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Front Page: 4 Questions the Twins Need to Address Concerning Their Potential Playoff Roster

luis arraez ehire adrianza jake cave willians astudillo zack littell
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#1 Thieres Rabelo

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:00 PM

Things are starting to heat up and the postseason is getting closer. Today, among Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, the lowest odds of the Twins making the playoffs is 97.8% and the lowest of them winning the division is 86.1%. So, one way or the other, only a tragedy would keep Minnesota out. With that in mind and with the September roster expansions coming up, here are four questions we should be asking ourselves, regarding the roster that they’re taking to October.First, we have to look at the Twins and figure out what are their needs and what they can do about it. At this moment, ten pitchers and ten position players (provided Byron Buxton is healthy) are considered by most as locks for the postseason. Those 20 players don't include the players below, so when the time comes for the Twins to set a final playoff roster, some very productive position players could not be included.

Do you leave off Luis Arráez, Jonathan Schoop or Ehire Adrianza?

To me that’s the toughest and potentially most dangerous problem to solve. Luis Arráez leads all AL rookies in batting average (.335) and is at the top five in fWAR (1.4), WPA (1.34), OPS (.836) and wRC+ (123). How can you realistically not want this guy in the playoffs?

The problem is that you don’t have other very clear options. One could argue that Jonathan Schoop has a considerably lower offensive production than him, with .254 AVG, 0.9 fWAR, -1.19 WPA (dead last on the team), .769 OPS and 97 wRC+. Or that, statistically, his defense isn’t much better than that of Arráez, since the rookie has better UZR and DEF, while Schoop has produced only one DRS more than him. But that’s not even the main point here.

Schoop was the clear starting second baseman acquisition in the offseason. He’s being paid good money to do so. Usually, that would mean there’s virtually zero chance he’s not part of a playoff roster. Schoop is a vital part of the “Bomba Squad” spirit. With 18 home runs on the year, he’s very likely to become the seventh or eighth Twin with 20 dingers this season. Other than the Bombas, experience counts a lot during playoffs and Schoop can provide that.

Adrianza becomes the second realistic option to be excluded, which would be a huge bummer. Not because I think he’s an Eduardo Escobar-type bench player. He’s not. But he is so hard-working, so patient and has made such a good contribution to this organization in the past three years that it would be heartbreaking to see him out of the playoff roster. He did make the cut for the 2017 Wild Card team, but still, there’s no guarantee that he will be included this time.

He’s also producing at the highest he’s ever produced in a Twin uniform. This season he is slashing .287/.371/.431 (.802), with a 112 wRC+. He also represents a statistically better defender than Schoop, for example, when he played second base. But the latter still holds the same upper-hand mentioned in the last paragraph. And you’re definitely not leaving out Marwin Gonzalez to include Adrianza. So tell us, reader, what would you do here in this infield puzzle?

But before you make a decision here, let me say that in the next paragraph you may find a solution, if you feel like all three deserve to make the roster. But it’s not any easier.

Do you leave off Jake Cave and use Gonzalez as the fourth outfielder?

When Buxton is back, the Twins will have four primary outfielders, with Jake Cave being on the bench. Now, if the Twins want, they can keep extra infielder by deploying Gonzalez as their fourth outfielder, when necessary. The question here is: do you exclude Cave on their behalf?

Cave has already done a pretty good job when he was called to fill in for Buxton lass season. But this year? Hoo, boy. Fine, his overall numbers in 2019 are not extremely better than 2018, but he's currently having an out-of-the-earth month of August. Since being recalled on Aug. 3, he’s slashing .442/.500/.767 (1.267) with a 232 wRC+ and a .696 BABIP. He leads the Twins in all those metrics this month, except SLG, OPS and wRC+, losing to Nelson Cruz in them by very little.

So, what would you do here? As much as we might like Adrianza and as well as Arráez might be playing offensively, how can you turn your back on this? Granted, Cave’s numbers could very well come down to earth after a whole month of September, which would make this decision much easier. If they don’t, what a tough decision to make. However, let’s not forget that when we talk about Cave, we’re talking about a much smaller sample size. So far, he’s got only 148 plate appearances, against 205 from Adrianza and 249 from Arráez.

What do you do with Willians Astudillo?

Since coming back from his oblique strain injury, “La Tortuga” is slashing .368/.368/.421 (.789) in four Triple-A games and .353/.421/.765 (1.186) in five Double-A games, striking out only once overall. If he comes back and maintain that level, do you have a spot for him on your postseason roster? Over who? Personally, I can’t see it happening and I can’t see anyone I would choose him over. But you never know what’s going to happen.

Which pitchers make the postseason staff?

Assuming that all the position players questions are answered when October comes. There are 10 pitchers who are considered locked in for a playoff spot: José Berríos, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson as starters. Martín Pérez, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sam Dyson, Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers as relievers. You need to add two or three more. Who do you have? Here are four names.

1. Zack Littell
What a great job this kid has been doing this year. He had one bad outing in late May, in which he gave up eight of his ten earned runs in the year. So, if you removed that one outing, you find out that he would have a 0.87 ERA the whole year. Granted, he’s pitched only 25 innings this season, but that’s still impressive. Since June 18, when he got called up for the second time, he’s posting a 0.96 ERA, which is good for the fifth best in baseball.

I was honestly very confused when he was the chosen one to be optioned last week. Can he handle high leverage situations in the postseason? I wouldn’t want to test that -- although in the very few moments (three and one third innings) he’s been put under pressure, he hasn’t allowed a single run and has held opposing batters to a ridiculous .091/.167/.091 slash line.

2. Trevor Hildenberger
Hildy had an amazing start to the year, followed by a horrendous month of May, which resulted in him being sent down. Then, he started dealing with injuries and was sidelined for nearly two months. Now, he’s back and, apparently, he’s back to his old self. Before the start of May, Hildenberger was one of the team’s best relievers, posting a 1.92 ERA.

Now, since coming back from injury, he’s pitched five games (seven innings) and is posting a 1.28 ERA, while striking out nine batters per nine and with a 7.03 K/BB ratio. He’s had some serious ups and downs in his short major league career, which can make us a bit suspicious, but he’s definitely earned the right to be looked at in September.

3. Devin Smeltzer
Smeltzer didn’t shy away when he got his chance. He impressed everyone when he shutout the Yankees for five innings of relief in late July, so you can tell the kid is ready for the big stage. As a reliever this year, he has a 3.38 ERA for the Twins. In medium or high leverage situations, that goes down to 3.09. But that’s not even his spot. Along with Pérez, he could be the best option if a starter can’t get deep into a game and you need a long man. Besides, you absolutely need another lefty over there.

4. Brusdar Graterol
The organization’s top pitching prospect doesn’t even need introductions. You can read a more in depth analysis of him in two of our latest articles, one by Jeremy Nygaard here and one by Andrew Thares here, as well as our daily Minor League reports. He’s pitched 59 innings in three different minor league levels this year and is holding opponent batters to a .180 AVG, striking out 8.84 times per nine. His ERA this year is 1.53 overall and 0.00 in 8 1/3 innings of relief. It would be a longshot if he actually made the playoff team after a callup in September. But, who knows?

Other callups that are going to be looked at during September and maybe could earn a spot include Ryne Harper, Jorge Alcala, Randy Dobnak, Fernando Romero and Kohl Stewart. Harper was a regular on the Twins bullpen all year, but got out of track lately. He should get another chance, because he’s shown good stuff before.

So who is on your final roster?

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#2 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:24 PM

I would go with a 12 man pitching staff. There are rest days in the playoffs. I would want all three of Cave, Arraez, and Adrianza. By the end of September, the IL may take someone currently on the Twins active roster. I hope not, but it is a possibility.

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#3 SwainZag

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:40 PM

I would go with a 12 man pitching staff. There are rest days in the playoffs. I would want all three of Cave, Arraez, and Adrianza. By the end of September, the IL may take someone currently on the Twins active roster. I hope not, but it is a possibility.


I'd go with an 11 man staff. You do not need a 5th starter and depending on how you use your staff maybe not even a 4th starter in a 5 game series.
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#4 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:43 PM

I'd go with an 11 man staff. You do not need a 5th starter and depending on how you use your staff maybe not even a 4th starter in a 5 game series.


If the Twins recent history is any indication, they DEFINITELY won't need a 4th starter.
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#5 yarnivek1972

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 06:52 PM

If the Twins are playing the wild card game as opposed to a divisional series, their roster will be substantially different. If you need more than 9 pitchers for a one game win or go home, you are probably getting clobbered.

For a regular series, I would say 12 pitchers at most, more likely 11. Same reasoning. You shouldn’t need to use more than 8 per game ever. With the built in off days, there are never more than 3 straight days without an off day. So, most of the guys should be able to go every game if needed if they are limited to 15-18 pitches.
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#6 Richard Swerdlick

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:06 PM

If Berrios continueshis current August form I would not start him in the playoffs. Perez, Pineda and Odo look the best right now. Not sure what to do with Berrios if September is like August. Relief??


#7 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:19 PM

Astudillo is the easiest.... He is not on the roster unless there is an injury.

Eleven or twelve pitchers.

Great post, btw.
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#8 D.C Twins

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:22 PM

In answer to your questions:

1. If chosen today Schoop should be off and the double As (trademark pending) should be on....No scholarships and Schoop is gone next year anyway. We need OBP and defensive substitutions/flexibility (note; this will NOT happen because the FO has a hard time parting with their prospects and FA pick ups)

 

2. Cave is off. Gonzales and Adrianza (see above choice) can provide OF depth. 

 

3. Astudillo is only needed if there is an injury to Garver or Castro

 

4. 3 starters and whoever is left (to include starters not in the top 3) who throws the fastest for strikes (yep, sometimes it's just that easy....choose not to go down on walks and give the batter as little time to think as possible)...So yes to Littell and Graterol (and I hope even Alcala)

 

No thanks to Hildy, Harper or any gimicky or soft tossing options.


#9 SwainZag

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:24 PM

In answer to your questions:
1. If chosen today Schoop should be off and the double As (trademark pending) should be on....No scholarships and Schoop is gone next year anyway. We need OBP and defensive substitutions/flexibility (note; this will NOT happen because the FO has a hard time parting with their prospects and FA pick ups)

2. Cave is off. Gonzales and Adrianza (see above choice) can provide OF depth.

3. Astudillo is only needed if there is an injury to Garver or Castro

4. 3 starters and whoever is left (to include starters not in the top 3) who throws the fastest for strikes (yep, sometimes it's just that easy....choose not to go down on walks and give the batter as little time to think as possible)...So yes to Littell and Graterol (and I hope even Alcala)

No thanks to Hildy, Harper or any gimicky or soft tossing options.


If you are playing someone with a left handed starter Schoop is a must.
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#10 longstrangetrip

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:25 PM

Fun to be thinking about the postseason.And with Cleveland losing their hottest hitter the past two months for the rest of the season and Kluber not ready yet, I would be surprised if the Twins didn't win the division.

 

I think this question is easier than I originally thought, with the only question in my mind being the 11th pitcher ( I see no need to carry more than 11 in postseason) assuming everyone is healthy come playoffs.I have the 8 position players most of us consider starters now (catcher is either Castro or Garver), along with Schoop, Gonzalez, Adrianza, Cave, Castro/Garver and Tortuga (I like having a third catcher in case Rocco wants to pinch hit for Castro). I don't think anyone in the playoffs can match that bench.

 

11th pitcher would be Littell for me right now, but someone else may rise to the surface with a great September.

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#11 longstrangetrip

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:28 PM

 

Astudillo is the easiest.... He is not on the roster unless there is an injury.

Eleven or twelve pitchers.

Great post, btw.

 

That was my first thought too, Mike, but then I couldn't come up with a 14th position player to go along with my 11 pitchers.Who do you have in there instead of Turtle if Rocco goes with 11?


#12 longstrangetrip

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:30 PM

 

If you are playing someone with a left handed starter Schoop is a must.

 

I agree.Plus, it would be odd and perhaps unprecedented to leave off a popular (and relatively productive) player who has been on the roster all season.  


#13 yarnivek1972

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 07:37 PM

That was my first thought too, Mike, but then I couldn't come up with a 14th position player to go along with my 11 pitchers. Who do you have in there instead of Turtle if Rocco goes with 11?


Nick Gordon could potentially be a pinch runner type. Might be the best candidate the Twins have (other than Lewis who isn’t going to be added for that purpose).

#14 Danchat

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 08:26 PM

Off the top of my head:

 

Lineup: RF Kepler, SS Polanco, DH Cruz, LF Rosario, 3B Sano, 2B Arraez, CF Buxton, C Garver, 1B Cron

Bench: UTL Gonzalez, C Castro, 2B Schoop, UTL Adrianza

 

Starters/Primaries: SP Berrios, SP Odorizzi, SP Pineda, LHP Perez, RHP Gibson

Relievers: LHP Rogers, RHP Romo, RHP Dyson, RHP May, RHP Duffey, RHP Littell, RHP Graterol

 

I would flip Cave for Schoop if there are no lefty starting pitchers to face. I wanted to keep Gibson off the list... but he'll be there. Methinks Littell and Graterol will earn spots with some nice pitching in September.

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#15 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 09:03 PM

We need OBP and defensive substitutions/flexibility (note; this will NOT happen because the FO has a hard time parting with their prospects and FA pick ups)

Weren't Blake Parker and Addison Reed their pick ups?
What evidence do you have to suggest they have a hard time parting with their pick ups?

Edited by Mr. Brooks, 26 August 2019 - 09:04 PM.

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#16 D.C Twins

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 09:23 PM

 

Weren't Blake Parker and Addison Reed their pick ups?
What evidence do you have to suggest they have a hard time parting with their pick ups?

Addison Reed couldn't break a wet paper towel with his fastball, so not sure that was really a 'decision.'Parker and the rest of the relievers in The Purge where shown the door later than they should have IMO....Going into last year, one (or perhaps everyone) could argue thatBelisle was retained just a bit too long....


#17 D.C Twins

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 09:33 PM

Points about left handed Schoop and clubhouse chemistry well taken though.

 

 

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#18 Rosterman

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 10:46 PM

Cut pitchers and go with batters. For a five game series you need four starters at best.

 

Having Arraez, Gonzales, Castro, Adrianza and maybe Cave gives you lots of possibilities. Most of all, though, you want all bodies to be ready to play everyday at their position. If even the slightly injured, elt them rest the series. The Twins have the depth.

 

Best bullpen. But keep arms fresh somehow in case you want to switch out Smeltzer for someone, or maybe Hildengerger does deserve a moment.

 

Gonna be interesting to see how the Twins play this stuff.

 

Hell, September I would go the opener route more often than not if you are advancing Smeltzer, Stewart, Thorpe, Stashak to the team. Then I wouldn't be said f my "real" starter only gives us five innings. The Twins could really push this concept and let starters only throw 75-80 pitches and not face the top of the orer three times in any game.

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#19 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 11:26 PM

Off the top of my head:
 
Lineup: RF Kepler, SS Polanco, DH Cruz, LF Rosario, 3B Sano, 2B Arraez, CF Buxton, C Garver, 1B Cron
Bench: UTL Gonzalez, C Castro, 2B Schoop, UTL Adrianza
 
Starters/Primaries: SP Berrios, SP Odorizzi, SP Pineda, LHP Perez, RHP Gibson
Relievers: LHP Rogers, RHP Romo, RHP Dyson, RHP May, RHP Duffey, RHP Littell, RHP Graterol
 
I would flip Cave for Schoop if there are no lefty starting pitchers to face. I wanted to keep Gibson off the list... but he'll be there. Methinks Littell and Graterol will earn spots with some nice pitching in September.


Like what you got except either Gibson or Pérez goes to the pen, and Cave stays instead of Graterol. 4 SPs, 7 RPs, 14 hitters. Can’t cut Cave now, he’s been our best hitter for the last month.

#20 longstrangetrip

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 04:43 AM

 

Nick Gordon could potentially be a pinch runner type. Might be the best candidate the Twins have (other than Lewis who isn’t going to be added for that purpose).

After a decent night's sleep, I realize that my math is faulty.I forgot about the DH, so there's only room for 5 becnh players if Rocco goes with 11 pitchers. Turtle doesn't make the cut if everyone is healthy.Bench (assuming Castro starts) is Garver, Gonzalez, Cave, Adrianza and Schoop.

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