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Article: Falvey, Levine Well-Suited To Solve Roster Riddles

derek falvey thad levine miguel sano jorge polanco carlos santana
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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 08:25 PM

Among the challenges that puzzled the 2016 Twins was putting the optimal defensive lineup on the field. Derek Falvey and company likely will be facing similar challenges next season. Is there any reason to be confident those issues will be resolved in 2017? Based on how we've seen the Cleveland Indians lineup evolve the past few seasons, I think so.

The Twins ranked 12th in baseball in home runs, 13th in OPS, scored the 16th most runs. So while there's always room for improvement, hitting is far from the team's biggest concern. The defense, on the other hand, desperately needs to improve after the Twins ranked 29th in Defensive Runs Above Average. Improving the team may not require a complete overhaul, but rather just shifting a few pieces.But Twins fans know all too well that can be a dangerous game to play. Miguel Sano to the outfield was a disaster. Luckily, Falvey knows how dangerous that can be, as well.

Falvey's first-hand experience with Carlos Santana should be particularly valuable in concern to trying to resolve some of the Twins' issues. For the first four years of his career, Santana was primarily a catcher. Then Cleveland asked him to do some strange things in 2014, having him learn third base in spring training while still catching sparingly. Santana got off to a terrible start and suffered a concussion in June. That led Cleveland to use Santana strictly as a 1B/DH from there forward.

It also took a few seasons for Cleveland to find defensive homes for Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall. Both players have filled unexpected needs this season. Had Juan Uribe panned out at third base and Michael Brantley been healthy who knows what would have happened with Ramirez and Chisenhall. But even when those two appeared to just be spare parts, Cleveland wisely held on to both of them.

It was reported by La Velle E. Neal III this week Texas Assistant General Manager Thad Levine was expected to be the Twins next GM. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News confirmed that report. While nothing will be made official until after the World Series, there hasn't been a shred of news from either team denying those reports.

The Rangers also have an encouraging recent track record of finding creative ways to put together a lineup. They took a big gamble on Ian Desmond last offseason, converting him from shortstop to outfield, and were rewarded with a solid season. They also had to solve the puzzle of how to use Jurickson Profar. He ended up playing 10 or more games at each of 3B, 2B, 1B, LF and SS.

When you win your division, like Cleveland and Texas did, all those moves look really smart and inventive. One could argue that each of those decisions were made with the same intention as most of the Twins' tinkering. But the difference in the results is undeniable.

Of course, Falvey and Levine aren't going to try to do the exact same things they did with their previous organizations. They're going to be flexible based on the team's personnel. But how might those lessons learned be applied to the Twins?
In the case of Santana, Cleveland opted to put their best hitter in the best possible position to succeed, regardless of other positional needs. Then they filled holes with secondary players like Ramirez and Chisenhall. What might that look like on the Twins? Putting Miguel Sano at DH full-time and letting the other chips fall where they may. That may make Kennys Vargas and Byungho Park appear to be redundant, but you never know.

Desmond was a case of the Rangers eyeing a player who they believed could be a difference maker, but they didn't have an obvious defensive position to plug him into. What might that look like on the Twins?

Well, we're not sure if Jorge Polanco can be a big league shortstop, but his bat looks legit. If Brian Dozier sticks around and Falvey/Levine don't trust Polanco at short everyday, they may have to get creative to keep his bat in the lineup. Could Polanco be a Plan B in left field if Eddie Rosario can't improve? Seems as plausible as Ian Desmond signing as a center fielder a year ago at this time: Crazy.

That's just me spit-balling a few ideas that could be considered. Without knowing how the roster will shake out it's tough to even speculate what kinds of changes may be bandied about. But with new evaluators coming in, new ideas will surely be presented and I'm sure no stone will be left unturned.

After so many years of the Twins having such a predictable approach under Terry Ryan, it's anyone's guess the direction the new front office may take. It should be a fascinating offseason.

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#2 jimmer

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 08:35 PM

15 teams in the AL

 

11th in wRC+ (bottom third)

11th in OBP (bottom third)

13th in K% (bottom third)

8th in AL in HR (average)

8th in AL in OPS (average)

9th in AL in slg% (below average)

9th in runs scored (below average)

 

 

'Among the challenges that puzzled the 2016 Twins was putting an optimal defensive lineup on the field.'

 

They intentionally chose to put a huge man in the OF who had never played OF as a pro before.  I think the real challenging puzzle was the FO trying to figure out a way of trying to convince fans they cared at all about defense. The puzzle was not solved.  So an average offense at best (and only if looked at in certain ways) that comes with those players playing a far below acceptable defense.

Edited by jimmer, 27 October 2016 - 08:45 PM.

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#3 gunnarthor

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 09:03 PM

Barring an injury, I would expect Sano to start the season at third base.The team is stuck with Mauer at one of 1B/DH.

 

My guess is that the new FO will look to see what a Dozier deal looks like and possibly see if they can scare up interest in Kepler but probably not do a lot to that offensive side quite yet.They probably need time to evaluate and they have other priorities (pitching and catcher).

 

I would imagine the lineup would look something pretty close to:
C- FA and one of Murphy/Garver/Centeno

1B - Mauer

2B - Dozier

SS - Polanco

3B - Sano

OF - Rosario/Buxton/Kepler - if those three can hit, are they a good defensive OF?I think they'd be ok but only Buxton would really be elite.

Bench - backup catcher/Park/UI/4thOF with the Twins trading one of Park/Vargas

 

Obviously, trading Dozier would make a bunch of changes but several of the positions seem fairly close to set.Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Mauer and Polanco will be starting at some position.

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#4 operation mindcrime

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 01:41 AM

It should be real interesting for our Twins this winter. I'm super excited for our new regime to get to work. Go Twins!!! :) \m/
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#5 Major League Ready

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 06:08 AM

 

15 teams in the AL


 

 

'Among the challenges that puzzled the 2016 Twins was putting an optimal defensive lineup on the field.'

 

They intentionally chose to put a huge man in the OF who had never played OF as a pro before.  I think the real challenging puzzle was the FO trying to figure out a way of trying to convince fans they cared at all about defense. The puzzle was not solved.  So an average offense at best (and only if looked at in certain ways) that comes with those players playing a far below acceptable defense

Maddon puts people in new positions on a regular basis. The article suggests Cleveland was smart to move Santana not once but twice.However, the Twins are incompetent fools when they use out fo the box thinking.

 

Which player is more athletic, Sano or Schwarber? I would say Sano so difference does it make if Sano is bigger.Let's also remember the Twins and Sano had agreed that Sano would shed some weight.Some of you seem to forget that Sano's size is something that could have been relatively easily adjusted to better fix the position.There are a bunch of NFL players who would be much more athletic than alot of MLB corner outfielders so I just dont get how Sano's size should have disqualified him as a candidate to play a corner OF position.What's even more weird is the number of people who think Mauer or Plouffe who are both much slower than Sano should play OF.Somehow really slow is ok if you are not really big.

Edited by Major Leauge Ready, 28 October 2016 - 06:09 AM.

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#6 Platoon

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 06:24 AM

I can't say I know exactly how a new regime will accomplish it, or how long it will take, but if Sano and Polanco are standing next to each other on the left side of the IF, and Centeno is still on the roster, then the defense is still going to be sub par. If one looks at the roster, and wants to try and keep the core, that is an inescable fact. The only glove first player on that roster is Buxton. While I really hate to see almost any of these players moved, the sad fact is some trades have to be made to change the mix of the roster.
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#7 HitInAPinch

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 08:08 AM

My guess is that gaining more defensive competence will take a couple years.I'm pretty sure the new PoBO and GM are going to need some ramp-up time.Who stays, who goes. 

 

An outfield of Rosario, Buxton and Kepler looks pretty darn good to me, defensively.Offense:still a work in progress.

 

The infield.Ufda.Safe to say, not a Gold Glover in the group? I'm assuming Dozier is staying.So is Mauer.Sano losing weight = being in better shape and (hopefully) more agility. What I saw of Polanco:he was better at 2nd and 3rd than SS.Maybe more reps?IDK.

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#8 DocBauer

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 10:35 AM

The biggest key to the whole puzzle is still probably Dozier. If he's still with the Twins, you have to make room for Polanco somewhere. If it's 3B, then Sano has to move to 1B/DH. Could you move Dozier to 3B or 1B? I'm not sure either would be awful. If Dozier is traded for pitching help, obviously you slot Polanco in at 2B. So BD is a huge offseason chip in the defensive lineup of the next Twins team.

And unless the new FO feels Polanco deserves a chance at SS, your next call is to give Escobar the job coming off a down and injured season and find someone to be the utility guy. I like Escobar a lot, but do you and the Twins feel comfortable with this scenario? Or is it better to bring in a proven SS, even for the short term, and use Escobar as a valuable and versatile utility guy who probably plays quite a bit?

I like the OF as is, with someone to be a quality 4th guy.

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#9 DocBauer

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 10:35 AM

The biggest key to the whole puzzle is still probably Dozier. If he's still with the Twins, you have to make room for Polanco somewhere. If it's 3B, then Sano has to move to 1B/DH. Could you move Dozier to 3B or 1B? I'm not sure either would be awful. If Dozier is traded for pitching help, obviously you slot Polanco in at 2B. So BD is a huge offseason chip in the defensive lineup of the next Twins team.

And unless the new FO feels Polanco deserves a chance at SS, your next call is to give Escobar the job coming off a down and injured season and find someone to be the utility guy. I like Escobar a lot, but do you and the Twins feel comfortable with this scenario? Or is it better to bring in a proven SS, even for the short term, and use Escobar as a valuable and versatile utility guy who probably plays quite a bit?

I like the OF as is, with someone to be a quality 4th guy.
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#10 jimmer

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 10:56 AM

 

Maddon puts people in new positions on a regular basis. The article suggests Cleveland was smart to move Santana not once but twice.However, the Twins are incompetent fools when they use out fo the box thinking.

 

Which player is more athletic, Sano or Schwarber? I would say Sano so difference does it make if Sano is bigger.Let's also remember the Twins and Sano had agreed that Sano would shed some weight.Some of you seem to forget that Sano's size is something that could have been relatively easily adjusted to better fix the position.There are a bunch of NFL players who would be much more athletic than alot of MLB corner outfielders so I just dont get how Sano's size should have disqualified him as a candidate to play a corner OF position.What's even more weird is the number of people who think Mauer or Plouffe who are both much slower than Sano should play OF.Somehow really slow is ok if you are not really big.

Maddon manages a team with an embarrassment of riches in regards to position players. He has to be creative to get everyone some time.  We don't have such issues. Additionally, Maddon never said, 'Hey, let's put a 6 foot 4, 270 pound IF who has ZERO experience in the OF and make him our FULL TIME RF.'

 

The decision was a boneheaded move that was easily predicted to fail miserably, and it did.  I can't believe people still want to justify it as a smart or innovative move.  It was neither.

Edited by jimmer, 28 October 2016 - 10:57 AM.

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#11 Rosterman

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:08 AM

We are sitting here remembering that Joe Mauer is a lock at first base where so many current names could play (be it Sano, Park or Vargas).

 

We talk of Dozier be moved as solving our problems. But we are still a ways from having Gordon at shortstop.

 

Dozier talk (should he be moved, why isn't he being moved) is similar to the talk of Trevor Plouffe who, for all intent and purpose, is still in the Twins mix.

 

And can any of them play the outfield, and where does that leave our three prospects of Rosario/Kepler/Buxton, not to mention names in the wings like Palka, Walker and Granite.

 

And then you do start to look at the worth of ANY of the above names. We feel Dozier has worth, yet any team looking at him has to have a second base need (where else can he play) and do they think he is a viable player to resign in 2019 and beyond.

 

I don't think we can move Park or Vargas or even Plouffe. Escobar is fumes. Teams would rather gamble on trading for Buxton, Sano, Kepler, Polanco at this point. Rosario is on the bubble. Santana is a placeholder. Anyone really feels Grossman is needed with Palka/Walker/Granite in the wings? 

 

The team is a mess in pieces to send elsewhere. As a general manager, I would just wait to see who the Twins jettison, and worry about trading pieces with other teams, who may fulfill my needs equally if not better than the Twins, or just waiting for those waiver wire moments that may see more Twins than any of us imagine.

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#12 Tom Froemming

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:40 AM

 

Maddon puts people in new positions on a regular basis. The article suggests Cleveland was smart to move Santana not once but twice.However, the Twins are incompetent fools when they use out fo the box thinking.

 

Which player is more athletic, Sano or Schwarber? I would say Sano so difference does it make if Sano is bigger.Let's also remember the Twins and Sano had agreed that Sano would shed some weight.Some of you seem to forget that Sano's size is something that could have been relatively easily adjusted to better fix the position.There are a bunch of NFL players who would be much more athletic than alot of MLB corner outfielders so I just dont get how Sano's size should have disqualified him as a candidate to play a corner OF position.What's even more weird is the number of people who think Mauer or Plouffe who are both much slower than Sano should play OF.Somehow really slow is ok if you are not really big.

These moves definitely look better or worse based on team performance. But a couple things to remember about Schwarber are that he played some OF in college, so it isn't a completely new position for him, and it's not like using him out there has worked out for the Cubs. Plus, if they had a DH I'm pretty sure they'd just stick him there and let him rake.

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#13 dxpavelka

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:47 AM

 

Maddon puts people in new positions on a regular basis. The article suggests Cleveland was smart to move Santana not once but twice.However, the Twins are incompetent fools when they use out fo the box thinking.

 

Which player is more athletic, Sano or Schwarber? I would say Sano so difference does it make if Sano is bigger.Let's also remember the Twins and Sano had agreed that Sano would shed some weight.Some of you seem to forget that Sano's size is something that could have been relatively easily adjusted to better fix the position.There are a bunch of NFL players who would be much more athletic than alot of MLB corner outfielders so I just dont get how Sano's size should have disqualified him as a candidate to play a corner OF position.What's even more weird is the number of people who think Mauer or Plouffe who are both much slower than Sano should play OF.Somehow really slow is ok if you are not really big.

Bottom line is that no sane person thought Sano in the OF was a good idea.Also if Molitor was complicit in that decision and not just following orders he should have been fired along with Ryan.As far as Schwarber goes he hasn't really played enough game in the OF to make any definitive decision on whether he can or should play out there either.He probably needs to play on an AL team.

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#14 Tom Froemming

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:55 AM

 

The biggest key to the whole puzzle is still probably Dozier. If he's still with the Twins, you have to make room for Polanco somewhere. If it's 3B, then Sano has to move to 1B/DH. Could you move Dozier to 3B or 1B? I'm not sure either would be awful. If Dozier is traded for pitching help, obviously you slot Polanco in at 2B. So BD is a huge offseason chip in the defensive lineup of the next Twins team.

And unless the new FO feels Polanco deserves a chance at SS, your next call is to give Escobar the job coming off a down and injured season and find someone to be the utility guy. I like Escobar a lot, but do you and the Twins feel comfortable with this scenario? Or is it better to bring in a proven SS, even for the short term, and use Escobar as a valuable and versatile utility guy who probably plays quite a bit?

I like the OF as is, with someone to be a quality 4th guy.

It seems to me the quickest way to solve the most issues would be to add a reliable major league shortstop. Maybe you sign Erick Aybar or trade for a guy like Zack Cozart or Adeiny Hechavarria. That's not going to make a lot of waves or help the offense, but it would go a long way to solidifying the defense.

 

Sure, you'd then have the "problem" of what to do with Polanco. I see him as very similar to Jose Ramirez. He's an MLB 2B, he can kinda play SS but you don't really want him there. With Dozier blocking him, he's going to have to stick at either 3B or LF.

 

But that one move would not only solve SS, but also give you enough 3B options (Polanco/Escobar) to not only non-tender Plouffe but also do it without having to totally commit to Sano as the everyday 3B.

 

Just my two cents.

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#15 mikelink45

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 01:01 PM

I find it interesting that we are looking to a new FO to come in and institute change, to shake up the system, but then we think that Mauer is locked in at first - how about a bench spot?  We still can't figure out Plouffe and Dozier or Polanco and Sano.  Rosario seems to be locked in to the OF, but why?  Lets throw out the ideas and story lines we had in 2016.  What if the new front office really does come in and make things different?  Might be nice.

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#16 Tom Froemming

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 01:32 PM

 

I find it interesting that we are looking to a new FO to come in and institute change, to shake up the system, but then we think that Mauer is locked in at first - how about a bench spot?  We still can't figure out Plouffe and Dozier or Polanco and Sano.  Rosario seems to be locked in to the OF, but why?  Lets throw out the ideas and story lines we had in 2016.  What if the new front office really does come in and make things different?  Might be nice.

Agreed. I would expect any outside evaluator would take one look at Mauer and say he's a platoon guy now. He hit .224/.291/.319 against lefties last season. You cannot live with that at 1B.

 

Mauer's probably a lock to be on the roster all year, but that doesn't mean he has to play everyday. He can be valuable even if only against RHP (.272/.383/.410 last year) and maybe the extra rest will keep him stay fresh.

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#17 DocBauer

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 02:01 PM

I wonder, considering what the team needs, and Dozier being such a valuable, potentially, trade chip, would we, or should we, be upset or surprised if the new FO that will be running things decides not to trade him?

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#18 gunnarthor

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 02:05 PM

 

I find it interesting that we are looking to a new FO to come in and institute change, to shake up the system, but then we think that Mauer is locked in at first - how about a bench spot?  We still can't figure out Plouffe and Dozier or Polanco and Sano.  Rosario seems to be locked in to the OF, but why?  Lets throw out the ideas and story lines we had in 2016.  What if the new front office really does come in and make things different?  Might be nice.

The new FO has to worry about things like attendance as well as how ownership looks.  If they bench Mauer, a lot of casual fans won't be as interested and benching him suggests ownership wasted 40m+ dollars.  I doubt the FO is going to make those kind of moves early in their run when they have other things to focus on.  And, as bad as Mauer was, he wasn't a complete black hole and it's a pretty open question if Vargas would be better. 


#19 Major League Ready

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 02:22 PM

Bottom line is that no sane person thought Sano in the OF was a good idea.Also if Molitor was complicit in that decision and not just following orders he should have been fired along with Ryan.As far as Schwarber goes he hasn't really played enough game in the OF to make any definitive decision on whether he can or should play out there either.He probably needs to play on an AL team.

So, are you saying that Sano was no athletic enough to play the position.Nobody though tit was insane to suggest Plouffe or Mauer in the outfield.Sano at 270 is far more athletic than Plouffe and quite a bit faster than Mauer.He certainly is faster and more athletic than alot of guys that played the position because of their bat.Point is that size is not nearly as relevant a question as does he have the athleticism to play OF. 

 

He failed because he could not make the adaption.Size was not the primary problem.Also, to focus on the fact that he was 270lbs has to be the worst assessment of the core problem I have ever seen on this site.How much problem solving skill does it take to recognize he is 30 lbs over weight.I think a better assessment of the problem was that he should lose 30 lbs, not that he cant play the position because he weighs 270. 

Edited by Major Leauge Ready, 28 October 2016 - 02:55 PM.

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#20 Doomtints

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 02:46 PM

#1 Riddle they must solve:
 

"Why is Target Field so hot?"

 

All the fans left.  

Edited by Doomtints, 28 October 2016 - 02:46 PM.

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