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  1. Golden Opportunity: Using SDI to Evaluate the Twins Defense

    Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With StatCast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts."

    First Base: Miguel Sano
    SDI Total: -1.5 SDI (12th in the AL)
    Sano’s first year as a full-time first baseman had its ups and downs. He’s athletic enough to adjust to a new position, but there were clearly moments where he was still getting acclimated to his new defensive role. Only two qualifying AL first basemen finished behind Sano (Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Luke Voit) in the SDI rankings. In the years ahead, it will be intriguing to see if his defense improves as he gets more experience at first base.

    Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
    SDI Total: -0.4 SDI (8th in the AL)
    Polanco is never going to be an above average defensive shortstop and he’s played the last two seasons on an ankle that needed offseason surgery. Minnesota’s positioning of Polanco seemed to help him make more plays this season and having Josh Donaldson on the same side of the infield certainly helps. Last season, Polanco finished with a -1.9 SDI which was good for 8th among AL shortstops. Above Polanco on this year’s SDI rankings is Detroit’s Niko Goodrum, a former player in the Twins organization.

    Center Field: Byron Buxton
    SDI Total: 5.5 SDI (2nd in the AL)
    Even though Buxton was limited to 39 games this season, he still finished in the top four among all AL defenders according to SDI. Unfortunately, he fell short of his second Gold Glove as Chicago’s Luis Robert finished ahead of him by just 0.1 SDI points. Buxton didn’t accumulate enough defensive innings in 2018 or 2019 to appear on the SDI Leaderboard. Back in 2017, he won the Platinum Glove as the AL’s best fielder. There’s no question that health has impacted his career, but Buxton only having one Gold Glove at this point is disappointing.

    Right Field: Max Kepler
    SDI Total: 1.4 SDI (7th in the AL)
    Kepler finished the 2019 SDI rankings as the second-best AL right fielder (5.7 SDI) but he trailed Mookie Betts by 5 SDI points. With Betts out of the AL, this could have been an opportunity for Kepler to earn his first Gold Glove. Joey Gallo put up unbelievable numbers in a 60-game season as he more than doubled the SDI total of other right fielders. Kepler has been a borderline Gold Glove candidate in recent years, so it will be interesting to see if he can play a full season in right field and come away with the award.

    Left Field: Eddie Rosario
    SDI Total: 1.1 SDI (4th in the AL)
    Rosario isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess as he finished the 2019 campaign with the third worst SDI total among AL left fielders (-5.7 SDI). The 2020 season exemplifies how a small sample size can make a player look better or worse than their career numbers. Rosario nearly finished as the third best left fielder in the AL which is hard to believe that he should have been a Gold Glove finalist. Next season, the Twins might have a different player in left field so that could change their defensive outlook.

    Pitcher: Kenta Maeda
    SDI Total: 1.0 SDI (2nd in the AL)
    Maeda’s first year in a Twins uniform was certainly memorable, but few people may remember it for his defense on the mound. He ended up finishing tied for second in AL SDI with Zach Plesac with Griffin Canning winning the Gold Glove with the highest SDI total. Last year in the NL, Maeda finished with a 1.4 SDI which put him in the top-20 among pitchers. Jose Berrios finished tied for eighth in the AL, which should make Mitch Garver happy.

    How did you feel about the Twins defense this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Nov 04 2020 07:29 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. 5 Overreactions to the Twins Game 1 Loss

    Overreaction 1: The Twins can’t score with runners in scoring position.
    The first inning was rough as the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the frame. Eddie Rosario hit a scalding line drive at over 100 mph that happened to find the glove of the first baseman. With two outs, Miguel Sano hit a slow roller and nearly beat it out for an infield hit. His sprint speed on the play was 28.9 ft/sec which is 1.5 ft/sec fast than his average this season. The Twins didn’t score, but the club made Greinke throw 30 pitches in the frame. Even though Minnesota didn’t capitalize, the Twins got Greinke out of the game early enough to give them time to strike against the bullpen.

    Overreaction 2: Kenta Maeda is the Twins best playoff pitcher since Jack Morris.
    Kenta Maeda wasn’t perfect on Tuesday with three walks and five strikeouts over five shutout innings. He got out of one bases loaded jam to keep a zero on the board, but many fans might have forgotten about how good a former pitcher was in October. Johan Santana was outstanding during the playoffs near the end of his Twins tenure. In his last three postseason starts, he allowed three earned runs over 20 innings with 20 strikeouts and five walks. The Twins only won one of those games and it was the team’s last postseason win.

    Overreaction 3: Rocco Baldelli overmanaged his catchers.
    Ryan Jeffers was the correct choice to start the game and he put together two solid at-bats that both resulted in line outs at over 100 mph. Overall, this sounds great, but Baldelli turned to Mitch Garver as a pinch hitter for Jeffers in the bottom of the 7th. Garver struggled mightily down the stretch after returning from injury. He promptly struck out on four pitches and then he was replaced behind the plate by Alex Avila. Last season, Garver had an offensive season for the ages when it came to catchers, but that isn’t the player he has been this year. Jeffers should have stayed in the game to get the at-bat and this might be the easiest decision to question.

    Overreaction 4: Minnesota’s bullpen is broken.
    Tyler Duffey has been outstanding for most of the last two seasons and he gave up the Twins first run of the game. Sergio Romo allowed back-to-back singles to start the top of the ninth inning. He saw the Twins middle infield botch the final out of the inning on an easy throw to second base. Romo ran the next count full before walking in the go-ahead run. Caleb Thielbar came into a no-win situation with the lead already gone and Houston’s best hitters coming up with the bases loaded. Minnesota used their best arms in the appropriate spots and it just didn’t work out.




    Overreaction 5: Jorge Polanco is a bad defensive shortstop.
    No one can argue that Polanco’s error wasn’t a turning point in the game. On a play that looked very routine, the Twins middle infield duo messed up the play. While fans are going to remember this play, Polanco was remarkably better on the defensive side of the ball. He committed only two errors the entire season and FanGraphs Defensive Runs Above Average had him ranked as the fourth best shortstop in the AL. Polanco is never going to win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he made positive strides this season and it’s disappointing that one play could define his season.

    What are some of your reactions to the first game against the Astros? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 29 2020 04:29 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Astros-Twins ALDS Preview: Which Lineup Has the Edge?

    Catcher
    Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers vs. Martin Maldonado and Dustin Garneau
    Catching depth will be critical in a three-game series with no off-days. Houston’s Martin Maldonado will likely start two of the three games and he compiled a .727 OPS this year with a 98 OPS+. It’s going to be interesting to see how Rocco Baldelli uses his catching duo. Mitch Garver has struggled throughout the season to replicate his breakout 2020 campaign. Ryan Jeffers might be better than advertised on both sides of the ball and he ended the regular season with a .791 OPS and a 118 OPS+. If he starts two of the three games, the Twins have the advantage.
    Advantage: Twins

    First Base
    Miguel Sano vs. Yuli Gurriel
    Twins fans are aware of Sano’s up and downs throughout the 2020 season. He is a very streaky hitter and he has been for his entire career. Over the team’s final 11 games, Sano hit .095/.116/.238 with 22 strikeouts in 42 at-bats. Back in 2019, Gurriel posted an .884 OPS on his way to hitting 31 home runs and 40 doubles. He’s 36-years old this season and he posted a career worst .658 OPS and a 76 OPS+. Twins fans will have to hope Sano can find one of his hot streaks as the postseason begins.
    Advantage: Twins

    Second Base
    Luis Arraez vs. Jose Altuve
    It’s no secret that Luis Arraez is playing through a knee injury, but he came back from the IL this weekend with a flurry by collecting three doubles in one game. Even with some early season struggles, he ended the year with a .321 batting average and a .765 OPS. In the wake of the Astros cheating scandal, Jose Altuve struggled this season for the first time in his career. In 48 games, he hit .219/.286/.344 with a 71 OPS+. His career track record is so much better even with the cheating allegations. Will he be able to turn it on for October?
    Advantage: Astros

    Third Base
    Josh Donaldson or Marwin Gonzalez vs. Alex Bregman
    Josh Donaldson left a game against the Reds on Friday with a calf injury and he hasn’t been back on the field yet. He was limited to 28 games this season because of this reoccurring injury but he was still able to post an .842 OPS and a 131 OPS+. Alex Bregman has been in the MVP conversation in each of the last two seasons, but he lost over 200 points from his OPS this year compared to 2019. Donaldson will likely be a game-time decision and the back-up option is Marwin Gonzalez. Maybe Gonzalez can have something to prove to his old team, but Donaldson’s injury gives the edge to Houston.
    Advantage: Astros

    Shortstop
    Jorge Polanco vs. Carlos Correa
    After making the All-Star team last season, Jorge Polanco struggled at the plate in 2020. His OPS dipped from .841 to .658 and his OPS+ also dropped by nearly 40 points. Correa posted a career worst .709 OPS which was a drop of over 200 points. He still got on base 32.6% of the time, but he was lacking in the power department. Like many other Houston hitters, fans have to wonder how much he was benefiting from their in-game video systems. Looking at the numbers, this is a close match-up and Houston gets the slight edge.
    Advantage: Astros

    Left Field
    Eddie Rosario vs. Kyle Tucker
    Eddie Rosario did about what fans expect from him every season. He’s posted an OPS around .800 for three consecutive years and he gets on base roughly 31% of the time. His 19 walks in 57 games nearly matched his 22 walks from 137 games last year, but it remains to be seen if that patience will carry over into the postseason. Twins fans may not know about Kyle Tucker, but he might have been a savior for the Astros offense in 2020. As a 23-year old, he compiled an .837 OPS and a 123 OPS+ while leading the AL with six triples. Twins fans can hope he has some October growing pains, but Houston still has the advantage.
    Advantage: Astros

    Center Field
    Byron Buxton or Jake Cave vs. George Springer
    Much like with Donaldson, there are questions surrounding Byron Buxton’s health heading into October. He was hit in the head with a fastball over the weekend and he was suffering from mild concussion like symptoms. If Buxton remains out, Jake Cave is the next man up and he has a tough time comparing to Houston’s center fielder. George Springer posted an OPS of nearly .900 and an OPS+ of 140 while watching other key Astros hitters take a step back at the plate. If Buxton is healthy, this is a much tougher match-up.
    Advantage: Astros

    Right Field
    Max Kepler vs. Josh Reddick
    Max Kepler wasn’t able to reproduce his 2019 numbers, but his 2020 slash line of .228/.321/.439 is very close to his career averages. Also, he was able to post an OPS+ of over 100 for the second consecutive season. Reddick is in his 12th big league season and age might be catching up to him. After posting a career high .847 OPS back in 2017, his OPS has dropped in recent years and he finished 2020 with a .693 OPS. Even with Kepler’s struggles this season, he gets the edge over Reddick.
    Advantage: Twins

    Designated Hitter
    Nelson Cruz vs. Michael Brantley
    Twins fans saw what Nelson Cruz meant to this team as he carried much of the offensive load during the early part of the season. Even though he turned 40 before the season’s first game, his 169 OPS+ was a point higher than his first season in a Twins uniform. Michael Brantley did what the Astros asked of him as he posted an OPS+ of over 120 for the third straight season. His 15 doubles were the most on the team, but Cruz is clearly the better hitter this season.
    Advantage: Twins

    Minnesota’s key injuries to Donaldson and Buxton can certainly make this lineup battle a little closer. Even with their offensive struggles this season, Houston gets the slight edge heading into the series.

    How worried are you about the Astros lineup? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 28 2020 06:22 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  4. Records the Twins Can Set This Weekend

    Best Home Winning Percentage
    Minnesota enters the weekend with the highest home winning percentage in baseball history. The Twins enter play on Friday with a 23-5 record at home, which calculates out to a .821 home winning percentage. In 1932, the Yankees went 60-15 at home and finished with an .805 winning percentage. In a quirky season, the Twins have also played an extra game at Target Field and that gets them closer to this record. To beat the Yankees record, the Twins need to win two out of their final three games against the Reds who are also fighting for a playoff spot.

    Bomba Squad Part Deuce?
    A year after setting the all-time home run record, the Twins are quietly close to leading the American League in home runs for the second consecutive season. It’s down to a three-team race with the White Sox currently leading the Twins and the Yankees by one home run. The Bomba Squad likely wants to beat Chicago and New York in the playoffs than beat them out for the home run title, but who says the team can’t have both. Hit a bunch of homers against the Reds pitching staff and let the rest take care of itself.

    Lots of Sano Records in the Forecast
    Miguel Sano has been his usual self this year with some incredible hot streaks and some incredible low streaks. He’s on pace to lead the American League in strikeouts, but The Athletic’s Jayson Stark points out some dubious company Sano can enter this weekend. Sano can become just the third strikeout champ to have twice as many Ks as hits joining Rob Deer (1991) and Mark Reynolds (2010).

    That isn’t the only feat facing Sano this weekend. He enters the weekend with 11 singles and 12 home runs so far in 2020. Plenty of hitters have done this before, but no strikeout leader has finished a season with more home runs than singles. Sano has struggled in recent games, so some home runs before the playoffs might get him back on track.

    If Sano collects another homer, he can tie Jacque Jones for 13th on the Twins all-time home run list. He’s also climbing the Twins leaderboard for most home runs through a player’s age-27 season. Sano (131 HR) is two home runs behind Justin Morneau (133 HR) for fourth on that list. Out of the other players on the list, only Harmon Killebrew played fewer games than Sano.

    When Sano makes contact, it is usually with authority and he is on pace to lead the AL in average exit velocity this season. Currently, he sits at a 95.4 mph average exit velocity which is second best in baseball behind Fernando Tatis Jr. Other AL challengers include Matt Chapman (93.6), Mike Trout (93.6) and Teoscar Hernandez (93.4), but there may not be enough games left for the anyone to catch him.

    Walk-Off Winners
    With Minnesota’s walk-off win earlier in the week, the team has already had as many walk-off wins as in all of 2019. Last season, Twins walk-off wins were more allusive because the team scored 939 runs on their way to the all-time home run title. This season Minnesota’s +57 run differential is the second highest in the AL (trailing Chicago by 11 runs). Cruz, Polanco, Buxton and Kepler have all ended a game in dramatic fashion. Can the team add one more walk-off against Cincinnati?

    Watch Me WHIP
    Kenta Maeda won’t be pitching this weekend, but at the season’s conclusion he will enter some elite company when it comes to his WHIP total this year. Only two pitchers in baseball history, Clayton Kershaw and Pedro Martinez, have posted a WHIP lower than Maeda’s 0.75 WHIP this season. Martinez did it in 2000 on his way to his third Cy Young in four seasons, while Kershaw did it in 2016 when he was limited to under 150 innings.

    What will you be watching for this weekend? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 25 2020 08:15 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Twins Problem Solved through Infield Issues

    Although the 2019 roster produced a record setting number of homers, adding Josh Donaldson to the mix this winter seemed like a no-brainer. Sano could slide across the diamond and Minnesota could use some of their available cash flow to lock down a superstar for the immediate future. He brings even more pop to an already potent lineup, but the Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner should’ve been expected to make a difference.



    Back in July I tweeted about the impact of Donaldson’s defensive prowess at third. Using 2019 numbers alone, it was surmisable that Rocco Baldelli’s infield corps would take a step forward. The Twins have utilized shifts over 40% of the time this season (up from 35.5% a year ago). Remaining in the top ten across baseball, positioning has helped Minnesota pitchers to take away hits from parts of the field otherwise left vacant.

    It’s hard to discern what impact the inclusion of Donaldson has had in regards to the specific improvements for the rest of his teammates, but it’s worth noting that the longtime Blue Jays slugger has played just 19 games having battled calf issues. Even without him being a constant in the lineup, the Twins infield has gone from being worth -18 outs above average (OAA) to a +5 OAA and 5th best in baseball this year.



    Most notably of all players in the Twins infield is the guy that’s been run out there on a nightly basis. Jorge Polanco looked like a miscast shortstop in the last few seasons, but you can hardly make that claim now. He went from ranking 35th out of 35 in OAA last year to posting a +1 OAA leaving him 14th in 2020.

    There’s no doubt that numbers can bog us down sometimes, and the reality is the games aren’t played on paper. Our eyes don’t deceive us in watching Polanco, however. He’s vastly improved when charging the ball, and area he struggled mightily with a season ago. After posting a -11 OAA in those instances during 2019, the improvement is to the tune of a +3 mark and 14 out improvement.

    Despite having to play so much of the shortened sprint without efforts from Byron Buxton or the aforementioned Donaldson, Minnesota owns the 5th best defensive runs saved mark in baseball. At 21 DRS, they are third in the American League and trail just divisional foes Cleveland and Chicago. A year ago, they were the final team to post a positive DRS and finished 18th overall in the majors.

    What we’ve seen is intentional preparation for regression and an assessment for constant improvement by the front office and coaching staff. Expecting another 300+ home run outburst was unlikely (and even moreso having just 60 games to do it) but finding ways to improve on other weaknesses was a worthy venture.

    Although we’re running out of action in the regular season this lineup hasn’t been consistently healthy and clicking yet. Making sure the defense doesn’t slump in the interim is a controllable pursuit. It’s one the front office set forth to ensure during the winter, and it’s one that Rocco needs to remain on top of into the Postseason.

    This club is far too good to string multiple nights of missed opportunity together. When the floodgates open, the defensive improvements will be there to slam the door.

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    • Sep 15 2020 05:32 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  6. Too Many Twins Hitters Are Sacrificing Power for Contact

    Under the terminology of MLB's Statcast system, a "Barrel" is defined as "a well-struck ball where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle generally leads to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage." In other words, it is the highest quality of contact.

    In 2019, the Twins led all of baseball in Barrel % at 10.1%. In 2020, they rank 21st in baseball at 6.6%. They've dropped from third to 13th in Average Exit Velocity (AEV).

    What is causing this drop-off in detonations for the Bomba Squad? One might surmise it is the result of injuries forcing lesser players into the lineup, and that is certainly a partial factor, but hardly the driving force. The biggest problem is that many of Minnesota's key sluggers from a year ago are hitting the ball with minimal authority, seemingly because they are sacrificing power for contact.

    The prime example is Jorge Polanco. He's been one of the toughest hitters in the majors to strike out, ranking in the 97th percentile for both K-rate and whiff rate. But his Barrel % and AEV are both in the 7th percentile. His Hard Hit % is in the 5th.

    [attachment=15052:polancostatcast.png]


    Last year, Polanco piled up 69 extra-base hits and slugged .485. This year he's at eight and .388. He has improved his zone coverage and is making more contact, but there's little evidence that he's benefiting from it.

    Next up: Max Kepler, who often accompanies Polanco at the top of the lineup. Kepler too has been tough to fan this year – he's in the 89th percentile for whiff rate and 72nd for K-rate. But he too has lost some punch. His Barrel % is below average (48th percentile) and his AEV (36th percentile) and Hard Hit % (30th percentile) are around the bottom third of all hitters. Last year he was solidly above-average in all three categories.

    [attachment=15053:keplerstatcast.png]


    Even Eddie Rosario, who sometimes reflects the embodiment of a "grip it and rip it" approach, has really come to profile as more of a slap hitter. He's been very tough to strike out (87th percentile for K-rate) and doesn't have much swing-and-miss in his game (71st percentile for whiff rate) ... but every Statcast measure rates his quality of contact as low. He's 24th percentile in Barrel % and around the bottom third for AEV and Hard Hit %. His xwOBA, xBA, xSLG ... all well below average.

    [attachment=15054:rosariostatcast.png]


    Finally it's worth mentioning Luis Arráez. His profile this year is more typical and expected, but it's worth calling out the stark contrast: 95th/99th percentiles for strikeouts and whiffs, 22nd/4th percentiles AEV/Hard Hit %.

    [attachment=15055:arraezstatcast.png]


    Whereas Miguel Sanó and Nelson Cruz are both swinging out of their shoes, striking out frequently but plastering the ball upon contact, nearly every other Twins player falls starkly on the other side of the spectrum. The result, as we're seeing, is an offense that has not been particularly threatening or intimidating on whole.

    Many fans have wondered whether the change in hitting coaches may be a contributor to the team's offensive drop-off. The answer, based on these insights: maybe. James Rowson seemed to be a champion of the aggressive approach that spurred the lineup's success last year, but that's not to say Edgar Varela isn't.

    One way or another, several Twins hitters could benefit from taking a page from Cruz and Sanó – often the lineup's only productive players of late – and sacrificing some contact for power.

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    • Aug 31 2020 11:13 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. 2020 Twins Struggling in Extreme Area of Strength From 2019

    The Twins hit a historic .285/.351/.521 versus left-handed pitching in 2019. Their .872 OPS against southpaws was the third highest in Major League history. C.J. Cron hit a ridiculous .326/.385/.636 with 11 homers against lefties. Jonathan Schoop hit .277/.354/.563 with 14 extra-base hits. The Twins replaced those two with one of the best in the game.

    Since 2013, Donaldson has the fourth highest OPS against lefties, behind only Paul Goldschmidt, Nelson Cruz and Nolan Arenado. So yes, the Twins have two of the four most potent hitters in baseball against left-handers.

    As a team, the Twins have completely flopped against lefties in 2020. They’re hitting .235 with a .665 OPS, good for 21st in baseball. Mitch Garver and Miguel Sanó are key reasons for that. The duo crushed lefties in 2019 and have done virtually nothing in the same matchups this year. Donaldson's absence hinders them equally.


    Without Donaldson, Polanco is mostly hitting second against lefties. That's not ideal. Polanco is among the best left-handed hitters in the game. As a lefty versus right-handed pitchers since 2019, Polanco ties for 8th in the A.L. in wRC+ (127) and 9th in wOBA (.363). As a righty against left-handed pitching, though, Polanco’s wRC+ drops to 89 and his wOBA plummets to .307. That is a long way from Donaldson’s career 157 wRC+ and .401 wOBA versus lefties.

    There is also something to be said of pitchers seeing Donaldson’s name in the lineup and shuddering. Batting Donaldson second and Cruz third is borderline unfair, especially for a lefty. The entire mindset is changed when it’s instead Polanco leading into Cruz. The dynamic shifts as pitchers know of Polanco’s splits.

    Another reason for the Twins bashing left-handers in 2019 was Max Kepler’s incredible turnaround. Kepler entered 2019 hitting .202 with a measly .605 OPS against lefties. He adjusted to hit an outstanding .293/.356/.524 in those spots last year. So far in 2020, Kepler has regressed to his career mean, going 2-for-22 versus lefties. It’s still an incredibly small sample, to be fair.

    Donaldson was struggling to produce in his 27 plate appearances before hitting the IL. For one, it’s 27 plate appearances after a shortened camp. For another, Donaldson was hitting the ball hard. His average exit velocity sits at 92.7 mph, almost the exact same as 2019 when he hit 37 home runs and 33 doubles. His hard-hit rate was 50%, 0.5% below his rate last year, which ranked in the top 2% in the league. His chase rate was slightly elevated but still well below MLB average. All signs pointed to a breakout.

    The Twins’ offense in 2019 was electric and they returned almost every key piece. Even with that, they expected Donaldson to be another massive weapon and losing that production was a blow that we can’t overlook. The Bringer of Rain will be back soon enough and my money is on him raking - against righties and lefties - as soon as he does. Sanó is 6 for his last 15 with five doubles. Miggy getting right would be huge too amid a myriad of injuries.

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    • Aug 21 2020 04:22 PM
    • by Nash Walker
  8. Twins Bats Have Struggled Early

    We all remember. The 2019 Minnesota Twins offense, the Bomba Squad, hit .270/.338/.494 (.832) with 318 doubles and 307 homers.

    Then this offseason, the Twins added former MVP Josh Donaldson coming off of a season in which he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. He hit .259/.379/.521 (.900) with 33 doubles and 37 home runs.

    However, through just 14 games, the Twins offense just has not clicked. The Twins have had several big innings in which they scored as many as five runs. But most nights we have seen the offense put up a lot of zeroes.

    Nelson Cruz is hitting .365/.411/.596 (1.007) with three doubles and three homers. Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez, along with backup backstop Alex Avila, have posted an OPS over .800.

    However, most of the Twins hitters haven’t yet taken off. Mitch Garver is just 3-for-27 (.111) with 13 strikeouts in 27 at bats (34 plate appearances). Luis Arraez is hitting just .216. Miguel Sano is 5-for-37 (.135) with two walks and 18 strikeouts. Jake Cave had two of the biggest hits early in the same (two-run, first-inning single on Opening Day, and a grand slam), but he’s just 3-for-23 with 10 strikeouts. Donaldson was off to a slow start, hitting just .182 with a .614 OPS in seven games before injuring his calf.

    But as a team, how are the Twins doing relative to other American League teams? Is this a Twins issue, or has the offense struggled around the league?

    Overall, the Twins are hitting .236/.316/.414 (.731) with 68 runs scored. They’ve hit 20 home runs in the first 14 games.

    As of Saturday morning, here is how those numbers rank relative to the 15 American League teams:

    Batting Average (.236): ranks 7th
    On-Base Percentage (.316): ranks 6th
    Slugging Percentage: (414): ranks 7th
    OPS (.731): ranks 6th
    Home Runs (20): ranks 3rd
    Runs Scored (68): ranks 2nd

    Runs/Game (4.68): ranks 3rd, behind the Astros and Yankees
    HR/Game (1.43): ranks 4th, behind the Yankees, Angels and Tigers

    So, yes, the Twins offense has struggled early in this season. But relative to the rest of the league, the Twins remain in the upper-half of the league.

    Again, that’s not to say that they’ve been good. Instead, it speaks to the struggles of the bats across baseball.

    While the Twins twice scored 27 runs in their opening series against the White Sox, they have now scored 41 runs over their past 11 games, an average of just 3.73 runs per game which would rank only ahead of Cleveland, Texas and Toronto among AL teams.

    One of the big talking points as the season started was that the pitching would be ahead of the hitting. Aside from that first series, that statement has generally proven true.

    Look at what the Twins have done with their pitchers. The starting pitcher may work through the lineup twice, and then in comes relief arm after relief arm. In many cases, those are big arms with sharp sliders.

    No question that the uniqueness of the 2020 season has played a part as well. There was spring training. Then the players were quarantined for three months, much of that time not knowing when or even if they would play a season. While pitchers can work on things in the bullpen and maintain their arm strength, it’s not quite the same for hitters. While they can work on tees, off pitching machines and occasionally against some live pitchers, it’s different. It’s not game speed or situations.

    If this was a ‘normal’ season, it might be a little concerning, but we would be less than 10% into a long season. We wouldn’t be worried about to any great extent, trusting a player’s track record.
    However, when the Twins/Royals game is complete on Saturday night, the 2020 regular season will be 25% over. 14-15 games is still a small sample, but when so many want to note that each game is theoretically worth 2.7 games, it might be easier to get worried, to press, to try to do too much.

    But now, it’s still important to remember that 75% of the season remains. There is time to turn things around for the players and as an overall offense.

    While Josh Donaldson was off to a slow start in his seven games, his track record certainly suggests that he will be able to turn it around soon. That is, if he can get on the field following his stint on the Injured List.

    Luis Arraez has been playing on sore knees. He still has more walks than strikeouts, so his approach is still the same. That should lead to good things in time. Likewise, Mitch Garver continues to see lots of pitches. He has done a nice job of not expanding the strike zone. He has also hit several bullets right into the opponents’ shifts. For those two players, the league has made some adjustments. Now those players will work to adjust to those adjustments.

    Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have been streaky hitters throughout their careers, even when healthy. Both missed significant time through the three-week Summer Camp and started slow. Sano has struggled with contact, but he’s hit some mammoth homers. Byron Buxton has a double and two home runs over his past three games, and he may have been robbed of another homer.

    In the meantime, the Twins pitching and defense have been even better than expected, and because of those things, plus some very timely hitting and some clustering of the hits that they have had, the Twins are 10-4. That’s the best record in the League.

    But hopefully soon the Twins offense will take off and become what we hope they become, and if that happens, this team can be scary good.

    • Aug 08 2020 09:24 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  9. 9 Thoughts from 9 Innings of a Home-Opening Win

    1st Inning: Making Martínez Sweat

    The bottom of the first was not a great showing for the Twins offense. They missed some big opportunities. Nelson Cruz popped out to foul territory on a 2-0 count with two in scoring position, and later Mitch Garver grounded out to third on 3-1 with the bases juiced. No one hit anything particularly hard.

    And yet ... this lineup still made life extremely difficult for Cardinals starter Carlos Martínez, who needed 21 pitches to get through the frame. While the Twins may have failed to cash in, it's the kind of high-stress experience for a pitcher that can set up an inning like the second, where Minnesota took off and pushed across five runs.

    Martínez, a very good pitcher with a 3.36 career ERA, was soon chased from the game after just 4 2/3 innings.

    2nd Inning: Hip Hip, Jorge

    Punctuating the five-run outburst in the bottom of the second was No. 3 hitter Jorge Polanco, who launched a two-run homer into the right field plaza. He very nearly followed with another bomb from the other side in his following at-bat, two innings later, though Cards left fielder Tyler O'Neill was able to track it down at the warning track.



    Polanco tends to get lost in a shuffle a bit for this offense, as a steadily solid hitter amidst a sea of flashy sluggers. He ranked sixth on the team in OPS+ last year, and he was a bit quiet down the stretch. It can be easy to forget he was the lone All-Star on a historic 2019 offense.

    One person who does not lose sight of Polanco's abilities at the plate is his manager.

    Polanco batted cleanup in the second game of this season in Chicago. That marks the only time since Rocco Baldelli took over as skipper that the shortstop has hit anywhere below third in the lineup.

    3rd Inning: Living on the Edge

    The last time we saw Homer Bailey, it wasn't such a pretty sight. The newly signed right-hander got knocked around in his final tune-up start at Wrigley, as the Cubs took advantage of too many hittable pitches left up around the belt. His official debut was a different story. While he wasn't immune to mistakes, Bailey was executing far better this time out, peppering the borders of FSN's strike zone visualization to maximize the effectiveness of a so-so fastball.

    Here in the third inning, he was at the height of his prowess for the evening, striking out the side with some stellar pitch sequences. Impressively, it was his slider and not his highly-touted splitter doing much of the work.



    Bailey had a crisp outing, allowing four hits and two walks over five innings, with four strikeouts. It's a continuation of the trend we saw in 2019, which saw noticeable improvement in many indicators of hard contact (Barrel %, Sweet Spot %, XBA, XSLG).


    [attachment=14519:baileystatcast.png]


    If he can keep dancing around the edges, while dropping the occasional slow breaking ball over the plate to catch a hitter off-guard, he's gonna be in good shape.

    4th Inning: Here Comes the Rain

    It was a picture-perfect summer evening for the opener at Target Field, although the Bringer of Rain did make his first splash in the bottom of the fourth. Josh Donaldson watered the plants on the right-field overhang with an oppo shot that just barely cleared the wall.



    One thing that's really struck me about Donaldson is that even when he doesn't square it up – and so far he hasn't done so much; prior to the bomb, he was 2-for-11 with two infield singles – he still puts a charge into the ball.

    That home run came on a ripe pitch over the middle, but he really didn't seem to get all of it. There have been a few other occasions, including his sacrifice fly earlier in the game, where the ball has carried surprisingly far off Donaldson's bat. This guy is as strong and powerful as advertised.

    5th Inning: Bailey Bounces Back

    The lone blemish in Bailey's outing came here in the fifth, where he left a hanging offspeed pitch over the dish and O'Neill destroyed it for a two-run homer. Following a well-struck single to open the inning, it looked like the Twins starter might be starting to lose steam. But he buckled down and rattled off three straight outs – a pop-out to first and two grounders.

    That's the resiliency you like to see from a back-end starter. It was maybe more encouraging to me than his triple-K third.

    6th Inning: Pesky Arráez

    The sixth was fairly uneventful, with Tyler Clippard entering to pitch a clean top half and Minnesota going down 1-2-3 in the bottom. But one guy who did not go easily was Luis Arráez. As ever.

    The scrappy second baseman drove a pitch the other way and nearly had extra bases, but O'Neill was able to chase it down in left with a diving grab near the line. Arráez makes pitchers and defenders work awfully hard to get him out. He still has yet to strike out through 12 plate appearances, and he's been hitting the ball pretty dang hard. To have a player like this near the bottom of your lineup (he's hit seventh twice and ninth once) is just an unbelievable advantage.

    7th Inning: Stashak and Bullpen Depth

    Bailey was out of the game for Minnesota after five, but the Twins had no trouble filling in the remaining innings. Second out of the bullpen was Cody Stashak, who delivered his second scoreless outing of the young season. With the exception of a ground-ball double, Stashak was basically flawless, throwing 12 of 17 pitches for strikes and retiring the side with little trouble.

    Just as Arráez is a major asset at the lower part of the order, Stashak is a major asset in the middle of the bullpen. He's looked every bit as good as the 3.24 ERA and 25-to-1 K/BB ratio in last year's MLB debut suggested.

    8th Inning: Buxton Drops the Ball

    Trevor May followed Stashak in the eighth. Leading off against him was Tommy Edman, who lifted a deep fly to center field. Byron Buxton, making his first appearance of the season, sprinted back, reached the wall, and had it measured. He leapt up, had it in his glove, and the ball glanced right off it over the fence.



    It was a bit strange to see from Buxton, for whom the spectacular has become almost routine. But among all the negative outcomes of him chasing a ball to the wall, a solo homer with a fairly comfortable lead is one we'll take.

    It was a tough break for May, but he recovered nicely by striking out the next three batters. His stuff looks absolutely filthy, as he induced seven swinging strikes on 21 pitches.

    9th Inning: Where is Rogers?

    With the exception of Rich Hill (who starts tomorrow) only two players on the active roster had yet to see game action by this point: Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers. Even in a save situation – albeit on the less-intense side – the Twins' top-tier closer remained unused. Romo tossed a clean ninth to close out the 6-3 victory.

    That leaves Rogers, one of the team's best and long-tenured players, as the only reliever we've yet to see. It doesn't necessarily point to any error in judgment from Baldelli, as there's been no real need to turn to the team's highest-leverage arm, but still it seems strange that Rogers hasn't even gotten in an inning of work while several others have made multiple appearances.

    Hopefully there's nothing bothering the southpaw physically, and this is all situational and strategic. Through the team's first four games in 2019, Rogers had already thrown four innings across three appearances.

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    • Jul 28 2020 09:25 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  10. Ranking Minnesota’s Top-5 Indispensable Players

    Recently MLB.com ran through their most indispensable players for every MLB club and Jose Berrios was that writer’s choice for the Twins. However, Minnesota’s pitching depth might be stronger than ever, and this could lead Twins fans to have a different selection for the top spot.

    5. Nelson Cruz, DH
    Cruz produced on and off the field for the Twins last season. His leadership might be unmatched among top-tier talent in the big-leagues. He helped to alter Miguel Sano’s approach last season and he will have a lasting impact on the Twins roster long after his last appearance in a Minnesota jersey.

    4. Bryon Buxton, CF
    No one can deny the impact Buxton has on both sides of the ball. When running on all cylinders, he is the true definition of a five-tool player. He can impact the game in ways few players have the skills to reach. He needs to prove he can stay healthy and a shortened season gives him the opportunity to prove his full value.

    3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
    He’s the only player on the roster with an MVP in his closet and his defense is going to alter the Twins entire approach on one side of the ball. Minnesota won over 100-games without Donaldson last season so his addition will likely help to deter some of the expected regression from other young Twins players. MLB.com picked him as a dark-horse candidate for the AL MVP and this might not be that big of a stretch when you consider how good the Twins should be during the 2020 season.

    2. Jose Berrios, SP
    Since he joined the Twins rotation, Jose Berrios has had the highest upside of any Twins starting pitcher since Francisco Liriano. If the Twins are going to meet their goals this season, Berrios will have a large part in making that happen. He has traditionally struggled through a late season slump, but that should be less of an issue in a shortened season. Even with Jake Odorizzi and Kenta Maeda, he is the ace of the staff on a team expected to contend for the pennant in the American League.

    1. Jorge Polanco, SS
    Think about the rest of the Twins line-up. There are players available to fill-in at nearly every other position, but shortstop continues to be a tough spot for the Twins. Polanco was the AL’s starting shortstop in last year’s All-Star Game, and he might still have room to meet his potential. If Polanco wasn’t available, the Twins would like turn over a pivotal position to the likes of Ehire Adrianza. He is more than capable of handling the position but the certainly isn’t up to the caliber of Polanco.

    How would you rank the top-5 players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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    • Jul 22 2020 08:15 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  11. Sano and Kepler Are Missing Their Age-27 Peak Season in 2020

    Over at ESPN.com, David Schoenfield wrote about all the players that would have played the 2020 season as their age-27 campaign. Besides Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, the list includes, Gary Sanchez, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Truner, Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Tim Anderson, and Matt Chapman. Multiple players on this list have already had great seasons in their careers, so what’s so special about being 27-years old?

    Baseball front office and fans have search for years to find out when a player reaches their peak performance. Bill James has done multiple studies on the subject dating back to the early-1980s. His aging patter study from 2017 confirmed his previous research that at age-27 players are in their peak season. Tom Tango did a different study and reached the same result with players peaking at 27 and having their best decade from age 23-32.

    Kepler was already coming off a breakout season where he hit .252/.336/.519 with 36 home runs and 32 doubles. According to Baseball Reference, he had the third highest WAR on the Twins while FanGraphs had him tied for the team lead. He finished in the top-20 for MVP voting, so it was certainly going to be tough for him to match those numbers again in 2020.

    Questions about Sano’s age have followed him since he was an amateur and there was even a documentary made about him being signed. When Twins Daily was first getting started, I wrote about Sano and the questions surrounding his age. Realistically, MLB investigated Sano’s situation and couldn’t verify his exact age and the topic has been largely forgotten.

    Last season, Sano set career highs in home runs (34), OPS (.923), slugging (.576), and RBI (79). He’s had three seasons where he has played more than 100 big-league games and he has averaged 29 home runs per season. His switch to first base was going to be an intriguing story line to watch this year because it might have allowed him to play more than 116 games, his career high from 2016.

    FanGraphs ZIPS projections for a full season had Kepler posting an .825 OPS while hitting 28 home runs and 31 doubles. The player comp for his was Trot Nixon and his WAR dipped from 4.4 in 2019 to 3.1 in 2020. This total only trailed the projected WAR total for Josh Donaldson. Sano was pegged for 35 home runs, 19 doubles, and a drop in OPS to .881. His player comp was Jay Buhner and FanGraphs had him tied with Nelson Cruz for fifth on the team in WAR.

    There are still plenty of questions swirling around baseball and if there will be any games played in 2020. That being said, it’s clear Twins fans are losing out on what could have been a pair of peak seasons from Sano and Kepler.

    Who do you think would have compiled better numbers this season, Sano or Kepler? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 22 2020 12:44 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  12. 2020 Minnesota Twins: Ten Questions

    I’ve got ten questions about players for you to consider. I’m not going to talk about the team topics like will the Twins win the World Series? The odds certainly favor the L.A. Dodgers to win the 2020 World Series, but the Twins should in no way feel intimidated. For them to reach that lofty goal, the offense will have to remain a strength. Today’s ten questions will relate to an offense that set the MLB record for home runs in 2019, and then added Josh Donaldson.


    Question #1: How will Mitch Garver perform after his breakout, Silver Slugging 2019 season?

    With his approach and eye at the plate, his still stance and his quick bat and elite power, Garver should continue to put up strong numbers with the bat.


    Question #2: If there is an 82 game season, how many games will Garver catch?

    In 2019, Garver caught 82 games despite missing about three weeks with an injury. He probably would have caught about ten of the 16 games played during that stretch.So, that about 92 games caught had he stayed healthy. Garver and the Twins front office supported the plan for rest. At that same pace, he would catch about 46 games of an 82-game season. However, you have to wonder if, because of the potentially shortened season, if he won’t get a few extra starts, maybe 50 or 55?


    Question #3: How will Miguel Sano transition defensively to first base?

    Listen, we all know he’s not going to be Joe Mauer over there. He won’t immediately look like Doug Mientkiewicz or Kent Hrbek or even Justin Morneau at first base. But expect that he will be adequate. We will find ourselves shaking our head, wondering what he was thinking, but those types of plays will be more about lack of playing time at the position. More important, Rocco Baldelli went out of his way during spring training to credit Sano for the work that he was putting in and the effort he was giving to be a good defensive first baseman.


    Question #4: Can Luis Arraez avoid a sophomore slump?

    So, if you’re expecting Arraez to his .330 and consider anything less than that a sophomore slump than the odds would tell us that you will probably be disappointed. Arraez has a great eye at the plate, and an approach that isn’t passive. He’s got great bat control. All those things create the comparisons to players like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. So expectations are high, and we need to temper them, but Arraez will always have the potential to hit over .300.


    Question #5: Will Jorge Polanco get to another All-Star Game in 2020?

    Well, there probably won’t be an All-Star Game in 2020, so the answer to this one is easy. No. But at the end of the season, will Polanco be a Top 3 shortstop in the American League? Will he be a strong candidate to start another ASG in 2021? Truthfully, it’s going to be tough, even if Polanco remains as good as he was in 2019, or even improves a little. Francisco Lindor is the definition of an All-Star. Xander Boegaerts is a star for the Red Sox. Marcus Semien of the A’s finished third in MVP voting in the AL last year. The Yankees are moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop from second base. Carlos Correa is a star. Tim Anderson doesn’t like to walk, but he won the AL batting title in 2019. Bo Bichette has incredible potential and had a strong showing in 2019. Adalberto Mondesi is very talented. Niko Goodrum will get a lot more playing time at shortstop in 2020. In short, Jorge Polanco is going to have to be really, really good to maintain All-Star status. That said, he’s got the talent to fit into that group just fine.


    Question #6: Can Eddie Rosario take another step forward as a player?

    For all his faults, and they have been written about over and over and over again, Rosario is an immensely talented player. You can’t be a bad player and still end the year hitting 32 home runs and driving in 109 RBI. He has his mental lapses at times, but he’s also capable of a game-winning strike from the Green Monster to home plate. Add in the fact that he played most of the second half of 2019 with an injured ankle and there is potential for Rosario to be even better in 2020 and going forward. Any improvement in his plate discipline and he could be great.


    Question #7: Can Byron Buxton stay healthy?

    I don’t know. None of us know. No one wants the “Injury Prone” tag attached to him, and all of Buxton’s injuries have been through playing the game. But it is important because he is a difference-maker when he is in the lineup. Obviously he is an elite defender. We all know that. But when his 2019 season ended, he had an OPS over .800. At the All-Star break, many argued that he was the most valuable Twins player, on a roster filled with immense talent.


    Question #8: What can Max Kepler do for an encore to his 2019 breakout?

    After three seasons of hitting between .230 and .240 with 18-20 home runs, Kepler signed an extension and went out and proved the Twins were wise. He still didn’t hit for average, but despite not hitting over the season’s final three weeks, he hit 36 home runs. There were some mechanical and technical adjustments that he made to his swing and his approach. Maybe it was hitting in the leadoff position. Kepler’s demeanor and personality would indicate that the improvements should stick.


    Question #9: Can Nelson Cruz continue to kick Father Time’s butt?

    On July 1st, shortly before the 2020 season could potentially begin, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday. A week before that, we will learn if he won the 2020 Mohammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the ESPYs. In 2019, at 39 years old, Cruz put together, arguably, the best season of his career. He hit .311/.392/.639 (1.031) with 26 doubles and 41 homers in just 120 games. This spring, he was 10-for-23 with two doubles and three home runs. He also overcame a complete tear of a ligament in his wrist. Forget Father Time, Cruz is beating the fathers of medical science. Then again, Father Time is ultimately undefeated.


    Question #10: Will Josh Donaldson continue to crush pitches at Target Field?

    In 22 career games at Target Field, Donaldson has hit .373/.464/.819 (1.283) with seven doubles and 10 home runs. In 43 total games against the Twins, he has hit .395/.487/.852 (1.339) with 17 doubles and 19 home runs. The 19 homers are the most he’s hit against any team, four more than against any other team, despite playing in the AL East! The 2015 AL MVP is just a flat-out great overall hitter. He doesn’t swing outside the strike zone often and his approach is basically to crush any strikes, and he’s certainly done that. Some of his success at Target Field could be credited to him liking the batter’s eye in center field, and certainly some of it can be credited to getting to hit off of Twins pitchers.


    There you have it. Ten Questions about ten Twins hitters. How would you answer each of them?

    • May 25 2020 11:04 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  13. Minnesota’s Last Four Postseasons All Changed in an 82-Game Season

    2019: 53-29, 9 Games Up
    Minnesota still would have won the AL Central after 82 games, but the playoffs would have looked different for the Bomba Squad. New York had the top record in the AL after 82 games so Minnesota would have matched up with Houston in the first round. Besides matching up with the Astros, the Twins had the second-best record in the league and that would have meant home field advantage for the ALDS.

    2017: 42-40, 2.5 Games Back
    Back in 2017, the Twins used a surge in the second half to separate themselves from the other teams in the American League and clinch the second Wild Card spot. After 82 games, the Twins wouldn’t have been so lucky. Minnesota would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for the second Wild Card spot. This would have set up one crazy three-way tie breaker just for the opportunity to play the Yankees in another do-or-die game.

    2010: 44-38, 1 Game Back
    Minnesota’s first year at Target Field had it’s share of memorable moments, but it wouldn’t have included the playoffs back in 2010. Through 82 games, the Twins trailed the Tigers by one game. Detroit would have walked away with the division, so maybe Minnesota had a shot at the Wild Card? Nope. Boston and New York were off to hot starts in the AL East and the Twins were five games behind the Red Sox for the lone Wild Card spot.

    2009: 42-40, 3 Games Back
    2009 was a fun season for the Twins as the club stormed back and forced an unforgettable Game 163 at the Metrodome. It might be the most exciting game in Twins history. It never would have happened if the season was shortened to 82 games. Minnesota would have trailed the Tigers by three games, and they would have been tied with the White Sox for second in the division. Either way, the Twins would have missed the playoffs and the drama of Game 163 would have never occurred.

    How would previous seasons change if they were limited to 82 games? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • May 19 2020 01:57 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  14. Twins All-Decade Team, the '10s (The Hitters)

    As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season.

    This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade.

    Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s.



    C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018)
    1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI.

    If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019.



    1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013)
    411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI.

    Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016.

    2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018)
    955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI.

    Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season.




    3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016)
    723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI.

    This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media!



    SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019)
    441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI.

    Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019.

    LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019)
    640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI.

    Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade.



    CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019)
    393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI.

    Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers.



    RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019)
    553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI.

    Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th.




    DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019)
    486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI.

    The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base.




    So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary.



    Share your thoughts?

    For more from this series, see below.

    Previous Installments
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
    Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters)
    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)

    • May 12 2020 08:22 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  15. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop

    Projected Starter: Jorge Polanco
    Likely Backup: Ehire Adrianza

    Depth: Luis Arraez, Marwin Gonzalez
    Prospects: Royce Lewis, Wander Javier

    THE GOOD

    When I counted down the top assets in the Minnesota Twins organization a couple months back, I had Polanco at No. 1, mainly because of that wonderfully favorable contract: The 26-year-old is controlled through 2025 at reasonable rates (around $7 million on average).

    Fresh off inking his new deal, Polanco burst out of the gates with a ridiculously strong start in 2019. At the end of May his OPS checked in at an even 1.000, and he hung near the top of the AL batting race throughout the first half, earning himself a starting nod on the All-Star team.

    Even with a second-half cooldown, Polanco still ended up logging excellent numbers across the board. Overall, he slashed .295/.356/.485 with 20 home runs, 44 doubles, seven triples, and 107 runs scored. A reliable everyday fixture, Polanco made 704 plate appearances – 108 more than the next-highest finisher on the team (Max Kepler at 596).

    Every single one of Polanco's 150 starts came in either the first, second, or third spot in the batting order, reflecting how highly he was regarded by Rocco Baldelli as an offensive factor.

    Polanco delivered this outstanding production at shortstop, where quality hitters tend to be at a premium. And there's a decent chance he's only getting started. It can be easy to lose sight because he's been around so long now, but Polanco doesn't turn 27 until July. He's still just entering the age range where skills generally peak.

    In his early-to-mid 20s, he set himself a solid baseline as a big-leaguer, slashing .271/.327/.418 from 2016 through 2018 for a 100 OPS+ that was exactly average. Last year he shattered all previous benchmarks and reached new levels of performance, slashing ropes from both sides while ranking as the team's most valuable player per Baseball Reference's WAR calculation.

    The Twins have the ability to keep him around through age 31.

    THE BAD

    Polanco's red-hot start at the plate in 2019 was offset somewhat by a late decline. After starting in the All-Star Game, he slashed .273/.341/.447 in the second half, gravitating back toward his previous career norms (.272/.329/.420). In September he posted a mere .706 OPS with six walks and eight extra-base hits over 102 plate appearances, though he rallied with a strong showing in the ALDS.

    Polanco underwent ankle surgery in November "to address a chronic impingement injury stemming from repetitive stress" after taking on an intensive season-long workload, so it's very possible he simply wore down on a bum wheel. Something to watch.

    Defense is the real concern.

    Statcast recently unveiled a new metric, Infield Outs Above Average, which seeks to measure the defensive contributions of infielders. The initial rankings for 2019 included 139 players, and pegged Polanco at... 138. The Twins shortstop was in front of only Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a bulky 20-year-old rookie third basemen best known for his bat.

    Granted, it's only one stat, but the IOAA assessment speaks to an undeniable reality: Polanco has mostly been a defensive liability at shortstop, stretched beyond his means with an erratic arm that is constantly manifesting in troublesome ways.

    Among all MLB players, only White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (26) committed more errors last year than Polanco, and nobody had more throwing errors. In all likelihood, this problem will be magnified in 2020, because C.J. Cron – who led all American League first basemen in Scoops with 31 in 2019 – is being replaced by the inexperienced Miguel Sano.

    The Twins smartly do what they can to minimize Polanco's defensive shortcomings, shifting him all around the diamond relentlessly and signing Josh Donaldson to bolster the left side, but he's barely tenable all the same. There's not a simple solution, though. Even if Polanco could be moved elsewhere in the infield (second and third are pretty well spoken for), Minnesota lacks standout gloves that might represent an upgrade at short.

    Ehire Adrianza, who slots as Polanco's top backup, might be the best defensive shortstop in the organization at present, which isn't saying much because he's just okay there. Marwin Gonzalez is no more than an emergency option, and the same should be true of Luis Arraez, who played a handful of games at short as a rookie.

    The minors offer nothing approaching a sure thing. Nick Gordon has all but fallen out of the shortstop conversation (always borderline, he was starting primarily at second in Rochester by the time he got hurt last year). Royce Lewis, the organization's top prospect, could stick at short, but the jury is very much out. Wander Javier is probably the best bet among upper-tier prospects to play shortstop long-term, but he's coming off a disastrous season at Low-A.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Locked in long-term with no obvious place to move, and no one necessarily coming up behind him, Polanco isn't going anywhere soon. So the team will just have to work around his defensive deficiencies, while hoping that his offensive output from the first half of 2019 was no mirage.

    Given that he's still on the front end of his prime with a sturdy track record, odds of continued improvement or at least sustained excellence are pretty good.

    Polanco was playing second base exclusively at Rochester before being called up in 2016, and has been worth negative-31 runs as a big-league shortstop (per DRS). His viability at this position is in doubt. The Twins have nevertheless run him out there for nearly 3,500 innings, and they don't seem inclined – or able, really – to change course.

    If the long-tenured stalwart hits like he's capable of, we can live with a few extra runs sacrificed to the opponent, which is more or less the mantra of this Twins team as a whole.



    ~~~


    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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    • Mar 09 2020 10:46 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. 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
  17. Can You Find The Twin? A Valentine's Day Challenge for Baseball Lovers

    You are a self-proclaimed Minnesota Twins and/or baseball fan. Baseball is your perpetual valentine, despite your actual relationship status. You proudly tell anyone who will listen that you watch every single game and even skip social events to do so. When you can’t get out of one, you purposely schedule meetups at sports bars so that you won’t miss a single inning.

    Instructions: Pick the Minnesota Twin from the three given options. Keep in mind that every option listed below is an actual MLB player from the same position. A correct answer is worth 1 point, and there is no penalty for an incorrect response. The bonus questions is also worth 1 point. As an extra challenge, try and guess the other two players in the group.

    1. Catcher: Mitch Garver

    A - 126 H, .246 AVG, .380 OBP

    B - 85 H, .273 AVG, .365 OBP

    C - 120 H, .273 AVG, .328 OBP


    2. First Base: Miguel Sano

    A - .247 AVG, 34 HR, .923 OPS

    B - .267 AVG, 36 HR, .896 OPS

    C - .260 AVG, 34 HR, .821 OPS


    3. Second Base: Luis Arraez

    A - .334 AVG, .399 OBP, .823 OPS

    B - .329 AVG, .389 OBP, .981 OPS

    C - .298 AVG, .353 OBP, .903 OPS


    4. Third Base: Josh Donaldson

    A - 36 HR, 91 RBIs, 3 3Bs

    B - 37 HR, 94 RBIs, 0 3Bs

    C - 35 HR, 118 RBIs, 10 3Bs


    5. Shortstop: Jorge Polanco

    A - 651 ABs, .285 AVG, 7 3Bs

    B - 631 ABs, .295 AVG, 7 3Bs

    C - 616 ABs, .287 AVG, 7 3Bs


    6. Right Field: Max Kepler

    A - .257 AVG, .856 OPS, 3.5 WAR

    B - .265 AVG, .922 OPS, 3.8 WAR

    C - .252 AVG, .855 OPS, 4.0 WAR


    7. Center Field: Byron Buxton

    A - .262 AVG, .991 Fielding Percentage, 14 SB

    B - .260 AVG, .994 Fielding Percentage, 18 SB

    C - .259 AVG, .993 Fielding Percentage, 14 SB


    8. Left Field: Eddie Rosario

    A - 98 R, 110 RBI’s, 138 SO

    B - 91 R, 109 RBI’s, 86 SO

    C - 110 R, 110 RBI’s, 132 SO


    9. DH: Nelson Cruz

    A - 26 2B, 0 CS, .412 OBP

    B - 20 2B, 3 CS, .343 OBP

    C - 26 2B, 1 CS, .392 OBP


    10. BONUS: Which player’s birthday is closest to Valentine’s Day?

    A - Sergio Romo

    B - Max Kepler

    C - Tyler Clippard

    D - Alex Avila

    The answers are beyond this point. Do not scroll past this conveniently placed video of one my most beloved grand slam if you have not completed the challenge.



    Answers:

    B, A, A, B, B, C, A, B, C, C

    Other Players:

    Catcher A: Yasmani Grandal, Catcher C: James McCann
    First Base B: Matt Olson, First Base C: Paul Goldschmidt
    Second Base B: Ketel Marte, Second Base C: Jose Altuve
    Third Base A: Matt Chapman, Third Base C: Eduardo Escobar
    Shortstop A: Marcus Semien, Shortstop C: Amed Rosario
    LF A: Michael Conforto, LF B: Jorge Soler
    CF B: Lorenzo Cain, CF C: Kevin Pillar
    RF A: J.D. Martinez, RF C: Juan Soto
    DH A: Yordan Alvarez, DH B: Shohei Ohtani
    Birthdays: Sergio Romo - March 4th, Max Kepler - February 10th, Tyler Clippard - February 14th, Alex Avila - January 29th

    If you got:

    8-10: You are a Twins champion

    5-7: It's no question that you are a Twins fan, but there is always room for improvement

    2-4: You watch a game here and there, but your television isn't loyal to Fox Sports North during the baseball season

    0-1: You aren't an expert....yet.

    How many answers did you get correct? Leave your score in the comments below.

    Happy Birthday Tyler!

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    • Feb 13 2020 11:55 PM
    • by renabanena
  18. 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
  19. A Bigger Twins Problem Than Pitching

    Last season Minnesota’s starting rotation ranked seventh across baseball, and fourth in the American League, when it came to fWAR total. While not glowing in any one specific category, the sum of all parts was representative of a strong unit. There’s no denying that Randy Dobnak was in a tough spot for an ALDS game, and that Rocco Baldelli doesn’t have the horses other teams do. That needs to be addressed, but what happens when the ball is put in play?

    The Twins ranked 21st defensively in 2019 and their 26th overall infield outs above average valuation was even worse. The posted a -14 number when it came to the newly unveiled Statcast metric, and that number is buoyed by performances by the since departed C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. With only Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Luis Arraez locked into the infield configuration prior to signing Josh Donaldson, they'd have been one of the worst units in baseball.



    From an individual standpoint, Sano and Arraez both fare poorly on their own. It’s shortstop Polanco though that ranks dead last, 138th, with -16 outs above average. He’s joined in that position by none other than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is seen as a surefire designated hitter, and maybe by the time he’s 22-years-old.

    [attachment=13419:Polanco.PNG]

    Before there’s consideration regarding the deficiency having to do with shifts, it’s worth understanding that infield OAA takes starting position into account. Polanco posted his worst metrics while beginning in the SS hole, as opposed to being adequate when shifted to the second base side of the diamond. Sano struggled the most when needing to guard the line, likely because of the additional ground placed between him and the shortstop. For Arraez’s efforts, he saw the largest slide when playing in the hole but staggered either to the left or right at second base. What the sum of all parts continues to point to is a glaring hole on the left side.

    Enter Josh Donaldson!

    Donaldson posted the 12th highest DRS in baseball a season ago. His 8 infield OAA ranked 18th in baseball, and the 15 DRS tally trailed only Matt Chapman (18) among all big-league third basemen. The mark posted at third base nearly doubled the efforts of Nolan Arenado and did double up the abilities of Alex Bregman. To put it simply, he’s not only a very good hitter.

    Now to be fair, Donaldson would doesn't solve all of the issues facing the Twins, but he’s certainly the type of player that can assist them. In an ideal world Minnesota would have a better defensive shortstop (more on that here). Moving Polanco off that position gets tricky with Arraez currently manning second base. Neither Jorge nor Luis have the arm to play third, and that leaves more bodies than opportunities.

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine landed a strong defensive third basemen to assist Polanco in range and positioning. If Jorge can play more up the middle and a bit further in, there’s ability for Arraez to benefit on his side as well. By driving up the baseline of the group the hope would be that everyone starts with a better chance to succeed.

    Jorge Polanco wasn’t the worst shortstop in baseball by any means in 2019; heck he even posted a posted 1 DRS. The problem is that his -9.1 UZR was dead last (of 128 players to record an inning at the position), and his -8.4 ErrR is reflective of a guy who struggled to throw more often than he didn’t. Arm strength and positioning has been an area of development since Polanco assumed the role full time, but mediocrity seems to be the ceiling there.

    We don't yet know what Miguel Sano looks like as a full time third basemen. We have no idea if Polanco and Arraez are capable of taking further steps forward. We do know that Minnesota just addressed their worst unit in a massive way, and Donaldson should be a key cog in any sort of a real turnaround.

    • Jan 14 2020 07:48 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  20. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of a Potential Jose Berrios Extension

    The Good
    Jose Berrios is a two-time All-Star and he has become Minnesota’s best starting pitcher. He’s ranked in the American League top-20 for ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP and opponents batting average. According to Baseball Savant, he ranks most closely to Mike Minor, Anthony DeSclafani, Joe Musgrove and Joey Lucchesi. These aren’t exactly perennial Cy Young candidates, but it is a combination of older and younger pitchers that are similar to Berrios.

    Last week, Matthew wrote about pitchers in their age-26 season, which he identified as the peak age for starting pitchers. Top pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Dallas Keuchel all hit peak numbers in multiple categories during their age-26 season. Minnesota needs Berrios to take steps next season to be even better than he has been over the last two seasons.

    The Bad
    Berrios and his second half slumps have been well documented over the last few seasons. His ERA is over a full run higher in the second half and his second half WHIP is 33 points higher. Opponents hit .229/.289/.391 (.679) against him in the season’s first half, while those numbers jump to .264/.343/.413 (.756) in the second half. There might be a small amount of bad luck involved in his numbers because his BAbip is 52 points higher in the second half.

    Since the Twins drafted Berrios, questions about his size and physical make-up. Berrios is roughly 6-feet tall and just over 200 pounds, so he isn’t exactly a daunting figure on the mound. Some have wondered if his body type is one of the reasons he has pitched more poorly in the second half. Most of his social media shows us that he gets into prime condition in the off-season, but even doing that doesn’t guarantee he will find second-half success.

    The Ugly
    Over the last two off-seasons, the Twins’ front office has been able to sign extensions with young core players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano. Reports last off-season mentioned the Twins also approached Berrios about a possible extension, but he they likely will have to “pay up” to buy out any free agent seasons from Berrios. Free agent pitchers have seen lucrative contracts this off-season and Berrios could be due a large contract if he hits the open market.

    As mentioned earlier, the Twins and Berrios couldn’t reach an agreement on his 2020 salary as part of the arbitration process. Berrios submitted at $4.4 million and the Twins filed at $4.025 million, which puts the difference at $375,000. Will the Twins and Berrios let this difference go all the way to an arbitration hearing? These can be ugly hearings with the team having to bring up flaws in a player that is a building block for the team.

    Do you think the Twins will be able to sign Berrios to a long-term deal? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jan 13 2020 11:38 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  21. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 4 (1-5)

    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 (1-5)

    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    2019 Ranking: 1

    It was a trying year for Lewis. He slumped frequently and finished with a .236/.290/.371 slash line, striking out three times for every walk. The exaggerated leg lift in his swing came under greater scrutiny as he struggled against higher-level pitching. His defensive work at shortstop caused some analysts to harden in their stances that he's destined to switch positions. Even his trademark confidence was framed as a negative in one postseason Baseball America report.

    Through all this, the fact remains: He started the year as a 19-year-old and finished it at Double-A, punctuating his pedestrian regular season with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League. Lewis's elite physical tools haven't wavered, and most of his present shortcomings seem like the correctable flaws of a raw young talent. He still looks like a star in the making, even if that path is a bit less straight and short than initially hoped.

    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 5

    Health was the big caveat attached to Graterol a year ago, as he vaulted into the national baseball consciousness with his triple-digit heater. His (in)ability to hold up rose to the forefront again this year, as the right-hander missed nearly two months with a shoulder impingement. But upon returning as a reliever in August, he did enough to restore all confidence – and then some.

    Ticketed for a late-inning impact on a contending club at age 20, Graterol made quick stops at Double-A and Triple-A before joining the Twins in September, where he was extremely impressive as a rookie. The 4.66 ERA is inflated by one poor outing against Cleveland – three earned runs, zero outs recorded – but the righty otherwise allowed two runs in 9 2/3 innings (1.86 ERA) with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. He added a perfect inning of work against New York in the ALDS, with two strikeouts.

    Durability remains a pre-eminent sticking point, as does the uncertainty around his future role, but the battle-tested Graterol is one of the most valuable arms in the game right now.

    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 2

    Whereas Graterol is a poster child for the volatile health of pro pitchers, Berrios lives on the opposite end of the spectrum: a model of durability. He hasn't missed a start since joining the Twins rotation, and that's basically been the case ever since he was drafted. The right-hander checked off another accomplishment last year, reaching 200 innings for the first time, but for the most part he was his usual self: steadily excellent, just short of elite.

    Since being called up for good in May of 2017, Berrios ranks ninth among American League pitchers in fWAR. He's not quite an ace but looks the part at times, and as a 25-year-old he still has plenty of time to find another gear. As the only Twins starting pitcher under control beyond next year, he's the glue of the rotation. But with arbitration now upon him, Berrios is going to start getting expensive quickly and is three years from free agency. A sensible extension would move him to the top of this list.

    2. Max Kepler, OF
    2019 Ranking: 9

    Pretty much the best thing a team can do to increase a player's asset valuation is lock him up with a long-term deal at an established baseline, only to have the player immediately reset that baseline. This is what happened with Kepler, who broke a three-year trend of good-not-great performance by taking a star turn in 2019, fresh off signing a team-friendly five-year contract.

    Despite missing the final two weeks as a shoulder injury plagued him, Kepler shattered career highs across the board and launched 36 homers. He's a top-shelf defensive right fielder and perfectly capable in center, which is especially valuable to the Twins given Buxton's frequent unavailability. Kepler's new contract, which can keep him under control through 2024 at bargain rates, gives Minnesota plenty of flexibility to continually build around the stud outfielder.

    1. Jorge Polanco, SS
    2019 Ranking: 7

    At the end of the day, these rankings are about the big picture. When you take a step back, which players are most indispensable, when factoring in risk and contract value? As core players that signed favorable extensions just before immediately breaking out and achieving upper-echelon status, Kepler and Polanco naturally rose to the top under this framework. Between the two, I give Polanco a slight edge.

    First, he plays an extremely valuable defensive position – one that is otherwise not well accounted for in the system, especially with Lewis's question marks. Polanco doesn't play shortstop all that well but he can handle it. Second, he's even cheaper than Kepler with an even more favorable contract; Polanco is controlled through 2023 for just $17 million total, and has an additional two team options. All this, as a switch-hitting 25-year-old All-Star who received MVP votes in 2019.

    At this point, I see Polanco as he most valuable player to the organization, but he's not a superstar. Nor is Kepler, or Berrios. Getting a true premium player in this spot – whether because one of these three takes another step forward, or Buxton pulls it all together, or someone like Lewis emerges in a big way, OR the Twins swing a trade for a centerpiece-type asset (leveraging some of these assets to do so) – will be instrumental in this franchise turning the corner. They're definitely in good shape and on the right track, just not quite there.

    RECAPPING THE TOP 20

    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
    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2. Max Kepler, OF
    1. Jorge Polanco, SS

    • Jan 09 2020 09:30 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. 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
  23. Projecting Minnesota's 2023 Line-Up

    C: Mitch Garver
    Garver has been my pick for starting catcher in each of the last three years (see links below) and he did nothing to change those projections this season. By 2023, he will be 32-years old, so it will be interesting to see how his body handles the rigors of catching. The Twins are in search of a first baseman and there’s a chance Garver could spend more time at this position. This would keep Garver in the line-up on a more regular basis and it could help him keep his legs fresh.

    First Base: Alex Kirilloff
    Kirilloff started playing more time at first base last season. This will give him more defensive flexibility and allow him to reach the big leagues sooner. He has one of the best hit tools in the Twins system, but he saw his numbers dip a little last season after putting together a monster 2018 campaign. He has a good chance to make his big-league debut in 2020 and by 2023 he should be well entrenched as a regular in the Twins line-up.

    Second Base: Luis Arraez
    Arraez is one of the easiest picks for any future Twins line-up. The 22-year old burst on the scene last year and hit .334/.399/.439 (.838) across 92 games. He was a revelation in the batter’s box as he seemed to know the strike zone like a 10-year veteran. One of his most memorable at-bats came after he was a pinch hitter and entered the game with an 0-2 count. Arraez is never going to have huge power numbers, but he has been able to hit at every level where he has played.

    Third Base: Royce Lewis
    Royce Lewis was drafted by the Twins as a shortstop, but there are some that question whether he will be able to stick at that position long-term. To move to third base, Lewis is going to have to make some changes on the offensive side of the ball. He has a big leg kick and a lot of unnecessary movement with his hands. Minnesota has some time to tweak his swing before he debuts, and Lewis is athletic enough to make the changes.

    Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
    Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game and he is under contract through at least 2023. That being said, he had a negative ranking according to SABR’s Defensive Index, which ranked him eighth among qualifying AL shortstops. He made improvements last year, but he will be 29-years old in 2023. Will he have lost a step by that point? Would the Twins be able to move him to another defensive position?

    Left Field: Trevor Larnach
    Larnach had one of the strongest seasons among Twins top prospects. Between High-A and Double-A, he hit .309/.384/.458 (.842) with 44 extra-base hits. Because of his college experience, he is actually older than Alex Kirilloff and he is the same age as Luis Arraez. Like Kirilloff, he has an opportunity to debut in 2020, but it would likely have to be the result of an injury to one of the regular outfielders.

    Center Field: Byron Buxton
    Buxton will be in an interesting spot by 2023. Can he find a way to stay healthy for an entire season? Will last year’s offensive improvements continue? He has a lot to prove during the 2020 season, but fans can hope he clears up any doubts before 2023. He would be entering his age-29 season, which should put him at the peak of his value. Speed is a big part of his game and he will need to show that he can adjust as Father Time starts to slow him down.

    Right Field: Max Kepler
    Kepler was given the opportunity to be the Twins lead-off hitter last season and he certainly proved the team made the right choice. He compiled an .855 OPS on the way to cracking 36 home runs and 32 doubles. By 2023, Kepler could be one of the team’s leaders on and off the field especially after the team signed him to an extension last off-season. His contract does have a team option for 2024, so Kepler could be amid a contract year in the 2023 season.

    Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano
    Sano has seen some ups and downs throughout his Twins tenure and it’s interesting to think about what the future could hold for the burly third baseman. There’s a chance the 2020 season will be his last season on the defensive side of the ball. Nelson Cruz is under contract for one more year and then Sano is the likely choice to take over the DH role. There is no guarantee he will be with the Twins in 2023 since he can be a free agent in 2022. Could someone like Polanco take over this spot if Sano doesn’t re-sign with the club?

    What do you think the 2023 line-up will look like in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    2020 Line-Up
    2021 Line-Up
    2022 Line-Up

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    • Dec 23 2019 01:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  24. Minnesota’s Top Regression Candidates

    Max Kepler
    2019 Stats: .252 BA, .244 BABIP, .336 OBP, .855 OPS
    Few Twins fans knew what to expect when Kepler was named the Twins lead-off hitter during spring training. He actually was a bit unlucky when looking at his batting average and his BABIP, but it also doesn’t seem likely for him to approach 35+ home runs two seasons in a row. Baseball Reference projects him for 26 home runs and a .795 OPS. This is a slight decline from 2019 and it seems like an reasonable projection for the coming year.

    Luis Arraez
    2019 Stats: .334 BA, .355 BABIP, .399 OBP, .833 OPS
    Arraez had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory for the Twins, but few people saw this coming. He has been able to hit at every professional level, but it makes sense for teams to figure out his tendencies and take advantage of them with more repetitions. For next season, there seems little chance that his OPS stays above .800. Arraez has the offensive tools to be an above-average second baseman but the Twins will have to use him correctly in the years ahead.

    Mitch Garver
    2019 Stats: .273 BA, .267 BABIP, .365 OBP, .995 OPS
    Garver won a Silver Slugger in his first season of playing on a semi-regular basis but Jason Castro won’t be there as a safety blanket next year. Garver might be forced to take on a more regular role. What will that do to his production? He might have been a little lucky with a BABIP that was lower than his actually batting average. It seems more likely for him to be around 20 home runs and a .850 OPS.

    Jorge Polanco
    2019 Stats: .295 BA,.328 BABIP, .356 OBP, .841 OPS
    Polanco was the team’s lone position player All-Star in 2019 and he was elected as a starter. Baseball Reference projects him to accumulate an .803 OPS next year, while dipping from 22 home runs this season to 17 homers next year. He’s managed a .339 OPS over the course of his big league career so it will be interesting if he can continue at that level with other top prospects trying to take his big-league spot.

    Miguel Sano
    2019 Stats: .247 BA, .319 BBIP, .346 OBP, .923 OPS
    Sano struggled through parts of the 2019 campaign, but he seemed to settle into a routine as the season progressed. His batting average on balls in play seems destined for some regression and it’s hard to predict whether he will be able to stay healthy for an entire season. He has yet to play more than 116 games in one year and that was back in 2016. A full season of Sano could be dangerous or a full season could more fully expose his flaws.

    Which player do you think will regress this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 12 2019 09:20 AM
    • by Cody Christie