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  • Ranking What Went Right for the 2021 Twins


    Cody Christie

    It’s easy to be negative when the Twins are heading for 90-losses or more for the sixth time in the last decade. Even if you turned away, there were plenty of things that went right for the 2021 Twins.

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports

    Why have you continued to watch the Twins in the second half? Have you tuned in for Jorge Polanco’s hot bat? Did you watch some of the young pitching making their MLB debuts? Below is a ranking of the top three things that went right for the 2021 Twins.

    3. Jorge Polanco
    Jorge Polanco has been one of the most prominent bright spots this season. After having ankle surgery the past two off-seasons, there were plenty of question marks about his long-term role for the Twins. The team moved him away from shortstop, and other players on the roster can fit into the plan at second base. He faced these challenges head-on and is ending the season as the team’s most valuable player. 

    Polanco set the franchise record for home runs by a switch-hitter after a slow start to the season. He will end the year with more than 30 homers, 30 doubles, and ten steals, which are numbers only a few MLB players have accumulated this year. Baseball Reference has him with the sixth-highest WAR total among AL position players. His at-bats have become one of the main reasons to watch the Twins in the second half. 

    2. Aggressive Trade Deadline
    Minnesota’s front office said the Twins will compete in 2022, so trading away players like Jose Berrios can be tough to make that a reality. An argument could have been made to retain players and take another run in 2022. Instead, the Twins were able to get two top-100 prospects for Berrios and two big-league ready arms for Nelson Cruz’s expiring contract. These aren’t the only parts of the trade deadline that impacted the team’s long-term outlook.

    Besides Cruz and Berrios, Minnesota dealt away J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles for pitching prospects. Happ and Robles were on expiring deals, and neither had performed exceptionally well during their Twins tenure, so getting value was an impressive feat for the front office. Minnesota also held on to players like Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Max Kepler. All of these players can help the Twins to be competitive in 2022.

    1. Experience for Young Players
    In a lost season, big-league experience can be invaluable for the players who make up the core of the next winning Twins team. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach were thrust into the Twins line-up with some bumps and bruises along the way. Kirilloff fought through a wrist injury and was still able to produce a 98 OPS+. Larnach held his own in the season’s first half (.755 OPS) before the team needed him to rediscover his swing in St. Paul. Both players will be in the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for most of the next decade. 

    On the mound, starters like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan have shown they can more than hold their own at the big-league level. As of right now, no members of the 2021 Opening Day starting rotation will be with the Twins next year. Minnesota likely feels comfortable with both of these pitchers penciled into the back of the 2022 rotation. Starting pitching depth was an issue in 2022, so the front office has plenty of work to do on this front over the next couple of months. 

    How would you rank these positives from 2021? What would you add to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    From the established players, you have to like what Polanco and Garver have done at the plate. Ober is the brightest spot from the prospects who got the call.

    The Twins were active at the trade deadline flipping most of the talent with value they weren't going to keep or couldn't keep.

    Down on the farm, Miranda's huge year was a welcome surprise for somebody left off the 40 man and the Twins got some impressive performances from several pitchers. I liked what Winder, Balazovic, Canterino, Varland and Gipson-Long have done in the minors, it's just a bummer so many injuries have slowed guys down. I'm sure we'll see a couple people get their feet wet at the MLB level next year.

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    While I like the returns for Cruz and Berrios, that's obviously not a "what went right" discussion since we had to flop to move those two.

    I'd put Polanco and Donaldson on the what went right from our lineup guys. And Garver looked good when healthy as has Buxton.

    In the minors, Miranda looks great, as Bean noted, and I'm a little excited about Cabbage's play, admittedly, I've always overvalued him but I really hopes he makes it. Balazovic continued to look good as did Winder when healthy. 

    And on the young guys side, Ober looks like he can pitch in the majors and while Jax doesn't, it was impressive what he was able to do with all the time lost over the years. Kiriloff will be a solid MLer. Maybe not a constant all-star but he should be a solid, middle of the order bat for years to come. 

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    I am puzzled by what to put here.  Polanco is definitely the best bat.  Larnach got figured out and seemed to give up - can he come back?  Alcala always seems on the verge and then bombs.  Kiriloff has a great bat, but he is like Buxton - an IL specialist.  Ober is another great story and a positive.  Let's hope he can continue this as they scout every detail of his pitching.  Jeffers regressed and Garver keeps teasing us.  Sano takes off half a season and blossoms when it is too late - do we trust him?  Griffin Jax is a wonderful story, but not a wonderful pitcher so far.  Who will be SS?  Is Miranda a mirage?  Can we please move on from Jake Cave?  The management of our 4 inning starters is still a sore point for me.  I want a new manager and I want 7 inning starters.  When things go bad do we have the coaches that can correct it on the fly?  Is there a reason that pitchers do better in other organizations?  Is Rooker really this bad?  

    Let's see Ober and Polanco - I need a third person.  Well tune in later. 

     

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    #1-Polanco getting healthy and back to Polo again

    #2-Ober is my choice as a surprise 

    #3-A full 162 game season. I don't feel I can put Ryan here as the trade-off was enough of a loss to balance the gain IMO

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    We will of course see what becomes of the Berrios trade. I would only cite that our rotation looks a lot better for 2022 with Berrios, Ryan and Ober in terms of a young core and that would have been prior to Maeda getting hurt. I don't bring this up to dredge the Berrios/contract/payroll convo again, but just that I would not say it was a "good" move. 

     

    #1 for me is Polanco as long as they leave him at 2b. This team is desperate for young, consistent players. Polanco has shown to be that this year. Even if he dips a bit next year, he is still a solid piece. It is important to have those types of players when you are trying to call up younger players who will naturally be more inconsistent. Probably the biggest argument against Sano is that he puts a lot of pressure on other players in the lineup to produce and the lineup will already be inconsistent with Larnach and Kirilloff and Buxton. 

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