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Tyler Austin Just Visiting Minnesota?


Ted Schwerzler

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In one of their first moves this offseason, the Minnesota Twins plucked C.J. Cron off waivers after he was jettisoned by the Tampa Bay Rays. Following a 30-home run breakout campaign and having established relationships with the likes of Rocco Baldelli and Josh Kalk, the slugging first basemen seems like a decent gamble. What’s worth wondering though is whether Cron slots in as Joe Mauer’s replacement, or just another body on the 25 man. No matter what his role, the Twins do have Tyler Austin to worry about, and what’s next could be described as some uncertainty.

 

The Twins acquired Austin and pitching prospect Luis Rijo in exchange for Lance Lynn at the 2018 trade deadline. After seeing little playing time with the Yankees over the past three seasons, Austin got in consistent run with Minnesota down the stretch. From August through the end of the season, he played in 35 games for Paul Molitor’s club. His .782 OPS was a career best, and the nine longballs were also reflective of his power stroke. Now recently turned 27 years-old Austin looked to be in line for an expanded role with the Twins, but that may not be guaranteed.

 

Projecting the possible roster openings, we can guarantee that nine players fill out the lineup with another five in the starting rotation. A 13 man pitching staff has been customary for the organization of late, so an eight-man bullpen also seems probable. In that scenario there’s just three bench spots up for grabs, likely taken up by backup catcher Mitch Garver, utility man Ehire Adrianza, and fourth outfielder Jake Cave. At this point we’ve yet to consider Austin’s place meaning he’d need to start at either first base or designated hitter.

 

Although the Twins aren’t locked into Cron to start the season, a $4.8 million deal tendered to the former Ray suggests he’s in their plans. Whether that means he starts at first base or takes the bulk of the designated hitter reps remains to be seen. It would be my hope, and a logical expectation, that Minnesota is not yet done adding bats. Obviously, Jorge Polanco needs an up the middle partner, but a higher ceiling fit for first or DH still has plenty of promise. The duo of Cron and Austin would be passable, but the front office would also be plenty open for criticism if such a low reward avenue was embarked upon.

 

Next week the Winter Meetings commence in Las Vegas and we’re almost certainly (err, hopefully) going to see the free agent market pick up. Minnesota may let some of the chips fall first, but they’ll need to fill the necessary holes (middle infield, bullpen) at some point. Another bat entering the picture would only further signify what could be a suboptimal development for the one-time Yankees prospect.

 

For a guy like Austin these situations are never ideal. We saw him produce at a higher level down the stretch when given consistent playing time. He’s out of options however and could be up against a numbers crunch in a position Minnesota stands to benefit from improvement. A Cron and Austin tandem in the lineup would signify somewhat of a disappointing effort to acquire talent, but an improvement could make the stay in Twins Territory a quick one for Tyler.

 

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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Last year the Twins struck out 8.2% of their at bats. 

Sano 38.5% 

Cron 25.9 %

Austin 35.4 %

Imagine that as the middle of the lineup!  I can't.  

All stats from Fangraphs. 

There's no denying the Twins need more OBP throughout the lineup. Also, Sano has to go back to walking 15% of the time as opposed to 10%

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I’ll be surprised if Austin stays with the organization, let alone the 25-man roster. As unfortunate as it is for Austin (and his dad), Cron makes him irrelevant, which is why I’m hoping the Twins deal him for more pitching.

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I’ll be surprised if Austin stays with the organization, let alone the 25-man roster. As unfortunate as it is for Austin (and his dad), Cron makes him irrelevant, which is why I’m hoping the Twins deal him for more pitching.

 

It is so hard for me to consider, imagine, or accept, that CJ Cron can make any MLB player irrelevant. 

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I’ll be surprised if Austin stays with the organization, let alone the 25-man roster. As unfortunate as it is for Austin (and his dad), Cron makes him irrelevant, which is why I’m hoping the Twins deal him for more pitching.

Lance Lynn, maybe?

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It is so hard for me to consider, imagine, or accept, that CJ Cron can make any MLB player irrelevant.

 

Same, but I really don’t like the idea of having Austin, someone who only plays 1B/DH, as the 25th man. Better use of that 25th roster spot would be signing Billy Hamilton to be our 4th OF/pinch runner/emergency 2B. And it’s not like Cron and Austin are our only 1B options, we got Kepler/Sano/Garver.

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Cron is maybe better than last year's failure, LoMo, but not by much.

 

Plenty sick of this narrative. The LoMo signing, and even Lance Lynn, were solid baseball moves. Neither were big money and both were one year deals. Sure neither worked out for different reasons, but that doesn’t mean either of them were bad deals at the time.

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It is so hard for me to consider, imagine, or accept, that CJ Cron can make any MLB player irrelevant. 

 

Well Cron did have a higher OPS than the Twins have seen from 1B since 2013.

 

I know I'm on an island, but my intrigue over Cron has grown a bit since his signing. His spray charts look a lot like vintage Brian Dozier. I like the RH power hitters at Target Field, obviously there's no guarantees, but I think he's got a chance to pepper the left field seats like Dozier and Willingham before him.

 

And while I'd like to see Austin get a shot, I don't see him getting a long stint with any team with those kind of strikeout numbers.

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I wish the 8-man bullpen was a thing of the past. It may not be if you have to throw out 1-inning pitchers to start a game. But not sure how that will work.

 

The Twins could with a shorter bullpen, except we don't know if Pineda can pitch five innings, we know Odorizzi can get to a sixth inning as he didn't show it last season. 100 pitch counts means guys come up short...Romero included.

 

Ca the Twins transform a couple of their starters-to-be to bullpen arms like ground-ball Stewart and left Mejia? Would seem logical. 

 

How many one inning setup men do you need pitching every other day, i.e. Hildenberger getting overused.

 

It hurts the bench, which needs a backup catcher (Garver) an infielder (Adrianza) and a guy who can play the outfield or maybe somewhere else (Cave, Willians). 

 

The days of a defensive replacement, a pinch runner, or a pitch hitter are moot.

 

Maybe it is tie for the majors to expand rosters to 27 or 28 players so you can have those extra arms, since so few pitchers actually pitch 200 innings and a relief pitcher shouldn't be needed 80 times in a season. And nice to have some bench strength. I think the union would love the extra salaries for "fringe" potential players to get a shot at the majors. Or maybe you are allowed to carry the extra players, but only allow 25 to suit up for a game (okay, you already gave four arms that don't really suit up to play in a game already).

 

But this is about Austin. He showed power. All or nothing. Not much in the batting average. Lots of k's. But he should get a strong look in spring training as the Twins lose him if he goes back to the minors. I keep thinking about Chris Parmelee who had a good late-season run. And then I think of former Yankee Kevin Maas as the DH-to-be who was worse than Logan Morrison.

 

In someways I'm excited about spring training to see what the Twins think they are putting on the field...and then hoping I can stomach up the bucks to watch it all play out on the field.

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His career WOBA against lefties is .387. He is 2018 Paul Goldschmidt against lefties.

 

His career WOBA against righties is .285. With the Twins last year, Ryan LaMarre was .284.

 

I would love to have a Goldschmidt at DH or 1B in the lineup against every lefty. It is the other 72% of the time that needs a plan. Ryan LaMarre is not a good plan.

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