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Article: Hot Spring: 9 Twins Takes to Rev You Up for Baseball

byron buxton miguel sano alex kirilloff fernando romero
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 10:01 PM

Spring is here! You wouldn't know it from looking out a window in Minnesota, but fortunately, beat reporters and Twins writers who have arrived on the scene in Fort Myers (including our own John Bonnes, who lands on Friday) are serving as our windows to warmth and workouts in sunny southwest Florida.

As spring training gets underway, I've got nine red-hot (or at least moderately warm) takes on the 2019 season.Some of these prognostications are positive, others are negative. Some represent my heartfelt beliefs, others are just plausible scenarios I wanted to put forth. The idea is to spark conversation and get your minds churning about the possibilities of this year's Twins team.

Let's get to it.

1: Byron Buxton will be an All-Star despite a sub-.250 average at the break.

Contact issues and sub par plate discipline continue to suppress his batting average, but a fired-up Buxton comes back swinging and running harder than ever. His regular presence on defensive highlight reels, plus a gaudy SB total and double-digit homers by the break, help earn him his first (but not last) All-Star appearance.

2: Miguel Sano will strike out 200 times.

The only thing making this a hot take is Sano getting enough plate appearances to reach the mark. If he strikes out at his typical 36% rate, the slugger will need about 550 plate appearances to eclipse 200 Ks, a feat achieved only 13 times in MLB history. Up to this point Sano hasn't accrued even 500 PAs for the Twins in a season, but I think his offseason commitment pays off and keeps him on the field, where his profile as an all-or-nothing hitter becomes more pronounced.

3: Fernando Romero will end the year with an iron grip on the closer role.

He won't be awarded the gig from the start, as his manager leans toward more experienced options out of camp, but Romero's ferocious stuff and demeanor out of the bullpen help him quickly emerge in the late innings. After a few others scuffle in the ninth, Romero gets his shot and develops a rep as a lights-out bulldog.

4: Lewis Thorpe will make 10-plus starts (or "primaries") for the Twins.

Shifting Romero and Adalberto Mejia to the bullpen leaves the Twins short on rotation depth. That leads to guys like Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell getting overexposed, but Thorpe is the one who keeps earning more chances, in large part because he comes in and pounds the zone.

5: Jake Cave will endure a nightmarish sophomore slump.

I think Cave has a nice career ahead of him, but he looks like the classic regression candidate coming off an outstanding rookie campaign. His performance was propped up by a .363 BABIP, and nearly one out of four fly balls clearing the fence. In 2019, pitchers adjust and Cave's contact problems (33% K-rate in 2018) come to a head. He spends more time in Rochester than Minnesota. But as a silver lining, this creates opportunity for LaMonte Wade or Michael Reed.

6: Rocco Baldelli will be a top three finisher for AL Manager of the Year.

In his first year at the helm, Baldelli sees the Twins add several wins, contending with Cleveland in the division up until the very end. The team's improved morale and looser play under the first-year skipper creates plenty of buzz, while his sharpness and engaging manner endear him to the ball writers that vote on MOTY.

7: The soft underbelly of the bullpen will be a crippling weakness early on.

Although the unit's back-end proves strong with a high-powered trio of Romero, Trevor May and Taylor Rogers, the rest of the relief corps struggles routinely. Injuries and lingering performance issues lead to turmoil in the middle innings for much of the first half.

8: The Twins will acquire two significant arms during the course of the season.

Despite the bullpen stumbles, Minnesota hangs around .500 for the first few months, keeping pace with a slow-starting Cleveland team in the Central. Having preserved trade capital and financial flexibility during a quiet offseason, the front office strikes aggressively to acquire a big-name reliever well ahead of the deadline. Then, in late July, they acquire a high-caliber starter with multiple years of control.

9: Alex Kirilloff will debut for the Twins in September.

He spends most of his summer tearing it up in Double-A, and in the final month, Kirilloff joins the Twins – not just for the experience, a la Max Kepler in 2015, but to help out. The 21-year-old appears frequently throughout the final month as the Twins push fiercely to overcome the Indians but ultimately come up a bit short.

~~~

There you have it. If you feel like I've spoiled any surprises for the coming season, take heart in knowing that my predictions are pretty much always wrong. Though I'd bet good money that several of these things do in fact happen.

To close out, I'll leave you with some of my favorite fan-submitted takes from Twitter. Chime in with your own in the comments section!















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#2 whatyouknowtwinsfan

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 10:44 PM

My hot take: Twins acquire Madison Bumgarner at the trade deadline to help the rotation......

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#3 markos

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 07:58 AM

This is a good list. Regarding #8 (specifically, acquiring a high-caliber starter), do you have an particular names on your radar? Right now, most high-caliber starters are on contending teams, so it isn't at all clear to me who will be available come July.

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#4 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 08:21 AM

Hawt take: Schoop has a bounceback season and posts numbers similar to his 2017 season. 30 HRs, 100 RBI, OPS north of .800.
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#5 SD Buhr

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 08:23 AM

 

This is a good list. Regarding #8 (specifically, acquiring a high-caliber starter), do you have an particular names on your radar? Right now, most high-caliber starters are on contending teams, so it isn't at all clear to me who will be available come July.

Add in the "multiple years of control" thing and the list of potentials shrinks further. Of course, every year there are new high-caliber starters that step up, so we don't really know who all of the possibilities might be.

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#6 rdehring

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 08:30 AM

Really like #1, #3, #4 and #9.My question, Nick, would you take the over or under on 5 of 10 happening?

 

Great read, thanks.Now, Play Ball!

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#7 SomeGuy

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 08:41 AM

Buxton has some serious competition to make the All Star Game.My hot take is that Mike Trout is the starting Center Fielder in the all star game.Other CF options include Aaron Hicks, Mallex Smith, and George Springer.Since CF doesn't really matter he will also need to compete with Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, etc. 

 

What kind of season would it take for Buxton to win a popularity contest with these names?I am betting a stat line that includes a sub .250 batting average will not cut it.Even with the first half that Eddie Rosario had last year he arguably wasn't even snubbed because AL outfield is so deep.

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#8 ahart10

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 09:16 AM

Astudillo gets more at bats than Sano and continues to hit over .300 for his career.
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#9 Thebigalguy

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 10:34 AM

Thanks. That was fun. I expect the team to light a fire under fans and it won’t be a dumpster fire. There’s a good chance for more than a rebuilding year. With so much youth and card shuffling, however, I expect that it will take a while to get the ball bouncing our way. Bounce our way it will, though, and we make the playoffs or come damn close. You heard it from Al, and you can call me that, since Paul Simon did.
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#10 Vanimal46

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 10:42 AM

*Sniffs air*
*Pulls grass from the ground to check which direction the wind is blowing*

Yep, it's HAWT taek season!

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#11 caninatl04

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 01:42 PM

The lone All Star will come from the bullpen. And his first name will start with a “T”. And they will lose opening day.
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#12 JD Green

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 03:40 PM

Sano gets hurt in April. Austudillo comes up as his replacement and makes the All Star game.

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#13 Vanimal46

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 03:46 PM

The lone All Star will come from the bullpen. And his first name will start with a “T”.And they will lose opening day.


I didn't realize TFernando Romero had a silent T in it... The more you know!
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#14 RatherBeGolfing

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 03:58 PM

 

My hot take is that Mike Trout is the starting Center Fielder in the all star game.  

 

Settle down! Almost too hot for the internet

Edited by RatherBeGolfing, 15 February 2019 - 03:58 PM.

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#15 howieramone2

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 04:13 PM

I think all the good things are going to happen and none of the bad.

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#16 ashbury

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 04:38 PM

I think all the good things are going to happen and none of the bad.

That's a whatever-is-the-opposite-of-scorching Tepid Take, man!

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#17 jimbo92107

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 05:35 PM

"5: Jake Cave will endure a nightmarish sophomore slump."

 

This prompts a question: Where do sophomore slumps come from? Do 2nd year players try to do too much, and wind up flailing? Do pitchers adjust, and somehow avoid making mistakes just against these guys? Do 2nd year players unconsciously relax and assume they're going to get better? Do they simply lose their chill and become drama queens for a year?

 

Honestly I don't know.

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#18 jorgenswest

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Posted 15 February 2019 - 05:45 PM

"5: Jake Cave will endure a nightmarish sophomore slump."
 
This prompts a question: Where do sophomore slumps come from? Do 2nd year players try to do too much, and wind up flailing? Do pitchers adjust, and somehow avoid making mistakes just against these guys? Do 2nd year players unconsciously relax and assume they're going to get better? Do they simply lose their chill and become drama queens for a year?
 
Honestly I don't know.


In Cave’s case it could simply be random variation due to sample. If our perception of Cave’s ability is significantly influenced by slash stats in a partial season then we don’t start with a very reliable picture. He could perform this year at the same skill level and put up a very different slash of 250/305/410. Some will wonder what happened. It would look like a slump but I think it is more likely the variation of slash stats driven by several factors out of the batters control.

#19 BoofBonser

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 12:01 AM

I have a hunch Byron's going to break out this season.

 

He may struggle in April and May at the plate as he's shown in previous years, but his defense, speed, and presence is going to be very important to his team either way. As long as he stays healthy, he's going to be the reason this team wins the AL Central this season. His bat is going to explode eventually and it's going to be glorious. 

 

Byron will receive top 10 MVP votes at the end of this season. Mark my words. 

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#20 ashbury

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 09:16 AM

This prompts a question: Where do sophomore slumps come from?

The Sophomore Jinx was a common trope when I was growing up, and back then we didn't know to look for signs like a high BABIP that might not be sustainable. Nowadays we spot these things in advance, and guys like Danny Santana don't catch us by surprise as often. This is what has people looking skeptically at Cave this year - though he might still defy this sign (his bat is better than Santana's).

 

Think about how good rookie seasons occur. If a young guy does poorly in April, he may get sent down to AAA before his rookie status is expired, rather than let him see whether the breaks might even out for him over the course of the full season. They also don't suffer the nagging injuries that can torpedo a season. Only the guys doing well stay up long enough to qualify for Rookie of the Year discussion. So there's a bit of a statistical bias built in, where there's more to lose than to gain in the following season, if luck happens to even out in the other direction. Tampa's relatively unheralded Joey Wendle got RoY votes, and his BABIP was .353 - guess who I'd put money on suffering some kind of mild Sophomore Jinx?

 

I don't have the database chops to do it, but I bet if you went back to the era before sabrmetrics took hold, you could take the guys with good rookie seasons and find a strong (negative) correlation between BABIP and how well they did the next season. The same study done on more modern players might not show as strong a correlation because front offices are paying attention to that, putting a different kind of bias into the data.

 

Anyway. Jake Cave. Yeah.

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