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The Twins Newest Roster Bonus Debuts in 2022


When looking ahead to the roster construction for the upcoming season, most of the focus should be on pitching. A shortstop is needed, and some shuffling has to be done, but I’m eyeing an exciting way to use an open lineup spot.

After the Minnesota Twins fleeced the Tampa Bay Rays by swapping Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, they officially ended their two-and-a-half year run with a consistent designated hitter. For the first time since 2018, Rocco Baldelli had to consider who would take on that role each night when filling out his lineup card. Cruz had earned top-10 American League MVP consideration each of the past two seasons, but moving on was the right choice.

A free agent looking ahead to 2022, Cruz could undoubtedly be brought back by the Twins if the parties wanted. Considering that he’s now 41-years-old and posted just a .725 OPS in 55 games with Tampa Bay, a reunion seems unnecessary. Minnesota’s lineup should be viewed as a strength with players currently within the organization plugged into it. The need for another bat-only type of player falls well down the ladder on the list of essentials. Most important, though, lineup flexibility is paramount to the playing time of talent at the big league level.

Baldelli needs to figure out how to accommodate Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff, and Miguel Sano on a near-nightly basis. Brent Rooker hasn’t quite established himself as a necessary piece for me, but he’s in the mix, and Trevor Larnach should be expected to re-emerge quickly too. That’s a total of five names for two positions and comes without even mentioning Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year Jose Miranda. Given the reality that Josh Donaldson is entrenched at third base (but would benefit from rotational DH duties) and Jorge Polanco will play up the middle, having rotation ability at the designated hitter spot makes too much sense.

I have no idea whether Miranda will hit at the big-league level like he did at Double and Triple-A. I would assume that he’s ready but will take his lumps like any young player. Larnach and Rooker both have plenty to prove, and to be frank, so too does Kirilloff. Sano is a streaky hitter but benefits from consistent at-bats and possesses 30 home run power. While you’re dealing in uncertainty with this blueprint, the same could be said about a reunion with a 41-year-old displaying a slight decline. Even if the idea is not Cruz, signing anyone to take up 140 games worth of designated hitter at-bats would be putting roster construction in a corner for the Twins.

Arguably the most significant positive here is that allocation of funds can be focused elsewhere. It’s not as though Cruz’s $13 million pact in 2021 was back-breaking, but re-upping on that or doling out something similar for another option (though I don’t think Kyle Schwarber hits the open market) would be taking away funds from more pressing needs.

Many teams have made a rotational designated hitter work. It’s great to have a guy you can count on to go out and rake. Still, it’s also limiting in terms of flexibility, and as the Twins transition towards a new identity (this doesn’t need to be the Bomba Squad anymore, and hasn’t been), finding who fits the mold offensively is about pushing the right buttons. Allow the skipper to do so.

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I see Arraez as having more value as a trade piece than anything. Sure he has a decent OBA, but he has poor speed, really isn't much of a fielder, is a singles hitter that kind of clogs the bases for those behind him. He would probably play great in a large park like Coors where he could shoot some gaps, or even a place like fenway to bounce of the monster.

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I'm 100% down with a rotational DH for 2022. Nelson Cruz was great and I loved having the Boomstick, but now is the right time to roll on past that. And I don't think slotting one guy in there isn't what's best for this roster.

I expect Sano, Donaldson (assuming he's on the roster), Garver, and Arraez to get the majority of the ABs there (not necessarily in that order). I think that makes sense: it gives Kirilloff and Garver some opportunities at 1B, Miranda time at 3B, and room to get Arraez's bat in the lineup without needing to put him and his shaky D and bad knees in the field. We have the bats to fill this in nicely while putting that money into pitching.

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Having a revolving door at DH is a dream come true for Baldelli. He can't play a guy more than 4 or 5 games in a row without giving them a day off so using the DH as another option to shuffle players through only makes sense. It'll give him the ability to play the non-productive guys like Jake Cave and the Turtle even more thus weakening the team's offense more than it already is. The lineup currently consists of 3 guys that can hit, Polanco, Arraez and Buxton. Occasionally Garver shows some offense but he's streaky and lack of consistant playing time might be the problem. Injuries and Baldelli's urgency to rest catchers almost every other day doesn't help. Outside of those 4 guys where is the offense going to come from? Donaldson is aging and on the downhill slide. Kepler and Sano have proven they can only hit .200 and an occasional home run. They need a SS and a LF that can hit. If Kirilloff and Miranda can make that impact in 2022 then Baldelli needs to find a place for them to play every day, not just 3 or 4 times a week. 

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Rosenthal had an interesting article today in the Athletic about promoting starting pitching by limiting the size of a pitching staff, and losing your DH when you pull your starter, but I think the greatest impact is going to be on pitching.  I can see the Twins using a Rays-like deployment of pitchers, having perhaps 4 or 5 starters who go 5, then spreading the innings among the remaining 8-9 "relievers."  Given that the chances of us obtaining 5 starters (meaning, at least 3 "new" starters) who average 5 innings each is remote, we need several 2-3 inning guys.  Maybe 150 innings is the new 200. 

Anyway, if we get 5 starters who get to 150 innings (and I know it won't be the same 5 guys all season), we still need about 670 innings from the relievers (and that's assuming we lose half our road games so I'm averaging 8.75 innings/game).  Trotting Duffy, Alcala and Rogers out for an inning each every other game is only going to cover 250 of those, so somewhere we need 420 innings out of the remaining 5.  I think the only way we get there is to have 10 guys, including the ones with options who float between AAA and MLB, keeping arms fresh.  The list has a lot of those guys on it, though - Winder, Balazovic, Canterino, Duran, Woods-Richardson, Strotman, Smeltzer, Barnes, Dobnak, Stashak, Thielbar, Jax, etc.  They can potentially have these guys get their feet wet pitching 2-3 inning stints, and if one or more shows that he should be in the top-5, so much the better.  I'm guessing we won't have 5 locked-in starting spots at any point in the season for longer than a couple of weeks.

Assuming they don't increase the roster size, or if they do, imposing a 13-pitcher limit, we are going to have a short bench, and (as mentioned above) with the need for positional flexibility and rotating time off, we would have a difficult time using a full-time DH.  Arraez, Donaldson, Garver, Sano playing or DH'ing 5 times a week with one day off (coupled with the pitching strategy set forth above) is the most Baldellian of tactics.

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On 10/29/2021 at 2:17 PM, rv78 said:

Having a revolving door at DH is a dream come true for Baldelli. He can't play a guy more than 4 or 5 games in a row without giving them a day off so using the DH as another option to shuffle players through only makes sense. It'll give him the ability to play the non-productive guys like Jake Cave and the Turtle even more thus weakening the team's offense more than it already is. The lineup currently consists of 3 guys that can hit, Polanco, Arraez and Buxton. Occasionally Garver shows some offense but he's streaky and lack of consistant playing time might be the problem. Injuries and Baldelli's urgency to rest catchers almost every other day doesn't help. Outside of those 4 guys where is the offense going to come from? Donaldson is aging and on the downhill slide. Kepler and Sano have proven they can only hit .200 and an occasional home run. They need a SS and a LF that can hit. If Kirilloff and Miranda can make that impact in 2022 then Baldelli needs to find a place for them to play every day, not just 3 or 4 times a week. 

I think your definition of “can hit” is a bit narrow.  Arraez hits for a high average but that’s not the only determining factor in creating runs.  Arraez has a career wRC+ of 103. 

Garver-122  /  Sano-118  /  Even Kepler is 101 and he provides great defensive value.

I think you are also looking back and not where we are going.  Kirilloff is already more impactful than Arraez and he has the potential to be far more impactful.  Who knows exactly what Miranda will do be he will likely have a much greater offensive impact.  His strike out percentage is very low and his slugging percentage very high.  We also have Martin in the wings with similar skills, more power, and more speed, and better defensively.

Buxton is only has a 99 career wRC+.  I too hope his SSS this year is a view of what’s to come but we should also have some confidence in Kirilloff and Miranda.

 

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