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  1. Four Ways the Twins Could Avoid a Jose Berrios Second Half Slump

    1. Alter His Workout Routine
    According to the Star Tribune, Berrios altered some of his workout routines between starts at the end of last season and he saw some positive results. He worked throughout the offseason to develop his stamina and the Twins are hoping this stamina carries throughout the 2020 campaign. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson was influential in this end-of-season metamorphosis.

    In his six starts from August 6 through September 4, he got knocked around to the tune of a .971 OPS and an 8.07 ERA. After his meeting of the minds with Johnson, he pitched six innings or more in his final five starts with a 3.08 ERA and opponents being held to a .631 OPS.

    2. Extra Rest in the Second Half
    There was talk throughout last season of giving Jose Berrios extra rest in the second half, which could include skipping his spot in the rotation or being strategic in his second-half usage. In the second half, his ERA was over a run and a half higher than the first half with opponents posting a .268/.328/.428 batting line.

    There were still some positive signs in those poor second-half numbers. His 9.8 SO/9 was a full strikeout higher than his career mark and he might have been unlucky with a .335 BAbip. Also, Minnesota’s perceived rotational depth could make it easier for Berrios to get extra rest. Rich Hill and Michael Pineda won’t start the year in the rotation and younger players like Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will want an opportunity.

    3. Add an Early Season Innings Limit
    Innings limits are usually associated with younger prospects or players coming back from injury, but it could be a strategy utilized by the Twins to save Berrios for the second half. This could allow him to pitch more innings in the second half and keep him fresh. If his entire season as a tube of toothpaste, you don’t want everything squeezed out by the end of July.


    Historically, August and September have been his worst months. His ERA in August is nearly 6.00 for his career with batters hitting .279/.355/.456 with 42 extra base hits in 21 games. His September ERA is a more respectable 4.64, but that’s still over half a run higher than his next highest month.

    4. Throw More Pitches Out of the Zone
    This might seem like a counterproductive option for a player if you want to be pitching better in the second half, but Berrios threw 50% of his pitches in the zone last season, a career high. His 33.4% chase rate was also a career high, but batters were making solid contact when they weren’t chasing the ball.

    When it comes to his four-pitch mix, could any of his pitches be thrown out of the zone on a more regular basis?
    [attachment=13494:Berrios Pitches Out of the Zone.JPG]
    Being in the zone also likely caused Berrios to post a 6.5% Barrel % and an 86.5 mph Exit Velocity, which were both the highest since his rookie season. Granted the juiced-up baseball might have helped increase the exit velocity for all players. His 36.3% Hard Hit rate was the highest of his career and it was 8.4% higher than his career best mark in 2017.

    What do you think the Twins need to do with Berrios? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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    • Today, 01:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. Is Kenta Maeda Destined for a Late-Season Bullpen Role?

    Relief Numbers
    During the regular season, Maeda has made 34 appearances as a reliever while posting a 3.19 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. He has 58 strikeouts compared to eight walks and opponents have been held to a .219/.275/.381 batting line. While these numbers are strong, his postseason relief appearances are off the charts.

    Over the last three postseasons, Maeda has pitched 22 innings and only allowed four earned runs (1.64 ERA). One of those runs could come with an asterisk because it was a home run that came in Houston during the 2017 World Series. Opponents have struggled to the tune of a .504 OPS while he has stranded over 40% of inherited runners.

    Last season, Maeda voiced his concern over being moved to the bullpen. One of the biggest issues for Maeda is likely due to his incentive laden contract. His base salary is only $3 million, but he can make an extra $10 million per season if he can hit all the bonuses in his contract. Those bonuses aren’t possible if he is in the bullpen.

    Rotational Depth
    Minnesota looks like a great fit for Maeda to be a starter at the season’s start, but later in the year could bring his starting spot into question. Michael Pineda and Rich Hill won’t be in the rotation until later in the season. There are also young players like Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak who are looking to make a big-league impact.

    One of the best-case scenarios for the Twins would be that Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are pitching at an all-star level. At the same time, Pineda returns and pitches like he did before the suspension. Then only one other pitcher in the organization needs to be pitching well and Maeda’s spot in the rotation could be in question.

    Time to Decide
    The Twins will have plenty of time to decide if Maeda fits better in their rotation or in the bullpen. In his introductory press conference, he was asked if the Twins guaranteed him a rotation spot. He told reports through an interpreter, “Not necessarily a guaranteed position, but it’s been discussed that he’ll be starting in the rotation.”

    One of the toughest tasks for Maeda could be the switch from the NL to the AL. Facing a designated hitter versus a pitcher in the line-up can be a difference-maker for some pitchers. If he can pitch well in this transition, there is no question that the Twins will use him as a starter.

    Another piece of advice for Maeda could be the same advice the Dodgers gave him when they demoted him to the bullpen the last three seasons. That advice was “pitch better,” and while this might be a no-brainer, it can be tough for a pitcher to hear. If Maeda pitches well, there is no reason to move him to the bullpen and the same is true for any pitcher in October. Teams don’t mess around at the end of the year. If you are pitching better than your counterparts, you will start playoff games.

    Will Maeda be a reliever by season’s end? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Feb 17 2020 07:22 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Marwin Gonzalez Addresses Media, Expresses Regret

    Gonzalez obviously wanted to make it clear that he most regretted how it impacted the fraternity of fellow ballplayers, some of who are on his team this year. Twins reliever Rich Hill was on the Los Angeles Dodgers team that the Astros beat in the World Series. Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios was hit hard by the Astros in 2017 in his road start against them. Gonzalez plans to talk to them specifically.
    “I just got here yesterday,” said Gonzalez.

    “Obviously, we're teammates now and we're going to have a great relationship as I spend more time with these guys as a young family. Hopefully it's eight months, including spring training. That means that we're going to fight in the playoffs and try to bring a championship back to this city. That's plenty of time to talk. I'm sure we're going to have a great relationship.”

    The 2017 Astros won the World Series and Marwin Gonzalez had a career year, posting career-high numbers. It was later revealed that the Astros used electronic means to steal signals and then signal batters by banging a trash can in the dugout. Gonzalez was the recipient of more “bangs” than any other Astro, and his chase percentage on offspeed pitches point to him gaining a significant advantage that year.

    Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, signed a two-year, $21 million contract with the Twins in late February 2019. The multi-positional every day player will be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season.

    MLB decided that the players involved in the cheating scandal would not be fined or suspended. In recent weeks, we have heard from former Astros players such as Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton. Morton talked at Rays camp on Monday and said, “Personally, I regret not doing more to stop it. I don’t know what that would have entailed.”

    Penalties and suspensions have been levied against Astros' management and their general manager and manager were both fired. They were also fined the maximum amount allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and lost four draft picks, their first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.

    This was Gonzalez's first time talking publicly about the revelations. He was not at Twins Fest last month as he continued to rehab from offseason knee surgery. After his media scrum, he communicated through the Twins that it would be the last time he addressed the topic this season.

    • Feb 11 2020 10:12 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  4. Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins, and How the Astros Cheated Minnesota

    Back in early January Nick Nelson wrote about how the Twins may have been impacted by cheaters. We know that Houston and Boston were involved, but we aren’t sure how far that reach expanded. Thanks to Tony, who Marc Carig did a great job speaking with over at The Athletic, we now can see a pretty direct picture of the tainted Twins happenings.

    Here’s the thing, it actually appears like the Astros started off the year relatively clean. Maybe they were feeling out their new system, or maybe it was around the time that A.J. Hinch went on his smashing spree. Nonetheless, it was in July that Minnesota traveled to Minute Maid Park, and it was game one that produced the second most egregious results of the regular season.



    During the three-game series in Texas, Twins pitchers threw 472 pitches. Of those, there were trash can bangs on 112 pitches, a whopping 24%. In game one, 48 of a total 179 (27%) pitches were tipped off. 84 total pitches thrown that day were not fastballs. That means Houston hitters knew, at a 57% clip, when they’d see a breaking pitch during that specific game.

    Not surprisingly, the results suggested this was the case as well. Houston scored 10 runs that day, hanging seven on starter Jose Berrios. Phil Hughes came on to get the final out in the second inning but was tagged for three runs on five hits while allowing two dingers on his own. The Astros grabbed 10 runs before Minnesota was able to record nine outs. Good day at the office to be sure, but certainly not as impressive when it’s coming in on a tee. The Twins fared better in game two and three, splitting the affairs, but 64 more Rubbermaid bangs were used over the course of that action.



    Hughes had opined when the original story broke that this was a game he thought back to. Knowing it was the one time he pitched against the Astros on the road, and proceeded to get lit up, it isn’t a surprise it would stick in his memory. His tweets today immediately pointed to that performance and give significant credibility to the advantages Houston had.

    More bad news is that it wasn’t just the 2017 Twins who felt the impact of these exploits. Matthew Trueblood recently wrote how Marwin Gonzalez likely benefitted from Houston’s scheme. He posted a career best OPS, and despite favorable numbers on the road, Nick Nelson pointed out a wOBA that jumped off the page in the friendly confines of Fresh Squeezed Park.

    What’s more, the analysis provided by Mr. Adams shows that Marwin didn’t only participate, but he may have been a ringleader. No Astros player was given more hints as to what was coming than Gonzalez received. If he knew breaking pitches were coming that often, it’s pretty apparent why he would have posted career bests across the board.



    There’s a ton to unpack here and heading over to signstealingscandal.com will allow you to dig to your hearts' content. It’s interesting that Jose Altuve was the batter at the plate the least when the garbage can rang out, but if he was wearing an electronic device as suggested then there’s probably less of a need to be involved. Former, and very short-term, New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran appears near the top of the leaderboard which isn’t a surprise given his named involvement.

    At the end of the day, this whole orchestration will go down as one of baseball’s greatest transgressions. A wild card-reaching Twins team was definitely exploited on the arms of Berrios and Hughes, and a current utility man will likely have question marks follow his production wherever he goes. This doesn’t change punishments or make any new ones more likely, but it definitely points to the negative impact on the Twins as being more drastic than on most other teams

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    • Jan 30 2020 06:47 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  5. 3 Questions That Remain For the Twins Before Spring Training

    Will the club extend team MVP Nelson Cruz?
    Cruz will turn 40 at the beginning of July, but he certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in recent years. Last season, the team named him the Twins MVP and he earned his third career Silver Slugger after he posted a career high 1.031 OPS with 41 home runs. Over the last six seasons, he has averaged more than 40 home runs with a 148 OPS+.

    Thad Levine told fans at TwinsFest that the club has already contacted Cruz’s agent about an extension. “We are having ongoing conversations with his agent to discuss mutual interest in the future,” Levine said. “The reality is he’s one of those unique players right now who seems to be giving Father Time the business. Most of us aren’t blessed with that ability.”

    Is the Twins starting rotation set?
    Pitching, pitching, and more pitching was supposed to be the Twins off-season story and the narrative quickly shifted after signing a former MVP third baseman. Minnesota has added Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Homer Bailey and Rich Hill so far, but Hill and Pineda won’t be in the rotation to start the season. There are also questions about what type of performance the Twins could get from Bailey, who ended the year strong, and Odorizzi, who had some second half struggles.

    Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will all enter spring with a chance to make the rotation. However, the Twins would likely be more comfortable if only one of those pitchers must be relied on to start the season in the big leagues. Luckily, the early season schedule and weather-related cancellations allow for a fifth starter to be only occasionally needed before Pineda can come back from suspension.

    Names swirling on the trade market this off-season have included Boston’s David Price, Colorado’s Jon Gray and Arizona’s Robbie Ray. Can a deal still be struck with one of these clubs or will Minnesota wait until closer to the trade deadline to work out a trade?

    Will Jose Berrios agree to a long-term deal?
    Over the last two off-seasons, the Twins have been able to lock-up multiple pieces of their young core to long-term deals. Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco signed at the beginning of last spring training and now Miguel Sano has signed this off-season. Jose Berrios is the most likely extension candidate left on the roster, but there are pros and cons to any long-term deal.

    Berrios was approached last off-season about an extension, but he decided to have confidence in himself and that looks to be the right decision. Free agent pitching contracts continue to rise and Berrios isn’t going to get paid handsomely. As a first-year arbitration eligible player, he is under team control for the next three seasons. This still doesn’t mean the club won’t want to approach their ace about a contract to keep him in a Twins uniform beyond the 2022 season.

    Will any of these questions be answered before spring training? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jan 27 2020 05:14 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  6. 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
  7. Twins Offseason Status Update: One Month To Go

    With Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Homer Bailey, and Rich Hill now in the mix, here's a projection of the 2020 roster and payroll as of today. (Arbitration-eligible players now mostly have salaries locked in, but there a couple of assumptions highlighted in blue, which I'll discuss shortly.)

    [attachment=13414:roster112.png]


    Current payroll commitment checks in around $118 million, putting the Twins almost exactly on par with 2019 ($119.6 million, per Baseball Prospectus).

    TWINS AND BERRIOS HEADED FOR HEARING?

    Arguably the most important player up for arbitration this year happens to be the only one Minnesota was unable to reach agreement with. Unless they can work something out within the next month or so, the Twins and Jose Berrios will go before an arbitration panel to decide his 2020 salary.

    The two sides are currently about a half-million apart, with the Twins submitting an offer of $4.025 million and the pitcher's camp requesting $4.4 million. For what it's worth, Twins Daily's Offseason Handbook projected a $4.5 million salary for Berrios, while MLB Trade Rumors projected considerably higher at $5.4 million. By either of those estimates, the number put forth by Berrios and his agent seems quite fair, although I'm sure the Twins front office arrived at its own figure through a mathematical calculation based on precedent.

    Nonetheless, the optics here aren't great, especially when considering historical context. Last offseason, the Twins approached Berrios and his agent about a pre-arb extension, but talks fizzled as the offer wasn't deemed up to snuff. Then, in July when Minnesota traded reliever Mike Morin to the Phillies for cash, Berrios posted (and deleted) a tweet that said, "They just want to get money … I wish you the best my man!"

    It's probably a reach to suggest there's a schism between player and team, but the lack of alignment here is a bit disappointing. Going through the arbitration hearing process can be contentious, so it's hard to imagine that scenario having any sort of positive impact on the relationship.

    Worth noting: Aaron Nola, whose extension with Philadelphia is often pointed toward as the best precedent for a Berrios contract framework, was at odds with the Phillies on his first arbitration number a year ago; the gap was much wider in that case, as he submitted $6.75 million while the club countered with $4.5 million.

    One month later, his long-term deal was announced at four years and $45 million. It's hard to imagine why either side would flinch at similar terms in the case of Berrios. For now, the payroll projection above assumes he wins an arbitration hearing and remains year-to-year.

    SANO EXTENDED

    While the Twins haven't been able to lock up Berrios, they did get a deal done with another core piece: Miguel Sano signed a three-year, $30 million extension, which includes a $14 million option (and $3 million buyout) for 2023 – his age-30 season.

    It's yet another very favorable deal for the Twins, who gain cost-efficient control of an elite slugging talent in his prime. I ranked Sano as the organization's 11th-most valuable asset in last week's series, but this contract – doubling his team control from two to four years at friendly rates – would move him up a couple of slots (I'm thinking to No. 9, after Jordan Balazovic and ahead of Alex Kirilloff).

    I still haven't seen detailed specifics on Sano's annual breakdown. FanGraphs has these numbers listed as a guesstimate in their payroll resource:
    • 2020: $10M
    • 2021: $9M
    • 2022: $8M
    • 2023: $14M option ($3M buyout)
    That would be a very unusual structure for a deal like this, but it'd certainly make a lot of sense for the Twins given their situation, enabling them to take advantage of their extra spending room this year (while incentivizing Sano by nearly doubling his 2020 salary) and providing extra flexibility in '21 and '22.

    I went with the $10 million figure for 2020 in the projection, just to estimate on the high end, but I'm guessing we'll ultimately see a more traditionally progressive build-up (something like 7-9-11).

    An encouraging tidbit from Dan Hayes's writeup on the move at The Athletic:

    General manager Thad Levine said earlier this week that Sanó has continued with his offseason conditioning and that the slugger’s agent has inundated the front office with videos of Sanó working to improve his fitness.


    DONALDSON DRAMA DRAGS ON

    Josh Donaldson still hasn't signed anywhere, and that is fairly stunning given what we (think we) know.

    For some time, the free agent's market has been portrayed as a three-horse race between Atlanta, Washington, and Minnesota, with a return to the Braves being Donaldon's inherent preference.

    Well, the Nationals seem to be out of the running, since they've signed multiple infielders to guaranteed deals in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Phil Miller wrote an article for the Star Tribune indicating the Twins were "pessimistic" and "likely out of the running" for Donaldson.

    So the question is: what's the hold-up? Why hasn't the slugger signed in Atlanta yet? The only explanation I can see (barring at least one "mystery team" in the fray, which is very possible) is that he's still not entirely satisfied with their offer, and continues to try leveraging Minnesota and others. This would explain why the Twins have channeled the narrative publicly that they're moving on, and turning to the trade market.

    They'll probably need to go that route if they want any kind of legitimate upgrade at the hot corner short of Donaldson. On Sunday, Todd Frazier signed with the Rangers. He's one of the only other free agent infielders I've seen the Twins remotely connected to (not that I'd have considered him much of an impact addition).



    For what it's worth, Darren Wolfson of KSTP reports that the Twins continue to have "darn near daily dialogues" with Donaldson's reps.



    COACHING STAFF FINALIZED

    When we last checked in with an update post, the Twins still had two vacancies remaining on their coaching staff: bench coach and second pitching coach (previous occupants Derek Shelton and Jeremy Hefner moved on). Now, those spots have been filled.

    Mike Bell is the new bench coach, coming over from Arizona where he was vice president of player development. He's highly regarded, coming from "one of baseball's first families," and is viewed as a manager in waiting. By all accounts he looks like a great add as Rocco Baldelli's new right-hand man. More recently, the Twins rounded out their staff with the addition of Bob McClure as bullpen coach. Formerly a pitching coach for the Phillies, Red Sox, and Royals, the 67-year-old brings ample experience to a unit that is largely young and unseasoned.

    With former assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez getting the "assistant" removed from his title, here's how the Twins' 2020 coaching staff figures to shake out:


    Manager: Rocco Baldelli

    Hitting Coach: Edgar Varela

    Hitting Coach: Rudy Hernandez

    Pitching Coach: Wes Johnson

    Bullpen Coach: Bob McClure

    Bench Coach: Mike Bell

    MLB Coach: Bill Evers


    How are you feeling at this stage of the offseason? What moves do the Twins need to make for you to consider the winter a success? What's your level of confidence for a turnaround on Donaldson or a big trade? Sound off in the comments.

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    • Jan 12 2020 07:13 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  8. Twins and 2020 Arbitration

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

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

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

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

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



    Trevor May

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

    Eddie Rosario

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

    Miguel Sano

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

    Byron Buxton

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



    Taylor Rogers

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

    Tyler Duffey

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



    Jose Berrios

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



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


    Feel free to discuss.

    • Jan 11 2020 09:22 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  9. 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
  10. Can Max Kepler Reach Christian Yelich Status for the Twins in 2020?

    During 2019 the German native put up his best season in the big leagues. Posting an .855 OPS, he jumped his total over 120 points from the season before and added nearly 100 points on his career average. This was while playing through some injuries and being stretched to contribute more defensively than he’s ever had to.

    Garnering multiple MVP votes, Kepler finished 20th in the balloting among American League players, and there’s reason to believe he could make another leap in the year ahead. Before getting into the offensive numbers, 2020 was the fourth straight season in which Kepler has posted a positive DRS in the outfield. He picked up significant slack in centerfield, and while teammate Byron Buxton relies more on foot speed, Max generates positivity with his glove through well-targeted routes and closing decisions.

    No one is looking for Christian Yelich’s defense, however. The 2018 MVP has leapt to the upper tier of the game’s best because of his bat. Joining the Brewers during his age-26 season, Yelich had posted OPS marks of .859 and .807 in the two seasons prior. When taking home the award he swatted a ridiculous 1.000 OPS and won the batting title with a .326 average. Last season his triple slash of .329/.429/.671 led the league, and had he not gotten injured, a second straight MVP award would have been his. Before that transformation though, Yelich had drawn just a few MVP votes of his own, good enough for a 19th place finish in 2016.

    So, what changed?

    Baseball has long since become a sport of information. Whether through analytics or otherwise, adapting to how the game is played and the best avenues for success is something great players have jumped on board with. At the dish, elevating the baseball is now generally accepted as leading to the most positive outcome. That’s not to suggest swinging for the fences is a logical exploit, but the reality is driving the ball higher, harder, will produce optimum results. Major League defenders are too good to simply “hit it on the ground” and even when that strategy creates a desired result, the net gain is relatively minimal, at best.

    Although Kepler will be a year older than Yelich was before his MVP-winning season, 27 is an age that should genuinely be accepted as prime territory. Matthew did a wonderful job breaking down age curves as it relates to Jose Berrios earlier this week, and Kepler falls into a similar category. What’s maybe most important has been the implementation, intended or otherwise, of more desirable inputs. More succinctly put, Max is lifting the ball, and doing it with more force than he ever has.

    [attachment=13410:Capture.PNG]

    Starting in 2016, when Kepler entered the league, both Yelich and Kepler show very similar parallels. Having previously been hitters placing the ball on the ground, the former Marlin especially so, they’ve continued to show growth year over year. Results have followed suit as HR/FB rates have increased, and ground ball percentages have gotten out of a negative territory. Christian has always been a high-average hitter as well however, and that’s a talent Max has not had at his disposal.

    There’s a threshold of optimum launch angle, so continuing to increase loft isn’t the forever goal for Minnesota’s right fielder. From here, it’s about discipline and decision-making. Despite a career best OPS last season, Kepler actually posted a negative BABIP. With a .252 average, his .244 BABIP ranked 97th of 98 qualified hitters (min 500 PA) in 2019. As a pull hitter (career high 53.4% in 2019), lifting over the shift or settling back into career averages (46% pull 31% cent 22% oppo) is the next challenge.

    One of the most aggressive hitters in baseball, Kepler attacked on the first pitch in a whopping 98 plate appearances last season. Generating a .923 OPS in those instances, it was clear he goes to the plate with an immediate plan. The greatest deficiency comes when behind 0-1, where he posted just a .740 OPS. Making sure he can continue to own the plate, against either righties or lefties, when looking for the next pitch is a must.

    James Rowson is gone, Edgar Varela has stepped in, and one of the greatest opportunities in the year ahead remains the next step in Kepler’s development. Minnesota locked Max up to a five-year extension last winter because they saw what was yet to come. I don’t believe the 2019 version is the peak, and while Christian Yelich is among the best players on the planet, maybe Rozycki can get closer to that threshold in 2020.

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    • Jan 07 2020 07:45 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  11. Where Are We Now? (New Years Edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Non 40-man options: Tomas Telis, Juan Graterol

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Designated Hitter (1) - Nelson Cruz

    I feel pretty comfortable with this one.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    $100 million and $150 million will be spent

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

    Major award drought comes to an end

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

    Playing for it all sounds fun

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

    Prospect breakout finally comes through

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

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

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    • Dec 30 2019 05:46 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  13. 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
  14. Twins Need to Make a Splash With the Rain Man: Sign Josh Donaldson

    The Twins absolutely need another starting pitcher, and they have been very active in seeking help for the rotation. The problem, however, is that the cost and demand are at unforeseen levels. Strasburg and Cole combined for 16 years and $569 million, and even Tanner Roark, Kyle Gibson and Michael Wacha saw their stocks balloon. The Twins may not be willing to commit four or five years for $100 million or more to Madison Bumgarner or Hyun-Jin Ryu, and that is understandable.

    Even with Gibson and Martín Pérez struggling down the stretch, the Twins rotation ranked seventh in baseball in fWAR in 2019,. José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda fused together for a 3.72 ERA and 513 strikeouts in 505 1/3 innings in 2019. General manager Thad Levine told Dan Hayes of The Athletic that they feel they have “stabilized” by bringing their three best pitchers back from a year ago. As much as Bumgarner and Ryu would excite fans, multiple California teams are involved with both, and the odds that they leave the west for Minnesota seem worse with every new report.

    The Twins have to improve this winter. They have the talent, youth, financial flexibility and opportunity in the weak AL Central to hang division title banners on a yearly basis. So, since the “top” pitchers are unattainable or ridiculously priced, they should focus on bringing in another impact bat, while supplementing with someone like Dallas Keuchel. What if I told you the Twins could add one of the best hitters and premier defenders in baseball?

    Joshua Adam Donaldson played in 155 games last year for the Braves and hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs, 33 doubles, 94 RBI, and 15 runs saved defensively at third base. This was not a breakthrough year for the former MVP, as his career slash line is .273/.369/.509 with 219 home runs. He is a certified stud at the plate and is still a premier defender entering his age-34 season.

    Many people will point to career trajectory and his demand of a four-year contract as deal breakers. I will happily remind you that Nelson Cruz just hit .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs in his age-38 season. Donaldson could be different and has a history of injuries, but that is well worth the risk. A four-year, $100 million deal for Donaldson is the likely contract, and the Twins should make it happen.

    But can the Twins actually convince Donaldson to come to Minneapolis? I believe they can. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Donaldson has a relatively small market. The Nationals and Braves have been most heavily linked to him, but neither team has the financial flexibility of the Twins. The ink is still drying on Strasburg’s huge deal with the Nationals, and they seemingly made no effort to resign Anthony Rendon this winter. I would be surprised if the Nationals committed $100 million to a different third baseman.

    The Braves want to keep Donaldson, and he has expressed a preference to return to Atlanta, but they are not confident in being able to pay him.This leaves the Dodgers as another linked team, but something tells me they won’t move Justin Turner over to first base for someone not named Rendon. This is a bidding war that the Twins can win.

    There will be push back from the fan base if the Twins add a big time bat over an arm, but the goal here is to get better. Donaldson is a six-win player and the Twins can pound teams into submission while developing their pitchers from within. The left side of the infield was weak last year and Donaldson brings outstanding defense. Brusdar Graterol, Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran are on the horizon, and avoiding ludicrous contracts with aging pitchers is nothing to scoff at.

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    • Dec 13 2019 07:32 PM
    • by Nash Walker
  15. Wish List: Circa 2012 and 2020 (Kevin Gausman)

    LOOKING BACK

    With a quick look back at the days leading up to the 2012 draft, it was pretty apparent that Byron Buxton was the best athlete in the draft. The Twins were in need of a catcher, and Mike Zunino was early the top college catching prospect in the draft. Gausman, along with Kyle Zimmer (University of San Francisco) and Mark Appel (Stanford, and the #1 overall pick the previous year) were the college pitching names to know.

    Many were surprised when the Astros took Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy with the first overall pick. Of course, we have since learned that the Twins had Correa in ahead of the draft and most believe that he was Number One on their draft list as well. The Twins took Buxton. The Mariners drafted Zunino next and then the Orioles selected Gausman one pick before the Royals selected Zimmer.

    In mid-May of 2012, Jeremy posted an interview with Kevin Gausman while he was still pitching for LSU.

    While I am always intrigued by immensely athletic baseball players from the prep ranks, as we got closer to the draft, I admit that I went public with the though that I would like to see the Twins draft Gausman.

    Why?

    Several reasons. First and foremost, he was a college pitcher who could be ready for the big leagues very quickly. And he was. He debuted with the Orioles less than a year later, on May 23rd, 2013.

    But it wasn't just that. It was reports of his stuff. Not only was he consistently working with a fastball in the mid-90s, but he sometimes had games where he reached 98 mph regularly. In addition, he had a really, really good changeup and great makeup. There were some concerns about his ability to spin the ball but there was hope that he could develop his curve ball and his slider.

    A college pitcher at one of the best baseball schools in the country who throws in the mid-90s with five pitches and plus-plus makeup.


    His Career To Date

    Gausman debuted in 2013 and spent parts of six seasons with the Orioles. He pitched in 150 games and made 127 starts. 15 of those 23 relief appearances came in his rookie season. In 2016, he worked 179 2/3 innings and posted a 3.61 ERA while pitching mostly in the AL East. The following season, he made 34 starts and posted a 4.68 ERA in 186 2/3 innings. In 21 starts at the beginning of 2018, he was 5-8 with a 4.43 ERA.

    At the July trade deadline in 2018, he was traded to Atlanta with reliever Darren O'Day in exchange for four minor leaguers and some international bonus pool money. He went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in ten starts.

    Last season, he earned $9.35 million in his second year of arbitration. But 2019 did not go well for Gausman. He made 16 starts for the Braves and went 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP over 80 innings. He had a couple of stints on the injured list with plantar fasciitis. Atlanta DFAd him and Cincinnati claimed him in early August. He made 15 appearances for the Reds (one start) and went 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 22 1/3 innings.

    That brings us to Monday when the Reds non-tendered him, making him a free agent.


    The "Stuff"

    In 2019, 57% of Gausman's pitches were fastballs which averaged 94.0 mph. That is up slightly from where he was in 2018. From 2013-2017, his fastball averaged between 94.7 and 95.9 mph. In college, his "typical" fastball was about 94 mph but he threw it anywhere from 92 to 98 mph.

    After throwing his slider about 13-14% of the time between 2016 and 2018, he threw just his slider just 2% of the time in 2019.

    He threw his changeup about 5.5% of the time the last couple of seasons. The pitch has consistently been ten mph slower than his fastball, which is a good differential.

    In 2019, he threw his split-finger pitch 35% of the time after it has been between 16-22% previously in his career.

    I won't pretend to be an expert or a video guy, but he continued to throw hard and throw pitches in the strike zone. He got equal or even higher percentages of swings and misses. In other words, he has the same or at least similar stuff now as he had at the beginning of his major league career.

    I do know who has a good reputation for being able to find the strengths of a pitcher and even add some velocity. That's the reputation that Wes Johnson has, and with the help of the Research and Development group, just maybe they can find the key to getting Gausman to top form.

    Gausman has the pedigree, the high draft pick status, and the stuff that earned him that spot. His arm has remained pretty healthy through his first seven big league seasons. That report of "plus makeup" certainly indicates his ability to work and to work within a team environment. And, he won't turn 29 until days after the calendar changes to 2020.


    And Now...

    Seven-and-a-half years later, I would love to see a scenario where the Twins have Byron Buxton manning centerfield and Kevin Gausman on the mound.

    Teaming the duo with another 2012 first-round draft pick in Jose Berrios and the team might have three strong 5.5 players.

    If Johnson and company can work their magic on Gausman and just get him back to his peak performance, the Twins could have found a very solid #3 starter to fall right between Berrios and Odorizzi in the rotation. Even if they can just get him to his career average numbers, he would make a solid #5 starter for 150 to 170 innings.

    Because of his relative youth, I don't expect that Gausman's services will come terribly cheaply. I would also expect that he might prefer a one-year, make-good deal. The Twins made a similar deal a year ago with Jonathan Schoop. Schoop was coming off of an injury-plagued season which followed a solid career. Schoop played well for the Twins and would have played more if not for the emergence of Luis Arraez.

    Personally, and admittedly, I'm probably a bit high on Gausman and believe in his stuff and the makeup he is touted for. I would be willing to get a little creative. I'd consider offering a one year, $5.5 million deal. I would structure it such that Gausman would make $4 million in 2020. I'd include a team option for 2021 at about $8 million but have a $1.5 million buyout. In fact, I would love to include a second option year, at about $10 million, but in that, I would prefer the buyout drop to $1 million. That would mean Gausman could then become a free agent at age 31, the more "normal" free agency age.

    At those numbers, it would be fairly low risk but there could be some relatively high reward. Even better, it wouldn't keep them from going after he upper-echelon free agents that are out there this offseason.

    In my mind, of all of the non-tendered free agents, I think that Kevin Gausman clearly has the highest potential.

    What do you think?


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    • Dec 04 2019 08:29 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  16. Every Team Wants Zack Wheeler

    Minnesota’s Advantages
    The Twins certainly seem to be on the cusp of something big with a rising young core and other supplemental veteran pieces. Last season, the team had a historically good offense and better pitching could have been the difference between a first-round exit and a long playoff run. Minnesota has Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi penciled into the rotation and this could be intriguing to perspective pitchers.

    Wheeler could view the Twins as launching point for the rest of his career. He could sign a short-term deal for a significant amount of money to help build his value. He won’t turn 30 until next May and some pitchers continue pitch well into their mid- to late-30s. Wheeler could improve himself in Minnesota before moving onto another club.

    Other Team’s Advantages
    Minnesota hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoff since 2002 so a pitcher might want to sign on with a different team to have the opportunity move further into the playoffs. Also, the Twins don’t exactly have a lot of starting pitching depth at this point. There are plenty of minor league pitchers that earned opportunities last season, but there weren’t any pitchers that proved they should be guaranteed a rotation spot.

    The American League Central Division is also at a crossroads after dominating years from the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland won three consecutive division titles on the heels of a Kansas City World Series title and four straight Detroit division titles. Minnesota had been irrelevant for most of the decade and this might not exactly attract free agent arms to the Twin Cities.

    Free Agent Fit
    There are much bigger names on the free agent market like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. While the other teams are fighting over those two pitchers, the Twins could sweep in and sign Wheeler. Cole and Strasburg are coming off historically good seasons and they will get paid like front-line starters. However, Wheeler might not be seen as on the same level and this could allow other teams to sign him for a lesser value.

    According to reports, the Twins have already begun discussions with Wheeler and his camp. Wheeler averaged a career-high 96.1 mph with his fastball, and this helped him to collect nearly 200 strikeouts and a career-high 3.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. With the help of Minnesota’s coaches, he might be able to make the next step and become an All-Star caliber pitcher.

    His strikeout percentage was lower than pitchers like Jose Berrios, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but all of those players made an All-Star appearance. Fangraphs believes his fastball has more potential because of its horizontal break and his slider is also has room to grown. The potential is there for Wheeler to become the ace of a staff or at minimum, supplement the other pitchers that are already at the top of a rotation.

    Is Wheeler someone the Twins like well enough to outbid other teams? Would Wheeler be willing to come to Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 17 2019 09:25 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  17. 3 Creative Ways for Twins to Leverage Their Spending Flexibility

    In his Payroll Analysis feature for the Offseason Handbook, John Bonnes surmises that the Twins could plausibly push payroll to around $140 million this winter, giving them up to $70 million in spending flexibility. That total would push them past their 2018 and 2017 payrolls, but only modestly so. It's a reasonable target for a team that's in championship contention and experiencing a wave of renewed fan investment.

    In three shorts years since taking over as general manager under Derek Falvey, Thad Levine has already made some of the boldest free agent splashes in Twins history. The contracts given to Jason Castro, Addison Reed, Lance Lynn, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez may not be lofty signings relative to the rest of the league, but judged against the standard set by Terry Ryan, they were tremendously aggressive signings.

    With the exception of Castro, however, none of these pacts were for more than two years. The Twins reportedly backed out of the Yu Darvish derby two winters ago because of his contract length demands. Minnesota epitomizes baseball's general aversion to bulky free agent deals, and to committing enormous guaranteed sums to players in their 30s.

    You know what? It's undeniably smart, especially for a team with finite payroll constraints. Ongoing flexibility is a worthy aspiration and directive for this front office. Let's explore some ways the Twins could maximize their present cash surplus while staying true to their strategically prudent ways.

    Frontload a Free Agent Contract

    Are the Twins going to sign Gerrit Cole to a deal pays him $40 million as a 34-year-old in 2025? Probably not. In fact, they're likely aiming to avoid any huge financial obligations down the line. But let me throw a theoretical scenario at you.

    Say Minnesota is targeting Madison Bumgarner. (You can insert the name of another high-end free agent starter as you please.) He has a five-year, $100 million offer in hand from another team, with salaries evenly dispersed across the length of the contract, maybe even backloaded. Pretty standard framework.

    Okay, Twins might not want to go there. But what if they proposed this contract: five years and $96 million, with $30 million salaries in each of the first two seasons, followed by an opt-out clause, and then $12 million salaries in each of the final three seasons. This gives Bumgarner the ability to make an extra $20+ million over the next two years, then hit free agency again at age 32 for another big payday. Meanwhile, if things fall apart on him, he still has three years of solid paychecks guaranteed. Basically it gives him the ability to bet on himself while maintaining security.

    From Minnesota's perspective, the extra money up-front doesn't matter much, and they ensure they won't be saddled with a major payroll drain just as guys like Jose Berrios, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Taylor Rogers are getting expensive or reaching free agency.

    You can tinker around with the specific terms and numbers, but in general I think the heavily front-loaded opt-out contract is a model that could help the Twins compete for prime talent in free agency while remaining nimble.

    Trade for a Hefty Salary

    Teams that are willing to take on a burdensome contract often give up less in prospect capital to acquire a player. As it happens, there are several teams looking to shed payroll this winter, even – if rumblings are to be believed – heavy hitters like the Red Sox and Cubs.

    With considerable short-term flexibility, might the Twins be able to land a player like David Price ($32M/yr owed through 2023) or Kris Bryant (due around $40 million his final two years of arbitration, pending his service time grievance) for a relatively light return?

    Frontload Internal Contract Extensions

    This might not be as exciting as flashy outside pickups, but team-friendly extensions for core players – like the ones inked with Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler in the spring – are critical to the franchise's long-term health, enabling the front office to making impactful additions year after year.

    In the cases of both Polanco and Kepler, the Twins gave large immediate raises in exchange for reasonable rates and team options during the latter portions (which also happen to encompass the players' primes). It'd be great to see the front office take a similar approach this offseason, maybe even bringing it a step further.

    Earlier this week, Cody Christie looked at five extension candidates, and of course Berrios was at the top of the list. The 25-year-old is projected to make somewhere around $5 million in his first turn at arbitration this offseason, but what if the Twins bumped that up to – say – $9 million, with an ensuant raise the following year? What kind of discount might that score for his first few years of free agency?

    The bottom line is that Minnesota has a ton of spending flexibility right now, but it's a fleeting reality if the Twins hope to keep their core intact. They have at least seven key players in the arbitration process now, which puts those fixtures on a rapidly rising pay scale.

    Moves like the ones above will serve the team's short-term and long-term goals, aggressively pursuing a winning window while maintaining the freedom to keep the band together.

    • Nov 07 2019 09:02 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  18. 2 Critical Steps for Jose Berrios in 2020

    Berrios' Development and Work Ethic

    Aspiring to greatness. Since the day Jose Berrios was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, the simple phrase sums up, more than any other, the thirst with which Berrios has sought to hone his craft. Berrios has always been easy to root for. His offseasons are punctuated by social media postings of workouts more typically found in the CrossFit Games than in midwinter conditioning. His in-season goals balance the tantalizing tension of attainable and barely out of current reach that all impactful targets should. Berrios has filled a void for the Twins vacant since the early 2000s: a talented, likable, hardworking, and homegrown starting pitcher.

    Berrios’ output for the Twins has matched his work ethic toward his game since an ugly debut in 2016, a slow but relentless grind towards improvement. Finishing his second full season for the Twins in 2019, Berrios hit career highs in IP (200.1) and fWAR (4.4) leaving fans to question how he will develop in 2020 and asking if he can continue to develop into an elite starter.

    So here are the basics on Berrios since has has been a big league pitcher. He’s improved his control, consistently achieved an effective to good strikeout rate. Conversely, he gives up more home runs than you’d want and has some exploitable weaknesses. Overall, he’s a top 20-30 starting pitcher in MLB.

    Trouble with the Curve

    One of Berrios’ calling cards since being called up has been his curveball. When it’s on song, it’s a thing of beauty, generating a 16.3 SwStr% in 2018, with opposing hitters managing just a .363 SLG against the pitch. Berrios’ curveball is an unusual one, taking a slurvy action with massive horizontal break and below- average vertical break. It’s notable that it was significantly less effective in 2019, generating around 30 fewer Ks and opposing hitters batting 60 points higher on the pitch than in 2018. Comparing Berrios’ curveball location in 2018 (right) and 2019 (left), he left more curveballs over the heart of the plate, and buried fewer down and away, particularly to RHH.

    [attachment=13304:Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 9.08.13 PM.png]

    [attachment=13305:Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 9.09.01 PM.png]

    Developing Pitch Mix

    Berrios’ pitch mix has developed since the beginning of 2018, more frequently throwing a changeup to add to his four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and curve.

    [attachment=13306:Brooksbaseball-Chart.jpeg]

    In order to increase his effectiveness in 2020, Berrios needs to tweak his pitch mix situationally. In 2019, Berrios’ threw his curve around 35% of the time to RH hitters and just 23% of the time to lefties. In spite of this, Berrios enjoyed greater success throwing the pitch to LH batters. The massive horizontal action on the pitch frequently jammed lefties and generated weak contact, while the lapses in command against righties resulted in greater struggles with the pitch in 2019.

    Conversely, Berrios threw his changeup twice as much to lefties (approximately 10%) as he did to righties, yet his results against RHH were far superior. Opposing RHH generated just a .212 average against Berrios’ changeup, while enjoying a vastly superior whiff% than against LHH.

    Berrios then, has a pitch mix challenge ahead of him heading into 2020: How can he use an increasingly effective changeup and find the right mix to keep opposing hitters off balance.

    It’s uncertain if Berrios can build on his excellent 2019 (although I’m not going to bet against him). What is certain is that in order to continue his climb amongst AL starters, he needs to live on the fringes of the strike zone (he gets hammered in the heart of the plate), refine his curveball command, and alter his pitch mix to take advantage of what has worked well against both LHH and RHH. What do you think lies ahead for Berrios in 2020?

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

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    • Nov 10 2019 06:14 PM
    • by Jamie Cameron
  19. Exploring Five Twins Extension Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    C: Joe Mauer (2010-18)

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

    Honorable Mention: Mitch Garver

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

    Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer

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

    Honorable mention: Luis Arraez

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

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Escobar

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

    Honorable mention: Trevor Plouffe

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

    Honorable mention: Josh Willingham

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

    Honorable mention: Denard Span

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

    Honorable mention: Michael Cuddyer

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

    Honorable mention: Jim Thome

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

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Núñez

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

    Honorable mention: Kyle Gibson, Ervin Santana

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

    Honorable mention: Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly

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

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    • Nov 03 2019 07:24 AM
    • by Matthew Taylor
  21. Jose Berrios Has Tough Road to First Gold Glove

    The American League award for pitchers has been dominated by Dallas Keuchel since 2014 with him winning four of the last five years. Marcus Stroman took home the award back in 2017 to break-up the Keuchel three-year run. Both of those pitchers are in the National League now and this means there will be a first-time winner in the AL.

    Berrios will be facing off against Chicago’s Lucas Giolito and Seattle’s Mike Leake. Both of these players rank better than him according to SABR’s Defensive Index. According to SABR, the SDI will be used to help select the winners for the seventh consecutive year and it accounts for approximately 25 percent of the selection process. In the last SDI update, Leake led all AL pitchers with a 2.2 SDI, while Giolito (1.0 SDI) came in tied for third. Out of qualifying pitchers, Berrios ranked second to last with a -1.5 SDI.

    Ranking defenders can be a tough endeavor even in the Statcast era and ranking pitchers can be an even more challenging. In the AL, the league fielding percentage for pitchers was .945 and Berrios was well above that mark with a .969 fielding percentage. Giolito wasn’t charged with an error all season and finished with a perfect fielding percentage. Leake ended the year in the NL, but he accumulated a .966 fielding percentage in his AL appearances.

    Another important defensive skill for pitchers is the ability to hold runners, but some of this stat is on the catcher too. In the AL, the league caught stealing percentage was 27% for the season. Giolito allowed three stolen bases and had three runners caught for a 50% caught stealing %. Leake had a slightly higher caught stealing percentage (56%) as he allowed five steals and four stolen bases. Berrios had the worst mark by far (8 CS%) as he allowed 12 steals and only had one caught steal.

    Defensive runs saved is another common defensive metric. Again, Berrios ranks at the bottom when compared to the other two finalists. Leake was worth three defensive runs saved during his time in the AL and Giolito was also able to collect three defensive runs saved. Berrios was worth zero defensive runs saved, his lowest total since he had a negative defensive runs saved in 2017.

    It seems like there are multiple metrics that put Giolito and Leake ahead of Berrios. Historically, that might not always matter when it comes to voting for the Gold Glove Awards. Brian Dozier was a surprise winner for the Twins back in 2017 when he beat out Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia.

    Could Berrios surprise and win in 2019? It might not be likely, but there’s always a chance.

    • Oct 30 2019 05:50 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  22. Twins Path to an Ace Is in Unlocking Jose Berrios

    There should be no expense spared by the Minnesota front office this winter. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have suggested they’ll target impact pitching. Both Cole and Strasburg could be handed blank checks, and the end result may still be in them thumbing their nose at the prospect of playing in the Midwest. I’m very much a fan of what Zack Wheeler could be under the tutelage of Wes Johnson, but it’s the staff ace role that presents the most intrigue.

    Jose Berrios’ offseason workouts have become the thing of legend. From pulling trucks to flipping tires and doing rigorous beach circuits, there’s nothing that the Puerto Rican native won’t turn into an opportunity to break a sweat. This offseason though, the Twins have presented a new directive. As he left Twins Territory and headed home the plan was for a new training regimen to be instituted. While I have no idea what the specifics of that are, my guess would be that the intensity is likely decreased just a little bit.

    With the Twins pointed towards a division title as the 2019 season came to an end, Berrios went into August with a 2.80 ERA and capped off the year with a 3.68 mark. The final 10 starts included a 5.83 ERA and .835 OPS against. He surrendered 10 of his 26 homers and gave up an underwhelming 68 hits in 58.2 innings. Certainly, an ugly set of statistics, but it’s become relatively par for the (August) course for the 25-year-old.

    Now four years into his major league career Berrios owns a 5.96 August ERA and a 4.64 mark in September. Those months also include opposing slugging percentages of .811 and .741 respectively. Despite being from a much warmer climate, his career 3.69 ERA and .627 OPS against before May is light years more impressive. It doesn’t take much analysis to understand that the end of the season is when Berrios is at his absolute worst.

    From a conceptual standpoint I’d imagine that Minnesota’s plan for Jose this offseason is to find a routine that breeds sustainability. Rocco Baldelli doesn’t want to see his staff ace coming out of the gates flat, but he also needs to know that he’ll take the ball and be just as dominant down the stretch. Working on a routine that allows for endurance and an ability to avoid a breakdown will give pitching coach Wes Johnson a pitcher much more able to pave the way for the starting rotation. Avoiding velocity dips and ineffectiveness for significant periods, the pitcher Berrios was through July represented a talent worthy of Cy Young consideration.

    I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of Berrios yet, and that shouldn’t be groundbreaking given his youth. It’s on Minnesota to develop him toward taking the next step, and with Falvey’s track record in Cleveland, there should be belief they have the right man for the job. The Twins need to spend and acquire pitching this winter, but the sooner they can unlock their own ace, the better.

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

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    • Oct 24 2019 09:28 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  23. Twins Daily 2019 Award: Pitcher of the Year

    Over the past couple of days, we have handed out the Twins Daily Awards for Twins Rookie of the Year (Luis Arraez) and Twins Most Improved Player (Mitch Garver). While there were solid candidate in each category, today’s Pitcher of the Year vote was much closer with votes cast for multiple pitchers.

    Taylor Rogers doesn’t have the typical background story for a Pitcher of the Year candidate. He was the Twins 11th-round draft pick back in 2012 out of Kentucky. The lanky lefty began his career as a starting pitcher and in 2013 was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He moved up one level, as a starter, each season. In the first week of the 2016 season, Twins closer Glen Perkins got hurt. Taylor Rogers was recalled and worked out of the bullpen.

    Gradually he seemed to get more comfortable with the role, both on the mound and in his preparation for the job each day. He began getting more high-leverage opportunities in 2017. And frankly, over the last two seasons, he has been one of the top four left-handed relief pitchers in baseball. The names that you can put with or even ahead of Rogers might be Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Vasquez. That’s it.

    Heading into the 2019 season, Rogers knew that he had a role as a late-inning reliever for the Twins. He had earned that. But early in the season, it was Blake Parker often getting save opportunities. Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger also recorded a save or two in the season’s first month. Rogers was used anytime from the seventh inning on. Sometimes he would get a couple of outs, and sometimes he would work a couple of innings.

    Over the course of the summer, Rogers became the team’s most reliable reliever. At some points in the season, he was their only reliable reliever. He was often tasked with getting more than three outs to record saves, something we just haven’t seen much of in the last two decades of Twins baseball.

    Sure, he had a couple of hiccups throughout the long season, as all great relievers do. However, after the trade deadline, the rest of the bullpen really took off and allowed Rogers to get more regular rest.

    In the season’s final weekend, Rogers notched his milestone 30th save of the season.

    WHAT CHANGED?

    In researching Taylor Rogers’ 2019 stats and comparing them to his 2018 stats, one thing is clear… I think we may have overlooked just how good Taylor Rogers was in 2018, and 2017 too, for that matter. His ERA dropped from 2.63 to 2.61. His WAR increased from 1.9 to 2.1 over the past two seasons. However, fans who watched most Twins games noticed that he had become much more dominant, more aggressive (increased his first-pitch strikes percentage to 68%). He was able to get ahead and quickly dispatch of batters, either by strikeout or weak contact.There may be some numbers that illustrate that as well.

    First, Rogers increased his strikeout rate while reducing his walk. Both improvements were significant. His strikeout rate increased from 9.9 K/9 in 2018 to 11.7 K/9 in 2019. That speaks to his dominance, but to me, his ability to get those additional strikeouts while decreasing his walks from 2.1 BB/9 to just 1.4 BB/9 speaks to the sharpness of his stuff.

    Taylor Rogers really changed his approach on the mound in 2019.He threw a few fewer fastballs (53% to 50%), but his average fastball velocity jumped from 93.4 mph to 94.8 mph.

    In 2018, he threw 33.4% curveballs and just 12.4% sliders. In 2019, he went almost exclusively to the slider. He threw 45.5% sliders and just 4.1% curveballs. And that slider was a dominant pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. While his swinging strike rates stayed about the same, his Line Drive Percentage decreased which led to a big increase in Ground Ball Percentage.

    Rogers didn’t just come in to start clean innings. He was often called in to tough situations where his stuff really played well. In 2019, his Left On Base Percentage was an incredible 86.2%, up from 74.8% in 2018.

    All told, Taylor Rogers’ 2019 season was about as dominant as anyone could have hoped.


    LOOKING FORWARD

    Rogers will turn 29-years-old in December. He earned $1.53 million in his Super-2 arbitration season. He will have three more seasons of arbitration. He should get quite a raise in 2020. I would think a four-year contract could be discussed during the offseason.


    OTHER CANDIDATES

    As noted above, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi were both All-Stars in 2019. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts and 159 innings. Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and 200 1/3 innings. Michael Pineda went 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts in 146 innings. When he was suspended in early September, it could have been argued that he was the Twins top starting pitcher. Tyler Duffey began the 2019 season in Rochester. He worked 57 2/3 innings over 58 games and struck out 82 batters (12.8 K/9). He posted a 2.50 ERA with a 1.01 ERA and ended the season with 21 scoreless innings. Trevor May struck out 79 batters over 62 1/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA.


    THE BALLOTS

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda
    Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Tom Froemming: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Taylor Rogers
    Cody Christie: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Jose Berrios
    Steve Lein: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Jake Odorizzi, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Matt Braun: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Taylor Rogers 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Andrew Thares: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    JD Cameron: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Matt Lenz: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May, 4) Michael Pineda
    Nash Walker: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Sabir Aden: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    AJ Condon: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4.) Jake Odorizzi


    POINTS

    Taylor Rogers 59
    Jose Berrios 51
    Jake Odorizzi 38
    Tyler Duffey 21
    Michael Pineda 9
    Trevor May 2


    PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

    2015: Kyle Gibson
    2016: Ervin Santana
    2017: Ervin Santana
    2018: Jose Berrios


    OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS

    Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez
    Most Improved: Mitch Garver
    Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers
    Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow

    • Oct 17 2019 08:14 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  24. Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 3

    Click here for Part 1 of this series.
    Click here for Part 2 of this series.

    The Veteran Leader

    Much has rightly been made about Nelson Cruz’s veteran leadership on a fairly young Twins team. At times, immeasurable variables like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” are probably over-valued, but in the case of Nelson Cruz, there is little doubt inside or outside of the clubhouse as to how valuable Cruz has been to this team. Cruz has been heralded for his work ethic, preparing himself not only physically, but also mentally for the challenges of playing at a high level as a 39-year-old. Whether in the weight room, the batting cage, or studying video, Cruz always seems to be applying himself to his craft and his younger teammates cannot help but notice.

    One of the beneficiaries has been Miguel Sano. Twins fans have long dreamed of what Miguel Sano could become, but after a sensational rookie season in 2015, Sano never quite returned to form. 2018 was a disaster filled with injury and off-the-field distractions, but 2019 has been a revelation for Sano. Sano worked hard to get in shape in the offseason and also claimed that he suggested the Twins sign Cruz in the offseason in an interview with FSN’s Justin Morneau. Sano has seemed to work harder than ever to improve his game as can be seen by his willingness to change his swing in-season and the results that have followed (.271/.376/.618 from June 28th to the end of the regular season). There is little doubt that Nelson Cruz has played a large role in Sano’s success.

    The Houston Astros had a similar veteran addition to their 2017 championship team in Carols Beltran. Beltran was a 19-year MLB veteran who wanted a last chance to win a World Series and Houston was looking to add a veteran to supplement its young core and improve team chemistry. Like Cruz, Beltran loved studying video and was instrumental in breaking down pitchers and passing the information on to his teammates. In Astroball, Correa talked about how much Beltran taught him in regard to viewing video and identifying when pitchers were tipping their pitches. Beltran also helped to identify when hitters like George Springer were developing bad habits at the plate, and Beltran made it clear to his teammates that he was there to help early on:

    “My friend, I am here to help you. Even if it looks like I’m busy, you won’t bother me. If you sit down next to me and ask me a question, I would be more than happy to give you the time that you need.”

    Having veterans like Cruz and Beltran on your team is akin to having another coach on the bench who younger players not only trust but can emulate. Cruz has also provided in one area that Beltran didn’t – Cruz has put up really big numbers while Beltran struggled in his final season. Beltran hit just .231/.283/.383 as a 40-year-old for Houston, whereas Cruz has been one of the MLB’s best hitters at age 39, slashing .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs. Regardless of the results, Cruz’s leadership would have been valuable to the team, but when combined with his elite production he may well be the team’s MVP.

    Free Agency and Starting Pitching

    In their first two years in Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had a bit of a mixed record in free agency. Catcher Jason Castro turned out to be a pretty good three-year signing, but last year’s last-minute bargains, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison were pretty much a disaster as they seemed unhappy to be in Minnesota playing for less money and years than they had hoped for. Pitcher Michael Pineda was also signed before last season but was really signed for the 2019 season as he sat out 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    The FO seemed to learn their lesson and have had much greater success with this year’s signings, which include the previously mentioned Cruz and utility man Marwin Gonzalez, who came over from the Astros organization. Both have played well and have brought a winning attitude to Minnesota. Minnesota was also able to add second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the team. He has had an up-and-down year but has provided some pop, is well-liked by his teammates, and could have been essential to the team’s postseason roster, depending on rookie Luiz Arraez’s availability due to an ankle injury.

    If the Twins do hope to emulate Houston, upgrading the rotation would be the next step in the process. The Astros feature three of the best starters in baseball in the aforementioned Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. None of the three came from within the organization so the Astros needed to do two things that the Twins should be able to do as well. The first was to be willing to give up some of their prospect capital to acquire starting pitching. While the Astros had to give up good prospects in all three trades, they were able to do so without giving up anyone on quite the level of Lewis or Kirilloff. The Twins certainly have the prospect surplus to make some trades. Secondly, Houston was willing to take on some salary. Verlander and Greinke were under contract for large amounts and Houston went on to extend Verlander and reliever Ryan Pressly.

    With a lot of salary coming off the books, the Twins should theoretically have a lot of money available, and could definitely make a run at one or two of the top free agent starters if they so choose. With Jose Berrios as the only current starter due back next season (although Randy Dobnak may be in next year’s rotation), it will be interesting to see what the FO does to address starting pitching. Some big name free-agent starters will be available, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. The Twins got good years out of Michael Pineda and Jake Odorrizi, but they are set to be free agents along with Kyle Gibson. With this year’s team breaking the competitive window wide open, there may never be a better time to add an “ace.”

    Brain Drain

    Although Houston continues to succeed, finishing with the best overall record in 2019, they have had to deal with other teams luring talented front office staff and coaches away from the organization. When an organization finds success, especially with a new approach, other teams are sure to take notice. Gone from the front office are Sag Mejdal and Mike Elias who were poached by the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves. Bench coach Alex Cora famously became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and led them to a World Series victory in 2018.
    With the success of the Minnesota Twins is 2019, other organizations are sure to take notice, and Minnesota would be extremely lucky if everyone remained in place for 2020. Coaches such as Derrek Shelton and James Rowson will likely draw interest and members of the front office and analytics department are likely to be hot commodities as well, not to mention minor league coaches and staff.

    With the right philosophy in place, Minnesota may be able to plug in great new minds and continue to succeed as Houston has. However, the teams that are plucking employees may soon bridge the gap as the Twins (and others) have done to the Astros. The best teams will need to evolve, always on the lookout for new hidden advantages, and the process will continue as it always has.

    Here We Go

    The Twins didn't reach the World Series this season, but regardless of the result, it’s hard to view the season as anything less than a resounding success. The Twins will obviously blaze their own path going forward, but if there is a ballclub to emulate, you can’t do much better than the Houston Astros. As Minnesota’s young core continues to mature, with most of the team returning for 2020 and plenty of intriguing options inching closer from the farm, the best is hopefully yet to come.

    • Oct 17 2019 05:37 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak