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  1. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #1 SS Royce Lewis

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

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


    What’s To Like
    A lot.

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



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

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



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


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




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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Today, 11:36 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  2. 2 Biggest Questions About Byron Buxton in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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



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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill Smith Era
    2008-2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Trevor May

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

    Eddie Rosario

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

    Miguel Sano

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

    Byron Buxton

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



    Taylor Rogers

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

    Tyler Duffey

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



    Jose Berrios

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



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


    Feel free to discuss.

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

    First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:

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

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

    10. Luis Arraez, 2B
    2019 Ranking: NR

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

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

    9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    2019 Ranking: 4

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

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

    8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

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

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

    7. Byron Buxton, OF
    2019 Ranking: 3

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

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

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

    6. Mitch Garver, C
    2019 Ranking: 11

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

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

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

    RECAPPING THE RANKINGS SO FAR:

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

    Check back in tomorrow for Part 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Non 40-man options: Tomas Telis, Juan Graterol

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Designated Hitter (1) - Nelson Cruz

    I feel pretty comfortable with this one.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    $100 million and $150 million will be spent

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

    Major award drought comes to an end

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

    Playing for it all sounds fun

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

    Prospect breakout finally comes through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

    ~~~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Twins receive: Noah Syndergaard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Dec 16 2019 02:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  13. Wish List: Circa 2012 and 2020 (Kevin Gausman)

    LOOKING BACK

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

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

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

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

    Why?

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

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

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


    His Career To Date

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

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

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

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


    The "Stuff"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    And Now...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What do you think?


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    • Dec 04 2019 08:29 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  14. Twins Offseason Trade Target: Matt Chapman

    What would it take to get Chapman?
    Chapman was an All-Star in 2019 while hitting 36 home runs and 36 doubles with an .848 OPS. He won his second Gold Glove Award at third base and it might not have been close. Chapman is in a close conversation with Nolan Arenado as the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball and Chapman could be in the discussion as one of the league’s best overall defenders.

    Minnesota also has one of the league’s best defenders, but he has been injured over the last couple seasons. Byron Buxton won the Platinum Glove back in 2017, but injuries have kept him off the field over parts of the last two seasons. Could the giant Oakland outfield be a better home for the budding superstar? He has more service time than Chapman and he can be a free agent in 2023.

    Chapman is nearly a year older than Buxton, but they have nearly the same amount of games played at the big-league level thanks to Buxton’s DL stints. Chapman might fit with the Twins, but it will take more than Buxton to land Chapman in a Twins uniform. Minnesota would likely need to add a prospect or two to the equation to get Oakland to consider a deal.

    Minnesota’s Line-Up Ramifications
    Adding Chapman to the line-up would mean Miguel Sano would no longer be needed at third base. This would allow the Twins to shift him to first base and designated hitter on a more permanent rotation. Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez would continue to get at-bats at those positions next season, but this would allow for some positional depth at all those spots, especially since none of those players played a full-season last year.

    If Buxton was out of the equation, Max Kepler would continue to play center field during the 2020 campaign. Then in 2021, Royce Lewis would be given the opportunity to play there and Kepler could slide back to a corner outfield role. Lewis’ defensive future has been in question over the last couple offseasons and this year’s Arizona Fall League only brought that more to the forefront.

    One of Minnesota’s biggest defensive weaknesses this offseason might be third base. Adding Chapman would take away from an area of strength and add to an area of weakness. The cost of adding Chapman might be steep, but the Twins would have him for multiple years with the opportunity to offer him an extension.

    What do you think Chapman would be worth in a trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Dec 02 2019 07:30 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  15. Who Could the Twins Trade this Offseason?

    Outfielders
    While Twins Daily has had plenty of Rosario trade discussion, MLB.com even identified him as a potential trade candidate. Minnesota’s other outfielders, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton, could be in play. Kepler is coming off a career-best season and the Twins signed him to a team-friendly contract last season. Could this make him more susceptible to a trade this year? It seems more likely for the Twins to allow him to continue to develop at the top of their line-up.

    Byron Buxton seemed to be on track for the best season of his career before being injured last season. He has been the league’s best defensive player and he showed some offensive promise last season before being sidelined for the year. Another organization could see some higher value in him and this might allow a trade to occur.

    Infielders
    Miguel Sano struggled through parts of the last two seasons, but he certainly ended last season in a flurry. In the second half of 2019, he posted a .939 OPS with 21 home runs and 55 RBI in 65 games played. He seemed to hit some of the team's biggest home runs as the team went on to win division title. Sano certainly isn’t perfect, but other teams might see significant value in him.

    As a 25-year old, Jorge Polanco was one of the American League’s most valuable players. He was named the AL’s starting shortstop and finished the year with a .356 OBP and an .841 OPS. Like Kepler, the Twins signed him to a team friendly deal prior to last season. This might make him more valuable next season, but the eventual appearance of top prospect Royce Lewis could make him expendable.

    Prospects
    The Twins will have few pitchers available to trade so the organization might have to dip into the minor leagues to find other options on the trading market. Fans wanted the organization to trade for more starting pitching at the trade deadline and this would likely have meant including top prospects Royce Lewis and/or Alex Kirilloff. Both players had up and down 2019 seasons, so their value might not be at the highest point.

    Top pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol and Jordan Balazovic seem more valuable to the Twins than to other teams. Minnesota needs to fill holes in their rotation and both of these players could offer long-term solutions to the team’s pitching woes. Digging deeper into the minors for pitchers like Jhoan Duran, Lewis Thorpe, and Blayne Enlow would probably produce little in trade value.

    Who do you think the Twins could trade this off-season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 18 2019 12:13 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  16. Stealing Bases Isn’t Minnesota Nice – Will That Change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    • Nov 08 2019 07:28 PM
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  17. Exploring Five Twins Extension Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    C: Joe Mauer (2010-18)

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

    Honorable Mention: Mitch Garver

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

    Honorable Mention: Joe Mauer

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

    Honorable mention: Luis Arraez

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

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Escobar

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

    Honorable mention: Trevor Plouffe

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

    Honorable mention: Josh Willingham

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

    Honorable mention: Denard Span

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

    Honorable mention: Michael Cuddyer

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

    Honorable mention: Jim Thome

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

    Honorable mention: Eduardo Núñez

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

    Honorable mention: Kyle Gibson, Ervin Santana

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

    Honorable mention: Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly

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

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    • Nov 03 2019 07:24 AM
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  19. Kris Bryant Decision Could Have Ramifications for Twins and Byron Buxton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Click here for Part 1 of this series.

    Building the Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Young Core

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

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

    • Oct 17 2019 05:36 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  23. 4 Crucial Lessons to Take Away from the 2019 Minnesota Twins Season

    1. The position player core is solid

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

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

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

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

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

    2. A flexible bullpen is a good bullpen

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

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

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

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

    3. The starting rotation is never complete

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

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

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

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

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

    4. Clubhouse chemistry is crucial

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




    New To September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Byron Buxton Returns

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

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


    Marwin to the Outfield

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

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


    Scouting Presence

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

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

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


    The Voice of the Red Wings

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


    Happy Birthday Audra!

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

    • Sep 20 2019 07:20 PM
    • by Seth Stohs