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Week in Review: Battling Through Attrition


 

The Minnesota Twins saw their hot streak come to a screeching halt at home as mounting injury woes and improved competition were too much to overcome. 

Still, the team is hanging in there and maintaining a three-game lead in the division as a seriously soft patch of the schedule looms.

Last Week's Game Results:

Game 30 | HOU 5, MIN 0: Verlander Dominates Hapless Twins
Game 31 | HOU 11, MIN 3: Astros Blast Twins in Suspended Game
Game 32 | HOU 5, MIN 0: Lack of Luck, Lots of Runners Stranded
Game 33 | MIN 12, CLE 8: Bats Awaken, Snap Losing Streak
Game 34 | CLE 3, MIN 2: Offense Absent, Twins Fall in Extras
Game 35 | MIN 3, CLE 1: Ryan Rebounds, Twins Take Series 

Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/9 through Sun, 5/15
***
Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 20-15)
Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: +12)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA)

NEWS & NOTES

The list of news and moves from last week is a long one, so let's just try and rattle through it rapid-fire:

  • Carlos Correa, whose bruised finger wasn't improving fast enough to facilitate a speedy return to action, was placed on the injured list for the sake of roster flexibility. He got in some work over the weekend and is expected to be back relatively soon.
  • Luis Arraez was activated from COVID IL, and played throughout the latter part of the week while showing no ill effects. Dylan Bundy, however, remains sidelined as he recovers from his battle with the virus. He wasn't able to go on Saturday so Devin Smeltzer came up to make his 2022 Twins debut, hurling five innings of one-run ball.
  • Alex Kirilloff returned from rehab, basically out of necessity, but looked completely ineffective as his wrist continues to restrict him. The Twins optioned him back to St. Paul on Saturday and he'll stay there until his bat shows signs of life. Meanwhile, Mark Contreras is up from Triple-A and temporarily providing some outfield depth.
  • Danny Coulombe, whose season was off to a magnificent start, suffered a hip injury on Tuesday that forced him to the shelf. It's another blow to this bullpen, which hopes to get a boost from his replacement: 28-year-old Yennier Canó, called up after a strong run at Triple-A. Jhon Romero was moved to the 60-day IL to create 40-man space.
  • Kyle Garlick embarked upon a rehab stint at Triple-A, with his calf apparently healed. He went 3-for-9 with a homer in St. Paul over the weekend and could rejoin the Twins for their coming road trip. They will be happy to get back his lefty-mashing stick.
  • Also due back this week: Bailey Ober, who threw 72 pitches over five innings in a rehab start on Sunday. He struck out seven with no walks, although he did allow four earned runs.
  • The most impactful health development of the week concerned starting pitcher Chris Paddack, but that one is discouraging enough that we'll save it for the Lowlights section.

HIGHLIGHTS

While the lineup has largely been struggling, a few players are stepping up in a big way. Jorge Polanco is at the head of that list, with his bat catching fire here in May following a fairly quiet first month. He contributed a homer and two doubles last week, and leads the team with 20 RBIs.

In a lineup that's seen almost everyone else miss time, Polanco has been a steady and durable force, appearing in all but one of Minnesota's games so far while easily leading the team in plate appearances. His ankle has sometimes impeded his performance but Polanco's been able to battle through and stay on the field, and it's one of his defining qualities. Dating back to 2019 only eight MLB players have amassed more plate appearances.

With Correa sidelined, Royce Lewis has been very impressive while filling in on the other side of second base. Although there have a been a few hiccups defensively, he's mostly made the plays and Lewis is swinging a good bat. The past week saw him notch six hits in 22 at-bats, including his first major-league home run – a grand slam that broke things open in Friday's win over Cleveland. It was a really awesome moment for a kid who is extremely easy to root for.

Byron Buxton was great as usual when available, launching a pair of homers against Cleveland over the weekend, but he's still bothered by soreness and occasional swelling in his knee, which is keeping him out of the lineup semi-regularly. With that being the case, the emergence of Gilberto Celestino has been tremendously impactful.

Celestino went 4-for-11 with a double last week and is now slashing .333/.396/.417 in 52 plate appearances this year. His defense in the outfield has been beyond exceptional (see below). It would've been hard to imagine, given how overmatched he looked as a rookie last year, but Celestino came right back to the big leagues and is giving the Twins everything they could want out of him as a fourth outfielder.

On the pitching side, a heaping share of credit is due to Joe Smith, who's been absolutely brilliant out of the Twins bullpen. The front office's lone MLB free agent addition for this unit has been providing absurd value, making frequent yet short appearances and ALWAYS getting the job done. He worked all three games in the Cleveland series, pitching on back-to-back-to-back days and running his season-opening scoreless streak to 12 ⅓ innings.

The two couldn't be much different stylistically, but the 38-year-old sidearmer Smith and the 24-year-old flamethrower Jhoan Duran – who worked two scoreless innings last week and rewrote the franchise record for pitch velocity multiple times – are leading the way in a surprisingly reliable bullpen, ranking first and second on the staff in Win Probability Added. 

LOWLIGHTS

The Astros series served as a stark reality check for the Twins, who'd ridden a major hot streak into a multi-game division lead despite all of their injury trials and setbacks. One-run victories over soft competition will be happily banked, but they're not necessarily the most convincing displays. Facing one of the league's truly elite teams, Minnesota was barely competitive. 

Even at full strength the Twins are probably not at the level of Houston – yet – and all weaknesses were magnified in their undermanned state. Batting Gary Sánchez third in your lineup against Justin Verlander is ... not what you want. 

Options were limited, unfortunately, and to some extent they still are. Far from giving the lineup a boost, José Miranda has reverted to his old offensive profile – swing at everything, with lots of weak contact – and it's not playing in the majors, as evidenced by a .114/.152/.227 slash line. 

Meanwhile, the streaky Ryan Jeffers has gone cold again – he went 3-for-16 last week and doesn't have an XBH since his last homer on May 3rd. Sánchez and Gio Urshela have been mostly unproductive outside of the occasional long ball, with each sporting a sub-.290 OBP. 

The Twins could desperately use a healthy and effective Kirilloff in the middle of their lineup right now, but that simply isn't in the cards. He's in a weird purgatory with his ailing right wrist, where it's not "injured" enough to merit being on the IL, but it's clearly giving him no chance to succeed at the plate.

During his time with the Twins, Kirilloff wasn't generating any loud contact. His batted ball metrics were brutal, with exit velos and launch angles ranking at the bottom of the team – not at all what you expect from a hitter of his caliber. Kirilloff still has not barreled a single ball in the majors this year.

All the team can really do at this point is send him to a lower-pressure environment and hope the wrist progressively improves, with results turning around in kind. One wonders if it'd be wise to simply give him some time off from swinging. But that's a difficult ask of a 24-year-old who is trying like hell to get his career going.

In addition to an offense that was shut out twice and nearly no-hit, the Houston series was also a harsh one for the rookies and reclamation project in Minnesota's rotation, with Joe Ryan, Chris Archer and Josh Winder all struggling to varying degrees. 

The patience of the Astros lineup proved too much for these starters. Ryan issued a career-high five walks on Tuesday while coughing up four earned runs in four innings. (To his immense credit, he bounced back with a clean and stellar performance on Sunday.) Archer threw just 42 of 75 pitches for strikes on Wednesday and lasted three laborious innings in a loss. Winder was touched up for four runs (three earned) over 3 ⅓ innings in the series finale, yielding six hits and three free passes. Twins pitching was completely outclassed by that of the Astros, with the rotation setting the tone for a lopsided series sweep.

It was the type of stretch that leaves you yearning for a steady veteran hand to go along with the youth movement. Seemingly this was a big part of the motivation in acquiring Paddack just ahead of the season, but now that trade has taken a turn for the worse with his elbow issues resurfacing.

Paddack exited his last start due to elbow inflammation, and has since been in the process of consulting specialists and gathering information to determine his next move. Having been placed on the 60-day IL, he'll miss at least a couple of months and it seems likely he'll undergo Tommy John surgery, costing him the rest of the season.

Last year in San Diego, Paddack was diagnosed with a partial tear of his UCL, which he tried to pitch through and remedy via non-surgical means. As such, this outcome is hardly shocking. The Twins knew the risks involved when they moved on Paddack, and now it looks like the worst-case scenario will be realized: he's going to contribute very little this year while Taylor Rogers is balling for the Padres.

Presumably we'll get more clarity in the coming week concerning the plan for Paddack. If you're seeking an optimistic slant, you could take a look at the example of Twins prospect Blayne Enlow, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June and is now ramping up and returning to action, less than one year later. A similar timeline for Paddack could potentially have him back pitching for the Twins in the first half of next year. But again, we'll need to see the details. One way or another, he has a long road ahead of him.

TRENDING STORYLINE

With Correa set to return soon, perhaps even in the coming week, it will be interesting to see what the plan is for Lewis. He certainly looks like a guy who belongs in the majors and the Twins aren't necessarily in a position where they should feel comfortable losing his spark. But obviously their superstar free agent will resume everyday shortstop duties once activated.

Lewis has the speed to be an asset in the outfield and could probably hold his own at third base, where Urshela hasn't been terribly impressive (offensively, anyway – the defense has been quite spectacular). But Lewis lacks much of any experience playing these positions, and you wonder if the Twins are comfortable letting him learn on the fly in the big leagues. 

I guess we'll find out soon enough. 

LOOKING AHEAD

An extremely soft section of the schedule is underway, and the Twins need to make hay. They'll open the coming week with a trip out west to face the Athletics, who they swept at home a week ago. Then it's off to Kansas City for a match-up against the Royals. The following 12 games are all against Detroit and KC. 

After that, the Twins will be running through an AL East gauntlet featuring the Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays, and at that point, they'll have a chance to show their mettle against strong competition after falling woefully short versus Houston. But until then, the goal is just to rattle off victories and build some distance in the Central standings.

As I publish this, no starter has been officially announced for Friday but that nod will presumably go to Ober.

MONDAY, 5/16: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Zach Logue
TUESDAY, 5/17: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP James Kaprielian
WEDNESDAY, 5/18: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Sonny Gray v. RHP Daulton Jefferies
FRIDAY, 5/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – TBD v. LHP Daniel Lynch
SATURDAY, 5/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Brad Keller
SUNDAY, 5/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Chris Archer v. TBD


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Verified Member

I hope they move Lewis around for the time being 1B, LF, SS and 3B as we need help at 3 of those spots right now.  I wonder if we could trade with Washington for their 1B if someone doesn’t step up soon.  We can get Arreaz more time at 3rd.  

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Thanks, Nick.  It should be exciting for the Twins to get their two best players back on the field. 
 

Sure seems like it makes sense to get Miranda back to St Paul for the summer.  Although Miranda needs to be sent down, Lewis seems ready for the ‘show.’  May still make sense to send him to St. Paul for a few weeks playing a lot of third base and left field.  Your memory may be better than mine, Nick, but I believe he played some/a lot of both in the AFL in 2020?

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Kirilloff  was one of the reasons I was excited about the TWins this year. I think he has a chance to be a really elite hitter. He has endured his share of bad luck to begin his career with his TJ surgery and now his wrist issues. His presence in the middle of the lineup changes the whole dynamics for the team.

I’m surprised you left off Pagan’s turn around (at least for this week) and needed success this weekend. No walks, too!

 

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Although not mentioned getting Larnach back would be a nice boost.  IMO, when Correa is activated Lewis needs to head to AAA to practice being a SS.  He is most likely our SS FT next year.

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13 hours ago, Nick Nelson said:

Celestino went 4-for-11 with a double last week and is now slashing .333/.396/.417 in 52 plate appearances this year. His defense in the outfield has been beyond exceptional (see below). It would've been hard to imagine, given how overmatched he looked as a rookie last year, but Celestino came right back to the big leagues and is giving the Twins everything they could want out of him as a fourth outfielder.

 

 

Also... this was against right handed pitching.

Injuries allowed Celestino out of the short side platoon box for a bit. 

He did well, he did well in the minors against righties. He's young with his best years in front of him and in need of further development. 

Yet, I assume that he will be placed back into that box. 

I'd like to take this moment to question out loud... should he be in that box.

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Riverbrian said:

Also... this was against right handed pitching.

Injuries allowed Celestino out of the short side platoon box for a bit. 

He did well, he did well in the minors against righties. He's young with his best years in front of him and in need of further development. 

Yet, I assume that he will be placed back into that box. 

I'd like to take this moment to question out loud... should he be in that box.

 

 

Garlic mashing leftys is a thing, but is it enough of a gap over Celestino's bat to make up for the wide gulf in defensive prowess? Defense has been a huge part of the success this season. Do they even win yesterday without Gio's plays? I do not enjoy watching Garlic in the field.

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Great, detailed summary.  Thanks loads.  You know, the injury bug is all over the majors, not just with the Twins.  Does anyone have any stats on the number of players on the injury list this year, or the number of games missed this year, compared to other years?  It just seems like injuries have ballooned the past few years, but maybe that is a faulty perception.  

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Super report Nick. The series w/ Hou was indeed tempestious in many ways. Being outmatched IMO our rotation was trying too hard to make up the difference and got burned out. Ryan has bounced back nicely hope Archer and Winder will likewise.

Lewis has out performed even the most generous expectations in his MLB debute. Like I've said before even when Correa returns Lewis should stay up. He'll learn more from Correa than what he can learn in AAA. Correa probally won't not return 100% and Lewis can sub frquently, Lewis is also our best choice to sub Polanco & Urshela. Although our OF is gelling, he could be used out there also in a pinch. Lewis has proved when he was AFL's MVP that you can put him in any new position and he'll excel, thus further proving he doesn't need to return to AAA.

Although Garlick could be used to sub Kepler when facing a good LHP (while taking a hit at defense), Celestino should have priority over Garlick. Eventhough Garlick's HR% is pretty good against LHPing in general, his BA and OBP are terrible even primarily facing LHPing. So if there's a need to keep some one on the 40 man, Garlick should be the odd man out.

Our BP took a beating at HOU's hand but Smith has been steady. They have bounced back against CLE. With this soft up coming schedule, Twins should further their lead in the Central, the rotation should further be established and injuries should be resolved. So that when we starting having competitive schedule we'd hopefully we'll be ready.

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2 hours ago, wabene said:

Garlic mashing leftys is a thing, but is it enough of a gap over Celestino's bat to make up for the wide gulf in defensive prowess? Defense has been a huge part of the success this season. Do they even win yesterday without Gio's plays? I do not enjoy watching Garlic in the field.

I understand why platoons are helpful and statistically justifiable.

I understand the overall historical numbers that clearly show an advantage for hitting against the opposite hand.

I understand the historical advantage that pitchers have pitching against the same hand.  

I also understand that when it comes to roster utilization. The 3 teams that I frequently mention as organization I'd like to see the Twins pattern themselves after (Dodgers, Rays and Giants) are heavy platoon teams. 

However... my concern with the platoon is always going to revert back to development. 

Celestino has hit righties as well as lefties in the minors so his numbers don't suggest needing a platoon to survive. Taking a young player and short siding sure seems like a good way to limit his future potential. It can be an easy way to break someone into the majors instead of head first but if you don't let him off the leash he will have no future because eventually someone who hits both sides will take his job when roster decisions have to made in the future.  

In regards to Garlick... this certainly happened to him. Nothing in his minor league numbers suggested a short side platoon limitation but when he finally got his chance with the Dodgers. They made him a short side platoon and that is what he is... forever now.

Garlick can mash lefties is the common phrase used around here but he wasn't given a fair chance to mash righties so who knows if he could have at the major league level.

Mashing lefties won't save Garlick in the future. Eventually he will be dropped from our 26 man roster. 

Anyway... In short... I'm hopeful that Celestino gets a good dose of starts against right handers going forward for his development. After all he just had a good week against them. 

I'll probably get on this soapbox again in the future. 😀 

 

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Getting Garlick some 1B work would do wonders.

Arraez has looked shockingly proficient at 1B, particularly on scoops. That said, his numbers against LHP are "meh" at best and unplayable at worst...like he's going now.

Rotating Garlick between RF and 1B against LHP would be the best way to maximize his production. 

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