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Twins Need to See Pillars Produce

Ted Schwerzler




Over the course of 2021 the Minnesota Twins have found more ways to lose in 32 games than most teams can accomplish over the course of a full season. If going into the year it was assumed this club would be good, a complete 180 this early doesn’t seem fair. The problem? Are these players actually good?


Here’s the deal, Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen has been bad. It’s among the worst in baseball across more than a handful of categories. He’s dealing with a group that the front office banked more on development than production, and regression has hit everyone not named Taylor Rogers. Despite a winning record in nine-inning games, this team gets crushed the minute relief help comes in.


Although the lineup has shown signs of life at times, the length of it is immediately called into question when looking at assumed producers. I think it was a fair assessment to assume 2020 Mitch Garver wasn’t right. Jorge Polanco dealt with an ankle injury, and Max Kepler clearly left something to be desired. Fast forward a year however, and that trio is as confusing as ever.


The backstop that broke out in 2019 probably was never going to resurface for the Twins. What Garver did that year was truly unreal, and for a late-blooming catcher, probably unrepeatable. It should’ve been assumed that Minnesota’s catching tandem could be among the best in baseball this season with how Ryan Jeffers looked in his 2020 debut. Garver hasn’t caught up to the fastball again though, and despite a .748 OPS, has just not really put it together yet.


Moving from shortstop to second base was going to be huge for Polanco defensively. A surgically repaired ankle also gave the Twins middle infielder a clean bill of health. He seems to be staying in on swings more than he did a year ago, but the results still leave plenty to be desired. Polanco’s .679 OPS is just north of his 2020 mark, and while he does have a 97 OPS+ on the season, a .236/.306 average and on-base percentage is not where the Twins can afford him to be. Extended in 2019, he really hasn’t been a good player since.


In the outfield there’s been more uncertainty than ever this season. Alex Kirilloff was left off the roster to start 2021, and Byron Buxton is now again on the shelf. Kepler has always been the mainstay from a health perspective, but his production has gone missing for the better part of the past two years. Just recently getting on the longball board this season, Kepler owns a disappointing .664 OPS through his first 22 games. The average is hovering near the Mendoza Line, and the .855 OPS from 2019 looks to be from an alternate universe.


The reality for Rocco is that the players he was counting on have by and large been there this season. In mass quantities however, they’ve fallen flat. It’s great that Byron Buxton looks like an MVP candidate, Josh Donaldson is a monster, and Nelson Cruz is ageless. Behind that though, it’s really hard to see anything that suggests this team is good anywhere but on paper. Assume producers need to start coming through, and it’s this trio that may be chief among them.


There’s still time for the 2021 Minnesota Twins to turn things around, but it’s getting late early, and it only gets darker if the light switch doesn’t flip for some guys very soon.

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


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I can agree that the bullpen has been the major problem so far, but I also feel there has been way too many questionable "game management" decisions. I'm not ready to give up on the season quite yet however, as many of these players have shown over the past what they are capable of doing. Think back to 91 when nobody thought this team had a chance early and they won like 15 straight and never looked back. We have more than one or two players that are capable of putting this team on there shoulders and taking a long run like that again. I just don't know if we have the right management team to motivate them to do it.

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Bullpen has been main concern, along with injuries. Rocco making many of same decisions he made in 2019, only results are different, players not producing. I like RB as manager and this time will make him a better manager in long run. Get everyone healthy and producing, find some consistency in bullpen and Twins will be OK.

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Baldelli needs to throw that dang notebook he has his nose in all the time away! Last week he was asked why he brought Waddell back the 2nd night after he got pounded the night before.? He said because of who was coming up. What? Garcia who went deep off Waddell was in the on-deck circle. And he did it again! Rocco's notebook must have been on the wrong page which is what he seems to be sometimes! Bet the Whiz Kids in front office miss Trevor Mays current 1.26 ERA. BUT, he throws to hard for the Twins liking anyway!

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Yeah, I hope the pillars produce, but if the struggle goes on much longer it may be only so that their trade value can increase. Kepler, Polanco and Garver all have someone with high upside or proven value (Larnach/Kirilloff, Arraez and Jeffers respectively) who could replace them if they were traded. All three guys are under team control for multiple years and Garver is the oldest (30), so I think rather than just trading expiring contracts, the Twins could look at moving any one (or all three) of these guys. 

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