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What if the Rebuild is the Twins Confidence?


Going into the 2021 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins were expected to contend for another American League Central Division title. They flopped, and nothing went as expected. What if the front office is leaning on rebuilding the confidence in guys already in the clubhouse?

Right now, we sit in the midst of a lockout with no end in sight and no moves on the horizon. Before the shutdown, Minnesota’s only move of consequence was in signing starter Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal. The rotation remains bare, but at this point, the free-agent market could be categorized as roughly the same. Short of signing Carlos Rodon to a deal, Minnesota will get better by swapping assets rather than paying for them.
 
With that in mind, it could be believed that much of the talent at Rocco Baldelli’s disposal in 2022 already has a spot on the roster. Minnesota currently has just two spots open on their 40 man roster, although there’s undoubtedly possible maneuvering that could take place. Those on the 40 man, though, especially on offense, make up a group expected to produce a year ago.
 
Jorge Polanco turned in a strong year in which he bounced back from injuries and looked the part of his 2019 self. Cemented as the second basemen (hopefully), the goal would be for others to join him. Byron Buxton was an MVP candidate but played in just 61 games. Luis Arraez played in only 121 games and hit below .300 for the first time in his three big-league seasons. Miguel Sano started incredibly cold before finding his stride. Although Josh Donaldson produced, his .827 OPS was boosted mainly by a stretch surge. Alex Kirilloff didn’t acclimate as expected, and Trevor Larnach didn’t deliver. Mitch Garver was limited, and Ryan Jeffers took a step backward. Maybe Max Kepler isn’t on the Opening Day roster, but the hope would be that there’s more from him as well.
 
That group of bats is virtually the same core that was a terror to opposing pitching staffs in 2019 and much of 2020. Jose Miranda should be expected to join them at some point in 2022, and while Nelson Cruz is no longer here, freeing up the designated hitter spot should work in favor of Minnesota when it comes to lineup construction. There’s a lot of opportunity for progress there, even if that leaves the door open to uncertainty. The reality is that aside from a shortstop, Falvey had little need to spend on bats.
 
When it comes to pitching, there are certainly roles that need answers. The rotation is incomplete, and while it won’t stay that way, internally, the options are less evident. However, what is worth noting is that the stable of prospects should be near-ready to be unleashed. There are no less than five top options that Falvey has cultivated over the past few years. Nick Nelson recently wrote a great piece exploring why the Twins may be hesitant to spend on pitching. It all comes back to this group. Had 2020 gone off as expected, the injuries to these arms likely would have been less prevalent in 2021, and we’d have seen more opportunity at the highest level for this group.
 
It all amounts to a situation where the front office could be near suggestive of simply running it back. That may not wind up in a dominant season, but it’s also an understandable stance given where internal development lies. There are needs in the middle infield and rotation, but there’s also the expectation of multiple prospect options that should be called upon in a season or less. Without backing yourself into a corner with dollars and long-term deals, there’s a tightrope to walk if the path is playing a waiting game.

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The national rankings of minor league players are not as kind to the Twins' prospects, as we here at TD are. For example,  the only Twins prospect pitcher ranked in the MLB.com top 100 prospects is Balazovic who is way down at 81. If these rankings are to be believed, and if the twins are building a pitching staff from this farm system, then the Twins are doomed to more mediocrity.  

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One of the weaknesses for fans is familiarity bias.  I am as guilty as anyone.  I read all these glowing TD accounts and think our prospects must be the best there is, but that is seldom true.  So what do we do?  If I was to believe that the FO thinks all the pieces are in place then Baldelli should have been fired. 

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6 hours ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

The national rankings of minor league players are not as kind to the Twins' prospects, as we here at TD are. For example,  the only Twins prospect pitcher ranked in the MLB.com top 100 prospects is Balazovic who is way down at 81. If these rankings are to be believed, and if the twins are building a pitching staff from this farm system, then the Twins are doomed to more mediocrity.  

Which pitcher for the Guardians has been ranked? That is why you can't believe rankings.

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Hopefully all the pitching prospects will work out.  It's also just as likely none of them will work out.  That's the gamble with prospects.  Some may make the Twins by default.  After all some people have to pitch. The Twins need a couple of them to be good if they are to have a chance.  Great article.  I think you have something there.  The Twins finished at the bottom last year.  Apparently FO is going to pretend it was a fluke.  That is really taking a gamble.  If the major league pitching staff isn't improved for start of season looks like another bottom finishing season and return to 90-100 losses.

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15 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

Hopefully all the pitching prospects will work out.  It's also just as likely none of them will work out.  That's the gamble with prospects.  Some may make the Twins by default.  After all some people have to pitch. The Twins need a couple of them to be good if they are to have a chance.  Great article.  I think you have something there.  The Twins finished at the bottom last year.  Apparently FO is going to pretend it was a fluke.  That is really taking a gamble.  If the major league pitching staff isn't improved for start of season looks like another bottom finishing season and return to 90-100 losses.

Last season was no fluke. It was caused by poor managerial decisions from the top down due to wrong mindsets, poor evaluations and not taking advantage of trade opportunities. Plus some players had difficulties adjusting to the deader ball. We have a great player core, it'd be a shame if they give up and try to fill our critical holes by thrusting in house prospects in there when they aren't ready. That won't produce confidence, it could produce the opposite effect. Not going out to find adequate temporary solutions to our needs can send a negative message to the team and fan base that they aren't serious.

There's no doubt in my mind that we can turn this around and produce a winner if FO can learn from their mistakes last year plus Kepler adjusts and Sano keep on the same path that he was on at the end of the season.

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I agree Whitey.  If there is something to credit this FO with it's that we "seem" to have a plethora of pitching prospects.  It's not rocket science however, to realize that not all of them will make it.  SOME of them need to be packaged with young hitting talent like Arraez, Larnach, Rooker, Sabato etc...to acquire a couple of talented "Major League" caliber pitchers.  Whether it's Montas and Bassitt, Lopez and Sanchez, Mahle or Gray, or Lauer, the Twins are going to need some "established" major league pitchers to pair with "some" of their "youngen's."  I don't see us signing Rodon.  He'll be a Dodger or Yankee or a Red Sox pitcher because THEY can afford to absorb the mistake if it doesn't work out.  So the only way we can build back our starting rotation is to acquire a COUPLE of proven SP's via trade and hope for the best from Bundy and maybe Pineda and then see how they "youngen's" fare in 2022 and 2023.  

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45 minutes ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

What then do we believe in trying to decide whether this "plan" of building from within is working?

I think you nailed it here. "Hope" is not a plan, but hope is what we're being fed.

I think what's not being said is that the team plans to drop payroll for 2022 and beyond. They don't want to call it a rebuild, but a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.

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3 minutes ago, Karbo said:

One area they can improve on is getting back to basics. Doing the little things correctly. It seems like too many of our hitters are in an all or nothing mode. Are ther any TK students out there that can teach these guys some of the fundamentals of the game?

I agree 100%.

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18 hours ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

The national rankings of minor league players are not as kind to the Twins' prospects, as we here at TD are. For example,  the only Twins prospect pitcher ranked in the MLB.com top 100 prospects is Balazovic who is way down at 81. If these rankings are to be believed, and if the twins are building a pitching staff from this farm system, then the Twins are doomed to more mediocrity.  

On the flip side, Fangraphs has six Twins prospects on their Top 100 list, with four of them being SP.

From their evaluation, you would likely say they have the best SP future of any team not nicknamed Marlins.

FWIW, I've always found the MLB list the poorest of the Big 3, with Fangraphs being the most accurate as of late, overtaking Baseball America.

Side Note: I think this is because Fangraphs (namely Eric Longenhagen) uses more of the available performance metrics in his grading, vs the others that more heavily weigh traditional scouting. As those metrics have become more accurate and proliferate, they have been able to really crush it over the past few years with their lists.

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19 hours ago, Minny505 said:

On the flip side, Fangraphs has six Twins prospects on their Top 100 list, with four of them being SP.

From their evaluation, you would likely say they have the best SP future of any team not nicknamed Marlins.

FWIW, I've always found the MLB list the poorest of the Big 3, with Fangraphs being the most accurate as of late, overtaking Baseball America.

Side Note: I think this is because Fangraphs (namely Eric Longenhagen) uses more of the available performance metrics in his grading, vs the others that more heavily weigh traditional scouting. As those metrics have become more accurate and proliferate, they have been able to really crush it over the past few years with their lists.

Thanks Minny. Good points. Merry Christmas.

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