'll be rattled much.

    2. Zack Littell, RHP

    In his second appearance of the season, Littell wore one against the Rays, giving up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in mop-up duty. Since then, Littell has a 0.94 ERA over 25 appearances. He vacillates between a 94 MPH fastball and 87 MPH cutter in equal measure, and the formula's been very effective for him. Littell has recorded five or six outs in three of his past four appearances, so he's primed to handle a couple innings. That's very handy for the Twins in their situation. You could make a fair case that Littell should be No. 1 on this list, or even in the lock category.

    3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP

    The 21-year-old's initial exposure to the majors has had its ups and downs, but the invigorating high points reaffirm his potential impact. Graterol is the kind of weapon you like to have at your disposal in tight contests, bringing triple-digit heat that's tough to square up when he locates it. Obviously there's an added level of risk and uncertainty at play here, but I think the Twins will wisely accept that in tandem with his upside.

    4. Lewis Thorpe, LHP

    Now we're getting into the "outside looking in" group. Thorpe is an interesting case, because he offers length the Twins might value in front-to-back bullpen games. But he has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. There have been moments where Thorpe's looked really good, and his competitive moxy would fit right in with the intensity of October, but it's hard to imagine the Twins calling on him for multiple innings in a playoff game. He hasn't been good against lefties so match-ups don't really factor.

    5. Kyle Gibson, RHP

    The Twins have given Gibson every chance. His last three appearances cascaded into catastrophe, systematically eroding the notion that he can help in any kind of postseason role. First, Gibson came back from an IL respite and got bashed for six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Then, he made a relief appearance and promptly gave up a costly home run. Most recently, he was an erratic mess against Kansas City, failing to complete two innings. Over his past five appearances, opponents are hitting .413 against Gibson. The physically-hampered righty continues to miss bats even in this diminished state, which is the only solace I'll take in the (likely?) event that the team carries him out of sheer loyalty.

    6. Fernando Romero, RHP

    At the beginning of the season, it would've been easy to envision Romero at the head of this conversation. But that was a long time ago, and the 24-year-old has since had a rough go of things. Constantly wrestling with his command, Romero has seen his upper-90s fastball fail to garner the desired results, in both Triple-A and the majors. There's still a glimmer of intrigue in that raw arsenal, but he's been too shaky to merit any trust.

    7. Ryne Harper, RHP

    It's a raw deal for Harper. He was a vital bullpen fixture in the first half. He's a great story. I'd love to see him playing a role in the postseason. I just don't think the Twins can justify carving out a spot for him. Harper's heavy reliance on a big slow curveball, supplemented by a sub-mediocre fastball, was solved by big-league hitters after about three months, resulting in a 5.51 ERA and .318 opponents' average since the break. The idea of serving those pitches up against a bloodthirsty Yankees or Astros lineup is... discomforting.

    8. Trevor Hildenberger, RHP

    Given his history, Hildenberger might've nudged his way back into the postseason picture -- despite his immense struggles over the past year-plus -- had he managed to string together a few shutdown performances here in September. But that hasn't happened. The righty looks awful. In three appearances since returning to the Twins, he's allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with two swinging strikes on 59 pitches. He's not usable.

    9. Kohl Stewart, RHP

    Stewart's last three appearances for the Twins have come against likely postseason teams: OAK, NYY, ATL, WAS. Here's how that went: 7 IP, 13 H, 10 ER (12.86 ERA), 6 K, 3 BB, 2 HR. He serves no purpose outside of mopping up meaningless innings and that's just not a guy you need around in a five-game playoff series.

    10. Jorge Alcala, RHP

    The fact that he has made one appearance since being called up 10 days ago, as the sixth pitcher in a game that slipped out of hand late, tells you all you need to know about where he stands in this bullpen hierarchy. Alcala is merely an extra emergency arm to have around for September, and it's become clear he was never auditioning for anything more.

    Based on these rankings and the supposition of a 12-man staff, here's how I see the ALDS bullpen shaking out: Berrios, Odorizzi, Rogers, May, Duffey, Romo, Dobnak, Perez, Smeltzer, Stashak, Littell, Graterol.

    What do you think? Would you rearrange these rankings? How many pitchers do you foresee them carrying? Have any creative thoughts on strategy and deployment? Sound off in the comments.

    • Sep 23 2019 09:25 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. A Look at Brusdar Graterol’s Role for the Postseason and Beyond

    After getting plenty of weak contact but very few whiffs in his first few appearances, Graterol made Cleveland hitters look helpless as they flailed at his sliders. Since the one bad outing, Graterol has pitched well against Cleveland, Washington, and Chicago, allowing only one base runner (a home run hit by Chicago’s Zach Collins) in 4 1/3 innings while picking up five strikeouts.



    What may be even more impressive than the velocity is the amount of movement Graterol gets on his fastball. Squaring up 100 mph fastballs is hard enough for a hitter, but when it is rapidly sinking the task becomes nearly impossible. To make matters even worse for Cleveland hitters, Graterol seemed to be able to throw his fastball wherever he wanted, regularly painting the corners as he did against a helpless Yasiel Puig, who struck out looking on a perfectly placed 101.2 mph sinker. Coupled with a slider that sits around 89 mph, Graterol has the potential to be unhittable. His confidence and swagger seem to grow with each appearance, and for good reason.



    Graterol, of course, has been groomed to be a starter, and if he hadn’t missed the majority of 2019 with a shoulder injury, there is a good chance he would have long ago reached his innings limit. Graterol threw a career-high 102 innings in 2018 between high and low A-ball, but threw just 52 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A in 2019 before missing time with his shoulder injury, and then pitched 8 1/3 innings between rehab in rookie ball and his promotion to AAA after moving to the pen. The Twins undoubtedly saw an opportunity for Graterol to reach the majors and potentially help the club down the stretch, and shorter appearances as a reliever were a way to make it a reality.

    The question of interest for the time being is whether or not Graterol will be added to the postseason roster. Every appearance will be crucial for the 21-year-old to further sell his case to the Twins front office, but if he continues to pitch as he has of late, adding Graterol is a no-brainer. As things stand, the Twins appear to have five bullpen “locks” in Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffy, Trevor May, and Zack Littell, but beyond them Graterol seems to be the favorite. He has electric stuff, and with only Jose Berrios and Jake Odorrizi currently looking like viable postseason starters, the Twins may go with the “opener” strategy and should have plenty of roster space for relievers.

    Regardless of what happens for the remainder of this season, Graterol’s future with the Twins looks bright. There are, however, questions as to what his future role will be. Although Graterol looks the part of a shutdown closer, he has been a starter and would have incredible value as a potential number one or two to help anchor the Twins rotation of the future. To be a frontline starter he will probably need more than his current two-pitch mix. Graterol does throw a changeup, but it seems to be a work in progress. The only home run he has given up in the MLB was on the lone changeup he threw in his last appearance against Chicago. On the bright side, he is confident enough to at least show his changeup at the major league level and Wes Johnson and crew can help guide him along.

    It will be interesting to see what Derek Favley and company decide to do with Graterol in 2020. They would presumably like to give Graterol every possibility to be a starter and that might mean starting the year in AAA Rochester unless the team feels very confident in Graterol’s ability to begin the season in the big leagues. Graterol was dominant as a starter this year before his injury as he pitched to a 1.71 ERA in his 52 2/3 AA innings, all prior to his 21st birthday, so the ability is certainly present.

    Another consideration for 2020 will be the amount of innings Graterol is allowed to pitch. After missing all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery, Graterol pitched 40 innings in 2017, 102 in 2018, and will not reach a hundred innings in 2019 due to the aforementioned shoulder injury. Therefore, it may make sense for the Twins to begin the season with Graterol in the bullpen in 2020 and slowly transition him to a starting role as the year goes on, which would help to limit Graterol’s innings pitched, ensuring that he would be available down the stretch. This could be done at the MLB level if the Twins so desire, giving the bullpen a boost early in the year and potentially strengthening the starting rotation as the season progresses.

    Graterol’s health and effectiveness will be paramount in deciding what his future will entail, but whatever the Twins decide to do with Brusdar Graterol for the remainder of this season and beyond, it’s exciting to finally have a 100 mph flamethrower that we can call our own. With a little luck and a third pitch, Minnesota could have a really nice rotation piece to slot next to Jose Berrios in the near future, and if that doesn’t come to fruition, having another potent bullpen arm is a nice consolation prize.

    What do you think? Will the Twins find a spot for Graterol in the postseason pen? Where do you think he will begin his 2020 season and what do you see as his future role? Please leave your comments below.

    • Sep 20 2019 05:32 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  8. Twins Game Recap (9/18): Twins’ Offense Absent Against Chicago Bullpen Game

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 64.5% strikes (61 of 94 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-4, 2B)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Arraez -.111, Wade -.127, Sano -.207

    Twins’ offense can’t figure out Chicago bullpen

    The Twins’ offense found themselves struggling against one of the worst bullpens in the league. For 5 1/3 innings, four White Sox pitchers threw a no-hitter while allowing three walks. They had a threat in the first after back-to-back walks with one out, but, a Rosario pop out followed by a Sano strikeout ended the inning.

    After a leadoff walk in the second, the White Sox bullpen sent down 13 straight batters going into the sixth inning. That’s when the no-hitter came to a close as Polanco ripped a single into center field. After a Cruz walk, Rosario squeaked a ball through the infield to score Polanco.



    Cave drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. but he grounded out to end the inning.

    After picking up their first hits, the Twins’ couldn’t use the momentum and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. In the eighth, Rosario drilled a ball off the wall in right, but got thrown out trying extend it to a triple. In the ninth, the Twins again went down 1-2-3 to close out the game.

    Odorizzi able to minimize damage

    Jake Odorizzi was one out away from picking up a quality start, but ran into trouble in the sixth to end his night. Though Odorizzi picked up nine strikeouts tonight, his stuff wasn’t the best. Odorizzi gave up a leadoff hit in four of the six innings he pitched in.

    After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he picked up two strikeouts with Castro throwing out Garcia to end the inning. In the second he gave up a leadoff double followed by a Jimenez single to score a run, but Odorizzi picked up another double play and strikeout to get out of the inning.

    Odorizzi flew through the next two innings picking up four more strikeouts in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. Through those four innings, Odorizzi already had seven strikeouts.

    Odorizzi found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with runners on first and second with just one out after a pair of singles. Odorizzi took advantage of facing the number eight and nine batters next, picked up another strikeout and was out of the inning with no harm.

    After giving up another leadoff hit, Odorizzi got two quick outs and it looked as if he would be able to at least complete six innings. With an 0-2 count to Moncada, he doubled to left-center to drive in the second run. After Jimenez drew a walk, Odorizzi’s night was ended.

    Bullpen

    Cody Stashak came into the game with two runners on and two outs and threw just three pitches to pick up a huge strikeout on Collins to end the inning. Stashak was also given the seventh inning, and he too gave up a leadoff single. He picked up back-to-back strikeouts to the eight and nine batters and then got Garcia to fly out to end the inning.

    Fernando Romero came in for the eighth, and believe it or not, gave up another leadoff hit. He got Abreu to ground out and struck out Moncada before being pulled for Brusdar Graterol. Graterol did his job, and got Jimenez to ground out to keep it a one-run game.

    A new inning, another leadoff hit, this time it was a home run to Collins to straight -away center. Graterol followed that up with nine pitches to pick up the last three outs, including a strikeout.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 19 2019 04:32 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  9. Minnesota’s Game 3 Starting Pitching Options in the Playoffs

    Kyle Gibson
    W-L 13-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K, 50 BB, 155.0 IP
    Minnesota used Kyle Gibson as a reliever on Sunday and things didn’t go exactly to plan. He entered the game after Fernando Romero had already put multiple runners on base and then Gibson surrendered a three-run home run. Only one of the earned runs was charged to Gibson, but the big hit came when he was pitching.

    One of the bigger issues for Gibson are the health issues he has been battling for most of the season. In spring training, he was also diagnosed with E. coli that he contracted while doing mission work during the off-season. He entered camp around 200 pounds, which is down about 15 pounds from his desired weight. Recently, he returned from the 10-day IL after missing time because of ulcerative colitis.

    Gibson struggles when batters get repeated looks at him in the same game, especially for the third time. His first time through the batting order he has held batters to a .248/.315/.376 (.691) slash line with a 63 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio. His third time through the line-up results in batters hitting .333/.386/.558 (.944) with eight of his 22 homers allowed coming in this situation.

    Martin Perez
    W-L 10-7, 4.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 125 K, 64 BB, 152.2 IP
    Perez didn’t even start the year in Minnesota’s rotation, but he was a breath of fresh air when he was added to the rotation in mid-April. From April 15-May 23, he looked like one of the best pitchers in the league as he posted a 2.17 ERA and held batters to a .644 OPS. His cut fastball was a revelation and it helped him to strike out 44 batters in eight games. He looked like a candidate for the All-Star Game and it certainly seemed like Minnesota had made something out of nothing.

    In his 18 starts since May 23, Perez has not looked like the same pitcher. His cut fastball, that had been his bread and butter during his hot start, has not looked the same. He has allowed more than a hit per inning and he’s only managed 69 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings. With 16 home runs allowed, he has surrendered nearly a home run per appearance.

    Right-handed batters have compiled an .817 OPS against him throughout the year. This isn’t good news for the Twins that will be facing the Yankees or the Astros in the ALDS and both clubs are very right-hand heavy. Only New York and Houston have higher OPS totals than Minnesota this year so there doesn’t seem like a scenario where Perez would be asked to see their line-up multiple times in the same game.

    Bullpen Game
    After Friday night’s botched rainout, the Twins were left no available starting pitchers for Saturday’s doubleheader. This left the team with a unique strategic situation and a full September roster of bullpen arms. In Game 1, the Twins were able to shut out the Indians behind three innings from Devin Smeltzer and more than one inning from Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers.

    During Game 2, Lewis Thorpe was the lone pitcher to surrender any runs as he struggled with command throughout his appearance. Cody Stashak and Trevor May joined the shutout crew from Game 1, but the most impressive appearance was from 21-year old Brusdar Graterol. Over two innings, he was regularly sitting in triple-digits with his fastball and this pitch had more movement than any of his other big-league appearances. Add in a strong slider and he looked lights out.


    During last year’s playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers used a bold strategy as they used Wade Miley as the starter and he only pitched to one batter. Manager Craig Counsell was hoping the Dodgers would load their line-up with left-handed hitters and then the Brewers quickly switched to a left-handed pitcher. Teams are likely more aware of this type of strategy, but it is something a team could try during October, especially one like the Twins with few starting pitching options.

    What strategy do you think the Twins would use in Game 3 of the ALDS? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 16 2019 08:41 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  10. Leading Off Podcast With Matt & Cooper: Movin' Me Down the Central

    Link to Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7FnITrhARBvuOpnJrvO5k6

    Time stamps

    Week in review: 4:45

    Magic number is nine: 15:00

    Jose Berrios: 16:55

    Brusdar Graterol: 20:00

    Buxton done: 25:40

    Dobnak/rotation talk: 33:45

    Jorge Alcala: 47:20

    Injury news: 51:40

    Fan questions: 63:15

    Looking ahead: 82:00

    https://open.spotify...ARBvuOpnJrvO5k6

    Give it a listen and leave a comment on this post or tweet at us what you thought
    Matt: @Matthew_bTwins
    Cooper: Carlson_MnTwins

    • Sep 16 2019 10:15 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  11. Twins Game Recap (9/14): Sano Grand Slam Overcomes Rocky Start for Win

    Box Score
    Starter: Lewis Thorpe 3.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 59% strikes (49 of 83 pitches)
    Bullpen: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

    Home Runs: Eddie Rosario (29), Nelson Cruz (37), Miguel Sano (28)
    Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco (3-for-5)

    Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (.256), Eddie Rosario (.243), Miguel Sano (.213)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Lewis Thorpe (-.302), Max Kepler (-1.00), Luis Arraez (-.077)

    Eddie Rosario started game two of the doubleheader off right as he hit his 29th home run on the season to score Jorge Polanco and put the Twins up 2-0 early. That early lead wouldn’t hold nearly as long as one had hoped.

    Lewis Thorpe continued the parade of bullpen arms that passed over the mound Saturday. While game one resulted in a shutout, Thorpe wasn’t as sharp. Instead the Indians scored two runs in the first and another three in the fourth before Thorpe left the game with the Indians leading 5-2.

    In the sixth inning the Twins began to chip away at the Indians' lead with a Cruz home run. It was then in the eighth inning when all of Twins Territory could exhale and then celebrate as the Twins erupted for five runs. With Sano’s first career grand slam being the biggest of exclamation points on the Twins' night and putting the Twins up 9-5.



    While Sano will be the one remembered, Polanco and the relievers should not be overlooked. Polanco, along with going 3-for-5 on the night also scored three of the Twins nine runs. After the exit of Thorpe, the Twins pitchers allowed only one hit, issued no walks or runs, and struck out six Indian batters.

    That puts the Twins 5.5 games up in the Central and the Indians are now in danger of missing out on the playoffs all together. I will allow your imagination to insert an earlier tweeted premature farewell tweet here...

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 14 2019 09:19 PM
    • by Nate Palmer
  12. Twins Game Recap (9/6): Offense Dominated as Twins Fall in Extras

    Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 66.3% strikes (71 of 107 pitches)
    Bullpen: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-, RBI)

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda .244, Littell .144, May .098
    Bottom 3 WPA: Graterol -.447, Sanó -.155, Romo -.129

    Pineda is lights-out again
    We’re barely one week into September. It’s too early to jump to any conclusions, but I don’t see why we can’t be excited by some good signs. Take the rotation, for instance. Twins starters were among the ten least productive units in all baseball during August. Now, they’re starting (OK, maybe timidly) to get back on track. Tonight’s outing from Michael Pineda was another indication of this.

    To provide some context, the Twins rotation was among the bottom ten worst in the league in ERA (5.48), WPA (-1.40), WHIP (1.59) and AVG (.294) last month. Coming into tonight’s game, those numbers had improved to 4.70 ERA, 0.09 WPA, 1.17 WHIP and .227 AVG. All of those numbers are going to look even better after Pineda kept the Indians’ offense on a leash, going six innings and allowing only one run on four hits, while striking out ten Cleveland batters. The only run came off a Francisco Lindor solo homer in the third.

    That’s definitely not a fluke for Big Mike. After a rocky start of the season in April, he’s been the Twins best starter since the start of May, posting a team-best 3.46 ERA since then. And that was true even before tonight’s game, as he had a 1.31 WPA (also a team-best) on that same period, more than twice as much as the second starter on that list (Jake Odorizzi, 0.65). Pineda has been great fuel for Minnesota’s playoff push, in the midst of chaos caused by the José Berríos struggles, the Kyle Gibson injuries and the lack of consistency from Odorizzi and Martín Pérez.

    Bullpen does its part in regulation
    This is how amazing the Twins bullpen has turned out to be in the past weeks:



    After their performance against the Red Sox in the three-game series in Boston, they earned even more credit, as they took care of business all by themselves in the series opener and shut down the world champions in the following two games.

    Tonight, they had to work under pressure, as the offense couldn’t provide them with enough run support. Sergio Romo gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to Oscar Mercado and went on to retire all the remaining batters he faced. However, one of them, Yasiel Puig, managed to score Mercado on a sacrifice fly, which tied the game. Trevor May and Zack Littell both had scoreless innings, with Littell picking off the runner at first to help end the ninth.

    Quiet night from the offense leads to extras
    For the third consecutive game, Twins bats were held back. They couldn’t score more than a couple of runs to back up Pineda and the bullpen. C.J. Cron and Jorge Polanco each batted in a run. They weren’t able to respond after the Indians tied it in the ninth, but they threatened. LaMonte Wade Jr. drew a walk, to bring his OBP to .385, in spite of still not having a hit in the majors.

    Graterol can’t handle first big challenge
    After Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe alternated to pitch through the tenth inning, rookie Brusdar Graterol was handed a two-out, one man on situation in the eleventh. He faced four batters, but couldn’t retire any of them. A couple of singles from Roberto Pérez and Lindor gave the Indians a two-run lead. With Trevor Hildenberger pitching, Mercado hit a two-run single to put this one away, doubling their lead.

    Postgame with Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 07 2019 06:35 AM
    • by Thieres Rabelo
  13. A Stab at the Twins Postseason Roster

    In the last year of active roster expansion to 40 players Minnesota has taken full advantage. They currently have 36 players up with the big-league club, and Kyle Gibson is hoping to return from Ulcerative Colitis in short order. That means there’s more than 10 players who must be trimmed prior to the Postseason, and there’s only a few spots up for grabs.

    As of right now, here’s how I see this playing out:

    Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

    This duo should be considered a lock. They have combined to represent the most impressive production at the position in years, and Garver has been a walking bomba for much of the season. Playing into the platoon advantage, and both now providing adequate or better defensive skills, just about every ability is crossed off here. Willians Astudillo was fun early in the year, but he’s not much of a factor at this point.

    Infield (7): C.J. Cron, Luis Arraez, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza

    Starting positions have been well established in this group for a while. Arraez has taken over at 2B for Schoop, but Jonathan provides a nice right-handed option and some pop off the bench. Gonzalez can play all over the place, and his flexibility has spelled Minnesota in multiple different ways over the course of the season. Sano and Cron are both locked in on the corners, and there shouldn’t be any surprises here.

    Edit: Completely blanked in leaving out Adrianza. He has been exceptional for the Twins this year, and will provide both utility and a capably bench bat. He definitely makes the roster.

    Outfield (4): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Ian Miller, Jake Cave

    There are zero doubts who the Twins starting outfield trio is when health is at its highest. Buxton remains somewhat of a wild card as he returns from his shoulder dislocation, and there’s always the possibility of the next malady that puts him on the shelf. After being left for dead early in the year, Jake Cave has played himself into a significant opportunity both down the stretch and into October. Kepler and Rosario are etched in stone as well.

    Miller represents the first wild card on the roster. He was added to the 40 man and made a September call up for a reason. Speed is his asset, and he can play as a defensive replacement in the outfield. The Twins don’t run much, but Postseason baseball certainly provides unique opportunities. I’d think he’s got an inside track at a spot right now and having a guy like that is evidence of strong roster utilization.

    Edit: With Adrianza being added, it's Cave that was redundant. While Miller can't provide the bat, he's as good or better of a defender and brings the speed option to the table. Jake has been great since Byron has been out, but he will be left off the Postseason 25man assuming Buxton is full go.

    Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz

    One and only, Nelson Cruz. No surprise here, but the 39-year-old that has crushed all season will be expected to do the same in October. There’s previous World Series experience under his belt and Minnesota is certainly hoping for that to be of value for much of the youth on the roster.

    Rotation (4): Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez

    In the Postseason you don’t need a five-man rotation. For a five-game series, you probably don’t even need a fourth starter. Minnesota finds themselves in a weird spot though. The ideal game one starter would be Jose Berrios, but he’s scuffled through August. His last start against the Red Sox didn’t provide strong results from a command perspective, but the stuff was back. He had regained velocity and missed bats. In a short series you could ask him to go twice, and on short rest, but that may be playing with fire.

    Baldelli has got the best, and most consistent, production from Pineda this year. He represents a strong option for game two, and Odorizzi has flashed enough to lock down game three. Perez has been up and down most of the season, but he’s trending back towards the positive of late. He could be pushed to the pen or may represent a game four option if the Twins have one in hand.

    Noticeably excluded from this list is homegrown talent Kyle Gibson. That’d be a pretty tough reality for the former 1st round pick to swallow, but illness may make that a reality. His ability depends almost entirely on how he rebounds from his sickness, and the effectiveness of the medication. If he can get back, and get right, in enough time then there’s probability he bumps someone from this foursome.

    Bullpen (7): Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sam Dyson, Zack Littell, Brusdar Graterol

    Recently Cooper did a great job constructing an ideal Postseason pen for Minnesota at Twins Daily. I’d agree with him that the first four names above are all locks. Rogers is the closer, Romo was brought in for these moments, and both Duffey and May have worked their way into high leverage. Dyson should also be considered a lock, but that requires him to be healthy. He’s dealt with bicep issues since the trade from San Francisco and owns a 7.15 ERA through 11.1 IP with his new team.

    That leaves two openings for Baldelli to decide on, and one was seemingly already made. When Brusdar Graterol was promoted to the 40 man roster a few days ago, it was with an eye on the Postseason. Yes, he’s still transitioning to bullpen life for now, and he’ll need to make sure he doesn’t pitch himself out of the opportunity, but this is the goal. Triple-digit heat coming in from the pen isn’t something the Twins have employed previously, and that could be a significant weapon in tight October games.

    Choosing from a known commodity on the roster is a bit tougher but Littell looks to be the right option. Following the blowup in Tampa he’s been nothing short of exception. Across 19.2 IP he owns a 0.92 ERA and .675 OPS against. There’s strikeout stuff and the velocity plays into the upper 90’s. Ryne Harper and his curveball may be enticing, Lewis Thorpe as another lefty makes some sense, and Trevor Hildenberger with previous experience could be tempting as well. Having been passed over previously however, I think this is the spot that Littell gets and thrives.

    We’re still about a month away from Postseason action, and so much can happen from both a health and effectiveness standpoint. I feel good about this 25-man group right now, but we’ll re-evaluate as things get closer. What would your Postseason roster look like? How does it differ, or where is it the same?

    • Sep 06 2019 09:12 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  14. Twins Game Recap (9/4): Berrios Continues Rough Stretch, Rodriguez Sails

    Box Score
    Berrios: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 64.4% strikes (65 of 101 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

    Home Runs: Rosario (28)
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4, HR), Sano (2-for-3, BB), Cron (2-for-3, BB)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Polanco -.106, Cave -.157, Berrios -.228

    Extra Day Doesn’t Help Berrios

    The hope was that Berrios could use the extra day of rest to get back to his dominant self we saw earlier this season, and not the Berrios we saw last month, when he had his worst month of his career since his rookie year in … August. Since his start at the end of July when he threw seven shutout innings, he has given up 23 runs in just 27 innings coming into tonight.

    Berrios is usually pretty good at keeping the ball in the ballpark, in fact he’s giving up just 1.2 home runs per nine innings. This season, the first three innings is where he has surrendered the most with 13. Today, he again struggled early as he gave up two home runs to Mookie Betts in his first two at-bats, in the first two innings, on just two pitches. This year, he has also now given up 10 home runs on the first pitch of an at-bat.

    After a rough start to the game, Berrios was able to turn things around for a few innings. After the second home run by Betts, Berrios retired 11 of the next 13 batters, which was capped off by a very athletic play by Berrios himself.



    Something that Berrios was able to use an extra rest day to his favor was getting his velocity back up. Recently, Berrios’ velocity has been consistently in the low 90s, but tonight it looked back to normal as he topped out at about 95 mph and was normally hanging around 94 mph on his fastball.

    That was about it for good things from Berrios, as he left the game without even recording an out in the sixth inning. Berrios gave up a leadoff single that was followed by a walk and a double to score another run as he left with runners on second and third.

    Eduardo Rodriguez Quiets Twins

    Rodriguez came into tonight's start having given up just three runs in his last 17 1/3 innings, and tonight he continued his success shutting out the Twins offense for seven innings. Rodriguez gave up just five hits while striking out eight batters. Though Rodriguez wasn’t giving up many hits, he issued four walks, but the Twins just couldn’t come through in times of need.

    Rodriguez struck out the side in the top of the first, and picked up his fifth strikeout in the second inning stranding two runners. In the fourth, the Twins got back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but Cave grounded into a double play. The inning wasn’t over quite yet as Rodriguez walked the next two batters to fill the bases. He got Willians Astudillo to fly out to end the threat with no runs being scored, but four guys reaching base safely.

    In the final three innings, he faced just 11 batters while recording nine outs including two more strikeouts, the final coming against Max Kepler to end the inning, and Rodriguez’s start.

    Bullpen

    Once the Twins' bullpen came into the game, they quieted down the Sox offense. Ryne Harper came in for the first time since being recalled and pitched just two pitches and recorded an out with runners on second and third. Cody Stashak came in with hopes of keeping the runners on the bases. Mookie Betts picked up another RBI with a single scoring the Sox sixth and last run of the game. Stashak picked up the final two outs to end the inning and strand two runners. Stashak picked up a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh before giving way to Brusdar Graterol for his second career outing. After giving up a leadoff walk, Graterol got three straight lineouts to end the inning.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 05 2019 04:35 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  15. Leading Off Podcast With Cooper & Matt: Smooth Sailing Into September

    Podcast: https://open.spotify...RSruflqFUmNCIfw

    Time stamps:

    1:40 Reviewing this successful week

    9:20 Discussing the division lead

    23:00 Rotation struggling

    29:30 Wait...the bullpen is good?

    34:45 injury news (Gibson/Buxton)

    37:20 Fan questions!

    • Which Sept call ups make postseason?
    • How does your playoff rotation look?
    • Predict the 2020 rotation
    • Which Twins player would you spend a day at the fair with?
    58:50 Did Martin Perez do his job?

    69:00 Minor League awards but Matt gets mad at me for having fun

    74:00 Looking ahead

    80:00 Most fun thing to write about this year

    In this link you can find the Spotify audio of the podcast.

    https://open.spotify...RSruflqFUmNCIfw

    Please be sure to let us know what you think, whether it’s a question, you disagree with us, or anything else by commenting on this post or heading over to our Twitter accounts below

    Cooper: Carlson_MnTwins
    Matt: Matthew_bTwins

    • Sep 02 2019 09:01 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  16. Week in Review: Bombs Away

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/26 through Sun, 9/1

    ***

    Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 84-52)

    Run Differential Last Week: +23 (Overall: +174)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (5.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: HE'S BACK!


    Starting next season, September rosters will increase to 28. So for now, the Twins are enjoying their last year of unencumbered freedom by calling up a full complement of reinforcements for the final month.

    Among the expected arrivals are a number of familiar pitchers: Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer. One of those pitchers (probably Smeltzer) will be at least temporarily replacing Kyle Gibson in the rotation, as he was placed on the shelf with ulcerative colitis – apparently it's been bothering him for most of the season, which... ouch. Poor guy.

    The biggest name in the weekend's roster influx is Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota's top pitching prospect who joins much more as an impact infusion than simply a depth plug. He debuted on Sunday, tossing a scoreless ninth with a strikeout while giving up two weakly hit singles. As advertised, Graterol flashed 100 on the radar gun, and he impressed with his location on a few perfectly placed burners on the edges of the zone.



    Next in line for his MLB debut is Ian Miller, the speedy outfielder acquired from Seattle last month. The 27-year-old will serve a very specific purpose: wheels on demand. He had 35 steals on 42 attempts in Triple-A this year and is 243-for-294 in seven minor-league seasons. Definitely a good piece to have, although the Twins are even happier to have their centerpiece blazer back.

    Byron Buxton was activated on Sunday, after having his rehab paused early last week when he felt pain in his shoulder while swinging. He appeared as a defensive replacement late in his first game back. It sounds like he's still not going to be available to hit for the time being, but he can run and play defense so that's positive news. LaMonte Wade Jr., himself activated from a lengthy IL stint, also joins to bolster outfield depth and entered Sunday's game.

    But... I've buried the lede here! Willians Astudillo has finally returned after hitting .325/.372/.500 in nine games at Triple-A. He started at first base on Sunday in his first game back, finishing 1-for-2 with a pair of HBPs.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    How. About. This. Offense.

    By launching 15 more bombas last week, the Twins blasted past the major-league record for home runs in a season, set by the 2018 Yankees at 267. Multiple other teams will eclipse that mark this year, but the Twins got there first. It's an amazing feat on its own, and especially when you consider they accomplished it before the calendar flipped to September.

    That wasn't the only notable slugging record to fall. On Saturday in Detroit, the Twins became the first team in MLB history to have eight different players reach 20 home runs, when Jorge Polanco crossed the milestone on a two-run jack. Back in January I wrote about how, as recently as 2013, the Twins didn't have a SINGLE PLAYER hit 20 home runs. It was clear at the time that this lineup would be fundamentally different from those of the Terry Ryan era. But no one could foreseen a turnaround this drastic.



    Contributing to last week's bash-fest, which saw the lineup churn out 49 runs in six games and carry the team to a 5-1 record despite mostly subpar work from the rotation, were a combination of usual suspects and surprise faces. Let's run through some of the top producers in another monster week for the Bomba Squad:
    • Nelson Cruz: He just continues to rake, and was 12-for-25 last week with a homer and eight RBIs. Despite the ruptured tendon in his wrist, the 39-year-old is starting everyday and producing relentlessly. He's even showing excellent vision at the plate, with three walks against four strikeouts last week.
    • Jonathan Schoop: His late-season emergence is very intriguing. For much of the summer his undeniably strong production has been inflated by garbage-time feasting. But no one could say such a thing about last week, arguably his best of the year. Schoop went 7-for-17, with his three home runs including a key early bomb against Lucas Giolito and a tone-setting three-run shot the following day. Schoop still probably doesn't find his way into an optimal, healthy Twins lineup right now, but he's a great piece to have on hand.
    • C.J. Cron: It sure seems like his thumb is feeling better. The first baseman struggled through a couple months while acknowledging his inflammation, going on the shelf two separate times. But of late he's been finding his stroke. Last week he put on a power-hitting clinic with two homers and three doubles among his seven hits. In five starts, he drove in seven runs.
    • Polanco: Another (relative) recent laggard whose bat is once again heating up. The shortstop delivered a nonstop assault at the plate, going 12-for-24 to nudge his batting average back over .300.
    • Max Kepler: He missed time while nursing a bruised knee but was outstanding while on the field, going 4-for-12 with a homer and two doubles.
    • Mitch Garver: He hit the record-breaking home run on Saturday night, one of two on the day and three on the week for the best power-hitting catcher in franchise history. It still feels very weird and wonderful to write those words.
    • Jake Cave: He saw his batting average – which flirted with .500 in the first three weeks of August – come down to earth a bit as he finished 5-for-23 on the week. But Cave mixed in two homers and a double, as well as a big early two-run single on Sunday.
    In a game that epitomized the all-around contribution that serves as trademark for this historically potent offense, the Twins put up 10 runs on 16 hits in Chicago on Thursday to clinch a sweep despite the absences of banged-up Sano, Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez, and Buxton. Garver was also on the bench. I thought Cave's quote after the game said it all:



    While the offense kept surging, the bullpen continued to assert itself as a strength for the Twins. On the week, relievers combined for 22 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs (1.61 ERA) with a 26-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio. Just outstanding work.

    Particular standouts included Trevor May, who struck out eight over three scoreless innings, and Tyler Duffey, who turned in two shutout frames with four strikeouts. These two have quietly turned into overpowering late-inning threats. In August, May allowed just one run in 12 appearances while registering an 18% swinging strike rate. Duffey didn't allow a single run in his 13 appearances while holding opponents to a .167 average.

    On top of the strong performances, the Twins were able to once again reserve Taylor Rogers, who pitched just once all week, just as he did the week prior. Getting their bullpen ace ample rest at this point of the season is a victory in itself.

    LOWLIGHTS

    As fantastically as the Twins have been playing, it becomes slightly harder to enjoy when Jose Berrios – perhaps the team's single most important player as far as postseason advancement is concerned – continues to bottom out. His latest turn counted as an improvement, as he allowed three runs over six innings to qualify for the lowest threshold of a "quality start," but the right-hander was still a far cry from ace form.

    His velocity continues to sputter. His once-sharp command keeps faltering (he was charged with FOUR wild pitches in the start – one more than he had all season coming in). And once again the gas just seemed to run out midway through; Berrios got through four scoreless frames before giving up three runs in the fifth and sixth. All this against a very weak White Sox offense.

    Alas, Berrios now must attempt to put a very ugly month behind him – he posted a 7.57 ERA in five August starts as opponents hit .333/.395/.556 – and turn the page in September. Phenomenal as their offense is, the Twins have little hope of winning a playoff series if they don't have a multiple starters who can keep another elite lineup in check. Right now, Berrios doesn't look capable. He's had his hands full with some of the league's worst offenses.

    That's also true for Gibson, who at one point looked like a credible option to start playoff game No. 2 behind Berrios. For a second straight time on Friday, Gibson faced the AL's worst offense, and for a second straight time the Tigers had his number. This time around, Gibson allowed four runs on 10 hits while laboring through five innings on 107 pitches. Making the long, plodding outing all the more frustrating is that he was pitching with a big lead, having been handed a four-run lead before he even took the mound.

    Much like Berrios, Gibson is experiencing a troubling decline in velocity at a troubling time. His steady emergence as a quality No. 2/3 type, which began around the middle of 2017, was fueled by all-around velo gains throughout his arsenal – perhaps the result of mechanical overhauls he implemented ahead of the '17 campaign.

    As the progressive velocity chart below via Brooks Baseball indicates, Gibson saw a steady ascension throughout his pitch repertoire, starting in late 2017 and carrying over all the way to the middle of 2019. But of late? Yikes.

    [attachment=13038:gibsonvelo1.png]

    That downward dive at the right end is alarming. It is likely that the ulcerative colitis issue, which landed him on the IL Sunday, helps explain Gibson's softened edge. This is a miserable digestive tract affliction that can take a toll on one's overall health, energy, and weight. From knowing people who've dealt with it, I can say it's not always the easiest to treat. But Gibson says he hopes to return after missing just one start.

    The Twins are a great team. They've shown they can slug with any team in the game, and their bullpen is giving us reason to believe – especially with the arrival of Graterol. But it's just really damn hard to win against fellow great teams without high-end starting pitching, and two of Minnesota's best hopes on this front are completely out of whack with the postseason a month away.

    Gibson has arguably the best stuff in the rotation. (His 13.3% swinging strike rate leads all Twins starters and ranks qualified among AL starters.) Berrios is undoubtedly the best overall pitcher in the rotation. Until they find a way to get going again, it's hard to have much confidence in the team making any kind of legitimate run.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    While their primary focus for the next month will obviously be fending off Cleveland and locking up the Central, the Twins will simultaneously be trying to establish a pitching hierarchy for the postseason. That means lining up starters for a potential ALDS, of course, but also identifying the most trustworthy arms for the middle and late innings. Given the current state of their rotation, it's very possible the team will pivot to lean heavily on relievers come October.

    Can Graterol make enough of an impression to warrant a roster spot for the playoffs? I think it's far from a given. Keep in mind he just turned 21 and has thrown only a handful if innings above Double-A. Can May and Duffey continue to distinguish themselves, especially against stronger competition in the next few weeks? Will Rogers look rested or rusty in the action to come after getting a lot of downtime the past couple weeks?

    These are the threads I'm following closely as we roll into the final month.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    On Thursday, Trevor Larnach was named Florida State League Player of the Year, in recognition of his .316/.382/.459 slash line over 84 games in a pitcher-friendly environment where the average hitter sat at .242/.313/.353. Although the FSL shut down early last week, with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Sunshine State, Larnach was still playing, having been promoted to Pensacola midway through July. He celebrated the honor by launching a homer in a 3-for-5 night, and has an .830 OPS through 42 games at Double-A, with Pensacola's regular season reaching its end on Monday.

    As the minor-league seasons wind down, attention begins to turn fully toward the big-league roster, which is a lot more populous now than it was two days ago.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Twins fans have been dealing with a strange medley of feelings lately. On the one hand, the Twins are setting records, racing toward their first division title in nine years, and winning a whole lotta games. They're 12-4 in their last five series. They're holding strong.

    On the other hand, they've won only one series against a good team in the past two months. Their rotation looks like a mess even against bottom-dwelling clubs that have all but given up. And now, the difficulty level is about to turn up by several notches. It feels like a reckoning is coming unless Minnesota can rise to the challenge.

    Fenway Park is an extremely difficult place to win when your pitchers are misfiring. If Berrios and Martin Perez can't turn things around quickly the Red Sox series may get ugly. Afterward, the Twins return home for a massively critical three-gamer against Cleveland, perhaps with a chance to bury the dagger.

    It's crunch time.

    MONDAY, 9/2: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
    TUESDAY, 9/3: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Rick Porcello
    WEDNESDAY, 9/4: TWINS @ RED SOX – TBA v. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
    THURSDAY: 9/5: TWINS @ RED SOX – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Nathan Eovaldi
    FRIDAY, 9/6: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Adam Plutko v. RHP Michael Pineda
    SATURDAY, 9/7: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Aaron Civale v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    SUNDAY, 9/8: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Mike Clevinger v. RHP Jose Berrios

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Sep 02 2019 05:32 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  17. Twins Game Recap (9/1): Twins Strike Early, Beat Detroit in Brusdar Graterol's MLB Debut

    Box Score
    Pineda: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 74% strikes (62 of 84 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (3-for-5), Arraez (2-for-5), Cave (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-5),

    Top 3 WPA: Pineda (0.15), Cave (0.11), Arraez (0.08)

    Twins offense uses the Gardenhire Twins approach with slap-hitting small ball.

    The Twins offense jumped out early today, scoring five runs in the second inning. The inning went ground out, walk, double, single, hit-by-pitch, single, line out, single, single, strikeout. Everyone had fun except Rosario because he produced two of the outs. Every hit that inning went to the opposite field, so you can be sure Tim Laudner approves of the Twins getting back to playing good baseball again.

    The Twins would not score again until the fifth inning and that run was produced by La Tortuga himself. I think everyone was happy to see Willians Astudillo back with the Twins for the playoff run.



    The final two runs came in the eight inning on RBI singles from Cruz and Rosario. Cruz has been on an absolute tear, hitting well above .500 with men on base over the last two weeks.

    Michael Pineda continues to be the king of consistency

    Over the last two months, Michael Pineda has been the only Twins starter with an ERA under four. He was also the only Twins starter with an ERA under three. 2.87 since June 29 to be exact. Today he continued that dominance with a quality start of six innings with only two earned runs. He also tied his season high total of nine strikeouts today.

    As the season winds down and he is the only reliable starter of late, where does he rank for a Twins playoff rotation? He has definitely looked like a clear number one lately.


    Brusdar Graterol finishes off the game for the Twins

    The Twins top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol came in for the ninth inning for today's game. Like most rookie pitchers, he struggled a bit but Wes Johnson made the greatest mound visit of all time to induce a game-ending ground ball double play. The Twins won with their best pitching prospect closing it out.

    He hit 100 MPH a few times but hung around 99 for the most part. He has now thrown the third hardest pitch in Twins history, trailing only Juan Morillo and Trevor May.

    Hey Parker, use one word to describe Brusdar Graterol today.

    Thanks.



    Twins move back up to 5.5 games over the Indians

    The Twins are finally back over five games in the division lead. Cleveland was swept by the Rays and here we are. With reinforcements here for the Twins, watch out because this is one of the best teams in baseball. If Graterol also continues to do what he did today then October is going to be even more exciting.

    Postgame with Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 01 2019 03:22 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  18. Surging Twins Bullpen Boasts Enviable Depth, Additional Reinforcements on the Way

    Since the All-Star break, the Twins have baseball’s best SIERRA (a better or more comprehensive branch of FIP), and K-BB% a very good indicator of sustainably- sterling pitching, even while posting baseball’s highest zone per pitch%.

    We expected Wes Johnson to initiate some velocity increases, but he’s also helped a few relievers unleash some more bite on their breaking pitches.

    [attachment=13030:RogersDuffeyMay.png]

    Velocity has risen, the sharpness of break along with the tunneling of those pitches in relation to fastball location has improved, and in turn that’s led to more strikeouts and weaker contact.

    Tyler Duffey is an interesting experiment, and they’ve built a rapport with using the fastball as a catalyst to set up the wipeout slider, a new pitch he believes is just a harder thrown version of his former knucklecurve. With improved control, Trevor May has been an appealing seventh-inning guy to watch. Taylor Rogers, once was a generic LOOGY, is now perhaps the most impactful left-handed reliever in baseball excluding Felipe Vazquez. A 1.9 WAR is absolutely insane!

    Do you remember the old Rogers, Duffey, and May? They all relied on softer secondary stuff to get away with the weaker fastballs they had previously. Now armed and loaded with fastball velocity, they still haven’t ventured too far (apart from May) from their old plan of attack.

    What’s important to note is the current assembly of Twins pitchers is perfectly able at proving capable in the postseason.

    In Extra Innings, a book by Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh advocated for relievers to be picked at the margins or be groomed through the system once failing as starting pitchers.

    It’s an interesting proposal. Don’t ever buy a reliever because he'll often turn out to be a poor investment. Instead, build your bullpen with roster casualties and scuffling relievers that good teams feel they can’t wait to get better.

    [attachment=13031:FA contract WAR.png]

    The Twins haven’t been the most hardcore adherents to this system of thinking. They jettisoned Nick Anderson, Nick Burdi, JT Chargois and others for guys that may or may not have been past their primes on the free-agent market. That Addison Reed, Matt Belisle, Dillon Gee and Craig Breslow were all acquired under the Falvine regime, might be the result of fan pressure than actual thorough analysis on the makings of on-the-margin acquisitions.

    Guys like Tanner Rainey, Nick Anderson, Brendan Brennan, Austin Adams and Ty Buttrey were all traded in low-profile deals and turned out to be dynamic relievers.

    The Twins found innovative ways to hire intuitive and introspective thinkers to take on these projects in Duffey, May, Rogers and others.

    This bullpen is stacked with assorted gadgets and analytical fireman. So here’s my postseason bullpen predictions….

    Multi Inning Firemen; Brusdar Graterol (RHP) / Taylor Rogers (LHP)
    Set Up; Sam Dyson (RHP) / Trevor May (RHP)

    Situational; Tyler Duffey (RHP) / Trevor Hildenberger (RHP) / Sergio Romo (RHP)

    Swiss Army Knife; 1 OF EITHER Martin Perez (LHP) / Zack Littell (RHP)

    Not included on the postseason roster: Randy Dobnak (RHP), Sean Poppen (RHP), Cody Stashak (RHP), Lewis Thorpe (LHP), Ryan Harper (RHP), Devin Smetlzer (LHP).

    • Sep 01 2019 04:20 PM
    • by Sabir Aden
  19. Brusdar Graterol Among 8 Callups, Kyle Gibson to the IL

    The most exciting move among these announced roster additions is certainly Brusdar Graterol. He just turned 21-years-old earlier this week, and the Twins gave him quite the belated birthday present.

    Graterol missed more than two months earlier this season, but returned to action just before the end of July and started working out of the bullpen. In nine outings, Graterol pitched to a 2.03 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and held opposing hitters to a .143/.234/.238 batting line (.472 OPS). He struck out 15 batters in 13 1/3 innings and topped out at 103.8 mph.

    Ian Miller is the only other callup who has yet to make his major league debut. Acquired from the Mariners in early August, Miller's speed is his calling card. He's stolen 243 bases in his minor league career and been caught stealing just 51 times. That's a success rate of 82.7%. An outfielder, Miller hit .264/.346/.431 (.777 OPS) in 514 Triple-A plate appearances this season.

    Kyle Gibson hitting the Injured List is an unexpected development. Gibson has been suffering from ulcerative colitis. Here's a link to more information on that disease via the Mayo Clinic. It sounds like a potentially serious ailment, but at the very least something really terrible to endure. Here's wishing Kyle a quick recovery.

    In order to clear space on the 40-man roster, Sean Poppen was transferred to the 60-day IL due to a right elbow contusion.

    The additions of Willians Astudillo, Zack Littell, Devin Smeltzer, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe and LaMonte Wade were all expected. The biggest takeaway is that Astudillo and Wade, who were both on rehab assignments, were deemed healthy enough to be activated from the IL.

    Perhaps more notable is the players on the 40-man roster who were not added to the active roster. That includes Ryne Harper, Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero. That trio was expected to be a big part of the Twins bullpen at the onset of the season. It's always possible they'll join the team at a later date.

    Also among the players not activated were Marcos Diplan and Stephen Gonsalves, who has looked good on the road to recovery. Jorge Alcala, a triple-digit-throwing pitching prospect who was promoted last week from AA to AAA with Graterol, also did not get a promotion, though he would've required being added to the 40-man roster. The last player on the 40-man roster to mention is Nick Gordon, but unlike Gonsalves, he has yet to return to action since suffering a left lower leg contusion.

    Who are you most excited about? Comment below, but you need to signup first; we're not animals here.

    • Sep 01 2019 02:50 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  20. Twins Minor League Report (8/31): A Semi-Full Sweep

    TRANSACTIONS

    RHP D.J. Baxendale activated from the 7 day IL at AAA Rochester

    RHP Edwar Colina transferred to AA Pensacola

    RHP Adam Bray placed on the 7 day IL at AA Pensacola

    1B Chris Williams assigned to A Cedar Rapids from A+ Fort Myers

    C Kyle Schmidt placed on the 7 day IL at A Cedar Rapids

    OF Ian Miller will reportedly be called up by the Twins



    RHP Brusdar Graterol will reportedly be called up by the Twins sometime in September



    RED WINGS REPORT
    Rochester 5, Syracuse 3
    Box Score

    D.J. Baxendale: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K
    HR: None
    Multi-hit games: Ramón Flores (2-for-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI), Tomás Telis (4-for-5, 2B, R), Wilin Rosario (2-for-5, R), Alejandro De Aza (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), Ronald Torreyes (2-for-3, R), Mike Miller (2-for-4, 2B, R, RBI)

    The Red Wings ran a bullpen game against the Syracuse Mets who also ran a bullpen game. I’m sure every reliever got their steps in with all the pitching changes made in the game.

    Baxendale started the game and was able to go three innings for his first outing off the IL. Jake Reed picked up after him and was able to net seven outs with just one earned run. After Reed, potential call-ups Jorge Alcala and Fernando Romero combined for 11 outs and no earned runs to put the finishing touches on a well- pitched game.

    While the offense only scored five runs, there were many opportunities to expand that for the Red Wings as they had 16 hits total in the game. Telis was the big winner at the plate with his four hits but there were five other hitters with multi-hit games and every hitter except one had a hit.

    In total, the only thing that could stop the Red Wings from scoring was themselves as they had a runner on base in every inning except for the ninth. Naturally, there was no ninth because they were the home team and had the lead following the top of the ninth so the bottom of the ninth did not exist, a shame.

    BLUE WAHOO BITES

    No game

    MIRACLE MATTERS

    Season cancelled

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 3, Beloit 1
    Box Score

    Josh Winder: 4 ⅔ IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
    HR: None
    Multi-hit games: Matt Wallner (2-for-4, 3B, 2 R)

    In the only other game that was played in the Twins’ system, their affiliate won again. How’s that for a clean sweep?

    Josh Winder started the game and continued his excellent season with just one lone earned run given up. His ERA on the year now stands at an excellent 2.65 and he should get a fair amount of consideration for the Twins Daily minor league pitcher of the year.

    The offense was not loud for the Kernels but it got the job done. A DaShawn Kiersey ground out in the fourth plated their first run of the game and a passed ball in the sixth scored Matt Wallner following his triple earlier in the inning. The lone run scoring base hit came from a seventh inning Spencer Steer single which gave the Kernels an insurance run that was not needed.

    Not to be out-shined by Winder’s start, Dylan Thomas and Jose Martinez worked in relief and nailed down the game with 4 1/3 scoreless innings combined. As a whole, Winder, Thomas, and Martinez combined for just one earned run and 13 strikeouts on the night.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Josh Winder
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Tomás Telis

    PROSPECT SUMMARY
    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) - No game
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - No Game
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Rochester) - Did not pitch
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) - No game
    #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, K
    #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) - Cancelled season
    #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) - Cancelled season
    #8 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) - Injured list
    #9 - Jhoan Duran (Pensacola) - No game
    #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) - Cancelled season
    #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Rochester) - Did not pitch
    #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Injured list
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) - No game
    #14 - Luis Arraez (Twins) - 0-for-1, K
    #15 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 2-for-4, 3B, 2 R, 2 K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) - No game
    #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Out for year with Tommy John surgery
    #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) - 1 ⅔ IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
    #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) - Season over
    #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) - No game

    SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Syracuse @ Rochester (5:05 P.M.) - TBD
    Pensacola @ Montgomery (5:05 P.M.) - LHP Charlie Barnes
    Cedar Rapids @ Beloit (2:00 P.M.) - LHP Kody Funderburk

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Saturday’s games.

    • Sep 01 2019 05:48 AM
    • by Matt Braun
  21. 20 Names for Twins September Callups

    Over the course of the season Minnesota has used the fringes of its roster as a revolving door to a certain extent. The rotation has utilized a taxi squad for both length and bullpen help, while the final bench spot has rotated with players offering positional flexibility as starting talents have needed time off. There are both avenues for reward and merit-based promotions here and I imagine it would behoove the Twins to capitalize on all of them. Let’s look at some of the groupings.

    Taxi Squad (5): Devin Smeltzer, Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, Sean Poppen

    Cody Stashak and Randy Dobnak both find themselves a part of this group as well but are currently on the 25-man roster. This collection of arms has been utilized to be used at a moment's notice for the Twins this season. Whether making spot starts, pitching mop up, or keeping games close in the middle innings, these guys have provided immeasurable value to Minnesota during the 2019 season.

    The trio of Thorpe, Smeltzer, and Littell have all operated in some very high leverage spots thus far and could be counted on down the stretch. Stewart and Poppen have been more product of circumstance, but there’s no reason for the front office not to reward these guys. A month of big league pay as well as some additional development could go a long way toward growth and future development.

    Retreads (5): Ryne Harper, Trevor Hildenberger, Fernando Romero, Willians Astudillo, LaMonte Wade

    Don’t get this twisted, retread is hardly a negative definition here. This trio is a group of guys who have been on the big-league roster, have been optioned out, and their future status remains in flux. Harper obviously offered the most to the major league team this season. His Bugs Bunny curveballs were a thing of beauty until they weren’t. Having a book on him now, he needs to find a way to keep opposing batters off balance. Sent to Triple-A after struggling for months and owning options, it made sense, but he should get the opportunity to wrap up 2019 with in the big leagues.

    Pairing Hildenberger and Romero is an interesting case study. One is a former stud that wore down, and the other was expected to take a leap that never came. Now healthy, Hildenberger has been lights out since his activation from the IL, and a return to form would give the Twins an arm that has pitched in some very big spots the past couple of seasons. Romero hasn’t been as expected, and we’re still as confused as ever considering what he could provide, but letting him get some low leverage work and try to finish the year on a high note makes some sense.

    As the first position player here Willians Astudillo will return, to the delight of Twins fans. He’s a character and energizer bunny, but Minnesota will need more in terms of production. It’s great that he doesn’t strike out, but a heightened ability in the box needs to come in the form of commanding the zone, not just covering it. If he can take more of a Luis Arraez approach and rein in his swing to pitches he can do something with, the Twins will have two of the better contact hitters in the game. Wade isn’t much of a retread given he played in just two games before hitting the shelf. A 60-day IL move would open a spot, or he could be activated despite the short runway back to game action.

    Fresh Faces (2): Brusdar Graterol, Jorge Alcala

    Easily the two biggest names tied to potential promotion are two of the Twins' top prospects. Graterol is a top-100 pitcher that’s expected to be a difference maker in the rotation. There’s some uncertainty about how good he’d be there, and he’ll have a chance to flash his relief arm in 2019. A triple-digit fastball is going to play, and if he can miss bats while keeping hitters off balance, you can assume he’ll make a difference in the postseason.

    The prized part of the return in the Ryan Pressly trade, Alcala too is a fireballer who can pump the cheddar. He’s as much an uncertainty for the rotation as Graterol (if not more) but has looked great since switching to the pen at the end of July. Both guys need 40-man spots, and with just one opening, some roster shuffling will need to take place.

    Needing a Spot (5): Jake Reed, Zander Wiel, Wilin Rosario, Alejandro De Aza, Ian Miller

    Only Reed here is a former top prospect. Drafted out of Oregon with the intention of getting to the big leagues in short order, though the fiery fastball and clean bill of health have escaped him at times. He warranted a look last season but was passed over. This year the numbers are much worse, but he’s incorporated a new arm slot and has dealt with the Triple-A baseball as well. Subject again to being lost this offseason, it may be a final opportunity to see what’s there.

    Wiel has been the pride of a Rochester team that employed bigger names. The former Vanderbilt star has 29 doubles in 121 games while owning an .838 OPS. Twenty-two homers show off his power, and while there’re plenty of strikeouts he’s pushed for an opportunity.

    The trio left over is an interesting bunch. Rosario is essentially a DH and hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2015. The 30-year-old owns an .858 OPS at Triple-A though, and his 19 dingers are bolstered by a .306 avg. De Aza was a late season depth acquisition and he’s done his part with a .994 OPS in 29 games. Miller represents Minnesota’s version of Terrence Gore. He hasn’t played in an MLB game, but the 27-year-old has stolen 34 bases in 119 Triple-A games this year. All these guys would need a 40-man spot.

    On the Mend (3): Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker

    Had the season gone, or ended, differently for any of this trio they could’ve found themselves in a different category. Gonsalves just recently got back on the mound and has only 12 IP in 2019. He’s at Double-A right now but has worked for Minnesota previously and did come out of the pen. Nick Gordon had a strong year two at Triple-A, following a path he’s repeated most of his pro career. He’s been on the shelf since early August after taking a pitch to the knee, so his season could be over. Rooker recently returned to action and was rehabbing at the GCL. With that season done though he’ll need game action elsewhere. A 1.036 OPS in 41 G from June 1 through his injury, along with a .933 OPS in 65 total games with Rochester, it appeared he was ready for more.

    Two of three in this section have current 40-man spots, and their inclusion or exclusion from the active roster could swing plenty of decisions. Gordon and Gonsalves could be placed on the 60-day IL (with service time implications) to free up openings. Rooker would need an avenue to inclusion on the 40-man for the first time in his career.

    If we’ve done the math correctly, there’s a total of 20 names that are potentially in play for the Minnesota Twins to use on the 40-man active roster in a couple of days. No matter how aggressive the club wants to be, the maximum number of additions would be 15. Of those 20, eight need a spot on the 40-man roster that currently sits at 39 occupants. If this exercise shows us anything, it’s that there’s a good amount of opportunity, but still a large number of mouths to feed.

    Being a better man, I’d put the O/U on Twins call ups at 5.5 and take the over without thinking twice. Rochester’s season ends Monday September 2, so we probably won’t have complete clarity until that point. I’d bet the Twins mix in a good number of bodies to provide rest, as well as talent to provide help, when they make their decisions in the coming days.

    • Aug 29 2019 03:47 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  22. Could Brusdar Graterol Be The Twins' David Price?

    I think by now, we all know how great of a prospect Graterol is, so I won’t spend too much time talking about his 1.53 ERA across three minor league levels in 2019, to go along with the 2.74 ERA he posted in 2018, and the 2.70 ERA he posted in 2017. Not to mention his electric fastball that has been clocked as high as 103.8 MPH just last weekend. On Monday he will turn the ripe old age of 21. It is safe to say that Graterol has a promising future.

    Why can’t the present look equally as bright? Several pitchers have made an accelerated jump between AA and AAA to pitch for contending teams in need of their services, and have done so without that move jeopardizing their careers. One such player is David Price, whose promotion to the bigs in 2008 so far parallels Graterol's year.

    From their first year in 1998 through 2007, the Tampa Bay Rays were the laughingstock of major league baseball, compiling a meager .399 win percentage across that span. In fact, only once did they reach the 70-win mark. However, before the season, they changed their name from the Devil Rays to the Rays, and instantly went from bottom-feeders to AL East champions, winning 97 games.

    In September, the Rays made a big move to bolster their pitching staff by calling up their top pitching prospect David Price, despite him having thrown just 75 combined innings between AA and AAA. He was just the spark the Rays needed to take them all the way to the World Series. Price made five appearances (one start) before the end of the regular season. Over those five appearances, Price had a 1.93 ERA, with 12 strikeouts and four walks in 14 innings.

    During that Rays postseason run, Price made five more appearances, all in relief. In those five games, Price gave up just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. He did this while pitching in high leverage situations, helping him collect a win probability added of 0.459 in that relatively small amount of work. In 2009, Price was moved back into the starting rotation, and has put together a strong career.

    It is possible that the Twins are planning on using Brusdar Graterol in a similar manner this season. Ever since he has returned from the shoulder condition that kept him sidelined for two months, Graterol has made seven strong outings, all of which having been two innings or less. In those seven outings, Graterol has pitched 11 1/3 innings without giving up a single run while striking out 12 batters and holding opposing hitters to a staggeringly low .382 OPS. With his recent call up to AAA, it appears the Twins are ramping him up to help out in their bullpen down the stretch.

    If Graterol is to help the Twins this postseason, he must first be placed on the Twins 40-man roster before the end of August. With the Twins currently having just 39 guys on their 40-man roster, there is already an open spot. For those of us hoping that the Twins can get a spark to jolt their pitching staff down the stretch, Brusdar Graterol might just be that guy.

    • Aug 26 2019 02:06 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  23. Twins Minor League Report (8/24): Gray, Webb Provide Huge, Late-Inning Hits

    Find out everything that happened happened in the Twins system on Saturday, starting with some awards and the transactions of the day.

    But before we do that, in case you missed it, Twins prospect and 2019 draft pick Edouard Julien injured his elbow in the Pan Am Games and will have Tommy John surgery in the next couple of weeks.

    AWARDS

    On Friday, the Midwest League and Appalachian League announced their postseason All-Star teams.

    • Kernels 1B Gabe Snyder was named to the Midwest League team.
    • E-Twins OF Max Smith was named to the Appy League team.
    TRANSACTIONS
    • Mariana Guzman posted early on Saturday morning the news that RHP Edwar Colina had been promoted to Triple-A Rochester.
    • The Twins optioned RHP Ryne Harper and promoted RHP Cody Stashak to the big leagues.
    • RHP Danny Moreno came off of the GCL's 60-day injured list.
    RED WINGS REPORT
    Rochester 6, Syracuse 2
    Box Score

    It was a good offensive night for the Red Wings as they got contributions from a lot of players. Willians Astudillo is now hitting .474 with the Red Wings after a 2-for-5 performance which included his first double. Wilin Rosario went 3-for-5 with his 23rd double. He’s now hitting .310. Ian Miller went 2-for-5 with his third double and he stole his fifth bag. Ronald Torreyes went 2-for-5. Also, Zander Wiel hit his 36th double, a noteworthy milestone.

    httptwitter.com/JoshWhetzel/status/1165428945241722885

    It was a bullpen game for the Red Wings. Preston Guilmet started and tossed three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out three batters. Trevor Hildenberger came in. He faced six batters and got all six out. Jake Reed pitched 1 2/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks. He struck out two batters. Brusdar Graterol got the final out of the seventh inning but not before allowing the inherited runner to score. He worked a scoreless eighth frame. He struck out one batter in the four outs he recorded. Ryan O’Rourke pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

    BLUE WAHOOS BITES
    Pensacola 4, Jackson 8
    Box Score

    Bryan Sammons was back on the mound for the Blue Wahoos. The lefty started the game with four scoreless innings. However, he ended up giving up three runs on five hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out four. Marcos Diplan gave up three runs on two hits over 1 2/3 innings. Alex Phillips gave up two runs on three hits (two HRs) with two walks and three strikeouts. Anthony Vizcaya gave up a hit in his scoreless inning.

    Ryan Costello provided much of the Blue Wahoos offense. The slugger knocked his seventh Pensacola home run, a two-run shot. Ryan Jeffers went 1-for-2 with two walks. Alex Kirilloff hit his 17th double. LaMonte Wade went 1-for-4 with a walk in another rehab game.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Ft. Myers 4, Palm Beach 1
    Box Score

    Chris Vallimont made his fourth Miracle start since joining the organization on July 31st. On this night, he gave up one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out nine. He improved to 4-5 overall in the Florida State League, but with the Miracle, he is 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA. In 22 1/3 innings, he has walked four and struck out 28 batters.

    Moises Gomez continues his terrific season with 2 1/3 perfect innings. He struck out three. Then Yennier Cano came on and worked a perfect ninth inning for his second save.

    Gilberto Celestino had another multi-hit game. He went 2-for-5 with his third and fourth doubles. Andrew Bechtold went 2-for-5 with his eighth double. Yeltsin Encarnacion went 2-for-3 with a walk. Jose Miranda and Brian Schales each had two hits as well.

    The Miracle won their fifth straight game.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 3, Peoria 2
    Box Score

    Tyler Webb has done it a couple of times already, once in E-Town and soon after with the Kernels. The Kernels were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. They tied the score on a fielding error. Webb came to the plate and lashed a single to score Matt Wallner and give the Kernels the walk-off win. And a celebration ensued.



    Andrew Cabezas started for Cedar Rapids. He tossed six shutout innings, overcoming six hits and four walks. He struck out just one. Jose Martinez gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk over two innings. Ricky Ramirez struck out two in a perfect top of the ninth inning to earn the Win.

    Jared Akins went 2-for-4 with an RBI. DaShawn Keirsey added a triple.

    Byron Buxton is expected to DH for the Kernels on Sunday afternoon and then play center field on Monday night. From there, it is to be determined. He may be ready to play in Chicago on Tuesday.



    E-TWINS E-NOTES
    E-Twins 4, Danville 2
    Box Score

    Seth Gray has played hero for the E-Twins several times this season. On Friday night, his walk-off homer was his second of the year. On Saturday night, he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. The Twins added one more and got the nice road win.

    Willie Joe Garry gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning with his fifth home run. Charlie Mack went 2-for-3 with his eighth double. Anthony Prato went 2-for-4.

    Ben Gross, the Twins 10th-round pick, put together the best start of his young career. He struck out seven batters over five shutout innings. He gave up just two hits and didn’t issue a walk. Denny Bentley came on and did well too. He struck out three over two scoreless innings. Brent Headrick came on for his second pro appearance. He gave up two unearned runs on two hits and a walk and recorded just two outs, one on a strikeout. Tyler Beck came on and got the final four outs to give the team the win.

    GCL TWINS TAKES
    GCL Twins 3, GCL Red Sox 10
    Box Score

    Stephen Gonsalves made another rehab start in the GCL. On this day, he was able to complete three innings. He gave up just two hits and no runs. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.

    Venezuelan Danny Moreno came on and made his first appearance of the year. He tossed a scoreless inning .He gave up just one hit, and he struck one batter out. It as a rough one for Miguel Rodriguez. In 2 2/3 innings, he gave up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and two walks. He struck out five. Matthew Swain came in and gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in his inning. He struck out two. Steven Theetge struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

    Luke Raley continued his rehab and went 1-for-4. Victor Heredia hit his first home run. Jim Caceres, Erick Rivera and Jesus Feliz each hit a double.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day - Ben Gross, Elizabethton Twins
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Seth Gray, Elizabethton Twins

    PROSPECT SUMMARY
    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) - 1-5, RBI
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - 1-5, 2B(17), K
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Rochester) - 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K (22 pitches, 15 strikes)
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) - 0-2, 2 BB, K
    #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) - Did Not Pitch
    #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) - Did Not Play
    #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) - Did Not Pitch
    #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Minnesota) - Did Not Pitch
    #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Injured List (lower leg contusion)
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) - 1-2, 2 BB, RBI
    #14 - Luis Arraez (Minnesota) - 1-4
    #15 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) - Injured List
    #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Injured (Tommy John)
    #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) - Did Not Pitch
    #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) - 1-3, BB, RBI, K, SB(19)
    #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) - 0-4, 3 K

    SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester @ Syracuse (12:05 CST) - LHP Devin Smeltzer (1-3, 3.28 ERA)
    Jackson @ Pensacola (5:05 CST) - RHP Griffin Jax (4-3, 2.69 ERA)
    Ft. Myers @ Palm Beach (12:00 CST) - LHP Lachlan Wells (2-4, 4.15 ERA)
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 CST) - RHP Josh Winder (7-2, 2.82 ERA)
    Danville @ Elizabethton (4:05 CST) - TBD
    GCL Red Sox @ GCL Twins (11:00 CST) - TBD

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Saturday games or any other minor league topics you would like.

    • Aug 25 2019 05:20 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  24. 6 Potential Non-Roster September Call-ups Who Could Impact Games

    There are other players currently on the 40-man that may receive the call as well. Will Willians Astudillo conveniently be brought back from his rehab on September 1st? Will Nick Gordon be recovered in time to finally experience his first major league clubhouse as a player?

    Today, we'll look at six players who are not currently on the 40-man roster who could help the Twins wrap up the AL Central pennant. While not all of these players - and perhaps most - will not join the team, they all offer something that could make an impact on the current team.

    RHP Brusdar Graterol - With Graterol, it's not a matter of if he joins the Twins, but when. After missing a few months earlier this year with a shoulder ailment, he has returned to Pensacola and pitched in three games, all relief appearances. In those games he's thrown five scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out four. Of the 64 bullets he's fired, 43 (67.2%) have been strikes. Most impressively and famously, Graterol threw a fastball 103.8 mph in his last outing. He joined the Red Wings on Monday. He spent 10 days in Pensacola after recovering from his injury. How long will he be in Rochester?

    OF Alejandro De Aza (pictured) - Before being placed on Rochester's injured list on Sunday with a hand contusion, De Aza slashed .333/.410/.588 (.998) in his 28 games with the Red Wings. De Aza, 35, has not played in the MLB since 2017, but does have postseason experience which could help in September. In 2014, De Aza went 7-for-21 with three doubles and three RBI for the Orioles, who fell to the Royals in the ALCS. De Aza would be limited to below-average defense in an outfield corner (or DH), but would provide both experience and depth in the form of a left-handed bat who hits righties well.

    OF Ian Miller - Miller came to the organization in August from Seattle in a minor-league trade. The potential value of adding Miller to the big-club comes exclusively from his legs. Over his seven minor league seasons, Miller is 240-for-289 (83%) on stolen base attempts. The Twins this year - without Byron Buxton - are 11-for-28 (39%). I'm not suggesting the Twins bring up Miller to have him steal a bunch of bases. But the lack of successful stolen bases suggests that the team doesn't have a ton of speed. And there's going to be an occasion (again!) where a game will hang in the balance with a runner on first with one out or nobody out... and we'd all prefer that runner (or pinch-runner) is someone actually fast, not someone that is fast compared to the TwinsDaily writing staff. (Jeremy's note: When TwinsDaily writers competed at the mascot race a few seasons back, I won. And it wasn't even close. Believe me, these other guys aren't fast. They made me look like The Freeze.)

    LHP Ryan O'Rourke - Since ROR last pitched the for the Twins in 2016, he's had Tommy John surgery and bounced around baseball, eventually recently bouncing back into the organization. O'Rourke has always been death to left-handed hitters and could be a very useful commodity in September.

    RHP Jorge Alcala - Along with Graterol, Alcala joined Rochester on Monday. Acquired in the Ryan Pressly deal last July, Alcala has been a less-heralded prospect than many and his results haven't done a lot to make people take notice. In 26 AA games (16 starts), Alcala went 5-7 with a 5.87 ERA. He allowed a WHIP of 1.47 and opponents hit .284 off of him. But since moving exclusively to the bullpen in late July, Alcala has been a different dude. In 10 2/3 innings, Alcala has allowed seven hits and two walks (0.84 WHIP) and has struck out seven. Like Graterol, he's pounded the strike zone - 106 strikes in 165 pitches (64.2%). Pre-season scouting reports had Alcala up to 98 mph as a starter. In short stints, he'll be over 100 mph. Combine that with an above-average slider... and this bullpen might be OK after all.

    C Wilin Rosario - Like De Aza, it's been a bit since Rosario was a major-league baseball player. After hitting 28 home runs and finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting as a 23-year-old in 2013 with Colorado, Rosario had three years that increasingly got worse before playing the last three years in Korea and Japan. Back in America in 2019, Rosario has hit .307/.347/.527 (.874) in 385 plate appearances. He's a liability behind the plate, but could play there in a pinch. While it's not likely for Rosario to come up with the pending addition of Willians Astudillo, Rosario would be a phone call away if any of the three catchers go down to injury.

    • Aug 21 2019 01:03 PM
    • by Jeremy Nygaard
  25. Week in Review: Back on Top

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/12 through Sun, 8/18

    ***

    Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 76-48)

    Run Differential Last Week: +17 (Overall: +144)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (2.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL


    It's been nearly two months since our guy Willians Astudillo played in a game for the Twins. But finally, the Tortuga Drought is nearing its end.

    Astudillo opened up a minor-league rehab stint at Pensacola on Thursday, and naturally, he homered in his first at-bat. This was vintage Willians in every way; on a 1-0 count, he hammered the first pitch in the strike zone deep to left, and proceeded to jog around the bases with his poorly tucked jersey hanging out the back of his pants. In other words, it was a thing of beauty:



    Following his splashy debut, in which he also drew a walk (!), Astudillo went 4-for-8 with a homer, double and three RBIs on Friday and Saturday.

    Aside from the fun factor, there are more practical reasons to be excited about Astudillo's pending return. Namely, his presence as a third catcher will make it easier for Rocco Baldelli to use Mitch Garver at other positions, or to pinch-hit Garver for Jason Castro late in a game. However, while La Tortuga has wasted no time showing he's ready to go, Minnesota's roster situation may impede his arrival. It's very possible – likely, even – that the Twins will wait until rosters expand in September to recall the beloved backstop.

    In other roster moves for the week:
    • The Twins activated Sam Dyson, who looked vastly better after a 10-day spell, tossing four scoreless innings while allowing just one run. Granted, that run did hurt – a game-tying solo shot in Texas – but the offense quickly picked him up. To make room for Dyson, Cody Stashak was optioned to Triple-A.
    • Randy Dobnak headed back to Triple-A with Michael Pineda coming off the injured list on Thursday. Pineda was solid in his first start back but seemed to run out of gas quickly. He got through five innings with three runs allowed, and gave way to Devin Smeltzer who covered the final four frames. Smeltzer was quickly swapped out for Lewis Thorpe, who arrived on Friday. By rotating arms through that final spot in the bullpen, the Twins are managing to keep a fresh long-relief option available pretty much at all times, which is savvy.
    • Ryan Eades was claimed off waivers by Baltimore. With Eades out, Minnesota's 40-man roster stands at 39, leaving one conspicuously open spot...
    HIGHLIGHTS

    When the Twins added him as an unexpected splash very late in the offseason. Marwin Gonzalez was viewed as something of an extra luxury – he fixed a problem that did not yet exist, as John aptly put it at the time. But here in the late stages of the summer, he's proving himself to be essential.

    With his team facing its most critical remaining stretch of the schedule, minus Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz, Gonzalez has stepped up in a massive way. Following a big series in Cleveland the prior week, where he was 6-for-15 with several clutch hits, Gonzalez absolutely torched the Brewers and Rangers in their home parks, collecting 13 hits in 26 at-bats with nine RBIs while starting all six games.

    The versatile veteran came through with big hit after big hit all week, leading the charge for an offense that was on its game in averaging 7.8 runs and making up for some shortcomings on pitching and defense. Also contributing to the potent productivity:
    • Rookie sparkplug Luis Arraez amazingly shows no signs of slowing down. You'd think that, with simple regression to the mean, his batting average and OBP would start to sink, but he just keeps taking excellent ABs and getting rewarded for them. Last week he was 6-for-22 with his third homer, two walks and two strikeouts, leaving his line for the season at .342/.412/.447.
    • Once again, Miguel Sano's plate appearances are turning into appointment viewing. The complete contrast from two months ago, when watching him flail was more of a "peek through your fingers" experience, is incredible. Sano and his hitting coaches deserve all the credit in the world. Last week he went 7-for-23 with three home runs and seven walks – par for the course of late. He makes pitchers sweat and preys on the slightest mistakes, harkening back to his glory days as a rookie and a 2017 All-Star. If this dominant Sano is back for good, the heart of the Twins lineup is in great shape.
    • Sano's turnaround should remind us all that baseball seasons are long, slumps come and go, and long-term track records matter. We're seeing a similar case, albeit to a lesser extent, in Jake Cave. The vitriol I was seeing from fans toward this guy, after he struggled through 100 sporadic plate appearances with the Twins, was kinda dumbfounding to me given what he did last year in Minnesota, and this year at Triple-A. Naturally he's coming around – after sitting in Milwaukee, Cave went 6-for-12 while starting three times in the Texas series, and is batting .429 in August. Patience, people!
    • Speaking of patience, Eddie Rosario has rediscovered a semblance of it. After going from June 16th through August 11th without drawing a single unintentional walk, he drew one in each of his first three games last week. Incidentally, he also hit a pair of home runs on the week. It's true that Rosario is capable of producing with the swing-at-everything approach (he did bat .329 over the aforementioned walkless stretch) but I believe he'll be in better position long-term – especially in those high-leverage spotlights he loves so dearly – if he's forcing opposing pitchers to come to him. Even though he had a somewhat quiet week, I see the walks as a very promising sign.
    • Finally, how about a round of applause for Ehire Adrianza? His emergence this year feels like sort of an "icing on the cake" nicety but should not be overlooked. The slick-fielding utilityman has put it all together at the plate, in a way I hoped he might last spring when the starting shortstop was suspended. Adrianza has always shown glimmers of power along with a decent plate approach, and this year at age 29 his skills have come to fruition. He only started twice last week but got into five games and made the most of every chance, going 6-for-12 with zero strikeouts. Since the start of June he's hitting .333/.410/.471.
    As a final note on the offense, we've gotta give props to Jonathan Schoop. He's seen his playing time fall off a cliff in the second half, both because Arraez has been unreal and because Schoop has been perpetually unable to come through in key moments. He finally bucked that trend on Friday in Texas, with a huge two-run homer late in the game that proved decisive.

    Schoop made two starts on the week, and has been in the lineup for only five of Minnesota's 14 August games. He's essentially a backup at this point. But he's a dang good one as far as depth and pinch-hitting options go. Hopefully he'll feel a little more confident after that redemptive moment in Arlington.

    Redemption was the banner headline of the week for the bullpen. We mentioned earlier Dyson's bounce back off the IL. Trevor May was also in pristine form, allowing zero hits and a walk while striking out three over two appearances. Outside of an (admittedly painful) solo homer allowed in the opener against Cleveland, May's been nearly perfect in August, allowing zero runs and only one hit with nine strikeouts and a 15% swinging strike rate.

    Overall, Twins relievers allowed 11 runs (9 ER) in 22 innings of work, with three of the scores coming on a single swing of the bat in Milwaukee. When Sergio Romo allowed that bomb, it was certainly a low point, but was set up by a bad defensive miscue (see below), and Romo was lights-out in his three other appearances.

    With Romo and Dyson in the mix, May rolling again, and Zack Littell quietly excelling (he has a 0.96 ERA in 17 appearances dating back to the start of June), this unit suddenly looks pretty strong heading into the final stretch. I'll be curious to see what Thorpe can do as the second lefty if they give him some real opportunities to assert himself. The looming presence of fellow southpaw Ryan O'Rourke, who's allowed one run over six innings at Triple-A since joining up on a minor-league contract, is also intriguing.

    LOWLIGHTS

    The defensive performance of Jorge Polanco at shortstop has been a never-ending roller coaster. At times, he goes through stretches where he looks completely serviceable, even mixing in a few flashy plays to resemble something of an asset. And then, there are the downswings where he looks totally unviable. Lately he's been in the latter mode, and it's a stark reminder of just how much sloppy play at the infield's most critical position can hurt you.

    Polanco committed five errors on the week, running his total to seven in the month of August after he was charged with just nine total through the first four months. All his gaffes last week came on fairly routine plays. The most egregious came when he inexplicably dropped a force-out at second base, delivered right into his glove, but the most damaging was a bounced throw to first that set up Milwaukee's go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) homer on Wednesday.

    If this is anything like his defensive slumps of the past, Polanco will shake this off eventually and get back to playing at an acceptable level. But his medley of miscues serves to reinforce the narrative that his days at shortstop are numbered, with a move to another position needing to come sooner rather than later.

    It would be nice if Polanco were offsetting his struggles in the field with impactful performance at the plate, but that hasn't been the case. He did come through with an enormously clutch three-run triple on Sunday, breaking a late tie, but the big bops have been few and far between.

    Dating back to the start of June he's slashing a mediocre .263/.317/.411, with deteriorating discipline. Given the aforementioned offensive rise from Adrianza, and his clear defensive edge, it'd make sense for the Twins to mix him in more at shortstop over the next few weeks. Not to send a statement to Polanco, but simply to rest up the All-Star and get him right for the stretch run.

    Speaking of offensive non-factors, C.J. Cron has been in that category for quite a while now. Although his two-run homer on Saturday was a nice sight, it was Cron's first long ball in two weeks, and he's been unable to contribute much in other ways. He went 3-for-19 last week and has been plain-old ineffective since returning from his latest IL stint, with a .656 OPS and zero extra-base hits outside the homers. On Sunday he came up in a crucial spot in the eighth, with runners on the corners, one out, and a contact play in motion. He grounded meekly to short and got the go-ahead run cut down at home. (Thankfully, Polanco came through two ABs later.)

    Cron has been scuffling for a long time while battling through an inflamed thumb that is pretty clearly still affecting him. Getting him some extra time off, along with Polanco, would seem prudent. Patrick Wozniak had a good piece here over the weekend outlining a platoon scenario for Cron. Would the Twins consider placing him on IL to make room for Astudillo until the end of August, or to make room for Cruz's impending return?

    While the situations surrounding Polanco and Cron are somewhat concerning, the most troubling lowlight of last week was probably Jose Berrios's start on Saturday. Coughing up seven runs (three earned) in 4 1/3 innings, he ran his ERA up to 8.44 in three August starts. One wonders if he himself could use a little breather – it'd be an affordable luxury for Minnesota with a soft spot in the schedule ahead. The Twins absolutely need him pitching like an ace into the postseason in order to have a chance.

    The bright side for Berrios was that his sagging velocity rebounded and he actually induced 16 swinging strikes, his highest total in two months. So maybe we just chalk this one up to hot bats in the Texas heat.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    After working as a starter for the first six weeks, before going on the shelf with a shoulder impingement, Brusdar Graterol has been working in relief since his return. On Wednesday, in his second appearance back for Pensacola, he entered in the eighth and picked up the final four outs, notching the save in a 9-7 victory. He followed on Saturday with two perfect relief frames for the Blue Wahoos, mixing in a strikeout with five grounders. Then, on Sunday, the Twins promoted Graterol to Triple-A, perhaps for one last test-run ahead of a big-league debut. About that open 40-man spot...



    This is exciting stuff and we'll be tracking it very closely. Graterol, still only 20 and touching nearly 104 MPH on the gun as a reliever, has the potential to be a real difference-maker in the Twins bullpen for September and (hopefully) beyond.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    As the Twins continue to search for answers in the late innings, last summer's Ryan Pressly trade is haunting them like a walk in the Metrodome. Minnesota gave up control of a reliever who now ranks among the league's very best, while their bullpen suffers. Not only that, but Pressly is doing it for a chief rival in the American League. It's not all bleak, though. There have been positive recent developments with the prospects who came back in exchange for Pressly.

    Jorge Alcala, the headlining arm, has mostly been a disappointments since arriving, and owns a 5.87 ERA overall at Pensacola this year. But in late July, the Twins finally stopped trying to use him as a starter, shifting him to a more suitable bullpen role. He has since allowed only two runs on seven hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts. The Twins announced on Sunday he's moving up to Triple-A along with Graterol, so Alcala too has the potential to impact this pennant race with his high-powered arm.

    And then there's Gilberto Celestino, a younger outfielder who came over alongside Alcala. He struggled mightily through the first two months at Cedar Rapids this year, putting up a fruitless .219/.299/.290 slash line, but has completely turned things around this summer. Since the start of June he's at .322/.389/.506, including .407/.467/.630 in his past 20 games. The 20-year-old brings standout speed and increasingly evident power. When you talk about "helium guys" in the Twins system, Celestino's near the top of the list.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    The good news is that Minnesota took advantage of its favorable schedule to re-stake a 2.5-game lead in the Central last week. The better news is that they're well positioned to build on this momentum in the week ahead.

    You can't really ask for an easier slate than the White Sox and Tigers at home, although the Twins will have to deal with Lucas Giolito and Matthew Boyd. Meanwhile, Cleveland is heading into Citi Field to face Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets before returning home to welcome (with a huge sigh of relief) the Royals.

    Oh, and by the way, Cruz is expected back on Monday.

    MONDAY, 8/19: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Ivan Nova v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    TUESDAY, 8/20: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Reynaldo Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda
    WEDNESDAY, 8/21: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    FRIDAY, 8/23: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Matthew Boyd v. RHP Jose Berrios
    SATURDAY, 8/24: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Edwin Jackson v. LHP Martin Perez
    SUNDAY, 8/25: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Spencer Turnbull v. RHP Kyle Gibson

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    Game 119 | MIN 7, MIL 5: Marwin Comes Up Clutch To Put the Twins Back in First Place
    Game 120 | MIL 6, MIN 5: Twins Can’t Sweep, Polanco Commits Costly Error
    Game 121 | MIN 13, TEX 6: Pineda Solid While Offense Provides Plenty
    Game 122 | MIN 4, TEX 3: Twins Prevail Behind Clutch Schoop HR, Great Bullpen Performance
    Game 123 | MIN 12, TEX 7: Twins Win Slugfest in Texas
    Game 124 | MIN 6, TEX 3: Polanco Leads Twins Over Lynn in Texas

    • Aug 18 2019 08:06 PM
    • by Nick Nelson