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  • Ranking the 3 Most Underrated Twins Players


    Cody Christie

    Every team has players that don't get the credit they deserve. Minnesota's season has been tough to watch, but these three players have made things a little more tolerable. 

     

    Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

    "Underrated" can mean slightly different things to different people. Briefly, it's simply defined as - using baseball players in this example - a player who is not rated as highly by people as you think they should be. So, here are three Twins players that I believe are most underrated by Twins fans. Do you agree? Or, feel free to add your most-underrated Twins in the Comments below. 

    3. Bailey Ober, SP
    Following the trade deadline, things could have completely fallen apart for the Twins. The front office had traded away two pitchers from the team's Opening Day rotation. By doing this, the team looked to internal options that might fit into the 2022 starting rotation. Enter Bailey Ober and a boost some fans might not have been expecting. 

    Ober has all but solidified his spot in next year's rotation with a tremendous rookie campaign. According to MLB.com, he has a 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks first among rookie seasons in Twins history (minimum 80 innings). Currently, he ranks among baseball's best in walk percentage (93rd percentile) and chase rate (84th percentile). The Twins have played .500 baseball in the second half, and Ober has provided some rotational stability. 

    2. Caleb Thielbar, RP
    Minnesota's bullpen was in shambles at the beginning of the season, but Caleb Thielbar has been one of the team's biggest bright spots in a dull year. Pitch selection has been one of the most significant changes for Thielbar in his second stint with the Twins. He uses his slider nearly 35% of the time, and batters have posted a .172 batting average and a .313 slugging percentage.

    Out of necessity, Thielbar shifted to a set-up role near the trade deadline, and he has been part of a bullpen turnaround. Since then, the Twins bullpen has posted a 3.20 ERA and has the American League's highest Win Probability Added. Among the AL's left-handed relievers, Thielbar ranks third in WPA. His baseball-playing career was supposed to be over, and now the Twins hope he sticks around for a while.   

    1. Luis Arraez, UTL
    There have certainly been multiple reasons to turn off the Twins this season, but Luis Arraez hasn't been one of them. Only two Twins players, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton, have a higher WAR than Arraez. He is getting on base 36% of the time and hitting close to .300, which has him just outside the AL's top-10. His 106 OPS+ is a career-low, but it also points to a good offensive season, even for a player with minimal power. 

    Defensively, he has also played over 40 games at second base and third base. Minnesota switched Arraez to a utility role because the team wanted to get better defensively. At last check, Arraez ranks as the seventh-best AL third baseman according to SABR's Defensive Index. He likely will never win a Gold Glove, but he has been more than competent at the hot corner. 

    How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    Hard to argue, but this is subjective, right?  When I thought of my answer, before reading the article, I said Arraez, Colome and Donaldson.  Maybe some recency bias in there with Colome, but Josh has put together a pretty fine season without much recognition and Luis will forever be underrated until he wins that batting crown.....

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    4 hours ago, RpR said:

    Arraez is GREATLY over rated.

    Luis Arraez has a career .313 AVG / .376 OBP / .781 OPS, while playing essentially league average defense at multiple positions. He's also 24 years old and under team control until 2026. That seems like a pretty underrated player to me. I truly don't understand how that is overated for the type of player and role he plays.

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    We were all surprised when Arraez batted leadoff from LF in the opening game of the year, and not in a good way.  He proved himself then and he continues to prove himself, and this is actually a down year for him.  As pointed out elsewhere, he is also playing very good defense this year.

    If memory serves, he was universally loved in 2019 when he dominated after being called up for the first time, so I'm not sure where the current hate comes from.  He is underrated for sure.  

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    1 minute ago, Dodecahedron said:

    We were all surprised when Arraez batted leadoff from LF in the opening game of the year, and not in a good way.  He proved himself then and he continues to prove himself, and this is actually a down year for him.  As pointed out elsewhere, he is also playing very good defense this year.

    If memory serves, he was universally loved in 2019 when he dominated after being called up for the first time, so I'm not sure where the current hate comes from.  He is underrated for sure.  

    His defense is at best average and too often worse.

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    Tough tough list. Ober isn't getting to decision time at all. Can he have an opener, perhaps?

     

    Thielbar has excelled, but not much to being a setup man on a losing team. With Rogers gone, he was the heavy-carrying lefty, until Coulombe came on the scene (also underrated). Can Col-B and Farrell (and Minaya) be the core of a bullpen in 2022? Do we think Thielbar will stay on par or excel even more? Is Rogers still in the mix as setup, or are we going to play him at closer and forego getting a real closer for the team.

     

    Can any Twins pitcher pitch an extra inning with a runner on second and get out of the inning?

     

    At one point we were happy with Garlick, and rooting for Refsnyder. 

     

    It's too bad there isn't anyone else the Twins could be running out at catcher.

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    I do not see anyone under rated this year.  Underperforming yes, underrated - no way.  Arraez was supposed to lead the league in batting, Ober is supposed to be a starter who goes more than 5 innings.  Thielbar is doing what he did before.  The reason that we have a losing record is that we do not have anyone who truly outperformed their expectations. Ober is a good story and close, but that is it.  

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    I love Arraez at the plate, but I am unsure about how good he is defensively. From just using the eye test he looks well below average at LF/3B, but I will have to check on the advanced stats to see if that is backed up.

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    Agree with Ober. I might call Arraez underappreciated, but not underrated, if there’s a distinction there. I would also call Jax underappreciated in that he is taking the ball every fifth day, but he’s not underrated per se. Donaldson’s power numbers look way down to me. I’m guessing Thielbar is having a career year. 

    So the other names I was thinking of were Jeffers, who is an iron man, and Gordon. If I squint I could have seen Gordon as a bench guy, 4th outfielder and pinch running for guys like Donaldson late in the game (9th maybe 8th inning). If the Twins were competitive this year that’s how I would have used him. Maybe next year. Gordon probably cannot sticking in the infield from what I’ve read, so it looks like outfield, and he probably makes enough contact to stick in the show somewhere for a while?

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    This list is perfect, though I could see arguements in regard to rankings. But I will comment based on the current list.

    3] Ober: He's supposed to be in AAA considering his draft selection and injury history despite video game numbers when he was on the mound. He's worked very hard on his delivery to not only increase velocity, but to just feel healthy after each start. Tall and lanky, he was prone to injury. Suddenly, with hard work, he's found a fluid motion that has not only increased velocity, but he's gained a smooth and repeatable delivery. He's even tweaked his slider delivery on the fly. He's only gotten better the more he's pitched. Just STOP with IP arguements. He's a rookie, still learning, and having his IP monitored not only to protect him, but because the Twins are looking to toss some IP to others. This kid looks like a keeper. And if you don't think so, you aren't paying attention.

    2] I was WTH, when Thielbar was brought back. Despite what he did in the Detroit system, I couldn't believe the Tigers wouldn't have brought him back. But he shined pretty well in 2020. His early 2021 numbers with the Twins don't indicate how bad he, and everyone else, were with runners in scoring position. (Inherited runners). But a switch was flipped a couple months ago. And while I still struggle as to how good be can be, and for how long, he has looked really good yet again. (Same as Duffey).

    1] My single, biggest arguement with Rocco is in regard to Arraez. The , unfortunately deceased Bell, told Rocco to put him at #1 every day. There is a very wrong and disappointing misnomer,  that being a "ballplayer" means you have grit but not ability. And that is SO WRONG! Arraez is NOT a superb athlete. He is NOT a power hitter or speed demon. But he is a BALLPLAYER! 

    Has anyone taken time to actually look at his career? Or do they just casually gloss over reality?

    He's been asked to play LF/3B/SS/2B since he was brought up in 2019. And his attitude has been: "play me and give me a glove". And I've watched him since the day he came up. Do you realize his initial LF instruction was touch the wall and then step back 20-25 feet?

    He is still only 24yo. The more he plays, the better he is defensively. But 2B/3B/LF/DH he needs to be in the lineup for 500 AB or so! Bell bad it right! And Rocco needs to figure that out!

    Additional underrated?

    I didn't expect Jeffers to replicate 2020. Too much too soon. But you can see the ability and the potential. 

    Garver showed yet again what he can do when healthy. Let him split time and DH and MAYBE play some 1B. 

    If you actually look at the numbers, Donaldson has actually produced. He needs to continue to play 3B as well as DH. In fact, one of the biggest "problems" the Twins may face is finding enough playing time with a healthy and young talent group of Kirilloff, Lanrach and Miranda.

    Have to give a shout out to Farrell and and Minya and Coulombe. Their future is a mystery. But did anyone see them actually producing for 2021, much less be an option for 2022?

    Oh, sorry, almost left Alcala off the list, we've seen good and bad. But we've seen mkre good than bad recently. 

     

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    Based on the way folks often talk about Sano, he could make my top 3. He's not at all the player once hoped for but he has still put together a season with some decent moments.

    Thielbar #1. Another gutsy season from a guy who was retired.

    Heck, I even think Polanco is underrated. We're witnessing Twins historic greatness (for a contract steal) and lots of folks don't seem all that impressed.

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    8 hours ago, Tim said:

    Luis Arraez has a career .313 AVG / .376 OBP / .781 OPS, while playing essentially league average defense at multiple positions. He's also 24 years old and under team control until 2026. That seems like a pretty underrated player to me. I truly don't understand how that is overated for the type of player and role he plays.

    That all indicates that he provides a lot of value to the team. I don't think Arraez is overrated, but I also don't think he's underrated. We knew what to expect from him, and he's pretty much been that, with a lower-than-expected batting average. 

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    I don't think I'd include any of these three in a list of "underrated." 

    To first determine who is under or over rated, we kind of have to have a ratings system. And, that has to do with how fans perceive a player's value to the team and what it should be and then where that player is. 

    So, here would be my rankings: 

    1.) Miguel Sano - There are still people who think that he is a terrible player. Meanwhile, in his last 75 games, he has hit .244/.321/.496 (.817) with 16 doubles and 17 home runs. "But he strikes out too much!" Yes, he does, but his 34.7% K% is the lowest of his career, and with today's game, he has played in a career-high games. I get that his defensive metrics haven't been good and his overall numbers still don't look great, I do think he's a bit underrated especially when you look at what he has done during his career, which include a couple of legit good seasons, an All Star appearance and 157 homers. 

    2.) Josh Donaldson - People continue to talk about all his missed time due to his leg injuries or his lack of production. However, he is behind only Jorge Polanco and Andrelton Simmons in games played. He's second in plate appearances. He's also hitting .249/.348/.470 (.818) with 21 doubles and 22 homers. His defense certainly has taken a step or two backwards due to the lack of speed and range, but his offense has been good. 

    3.) Mitch Garver - I continue to hear from people asking if Garver is any good or if he'll ever hit again. Yes, last year was a bad year, but he only played like 25 games, and yes, he struggled in April. In his last 44 games of the 2021 season - which was on both sides of a pretty gruesome injury - he has hit .279/.408/.612 (1.020) with 10 doubles and 11 homers. He also returned to having more plate discipline. And, what he did in 2019 was amazing. 

     

    That would be my three, and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with it. 

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    7 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    1.) Miguel Sano - There are still people who think that he is a terrible player. Meanwhile, in his last 75 games, he has hit .244/.321/.496 (.817) with 16 doubles and 17 home runs.

     

    If you cherry pick your first baseman's best 75 game stretch and he still only has an 800 OPS while playing awful defense he's probably not that great. 

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    11 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

    If you cherry pick your first baseman's best 75 game stretch and he still only has an 800 OPS while playing awful defense he's probably not that great. 

    I didn't say he has been great. Just not as bad as many people thing, hence the underrated designation. 

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    I agree with Doc.  Why Arraez isn't hitting leadoff EVERY single game is beyond me.  He sets the table.  That's what leadoff guys are supposed to do.  Rocco just can't seem to "get" that.  Speaking of Rocco, what is this obsession with presenting Colome with save opportunity after save opportunity ?  Any Twins fan who was SHOCKED Colome gave up the tying 3-run BOMB to Judge yesterday hasn't been paying attention.  It was INEVITABLE.  All he's done this year is give up HR's late in games.  Why would we expect any other outcome.  Test somebody else rather than just handing the ball to Colome.  

    I will grant Sano his recent production.  I was and still am all for trading him to somehow acquire better pitching.  However, he's such a negative trade asset that we're probably better off keeping him and hitting him 7th.  That kind of power near the bottom of your order can be beneficial.  

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    I wouldn't say Arraez is underrated. He's actually gotten worse every year of his MLB career so far. He's barely an above average hitter this year, and he's not exactly Omar Vizquel out there in the field. He's a great utility guy to have, and I love watching him play though. He should probably be hitting leadoff. 

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    17 hours ago, Dodecahedron said:

    We were all surprised when Arraez batted leadoff from LF in the opening game of the year, and not in a good way.  He proved himself then and he continues to prove himself, and this is actually a down year for him.  As pointed out elsewhere, he is also playing very good defense this year.

    If memory serves, he was universally loved in 2019 when he dominated after being called up for the first time, so I'm not sure where the current hate comes from.  He is underrated for sure.  

    How do you know this is a down year for him?  Maybe his first 400 or so at bats were the outlier and not the norm. His stats are on pace to decline again from last year. The power that some thought might materialize hasn't happened. He has no speed so he has to hit a lot to be valuable.

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    12 minutes ago, adorduan said:

    How do you know this is a down year for him?  Maybe his first 400 or so at bats were the outlier and not the norm. His stats are on pace to decline again from last year. The power that some thought might materialize hasn't happened. He has no speed so he has to hit a lot to be valuable.

    I think he is doing a great job this year.  I am merely comparing his OPS+ with his previous years.  "A down year for Arraez" is still a pretty darn good year, at least so far in his career.

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    10 hours ago, TheLeviathan said:

    The guy who only cites batting average to defend players is now going to rag on Arraez?

    I....I mean....Wha?

    I have never said boo about his batting average, only about his hitting in that he too often watches a third strike go by and too often looks like a wind-up toy dancing while batting. (To be more severe, he looks like a spoiled brat not getting his way.)

    It is his POOR fielding that I have "ragged" on all season.🥸  I go by what I see, not some math nerd numbers that so many are infatuated with.

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    There are no "underrated"  Twins players this year.  Underperforming most definitely.  Ober is by no means underrated.  He is a promising prospect, but came to the Twins with little expecations.  Thielbar has turned things around, but so has most of the pen once the Twins fell out of contention.  What is his %inherited runs scored?  Well below average last time I looked.  He is not a core bullpen arm that can be counted on in late inning situations.  And lastly, Arraez's defensive liabilities and lack of power seem to limit him to a utility type player, unless Polanco or Donaldson are traded.  No, best use of Arraez is as a trade piece in an attempt to acquire an above average starter.

    If anyone should be added to an underappreciated list, it might be Farrell, who is been pretty consistent, albeit in a SSS.  But that's it.  The number of disappointments far outweigh the pleasant surprises in this dreary season.

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    15 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    That all indicates that he provides a lot of value to the team. I don't think Arraez is overrated, but I also don't think he's underrated. We knew what to expect from him, and he's pretty much been that, with a lower-than-expected batting average. 

    I was replying to a comment that suggested he was overrated. It's subjective ... Though some arguments for specific players fitting an overrated/underrated narrative are poor...

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    Austidillo!   Give him consistent playing time.  Bench Kepler and let Willians play.   He has better numbers and gives off good positive energy whenever and where ever he play.  200 less at bats then Kepler and only 10 fewer HRs.

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    On 9/14/2021 at 11:21 AM, RpR said:

    I have never said boo about his batting average, only about his hitting in that he too often watches a third strike go by and too often looks like a wind-up toy dancing while batting. (To be more severe, he looks like a spoiled brat not getting his way.)

    It is his POOR fielding that I have "ragged" on all season.🥸  I go by what I see, not some math nerd numbers that so many are infatuated with.

    You "going by what you see" and not "some math nerd numbers" is exactly why we have the "math nerd numbers." When your assessment is that Arraez "too often watches a third strike go by" and he is in the 99th percentile for K% in all of MLB you are literally proving the point that just going by your biased eyes is an awful strategy. You're complaining that a guy who strikes out less than all but 3 guys in baseball let's too many third strikes go by (Arraez strikes out in 10.2% of his ABs, Brantley 10.1, Fletcher 9.2, and Newman 7.3 are the only guys better in all of baseball. Sorry for being so nerdy). That's your complaint right now.

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    1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

    You "going by what you see" and not "some math nerd numbers" is exactly why we have the "math nerd numbers." When your assessment is that Arraez "too often watches a third strike go by" and he is in the 99th percentile for K% in all of MLB you are literally proving the point that just going by your biased eyes is an awful strategy. You're complaining that a guy who strikes out less than all but 3 guys in baseball let's too many third strikes go by (Arraez strikes out in 10.2% of his ABs, Brantley 10.1, Fletcher 9.2, and Newman 7.3 are the only guys better in all of baseball. Sorry for being so nerdy). That's your complaint right now.

    It is not how often , it is too often when the at bat really counts.

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