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Article: Twins Trying to Sustain Excellence

minnesota twins max kepler byron buxton miguel sano
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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 06:00 PM

If you’re feeling a bit underwhelmed at the close of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, I’m sure you’re not the only Minnesota Twins fan in that boat. The only free agent acquisitions made thus far include Johnathan Schoop and Ronald Torreyes. While the former has big-time potential, there’s not much here to move the needle. Nelson Cruz rumors have started to become noteworthy, but there’s yet to be a deal in place. As Minnesota practices caution, it’s worth wondering if they’re still waiting on internal sustenance.Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton create a duo that rivals almost any other organization's best prospects to hit the big leagues together. Both finished their prospect tenure within the top 10-15 players across all of baseball. While Sano exploded onto the scene as a rookie, it was late in 2017 that Buxton had his coming out party. At the current juncture though, neither has lived up to his potential and both have plenty of questions to answer.

Should everything break right, Buxton and Sano could combine for something like 10.0 fWAR during any given season. That would make both players more than relevant during MVP discussions, and it’d certainly have the Minnesota Twins eyeing the top of the AL Central Division standings. Right now, that is the peak, but it’s about getting them there that the Twins in 2019 will focus on.

It’s not just that pair when it comes to future success, however. Max Kepler has long been one of Minnesota’s heralded young stars, and it’s time he found consistency of his own. A guy that has been vocal about rebelling against the launch angle revolution, Kepler seemed to make a change in 2018. Although the numbers left him in the same middle state he’d finished in since his debut in 2016, the process seemed to be one worth building upon.

Looking back at Kepler’s 2018 season, he posted a career high fly ball rate (46.2%) and married to with a career low 37.8% ground ball rate. His 37.1% hard hit rate was also a high-water mark, and his strikeout rate was below 20% for the first time (15.7%). Hitting the ball higher and harder is a great start, but a .236 BABIP on a .224 average suggest his trajectory has plenty of work left to be done. Turning more of the fly balls into line drives should open avenues for more pop outs to become extra base hits or home runs.

Plate discipline is something Max has consistently improved upon since reaching the big leagues. He was at his best across the board last year, notching impressive totals for chase rate, swinging strike percentage, and contact numbers. Again, it’s just another notch on the checklist of a process being committed to. What both Kepler and hitting coach James Rowson now need to unlock is the results.
There’s no denying Minnesota’s future and sustained success relies on the backs of Sano and Buxton. Those two alone aren’t going to be able to carry the burden for the club however and having other key contributors in a similar age bracket is a must. Jose Berrios can anchor the rotation, and Eddie Rosario’s ability will be utilized as long as it lasts. Kepler has the tools to be a big-time star as well though, and the only thing holding him back is the unlocked potential of the entire tool arsenal at his disposal.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine should certainly be ridiculed if they fail to spend appropriately this winter. The money is more than available, and opportunity is on the table for Rocco Baldelli’s club. It’s understandable that they’d be a bit hesitant at making the big moves before seeing how some key guys already within the organization respond when backed up against a make or break situation. Bringing in new talent only to suffer another year of internal flops would be anything but ideal, but a commitment to supplementing, and a realization of actual value by those currently here, could lead to something truly special for the hometown nine.

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#2 Mike Sixel

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:09 PM

Don't you have to have success, to sustain it?

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Have. Not of. Have a great day.

#3 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:57 PM

Mike's right. Kepler's "success" has been to hit well enough to be a 4th OF and watch the game from the bench. I know a lot of people are invested in his success. but Cave passed him up last year. Right now, Kepler is the 4th OF/LH 1B if we base playing time on actual performance.  

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#4 PseudoSABR

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:15 PM

 

Don't you have to have success, to sustain it?

Beat me to it.

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#5 pierre75275

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:20 PM

Beat me to it too
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#6 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:33 PM

Me as well.
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#7 Winston Smith

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:38 PM

570-726 the last 8 years. The bar is rather low if that is sustained success, excellence.

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#8 Jacksson

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:57 PM

Shouldn't the Twins ATTAIN Excellence - BEFORE they try to SUSTAIN it?
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#9 Thrylos

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 08:58 PM

 

 

Twins Trying to Stain Excellence

 

FTFY

 

 

Edited by Thrylos, 13 December 2018 - 08:59 PM.

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#10 Jacksson

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 09:01 PM

Speaking of Excellence:

Below is a recap of all the players the Twins LOST in the Rule 5 Draft:



Below is a recap of all the players the Twins SELECTED in the Rule 5 Draft:
RHP Dusten Knight (AAA Phase - Round #01, Selection #10)

FYI: the San Francisco Giants have one of the lowest ranked Minor League Systems in MLB.


So much for EXCELLENCE....
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#11 DocBauer

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 09:18 PM

Come on gang, this is about building the team and the organization in to a sustainable, competitive and winning franchise. At no point was this piece about sustaining the past few years.
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"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

 

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#12 Danchat

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 09:26 PM

 

Speaking of Excellence:

Below is a recap of all the players the Twins LOST in the Rule 5 Draft:



Below is a recap of all the players the Twins SELECTED in the Rule 5 Draft:
RHP Dusten Knight (AAA Phase - Round #01, Selection #10)

FYI: the San Francisco Giants have one of the lowest ranked Minor League Systems in MLB.


So much for EXCELLENCE....

I see zero reason for a lack of excellence in what you've provided. Rule 5 AAA moves mean basically nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I agree with everyone else that the Twins need to find excellence first.

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#13 D.C Twins

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:12 PM

 

Don't you have to have success, to sustain it?

YES! YES! YES!

 

(says the horse looking behind him for the missing cart)

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#14 akmanak

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:23 PM

Maybe the new excellence is just doing enough to make the season exciting to have a .500 record. That is excellence at its finest.
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#15 PseudoSABR

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 11:30 PM

 

Come on gang, this is about building the team and the organization in to a sustainable, competitive and winning franchise. At no point was this piece about sustaining the past few years.

Right. Bad title, fair article/analysis. 

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#16 BBAM

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 12:08 AM

Why can’t they sign Cruz as an everyday DH? How exciting it would be. Much of my frustration the last 10 years is we haven’t had a regular lineup. Who is the last real HR hitting DH we have had?

#17 BBAM

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 12:09 AM

Maybe the new excellence is just doing enough to make the season exciting to have a .500 record. That is excellence at its finest.

. Making it to a one game play off and losing?

#18 DocBauer

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 12:26 AM

Right. Bad title, fair article/analysis.


BINGO!

Once in a while you just need to take a step back and look at things objectively, no matter what the situation is. In this case, it's baseball. More to the point, TWINS baseball. The reality is, despite disappointment and frustration that boils over, there is a new sheriff and deputy in charge of things. And I'm not going to rehash their early moves, but clearly they have been looking at changing the entire culture of the team from the top on down. They now have a new manager...arguably the guy/type of guy they wanted all along...and a mostly new staff in place to move forward. And it's actually pretty easy to point out individual players in all of baseball who are kicking it as 20-21-22yo and ask why the Twins don't have that. But that is not the norm. Reality check tells us that is true. And there are arguments made that "lots of teams had injuries And they overcame those". And there IS validity to that statement. But whether it be finances, scouting, top prospects at AAA knocking on the door already, better planning at the AAA level or luck, every team and every situation is different.

Note: I have been critical of the FO in their regard to the Rochester roster last season. But to be fair, when 2018 began, the best prospects were all AA and below players. That doesn't excuse a failure, but "other teams" may have also been more top heavy with guys ready for their chance.

Regardless, Ted's point is clear and accurate. Sano, Buxton, Kepler, etc, are talented...young...athletes with tremendous potential, and all highly ranked and regarded who have shown flashes of their potential. I still say and believe you couldn't have asked for a more bizzarre/weird, cursed series of events for 2018 than we saw. (No need to re-hash it all). Maybe Sano just doesn't care enough. Maybe Buxton is just injury prone and can't make contact. Maybe Kepler is a tremendous athlete who is a nice reserve. And we could break down Polanco, Rosario, etc, and look for all the negatives we could find, were that our agenda.

But just focusing on these 3, as Ted has here, Sano hasn't produced some of the big numbers be has, and earned an All Star appearance in 2017 because he was lucky. Buxton hasn't flashed great plays and an outstanding second half in 2017 because he was lucky and nobody was looking. Kepler hasn't shown improvement, as Ted spoke of...while still showing bizarre splits at times...with contact and solid OB skills, along with laser-shots when he makes contact because pitchers just don't consider him a threat. No. There is REAL potential and ability here. What happens next is up the players, and Rocco, and his coaching staff to develop and unlock that potential.
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"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

 

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#19 DocBauer

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 12:41 AM

Why can’t they sign Cruz as an everyday DH? How exciting it would be. Much of my frustration the last 10 years is we haven’t had a regular lineup. Who is the last real HR hitting DH we have had?


I don't like a full time DH, unless he's exceptional. I never have. I've always preferred roster flexibility, even if one guy usually handled that spot. TK was always very good about handling his roster. Back in the day, Randy Bush saw a lot of time at DH. But he was also a decent corner OF and 1B. When he was in the field, another player got a "half day" off by DH. Later on, Larkin would spell Hrbek at 1B. (Might have even seen a few games in the OF, but memory fades). Chilli Davis was probably the only true DH TK ever had. But even be played a little OF here and there, if only to prepare for the post season.

I'm OK with Cruz at this point, all being said, because I think he fills a real role. Someone, probably Austin, though I hate to lose him/give up on him, has to go. You absolutely need another quality "utility" guy besides Adrianza.

Absolutely waiting for Rooker and Khirilloff to join the current mix in the next year or so to make the entire OF/1B/DH situation one of great strength and versatility. (Might toss Wade in there too). But for now, I'm OK with Cruz onboard.
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"Nice catch Hayes...don't ever f*****g do it again."

 

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#20 birdwatcher

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 07:31 AM

 

Speaking of Excellence:

Below is a recap of all the players the Twins LOST in the Rule 5 Draft:



Below is a recap of all the players the Twins SELECTED in the Rule 5 Draft:
RHP Dusten Knight (AAA Phase - Round #01, Selection #10)

FYI: the San Francisco Giants have one of the lowest ranked Minor League Systems in MLB.


So much for EXCELLENCE....

 

 

So much for RELEVANCE... ;)

Edited by birdwatcher, 14 December 2018 - 07:31 AM.

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