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Minnesota’s Return for Berrios Continues to Look Better


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The Minnesota Twins traded staff ace Jose Berrios roughly a year ago, and at the time the return was seen as a massive win. Fast forward to today and I think it’s worth suggesting that things look even better.

 

 

When dealing for prospects you have to evaluate the return in terms of value at the time of the deal. How development takes place and what happens in the future remains largely difficult to project. However, Minnesota netting the Toronto Blue Jays' top prospect in Austin Martin, and then one of the most coveted arms from the system in Simeon Woods Richardson, was nothing short of a miracle. Both of those players were thought to be a bit rich on their own, but Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were able to generate a package deal including both.

Last week I wrote a piece wondering what has happened to Berrios. He’s been largely awful for the Blue Jays this season, and that’s disappointing to see as a Twins fan that so badly wanted him to be the ace here. Unlike the prospect capital in a deal though, a Major League veteran is largely an established commodity. Berrios taking a step backward makes it look that much more right that Minnesota decided they wouldn’t be the ones to pay him.

For this evaluation though, the Twins getting the most out of this deal rests solely on the production of the pieces they got back. Unfortunately, Martin hasn’t produced as expected. He was seen as a talent that could’ve gone 1-1 in the 2020 draft before falling to fifth. He was a speedy shortstop that was also above average in centerfield, while possessing a hit tool that saw his average and on-base numbers reach gaudy thresholds.

Thus far in professional baseball Martin has proven he’s not a shortstop, the power has been slow to develop, and his hit tool has provided just a .259 career average. On the flip side, Martin still has elite on-base skills owning a career .395 OBP, and he’s looked the part of a true outfielder with the glove, speed, and range.

If there’s a saving grace for Martin’s projection in the Twins system it’s that he just recently turned 23 and has only 152 games of professional baseball under his belt. Martin still has an immense amount of time to develop, and it would be foolish for any organization to suggest he’s a finished project. Maybe the Twins see him as expendable in a larger trade again this summer, but an opposing organization will be hard-pressed to pry him away while suggesting his value has tanked.

Where Minnesota finds themselves on the come up from the Berrios package is in Woods-Richardson. He was hardly a throw in, but they clearly evaluated his production, or lack thereof last season correctly. Woods-Richardson missed all of 2020 as did every minor leaguer, and then spent 2021 being half-ready as he spent time competing with Team USA but never finding himself on the mound. His numbers at Double-A were not good, but he was also roughly four years younger than most of the competition.

This season Woods Richardson is back with Wichita and the results have been promising. Despite being just 21 he owns a 3.40 ERA and 9.0 K/9 through 53 innings pitched. It’s the most innings he’s logged in a season since 2019, and he’s looked beyond dominant at times. Minnesota has some very intriguing pitching prospects, and Woods Richardson is up there with the best of them.

It’s unfortunate that Jose Berrios has struggled, and it’s unfortunate Martin hasn’t raced to the big leagues. All things considered though, Minnesota appears to have parted with a guy they shouldn’t have paid, have a top prospect still with time to get it going, and nailed the additional piece about as well as they could have. This is a swap that could pay dividends for years to come.

 

 


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It would be interesting to see if the Twins are trying to tweak Martin's swing to get more power and the adjustment is a struggle.  He does appear to be standing a bit more upright.  Could it just be that tweaking Martin's swing has taken away from his bat to ball skills?  

 

If he doesnt develop power and is just a solid contact hitter with a good eye at the plate and can play good outfield defense with the ability to cover 3B and 2B.  I still think that is an extremely valuable piece.  (see Whit Merrifield)

 

Wood -Richardson has been interesting, well see how he continues to develop, he really isnt far off and could be at AAA soon.

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Neither Woods-Richardson or Martin look like sure bets to make it to MLB, let alone play well at the MLB level.

Woods-Richardson really came out flying this year, but his performance faded quickly. In fact, none of his past 7 starts have been impressive in my book. May/June = 5.74 ERA, 4.40 FIP. His K rate has been good and BB rate has been "okay" but hitters are teeing off on him which is what has led to a 1.47 WHIP across that span. While there is the potential BABIP is at work here, he's been consistently giving up more hits than I'd like to see. The Twins are obviously working with Woods-Richardson on his mechanics and pitches so there's reason to be hopeful. Woods-Richardson is not that young for AA considering he was drafted out of high school and this is his 5th year in the minor league system.

Martin has been moved off shortstop because he can't handle the position and is producing below average in his league on his second go at AA mostly because he has only 11 extra base hits in 278 plate appearances (ISO .066) which compares to Ben Revere. At age 23, Martin is no longer young for a "prospect" at AA. Again, it's not like it's time to close the book on Martin, but what Martin has done in the Twins' system could hardly be considered impressive.

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Neither has done a thing yet. Both have been average in the minor leagues. I just don't think you can grade it at all yet, let alone declare the Twins winners of this trade.

The only thing that is a saving grace SO FAR of this trade is the fact that Berrios hasn't been very good this season. Remember, he was under contract with the Twins this year for a very paltry number. We still could have dealt him at the deadline this year, or just let him walk. 

 

Either way, you can't say we won anything when the guys we got back have basically been about average so far and haven't sniffed the major leagues, yet. Can they? Will they? Maybe - probably, then we can figure this out.

I also saw something where we say these guys are young for their level.  Remember, Berrios debuted in the show when he was 22. His talent far exceeded either of the players we got back for him...

 

Not a win or a loss yet IMO.

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16 minutes ago, Battle ur tail off said:

Neither has done a thing yet. Both have been average in the minor leagues. I just don't think you can grade it at all yet, let alone declare the Twins winners of this trade.

It's not a declaration either way, but the Twins got a TON of value at the time, and that's where you assess a trade for prospects. Tie in that Berrios has been terrible and it looks even better. Martin has been uninspiring but shown great plate discipline. SWR looks like a legit starting arm.

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35 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

I was an advocate of the trade but I think we are a couple years away from a meaningful take on the trade that is based on more than projection.

You can't evaluate a trade for prospects on how it ultimately works out. So much development to be had, and it's never linear. This is about the idea of what was able to be acquired and where they're at now.

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1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

Neither Woods-Richardson or Martin look like sure bets to make it to MLB, let alone play well at the MLB level.

Woods-Richardson really came out flying this year, but his performance faded quickly. In fact, none of his past 7 starts have been impressive in my book. May/June = 5.74 ERA, 4.40 FIP. His K rate has been good and BB rate has been "okay" but hitters are teeing off on him which is what has led to a 1.47 WHIP across that span. While there is the potential BABIP is at work here, he's been consistently giving up more hits than I'd like to see. The Twins are obviously working with Woods-Richardson on his mechanics and pitches so there's reason to be hopeful. Woods-Richardson is not that young for AA considering he was drafted out of high school and this is his 5th year in the minor league system.

Martin has been moved off shortstop because he can't handle the position and is producing below average in his league on his second go at AA mostly because he has only 11 extra base hits in 278 plate appearances (ISO .066) which compares to Ben Revere. At age 23, Martin is no longer young for a "prospect" at AA. Again, it's not like it's time to close the book on Martin, but what Martin has done in the Twins' system could hardly be considered impressive.

SWR is only 21 at AA, which 3.6 years younger than the average age at AA.  Just because he was drafted out of high school does not mean he is not young, it means he is fat into he years of development, but that is why high school guys do not need to be on 40 man until after year 5 where college guys after year 3, because the age is factored into it.  College guys have more years to grow and develop than a high school kid does.  You can say he is far into his years in pro ball, but to say he is not young for the league just goes against facts.  He normally pitches against guys older than him, that is just a fact. 

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38 minutes ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

You can't evaluate a trade for prospects on how it ultimately works out.

I'm about as big a "process" guy as anyone else at the site. but I wouldn't take it that far.  Results at the end of the day are what will determine the front office's future - at some point if the results are bad you would have to question the process itself.

We are a year or three from knowing the answers on this trade, but eventually it will be how you judge it, along with a myriad of other decisions the FO makes.

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For the people that are not happy with the return, we need to remember what the other options where.  We do not know what other teams had offers last year, if any.  We do not know what we could have got during this offseason, if we had looked.  I can say had we waited for this trade deadline we would be lucky to someone to take his contract based on what he is doing right now.  Maybe neither Martin or SWR work out, but we have no clue if anyone would have, and so far the Jays are looking like they have a bad 7 year contract on their hands. 

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16 minutes ago, Trov said:

For the people that are not happy with the return, we need to remember what the other options where.  We do not know what other teams had offers last year, if any.  We do not know what we could have got during this offseason, if we had looked.  I can say had we waited for this trade deadline we would be lucky to someone to take his contract based on what he is doing right now.  Maybe neither Martin or SWR work out, but we have no clue if anyone would have, and so far the Jays are looking like they have a bad 7 year contract on their hands. 

are people really not happy with the return or are they unhappy of the progress of the two? At the time it was two top 100 prospects which is great.

Lots of people thought Martin could be the opening day left fielder and some thought SWR could be in MPLS this summer, now I thought both of those things weren't possible, mostly based on the 40 man. If Berrios was doing great this would like a slam dunk for Toronto, but with they way he has pitched and the extension he signed it looks good for MN regardless of how well the prospects have done so far. I expect Berrios to turn it around at some point and I think Martin is going to be more of a Gordon than a starter and SWR should at minimum see some time in the bullpen.

So at this point I still grade this as a positive for the Twins.

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"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,.."

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I still bet on Berrios. 3 months of struggling (and he crushed us) up and down games. It could all be evened out by the end of the season, and the Jays in the playoffs. He is pitching in the show, the only team that really matters. Our guys still may never make it there. They haven't even advanced, in a whole year. 

I like your optimism, though.

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Is this wishful thinking?  Right now neither side has won this trade and only in MN would we want to make it look like we did.  Until Martin and Richardson make it to the big leagues it does not mean anything.  Will Berrios turn things around?

Let's not congratulate ourselves until we really have something to brag about.

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I'm sure I'll get pushback on my opinion, but I largely agree with Ted on this one. And I'm NOT referring to Berrios. He's gone, that ship has sailed, and being a fan of his I hope he rights himself and gets untracked.

Everyone, myself included, is tantalized and optimistic by a very talented prospect and really wish we would see those top prospects just fly through the system and make an impact in just a few short years.

But, I'm sorry, development and readiness are part of a process. SWR is only 21yrs old and is at AA looking at least solid, if not good, overall. He didn't pitch in 2020 and had his 2021 weirdly curtailed with milb, Olympics, then some milb again at 20yrs old. Just how ready should he be to make a ML impact?

As far as Martin goes, I'd like to make a correction from the OP that he was a SS. Unless I am simply mis-remembering, he played very, very little SS in college. It was the Jay's who moved him there to see and the Twins followed initial hopes. He's a 2B/3B with all the skills to be a fine OF...probably LF and can at least cover CF decently. The Twins have stated as much.

And sorry, I don't care how good his college career was, or his draft status, he also missed all of 2020 after being drafted, was put at a mostly foreign position, and then put straight to AA after missing an entire season post college. Again, what was expected of him? No insult intended to anyone, but I found thoughts of him arriving in 2022 as pure fantasy fueld by hype and prospect status.

It's OK for the Twins to just admit that despite being a very talented athlete, he's just not a SS! Let him continue to play some 2B and 3B, positions he's far more experienced and comfortable at to increase his versatility for the future, but otherwise, stick him in the OF and pretty much keep him there. Time, work, adjustments, natural ability, and far less pressure, he'll probably start to take off.

Highheat referenced Martin as being a potential comp to Whit Merrifield. And I actually think that is, potentially, a very accurate evaluation. And I'd be crazy happy if that holds true. But I've always seen him as a comp to another Royal, former Husker Alex Gordon. (Go Big Red. Sorry, couldn't help myself). Gordon was an All American and top draft pick 3B who could pretty much do it all. For some reason I still don't understand or comprehend, he apparently couldn't "do it all" at 3B for KC so they moved him to the OF.

I see Martin as another Gordon, a stud LF with maybe a little more speed, and able to cover CF at times. He should develop his power and the hit tool will improve. When you have that great of an OB tool, you know the zone. It's just learning to balance patience vs aggressiveness better. He's got everything to be very, very good in all phases of the game. Who cares if he isn't some monster 30HR basher. What if he never turns out to be a consistent 20HR performer? (Though I still think that's possible). How about a great AVG, keep his OB ability, stroke a bunch of doubles, steal bases, and play a great LF with the ability to help in CF. Wouldn't that make him a great ballplayer?

Two very, very talented young prospects with a world of talent still developing at AA ball after missing an entire season and being pushed a good level above what "usually" happens in the normal course of development. Neither achieving greatness yet, but neither stinking.

If hopeful impatience is a "thing" , then these kids are underperforming at this point. If hopeful patience is reality, each of these kids could explode over the next 12-18 months.

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Could not disagree more! No team has gone deep in playoffs for 20 years.without an Ace and strong #2. Taking Pitchers from from the scrap heap and pitching them 4-5 innings when you have a crappy pen is a recipe for failure!! Wes Johnson left for a reason. He sees the writing on the wall. The Twins pitching philosophy doesn't work!!

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Good Article. I think the trade was a good one overall. Berrios I really liked a lot and was a solid mid rotation starter, but never matched up well against the Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia (back in the day), or name your other ace.
 

Neither prospect we received in return is a sure thing, but I think Austin Martin will figure things out and if not a star, will be a good contributor and that kid does has very good speed and base stealing skills with a good eye at the plate. He has already swiped over 20 bases and the twins need that at the MLB level and a true lead off hitter who can disrupt a pitcher’s focus. If he becomes an outfield version of Christian Guzman or even Ben Revere with slightly better base stealing skills, I am happy with this.

I think SWR is intriguing as well.  Pitchers just are a dime a dozen with prospects. Some you think will break out into greatness and fizzle. I sense this prospect will contribute at the MLB level as either a serviceable starter or perhaps great reliever.  
 

The best part is the money we did not spend on Berrios bought the FO room to work with rather than a ton of dead money spent on underperformance.  We got very smart high annual value deals with both Buxton and Correa without sinking the budget If either does not pan out. Imagine if the Twins signed Trevor Story, Corey Seager, or Robbie Ray to long term deals? Flexibility is there and the Twins are in an enviable place. 
 

 

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2 hours ago, MGM4706 said:

Could not disagree more! No team has gone deep in playoffs for 20 years.without an Ace and strong #2. Taking Pitchers from from the scrap heap and pitching them 4-5 innings when you have a crappy pen is a recipe for failure!! Wes Johnson left for a reason. He sees the writing on the wall. The Twins pitching philosophy doesn't work!!

Berrios has an ERA of almost 6 so he is a VERY long way from an ace at this moment.  As a matter of fact, he has a negative WAR.  We will see how the remainder of his contract goes but Bundy has been better than Berrios so he certainly would not have helped getting us to the playoffs this year.

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Yes these two could turn out well.  Keep in mind that those who think they may blossom in the next 12-18 months, they could just as easily fail in that timeframe.  As good as these prospects are purported to be Toronto gave up on them.  A prospect is just a suspect until he proves otherwise.

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3 hours ago, MGM4706 said:

Could not disagree more! No team has gone deep in playoffs for 20 years.without an Ace and strong #2. Taking Pitchers from from the scrap heap and pitching them 4-5 innings when you have a crappy pen is a recipe for failure!! Wes Johnson left for a reason. He sees the writing on the wall. The Twins pitching philosophy doesn't work!!

No team has gone deep in the playoffs for 20 years without an ace and strong number two?  Really, no team?  First, do you mean an established ace, or someone who pitched like an ace in the playoffs?  The reason I ask that is of course if a team has someone pitch like an ace in the playoffs they will go deep, because you are looking at the results, but I am sure you can find plenty of teams that went deep in last 20 years without an established ace on their roster.  Does having one help, sure does, but is it a requirement nope not at all. Also having one does not mean you will win either, just increases chances. 

Please tell me the ace from 2002 Angels.  Please tell me the ace from the 2003 Marllins.  Please tell me the ace on the 2007 Rockies, they lost in WS.  How about last year's Braves?  I know there is plenty more, those are just a few.  I am sure if you look at the actual runs you will find good performances in the playoffs, but I am asking going into the playoffs. 

I would argue we have an ace and strong number 2 as well.  Gray is pitching like an ace and Ryan a strong number 2.  Also, we had guys in past pitching like ace and strong number 2 but did nothing. 

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Production for minor leaguers, especially prior to AAA, is hard to evaluate. Many are focusing on weaker parts of their game, which often leads to lower production than their true talent level. This is why scouting is so important here.

That said, if Martin can translate that OBP to the MLB level at a .360+ clip, he can essentially be Steven Kwan or Connor Joe like, but with better defense and baserunning. That's a top of the lineup batter that can give the squad 3 or more wins a year. I love it. 

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No surprise that Berrios is struggling. His history for five typical starts is two good starts and one of them may be dominant, two mediocre starts (I.e. 5 innings, 7 hits, 2 walks, 4-5 earned runs, 105 pitches), and one clunker start. It all adds up to a number three starter at best. He’s not the guy you can count on to get you the big win you need, such as a Verlander.

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22 hours ago, Trov said:

SWR is only 21 at AA, which 3.6 years younger than the average age at AA.  Just because he was drafted out of high school does not mean he is not young, it means he is fat into he years of development...

I cannot disagree with this more strongly. Experience is experience and Woods-Richardson has been in the world of professional baseball experience and development for 5 years now. If players haven't figured out their pitches, control and consistency in 5 years at the highest levels of coaching, there's only so much more you can expect.

Also, when you look at the real prospects, they're always young for their level. Royce Lewis is technically younger than Martin and less than a year and a half older than Woods-Richardson for example. TwinsDaily and other Twins sites routinely use the "young for their level" to explain away poor performances at the high minors. That works when players are in their teens or they have minimal professional experience. It doesn't work anymore once players have years of pro development and are in their 20s at the high minors. Being the average age for a player in a league is not good because most true prospects move through the minors quickly. There are tons of non-prospects who are roster filler type guys at the AA and AAA levels, and those players raise the average age. A good example is the St. Paul Saints. The mean average age for the Saints batters is 27 this year so does that mean Ernie Yake is young for his level and can still develop into a stud? The age at which players essentially become non-prospects has long been 25, even though that would be "young" for AAA.

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On 6/30/2022 at 3:09 PM, RpR said:

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,.."

2b or not 2b? Just throw the ball to the cutoff man and let them decide. 

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Face it, the impact of the pandemic on prospect development is real, and it affects comparison to development paths of the past. The two prospects have skills that are acknowledged by MLB talent evaluators. It remains to be seen how those skills develop.

 

As for Berrios...I wonder if he has been affected by the crackdown on sticky substances combined with the change in the baseball this year. Hopefully it is something like that rather than an injury. I enjoy seeing that Bugs Bunny breaking ball make fools out of Yankee hitters.

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On 7/1/2022 at 2:50 PM, bean5302 said:

I cannot disagree with this more strongly. Experience is experience and Woods-Richardson has been in the world of professional baseball experience and development for 5 years now. If players haven't figured out their pitches, control and consistency in 5 years at the highest levels of coaching, there's only so much more you can expect.

Also, when you look at the real prospects, they're always young for their level. Royce Lewis is technically younger than Martin and less than a year and a half older than Woods-Richardson for example. TwinsDaily and other Twins sites routinely use the "young for their level" to explain away poor performances at the high minors. That works when players are in their teens or they have minimal professional experience. It doesn't work anymore once players have years of pro development and are in their 20s at the high minors. Being the average age for a player in a league is not good because most true prospects move through the minors quickly. There are tons of non-prospects who are roster filler type guys at the AA and AAA levels, and those players raise the average age. A good example is the St. Paul Saints. The mean average age for the Saints batters is 27 this year so does that mean Ernie Yake is young for his level and can still develop into a stud? The age at which players essentially become non-prospects has long been 25, even though that would be "young" for AAA.

This is factually incorrect. Pro scouts and MLB front offices use age+level as a factor in their decision making all the time, whether it’s the draft, trades, or roster management. It’s not the only factor obviously, and it’s not as simple as “this guy is only 18 and is playing against 21 year olds, therefore he’s impressive.” If a prospect is younger than the competition and he’s performing well, then that means he has advanced skills and is therefore a real prospect. It’s also a factor because younger guys are more projectable. Especially at the lower levels, they usually aren’t done maturing. So if someone is hitting homers as a lanky 19 year old in A ball, it’s easy to imagine him mashing in the Majors. 

As far as guys in their early 20s in the high minors, that’s actually a sign that their organization views them highly. It’s also a sign that they are legit, because most guys their age are still in college. 21 year old pitcher in AAA vs 21 year old in the SEC? I know who I think has a better shot at impacting the MLB team. There’s a reason why people lose their minds when someone like Juan Soto cracks the big league roster. The filler guys in the high minors are never in their early 20s. That just doesn’t happen. 
 

Here’s an article that lays out some of this stuff. It’s kinda old at this point, but still interesting and informative. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/for-prospects-age-can-be-more-than-just-a-number/

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On 6/30/2022 at 5:53 PM, dxpavelka said:

Better than what?  Eleven months in and neither has advanced beyond the milb level they were at when the deal went down.  Convince me when actual empirical evidence exists.

Except it was widely believed that Toronto had rushed both players. SWR was 20 at AA. Martin went straight from college to AA. 

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