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  1. Recapping the Twins All-Time Best Defender Bracket

    Torii Hunter Region
    Hunter’s defensive prowess was something that followed him through his big-league career, even after he was forced to move to a corner outfield position. He won seven Gold Gloves during his time in Minnesota and added two more after signing with the Angels. He was a clear pick as the number one overall seed, but would he have enough to make it through the entire bracket?

    Zoilo Versalles might have provided the biggest challenge to Hunter in the region. The former MVP won multiple Gold Gloves at shortstop. Many reached out on Twitter and wondered how many current fans even remembered Versalles and his slick glove up the middle. Even if he was good for his time, Hunter ended up winning the region and moved on to the Final Four.
    [attachment=13651:Slide1.JPG]
    Kirby Puckett Region
    Kirby Puckett made arguably the most famous catch in team history during Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. He wasn’t a one-catch wonder though as he accumulated six Gold Gloves throughout his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately for Puckett, his region had a strong number two seed and an upset looked like it could be on the horizon.

    First, Puckett had to get by Corey Koskie, one of the team’s best defensive third basemen. From there he matched up in the regional final against Joe Mauer, who had defeated Denard Span in round one. Mauer won multiple Gold Gloves behind the plate and likely should have won one during his time at first. He was a tremendous athlete and his defensive skills beat out Puckett to win the region.
    [attachment=13652:Slide2.JPG]
    Jim Kaat Region
    Younger fans might not be aware, but Jim Kaat lived up to his nickname on the mound as he used cat-like reflexes to pounce on batted balls. He holds the team record for Gold Gloves, and he went on to win 16 for his career. Much like Versalles before him, would a younger crowd on Twitter know enough about Kaat to push him through the region?

    Kaat’s region was no breeze as it included some of the biggest names in team history. Tony Oliva, Gary Gaetti, and Greg Gagne had a chance to upset the region’s number one seed. The regional final would be a battle between Gaetti, the team’s outstanding World Series third baseman, and Kaat, the top seed. Cooler heads prevailed and Kaat qualified for the Final Four.
    [attachment=13653:Slide3.JPG]
    Byron Buxton Region
    Recency bias could play a role in making Byron Buxton the number two overall seed in the tournament, but he has made some legendary plays in his big-league career. Unfortunately, his career has been limited because of a variety of injuries. Would fans overlook his injury time and allow him to move out of the region?

    Buxton first made quick work of Kent Hrbek, a team legend, but one that played his entire career at first base. The lower part of the bracket pitted two other first basemen as one player took over first base from another in a dramatic trade deadline deal. Buxton faced a Gold Glove winner, Doug Mientkiewicz, in the final, but the first baseman couldn’t pull off the upset and Buxton moved on to face Kaat in the Final Four.
    [attachment=13654:Slide4.JPG]
    Final Four
    Torii Hunter versus Joe Mauer and Jim Kaat versus Byron Buxton comprised the semi-final matchups in the Best Defender Bracket. Mauer had upset the number one seed, Puckett, to qualify for the Final Four, but he wouldn’t have enough steam to take down Spider-Man. Fans are more familiar with Buxton and it was easy for him to take down Kaat, especially since Buxton’s defense has been other-worldly when he has been healthy.

    Hunter facing off against Buxton in the final was certainly an intriguing match-up. Hunter has more Gold Gloves and was able to stay healthy and on the field for most of his Twins tenure. Buxton makes spectacular plays but there have been injury concerns. Overall, Buxton is a better defender and the fans picked him over Hunter’s longevity.


    Do you agree with the results? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Apr 28 2020 05:54 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. 91/19 World Series, Game 7: Metrodome Madness Goes Extra Innings

    For the legendary manager of the 1991 Twins, the first one he pulled out was announced just hours before the first pitch was thrown. With his options limited for starting pitchers, he would turn to rookie lefthander Denny Neagle, who in game three had looked like an ace while holding the 2019 Twins scoreless through seven innings.

    He began this one with a quick one-two-three inning, needing just seven pitches to retire Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, and Nelson Cruz. His offense then immediately got to work for him in the bottom half against Baldelli’s big-blind check move of Michael Pineda, who was on the losing end in Game 3.

    Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, as he had also done to lead off their third matchup, ambushed Pineda with a bunt on an 0-1 pitch. It got past Pineda, and since Miguel Sano was playing in at third base, he was unable to cut it off in front of Polanco at short, who’s throw to first was a step late.

    Going back to the well for perhaps the coaching move of the series, Kelly again had Kent Hrbek batting second, and once again he rewarded his manager’s faith by launching the first pitch he saw into the first rows of seats above the baggy in right field. It was his sixth home run of the series, and 15th RBI for the ’91 team.

    In the second inning it was Baldelli’s turn to play his cards right, and since his team was known as the Bomba Squad and had just set the Major League record for home runs in a season, it was a bit of a bluff that paid off big. The inning started with back-to-back four pitch walks to Mitch Garver and Sano, then Max Kepler, C.J. Cron, and Eddie Rosario all followed with hard hit singles that put them out front 3-2. Neagle struck out Byron Buxton in his attempt to limit any further damage but followed that up by walking Polanco as the lineup turned over, again loading the bases. Luis Arraez then clubbed an opposite field double that scored two more and brought Kelly out of the dugout, his first trick having failed.

    “Yeah, the greenhorn didn’t get the job done,” the skipper would pan at the podium after the game when asked about the decision to start the rookie. With a smirk he continued, “It was Gardy’s idea with the options we had, I don’t think he’ll ever trust a rookie again.”

    Nelson Cruz and Garver added two more singles and two more runs to the tally before lefty David West was able to shut it down. In the inning, twelve men came to bat for the 2019 team, and seven had crossed the plate. Baldelli’s team took the second inning pot with three walks, five singles, and Arraez’s double instead of any Bombas.

    “It was a little different than how we did it throughout the season, but we’ll take ‘em how we can get ‘em,” Baldelli exclaimed in the locker room after the game. “We needed all those chip shots!”

    The ’91 Twins were able to get a few of those runs back in the following innings, as Mike Pagliarulo snuck a fly-ball just inside the foul pole and over the baggy in right for a two-run homer in the bottom of the second. Kirby Puckett led off the third with a ball that ricocheted hard off the folded-up seats above the baggy in nearly the same spot. Pineda’s night was over a batter later, after surrendering a single to Shane Mack. Baldelli then called upon Ryne Harper again, who allowed just one run over the next three innings, providing a good counter.

    Reliever West got the ’91 Twins into the fourth inning but was lifted after a two-out walk put runners on the corners for the 2019 squad, and Kelly again reached up his sleeve by bringing in his closer, Rick Aguilera, earlier than he ever had to try and squash any further rallies.

    This gamble paid off and by the time Aguilera was out of gas, Kelly’s team had reclaimed much of their chips at the table. He retired the first nine hitters he faced, five of them on strikeouts, and although he was clearly unhappy when Kelly came out to get him after allowing his first hit - a single to Miguel Sano in the seventh —it was clear to his manager he had given him all he had.

    “You saw Aggie want to tear my head off when I went out there to get him,” Kelly said about the extended mound meeting before he finally got the ball out of Aguilera’s glove. “He still hasn’t spoken to me, but that’s the type of competitor he is. He would have stayed out there until he could only lob it underhand if I let him.”

    Kelly maybe should have let him lob a few over, as Mark Guthrie proceeded to allow a double to Kepler that scored Sano after a passed ball put him in scoring position, and the 2019 Twins got a needed insurance run for an 8-6 lead.

    In the bottom half of the inning, Hrbek and Chili Davis drew a pair of walks, and with two outs Harper lined a shallow single into center field. Ignoring the stop sign from his third base coach, the hulking Hrbek took a gamble of his own rounding third and luckily caught Byron Buxton by surprise. His double-pumped throw to home came in off target and Hrbek’s headfirst flop beat Garver’s diving tag attempt to the plate to make it 8-7.

    “I’m sure you can tell I’ve never slid headfirst in my life,” Hrbek quipped post game, the road rash on his cheek and chin still red and covered in dirt. “There was no way I was gonna be able to stop at third there with the momentum I had built up.”

    The teams traded zeroes in the eighth inning, but it wasn’t due to lacking drama. The Bomba Squad got a single from Jorge Polanco in the top half that prompted Kelly to bring in Kevin Tapani. Luis Arraez then singled on a 3-2 pitch, and after an intentional walk to Nelson Cruz to load the bases with one out, Tapani stared down the highest Leverage Index situation of his career. He rose to the challenge, striking out both Garver and Sano to keep his team within one.

    In the bottom half a leadoff single from Pagliarulo prompted Baldelli to turn to Tyler Duffey, who induced a double-play ball, bringing Kent Hrbek to the plate down one. He was right on a couple 95 MPH fastballs up in the zone, fouling them straight back, before sending the third one deep into center field. Off the bat it didn’t seem like it was going to get out with that low of a trajectory, but surely it was going to land for extra bases.

    That was until platinum glove center fielder Byron Buxton turned on the afterburners to run it down at a full sprint speed of 33.4 feet-per-second, a Statcast era record, just short of the warning track before crashing into the wall just shy of where the baggy rises in right-center. Kepler helped him up off the track with a strong slap to his backside, his jaw on the turf in bewilderment.

    “Didn’t get enough air under that one” said Hrbek in his presser, shaking his head. “That kid is #^&@-ing fast.”

    Buxton would make noise from the batter’s box in the ninth as well, the adrenaline likely still coursing through his veins. After two one-out singles from C.J. Cron and Eddie Rosario, Buxton sent a grounder up the middle past a diving Greg Gagne to score Cron who beat Puckett’s throw to home with a foot first slide through Brian Harper’s legs as he fielded the hop over the plate. Kelly then brought out Jack Morris from the bullpen, looking to keep his team as close as he could, and Black Jack did his thing in striking out Ehire Adrianza and Arraez to keep the game within two.

    In the bottom of the ninth Baldelli couldn’t have felt better about sending out his season long bullpen weapon and closer, Taylor Rogers, looking to complete a 3-1 series comeback and hoist the trophy with all the state of Minnesota.

    “That’s the situation you dream about as an MLB closer,” Rogers remarked to Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner in the clubhouse. “You just hope it goes a lot different than it did.”

    That’s because after Rogers got both Puckett and Mack to ground out to start the inning, Chili Davis’ solo home run into left opened the portals of doom with two outs for the 2019 squad’s best reliever. Brian Harper followed with a single to left, then Gene Larkin’s double down the left field line scored him all the way from first to tie the game at nine and send the Homer Hanky faithful in the stands into pandemonium.

    When Rogers stepped back onto the mound to face Greg Gagne, the decibel meters at field level in the Metrodome were registering a constant 130+ decibels, equivalent to a F-16 taking off from an aircraft carrier, and this beat writers glass of [not water anymore] was rumbled off my workspace in the press box.

    Gagne tried to channel the energy in the stadium and took a big cut at the first pitch fastball from Rogers, sending it toward center field. It had the height but fell harmlessly into Buxton’s glove in center for the third out and a brief reprieve from the overwhelming noise inside the homer dome, so this one was going to extra innings.

    Nelson Cruz got things started in the tenth by crushing a 3-2 pitch 108.1 MPH to deep center that Puckett couldn’t catch up to, resulting in a double and the go-ahead runner in scoring position. Garver moved him 90 feet away with a fly ball to the warning track in front of the baggy, then Sano stepped into the box with one out. For all the earlier excitement in the game, this at-bat would prove anti-climactic, as a 1-2 slider in the dirt bounced and was deflected by Harper towards the visitors’ dugout, allowing Cruz to scamper home for a 10-9 lead. Sano struck out and a fly ball from Max Kepler ended the inning, but the ’91 team now had work to do.

    After blowing the save in the ninth, Baldelli stuck with his closer to start the tenth, as the left-handed hitting Pagliarulo led off. Pagliurulo grounded out before Chuck Knoblauch lined a single into right field to put the tying run on base. Even though the next hitter was left-handed and his name was Hrbek, Baldelli wanted a fresh arm to face the Bomba Squad’s killer in the series. He went to Trevor May and the noise started creeping upward in the dome again as three straight balls made the count 3-1 to the slugger. May’s next pitch perhaps surprised Hrbek a bit, coming in a little softer than his normal mid-90’s heat at 88 MPH, and he was only able to send a can of corn out to center for the inning’s second out. That brought up Kirby Puckett, and he kept the rally alive with a single into left field, putting Knoblauch in scoring position for Shane Mack as perhaps their last hope.

    On a 2-2 pitch, he smashed a ground ball at 107 MPH the other way that looked like it would get past C. J. Cron at first base with the aid of the turf, but his reactionary dive allowed him to get just enough glove on it. As he pushed himself up off the turf he looked into his glove just to make sure the ball was in there, then put his hands up in the air in celebration as he stepped on the base for the game’s final out.

    “I kind of panicked for a split second when I saw the ball in my glove, it just happened so fast,” Cron said of his game saving play. “I didn’t even feel the ball hit my glove, so I didn’t think I had it, then it’s like ‘where do I get an out?!’” he laughed.

    Luckily for him, that out was just a few feet away, and he and the rest of his teammates could get to celebrating their series comeback from 3-1 and holding off the onslaught that was Kent Hrbek’s series MVP winning performance. It was only the second time a losing player has ever won the award in a World Series.

    “He can have it, my goodness” Rocco Baldelli remarked in the champagne covered clubhouse media-scrum after hearing about the award. “I don’t know who the heck else you could give it to after what he did this series, but I think my guys are fine with the other trophy!”

    It was then that Hrbek barged into the visitor’s clubhouse, exclaiming “Who’s got a beer for me?!” while unceremoniously dropping that MVP trophy into the nearest garbage can. He had to duck a bit as cans came flying at him from every direction, but he joined in on the celebration all the same.

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

    Game 1
    Game 2
    Game 3
    Game 4
    Game 5
    Game 6

    • Apr 02 2020 09:07 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  3. Twins Chances Shrink in Muted Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Mar 13 2020 08:53 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  5. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Center Field

    Projected Starter: Byron Buxton
    Likely Backup: Max Kepler

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

    THE GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    THE BAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

    THE BOTTOM LINE

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

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

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


    ~~~


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

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    • Mar 13 2020 05:49 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  6. Byron Buxton's Recovery Reaches New Milestone

    What was Buxton’s instant analysis of the hacks?

    “It’s the first day, so I was just up there, basically looking at pitches, trying to swing at good pitches, see how the arm feels,” he said. “Felt pretty good, so take the positive side out of it, put the ball in play a little bit. It’s a good day all around.”

    On Tuesday, Buxton faced a quartet of Twins pitchers, including a couple of Baileys — Homer and Ober -- as well as Bryan Sammons and Lachlan Wells. The field was empty besides on the mound and at the plate. Catchers called pitches and occasionally announced a count. Buxton saw about 16 pitches in all, including a pair of split-changes from Bailey.

    “I'm glad he's over here and I don't have to deal with that split-change anymore,” Buxton said after the session. “Oh my goodness. It was good.”

    For the Twins, having Buxton in center field and adding his speed to the lineup to give the opposing battery panic attacks is a massive weapon. After all, in 2019 the Twins were 62-25 when he played, which is certainly notable, but Rocco Baldelli feels that there is something extra that Buxton brings to the team.

    “There are a lot of skill sets that you see a fair number of in the big leagues, his skill set is not one you see very often,” Baldelli said. “When he does make these plays, there's an energy and it becomes contagious. It gets our team and his teammates a confidence when he's out there. That's something that he does.”

    Buxton’s emerging leadership is becoming more evident too. During the live session, once the pitchers were done for the day, Buxton would walk out toward the baseline and greet them, giving them a knuckle smash and offering words of encouragement. In regard to his shoulder recovery, Buxton noted that the little things, like a healthy day after live swings, makes a difference. It’s possible, too, that little things such as a passing platitude to a teammate makes a difference.

    As far as his progression, if all goes well Buxton says he will see live pitching again on Thursday and Friday. Once comfortable with that, he will begin game action but there is no timeline for that -- which is something the manager and player agree upon.

    “His comfort and progression and health are the most important thing,” said Baldelli. “I don't have a schedule for Byron Buxton. Our training staff does not have a schedule for Byron. He's going to show us what his schedule will be by how well everything goes as it is laid out.”

    “We are all on the same page,” Buxton said. “Each and every day we take it one day at a time. Today was the first day of live BPs and it felt good.”

    What does it mean for Opening Day?

    “Obviously I want to make Opening Day, but if the situation isn’t here, it’s not here,” he said matter-of-factly. “Keep doing what I’m doing, keep working hard, and go from there.”

    One day at a time.

    • Mar 11 2020 05:43 AM
    • by Parker Hageman
  7. Is Byron Buxton Behind Schedule for Opening Day?

    Initial Reports
    Byron Buxton is recovering from season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left-shoulder. He started swinging in late January, hitting off a tee in February and taking live batting practice this week. Slow and steady seems to be the name of the game and it’s certainly makes sense with Buxton’s injury history.

    Near the beginning of spring training, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said the club anticipated Buxton being ready for game action by mid-March. This deadline is quickly approaching, and Buxton has yet to appear in a game. Even if he does appear in games in the next week, will that be enough time put him on the Opening Day roster by March 26.

    "There's no rushing this process," Buxton told MLB.com. "I know what I've got to do to be able to get back to being myself, and rushing is not one of them."

    Manager Rocco Baldelli echoed this sentiment on Monday. "I don't have a schedule for Byron Buxton," Baldelli said. "Our training staff does not have a schedule for Byron. He's going to show us what his schedule will be by how well everything goes as it is laid out."
    Buxton was off to a strong start last season before getting injured as he seemed to have found himself offensively. In 87 games, he hit .262/.314/.513 (.827) with 44 extra-base hits. His 30 doubles were near the top of the league before he missed time. Matthew Trueblood wrote there could be one seemingly small adjustment that would yield a big payoff.

    Roster Impact
    If Buxton isn’t ready for Opening Day, there will be a few moving pieces that impact the overall 26-man roster. Firstly, Max Kepler would move from right field to center field where he played for parts of last season after Buxton’s injury. Secondly, Marwin Gonzalez would likely take over as an everyday player to start the year, but he has been coming back from an offseason knee surgery of his own, so the Twins would need other outfield depth.

    Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would likely be vying to serve in the back-up outfielder role. Cave hit .258/.351/.455 (.805) with 21 extra-base hits in 72 games last season. Wade Jr. dislocated his thumb in his second big-league game and was forced to sit out from early July until the middle of August. He returned to the big-leagues as a September call-up and hit .196/.348/.375 (.723) with five extra-base hits in 26 games last year.

    Cave is already in a battle for the final roster spot with Willians Astudillo, so it seems more likely for both players to make the Opening Day roster if Buxton is unable to go.

    Should fans be worried about Buxton? Is it better to take it slow with him because of his injury history? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Mar 10 2020 07:58 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  8. Get to Know: Twins Outfield Prospect Willie Joe Garry, Jr.

    Willie Joe Garry, Jr. grew up in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is a city right on the Gulf of Mexico with about 23,000 people. It is just east of Biloxi.

    It was there that Garry grew to love the game of baseball. He tried playing other sports.

    Following a practice this past weekend, he said, “I played football when I was younger. I was alright. Basketball? I was not good at all.”

    But even in baseball, it wasn’t obvious that he would eventually become a professional ball player. Pascagoula High School is now a 6A school after spending years as a 5A school. As a freshman, he was unable to play because of a knee injury.

    His sophomore season, he was still quite small. He said that he was about 5-2 and just 130 pounds. ‘I pitched though. I was a pretty good pitcher. I threw pretty hard for my size.“

    He started growing some, and as a junior, he started the season as the team’s center fielder.

    “I got into a slump so I got snatched out of the lineup. Went to right field. Still slumped, so I got benched. ”

    From that point forward, however, things have been on the rise, including Garry’s prospect status.

    “I came back in the playoffs and got hot.”

    Then as a senior, he was the team’s starting center fielder all season.

    He had committed to playing baseball at local community college Pearl River, but when the Twins selected him in the ninth round, it wasn’t a real difficult decision for him to sign.

    “It was something me and my parents had talked about prior (to the draft). We talked about it once we got the call. It wasn’t really tough because I really wanted to play professional baseball. I knew I would be able to grow and build, and if I could start out earlier, that would be better. Coming in young, I felt like that would be an advantage for me. Being a young guy. Being around the older guys. Being on the same workout plan as them, but starting out earlier. That was our key point. That’s what made it a little earlier too.”

    While Mississippi isn’t the noted baseball hotbed in the same way that Georgia preps are, Garry came from a strong class.

    “The competition in Mississippi is … JT Ginn (1st round, Dodgers). Joe Gray (2nd round, Brewers). Konnor Pilkington (3rd round, White Sox). Dexter Jordan (16th round, Astros). A bunch of guys drafted from that same class. I felt the competition was pretty good. We never really faced any… you had a couple of teams that didn’t have too many guys. Usually when our team played a team, we saw their #1 guy, and I feel like that helped a lot.”

    Willie Joe Garry, Jr. was the Twins ninth round pick in 2018. One other Mississippi player drafted that year was Regi Grace, a right-handed pitcher that the Twins took in the tenth round.

    “I’d heard about him. I was in 5A. They were in 6A. My school went to 6A. We never played with or against each other until the summer going into the draft. We ended up playing together.” He continued, “We got SnapChat. We started texting. We just started hanging out a bit.Then we got here. We started getting a close bond. Then ninth round,10th round. We had the same flight up to Minnesota when we got drafted. Then we became roommates. Now we’re really good friends. Still roommates right now.”

    That first season in the GCL after he signed was a rough one for Garry. In 33 games, he hit just .160 with four doubles. He had 28 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances and felt almost over-matched.

    “I feel like I’m still growing, still getting stronger and stronger every day. From the first year, not really showing any power, really not making much contact. So that’s what I was working on in that offseason, making contact, hard contact. It was good to see the work from the offseason transfer into the season.”

    When the season finished, he went to work. Garry, Jr and Grace were among the first players to arrive at the Twins minor league academy just days after the calendar turned to 2019.

    “The transition from the year before to last year was really good. It was something I worked on, like catching the balls up front because I was getting blown up by fastballs throughout the whole season my first year. So working on that velo, catching up to that velo. And then to see it work out in-game the very next season, that was really good for me. I needed that. I built a lot of confidence, so then I could put a little extra on my swing. Started putting a few out. Start getting some extra base hits. Stopped worrying about swinging through balls. Just play. That’s what I went back to.”

    In 55 games with the Elizabethton Twins, he hit .228 with six doubles, three triples and five home runs. There is still room for improvement, of course, but Garry took major strides in 2019. The goal is to keep that momentum going into 2020.

    At Elizabethton, he had the opportunity to play for manager Ray Smith who has spent the past 34 seasons with that team, including 27 of them as manager. He was drafted by and spent parts of three seasons with the Twins in the early ‘80s. E-Twins hitting coach Jeff Reed was a first-round pick with the Twins, got traded and spent 17 seasons in the big leagues. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge.

    “So much knowledge. I learned so much. Not even from drills and things, just from listening to them. Sometimes I wasn’t even in the conversation. Just standing to the side listening to them, the things they were saying. I tried to put some of those things into my game because they coached Buxton and all these guys. They go way back. Listening to them, taking the things that they say and trying to put them into my game helped a lot too. Not even the physical things, but the mental parts. The approach after a strikeout, things like that. Coming in knowing you can take your walks. Not trying to do too much.”

    So again, he and Regi made that early January trek to Ft. Myers to keep working. ““I feel it paid off last year so we did it again.”

    That work began in the weight room.

    “A lot of my effort, early in the morning has been to gain weight in the weight room. Still trying to gain weight.” Garry, Jr. continued, “175 last year. I’m up to 189, cracking 190. I hit 190, I’ll start rocking some Double-XL shirts.”.

    Posted Image

    It’s all part of the process for the kids drafted out of high school or internationally. They have to mature physically and mentally.

    So, what does he consider his strengths on the baseball field?

    “I feel like even though I’m small, strength is a part of my game. I feel like I have a plus arm. I’m working on power. Consistency. I can show some flashes of power. I can go oppo if I need to. I can to do center or right.So I’m trying to get that consistency.

    Being able to use the entire field is something that he thinks is important.

    “I don’t want to cut off one side of the field. Get those doubles on the left side. Get those doubles on the right side. Maybe let a couple fly on the right side. Doesn’t matter how far or what side of the field.”

    As for goals for 2020? They’re never too far from Garry’s mind, or his eyes.

    “They’re on the screen saver of my phone. I look at them every day.”

    Better utilizing his speed is one area that he would like to work on.

    “I really want to move around the base paths this year. Stolen bases. Turning those singles into doubles by stolen bases, reading dirt balls. Show a little more power. But really I want to keep learning and take my game to the next level.”

    Where will that happen? There is a chance that he will return to the E-Twins, but it’s also possible that he gets an opportunity to start the season in Cedar Rapids. If that is the case, he will need to continue to make adjustments, this time while adjusting to the cold temperatures of the MIdwest League in April. That said, if his ultimate goal is to reach the big leagues and play at Target Field, acclimating to the temperatures will be a must.

    When I saw Willie Joe Garry one year ago in Twins minor league camp, he stood out to me as one to watch.His athleticism was impressive. He had good speed. He was thin, but he had some pop. And, I had heard about his work ethic. And again, he is one of the players this spring that has stood out to me again as one to watch.

    • Mar 04 2020 09:26 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  9. Ranking Minnesota’s Roster Depth By Position Group

    All depth chart information was taken from MLB.com and the team’s official depth chart. Some players are not listed on the official depth chart at this time due to suspension, injury or contract status. Those players have been added to the depth chart or included in the discussion.

    11. Center Field
    Depth Chart: Buxton, Kepler, Cave, Wade Jr.
    Byron Buxton might not be ready for the season’s start and this could push Max Kepler from right field to center field where he filled in admirably last season. However, he has flaws as a defensive center fielder. If Buxton and Kepler were both hurt, someone like Jake Cave or LaMonte Wade Jr. would be forced to play up the middle and this would certainly not be ideal for the team.

    10. Shortstop
    Depth Chart: Polanco, Adrianza, Gordon
    Jorge Polanco was the AL’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, but there were some struggles for him in the second half including a nearly 100-point drop in his OPS. Should Polanco go down with an injury, Ehire Adrianza has proven himself to be a strong defensive replacement even if he can’t be at the same offensive level as Polanco. Nick Gordon, a former top-5 pick, has started over 500 games at shortstop throughout his professional career, but he’s been getting more innings at second base in recent years.

    9. Second Base
    Depth Chart: Arraez, Adrianza, Gordon
    Over his last three seasons, Luis Arraez has averaged 122 games played per seasons including with last year marking a career high 146 games played. as at shortstop, Adrianza would be a defensive upgrade and it would be interesting to see how the Twins would handle a long-term injury to Arraez. Would they consider moving Polanco to second and playing Adrianza at shortstop?

    8. First Base
    Depth Chart: Sano, Gonzalez, Astudillo
    Sano has missed time in every big-league season, so there is a likelihood he’ll miss time again this year. Luckily for the Twins, Gonzalez and Astudillo could both fill in at first base when Sano is out of the line-up. Outside of the players on the team’s official depth chart, Adrianza logged over 118 innings at first base last season as well. His defensive skills are probably better utilized elsewhere, but he can fill in if there is a need.

    7. Left Field
    Depth Chart: Rosario, Cave, Wade Jr., Gonzalez
    Minnesota has no shortage of corner outfield options, but the depth can get stretch if Buxton is not in center and Kepler is forced to take his spot. There is no guarantee Jake Cave and Lamonte Wade Jr. make the 26-man roster out of spring training, which would leave Marwin Gonzalez as one of the few on-roster options for the club. Adrianza made appearances at both corner outfield spots last season, but almost all his time was in right field.

    6. Right Field
    Depth Chart: Kepler, Cave, Wade Jr., Gonzalez
    Like in left field, Cave and Wade Jr. are hardly guaranteed a roster spot to start the year. An injury to Kepler or Buxton, could mean Cave or Wade Jr. end up playing on a regular basis and this might not be a terrible transition for the club. Gonzalez provides some defensive flexibility, but he has played less time in right field than any other position, so it seems more likely for the team to use other outfield options.

    5. Designated Hitter
    Depth Chart: Cruz
    Nelson Cruz was the team’s MVP last year, but he lost some time on the IL with a ruptured wrist tendon. Sano seems like an easy replacement for Cruz at DH, but then the options at first base become Gonzalez, Astudillo, or Adrianza. Would the club consider bringing up a prospect like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach or Alex Kirilloff to take over the DH role if Cruz were injured?

    4. Third Base
    Depth Chart: Donaldson, Adrianza, Gonzalez, Astudillo
    Josh Donaldson certainly upgrades this group, but an injury to him and Adrianza or Gonzalez would take over regular playing time. Adrianza is in a contract year, so it seems likely that he’d like an opportunity to show he can be an everyday player. Gonzalez took over at third base last season when Sano was on the IL. While the Twins are committed to Sano at first base, the team could always plug him back in at third if Donaldson was going to miss an extended amount of time.

    3. Catcher
    Depth Chart: Garver, Avila, Astudillo
    Garver established himself as one of the best offensive catchers in baseball last season and he appeared in less than half of the team’s games. Avila and Astudillo add depth to the backstop department and these two could certainly fill in for Garver if he had to miss a considerable amount of time. Ryan Jeffers, the team’s top catching prospect, also played some time at Double-A last season. The team is high on him and the improvements he has made on both sides of the ball.

    2. Rotation
    Depth Chart: Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda, Bailey, Pineda (Restricted List), Hill (Injured List) Dobnak, Thorpe, Smeltzer, Poppen
    Minnesota already has built in rotational depth with Michael Pineda (suspension) and Rich Hill (elbow surgery) scheduled to join the rotation in May and June or July, respectively. Another name not included on the Twins depth chart is Jhoulys Chacin who could have the inside route to the fifth starter spot, especially with Thorpe being away from spring training for two weeks for personal reasons.

    1. Bullpen
    Depth Chart: Rogers, May, Duffey, Romo, Clippard, Littell, Stashak, Romero, Wisler, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Dobnak
    Think back to the middle of last season and it seemed like the Twins were struggling to find reliable late inning relief options. It seemed like the club trusted Taylor Rogers and the rest of the options were question marks. At last year’s trade deadline, the club traded for two relief pitchers, Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo, because the position group was viewed as having some holes. Now this group might be one of the game’s strongest bullpens. Romo was getting some closing opportunities last season and he might be a fifth or sixth inning option on the current roster. Veteran additions like Tyler Clippard and Matt Wisler provide even more depth. If players underperform or get injured, the Twins can turn to other options at Rochester.

    How would you rank the position groups? Which one has the most depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Mar 03 2020 07:27 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  10. Cut to the Chase: Can Twins Hitters Avoid Balls Out of the Zone?

    Players are going to continue to chase a higher number of pitches especially with launch angle and exit velocity becoming more prevalent in the baseball vernacular. Last season, the MLB average was 28.8% for chase percentage with a 57.6% chase contact percentage. Compared to previous seasons, chase percentage has gone up each year from 27.3% in 2017 to 27.6% in 2018.

    Not all Twins hitters need to improve their chase rate. Mitch Garver was much better than the league average with a 17.4 chase % and it was no surprise for Luis Arraez to be better than league average (24.3 chase %). Other Twins better than league average included Miguel Sano (26.2%), Jorge Polanco (26.6%), Nelson Cruz (27.2%), and Max Kepler (27.6%). These players could certainly make improvements this year, but they were already better than or close to league average.

    Sano might be a surprising name to be included in the list above, because of his offensive profile. He is a larger player that is considered a power hitter and this player type typically has big swings that can result in a lot of strikeouts. Sano’s chase % was less than two points lower than Arraez, who became well known for his eye at the plate during his rookie season. Sano was even a full point better than Cruz, his hitting mentor, in relation to chase %.

    Newly signed Josh Donaldson has fared well with chase percentage even though, like Sano, he fits the profile of a power hitter. For his career, he has a 22.6 chase % while last season he was slightly higher at 23.1%. Last season, he also made more contact outside of the zone (60.0 chase contact %), a career high. His veteran approach at the plate could help other players especially some of the younger players in the organization.

    Eddie Rosario is an interesting case when it comes to chase percentage. He led all Twins players with a 43.1 chase % and it placed him fifth in all of baseball. What makes him interesting is the amount of contact he makes outside of the zone (over 70% of the time) and that puts him in baseball’s top 20. It’s hard to imagine Rosario changing his offensive approach at this point in his career, but it would be nice if he could get his chase % below 40%.

    Byron Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez had similar profiles when it came to chase % with Buxton’s chase percentage (33.9 %) only 0.4% higher than Gonzalez. Prior to the 2019 season, Buxton’s career chase % was under 32% and it seems like he could get back to that mark if he is healthy. Gonzalez had his career best chase % with the 2017 Astros and most fans are familiar with the cheating scandal surrounding that club. His chase % last season might have been the best of his career when excluding the 2017-18 seasons.

    Baseball is continuing to evolve, but some small changes for Twins batters could help the club reach their ultimate goal. Which Twins batters can make the biggest changes with chase % in 2020? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Feb 24 2020 10:23 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  11. Byron Buxton Still Has Time to Be the Next Kirby Puckett

    During his age-21 through age-23 seasons, Byron Buxton played 278 games at the big-league level. This culminated in a tremendous 2017 season where he won the Platinum Glove for his defense in center field. Also, he ended that season hitting .270/.330/.460 with 10 extra-base hits over his final 26 games. It truly looked like Buxton was putting it all together.

    At age-23, Kirby Puckett had yet to make his MLB debut and was playing the entire season below the Double-A level. He’d played the entire season for Visalia in the California League by hitting .314/.366/.442 with 45 extra-base hits in 138 games. Puckett’s path to the big leagues could be considered alternative because he wasn’t drafted until he was 21 and he didn’t make his professional debut until age 22.

    It’s no secret that Buxton is entering a critical year in his career. He has only played more than 92 games once since his rookie season so the Twins need him to prove he can stay healthy and productive. His 2019 season ended early due to a left shoulder labrum injury. Minnesota’s goal is to have him ready for Opening Day but the club has made it clear that there is no intent to rush him.


    Puckett started to show his Hall of Fame potential during his age-26 season, the same age season Buxton will enter in 2020. Puckett made the first of 10-straight All-Star appearances, he’d win his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and he finished sixth in the MVP voting. From that point forward, he’d win six more Gold Gloves, five more Silver Sluggers, and he’d finish in the top-10 for MVP six times.

    Up to this point in his career, so much of Buxton’s game has relied on speed and his game will need to continue to evolve as he ages. He has continued to add muscle over the last two off-seasons in hopes of avoiding injury. He is still in the prime of his career, but players regress in different ways as they reach their upper 20s and early 30s. Will Buxton be able to make the appropriate adjustments throughout his career?

    Buxton’s minor league performance got him to the minor leagues faster than some of the best centerfielders in Twins history. He has already accumulated more WAR than Torii Hunter, Denard Span and Puckett through his age-25 season. This is quite the trio to be compared to, but Buxton is in an organization with a long history of strong center fielders.

    Is it fair to compare Buxton to Puckett? Probably not, but fans shouldn’t give up on the former first-round pick just yet. He has plenty of career still in front of him.

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    • Feb 22 2020 07:57 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  12. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #1 SS Royce Lewis

    Age: 20 (DOB: 6-5-1999)
    2019 Stats (GCL): 566 PA, .236/.290/.371, 26-2B, 4-3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI
    ETA: 2021
    2019 Ranking: 1

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: 26 |MLB: 9 | ATH: 15 |BP: 21


    What’s To Like
    A lot.

    Oh, you want more than that. OK, there’s plenty.



    For the third straight year, Royce Lewis is the top Twins prospect according to Twins Daily, and most other Twins prospect rankings. And for Lewis, who doesn’t turn 21 until June, it’s still about the tools. In fact, among Twins prospects Baseball America ranked Lewis the Best Athlete, Fastest Baserunner and Best Power Hitter. That’s a pretty good starting point.

    The surprise might be the Best Power Hitter, and yet Lewis has always had good strength. He’s got an approach and a swing that could be conducive to providing a lot of power. And, as Dan Hayes tweeted on Sunday afternoon, Lewis said he gained 25 pounds over the offseason. He ended the 2019 season at about 190 pounds. So, if he’s able to spend most of the 2020 season north of 200 pounds on his 6-2 frame, it should keep him strong throughout the season.



    As impressive, he hasn’t lost any speed with his increased power. He remains one of the fastest players in the organization. More importantly, from a baseball standpoint, he also runs the bases well. He has been successful on 76% of his base stealing attempts. He goes from first to third, or to home, really well. It’s instinctive.


    On defense, he has good range at shortstop. Due to the logistics of the Arizona Fall League rosters, Lewis had the opportunity to play other positions beyond shortstop. He had played a lot of third base in high school, and plays it well. He got some time at second base. He also showed really good range in center field as well. While he got nearly 1000 innings at shortstop during the season with a fielding percentage of 95%. He is capable of making the great play, though sometimes he has struggled with more routine plays. Having that versatility will be important for Lewis and the Twins as we don’t know where the Twins will have a need when Lewis is deemed ready.




    What’s Left To Work On
    There is no denying that 2019 was a disappointing season offensively for the Twins top prospect. He hit just .236 across two levels and got on base just 29% of his 566 plate appearances. He struck out 123 times and walked just 38 times. He will have to control the strike zone better. Many also continue to question the big leg kick that he employs.

    There are also still questions (or at least varying opinions) on whether or not he can stay at shortstop. While I think that he can, at this stage it may simply depend on Jorge Polanco’s continued development at shortstop, or Byron Buxton’s ability to stay on the field, or Luis Arraez’s ability to avoid a sophomore slump. Consistency will be the key for Lewis, and then about opportunity.


    What’s Next
    After playing 94 games for the Miracle last year, he moved up to Double-A Pensacola where he played 33 more games (and a couple of playoff series). He will begin the 2020 season with the Blue Wahoos, likely with many of the other Twins top prospects who also ended 2019 there. In fact, it is likely that the Twins updated Top 6 prospects will all begin the season in Florida’s panhandle.


    Twins Daily 2020 Top 20 Prospects
    Honorable Mentions
    20. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
    19. Cole Sands, RHP
    18. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF
    17. Misael Urbina, OF
    16. Edwar Colina, RP
    15. Matt Canterino, RHP
    14. Matt Wallner, OF
    13. Wander Javier, SS
    12. Gilberto Celestino, OF
    11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
    10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
    9. Brent Rooker, OF
    8. Keoni Cavaco, SS
    7. Ryan Jeffers, C
    6. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    5. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    3. Trevor Larnach, OF
    2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    1. Royce Lewis, SS

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Get to know more about Royce Lewis and about another 170 minor league players including each of our Top 20 Prospects (and two Dodgers prospects) in the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

    ORDER NOW: 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $14.99)

    ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $9.99)

    The 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on about 170 Twins minor leaguers.

    • Feb 19 2020 11:36 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  13. 2 Biggest Questions About Byron Buxton in 2020

    This year’s main projections do not show Buxton much love. PECOTA projects him for a batting line of .230/.288/.436 (.724 OPS), 19 home runs, 63 RBI, 33 BB, 135 strikeouts. Fangraphs and Baseball Reference aren’t expecting much of an improvement this year either. But last season, though cut short by injuries, provided us with a lot of optimism.

    Buxton had, by far, his best offensive performance in 2019. He slashed .262/.314/.513 (.827 OPS), with a career high 34 extra-base hits in only 87 games. Even though he didn’t play a full season, he was still worth a decent amount of Wins Above Replacement, according to the three main websites that measure it: 2.7 fWAR, 2.9 WARP and 3.1 bWAR. But his offensive improvement is not superficial. He’s also improved his power, plate discipline and quality of hit balls.

    According to Baseball Prospectus metrics, he swung the bat more than in any other year of his career, with a 53.3% swing rate, but that increase came with quality too. He had career bests at contact rate (71%) and zone contact rate (81.5%). Per Baseball Savant, he also had his best year in a number of offensive metrics, such as wOBA (.340), exit velocity (89.3 mph), launch angle (19.5º), hard hit rate (38.7%) and barrel rate (8.3%). All of this resulted in much better hit balls, dropping his ground ball rate almost 15% in 2019 (29.6%), in comparison to his previous career average (44.1%).

    Along with the increased power, he’s also become more aggressive, as he’s had a career high 37.6% first-pitch swing rate. Contrary to what one might think, that didn’t do any damage to his plate discipline, as he had the lowest swinging strike rate (28.9%) and strikeout rate (23.1%) of his career. All of those numbers point to a significant improvement in comparison to 2017, his best year in the majors to date.

    Thus far, because of his superstar defense, considered by many the best in the majors among outfielders, and his clear offensive improvement since 2017, the greatest obstacle between Buxton and all-star status is his health. So, we must ask: can he remain healthy all year? I asked Twins Daily contributor Dr. Lucas Seehafer to talk a little bit about Buxton’s health and here’s what he has to say:

    The 2020 season figures to be a big one for Byron Buxton. The speedy centerfielder is currently on track in his recovery from late season surgery that repaired a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Buxton has had to battle a number of injuries over his young career, causing some to label him as injury-prone, however, none of his previous injuries have much in common.

    Over the course of his career, Buxton has been placed on the injured list for a sprained left thumb, a migraine, a fractured left big toe, a left wrist strain, a left groin strain, a right wrist bruise, a concussion, and the aforementioned labrum tear that occurred because of a left shoulder subluxation. These are not chronic injuries that could have been prevented through strengthening of his rotator cuff muscles or by maintaining good joint flexibility. Groin and wrist strains are common amongst baseball players and many of Buxton’s other injuries were caused by acute events such as sliding into a base, crashing into a wall, or getting hit by a pitch.

    Buxton would have to make major changes in the way he approaches defense to have his best chance at remaining healthy over the course of a season. To put it simply: Buxton would need to cease crashing into walls and be more particular about which batted balls he lays out for.

    Here inlies a Catch-22. Buxton’s speed and ability to catch nearly any ball between left center and right center field is what makes him arguably the best outfielder across major league baseball. By cutting down on his aggressiveness in the field, the Twins and Buxton would run the risk of limiting his overall value on defense.

    Buxton’s most recent shoulder injury shouldn’t be of great concern in either the short- nor long-term. Most athletes, especially non-pitchers, are able to return to their previous level of performance after undergoing labral repairs, and the fact that Buxton’s surgery occurred in his non-throwing shoulder means that he’ll be able to maintain his rocket arm.


    NOTE: I’d like to thank Twins Daily’s contributors Dr. Seehafer and Matthew Trueblood for assisting me with this article. Your help has been invaluable.

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    • Feb 15 2020 06:17 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  14. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #8 SS Keoni Cavaco

    Age: 18 (DOB: 6-2-2001)
    2019 Stats (GCL): 92 PA, .172/.217/.253, 4-2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
    ETA: 2025
    2019 Ranking: NR

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: NR |MLB: NR | ATH: NR |BP: NR


    What’s To Like
    There’s no hiding the reality that the Twins have had a history of drafting, signing and developing many toolsy, talented high school athletes with early-round picks. Torii Hunter. Michael Cuddyer. Joe Mauer, Denard Span. Ben Revere. Joe Benson. Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis in recent years. When it comes to tools and athleticism, Keoni Cavaco can match up with any of these players.

    Cavaco was drafted from Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. The school has several players go Division I every year as well as get drafted. Cavaco only played infield his final two years of high school and wasn’t a known commodity on the national scene until after the summer of his junior year. Like several others from his school, he was committed to San Diego State.

    Cavaco has a very strong, athletic build. He’s already 6-2 and hovers around 200 pounds. He’s got quick hands and has the potential to hit a lot of home runs, in time. He also has speed that can match up with most anyone in the organization. In fact, he was clocked at 3.9 seconds to first base from the right-hand batters box.

    Right now, his defense is ahead of his offense. The Twins had him play shortstop through the short-season following the draft, but he had spent most of his high school career playing third base. His team’s shortstop was hurt during the season so Cavaco had an opportunity to show scouts that he could play the position as well. Reports from Ft. Myers indicate that he’s got great footwork, soft hands, good range and a strong arm.


    What’s Left To Work On
    When Cavaco came to Target Field to sign his contract, FSN’s Marney Gellner interviewed him on the TV broadcast. He said that he wanted to be in the major leagues in “four years or less.” Well, Twins fans, and Cavaco himself, will need to have more patience than that. The tools are all there, but many of them are quite raw.



    First and foremost, Cavaco’s “hit” tool is going to take some time. It’s all there. He’s got the size and strength. He’s got the quick hands. He’s got good vision. In his professional debut, he missed some time with some minor injuries which kept him from getting into a groove. He also had a lot of swing-and-miss, striking out in 35 of his 92 plate appearances (38%) while walking just four times.

    And as you would expect from any player that is just 18 years old, he’s got a lot of work to do across the board. His swing is just one of those things. He’s got work to do in terms of base running, and defense, and control of the strike zone. He’s also learning how to work properly in the gym, and before games, and dietary, and more.




    What’s Next
    After just 25 games and his struggles in the GCL following the draft, expect that Cavaco will spend the first half of the season in Ft. Myers at extended spring training continuing to work on his all-around game.

    At that point, it will be interesting to see if Cavaco is pushed up to Elizabethton (likely) or starts the short season in the GCL again. It’s also possible, if he picks things up quickly, he could spend some time in the second half of the season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.


    Twins Daily 2020 Top 20 Prospects
    Honorable Mentions
    20. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
    19. Cole Sands, RHP
    18. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF
    17. Misael Urbina, OF
    16. Edwar Colina, RP
    15. Matt Canterino, RHP
    14. Matt Wallner, OF
    13. Wander Javier, SS
    12. Gilberto Celestino, OF
    11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
    10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
    9. Brent Rooker, OF
    8. Keoni Cavaco, SS
    Stop by tomorrow for prospect #7!

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Get to know more about Keoni Cavaco and about another 170 minor league players (and two Dodgers prospects too - Graterol and Raley) in the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

    ORDER NOW: 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $17.99)

    ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $12.99)

    The 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on about 170 Twins minor leaguers.

    • Feb 10 2020 06:52 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  15. Minnesota’s Previous Front Offices Deserve Credit For Current Core

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill Smith Era
    2008-2011

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

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

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

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

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    • Jan 27 2020 07:29 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  16. Twins and 2020 Arbitration

    Earlier in the offseason, the Twins had to make decisions on which players they would offer arbitration to. Players with less than six years of service time, and more than three years (and the top 30% of players with more than two years of service time are Super-2 players) are eligible for salary arbitration.

    At that time, the team non-tendered RHP Sam Dyson early in the process. They also non-tended CJ Cron, who has since signed with the Tigers. They also agreed to terms with infielder Ehire Adrianza and RHP Matt Wisler.

    Below are the players that will know a lot more about their 2020 salaries by this afternoon. They will either agree to terms before 11:00 (which is usually what happens), or at that time, the team and the player will make their "bids" for their 2020 salaries. If they are unable to agree to terms before their arbitration date, the two sides will go in front of an arbitration panel and have the 2020 salary determined. This also does not happen often.

    So let's get to the players. What you will see below is the MLB Trade Rumor projection, and also the Twins Daily projection (found in the Offseason Handbook). When we see that an agreement has been reached, we will also post that under each player's name.

    UPDATE (5:00 pm.) - more specifics will be posted below when details are available.



    Trevor May

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2.1 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $2.5 million
    Actual: $2.205 million

    Eddie Rosario

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $8.9 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $7.5 million
    Actual: $7.75 million

    Miguel Sano

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $5.9 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $5.5 million
    Actual: Agreed to multi-year deal through 2022, with option for 2023.

    Byron Buxton

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2.9 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $3.5 million
    Actual: $3.025 Million (per Jon Heyman)



    Taylor Rogers

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.9 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $4.0 million
    Actual: $4.45 million

    Tyler Duffey

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million
    Twins Daily Projection:$1.25
    Actual: $1.2 million.



    Jose Berrios

    MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $5.4 million
    Twins Daily Projection: $4.5 million
    Arbitration: No agreement yet.
    Twins offer: $4.025 mlillion, Berrios asked: $4.4 million.



    https://twitter.com/...803718043684864


    Feel free to discuss.

    • Jan 11 2020 09:22 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  17. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 3 (6-10)

    First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:

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

    TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (6-10)

    10. Luis Arraez, 2B
    2019 Ranking: NR

    Last offseason, the Twins briefly considered exposing Arraez to the Rule 5 draft but thought better of it, adding him to the 40-man roster one day after doing the same for Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade, Jr. It was a wise decision to say the least.

    The scrappy and perpetually overlooked Arraez raked everywhere in 2019. He batted .342 at Double-A, .348 at Triple-A, and most impressively, .342 during a 92-game major-league debut that saw him finish sixth for AL Rookie of the Year. At age 22, Arraez was a disciplined OBP force, bringing balance to an aggressive and power-laden lineup. He showed solid defense at second and even looked capable in left. The upward trend with his power – he hit four homers with the Twins after totaling six in 367 minor-league games – hints toward offensive upside yet to be tapped.

    9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    2019 Ranking: 4

    Kirilloff didn't have a bad year in 2019. Taking on Double-A as a 21-year-old, he batted .283 with a .756 OPS in 94 games. Perfectly solid numbers given the context. But he didn't nearly match the excellence of his breakout 2018 campaign, and lost extensive time to a wrist injury, which is a tough developmental blow for a young player who missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John.

    Kirilloff remains the best pure hitting prospect in the organization, but the luster has worn off slightly and his indispensability has diminished somewhat with the continued rise of Trevor Larnach and others. This explains why Kirilloff ranks as a Top 10 asset rather than a Top 5 asset this time around, but he's still plenty valuable and exciting.

    8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

    The same thought process that led to Jhoan Duran ranking 13th applies here: "Pitching prospects with high ceilings that are close to the major leagues are valuable to every franchise, and especially to the Twins in this moment." Balazovic is a bit further from the majors than Duran, having finished at High-A in 2019, but he's on a higher prospect tier. In fact, Balazovic is the best pitching prospect in the system who has yet to reach the majors.

    Duran has great stuff, but he lacks the consistent results to back it up. This is where Balazovic separates. Since joining the organization as a fifth-round pick in 2016, the right-hander has simply performed, registering a 3.32 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 10.0 K/9 rate through his first 228 innings as a pro. At 6'5" and 214 lbs, he's a big sturdy athlete with a mid-90s fastball and advanced command. He was absolutely sensational in 2019, with a 2.69 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 rate between two levels of A-ball at age 20, so his stock is riding high. Can he build upon it?

    7. Byron Buxton, OF
    2019 Ranking: 3

    A healthy Buxton can be one of the most impactful difference-makers in Major League Baseball. This was the premise for ranking him No. 1 two years ago, and No. 3 last year. It was reinforced in 2019 when he was on the field, as the center fielder accrued 2.7 fWAR in just 87 games with an .827 OPS, 44 extra-base hits, 14 steals, and almost unparalleled defensive value.

    Alas, the overriding story of Buxton's season was, once again, injury. And it's one that spills over into 2020, as the 26-year-old is currently in the process of rehabbing from significant shoulder surgery. He's opened four different seasons with the Twins and played 100 games in only one of them. The mounting physical uncertainties make it impossible to trust his reliability going forward, making him feel like more of a bonus factor than centerpiece crux. And while free agency is still three years away, it's no longer a tiny blip on the horizon.

    With that said, if he can find a way to make it happen, a full healthy and productive season from Buxton will be more pivotal to Minnesota's championship hopes than any ace pitcher the Twins could sign or trade for. I firmly believe that.

    6. Mitch Garver, C
    2019 Ranking: 11

    Is Garver the best catcher in baseball? Is he one of the best offensive backstops in MLB history? Will he be an MVP contender for years to come? Based entirely on the sample of his 2019 season, the answer to all those questions would be "yes," and he'd be No. 1 in these rankings with a bullet. But that sample amounts to only 93 games, and is so wildly out of line with his previous track record that it's tough to know exactly how to weight it.

    Garver has shown a knack for improving himself and disproving doubters, transforming from ninth-round draft pick to fringy catching prospect to bona fide big-league starter, but the leap last year was drastic by any standard. Thirty-one homers and a .995 OPS in 93 games, from a CATCHER (one with noticeably improved defense), is nuts. But it remains to be seen whether Garver was playing out of his mind for six months with a juiced ball, or setting a new norm. It bears noting that he turns 29 next week, making him the oldest player in this Top 10 by a sizable margin, and the only one who's not on the front end of his physical prime.

    Regardless, Garver has clearly established himself as a long-term building block, with four years of team control remaining.

    RECAPPING THE RANKINGS SO FAR:

    20. Ryan Jeffers, C
    19. Eddie Rosario, OF
    18. Michael Pineda, RHP
    17. Nelson Cruz, DH
    16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
    14. Trevor Larnach, OF
    13. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    12. Taylor Rogers, LHP
    11. Miguel Sano, 3B
    10. Luis Arraez, 2B
    9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    7. Byron Buxton OF
    6. Mitch Garver, C

    Check back in tomorrow for Part 4.

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    • Jan 08 2020 02:36 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  18. Where Are We Now? (New Years Edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Non 40-man options: Tomas Telis, Juan Graterol

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Designated Hitter (1) - Nelson Cruz

    I feel pretty comfortable with this one.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Dec 31 2019 08:45 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. A Decade of Greener Grass Ahead for Twins

    Over the last decade Minnesota compiled a 765-855 record (.472 winning percentage) while failing to win a postseason game (0-7). They competed in October baseball just three times, and won the AL Central Division twice. Long-time General Manager Terry Ryan was ushered out, and so too was long-standing skipper Ron Gardenhire. Concluding with a 101 victories in their final 162 games, a change appears to be on the horizon.

    In the decade ahead, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will look to assert themselves from a wins and losses perspective. Having established a new culture and blueprinted a strong foundation, the big league club is now beginning to see the fruits of that labor. We can’t accurately predict what will assuredly take place in the years ahead, but there’re some benchmarks that seem plausible to be cleared.

    $100 million and $150 million will be spent

    There will never be a time, until proven otherwise, that Minnesota won’t be viewed as a thrift-store organization. Despite spending significant resources on internal positions and developmental initiatives, the checks have not been cashed directly towards major league payroll. This should be the most straightforward slam dunk of all projections. Within the next ten years, as baseball continues to thrive, the Twins will ink both a $100 million free agent as well a team payroll of $150 million. They are entering a competitive window immediately in 2020, and allocating dollars to supplement in-house talent is only logical.

    Major award drought comes to an end

    No Twins player has won either the Cy Young or MVP since Joe Mauer in 2009. Mike Trout will continue to roll up his tally there through the 2020’s, but someone like Byron Buxton could pop up in contention for a year or two. Where I think it’s most likely is on the mound. Six different organizations captured Cy Young awards in the American League this past decade. Four times since 2007, a Cleveland pitcher has won the award. Having entrusted a former part of that brain trust with running the organization, and seeing the growth from a pitching development standpoint, I’d be far from shocked if the infrastructure bears fruit. Jose Berrios could get there. Maybe Brusdar Graterol or Jordan Balazovic emerges. An acquired arm looking to unlock that next level could be the key as well.

    Playing for it all sounds fun

    We are closing in on 30 years since the Twins even played in a World Series. The organizational failed to win a single postseason game in the last decade, and the one before featured a 6-16 record over five different playoff appearances. At this point, Minnesota looks poised to be a consistent threat for the immediate future, and painting them solely as a division winner seems foolish. If the current momentum is expanded upon and harnessed correctly, a couple of series victories could quickly turn into a deep run that winds up either with a parade or heartbreak, but a showing in the Fall Classic regardless.

    Prospect breakout finally comes through

    No Minnesota Twins prospect has broken onto the scene with a Rookie of the Year victory since Marty Cordova captured the trophy in 1995. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton had all of the pedigree but lacked some of the early results. Luis Arraez looked the part but didn’t have sufficient at-bats behind his body of work. With what Minnesota has built on the farm, it’s a good bet the drought will come to an end soon. Throw a dart between Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic, and Brusdar Graterol to claim which is going to make the biggest immediate impact in the near future. Then note the developmental prowess and drafting history of the organization as it stands today, and the reality is quickly apparent that high-quality graduating youth in this system will be an enticing proposition for quite some time.

    Without wanting to venture out on a limb incapable of holding the weight, these select suggestions seem monumental in action even if they aren’t substantial in number. Defining where the Twins are, and where they are headed, seems to be as simple as this: The future is bright and the direction is sound. Baseball is not at all a sprint, and this journey is one Twins Territorians should be giddy about.

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    • Dec 30 2019 05:46 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  20. How Long is the Twins Championship Window?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Dec 30 2019 05:35 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  21. 10 Years at Target Field: The Best Moments of the Decade

    10: Outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota (4/12/10)

    On April 12th, 2010, the Twins christened their new ballpark, hosting the Red Sox on a cloudy and cool Monday afternoon. It wasn't the team's first game at Target Field (a pair of exhibitions against the Cards had been played there 10 days earlier) but this one made it official. For the first time in almost 30 years, Twins fans were able to watch meaningful baseball at home under blue skies rather than a Teflon roof.

    It was a crisply played 5-2 victory for Minnesota, keyed by Carl Pavano's six strong innings along with three-hit games from Jason Kubel and reigning MVP Joe Mauer. The Twins went on to win their first four series at Target Field and finished 53-28 (.654) at home in the new stadium's inaugural season.

    9: Byron Buxton races for record-setting inside-the-park home run (8/18/17)

    As with many of the moments on this list, I picked this one because it is emblematic of the man behind it. Buxton has had plenty of amazing moments at Target Field since debuting there in 2015, but his inside-the-parker against Arizona in August of 2017 epitomizes the electricity and incredible athleticism that make him such a tremendous joy to watch.

    Blazing around the bases in 13.85 seconds after his towering drive caromed off the wall in right-center, Buxton set a new Statcast record for the feat, breaking... his own. (Of course.)



    8: Ben Revere channels Willie Mays in center field (8/22/11)

    Target Field has seen its share of phenomenal defensive plays, and Mr. Buxton has been responsible for quite a few of them. In my humble opinion, however, none can top this dazzling catch from Revere, which to me is one of those "You remember where you were and who were you with when you saw it" kinds of moments. Defensive play of the decade for Minnesota, from my view.



    7: The Rally Squirrel becomes legendary (8/21/19)

    The beauty of outdoor baseball is that it brings so many variables into play: wind, weather, and the occasional wildlife.

    In the first year at Target Field, there was the famous moth-eating falcon, which came to be known as Kirby the Kestrel. But the most beloved unticketed visitor waited nearly until the end of the decade to make its appearance: The Rally Squirrel.



    He (or a cohort) had scampered out the previous night, during a losing effort, but this time the squirrel's appearance coincided with a big comeback and flurry of runs for the Twins, who rallied to blow out the White Sox and earn the newly minted mascot its nickname.



    6: Eddie Rosario homers on first MLB pitch (5/6/15)

    From the Department of Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up: Rosario's big-league debut. Stepping up for his first major-league at-bat in 2015, with his family watching from the Target Field stands, Eddie offered at the first pitch he saw from A's lefty Scott Kazmir and sent it over the left-field wall.



    For fans, it was the perfect introduction to Rosario, conveying his confidence, aggressive approach, and flare for theatrics.

    5: Brian Dozier caps epic comeback against Tigers (7/10/15)

    Two months after his splashy arrival, Rosario played a role in one of the most exhilarating victories of the decade, setting the stage for Dozier's heroics.

    The Twins, flirting with contention for the first time in years, were looking to finish out the first half strong with a series against Detroit heading into the break. They'd fallen in the first game and were at risk of another setback, with a 6-1 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth.

    Rosario delivered an RBI single to bring Minnesota within four. A bases-loaded HBP from Kurt Suzuki and two-run single from Danny Santana trimmed the Tigers' lead to one. Then the lineup turned over and up came Dozier – days away from his first All-Star Game – with two on and one out. Joakim Soria hung a breaking ball, and he paid for it.



    Any "Best Twins Player of the Decade" discussion should probably start with Dozier. He was the beating heart of those upstart, fringy playoff teams in 2015 and 2017. His 42-homer outburst in 2016 was one of the sole positives in a trainwreck campaign. Twins Daily named Dozier team MVP three straight times. That walk-off shot was perhaps the most transcendent moment in a career full of special ones.

    4: Johan Santana is elected to Twins Hall of Fame (8/4/18)

    While it's fun reminiscing about the last 10 years, and thinking back to the days of Ben Revere catching a Vladimir Guerrero drive off of Carl Pavano, it does emphasize just how LONG ago that was. As we head into the 2020s, distance grows from a bygone era of Twins baseball filled with so many great players, moments, and memories.

    Johan's Hall of Fame induction in August of 2018 was a big highlight of this decade for me, because it channeled so much of the franchise's past into Target Field – if for one fleeting ceremony. Santana will forever be one of the great success stories in Twins history, and to see him celebrated alongside many of those cherished fellow fixtures from the late Metrodome run – Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Eddie Guardado – was cool. Especially on a day where Jose Berrios, who is striving to inherit Santana's mantle (an ace that can ACTUALLY beat the Yankees in October), was Minnesota's starting pitcher.



    3: Glen Perkins closes out the 2014 All-Star Game (7/15/14)

    When he retired after the 2017 season, I wrote that if a Twins Daily Hall of Fame were ever established, Perkins would be the first inductee. He was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence. He once bought a round of beers from the bullpen for TD Pub Crawl attendees. He's an amazing homegrown success story. Oh, and in his post-playing days he's now being described as "Minnesota's Ron Swanson."

    Sadly, Perk's career peak aligned directly with the grimmest part of the decade for the club. He was an elite closer on a terrible team, and his shoulder gave out just as the Twins began to finally emerge from the struggle. Perkins flat-out deserved to have things play out exactly as they did when the All-Star Game came to Minneapolis in 2014 and shined a national spotlight on Target Field.

    Trailing early, the American League came back to take a two-run lead, setting up a save opportunity for Minnesota's shutdown closer. Perkins trotted out to his mound, with Twins batterymate and fellow All-Star Kurt Suzuki on the other end, and retired the side in order to seal a win for the AL. You could have hardly scripted a better sequence for his All-Star appearance in front of the home crowd.



    2: Jim Thome blasts first Target Field walk-off HR against White Sox (8/17/10)

    Choosing just one Thome moment (Thoment?) for inclusion on this list was a challenge. In his brief but spectacular Target Field tenure to start the decade, the Hall of Famer gave us plenty of lasting memories, which would largely come to define the ballpark's early legacy.

    There was the mammoth flagpole dinger against the Royals in September of 2010. There was his epic moonshot to right-center the next summer, estimated at the time as the longest in the stadium's short history at 490 feet. There were his two jacks against Tampa Bay in July of 2010 to tie and then surpass Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list.

    But for me, nothing can beat the clutch tater that Thome thumped against the White Sox in August of 2010. With the Twins down by a run in the bottom of the 10th, the slugger launched a majestic two-run bomb into the plaza, notching the first walk-off home run in Target Field history. That legendary blast sealed a key division win for a team just three games up in the standings, and led to one of the best photos in Twins history.



    It's a tough moment for any other to top. More than eight years would pass before it finally happened.

    1: Joe Mauer dons catcher's gear for one last time (9/30/18)

    A lot of things needed to go right, and an array of carefully crafted plans had to reach fruition, for Mauer's farewell to play out as it did. Dan Hayes meticulously detailed the story for The Athletic, and it's one of my favorite things he's written.

    When everything fell into place on the final day of the 2018 season, pure magic was the result. Mauer hadn't explicitly confirmed he was playing his last game as a big-leaguer, but that sense was palpable throughout the afternoon, and became crystal-clear in the bottom of the ninth inning.

    With the Twins leading 5-4, Mauer stepped onto the diamond in catcher's gear for the first time in more than five years. He tearfully saluted fans during a lengthy ovation, received one pitch from Matt Belisle, and then walked off Target Field into the proverbial sunset, leaving behind an extraordinary 15-year career.



    Mauer's best days came in the Metrodome, no doubt. When Target Field was built, he was widely viewed as the best player in the AL, if not in all of baseball, a distinction he wouldn't hold onto for long. In the eyes of many, the portion of his career spent in Target Field will always be associated more with bilateral leg weakness and concussions and production that failed to live up to his mega-contract, signed a month before the park opened.

    But don't overlook the many moments he left his mark on Target Field. There was the walk-off homer against Boston in May of 2017. The ridiculous catch behind the foul net in 2010. The tallying of his 2,000th career hit in 2018 – a seeing-eye single up the middle, naturally.

    It's only right that from 2020 forward, no Twins player will ever wear No. 7 again. Joe was one-of-a-kind, up until his last day and heartfelt final moments in the uniform.

    ~~~


    I'd love to hear you all sound off. Did I miss any of your favorite moments? Would you change the order? Let's think back to our most cherished summer days as we experience the full brunt of Minnesota's winter.

    • Dec 29 2019 07:47 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Making a Mega Deal for the Twins

    If there was a misstep by the front office at the deadline, it was missing on the Toronto Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman. Maybe the Canadians never circled back, but Minnesota easily could have trumped the New York offer. Eventually they pivoted to talking with the Mets directly, and the man coined Thor reportedly came up in talks. Byron Buxton was the ask, and that was out of the question. Injury makes it easy to judge that in hindsight, but it remains a logical position from the Twins brass. What if there was another way to do that deal though?

    Parting ways with Byron Buxton in the middle of a record-breaking season would have been asinine for the Twins. Flipping him off of an injury, while he still looks the part of a superstar due to his exploits in the field and rise at the dish, would remain an odd proposition. If Syndergaard was on the table then though, he may still remain so, and going the route of quantity could be enough to reach the finish line.

    The key for the Mets during the season was an acquisition of major league-ready players. They have just lost Zack Wheeler, and had parted with top prospects to bring in an aging Robinson Cano. Despite being in the big city, Carlos Beltran’s squad remains the kid brother to the Bronx Bombers. Rebuilding the overall talent pool is something that Brodie van Wagenen should be focused on, and a plethora of impact prospects would certainly advance that possibility.

    Syndergaard is under team control for two more seasons, at which point he’ll be entering his age-29 season. He will soon become quite expensive, and that would need to be a consideration for any acquiring team as well. Blending a return that satisfies some immediate assistance with future gain is the way I’d attack this if I were the Twins.

    Mets receive: Eddie Rosario, Trevor Larnach, Blayne Enlow, and Travis Blankenhorn

    Twins receive: Noah Syndergaard

    In this scenario Minnesota is giving up a current big leaguer who has posted just shy of 8.0 fWAR over the past three seasons in Rosario. He’s a left-handed bat that would immediately boost the New York outfield, and at 28-years-old, becomes an extension candidate should things trend upwards prior to his free agency in 2022. A former first-round pick and current top 100 prospect, Trevor Larnach represents future value that is very close to paying dividends. He’s a power corner guy with a pretty safe floor.

    Moving to the second half of the deal, New York would be looking to cash in on the ceiling. Enlow was an above slot deal back in 2017 and has looked the part at each level. He’s still a developing arm, but a 50 future value makes him an intriguing option in the middle of a rotation. Blankenhorn could end up being more of a utility guy, but there is a lot to like in his profile. He does a lot of things well and looks like a pretty safe bet to contribute at the major league level.

    Certainly, this is a haul for the Twins to part with, but they’d be doing so to acquire a bona fide ace. Ideally an extension could be worked out with Syndergaard but that’s probably a lofty ask given the impending payday coming on the open market. Pairing the current roster with a solid number one could be the needle-moving decision that strengthens a likely postseason battle with the Yankees in each of the next two seasons.

    No matter how Minnesota ends up acquiring the impact arm they talked about heading into the offseason, a level of risk and decisive action will need to be taken. Hyun-Jin Ryu is among the small list of names still warranting a hefty payday, while prospect capital or eating salary from another organization represent the alternative modes of spend.

    The trade market is a difficult one to nail down. Between having multiple options (of which some very intriguing scenarios were recently presented by Skor North’s Jake Depue), and uncertain returns (looking at you Cleveland Indians), we really never know what to expect.

    How would you feel about this move, and what would you do differently?

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    • Dec 17 2019 05:40 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  23. Can the Twins Fix Royce Lewis’s Swing?

    Lewis spent time at High- and Double-A last season before ending the year in the Arizona Fall League. During the regular season, there were some ups and downs as he combined for a .661 OPS and 123 strikeouts in 127 games. He performed much better in the AFL by hitting .353/.411/.565 (.975) with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games.

    Here is a slow-motion view of Lewis’s swing during the AFL Fall Stars game.


    He starts with a high leg kick and then moves into a long stride. FanGraphs released their top Twins prospect list this week and they had plenty to say about Lewis's swing even though he is still their top Twins prospect.

    "Lewis still clearly had issues. His swing is cacophonous — the big leg kick, the messy, excessive movement in his hands — and it negatively impacts Lewis’ timing. He needs to start several elements of the swing early just to catch fastballs, and he’s often late anyway. This also causes him to lunge at breaking balls, which Lewis doesn’t seem to recognize very well, and after the advanced hit tool was a huge driver of his amateur profile, Lewis now looks like a guess hitter."

    In recent years, Minnesota has tried to work with Byron Buxton to adjust the leg kick he used in his swing. Buxton has gone through multiple swing renditions and last season he had almost no leg kick. For Buxton, there were positive results last season when he was on the field and healthy.

    In a recent chat, ESPN’s Keith Law was not optimistic about the performance put together by Lewis in the Arizona Fall League. When asked about Lewis’s swing adjustments, he said, “What swing adjustments? He looked exactly the same – huge leg kick, big hit – and did not hit at all during the regular season. Nothing is wrong with him physically, but I don’t think there’s a big leaguer who hits for average with a noisy approach like Lewis’s.”

    Besides his swing concerns, there are also concerns about Lewis’s defensive future. His bat is more important to his prospect stock because some see him below-average on defense as a shortstop. This could result in him moving to third base or even to the outfield. He played most of the AFL season at third base and even made a highlight reel catch in the outfield.

    "I think it's easy to forget how young he is," Twins director of Minor League operations Jeremy Zoll said during the AFL. "There were a number of hitters at Fort Myers that started slow. It's pretty well known that the [Florida State League] is a pitchers' league. But I think everyone came out of that slump at different speeds and anytime you're missing playing time in spring training, it's obviously something you think about -- the impact you may or may not be having. But it was good to see him work his way out of it and continue to make strides with his swing and produce nicely down the stretch."

    Minnesota is going to have to hope there are coaches that can work with some of his mechanics early in the spring. This would give him all of 2020 to work on his offensive approach to reduce some holes in his swing. The Twins have already been able to work with Buxton on adjusting his approach, so one can hope that Lewis will be the next player to alter his swing.

    What are your thoughts on Lewis’s approach at the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 16 2019 02:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie