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Major League Baseball front offices continue to find unique approaches to keep a team relevant in an ultra-competitive baseball landscape. Twins fans are getting an up-close view of a unique approach that some call “an experiment in action.”

Earlier this week, ESPN’s baseball writing team identified the most watchable teams and players so far this season. The article featured Twins in multiple spots, including being named one of the must-see teams. Minnesota was identified as a team to watch “if you love seeing an experiment in action.” Overall, the premise is the Twins decided not to rebuild after a last-place finish and began rebuilding a competitive roster. 

Here are four experiments that have worked out well for the Twins. 

The Superstar Experiment
Minnesota was never supposed to be in the market for Carlos Correa, but many pieces fell into place this winter. The Twins used the money saved from the Josh Donaldson trade to sign Correa to a unique contract. Both players bring vastly different personalities to the clubhouse, and those differences may be helping the team’s clubhouse chemistry this season. Twins fans are well aware that Correa can opt out of his contract at the season’s end, and that’s another part of this Twins experiment. Can a superstar player help a team win even without previous or future ties to the organization?

The Closer Experiment
Taylor Rogers was entering his final year of team control, and the Twins front office traded him just hours before Opening Day. One can debate whether or not that was the right decision, especially now that Chris Paddack underwent his second Tommy John surgery. However, the Twins received Emilio Pagan to add to the bullpen, and the team had a secret weapon in waiting. ESPN named Jhoan Duran one of their pitchers to watch because of his unique splinker. When added with his triple-digit fastball, Duran is one of baseball’s most dominant arms. Minnesota has been careful with his transition to the bullpen, so it will be interesting to see how his role changes throughout the year. 

The First Base Experiment
The Twins started the year with a plan to use Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff at first base
. Unfortunately, Minnesota got little to no production out of this position as both players dealt with injuries and poor play. So, the front office had to get creative and try another experiment. Players that are 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds aren’t supposed to handle first base, especially when that player averages less than five home runs per season. Luis Arraez hasn’t fit the typical mold for most of his professional career, but it’s clear the Twins are a better team when he is in the lineup regularly. He entered the season with a 114 OPS+, but he’s raised that by over 40 points this season, even in baseball’s muted offensive environment. 

The Pitching Pipeline Experiment
Many Twins fans were clamoring for the team to spend money on starting pitching this winter. That didn’t happen as the team trusted that their young pitching would continue to develop, which has looked like the right bet. Joe Ryan doesn’t fit the mold of a typical ace, but his start to the 2022 season puts him in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. Bailey Ober, a former 12th-round pick, is proving he can be more than organizational depth. Minnesota decided it couldn’t leave Josh Winder off the roster, and he has been successful as a starter and a reliever. Other top-pitching prospects are also getting closer to the big leagues, so replacements can be ready when the need arises. 

Minnesota is clearly experimenting with a variety of roster components this year, but everything seems to be mixing together quite nicely. Do you think these experiments can last the entire season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 


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Interesting observations, and I agree that the Twins have done some creative things to cobble together what appears to be a competitive roster this year.  Time will tell...

There are some players that I'm concerned about, and some choices I don't quite understand (yet).  For instance, why is Royce Lewis back in the minors after hitting .308 for the Twins while Jose Miranda is still "playing out the experiment at first base" while hitting .143 ???

Also, the pitching is doing better this year.  Particularly their starters.  But it's a long season, and I am fairly certain that they will have to find/acquire another solid starter before the season is over.  I don't think Josh Winder is a long term option as a go-to starter.  And it's still too early to say that the guys they have in place can sustain through the season.

And then again... can they ever really beat the Yankees and the Astros... in a five/seven game series?  (looking too far ahead  🙂 ???)

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26 minutes ago, killebrewlover said:

 

And then again... can they ever really beat the Yankees and the Astros... in a five/seven game series?  (looking too far ahead  🙂 ???)

If this is your thoughts on the team, then why even play the season?  Why not just trade away anyone with value to plan for the future?  Yes, we never win the playoffs over the last 18 games, which is just crazy, but if you look at the team and assume we will lose then why even try to make the playoffs?  I bet last year no one expected Atlanta to win.  They did not have the 'ace' starter everyone says we need to win, but yet someone how they went through the Dodgers, who had 4 'ace' type guys and like 7 all-star hitters in their lineup, and some lights out bullpen guys.  I guess Atlanta should have just traded away Freeman because he was a free agent and they should have given up on the season because their best player was hurt too. 

Any team that makes the playoffs can win no matter the roster.  We were never favored in our WS wins, but still managed to do it. 

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Many of those "experiments"  were necessitated by injuries and ineffectiveness.  The fact that they are working out so far is a testament to the players who have filled in.  Not so sure all of this is part of a new vision by the Twins.  Team is doing great, albeit against some pretty bad baseball teams, many of which are riddled by injuries.  Great job of taking advantage of it.  That's what good teams do well.  If the Twins were losing these games we would be furious.  I do find it interesting that people already have them in the playoffs.  I hope they make it.  It would be a lot of fun.  However, some of the same people who tell us, it's early when they are playing poorly, are now talking playoffs.  Let's wait until we play some real teams.  Remember, it's still early, not for just when they are losing.

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You are asking the million dollar question, Cody, "will it last?"  I am pretty sure the Twins won't continue at a 100 wins pace, but I do think there are reasons why they will continue to be successful.  First, the starting pitching is pretty solid.  I think Ryan and Ober have pitched enough in the past two years for us to realize they are going to be quality starters over the long haul.  Gray has a history of success.  Three very good and consistent starters will prevent long losing streaks.  Second, the defense with Buxton, Correa, Polanco and Jeffers up the middle is solid.  Third, the offense has enough options to keep it productive all year.  Even Buxton's mini slump has not derailed the offense.  

I am not sold on the bullpen long term, but again they have a lot of options that they can rotate up from St. Paul and Wichita--Hamilton, Schulfer, and others--that may be able to contribute.  Schulfer especially has been lights out--increasing his K's and limiting walks this year.  

My answer is yes, they will continue to win, but not quite at the 100 wins level.

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Maybe one could add the use of pinch hitters in certain spots and the infrequent, but handy, use of sacrifice bunts. It seems like the Twins have been more open to situational thinking ( a mere observation). Finally, it also seems like the team defense is much improved, particularly at shortstop and in left field. Of course, Buxton playing this year boosts the team in CF.

Yes, adding Correa was huge and the use of Arraez at first base gets him into the lineup and frees up DH for Sanchez. Giving innings to the young pitchers has also worked but that was the plan all along seemingly.

I am not sure that Pagan is a better fit than Rogers. Rogers and Alcala were slated to be a pretty decent option for the late innings and in Spring Training it became clear that Duran was ready. Pagan has been fine though. My own opinion is that the Twins would look more solid with Rogers but your point of shifting closers is still valid and the team is pointed in the right direction. 

The All Star Game is always the time to check how a schedule and team has progressed because every team will have played enough different opponents to judge their strengths and weaknesses. So far, so good for the Twins.

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1 hour ago, killebrewlover said:

 

And then again... can they ever really beat the Yankees and the Astros... in a five/seven game series?   🙂 ???

Yes, they can because the Twins have a contract with "Ritchie the Rally Goat", aka "The Little Goat that Could". I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could.

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The Twins planned for pitching depth due to likely IL stints. I think they have gotten lucky, from and outsiders perspective, with the quality of that depth with a number of unproven arms. I think of everything in this article that may be what other teams try to mimmic but I doubt this kind of quality depth will be found across the league year in and year out.

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1 hour ago, Trov said:

If this is your thoughts on the team, then why even play the season?  Why not just trade away anyone with value to plan for the future?  Yes, we never win the playoffs over the last 18 games, which is just crazy, but if you look at the team and assume we will lose then why even try to make the playoffs?  I bet last year no one expected Atlanta to win.  They did not have the 'ace' starter everyone says we need to win, but yet someone how they went through the Dodgers, who had 4 'ace' type guys and like 7 all-star hitters in their lineup, and some lights out bullpen guys.  I guess Atlanta should have just traded away Freeman because he was a free agent and they should have given up on the season because their best player was hurt too. 

Any team that makes the playoffs can win no matter the roster.  We were never favored in our WS wins, but still managed to do it. 

Plus the newly signed Ritchie the Rally Goat says we can do it. It's all about a team effort. This team is special. 

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The Twins have done what they needed to do and that was make hay with the early season schedule, the best/worst part is that they have been doing it with so many injuries and having to play some players out of position. It is concerning to me that the starting pitchers haven't been going deeper in games against some of these lineups, which scares me of bullpen overage usage against the better lineups, hopefully by then the starters will have figured out to be a bit more efficient to save on the bullpen. Also it would be nice to have less injuries the rest of the season.

Not sure if what the Twins are doing would be called an experiment, I believe their plan with pitchers have been in place for a while. 

Can they keep this up, I sure hope so, not super confident they will, but with a few roster moves here and there (rookie pitcher stepping up or trades) I believe they should.

Are they must watch, when Buxton, Correa are healthy and Gray or Ryan is pitching I think they are, when Archer and Bundy are starting and/or Buxton is out of the lineup, IMO not so much.

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So far the Twins have beaten the teams they should beat which is the sign of a contender, The true test will be as they get into the tougher part of their schedule. If they can continue to win or at least play slightly above .500 against the tough teams then we can say they are for real. I have concerns about the pitching. After Ryan, Gray, and Ober things look shaky. I have very little confidence in Bundy and it seems Rocco and Wes are leery about stretching out Archer. The pen looks iffy after Smith, Duran, Pagan, & Thielbar. Iffy on Jax & Duffy & Stashak.  IMO a trade or a promotion for a starter is necessary. I would like to see Winder replace Bundy and a new starter replace Archer (if they're not going to stretch him out) and move Archer into long relief. I don't really know what to do with Bundy.

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I don't think its an intentional experiment.

Correa fell into our laps  when he didn't get the deal he wanted.

Injuries have opened up a place for Arraez to play nearly every day.

The only thing that may have been intentional was to let some of our young pitchers get a shot, but even that has been impacted by injuires.

Impressed so far- but lets see where we are in 2 months.

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Nice article Cody.  One more experiement to your list and that is "chemistry".  For some reason they did not have it last year (Donaldson?) and do have it this year (Correa?).  Chemistry seems to be there for all their good/great seasons and most of the time it is missing for those poorer seasons.  I do not think management can put together high chemistry teams, but they can try to acquire or develop leadership which I believe contributes to that.  Because I think that the Twins have great chemistry this year, I think this experiment will continue.

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2 hours ago, 4twinsJA said:

Great article, I really hate the complete tear down of teams. Seems the Pirates have been in complete rebuild the past 10 years. 

The Pirates have abused a great fanbase for many years. It is just stupid. They have a great ball park and very loyal fans. It is criminal.

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Chemistry is one of those ephemeral things that is very hard to measure but actually seems to make a big difference on sports teams. I guess is like any other group effort at work; that effort tends to be more successful if the participants get along well and really work for the group rather than for their individual glory. For some reason, this team seems to have good chemistry and that tends to create success (or is it the other way around?). I think that's a very important part of their success so far this year. What's the big difference? I would say adding Carlos Correa and Josh Donaldson playing somewhere else. I also think losing Eddie Rosario last year killed the team in the clubhouse because I think he was their leader. Correa has taken over that mantle.

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Twins signings are tremendously better than last year. Correa adds alot to this team.

Gray experiment has been great, he adds a lot of stability to this team.

Arraez experiment at 1B has been great. I've advocated this last year but many believe in the big power hitter stereo-type and are dead set against Arraez there and have advocated trade or sign for a more traditional 1B. But I say 1B is Arraez most natural position and it has been reflected in his hitting and base running. We need Arraez's bat in the line-up and 1B is our best option plus with all those extra AB's and more relaxed he has an excellent chance at the BA Crown as  was suggested.

Rogers/ Paddack has been a big flop. We need Rodger as our LHPing as closer option and Paddack has been a bust (Paddack was broken from the start, Mets wanted nothing to do w/ him). Just a Rooker/ Pagan trade should have sufficed.

Bundy was signed with the idea of Piggy-Backing but that goes completly against Baldelli's grain. He doesn't know how to use long relief. I don't see Bundy pitching the way Baldelli is using him throughout the season. They have been using Archer correctly but they aren't piggy-backing him with long relief. It has worked out alright so far but over relying on short relief could very easily burn them out and be a big problem. The Archer experiment has worked out yet I see greater dividends in the near and further future.

Keeping Celestino up at MLB experiment and bringing Lewis up have been two wonderful successes. Sending Lewis back down has been a mistake.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Doctor Gast said:

 

Keeping Celestino up at MLB experiment and bringing Lewis up have been two wonderful successes. Sending Lewis back down has been a mistake.

 

 

 

It's pretty hard to say definitivly that sending Lewis down was a mistake when the team hasn't lost a game since he was sent down. If Lewis returns in early June and is ready to assume 10th regular duties, I don't think the move is a mistake at all. 

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I’m enjoying the ride. Hitters are spraying the ball. SP are going 6 strong. RP are holding and saving. Still need to score more with RISP, but getting it done with the Buckster in a slump is impressive. Of course, the schedule is a blessing and their wins will be equity when they play the tough teams. 

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Once again I'm reminded of the classic tale related by Jim Bouton in Ball Four. A youngster comes home from a pickup game and his Dad asks him how he did. "I had a no hitter until the big kids got out of school." The big kids came to TF recently and it wasn't pretty. Still when the schedule offers 57 games against Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City reaching October is not an insurmountable task.  Way too early for me to evaluate said experiment but if I'm in the front office planning to go a little further I would do two things: Engage in serious talks with Oakland and hand the overmatched manager a bus ticket back to New England.

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This seems like an effort to brand this year's team to me. I don't find any of this particularly experimental or unique.

I'm not sure what it means about the real FO plan, but I find it odd that media outlets seem to have forgotten about the lockout entirely, since it completely shifted the dynamic of offseason moves and planning. (A little off topic, but I had to say it somewhere...)

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Nick Gordon, Gilberto Celestino and Luis Arraez are key parts of this multifaceted experiment. All three "subs" have been performing at a level that on most teams would rate a starting position. But they are subbing for guys that have even more of a factor the team needs. Gordon can sub for any IF or OF position. Even pitched an inning. Celestino is the team's fastest outfielder not named Buxton. Arraez is a bit small at 5'10", but he's actually a good first baseman, and a great hitter. 

The other key parts of the experiment are multi-inning relievers in the pen. Duran can go several innings, but he's too valuable as a closer now that Taylor Rogers is gone. Jax is holding his own, possibly getting better. Pagan is terrifying, but clearly talented. Winder was doing well before he went on the IL. Smith is a one-inning wonder. Duffey and Thielbar are pitching well, but how long can they last? The FO clearly wants each reliever to be able to go a minimum of two innings. To make that happen they may promote one or two starters from AAA around mid-season. 

Looks like a good experiment so far...

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The current rotation doesn't have to last all year, just till Maeda, Balazovic, and some surprise guy who wasn't even on our radar show up.

The bullpen just has to hang in there till Alcala and some current minor league starters get called up. Duran is for real, and they have numbers if not an intimidating top three.

The hitting just has to keep doing what it is doing: With a healthy Kiriloff added to Buxton, Larnach, Garlick, Kepler, Celestino, and Gordon, the outfield should be good and deep. And an infield of Correa, Polanco, Arraez, Urshela, Gordon, Lewis, Miranda, and Sano should be able to weather the inevitable injuries. 

Is this a 100 win team that can beat the Yankees and Dodgers? Probably not. But it's probably not going to collapse like last year, and will probably hang around all year, especially in such a weak division. No team is a sure thing, even the Yankees and Dodgers. I don't think they are head and shoulders above the rest of the league, but I don't think they are a mirage, either. Here's to the pipeline!

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12 hours ago, Dave The Dastardly said:

Two more "experiments" why the Twins are more competitive; we got rid of Donaldson and Sano has been on the IL. Addition by subtraction at its best.

We also got rid of Berrios and Cruz.  Our record improved after those trades.  See what I did there?  Also yankees got better by adding Donaldson.  This addition and subtraction doesn't equal out.

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11 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

Chemistry is one of those ephemeral things that is very hard to measure but actually seems to make a big difference on sports teams. I guess is like any other group effort at work; that effort tends to be more successful if the participants get along well and really work for the group rather than for their individual glory. For some reason, this team seems to have good chemistry and that tends to create success (or is it the other way around?). I think that's a very important part of their success so far this year. What's the big difference? I would say adding Carlos Correa and Josh Donaldson playing somewhere else. I also think losing Eddie Rosario last year killed the team in the clubhouse because I think he was their leader. Correa has taken over that mantle.

So if we were to add Donaldson in some hypothetical addition,  we would not be as good or much worse?  Trying to understand this.

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21 hours ago, Bigfork Twins Guy said:

Nice article Cody.  One more experiement to your list and that is "chemistry".  For some reason they did not have it last year (Donaldson?) and do have it this year (Correa?).  Chemistry seems to be there for all their good/great seasons and most of the time it is missing for those poorer seasons.  I do not think management can put together high chemistry teams, but they can try to acquire or develop leadership which I believe contributes to that.  Because I think that the Twins have great chemistry this year, I think this experiment will continue.

I agree 100%. 

 

9 hours ago, se7799 said:

So if we were to add Donaldson in some hypothetical addition,  we would not be as good or much worse?  Trying to understand this.

Sounds like you understand it very well. 

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