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Patrick Wozniak

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  1. While obtaining starting pitching is priority number one, spending big money on free-agent pitching is easier said than done. Plenty of other teams will be in on the top starters and even though the Twins have built a good team, the prospect of playing and living in Minnesota isn’t always that enticing. Of course, the Minnesota will have to find a way to fill the rotation, but with catcher Jason Castro becoming a free-agent, back-up catcher is one spot where the Twins could spend and greatly improve the ball club. Mitch Garver emerged as one of, if not the best hitting catcher in baseball, and spending big on another catcher may seem unnecessary or even wasteful, but it is a way to add value to the current club. Garver worked hard to improve his defense and pitch framing but is unlikely to ever be better than average behind the dish and seemed to thrive with plenty of rest, as Manager Rocco Baldelli has prioritized for his catchers. With that said, the soon-to-be 31-year-old Milwaukee Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal is likely to become a free-agent this offseason. He has a mutual option for 2020 with the Brewers but seems all but certain to test the market and look for a multi-year contract. Grandal won’t come cheap and is on the wrong side of 30, but signing Grandal could immediately improve Minnesota’s offense, defense, and pitching. Grandal not only is a great hitting catcher (121 wRC+ in 2019, 119 wRC+ career), but he also ranks as one of the top defensive catchers in the League. FanGraphs has only J.T. Realmuto and Austin Hedges ranked ahead of Grandal defensively and he ranks second in pitch framing. Adding a great pitch framer would further enhance whatever group of starters the Twins end up with. Grandal will not come cheap. He earned $18 million in 2019, in what would essentially be a one-year deal if he declines his option as is expected. Since 2015 his fWAR has consistently been very good, ranging from a low of 4.1 to a high of 5.8, with a 5.2 fWAR in 2019. But again, now is as good a time to spend as ever for the Twins and they should have at least 70 million to spend this offseason. Signing Grandal should not inhibit Minnesota from signing (and trading for) some starters as well. If the Twins do sign Grandal, they would need to figure out how to split time with Garver. Since Grandal is the superior backstop, it would make more sense for him to get the majority of starts behind the plate. However, as mentioned, the Twins seem to prefer well-rested catchers so something close to a 60-40 split in favor of Grandal might work best. Naturally the Twins will want both Garver's and Grandal’s potent bats in the lineup more often than not and with Nelson Cruz taking the lion’s share of DH duty, first base is the best option. Grandal played first in 20 games (16 starts) in 2019 and there has been much talk of getting Garver more reps at first, so that should be feasible. It would probably mean letting C.J. Cron go, and splitting first between Garver, Grandal, and possibly Miguel Sano and Marwin Gonzalez. The two catchers could also see some time at DH as Cruz will need some rest days and is likely to miss some time due to injury. While adding starting pitching is a must, there are other ways to improve the team, and adding an additional piece that is likely to improve both the offense and pitching may prove to be prudent. Plus, there has never been a better time to spend. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Eddie Rosario Continued to Trend Downward in 2019 — 3 Pitchers Who Complement the Twins Defensive Strengths — Jose Berrios Has Tough Road to First Gold Glove
  2. I was all for platooning Cron as well but a big part of that was his ineffectiveness due to the thumb injury. His 2019 splits were really extreme compared to his career (2019 - 160 wRC+ vs L, 78 wRC+ vs R / Career (including 2019) - 121 wRC+ vs L, 105 wRC+ vs R) and I think a lot of it probably had to do with the thumb injury. With that said, I'm okay with whatever the Twins decide to do with Cron.
  3. Thanks! xwOBA neutralizes both defense and ball parks and I don't believe it currently takes shifts into accounts. Previous to this season I know faster players tended to be underrated by xwOBA so they incorporated sprint speed this year. Cron does seem to profile as a player who xwOBA might rate a bit too highly, but this year the difference between his xwOBA and wOBA was really high. In 2018 they were even for Cron but over his career his xwOBA has been higher than his wOBA (though not as extreme as this year). Career wise he is at .331 wOBA vs .343 xwOBA but this season obviously skewed those numbers towards xwOBA.
  4. One of the few questions regarding position players that Minnesota must address this offseason is whether to tender a contract to C.J. Cron. Cron’s thumb injury made his second half as painful to watch as it probably was to play, and the numbers weren’t pretty (.293 wOBA vs. .341 wOBA first half). Combining Cron’s adequate-at-best defense and ineffectiveness on the base paths with his slightly above league-average offensive makes non-tendering Cron a definite possibility. However, if we look at Cron’s season through the lens of MLB’s Statcast, it was actually pretty impressive, and it certainly helps build a case for bringing Cron back.Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is a good way to look at how a player’s weighted batting results correspond to run scoring and gives us a number that comes out looking like on-base percentage. MLB Statcast does about the same thing with xwOBA, but instead of using the player’s actual results, it uses the exit velocity and launch angle on a hit ball and predicts the expected result based on previous hit balls with the same specifications (essentially taking defense out of the equation). While Cron’s wOBA wasn’t all that impressive (.328 vs .318 league average) his xwOBA was .366, which puts him in the 87th percentile of MLB hitters. The difference between his xwOBA and wOBA is third amongst hitters with at least 350 plate appearances, which suggests Cron’s output could increase substantially in 2020. His expected slugging percentage (xSLG) was .531 (23rd overall) and the difference between his expected and actual slugging was second in the league. Cron also ranked above the 80th percentile in exit velocity and hard hit % and his 15.0 barrel % was in the top five percent of the league. All in all, pretty impressive considering he spent much of the season playing through the thumb injury. All of this points to the fact the Cron was pretty unlucky with the actual results of his hit balls in 2019. For his career Cron’s xwOBA slightly exceeds his wOBA, but the two were actually even in 2018 at .347, so it is not at all unreasonable to expect Cron’s actual and expected numbers to approach parity next year. Admittedly, the Twins have a lot more than Statcast results to consider with Cron. He is still only 29-years-old and is projected to make between $7-$8 million in arbitration. While Cron’s projected salary probably wouldn’t do much to inhibit Minnesota from spending on much needed starting pitching, the Twins may want to save more to go big. The Twins could also roll with Miguel Sano or some combination of Sano, Mitch Garver, and Marwin Gonzalez at first. Prospects Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff could also be ready at some point in 2020, if not out of spring training. And of course, Minnesota could always go out and sign a free-agent to cover first, but the options don’t look all that enticing. Finally, Cron’s thumb injury makes the situation a little murkier. The injury twice landed Cron on the IL and he was not the same hitter after the injury. Earlier this week he had his injured right thumb surgically repaired and should have ample time for rest and rehab prior to spring training. For Cron to be the hitter that Twins fans saw in the first half of the season, he will need to be at full health, something that Minnesota will undoubtedly contemplate before committing to him. What do you think? Should Minnesota bring Cron back, use internal options, or sign a free agent? Please leave your comments below. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Handbook Preview: Glen Perkins Reviewing Relievers — Twins Can Begin Cashing in on Prospects — Hot Corner Consideration: Potential Third Base Alternatives to Miguel Sano Click here to view the article
  5. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is a good way to look at how a player’s weighted batting results correspond to run scoring and gives us a number that comes out looking like on-base percentage. MLB Statcast does about the same thing with xwOBA, but instead of using the player’s actual results, it uses the exit velocity and launch angle on a hit ball and predicts the expected result based on previous hit balls with the same specifications (essentially taking defense out of the equation). While Cron’s wOBA wasn’t all that impressive (.328 vs .318 league average) his xwOBA was .366, which puts him in the 87th percentile of MLB hitters. The difference between his xwOBA and wOBA is third amongst hitters with at least 350 plate appearances, which suggests Cron’s output could increase substantially in 2020. His expected slugging percentage (xSLG) was .531 (23rd overall) and the difference between his expected and actual slugging was second in the league. Cron also ranked above the 80th percentile in exit velocity and hard hit % and his 15.0 barrel % was in the top five percent of the league. All in all, pretty impressive considering he spent much of the season playing through the thumb injury. All of this points to the fact the Cron was pretty unlucky with the actual results of his hit balls in 2019. For his career Cron’s xwOBA slightly exceeds his wOBA, but the two were actually even in 2018 at .347, so it is not at all unreasonable to expect Cron’s actual and expected numbers to approach parity next year. Admittedly, the Twins have a lot more than Statcast results to consider with Cron. He is still only 29-years-old and is projected to make between $7-$8 million in arbitration. While Cron’s projected salary probably wouldn’t do much to inhibit Minnesota from spending on much needed starting pitching, the Twins may want to save more to go big. The Twins could also roll with Miguel Sano or some combination of Sano, Mitch Garver, and Marwin Gonzalez at first. Prospects Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff could also be ready at some point in 2020, if not out of spring training. And of course, Minnesota could always go out and sign a free-agent to cover first, but the options don’t look all that enticing. Finally, Cron’s thumb injury makes the situation a little murkier. The injury twice landed Cron on the IL and he was not the same hitter after the injury. Earlier this week he had his injured right thumb surgically repaired and should have ample time for rest and rehab prior to spring training. https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/1186725007856148481?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw For Cron to be the hitter that Twins fans saw in the first half of the season, he will need to be at full health, something that Minnesota will undoubtedly contemplate before committing to him. What do you think? Should Minnesota bring Cron back, use internal options, or sign a free agent? Please leave your comments below. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Handbook Preview: Glen Perkins Reviewing Relievers — Twins Can Begin Cashing in on Prospects — Hot Corner Consideration: Potential Third Base Alternatives to Miguel Sano
  6. I couldn't agree more with the importance of avoiding the 0-days rest outings as much as possible. A lesser but rested reliever is generally better than a good reliever on no rest, so it makes sense to take advantage of that. Should be even easier with rosters expanding to 26. Looking forward to part 2!
  7. In the final installment of this three-part series comparing the Twins to the Astros, we will look into the role that an important veteran has played in shaping and mentoring some of the emerging young talent on both teams. We’ll also take a look at free agency and how Minnesota would do well to emulate Houston in the starting pitching department. Finally, we’ll end with the looming threat of losing valuable coaches and front office personal, which has already happened in Houston and is likely to affect the Twins sooner rather than later.Click here for Part 1 of this series. Click here for Part 2 of this series. The Veteran Leader Much has rightly been made about Nelson Cruz’s veteran leadership on a fairly young Twins team. At times, immeasurable variables like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” are probably over-valued, but in the case of Nelson Cruz, there is little doubt inside or outside of the clubhouse as to how valuable Cruz has been to this team. Cruz has been heralded for his work ethic, preparing himself not only physically, but also mentally for the challenges of playing at a high level as a 39-year-old. Whether in the weight room, the batting cage, or studying video, Cruz always seems to be applying himself to his craft and his younger teammates cannot help but notice. One of the beneficiaries has been Miguel Sano. Twins fans have long dreamed of what Miguel Sano could become, but after a sensational rookie season in 2015, Sano never quite returned to form. 2018 was a disaster filled with injury and off-the-field distractions, but 2019 has been a revelation for Sano. Sano worked hard to get in shape in the offseason and also claimed that he suggested the Twins sign Cruz in the offseason in an interview with FSN’s Justin Morneau. Sano has seemed to work harder than ever to improve his game as can be seen by his willingness to change his swing in-season and the results that have followed (.271/.376/.618 from June 28th to the end of the regular season). There is little doubt that Nelson Cruz has played a large role in Sano’s success. The Houston Astros had a similar veteran addition to their 2017 championship team in Carols Beltran. Beltran was a 19-year MLB veteran who wanted a last chance to win a World Series and Houston was looking to add a veteran to supplement its young core and improve team chemistry. Like Cruz, Beltran loved studying video and was instrumental in breaking down pitchers and passing the information on to his teammates. In Astroball, Correa talked about how much Beltran taught him in regard to viewing video and identifying when pitchers were tipping their pitches. Beltran also helped to identify when hitters like George Springer were developing bad habits at the plate, and Beltran made it clear to his teammates that he was there to help early on: “My friend, I am here to help you. Even if it looks like I’m busy, you won’t bother me. If you sit down next to me and ask me a question, I would be more than happy to give you the time that you need.” Having veterans like Cruz and Beltran on your team is akin to having another coach on the bench who younger players not only trust but can emulate. Cruz has also provided in one area that Beltran didn’t – Cruz has put up really big numbers while Beltran struggled in his final season. Beltran hit just .231/.283/.383 as a 40-year-old for Houston, whereas Cruz has been one of the MLB’s best hitters at age 39, slashing .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs. Regardless of the results, Cruz’s leadership would have been valuable to the team, but when combined with his elite production he may well be the team’s MVP. Free Agency and Starting Pitching In their first two years in Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had a bit of a mixed record in free agency. Catcher Jason Castro turned out to be a pretty good three-year signing, but last year’s last-minute bargains, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison were pretty much a disaster as they seemed unhappy to be in Minnesota playing for less money and years than they had hoped for. Pitcher Michael Pineda was also signed before last season but was really signed for the 2019 season as he sat out 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The FO seemed to learn their lesson and have had much greater success with this year’s signings, which include the previously mentioned Cruz and utility man Marwin Gonzalez, who came over from the Astros organization. Both have played well and have brought a winning attitude to Minnesota. Minnesota was also able to add second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the team. He has had an up-and-down year but has provided some pop, is well-liked by his teammates, and could have been essential to the team’s postseason roster, depending on rookie Luiz Arraez’s availability due to an ankle injury. If the Twins do hope to emulate Houston, upgrading the rotation would be the next step in the process. The Astros feature three of the best starters in baseball in the aforementioned Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. None of the three came from within the organization so the Astros needed to do two things that the Twins should be able to do as well. The first was to be willing to give up some of their prospect capital to acquire starting pitching. While the Astros had to give up good prospects in all three trades, they were able to do so without giving up anyone on quite the level of Lewis or Kirilloff. The Twins certainly have the prospect surplus to make some trades. Secondly, Houston was willing to take on some salary. Verlander and Greinke were under contract for large amounts and Houston went on to extend Verlander and reliever Ryan Pressly. With a lot of salary coming off the books, the Twins should theoretically have a lot of money available, and could definitely make a run at one or two of the top free agent starters if they so choose. With Jose Berrios as the only current starter due back next season (although Randy Dobnak may be in next year’s rotation), it will be interesting to see what the FO does to address starting pitching. Some big name free-agent starters will be available, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. The Twins got good years out of Michael Pineda and Jake Odorrizi, but they are set to be free agents along with Kyle Gibson. With this year’s team breaking the competitive window wide open, there may never be a better time to add an “ace.” Brain Drain Although Houston continues to succeed, finishing with the best overall record in 2019, they have had to deal with other teams luring talented front office staff and coaches away from the organization. When an organization finds success, especially with a new approach, other teams are sure to take notice. Gone from the front office are Sag Mejdal and Mike Elias who were poached by the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves. Bench coach Alex Cora famously became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and led them to a World Series victory in 2018. With the success of the Minnesota Twins is 2019, other organizations are sure to take notice, and Minnesota would be extremely lucky if everyone remained in place for 2020. Coaches such as Derrek Shelton and James Rowson will likely draw interest and members of the front office and analytics department are likely to be hot commodities as well, not to mention minor league coaches and staff. With the right philosophy in place, Minnesota may be able to plug in great new minds and continue to succeed as Houston has. However, the teams that are plucking employees may soon bridge the gap as the Twins (and others) have done to the Astros. The best teams will need to evolve, always on the lookout for new hidden advantages, and the process will continue as it always has. Here We Go The Twins didn't reach the World Series this season, but regardless of the result, it’s hard to view the season as anything less than a resounding success. The Twins will obviously blaze their own path going forward, but if there is a ballclub to emulate, you can’t do much better than the Houston Astros. As Minnesota’s young core continues to mature, with most of the team returning for 2020 and plenty of intriguing options inching closer from the farm, the best is hopefully yet to come. Click here to view the article
  8. Click here for Part 1 of this series. Click here for Part 2 of this series. The Veteran Leader Much has rightly been made about Nelson Cruz’s veteran leadership on a fairly young Twins team. At times, immeasurable variables like “team chemistry” and “veteran leadership” are probably over-valued, but in the case of Nelson Cruz, there is little doubt inside or outside of the clubhouse as to how valuable Cruz has been to this team. Cruz has been heralded for his work ethic, preparing himself not only physically, but also mentally for the challenges of playing at a high level as a 39-year-old. Whether in the weight room, the batting cage, or studying video, Cruz always seems to be applying himself to his craft and his younger teammates cannot help but notice. One of the beneficiaries has been Miguel Sano. Twins fans have long dreamed of what Miguel Sano could become, but after a sensational rookie season in 2015, Sano never quite returned to form. 2018 was a disaster filled with injury and off-the-field distractions, but 2019 has been a revelation for Sano. Sano worked hard to get in shape in the offseason and also claimed that he suggested the Twins sign Cruz in the offseason in an interview with FSN’s Justin Morneau. Sano has seemed to work harder than ever to improve his game as can be seen by his willingness to change his swing in-season and the results that have followed (.271/.376/.618 from June 28th to the end of the regular season). There is little doubt that Nelson Cruz has played a large role in Sano’s success. The Houston Astros had a similar veteran addition to their 2017 championship team in Carols Beltran. Beltran was a 19-year MLB veteran who wanted a last chance to win a World Series and Houston was looking to add a veteran to supplement its young core and improve team chemistry. Like Cruz, Beltran loved studying video and was instrumental in breaking down pitchers and passing the information on to his teammates. In Astroball, Correa talked about how much Beltran taught him in regard to viewing video and identifying when pitchers were tipping their pitches. Beltran also helped to identify when hitters like George Springer were developing bad habits at the plate, and Beltran made it clear to his teammates that he was there to help early on: “My friend, I am here to help you. Even if it looks like I’m busy, you won’t bother me. If you sit down next to me and ask me a question, I would be more than happy to give you the time that you need.” Having veterans like Cruz and Beltran on your team is akin to having another coach on the bench who younger players not only trust but can emulate. Cruz has also provided in one area that Beltran didn’t – Cruz has put up really big numbers while Beltran struggled in his final season. Beltran hit just .231/.283/.383 as a 40-year-old for Houston, whereas Cruz has been one of the MLB’s best hitters at age 39, slashing .311/.392/.639 with 41 home runs. Regardless of the results, Cruz’s leadership would have been valuable to the team, but when combined with his elite production he may well be the team’s MVP. Free Agency and Starting Pitching In their first two years in Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had a bit of a mixed record in free agency. Catcher Jason Castro turned out to be a pretty good three-year signing, but last year’s last-minute bargains, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison were pretty much a disaster as they seemed unhappy to be in Minnesota playing for less money and years than they had hoped for. Pitcher Michael Pineda was also signed before last season but was really signed for the 2019 season as he sat out 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The FO seemed to learn their lesson and have had much greater success with this year’s signings, which include the previously mentioned Cruz and utility man Marwin Gonzalez, who came over from the Astros organization. Both have played well and have brought a winning attitude to Minnesota. Minnesota was also able to add second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the team. He has had an up-and-down year but has provided some pop, is well-liked by his teammates, and could have been essential to the team’s postseason roster, depending on rookie Luiz Arraez’s availability due to an ankle injury. If the Twins do hope to emulate Houston, upgrading the rotation would be the next step in the process. The Astros feature three of the best starters in baseball in the aforementioned Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. None of the three came from within the organization so the Astros needed to do two things that the Twins should be able to do as well. The first was to be willing to give up some of their prospect capital to acquire starting pitching. While the Astros had to give up good prospects in all three trades, they were able to do so without giving up anyone on quite the level of Lewis or Kirilloff. The Twins certainly have the prospect surplus to make some trades. Secondly, Houston was willing to take on some salary. Verlander and Greinke were under contract for large amounts and Houston went on to extend Verlander and reliever Ryan Pressly. With a lot of salary coming off the books, the Twins should theoretically have a lot of money available, and could definitely make a run at one or two of the top free agent starters if they so choose. With Jose Berrios as the only current starter due back next season (although Randy Dobnak may be in next year’s rotation), it will be interesting to see what the FO does to address starting pitching. Some big name free-agent starters will be available, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. The Twins got good years out of Michael Pineda and Jake Odorrizi, but they are set to be free agents along with Kyle Gibson. With this year’s team breaking the competitive window wide open, there may never be a better time to add an “ace.” Brain Drain Although Houston continues to succeed, finishing with the best overall record in 2019, they have had to deal with other teams luring talented front office staff and coaches away from the organization. When an organization finds success, especially with a new approach, other teams are sure to take notice. Gone from the front office are Sag Mejdal and Mike Elias who were poached by the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Fast joined the Atlanta Braves. Bench coach Alex Cora famously became the manager of the Boston Red Sox and led them to a World Series victory in 2018. With the success of the Minnesota Twins is 2019, other organizations are sure to take notice, and Minnesota would be extremely lucky if everyone remained in place for 2020. Coaches such as Derrek Shelton and James Rowson will likely draw interest and members of the front office and analytics department are likely to be hot commodities as well, not to mention minor league coaches and staff. With the right philosophy in place, Minnesota may be able to plug in great new minds and continue to succeed as Houston has. However, the teams that are plucking employees may soon bridge the gap as the Twins (and others) have done to the Astros. The best teams will need to evolve, always on the lookout for new hidden advantages, and the process will continue as it always has. Here We Go The Twins didn't reach the World Series this season, but regardless of the result, it’s hard to view the season as anything less than a resounding success. The Twins will obviously blaze their own path going forward, but if there is a ballclub to emulate, you can’t do much better than the Houston Astros. As Minnesota’s young core continues to mature, with most of the team returning for 2020 and plenty of intriguing options inching closer from the farm, the best is hopefully yet to come.
  9. After looking into the similarities in the use of analytics, technology, and communication in both the Twins and Astros organizations in Part 1 of this series, today we will turn our attention to both teams’ efforts to build their farm systems and create a group of young core players to build around.Click here for Part 1 of this series. Building the Farm While Houston’s farm system isn’t as strong as it once was, Jeff Luhnow and company did a great job of using their high draft pics to add invaluable pieces like SS Carlos Correa and 3B Alex Bregman to rebuild the farm. While they added plenty of major league talent, rebuilding the farm also gave the Astros the prospect capital they needed to add key pieces such as Verlander in 2017, Gerrit Cole and Pressly last season, and Zack Greinke this year. Repeated success and the corresponding lower draft position along with several trades have weakened Houston’s farm, but they have been able to add high-end talent without giving up too much and the whole point of having a good farm system is to eventually have success at the highest level, a tradeoff I’m sure the Astros would take ad infinitum. While the Twins struggles since 2010 were not as intentional as Houston’s, Minnesota received plenty of top 10 draft pics due to their struggles. Ryan and company’s results are a bit of a mixed bag up to this point. With the second pick in the 2012 draft, the Twins picked Byron Buxton immediately after the Astros selected Correa, and although he has suffered several injury setbacks and taken some time to establish himself in the big leagues, Minnesota did well with that pick (if you disagree, look at the pics who followed Buxton). They also selected Jose Berrios with a supplemental first-round pick in that draft, along with Tyler Duffey in the fifth round and Taylor Rogers in the 12th. After the 2012 draft the results weren’t quite as sterling for the Twins. In 2013 they picked high school righty Kohl Stewart (SP), with the fourth overall pick, and although he has reached the majors his upside is extremely limited and he has to be considered a disappointment at this point. The verdict on 2014 fifth overall pick Nick Gordon is still out. He has yet to reach the majors, but had a good year in Triple A that was shortened due to injury, however questions about his ability to remain at shortstop remain. Hindsight is 20/20 but both Aaron Nola and Trey Turner were available. With the sixth overall pick in 2015 Minnesota selected Tyler Jay, a college reliever that the Twins tried to turn into a starter and was a complete failure (he’s no longer in the organization), but 2016 first rounder, outfielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 15 overall), has become a top prospect who should join the Twins soon. Of course, the Astros also wasted a top pick on pitcher Mark Appel who was a bust and the Twins did hit on some later round picks, but given the high draft position that Minnesota had from 2012-15, the results have been underwhelming. Falvey and Levine are too early in their tenure to put too much stock in their draft picks but they were gifted the number one overall pick in their first year. They selected shortstop Royce Lewis, who is very high on most national prospect lists despite a somewhat disappointing 2019, although he has been much younger than his competition and is off to a great start in the Arizona Fall League. Last year’s first-round pick, College World Series hero Trevor Larnach, has had a promising start to his career as well. The Twins went for a high-risk, high-reward high school prospect in this year’s draft, selecting SS/3B Keoni Cavaco who has a long road to travel before reaching Minnesota. The FO has done a lot to bolster the farm through trades. They gained the most at the 2018 trade deadline due to being out of contention, unlike 2017 where they were surprise contenders, although they did pick up Zack Littell that year, picking up multiple prospects including pitchers Johan Duran, Jorge Alcala, and Dakota Chalmers and outfielders Gilberto Celestino, Gabriel Maciel, and Luke Raley. They gained several other smaller pieces as well, including Devin Smeltzer, and greatly improved the overall depth of the system. Even while being obvious buyers at the deadline this season the FO was clearly hesitant to let go of top prospects like Lewis and Kirilloff to obtain a top-notch starter, though they even managed to add a pitching prospect, Chris Vallimont, in the Sergio Romo trade. They have built one of the best farm systems in baseball and seem keen to keep it that way. While teams like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox were willing to part with some of their best prospects, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and to a lesser extent Houston, have been less willing to give away prized prospects. This has allowed the Dodgers to be good for a very long time, and both the Dodgers and the Astros seem to have new stars come out of their system almost every year. Falvey and Levine like to talk about the long-term future for the organization and seemed poised to follow a similar path. The Young Core Although Houston did a lot to improve their club through drafts and trades, a few key pieces of the future World Series champs were in the organization when Luhnow took over. One of the most important pieces of the Astros run of success has been Jose Altuve, an undersized player who puts up big numbers while playing second base. Along with Altuve, Houston had also drafted outfielder George Springer prior to the new FO and he has also been a huge cog in their always potent lineup, batting leadoff for the World Series run. But outside of Altuve and Springer, most of Houston’s players came from within the system after Luhnow took over or were acquired through trades and free agency. Falvey and Levine were fortunate to inherit a pretty impressive young core to build around. A lot of the credit should actually go to former GM Bill Smith, who in his short tenure was able to sign Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler in one international signing period. As previously noted, both Buxton and Berrios were drafted under Ryan, as were Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario. The new FO does deserve credit for extending both Polanco and Kepler to team-friendly deals prior to their breakout seasons this year and it is possible that they will seek more extensions with some of the others this offseason. Click here to view the article
  10. Click here for Part 1 of this series. Building the Farm While Houston’s farm system isn’t as strong as it once was, Jeff Luhnow and company did a great job of using their high draft pics to add invaluable pieces like SS Carlos Correa and 3B Alex Bregman to rebuild the farm. While they added plenty of major league talent, rebuilding the farm also gave the Astros the prospect capital they needed to add key pieces such as Verlander in 2017, Gerrit Cole and Pressly last season, and Zack Greinke this year. Repeated success and the corresponding lower draft position along with several trades have weakened Houston’s farm, but they have been able to add high-end talent without giving up too much and the whole point of having a good farm system is to eventually have success at the highest level, a tradeoff I’m sure the Astros would take ad infinitum. While the Twins struggles since 2010 were not as intentional as Houston’s, Minnesota received plenty of top 10 draft pics due to their struggles. Ryan and company’s results are a bit of a mixed bag up to this point. With the second pick in the 2012 draft, the Twins picked Byron Buxton immediately after the Astros selected Correa, and although he has suffered several injury setbacks and taken some time to establish himself in the big leagues, Minnesota did well with that pick (if you disagree, look at the pics who followed Buxton). They also selected Jose Berrios with a supplemental first-round pick in that draft, along with Tyler Duffey in the fifth round and Taylor Rogers in the 12th. After the 2012 draft the results weren’t quite as sterling for the Twins. In 2013 they picked high school righty Kohl Stewart (SP), with the fourth overall pick, and although he has reached the majors his upside is extremely limited and he has to be considered a disappointment at this point. The verdict on 2014 fifth overall pick Nick Gordon is still out. He has yet to reach the majors, but had a good year in Triple A that was shortened due to injury, however questions about his ability to remain at shortstop remain. Hindsight is 20/20 but both Aaron Nola and Trey Turner were available. With the sixth overall pick in 2015 Minnesota selected Tyler Jay, a college reliever that the Twins tried to turn into a starter and was a complete failure (he’s no longer in the organization), but 2016 first rounder, outfielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 15 overall), has become a top prospect who should join the Twins soon. Of course, the Astros also wasted a top pick on pitcher Mark Appel who was a bust and the Twins did hit on some later round picks, but given the high draft position that Minnesota had from 2012-15, the results have been underwhelming. Falvey and Levine are too early in their tenure to put too much stock in their draft picks but they were gifted the number one overall pick in their first year. They selected shortstop Royce Lewis, who is very high on most national prospect lists despite a somewhat disappointing 2019, although he has been much younger than his competition and is off to a great start in the Arizona Fall League. Last year’s first-round pick, College World Series hero Trevor Larnach, has had a promising start to his career as well. The Twins went for a high-risk, high-reward high school prospect in this year’s draft, selecting SS/3B Keoni Cavaco who has a long road to travel before reaching Minnesota. The FO has done a lot to bolster the farm through trades. They gained the most at the 2018 trade deadline due to being out of contention, unlike 2017 where they were surprise contenders, although they did pick up Zack Littell that year, picking up multiple prospects including pitchers Johan Duran, Jorge Alcala, and Dakota Chalmers and outfielders Gilberto Celestino, Gabriel Maciel, and Luke Raley. They gained several other smaller pieces as well, including Devin Smeltzer, and greatly improved the overall depth of the system. Even while being obvious buyers at the deadline this season the FO was clearly hesitant to let go of top prospects like Lewis and Kirilloff to obtain a top-notch starter, though they even managed to add a pitching prospect, Chris Vallimont, in the Sergio Romo trade. They have built one of the best farm systems in baseball and seem keen to keep it that way. While teams like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox were willing to part with some of their best prospects, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and to a lesser extent Houston, have been less willing to give away prized prospects. This has allowed the Dodgers to be good for a very long time, and both the Dodgers and the Astros seem to have new stars come out of their system almost every year. Falvey and Levine like to talk about the long-term future for the organization and seemed poised to follow a similar path. The Young Core Although Houston did a lot to improve their club through drafts and trades, a few key pieces of the future World Series champs were in the organization when Luhnow took over. One of the most important pieces of the Astros run of success has been Jose Altuve, an undersized player who puts up big numbers while playing second base. Along with Altuve, Houston had also drafted outfielder George Springer prior to the new FO and he has also been a huge cog in their always potent lineup, batting leadoff for the World Series run. But outside of Altuve and Springer, most of Houston’s players came from within the system after Luhnow took over or were acquired through trades and free agency. Falvey and Levine were fortunate to inherit a pretty impressive young core to build around. A lot of the credit should actually go to former GM Bill Smith, who in his short tenure was able to sign Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler in one international signing period. As previously noted, both Buxton and Berrios were drafted under Ryan, as were Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario. The new FO does deserve credit for extending both Polanco and Kepler to team-friendly deals prior to their breakout seasons this year and it is possible that they will seek more extensions with some of the others this offseason.
  11. After recently reading both Ben Reiter’s Astroball and The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Shawchik, both highly recommended, I found many similarities between the Houston Astros and our Minnesota Twins. In order to get a better idea of how the Twins plan mirrors the Astros’, let’s look at several areas in which the teams exhibit similarities. This is the first of a three-part series.Embracing Analytics and Technology After Jeff Luhnow became the top dog in Houston prior to the 2012 season, Houston infamously tanked for the 2012-14 seasons, while not even pretending to try. Although it was undoubtably an unenjoyable experience for Astros fans, the organization was able to rebuild by gaining top draft pics and completely overhauling the organization. Luhnow and his hand-picked staffers like Sag Mejdal were famous in baseball circles for their success in drafting by using and developing advanced analytic tools while working in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They continued to be very analytically minded in Houston, also getting a leg up on the competition by being one of the first organizations to heavily invest in using new technology for player development. The MVP Machine goes into detail about how the Astros immediately took pitchers like Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly (and more recently Aaron Sanchez) whom they acquired through trades, and met with them, presenting a plan as to how they could best use their pitches. It basically boils down to having the pitchers throw their best pitches. Pressly talked about how having seen how a future Hall of Famer like Verlander succeed with Houston made him more open to a new approach. The authors went to explain how Pressly’s pitch use evolved with his new team: “With the Twins from 2017 to 2018, Pressly had thrown his sinker 13 percent of the time against lefties. Only once in that span had a southpaw swung at it and missed. With the Astros, he threw the sinker to lefties less than 1 percent of the time. With the Twins in 2018, Pressly had thrown the curve 24 percent of the time. As an Astro, he threw it 39 percent of the time. With Houston, he also elevated his four-seamer and threw his slider slightly more often.” To be fair, Minnesota’s new front office was already in place starting in 2017, so if they had similar revelations as the Astros, the message did not get to Pressly. Thad Levine acknowledged that the Twins had an opportunity to learn from the Pressly situation in an article from the Washington Post: “We had uncovered some of what Houston implemented,” Levine said. “I think the biggest difference was their execution of a plan. … Certainly, that was something we reflected upon. Not unlike any other move we make, we try to assess what transpired, good, bad and indifferent, from every move. There was a lot to be learned from that one.” Prior to the 2019 season the Twins made a big change in their pitching philosophy by going down to the college level to hire pitching coach Wes Johnson out of the University of Arkansas. Johnson champions biomechanics and the use of Trackman data to improve pitchers. No other MLB team had hired directly from the college ranks and the results have been great so far, with an emphasis on increased velocity and strikeouts. Anyone who has followed the Twins can see just how much the Twins have changed since the Terry Ryan regime. “Small ball” and “pitch to contact” have been replaced by bombas and strikeouts. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have greatly expanded the analytics department and the Twins are incorporating technology like Trackman, Rapsodo, and Blast motion sensors throughout the minor leagues and in spring training as was documented by Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman here. They have also revamped the minor league coaching staffs and implemented better communication throughout the system to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to player development. Communication Enhancing communication throughout the system was important to Falvey and Levine, and not only through the minor league levels. Strong communication and a shared vision between the front office and the manager also seems to be a commonality between Houston and Minnesota. After coming to Houston Luhnow initially hired Bo Porter to lead the team, but after not seeing eye-to-eye, Porter was fired and A.J. Hinch took over, leading the Astros to the postseason in his first season with the team and a 2017 World Series title. Houston wanted a manager who would match their vision and they found him in Hinch. Hinch is a new-school style manger, who is a former player and had experience both coaching and working in a front office. His openness to analytics and more unconventional game tactics fit perfectly with Luhnow and the Astros, and Hinch was instrumental in getting the players to buy in. Sound familiar? Twins first year manager, Rocco Baldelli is another former player who is young and had front office experience before coming over from Tampa Bay. Baldelli seems to be in line with Falvey and Levine and has been praised for his open communication with his players. This year’s team seems to gel together really well, and while it is never completely clear whether winning leads to better team chemistry or vice versa, Baldelli has done an admirable job of keeping the team loose and it’s hard to argue with the results. Paul Molitor wasn’t hand-picked by the current FO, and similar to Porter in Houston, he never really felt like a good fit for the direction in which Minnesota was moving. Baldelli, on the other hand, fits perfectly with the Twins more modern and analytic style of operation. Click here to view the article
  12. Embracing Analytics and Technology After Jeff Luhnow became the top dog in Houston prior to the 2012 season, Houston infamously tanked for the 2012-14 seasons, while not even pretending to try. Although it was undoubtably an unenjoyable experience for Astros fans, the organization was able to rebuild by gaining top draft pics and completely overhauling the organization. Luhnow and his hand-picked staffers like Sag Mejdal were famous in baseball circles for their success in drafting by using and developing advanced analytic tools while working in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They continued to be very analytically minded in Houston, also getting a leg up on the competition by being one of the first organizations to heavily invest in using new technology for player development. The MVP Machine goes into detail about how the Astros immediately took pitchers like Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly (and more recently Aaron Sanchez) whom they acquired through trades, and met with them, presenting a plan as to how they could best use their pitches. It basically boils down to having the pitchers throw their best pitches. Pressly talked about how having seen how a future Hall of Famer like Verlander succeed with Houston made him more open to a new approach. The authors went to explain how Pressly’s pitch use evolved with his new team: “With the Twins from 2017 to 2018, Pressly had thrown his sinker 13 percent of the time against lefties. Only once in that span had a southpaw swung at it and missed. With the Astros, he threw the sinker to lefties less than 1 percent of the time. With the Twins in 2018, Pressly had thrown the curve 24 percent of the time. As an Astro, he threw it 39 percent of the time. With Houston, he also elevated his four-seamer and threw his slider slightly more often.” To be fair, Minnesota’s new front office was already in place starting in 2017, so if they had similar revelations as the Astros, the message did not get to Pressly. Thad Levine acknowledged that the Twins had an opportunity to learn from the Pressly situation in an article from the Washington Post: “We had uncovered some of what Houston implemented,” Levine said. “I think the biggest difference was their execution of a plan. … Certainly, that was something we reflected upon. Not unlike any other move we make, we try to assess what transpired, good, bad and indifferent, from every move. There was a lot to be learned from that one.” Prior to the 2019 season the Twins made a big change in their pitching philosophy by going down to the college level to hire pitching coach Wes Johnson out of the University of Arkansas. Johnson champions biomechanics and the use of Trackman data to improve pitchers. No other MLB team had hired directly from the college ranks and the results have been great so far, with an emphasis on increased velocity and strikeouts. Anyone who has followed the Twins can see just how much the Twins have changed since the Terry Ryan regime. “Small ball” and “pitch to contact” have been replaced by bombas and strikeouts. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have greatly expanded the analytics department and the Twins are incorporating technology like Trackman, Rapsodo, and Blast motion sensors throughout the minor leagues and in spring training as was documented by Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman here. They have also revamped the minor league coaching staffs and implemented better communication throughout the system to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to player development. Communication Enhancing communication throughout the system was important to Falvey and Levine, and not only through the minor league levels. Strong communication and a shared vision between the front office and the manager also seems to be a commonality between Houston and Minnesota. After coming to Houston Luhnow initially hired Bo Porter to lead the team, but after not seeing eye-to-eye, Porter was fired and A.J. Hinch took over, leading the Astros to the postseason in his first season with the team and a 2017 World Series title. Houston wanted a manager who would match their vision and they found him in Hinch. Hinch is a new-school style manger, who is a former player and had experience both coaching and working in a front office. His openness to analytics and more unconventional game tactics fit perfectly with Luhnow and the Astros, and Hinch was instrumental in getting the players to buy in. Sound familiar? Twins first year manager, Rocco Baldelli is another former player who is young and had front office experience before coming over from Tampa Bay. Baldelli seems to be in line with Falvey and Levine and has been praised for his open communication with his players. This year’s team seems to gel together really well, and while it is never completely clear whether winning leads to better team chemistry or vice versa, Baldelli has done an admirable job of keeping the team loose and it’s hard to argue with the results. Paul Molitor wasn’t hand-picked by the current FO, and similar to Porter in Houston, he never really felt like a good fit for the direction in which Minnesota was moving. Baldelli, on the other hand, fits perfectly with the Twins more modern and analytic style of operation.
  13. Yeah, I missed both the Wells...I knew I was gonna miss someone.
  14. With a season that exceeded our expectations and then ended as bitterly as one could conceive, the offseason gives everyone a chance to reset and turn our attention to 2020. With one of the league’s best offenses and a much-improved bullpen set to return intact, the focus will be the starting rotation. With only Jose Berrios set to return from the 2019’s opening day rotation (assuming Martin Perez’s team option is declined), there are likely to be a few new faces. Today, however, we'll take a look at what the rotation would look like if the Twins do nothing at all.Again, at a minimum, the Twins will either bring back some of the starters who will become free agents (Jake Odorrizi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson) and/or sign and trade for new pitchers. But this exercise will give us an idea of the current strength, or lack thereof, of the organization’s starting pitching. The Given We’ll start with the only “lock” for the 2020 starting rotation – Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine will prioritize adding a starter or two in the general talent vicinity of Berrios, but there is no doubt that he will be at or near the top of the rotation. At times Berrios has looked like a true ace, especially in the first half of seasons. Even if he's more of a number two when factoring in his overall numbers (including his annual August meltdown – career 5.96 ERA), he is a nice piece and still young enough to improve. Highly Likely Randy Dobnak’s ascent from Independent ball all the way to the big leagues was one of the great stories of 2019. Ranking him this highly could be an overstatement, but we are simply looking at what the rotation would look like with no external additions. Through that lens, Dobnak is a near lock to make the rotation. Aside from his postseason start, in which expecting much from the rookie was a tall order, Dobnak was great throughout his minor league season and didn’t skip a beat after joining the big-league rotation (1.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Dobnak has great command and throws a sinker (36.5%), curve (27.9%), four-seamer (22.7%), and changeup (12.9%). The velocity on his four-seamer (93.4) and sinker (92.2) is respectable and he got a lot of whiffs (46.3%) on his curve. The fact that he was called upon to start Game 2 in New York says a lot about Manager Rocco Baldelli’s confidence in Dobnak. Probable This next group of young starters all debuted in 2019. We’ll start with the first who was called up, Devin Smeltzer. Besides topping Dobnak in the heart-warming backstory department by beating cancer in this youth, Smeltzer also did a fine job in his first big-league stint. Like Dobnak, Smelter wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he was even relegated to the bullpen while in Double A last season. He was given another opportunity to start in 2019 and made the most of it. He reached high levels of success in both Triple A (3.63 ERA) and the majors (3.86 ERA), although his FIP suggests some regression (5.05 AAA, 4.58 MLB). While big in heart, Smeltzer in small in stature and lacks big velocity (89.1 mph four-seamer), however, he does have the fact that he is left-handed going for him. Like Dobnak, he seems unfazed by the big stage. The next “probable” is another southpaw, Australian Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe was a more highly-regarded prospect than both Dobnak and Smeltzer, and he seemed the most likely of the group to reach the majors this year. Thorpe has better swing and miss stuff than his previously mentioned peers, but his results in both Triple A and the MLB were a bit of a mixed bag. His ERA was high at both levels (AAA – 4.58, MLB – 6.18), but his FIP suggests better results (AAA – 3.72, MLB – 3.47) and he has pitched well in the past. Thorpe’s walk rate was high (3.25 BB/9) but he struck a lot of batters out (10.08 K/9). He has a good pitch mix (four-seamer (51.2%), slider (19.7%), curve (17.5%), and changeup (11.6%)) with his fastball averaging 91.2 mph. Thorpe hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter. Finally, we finish this group with the most exciting of the bunch. Brusdar Graterol debuted, as a 21-year-old September callup. Although a starter by trade, he pitched out of the bullpen as he was coming back from a shoulder condition and best served the Twins in that capacity. Graterol’s stuff is electric, as he features a sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four-seamer (18.1%), and changeup (2.1%) and averaged 99.0 mph on his sinker. His slider has the potential to be devastating and if his changeup develops, he could be a front end of the rotation starter. The right-hander’s durability may determine of whether he is destined for the rotation or relief, but either way his future is bright. Outside Looking In With the hypothetical “Twins do nothing” rotation set, we turn to the next group of starters who are close, but not quite ready. Some of these pitchers are closer than others, and naturally some also offer much higher upside. Since none of them will be starting the year in this hypothetical MLB rotation, they should all get a bit more time to develop in the minors, and in reality, not all of them are expected to be MLB ready in 2020. I’ll break them down into a few different groups. High Upside, Not Quite Ready This first group consists of guys who have good stuff, good numbers, and could potentially see some big-league action in 2020. They are ranked in order of who would be most likely to be called up first and not on prospect status (in which case the order would be reversed). Baily Ober (RHP) – Ober was very good in 2019 and has been great throughout his minor league career. He has battled injuries, but his numbers have been remarkable (2019 high-A: 0.99 ERA, 26.7% K-BB%, AA: 0.38 ERA, 38.1% K-BB%). The 24-year-old has yet to pitch in Triple A, but if he continues to pitch as he has and stays healthy, he could be ready for an MLB audition. Edwar Colina (RHP) – Colina was another pitcher who flew through the system this year, starting in High A, moving up to Double A, and finishing with a brief stint in Rochester. Colina is short for a starter but throws hard and put up very good numbers (2.34 ERA high-A, 2.03 ERA AA). If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could end up being a high-velocity, late-inning arm. Jhoan Duran (RHP) – Duran is another high-upside starter who has a chance to pitch for the Twins in 2020. He throws hard and made it all the way to Double A this year. His ERA rose from 3.23 in High A to 4.86 in Double A, but his FIP (2.76) suggests that he outperformed his ERA. Jordan Balazovic (RHP) – Balazovic may be a bit further away, as he spent 2019 pitching between Low A and High A, but he should start 2020 in Double A, and he probably ranks second only to Graterol in stuff. He pitched to a 1.61 FIP in Cedar Rapids with 14.37 K/9 and continued to pitch very well after moving up to Fort Myers (2.28 FIP, 11.84 K/9). Further Away This second group is a bit further away, but still offers a lot of upside. Cole Sands (RHP) – Sands is another guy who pitched really well this year, going all the way from Low A to a brief stint in Double A. The 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t pitch in upon joining the organization, so this was his first season in the minors. He will likely begin 2020 in Double A and could move fast. Chris Vallimont (RHP) – Vallimont came to the Twins as part of the Sergio Romo trade and was more than just a throw-in. Like Sands, Vallimont pitched very well in 2019, spending the entire season in High A, and should begin 2020 in Double A. Dakota Chalmers (RHP) – Chalmers isn’t as polished as Sands or Vallimont but he offers plenty of upside. The 23-year-old came to the Twins in exchange for Fernando Rodney and is another fire-baller. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but his future will depend on whether he can improve his control. Chalmers is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Blayne Enlow (RHP) – The Twins went over slot to sign Enlow in 2017 with the 76th overall pick, and he has pitched pretty well since joining the organization. Enlow’s ERA improved upon being called up to High-A (from 4.57 to 3.38), but he regressed in groundball rate and strikeouts, only striking out 6.62 per nine. However, Enlow is still just 20-years-old so he has plenty of time to develop. The Others There are plenty of other young starters who could see time with the Twins in 2020. Kohl Stewart (RHP) was up in 2018 and 2019 but his upside is limited and he may not stay on the 40-man roster. This was more or less a lost year for Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), but if healthy he could re-emerge in 2020. Sean Poppen (RHP) also pitched for Minnesota this year and both Griffin Jax (RHP) and Charlie Barnes (LHP) made it all the way to Triple A. This group doesn’t scream upside, but neither did Dobnak or Smeltzer coming into this season. Minnesota will probably look to add a minimum of two or three arms this offseason and we needn’t worry about seeing our hypothetical rotation. However, a lot can happen throughout the year, and several of the pitchers who were mentioned will see time with the Twins in the next year or two. With the competitive window blown fully open in 2019, the front office will need to prioritize improving the team’s one glaring hole, but it is reassuring to have plenty of alluring depth in the system to be called upon if needed. Besides, Gerrit Cole may need an occasional breather. Click here to view the article
  15. Again, at a minimum, the Twins will either bring back some of the starters who will become free agents (Jake Odorrizi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson) and/or sign and trade for new pitchers. But this exercise will give us an idea of the current strength, or lack thereof, of the organization’s starting pitching. The Given We’ll start with the only “lock” for the 2020 starting rotation – Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine will prioritize adding a starter or two in the general talent vicinity of Berrios, but there is no doubt that he will be at or near the top of the rotation. At times Berrios has looked like a true ace, especially in the first half of seasons. Even if he's more of a number two when factoring in his overall numbers (including his annual August meltdown – career 5.96 ERA), he is a nice piece and still young enough to improve. Highly Likely Randy Dobnak’s ascent from Independent ball all the way to the big leagues was one of the great stories of 2019. Ranking him this highly could be an overstatement, but we are simply looking at what the rotation would look like with no external additions. Through that lens, Dobnak is a near lock to make the rotation. Aside from his postseason start, in which expecting much from the rookie was a tall order, Dobnak was great throughout his minor league season and didn’t skip a beat after joining the big-league rotation (1.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Dobnak has great command and throws a sinker (36.5%), curve (27.9%), four-seamer (22.7%), and changeup (12.9%). The velocity on his four-seamer (93.4) and sinker (92.2) is respectable and he got a lot of whiffs (46.3%) on his curve. The fact that he was called upon to start Game 2 in New York says a lot about Manager Rocco Baldelli’s confidence in Dobnak. Probable This next group of young starters all debuted in 2019. We’ll start with the first who was called up, Devin Smeltzer. Besides topping Dobnak in the heart-warming backstory department by beating cancer in this youth, Smeltzer also did a fine job in his first big-league stint. Like Dobnak, Smelter wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he was even relegated to the bullpen while in Double A last season. He was given another opportunity to start in 2019 and made the most of it. He reached high levels of success in both Triple A (3.63 ERA) and the majors (3.86 ERA), although his FIP suggests some regression (5.05 AAA, 4.58 MLB). While big in heart, Smeltzer in small in stature and lacks big velocity (89.1 mph four-seamer), however, he does have the fact that he is left-handed going for him. Like Dobnak, he seems unfazed by the big stage. The next “probable” is another southpaw, Australian Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe was a more highly-regarded prospect than both Dobnak and Smeltzer, and he seemed the most likely of the group to reach the majors this year. Thorpe has better swing and miss stuff than his previously mentioned peers, but his results in both Triple A and the MLB were a bit of a mixed bag. His ERA was high at both levels (AAA – 4.58, MLB – 6.18), but his FIP suggests better results (AAA – 3.72, MLB – 3.47) and he has pitched well in the past. Thorpe’s walk rate was high (3.25 BB/9) but he struck a lot of batters out (10.08 K/9). He has a good pitch mix (four-seamer (51.2%), slider (19.7%), curve (17.5%), and changeup (11.6%)) with his fastball averaging 91.2 mph. Thorpe hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter. Finally, we finish this group with the most exciting of the bunch. Brusdar Graterol debuted, as a 21-year-old September callup. Although a starter by trade, he pitched out of the bullpen as he was coming back from a shoulder condition and best served the Twins in that capacity. Graterol’s stuff is electric, as he features a sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four-seamer (18.1%), and changeup (2.1%) and averaged 99.0 mph on his sinker. His slider has the potential to be devastating and if his changeup develops, he could be a front end of the rotation starter. The right-hander’s durability may determine of whether he is destined for the rotation or relief, but either way his future is bright. Outside Looking In With the hypothetical “Twins do nothing” rotation set, we turn to the next group of starters who are close, but not quite ready. Some of these pitchers are closer than others, and naturally some also offer much higher upside. Since none of them will be starting the year in this hypothetical MLB rotation, they should all get a bit more time to develop in the minors, and in reality, not all of them are expected to be MLB ready in 2020. I’ll break them down into a few different groups. High Upside, Not Quite Ready This first group consists of guys who have good stuff, good numbers, and could potentially see some big-league action in 2020. They are ranked in order of who would be most likely to be called up first and not on prospect status (in which case the order would be reversed). Baily Ober (RHP) – Ober was very good in 2019 and has been great throughout his minor league career. He has battled injuries, but his numbers have been remarkable (2019 high-A: 0.99 ERA, 26.7% K-BB%, AA: 0.38 ERA, 38.1% K-BB%). The 24-year-old has yet to pitch in Triple A, but if he continues to pitch as he has and stays healthy, he could be ready for an MLB audition. Edwar Colina (RHP) – Colina was another pitcher who flew through the system this year, starting in High A, moving up to Double A, and finishing with a brief stint in Rochester. Colina is short for a starter but throws hard and put up very good numbers (2.34 ERA high-A, 2.03 ERA AA). If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could end up being a high-velocity, late-inning arm. Jhoan Duran (RHP) – Duran is another high-upside starter who has a chance to pitch for the Twins in 2020. He throws hard and made it all the way to Double A this year. His ERA rose from 3.23 in High A to 4.86 in Double A, but his FIP (2.76) suggests that he outperformed his ERA. Jordan Balazovic (RHP) – Balazovic may be a bit further away, as he spent 2019 pitching between Low A and High A, but he should start 2020 in Double A, and he probably ranks second only to Graterol in stuff. He pitched to a 1.61 FIP in Cedar Rapids with 14.37 K/9 and continued to pitch very well after moving up to Fort Myers (2.28 FIP, 11.84 K/9). Further Away This second group is a bit further away, but still offers a lot of upside. Cole Sands (RHP) – Sands is another guy who pitched really well this year, going all the way from Low A to a brief stint in Double A. The 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t pitch in upon joining the organization, so this was his first season in the minors. He will likely begin 2020 in Double A and could move fast. Chris Vallimont (RHP) – Vallimont came to the Twins as part of the Sergio Romo trade and was more than just a throw-in. Like Sands, Vallimont pitched very well in 2019, spending the entire season in High A, and should begin 2020 in Double A. Dakota Chalmers (RHP) – Chalmers isn’t as polished as Sands or Vallimont but he offers plenty of upside. The 23-year-old came to the Twins in exchange for Fernando Rodney and is another fire-baller. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but his future will depend on whether he can improve his control. Chalmers is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Blayne Enlow (RHP) – The Twins went over slot to sign Enlow in 2017 with the 76th overall pick, and he has pitched pretty well since joining the organization. Enlow’s ERA improved upon being called up to High-A (from 4.57 to 3.38), but he regressed in groundball rate and strikeouts, only striking out 6.62 per nine. However, Enlow is still just 20-years-old so he has plenty of time to develop. The Others There are plenty of other young starters who could see time with the Twins in 2020. Kohl Stewart (RHP) was up in 2018 and 2019 but his upside is limited and he may not stay on the 40-man roster. This was more or less a lost year for Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), but if healthy he could re-emerge in 2020. Sean Poppen (RHP) also pitched for Minnesota this year and both Griffin Jax (RHP) and Charlie Barnes (LHP) made it all the way to Triple A. This group doesn’t scream upside, but neither did Dobnak or Smeltzer coming into this season. Minnesota will probably look to add a minimum of two or three arms this offseason and we needn’t worry about seeing our hypothetical rotation. However, a lot can happen throughout the year, and several of the pitchers who were mentioned will see time with the Twins in the next year or two. With the competitive window blown fully open in 2019, the front office will need to prioritize improving the team’s one glaring hole, but it is reassuring to have plenty of alluring depth in the system to be called upon if needed. Besides, Gerrit Cole may need an occasional breather.
  16. Thanks Nick! Although I follow the Twins very closely, I always find your weekly reviews extremely entertaining and there's almost always a great tidbit that I missed (this week - the BA bit about Lewis). I'll miss reading these but at least we have some October baseball to help fill the gap!
  17. With the AL Central clinched and the 100-win total already eclipsed, the Twins have very little left to play for in Kansas City. They did come into today’s game with a two-home run deficit to the New York Yankees for the single-season record and a chance to get one win closer to tying the team record of 102 wins. Cody Shashak auditioned as opener and Minnesota’s bullpen got the job done, as the Twins topped the Royals 4-3 with a late home run from Nelson Cruz, but it came at a potentially huge cost with Luis Arraez being helped off of the fieldBox Score Stashak (Opener): 2IP, 2H, 1ER, 2K, 79.17% strikes (19 of 24 pitches) Bullpen: 7IP, 5H, 2ER, 3BB, 11K Home Runs: Cruz (41) Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (2-for-4, HR, 2B), Garver (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB), Austudillo (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Cruz (.243), Rogers (.209), Austudillo (.166) Arraez Hurt In an essentially meaningless game at the tail end of the year, the last thing Minnesota needed was for a key cog in the lineup to be injured, but that is exactly what happened. Rookie sensation Luis Arraez collided with Austudillo while the two converged to catch an infield fly off the bat of Hunter Dozier for the last out of the seventh. Arraez’s right leg appeared to buckle while he was coming down off the mound and he was down for several minutes. A cart was brought out but Arraez was able to walk off with help. Obviously, losing Arraez for the postseason would be a huge detriment to the Twins. Garver and Austudillo Bring the Bats and Cruz Hits a Huge Bomba Mitch Garver certainly helped ease any concerns Twins fans may have harbored about his recent hip injury. He drilled two doubles and drew a walk. After both doubles he would come home on two Willians Austudillo RBI singles. The Twins finally got a home run off of the bat of Nelson Cruz in the eighth inning, his 41st of the year. It couldn’t have come at a bigger time as Tyler Duffey had just allowed Kansas City to tie the game at three with Jorge Soler’s second home run on the day, a two-run shot. Cruz put the Twins up 4-3. The Bullpen Gets the Job Done Cody Staschak got the opportunity to audition as the opener today and outside of allowing a bomb to Jorge Soler he pitched pretty well. Shashak allowed two hits and struck out two Kansas City batters in two innings of work. Next up was Kyle Gibson. Gibson managed to escape his one inning without any damage but he labored heavily. It took Gibson over 30 pitches to end the third and he loaded the bases with a single and two walks. Gibson did strike out two batters including the final out of the inning to keep the game tied, but he didn’t exactly bolster his case for inclusion on the postseason roster. After Gibson, the bullpen shined through the middle innings. Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, and Trevor May combined for five strikeouts in three scoreless innings. Tyler Duffey was the next man up and the inning started well, but with two outs Whit Merrifield singled on weak ground ball and Soler followed with his league-leading 47th dinger. After Cruz gave the lead back to Minnesota, Sergio Romo came in and pitched a clean eighth inning. Taylor Rogers would come in to protect the one-run lead, picking up his 30th save on the year and giving the Twins win number 101. Going for 102 Tomorrow’s season finale will give Minnesota a chance to tie the franchise record for wins set in 1965. 2019 has been a truly remarkable year for the Twins and losing tomorrow will take nothing away from that, but it would be nice to see this team get Rocco Baldelli a share of the record in his first season as a manager. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  18. Box Score Stashak (Opener): 2IP, 2H, 1ER, 2K, 79.17% strikes (19 of 24 pitches) Bullpen: 7IP, 5H, 2ER, 3BB, 11K Home Runs: Cruz (41) Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (2-for-4, HR, 2B), Garver (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB), Austudillo (2-for-4), Schoop (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Cruz (.243), Rogers (.209), Austudillo (.166) Arraez Hurt In an essentially meaningless game at the tail end of the year, the last thing Minnesota needed was for a key cog in the lineup to be injured, but that is exactly what happened. Rookie sensation Luis Arraez collided with Austudillo while the two converged to catch an infield fly off the bat of Hunter Dozier for the last out of the seventh. Arraez’s right leg appeared to buckle while he was coming down off the mound and he was down for several minutes. A cart was brought out but Arraez was able to walk off with help. Obviously, losing Arraez for the postseason would be a huge detriment to the Twins. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1178048143344189440 Garver and Austudillo Bring the Bats and Cruz Hits a Huge Bomba Mitch Garver certainly helped ease any concerns Twins fans may have harbored about his recent hip injury. He drilled two doubles and drew a walk. After both doubles he would come home on two Willians Austudillo RBI singles. The Twins finally got a home run off of the bat of Nelson Cruz in the eighth inning, his 41st of the year. It couldn’t have come at a bigger time as Tyler Duffey had just allowed Kansas City to tie the game at three with Jorge Soler’s second home run on the day, a two-run shot. Cruz put the Twins up 4-3. The Bullpen Gets the Job Done Cody Staschak got the opportunity to audition as the opener today and outside of allowing a bomb to Jorge Soler he pitched pretty well. Shashak allowed two hits and struck out two Kansas City batters in two innings of work. Next up was Kyle Gibson. Gibson managed to escape his one inning without any damage but he labored heavily. It took Gibson over 30 pitches to end the third and he loaded the bases with a single and two walks. Gibson did strike out two batters including the final out of the inning to keep the game tied, but he didn’t exactly bolster his case for inclusion on the postseason roster. After Gibson, the bullpen shined through the middle innings. Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, and Trevor May combined for five strikeouts in three scoreless innings. Tyler Duffey was the next man up and the inning started well, but with two outs Whit Merrifield singled on weak ground ball and Soler followed with his league-leading 47th dinger. After Cruz gave the lead back to Minnesota, Sergio Romo came in and pitched a clean eighth inning. Taylor Rogers would come in to protect the one-run lead, picking up his 30th save on the year and giving the Twins win number 101. Going for 102 Tomorrow’s season finale will give Minnesota a chance to tie the franchise record for wins set in 1965. 2019 has been a truly remarkable year for the Twins and losing tomorrow will take nothing away from that, but it would be nice to see this team get Rocco Baldelli a share of the record in his first season as a manager. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1178066050316849154 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  19. I can still remember the first time I saw Miguel Sano play. The year was 2012 and my brother and I made the road trip from Minneapolis to Beloit to join our cousin and watch the Snappers, who were the Minnesota Twins low-A affiliate at the time, take on the Clinton Lumberjacks in the playoffs. That team had several future big-leaguers, including Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas (who somehow managed to make Sano look tiny), and Zach Jones. I remember being a bit disappointed in Eddie Rosario’s lack of plate discipline as he took wild hacks and being really impressed by Jones’ 96-mph fastball (that seemed really fast back then), but the main reason we had come was to see Miguel Sano – and he did not disappoint.We arrived just in time to see Miguel Sano hit a double to the gap and later come in to score on a head-first slide. He would go on to hit a mammoth home run that seemed like it cleared the fence in left field by a mile (he would also go on to sign the Sano Snappers shirsey I was sporting after the game). Beloit would end up losing that series and Sano’s season would come to an end, but it was easy to dream big about what the future would behold for the young slugger. Since that day way back in 2012 Miguel Sano has had his share of ups and downs. Sano continued to put up big numbers in the minors but missed all of 2014 after having Tommy John surgery. He earned his call-up after beginning 2015 in AA, and looked the part of a superstar by putting up a .269/.385/.530 triple slash with a 149 wRC+ in half a season with the Twins. In 2016 the Twins made the questionable decision of sticking Sano in right field to keep Trevor Plouff at third and Sano’s offense probably suffered along with his defensive woes. Sano was given the hot corner for good in 2017 and responded with a better performance (125 wRC+ compared to 107wRC+ in 2016) and even made the All-star team, but a leg injury kept Sano out for six weeks and led to offseason surgery in which a titanium rod was inserted into his shin to reinforce the bone. 2018 was a complete disaster that saw Sano sent down to Fort Meyers after hitting just .199/.281/.398 in 71 games for Minnesota. Things appeared to turn around for Sano in the offseason as he was praised for working hard to get in shape and shed some pounds , but he suffered a cut on his heel when he slipped on metal stairs during a championship celebration in the Dominican Winter League. Because of the injury Sano missed spring training and his season didn’t begin until mid-May. Sano had an up and down first half but has really come around since, making some adjustments to his swing in late June. He hit two home runs against the Chicago White Sox on June 28th and hasn’t looked back. Prior to that game, Sano was slashing just .195/.278/.438, but in the 71 games he has appeared in since then, he has excelled to .269/.373/.617 for an OPS of .989 including 24 dingers. Since turning a corner, Sano’s numbers are strikingly similar to another Dominican slugger on the team – Nelson Cruz. The similarities are probably not coincidental as Cruz has been instrumental in aiding Sano. The 39-year-old veteran has made himself available to Sano and the two are close. Cruz is known for his preparation and work ethic, which rightly or wrongly is something that has been questioned in Sano. Sano has definitely looked locked in at the plate, as he has been able to lay off balls in the dirt and high heat, and has been better able to catch up with fastballs. The two recently sat down with FSN’s Justin Moreau and one interesting tidbit Cruz talked about was helping Sano make some in-game adjustments that led to a massive homer in Boston. Sano is under team control for another two seasons, but this offseason the Twins may want to consider trying to extend Sano. Sano has always had the upside of a superstar and he appears to finally be reaching his potential as he matures. He is still only 26-years-old and if he continues to hit as he has since his swing changes he could be an elite slugger. Along with his power, Sano is also great at getting on base and his batting average on balls in play is actually below his career mark this season, suggesting his numbers could further improve (.314 vs. .341 career). There are several question marks that must also be taken into consideration with Miguel Sano. First and foremost may be his defensive home. Although Sano has shown the ability to handle third base, he is no one’s idea of a gold-glover, and it is unclear how long he can stay at third. Sano’s overall value would of course decrease as a first baseman or designated hitter, but if he continues to hit as he has this year his bat will play anywhere. Sano has also had his share of injuries, only topping 100 games played for the third time this season and never playing more than 116 games in a year. He has had some off the field issues in the past and his work ethic has been brought into question. Again, he has appeared to mature and was touted by the organization for his offseason work coming into this season, so hopefully that trend will continue (plus Minnesota is certain to pick up Cruz’s team option, giving Sano another year under the veteran’s tutelage). It is unknown whether the Twins or Sano are interested in an extension at this point. Sano may want to bet on himself, and his value would surely rise if he puts up a full season similar to the numbers he has put up of late (if he played a full season at his post June 27th rate, he would hit 55 home runs!). On the other hand the Twins may be content with just two more years of a burly, somewhat injury-prone and defensively-limited player. Power hitting DH/1B types are not the hot commodity that they once were and can be had on the free agent market for relatively cheap, as was evident in the team-friendly deal the Twins struck with Cruz. However, if Sano does reach his full potential, he could become one of the best hitters in baseball and that would be nice to have around for the next four or five years. While Sano’s defensive value will likely continue to decline, his offensive chops should age well. As we’ve seen with Cruz, power tends to age well, and although Sano will always be a high-strikeout hitter his ability to take walks should be something that he can maintain. He could also conveniently slide into the DH position in 2021 when Cruz is likely to move on or retire. If the Twins are looking to extend Sano, this offseason may well be their last opportunity. It’s unclear exactly what a Sano extension might look like, but he will definitely require more than Jorge Polanco ($5 million AAV) or Max Kepler ($7 million AAV) received in their extensions last offseason, due to Sano’s proximity to free agency. Sano made $2.65 million this season in his first year of arbitration and he should get a decent raise based on his numbers. Minnesota may also prioritize or consider extending some of the other young talent that is part of the Twins core, including Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario. Additionally, the Twins have plenty of high-upside bats in the farm system that are getting closer to the big leagues, including Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Royce Lewis, and Brent Rooker, so they may not want to lock down too many spots long-term. However, as a mid-market team, extending young talent is probably one of the most effective and efficient ways for Minnesota to spend its money, and as we’ve seen with Polanco and Kepler, it is something the Twins front office is open to. So what should the Twins do? Should they stand pat and ride out the final two years of team control or attempt to extend Sano? What kind of money and years would Sano be looking for and what would the Twins be willing to pay? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Click here to view the article
  20. We arrived just in time to see Miguel Sano hit a double to the gap and later come in to score on a head-first slide. He would go on to hit a mammoth home run that seemed like it cleared the fence in left field by a mile (he would also go on to sign the Sano Snappers shirsey I was sporting after the game). Beloit would end up losing that series and Sano’s season would come to an end, but it was easy to dream big about what the future would behold for the young slugger. Since that day way back in 2012 Miguel Sano has had his share of ups and downs. Sano continued to put up big numbers in the minors but missed all of 2014 after having Tommy John surgery. He earned his call-up after beginning 2015 in AA, and looked the part of a superstar by putting up a .269/.385/.530 triple slash with a 149 wRC+ in half a season with the Twins. In 2016 the Twins made the questionable decision of sticking Sano in right field to keep Trevor Plouff at third and Sano’s offense probably suffered along with his defensive woes. Sano was given the hot corner for good in 2017 and responded with a better performance (125 wRC+ compared to 107wRC+ in 2016) and even made the All-star team, but a leg injury kept Sano out for six weeks and led to offseason surgery in which a titanium rod was inserted into his shin to reinforce the bone. 2018 was a complete disaster that saw Sano sent down to Fort Meyers after hitting just .199/.281/.398 in 71 games for Minnesota. Things appeared to turn around for Sano in the offseason as he was praised for working hard to get in shape and shed some pounds , but he suffered a cut on his heel when he slipped on metal stairs during a championship celebration in the Dominican Winter League. Because of the injury Sano missed spring training and his season didn’t begin until mid-May. Sano had an up and down first half but has really come around since, making some adjustments to his swing in late June. He hit two home runs against the Chicago White Sox on June 28th and hasn’t looked back. Prior to that game, Sano was slashing just .195/.278/.438, but in the 71 games he has appeared in since then, he has excelled to .269/.373/.617 for an OPS of .989 including 24 dingers. Since turning a corner, Sano’s numbers are strikingly similar to another Dominican slugger on the team – Nelson Cruz. The similarities are probably not coincidental as Cruz has been instrumental in aiding Sano. The 39-year-old veteran has made himself available to Sano and the two are close. Cruz is known for his preparation and work ethic, which rightly or wrongly is something that has been questioned in Sano. Sano has definitely looked locked in at the plate, as he has been able to lay off balls in the dirt and high heat, and has been better able to catch up with fastballs. The two recently sat down with FSN’s Justin Moreau and one interesting tidbit Cruz talked about was helping Sano make some in-game adjustments that led to a massive homer in Boston. Sano is under team control for another two seasons, but this offseason the Twins may want to consider trying to extend Sano. Sano has always had the upside of a superstar and he appears to finally be reaching his potential as he matures. He is still only 26-years-old and if he continues to hit as he has since his swing changes he could be an elite slugger. Along with his power, Sano is also great at getting on base and his batting average on balls in play is actually below his career mark this season, suggesting his numbers could further improve (.314 vs. .341 career). There are several question marks that must also be taken into consideration with Miguel Sano. First and foremost may be his defensive home. Although Sano has shown the ability to handle third base, he is no one’s idea of a gold-glover, and it is unclear how long he can stay at third. Sano’s overall value would of course decrease as a first baseman or designated hitter, but if he continues to hit as he has this year his bat will play anywhere. Sano has also had his share of injuries, only topping 100 games played for the third time this season and never playing more than 116 games in a year. He has had some off the field issues in the past and his work ethic has been brought into question. Again, he has appeared to mature and was touted by the organization for his offseason work coming into this season, so hopefully that trend will continue (plus Minnesota is certain to pick up Cruz’s team option, giving Sano another year under the veteran’s tutelage). It is unknown whether the Twins or Sano are interested in an extension at this point. Sano may want to bet on himself, and his value would surely rise if he puts up a full season similar to the numbers he has put up of late (if he played a full season at his post June 27th rate, he would hit 55 home runs!). On the other hand the Twins may be content with just two more years of a burly, somewhat injury-prone and defensively-limited player. Power hitting DH/1B types are not the hot commodity that they once were and can be had on the free agent market for relatively cheap, as was evident in the team-friendly deal the Twins struck with Cruz. However, if Sano does reach his full potential, he could become one of the best hitters in baseball and that would be nice to have around for the next four or five years. While Sano’s defensive value will likely continue to decline, his offensive chops should age well. As we’ve seen with Cruz, power tends to age well, and although Sano will always be a high-strikeout hitter his ability to take walks should be something that he can maintain. He could also conveniently slide into the DH position in 2021 when Cruz is likely to move on or retire. If the Twins are looking to extend Sano, this offseason may well be their last opportunity. It’s unclear exactly what a Sano extension might look like, but he will definitely require more than Jorge Polanco ($5 million AAV) or Max Kepler ($7 million AAV) received in their extensions last offseason, due to Sano’s proximity to free agency. Sano made $2.65 million this season in his first year of arbitration and he should get a decent raise based on his numbers. Minnesota may also prioritize or consider extending some of the other young talent that is part of the Twins core, including Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario. Additionally, the Twins have plenty of high-upside bats in the farm system that are getting closer to the big leagues, including Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Royce Lewis, and Brent Rooker, so they may not want to lock down too many spots long-term. However, as a mid-market team, extending young talent is probably one of the most effective and efficient ways for Minnesota to spend its money, and as we’ve seen with Polanco and Kepler, it is something the Twins front office is open to. So what should the Twins do? Should they stand pat and ride out the final two years of team control or attempt to extend Sano? What kind of money and years would Sano be looking for and what would the Twins be willing to pay? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
  21. Lewis already hit his second HR tonight while playing 3B. Great catch but I don't love seeing him crash into the wall!
  22. Great article! While the Twins have no flashy options, I think Dobnak's ability to limit fly balls and induce ground balls gives the Twins the best chance to win. Plus, he seems like the kind of guy who can handle big moments. Kyle Gibson had a really good interview with him on the Twins Podcast that's worth checking out.
  23. Box Score Berrios: 6IP, 8H, 5 ER, 1BB, 5K, 68% strikes (66 of 97 pitches) Bullpen: 3IP, 8H, 7ER,2 BB, 2K Home Runs: Wade Jr. (2) Multi-Hit Games: Wade Jr. (2-for-3 HR, 3B, BB), Arraez (2-for-5, 2B), Cruz (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Rogers (-0.43), Berrios (-0.24), Rosario (-0.14) Kansas City Strikes First In the top of the second inning, with one out, Jose Berrios hit Alex Gordon in the foot. After a bloop single, Ryan O’Hearn doubled, scoring Gordon. Meibrys Viloria then hit a shallow fly ball to Eddie Rosario and Ryan McBroom tagged from third. Rosario’s throw was slightly off-line, but appeared good enough to get McBroom. However, after reaching across to tag McBroom the ball popped out of the webbing of Jason Castro’s mitt when it hit the ground. Berrios was able to strike out Brett Phillips and keep the score at 2-0. Rookies Spark the Offense, Man With Dick Bremer lamenting about how many first pitch fastballs Twins hitters were taking, LaMonte Wade Jr. came up in the bottom of the third and turned on the first pitch Glenn Sparkman had to offer. 416 feet later Kansas City’s lead was cut to one. The home run was the second of Wade Jr.’s young Twins MLB career. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175560833054588928 Broadcaster Latroy Hawkins claimed that he joked with Wade Jr. before the game that he hit like Reggie Jackson in batting practice, but like Michael Jackson in games. It appears that Wade Jr. took Hawkins' words to heart. In his next at-bat, Wade Jr. led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple. Luis Arraez followed Wade Jr.’s triple with his second hit of the game, a hustle double that scored Wade Jr. to tie the game. With the rookies doing their job, the anti-rookie, Nelson Cruz stepped up and singled in Arraez for his team-leading 104th RBI. That marked the end of the day for Sparkman. With runners on first and second and no outs, Eddie Rosario stepped up to the plate and did the most Eddie thing possible – he immediately popped out on the first pitch. But luckily for Minnesota Miguel Sano stepped up and singled in Jorge Polanco (who had earlier walked) to put the Twins up 4 – 2. Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi was kind enough to gift Minnesota another run by botching a Willians Astudillo groundball, allowing Nelson Cruz to come home and put the Twins momentarily ahead. Berrios stumbles, Royals Strike Back Things were looking good going into the sixth and Jose Berrios was able to induce a double play after allowing the first two Kansas City hitters of the inning to single. With a runner on third and two outs, McBroom singled to bring the score to 5 -3. The next batter, the other Ryan, took a Berrios’ changeup for a ride, tying the game up. Berrios was able to finish out the inning, but it marked the end of the day for Berrios. Rogers, Hildenberger Falter Both Kansas City and Minnesota got great efforts from their bullpens after Sparkman and Berrios left the game. However, after Tyler Duffy and Serio Romo went six up, six down in the seventh and eighth innings, Taylor Rogers struggled mightily in the ninth. Rogers managed to get only one out, giving up three hits, the most damaging one a two-run dinger coming off the bat of pinch-hitter Cheslor Cuthbert. It’s worth mentioning that it is the fourth time in the last six games that Rogers has pitched (although he hadn’t thrown more than 14 pitches in any of the appearances). Trevor Hildenberger relieved Rogers and the wheels really fell off. Hildenberger faced six batters and failed to record an out. It doesn’t get much uglier than that. By the time the top of the ninth finally ended the Twins were down 12 – 5 and the game had been lost. Jorge Alcala Debuts If you bothered to stick around after the meltdown, you were rewarded by getting to see Jorge Alcala make his MLB debut (and see a seemingly never ending, nearly 50-minute(!) top of the ninth). He came into the game with the bases loaded and one out and gave up a single that Marwin Gonzalez had a chance to catch but didn’t. His four-seam fastball topped out at 95. He would go on to walk in another run but finally ended the inning by retiring two Royals batters. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175607269620211712 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
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