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  • The Falvey Philosophies, Part 1: The Young Core


    Greggory Masterson

    An examination of the Twins roster in Derek Falvey's seventh year reveals four fundamental philosophies the organization has embraced. Today we look at the organization's focus on their minor leagues. 

    Image courtesy of John Bonnes, Twins Daily

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    The Twins have a specific goal toward which all of their decisions are ordered: sustained success. Although it is more difficult to say to a fanbase that has seen an 0-18 playoff streak reaching nearly 20 years, the best way to win a World Series is to make the playoffs as many times as possible. Octobers are weird, and anything can happen.

    The Twins' strategy for reaching sustained success has become apparent. It can be summarized by a few precepts: develop a constructive core of young talent, fill remaining holes with veterans, and avoid long-term commitments that are not cost-controlled. Those guiding principles  placed them in the position to sign Carlos Correa to a six-year, $200 million deal this month, perhaps the biggest breaking of their own rules, though not entirely out of character.

    I've combed through every transaction that the team has made since the 2016-2017 offseason, the first year that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over baseball operations, and I'd like to discuss some of them.

    Let’s start with the young core. Name a team that does not rely on amateur acquisitions, minor-league trades, and player development to provide the bedrock of its roster, and I will show you a front office not long for this world. (The jury is still out on the Mets, so hold on to that thought.) This thinking can go too far, such as in the pervasive attitude in the Terry Ryan regime that spending money on free agents was for poorly-run organizations, though those instances are few and far between.

    Nonetheless, this Twins front office has shown a commitment to developing talent and constructing the roster around homegrown products. As can be seen below, most of the players on the current roster were either drafted by the organization or traded for as prospects. I've color-coded the table with red being pitchers, blue being catchers, green being infielders, and yellow being outfielders.

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    With the exceptions of Jordan Balazovic, Alex Kirilloff, Jose Miranda, Nick Gordon, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Byron Buxton, every member of this team has been acquired by the current regime. Balazovic, Kiriloff, and Miranda did not reach Class-A until 2018, and Gordon was in Class-A prior to the 2017 season, so their development has largely been a product of the regime. The other three have signed extensions.

    Of particular note is the amount of red (pitchers) in the "draft" and "MiLB trade" columns. The team has had six seasons to build up a harem of young pitchers, and it may be a make or break year in 2023 with so many homegrown hurlers in the majors or high minors.

    Regardless of the rest of the moves this offseason, the team will live or die based on the talent developed from within. Seeing this breakdown, is there anything that stands out to you?

     

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    The first thing I notice is that the vast majority of their starting pitching was acquired via MLB trade. I don't know if that'd be the case if guys like Canterino, Ober, and Winder could stay healthy, but that's where things are at. The key moving forward now is filling that rotation with more pre-arb guys. Ryan, SWR, Varland, and Balazovic need to step up and take over 60% of the rotation. Ryan is already there. So need 2 of the others, at a minimum, to step in as well. Ober is an interesting piece. He's broken down basically every year of his career, and a move to the pen may be the move for him, unfortunately. Same with Canterino and Winder. But a pen of Duran, Jax, Alcala, Moran, Canterino, Ober, and Winder could be real cheap and real good if they can all stay healthy in those roles. Prielipp and Raya are also really big pieces moving forward (but not on the 40-man so didn't want to discuss too much in this thread).

    The second thing I notice is that they seem to have a really good ability to develop legit MLB quality position players. They need their star position players to be healthy, but the last few years have seen a pretty steady flow of legit major league prospects graduating or being traded for current major leaguers. Steer and CES can be added to the current stable of Lewis, Kirilloff, Miranda, Julien, Jeffers, Larnach, Wallner, and Gordon. I'm not sold on Celestino, but that's 10 guys in the last couple years who look like guys legitimately worthy of a shot in major league baseball. You can build a team around that kind of development.

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    To add what has been said, Balazovic is the only pitcher hold over from TR and he's walking on thin ice. Most definitely '23 is make or break.

    I also see we have an over abundance of pitchers on the 40 man (we might need all of them). Thin in the INF & thinner at catcher

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    14 minutes ago, old nurse said:

    There seems to be a lack of supply from one of the pipelines. No international free agents listed. The first 2 years of international signings by this FO and none developed enough to be protected. Nor selected in rule V

    Arreaz was an international free agent signee but traded.  
     

    Kepler and Polanco were as well but from 2009 and Bill Smith regime.

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    Moran and Jax were both drafted by the previous regime, though a significant portion of their development came under the new regime.

    Taking those guys out, I've redone the first column while adding their draft slot # and signing bonus to highlight this FO's draft & development philosophy.

    1246482962_CroppedScreenshotfrom2023-01-2313-16-42.png.fc9daf463dff02c46c186f5d05e7b561.png

    It's pretty clear they've had reasonable success developing position players taken in the first two rounds.  Julien is the only 40-man exception, but even he got the bonus of an early 4th rounder as they used leftover pool money to entice him away from his senior year at Auburn.

    The pitchers have come from all over the draft board.  Canterino is the only one with a million+ bonus and the only one taken in the top 2 rounds.

    This isn't by accident.  Chase Petty was the only pitcher taken in the first round over 6 drafts, and Prielipp last year was only the 5th pitcher taken out of 16 picks in the first two rounds (including their compA picks).  Clearly they believe that truly talented position players get picked over quickly and have to be prioritized early, while pitchers can be developed from later rounds.  The success that they've had with some of these later round pitchers proves that they are probably right too.

    There is a disconnect here for many fans though, because I still hear all the time that this FO still can't develop pitchers.  They do have a very healthy pipeline of mid rotation starters and quality relievers going now, but we have yet to see a front-line starter developed.  I would say that 6 years of drafting isn't really a ton of time to develop an ace, which is always very rare anyway.  However, in large part this is by design.  They aren't really trying super hard to develop an ace when they are drafting pitchers mostly for bulk in the later rounds.  They've also traded away two of their highest drafted pitchers (Petty, Hajjar), two others were draft deals due to injury risk (Canterino, Prielipp), and the last was Landon Leach, a cold-weather HS guy who flamed out (pretty common for that profile).

    Personally, I think their draft strategy looks great.  Maybe I would even focus more on position players early on, since they have done well with those picks.  What I would change is their approach to free agency and trades.  I think they can fill up the rotation with cheap, controllable pitchers developed in house.  They should then be able to take a gamble on a big FA contract or blockbuster trade to get their #1.

    The Arraez-Lopez trade is sort of a step in that direction, but I would still like to see them aim higher.

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    I have a hard time seeing a real trend here except to say that pitching is trade rich/prospect poor.  The left hand column has a lot of pitchers, but I say that none of them has a strong advocate in the FO and they are mostly fillers right now.

    As for position players the right hand column has a pretty strong TR listing and the position players on the left hand column (this FO) still have a lot to prove before we can pat the draft team on the back.

    Thirteen pitchers via trade.  One waiver and one FA.  Not a pipeline.

    Position players - 6 TR and three FA.  Not a big impact from our FO yet.

    So what is the Falvey philosophy?  I cannot see it in this chart.

     

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    33 minutes ago, 2wins87 said:

    Moran and Jax were both drafted by the previous regime, though a significant portion of their development came under the new regime.

    Taking those guys out, I've redone the first column while adding their draft slot # and signing bonus to highlight this FO's draft & development philosophy.

    1246482962_CroppedScreenshotfrom2023-01-2313-16-42.png.fc9daf463dff02c46c186f5d05e7b561.png

    It's pretty clear they've had reasonable success developing position players taken in the first two rounds.  Julien is the only 40-man exception, but even he got the bonus of an early 4th rounder as they used leftover pool money to entice him away from his senior year at Auburn.

    The pitchers have come from all over the draft board.  Canterino is the only one with a million+ bonus and the only one taken in the top 2 rounds.

    This isn't by accident.  Chase Petty was the only pitcher taken in the first round over 6 drafts, and Prielipp last year was only the 5th pitcher taken out of 16 picks in the first two rounds (including their compA picks).  Clearly they believe that truly talented position players get picked over quickly and have to be prioritized early, while pitchers can be developed from later rounds.  The success that they've had with some of these later round pitchers proves that they are probably right too.

    There is a disconnect here for many fans though, because I still hear all the time that this FO still can't develop pitchers.  They do have a very healthy pipeline of mid rotation starters and quality relievers going now, but we have yet to see a front-line starter developed.  I would say that 6 years of drafting isn't really a ton of time to develop an ace, which is always very rare anyway.  However, in large part this is by design.  They aren't really trying super hard to develop an ace when they are drafting pitchers mostly for bulk in the later rounds.  They've also traded away two of their highest drafted pitchers (Petty, Hajjar), two others were draft deals due to injury risk (Canterino, Prielipp), and the last was Landon Leach, a cold-weather HS guy who flamed out (pretty common for that profile).

    Personally, I think their draft strategy looks great.  Maybe I would even focus more on position players early on, since they have done well with those picks.  What I would change is their approach to free agency and trades.  I think they can fill up the rotation with cheap, controllable pitchers developed in house.  They should then be able to take a gamble on a big FA contract or blockbuster trade to get their #1.

    The Arraez-Lopez trade is sort of a step in that direction, but I would still like to see them aim higher.

    Everybody wants a true ace on the staff. And who wouldn't want a John Smoltz or Randy Johnson as the number one guy. But I think knowing that they aren't a rich team (relatively) that they are instead trying to avoid a staff that has any Nick Blackburns or Randy Nolascos. A solid staff made up of all #2 or #3s is more resilient and gets more wins than a staff with a solid #1 that also has 2 or 3 terrible arms. Might be cheaper in the long run too.  I don't know how they plan to manage their strategy of only allowing starters 80 pitches/5 innings without a solid bullpen that is also similarly stacked. I'm hoping that is the new trainor's job. 

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    I'd live or die with the talent we have developed   ,

    We saw varland and SWR  debut last year and they looked good ( composed and mature  ) , ready for the next step when a spot opens up because of injuries  , they will most likely start in AAA  ...

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    28 minutes ago, old nurse said:

    There seems to be a lack of supply from one of the pipelines. No international free agents listed. The first 2 years of international signings by this FO and none developed enough to be protected. Nor selected in rule V

    It still hasn't been very long under this regime to really judge their international signings, and I'd suspect that there may have been less turnover in the international scouting arm anyway.

    In their first year, they ended up voiding their top IFA contract with Jelfrey Marte due to vision issues in his physical, and used the money to sign Yunior Severino.  Severino passed through several rule 5 drafts, but did develop some significant power from both sides of the plate last year, so he still may end up on the 40-man this year.

    Misael Urbina also passed through his first rule 5 unclaimed this year but is still around and still has decent potential.

    Emmanuel Rodriguez right now looks likely to be their next real international success, but the point is that international signings take so long that 5 or even 6 years isn't always long enough to really judge, and it's not like plenty of other teams don't whiff multiple years in a row on the volatile international market.

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    Six of the starters in the opening day lineup will be holdovers from before Falvey. That's fine. This is year seven and maybe we pay too much attention to how players are acquired. I have noticed that the Twins have increased their expenditures in the last five years, which may have allowed the team to acquire and keep players. That is a positive move. The process of development is pretty tough. A guy like Juan Soto, signed relatively inexpensively,  can change the fortunes of any team. Can you imagine how a Julio Rodriguez would have impacted the Twins roster? Currently, the Twins seem to have a nice blend of veterans and young players. 

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    OK, I may be an optimist, but what I see in PART 1 is a roster well constructed. It's a nice mix of veterans...only a few at 30yo and older...and talented young players, and some very nice looking prospects. And it's a roster of "new prospects", inherited prospects, FA, and some good to maybe even very good trades. 

    I don't like having to continue adding pitching on 2yrs of control, though the truth is there is no reason some can't be re-signed as well. The proverbial "pipeline" has brought some good pen pieces, and a few potential additions. The one thing that is missing thus far is a top of the order arm via said pipeline. Now, IMO, if Canterino hadn't gotten hurt, we might have one of those arms, potentially, on the staff right now. But even then, he'd probably only be going in to his 2nd season at this point. Or at best, his 2nd full season. 

    And I know I've stated this before, but the current FO has had SIX drafts so far. IF they had drafted a 21yo college arm in 2017 and he got a half season once signed, he would have been at A ball in 2018, regardless of splitting both levels or going straight to A+. 2019, said pitcher MIGHT be ready for AA, with a chance to appear at AAA before the year is done. Then comes 2020. His best opportunity is to be included at the alternate site to continue his development, with little chance to appear. So now comes 2021, and this top prospect...even with time at the alternate site in '20...is going to begin the year at AAA. Natural progression, no injuries or developmental setbacks, he appears at some time during the 2021 season. So again, no setbacks, 2022 would be a first FULL ML season. Anyone drafted later than that...especially the past 3 drafts...would be looking at, at best, a 2022 debut and the potential to put in a full season in 2023.

    So natural, un-interrupted progression, what SP drafted prospect should be a top of the rotation arm on a winning/contending team in his 1st or 2nd ML season? 

    Now, arguements can be made that Ryan COUNTS, or doesn't count, as a young arm being developed by the Twins. I absolutely LOVE Ober as an arm, but we need to see that his new routine/delivery is for real and the groin injury last season was a temporary setback. And we can also lament the shoulder problem Winder had when he was looking solid, and, the disappointing year by Balazovic. We can also debate the future value of Sands as a back end SP vs being a nice looking BP arm. But we are also seeing a collection of those early drafted arms actually reaching the ML level...future performance TBD. And we can't ignore the fine seasons of Varland and SWR, and their future contributions to the team, again, yet TBD. 

    So I'm not grabbing torches and pitchforks for any disappointment in the "pipeline" at this point because I'm actually seeing arms arrive at the ML level and contribute and get their feet wet.

    PLAYER wise, I like what I'm seeing. I have faith in Jeffers still developing further. I like the potential of Miranda, Larnach, Kirilloff, Lewis, Lee, Wallner, and Julien. And they are all really close, or already here and just need to get right health wise. I even like Celestino, if he gets the opportunity to actually develop himself at AAA in 2023, which I think he's going to get. I'm not so sure a year from now we aren't going to be talking about Severino as a really good looking infield option. 

    My biggest issue...as an amateur GM...is their draft philosophy, and their international signing philosophy. In their opinion, top draftable position players disappear off the board more quickly than pitchers with potential and under developed stuff vs a college arm who may be closer to already being nearly maxed out. HS arms are the most volatile draft selections. Signing a 16-17yo international kid is even more so. But I think 1st round picks on a "riser" like Cavaco and a bat first Sabato vs the potential of an arm were mistakes. I think we've all seen enough international kids with great arms that I've wondered why the Twins concentrate so much on positional players that I think they need to take more "shots" at some of those college, HS, and international arms here and there.

    On the ML side, my objection is the FO should identify the 1 or 2 guys they REALLY LIKE, and make their move, and THEN sit back and be patient for the real deals that might fall in your lap. 

    I think they are really on the right path. And ultimately, what matters, is putting out a good and contending team year to year. And a successful roster is always going to be built in multiple ways. And developing more internal pitching, without ignoring positional player talent is going to be a sustainable key for yearly contention status. But I think they are on the right path with their approach and mix. 

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    On 1/23/2023 at 10:37 AM, Doctor Gast said:

    To add what has been said, Balazovic is the only pitcher hold over from TR and he's walking on thin ice. Most definitely '23 is make or break.

    I also see we have an over abundance of pitchers on the 40 man (we might need all of them). Thin in the INF & thinner at catcher

    Falvey did add a few minor league free agents off the 40 that add to the depth.

    Are the Twins thin at catcher? I took a look at other 40 man rosters. The Astros and several others have 2. Some of the teams with 3 are protecting a prospect who won’t be ready this year. Others like the Yankees have a guy like Rortvedt. I would think Wolters is at least as capable as Rortvedt to step in with his track record of good defense and experience calling games. They both might be current versions of Drew Butera but at least Wolters doesn’t need to be in the 40 until needed.

    I also like the addition of Willi Castro. He is 25. Detroit pushed him to the majors at 22. They had good reason to be excited. He had an OPS of .833 as a 22 year old shortstop in AAA. He hasn’t hit yet but shortstops that get pushed up the system with their glove can have that bat delayed. He certainly gives them some young experienced depth in AAA behind Farmer, Gordon and eventually Lewis. They also have Martin and possibly Julien ready soon though Julien’s infield spot may be 1B.

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    5 hours ago, jorgenswest said:

    Falvey did add a few minor league free agents off the 40 that add to the depth.

    Are the Twins thin at catcher? I took a look at other 40 man rosters. The Astros and several others have 2. Some of the teams with 3 are protecting a prospect who won’t be ready this year. Others like the Yankees have a guy like Rortvedt. I would think Wolters is at least as capable as Rortvedt to step in with his track record of good defense and experience calling games. They both might be current versions of Drew Butera but at least Wolters doesn’t need to be in the 40 until needed.

    I also like the addition of Willi Castro. He is 25. Detroit pushed him to the majors at 22. They had good reason to be excited. He had an OPS of .833 as a 22 year old shortstop in AAA. He hasn’t hit yet but shortstops that get pushed up the system with their glove can have that bat delayed. He certainly gives them some young experienced depth in AAA behind Farmer, Gordon and eventually Lewis. They also have Martin and possibly Julien ready soon though Julien’s infield spot may be 1B.

    I’m more familiar with Cisco and Greiner than Walters, but I like those signings as Saint stashes as well. WIth Vazquez and Jeffers, I concur that this is the best approach for the 40-man. 

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    I see Woods-Richardson but not Austin Martin in the table.  I noticed that while following up on the trend of trading for pitchers. By contrast Alcala and Celestino were acquired together and both are listed.

    Looks like Farmer's the first instance of trading for a position player alone.  And now Taylor.

    / edit - No. No no no.  Near as I can tell, their first position player traded for was... Jake Cave.  The table of course is clearly marked as of the current roster.

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    42 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    I see Woods-Richardson but not Austin Martin in the table.  I noticed that while following up on the trend of trading for pitchers. By contrast Alcala and Celestino were acquired together and both are listed.

    Looks like Farmer's the first instance of trading for a position player alone.  And now Taylor.

    / edit - No. No no no.  Near as I can tell, their first position player traded for was... Jake Cave.  The table of course is clearly marked as of the current roster.

    Good eye—this is just the 40 man roster. Martin hasn’t been added yet.

    In a couple days I’ll be going over their trade history on the Major League side. Cave isn’t discussed because he was traded for as a MiLB player at the time of the trade. 

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