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  1. In a Sprint of a Season, Is Speed the Only Missing Cog for the Minnesota Twins?

    With the magnitude of each game heightened, teams will be less likely to throw in the towel on any given day, and more teams in contention will mean more competitive games. Minnesota went to extra innings in twelve games last season (and didn’t fare well at 5-and-7), but could very well see an increase in the percentage of extra inning games due to more teams being in it to win it and fighting through all nine innings.

    With the MLB adopting the MiLB rule of starting off every extra inning with a runner at second base, speed could become even more significant. The runner who is placed at second will be the batter who made the last out of the previous inning, so unless Byron Buxton made the last out, the Twins will probably end up with a less than ideal base runner.

    It’s not only extra-inning affairs in which a speedy runner would come in handy. In any close game having a burner who can steal a bag or take an extra base is extremely valuable. A fast base runner also gives the pitcher one extra thing to worry about, and every little advantage will matter in 2020.

    Teams do have the opportunity to pinch run, and with a 30-man bench to start the season, filling in a roster spot with a speedster who could be a pinch run specialist makes some sense. Teams such as the Dodgers (Terrance Gore), Giants (Billy Hamilton), and Astros (Myles Straw) have done just that, but does Minnesota have anyone who fits the bill?

    One player with a bit of speed who is likely to make the team due to the roster expansion is OF LaMonte Wade Jr. According to Baseball Savant, Wade Jr. trails only Buxton (30.3 ft./sec.) and Jorge Polanco (28.2 ft./sec.) with a Sprint Speed of 28.1 ft./sec. While that’s better than average, Wade Jr.’s not exactly a burner.

    The next fastest bench option would be Jake Cave, who comes in just behind Max Kepler (27.7 ft./sec.) at 27.6 ft./sec. That’s still above average and would make sense for replacing someone like Nelson Cruz or Miguel Sano on the bases, but it’s hardly the late inning speed that would strike fear into opposing hurlers.

    Minnesota will also have the remainder of the 60-man roster nearby in St. Paul and ready to be called upon. There are at least a few names who could provide some value for the big league team, if only as a speed option. Interestingly, Minnesota recently invited OF Aaron Whitefield to join the group.

    Whitefield spent the majority of 2019 in high-A Fort Myers where he didn’t exactly set the world on fire with just a .607 OPS. He finished the year at AA Pensacola and his numbers were even worse, but he has elite speed and managed to steal 30 bases on the year. While his bat doesn’t warrant being on the 40-man, the Twins might consider utilizing his speed or possibly his defense as he plays a really good center field.

    Two other possibilities would be Gilberto Celestino and Royce Lewis. Like Whitefield, Celestino is a center fielder who would be capable of filling in for Buxton defensively, but has only played eight games above low-A, and while speedy isn’t quite the base stealing threat that Whitefield is. Lewis, who is widely considered the Twins top prospect, has yet to be added to the 40-man roster but does offer elite speed.

    If Minnesota doesn’t want to mess around with calling up a prospect primarily to be a pinch runner, it’s also likely that someone like Billy Hamilton would be available when teams begin to fall out of contention (which shouldn’t take long for the Giants) and might even be available on the waiver wire.

    All in all, the Twins are in great shape and there’s rightfully a lot of excitement for the season that’s about to get underway. Not having elite speed on the bench isn’t a reason to damper this excitement, but winning the margins is ever imperative in a 60-game sprint, and a little extra speed could be crucial in crossing the finish line first.

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    • Jul 20 2020 06:55 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  2. Twins Daily Roundtable: Biggest Off-Season Need

    John Bonnes
    Can I be so vague as to say "a middle-of-the-order bat?" The lineup's strength this year was supposed to be its depth, and that still might be the case with anticipated growth from Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. But when the middle-of-the-order bats fail to live up to their expectations, the team is left with an average offense. And a few injuries and it quickly becomes below average.

    This offseason shouldn't be about filling in pieces. It should be about finding some foundational cornerstones upon whom the Twins can rely for the next four seasons at least.

    Tom Froemming
    How many times have I got to say this? Willians Astudillo lifetime contract. That's item No. 1.

    Once that's worked out, the Twins are going to need to focus on quality. They already have quantity, but not a ton of players you can truly count on. I'd say the biggest need would be to find a threat to put into the middle of the lineup. I'm not confident Miguel Sano ever gets back to what he was, and as much as I love Eddie Rosario, if he's the best slugger in your 2019 lineup, you've got issues.

    The pitching staff has its share of needs to address as well, but it's really difficult to win without a lineup that's able to produce on a consistent basis.

    Ted Schwerzler
    To a certain extent, the answer probably always needs to be pitching. It's great that the Twins have given Gonsalves, De Jong, Littell, and Stewart some run here down the stretch. It has been equally beneficial to see Andrew Vasquez coming out of the pen. The reality however, is that none of them look like anything close to a certainty opening the 2019 season.

    Minnesota should have Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Jose Berrios penned into the rotation, but things are less certain behind them. Fernando Romero is likely a near lock to start in the big leagues, but another mid-to-upper level arm would be a big plus. The bullpen will need some retooling as well with the departures 2018 has seen take place. Although you can make arguments for bats around the diamond, lots depends on how the Twins want to configure their in-house options.

    Cody Christie
    To me, one of the biggest issues with 2018 was the underperformance of key pieces in the line-up. That being said, players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Jose Berrios need to take the next step. If the Twins are going to contend, their young players need to turn into the team’s most valuable pieces.
    Sano has already been discussing his weight and he hopes to come into next season after a strong off-season spent between Fort Myers and the Dominican Republic. Buxton needs to prove he can stay healthy and handle the rigors of a full big-league season. Berrios was an All-Star but there is certainly some room for improvement after some up and down moments this year. Kepler might never be a middle of the order bat, but he could certainly become more consistent.

    There are obviously plenty of holes to fill in the roster but the Twins need their young core to take the next step.

    Steve Lein
    With the Twins underachieving this year they sent off several veteran contributors and newcomers at the trade deadline, opening plenty of holes or questions for the 2019 season. Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Ryan Pressly, Lance Lynn, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke all found themselves in new places. That was nearly a quarter of their opening day roster.

    You had an All Star second baseman, an extra-base-hitting-machine, shutdown set-up man, mid-rotation starter, and a closer in that group. You might lose Joe Mauer to retirement as well. Point is there are a lot of needs for this team.

    When you ask me for the biggest need I’ll always point to starting pitching, however. Jose Berrios has had a great season and made the first of hopefully many All-Star teams, but he still has some development to turn into that “ace” we all covet. Thankfully the Twins lost out on Yu Darvish last year, but every team must spend money on pitchers at some point if they want to contend. With the payroll space they will have this offseason, they should shoot as high as they can to help their rotation.

    If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:

    Shifting Service Time

    The Looming Mauer Decision

    Grading the Front Office

    Grading Molitor

    Closing Time

    • Sep 19 2018 10:31 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Twins Minor League Report (8/14): Buxton’s Back, Lewis Stays Hot

    RED WINGS REPORT
    Rochester 8, Columbus 0
    Box Score
    Byron Buxton wasted little time making his presence known in the Rochester line-up. He made a tremendous double play in the bottom of the fourth inning before cracking a three-run home run in the top of the fifth. He ended the night by going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored.


    Buxton wasn’t the only bat with a strong showing in the line-up. Kennys Vargas reached base four times including a three-hit effort. He added a double and drove in a pair of runs. Nick Gordon finished 2-for-5 with his 13th double and a stolen base. Juan Graterol also had two hits and scored two runs.

    On the mound, Stephen Gonsalves continued to pitch well. He tossed six shutout innings by limiting the Clippers to three hits. He struck out five and walked two on the way to his ninth win. DJ Baxendale pitched a pair of scoreless innings by striking out two and walking one. John Curtiss finished the shutout as he allowed two hits and had one strikeout in the final frame.

    CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
    Chattanooga 1, Mississippi 3
    Box Score
    The Lookouts matched the Braves with six hits but the team committed two defensive errors that impacted the final outcome. Tyler Wells allowed two runs in the first frame but he settled in nicely from there and didn't allow another run. He finished six strong innings by striking out seven and walking only one. Devin Smeltzer saw one unearned run score against him as he struck out three in two innings of work.

    Zander Wiel and Jaylin Davis each reached base three times as part of multi-hit games. Brian Navarreto and Luis Arraez both went 1-for-4 with Navarreto scoring the team’s only run. Overall, the team left 11 men on base and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Fort Myers 12, Charlotte 13
    Box Score
    Runs were certainly not at a premium in this one as the teams combined for 25 runs on 29 hits including six home runs. Mark Contreras led the offensive charge with two home runs and five RBIs. Royce Lewis had two hits, a home run and a triple. Alex Kirilloff and Jose Miranda both went 2-for-5 with a home run for each.

    The mound was a mess for the Miracle. Clark Beeker got hit around to the tune of seven runs on nine hits in less than three innings. Colton Davis stopped the bleeding even if it was only temporary. He allowed one run on two hits over three innings. He struck out four. Alex Robinson had some control problems as he walked three batters and allowed four runs on but gave up only one hit. Ryan Mason and Hector Lujan combined to allow only one run over the final 2 2/3 innings.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 0, Quad Cities 5
    Box Score
    Cedar Rapids had a tough time stringing hits together as the club was held without an extra-base hit. In fact, the Kernels had only three opportunities to bat with a runner in scoring position. First-round pick Trevor Larnach went 1-for-4 and added an outfield assist. Trey Cabbage finished 1-for-3 but struck out twice.

    Tyler Watson took the loss after allowing four runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. There were some control issues as he walked five batters but he also struck out five. Jose Martinez surrendered one run, a home run, in 2 1/3 innings. Derek Molina finished the game with two scoreless innings and he racked up four strikeouts.

    E-TWINS E-TALK
    Elizabethton 6, Greeneville 0
    Box Score
    Elizabethton pitchers combined for their fourth shutout this season. Luis Rijo pitched into the seventh inning (6 2/3 IP) without allowing a run. In fact, he hasn’t allowed a run yet in the Twins organization. Pedro Garcia finished off the game by allowing only one hit in 2 1/3 innings.

    Every batter in the E-Twins line-up collected a hit. Albee Weiss and Ricky De La Torre each went 2-for-4 and Weiss added his fourth double. Jean Carlos Arias had one hit, a triple, and came around to score a run. Alex Robles and Colton Burns each reached base two times.

    GCL TWINS TALK
    GCL Twins 0, GCL Orioles 3
    Box Score
    The GCL Twins struggled on the offensive side of the ball by being limited to three hits. Gabe Snyder and Hunter Lee each reached base twice. Estamy Urena and Charles Mack both went 1-for-5. No one was able to collect an extra-base hit and the team went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

    Regi Grace started but was pulled in the first inning after allowing two runs on two hits. Andrui Marin pitched 4 1/3 innings and struck out four while walking one. He allowed one run on four hits. Casey Crosby and Steven Cruz combined for three shutout innings to end the game.

    STARS OF THE DAY
    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Mark Contreras, Fort Myers (3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R)
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Luis Rijo, Elizabethton (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, BB, 5 H)

    TOP PROSPECT SUMMARY
    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed. Please note that this Prospect Summary has been updated.

    1. Royce Lewis (FM): 2-for-5, HR, 3B, 2 R, RBI, K
    2. Alex Kirilloff (FM): 2-for-5, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 K
    3. Brusdar Graterol (FM): Did not play.
    4. Nick Gordon (ROC): 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI, R, K
    5. Stephen Gonsalves (ROC): 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, 3 H
    6. Trevor Larnach (CR): 1-for-4
    7. Brent Rooker (CHAT): 0-for-3, 2 BB
    8. Akil Baddoo (CR): Did not play.
    9. Wander Javier: Out of for the season
    10. Zack Littell (ROC): Did not play.
    11. Blayne Enlow (CR): Did not play.
    12. LaMonte Wade (ROC): 0-for-5, 2 K
    13. Travis Blankenhorn (FM): 1-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K
    14. Lewis Thorpe (ROC): Did not play.
    15. Ben Rortvedt (FM): Did not play.
    16. Yunior Severino (ET): 1-for-5, K
    17. Lewin Diaz (FM): Did not play.
    18. Ryan Jeffers (ET): Did not play.
    19. Jacob Pearson (CR): Did not play.
    20. Luis Arraez (CHAT): 1-for-4, 2 K

    WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester @ Columbus (11:05 AM CST) – LHP Lewis Thorpe (Triple-A Debut)
    Chattanooga @ Mississippi (7:00 CST) – LHP Dietrich Enns
    Fort Myers vs. Charlotte (6:00 CST) – RHP Brusdar Graterol (3-2, 4.06 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria (6:35 CST) – RHP Randy Dobnak (8-4, 3.43ERA)
    Elizabethton – Schedule Off-Day
    GCL Twins vs. GCL Orioles (TBD) – TBD
    GCL Twins vs. GCL Orioles (Game 2) – TBD


    Please feel free to ask any questions about Tuesday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Aug 15 2018 05:31 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  4. Injury Cloud Surrounds Buxton's Breakout Season

    Minor League Injuries
    Buxton burst onto the scene in 2013, his first full minor league season but he missed some time after suffering a shoulder injury. This prevented him from fully participating in the Arizona Fall League. The 2014 season saw him hurt his wrist during spring training and he reinjured it on a slide shortly after returning from the DL. In his Double-A debut, he violently collided with another outfielder which resulted in a season-ending concussion. Minnesota sent him to the AFL and he proceeded to break his finger on a dive for the ball.


    2017 Injuries
    During the 2017 campaign, Buxton missed time with a variety of injuries. In the middle of July, he missed time with a groin injury and migraine headaches. The groin injury was sustained while hustling around to score on a Brian Dozier RBI double. He occasionally dealt with the headaches after colliding with the outfield wall back in early May. By late August, Buxton missed more time with a left hamate bone injury. He was fortunate to avoid a fracture after taking a hard swing at a ball.

    Buxton’s last injury might be the one fans remember the most since it happened in the team’s final game. In the second inning with Todd Frazier batting, Buxton chased down a ball while crashing into the center field wall.

    He tried to play through the pain and did so by beating out a potential double-play grounder, allowing the tying run to score. He then stole second base but he was clearly not comfortable. During the game, the announcers called his injury “upper-back tightness.” Some reports called it a cracked rib in the days following the game. This meant multiple tests for Buxton which came back with a report of no fracture, but no other diagnosis.

    Looking To The Future
    Earlier this fall, I wrote about how Buxton seemed to have moved from broken to booming. While this still might be the case, there needs to be some concern about his injury history. His all-out effort is one of the reasons for the value Buxton provides the Twins.

    Buxton was asked about his catch in the Wild Card game. “Once I picked up where the wall was and realized I was going to take a pretty good hit, I just put all my focus onto the ball and held onto the ball,” he told the Pioneer Press. “If you try to shield yourself, you’re going to be passive toward the ball and not as aggressive. I like to play this game aggressively and go out and have a lot of fun.”

    It might be fun to see Buxton making diving and leaping catches but will his aggressive nature lead to more injuries in the future? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Oct 09 2017 04:23 PM
    • by Cody Christie