Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/26 through Sun, 8/1
Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 44-62)
Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -75)
Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (18.0 GB)
Last Week's Game Recaps:
Game 101 | MIN 6, DET 5: Twins Lose Rogers, Win Roller-Coaster Game
Game 102 | DET 6, MIN 5: Late Lapse from Robles Leads to Loss
Game 103 | DET 17, MIN 14: Twins Fall Short in Offensive Slugfest
Game 104 | STL 5, MIN 1: Offense, Bullpen Can't Back Up Jax's Strong Outing
Game 105 | MIN 8, STL 1: Pitching and Power Propel Twins to Victory
Game 106 | STL 7, MIN 3: Sloppy, Sleepy Play Sinks Minnesota
NEWS & NOTES
The Twins made one of their most significant deadline "sell" moves in franchise history on Friday, trading José Berríos to the Blue Jays for a pair of Top 100 prospects in Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. It's a tough loss but a major haul, as Martin and Woods Richardson arguably now become two of the top three prospects Minnesota's system.
Berríos made his Jays debut on Sunday, pitching six shutout innings. Getting used to the sight of him in a Toronto jersey will take some time.
The front office made a couple other smaller-scale moves on Friday, dealing J.A. Happ to St. Louis for MLB reliever John Gant and minor-league lefty Evan Sisk, as well as Hansel Robles to Boston for pitching prospect Alex Scherff. Surprisingly, that was the extent of their movement on deadline day. Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Byron Buxton, and – most inexplicably – Michael Pineda all stayed put.
Taylor Rogers would likely have been among the departing players if not for a finger injury suffered earlier in the week that landed him on IL. The issue was described as a sprain and it's not clear how long Rogers will be sidelined – very possibly the rest of the year. Beau Burrows replaced him on the active roster.
Another new arm joined the organization, beyond the many acquired in trades: Edgar Garcia, who was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati. He was optioned to St. Paul but should presumably get a look in the big-league bullpen later this season.
Finally, Luis Arraez was activated and Gilberto Celestino sent to Triple-A.
The Twins seem fully committed to giving Brent Rooker a very real look here in the second half of the season, and so far he's taking advantage.
Recalled the day after Nelson Cruz was traded, Rooker has since started every game, and has been the No. 2 hitter in eight straight. The past week saw him doing damage from the damage spot, collecting eight hits in 24 at-bats including a double and a pair of homers.
Perhaps most importantly, he struck out only three times against three walks. Previously he had a 22-to-1 K/BB ratio as a big-leaguer. We know the power is going to be there for Rooker, who leads the organization in home runs with 23 between Triple-A and the majors. But his overall impact at the plate, and ultimately his value as a player, will be dictated by an ability to draw walks and hit for a decent average. We've seen promising signs on that front since his return.
Some other noteworthy batting performances in a big week for the offense:
- With Cruz gone and Donaldson dealing with another leg injury, Jorge Polanco has become the clear focal point of the lineup. He batted leadoff or third in every game last week and was a consistent threat, finishing 11-for-28 with seven runs scored. In a season full of disappointment, Polanco's rebound has been a much-needed positive development.
- Miguel Sanó also finds himself breaking free of a prolonged slump that stretched back to last year. He had an absolute monster week, going 9-for-23 with two homers, two doubles, and nearly as many walks (6) as strikeouts (7). He posted a .253/.349/.480 line in July after slashing .254/.280/.507 in June. Much like Rooker, the key for Sanó is not so much the home runs as what he does in between, so it's very nice to see his average hanging in the .250 range and the patience coming back.
- Twins catchers collectively drove in 14 runs in the six games, with Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers chipping in grand slams on consecutive days. Garver just continues to do his thing, boosting his OPS up into the vicinity of .900 which seemed unthinkable early in the year. Jeffers getting on track offensively is very nice to see; with two walks and three homers in his two starts, he lifted his OPS by 73 points last week alone.
While it's nice to see the offense clicking again, what we'll really be looking for in these final two months is positive signs on the pitching staff – particularly from those who can play a role next year and help offset the critical loss of Berríos.
Griffin Jax took the ball in JB's place on Friday night, and delivered an impressive performance with five innings of one-run ball against the Cards. The following night, Bailey Ober delivered four stellar innings, allowing one run on four hits and one walk while striking out six. Charlie Barnes, recalled to fill Happ's vacated roster spot, will likely take his turn in the rotation on Wednesday.
These aren't top prospects, but they're MLB-ready arms with good minor-league track records. What kinds of roles could they play on a reshaped 2022 staff? These three and others should have plenty of chances to make their cases the rest of the way, although Rocco Baldelli must balance the need to carefully manage workloads (as we saw with Ober, who was pulled after just 64 pitches on Saturday).
Things did not go well for the Twins bullpen last week.
On Monday night, the team took a two-run lead into the ninth and turned to its All-Star closer. Unfortunately, Rogers had to exit during the first plate appearance, and in came Alex Colomé, who promptly gave up a single and a home run to tie the game. The Twins did end up winning in 10.
They weren't so lucky the following night, when Robles amazingly managed to blow a four-run lead in the ninth by serving up a grand slam to Detroit's Eric Haase.
Wednesday was the lowlight of the season for Minnesota's staff, which coughed up 17 runs against a mediocre Tigers offense. Burrows and Juan Minaya combined to give up eight of those runs in six innings of relief, after Happ surrendered nine in his three-inning start.
The final appearances from Happ and Robles as Twins could hardly have gone worse, making it all the more surprising that takers for either (let alone both) stepped up on the trade market. Alas, they're gone, and soon enough Colomé, Burrows and Minaya will follow them. It's tough to get too worked up about struggles from guys who have no future here.
Trevor Larnach, conversely, does have a future here, and hopefully a very long and successful one. For now, he continues to deal with growing pains as a rookie facing the league's adjustments. Baldelli remains committed to playing him almost everyday, but has bumped Larnach down to the lower part of the lineup as his skid persists. The last week saw him go 3-for-22 with nine strikeouts and one walk. In the month of July he slashed .191/.252/.266 with 43 strikeouts and just seven walks.
Reputed as a disciplined hitter with a knack for putting bat to ball, Larnach is clearly out of sorts. It's jarring to see him striking out 40% of the time. One wonders if the slumping will reach a point where the Twins feel a return to Triple-A might be in order, but it doesn't feel like we're quite there yet.
The Twins need to start getting a grasp on what they're going to do with the bullpen going forward. There will be no shortage of innings to go around with Robles shipped out and Rogers out indefinitely.
How long before Triple-A relievers with legitimate potential – such as Yennier Cano, Jovani Moran, and Ian Hamilton – are called up for a look-see? None are presently on the 40-man roster, but clearing up space shouldn't be too difficult. Garcia, acquired off waivers last week, also should be in line for an imminent call-up.
With the game outcomes no longer mattering, one of the most productive things the Twins can do in the remainder of this lost season is gain any kind of clarity around what they have going forward in their embattled relief corps. Presently the outlook for that unit is bleakly uncertain, especially with Tyler Duffey's dramatic drop-off this year.
Their longest road trip of the season rolls into next week as the Twins travel to Cincinnati and then Houston. Maeda will have an opportunity to hit and run the bases on Tuesday, which he's surely excited about. Official starters have not yet been announced for Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm assuming Barnes and Jax fill the rotation spots of Berríos and Happ.
TUESDAY, 8/3: TWINS @ REDS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Tyler Mahle
WEDNESDAY, 8/4: TWINS @ REDS – LHP Charlie Barnes v. RHP Luis Castillo
THURSDAY, 8/5: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Griffin Jax v. LHP Framber Valdez
FRIDAY, 8/6: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Zack Greinke
SATURDAY, 8/7: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Luis Garcia
SUNDAY, 8/8: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. Lance McCullers Jr.
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