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  1. Tyler Austin Traded to San Francisco

    Heading into this offseason, it appeared Austin had the inside track at the starting first base gig. His overall batting line of .236/.294/.488 (.782 OPS) was uneven, but there's never been any questioning his power.

    Well, a C.J. Cron waiver claim and Nelson Cruz free agent signing later and Austin was quickly on the outside looking in. He was out of options, so when the Twins DFAed him over the weekend it appeared to be only a matter of time before he was with a new team.

    At least the Twins have something to show for him.

    Malique Ziegler was the Giants' 22nd-round pick of their 2016 Draft. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and played his college ball at North Iowa Area Community College. A right-handed hitting outfielder, Ziegler comes to the Twins having hit .245/.339/.376 (.714 OPS) in 143 career minor league games.

    Zigler has some speed, he's hit nine triples and has 38 stolen bases in his career, and has a knack for getting on base. He's drawn 66 walks in 627 career plate appearances, which works out to a solid walk rate of 10.5%. There's still a fair amount of swing and miss in his game, especially considering his relative lack of power, as Ziegler has 24.3 K%.

    Maybe the biggest shockwave from Austin's departure from the organization is in how it relates to the first base/DH depth chart.

    The Twins have some guys already at the major league level who are able to move around -- Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo both can play just about anywhere, Miguel Sano has some time a first base and Max Kepler spent quite a bit of time there in his minor league career. So there's no shortage of options should Cron or Cruz miss time.

    If you're someone knocking on the door, such as Brent Rooker or Luke Raley, however, Austin moving on represents one more road block removed on the road to the big leagues.

    • Apr 08 2019 02:00 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  2. Report From The Fort: Tyler Austin's Precarious Path To A Roster Spot

    Austin is among the Twins leaders in Grapefruit League plate appearances with 42, and in that sample he's batted .381 with a 1.024 OPS and three home runs. His easy power has been on display once again coming off a season where he launched 17 bombs in just 69 games between New York and Minnesota.

    Austin is out of options, meaning that he'll need to pass him through waivers in order to stay in the Twins organization if he doesn't make the 25-man roster out of camp. And since he's been outrighted in the past, Austin could elect free agency even if he goes unclaimed. So, if the Twins don't take the 27-year-old north, there seems to be a very good chance they'll lose him. And that's a disconcerting thought, because it's not hard to envision a scenario where he's one of the more intimidating (and affordable) power bats in the league over the next few years.

    Contemplating this dilemma, I asked two of the guys who will be primarily responsible for shaping the Opening Day roster about it.

    "Certainly it gets harder as you start kind of adding more people to the group of first base, DH," acknowledged Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey. He did note, however, that the flexibility across the rest of Minnesota's bench might make the notion more palatable. "We have a lot of multi-position players among the other bench-types that afford us an opportunity maybe, whereas a traditional bench you have your catcher, then you have your infielder, your outfielder, something like that."

    This is true. Through a pure roster-building lens, it's not infeasible you could carry Austin – while sending down a player with options remaining, like Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo – and still have all of your needs covered in terms of positional depth. But from a day-to-day operational standpoint? Things get trickier.

    "Tyler is certainly one of those guys that has put himself in a position where you are looking to find ways to get him in there," said manager Rocco Baldelli. "Because you know if you get him at-bats, that you feel good about him succeeding. So yeah, it's definitely something that I spend a lot of days thinking about, for sure."

    The caveat of his statement – IF you get him at-bats – reveals the ultimate problem. Here, the answers seem to run out. Where are Austin's at-bats coming from? C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz are locked in as starters at first base and DH, which are the only positions Austin plays (the Twins clearly have no interest in using him as an outfielder). And both of those players swing from the right side, so you're not gaining any kind of platoon advantage that'd justify rotating him through those spots regularly. At best, Austin's probably starting once a week to spell one of those guys, while pulling in the occasional pinch-hit at-bat.

    Not only is this a suboptimal use of a roster spot, but it's also completely unfair to Austin. You can't expect a hitter to produce with such sporadic playing time, and this is quite problematic when said player's value is tied solely to his bat.

    From a logical view, I think we all have to acknowledge that as long as Cron and Cruz stay healthy for the next week, Austin isn't making this team. It's clear that both Falvey and Baldelli would love to keep him around, but neither could offer a specific rationale for doing so given the layout of the roster. And that's because there just isn't one to be found. The manager can keep spending his days thinking about it, but no answers are going magically emerge.

    So, with one week left to go before Opening Day, it comes down to figuring out what to do with him. Obviously the Twins want to avoid a scenario where they lose a talented player for nothing. But strikeout-prone sluggers with no positional flexibility aren't in demand these days. And perhaps this reality might portend our ideal outcome: Austin slips through waivers because other clubs are facing similar roster crunches, and he accepts the assignment to Triple-A because he recognizes an MLB job is not available at the moment.

    Minnesota's depth at first base and DH will look a whole lot better if Austin's a phone call away in Rochester.

    • Mar 20 2019 08:40 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  3. Upcoming Rule Changes Greatly Benefit Tyler Austin’s Future

    One of the challenges the Twins face in retaining Austin will be trying to fit him on the roster, which will more than likely feature a three-man bench for the majority of the season. He’s out of options, and power is typically very expensive. If the Twins place him on waivers, I have little doubt the majority of rebuilding teams would be salivating over the thought of bringing him in.

    We learned today that an extra roster spot will be added next season, making it much easier for a team to carry a bat-only type player. That’s huge for a guy like Austin. One of the other significant changes coming is the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But there’s a twist.

    Starting in 2020, a pitcher must either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. So it’s not a strict three-batter minimum rule, but it will make it more difficult for teams to deploy specialist pitchers. Austin has been phenomenal against left-handed pitching over his young career (.937 OPS), but right-handers have mostly had their way with him (.664 OPS, 39.0 K%). As it stands right now, it’s not always easy to take advantage of that platoon split, but it will become much easier with these new restrictions.

    A lot of the focus on this rule change has revolved around how it impacts bullpen usage. While that’s certainly the most obvious element to the rule and the thing it aims to adjust, I believe this change (in addition to the extra roster spot) means pinch hitters suddenly become a great deal more valuable than they’ve been in the era of the 13-man pitching staff.

    These tweaks have the potential to change a slugging pinch hitter from a luxury most teams cannot afford to shoehorn onto their rosters to a potential integral part of the makeup of each team’s bench.

    While Austin’s potential value is boosted by these changes, there were already some good reasons for the Twins to try to keep him in the org. Nelson Cruz has been arguably the best power hitter in baseball over the past few years, but nobody escapes Father Time. He does an incredible job at taking care of himself but you never know when a dropoff or significant injury may come. C.J. Cron had a breakout year last season and is a much more established player than Austin, but what if he can’t replicate that success? What if he's LoMo 2.0?

    The Twins are only committed to Cruz and Cron for this upcoming season, though both can be brought back in 2020 if the team so chooses – Cruz has a $12 million option and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t set to become a free agent until 2024. The Twins also have some nice bats down on the farm who figure to be factoring into the 1B/DH conversation before too long. Brent Rooker also seems to be a big beneficiary of these rule changes, but a bat in the hand is worth two in the rack.

    I have not been a big supporter of Tyler Austin in the past because it’s difficult to see much value in a player of his profile the way the game is being played today. With a tweak in the rules must also come a reevaluations of how we value certain players. While these rule changes aren’t so dramatic to cause any kind of a seismic shift, I do believe they have a significant impact on players of Austin’s specific profile.

    The only question is can they find room for Austin throughout the entire 2019 season?

    Full Rule Changes
    Here’s a link to the full press release.

    For 2019:

    -Inning breaks reduced to two minutes. They were previously 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for national broadcasts.

    -There will be a single July 31 trade deadline. No more separate wavier trade deadline.

    -Updates to All-Star Game voting and a $1 million bonus to the Home Run Derby winner.


    For 2020:

    -Active roster to expand one spot to 26.

    -Rosters will only expand to 28 in September instead of 40.

    -Undetermined cap on the number of pitchers on an active roster. This will be determined by a joint committee.

    -Pitchers will need to either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning.

    -Injured list goes back up to 15 days instead of 10.

    • Mar 14 2019 10:32 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  4. Sunday Twins Game Notes: Jays Power Past Twins

    Spring Training stats don’t matter at all. We know that. And whenever a player or pitcher struggles in spring training, we repeat that sentence over and over. That is the key point when looking at veteran Jake Odorizzi’s pitching line from Sunday. He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning.

    Odorizzi noted after his outing, “Hopefully it (today’s outing) means good things because I think I gave up one run last year and it didn’t go very well. So I hope so. It’s spring training; I was trying to work on offspeed a lot today.”

    Veteran starting pitchers come to spring training knowing their sole job in the spring is to be ready by Opening Day. Sometimes that means working on fastball command, or offspeed pitches. For Odorizzi on Sunday, it was the secondary stuff.

    “I mixed all my pitches. I didn’t throw too many fastballs, but that was by design. It probably played a bit of a role getting behind in counts, but I’m not going to my good stuff that I know well while spring training when I want to work on getting the other stuff that’s not as good up to that. I could have very easily started throwing my pitches how I would have in the game, but that’s not going to make you any better.”

    Rocco Baldelli came out of the dugout and removed Odorizzi from the game with two outs in the first inning. Pat Dean needed just one pitch to end the inning.

    Baldelli said, “Odo has a very mature approach to everything he does. He’s got a very good head on his shoulders. He went out there today and he was using this as one, a way to prepare and get himself in shape and also work on some things.” He continued, “He was able to go finish his work and complete his preparation on the side. These sort of things do happen, and in the regular season the leash is probably also a little bit longer than it would be in a fairly early spring start.”

    Odorizzi’s work was not complete. Because he didn’t reach a total pitch count goal for the day, he went down to the bullpen where he continued to work. He wanted to throw 36 more pitches. While he didn’t get more game-situation work, he tried to replicate it as much as possible in the bullpen.

    “I had (assistant pitching coach) Jeremy Hefner stand in and bounce back and forth from righty and lefty. And I would do up-downs. So I would throw 12 pitches, sit down, watch whoever was hitting at that point, and just treat it as a game situation. Obviously it’s not the same max effort as a game, but I treated it just like a normal game with batters in the box. So it was good. Got the same sweat I got going on in the bullpen as in the game. It was a little warm out there. For us, it’s really about the up-downs, and building your pitch counts in the spring.”

    In years past, Odorizzi threw both a slider and a cutter, but he decided in the offseason to just focus on one of the two and put all his efforts into the cutter.

    He said, “I decided this offseason I wanted to focus on one pitch and give all my effort to that instead of spreading it out where you have two average pitches and maybe one's even below-average. You take that away, and just focus on one and make it as best as you can. It's worked out really well for me so far.”

    “And like a good teammate, he has been sharing information on his pitches. “I actually taught it to Martín (Perez) the other day, and it's been working well for him in spring training so far from everything I've been told. So I'm helping guys with it while helping myself at the same time. If we can make each other better in here.” He continued, “It's good for me to sometimes talk it out with people. It helps me talk about my mindset, if I'm trying to teach it to somebody, it kind of gives you that teaching point as well. ”

    GAME NOTES/QUOTES

    Blue Jays Prospects

    The Blue Jays announced before the game that top prospect Vlad Guerrero, Jr. will miss about three weeks due to a mild oblique strain. If I were to venture a guess, it will likely cause him to start the season in Triple-A before being called up to the major leagues about three weeks into the season.

    Other top Blue Jays prospects made the trek down from Dunedin and were very impressive. Shortstop Bo Bichette led off the game with a home run. In his next at bat, he lined a double down the left field line. Later in the game, he hit an opposite field homer off of Michael Pineda.

    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs

    Slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez had three hits including a first-inning homer off of Odorizzi and a sixth-inning homer off Pineda. Cavan Biggio was in a car accident a couple of days ago. On Sunday, he went 2-for-5 with a home run off of Matt Magill.

    Pineda Throwing Ball “Pretty Well”

    Pineda gave up three runs over his three innings of work, including the two home runs. However, Baldelli believes he is healthy and throwing the ball well.

    “He's healthy and ready to go. He's actually throwing the ball pretty well. His arm strength is good. He's spinning the ball well, and for him, that's what it comes down to in a lot of ways. He's a guy that, when he's been very good in the past, a big part of his game is spinning the ball and cutting the ball and doing things like that. He is back to that now. You could look at a couple of different pitches here and there, but overall, I thought it was a very successful outing for him. Just getting out here and making some good pitches and doing it in this sweatbox that we do it in every day -- it's good for all the players, especially the pitchers, to get out there and do the work in that environment. I think it's helpful in preparing them for the year. I think Michael looks great."

    Posted Image

    Return of Marwin

    A look at Monday’s lineup shows that Marwin Gonzalez will be leading off and playing third base. He has been out of the lineup in recent days due to a shoulder injury.



    Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli said that Gonzalez is ready to return. “Marwin declared himself beyond ready to go today but we wanted to give it one more day and we had it scheduled and we ended up rolling with it. Yeah, we expect him out there and all systems go.”

    That has long been a Twins thing. When a player says that he’s ready to play, and the training staff agree, give him one more day to be more certain. Especially in spring training, it’s the right thing to do.

    Tyler Austin Making His Case

    On Friday, Tyler Austin went 3-for-3 to raise his spring batting average to .318. On Sunday afternoon, he went 3-for-3 again and now has a .400 batting average.

    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs

    CJ Cron is most likely going to be the Twins primary first baseman. However, Austin is out of options and it’s hard to imagine that the team is going to want to lose him for nothing. Could he compete with Willians Astudillo for the final roster spot? Could a trade be possible?

    Torreyes Impresses

    Ronald Torreyes, playing third base on Sunday, made a couple of really nice defensive plays. He is not a big man, but he also can hit. He has impressed his new manager both on and off the field.


    Posted Image
    Seth Stohs
    “He does everything right. He does everything right from the moment he walks on the field every morning. He's got a great energy. He's a clubhouse favorite. The guys love him. The staff loves him. He couldn't handle himself any better in the clubhouse or on the field. He's a good player. Move him anywhere. He makes all the plays. He's a headsy player. He's a baseball player. He has all good at bats. I enjoy being around him. I know I'm not alone in that thought.”

    • Mar 11 2019 06:32 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  5. Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base

    Projected Starter: C.J. Cron
    Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

    Depth: Miguel Sano, Tyler Austin, Lucas Duda
    Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel

    THE GOOD

    Tasked with finding a replacement for Joe Mauer at first base, the front office decided to gather up a collection of intriguing low-cost parts rather than invest in a bona fide solution. Those hoping for a Paul Goldschmidt type splash were surely disappointed with the approach this past winter, but the Twins did well in patching together some viable options.

    Already the front office had acquired Austin from New York, in last July's Lance Lynn trade. The lefty-mashing slugger seemed to profile perfectly as half of a platoon with someone like – say – Duda, whom they added on a minor-league deal just ahead of spring training. Proceeding with those two would've been a sound short-term strategy, and perhaps Minnesota had plans along those lines heading into the offseason.

    But plans quickly changed when Cron became available on waivers in late November. Seeing a late-20s first baseman, with a solid track record, coming off a career year and available for nothing, was too much for the Twins to pass up at one of their clearest areas of need.

    Cron seems to offer a reasonably high floor along with a limited ceiling. The first part of that equation is valuable and sets him apart from the alternatives. Owner of a .289/.336/.500 line in the minors, he never posted an OPS below .739 in four MLB seasons prior to breaking out with an .816 mark and 30 home runs last year in Tampa. So even if he regresses a little, he probably won't fall too far. As a reference point, Mauer posted a .746 OPS overall in his five seasons as a first baseman.

    The Twins have lacked a reliable power bat at first base since Morneau suffered his concussion in 2010, so Cron looks like a breath of fresh air in that regard. And if something should go amiss with the projected starter during spring training, Minnesota is well equipped to absorb the blow. Austin and Duda have become fallback plans, and they're good ones at that.

    Austin is a muscle-bound, intimidating beast in the batter's box, and he put on a convincing power display after coming over from the Yankees last summer, blasting nine home runs in 35 games as a Twin. In 120 career big-league games, the 27-year-old has 24 jacks and a .469 slugging percentage.

    Duda has a lengthier track record of hitting with 152 home runs in 919 MLB games. He wasn't great last year between Kansas City and Atlanta, slashing .241/.313/.418, but that's respectable and the prior year he launched 30 homers with an .818 OPS. The 33-year-old has a career OPS+ of 118.

    One other creative addition from the offseason was Wilin Rosario, signed to play in Rochester after a three-year stint in Korea. Rosario was a quality bat for the Rockies before heading to Asia, and was a monster hitter for two years in the KBO (.961 and 1.060 OPS marks) before taking a step back in 2018. He's a longshot to make any impact but the Twins aren't counting on him for much – only to replace the departed Kennys Vargas as a readily available option in Triple-A.

    On the prospect front, 1B/OF hybrid Rooker is the most immediate possibility and could be up with Minnesota this summer if things break right for him. Trevor Larnach is more or less in the same boat, though he played only right field after being drafted last year. Sano might stop at first for awhile on his way to inevitably ending up at DH.

    But I believe the long-term vision is for Kirilloff to take over. He's got the bat, and while he has played outfield exclusively up to this point, he is not considered a special defender out there. With current Twins right fielder Max Kepler now locked up long-term, I expect we'll see the rapidly rising Kirilloff start to break in a first baseman's mitt this year.

    THE BAD

    Well, let's start here: The admirable present depth at first base is likely to evaporate by the end of spring training, because Austin is out of options (likely to be claimed on waivers) and Duda will undoubtedly opt out if he doesn't make the team, which he won't unless Cron or Nelson Cruz gets hurt.

    So then you're down to Cron and Sano probably sharing duties at first. I'd like to see Kepler play there too against the occasional tough right-hander, but that remains to be seen. Gonzalez's presence is helpful in the event of a Cron injury/implosion, as he can either fill in at first, or (more likely) at third with Sano sliding over. But none of these players are the kind of well rounded, dominant sluggers you ideally envision at first base. (Sano could be, but hasn't shown it since early 2017.)

    The Twins will gain more power at the position with Mauer gone, but they'll also lose two critical strengths – top-tier defensive prowess and strong on-base skills. No one is suited to match #7 in those traits, which are especially valuable on a team that features an iffy left side of the infield defensively, and a lineup already heavy on pop and light on OBP.

    Yeah, these guys the Twins have brought in can all hit the ball hard. But evidence suggests this isn't widely perceived as being all that valuable on its own. That's why Minnesota was able to get Cron on waivers, Austin as a trade toss-in, Duda on a minors deal, Rosario from Korea.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    As far as stopgaps go, the Twins have done pretty well for themselves. Cron is a serviceable – albeit bland – starting option while Austin and Duda provide quality spring depth. There are also a number of players on Minnesota's roster (namely Sano and Gonzalez) who could become frequent plugs at the position, and possibly even regulars.

    That's the beauty of first base: it's on the far end of the defensive spectrum, meaning almost any capable hitter can end up there. So while there are no great "first base prospects" in the Twins' system right now, per se, there are plenty who could eventually take on that function as big-leaguers, with Kirilloff leading the pack in my mind.

    While the future at first is uncertain, it's hardly ominous, and the Twins have set themselves up for comfortable stability in the short-term.


    ***


    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher

    • Feb 26 2019 08:30 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  6. Who's on First? Cron's No Sure Thing

    Longtime club hero Joe Mauer officially announced his retirement from baseball on Nov. 9, at age 35. Mauer still was a vital part of the team’s lineup, having a .351 OBP, which ranked second on the team. He also slashed .407/.500/.617 with RISP and .333/.443/.468 with men on while playing Gold Glove level defense. And 2018 was, by far, one of the worst years of his career. So talk about big shoes to fill at first base.

    Less than two weeks after the retirement announcement, the Tampa Bay Rays designated C.J. Cron for assignment, even after his career year in which he hit 30 home runs, while also being a LHP’s nightmare. The Twins claimed him off waivers six days later, making him, at least in theory, the new everyday first baseman. But was his career year enough to give him such big job security? Let’s talk about possible backup plans the club may have, in case Cron doesn’t repeat his last year’s performance.

    It’s important to explain why my faith in Cron is shaky at this point. Playing for four years with the Angels before heading to the Rays, he had slashed .262/.307/.449 and not once had hit more than 16 home runs in a season. Granted, he had never had more than 445 PA in a season before 2018, so he did make the best when given a real shot. Still, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be back to his old self.

    Even having the best season of his career so far, Cron’s secondary numbers weren’t so different from the previous seasons. When talking about his plate discipline, there’s even a considerable drop. He had a career-low Contact% of 72.6, which was 2.1% lower than in 2017 and 3.7% lower than his career average. He also struck out more than any time before, having a career-worst 25.9 K%, 3.3% higher than his career average.

    Are all those numbers indicators that he is bound to fail as a Twin? Absolutely not. I just believe that they are evidence that going all in on Cron, parting ways with good possible replacement or platoon options, could turn out to be too costly later on. If the Twins actually choose to go all in on him, could this threaten Minnesota’s chance to contend? Not necessarily. But I don’t think it would hurt them to be extra cautious here.

    Before the Cron signing, Tyler Austin was seen as the natural replacement. Now, everything seems to point to the fact that Rocco Baldelli and his staff will have to choose between one or the other, since Austin doesn’t have any minor league options left in his contract. But one thing is absolutely clear as well: if Austin had no chance to at least fight for that position, he would already have been cut.

    So, why believe in Austin? For starters, we’re talking about a younger, not so much less productive than Cron alternative. Of course, his track record is much smaller, but his .758 career OPS is not too far from Cron’s .772. Last season, with both of them having their breakout seasons, their performance against lefties weren’t extremely different, with Cron having a .930 OPS facing southpaws and Austin .846. Plus, the former Yankee was able to hit 17 home runs in 2018 despite being given only 268 PA (a career high), while the 30 times Cron went yard came with 560 PA, more than twice as much.

    Like I said before, if the Twins thought Austin didn’t stand a chance against Cron, they would have gotten rid of him long ago. It all comes down to what the club has in mind. Cron is the obvious choice if you want an experienced, low risk bet, that might have turned the corner and should be able to help the team now (but it’s worth remembering that we thought the same about Logan Morrison a year ago).

    On the other hand, if you have a younger option, with similar production, who could help the team long-term, Austin should be your guy. He’s no kid, but he seems to have more potential. With only 404 career PA, he has produced eight more home runs, 12 more runs batted in and more than twice as many walks as Cron did when he had reached that many PA.

    One extra piece of information to the mixture. Minnesota’s current contract with Cron has him earning $4.8 million this season. But according to last week’s “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast, if the club were to decide to cut him before Opening Day, they would only owe him 25% of that amount ($1.2 million). Of course, they would not have claimed him off waivers if they didn’t believe he is their guy, but having that exit possibility sure makes things easier if they don’t like what they see from him in spring training.

    And just when we thought this decision couldn’t get any more complicated, the Twins proved us wrong. Less than ten days ago, the club signed a minor-league contract with LHH and former MVP-candidate Lucas Duda. Ted Schwerzler wrote this great piece analyzing how the 33-year old could help Minnesota. It would be tricky to try to fit him in this packed Twins roster, although the team wouldn’t need a fifth starter until mid-April, allowing the bench to have a fourth player. It’s hard to see him making the Opening Day roster and remaining there for the rest of the year. But if Duda were to accept a job at Rochester for most of the year, he could either become a good option in case of injury or even a trade asset eventually.

    Since all of their offensive numbers look rather similar, if you’re still undecided on which one is your favorite, you can also look at their defense. But bad news: none of them compares closely to what Joe Mauer was in that department. The future Hall of Famer has had impressive numbers overall in the five full years as a first baseman. Last year wasn’t the best example, but his numbers were still better than the Cron-Austin-Duda trio. Mauer had .996 FP, 3 DRS and 2.7 UZR in 2018, but was even better the year before, posting a.998 FP, 7 DRS and 6.9 UZR. He was shockingly snubbed from the Gold Glove award that year.

    But let’s steer clear of the Mauer nostalgia and see where do his successor candidates stand in comparison to his defense. Again, we have pretty similar metrics, when looking at their 2018 final numbers, so you will be the judge:

    C.J. Cron - .993 FP, -2 DRS, 1.3 UZR
    Tyler Austin - .997 FP, 1 DRS, -1 UZR
    Lucas Duda - .995 FP, 0 DRS, -0.1 UZR

    Numbers aren’t everything when talking about defense. You have to take into account experience and athleticism. Duda is obviously the most experienced and his defensive numbers aren’t the worst of the three, but he has the smallest odds of making the team, in theory. Austin, of the three, looks like the most athletic, but he’s by far the least experienced. Of the three, Cron has the worst fielding percentage and defensive runs saved. You make the call on which defender you like best.

    All we fans can do right now is wait for spring training action. There’s a lot at stake for those three guys.

    Follow @TwinsBrasil on Twitter.

    • Feb 17 2019 04:31 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  7. Mailbox: Openers, Trading Buxton, Kirilloff’s Debut


    New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is coming from the Tampa Bay organization, which used the “opener” strategy quite frequently last season. That being said, I think he will utilize this strategy throughout the 2019 season. Trevor May seems like a strong candidate to slide into an “opener” role, especially with his previous starting experience. Minnesota started using an “opener” at Double-A and Triple-A last season so younger pitchers are starting to get accustom to this process. The club has shared information with players about the benefits of using this strategy and I think the club will use it even more in 2019.


    Sano is not facing any legal situations in his home country. Earlier in the off-season, he ran over a police officer, breaking one of the officer's legs. He showed up for his court date and the police found no intent on his part to hurt the officer. Rocco Baldelli recently visited Sano in the Dominican Republic and the Twins slugger posted about it on Instagram. In the photos, Sano looks like he has dropped some weight. There have been some issues in the past with him showing up to spring training with extra weight. Hopefully, his demotion and time in the minors last season allowed him to reflect on his career and what he wants for the future. This is a pivotal off-season for him as he can hopefully regain his All-Star form from 2017.


    Trading Buxton simply doesn’t make sense. His value is probably at an all-time low. He just turned 25 and he is coming off his worst professional season. Look at a player like Aaron Hicks. Many fans wanted him traded and out of Minnesota. Over the last three seasons, Hicks has been the 10th most valuable AL outfield during his age 26-28 seasons. Be patient with Buxton, he needs to be part of the Twins solution and he certainly isn’t part of Minnesota’s problem right now.


    I think Tyler Austin has some continued value to the team, especially with no established first baseman currently under contract. There are other options at the back-end of the 40-man that could slip through the waiver wire. Zack Granite is coming off a rough year in the minors and there is a lot of outfield depth on the 40-man. Willians Astudillo has been tearing the cover off the ball this winter but the club will likely break camp with Jason Castro and Mitch Garver as the club’s catchers. Does that make Astudillo replaceable? Adding Blake Parker might make another relief pitcher expendable (see Tyler Duffey or Matt Magill).There are always options and I don’t think the club is done adding pieces before the start of the season.


    Alex Kirilloff is coming off a huge season in the minor leagues, as he was named MiLB’s Breakout Player of the Year. He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery so it was nice to see what he could do when he was back and healthy. He finished the 2018 campaign at High-A so he could spend the majority of 2019 at High-A and Double-A. If he hits like he did in 2018, it’s not out of the question for him to make his big-league debut at some point next season. He is the type of prospect that might not need any playing time at Triple-A. A lot is going to depend on how he performs in 2019 and if the big-league club has a need in the outfield.


    For the second year in a row, the free agent market has been cold as ice. Dallas Keuchel is considered the best starting pitcher on the market, but the Twins might not be looking to add another starter. Michael Pineda was signed last off-season to join the rotation in 2019. Other free agent starting options include Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland, Wade Miley, and other lower tier options. Relief pitchers like Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, and Andrew Miller have all signed for $25 million or more. It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers and the Twins might be satisfied with the players already on the roster. Reports on Monday had the club signing Blake Parker. My guess is they will take a flyer on a couple of other relief options, but it might be closer to when spring training starts.

    Thanks to everyone for their questions. Make sure to follow me on Twitter, as I will probably do multiple mailbag segments in the weeks ahead.

    Now, it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Jan 07 2019 04:43 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  8. What's the Plan with Tyler Austin?

    Up to this point, Austin has shown some ability as a major-league hitter. Through his age 26-season, he owns a .758 OPS in 404 MLB plate appearances. This year between New York and Minnesota he slugged .480 in 268 PA; that's a higher mark than Eddie Rosario finished with, and barely below what Cron produced in a career year with Tampa.

    In many ways, Austin looks like the prototypical "change of scenery special." He showed promise with the Yankees but couldn't differentiate himself in a system full of big power bats. Having acquired him in the Lance Lynn deal, the Twins found themselves with a prime opportunity to give Austin a prolonged look, with first base becoming vacant, but instead they chose to go with Cron – a similar if not redundant player.

    Austin's solid overall production has been highly polarized in its concentration. Against right-handed pitchers he's been ineffective, with a .211/.259/.405 slash line and 39% K-rate. Against lefties he's been DOMINANT, at .272/.345/.592 and 32%. The way to best utilize such a player seems clear: partner him with a lefty swinger who can mash righties, and let Rocco Baldelli play the platoon game while also enjoying some great strategic pinch-hitting options.

    Cron throws a wrench in that, swinging from the same side as Austin. In fact, given his neutral platoon splits and his success in a full-time role this year, it seems likely Cron will be penciled as the everyday starter at first.

    This leaves only one path for Austin, who's out of options next spring and likely to land elsewhere if he doesn't make the roster: designated hitter. There is still opportunity there for the Twins to leverage Austin's strengths and deploy him impactfully.

    They can't trust him as full-time DH. It'd be irresponsible to go with Austin as the full-time solution, given his ugly numbers against righties. But if you equip the team with a lefty bat that can frequently plug in at DH? Then we're cooking.

    Theoretically, this can be accomplished with the existing setup. Roll with a bench of Mitch Garver, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave, then rotate Cave (or Eddie Rosario) through the DH spot against righties. It'd be a good way to keep arguably your reigning two best hitters (Rosario and Cave) in the lineup regularly.

    Another bench construction that would intrigue me, if Garver is deemed good to go at catcher, would be swapping out Astudillo (who has an option remaining) for outfielder LaMonte Wade, recently added to the 40-man roster. He'll be 25 on Opening Day, has ample experience at Triple-A, and would help balance out a roster short on patience and plate discipline. Wade has a .391 OBP in the minors and walks more than he strikes out against right-handers.

    Alternatively, the Twins could seek out another lefty bat via trade or free agency to complement Austin as a DH/bench piece. It'd need to be someone with a bit of positional flexibility since the team surely isn't gonna carry three first basemen.

    These are scenarios in which Minnesota could still roster Austin and maximize his value. But the simple reality may be that they just don't see the 27-year-old fitting into their plans. Cron's addition already hinted toward this (why not just skip him and set up the Austin platoon at first?) and the reported serious interest in Nelson Cruz would be another indicator. If the Twins sign Cruz, Austin's out – that feels like a safe assumption.

    In fact, signing Cruz and essentially locking him in for 600 plate appearances at DH would all but eliminate any room for creative platoons or rotations, which strikes me as odd for a team that claims to be focused on sorting out existing assets and developing its core.

    Giving up on Austin wouldn't necessarily be malpractice, given that he's so one-dimensional both offensively and defensively, and so very very strikeout-prone. But based on the pure slugging prowess he showed during his short time in Minnesota this year, and his proven ability to terrorize southpaws, he certainly seems worthy of a longer look.

    For his part, Austin is undoubtedly tracking the front office's movements at the Winter Meetings as closely as any fan, knowing that the addition of Cruz would turn his grasp on a roster spot from precarious to perilous.

    • Dec 12 2018 05:47 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  9. Carlos Santana Is a Perfect Fit for the Twins

    Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported the Mariners are telling teams “they’re fine” with holding on to Santana, but that they’ve also had trade conversations with multiple teams about moving him. I can’t imagine it would cost a great deal to acquire him. The big piece of value in the trade that sent Jean Segura to Philadelphia was J.P. Crawford, who Baseball America had as its No. 16 prospect in the game heading into last season.

    Santana basically has something like $41.7 million guaranteed to him over the next two years (there’s a team option for a third season, I included the buyout in that estimate). That’s a lot, but it’s only two years. The Twins don’t have much in future liabilities, and there’s always the chance they can get Seattle to eat some of that money.

    So that’s why the Mariners would likely be open to moving him, but why the Twins would want to bring him aboard?

    First off, Santana had more walks (110) than strikeouts (93) last season. His 16.2 BB% trailed only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto. A switch-hitter, Santana also comes with no platoon concerns. He has a career .816 OPS against lefties and an even .800 OPS versus right-handers. He’s also been incredibly durable, reaching at least 600 plate appearances for eight straight seasons. He’s a guy who you can count on in the middle of your lineup everyday, no matter who is on the mound.

    How about that on-base ability? On the downside, his .352 OBP was the lowest he’s posted in seven seasons. The plus side is that’s still well above league average (.318). Also, part of that dip in his OBP was due to the fact Santana had a career-low .231 BABIP in 2018 (his career BABIP is .265).

    The 2019 Steamer projections like Santana to bounce back, projecting his wRC+ to jump from 109 this past season to 122 next year. That same system is forecasting a 102 wRC+ from Tyler Austin.

    Speaking of which, Santana’s arrival would certainly push Austin out the door. Maybe he could be a piece that heads to Seattle in the deal to acquire Santana, who knows? I’m starting to sour on the idea of Austin getting regular playing time with the Twins next season. Ted was also wondering aloud in the blog section how much longer Austin would be around.

    Strikeouts are bearable, but only to a certain point. Consider this:

    Tyler Austin 36.6 K%
    Miguel Sano 36.3 K%
    Byron Buxton 31.7 K%

    You just can't have an everyday lineup that includes all three of those guys.

    Jake Cave also has some contact issues (33.0 K%) so it’s not like you’d be getting any relief in the event Buxton went down with an injury. In case you were wondering, Cron has a 22.6 K% for his career, that was up slightly to 25.9 last season. Santana’s career K% is just 16.6, and that was all the way down to 13.7 last year.

    Santana is a guy who can stabilize the middle of Minnesota’s lineup, provide a veteran presence and combat a few issues that appear to be concerns for the Twins right now.

    • Dec 06 2018 06:43 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. Offseason Blueprint: Bargain Bin Shopping (Part 1)

     You can create your own blueprint using Twins Daily's Offseason Handbook, which you can download immediately and name your own price.  

    Middle Infield
    Philosophy - This is the easiest position to fill. The Twins have a desperate need, but also have several middle infield prospects approaching the majors. The free agent market is deep, especially with second basemen. It makes sense to sign someone to a short contract, filling the need for the present and giving the future the time it needs to develop.

    Targets - I’d look to the more competitive shortstop market initially, moving Jorge Polanco to second base. Put shortstop Freddy Galvis at the top of the list, who is 29 years old, cost $15M over two years (per the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook) and brings a solid glove to help out the left side of the infield along with a little (13 HR in 2018) pop. I’d also stay involved in the bidding for shortstops Jose Iglesias and Jordy Mercer.

    If that doesn’t work, there are a ton of second basemen to consider even if the team is determined not to guarantee more than two years at a cost of $7M or so per year. Candidates include Ascrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and even old friend Brian Dozier. (Hey, he and that left field porch were a good match.) This is the one area it’s almost impossible to screw up. The market will come to the Twins.

    Corner Infield
    Philosophy - In an ideal world, this is the area that the Twins will spend a lot of money. They need a middle-of-the-order hitter, and with spots open at first base and designated hitter, they should be thinking bat first and figure out where to play them later. Plus, this free agency has some bats, even beyond Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, that fit that bill. (Nelson Cruz seems like an ideal fit.)

    But this is supposed to be a frugal list, so I’m going to focus on strategy that leads to a couple of budget options. And those options start in-house, because after a few big names, this free agency class falls off a cliff.

    Targets - I expect the Twins will keep Tyler Austin in their plans for next year. Acquired from the Yankees, he is 27 years old and has posted a 937 OPS against southpaws over his career. Adding a left-handed bat to pair with him makes sense, even if it costs a bench spot.

    At the top of my wish list is 30-year-old Matt Adams, who slugged 21 home runs in only 306 AB - and twenty of those came against right-handed pitching. ‘Nuff said. He costs about $8M. A backup plan is Lucas Duda (~$4M), who is 32 years old and posted a 813 OPS against right-handers last year.

    I’ll tell you who I would’ve liked the second name to be: Joe Mauer. I wish him the best in his next career, but it’s a bummer that he is moving on when he was such a good fit for the Twins. He is cheap ($7M), gets on-base, good defensively, a veteran role model and hungry for the postseason. He would've been a nice fit.

    Instead, I suspect the Twins could just hang onto Robbie Grossman who can be sort of a Joe Mauer Lite: he gets on base (.355 OBP over his career, .367 last year), is just 29 years old, can play outfield in a pinch, and most importantly for this list, is still relatively cheap (~$4M).

    Those names likely will not generate any High Fives at your favorite watering hole, but such is the life of the bargain shopper. Tomorrow we'll look at two other markets that look promising as well: starting pitcher and relievers.

    • Nov 15 2018 11:02 AM
    • by John Bonnes
  11. 2018 Twins Highlights: Longest Home Runs

    Here are the top-five longest home runs hit by Twins batters in 2018, as measured by Statcast’s projected distance:

    5. Logan Morrison, 442 feet off Glenn Sparkman on Aug. 4


    4. Jake Cave, 443 feet off Yovani Gallardo on Sept. 1

    3. Eduardo Escobar, 443 feet off Josh Tomlin on June 1
    *I used exit velocity as the tiebreaker between this and Cave’s bomb.

    2. Tyler Austin, 451 feet off Matthew Boyd on Aug. 17

    1. Miguel Sano, 455 feet off Mike Fiers on Aug. 25

    It’s no surprise to see Sano and Austin top this list, but neither of them led the team in average home run distance this year. That title goes to Cave, whose 13 homers traveled an averaged distance of 419 feet. The runner-up was Mitch Garver, who averaged 408 feet on his seven home runs.

    Previous installments of the 2018 Highlights Series:
    Walk-Off Wins | I took a look back at all six of the Twins’ walk-off wins from 2018.
    Super Rosario and La Tortuga | Eddie Rosario and Willians Astudillo provided excitement in an otherwise down season. Here I reviewed some of their most entertaining moments.
    Top Pitching Performances | Here’s a look back at the top five outings of the season as rated by Game Score 2.0.

    • Oct 20 2018 07:15 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  12. Offseason Primer: Who Needs a First Baseman Anyways?

    The Twins Daily Offseason Handbook can be yours on this coming Tuesday if you preorder here for just $10.

    Not a lot of players who end up at first start their careers there. Mauer’s the perfect example of that himself. These days, it’s also becoming more and more common that teams use some kind of a timeshare at the position. There are a couple of good examples on teams still playing in October.

    Yuli Gurriel was the primary guy at first for Houston, making 99 starts there, but he also started 13 games at third base, another 11 at second and even made a start at shortstop. His flexibility helped the Astros cover for injuries to their other infielders and allowed slugger Tyler White to come up from the minors for regular time at first base.

    Cody Bellinger started 85 games at first base for the Dodgers, but he also made another 50 starts in center field, of all places. That allowed Los Angeles to find playing time for incredible diamond in the rough pickup Max Muncy and his .973 OPS. Muncy made 58 starts at first base.

    In Wednesday night’s NLCS game, the Dodgers used two different first basemen, neither of them Bellinger, and four different players at second base. That team has some pretty incredible flexibility.

    Keeping those two examples in mind, let’s take a look at how the Twins might fill the potential opening at first base.

    Taking a look back at 2018, the player with the most innings at first base behind Mauer was actually Logan Morrison. I guess it’s worth mentioning that the Twins do hold an $8 million option for LoMo with a $1 million buyout, but there are much better investments to be made.

    Tyler Austin was the only other player to see as many as 100 innings at first base for Minnesota last year. He showed impressive power, but he’s also struck out in 36.6 percent of his plate appearances in the majors. On the other hand, Austin has a .937 OPS against lefties, making him at the very least an attractive platoon partner. He played much more outfield than first over his minor league career, but Austin didn’t play a single inning out there in 2018.

    After Austin you’ve got Miguel Sano, who played 87 innings of first base this season. He’s certainly someone to keep in mind, but shifting him across the diamond just creates another hole at third base, which is already a weak spot in the org.

    With Jason Castro expected to return to health and Willians Astudillo establishing himself as a player of interest, there’s a chance the Twins could roll with three catchers next year. In that case, Mitch Garver could be a candidate for regular time at first base. He has some experience there.

    Max Kepler is a very strong defensive outfielder and hasn’t seen time at first since he played there regularly for Chattanooga back in 2015, but he’s a candidate. If Byron Buxton finds his footing and the Twins add another outfielder, Kepler could make a lot of sense as someone who forms a left-right platoon with Austin. Yes, Max did much better against same-sided pitchers last year, but his career splits still show a fairly significant split (.776 OPS vs. RHP, .605 OPS vs. LHP).

    Robbie Grossman’s never played an inning of infield in his entire pro career — majors or minors — but he does throw left handed. Considering how uninspiring his defense is in the outfield, maybe someone ought to buy him a first baseman’s mitt ...

    Down on the farm, Brent Rooker is the big name at the position. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him knocking down the door next season, though he’s certainly not a realistic option for Opening Day. Zander Wiel isn’t as big a name in prospect circles, but he actually had a higher OPS than Rooker last year. Both Rooker and Wiel played quite a bit of outfield, as well.

    If you really want to go outside the box, LaMonte Wade played a lot of first base in his early years at Maryland, but he’s only played outfield these past four years in the Twins org.

    So, as you can see, even if we focus solely on internal options there’s no shortage of options. Since first base is the bottom position on the defensive spectrum, in reality anybody could be thrown out there.

    This is the first time in a very long time that the Twins (appear to) have an opening at first base. Mauer took the reins from Justin Morneau, who succeeded Doug Mientkiewicz. That’s an impressive run of stability — three guys covering 18 seasons — but my suggestion is to end it here.

    Don’t get me wrong, offensive upgrades are needed, but the front office should simply be focused first on adding a bat. They have enough in-house options and players with defensive flexibility to figure out positioning.

    How should the Twins fill the (potential) first base opening? They shouldn’t feel the need to.



    Here’s a look back at what we’ve covered in these Offseason Primers so far:
    Offseason Primer: Corner Infield Free Agents
    Offseason Primer: Twins Need to Be Prepared to Pivot from Buxton and Sano
    Offseason Primer: Building a Badass Bullpen
    Offseason Primer: Twins Should Stick With Jorge Polanco at Shortstop
    Offseason Primer: Can Minnesota Mimic Milwaukee's Success?
    Offseason Primer: The Core Seven (?)

    If you like what you’ve been reading at the site so far, you’re going to LOVE the handbook. One of the key features included is a full organization depth analysis for not just first base, but every position on the diamond plus the pitching staff. Also included are profile on all the free agent options, a discussion regarding potential trade targets and much more.

    Click here for more on the handbook, a sneak peek at the cover and the list of special guest contributors.

    • Oct 18 2018 07:20 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  13. MIN 9, DET 3: Vive La Tortuga

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Gonsalves: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 56.6% strikes (43 of 76 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (3-for-5, 2B), Austin (2-for-4, 2 2B), Astudillo (2-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Austin .250, Astudillo .189, Magill .129
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: None
    [attachment=12063:WinChart927.png]
    The Twins currently have a better record since the trade deadline (25-27, .481 WP) than they did before they sent away all their “good pieces,” as Ervin Santana put it (49-57, 476 WP).

    Along with Astudillo, Tyler Austin — another guy who’s provided some post-deadline intrigue — also had it going tonight. He was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs.

    Gabriel Moya served as the opener tonight and gave up a run on two hits. Stephen Gonsalves came in for the second inning and walked the first two batters he faced. Both those runners eventually came around to score.

    The Twins strung together a five-run rally in the third inning, as Joe Mauer hit an RBI double, Austin had a two-run double and Astudillo drove in two on a single.

    Despite gaining the lead, Gonsalves didn’t last long. He continued to struggle to hit his spots, walking a total of four batters, and threw only 56.6 percent of his pitches for strikes.

    From there, the bullpen was great. Matt Magill wiggled out of Gonsalves’ jam and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Alan Busenitz was perfect in the seventh, Zack Littell pitched a scoreless eighth and John Curtiss followed suit in the ninth.

    Postgame With Astudillo


    Next Three Games
    Fri vs. CHW, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Reynaldo Lopez
    Fri vs. CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Chase De Jong vs. Lucas Giolito
    Sat vs. CHW, 6:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. Carlos Rodon

    Last Three Games
    MIN 11, DET 4: Bats Bust Out, Bullpen Shuts Out Detroit
    DET 4, MIN 2: Mauer Reaches Milestone, Hildenberger Flops
    MIN 5, OAK 1: Gibby’s Arm, Cave’s Bat and Adrianza’s Glove Lift Twins to Victory

    • Sep 27 2018 09:56 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  14. MIN 11, DET 4: Bats Bust Out, Bullpen Shuts Out Detroit

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 27 Game Score, 3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 54.7% strikes (41 of 75 pitches)
    Home Runs: Field 2 (9), Austin (17)
    Multi-Hit Games: Astudillo (3-for-5), Polanco (2-for-4, 3B, BB), Grossman (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Field (2-for-4, 2 HR), Gimenez (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Duffey .212, Field .200, Austin .163, Grossman .152
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Odorizzi -.320
    [attachment=12062:WinChart926.png]
    This was Odorizzi’s shortest start since June 23 and just the second time all season he failed to at least record an out in the fourth inning. Things got off on the wrong foot right out of the gate, as Odorizzi walked the leadoff man on four pitches then nearly gave up an inside-the-park home run to Christian Stewart. Jorge Polanco made a nice relay throw to nail him at the plate.

    Odorizzi will end the year with a 4.49 ERA, the worst he’s posted over a full season in his career, but he also recorded 162 strikeouts in 164 1/3 innings pitched. That 8.9 K/9 is his highest rate since his rookie year back in 2014.

    Odorizzi gives the Twins three pitchers with 160 punchouts this season, joining Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. Coming into tonight, the only three Twins pitchers who’ve reached that mark since Target Field opened are Ervin Santana (2017), Phil Hughes (2014) and Francisco Liriano (2010).

    The last time the Twins had multiple pitchers reach 160 strikeouts was 1987 (Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven). To find the last time they had at least three pitchers reach that mark was in 1967 when they had four guys accomplish the feat (Dean Chance, Jim Kaat, Dave Boswell and Jim Merritt).

    As soon as Odorizzi exited, this game turned around. The bullpen held down Detroit, and in the meantime, the Twins’ bats heated up. Tyler Duffey earned the win, pitching two no-hit innings. Andrew Vasquez turned in a perfect inning of his own in the sixth and Addison Reed pitched a scoreless seventh before John Curtiss and Matt Belisle each turned in a perfect inning to finish things off.

    Tyler Austin hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Johnny Field hit a solo blast in the second and added a two-run homer in the fourth. Jorge Polanco capped the five-run fifth inning with a bases-clearing triple.

    Next Three Games
    Thu vs. DET, 7:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Francisco Liriano
    Fri vs. CHW, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Reynaldo Lopez
    Fri vs. CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Chase De Jong vs. Lucas Giolito

    Last Three Games
    DET 4, MIN 2: Mauer Reaches Milestone, Hildenberger Flops
    MIN 5, OAK 1: Gibby’s Arm, Cave’s Bat and Adrianza’s Glove Lift Twins to Victory
    OAK 3, MIN 2: Willians Astudillo Collects Three More Hits

    • Sep 26 2018 10:00 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  15. MIN 8, DET 2: Gonsalves Stymies Tigers

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Gonsalves: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 69.2% strikes (54 of 78 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Grossman (3-for-5), Adrianza (3-for-4, 2 2B), Austin (2-for-3, SF), Astudillo (2-for-4, 2B)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Austin .164, Gonsalves .157
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: None
    [attachment=12052:chart.png]
    The Twins used an opener again today, it worked out great, but I still think it’s curious how they’re implementing the strategy.

    Gabriel Moya made his fourth start of the season and Gonsalves served as the primary pitcher. I don’t really get stacking lefties in this case. Why not go with a right-hander in front of Gonsalves? Also, the only dangerous hitter in Detroit’s lineup right now is Nicholas Castellanos, who hit third today. He’s a right-handed hitter who has an .857 career OPS vs. lefties and a .753 mark against same-sided pitchers. Since that’s the guy you’re most worried about beating you, why not open with a right-hander?

    All’s well that ends well, I suppose.

    Moya pitched a scoreless first inning. He hit the No. 2 batter Christin Stewart with a pitch before giving up a single to Castellanos, but then managed to induce an inning-ending double play. The Twins tallied four runs in the top of the second, meaning Gonsalves inherited a 4-0 lead.

    The most impressive part of Gonsalves’ performance, especially considering how things have gone to this point, is how he went right after Detroit hitters. He walked only one batter and threw nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes.

    Gonsalves leaned a little bit more on his fastball, throwing that pitch 64 percent of the time. He averaged 89.9 mph on that pitch, but maxed out at 94. He also went with the curveball a little bit more over his slider today. That’s a fun pitch, a big looping curve that he throws at 73 mph. He got three swinging strikes on the 10 curveballs he threw, and Detroit hitters were able to put that pitch into play only once, and even that had a wimpy exit velocity of 62.8 mph.

    Through three and a half innings, the Twins had already built a 6-0 lead in an impressive display of offensive efficiency. They managed to score those six runs on just six hits and a walk, and even did so without the luxury of a home run.

    Robbie Grossman collected three more hits. He’s 10-for-23 over his last six games (.435 average). Ehire Adrianza also had three hits and living legend Willians Astudillo drove in three runs today. Tyler Austin followed a three-RBI game by driving in two more runs today.

    Addison Reed, pitching for just the fifth time this month, worked a scoreless eighth. The only downer from this one is that Alan Busentiz surrendered two runs in the ninth. Over his last seven appearances, Busenitz has given up 11 earned runs over just 4 1/3 innings pitched. He gave up only 11 earned runs in his 40 innings with Rochester this year.

    Next Three Games
    Thu: Off
    Fri at OAK, 9:05 pm CT: TBD
    Sat at OAK, 8:05 pm CT: TBD
    Sun at OAK, 3:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 5, DET 3: Odorizzi Turns In Another Quality Start
    MIN 6, DET 1: Stewart Impresses, Rosario Exits Due to Injury
    MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep

    • Sep 19 2018 03:41 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  16. MIN 5, DET 3: Odorizzi Turns In Another Quality Start

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 68 Game Score, 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 66.7% strikes (56 of 84 pitches
    Home Runs: Gimenez (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Austin (2-for-4, 2B), Gimenez (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Odorizzi .240, Magill .151
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Sano -.118
    [attachment=12050:WinChart918.png]
    Odorizzi was aggressive tonight, needing just 84 pitches to go 6 1/3 innings. He only walked one batter and struck out six. It’s nice to see him finishing strong.

    Matt Magill took over for Odorizzi with one out and a runner on third in the seventh. He struck out the next two batters, getting swinging strikes on six of the nine pitches he threw that inning. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

    Tyler Austin was back in the lineup after taking a game off to give his back a break after he tumbled over a railing in Kansas City. His presence was much appreciated, as Austin had an RBI single and a two-run double.

    Miguel Sano also returned to the lineup, playing for the first time since injuring himself on a slide Sept. 4. During the telecast, Dick Bremer noted that Sano hadn’t attempted a slide since the injury.

    Huh?

    You’d think it’d be a good idea to have the guy take some practice slides to make sure everything feels OK before throwing him into a game. Nick wrote a piece last night that touched on some of the questionable choices made by the Twins in concern to how they’ve handled injuries. Add this one to the list.

    Anyway, Sano looked terrible at the plate, striking out in all four of his at-bats.

    Trevor Hildenberger gave up a run on two hits in the ninth. He’s having a tough go of things of late, giving up seven earned runs in his last 2 1/3 innings.

    Postgame With Gimenez


    Next Three Games
    Wed at DET, 12:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Spencer Turnbull
    Thu: Off
    Fri at OAK, 9:05 pm CT: TBD
    Sat at OAK, 8:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 6, DET 1: Stewart Impresses, Rosario Exits Due to Injury
    MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep
    KC 10, MIN 3: It’s a Hard Road

    • Sep 18 2018 09:12 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  17. MIN 9, KC 6: Twins Swat Four Homers, Avoid Sweep

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Gibson: 43 Game Score, 6.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 68.1% strikes (64 of 94 pitches)
    Home Runs: Kepler (19), Austin (16), Field (7), Polanco (5)
    Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco (4-for-5, HR), Johnny Field (4-for-5, 2B, HR), Rosario (2-for-4), Forsythe (2-for-5), Gimenez (2-for-5)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Polanco .240, Rogers .136, Field .130, Rosario .117
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Gibson -.151
    [attachment=12046:WinChart916.png]
    Here are all four of the Twins home runs, which came off the bats of Max Kepler, Tyler Austin, Field and Polanco:


    Austin also made a couple of nice defensive plays, including nice grab in foul territory, spilling over the railing and into an empty suite in the process.

    Kyle Gibson tied a season high by giving up 11 hits and five earned runs. This was also just the second time all season that he didn’t walk a batter. Taylor Rogers retired all four of the batters he faced and Trevor Hildenberger gave up a run in the ninth.

    So why the Robbie Grossman picture? It was his 29th birthday today (I also thought it was a pretty sweet pic). To celebrate, Robbie had a single and two walks.

    Next Three Games
    Mon at DET, 6:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Jordan Zimmermann
    Tue at DET, 6:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Daniel Norris
    Wed at DET, 12:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Spencer Turnbull

    Last Three Games
    KC 10, MIN 3: It’s a Hard Road
    KC 8, MIN 4: OH THE HUMANITY!!!
    KC 6, MIN 4: Coming Down is the Hardest Thing

    • Sep 16 2018 03:56 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. HOU 9, Twins 1: The Astros Are Really Good At Baseball

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 29 Game Score, 4.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 K, 4 BB, 55.3% strikes (52 of 94 pitches)
    Home Runs: Astudillo (2)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4), Kepler (2-for-4)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: None
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Odorizzi (-.241)

    Early in the game, things looked OK for the Twins. Jake Odorizzi started out with two scoreless innings. The Twins had their opportunities early against Astros rookie starter Framber Valdez. They had runners in scoring position but were unable to capitalize. Odorizzi then gave up two-run homers to Alex Bregman in the third inning and Evan Gattis in the fourth inning. And from there, the Astros piled on a bit.

    Odorizzi just didn’t throw enough strikes. As much as the goal was to not let Bregman beat them, he had the two-run homer and in the eighth inning, he put the icing on the cake with a bases-clearing double. On a related note, I like cake. I rarely have cake, but I do like it. Sometimes I like just the vanilla cake with vanilla icing. Sometimes, chocolate cake is good, especially with some creamy chocolate icing (most of the time it’s a little too rich for my liking). My favorite might be vanilla (yellow) cake with chocolate frosting. Although strawberry shortcake is also fantastic!

    Back to Jake Odorizzi… in his post game presser, Mike Berardino asked him if he might be interested in being a “Primary” pitcher. Fair to say he doesn’t seem too interested in it.



    Anyway, back to the Twins. Willians Astudillo DHd and hit a home run. He now has two home runs, two strikeouts and zero walks. Yes, his scouting report and minor league track record have been proven pretty accurate through his small-sample-size big league career.



    It was a rough game for Tyler Austin on Wednesday. He started and played first base. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Later in the game, he was chasing a pop up, but he slipped on the warning track near the first base dugout and landed hard. An inning later he was removed from the game for a pinch hitter for precautionary reasons.

    Austin now has 26 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances (33.3%). While that isn’t great, it is worth noting that in his time with the Yankees this year, he struck out 40.1% of his 132 plate appearances (53 Ks). Also of note, he has seven home runs in 78 plate appearances with the Twins. He had eight home runs in 132 plate appearances with the Yankees. Improvements.

    A brief look at the number of pitches thrown by the relievers in Wednesday’s game:
    Andrew Vasquez (8), John Curtiss (24), Oliver Drake (7), Taylor Rogers (6), Matt Belisle (29).



    What else got your talking and asking questions throughout Wednesday’s game?


    Next Three Games
    Thu: Off
    Fri vs. KC, 7:10 pm CT: TBD (meaning, Opener to go with “primary” Stephen Gonsalves)
    Sat vs KC, 6:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios
    Sun vs KC, 1:10 pm CT: TBD (reportedly Zack Littell and Chase De Jong piggybacking)


    Last Three Games
    MIN 10, TEX 7: Tex-plosion!
    HOU 4, MIN 1: Astros Take Advantage of Pivotal Polanco Error
    HOU 5, MIN 2: Rough Opener, Strong Stewart Homecoming

    • Sep 06 2018 04:18 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Berrios: 43 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 0 BB, 63.8% strikes (60 of 94 pitches)
    Home Runs: Austin 2 (14)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-3), Austin (2-for-4, 2 HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Austin .164
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Garver -.119, Grossman -.142, Magill -.185
    [attachment=11983:WinChart826.png]
    Austin has six homers in just 46 plate appearances so far with Minnesota, and 14 total in 178 PAs on the season. That 7.9 HR% would lead the league if he had enough playing time to qualify (Oakland’s Khris Davis is the top dog at 7.5%).

    His first homer was a mammoth blast to center …


    … his second was an oppo taco.

    The only other extra-base hit the Twins had was a double from Mitch Garver. After a stretch of strong offensive performances, the Twins have managed just five runs over their past three games.

    Jose Berrios started today’s game, and had to be checked out by the training staff in the first inning. La MaKina was sitting 90-91 mph in that first inning, but he stayed in the game and appeared to loosen up as things progressed. By the third inning he was consistently hitting 93-94 mph with his four-seam fastball.

    Berrios gave up three runs on eight hits over his five innings of work. He struck out four. Matt Magill,the first man out of the bullpen, gave up three solo homers in an inning. Taylor Rogers (1 2/3 innings) and Trevor Hildenberger (1 1/3 innings) kept things clean from there, but the damage had been done.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11984:Bullpen826.png]
    Next Three Games
    Mon: OFF
    Tue at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. Carlos Carrasco
    Wed at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: Kohl Stewart vs. Adam Plutko
    Thu at CLE, 12:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Mike Clevinger

    Last Three Games
    OAK 6, MIN 2: Gonsalves Gets Burned on Mistake Pitch
    OAK 7, MIN 1: Puckett 2,304, Mauer 2,086, Carew 2,085
    MIN 6, OAK 4: Twins Top Red-Hot A’s

    • Aug 26 2018 08:00 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  20. OAK 6, MIN 2: Gonsalves Gets Burned on Mistake Pitch

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Gonsalves: 32 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 K, 4 BB, 53.3% strikes (48 of 90 pitches)
    Home Runs: Sano (12), Austin (12)
    Multi-Hit Games: Mauer (2-for-5), Austin (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: None
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.106, Gonsalves -.148, Rosario -.186
    [attachment=11980:WinChart825.png]
    Even when things are going well for Gonsalves, he has a tendency to struggle with his control. He’s still been effective, however, because he very rarely makes true mistake pitches. It’s one thing to throw non-competitive pitches out of the zone and another to serve up meatballs over the plate.

    Gonsalves ran into some trouble in the fourth inning, and got further into a jam due to some of those control problems. With two outs and a runner on first, he issued a five-pitch walk to fellow rookie Ramon Laureano, who had only drawn one base on balls in 45 MLB plate appearances coming into tonight.

    A two-out walk, well that’s no big deal as long as you just get the next guy, right?

    Gonsalves left a rare cookie over the heart of the plate on his first pitch to Jonathan Lucroy, who blasted the changeup into the seats for a three-run homer.

    Manager Paul Molitor called it the biggest pitch of the game. "Gonsalves was a little bit better. He had some command issues at times. The changeup that Lucroy hit was obviously a missed spot, and that was probably the biggest swing of the game."

    Pitching coach Garvin Alston had just come out to the mound to discuss Lucroy with Gonsalves and Willians Astudillo. Gonsalves said they knew he would swing at the first pitch. Gonsalves said after the game, "Garvin came out and said ‘Hey, he’s swinging 0-0. So what do you want to throw -- a changeup or a fastball?’ I was locating my changeup pretty well the first couple innings, so I said let’s throw a changeup and hopefully we’d get him to pop out. It was the only changeup that cut on me. Unfortunately, it came back over the plate and caught his barrel."

    Oakland did Gonsalves some favors in that fourth inning, running into two outs on the bases, but you still can’t help but wonder how things may have turned out if he had that one pitch back. As it was, Gonsalves gave up four earned runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings pitched.

    Both of the Twins’ runs tonight came on solo home runs, as Miguel Sano and Tyler Austin both went deep. Sano’s blast had an exit velocity of 113.8 mph.

    Molitor was impressed with the Sano homer. "I didn’t lose that fact that honoring Jim the way we did and then having the mammoth blast from Miggy. It was a good atbat too. He had gotten him out on a 3-1 changeup the first time, and it looked like he had him set up for maybe the fastball after showing him a couple more off-speed pitches in that particular at bat. Yeah, he quick snatched it and it kind of went to a place where not many men can go, as they say."

    The lineup combined to go just 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and struck out 10 times. Eddie Rosario was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and left five men on base. Jake Cave, playing right field tonight, had two outfield assists.

    Out of the bullpen, Alan Busenitz delivered two scoreless innings before Gabriel Moya gave up three runs in his inning of work. Trevor May finished things off with a scoreless eighth that included three strikeouts. Since his return from Tommy John surgery, May has given up three runs in 11 ⅔ innings (2.31 ERA) and has 16 strikeouts against just two walks.

    Before the game, the Twins recognized Jim Thome, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. While Thome only played roughly seven percent of his big league career with Minnesota, tonight’s ceremony was proof that he left quite an impression on Twins Territory.


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11981:Bullpen825.png]
    Next Three Games
    Sun vs. OAK, 1:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Brett Anderson
    Mon: OFF
    Tue at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: TBD
    Wed at CLE, 6:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    OAK 7, MIN 1: Puckett 2,304, Mauer 2,086, Carew 2,085
    MIN 6, OAK 4: Twins Top Red-Hot A’s
    CHW 7, MIN 3: Sox Get to Gibby

    • Aug 25 2018 11:06 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  21. Thrift Shop: 3 Sneaky Finds by the Front Office

    Through two drafts and two deadlines worth of "sell" trades, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have netted a bounty of minor-league talent, supplementing the long-term pipeline. But the front office has also acquired more immediate help through low-key maneuvers

    While these players aren't going to be stars, they could all bring real value for essentially no acquisition cost. Let's take a look at three current contributors of modest origins who may factor for years to come.

    Jake Cave, OF: Acquired in March from NYY for RHP Luis Gil

    The Twins took notice of Cave while scouting the Yankees system during trade discussions at the 2017 deadline. They ended up getting back two pitchers for Jaime Garcia at that time, but later snagged Cave via trade this spring when he landed on waivers.

    Last summer, Cave was amidst a slugging breakout at Triple-A, hitting 15 home runs in 72 games after previously totaling 24 in 568 career contests.

    "He made some adjustments that we thought led to the power surge that he had, and we think those will continue going forward," said Falvey when the Twins acquired Cave in March. So far, that assessment has proven astute.

    The 25-year-old outfielder has launched a dozen home runs, which would've been a career-high before last year's 20. Six of those have come in the majors, including an absolutely majestic blast to straightaway center on Sunday that flashed his raw strength. Cave went to a part of Target Field only three have reached before: Jim Thome, Byungho Park, Miguel Sano.

    Through 164 plate appearances in the big leagues, Cave has tallied 17 extra-base hits with a .480 slugging percentage – awfully impressive for a guy who slugged .398 through four minor-league seasons prior to 2017. As a semi-random comparison, Michael Cuddyer slugged .399 with 14 extra-base hits through his first 164 plate appearances in the majors.

    The MLB sample size remains small, but Cave has looked very capable at the plate and he's also a strong runner – albeit not a burner – with the makings of an asset in the outfield. He's a bit stretched in center, and his rookie season has been marred by some painful defensive blunders, but that'll happen.

    Given what the Twins risked to get Cave – Luis Gil, a 20-year-old righty currently at rookie ball in the Yankees system, and Kennys Vargas, who was DFA'd to make room but ended up back here anyway – the move looks like a slam dunk. Cave probably won't be a full-time starter but he can be a valuable bench piece or platoon mate, and the Twins control him through age 30.

    Tyler Austin, 1B: Acquired in July from NYY along with RHP Luis Rijo for RHP Lance Lynn

    Last offseason, one of Minnesota's top needs was a right-handed masher for the bench, to complement a predominantly left-handed lineup. It went unaddressed, and still existed when the Twins were able to bring Austin aboard in the Lance Lynn trade.

    Scavenging 40-man casualties from one of baseball's best systems is a strategy that's now paid off in the form of multiple instantly productive power hitters. Austin was the odd bat out in a loaded mix for the Yankees, but offers a welcome infusion for Minnesota. Through eight games in the new uniform he already has three homers, a double, and six RBIs.

    With 298 plate appearances under his belt, Austin has a .487 slugging percentage in the majors, and a 1.075 OPS against left-handed pitching. He's solid at first, and can play the outfield corners in a pinch. In others words, he's pretty much exactly what this offense needed – a gem of a find. And all the Twins had to do was expend four months, several groans, and a few million bucks on a non-performing malcontent.

    Oliver Drake, RP: Acquired in August off waivers from TOR

    We're dealing with small samples in all cases here, and Drake's is tinier than either of the above. So the praise here needs to be qualified with that. However... he has looked really, really good.

    On Monday night, Drake ran his hitless streak as a Twin to 8 1/3 innings by tossing two perfect frames with four strikeouts. He has now averaged 10.1 K/9 rate as a big-leaguer – albeit with a 4.67 ERA and 1.48 WHIP – and his Triple-A numbers are immaculate: 1.80 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12.7 K/9.

    Much like lefty bullpen counterpart Gabriel Moya, Drake plays up his unspectacular fastball with a quirky delivery and standout offspeed pitch that give hitters fits. The 31-year-old has pitched for a record five different MLB teams this season, which speaks to his perceived expendability, but in a way, it also speaks to the opposite.

    He's hardly entrenched already as a long-term bullpen cog, but Drake adds another very intriguing arm to the mix going forward. Like Cave and Austin, the Twins can control him very reasonably for a long time if they desire.

    These sort of pickups aren't necessarily the flashiest, but they're crafty, and each could pay immense dividends as affordable components alongside those central building blocks in the sustainable winner Falvey envisions.

    • Aug 21 2018 05:34 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. MIN 5, DET 4: Take a Bow, Joe

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Kyle Gibson: 56 Game Score, 7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 5 K, 3 BB, 65.7% strikes (67 of 102 pitches)
    Home Runs: Rosario (21), Austin (10), Mauer (4)
    Multi-Hit Games: Austin (2-for-4, HR)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Mauer .418, Austin .170, Rogers .146
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: None
    [attachment=11951:WinChart817.png]
    No use in wasting time …


    That was savage. Joe worked a 2-0 count, was the victim of a terrible called strike on the third pitch, took another ball to go up 3-1 before another questionable strike call loaded up the count. Louis Coleman would have been wise to throw another pitch outside of the zone, instead he gave Mauer something to hit and he did not miss. Here’s a look at that plate appearance via Baseball Savant:
    [attachment=11952:MauerPA.png]
    This dramatic homer created a special moment at Target Field, as the Twins Territory faithful gave Mauer a curtain call. Will he be back next year? Even Joe himself isn’t thinking that far ahead. For all we know, this is going to be it. Soak it up while you still can.

    The Twins really flexed their muscles tonight, as all five of their runs came via the long ball. Eddie Rosario got the Twins on the board with a solo shot in the sixth before Tyler Austin hit an epic solo homer of his own in the seventh. Austin also broke up Matthew Boyd’s no-hit bid with a single in the fifth inning.

    Kyle Gibson induced four ground ball double plays in the first five innings of this game and ended up holding the Tigers to three runs over seven innings. Gabriel Moya pitched a perfect eighth before Matt Magill came in for his first save chance.

    Are we sure Fernando Rodney’s nickname was fair? I mean every save opportunity is an experience, isn’t it?

    Anyway, Magill gave up a leadoff double to Victor Martinez, retired the next two batters but then gave up an RBI single. Magill walked the next batter to end a 13-pitch battle. That was enough to knock out Magill.

    Taylor Rogers entered with runners on first and second, two outs and the Twins clinging to a two-run lead. He induced a grounder to Miguel Sano that gave the Twins the victory and Rogers his first save in the 181st game of his career.

    Postgame With Mauer

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11953:Bullpen817.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 70-51
    MIN 58-63 (-12)
    DET 50-73 (-21)
    CHW 44-76 (-25.5)
    KC 37-84 (-33)
    Next Three Games
    Sat vs. DET, 6:10 pm CT: Kohl Stewart vs. Ryan Carpenter
    Sun vs. DET, 1:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Blaine Hardy
    Mon vs. CHW, 7:10 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 15, DET 8: Five Hits for Forsythe in Busy Night on the Bases
    MIN 6, PIT 4: New-Look Bullpen Boosts Twins Over Buccos
    MIN 5, PIT 2: Odorizzi, Polanco Spark Comeback

    • Aug 17 2018 10:55 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  23. Week in Review: Stumbling and Grumbling

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/6 through Sun, 8/12

    ***

    Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 54-63)

    Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -33)

    Standing: 2nd Place in AL Central (12.0 GB)


    HIGHLIGHTS

    After going 3-for-28 through eight August games, dropping his average to .186, Logan Morrison finally succumbed to a hip impingement that's been bothering him for much of the season. He's set to undergo surgery that'll knock him out for the rest of the year.

    This is good news for a couple of reasons. We finally have some clarity around the root causes in a hugely disappointing season for Morrison, who can hopefully rehab and get his career back on track. Meanwhile, the Twins can now give his at-bats to others more likely to figure into their future plans.

    One such player is Tyler Austin, who's been called up to fill Morrison's roster spot and role. Making his Twins debut on Saturday, the Austin launched a two-run bomb against old friend Francisco Liriano.

    The thunderous smash plated Miguel Sano, whose encouraging week included his first home run since being recalled and four walks. Yeah, he's still striking out a ton, but that's just okay when he's notching hits and coaxing walks at respectable clips.

    LOWLIGHTS

    Look. I get that, to some extent, expressing dismay over a deadline talent dump is part of being a leader. We saw it from Brian Dozier last year and now we're seeing it from Ervin Santana.

    "We’re not giving up, but they did," Santana lamented of the Twins front office after Friday night's loss, on the heels of Fernando Rodney being dealt to Oakland.

    I'm sure he's channeling the mood in the clubhouse, and in essence, that's fine – you want your players to be fired up at times like this. I'd be disappointed if they weren't ticked off.

    But Santana is striking all the wrong notes, with this entirely unwarranted bitterness toward a baseball ops department that's only doing its job. For the right-hander to be proclaiming his team is "only 10 games out" in mid-August seems almost comically oblivious. They have the largest deficit for any second-place team in baseball, in the worst division.

    And the Twins have reached this point largely because of lifeless, underwhelming efforts like the one put forth in Friday's series-opening loss to Detroit. While it's convenient for Santana to insinuate that this lackluster showing against one of the AL's worst teams was due to shell-shock, or the absence of key pieces, we saw too many such performances in the first four months for that notion to hold water.

    I don't blame Santana for getting hurt, nor do I hold it against him, but the fact remains: he wasn't here for those first four months. And now that he's back, he looks terrible. He gave up five runs against an abysmal offense on Friday and hasn't contributed one quality start since returning. In four turns he has surrendered six home runs with an almost impossibly low 4.2% swinging strike rate. Out of 451 MLB pitchers to throw 20+ innings this season, his mark ranks dead-last.

    The Twins would surely love to dump Santana's remaining salary, and $1 million option buyout, and generally counterproductive attitude. But his play has turned even a modest return like Rodney's into wishful thinking. No one's going to give up so much as a Dakota Chalmers type lotto ticket on the hope that Santana suddenly finds his stuff as he approaches 36. The veteran's got nothing right now.

    And so he, like many others on the roster, slogs forth through these final weeks. Frankly if anyone has grounds for complaining, it's the potential future contributors being held back by the presence of Santana's depleted arm on the roster.

    The same night Erv was getting knocked around by Detroit, Stephen Gonsalves was delivering another quality start in Rochester with nine strikeouts over six innings. He has a 3.15 ERA in Triple-A but remains unable to crack the Minnesota rotation. Fernando Romero looked better at his worst than Santana has it his best this year, but continues to compile innings in the minors.

    At least Kohl Stewart got his chance on Sunday, starting against the Tigers and looking more or less as advertised. The 23-year-old former top draft pick flashed mid-90s heat on a fastball with good movement, but allowed tons of contact with only two swinging strikes on 74 pitches. He finessed enough grounders to make it work through four frames, but things fell apart in the fifth as Detroit strung together four straight hits and a walk to break through and knock him out of the game.

    On merit, Stewart certainly doesn't deserve to be promoted ahead of Romero or Gonsalves, but I suppose the Twins have a more urgent need to give him a look, given his status as a fringe 40-man roster hold this offseason. Presumably we'll see more of him going forward. Personally, I'd be curious to see if the pitches play up in relief at all.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    With Rodney shipped out, the Twins can use these final weeks to evaluate internal closer options for 2019. Unfortunately, no one's exactly rising as a prime candidate.

    Ryan Pressly would've likely been first in line, but of course, he's gone. Trevor Hildenberger got the call on Saturday night and almost blew a three-run lead, coughing up a two-run homer and putting the tying run on base before closing out the win. The ugly outing extended a very poor stretch for Hildenberger, who hasn't looked like himself for weeks. Since the All-Star break, he has allowed 19 hits and five home runs in 11 innings of work. He had previously surrendered nine total homers in 88 MLB innings.

    A natural choice for the closer nod would be Addison Reed, if he were throwing well at all. He's not. It doesn't appear his three-week stint on the DL did much to repair his arm, which continues to produce jarringly low velocity readings. The stuff just isn't there for Reed, who has induced only one swinging strike on 39 pitches in three appearances since returning from the shelf.

    Who else might get a look in the ninth inning? Gabriel Moya? Taylor Rogers? Matt Magill?

    One reliever I'd like to see get a few chances is Tyler Duffey, who was a very successful collegiate closer at Rice. He was recalled alongside Austin last week after posting a 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in Triple-A.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    The ascent of Astros shortstop Carlos Correa was about as smooth and optimal as one could hope for from a No. 1 overall pick out of high school. He cruised through the minors, developed into an elite prospect by the end of his first full pro season, and reached the majors at age 20, becoming an instant superstar and Rookie of the Year.

    The pace that Royce Lewis is currently on makes Correa's look decidedly sluggish. The shortstop is crushing High-A and hurtling toward a 2019 Twins debut.

    He and Alex Kirilloff have taken the Florida State League by storm. Among players with 100 PA in the league, they rank seventh and eighth in OPS; at 19 and 20 they are the youngest members of the Top 25.

    Kirilloff snapped a 13-game hitting streak when he went 0-for-2 on the final day of July, but now has another going, pushed to 10 last week as he tallied at least one knock in each game. Among FSL players with 150+ PA, he has the highest average and the seventh-lowest walk rate. Kirilloff swings at everything and hits everything.

    On Saturday, Michael Pineda made his first rehab start at Fort Myers, and he looked excellent, tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks. The big righty induced seven swinging strikes on 33 pitches and reportedly touched 95 MPH. All signs are positive as he works his way back from 2017 Tommy John surgery.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    The Twins will get a look at Chris Archer in his new Pirates uniform on Wednesday. He hasn't looked great since coming over from Tampa at the deadline. On Saturday, the Tigers will get another look at Stewart as the 23-year-old makes his Target Field debut.

    TUESDAY, 8/14: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Jameson Taillon v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    WEDNESDAY, 8/15: PIRATES @ TWINS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Jose Berrios
    THURSDAY, 8/16: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Francisco Liriano v. RHP Ervin Santana
    FRIDAY, 8/17: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Matthew Boyd v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    SATURDAY, 8/18: TIGERS @ TWINS – Undecided v. RHP Kohl Stewart
    SUNDAY, 8/19: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Blaine Hardy v. RHP Jake Odorizzi

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Aug 12 2018 07:55 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  24. MIN 4, DET 3: Austin Homers, Hildy Survives Save Chance

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Kyle Gibson: 65 Game Score, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 67.6% strikes (75 of 111 pitches)
    Home Runs: Tyler Austin (9)
    Multi-Hit Games: Joe Mauer (2-for-4, BB), Logan Forsythe (2-for-5), Miguel Sano (2-for-4, BB)
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Gibson .302, Austin .179
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Polanco -.124
    [attachment=11930:WinChart811.png]
    Austin’s homer was his ninth of the season in the majors, matching his season total in the minors. He now has 16 home runs in 86 MLB games. We also saw Austin’s contact issues on display, as he also struck out swinging twice, but the power is most definitely legit.

    Kyle Gibson did a great job of staying aggressive tonight. He didn’t have his nastiest stuff going, but he threw a ton of strikes en route to holding Detroit to one run over seven innings pitched. Trevor May pitched a perfect eighth inning, but then things got a little too interesting.

    The Twins led 4-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, creating the first save opportunity of the new-look bullpen. Despite his recent struggles, Trevor Hildenberger got the call.

    It was an experience.

    The inning opened with an eight-pitch walk to Victor Martinez, then Niko Goodrum hit a two-run homer. Jim Adduci singled, prompting a mound visit. Hildenberger responded by striking out James McCann, getting Victor Reyes to fly out and then striking out JaCoby Jones to pick up his second career save.

    Oh, and this happened:


    Postgame With Austin

    Update: In his postgame interview, Paul Molitor revealed that the move to add Kohl Stewart will not only be Logan Morrison headed to the DL, but LoMo will be having surgery on his hip and will miss the rest of the season.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11932:Bullpen811.png]
    AL Central Standings
    CLE 64-51
    MIN 54-62 (-10.5)
    DET 48-69 (-17)
    CHW 42-73 (-22)
    KC 35-80 (-29)

    Next Three Game
    Sun at DET, 12:10 pm CT: Kohl Stewart vs. Matt Boyd
    Mon: Off
    Tue vs. PIT, 7:10 pm CT: Jake Odorizzi vs. Jameson Taillon
    Wed vs. PIT, 12:10 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Chris Archer

    Last Three Games
    DET 5, MIN 3: Is There Anything Left?
    CLE 5, MIN 4: Walks and a Walk-Off
    CLE 5, MIN 2: Cleveland Prevails on Lindor Walk-Off Homer

    • Aug 11 2018 08:55 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  25. Twins Minor League Report (8/9): Stephen Gonsalves Strikes Out Nine

    RED WINGS REPORT
    Toledo 3 @ Rochester 14
    Box Score

    The Red Wings scored four in the first, three in the second, and four more in the third, racing off to a 11-1 lead, and then put a few more runs on the board over the next several innings to win the game 14-3. As a team the Red wings had just 11 hits but FIVE of them were home runs. The Red Wings were led by a 3-for-5 night from Tyler Austin. Austin had a triple, a home run, three RBIs, and three runs scored. Taylor Motter, Kennys Vargas, Jon Kemmer and Jeremy Hazelbaker also added long balls of their own. Nick Gordon continues his rough stretch, going 0-for-3 with a pair of walks.

    On the bump, Stephen Gonsalves went 6.0 innings, gave up just three hits and three walks, striking out nine. He gave up three runs, all earned, and picked up his eighth victory of the year. Jake Reed pitched 2.0 hitless innings, keeping the Mud Hens off of the board and striking out four of the seven batters he faced. Ryne Harper pitched the ninth, he gave up one hit, no runs, and struck out a batter.

    CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
    Jackson 2 @ Chattanooga 1
    Box Score

    Down 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning the Lookouts pushed one run across on a Mitchell Kranson double and left the tying run on second base. The Lookouts managed just five hits, two of them doubles, one each from Mitchell Kranson (1-for-4) and Brian Navarreto (1-for-4). Overall the Lookouts were pretty well shut down by Jackson starter Taylor Widener who struck out nine batters and didn’t walk anyone. Lookouts pitching wasn’t bad, giving up just a pair of runs, one each from Tyler Wells (6.0 IP) and one from Ryan Eades (2.0 IP). Devin Smeltzer pitched the ninth, keeping the game within reach with a scoreless frame.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Fort Myers 4 @ Florida 3
    Box Score

    Fort Myers needed a run in the top of the ninth inning to keep the game alive, down 2-3. Caleb Hamilton singled to start the inning, was pinch-run for by Aaron Whitefield, who took second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and advanced to third on a wild pitch before eventually scoring on a Royce Lewis triple to tie the game and send things to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, with Taylor Grzlelakowski as the free runner on second base to start the frame, Jose Miranda was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Alex Kirilloff gounded into a double play but Grzlelakowski advanced to third base and eventually scored on a wild pitch, enough to give the Lookouts the win after Ryan Mason kept Florida off the board in the bottom of the frame.

    Royce Lewis was 3-for-4, including that game-tying triple, with an RBI, a run scored, a walk, a stolen base and a strikeout. Jose Miranda had a 2-for-4 night and Travis Blankenhorn was 2-for-4 with a double. Brusdar Graterol went 5 2/3 innings and left with a no-decision, giving up two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four. Anthony Marzi turned in 2 1/3 innings giving up a run on one hit, and Ryan Mason picked up a victory with two innings of scoreless baseball.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 9 @ Clinton 4
    Box Score

    Cedar Rapids used a five-run fifth inning to put Thursday night’s game away. Michael Helmen was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a double. Ben Rodriguez was 2-5 with a run scored, a double, two RBIs and two Ks. Lastly, Jacob Pearson was 2-4 with two runs scored, a double, a walk and a strikeout, capping off the list of Kernels with multiple hits. Ryan Jeffers’ only hit was a solo home run.

    The Kernels starter Randy Dobnak went 6.0 innings, gave up six hits, three runs, a walk and five strikeouts. He earned a win to move to 8-4 on the year. Derek Molin earned his first save of the year with 3.0 innings of one-run baseball. He gave up two hits and struck out five.

    ELIZABETHTON TWINS TALK
    Bluefield 0 @ Elizabethton 3
    Box Score
    Elizabethton pitched a four-hit shutout on Thursday night with Andrew Cabezas kicking things off with 6.0 innings of two-hit baseball. He walked two and struck out four. Jacob Blank earned a hold for his 2.0 scoreless innings and Jach Neff closed off the game with a scoreless ninth.

    The Twins picked up just four hits, but Ricky De La Torre had half of them, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. The other Twins run came from a solo home run from Colton Burns, part of a 1-for-1 night that included the home run, two runs scored, and two walks.

    GCL TWINS TAKES
    GCL Twins 5 @ GCL Rays 2
    Box Score
    The GCL Twins rode a strong start from Kai-Wei Teng to a 5-2 victory on Thursday afternoon. Teng pitched 5 2/3 innings, gave up a pair of runs and stuck out nine batters while walking none. Frandy Torres went 1 1/3 innings, gave up no hits, walked one and struck out a pair. Erik Cha earned his second save of the year, this one the six-out version, with 2.0 innings of scoreless pitching. He gave up a hit, a walk, and struck out four.

    The Twins spread their seven hits around and just Austin Hale (2-for-4) had more than one. All five runs came from the bottom of the Twins order with Alberoni Nunez, Austin Hale, Charles Mack and Samuel Vasquez accounting for all of the runs scored from the 6-7-8-9 spots. Charles Mack was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and a pair of walks.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Stephen Gonsalves, Rochester Red Wings
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Tyler Austin, Rochester Red Wings

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

    FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester (6:05pm) – Kohl Stewart (0-3, 3.98)
    Chattanooga (6:15pm) – Dietrich Enns (1-5, 5.45)
    Fort Myers (5:31pm) – Andro Cutura (3-6, 4.44)
    Cedar Rapids (6:30pm) – Blayne Enlow (2-4, 3.65)
    Elizabethton (6:00pm) - TBD

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Thursday's games.

    • Aug 09 2018 09:25 PM
    • by Eric R Pleiss