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Patrick Wozniak

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Blog Entries posted by Patrick Wozniak

  1. Patrick Wozniak
    MLB Statcast recently unveiled its Outs Above Average (OAA) rankings for MLB infielders (it was previously only available for outfielders) and the numbers make a compelling case for Marwin Gonzalez. With Gonzalez rated as Minnesota’s best defensive infielder and a current need to fill in C.J. Cron’s place at first base, moving Miguel Sano to first and slotting Gonzalez into the everyday third base role may be the Twins best move going forward.
    According to MLB’s Baseball Savant site (where Statcast is featured), “Outs Above Average (OAA) is the cumulative effect of all individual plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them.” OAA measures the distance and time it takes a fielder to reach the ball, how far the fielder is from the base the ball will be thrown to, and how fast the baserunner is.
    Based on OAA, Gonzalez is far and away the Twin’s best returning infield option. In 2019 he was good for a 7 OAA, meaning he was seven outs above the average infielder. That may not seem like a lot, but it places Gonzalez as the 19th best infielder in all of baseball (Javier Baez led all of baseball with a 19 OAA). Of the returning Twins infielders, Gonzalez is the only one who posted an above-average ranking (Jonathan Scope was second with a 5 OAA, but will be replaced by Luis Arraez’s -6 OAA). He successfully completed 93% of the plays he was involved in with just an 88% estimated success rate, meaning that he made 5% more plays than he was expected to.
    Placing Gonzalez at third would push Sano to first, which may not be such a bad thing. Sano finished 2019 with a -5 OAA, which, while not terrible is significantly below average. Sano is likely to move off third sooner or later, and with Gonzalez as the superior defensive option, now may be a good time. Sano has some experience playing first base and seems athletic enough to be at least an average defender once he settles in. His 137 wRC+ in 2019 ensures that his bat is certain to fit in at first.
    Moving Gonzalez into the everyday third base role does raise a few concerns. The first being Gonzalez’s bat. Gonzalez got off to a notoriously slow start in 2019 after signing late and missing most of spring training, and finished the year as a below average hitter with a 93 wRC+. However, his numbers were much better after April (he had just a 33 wRC+ in Mar./Apr.) and he has been a slightly above average hitter over the course of his career. With above-average defense and an average bat he would be a net positive at third. Minnesota also has a stacked lineup, so having one position filled with an average hitter isn’t really an issue.
    The other concern would be the utility role with Gonzalez moving to third full time. Gonzalez’s ability to fill in anywhere was huge in Minnesota’s injury-plagued 2019 and not having him available for that role in 2020 would seem a detriment. However, Minnesota has another great option for the utility role in Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza rates as the Twins second best returning infielder with a -1 OAA and has the ability to play all around the infield, including shortstop. He also had a really good offensive year in 2019 (relative to being a utility infielder), with a 102 wRC+. Plus, the need for Gonzalez to fill in in the outfield is mitigated by the depth of Jake Cave, Lamonte Wade, and near-ready prospects like Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Luke Raley, and Trevor Larnach.
    There are legitimate concerns with Minnesota’s infield defense coming into the 2020 season, and moving Sano to first and letting Gonzalez take over third should help some. Additionally, with Adrianza in the main utility role, his ability to play average defense would give the Twins an occasional defensive upgrade over Arraez at second or Jorge Polanco at short, who had a team-worst -16 OAA in 2019 (read Twerk Twonk Twin’s recent blog post for a great breakdown of Polanco’s defense).
    With Minnesota unlikely to sign Josh Donaldson, and really only Mitch Moreland left on the first base free-agent market, moving Gonzalez to third seems to be the best option for 2020. If someone like Alex Kirilloff emerges and Minnesota decides to put him at first, Gonzalez can always slide back into the utility role, but Gonzalez’s presence at third with an increased utility role for Adrianza at least gives the infield defense some hope.
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  2. Patrick Wozniak
    In tonight’s twin over the Cleveland Indians, Yasiel Puig hit a comebacker to Jake Odorrizi in the fourth inning and immediately turned and went back to the dugout. Puig had no chance of reaching first safely on the play and Odorrizi ran the ball to first himself while looking back at Puig with a somewhat surprised expression on his face. The Target Field crowd immediately booed Puig and Dick Bremer speculated that Cleveland manager Terry Francona would pull Puig from the game.
    Upon entering the visitor’s dugout veteran Carlos Santana pulled Puig aside and began talking with him and stayed seated beside Puig for the remainder of the inning. Francona stepped down from the top of the dugout and said something to Puig while rubbing his head in what appeared to be an affectionate manner. Puig ran out to right field at the bottom of the fourth and was not pulled from the game.
    Francona is known as one of the most beloved player’s managers in the game and he probably knew how to best deal with an outgoing (to put it nicely) personality like Puig’s. Puig most likely immediately understood what he did wrong and his lack of hustle seemed to be an immediate reaction due to his frustration at grounding out to the pitcher. While Francona may still choose to further address the issue with Puig, his decision to keep Puig in the game certainly paid off for Cleveland. Although Cleveland ultimately went on to lose the game, Puig hit an RBI double to tie the game in the sixth inning and doubled again in his next at bat, later coming around to score. It seems likely that an emotional player like Puig was motivated to amend his mistake and may have also been fueled by all the boos he received from the Target Field crowd.
    It is a bit interesting to me as to why the Minnesota crowd would be so upset with Puig not hustling on what was a sure out. I guess it’s good to “play the game the right way” and Puig certainly didn’t endear himself to Twins fans in the last home series, but if anything Puig’s choice not to hustle only helped Minnesota by ensuring that a throw didn’t need to be made on the play. It also brought about the possibility of friction between Puig and his teammates which would also be beneficial to the Twins. Additionally, does the absence of seeing Puig slowly trot down the first base line only to thrown out by a mile really take much away from the aesthetic of the game?
    From my point of view, I can see why a Cleveland fan (or teammate) could be upset with the play. This series with Minnesota is absolutely crucial for Cleveland as they had fallen behind the Twins by six in-a-half games before the series and won the first game. Miguel Sano had a similar play in the next inning where the ground ball he hit skipped on Cleveland pitcher Aaron Civale and Sano was able to beat out the throw after hustling out of the box. But again, Puig could immediately see that Odorizzi handled the ground ball and that he had no chance to reach safely. Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario also failed to run to first after a dropped third strike and he had no worse a chance than Puig of reaching first on the play (he didn’t receive any booing).
    Finally, if you really want to look at the play as objectively as possible, Puig may have also been keeping himself out of the way of potential injury on the play. Although the odds of getting injured on the play were probably microscopic, so were his chances of reaching without recording an out. Plus, Puig did come up limping after scoring in the top of the eighth inning, so it’s not as if he is immune to injury on the base paths.
    What do you think? Are you enraged by Puig’s antics or was his not hustling pretty inconsequential? Should the home crowd have booed Puig or thanked him for making the out all the easier for the Twins? Leave your comments below.
  3. Patrick Wozniak
    2019 has been a breakout year for Max Kepler. Kepler’s talent and upside has been on display since his days in the minor leagues but he has seemingly put it all together this season. In the year of the home run, Kepler has been no exception as he has led the best home run-hitting team in baseball with 36 long balls. His previous career high was 20, which Kepler will more than likely double. He will put up career highs in all of the traditional batting stats and has been good for a team best 4.4 fWAR. Defensively he is among the best right fielders in baseball and he has filled in admiringly in center field during Byron Buxton’s trips to the IL.
    When dreaming about Max Kepler’s upside a comp that has often been made is to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich. Like Kepler, Yelich spends the majority of his time in right field, hits for a lot of power despite not having a traditional power hitter’s build, and leads his team in home runs and WAR. Yelich’s contract situation is also very similar to Kepler’s as he is currently signed to a seven year, 49.57 million dollar contract that ends in 2021 with a club option in 2022. Kepler is also signed to a seven million dollar AAV through 2023 with a club option for 2024. Needless to say both Minnesota and Milwaukee can be nothing less than thrilled with those contacts.
    While Kepler’s power surge came to fruition this season, Yelich had a similar transformation in 2018. Prior to being traded over to Milwaukee before the 2018 season, Yelich’s previous home run high with the Miami Marlins was 21 in 2016. However, last season Yelich exploded for 36 dingers in his first season with Milwaukee and has hit a career high 43 so far this year. Yelich’s 2018 numbers (.326/.402/.598, 166 wRC+, 7.6 fWAR) were good enough to win the NL MVP award and lead his team to within a game of the World Series. Although Milwaukee is now on the outside looking in for a wild card spot, Yelich has been every bit as good, hitting .326/.421/.672 for a 169 wRC+ and a 7 fWAR.
    Kepler’s numbers have not yet reached the level of Yelich’s, but his great leap forward has happened at the same age as Yelich’s. Both players were consistent and above average players in their earlier years, but something clicked in their age-26 seasons. As both players became more familiar with major league pitching and most likely added some strength, there power numbers surged. Both started hitting the ball harder than ever as Yelich’s hard hit percentage went from 35.2% in his age-25 season, to 47.6% at age 26 (and 50.3% this year!), while Kepler has gone from 37.1% to 42.9% (and up from 33% for his first two seasons).

    Both players have had similar power trajectories but there are clear differences in their overall skill sets. Kepler and Yelich both have good speed, but Yelich is a very good base stealer (26 SB on the year with only 2 CS) while Kepler very rarely attempts to take a bag. Yelich is also a much better overall hitter than Kepler thus far in their careers. Yelich has a career .301 batting average with a .381 on-base-percentage and a .373 wOBA. Kepler on the other hand has hit just .239 with a .320 OBP and .326 wOBA. Yelich has the advantage of having an extra year of being an elite hitter on Kepler, but his overall numbers would still be much better than Kepler’s.
    Their career walk rates are similar (Yelich 11.0%, Kepler 9.9%) and Kepler actually has the better isolated power numbers (.208 ISO to .190) but Yelich has a huge advantage when it comes to batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Kepler has always had a notoriously low BABIP (career .254) and this season has been no different at .246. Contrast that to Yelich who has always been able to “hit it where they ain’t” with a career .358 BABIP. While BABIP can fluctuate a fair amount from season to season and is somewhat luck based, a career difference of over .100 is certainly more than just luck. Yelich’s ability to hit the ball slightly harder than Kepler and his faster sprint speeds probably helps a bit, but Yelich is also less pull-heavy than Kepler which makes him less susceptible to hitting into the shift. Kepler is currently pulling the ball at a 53.7 % clip while going opposite field just 19% of the time. Yelich hits the balls to all fields, pulling 38.5 %, going to center 38.3 %, and going opposite field 23.2 % of the time.

    With Kepler hitting for as much power as he has, the Twins are probably loath to change his approach in order to improve his average. There is, however, one area where Kepler already exceeds Yelich – defense. Yelich is not a bad defender per say, but he is probably average at best and is rated negatively by both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference (which could be the deciding factor in Cody Bellinger winning the NL MVP this year). Conversely, Kepler rates as one of the best right fielders in the MLB with a 19.8 UZR/150 and has played well in center with a 12.8 UZP/150. FanGraphs even has Kepler rated as the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball.
    Christian Yelich is already one of the top players in all of baseball, but Max Kepler is not so far behind. If Kepler can continue to improve his overall offensive game and maintain his homerun power, he could join the elite few in baseball. MVP awards may be hard to come by with arguably the best player in MLB history also playing in the American League (Mike Trout, in case you’ve been living under a rock), but at the young age of 26 Max Kepler is starting to turn some heads. Minnesota would naturally be happy if Kepler can continue to replicate the success he has had in 2019, but it may even be possible that the best is yet to come.
  4. Patrick Wozniak
    With the Minnesota Twins on the verge of setting the all-time MLB home run record, they have gotten many great individual home run efforts from their players. Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz have paved the way with 35 and 33 long-balls while Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano are closing in on 30 homers as well. Jorge Polanco’s next dinger will allow the Twins to set the MLB record with the most players hitting at least 20 home runs at eight. Today, we will take a look at which Twins players have set career highs in home runs in 2019 and who still has a chance to do so.
    Let’s start with the players who have already set career highs.
    Max Kepler - 35
    Max Kepler has taken a giant step forward this year and greatly contributed to the Twins winning ways. A big part of that has been his power surge. Kepler has already hit 35 home runs this season, surpassing his career high of 20 which he set last season. His uptake of +15 is second only to the next player we will talk about.
    Mitch Garver - 24
    In 2018 Mitch Garver hit seven home runs in 103 games. This year has been a completely different story as Garver has demolished the ball, hitting 24 homers in just 75 games. That’s an improvement of +17 while playing in significantly less games up to this point in the season. Like Kepler, Garver’s greatly increased production has been a big part of the Twin’s success in 2019.
    Jorge Polanco - 19
    Look no further than Jorge Polanco to find another young position player who has taken a huge step forward for Minnesota this year. Polanco’s overall numbers are far and away the best of his MLB career and his 19 home runs on the year surpass his previous high of 13 set in 2017.
    Next are three more Twins players who are closing in on career highs.
    Eddie Rosario - 27
    Eddie Rosario has actually already tied his career high of 27 which he originally reached in 2017, so he is all but certain to set a new career high. Rosario did the bulk of his heavy lifting early in the season, hitting 17 home runs through May, but he has a good chance of reaching 30 this year as he is back in the lineup after a few days off with a hamstring injury. Rosario has tied his career high while only playing in a total of 109 games so far this season. It took him 151 games to get 27 in 2017.
    Miguel Sano – 26
    Like Rosario, Miguel Sano is nearly a lock to set a new career high in home runs. Sano is just two short of his career high of 28 home runs which he set in 2017. Sano will also probably get it done with less games played as he has played in 82 games so far compared to 114 in 2017. Sano has an even 13/13 split of home runs between the first and second half.
    Ehire Adrianza – 4
    Forget about Rosario and Sano, Ehire Adrianza’s chase for a new career high is clearly what will captivate Twins Territory down the stretch. Joking aside, Adrianza is deserving of appreciation for the great numbers he has put up in limited duty this season. Adrianza set his career high for home runs last year with six, so he will need three more dingers down the stretch to set a personal best.
    Finally, here are the numbers for the remainder of the Twins position players (Luis Arraez is not included since this is his first season). Nelson Cruz has hit 17 homers in 33 games in the second half so he might have a chance. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, and Jake Cave have been hot of late, but time is short and their playing time could be somewhat limited. It would take an epic home run binge for any of them to set a career high, but if there was ever a year for an epic binge, it’s 2019.
    Player - 2019 total / Career high (year)
    Nelson Cruz - 33 / 44 (2015)
    C.J. Cron - 22 / 30 (2018)
    Jonathan Schoop - 21 / 32 (2017)
    Marwin Gonzalez - 15 / 23 (2017)
    Jason Castro - 12 / 18 (2013)
    Byron Buxton - 10 / 16 (2017)
    Jake Cave - 7 / 13 (2018)
    Whose power surge has impressed you the most in 2019? Do you think any of the last group has a chance to reach a new career high?
  5. Patrick Wozniak
    With injuries to Byron Buxton and the more recent hamstring injury to Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave has had an extended opportunity with the Minnesota Twins and has made the most of it. After hitting two home runs in the opener against the Detroit Tigers he came back in Saturday's game and hit another dinger, with a double to boot. Buxton is off to a short rehab assignment in Cedar Rapids but he could rejoin the big league club as soon as Tuesday in Chicago. Rosario’s injury is listed as day-to-day but hamstring injuries are tricky, so he could potentially land on the 10-day IL. Either way, with the way Cave has played of late the Twins will have an interesting decision to make when Rosario returns.
    Cave was a pleasant surprise for the Minnesota in 2018, as he hit .265/.313/.473 with a wRC+ of 108 and was good for 1.3 bWAR in just 91 games. He filled in for Buxton during Buxton’s disastrous and injury-riddle 2018, spending a lot of time in center field, where he played decently but showed that he was definitely better suited for the corners. Flash forward to 2019 and Cave was slated to be the Twins fourth outfielder, but he struggled out of the gate slashing just .176/.299/.243 for a 52 wRC+ in the first half and Cave was sent down to AAA to figure things out.
    And boy did he figure it out in Rochester. Cave hit the cover off the ball (.352/.393/.592) and since returning to the Twins, Cave hasn’t cooled a bit. Since the All-Star break, Cave has hit an unreal .417/.482/.708 for a 209 wRC+. With his second-half surge, Cave’s numbers on the year are now looking quite good as well. Cave has hit .280/.381/.464 on the year for a 125 wRC+. His on-base percentage has risen from .313 in 2018 to a very good .381 in his second season. In watching Cave, he seems to be taking much better at-bats of late, showing an ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. While Cave will probably never have an elite walk rate, he has shown significant improvement in this area, going from a 5.8% walk rate in 2018 to 8.4% in 2019. He is getting better pitches to hit and hitting them hard, with a 52.6% hard hit percentage.
    Rosario on the other hand, hadn’t looked particularly good at the plate prior to his injury. Rosario has just a 3.9% walk rate on the year and lately, even when getting into a hitter’s count, he’s been liable to put a weak swing on a pitch outside of the strike zone. On the year he has hit .282/.307/.515 for a wRC+ of 107, which is certainly respectable but not as good as Cave. Rosario started the year off with 11 home runs by the end of April but has hit just 10 in the last three months. In the second half, Rosario’s walk rate is down to an almost non-existent 2.9% with just a 93 wRC+.
    Although Rosario and Cave have similar skill sets (hit left-handed, play aggressively, and are streaky), Cave’s ability to reach base gives him a definite advantage over Rosario. Beyond that, Cave has clearly been the hotter hitter of late and it would be really hard to take his bat out of the lineup at such a critical juncture of the season. Although Cave has not looked good defensively in center field, he is probably a better overall outfielder than Rosario. MLB Statcast measures Rosario at a -2.0 jump vs. average with 31.5 feet covered. Cave on the other hand is better than average with a 0.8 jump and 34.5 feet. Both Rosario and Cave are liable to make a few boneheaded mistakes in the field, but Cave seems more athletic overall and better able to make difficult catches.
    Of course, Rosario has the longer track record as a major leaguer, is a fan-favorite, and has had his share of big moments in the 2019 season. Cave has slightly better career numbers but has only played 141 games in parts of two seasons. Cave also has a really high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) at .400 for the season, but he has always carried a very high BABIP in both the minors and the majors (though not quite that extreme). Part of this may be due to Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, allowing him to beat the shift. Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard brings a lot of swing and miss as well. He is currently striking out in 31.1% of his plate appearances, so there is definitely room for improvement.
    Now entering the final stretch of the season and caught in a tight race with Cleveland, it will be imperative for the Twins to run out the players who give them the best chance to win. We have already seen this happen with Luis Arraez taking the second base gig from Jonathan Schoop. The Twins greatest strength may be their overall depth. With players who are ineffective due to injury or other factors, such as Rosario and C.J. Cron, the Twins would be amiss not to take advantage of the depth they have and put their best nine out on the field.
    It remains to be seen how much playing time Cave will take from Eddie Rosario this season, but Cave’s success may make Rosario more expendable in the offseason. Minnesota could dangle Rosario as part of a package to obtain starting pitching, knowing that Cave at the very least gives the team a stop-gap in left. The Twins farm system is loaded with corner outfield types who are close to big league ready in Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker and the MLB team will still have Marwin Gonzalez under contract in 2020. Rosario has been a valuable player for the Twins, but he seems unlikely to improve upon what he already is. With little to no plate discipline and decreasing speed with age, the Twins may be better off moving on from Rosario and getting something in return for him while they still can (Rosario becomes a free-agent in 2022). In the meantime, whether a long-term solution or not, Jake Cave has presented the Twins with a welcome problem.
  6. Patrick Wozniak
    During the run-up to the MLB Trade Deadline the Minnesota Twins were linked to several big-name starting pitchers. We heard rumors about the Twins potentially landing someone like Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, or even Trevor Bauer. When the dust settled, Minnesota was either unable or unwilling to meet the demands for those pitchers and decided to stand pat with the current rotation. The Twins were never going to give up a player like Byron Buxton and were rightfully protective of top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirililoff. With that taken into consideration, the Twins may well only have Jose Berrios returning from this year’s rotation for 2020, and they may have missed a golden opportunity to add a talented young pitcher.
    The Arizona Diamondbacks received rookie right-hander Zac Gallen from the Miami Marlins in return for Jazz Chisholm, a short stop prospect currently playing in AA. This was a somewhat unique deadline trade as it was a prospect-for-prospect swap (although Gallen made his MLB debut on June 20th and has been up ever since), but the Twins did something similar by swapping Lewin Diaz for Chris Vallimont in the Sergio Romo trade days prior to the Gallen trade. It’s possible that the Marlins were really after Chisholm and contacted Arizona, but the reverse seems more likely. The Twins had just had Miami on the phone and were also playing in Miami at the time of the Gallen trade, so it wouldn’t have been hard to inquire about Gallen.
    Gallen has certainly looked the part of a big league pitcher thus far in his MLB career. The Twins got an up-close peak at Gallen during the Marlins series on the day before he was traded, and he did not disappoint against Minnesota’s historic offense (7IP, 4H, 2ER, 8K). He was also great in his first start in Arizona, as he went five innings without allowing any runs and only one hit on 85 pitches while picking up the win.
    Gallen has really only recently began to sneak into the top 100 of some of the prospect lists, but his stock has risen significantly this season. He has added velocity to his fastball which now sits closer to the mid-90s with plenty of spin and he has a great change up along with a pretty good cutter. Gallen dominated the PCL with a 1.77 ERA and 33.6 K% this year and has pitched really well so far in the big leagues. The 24-year-old had a 2.72 ERA (3.58 FIP) with 10.65 K/9 in seven starts with the Marlins and is off to a good start in Arizona.
    The Marlins seem to be craving high-upside boom-or-bust type prospects and the Twins could have easily provided a similar or somewhat better package than Chisholm. Coming into the season, Chisholm was highly regarded as a short stop possessing both speed and power and he has hit 20 home runs so far this season. He’s a high-upside prospect with great physical tools, but his stock has dropped this year as he has only hit around .200 and is striking out in nearly 35% of his plate appearances. Most prospect rankings still consider him a top 100 prospect, but he fell out of Baseball America’s midseason list.
    Although Gallen’s MLB career is only beginning, he would still fit nicely in with Minnesota’s current rotation. In fact, he seemingly would have been a perfect addition to the team because he is pitching well now and would be under team control for many years to come. If the Twins decide not to pick-up Martin Perez’s team option for next season (and the proposition is looking less and less likely) they will need to fill four spots in the rotation. Gallen would have slotted in nicely somewhere behind Berrios and the Twins would have an established young starter along with a promising young arm to build around.
    The trade deadline has come and gone, but hopefully the front office took notice of the unique opportunity this trade provided. Arizona was able to pick up a young and promising starter while only giving up one high-risk, high-reward prospect. Of course, most teams are hesitant to give up young MLB-ready pitching, but the Twins would be wise to look into the possibility of making a similar off-season trade.
    One team that they may want to look at is…the Miami Marlins. Who knows how much young pitching Miami is willing to part with, but again, they seem to favor high-upside prospects and they are not going to contend in the near future. Although Gallen is out of the picture, the Marlins do have a couple more young pitchers the Twins may want to take a look at in Sandy Alcantara and Jordan Yamamoto.
    Of the two, Alcantara throws much harder, touching triple digits and sitting in the high-90s. Alcantara has had his issues so far, struggling with control (11.1% BB) and not getting as many strikeouts (16.8% K) as one would hope, but he would be an intriguing arm for Wes Johnson to work with. He is one of only eight MLB pitches to have a greater than 10% swinging strike rate on three non-fastball pitches (slider, curve, and changeup), so the strikeouts should come. The 23-year-old is a former top-100 prospect.
    Yamamoto doesn’t have the velocity or prospect status of Alcantara, but he throws six pitches and has done pretty well in his first stint with the Marlins after being called up from AA. In 54 innings he has pitched to a 4.17 ERA (4.18 FIP) with a 1.04 WHIP and has struck out 55 batters. Yamamota is also just 23 years of age and would presumably cost Minnesota less than Alcantara in terms of prospects.
    Even with the addition of one of these young starters, the front office will have their work cut out for them this off season. One would hope that the Twins would add at least two higher quality and more experienced starters through free agency and trade. However, a young, team controlled starter like Alcantara or Yamamota could be a nice depth piece with minor league options that could probably be had for a fairly insignificant price. The Twins have exciting pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Edwar Colina, and Jordan Balazovic all inching closer, but it would be nice to have some additional young pitching talent to help bridge the gap and fill out the rotation.
    The Twins made it through the trade deadline without losing any top prospects and the system is loaded with depth. Hopefully Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took heed of the Zac Gallen trade and will be able to identify some young pitching talent and make a similar deal with the Marlins or another organization. Obtaining pitching talent is never easy, but it was something Falvey was known for in Cleveland and the Twins are going to need all the pitching help they can get in 2020.
  7. Patrick Wozniak
    With the trade deadline quickly approaching Twins fans are rightly focused on adding pitching to the major league roster. The offensive is still on a record setting home run pace and has great major and minor league depth, so any offensive additions would be superfluous. However, the Twins may be able to add by subtraction.
    Jonathan Schoop may have been the least significant off season offense upgrade the Twins added due to the savvy additions of Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzales. However, the front office still had high hopes for Schoop who was signed on a one year deal. Schoop, of course was an all-star in 2017, when he had a career year with Baltimore slashing .293/.338/.503 for an OPS of .841. He mashed 32 long balls and 105 RBI in a 160 games. Schoop came crashing back down to earth in 2018 with and ugly .682 OPS between Baltimore and Milwaukee. While Falvey and company many have been dreaming of a return to 2017, it certainly wasn’t out of the question to expect something closer to Schoop's career averages.
    And to be fair to Schoop this is what he has done. He is currently slashing .256/.305/.458 for an OPS of .763 while playing slightly above average second base. This is even slightly better than Schoop’s career averages. He has been good for 1.5 Bref WAR and by all accounts is a beloved member in the clubhouse. However, while Schoop looked like his former 2017 self coming out of the gate (OPS of .819 through May 31), more recently he has looked like the Schoop of 2018 (OPS of .672 since June 1). More frustrating to fans, Schoop seems to excel in blowout games (how many garbage time HRs has he hit?) while consistently striking out in “clutch” situations. The numbers seem to back up the eye as Schoop is hitting .163/.230/.438 with RISP and .205/.279/.231 in late inning pressure situations. The problem is with a lineup full of power hitters, Schoop becomes a bit redundant, and more importantly the Twins have better options for second base. Plenty of them as it turns out. Let’s take a look.
    All Arraez
    Luis Arraez has been nothing short of amazing in his first big league stint. He is currently slashing .385/.444/.510 for an OPS of .955. In 29 games he has already accumulated 1.1 Bref WAR. Arraez is obviously playing a bit over his head right now, but he has been a good hitter throughout his minor league career and between AA-AAA this year he hit .344/.409/.401. He is not going to hit .400 or slug over .500 long term but his plate approach is very refreshing. On a team of free swingers and power hitters Arraez looks like a nice table setter and in his short time with the twins has come up with several “clutch” hits. His rather twitchy batting style is also extremely entertaining to watch. Arraez has played all over the field for the Twins, including third base, short stop, and left field, but he is clearly best suited for second base where he has spent the majority of his minor league career. Arraez is firmly implanted as the front runner for second base next year and it is also becoming increasingly apparent that he is the answer now.
    The Others
    Both Marwin Gonzales and Ehire Adrianza currently appear to be better options than Schoop at second base as well. A large part of the value in both of these players is their versatility, so sticking Arraez at second clearly makes the most sense. However, were something to happen to Arraez both of these players are more than capable of filling in. Both players started the year ice cold so their stats took a bit of a dip because of this (pretty much the opposite of Schoop). Gonzales currently has an OPS of .748 with a 1.9 Bref War and Adrianza has a .788 OPS with a 1.1 Bref War in only 148 plate appearances. If one of them were to fill in at second for Schoop (or Arraez) the other would still be available for the utility role.
    What to do with Schoop?
    Cutting Schoop is probably ill advised. Although it would give more at bats to the previously mention trio, Schoop has played well enough that cutting him wouldn’t really make sense. Could he be traded for pitching? This is very unlikely as he is on a one-year deal and the Twins will most likely be trading with non-contenders who are uninterested in a rental. There are, however, a couple of long-shot possibilities. One would be a three-way trade with Schoop going to another contender (presumably because of an injuring to the team’s second baseman) and a pitcher from the third non-contending club coming to the twins. Another possibility could be Schoop being a thrown-in to offshoot an incoming player’s salary (similar to the Twins acquiring Logan Forsythe from the Dodgers in the Dozier trade). Again, this is unlikely.
    The best course of action is probably just to keep Schoop and relegate him to a bench role with less and less playing time. He could occasionally fill in against lefties and seems like the ideal guy to have around the clubhouse (assuming he doesn’t become bitter about his decreased roll). He would also be a valuable depth piece as we have seen how hard injuries can hit.
    What do you think? Should Schoop be our starting second baseman, a role player, or be removed from the team all together?
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