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  1. Stealing Bases Isn’t Minnesota Nice – Will That Change?

    The Twins ran sparingly, and when they did try to take a base, they were incredibly inefficient. Minnesota baserunners attempted only 49 steals, but were caught 21 times, for a league-worst 57% success rate. Given their lack of success and propensity for hitting long-balls, it isn’t surprising that the Twins stayed put.

    The Twins didn’t run much in 2018 either, taking just 47 bags, putting them in 27th place. They were more efficient (63%) but still not where you want to be (above 70%) and the team lead was shared by Eddie Rosario and Brian Dozier with just eight steals.

    With the Twins running less than ever and smacking bombas like never before is there any reason to care about the stolen base in today’s game? And is there any chance that Minnesota will see an uptake in steals for 2020?

    Starting with the first question, the stolen base does seem to be an area where teams can still grab an advantage in the modern game. While the Twins have been extremely inefficient stealing bases, baseball as a whole is more efficient than ever. In fact, 13 of the last 14 seasons rank as the most efficient since 1920. With more information available than ever before, it’s easier to target which combinations of pitchers and catchers are prime to steal on, greatly increasing the chances of success.

    There is also a good chance that the juiced ball of 2019 will be less juicy in 2020. The ball was a big story in 2019 and it was widely speculated that the ball was altered for the postseason to lessen home runs. MLB is set to investigate the ball this offseason and it seems all but certain to be less home run friendly in 2020. With fewer balls leaving the park and increased base-stealing efficiency, the stolen base could play a bigger role going forward.

    As far as the potential for Minnesota swiping more bags next year, there will be no bigger factor then the health of Byron Buxton. Buxton ranks third in the league with a sprint speed of 30.3 feet/second and his elite speed helps him to be an extremely efficient base stealer. For his career he has stolen 60 bases and been caught only eight times (88.24% success rate). Buxton stole a career-high 29 bags in 140 games in 2017 (he was only caught once!) and he should be encouraged to run with greater frequency.

    After Buxton, things look quite a bit bleaker in the base-stealing department. Polanco is the next fastest runner with a 28.2 ft/sec sprint speed, but he is not a particularly adept base stealer. He stole just four bases in 2019, although he did have 13 steals back in 2017. Lamonte Wade Jr., Max Kepler, and Jake Cave all have above-average speed, but they combined for only one stolen base this year and Kepler was thrown out five times. Top-prospect Royce Lewis has elite speed, but he will likely spend most if not all of 2020 in the minor leagues.

    Given that Minnesota will most likely run out pretty much the same set of position players in 2020, if they are going to steal more they will have to be smart about it. With the overall lack of flashy base runners, the Twins will have to pick their spots carefully if they hope to become more proficient on the base paths. A healthy Byron Buxton could go a long way towards making that happen.

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  2. Exploring Five Twins Extension Candidates

    5. Eddie Rosario
    2019 Season (137 Games): .800 OPS, 106 OPS+, 1.6 WAR
    So far this off-season, there has been talk of trading Rosario to upgrade the pitching staff. Unfortunately, Twins fans might value Rosario more than he is actually worth. As a 28-year old, he might fit the definition of a replacement level player and Minnesota has other young outfielders working their way to Target Field. He is under team control for the next two seasons so an extension beyond those years seems improbable.

    4. Taylor Rogers
    2019 Season (60 Games): 176 ERA+, 2.85 FIP, 2.5 WAR
    Rogers was one of the team’s most valuable pitchers last season, especially while other parts of the bullpen were struggling. He will be arbitration eligible this winter and he can’t become a free agent until the 2023 off-season at which point he would be 31-years old. Would Minnesota be willing to buy out his remaining arbitration years so they could add some years of team control? It seems more likely for the Twins to explore an extension after the 2020 campaign to see if Rogers can continue his bullpen dominance.

    3. Byron Buxton
    2019 Season (87 Games): .827 OPS, 114 OPS+, 3.1 WAR
    There has only been one big-league season where Buxton has logged more than 92 games played. In fact, the last two seasons he has been limited to 115 total games and he might have been denied a September call-up. Minnesota could look to avoid a Kris Bryant situation with Buxton by offering him an extension now. Buxton’s value could be hard to put a number on at this point because he showed some offensive improvement when he was on the field last year. He can reach free agency in 2023.

    2. Miguel Sano
    2019 Season (105 Games): .923 OPS, 138 OPS+, 3.1 WAR
    Like Rosario, Sano is closer to free agency than the others on this list. He started last season recovering from a freak off-season injury before settling in nicely to a career-high OPS. There are some obvious flaws on the defensive side of the ball, but he could get more time at first base and designated hitter in the years ahead. Nelson Cruz’s mentorship helped Sano and that duo will be able to collaborate again in 2020. It’s scary to think what that could mean if Sano can play more than 105 games.

    1. Jose Berrios
    2019 Season (32 Games): 124 ERA+, 3.85 FIP, 3.3 WAR
    Berrios seems the most likely candidate to receive an extension, especially after his 2019 season. Minnesota’s front office already approached Berrios last off-season and he turned down the contract offer. Betting on himself might have been the right choice. “Every player wants to sign a multiyear deal, but we know it’s a business,” Berrios told the Star Tribune last spring. “I have to manage my business, too. … We’re waiting for the best for both sides. If it doesn’t happen this year, maybe next year.” Berrios has built quite the resume and the Twins are going to want to keep him long-term.

    Will any of these players sign extensions this winter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 03 2019 10:13 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Minnesota Twins 2010s All-Decade Team

    The decade of 2010-19 brought two division pennants, three playoff berths and a zero playoff wins. In total, the Twins finished the decade with a record of 765-855 and -438 run differential, both good for 23rd in the Majors.

    Here's my take on the Twins All-Decade team from the 2010s. After reading through my team, I would love to hear your thoughts what gripes you have with my selections. Without further ado ...

    C: Joe Mauer (2010-18)

    • 1,159 Games
    • .788 OPS
    • 24.0 fWAR
    The future Hall of Famer was the team MVP for the Minnesota Twins in the 2010s decade, leading the team in games played, batting average (min. 600 PAs), RBI, runs and WAR. It’s hard to come up with enough stats to quantify just how much Mauer meant to the Twins and to the state of Minnesota. While Mauer split the decade pretty evenly between catcher and first base, I put him as the catcher so that I could put in the next guy as our first baseman.

    Honorable Mention: Mitch Garver

    1B: Justin Morneau (2010-13)
    • 411 Games
    • .791 OPS
    • 5.3 fWAR
    While he didn’t have enough healthy seasons in his career to make it into Cooperstown, Morneau is certainly another Twins all-timer. Morneau peaked at the end of the 2000s, but did enough to be the first baseman for the 2010s all decade team. Morneau was in the middle of a possible second MVP season prior to his concussion in 2010 that ended his season in July.

    Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer

    2B: Brian Dozier (2012-18)
    • 955 Games
    • .772 OPS
    • 22.5 fWAR
    Arguably the most underappreciated Minnesota Twin in recent memory, when I looked back on Dozier’s stats over the decade it struck me how truly impactful he was at the plate year after year. Dozier hit 49 more home runs than any other Twins player over the course of the decade and paced the team with 98 stolen bases. Dozier posted an All-Star Game appearance, competed in the Home Run Derby and somehow won a Gold Glove.

    Honorable mention: Luis Arraez

    SS: Jorge Polanco (2014-19)
    • 441 Games
    • .783 OPS
    • 7.2 fWAR
    Even with just 441 games played, I decided on Polanco for the All-Decade team because of his consistency appearing as a shortstop for the Twins. Players like Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez certainly performed admirably at shortstop and the plate over the decade for the Twins but played so many different areas across the diamond that they didn’t qualify as a shortstop for me. Polanco has now posted three separate seasons with a .750 OPS or better and just completed his most successful season as a Twin, leading the team in WAR and starting for the AL in the All-Star Game.

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Escobar

    3B: Miguel Sano (2015-19)
    • 486 Games
    • .836 OPS
    • 8.5 fWAR
    Sano led all Twins third basemen this decade in home runs and WAR, even though he played 237 less games than his predecessor, Trevor Plouffe. Concerns surrounding his health and strikeout tendencies have been well documented, however, incredible strides were made in 2019 that point towards a bright future for Sano as a potential cornerstone for the Twins.

    Honorable mention: Trevor Plouffe

    LF: Eddie Rosario (2015-19)
    • 640 Games
    • .788 OPS
    • 10.5 fWAR
    Deciding between Josh Willingham and Rosario as the left fielder for the Twins all-decade team was the most challenging decision that I had to make in this exercise. Willingham posted a higher OBP, OPS and wRC+ than Rosario in the decade, punctuated by his Silver Slugger season in 2012 when he posted an .890 OPS and hit 35 home runs. I decided on Rosario, though, because of his longevity with the team. Rosario played in twice as many games as Willingham this decade, hit for a better average and slugging percentage, hit more home runs and RBI, posted 5.0 more WAR and became the face of the "Bomba Squad” in 2019.

    Honorable mention: Josh Willingham

    CF: Byron Buxton (2015-19)
    • 393 Games
    • .706 OPS
    • 7.4 fWAR
    The former No. 1 overall prospect in the Majors had arguably the highest expectations ever for a Twins player coming into the majors. Much of his time on the Twins this decade has been marred with injuries and struggles at the plate. His consistent struggles have left many Twins fans wondering if Buxton will ever be the player that we all hoped that he could be. That being said, he is still the starting center fielder on my All-Decade team for the Twins. It says a lot about Buxton’s game and his immense talent and skill that he could have so many strikes against him in Twins nation, but still post a 7.4 fWAR and be the best center fielder of the decade.

    Honorable mention: Denard Span

    RF: Max Kepler (2015-19)
    • 553 Games
    • .763 OPS
    • 9.8 fWAR
    Just two seasons with the Minnesota Twins in the 2010s wasn’t enough for Cuddyer to make the cut as the right fielder on the All-Decade team. That honor, instead, belongs to Max Kepler. It’s hard to believe that the young German-born lefty has already played in 553 games, but his trajectory of improvement has been such that it’s really exciting to imagine where he could be when this article is written again about the 2020s All-Decade team for the Twins. Kepler’s 9.8 fWAR was fourth on the team in the 2010s.

    Honorable mention: Michael Cuddyer

    DH: Nelson Cruz (2019)
    • 120 Games
    • 1.031 OPS
    • 4.3 fWAR
    While I disqualified Cuddyer and Willingham for not playing enough with the Twins, Nelson Cruz’s 2019 season superseded any self-imposed rules that I made for myself. Anytime you post a 1.031 OPS and 4.3 WAR in your age 39 season, you make the All-Decade team. That’s my new rule.

    Honorable mention: Jim Thome

    Util: Eduardo Escobar (2012-18)
    • 671 Games
    • .729 OPS
    • 8.5 fWAR
    Escobar was another Minnesota Twin that was underrated in my book. As a utility man, Escobar spent time in a Twins uniform playing second base, third base, shortstop and outfield. Save for 2016, Escobar saw his OPS increase in every season that he was in Minnesota, peaking in 2018 when he was traded to Arizona. In the 2010s decade with the Twins, Escobar ranked inside the top five on the team in hits, doubles and WAR.

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Núñez

    Starting Pitcher: Jose Berrios (2016-19)
    • 596.2 Innings Pitched
    • 4.21 ERA
    • 9.9 fWAR
    Though he had only three impactful seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Berrios was the best starting pitcher the Twins had in the 2010s. He has had an ERA under 4.00 in each of the past three years and has been an all-star the past two seasons. Berrios led all Twins starting pitchers (min. 450 IPs) in K/9 and has become the ace of this pitching staff. The next step for Berrios will be for him to maintain his April-August production into September and October.

    Honorable mention: Kyle Gibson, Ervin Santana

    Relief Pitcher: Glen Perkins (2010-17)
    • 342.2 Innings Pitched
    • 3.18 ERA
    • 120 Saves
    • 6.2 fWAR
    It’s easy to forget just how dominant of a relief pitcher Glen Perkins was for the Twins this past decade. After converting to a relief pitcher in 2010, Perkins became the full-time closer for the Twins in 2012. A three-time All-Star, Perkins collected 120 saves in just over four seasons, posting a save percentage of 83%. Perkins was the man during a really challenging time for the Twins and he ensured the Twins could close out any potential win opportunities there were.

    Honorable mention: Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly

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  4. Kris Bryant Decision Could Have Ramifications for Twins and Byron Buxton

    Bryant’s Case
    Bryant is alleging manipulation of his service time that will keep him from reaching free agency until after the 2021 season. Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, and the MLBPA are arguing that he started the 2015 season at Triple-A, so the club could delay his service-time, a move that is entirely within an organization’s rights.

    That spring, he had hit .425 with nine home runs in 40 at-bats and those numbers were no accident. In an interview with Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic, Bryant talked about how he trained differently for that spring so he could put up strong numbers and make it hard for the team to send him down.

    “It was so obvious,” Bryant told The Athletic. “‘Oh, he’s gotta work on his defense.’ Stuff like that. But now I can look back on it and just laugh about it because I was told to work on my defense… and I think I got three ground balls in those games that I played. So it’s like, ‘Oh, now he’s ready.’”

    He made his big-league debut on April 17, 2015, which meant he only missed 12 days that season. Still, he will fall one day short of being eligible for free agency after the 2020 campaign.

    Buxton’s Case
    Buxton’s own service time issue doesn’t exactly mirror Bryant’s, but he could have an argument if Bryant wins his case. During the 2018 season, Buxton struggled through multiple injuries and ended the year on the Rochester Red Wings roster. He wasn’t made a September call-up and this choice didn’t sit well with Buxton at the time.

    “Yes, I ain’t sugarcoating nothing,” Buxton told the Star Tribune last December. “It kind of didn’t go over well.”

    Migraine headaches, a broken toe and a strained wrist cost him much of the 2018 season, but his health seemed to be improving in August with Rochester. He batted .365/.400/.596 (.996) with nine extra-base hits in 12 games and he had every reason to think his performance warranted a September call-up. But by keeping him down, the Twins picked up another year of team control. Instead of reaching free agency following the 2021 season, Buxton will have to wait until after the 2022 campaign.

    Minnesota had reasons for keeping him down including a lingering wrist injury, poor strike zone discipline, and not enough playing time at the big-league level. However, Thad Levine admitted service time played a role in why Buxton was kept in the minors.

    "I think part of our jobs is we're supposed to be responsible to factoring service time into every decision we make," Levine said. "I still feel pretty resolute in saying that the other three factors were more present for us in this decision-making process than that. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we weren't at least aware of service-time impacts on decisions we make."

    Realistically, this is an issue that needs to be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement. There’s not timeline for a decision in MLBPA’s case for Bryant and there’s no guarantee he will win, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

    • Oct 28 2019 08:24 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Quantifying Byron Buxton's Defensive Value

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

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

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

    Posted Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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    • Oct 21 2019 07:38 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  7. Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 2

    Click here for Part 1 of this series.

    Building the Farm

    While Houston’s farm system isn’t as strong as it once was, Jeff Luhnow and company did a great job of using their high draft pics to add invaluable pieces like SS Carlos Correa and 3B Alex Bregman to rebuild the farm. While they added plenty of major league talent, rebuilding the farm also gave the Astros the prospect capital they needed to add key pieces such as Verlander in 2017, Gerrit Cole and Pressly last season, and Zack Greinke this year. Repeated success and the corresponding lower draft position along with several trades have weakened Houston’s farm, but they have been able to add high-end talent without giving up too much and the whole point of having a good farm system is to eventually have success at the highest level, a tradeoff I’m sure the Astros would take ad infinitum.

    While the Twins struggles since 2010 were not as intentional as Houston’s, Minnesota received plenty of top 10 draft pics due to their struggles. Ryan and company’s results are a bit of a mixed bag up to this point. With the second pick in the 2012 draft, the Twins picked Byron Buxton immediately after the Astros selected Correa, and although he has suffered several injury setbacks and taken some time to establish himself in the big leagues, Minnesota did well with that pick (if you disagree, look at the pics who followed Buxton). They also selected Jose Berrios with a supplemental first-round pick in that draft, along with Tyler Duffey in the fifth round and Taylor Rogers in the 12th.

    After the 2012 draft the results weren’t quite as sterling for the Twins. In 2013 they picked high school righty Kohl Stewart (SP), with the fourth overall pick, and although he has reached the majors his upside is extremely limited and he has to be considered a disappointment at this point. The verdict on 2014 fifth overall pick Nick Gordon is still out. He has yet to reach the majors, but had a good year in Triple A that was shortened due to injury, however questions about his ability to remain at shortstop remain. Hindsight is 20/20 but both Aaron Nola and Trey Turner were available.

    With the sixth overall pick in 2015 Minnesota selected Tyler Jay, a college reliever that the Twins tried to turn into a starter and was a complete failure (he’s no longer in the organization), but 2016 first rounder, outfielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 15 overall), has become a top prospect who should join the Twins soon.

    Of course, the Astros also wasted a top pick on pitcher Mark Appel who was a bust and the Twins did hit on some later round picks, but given the high draft position that Minnesota had from 2012-15, the results have been underwhelming. Falvey and Levine are too early in their tenure to put too much stock in their draft picks but they were gifted the number one overall pick in their first year. They selected shortstop Royce Lewis, who is very high on most national prospect lists despite a somewhat disappointing 2019, although he has been much younger than his competition and is off to a great start in the Arizona Fall League. Last year’s first-round pick, College World Series hero Trevor Larnach, has had a promising start to his career as well. The Twins went for a high-risk, high-reward high school prospect in this year’s draft, selecting SS/3B Keoni Cavaco who has a long road to travel before reaching Minnesota.

    The FO has done a lot to bolster the farm through trades. They gained the most at the 2018 trade deadline due to being out of contention, unlike 2017 where they were surprise contenders, although they did pick up Zack Littell that year, picking up multiple prospects including pitchers Johan Duran, Jorge Alcala, and Dakota Chalmers and outfielders Gilberto Celestino, Gabriel Maciel, and Luke Raley. They gained several other smaller pieces as well, including Devin Smeltzer, and greatly improved the overall depth of the system.

    Even while being obvious buyers at the deadline this season the FO was clearly hesitant to let go of top prospects like Lewis and Kirilloff to obtain a top-notch starter, though they even managed to add a pitching prospect, Chris Vallimont, in the Sergio Romo trade. They have built one of the best farm systems in baseball and seem keen to keep it that way. While teams like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox were willing to part with some of their best prospects, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and to a lesser extent Houston, have been less willing to give away prized prospects. This has allowed the Dodgers to be good for a very long time, and both the Dodgers and the Astros seem to have new stars come out of their system almost every year. Falvey and Levine like to talk about the long-term future for the organization and seemed poised to follow a similar path.

    The Young Core

    Although Houston did a lot to improve their club through drafts and trades, a few key pieces of the future World Series champs were in the organization when Luhnow took over. One of the most important pieces of the Astros run of success has been Jose Altuve, an undersized player who puts up big numbers while playing second base. Along with Altuve, Houston had also drafted outfielder George Springer prior to the new FO and he has also been a huge cog in their always potent lineup, batting leadoff for the World Series run. But outside of Altuve and Springer, most of Houston’s players came from within the system after Luhnow took over or were acquired through trades and free agency.

    Falvey and Levine were fortunate to inherit a pretty impressive young core to build around. A lot of the credit should actually go to former GM Bill Smith, who in his short tenure was able to sign Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler in one international signing period. As previously noted, both Buxton and Berrios were drafted under Ryan, as were Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario. The new FO does deserve credit for extending both Polanco and Kepler to team-friendly deals prior to their breakout seasons this year and it is possible that they will seek more extensions with some of the others this offseason.

    • Oct 17 2019 05:36 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  8. 4 Crucial Lessons to Take Away from the 2019 Minnesota Twins Season

    1. The position player core is solid

    The question of the off-season last year was whether or not Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó would be a part of the Twins future, and if they were, then to what degree? That question was partly answered as Sanó hit for a career high 137 wRC+ and put up a career high fWAR of 2.7 despite just playing 105 games. His defense at third base remained rough, but there should be no more disputes about his bat playing at the major league level.

    Buxton’s answer to the question may not be as murky as split pea soup, but it isn’t as clear as the Twins would like. Buxton’s on-field play was fantastic, as he put up 2.7 fWAR in just 87 games played. But it’s that “87 games played” that again raises concern, considering that this was another season where he struggled to stay healthy. Buxton’s talent level will force the Twins to stick with him, but another injury-plagued season may lead them to look elsewhere.

    Beyond those two players there were a few others who were overlooked like I was when they picked teams for dodge ball during gym class. These players put up seasons that were actually better than the two players who were the focus of the off-season. This is where I struggled, because while they had great seasons, I just got nailed in the spleen within three minutes, and you know what? Let’s just forget it.

    Anyways, players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Mitch Garver sat on the back burner over the off-season with the two former players receiving the spotlight only when they signed extensions during the start of spring training.

    Perhaps they should have been focused on more as Kepler broke out with a 4.4 fWAR season, Polanco had a 4.0 fWAR season, and Garver turned into Mike Piazza and put up 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Now also armed with Luis Arráez at second base, who looks to be Tony Gwynn 2.0, the Twins have a formidable core of young position players all either in pre-arbitration, just starting arbitration, or already extended for a number of years. The next step will be to figure out whether Eddie Rosario has a future on the team, as he put up his worst full season fWAR total with his bat and defense both regressing. With Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach looking to make a potential impact soon, Rosario may be on the move as the Twins look to upgrade their starting pitching.

    2. A flexible bullpen is a good bullpen

    Take a good look at the names in the bullpen to start the season and the names that were there in the end and try not to get a hearty chuckle out of it. Of all the pitchers on the Twins’ ALDS roster, only Taylor Rogers and Trevor May started the season with the major league team.

    Players like Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and Tyler Duffey joined the team from Triple A and made major impacts over the season before eventually finding themselves on a postseason roster. On the flip side, relievers like Matt Magill, Blake Parker, and Adalberto Mejía were on the team during the start of the season but were all victims of the DFA hammer as they were not effective enough in the Twins’ eyes and were shown the door.

    But more than their sporadic effectiveness was the ultimate sin of not having any minor league options remaining. These days, the 25-man roster is stretched to the point where it becomes more of a 28-man roster, as relievers with options are shipped to the minors in return for more relievers with options as teams simply can’t employ enough fresh arms at the same time under the current roster rules. The end result was almost a clean sweep as the Twins rid themselves of arms without options in favor of young relievers. With those new players in the mix, the Twins’ bullpen peaked.

    The Twins’ bullpen ranked second in the majors in reliever fWAR from August until the end of the season thanks in part to addition Sergio Romo and great performances from those aforementioned young relievers. Now the Twins have a solid core of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Cody Stashak, and Zack Littell with an opportunity to mold their bullpen into something more.

    3. The starting rotation is never complete

    Perhaps no part of the team in 2019 was more in sync with the general plot of a Michael Bay movie than the starting rotation. At times it was flashy and awe-inspiring, at others it was dull and joyless. In total, it was a decent 5/10 that I would like to never see again.

    From the start of the season until June, the Twins’ starting rotation was third in baseball with a 3.55 ERA, and while there were some peripherals that suggested regression, it seemed like they had the tools to succeed. There was a lull in the middle of the season and then from August onward the Twins ranked 19th in baseball by starting pitching ERA.

    Reasons for this included the Michael Pineda suspension, the regression of Martín Pérez, and the health issues Kyle Gibson faced. Jake Odorizzi and José Berríos remained anchors in the rotation, but the deck of starting pitching cards shuffled consistently. Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and Randy Dobnak did their best to glue it together down the stretch. Ultimately it was too little too late and the weakness reared its ugly head during the postseason, as Dobnak started Game 2 of the ALDS. It went quite poorly.

    The Pineda suspension could not have been anticipated and was possibly the worst-case scenario for the rotation, but it brings us back to the eyebrow-raising decision made when the Twins did nothing before the trade deadline to upgrade a rotation that was starting to show signs of breaking down.

    Not only that, but when the draft pick compensation was removed from Dallas Keuchel, the Twins decided to hold their ground. Not too long afterward, a quality starter quickly went from a luxury to a necessity. Going forward, the Twins should act more swiftly in regard to rotation concerns and build depth to handle such events.

    4. Clubhouse chemistry is crucial

    This one is about 70% speculation on my part simply because I have never been in the Twins clubhouse and have no clue what the personal relationships are like there. From watching the team play, listening to Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz, and seeing how the players responded to adversity, however, it appears the 2019 Twins team was a close-knit bunch who got along quite well.

    Contrast that with the 2018 team that employed two notably salty dogs in Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison, who both seemed none too pleased about how their respective free agencies went. Throw on top of that a few trades that saw some favorites leave town and, well, it seemed that the clubhouse chemistry was like oil and water.

    This year, however, story after story poured out about how well the group got along and how cohesive they were on a day-to-day basis. From Rocco’s calm stoicism to Derek Shelton and “LAF” to Nelson Cruz’s naps and then to Marwin González facetiming Michael Pineda and Byron Buxton while celebrating the division title, each report indicated that this was a group playing together instead of for themselves and that may have been a major reason for success.



    Wherever this is stemming from, hopefully the team chemistry is systemic and something that continues even as old players leave and new players join.

    Now armed with this knowledge, it will be interesting to see how the front office runs the off-season. I'd ask for more but we all know what hope brings us Minnesota sports fans.

    • Oct 12 2019 03:12 PM
    • by Matt Braun
  9. Who Has More Long-Term Value, Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton?

    Last week’s discussion over the future value of Luis Arraez garnered plenty of discussion so it made sense to look at two cornerstone pieces of Minnesota’s roster. Here are the arguments for Buxton and Sano.

    Argument for Buxton
    When Buxton is healthy and, on the field, there is no doubt that he is an impact player at the big-league level. Even with his injury struggles this season, he is arguably the best defensive player in the game. SABR’s Defensive Index had him tied for the league lead among outfielders through games played on August 18, which is quite the feat considering how games he has missed this season.

    Buxton provides the bulk of his value by being able to produce in all aspects of the game because he has all the skills of a five-tool player. He has shown flashes of being one of the best players in baseball, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to stay on the field consistently.

    Prior to this season, there were plenty of questions about his offensive approach. He continued to modify his swing to try to make more consistent contact. In 87 games this season, he hit .261/.314/.513 (.827) with 44 extra-base hits including 30 doubles. If Buxton is able to keep up that level of offensive production, with his defensive skills, there’s the potential for him to be in the MVP conversation at season’s end.

    Argument for Sano
    Sano wasn’t able to debut this season until mid-May because he suffered a freak injury while celebrating his team’s Winter League Championship. He has clearly made his mark on the Twins offensive line-up since being inserted back into the fold. His 33 home runs are a career high and his .927 OPS would also top his .916 OPS from his rookie campaign when he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

    Buxton has played fewer than 100 games in all but one big-league season and Sano has surpassed that total in three of the last four seasons. Also, there’s a chance Sano moves to first base or even becomes a full-time DH. Sano might not provide much value on the defensive side of the ball in the years ahead, but he has been able to stay on the field more consistently.

    Earlier in the season, I made the argument that I don’t think Sano would ever reach the superstar potential he seemed destined for as an amateur. Minnesota signed him with the potential to be a top-tier player in the league and I think expectations have shifted for him throughout his professional career. As he has shown this season, he can be a very good player that contributes to a great team, but I don’t think he will be considered the team’s top player.

    The Minnesota Twins need Sano and Buxton to both play over 140 games in the same season to see what their true value could be as a dynamic duo. Buxton has shown superstar flashes, but his ability to stay healthy continues to be a question mark. Sano is having a break-out offensive campaign, but his defensive ability could be a long-term concern.

    Which player do you believe will have more long-term value for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 23 2019 04:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  10. Twins-Royals Pre-Game Notebook

    The Twins were able to beat the Royals on Thursday night to maintain their four game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central. As important, it dropped the Twins' Magic Number to six with nine games to play.

    However, Rocco Baldelli isn't ready to speak about the playoffs quite yet. While resting guys will be important, he notes that he won't be discussing any plans for the playoffs until they are able to clinch a spot in it. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves."
    "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Baldelli noted, "We're just going to try to win today's game."

    Speaking of enjoying it, Jose Berrios will be pitching for the Twins on Saturday night against the Royals. Before Friday night's game, he walked out to the outfield grass with his two, young sons. He went through his throwing program, played catch with Cibney Bello while Tony Diaz and played with Berrios's boys.




    New To September

    With such a full clubhouse, there are a lot of players who have not played games in September in the past, much less potentially games in October.

    Consider Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, Brusdar Graterol, Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak and Devin Smeltzer haven't pitched this late into the season. However, as Rocco Baldelli noted, they each have to be considered individually.

    "The innings situation is different on every pitcher. To discuss is as a whole is challenging to do. We monitor all of our guys innings. It's not just the innings it's how you get the innings and rack them up. He threw x number of innings in a month but they were all kind of wedged in there in a short period of time, probably a little tougher on the body and tougher on the arm. When they get stretched out a little more I would consider that a little bit different. We kind of weigh that every day but I'm not concerned where any of our guys are at at this point."

    We often think about that in the sense of pitchers because of innings limits and pitch counts and such, but the same question should be asked of position players as well. (which is why I asked it)

    Luis Arraez, LaMonte Wade and Ian MIller haven't played in September before either. Wade missed time with his thumb injury earlier in the season, so he's probably doing OK. However, Arraez has been playing most every day for the Twins at a variety of positions including left field, a position he hasn't played in several years.

    "With young players who haven't played into even September that's something to take into consideration. You just have to monitor the players individually monitor them every day. You watch them. If they are tiring out in any way, if they look like they are losing something, we have the ability to get them off of their feet, have the ability to let them regroup."

    Arraez was out of the starting lineup on Friday night but Baldelli noted it was just regular rest. With a left-hander on the mound LaMonte Wade and Arraez were both out of the lineup.

    "I'm not worried about that with Luis. Luis is kind of like a machine. He's ready to play every day. He doesn’t waver. He's the same guy, same attitude, same positive energy. And he goes out there and he performs. It doesn't look he's slowed down one bit"


    Byron Buxton Returns

    Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton was in the Twins clubhouse before the game. He chatted with media briefly. When Baldelli was asked if he noticed anything different about Buxton, Baldelli said, "You mean besides the big box under his elbow."

    Buxton had labrum surgery almost two weeks ago and will have his left arm immobilized for four to six weeks.


    Marwin to the Outfield

    Marwin Gonzalez is back in the #MNTwins lineup tonight, but he is back in right field for the first time since returning to the lineup.

    The team figured that having him ease back in at first base was the way to go which also allowed CJ Cron to rest and work on some things.


    Scouting Presence

    There was a large scouting presence at Target Field tonight. As always, it seems, when I'm at Target Field, Terry Ryan is there. Again, always great to chat with the former Twins GM.

    Looks to be scouts from a variety of organizations including several from one of the Twins potential first round opponents.

    In addition, it was great to catch up with former Twins utility infielder Doug Bernier. He is now a scout with the Colorado Rockies. It was fun to discuss his transition from player to scout for a bit. We also discussed his Pro Baseball Insider website which provides a great place for kids or parents of ballplayers to ask questions and learn skills. Check it out and be sure to sign up for their e-mails.


    The Voice of the Red Wings

    Josh Whetzel, the radio voice of the Rochester Red Wings (and University of Buffalo men's basketball), was at Thursday and Friday's games. You'll for sure want to follow him on Twitter, but the man has an incredible memory of players and moments throughout his years with the Red Wings. Was enjoyable walking down Red Wing Memory Lane with him and Glen Perkins for a little while.


    Happy Birthday Audra!

    FSN's Audra Martin celebrated her __th birthday at Target Field onFriday night.

    • Sep 20 2019 07:20 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  11. 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
  12. Buxton's Season Over, Placed on 60-day Injured List

    We feel the same way Byron.


    Buxton has been a linchpin for the Twins defense this year when healthy. Fangraphs.com’ Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR/150) shows him as being about 15 runs better than an average centerfielder over 150 games played. There is also an additional negative cascading affect, as his presence in center allows Max Kepler to play right field, where he is also six runs better in UZR/150 than his most likely replacement, Jake Cave.

    Twenty-one runs, at a high level, represents two games over a full season, but the perception of the loss is magnified by the concern about the Twins defense around the diamond. Of the Twins seven infielders and outfielders who have played the most at their positions, only Buxton and Kepler are deemed above average by UZR. Plus, Kepler was also pulled out of Sunday’s game with an injury, although an MRI on Monday for an injured scapula came back negative.

    Buxton’s shoulder injury, along with two other injuries, also have short-circuited a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old. He had posted the highest batting average (.262), on-base percentage (.314) and slugging percentage (.513) of his career. He was also showing a better eye at the plate (19 walks versus 68 strikeouts) and of course was a weapon on the base paths with 19 stolen bases.

    However, injuries have remained an issue. Last year was torpedoed due to a broken toe suffered from a foul ball in AAA-Rochester. This year he missed 13 games in June with a wrist injury after he was hit by a pitch. He then missed 10 games in July with a concussion after making a diving catch in the outfield. He returned but ran into a wall on August 1st, suffering a left (non-throwing) shoulder subluxation. He has not batted in the majors since.

    UPDATE:



    UPDATE 2:

    • Sep 10 2019 08:46 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  13. Leading Off Podcast: Alex Kirilloff Time?

    Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5n8sCVvjqbedPf1qDCu2oI

    Hey everyone, we're back after a pretty interesting week. We discuss everything that happens including the Pineda suspension and the blockbuster Ryan LaMarre trade along with much more.

    Time stamps:

    2:20 Week in review

    8:30 Michael Pineda suspended. How can the Twins replace him?'

    18:00 With Pineda out, how are playoff hopes looking?

    24:00 Chances of a Kirilloff promotion?

    31:30 Discussing all 4,963 of the injuries

    39:30 Fan questions

    54:45 Martin Perez... again

    66:45 Looking ahead

    76:20 Reading mean tweets

    Link: https://open.spotify...jqbedPf1qDCu2oI

    Let us know what you think!

    • Sep 09 2019 10:17 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  14. 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
  15. Vegas Releases Odds On Next Byron Buxton Injury

    These are the current odds on the next mishap that will send Buxton to the injured list.

    • Bruised ribs 3-2
    • Separated shoulder 2-1
    • Concussion, baseball-derived 5-2
    • Runningintoawallatfullspeed-itis 3-1
    • Killer bees 7-2
    • Concussion, struck-by-errant-Kirk Cousins-pass-while-attending-Vikings-game-derived, 4-1
    • One of those diseases you get because people aren’t vaccinating their kids anymore 5-1
    • One of those diseases you get because of the melting Arctic permafrost, like werewolf dysplasia or something 11-2
    • Trampled by Paul Bunyan statue that has come to horrible life, 8-1
    • Treated by Indianapolis Colts trainers, 10-1
    • Told to “rub dirt on it” when it’s obviously an open wound by one of those guys who always rails against participation trophies and entitled millennials even though he works for his dad 12-1
    • Zach Granite’s Lament 14-1
    • Toilet explosion 15-1
    • Joins Slipknot as a second drummer and tours Europe 18-1
    • Zombie uprising (fast zombies) 20-1
    • Attacked by the same bird that attacked James Paxton, who has developed a taste for it now and continues to learn 25-1
    • Zombie uprising (slow zombies) 35-1
    • Gets lost in rural Falcon Heights looking for State Fair parking spot, 40-1
    • Zombie uprising (Rob Zombie) 55-1
    • Watches the watchmen, develops cataracts, 60-1
    • Comes at king, misses 65-1
    • Develops allergy to baseball gloves 70-1
    • Joins an improv group and constantly asks teammates to come out and watch a performance and is told to stay away from the team for a while because my god Byron 85-1
    • Doesn’t get hurt for the rest of the season 5000-1

    • Aug 30 2019 06:51 AM
    • by RandBalls Stu
  16. Taking the Twins to the Gridiron

    Jonathan Schoop- QB

    Initially I wanted to make Max Kepler out to be a Minnesota version of Michael Vick. Quick and left-handed, the profile certainly fit. If we’re going with a big body in the pocket, and arm strength out the wazoo, the choice here is obvious. Schoop has an absolute howitzer for an arm, and it’s shown often while turning double plays with Jorge Polanco. He may tend to get a bit long sometimes for a football throw, but the force at which the ball leaves his hand would challenge Brett Favre in a finger breaking contest.

    Jorge Polanco- RB

    Something about the man nicknamed “Chulo” strikes me as elusive. Polanco isn’t fast as much as he is quick. Shorter in stature at 5’11” Polanco is still plenty muscular and looks the part of a guy who could either evade or run through an opposing tackler. He has good feet that have helped him immensely during his time at shortstop, and you can bet he’d be all in on the idea of getting loose.

    Byron Buxton- WR

    The guy who may be the most fun to see run down the sideline is none other than center fielder Byron Buxton. His elite speed may not translate as easily in pads, but you can bet he’d be a nightmare for most cornerbacks to keep up with. He’s got exceptional hands with a glove on, and well, receiver gloves are virtually super glue today anyway. Buck played QB in high school and the arm strength that allows him to uncork 90+ mph from center would work in the pocket as well. I’d be a bit afraid of his stature being a downfall, but the jumping and sprinting ability on full display is something you could sign me up for.

    Miguel Sano- TE

    Sneaky athleticism for a big-bodied guy, Sano could be something of a matchup problem. He’s got some height to him, and the size would work well for boxing opposing defenders out. Imagine him wreaking havoc in the red zone or getting even a moderate head of speed before rumbling down the field and throwing a big block. Linebackers may have an opportunity to keep him in check but defending secondaries would be well overmatched.

    Eddie Rosario- SS

    Delivering the boom is something that seems like Rosario would live for. Swinging with reckless abandon at the dish could be replicated while patrolling the secondary. He’d likely get more than a few flags thrown his direction after lining up the big hit, but you best believe the celebratory dances would be legendary.

    Nelson Cruz- K

    If there’s a nickname more appropriate than Boomstick for Cruz in baseball, then using that same moniker as he swings his meaty right piece makes all the sense in the world. I have no idea if Cruz can kick, but I’d imagine he’s put a soccer ball in goal at least once. Even if the range topped out at 20 yards, the power stemming from the Boomstick appendage would be must-see television.

    Who else do you envision as a Twins player hitting the gridiron, and what are some of the positions you’d put guys at?

    • Aug 26 2019 02:22 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  17. Twins Minor League Report (8/25): Buxton Starts Rehab Assignment

    AWARDS
    The Twins announced their weekly Hitter and Pitcher of the Week

    • Hitter of the Week: Alex Kirilloff, Pensacola
    Kirilloff, 21, played in seven games for Double-A Pensacola this week, hitting .444 (12-for-27) with one double, one home run, five RBI and a 1.075 OPS. Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins 15th overall in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft and represented the Twins at the SiriusXM Futures Game in Cleveland this summer
    • Pitcher of the Week: Bailey Ober, Pensacola
    Ober, 24, made one start for the Blue Wahoos on Wednesday at Mississippi, pitching 7.0 shutout innings with three hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Ober was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of College of Charleston.

    TRANSACTIONS
    LHP Gabriel Moya placed on the IL for Pensacola.
    OF Byron Buxton began MLB rehab assignment with Cedar Rapids.

    RED WINGS REPORT
    Rochester 3, Syracuse 11
    Box Score
    Rochester took an early 1-0 lead in this one before falling behind in the middle innings. Wilin Rosario collected an RBI-double in the top of the first to score Ramon Flores. The Red Wings wouldn’t score again until the fourth inning when Brandon Barnes drilled his 29th home run of the year. Zander Wiel lead off the seventh inning with his 37th double and came around to score on a one-out single from Wynston Sawyer.

    Devin Smeltzer started for Rochester and couldn’t make it out of the fourth frame. He was charged with five earned runs on five hits including three home runs. He struck out five and walked one. Edwar Colina made his Triple-A debut and didn’t find much success. He allowed five runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Jorge Alcala limited Syracuse to one hit in almost two innings and he struck out three. Zack Littell walked a pair of batters in the eighth and saw one runner come around to score.

    Rochester had a chance to gain ground on first-place Scranton/WB. Unfortunately, the Red Wings are four games back with just eight remaining in the season.

    BLUE WAHOO BITES
    Pensacola 1, Jackson 4
    Box Score
    Griffin Jax was cruising along in a pitcher’s duel before Jackson was able to break things open in the mid to late innings. He pitched six innings and was charged with one earned run (three total runs) with seven strikeouts and one walk. Following Jax, Tom Hackimer gave up one earned run on two hits over two frames. Andrew Vasquez finished off the game with a hitless ninth inning.

    Fresh off his Player of the Week honors (see above), Alex Kirilloff continued his hot hitting. Kirilloff and LaMonte Wade both finished 2-for-4. Wade added his second double as part of his MLB rehab assignment. Ryan Costello reached base twice and Mark Contreras knocked in a run with his 12th double. Pensacola matched Jackson with six hits but finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Ft. Myers --, Palm Beach – (Cancelled)

    Rain forced the cancellation of the final game of the three-game series between the Miracle and the Cardinals. Fort Myers won the first two games in the series to stretch their winning streak to five games. Currently, the team is a season high 18 games over .500 (73-55).

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 5, Peoria 9
    Box Score
    Byron Buxton made a quick impression back in Low-A as he stretched what looked like a routine single into a hustle double. He was left at second base, but he would make it around the bases in his second at-bat. With two outs in the third inning, Buxton drew a walk in front of Matt Walner’s second home runs since being promoted from Elizabethton. He would get one more at-bat and he struck out.

    There was more to this game than Buxton cruising around the bases. Josh Winder started and put together another strong outing. He limited Peoria to four hits over six shutout innings with five strikeouts and two walks. His season ERA dropped to 2.68 to go along with a sub-1.00 WHIP. It was his team-high 11th quality start.

    Dylan Thomas kept the shutout alive by tossing two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and struck out one. Brian Rapp and Austin Schulfer each had a tough time at the end of the game. Rapp couldn’t record an out and was charged with four earned runs on three hits. Schulfer took the loss and the blown save after allowing five earned runs on three hits.

    Cedar Rapids loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t mount a comeback.

    E-TWINS E-NOTES
    Elizabethton 1, Danville 7
    Box Score
    After allowing seven earned runs in his last start, Andriu Marin did much better as he limited Danville to four hits and two runs. He struck out four and walked two. Frandy Torres got hit around in his inning of work. He allowed three earned runs (four total) on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. Steven Cruz and Benjamin Dum combined to allow one earned run over the final three innings. Cruz struck out the side in both innings he worked.

    The E-Twins didn’t have much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball as the team was limited to three hits. Trevor Jensen had the team’s lone extra-base hit, a double. Charles Mack reached base twice and had the team’s only RBI. Overall, the team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
    TD Pitcher of the Day- Josh Winder, Cedar Rapids (6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB)
    TD Hitter of the Day- Tyler Webb, Cedar Rapids (2-3, 3B, 2 R, BB)

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

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) – 0-3, BB, K
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) – 2-4, K
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Rochester) – Did not pitch
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) – 1-4
    #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) – 2-5, R, K
    #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) – Game cancelled
    #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) – No scheduled game
    #8 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) – Injured list
    #9 - Jhoan Duran (Pensacola) – Did not pitch
    #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) – Game cancelled
    #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Minnesota) – 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, K
    #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) – Did not play
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) – 0-4, K
    #14 - Luis Arraez (Minnesota) – 0-2, BB
    #15 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) – Did not play
    #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Out for year with Tommy John surgery
    #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) – 1.2 IP, 0 ER, H, 3 K, 0 BB
    #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) – No scheduled game
    #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) – 0-4, K

    MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester @ Buffalo (6:05 CST) – TBD
    Pensacola vs. Jackson (6:35 CST) – TBD
    Fort Myers @ Dunedin (4:00 CST) – LHP Lachlan Wells (2-5, 4.30 ERA)
    Fort Myers @ Dunedin (Game 2) – TBD
    Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria (6:35 CST) – LHP Kody Funderburk (0-3, 4.85 ERA)
    Elizabethton vs. Greeneville (5:30 CST) – TBD
    GCL Twins vs. GCL Braves (11:00 am CST) – TBD

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

    • Aug 25 2019 07:33 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  18. Week in Review: Trouble at Home

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/19 through Sun, 8/25

    ***

    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 79-51)

    Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: +151)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.5 GA)

    Willians Watch: 7-for-19 (.368) at AAA


    Willians Astudillo moved his rehab up to Triple-A, where he continued to rake with seven hits in four games. He mixed in at catcher, third base and right field for Rochester, and should be back in Minnesota by the end of next weekend.

    In more objectively important injury recovery news, Byron Buxton went through a full complement of baseball activities on Friday without a hitch, and opened up his own rehab stint at Cedar Rapids on Sunday. Starting at DH and batting second, Buxton went 1-for-2 with a walk and a signature hustle double.

    The easiest thing would be for Minnesota to wait until rosters expand next Sunday to activate Buxton. But at the same time, every game is important right now, and he's such a difference-maker. If he looks fully back up to speed early in the week, will they accelerate his timeline and maybe get him back for the Tigers series... or even for Chicago on Tuesday? (Dick Bremer astutely noted in Sunday's broadcast that Cedar Rapids is a short jaunt...)

    Buxton's imminent return, along with news that Cleveland has likely lost Jose Ramirez for the rest of the season with a hamate bone fracture, would seem to bode very well for the Twins. But of course, they have to go out and capitalize on the opportunities thrown their way.

    In a quiet week for transactions, the only other move worth mentioning is that Ryne Harper was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, coming off another lackluster performance against the Tigers. Cody Stashak is back (Zack Littell was not an option since he went down less than 10 days ago). Harper was arguably Minnesota's second-best reliever in the first half, but hitters have gotten wise to his two-pitch mix, leading to a 7.36 ERA in August. He'll likely be back in September.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    When the Twins made their biggest offseason splash by signing Nelson Cruz, we all naturally wondered: Can he maintain the elite power production that's been his norm, or will age start taking a toll and limiting him?

    The answer, as it turns out: yes and yes.

    Cruz has already sat out more games this year than any of the past five, held back from interleague action and nagged persistently by a wrist that might've healed more cooperatively in his younger days. But when on the field, the 39-year-old has played through his barking wrist with unbelievable effectiveness – especially in his return to action last week off a stunningly short absence.

    Showing no ill effect from a ruptured tendon, Cruz swung the stick like a man possessed at Target Field, piling up five extra-base hits and seven RBIs amidst a 9-for-27 week hat featured some epic exit velocities. Despite losing 28 games to a pair of IL stints, the veteran slugger remains on pace to exceed 40 home runs and 100 RBIs.



    Leading the offensive charge alongside Cruz last week was one now-customary name – Miguel Sano, who clubbed three homers and drove in seven across six games – and a more unexpected one: Jake Cave (or "Caveman," in the parlance of Player's Weekend).

    Buxton's injury opened a window of opportunity for Cave, and the outfielder has lunged through it with vigor. Aided by more regular playing time, Cave has seen his OPS climb rapidly during the month of August, and last week he was at his best, belting three home runs and two doubles while raising his seasonal slash line to .278/.378/.460, including .423/.492/.769 since the All-Star break. His monster production hasn't been coming cheaply.



    Cave is showing that his solid work as a rookie last year, and his outright dominance of Triple-A this year, were not flukes. His bat has been a boon for the Twins lineup this month with others absent or lagging. It's hard to see him getting a ton of action once Buxton returns, but he's proven himself as a solid backup and pinch-hitting option.

    Also enjoying nice weeks offensively: Jorge Polanco (two homers and a double), Max Kepler (two homers and two doubles, propelling him past the 35-HR milestone), and Eddie Rosario (5-for-12 against Chicago before sitting out the Detroit series with a hamstring strain).

    On the pitching side, the biggest positive was Trevor May continuing to build on his excellent August. Looking confident and more than capable, the right-hander logged 2 1/3 scoreless innings across three appearances, striking out two and walking none. After a very rough stretch in July, followed by a bit of a mental break courtesy of Rocco Baldelli, May has re-emerged as the powerful late-inning weapon Minnesota needs him to be. He threw 30 of 41 pitches (73%) for strikes last week.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Alarms are loudly blaring in the starting rotation. Jose Berrios continues to grind through start after start, minus the velocity, command, and consistency that fueled his All-Star first half.

    Facing the lowest-scoring offense in baseball on Friday, Berrios was handed an early lead, but he gave it up on a crippling grand slam in a game where he was disturbingly hittable. By the time he was lifted with one out in the sixth, he'd allowed five runs on 10 hits and two walks, pushing his ERA up to a season-high 3.53. Just a monumentally disappointing performance against a pitifully bad Tigers lineup.

    It marked the sixth time in nine starts since the beginning of July that Berrios was unable to complete six innings, a feat he accomplished in all but two of his 17 outings through June. Sagging velocity continues to take a toll on him, as he and his coaches continue to search for answers.



    The Twins are in huge trouble if Berrios can't get back on track. This goes without saying. But it sure doesn't help that his counterparts in the rotation are so very uninspiring right now. Kyle Gibson looked similarly poor against the lowly Tigers on Saturday, coughing up 10 hits and five runs (four earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Earlier in the week he gave up five runs against a White Sox offense that isn't much better than Detroit's (third-to-last among AL teams in runs and OPS). Those same Sox touched up Jake Odorizzi for four runs on eight hits over five frames on Wednesday.

    The rotation contributed just one quality start all week – when Martin Perez held Detroit to two runs over six innings on Sunday. At home, in this stage of the season, against this caliber of competition, that's just not acceptable. Skeptical Twins fans and national onlookers will rightfully be dubious of the club's ability to make any real noise until they demonstrate they can suppress even pedestrian lineups.

    Minnesota isn't going to be able to outslug opponents on command. Pressure is mounting on Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the Twins starting pitchers to turn things around, with the erstwhile ace Berrios ranking as the utmost priority.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    He's not going to be a magical elixir for this rotation's afflictions, but Buxton's return will provide a big boost for the pitchers. He's arguably the most valuable defender in baseball and he changes games, although Kepler and Cave deserve credit for their solid glovework in the interim.

    Fans await Buck's activation with bated breath, but regardless of what happens there, the Twins will be receiving a huge influx next Sunday when rosters expand for September. The front office will almost certainly be upping bullpen depth by recalling a handful of arms that have helped them already this year – the likes of Littell, Harper, Kohl Stewart, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak, etc. Rehabbing righty Trevor Hildenberger is another likely candidate, with intriguing impact potential. Fernando Romero might not be in the plans, which is sad but fair.

    And then there are other potentially impactful additions that are not yet on the 40-man roster, such as the two we'll lead off with below.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    Settling in at the highest level of the minors following their recent promotions, Brusdar Graterol and Jorge Alcala are acclimating very quickly. Graterol threw two scoreless innings in his Rochester debut on Wednesday, then followed with another clean appearance (1.1 IP) on Saturday. He already has International League hitters out of sorts (and turns 21 on Monday, so give him a shout on Twitter!).



    Alcala's first week at Triple-A also went smoothly, as he tossed four shutout innings across three appearances, striking out five and – importantly – walking only one. I mentioned here last week that the Ryan Pressly trade was starting to turn around for the Twins, with Alcala positioning himself to help the MLB bullpen and Gilberto Celestino going on a complete tear at Cedar Rapids. Well, now Celestino too has moved up a level. He joined Fort Myers on Wednesday and is 7-for-17 with four doubles through his first four games with the Miracle.

    Incidentally, Pressly underwent knee surgery last week and will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks for the Astros.

    That isn't the only midseason trade from 2018 paying dividends. Jhoan Duran was dazzling in his sixth start at Double-A on Friday, carrying a no-no into the late innings before finishing with two hits allowed and 11 strikeouts in eight shutout frames. According to the data at Baseball Reference (and this seems too absurd to be true), Duran threw 58 of 68 pitches for strikes and induced THIRTY-ONE swings and misses. Even if those numbers are stretched, it was one of the most dominating performances you'll see from a pitcher all year.

    Although not to the same extent as Graterol and Alcala, Duran is a sleeper candidate to help the needy big-league staff before this year is over.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    They didn't make hay at home following a 5-1 road trip, but now the Twins will travel again for a repeat of the past week's match-ups, with redemption on the mind. Last Wednesday, Chicago's Lucas Giolito threw the best start of his career against Minnesota, and on Friday Detroit's journeyman mediocrity Drew VerHagen unleashed an out-of-nowhere burst of dominance with 11 strikeouts. Can the Twins exact some revenge in hostile territory, where they've been so comfortable all year long?

    Cleveland, reeling from the news of Ramirez's loss and a gut-punch loss on Sunday, opens its week with the Tigers (ugh) but then travels to Tampa for a series with the Rays. Opportunity knocks once again.

    TUESDAY, 8/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Lucas Giolito
    WEDNESDAY, 8/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. LHP Ross Detwiler
    THURSDAY: 8/29: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Dylan Cease
    FRIDAY, 8/30: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Drew VerHagen
    SATURDAY, 8/31: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Edwin Jackson
    SUNDAY, 9/1: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Matthew Boyd

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    Game 125 | CWS 6, MIN 4: Twins Unable to Mount Comeback, Drop Series Opener 6-4
    Game 126 | MIN 14, CWS 4: Cruz Leads Twins Offensive Explosion
    Game 127 | CWS 4, MIN 0: Giolito Throws Complete Game as Sox Take Series
    Game 128 | DET 9, MIN 6: Berríos, Bullpen Can’t Hold Baseball’s Worst Offense
    Game 129 | MIN 8, DET 5: Sano 3-Run Bomba, Bullpen Boost Twins to Victory
    Game 130 | MIN 7, DET 4: Pérez Impresses, Twins Beat Detroit for Series Win

    • Aug 25 2019 07:17 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  19. Getting Defensive

    The Twins defense has been a topic in the second half, particularly in the infield. So I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the Twins stack up by this metric in its most recent analysis (through games of August 18th).

    Catcher

    Unfortunately for today’s article, there is a game- or innings-played minimum in this analysis, so the Twins don’t have a player at these positions that qualify. Regarding that Rafael Palmiero Gold Glove, this would have been nice back then!

    I think that the Twins feel good about their defense behind the plate. Jason Castro may not be quite what he was in previous years, but he’s still strong. And by all accounts, Mitch Garver has vastly improved his defense, specifically his ability to present pitches. While we can probably agree that their time split has probably helped keep them both fresh throughout the season, it means that neither qualifies for this.

    Pitchers

    I have always thought that Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are terrific defensive players. I think both show good range and athleticism. I still believe that, even if this data shows both in the bottom four in the AL, separated only by Lance Lynn.

    However, it also shows that Martin Perez is second on the list, behind only Mike Leake of the Mariners.

    First Base

    CJ Cron comes in at 1.0. I don’t know and won’t take the time to figure out exactly what that means or how it’s calculated. However, it’s a positive number which means he could be considered average or a little better than average.

    I think that’s fair. He got a lot of credit for some scooping early in the season. He hasn’t picked as many of late, but I generally think he’s more than adequate at the position. And, I think we can all acknowledge that he’s not A’s first baseman Matt Olson with the glove.

    Second Base

    Jonathan Schoop comes in at a -2.1 SDI, so again, a little bit below average. That ranks ninth of qualifying second baseman. I think we can all agree that his arm is plus-plus. His range may not be real great as he’s easily the biggest player on this list. Of course, in the last month, Schoop has lost much of his playing time to Luis Arraez.

    Third Base

    And, I don’t think any of us have any thought that Miguel Sano would rank terribly high among defensive third baseman. It would be nice to see what his numbers would look like though.

    Meanwhile, Marwin Gonzalez does show up on the list at 5.1 SDI. Sano has played 66 games at third base. Marwin Gonzalez has played 40 games at third base. In other words, Gonzalez’s numbers must include his time all over the diamond. But, frankly, that makes his 5.1, a decent amount to the positive, even more impressive.

    Shortstop

    Jorge Polanco has certainly struggled in the field the last couple of weeks, but until that point, his defense went generally unnoticed, which is a good thing. His SDI is -0.3, which would say that he’s been about average in 2019. I fact, he fits in at seventh out of 12 AL shortstops.

    Old Friend Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers ranks third at 4.0 SDI.

    Right Field

    Max Kepler is tremendous in right field, and good in center field. He comes in at 6.1 SDI, second among AL right fielders behind only Red Sox Mookie Betts (8.9).

    While Betts will likely win another Gold Glove, Kepler absolutely should be a finalist and get serious consideration. I’m sure having 34 homers already and playing on a winning team help his case.

    Center Field

    Despite missing a decent amount of time this season, Byron Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks atop the list of 14 American League center fielders. In fact, Rays OF Kevin Keirmaier ranks second at 6.3 SDI and recently-released Billy Hamilton is third at 5.7.

    In fact, Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks fourth among all AL players, regardless of position. He ranks behind only A’s 3B Matt Chapman (13.0), Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez (11.9) and Rays SS Willy Adames (9.9).

    Left Field

    Saving the best for last? No, but saving the most interesting - at least to me - for last.

    Eddie Rosario’s defense has been a bit of a roller coaster throughout his career, and even in the 2019 season there have been plenty of ups and downs.

    Rosario posts a -2.4 SDI, so again, below zero. But what does that mean? He ranks fifth of ten qualifying left fielders. Only two AL left fielders have a positive SDI, and Royals Alex Gordon has a 0.2 SDI. So, I feel fairly comfortable saying that Rosario’s defense this year hasn’t been good, but it isn’t terrible.

    But to the big story… The top defensive left fielder according to the SABR Defensive Index is Oakland A’s Robbie Grossman. And not just by a little bit. Grossman has a 5.8 SDI, well ahead of Gordon’s 0.2.

    So what do we make of that? Does it completely ruin any value that SDI has in your mind? Does it mean that Grossman is actually playing really good defense in 2019? Truly, I don’t know how to read that, and don’t want to read into it. But it is statistical, analytical, based on the same information that every other left fielder is evaluated by.

    So, what do you think?

    It feels like - aside from the Grossman thing - this data kind of verifies what we probably thought of the Twins defensive play in 2019. It verifies that Byron Buxton is amazing and that Max Kepler is really good. Marwin Gonzalez has provided defensive value wherever he’s played. Beyond that, there are several very average defenders, and despite his recent struggles, Polanco has been OK for most of the year.

    What else do you see from this data?

    • Aug 23 2019 03:34 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  20. Defensive Dive Highlights Twins Fall

    Back in July I penned an article here at Twins Daily about the improvement no one was talking about. Bad defensive teams had become synonymous with the Minnesota Twins in recent history and seeing them take such a significant step forward was beyond noteworthy. Through July 11 Minnesota had the fourth best defensive fWAR in baseball and trailed only the Kansas City Royals in the American League. They were also fourth in DRS and second in UZR. At that point I defined it simply by saying the Twins were, as a whole, playing “Gold Glove Caliber defense.”

    The biggest boost for the Twins could be felt up the middle. Mitch Garver had taken significant strides forward, while Jorge Polanco was now an above average shortstop, and the tandem of Byron Buxton and Max Kepler rounded out the best outfield the sport had to offer. Evaluating defensive metrics in a small sample is an extremely difficult ask, and it’s the full season that gives us the clearer picture. The shifting numbers tells us something has fallen out of whack however, and it starts with these up-the-middle pieces.

    Garver is still performing admirably behind the plate. He’s made such considerable strides on defense that he’s now arguably the best all-around catcher in baseball, and the Twins have definitely felt that boost. On defense though, that’s where the good news ends for Minnesota.

    Since July, Polanco has lost 3 DRS and dropped 1.2 UZR on the season. In just a month’s sample, that’s a considerable movement. He’s also part of an infield responsible for the most errors in baseball, and the arm accuracy has become a massive problem. At shortstop there was always concern whether the strength would be there to get the ball across the diamond. Having changed arm slots and working with different tweaks, things have gotten substantially worse as the season has worn on. Polanco has become more adept with his glove, but it’s the post-fielding process that creates a very negative effect on balls in play.



    It isn’t just Polanco in the dirt either. Miguel Sano has the ninth most throwing errors in baseball with 8, and despite a career best -1 DRS, his -2.9 UZR is a career worst and further highlights the stretch he feels from a range perspective playing the hot corner. On the other side of the diamond C.J. Cron leads baseball with five drops, and although he’s fielding suboptimal offerings from his fielders, he hasn’t been otherworldly on his own merits. The -2.7 UZR is trending toward a career worst and the very good early season performance has long been missed.

    Byron Buxton doesn’t create a significant cascade effect in the infield, but his defense is solely missed in the grass. Max Kepler once had a 10 DRS roughly a month ago and has slumped all the way back to just 5 DRS on the season. A good to great right fielder, Kepler is stretched in center. He gets better jumps than Buxton does, but there’s no number of strong routes that can make up for the speed deficiency. Add in that moving Kepler means more of Marwin Gonzalez (who is OK) or Jake Cave (who is not) in right field, and you’ve effectively taken the best outfield and turned it into a mediocre-at-best group.

    Since that initial writing Buxton has played in just nine games for the Twins. He’s out with a shoulder dislocation and it doesn’t seem like his return is imminent. Defense is commonly referred to as something that shouldn’t slump, and it’s largely effort based. That’s not to suggest the Twins are tanking in their responsibilities, but there’s also not been evidence of guys picking up the slack. Both the infield and outfield need to find avenues to make the weaknesses more muted. While putting up runs will wipe away some miscues, you can’t give opponents too many additional opportunities.

    In a matter of a month the Twins have dropped nine spots in the overall defensive rankings, five spots in terms of DRS, and 12 in UZR. If that isn’t cause for concern, I don’t know what is. There’s been plenty of things that have ailed this club since their amazing start, but if they aren’t going to add runs throughout games, they can’t be finding ways to give them back either. Baldelli and his field staff must find a way to position and work through these deficiencies, and changes must be implemented sooner rather than later.
    A throwing error compounded with a seeing eye single was what led to their latest defeat, and more of that will be on the way if the issues aren’t rectified soon.

    • Aug 15 2019 10:40 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  21. Buxton's Bad Breaks, and the (Futile) Search for Answers

    It's understandable enough that fans see Buxton — who is without a doubt one of this club's most essential players — barreling into outfield walls, and envision simple coaching fixes that might remedy the problem. The truth is unfortunately a lot more complicated.

    Let's review the various incidents that have landed Buxton on the disabled/injured list over the past two seasons:

    • April 18, 2018: Placed on DL due to migraines
    • May 20, 2018: Placed on DL due to fracture in left toe (suffered on foul ball during rehab stint)
    • July 14, 2018: Placed on DL at AAA due to left wrist strain (suffered swinging the bat)
    • August 1, 2018: Placed on DL at AAA due to lingering issues with left wrist
    • June 18, 2019: Placed on IL due to right wrist contusion (suffered on HBP)
    • July 16, 2019: Placed on IL due to concussion-like symptoms (suffered on impact with ground on diving catch)
    • August 3, 2019: Placed on IL due to left shoulder subluxation (suffered in collision with OF wall)
    So there you have it. Seven different stints in the past two years, and only ONE was actually the result of crashing into the wall. Even in that case, if you watch the replay, I think it's pretty tough to make a case he was playing with reckless abandon; Buxton was chasing a ball in the gap, came up short, and stumbled into a wall that was closer than he expected in an unfamiliar outfield. It's simply the kind of risk you run when you're the fastest player in the game.

    Similarly, the play in Cleveland coming out of the All-Star break where he hit his head on the ground was not some crazy over-the-top effort. It was a ball he should've caught, and did catch, helping the Twins seal up a big victory.

    Outside of those two plays, none of these mishaps can be attributed to Buxton's style of play. They are bad-luck breaks, which have unfortunately been plentiful in his young career. It's fine to be frustrated or disappointed with this pattern — I know I am — but let's ease up on the armchair coaching directives, and insinuations that Buxton is somehow at fault for playing the game hard.

    In reality, he has come away from countless diving plays and run-ins with the wall over these past two seasons without major injury. And in the process, he has made numerous game-changing catches, helping him establish a reputation as the most valuable defender in baseball when on the field. By asking him to fundamentally change the way he plays, and "throttle down" based on game situations (a rather absurd request for a multitude of reasons, frankly), you're reducing his positive impact and taking away the very thing that makes him such an asset. Meanwhile, evidence suggests this course of action is not really preventing many, if any, of the costly injuries.

    So, if you're amongst the crowd advocating for such measures, I urge you to take a look at the facts and exercise some perspective. There ARE feasible steps that can be taken to reduce injury risks and keep Buxton on the field, such as having him play deeper in the outfield and equipping him with an oven-mitt contraption to protect his fingers while sliding on the bases. These have already been implemented.

    But telling a player who is the greatest center fielder in baseball, and one of the best athletes in the world, to take it down a notch when his level of effort and drive are exactly what earns him those designations? It's just silly.

    Unfortunately, we're all going to have to live with the fact that Buxton carries a uniquely high level of injury risk, and there's no fixing that. It's the nature of the beast. There's no black-and-white adjustment to be made like tweaking Miguel Sano's swing or altering Jorge Polanco's throwing mechanics. The best thing the Twins can do for Buxton is carry quality CF depth (which they have), control what they can control, continue to give him the best recovery support possible, and hope for a little better luck going forward.

    • Aug 06 2019 07:45 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Buxton’s Body and Cave’s Opportunity

    Last season much was made of Buxton being injury-prone. He dealt with migraines during an unfortunate time with the team down in Puerto Rico, and then broke a toe during a potentially unnecessary rehab stint. Minnesota rushed him back to the lineup and ultimately, he played just 28 games before being shut down (reluctantly) in September. After a promising end to 2017, it was hardly the year anyone involved wanted.

    In 2019 he’s made a couple of different appearances on the IL, and while frustrating, no one in the room is more disappointed than Byron himself. Concussions have been a thing for Buxton over the course of his career, and the latest one suffered while simply diving forward for a fly ball had all the appearances of a fluke. With his head and neck surging forward and his face/chin driving into the ground, the jarring movement was enough to do damage. He missed roughly two weeks before being cleared (although that was complicated by the removal of his wisdom teeth). The current shoulder injury was caused when tracking down a ball in the gap. The collision with the wall was seemingly not significant, but enough force was there to cause harm.

    For me neither of the most recent maladies would fall into the category of reckless aggression. Minnesota has made strides in Buxton’s positioning, and through conversation with Byron, in hopes of sparing him from unnecessary hits. Taking matters into his own hands as well, Buxton told Dan Hayes of The Athletic that he bulked up this winter in hopes of a more durable stature. In short, I’m not sure there’s much to be done here than blame bad luck.

    One of the most spectacular catches Byron has ever made happened in May 2017 against the Cleveland Indians. Flying towards the right-center gap, he leapt and used the wall as the sole stop for his momentum. The catch was great, the fallout was not. It’s plays like this that while spectacular, Minnesota is undoubtedly trying to avoid. Byron has the ability to generate 5-star catches (per Statcast) and lead the big leagues in Outs Above Average while rarely sacrificing himself going back on the baseball. Discussion about avoiding the wall has taken place, and even with a well ingrained instinct to make all sacrifices, I believe the message of staying healthy and available to the team has been given.

    Whenever he returns, we’ll have to hope that the hot hitting follows suit (10-26, 7 XBH since his concussion return). The Twins will continue working with him to find ways to avoid preventable injury, and they’ll chalk up situations like this one as an unfortunate result and opportunity for strengthened health. Now it’s on Jake Cave to step up.

    There’s no denying that Minnesota is worse without Buxton. He patrols the outfield and allows the corners to remain strong, while giving utility players one less spot they need to key in on. Max Kepler is an above average centerfielder, but he’s not Byron, and the guys around him now must pick up the slack. So far, we haven’t seen Cave do that, but the evidence is there.

    Cave is not a good center fielder. He lacks the instincts to adequately cover so much ground at Target Field. He is a serviceable right fielder though and that’s what Minnesota needs from him for much of the next month. The defense shouldn’t be called into question as much down the line, but that bat must begin to play. Though sporadic, his 103 plate appearances have resulted in a paltry .198/.320/.302 slash line. He’s got just five extra-base hits and has only been a fraction of the .786 OPS player we saw a season ago.

    Still 26-years-old and having played less than 130 big league games, Cave is continuing through an acclimation process. 2018 showed us that the ability is there, and in 48 Triple-A games this season he owns a .352/.393/.592 slash line with 29 extra-base hits (seven homers). Jake has nearly doubled his big-league walk rate this year, and he’s trimmed a bit off his strikeout rate. Whiffing the same amount but chasing a bit less, his hard-hit rate is now over 41%.

    [attachment=12920:Webp.net-gifmaker.gif]

    Arguably the most significant issue Cave is dealing with this season is his launch angle. Hitting the ball harder matters little when he dropped to a 16.1% line drive rate (from 25.7%) and a 17.9% fly ball rate (from 30.6%). A 10-degree launch angle a season ago has dropped to the tune of a 3.7 degree mark this season. Opportunity for success lies most within addressing this problem. It will be on James Rowson to work with Cave on getting back to what he was doing last season. Lifting the ball must be a part of his game and wasting significant quality barreled balls isn’t something a fringe batter can afford.

    Over the next month we’ll definitely miss Byron Buxton. We need to spend less time worrying about how to change or overhaul his style of play though. This is an unfortunate situation that the Twins face, but it isn’t one that’s been created by carelessness on Buxton’s part. To mitigate the impact of his presence, or lack thereof in the lineup, it will be on Jake Cave to improve his 2019 output and bring the numbers he’s posted in Rochester to Minnesota.

    This was pulled over from our blogs section originally appearing from Off The Baggy. You can start your own blog here.

    • Aug 06 2019 04:31 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
    • Aug 04 2019 06:01 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  23. Trade Deadline Thread: How Far Would You Go to Add an Ace?

    Friday, La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported that the Mets asking price for Noah Syndergaard is sky high. According Neal’s sources, the Mets are “eyeing both Lewis and Kirilloff as part of a package for Syndergaard.”

    Wow. Royce Lewis AND Alex Kirilloff ... and that’s just PART of the package?

    Last night, La Velle passed along another trade tidbit, saying that the Mets’ asking price included Byron Buxton.

    It’s not at all surprising the Twins were “turned off” by that price, but from the Mets’ perspective, the worst thing that could happen is the Twins say no. Why not ask, right?

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that an executive who has communicated with the Mets said “They are definitely trading Syndergaard.” If that truly is the case, the Mets front office will need to lower its asking price, but they can certainly expect to command a hefty return for the 26-year-old Syndergaard, who still has two more seasons of team control.

    The beauty of the deadline is this will all have to be resolved one way or another by 3 pm CT tomorrow afternoon.

    La Velle’s piece called Syndergaard a target “no longer viable,” but only time will tell. That price may drop. Among the bullpen targets the Twins could pivot to, Neal listed Kirby Yates, Greg Holland, Archie Bradley and Mychal Givens.

    What do I think is going to happen? Well, here’s nearly 15 minutes of me sharing my thoughts on the deadline, the front office’s intentions and some of what my expectations are. This could end up looking really, really bad. It’s so difficult to even guess what may happen, since this is the first real contending Twins team of the Derek Falvey era.



    To answer my own question purposed in the headline, the furthest I’d personally go to trade for an ace-calibur pitcher would be Alex Kirilloff as the marquee piece. Cody wrote an article last night that asked Is Alex Kirilloff Expendale? I think to a certain degree he is. That’s much less of a shot at Alex as it is an indication of how stacked this organization is with corner outfield/first base options right now.

    It’s not that I view Lewis as completely untouchable, but it’d take multiple good, long-term pieces coming back. There’s a chance Royce both reaches his ceiling and stays at shortstop. If that happens, he’ll be among the most valuable players in the league. It’d take a lot to walk away from that.

    Not that I don’t believe in Alex. There’s no questioning his feel for hitting, and I think he’s more athletic than most people give him credit for, but corner outfielders or first basemen are easy to find, relatively speaking. C.J. Cron hit 30 homers and was non-tendered. The entire current Twins outfield will remain in tact for multiple seasons and there are some other attractive outfielders in the pipeline as well.

    If the Twins end up aiming lower on the trade market, there are reasons why I could understand that. This is the first year on the job for Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner. This is a franchise on the rise, not one who sees its window closing.

    A lot of the players carrying this team right now will be around for years to come and the minor league system ranks among the best in the game. That doesn’t guarantee you anything, but I feel like there’s a very good chance we’re entering an extended period of sustained winning baseball in Twins Territory.

    Even if they aim gets lower, this front office still has plenty of incentive to make some moves. In mid-June, I wrote about the potential impending roster crunch this offseason. Lewin Diaz was among the guys I mentioned who needed to be added to the 40-man roster at the end of the season. He’s already been shipped out to Miami.

    Beyond all the top prospects is a nice tier of players that should be attractive to a team who has a barren system. Ben Rortvedt, Ryan Jeffers, Jose Miranda and (though he’s injured right now) Travis Blankenhorn could be dangled for more pitching help. Guys performing in Triple-A like Nick Gordon or Jaylin Davis would have some appeal to certain teams. And those are just some of the bats.

    This is going to sound harsh, but it wouldn’t take a lot to improve the outlook of the Twins bullpen right now. Even marginal upgrades would go a long way. They’ve looked good at times, but it’s just not realistic to roll with rookies Lewis Thorpe, Sean Poppen and Cody Stashak in the bullpen down the stretch.

    So while the market for a top of the rotation starter may seem steep right now, there’s still time for things to change. If prices don't come down, I still fully expect the Twins to make multiple moves between now and the deadline, given their incentive to clear some room.

    I still can’t believe how quiet things have been league-wide to this point. Things could get nuts leading up to tomorrow’s 3 pm CT deadline.

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
    Twins Moving on From SP Trade Targets?
    What Sergio Romo Brings to the Twins Bullpen
    Could the Twins Afford to Take on Zack Greinke’s Contract?
    Trade Deadline Thread: The Rumor Mill is Working Overtime
    Trade Deadline Topics: Prospects, Scouting, Rumors
    Trade Deadline Thread: What To Do About the Rotation?
    The Gauntlet 1.2; A Complete Breakdown of the Top Relief Arms
    For Enlow and Other Minor Leaguers, “No One Is Safe” At Trade Deadline
    Twins Won't Rule Out Trading For Lance Lynn

    JEREMY'S DEADLINE SERIES (Part VI Coming Soon)
    Let's Make A Deal, Part V: Are We Getting Noah Syndergaard or Someone Else?
    Let's Make A Deal, Part IV: The Sellers
    Let's Make A Deal, Part III: The Ammunition
    Let's Make A Deal, Part II: Payroll
    Let's Make A Deal, Part I: 2020

    • Jul 30 2019 05:43 AM
    • by Tom Froemming