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Article: To Play Or Not To Play

max kepler ryan orourke jorge polanco taylor rogers
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 07:53 AM

We learned yesterday that the Minnesota Twins were going to be calling up infielder Jorge Polanco. Most likely, he will be taking Trevor Plouffe's spot on the roster as he heads to the disabled list with his intercostal strain.

Polanco will likely be the Twins backup at all three infield positions until Plouffe is able to return.

It brings up an interesting topic that we have seen a few times already this season. When should a prospect be called up to sit?When Danny Santana went on the disabled list, the Twins summoned outfielder Max Kepler from Rochester. He had played in just three Red Wings games before his promotion. In the eight days that he has been with the Twins, he has made one start and has just seven plate appearances and is 0-5 with two walks. His one start came against left-hander Carlos Rodon. Otherwise, he has been a late-inning defensive replacement.

To be fair, that is exactly what manager Paul Molitor said he would be. It is understandable too because the team came out of the gates with their outfield set with Eddie Rosario in left field, Byron Buxton in center field and Miguel Sano in right field. There is no way that any manager would want to make changes to that after just one week or struggles, and he shouldn't. Those guys all deserve the opportunity to break out. Unfortunately, that meant that Kepler sat the pine.

About a week ago, when the Twins put Glen Perkins on the disabled list, they promoted Taylor Rogers. In the six days since he has been up, he has faced two batters and got them both out. He has warmed up at least three or four times.

Again, it's understandable. Rogers was not brought in to replace Perkins as the team's closer. Instead, he comes up at the bottom of the totem pole and there weren't a bunch of opportunities to get him in the game.

When Fernando Abad was placed on the bereavement list, the Twins promoted Ryan O'Rourke. Now that Abad has been reinstated, O''Rourke stayed and Taylor Rogers was sent back to Rochester.

Why? Molitor knows O'Rourke. He knows what he can do against left-handers, even in the big leagues. In the one game he pitched, he got the one left-hander that he was brought in to get, on one pitch. It was a tight, late-inning situation and Molitor went to O'Rourke, not Rogers.

And now Jorge Polanco comes up and likely takes Trevor Plouffe's roster spot. Brian Dozier will play second. Eduardo Nunez will play third. Eduardo Escobar will play shortstop. Polanco may get a start or two over the next two weeks. He may even pinch hit once or twice. Unlikely Kepler, Polanco is not someone who will be brought in as a defensive replacement.

Again, the move is completely justifiable. Assuming Danny Santana is back by the end of the week, Polanco or Kepler can go down at that time. Santana, being out of options, is OK as a role player, a guy who may get two or three starts a week.

With another move likely coming in three or four days, it doesn't make sense to add someone to the 40-man roster and potentially lose someone else. It's why it was justifiable when Polanco was called up a couple of times each of the last two years, but just for a day or two. It's why calling up Kepler made more sense than adding Darin Mastroianni to the 40-man roster.

But when it comes to high-upside talent like Kepler and Polanco (and Buxton too), they need to play. They need every day reps. Sure, they'd love to soak up the service time in the big leagues, and the checks are much larger, but when you're counting on guys to be a big part of the future, it's much better for them to be playing, even if that means AAA instead of MLB.

In the 8 days that Kepler has been in MLB, he has seven plate appearances and maybe 14-15 innings in the outfield. In AAA during that same time, he would be hitting third, playing three outfield positions and likely have between 32 and 37 plate appearances while playing 65-75 innings in the field. Which is better for the player?

The same thing with Polanco. For every day that he's sitting the pine with the Twins, he is potentially losing nine innings in the field and four or five plate appearances. That accumulates.

For Rogers, the path is a little less certain, but there is absolutely a sense that he will be part of the Twins long-term plan. With the Red Wings, he would likely have pitched three times in a week, maybe accumulating five innings or so. That's a lot of situational pitching, and it's more learning how to work out of the bullpen.

With O'Rourke, he too can be part of the Twins future. The team and the manager know what he can and can't do. To this point, he can be a very good situational left-hander, and the work he did in the offseason and the spring to add a pitch to make himself more competitive against right-handers may play out positively.

But O'Rourke knows the bullpen. He is a little older and he understands and appreciates the role he will have. Rogers certainly appreciates the opportunity he was given this week, but many think that he can be a really good one or two inning type, and the fact that he hasn't really pitched out of the bullpen, he can develop and learn more by pitching.

It's a tough thing. I mean, as fans, we've been waiting for young players to get opportunities, so it's fun to see them on the roster. But at the same time, it's best for the player's development to play.

I'd like to say that it is best for the team long-term to have those guys playing every day in AAA to help them become better players.

Where there can be debate is what is better in the short-term. Despite the 0-9 start, the Twins went into the season with playoff plans and aspirations. In doing so, the short-term matters too. Having Max Kepler or Jorge Polanco on the bench likely means that if someone is getting an off day, the Twins can start one of them and have a quality player in the game.

At the same time, it can take a lot of years and maturity for a player to understand being a role player. Eduardo Nunez is a good example. He came up as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the Yankees shortstop. Instead, Jeter kept playing and playing, and Nunez became more of a role player. He struggled in that. However, in 2015, he was clearly comfortable with the role. He could play once or twice a week and when he played, he would be able to contribute. We're seeing that again this year.

So, to play or not to play, that certainly is the question when it comes to prospects and calling them up. What is best for the player? What is best for the Twins? What is best short-term, and what is best long-term? How will a guy adjust to playing just a small role with limited playing time? And of course, how does the 40-man roster construction affect it all?

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Those questions, and likely more, come into play with each and every decision.

So, with each player and pitcher, this kind of thought needs to be given. I'm going to quickly go through the exercise of guessing who will be called up if each player is injured. For this, we are going to assume that the player will be injured and on the DL for more than the 15 days.

Player Hurt - Player Likely Called up

Kurt Suzuki - John Hicks

John Ryan Murphy - John Hicks

Joe Mauer - Kennys Vargas

Byung Ho Park - Kennys Vargas

Brian Dozier - Jorge Polanco

Eduardo Escobar - Jorge Polanco (extended time, Wilfredo Tovar)

Trevor Plouffe - Jorge Polanco

Eduardo Nunez - could be Polanco, but if extended, could go to James Beresford

Eddie Rosario - Max Kepler

Byron Buxton - Max Kepler

Miguel Sano - Max Kepler

Danny Santana - Max Kepler, but if extended, probably Mastroianni

Oswaldo Arcia - Max Kepler

Starting Pitchers: Tyler Duffey (Jose Berrios may enter this picture in a month)
RH RP: JR Graham (though if Brandon Kintzler has an opt-out, that is possible). Alex Meyer is making himself an option right now too, though if he continues to succeed as a starter, they may want to keep him doing that.

LH RP: Taylor Rogers.

What do you think?

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#2 DJL44

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 08:09 AM

Joe Mauer - Max Kepler

Byung Ho Park - Max Kepler

 

I think they'd like to find a way to add David Murphy so they can keep Kepler in AAA but right now he's at the top of the list.

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#3 mumoo13

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 08:28 AM

The way Arcia has been playing, Rosario could be added to the list of players who would get significantly more playing time in AAA.

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#4 Vanimal46

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 08:53 AM

Why do you believe if Escobar or Nunez spends extended time on the DL that they'd defer to Tovar or Beresford? Wouldn't that be the best case scenario to give Polanco a real look with every day player at-bats?

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#5 SD Buhr

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 08:56 AM

This is a very different question this year than in others, at least for now. While there are still hopes of contending, you put the 25 guys you think give you the best chance of winning in the Twins clubhouse. If that means Kepler & Polanco get fewer ABs for awhile, so be it. Those guys will see plenty of pitches by the end of the season, at some level.
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#6 Shane Wahl

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:08 AM

I like the Twins having a full roster of legitimate players who have futures. I do think that Kepler probably benefits more from AAA time in this scenario, but it isn't ruinous. Buxton or Rosario going back down would be bad. There are just times where it all has to come together in MLB.

The minors involves hand-holding, ultimately (overall . . . of course there are times, especially at AA where this not true), and at certain point learning in the majors, even with reduced playing time, is more beneficial.


#7 beckmt

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:12 AM

​I expect Polanco to be the defensive replacement to Nunez at third.Nunez will start now because he is hitting well, but is more of a 2 - 4 days a week role player.I expect Polanco to play 5 days a week, because if he does well, it gives the Twins many more options(including trading Dozier if the right offer comes along).I guess it may be 50 - 50 if he sticks this time and maybe forces TR to make a trade. 

I also expect that Rosario may head to Rochester for a month or two if he does not start hitting and maybe Kepler gets his chance


#8 kab21

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:16 AM

I think it is fine to call a top prospect up for 2-3 weeks and be a bench player.  There is a lot to absorb by just being around the MLB team.  More than a month and the player needs reps.

 

I think we will see Polanco play 2-3 times/wk.  I can see the Twins getting Nunez 1-2 days off and possibly a day off for Dozier or Escobar.

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#9 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:16 AM

I have no problems calling up a young player for a week or two to ride the bench... But if it's going to extend toward a month or more, then another option should be explored (if possible).

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#10 Seth Stohs

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:29 AM

 

The way Arcia has been playing, Rosario could be added to the list of players who would get significantly more playing time in AAA.

 

Certainly possible. We often forget how young Arcia is. 


#11 KGB

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:39 AM

This is why they sign a players like Murphy and Nunez.  They can be a bench players/veterans who don't need to play everyday and still contribute.You don't want your young players having to be bench players at the majors when they can be playing in the minors.

 

But with options running out and players ready to contribute at the majors, they will soon have to make decisions on which players they want to keep long term.

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#12 Seth Stohs

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 09:40 AM

 

​I expect Polanco to be the defensive replacement to Nunez at third.Nunez will start now because he is hitting well, but is more of a 2 - 4 days a week role player.I expect Polanco to play 5 days a week, because if he does well, it gives the Twins many more options(including trading Dozier if the right offer comes along).I guess it may be 50 - 50 if he sticks this time and maybe forces TR to make a trade. 

I also expect that Rosario may head to Rochester for a month or two if he does not start hitting and maybe Kepler gets his chance

 

Polanco as a defensive replacement at 3B? He's barely played 3B. Molitor commented this morning that they see Polanco more on the other side of second base. Nunez is pretty good at 3B. 

 

I would have no problem with Kepler and Polanco being up if they would play even three games a week. But, Kepler has made one start in now 9 games. That's doing him no good. We'll see what happens with Polanco. 

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#13 jimbo92107

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 10:01 AM

I sure didn't think so out of spring training, but Rosario could use a month in AAA. Instead of becoming smarter at the plate, he's swinging at everything, handing easy outs to pitchers. Maybe the pressure of MLB has gotten to him. I still think he's _destined_ to be one of the best players on the Twins, but at the moment he's in a batting funk, and you can see on his face that he's not happy. 

 

As for bringing up AAA guys to sit, I'm not so down on that. The experience of being in the dugout during games provides a lot of positive motivation for the new guys. It's an affirmation that the organization sees them as a serious prospect, and they get to see up close how professionals go about the business of competing at the highest level. Who knows what little things Kepler, ,O'Rourke, Rogers and Polanco are learning from watching the big leaguers. 

 

I hope they all get a good look at Oswaldo Arcia. First came up as a macho, swaggering home run or nothing hitter who showed little interest in fielding. Almost lost his opportunity in the bigs. Then last winter, Arcia changed his attitude and started really trying to become a professional ballplayer. He lost weight, got in better shape, worked on his fielding, and stopped trying to pull every pitch. Now he looks like a real professional ballplayer, and he's helping a major league team win games by hitting balls all over the field.

 

Smart players win games, and smart players stick around on major league rosters. Learn that, kiddies!

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#14 DJL44

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 10:01 AM

"Nunez is pretty good at 3B."

 

Mauer saved a bad throw from Nunez just last night. His stats are nothing special there also. Nunez is just adequate at 3B. He's just adequate defensively at SS and 2B too. He's a bat-first bench player and there is nothing wrong with that.

 

I would guess an extended injury for Escobar would mean Danny Santana is the everyday SS again.

 

 


#15 USG.Kat

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 10:38 AM

So why aren't the Twins putting Sano at 3B? I thought that was his natural position?


#16 SwainZag

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 10:40 AM

 

​I expect Polanco to be the defensive replacement to Nunez at third.Nunez will start now because he is hitting well, but is more of a 2 - 4 days a week role player.I expect Polanco to play 5 days a week, because if he does well, it gives the Twins many more options(including trading Dozier if the right offer comes along).I guess it may be 50 - 50 if he sticks this time and maybe forces TR to make a trade. 

I also expect that Rosario may head to Rochester for a month or two if he does not start hitting and maybe Kepler gets his chance

 

Polanco hasn't played 3B since rookie ball in 2011, I can't imagine how he would be a defensive replacement for Nunez.  Just judging by fielding stats, Polanco seems like a liability on the field.  28 errors last year and already 3 this year in only 9 games.  Unless his fielding really picks I can't see him forcing a trade, especially this year of a guy like Dozier.


#17 Rosterman

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 12:03 PM

It's all a matter of 40-man roster construction. Right now, being one of those AAAA minor league free agents with the Twins isn't all that great of a position to be. And if you could be added to the 40-man, the minute you are removed you go thru waivers and can be claimed by anotehr team, which is good or bad.

 

SERIOUSLY, the Twins have NO ROOM on the 40-man. Barring the collapse of Fien or Nunez, or the incompetence of Dean or Rogers or O'Rourke, those are the likely names we can banter around.

 

Of course, you always get a spot moving someone to the 60-man (Perkins). But eventually they come off, too.

 

Would Hicks have been a better callup than, say, Polanco? Kepler is a placesetter, until Santana comes back. The Twins have Murphy (5 k's and 2 hits in 15 at bats with a May 1 opt out) at Rochester, but who do the Twins jettison for this guy. And do you bring him up if he isn't go to play.

 

Yes, the way things look right now, the Twins could happily send Buxton or Rosario or even Sano down to the minors...replacing them with, say, Murphy, Santana and keeping Polanco around if you think Santana will be the new centerfielder. But even Santana, as a regular, could be on the bubble.

 

As I said earlier, unlike past years, being a possible addition from the AAA minor league free agent pool isn't looking too good right now in Twins land. Being on the 40-man is a sure ticket for a major league call, and we will see people like Chargolis and Melotakis and maybe even Landa, not to mention Duffey, long before we see Burdi or Reed or even Berrios. Someone has to go elsewhere.

 

And that's a dilemma, too. Are any of the extra relief guys on the 40-man a deserving callup who will contribute THIS SEASON...or someone we had to gamble to protect to keep off of some developing team;s 40-man.

 

Polanco will get a bit more experience. Sadly, Nunez will be at third (a perfect two weeks to see how Sano plays third, plus keeping an extra bigger bat in the lineup...do we play Mauer or Park at first. Should Arcia keep playing in the field in National League land.

 

We've already used 4 of our 15 40-man spots. I was surprised Rodgers went down...it might be nice to have a two-inning guy in the pen. But O'Rourke is on a lease, too.

 

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#18 Loosey

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 12:32 PM

I only scanned the article, but in my opinion it would make more sense to bring up a veteran type of guy if they aren't going to play.

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#19 Thrylos

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 12:53 PM

I think that the Twins should do what is better for the Twins a season that they are competing.  It will be good for Dozier and Escobar to take some breathers and Nunez will not be hot all the time.  As he cools off, Escobar can play third and Polanco short.  Polanco's bat is better than those three's...

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#20 DocBauer

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Posted 19 April 2016 - 07:04 PM

Kind of a double edged sword. The kids like Kepler and Polano, both super talented, need to continue playing every day. However, if they are up only for a week or two, then go back to Rochester to play daily, I don't feel their continuity suffers very much. And they get to soak up some ML time and experience to take back with them.

But even with team hopes and expectations, and the poor start to the year, and hopes to pull themselves back up to .500 and contention status still within grasp, isn't there still some room for a few games started while they are here? I would think, in the long run, a day off for a regular helps build stamina for the entire season, (something that I think has hurt Dozier each of his second halves the past two seasons), and would provide the kids that much more of a learning experience.
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