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Twins 5, Blue Jays 5: Donaldson Debuts, Berrios Shines

miguel sano jose berrios travis blankenhorn ryan jeffers sergio romo
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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 03:42 PM

FORT MYERS - Baseball is back, baby. Ok, it was back two days ago when the Twins faced the Gophers, but that was kind of a buzzkill. And it was back yesterday, but it was a road game two hours away, and not even the players wanted to travel that far. But today it was at – as the Hammond Stadium announcer belted out – “the southern tip of Twins Territory.” It was a home game, in Fort Myers, and the crowded concourses a full hour before first pitch validates the urge you feel right now: to hear everything about it.It also means I’m breaking a vow. A couple of years ago, I swore I would forever go through an entire spring training visit without reporting individual results of games. Why? Because by reporting on them, it lends credence to them meaning something, and they don’t. None of them. And especially not early spring training games. But I also get it: we’re hungry for baseball. So here are a few notes about the Twins 5-5 tie with the Blue Jays.

Berrios looked awfully good. He gave up a lead-off hit and the next batter hit a line drive, but it went right to second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, who caught it and turned an easy double-play. After that, he got his last four outs on strikeouts, and there is plenty of excitement about Berrios’ age-25 season. If Berrios can maintain his early season success over the whole season, the sky’s the limit.

Miguel Sano spent the second inning taking the extra bases available to him. He got on base with a sawed off blooper. Advanced to second base on a ground ball to left field. Tagged up and took third on a fly ball to center field. Then tagged up again on a medium fly ball to left field. He didn’t look especially fast in any of those events, but he was easily safe on all of them. I don’t think it means anything, but it’s sure fun to see.

Sergio Romo looked like he got a strikeout on a changeup to a right-handed batter in his third-inning appearance. It also looked like he got a called strike on a changeup to a right-handed batter two batters later. Romo threw a changeup 16% of the time last year – the highest rates in his career – but usually that pitch would be used against opposite-sided hitters as changeups tend to move toward the pitcher’s arm side. He could be experimenting with that pitch early in camp – or I could be wrong about the pitch. Either I or someone else from Twins Daily will ask him about it later this week.

Lineup Stuff
My theory on getting some idea of Twins manager Rocco Baldlli’s initial thoughts regarding batting order for this game looks … um … stupid, despite what we saw last year. The Twins only started three expected regulars for their home opener and they all hit right-handed, and so they batted second, third and fourth in the lineup. There’s not a lot we can glean from that.

However, that meant we got to see Josh Donaldson hitting second, which could end up being his spot during the regular season. That’s the spot Donaldson has hit most often in his career, though he spent most of last year hitting cleanup for the Braves.

The Twins leadoff hitter is likely Max Kepler or Luis Arraez, both of whom hit left-handed, so batting the right-handed hitting Donaldson in that spot would protect against a manager bringing in a left-handed reliever (or an opener) to attempt to neutralize the top two spots in the order. Last year’s #2 hitter, Jorge Polanco, is a switch-hitter, but he profiles as a left-hander with the bat: he posted a .891 OPS versus right-handers last year, and just a 728 OPS versus southpaws.

It’s worth noting that the Twins may not see things the same way. Twins Daily followers on Twitter didn’t. They voted Polanco over Donaldson in the second spot, 46% to 41% in our poll on Friday. (Donaldson won the third spot in the lineup on Saturday.) You can add your two cents the rest of the week by following TwinsDaily on Twitter.

For what it’s worth, the other two regulars in today’s lineup were Mitch Garver hitting third and Miguel Sano hitting fourth. One could make a pretty good case that Garver could hit third for a few MLB teams, but I expect him to be much further down the lineup for the Twins – perhaps as low as seventh or eighth. That shows just how deep this lineup is, especially with right-handed hitters.

Prospects Getting Featured
The Twins have been showcasing their prospects in these early games. Six of their top prospects started against the Gophers on Friday night’s game. Yesterday, top prospect Royce Lewis started at shortstop and number three prospect Trevor Larnach hit cleanup versus the Pirates. Today the Twins had Ryan Jeffers leading off in front of Donaldson, Garver and Sano. No pressure, kid.

There’s a lot of buzz around Jeffers at camp this year. He’s a second-round pick of the Twins in 2018. He profiled as a bat-first player who had played catcher a bit in college but wasn’t expected to stick there. But Jeffers has worked hard to improve his defense while continuing to hit, including posting an .856 OPS in a limited stint (24 games) in AA last year. Twins Daily ranked the 22-year-old as our seventh best Twins prospect this month, and with Brusdar Graterol being traded to the Dodgers, he’s currently at number six.

The Twins also started another top-20 prospect, 23-year-old second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, in today’s lineup, batting seventh. We ranked Blankenhorn as the Twins’ 18th best prospect this year, but he’s been bouncing around our prospect lists for four years. Last year he showed additional power, also at AA, and though he missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, the Twins added him to the 40-man roster this fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

Repeating his early success last year could go a long way toward re-establishing him as a top 10 prospect or even late season contributor for the Twins. He’s certainly being treated like a potential contributor with some early preseason playing time. He went 0-2 today, but drove in two runs with his efforts.

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  • glunn and Nine of twelve like this

#2 Nine of twelve

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 05:38 PM

 

A couple of years ago, I swore I would forever go through an entire spring training visit without reporting individual results of games. Why? Because by reporting on them, it lends credence to them meaning something, and they don’t. None of them. And especially not early spring training games.

 

I'll respectfully disagree with this. While the score of the game means nothing, the performance of individual players has some meaning. And speaking as a baseball fan, at this time of year it's really good to read a write-up of a Twins game, no matter what occurs. I've said this before, but I will say it again - to me there are two seasons to every year, baseball season and waiting for baseball season. It's a lift to my spirits that baseball season has returned.

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#3 D.C Twins

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 05:53 PM

Sooner or later, Kepler will be entrenched in the 3rd spot in the order, and dominate there.

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#4 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 06:56 PM

I think you may be right. An interesting order would be either Polanco or Arraez leading off, Donaldson second, Kepler third, Cruz, Rosario, Sano, Garver, Polanco / Arraez and Buxton. I would start the season with Polanco in the lead-up spot so Arraez could kind of ease in and we can see if last year's performance was real or if he suffers the dreaded sophomore slump. We can then potentially switch them depending on performance. Plus, if they both perform, we can drop whoever isn't performing into the eighth spot.

#5 Dantes929

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 07:08 PM

 

I'll respectfully disagree with this. While the score of the game means nothing, the performance of individual players has some meaning. And speaking as a baseball fan, at this time of year it's really good to read a write-up of a Twins game, no matter what occurs. I've said this before, but I will say it again - to me there are two seasons to every year, baseball season and waiting for baseball season. It's a lift to my spirits that baseball season has returned.

I will respectfully mostly disagree with you. Every ST we get a Bryan or a Luke or an Aaron someone just tear up Spring Trainingwhile guys like Morneau, or Thome or Kepler bat .110 and it really does mean very little. I am guessing 21 or more spots are set right now and Spring Training really is just training.Its not a tryout. Barring injuries there is probably about 1 utility and maybe a couple pitching spotsthat are so close that ST performance might mean something.  

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#6 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 09:42 PM

 

I'll respectfully disagree with this. While the score of the game means nothing, the performance of individual players has some meaning. And speaking as a baseball fan, at this time of year it's really good to read a write-up of a Twins game, no matter what occurs. I've said this before, but I will say it again - to me there are two seasons to every year, baseball season and waiting for baseball season. It's a lift to my spirits that baseball season has returned.

Actually, the correlation between spring training results and regular season results is extremely weak and the data is considerable.

 

Enjoy the games, revel in the fact that baseball has finally returned, but don't put stock into much of anything that happens before April.

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#7 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 23 February 2020 - 09:48 PM

 

Sooner or later, Kepler will be entrenched in the 3rd spot in the order, and dominate there.

No one in this lineup should be entrenched anywhere. 

 

And Kepler is definitely not the third or fourth best hitter on the team. While I love Max, I'm not entrenching him in any spot of a lineup that contains Donaldson, Sano, Garver, and Cruz.

 

Max is a tier below all of those guys, somewhere closer to Polanco but lacking some of the skills that make Jorge a good lead-off hitter.

 

Max is a lefty, which makes you want to slot him in between those other mashers somewhere but he's not in their league; that's not a knock on Max, it's a testament to just how freakin' good the rest of this lineup looks.

 

On an average team, Max is probably the second or third best hitter. On the Twins, he's probably like the fifth or sixth best hitter.


#8 DocBauer

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Posted 24 February 2020 - 05:55 AM

I thought Berrios and Romo both looked great. Alcala showed some life to his FB and had a few really nice breaking balls but was all over the place. I'm hoping that was mostly nerves/excitement and not truly indicative of his control. On Kepler, if he doesn't leadoff, I'd like to see him slot after Cruz and Donaldson and before Sano to break up the lineup. That should put him 4tn or 5th in the lineup most days.
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#9 Shaitan

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Posted 24 February 2020 - 09:47 AM

[Obligatory "how does Sano look, physically" this year question.]

 

I haven't seen the usual 13 reports...which I take as a good sign.

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#10 Shaitan

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Posted 24 February 2020 - 11:31 AM

 

[Obligatory "how does Sano look, physically" this year question.]

 

I haven't seen the usual 13 reports...which I take as a good sign.

 

It seems like Matthew has the answer already http://twinsdaily.co...-training-r9021




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