Jump to content
Twins Daily
  • Create Account

6 Key Questions for the Twins to Answer in the Second Half


The Minnesota Twins won't be making a pennant push in the second half of the season. That's unfortunate. But it doesn't mean the front office can't operate with a purpose.

The remainder of the schedule should be used, in part, to answer these six questions with critical implications for the team's outlook beyond 2021.

1. Will Nick Gordon have a role on the 2022 Twins? 

The former first-round pick has finally found his way to the majors and is getting a chance to show what he's got ... but not much of a chance. Gordon's playing time has been sporadic at best; in the past calendar month, he's appeared in 11 of 24 games, starting only seven.

Personally I'm a little skeptical of Gordon having a stong fit on a contending MLB roster, and his production hasn't exactly forced the issue – he's slashing .167/.222/.262 in his last 45 plate appearances – but it hurts nothing to give him an extended look in the second half and see if he can find some traction. 

There are some intriguing skills here, from the standout speed to the emerging defensive flexibility, but Gordon turns 26 in October and it'll tough to hold onto him anymore as a development project. He needs to prove he can play a valuable role in the immediate future, and the Twins should give him that chance.

2. What's up with Randy Dobnak?

Unlike Gordon, Dobnak's spot in the organization is secure. He signed a five-year extension in the spring and while the total money involved is not going to keep the Twins attached to him for the duration, it'll definitely keep him in the mix as a factor next year.

So... can he pitch in the majors?

The answer seemed to be a resounding yes through his first 15 big-league appearances, when he posted a 1.69 ERA through 58 ⅔  innings. Since then he has allowed 53 earned runs in 60 innings (7.95 ERA) along with 86 hits. He's been tagged with a 2-9 record in 17 outings during that span. Will the real Randy Dobnak please stand up?

It bears noting that the right-hander has dealt with challenging circumstances this year, from an uncertain role out of the gates to a fingernail injury to an unrelated finger strain that currently has him on the Injured List. Hopefully the second half will help the Twins get a handle on whether those circumstances are primarily responsible for his drop-off, or if the former undrafted pitcher's magic has simply run out. 

Their conclusion will dictate whether they can count on him to help fill out a needy rotation in 2022.

3. Can Bailey Ober be penciled into next year's Opening Day rotation?

Speaking of filling out a needy rotation, Ober is another potential plug. With a juiced-up fastball that suddenly touches mid-90s, the 6-foot-9 right-hander has quickly shifted from middling prospect to the makings of a legit MLB starter. There are promising signs in his performance as a rookie – especially the 37-to-11 K/BB ratio in 33 innings.

But Ober's performance, which includes a 5.45 ERA and nine home runs allowed in eight short starts, hasn't been good enough to assert himself as a clear option for next year's rotation. As I pondered in the latest Week in Review column: "Can he solve the long-ball woes in the second half? And how much opportunity will have to do so, as the Twins carefully manage his workload coming off the lost season?" 

If the Twins ultimately determine they can count on neither Dobnak or Ober to be one of their five guys out of the gates next year, the front office will face a major uphill climb in filling out the rotation with limited spending power during the offseason.

4. Is Brent Rooker a major-league player?

He doesn't have much left to prove in Triple-A, from an offensive standpoint anyway. Rooker has been absolutely crushing for the St. Paul Saints, with a 1.073 OPS in his past 30 games. He launched three home runs on Tuesday night, then added another on Wednesday to move ahead of Nelson Cruz for the organizational lead in home runs on the season, with 19. 

That's the kind of power you seemingly want to find a spot for ... but the Twins have been unable to do so. Amidst all their injuries and depth issues, Rooker's gotten only 30 MLB plate appearances this year. The biggest barrier is his defense – it's clear the Twins don't trust him anywhere in the field, even first base.

That should cease to be an issue by the end of the month. Nelson Cruz will be traded to a contender, opening up the DH spot. From there, Rooker will need to make a case that he's going to hit enough in the majors to be a viable full-time option at the position next year. Or, he'll have to make the most out of whatever chances he gets in the field to show he's at least usable. 

As a no-glove slugger, the bar for hitting is extremely high for Rooker to be a valuable big-leaguer. His 18-to-1 K/BB ratio with the Twins up to this point doesn't offer much promise on that front. He's got some work to do.

5. What's salvageable in this bullpen?

Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers (assuming he's not traded) ... what else is there to build on here as Minnesota tries to pick up the pieces from a disastrous relief corps? Caleb Thielbar will likely be in the picture next year, although he's struggling mightily here in July. Jorge Alcala will remain in play, although his home run proneness has severely diminished his shine.

The Twins need to take advantage of the outcome-agnostic nature of this second half to take deeper looks at anyone with a hint of intrigue or potential to factor in next year. 

Keep running out Derek Law and give him some looks in leverage. Call up Beau Burrows and Ian Hamilton for auditions. Hopefully guys like Luke Farrell, Cody Stashak, and Lewis Thorpe get healthy enough that you can give them some run. Maybe even consider promoting legit relief prospects like Yennier Cano and Jovani Moran, if they're deemed ready. 

Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks.

6. What's the plan for the middle infield?

Right now it is anyone's guess. With Andrelton Simmons likely to be shipped out ahead of the deadline, the Twins will have some flexibility to try out different alignments during the second half. Getting Jorge Polanco regular looks at shortstop may help the team assess if they'd be comfortable moving him back there full-time next year. The same goes for Luis Arraez at second. Feeding Gordon a healthy amount of playing time will be instructional as well. Could Rob Refsnyder re-enter the mix once he gets healthy again? 

The Twins will want to get a firm grasp on what they have in the middle infield so they can make informed plans for the offseason. With Simmons gone and last winter's offseason shakeup reset, they'll basically be back at square one.

Let's hear from you. Which questions do you think will be most important for the Twins to answer during the second half of this season?

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email


View full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recommended Posts

Nick:  You offer a lot of intriguing questions for next season, which are all questions that I and most Twins have at this point of a lost season.  Many of these will be answered over the next 2 weeks as we see what players---especially those on expiring contracts-----Cruz, Simmons, Pineda are dealt.

One area that you didn't address is our future state of affairs at the catcher position.  I'd be interested to hear your perspective as well as other fans.

I'll offer my "2 cents" for now:

1.  What to do with Garver?  Of all the hitters that BOMBED their way into history in 2019, the enigma of Mitch Garver continues.  Without going into history that all know------I'd suggest--for at least the rest of the season---assuming Garver is back soon from his rehab---that Baldelli employs a time share between Garver and Jeffers.

2.  Ryan Jeffers:  Count me in the camp that advocate for Jeffers to be our regular (120 games plus) starting catcher in 2022.  I believe Jeffers is far superior defensively than Garver and is starting to figure things out with his bat.  

3.  Ben Rortvedt:  Great kid who offers some good defensive skills, but needs REGULAR ABs at Saint Paul the rest of the season to see if he jump into the mix as a backup for next season.

4.  Willians Austudillo:  Might not belong in this grouping, but he has shown promise at AAA since his demotion.  Love his passion and flair, but doubt those intangibles justify a roster spot this season or moving into 2022.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, darwin22 said:

One area that you didn't address is our future state of affairs at the catcher position.  I'd be interested to hear your perspective as well as other fans.

My thought is: stay the course. I pretty much agree with your assessment although I think you're underselling Garver. He looked phenomenal before the latest injury. I'm not sure what to make of Jeffers offensively. 

Rortvedt has definitely shown me this year he's got a long future as a quality backup MLB catcher at least.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nelson Cruz, in the Minneapolis Tribune:

...

"I don't see any reason why we can't bounce back and do something magical," Cruz said of the Twins' postseason chances. "I think we all feel that way."

Cruz said his opinion coalesced last weekend, when he and his teammates swept four games from the Tigers, erasing multi-run deficits in the late innings in three of them. "We should feel pretty comfortable, the way we're playing," said Cruz, for the moment overlooking the team's seven losses in the nine games before that series. "The pitching was there, for the most part, and the offense was definitely there. … We just need to keep that going."...

...

Jose Berrios, Josh Donaldson, Taylor Rogers and even Byron Buxton have reportedly been inquired about as well, transactions that would signal a more serious reset of the team's future.

"I cannot predict the future, but I hope that's not the case," Cruz said. "I hope they keep me around."

Even if a trade meant a return to the postseason and another chance to pursue the championship that has eluded him in his 17 seasons? "That might make a difference," Cruz said after a pause. "But I'm not looking to go anywhere."

Neither is Rocco Baldelli, who said his approach won't change, even as he experiences his first disappointing season (though not first disappointing postseason) as a manager, after back-to-back division championships....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice article Nick.  All areas appear to need work.  However I think they need to concentrate on the pitching.  Twins should use the second half to see how the prospects fare.  The current staff with a few exceptions has produced horrendous results.  Signing bargain basement washed up pitchers is not the answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

Nice article Nick.  All areas appear to need work.  However I think they need to concentrate on the pitching.  Twins should use the second half to see how the prospects fare.  The current staff with a few exceptions has produced horrendous results.  Signing bargain basement washed up pitchers is not the answer.

The washed up pitcher reclamation projects are one of the main reasons for this seasons failure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Gordon that I am not sold on him, but the team needs to play him the rest of the season to see if he has a role or not.  For Dobnak I feel they need to give him a planned role, whatever it is.  He has been bounced in and out of rotation up and down as well.  Figure out what you want him to do so he can plan around that. I hardly give much stock in end or season numbers for young guys so I would take little stock for Ober in that, but if he shows he can make adjustments as season goes and into next year, that is what I want to see. Rooker will get DH time after Cruz is dealt, but I have no faith for him in OF.  If he can be full time DH next year cool, if he fails second half, do we go out to sign someone, I doubt that as we have plenty of guys that can fill in or rotate around.  Middle infield is a major question that I doubt this second half will not answer.  Clearly they do not think Gordon can play ss, so will they plan to shift Polonco back, slot Lewis in, resign Simmons, or push heavy for one the FA, or trade for someone.  Not sure second half will answer that question.  Bullpen pitchers are very volatile from year to year and hard to ever expect much from them, unless they are the best of the best.   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, darwin22 said:

Ryan Jeffers:  Count me in the camp that advocate for Jeffers to be our regular (120 games plus) starting catcher in 2022.  I believe Jeffers is far superior defensively than Garver and is starting to figure things out with his bat.  

Ben Rortvedt:  Great kid who offers some good defensive skills, but needs REGULAR ABs at Saint Paul the rest of the season to see if he jump into the mix as a backup for next season.

 

 

Great points overall, but I do disagree with your take on Jeffers. You say he's "starting to figure things out", but over the past 21 days he's hitting just .111 - he's got 3 total hits in the past 3 weeks. Now he has walked 9 times during that time frame, which is something....but overall his numbers don't point to me that he's anywhere close to figuring things out.

Rortvedt is fairing no better, also hitting .111 in the past 21 days.

If this team was in a race right now, I'd imagine we'd be seeing a lot of Willians Astudillo at the C position right now. Frankly, I can't see how Astudillo isn't looking at these numbers and wondering why the heck he's in St. Paul right now.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

32 minutes ago, bighat said:

Great points overall, but I do disagree with your take on Jeffers. You say he's "starting to figure things out", but over the past 21 days he's hitting just .111 - he's got 3 total hits in the past 3 weeks. Now he has walked 9 times during that time frame, which is something....but overall his numbers don't point to me that he's anywhere close to figuring things out.

Rortvedt is fairing no better, also hitting .111 in the past 21 days.

If this team was in a race right now, I'd imagine we'd be seeing a lot of Willians Astudillo at the C position right now. Frankly, I can't see how Astudillo isn't looking at these numbers and wondering why the heck he's in St. Paul right now.

 

Bighat:  Very fair point in setting me straight with facts about Jeffers recent offensive struggles (3 hits over last 3 weeks).  Normally, I base my comments on research, but failed to do so with that comment. Saying that, from what I've seen of Jeffers defensively, he's far superior in all aspects over  Garver, but to justify getting the majority of playing time next year, he must show some marked improvement the 2nd half of this season.  I, like other fans, am just frustrated by regression of Garver from his breakout 2019 season.  If he can figure a way to stay healthy and come anywhere close to his 2019 numbers, his chances of remaining as our #1 catcher increases dramatically.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Six good questions.  I’ll argue rebuilding Twins need to answer this one, too: is there a 2022 role for Josh Donaldson (who’ll be 36), or should he be moved before the trade deadline to free up the money?  Cot’s Baseball Contracts shows Donaldson is owed $51.5 million (2022-2023 + buyout of 2024 option).  With pitching the biggest issue, for me getting off this contract should be a top priority.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which AAA pitchers are up, and look good enough and ready to be part of 2022? That is the number 1 question, and it isn't close, imo. Because if they aren't up this year, you can't count on them for next year. And there is a low percentage chance they can fill 3 starting spots from outside the org......like, really low.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nick, useful information, but are these really key questions now?  Your first four questions seem to have already been answered.  None of these players have shown anything that would lead us to believe they can be key contributors on a contending team.  Not one!

Similarly, the middle infield problem is pretty easily answered.  The Twins do not have anyone on the current roster, except Simmons, who is a plus defender at SS, easily the most important defensive position in the lineup.  Since Simmons is unlikely to bring back much in the way of trade, he should be resigned until a real SS prospect emerges.  Nothing I've heard about Lewis leaves me to believe he is the heir apparent.  But one question that should be asked, though it is not as critical as some others, is whether one of Polanco or Arraez should be traded for a top starting pitcher prospect?  2B is one of few positions where we have a "surplus" and neither of these two should be relegated to a utility role,

The bullpen picture is as muddied as you said, but can't understand why guys like Farrell, Law, Stashak, Thorpe are even considered.  Give the relief opportunities to guys like Cano and Moran who have excelled, maybe even Hamilton for the remainder of the year.  Have to add that Alcala has shown very little, except ability to yield HRs, Duffy has taken a big step back(look at his % inherited runners scored) and Rogers is simply not the shutdown ace a real contender needs.  What a mess!

This FO has some much bigger problems than these.  I hope they're up to the task!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mitch Garver vs Ryan Jeffers. Luckily, Garver (258 innings) and Jeffers (298 innings) have played in a similar number of innings with the same pitching staff this year.

Framing? Garver +2, Jeffers +1.

Errors? Identical = 1

Passed balls count? Identical = 2

Wild pitches? Garver = 10 vs. Jeffers = 12

Caught stealing? Garver 20% (career 20%), Jeffers 35% (career 25%), but opposing teams have run on Jeffers far more frequently 26 attempts vs. 15 attempts. Jeffers was bad in 2020, catching only 13% while Garver caught 33% last year. As far as CS%, that seems to fluctuate a lot, year to year. It seems hard to gauge without a few years in a row with similar numbers.

If I were a betting person, I'd wager the stance on Garver's defense has more to do with reputation than reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, mike8791 said:

Nick, useful information, but are these really key questions now?  Your first four questions seem to have already been answered.  None of these players have shown anything that would lead us to believe they can be key contributors on a contending team.  Not one!

 

None of them had had a significant opportunity to do so.  Thus, Nicks suggestion this would be good to test during this period that does not matter in the standings.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Just writing them off because they are not top prospects is really foolish.  Have we not learned anything from TB or the multitude of players that have taken off when given an opportunity?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they cannot excell in Minor Leagues, they will be lousy in the big show.

Fans DO NOT pay to watch players get their butts handed to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, RpR said:

If they cannot excell in Minor Leagues, they will be lousy in the big show.

Fans DO NOT pay to watch players get their butts handed to them.

Rooker and Ober have done quite well in Milb.  Gordon's Milb performance was poor in the early years but he was decent in 2019 and looked much improved this year.  He has also looked the part at the MLB level.  They are all pretty much perfect examples of players who's role or lack tgereof need to be defined.  Sounds to me like you just want to go on with the status quo instead of investing in the future.  That's your prerogative.  I am interested in finding solutions to building a better team.  Apparently, so is Nick.  My only quibble is that I share Mike's position that the most important question they answer is related to evaluating prospects that can contribute to starting pitching in 2022.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

Featured Video

×
×
  • Create New...