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Article: Unanswered Questions

miguel sano trevor may glen perkins phil hughes
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 10:35 PM

A losing season is never the desired outcome, but even a last-place finish can prove productive for a team working to improve and reach the next level.

The course of baseball's lengthy season provides ample opportunity to assess and evaluate different players. This information can be very valuable in future planning.

Unfortunately, the Twins have failed to gain much clarity on some of the most important questions they face going forward.Here are eight items that the team would have liked to figure out this year amidst the disappointing results:

Can Miguel Sano play defense?

Well, we know he can't play right field, unsurprisingly. But we don't really know more about his ability to play third base then we did coming into the season. Sano has looked beyond shaky during his limited time in the hot corner, and elbow concerns have further clouded the matter. This puts the Twins in a tough spot because they'll be hard-pressed to drop Trevor Plouffe and commit to Sano as a third baseman, but also would undoubtedly prefer not to relegate him to DH permanently at age 23.

Can Trevor May be an effective reliever?

This was the club's most pivotal experiment this year other than trying Sano in the outfield. If he could improve upon the promise he showed during his time in a relief role last year, May could be a key part of the bullpen solution, and perhaps even a closer candidate. Instead, he endured a tough campaign filled with fits and starts. May flashed dominance at times but posted poor numbers overall and spent two long stints on the disabled list, calling into question whether he's physically equipped for the task of pitching three or four times per week.

Which relievers can be counted on?

The plan for the bullpen this year seemed reasonable enough: bypass expensive free agent relievers, and instead sort through the various internal candidates. What have we learned about those candidates over the past five months? Not much. Ryan Pressly has had a solid year and reinforced his status as a decent middle reliever. The same can maybe be said for Brandon Kintzler. But between Michael Tonkin, Taylor Rogers, Buddy Boshers, Ryan O'Rourke, J.T. Chargois, Pat Light, Alex Wimmers, is there a single guy that you really trust to be a central bullpen asset next year on the basis of what we've seen?

Can Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins be counted on as factors going forward?

Two of the biggest storylines this spring were tied to Hughes and Perkins, veteran pitchers that Minnesota has invested in deeply to anchor the pitching corps. Would Hughes regain his velocity and approach his 2014 form following a massive drop-off in 2015? Would Perkins shake off his brutal finish last year and hold up for a full season? Both hurlers worked out extensively last winter to avoid breaking down but ultimately their efforts were fruitless. Hughes and Perkins each underwent major shoulder surgery, and at this point relying on either to contribute much next year would be folly.

Who will lead the rotation?

It seems fair to say the Twins have no greater need than identifying at least one starter that can slot at the top of a legitimate rotation and compete against the best arms on other staffs. There were a few different sources of hope this year. Maybe Hughes would bounce back. Nope. Maybe Jose Berrios would hit the ground running and define himself as a front-line MLB talent. Nope. Ervin Santana is the only one who has pitched up to such a standard, and counting on a 33-year-old veteran to sustain the best performance of his career is not wise.

Can Tyler Jay start?

At the time of last year's draft, many analysts felt that Jay could be the first in his class to reach the majors, if he remained in a relief role. When they selected him sixth overall and committed to trying him as a starter, the Twins knew that they'd be extending his timeline. Still, there was hope that the collegiate hurler would move fairly quickly. That idea was contingent on a highly successful first year of transitioning to his new role, and 2016 could hardly be viewed as that. Jay pitched fairly well over the first half in Single-A, then moved up to Double-A, struggled and had to be shut down with a month left in the season due to shoulder issues. There's no question that the southpaw has talent, but can he pitch effectively when facing quality lineups multiple times, and can his body handle the rigors of a starting workload? We can't answer those questions with much more confidence now than we could when he was drafted.

Who's going to catch in 2017 and beyond?

When the Twins acquired John Ryan Murphy, they did so with the mindset that he could serve in a part-time role this year and establish himself as Kurt Suzuki's heir. Instead, Murphy split time in between Minnesota and Rochester, playing poorly with both. He will enter 2017 as, at best, a backup option, and the same can be said for every other in-house candidate if Suzuki leaves.

Who's at short?

Eduardo Escobar had shown the necessary tools to be a regular big-league shortstop, but he had yet to do it over a full season. Entering 2016 with the Opening Day job for the first time, this was Escobar's big chance to prove himself. Instead, he has started only 64 games at the position, with first Eduardo Nunez and now Jorge Polanco pushing him aside. Nunez is gone, Polanco remains a subpar defensive option, and Escobar will be coming off his worst season since 2013. The team has gone backward in its efforts to settle on a shortstop.

That's a rather absurd number of unanswered vital questions for a team that has been in last place all year long with no real goal other than answering them. In some cases these outcomes were the result of bad planning or poor decision-making, but most often it was simply bad luck or players failing to take advantage of opportunities.

The end result is that the Twins will be coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history with a roster saturated in uncertainty.

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#2 Otwins

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 10:58 PM

I agree with your list but do not think it is long enough.  Is Buxton ready for everyday CF. Is Kyle Gibson a reliable major league starter or does he need to pitch for a team that plays defense. Should you tender contracts to Plouffe and Santiago?  Many many questions. Thanks for the article no matter how depressing.

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#3 T_J

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 11:30 PM

I really don't think Jay fits on this list. It's like "one of these things isn't like the others."

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#4 beckmt

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 04:43 AM

You have other options if you decide to non-tender Plouffe.Gordon should be at AA this year and Vielma could be a defense only SS if you need to punt for a year or two.Plouffe just ties up money for one more year, but do not want to have to make Sano a DH only at this time. 

Gibson I would also consider non-tendering.He has not improved and is getting expensive.He also stands in the way of a shuffle starting pitching rotation in 2017 to determine the way forward.You should be able to trade him, just expect you will not get much for him.

Outside of Pressley, I do not see much in the bullpen.May needs to start because of his back issues, so door needs to be opened and see what we have in upcoming young arms.

2017 may well not be pretty, but it should lay the foundation for better times.

If you go this route, it would not be fair to Molitor to blame him for the wins and losses, so cut ties now and give a new voice a couple or three years to see where this goes.

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#5 JaleelWhite FanClub

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 07:06 AM

DH at 23? Given the other choices, I think that's a fine solution. If the Twins ultimately want him in the field, I think his best spot may be to take over for Mauer at 1B after the 2018 season.

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#6 JaleelWhite FanClub

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 07:09 AM

Maybe the solution to the reliever & starter issues is to not screw with what your guys are used to.

 

Duffey & Jay were RPs in college. May has done nothing but start prior to midway last season. You're basically moving pieces around into more comfortable roles.

 

Not too complicated.

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#7 Lonestar

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 07:46 AM

It's because the Twins have so many questions that they are coming in last place.

 

Why didn't you ask Can May be an effective starter?

 

You didn't ask about Buxton's, Sano's or Rosario's hitting.


#8 Mike Sixel

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 07:58 AM

Can Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins be counted on as factors going forward?

 

No. Anything you get from them is a bonus, but counting on either to be healthy would be foolish, imo.

 

I guess I don't understand two things about Sano.

 

1. The sample size on defense is tiny. He hasn't played 3B hardly at all for 2 years. If he's healthy, why not play him there next year?

2. Why is it wrong/bad/evil to just make him a DH, if it turns out he's awful at fielding? 

 

Which relievers can be counted on?

Pretty much none of  them other than Pressley.....which is a real bummer.

 

to me, the biggest questions are:

 

Can Sano field?

Can Buxton hit?

Can Berrios pitch?

What do you do with Polanco/Dozier?

 

Other than that, the other stuff pales, imo.

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#9 jimmer

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:03 AM

 

 

to me, the biggest questions are:

 

Can Sano field?

Can Buxton hit?

Can Berrios pitch?

What do you do with Polanco/Dozier?

 

Other than that, the other stuff pales, imo.

well, the rotation is pretty high on the list of questions for me :-)

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#10 Mike Sixel

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:07 AM

 

well, the rotation is pretty high on the list of questions for me :-)

 

I consider a lot of it answeredish*.....

 

Hughes? hurt most likely

May? ok, that's open

Gibson? Mediocre/bad

Santana? Pretty good

Duffey? Either not a starter, or needs to go to 2 pitches

Santiago? Not here next year, probably

Berrios? big question mark

Meija? Won't start the year here, but will pitch in MN, probably like a number 5

 

Hmmmm....looking at that list, I see 3 guys that will likely start here next year. Ok, ya, that's a big question. My bad.

 

*probably not an actual word, and "answered" is an exaggeration.....

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#11 birddog

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:09 AM

Tons of questions and not an ounce of answers. Dozier is the only answer and that means he will probably be traded to get pitching. Add the manager and coaching staff to this list as we know we're not a great team by any means but is this the worst talent in baseball? For five years we've had nothing but hope for the future. We now are just hoping we can answer some questions, but Schaefer, Grossman, etc. are just bandaides on a fatal gash.


#12 DocBauer

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:23 AM

First...the positive....

And now to address your issues.

LOL

But seriously, while sooooo much of the roster shows Flux and guys still developing, the truth is, called this or not, the team really has been going through a rebuild and youth movement. This had to happen. If you discount Mauer and Dozier...possibly Plouffe if he is indeed gone...the entire starting OF, the left side of the infield, probably DH and catcher as well, will all be manned by young players in 2017. And we have absolutely seen glimpses of their potential.

But on to your list.

Sano: Play him and have him lose a couple of pounds. Cannon for an arm, charges balls well, and his hands seem OK. Sure he's had some bad throws, what young 3B doesn't from time to time? The biggest problem has just been some badly botched plays. But not only is he still young and developing, but the whole RF issue has to have messed with him this season.

IF there is any concern over his elbow being anything other than minor, maybe bring back Plouffe on a friendly deal after his poor season. It's easy to assemble a 12 man player roster, for the most part, for next season. Who is #13? Maybe Plouffe as a 3B/1B/DH/PH who could play some spot OF. Might not be a bad idea as long as you're not committed to playing him every day. But put Sano at 3B daily and let him play and develop. And if it really doesn't work, move to 1B after Mauer.

May: He could be, body willing, be an excellent bullpen piece. And maybe his injuries this year were as simple as simple as flare-ups and adjustments. But for a team in such need of SP, to insist on moving a strapping, hard throwing young SP to the bullpen is ridiculous. They may have wasted an entire season of his potential growth with this move. Put him back in the rotation!

Hughes and Perkins: Expect and plan on NOTHING. Perk is probably done. Hughes has a shot, but he's a dark horse. He could rebound back in to his 2014 version, possibly reinvent himself as a strong bullpen arm, potential closer...throw harder buy shorter...or also be done. What happened to both is unfortunate. But don't plan on either one when building the next team.

Jay: Agreed Jay doesn't belong on this list. You stated yourself hus rotation move would take some time. I was very encouraged by what he did at A ball. He'll begin next season in the Lookouts rotation. Let's at least wait until next year before adding him to a list like this.

SS: Some bad luck here and more mismanagement by the Twins. As long as he got time off to not wear down over the course of an entire season, we've seen enough of Escobar the precious 2 seasons to feel relatively good about him...if healthy. Polanco doesn't play a single milb game at SS to make room for a journeyman? And then, once promoted, he's put back at SS! The fact that he's looked this good to this point is a testament to previous experience, talent and potential. You roll with these guys for '17. Both have talent, both are young and quite young, and you ARE in a rebuild.

Catcher: You have some options to work with in Murphy, Centennial, Garver and the upcoming Turner. But it's not enough. But Suzuki is not the answer. You need one more option here. You can either identify one quality vet that you think can rebound and help lead the team for a season or two, OR, you can identify a guy via rule 5, DFA, milb FA that you think has a legitimate shot and go get him. I almost lean toward the younger FA question mark guy.

Poor planning on the Twins to this point. But Murphy could rebound. I've seen some good from Centennial. I like Garver's potential a lot. If Turner's bat could come around a bit more he could be solid. But again, some poor planning.

Bullpen: IMHO, it's not as bad as you make out. Roger's and Pressly have looked pretty good. So did Tonkin before being turned in to a long reliever. Add a closer as you develop one, find another decent LHRP somewhere, use Duffy as a long and middle man and spot starter, then audition for the final spot. I don't think the bullpen is that far off. And we sure have a lot of live young arms to audition in 2017. But you are absolutely correct that they waited too long to look at some of them.

Rotation: We all know this is the #1 issue facing the Twins. Some talented kids aren't ready yet, and there are question marks surrounding who's available. But Santana has pitched well enough to believe he has at least one more good season left in him. We've seen Gibson do a lot better, and I'm talking just last season. Just a bad year or injuries, or do we need a different pitching coach?

After that I'm just not sure. Santiago is nothing great, but his career numbers are mostly solid. A year ago, or even the years before that, we'd have been excited to have a guy like him amongst our starting 5. You have to believe Berrios will get it together. He's just too talented, been so productive in his milb career to believe otherwise. I still like May, but due to his IP this season, he may be a 5th SP only. Hopefully Mejia is very close. Gonsalves has a real chance to contribute sometime in 2017.

Is any of this perfect? Absolutely not. And once again, it's easy to point fingers at player mismanagement: poor coaching, quick hooks, in the wrong spot, etc. But there is no quick FA fix. Even if you are on board with moving Dozier, you still have to find the right trade partner and players to make it happen. (you also shuffle the deck chairs somewhat as now you have to find at least one more infield option to add to the player mix)

Other than better health and a dose of better luck, could the Twins have handled this situation better? Absolutely. May should have been starting at some point. Not a single game audition for Wheeler but guys like Dean got multiple shots? And do they just not "get" Berrios or what?

Right now, I really feel you have to roll with all the various options you have on hand, work with them, place them in mental and physical situations to succeed, and wait for guys like Mejia and Gonsalves to contribute.
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#13 gocgo

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:31 AM

As I have said before, the more IF's a team has, the less likely they will have success.  So, expectations for next year are very low.

 

I would say that Plouffe get's resigned and he and Sano will split 3rd base duties in an effort to keep Plouffe healthy and to let Sano continue to develop while keeping his bat in the lineup between DH and playing 3rd....which leads to one more question.  Will Park come back from surgery and showcase the power that he flashed at times?

 

Another if.

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#14 TheLeviathan

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 08:40 AM

I guess I don't consider the rotation a question, insofar as not knowing what to do.  I think that question has long been answered - we need a LOT of help.

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#15 Nick Nelson

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:07 AM

Jay: Agreed Jay doesn't belong on this list. You stated yourself hus rotation move would take some time. I was very encouraged by what he did at A ball. He'll begin next season in the Lookouts rotation. Let's at least wait until next year before adding him to a list like this.

 

I guess I don't really agree with the idea that his season at Single-A was all that encouraging. He pitched well (not dominantly), as you would expect from a Top 10 draft pick out of college. But he broke down late in the year despite the Twins stringently managing his workload.

 

I know a couple of people say he doesn't fit on this list, but I chose to include him because his development is quite important to turning this rotation around and I don't think we have any more clarity now on whether the conversion is going to work out. Personally, I'd say it's more doubtful than before. 

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#16 Nick Nelson

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:08 AM

 

I guess I don't consider the rotation a question, insofar as not knowing what to do.  I think that question has long been answered - we need a LOT of help.

We knew that. But it would have been nice if this year could have been spent identifying some of that help. Outside of Santana, not one single starter has been even decent. 


#17 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:11 AM

I'm sorry, but DH at 23 isn't a reasonable solution for Sano.I think it's better for him and the team to work through his defensive issues, especially considering he had a lost year in 2014, spent most of 2015 as a DH and most of 2016 playing OF for some silly reason.It's really not fair to simply relegate him to DH given how little repetition he's had at 3B over the last 3 years... especially when you factor his age.My advice to him would be to spend the offseason working on his defense.It's better for both his career and the team if he's competent at the position, and there's little evidence saying he cannot be if he puts in the effort. 

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#18 Mike Sixel

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:17 AM

 

I'm sorry, but DH at 23 isn't a reasonable solution for Sano.I think it's better for him and the team to work through his defensive issues, especially considering he had a lost year in 2014, spent most of 2015 as a DH and most of 2016 playing OF for some silly reason.It's really not fair to simply relegate him to DH given how little repetition he's had at 3B over the last 3 years... especially when you factor his age.My advice to him would be to spend the offseason working on his defense.It's better for both his career and the team if he's competent at the position, and there's little evidence saying he cannot be if he puts in the effort. 

 

Why? I mean, i agree, if healthy, he should play 3B next year......but why is it wrong/bad/evil to be a DH at 23, if it turns out he can't field?

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#19 jimmer

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:18 AM

 

 

 

2. Why is it wrong/bad/evil to just make him a DH, if it turns out he's awful at fielding? 

 

 

It's not wrong, bad or evil.DH is a spot in the lineup that needs to be filled. Ortiz started being mostly a DH at age 24 and few bemoan his lack of chances to stay at a position.We could continue to try and make Sano a better fielder, with it likely not turning out.

 

In any event, last year when Sano was killing it in the majors, he was doing that mostly as a DH.It's where he'll end up sooner rather than later anyway.Hurting our defense by delaying the inevitable is, IMO, a bad idea.

Edited by jimmer, 09 September 2016 - 09:22 AM.

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#20 Vanimal46

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 09:26 AM

 

I guess I don't really agree with the idea that his season at Single-A was all that encouraging. He pitched well (not dominantly), as you would expect from a Top 10 draft pick out of college. But he broke down late in the year despite the Twins stringently managing his workload.

 

I know a couple of people say he doesn't fit on this list, but I chose to include him because his development is quite important to turning this rotation around and I don't think we have any more clarity now on whether the conversion is going to work out. Personally, I'd say it's more doubtful than before. 

Absolutely. And, worse case if he's not a starting pitcher after all, we just wasted several hundred innings on that arm. As we know, the shelf life of a bullpen arm isn't that long. It's a big question mark for sure. 




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