One-third of the way through this 2019 campaign, we're still waiting for the Twins to come down. Their season-long hot streak reached new heights last week as they ran roughshod over two utterly overwhelmed opponents.
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/20 through Sun, 5/26
Record Last Week: 6-0 (Overall: 36-16)
Run Differential Last Week: +37 (Overall: +111)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.0 GA)
Willians Watch: 3-for-15 last week (Season AVG: .264)After sweeping both the Angels and White Sox, the Twins are now, absurdly, 20 games above .500 with a 10-game lead in the AL Central. There really doesn't seem to be anything that can slow this team down. Injuries to top sluggers Mitch Garver and Nelson Cruz have had no ill effect on the offense's output. A controversial cancellation in Anaheim on Wednesday night didn't throw the Twins off; instead they came out and bashed the Halos 16-7 on Thursday. And when it seemed like maybe the repercussions of that lost travel day were being felt, as the Twins fell behind 4-1 early on Friday night thanks to some uncharacteristic defensive miscues, they came back to score 10 runs unanswered.
There was one notable roster move last week: Austin Adams was designated for assignment, with Zack Littell called up to replace him in the bullpen. More on that in the (very sparse) Lowlights section.
Once again, it was a pick-your-poison week for the unstoppable Twins offense, which has now added a locked-in Miguel Sano to this mix. For six weeks, as this lineup piled up accolades, we all mused about how ridiculous it would be to infuse Sano at any semblance of his former prowess. We're finding out. His arrival has only accelerated the outrageous production of a lineup that just became the second ever to hit 100 home runs through its first 50 games.
The Twins launched 17 long balls in six games last week, and four of 'em came from Sano. His two dingers on Thursday were among Minnesota's eight total in a laugher against the Angels, but the most important from Miggy was his first – a two-run, tie-breaking blast in the eighth inning of Monday night's game that lifted Minnesota to a 3-1 victory.
That game epitomized what makes this team so incredibly dangerous and slump-proof. Even on a night where the bats are generally quiet, there are so many guys who can come through with a big game-changing hit. This helps explain why we're still waiting for the first three-game losing streak.
Of course, most often needing the big hit hasn't been an issue, because the Twins have been routinely pulling off lopsided victories. This was the nature of their other five wins, which came by an average margin of seven runs. Once again everyone was clicking, with these guys leading the way:
- Eddie Rosario went 12-for-27 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Since a 15-game slump that saw him bat .316 from April 21st through May 7th, Rosario has surged back with a .394/.405/.606 line in his past 17. That's Eddie for ya. He leads the American League in RBIs at 45, and is one behind an injured George Springer in home runs, at 16.
- Jorge Polanco went 6-fo-22 with a homer and two doubles. He's second in the AL in batting average (.335) and tied with Mike Trout for the lead in WAR (3.4). If you're handicapping the MVP race at this moment Polanco is likely in the Top 5 along with Rosario. Pitchers are seemingly becoming less inclined to throw him strikes, and Polanco's adjusting beautifully; he drew six walks and reached base at a .429 clip in his six games.
- Max Kepler went 12-for-21 with three homers, four doubles, and 10 RBIs. He's batting .471 on his current eight-game hitting streak and has raised his season average from .231 to .276.
- C.J. Cron notched five hits on Thursday, including his eighth home run of May. He's got 13 jacks already; his predecessor Joe Mauer never hit more than 11 as a first baseman.
Michael Pineda rebounded from some early issues on Tuesday to record his third consecutive quality start. Jose Berrios worked around defensive miscues on Friday to get through 6 2/3 frames, with three of his four runs unearned. Kyle Gibson delivered a dominant gem on Saturday, holding the White Sox to one run over seven innings with nine strikeouts and 21 swinging strikes.
One of the few hiccups of the entire week was Adams' relief appearance on Thursday. It wasn't impactful, since he entered with a 14-run lead, but Adams was dreadful, coughing up five runs on three hits and three walks while recording only two outs. To their credit, the Twins were fast to send him out, replacing Adams in the bullpen with Littell, who looked very good in his two scoreless innings on Friday.
I wrote last week that the bullpen is the one looming weakness in an otherwise sturdy championship formula for Minnesota. I don't think the implosion from Adams will be the last time we see an over-performing reliever who was fished out of Triple-A come hurtling back to Earth. The Twins must prepare for this eventuality and their minor-league cupboard is largely bare, especially with some of the unfortunate developments you'll read below.
But Littell, from my view, has the chance to be a real impact arm out of the pen. He was averaging more than a strikeout per inning as a starter at Rochester with a solid repertoire that, at first blush, seems to play up in relief. Littell seems like the perfect candidate for Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner to work their magic on, and I'm pleased to see the Twins wasting no time in firing up the experiment.
Rookie call-up Luis Arraez arrived with a bang, going 5-for-14 with a home run in his first full week as a a big-leaguer. He's struck out only once through 23 plate appearances with the Twins, and is batting .389. It's been tough for Rocco Baldelli to keep his name out of the lineup, but for now there just aren't any regular openings for Arraez to fill. Although he's shown some versatility, appearing at second, third and short, he's not going to stick around as a backup drawing sporadic playing time, so I suspect he'll return to the minors once Cruz returns.
When's that going to happen? Anyone's guess. The Twins were tentatively planning to activate him on Friday but that didn't happen. As Cruz himself notes, wrists can be tricky and there's no need to rush this process, especially with Arraez bringing so much joy in his stead.
DOWN ON THE FARM
As well as things went for the big-league club last week, the minor-league front wasn't nearly so peachy.
A mysterious visit to Minneapolis from #3 prospect Brusdar Graterol generated considerable excitement and buzz, as fans pondered a possible call-up (which would arguably be warranted). Instead, it turns out he was here to have his shoulder examined, and on Saturday the Twins announced he's being shut down with an impingement, with more testing to come. Oof. Graterol had a 1.89 ERA in nine starts at Double-A, where he held opponents to a .188 batting average. He was the most promising potential late-season bullpen reinforcement within the system, and while that remains a possibility, shoulder woes are obviously very concerning for a 20-year-old throwing as hard as he does. We'll keep an eye on his status and keep you updated on any developments.
Another of the team's pitching prospects, Stephen Gonsalves, has also been shut down (again). After an intriguing MLB debut last year, he missed the first six months of this season with an elbow strain before finally taking the mound on last Tuesday in Rochester. He lasted just two innings and issued five walks, throwing 23 of 51 pitches for strikes. Evidently the elbow was still barking, and Gonsalves has now been diagnosed with a "stress reaction in his left elbow-forearm area," although La Velle E. Neal III reports that his UCL is sound.
The same sadly cannot be said for #10 prospect Akil Baddoo, who's headed for Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season. The outfielder joins Sano and Alex Kirilloff as highly-ranked Twins position player prospects to require reconstructive elbow surgery – just a tremendous run of bad fortune. On the bright side, Baddoo was ahead of schedule as a 20-year-old in High-A, so hopefully he'll be able to return and get right back on track next year.
It wasn't all bad news for Twins prospects. Nick Gordon returned from a brief IL stint in Rochester, going 6-for-20 in five games, and – more notably – Wander Javier is back! The shortstop was activated at Cedar Rapids over the weekend, and on Saturday made his first official game appearance since 2017, finishing 0-for-4 with an HBP and two strikeouts. It'd be nice to see the organization's #5 prospect get rolling quickly and rejuvenate a lagging top end of Minnesota's talent pipeline.
The Twins more than took care of business during a 20-game stretch against sub-.500 teams, finishing at 14-6. Now the difficulty level turns up as they welcome Christian Yelich and the Brewers to Target Field for two games, then travel to Tampa for four-games against the Rays. Expect to see Tampa come out with openers and a bunch of weird pitching configurations as they seek to disrupt the groove of this Twins offense.
MONDAY, 5/27: BREWERS @ TWINS – LHP Gio Gonzalez v. RHP Michael Pineda
TUESDAY, 5/28: BREWERS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Davies v. LHP Martin Perez
THURSDAY, 5/30: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Charlie Morton
FRIDAY, 5/31: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Ryne Stanek
SATURDAY, 6/1: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. TBD
SUNDAY, 6/2: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Michael Pineda v. TBD
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 47 | MIN 3, LAA 1: Pitching Great, Sano Homers Late
- Game 48 | MIN 8, LAA 3: Bats Break Loose Late
- Game 49 | MIN 16, LAA 7: Twins Slug 8 More Home Runs, Sweep Angels
- Game 50 | MIN 11, CWS 4: Twins Make Home Run History
- Game 51 | MIN 8, CHW 1: Gibby Sizzles Over 7 Solid Innings
- Game 52 | MIN 7, CHW 0: Twins, Fans Flex Their Muscles in Weekend Sweep
Click here to view the article