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Article: Offseason Primer: Twins Need to Be Prepared to Pivot from Buxton and Sano

byron buxton miguel sano
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#41 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:10 PM

 

Tom's statement, "If the Twins intend to be contenders in 2019" is a key point to consider.

 

The roster that was put together in 2018, with several short-term free agent contracts to veteran players, was an obvious attempt by the front office to bridge a gap while young major leaguers matured, minor leaguers developed, and large contracts came off the books. But I suspect that contention in 2019 was not the goal of that strategy, rather, I think the club was looking at 2018 and 2019 as "competitive" years with 2020 as a contention year.

 

2018 became a disappointing, non-competitive year when the free agents didn't perform as expected and the young major leaguers lost time due to injury and suspension. Now the best that can be hoped for in 2019 is a development year for the youngsters. That means lots of at bats for an every-day outfield of Rosario, Buxton, and Kepler. Polanco shifting to second base to see how his glove will play there. Sano and Austin splitting time at first base and DH. Any plan that leaves Buxton on the bench until the late innings minimizes his true value as a player, which is helping out the pitchers and his fellow outfielders (and infielders!) by providing platinum glove level fielding for nine innings.

 

I will also take the opposite side of Tom's argument that there's nothing wrong with putting Sano on the bench if he starts the season slumping. As long as he is physically able, he belongs in the lineup, primarily as a DH. In his first year with the club, he provided plenty of value of the DH spot. I would argue that moving him around the diamond since then has taken away from his focus on hitting.

 

Grossman and Cave have done all they can to fill in where needed. I've got no complaints about their effort or character. I just don't see either of them as a starting-caliber DH or outfielder on a contending team. And with 25-man roster spots for position players so scarce these days, I don't see how you can keep carrying players with little positional flexibility. Maybe you can carry Cave as a lefty swinging DH/1B/OF for platoon purposes.

I don;'t understand why so many people on this board are down on Cave, particularly as bad as Kepler has been at the plate. The comparison for 2108:

 

Cave - .269/.318/.481 (.797), 113 OPS+. 1.5 WAR, 13 HRs in one half a season.

Kepler - .224./.319/.448 (.727), OPS+ 96, 2.8 WAR, 20 HRs in a full season. 

 

Cave was the better hitter last year. I say they are about wqwual in the field, good in the corners, passable in center. TO me, it's Kepler who doesn't look like a starting-caliber OF on a contending team. IF, and it's a big if, Cave is what he was last year for a full season he represents a clear upgrade for the TWins at the plate over Kepler. Even Molitor seemed to recognize that last year by hitting Cave 3rd at the end with Kepler 7th. Cave strikes out too much but that will improve if he gets the same 3 year run Kepler has gotten. 

 

Next year Cave should start in RF if Buxton is in CF with Kepler at 1B if Mauer retires. Cave in CF if Buxton can't make it (again), Kepler as 4th OF/part time DH/part time 1b if Mauer stays.  

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#42 ashburyjohn

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:23 PM

Cave was the better hitter last year.

The stats are the stats, and no question Cave had better ones. I think there's reason to question whether it was sustainable. The decision naturally has to be who will do better in 2019, not to whom to give awards in 2018.

 

I am also not a fan of Cave's glove in CF. He accepted fewer chances per inning than Kepler, both when comparing CF and comparing RF (small sample there for Cave), which may indicate range. He also committed more errors in limited duty than I would like. I don't think Kep's a starting-caliber CF either, for that matter, but to me he's the better choice for substitute duty.

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#43 Mike Sixel

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:30 PM

What problem does THAT solve? He'll suddenly turn into Josh WIllingham*, never injuring himself again on a tough play?

He needs his bat to improve, just for it to play up in CF. It's becoming a stretch to believe the bat would ever play in a corner position.

* I liked Josh - he had a bad back and I would have played the same way as he did during his tenure with our Twins


Wasnt I replying to a post that asked what happens if they go get a legit OF, and Buxton is good too? Of course I don't move him for no good reason....

There's always next year, or the next, or maybe by the time I'm Chief's age, I guess....


#44 dex8425

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:35 PM

Similar thoughts to Doc and others:

If we contend in 2019, it will be because Sano and Buxton are 5-7 WAR guys. There's no way to have a contingency plan, and we aren't going to get fair value out of either by trading them. 

 

It's more unrealistic to expect us to contend without them than it is to expect them to perform at 5-6WAR level. 

 

Honestly, if they perform at all-star level, we're not far from Cleveland at that point. Just need bullpen help and a middle infielder. 

 

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#45 ashburyjohn

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:38 PM

Wasnt I replying to a post that asked what happens if they go get a legit OF, and Buxton is good too? Of course I don't move him for no good reason....

OK, I didn't get the context on first try. But I'm trying to think of someone whom we'd acquire, and then if in the same batting order with Buxton would play CF in preference.

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#46 Lonestar

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 03:59 PM

Sano and Buxton both can be optioned next year. But unless you plan on optioning them on Day 1, building the roster gets tricky. It wouldn't be so bad if the Twins had one question mark, but they have two.

 

It's not like you can stash viable 2+ Win replacements in AAA (unless you grow your own, and the Twins have none in the pipeline).

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#47 Thrylos

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 05:45 PM

 

 

It's not like you can stash viable 2+ Win replacements in AAA (unless you grow your own, and the Twins have none in the pipeline).

 

Cave:
1.5 bWAR 91 games --> 2.5 bWAR 150 games
1.3 fWAR 91 games --> 2.3 fWAR 150 games

Edited by Thrylos, 04 October 2018 - 05:45 PM.

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#48 twinstalker

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 06:47 PM

I have a comment, but first let me write myself a reminder in my "drafts" folder in my gmail. Hold on, ah yes, "Remember to chastise all those who had the xxxxxxx and audacity to suggest...Buxton, um, might not be a valuable full-time player, especially the article's author, who should know better than to let one totally screwed up season for Buxton influence him completely away from the commonly accepted pre-2018 evaluation among baseballers that Buxton is going to be a star."

 

Yes, let's prepare for him to be a late-inning defensive replacement. And those rumors that he works his ass off to improve, well, either that's the type of thing that doesn't really matter or they're just rumors. Yep, I think I've got the beginning of an email that I could send now, but I'll likely wait on until summer.


#49 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 06:58 PM

Sano and Buxton are two different cases and should not be treated the same.

Sano's career numbers: 1612 PA, 117 OPS+, .347 wOBA, 116 wRC+.
Buxton's career numbers: 1074 PA, 80 OPS+, .289 wOBA, 76 wRC+

Sano had a disappointing season, and despite that he has been a much above average major leaguer. The key for him is that he should be able to get in shape and stay healthy. He has proven that if he does so, he can hit.

Buxton, other than single months, has had a disappointing career as a hitter. In addition to health, the key for him is that he learns how to produce consistently as a hitter, something that Sano, when healthy, has mastered.

Apples and pineapples.


Career bWAR:
Sano: 5.0
Buxton 6.9

Defense, baserunning, and position matter too.
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#50 yarnivek1972

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 06:59 PM

I think you need to include Kepler in "those showing no signs of progress".


He raised his OPS vs LHP almost 300 points. He increased his walk rate and decreased his strike out rate. I guess I would call those signs of progress.
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#51 Vanimal46

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 07:10 PM

He raised his OPS vs LHP almost 300 points. He increased his walk rate and decreased his strike out rate. I guess I would call those signs of progress.


In fairness his OPS vs. LH pitching was dreadful. You would think all of the positive underlying stats would translate to the stats on the back of his baseball card... Those numbers were worse this season.

#52 yarnivek1972

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 07:18 PM

In fairness his OPS vs. LH pitching was dreadful. You would think all of the positive underlying stats would translate to the stats on the back of his baseball card... Those numbers were worse this season.


Yes one would. Which leads me to speculate that there is some adjustment he needs to make to improve them. As I have stated before, what that might be, I have no idea. Hopefully, someone employed by the Twins does. Plate discipline is one of the LAST things young players learn (just ask Rosario, Buxton, Sano). I think he’s more likely to improve than Sano or Buxton - neither of whom have EVER shown strong plate discipline.
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#53 twinstalker

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 07:21 PM

Also, somewhere someone asked about the lack of excitement or love for Cave. Jake Cave did an okay job this year, certainly a fine performance for what we might have expected, but here's the deal with him.

 

He was dumped by the Yankees. Not the worst thing, but understand what this means. Most other teams dumping him would mean that his chances of steady contribution anywhere are almost nil. The Yankees dumping him doesn't mean that, because the Yankees have stars and really good players. But there's no way that the Yankees just dump a first division starting outfielder. Foremost, another team would easily trade a non-40-man prospect for a first division regular. And they'd probably do the same for a second division regular, if that were basically guaranteed (think Alex Kirilloff's floor. his worst case).

 

Jake Cave's UPSIDE is that of a corner starting OF for a poor baseball team. His age-based stats, advanced and otherwise, state this loudly.He is likely a 4th OF on a mediocre to average team. That's a valuable role, so I don't mean it as a slight, but it's nothing to get excited about, and you don't replace guys with upside with someone like Cave unless it's a very temporary situation.

 

Kepler, Buxton, and even Rosario may not come close to their ceilings, but I would never give up their ABs to someone who's almost certainly an MLB mediocrity. Giving up on Kepler or Buxton in favor of Jake Cave would be exactly the type of mistake the old regime would make (see Aaron Hicks, David Ortiz). I really doubt the new guys are as clueless. Cave was a fine pickup for this team, but if the Twins dropped him from the 40 (don't worry, they won't), I wouldn't blink other than to wonder why we didn't get a little something for him.

 

I'll add: the Yankees would never have dumped Kepler or Buxton. Not a chance in the world.

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#54 TheLeviathan

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 08:46 PM

 

Career bWAR:
Sano: 5.0
Buxton 6.9

Defense, baserunning, and position matter too.

 

It doesn't really change the point though does it?If you can't hit (and Buxton overwhelmingly has not), those things don't matter because you won't get the opportunity.  

 

Buxton has roughly been to the Twins what Pedro Florimon was in 2014.That player doesn't get to play because they are simply too poor offensively to justify it.

 

We can appreciate those things Buxton brings, but it doesn't change the reality of the situation.With Sano we are hoping to see him rise to our hopes.With Buxton we're not even sure he's worthy of a roster spot.There is a major, major difference.

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#55 Riverbrian

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 08:48 PM

Spot on Article by Tom.

 

It's seems simple to me... I'd put them on the 25 man roster and that is where the promises end. I'd say here's a bat and here is a glove, now go out and decide your fate. Either win the job or lose the job it is completely up to them. I would also remind them that they both have an option remaining that can and will be utilized if they have another non-competitive year.

 

I'd look them in the eye and say "Yeah... we brought in a third baseman and we brought in a CF... do you have the talent to out play them? If you do... prove it". I understand that they are projected to be 1 trillion WAR players but those projections are not saving my summer at the moment. 

 

They will not be traded. They will succeed here or die here. We will not watch them figure it out elsewhere while we are forced to wonder if the relief pitcher we acquired in the trade can be trusted to get a left-handed batter out. 

 

Any 2019 plan that says we got Sano at 3B and Buxton in CF therefore we are set, so OK let's go find a 2B... is flawed. 

 

I'm completely comfortable putting the ball in their court and saying prove it.

 

I'm completely uncomfortable having nothing to turn to if they can't. 

 

 

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#56 Riverbrian

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 08:57 PM

 

I agree. To acquire a free agent to fill either of these players' best roles, with an actual difference maker in terms of seriously contending, means a long-term financial commitment to an asset destined to decline. Then, if our two young guys prove to be solid after all, you have roster problems, because it won't be easy to trade the free agent you just acquired (auction winner's curse), and yet you probably can't get full value in trade for the young guy. A prospective free agent can see the same dilemma as we can, and will say no thanks unless overwhelmed by the financial package, and maybe not even then.

 

I don't know how to solve this dilemma, except for the FO's talent evaluation team to make a really hard decision in the coming month or so. Commit to Sano or trade him. Commit to Buxton or trade him. Two independent decisions. Moves afterward depend on those decisions.

 

Maybe a blockbuster trade for a young and controllable 3B or CF, in preference to a FA. That would ease the roster management later on - after things shake out, you could more easily make another trade.

 

I wish I had greater confidence in those talent evaluation processes, because the past couple of years has been pretty checkered.

 

In all my years of being a Minnesota Twins fan. 

 

I have never felt the experience you describe above.:)

 

Being afraid of having too much talent on a Twins roster is like worrying about an 80 degree day in December in Hibbing. 

 

It's never happened before and if it does... celebration fist bumps for everyone you meet walking around in shorts. 

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#57 DocBauer

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Posted 04 October 2018 - 09:03 PM

First off, just to get it out of the way...and NOBODY wants to hear this I know, but we are still talking about talent and potential with some of these guys that is pretty outstanding. Buxton is 24. A he'll of a lot of talented prospects are just hitting MLB at 23-24. Sano is only 25 and has already been to an All Star game and has put up some great numbers, despite some games mjssed due to injury, whether they be a fluke or conditioning related, and Kepler is also only 25, who suddenly reversed his splits in year 3.

I am NOT saying Buxton is another Hunter, Gomez or Hicks. But those are 3 CF with great athletic ability who were rushed to ML ball, saw additional milb time, and developed. One became an All time Twins great. The other two found their success after leaving the Twins. But Buxton, rushed as well, is already a complete bust? Please! Can we just allow a new season, a new manager, and maybe a new hitting coach to just work with him and see if he can hit .250? Even doing that, his defense and natural ability should begin to take over.

Sano's season was equally disappointing and confounding. Considering what he has done previously, it may be the most disappointing season in a year of disappointment. And yet, we have seen before what he can do. Blast him defensively if you must but he has good hands, charges the ball well, and has one of the best arms I have ever seen from a 3B. The guy can play! All reports indicate, despite a continued poor second half, they he took his demotion and re-set to heart with a new attitude. He has spoken publicly about continuing this new step in the off season. Lol service? We'll see. And I'd have someone working out with both he and Buxton during the off season. Don't we have special assistants for a reason????

Man, I'm tired of saying this, but have to yet again. Kepler is a stud athlete who shows everything from a good bat, to plate disciple and contact, to decent speed, to power and quality defense. He also started behind other kids his age when signed, and practically skipped AAA to the ML after his breakout AA season. Sound familiar? It should. His first 2 seasons he suddenly couldn't hit LH pitching, which he did in his big AA season. Thjs year, he suddenly reversed his splits. He evens out his splits in 2019, with all his talent and potential and what do you have?

Two years ago, there was a lot of angst about Rosario and his potential. And I made the comment that were I another team looking to make a trade with the Twins, the guy I would be looking at was Rosario. Glad we kept him now?

I'm not saying Buxton, Sano and Kepler will all hit their ceilings. Maybe all 3 will be anywhere from bust to solid. And j get frustration to win and see all of them turn out. But to not give them 2019 to see what can be accomplished, and to give up on them this soon is ridiculous! Blame the milb system, blame the ML manager and his coaches, blame a bad and unlucky season. But don't give up on guys this damned talented and full of potential at this point.
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#58 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 05 October 2018 - 07:30 AM

 

I agree. To acquire a free agent to fill either of these players' best roles, with an actual difference maker in terms of seriously contending, means a long-term financial commitment to an asset destined to decline. Then, if our two young guys prove to be solid after all, you have roster problems, because it won't be easy to trade the free agent you just acquired (auction winner's curse), and yet you probably can't get full value in trade for the young guy. A prospective free agent can see the same dilemma as we can, and will say no thanks unless overwhelmed by the financial package, and maybe not even then.

 

I don't know how to solve this dilemma, except for the FO's talent evaluation team to make a really hard decision in the coming month or so. Commit to Sano or trade him. Commit to Buxton or trade him. Two independent decisions. Moves afterward depend on those decisions.

 

Maybe a blockbuster trade for a young and controllable 3B or CF, in preference to a FA. That would ease the roster management later on - after things shake out, you could more easily make another trade.

 

I wish I had greater confidence in those talent evaluation processes, because the past couple of years has been pretty checkered.

 

To borrow from RiverBrian, the key here is flexibility. I do think the team can compete if Buxton and Sano don't do well... as long as we aren't talking historically bad and a manager that keeps playing them... but I think flexibility is the answer. A guy like Escobar can effectively mitigate against a Sano disaster (assuming the get a 2B as well), and I think Kepler and Cave can to an extent mitigate against a Buxton disaster to some extent (though personally, I'm firmly in the start Buxton in AAA and get a guy on a 1 year make good deal to man an OF position). 

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#59 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 05 October 2018 - 07:34 AM

 

He raised his OPS vs LHP almost 300 points. He increased his walk rate and decreased his strike out rate. I guess I would call those signs of progress.

 

this, I wouldn't write off Kepler just yet. The approach is legit. The results so far have not been. He doesn't seem to make enough good contact. I suspect if he continues on this path, the results will follow... perhaps he should spend some time with AK's dad... and Kepler has shown enough flashes to indicate that he could be much better than a complimentary piece. 

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#60 Mike Sixel

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Posted 05 October 2018 - 09:34 AM

 

First off, just to get it out of the way...and NOBODY wants to hear this I know, but we are still talking about talent and potential with some of these guys that is pretty outstanding. Buxton is 24. A he'll of a lot of talented prospects are just hitting MLB at 23-24. Sano is only 25 and has already been to an All Star game and has put up some great numbers, despite some games mjssed due to injury, whether they be a fluke or conditioning related, and Kepler is also only 25, who suddenly reversed his splits in year 3.

I am NOT saying Buxton is another Hunter, Gomez or Hicks. But those are 3 CF with great athletic ability who were rushed to ML ball, saw additional milb time, and developed. One became an All time Twins great. The other two found their success after leaving the Twins. But Buxton, rushed as well, is already a complete bust? Please! Can we just allow a new season, a new manager, and maybe a new hitting coach to just work with him and see if he can hit .250? Even doing that, his defense and natural ability should begin to take over.

Sano's season was equally disappointing and confounding. Considering what he has done previously, it may be the most disappointing season in a year of disappointment. And yet, we have seen before what he can do. Blast him defensively if you must but he has good hands, charges the ball well, and has one of the best arms I have ever seen from a 3B. The guy can play! All reports indicate, despite a continued poor second half, they he took his demotion and re-set to heart with a new attitude. He has spoken publicly about continuing this new step in the off season. Lol service? We'll see. And I'd have someone working out with both he and Buxton during the off season. Don't we have special assistants for a reason????

Man, I'm tired of saying this, but have to yet again. Kepler is a stud athlete who shows everything from a good bat, to plate disciple and contact, to decent speed, to power and quality defense. He also started behind other kids his age when signed, and practically skipped AAA to the ML after his breakout AA season. Sound familiar? It should. His first 2 seasons he suddenly couldn't hit LH pitching, which he did in his big AA season. Thjs year, he suddenly reversed his splits. He evens out his splits in 2019, with all his talent and potential and what do you have?

Two years ago, there was a lot of angst about Rosario and his potential. And I made the comment that were I another team looking to make a trade with the Twins, the guy I would be looking at was Rosario. Glad we kept him now?

I'm not saying Buxton, Sano and Kepler will all hit their ceilings. Maybe all 3 will be anywhere from bust to solid. And j get frustration to win and see all of them turn out. But to not give them 2019 to see what can be accomplished, and to give up on them this soon is ridiculous! Blame the milb system, blame the ML manager and his coaches, blame a bad and unlucky season. But don't give up on guys this damned talented and full of potential at this point.

 

Who are you arguing with? No one is saying give up on them. Other than a small number of people saying Sano can't play 3B.....those same people are saying he can DH or 1B.....but no one is saying give up. People are saying....have alternatives available. Nothing more or less.

There's always next year, or the next, or maybe by the time I'm Chief's age, I guess....




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