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Patrick Wozniak

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  1. With injuries to Byron Buxton and the more recent hamstring injury to Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave has had an extended opportunity with the Minnesota Twins and has made the most of it. After hitting two home runs in the opener against the Detroit Tigers he came back in Saturday's game and hit another dinger, with a double to boot. Buxton is off to a short rehab assignment in Cedar Rapids but he could rejoin the big league club as soon as Tuesday in Chicago. Rosario’s injury is listed as day-to-day but hamstring injuries are tricky, so he could potentially land on the 10-day IL. Either way, with the way Cave has played of late the Twins will have an interesting decision to make when Rosario returns. Cave was a pleasant surprise for the Minnesota in 2018, as he hit .265/.313/.473 with a wRC+ of 108 and was good for 1.3 bWAR in just 91 games. He filled in for Buxton during Buxton’s disastrous and injury-riddle 2018, spending a lot of time in center field, where he played decently but showed that he was definitely better suited for the corners. Flash forward to 2019 and Cave was slated to be the Twins fourth outfielder, but he struggled out of the gate slashing just .176/.299/.243 for a 52 wRC+ in the first half and Cave was sent down to AAA to figure things out. And boy did he figure it out in Rochester. Cave hit the cover off the ball (.352/.393/.592) and since returning to the Twins, Cave hasn’t cooled a bit. Since the All-Star break, Cave has hit an unreal .417/.482/.708 for a 209 wRC+. With his second-half surge, Cave’s numbers on the year are now looking quite good as well. Cave has hit .280/.381/.464 on the year for a 125 wRC+. His on-base percentage has risen from .313 in 2018 to a very good .381 in his second season. In watching Cave, he seems to be taking much better at-bats of late, showing an ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. While Cave will probably never have an elite walk rate, he has shown significant improvement in this area, going from a 5.8% walk rate in 2018 to 8.4% in 2019. He is getting better pitches to hit and hitting them hard, with a 52.6% hard hit percentage. Rosario on the other hand, hadn’t looked particularly good at the plate prior to his injury. Rosario has just a 3.9% walk rate on the year and lately, even when getting into a hitter’s count, he’s been liable to put a weak swing on a pitch outside of the strike zone. On the year he has hit .282/.307/.515 for a wRC+ of 107, which is certainly respectable but not as good as Cave. Rosario started the year off with 11 home runs by the end of April but has hit just 10 in the last three months. In the second half, Rosario’s walk rate is down to an almost non-existent 2.9% with just a 93 wRC+. Although Rosario and Cave have similar skill sets (hit left-handed, play aggressively, and are streaky), Cave’s ability to reach base gives him a definite advantage over Rosario. Beyond that, Cave has clearly been the hotter hitter of late and it would be really hard to take his bat out of the lineup at such a critical juncture of the season. Although Cave has not looked good defensively in center field, he is probably a better overall outfielder than Rosario. MLB Statcast measures Rosario at a -2.0 jump vs. average with 31.5 feet covered. Cave on the other hand is better than average with a 0.8 jump and 34.5 feet. Both Rosario and Cave are liable to make a few boneheaded mistakes in the field, but Cave seems more athletic overall and better able to make difficult catches. Of course, Rosario has the longer track record as a major leaguer, is a fan-favorite, and has had his share of big moments in the 2019 season. Cave has slightly better career numbers but has only played 141 games in parts of two seasons. Cave also has a really high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) at .400 for the season, but he has always carried a very high BABIP in both the minors and the majors (though not quite that extreme). Part of this may be due to Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, allowing him to beat the shift. Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard brings a lot of swing and miss as well. He is currently striking out in 31.1% of his plate appearances, so there is definitely room for improvement. Now entering the final stretch of the season and caught in a tight race with Cleveland, it will be imperative for the Twins to run out the players who give them the best chance to win. We have already seen this happen with Luis Arraez taking the second base gig from Jonathan Schoop. The Twins greatest strength may be their overall depth. With players who are ineffective due to injury or other factors, such as Rosario and C.J. Cron, the Twins would be amiss not to take advantage of the depth they have and put their best nine out on the field. It remains to be seen how much playing time Cave will take from Eddie Rosario this season, but Cave’s success may make Rosario more expendable in the offseason. Minnesota could dangle Rosario as part of a package to obtain starting pitching, knowing that Cave at the very least gives the team a stop-gap in left. The Twins farm system is loaded with corner outfield types who are close to big league ready in Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker and the MLB team will still have Marwin Gonzalez under contract in 2020. Rosario has been a valuable player for the Twins, but he seems unlikely to improve upon what he already is. With little to no plate discipline and decreasing speed with age, the Twins may be better off moving on from Rosario and getting something in return for him while they still can (Rosario becomes a free-agent in 2022). In the meantime, whether a long-term solution or not, Jake Cave has presented the Twins with a welcome problem.
  2. From the album: Jake Cave

    © (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

  3. Patrick Wozniak

    Jake Cave

    Jake Cave
  4. In the year of the bombas, the Minnesota Twins have greatly outperformed the expectations of fans, evaluators, and probably the team itself. The Twins have been able to enjoy the magnitude of success that they have due to some remarkable individual efforts. Players such as Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco have taken the next step forward, while Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have come closer to becoming the superstars we all anticipated. Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz looks like the ghost of Babe Ruth and the pitching staff is also much improved.While many players have undoubtedly contributed to the Twins success, today we will look at the players who have done the most to help the Twins win. This is obviously subjective in nature, but to be as objective as possible we will use win probability added (WPA) to gauge which players have most increased the Twins ability to win ball games. WPA is simply the difference in win expectancy between the start and end of each play that occurs in a game. So when Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against the White Sox with the score even at three apiece, the Twins had a 59.4% win expectancy. Cruz went on to double in two runs and the Twins win expectancy rose to 81.4%, an increase of 22%. Therefore, Cruz is credited with +.220 WPA on the play (and the pitcher is docked the same amount). WPA is cumulative, so the difference in WPA after each play is either added or subtracted from the hitter/pitcher and it builds up throughout the game and season (the winning team gains .500 WPA between its players, while the loser subtracts .500). The nice thing about WPA is that it is a contextual statistic. In the aforementioned game where Cruz doubled in two runs with in the fifth inning, C.J. Cron also doubled with the bases juiced in the eighth inning, except Cron was able to clear the bases so he picked up an extra RBI. However, Cron’s base-clearing double came with the Twins already up 8-4 and a 98.8% win expectancy. With the Twins lead growing to 11-4, the expectancy went up to 99.9%, so Cron only gained .011 of WPA. Cruz’s double came in a big moment, greatly increasing the Twins chances to pick up the victory, and he was rewarded accordingly. Before we move on, there are a few caveats with using WPA to determine how much a player helped the team win. All defensive plays either help or hurt the pitcher, so a fielder’s defensive efforts do not contribute to their WPA. This obviously diminishes the value of someone like Byron Buxton (who brings extraordinary value to the Twins as their center fielder) while increasing the value of Nelson Cruz. Also, WPA generally varies greatly for individual players from season to season and it is not a great predictor of future success. Good players tend to be good independent of the context and wins above replacement (WAR) is a better way to value a player overall. With that said, the top three MLB players in WPA in 2019 are Christian Yelich (6.40), Mike Trout (5.42), and Cody Bellinger (5.24) who are arguably having the three best individual seasons in baseball (also the top three in bWAR, though not in the same order). Now that we have that out of the way, here are the Twins top six performers according to WPA: 6. Jorge Polanco – 1.43 WPA Polanco has been one of the handful of younger core players to take a great leap forward in 2019. Offensively, Polanco has been very impressive, slashing.295/.358/.496 with a wRC+ of 121. He is tied for second on the team with 3.5 fWAR and the team friendly extension that he signed in the offseason (5yr, 25.75M with two club options) is looking like a real steal for the Twins. Polanco hasn’t been quite as good in the second half and his defense has looked rather shaky of late (he’s made some highlight-reel plays but botched several routine ones) but there is no doubt that he has been a big part of Minnesota’s success. 5. Luiz Arraez – 1.53 WPA Anyone who has watched Arraez play cannot possibly deny his value in big moments. The rookie seems unshakable, working MLB pitchers into deep pitch counts and ending many of those battles with huge hits or walks. The 22-year-old didn’t make his MLB debut until May 18th and has only played in 61 games, making his inclusion on this list all the more impressive. Arraez has been good for 1.5 bWAR, hitting .341/.408/.445 with a wRC+ of 128. Like Polanco, Arraez seems somewhat limited defensively, but the two are quite the up-the-middle tandem offensively. 4. Jake Odorrizi – 1.69 WPA Most Twins fans would probably guess Jose Berrios if they knew that only one starting pitcher would be included in this list, but it is Odorrizi coming in at number four (Berrios just missed with a 1.39 WPA). Odorrizi has been much improved in 2019. He was named to the all-star team and he leads the Twins rotation in K/9 (9.41), HR/9 (1.03) and has been the best Twins starter in stranding base runners (76.7% LOB %). Odorizzi trails only Jose Berrios amongst Twins starters in fWAR (3.5 to 2.8) and has the rotation’s best FIP at 3.78. Odorizzi becomes a free agent at the end of the season and it will be interesting to see if Minnesota tries to resign him. 3. Taylor Rogers – 1.80 WPA While Odorrizi may be somewhat of a surprise as the top starter on the list, to expect any reliever other than Taylor Rogers to be the sole bullpen representative would be lunacy. Rogers has struggled a bit in the second half after being lights out prior to the All-Star break, but the Twins have been able to get their star reliever some more rest of late. Rogers forms a formidable late-inning trio with Minnesota’s trade-deadline acquisitions, Sergio Romo (2.04 WPA) and Sam Dyson (1.47 WPA). On the year Rogers has pitched to a 2.59 ERA (2.83 FIP), has stranded 86.8 % of base runners, and has accumulated a 1.7 bWAR. 2. Nelson Cruz – 2.43 WPA Nelson Cruz will go down as one of, if not the best-ever Twins free agent signing. The now 39-year-old has been nothing short of amazing. He is currently hitting .303/.389/.662 with a wRC+ of 168. Cruz has been absolutely on fire in the second half hitting 17 home runs in 28 games (244 wRC+) and has shown no signs of rust since returning from his wrist injury. Cruz’s veteran presence has been noted in the clubhouse and his dedicated work ethic has undoubtedly had a positive effect on his younger teammates. But most importantly, he has been one of the best hitters in the MLB. Cruz is tied with Polanco and Berrios for second on the team with 3.5 bWAR despite being a DH and only playing in 90 games. 1. Max Kepler – 2.53 WPA Of all the Twins young core players, perhaps none have taken as big of a step forward as Max Kepler has this year. After showing flashes but not quite reaching his potential in his first three seasons with Minnesota, Max Kepler leads the team in both WPA and bWAR (3.9). Kepler has hit plenty of big homers when the Twins needed a boost and leads the team with 34 long balls in 2019. Kepler and Cruz (33 HRs) both have a good chance of reaching 40 this year. Although it doesn’t show up in his WPA, Kepler has been great in right field and has provided invaluable depth in center while filling in for the oft-injured Bryon Buxton. Like Polanco, the Twins were able to extend Kepler for cheap (5yr, 35M with one club option) and he has paid the Twins back with interest by hitting .256/.337/.537 with a 123 wRC+. Kepler has hit leadoff when the team faces right-handed pitching and hasn’t buckled under the pressure. Kepler’s BABIP is just .241, so if it ever normalizes, watch out. Overall, it is encouraging to see that so many of the Twins younger players have been able to shine when it mattered the most. There will be plenty of big moments to come as the Twins look to hold off the Cleveland Indians and win the AL Central for the first time since 2010. What do you think? Which players were included or excluded from the list who you thought would make it? Who do you think has done the most to contribute to the Twins winning ways in 2019? Click here to view the article
  5. While many players have undoubtedly contributed to the Twins success, today we will look at the players who have done the most to help the Twins win. This is obviously subjective in nature, but to be as objective as possible we will use win probability added (WPA) to gauge which players have most increased the Twins ability to win ball games. WPA is simply the difference in win expectancy between the start and end of each play that occurs in a game. So when Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against the White Sox with the score even at three apiece, the Twins had a 59.4% win expectancy. Cruz went on to double in two runs and the Twins win expectancy rose to 81.4%, an increase of 22%. Therefore, Cruz is credited with +.220 WPA on the play (and the pitcher is docked the same amount). WPA is cumulative, so the difference in WPA after each play is either added or subtracted from the hitter/pitcher and it builds up throughout the game and season (the winning team gains .500 WPA between its players, while the loser subtracts .500). The nice thing about WPA is that it is a contextual statistic. In the aforementioned game where Cruz doubled in two runs with in the fifth inning, C.J. Cron also doubled with the bases juiced in the eighth inning, except Cron was able to clear the bases so he picked up an extra RBI. However, Cron’s base-clearing double came with the Twins already up 8-4 and a 98.8% win expectancy. With the Twins lead growing to 11-4, the expectancy went up to 99.9%, so Cron only gained .011 of WPA. Cruz’s double came in a big moment, greatly increasing the Twins chances to pick up the victory, and he was rewarded accordingly. Before we move on, there are a few caveats with using WPA to determine how much a player helped the team win. All defensive plays either help or hurt the pitcher, so a fielder’s defensive efforts do not contribute to their WPA. This obviously diminishes the value of someone like Byron Buxton (who brings extraordinary value to the Twins as their center fielder) while increasing the value of Nelson Cruz. Also, WPA generally varies greatly for individual players from season to season and it is not a great predictor of future success. Good players tend to be good independent of the context and wins above replacement (WAR) is a better way to value a player overall. With that said, the top three MLB players in WPA in 2019 are Christian Yelich (6.40), Mike Trout (5.42), and Cody Bellinger (5.24) who are arguably having the three best individual seasons in baseball (also the top three in bWAR, though not in the same order). Now that we have that out of the way, here are the Twins top six performers according to WPA: 6. Jorge Polanco – 1.43 WPA Polanco has been one of the handful of younger core players to take a great leap forward in 2019. Offensively, Polanco has been very impressive, slashing.295/.358/.496 with a wRC+ of 121. He is tied for second on the team with 3.5 fWAR and the team friendly extension that he signed in the offseason (5yr, 25.75M with two club options) is looking like a real steal for the Twins. Polanco hasn’t been quite as good in the second half and his defense has looked rather shaky of late (he’s made some highlight-reel plays but botched several routine ones) but there is no doubt that he has been a big part of Minnesota’s success. 5. Luiz Arraez – 1.53 WPA Anyone who has watched Arraez play cannot possibly deny his value in big moments. The rookie seems unshakable, working MLB pitchers into deep pitch counts and ending many of those battles with huge hits or walks. The 22-year-old didn’t make his MLB debut until May 18th and has only played in 61 games, making his inclusion on this list all the more impressive. Arraez has been good for 1.5 bWAR, hitting .341/.408/.445 with a wRC+ of 128. Like Polanco, Arraez seems somewhat limited defensively, but the two are quite the up-the-middle tandem offensively. 4. Jake Odorrizi – 1.69 WPA Most Twins fans would probably guess Jose Berrios if they knew that only one starting pitcher would be included in this list, but it is Odorrizi coming in at number four (Berrios just missed with a 1.39 WPA). Odorrizi has been much improved in 2019. He was named to the all-star team and he leads the Twins rotation in K/9 (9.41), HR/9 (1.03) and has been the best Twins starter in stranding base runners (76.7% LOB %). Odorizzi trails only Jose Berrios amongst Twins starters in fWAR (3.5 to 2.8) and has the rotation’s best FIP at 3.78. Odorizzi becomes a free agent at the end of the season and it will be interesting to see if Minnesota tries to resign him. 3. Taylor Rogers – 1.80 WPA While Odorrizi may be somewhat of a surprise as the top starter on the list, to expect any reliever other than Taylor Rogers to be the sole bullpen representative would be lunacy. Rogers has struggled a bit in the second half after being lights out prior to the All-Star break, but the Twins have been able to get their star reliever some more rest of late. Rogers forms a formidable late-inning trio with Minnesota’s trade-deadline acquisitions, Sergio Romo (2.04 WPA) and Sam Dyson (1.47 WPA). On the year Rogers has pitched to a 2.59 ERA (2.83 FIP), has stranded 86.8 % of base runners, and has accumulated a 1.7 bWAR. 2. Nelson Cruz – 2.43 WPA Nelson Cruz will go down as one of, if not the best-ever Twins free agent signing. The now 39-year-old has been nothing short of amazing. He is currently hitting .303/.389/.662 with a wRC+ of 168. Cruz has been absolutely on fire in the second half hitting 17 home runs in 28 games (244 wRC+) and has shown no signs of rust since returning from his wrist injury. Cruz’s veteran presence has been noted in the clubhouse and his dedicated work ethic has undoubtedly had a positive effect on his younger teammates. But most importantly, he has been one of the best hitters in the MLB. Cruz is tied with Polanco and Berrios for second on the team with 3.5 bWAR despite being a DH and only playing in 90 games. 1. Max Kepler – 2.53 WPA Of all the Twins young core players, perhaps none have taken as big of a step forward as Max Kepler has this year. After showing flashes but not quite reaching his potential in his first three seasons with Minnesota, Max Kepler leads the team in both WPA and bWAR (3.9). Kepler has hit plenty of big homers when the Twins needed a boost and leads the team with 34 long balls in 2019. Kepler and Cruz (33 HRs) both have a good chance of reaching 40 this year. Although it doesn’t show up in his WPA, Kepler has been great in right field and has provided invaluable depth in center while filling in for the oft-injured Bryon Buxton. Like Polanco, the Twins were able to extend Kepler for cheap (5yr, 35M with one club option) and he has paid the Twins back with interest by hitting .256/.337/.537 with a 123 wRC+. Kepler has hit leadoff when the team faces right-handed pitching and hasn’t buckled under the pressure. Kepler’s BABIP is just .241, so if it ever normalizes, watch out. Overall, it is encouraging to see that so many of the Twins younger players have been able to shine when it mattered the most. There will be plenty of big moments to come as the Twins look to hold off the Cleveland Indians and win the AL Central for the first time since 2010. What do you think? Which players were included or excluded from the list who you thought would make it? Who do you think has done the most to contribute to the Twins winning ways in 2019?
  6. Excited to see Chalmers pitched well again. If he can cut down on the walks the Twins might have something. Nice return for Rodney as he's got a lot of upside.
  7. After completing a four-game sweep in Texas, the Twins returned home to start a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. With the Cleveland Indians off for a day before starting a three-game series in New York against the Mets, the Twins had an opportunity to expand their division lead another half game to three. Nelson Cruz was back in the lineup and Luis Arraez hit leadoff for the first time in his career but the Twins fell to Chicago by a final score of 6-4.Box Score Gibson: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 66.7% strikes (66 of 99 pitches) Bullpen: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Polanco (18) Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (3-for-5, 2B), Rosario (3-for-5), Polanco (2-for-5, 2B, HR), Cruz (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-5), Cave (2-for-4, 2B) Bottom 3 WPA: Gibson -.223, Cron -.180, Gonzalez -.130 Twins strike early White Sox starter Ivan Nova was red hot coming into today’s game as he was 4-0 with a 0.49 ERA and two complete games in his last five starts. After giving up only two earned runs in his last 37 innings, the Twins were able to get two runs off of Nova in the first inning. Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco started the game off with back-to-back doubles and Nelson Cruz knocked in Polanco with a single. Unfortunately, an Eddie Rosario rocket was picked by Yolmer Sanchez and turned into a double play or the Twins might have put additional runs on the board. Nova threw 48 pitches through two innings (16 to Arraez in two ABs). White Sox strike back Gibson has traditionally pitched very well against the Sox and it looked like that trend would continue as Gibson cruised through two innings with great command. However, the Sox got to Gibson for four runs in the third. After three singles, the White Sox had runners on second and third (thanks to an errant throw to home from Eddie Rosario) and first base open. Gibson gave up a three-run blast to Jose Abreu on a first-pitch fastball right down the heart of the plate. With light-hitting Jon Jay on-deck, Gibson probably would have liked to pitch Abreu a little more carefully. Both starters get on a roll Nova was able to turn things around after the two-run first, putting up zeros through the fifth. However, in the sixth the Twins were able to knock Nova out of the game after long at-bats by both Marwin Gonzalez (strike out) and Jake Cave. Miguel Sano led off the inning with a single and with one out, Cave hit another single. Sano and Cave were able to advance an extra base due to the Sox being unable to cleanly field the ball and Nova was done for the night. Following Nova’s exit, C.J. Cron hit a ground ball to third and Ryan Goins made a perfect throw to home to get a sliding Miguel Sano. Jason Castro struck out to end the Twins threat. Gibson was also able to bounce back nicely after his four-run third. He didn’t allow any base runners in the fourth, fifth, or sixth innings, but he did run into trouble in the seventh. With one out and runners on first and third the Sox perfectly executed a suicide-squeeze bunt on an 0-2 count with Sanchez at the plate and Tim Anderson coming home. Ryne Harper came in for Gibson and got the final out of the inning with the Twins trailing 5-2. Twins unable to mount a comeback Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, Polanco hit a solo home run to pull the Twins to within two. Rosario would go on to single with two outs, bringing Miguel Sano to the plate as the tying run. Sano struck out on a check swing to end the inning. Lewis Thorpe came in to pitch the final two innings for the Twins. He got plenty of swings and misses and struck out three, but he did give up an additional run in the eighth. Arraez got on base with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth and Cruz hit a two-out single to get Rosario to the plate as the tying run. Rosario singled to bring the Twins within two with Sano coming to the plate but Alex Colome was able to strike out Sano and end the game. Arraez leads off The Twins moved Luis Arraez up in the lineup to hit leadoff for the first time in his young MLB career. Having Arraez hit leadoff makes a lot of sense as Arraez gets on base at a team-leading .412 clip. He has also had some of the team’s best at-bats this season and that continued against the Sox. Arraez led off the game with a 10-pitch battle that ended with a double and he singled in his second at-bat. He finished the game with three hits. With Max Kepler getting the day off, it will be interesting to see what the Twins will do with Kepler back in the lineup. Kepler has had a great year hitting leadoff and the Twins might not want to mess with that, but it would be nice to have Arraez on base in front of some of Kepler’s team-leading home runs. Cruz returns, Littell optioned The Twins will try to get by with a 12-man bullpen for the time being as reliever Zack Littell was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Nelson Cruz. After hitting oranges during his time on the IL, Cruz had to deal with a squirrel in his first at-bat of the game. The rodent was no match for Cruz as he singled in Polanco for the second Twins run. Cruz finished the game 2-for-5, singling twice and picking up an RBI. 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
  8. Box Score Gibson: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 66.7% strikes (66 of 99 pitches) Bullpen: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Polanco (18) Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (3-for-5, 2B), Rosario (3-for-5), Polanco (2-for-5, 2B, HR), Cruz (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-5), Cave (2-for-4, 2B) Bottom 3 WPA: Gibson -.223, Cron -.180, Gonzalez -.130 Twins strike early White Sox starter Ivan Nova was red hot coming into today’s game as he was 4-0 with a 0.49 ERA and two complete games in his last five starts. After giving up only two earned runs in his last 37 innings, the Twins were able to get two runs off of Nova in the first inning. Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco started the game off with back-to-back doubles and Nelson Cruz knocked in Polanco with a single. Unfortunately, an Eddie Rosario rocket was picked by Yolmer Sanchez and turned into a double play or the Twins might have put additional runs on the board. Nova threw 48 pitches through two innings (16 to Arraez in two ABs). White Sox strike back Gibson has traditionally pitched very well against the Sox and it looked like that trend would continue as Gibson cruised through two innings with great command. However, the Sox got to Gibson for four runs in the third. After three singles, the White Sox had runners on second and third (thanks to an errant throw to home from Eddie Rosario) and first base open. Gibson gave up a three-run blast to Jose Abreu on a first-pitch fastball right down the heart of the plate. With light-hitting Jon Jay on-deck, Gibson probably would have liked to pitch Abreu a little more carefully. Both starters get on a roll Nova was able to turn things around after the two-run first, putting up zeros through the fifth. However, in the sixth the Twins were able to knock Nova out of the game after long at-bats by both Marwin Gonzalez (strike out) and Jake Cave. Miguel Sano led off the inning with a single and with one out, Cave hit another single. Sano and Cave were able to advance an extra base due to the Sox being unable to cleanly field the ball and Nova was done for the night. Following Nova’s exit, C.J. Cron hit a ground ball to third and Ryan Goins made a perfect throw to home to get a sliding Miguel Sano. Jason Castro struck out to end the Twins threat. Gibson was also able to bounce back nicely after his four-run third. He didn’t allow any base runners in the fourth, fifth, or sixth innings, but he did run into trouble in the seventh. With one out and runners on first and third the Sox perfectly executed a suicide-squeeze bunt on an 0-2 count with Sanchez at the plate and Tim Anderson coming home. Ryne Harper came in for Gibson and got the final out of the inning with the Twins trailing 5-2. Twins unable to mount a comeback Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, Polanco hit a solo home run to pull the Twins to within two. Rosario would go on to single with two outs, bringing Miguel Sano to the plate as the tying run. Sano struck out on a check swing to end the inning. Lewis Thorpe came in to pitch the final two innings for the Twins. He got plenty of swings and misses and struck out three, but he did give up an additional run in the eighth. Arraez got on base with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth and Cruz hit a two-out single to get Rosario to the plate as the tying run. Rosario singled to bring the Twins within two with Sano coming to the plate but Alex Colome was able to strike out Sano and end the game. Arraez leads off The Twins moved Luis Arraez up in the lineup to hit leadoff for the first time in his young MLB career. Having Arraez hit leadoff makes a lot of sense as Arraez gets on base at a team-leading .412 clip. He has also had some of the team’s best at-bats this season and that continued against the Sox. Arraez led off the game with a 10-pitch battle that ended with a double and he singled in his second at-bat. He finished the game with three hits. With Max Kepler getting the day off, it will be interesting to see what the Twins will do with Kepler back in the lineup. Kepler has had a great year hitting leadoff and the Twins might not want to mess with that, but it would be nice to have Arraez on base in front of some of Kepler’s team-leading home runs. Cruz returns, Littell optioned The Twins will try to get by with a 12-man bullpen for the time being as reliever Zack Littell was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Nelson Cruz. After hitting oranges during his time on the IL, Cruz had to deal with a squirrel in his first at-bat of the game. The rodent was no match for Cruz as he singled in Polanco for the second Twins run. Cruz finished the game 2-for-5, singling twice and picking up an RBI. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1163663362837794817 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.
  9. 103.8!!! Hope Graterol doesn't waste any time adjusting to the MLB balls at AAA!
  10. It did make some sense to have Adrianza around. Although Polanco’s bat looked like it would play at the MLB level, there were plenty of question marks pertaining to his ability to play short. Many in the industry, and Twins organization, felt Polanco’s long-term home would be at second, where he was then blocked by Dozier. Things were also a bit uncertain with Escobar as he had really struggled with the bat in 2016 and was underwhelming defensively. Adrianza at least gave the Twins a player who could step in and play solid defense, if not offering much with the bat. Up to this season, Adrianza has pretty much been the player fans could expect. He has been dependable, if not overly impressive. Adrianza has shown the ability to play short and play all around the diamond as well. In his time with Minnesota, he has played every position outside of center field and catcher, even pitching an inning this year. While his bat wasn’t great in 2017-18, he did show significant improvement from his number with the Giants. In 552 plate appearances, Adrianza slashed .256/.309/.380 for an OPS of .689, acceptable for a glove-first utility player. Coming into 2019, Adrianza’s role seemed even more up in the air as the Twins signed Marwin Gonzalez to a two-year, $21 million contract. With Gonzalez serving as the main ultility player, Adrianza was in a familiar position as the second utility option. With Minnesota’s stacked lineup, opportunities looked to be sparse, but Adrianza still filled a need as he is more palatable defensively at short than Gonzalez if Polanco were to suffer an injury. The season definitely got off to a slow start for Adrianza. Through May 10 Adrianza was hitting an unsightly .125/.218/.188 (.406 OPS). As the weather warmed so has Adrianza, batting a remarkable .355/.443/.518 (.961 OPS) in 47 games (31 starts) since May 11. This has been the best run of Adrianza’s career and thus far 2019 has been a career year for the utility man. Adrianza’s 2019 looks great against his career numbers, but he has also stacked up well against his peers in 2019. He currently holds a .348 wOBA (.297 career) compared to the MLB average of .320 and a 115 wRC+. For a utility player more regarded for his ability to fill in anywhere on the diamond, it’s pretty impressive that Adrainza has been an above average hitter in 2019. By comparison, Minnesota’s “everyday” utility man, Marwin Gonzalez, has a below average .310 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 90. Gonzales has accumulated a bWAR of 1.5 in 97 games (391 plate appearances) while Adrianza has a 1.2 bWAR in just 67 games (189 plate appearances). Image courtesy of FanGraphs This is not to imply that Adrianza should be getting playing time over Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been extremely valuable, playing the best defense of his career and providing the Twins with a much needed quality outfielder in the absence of Bryon Buxton. Gonzalez also has a better track record than Adrianza, offers more power and has valuable experience as a World Series champion. Gonzalez is heating up and he came up huge with his recent three-run homer in game one of the Milwaukee series (Adrianza also had a clutch pinch-hit RBI double earlier in that game). The main catalyst in Adrianza’s improvement on offense seems to be his improved plate discipline. In 2018, Adrianza walked in just 6.6% of his plate appearances and had a 22.4 % strikeout rate. This season, Adrianza has raised his walk rate to 10% (MLB average – 8.3%) and has lowered his strikeout rate to 15.3% (MLB average – 21.6%). Adrianza is also hitting the ball to all fields (he has pulled the ball less this year) and has reduced the amount of soft contact on batted balls from 21.4% for his career to 11.3 % in 2019. On the year, Adrianza’s playing time has been limited, but he has seen more action in August due to all of the injuries the Twins have experienced. Until Nelson Cruz comes back, Minnesota has the luxury of giving Polanco an occasional break as DH and letting Adrianza fill in at short. However, when Cruz is back, Minnesota may want to consider getting Adrianza in against lefties and sitting Polanco. While Polanco has had a great year, he has really struggled as a right-handed hitter, slashing just .262/.301/.376. Adrianza, on the other hand, has crushed .316/.400/.526 against southpaws (he’s done okay against righties as well - .275/.369/.383). As the season has dragged on Polanco has looked like he could use some rest. Polanco started the year red-hot, slashing .338/.409/.590 through May 31, but has hit just .260/.313/.408 since. He is nearing his career high in plate appearances and is on pace to play the most games of his career. Utilizing Adrianza a bit more could help Polanco perform better down the stretch by being better rested and not having to face left-handed pitching as much. Although Adrianza was formerly known as a defensive specialist, his defensive numbers on the year have not been all that great. His numbers have been the worst at third and short and he rates best at second base and as an outfielder. With that said, we’re dealing with a very small sample size, making the defensive metrics more unreliable and there is certainly value in Adrianza’s ability to play almost everywhere on the diamond. He has made some big plays of late and is also the only realistic option to fill in at short, as both Gonzalez and Luis Arraez are stretched on the left side of the middle infield. On a team that has set the all-time franchise record for home runs and is on pace to break the MLB record, it is easy to overlook a player like Ehire Adrianza. However, Adrianza has been invaluable to Minnesota because of his ability to step in and play virtually any position while providing above average offense and getting on base at a .380 clip. His ability to put up great numbers since mid-May without consistent playing time has been a major boost to the team. Marwin Gonzalez will continue to get more playing time than Adrianza, but with Gonzalez filling in at right and Max Kepler sliding over to center in Byron Buxton’s absence, Adrianza should get plenty of opportunities down the stretch. Next season will be Adrianza’s last year of arbitration should the Twins decide to bring him back, which they certainly seem likely to do at this point. With Gonzalez around for one more season as well, Adrianza will probably continue to play second fiddle, but it would be interesting to see what Adrianza could do with more playing time. Escobar soared to new heights in his age-29 season with regular playing time and has been even better in 2019. While Adrianza is unlikely to ever see quite the power surge that Escobar has, his numbers are also improving with age, and if he keeps it up maybe he too can one day become an everyday player.
  11. Part of Cron’s decline could certainly be attributed to the thumb injury he suffered in early July which has landed him on the 10-day IL twice. His offensive numbers have been way down and Cron has hit more ground balls and fly balls than line drives, which seemed to power his first half surge. His line drive percent has gone down from 24.3% in the first half to 17.5% since. Cron has also seemed to have had trouble catching up with fastballs of late. He has whiffed on nearly 35% of fastballs so far in August. Whether watching Cron play or looking at the numbers, it is becoming abundantly clear that he should not be an everyday player at this point in the season. This begs the question of whether there is a better player to trot out to first base. In actuality, there may be several. As referenced in the opening paragraph, Cron has hit lefties very well, so he should continue to see playing time when the Twins face left-handed pitching. But the majority of MLB starting pitchers are righties and we have seen that Cron shouldn’t be in the lineup in this scenario. However, Minnesota doesn’t really have any left-handed options to platoon with Cron, as the best 1B options appear to be either right-handed hitters in Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver, or switch hitters who hit better against lefties in Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza. Technically, left-hand hitting catcher Jason Castro played about 11 innings of first base when he was with the Astros, but he seems unlikely to play first at this point. The Twins could also get aggressive and call up left-handed AA OF/1B top-prospect Alex Kirilloff, but that would start his service-time clock and coming up and playing a big role in such a crucial stretch of games is asking a lot from the 21-year-old. Of the players already on the 25-man roster, Sano seems to be the best option to slide over to first. Sano is a below average defender at third and his long-term home will most likely be at first base anyway. If the Twins non-tender Cron after this season, Sano is probably the most likely internal option to take over at first, so he could gain additional experience now and the Twins would get an extended look as well. Sano certainly seems to enjoy hitting as a first baseman. In an admittedly small sample size (seven games), Sano has hit .360/.448/.720, good for a 200 wRC+. For what it’s worth, Sano’s defense at first has also rated better than Cron’s (again -small sample size). Sano’s splits against righties are also significantly better than Cron’s (112 wRC+ vs. 80 wRC+). For the time being, this would mean that Ehire Adrianza would get more playing time at third with Marwin Gonzalez currently splitting time in right field with Jake Cave. Once Buxton comes back, the Twins would have the luxury of using Gonzalez more at third, where he rates the best defensively this season. However, Adrianza has hit righties pretty well this year (107 wRC+ compared to Gonzalez’s 83 wRC+), and although his defensive numbers at third haven’t been great so far in 2019 (SSS), his career numbers are better than Sano’s. Of course, the Twins could also get Mitch Garver some playing time at first. The Twins have been getting Garver more starts at catcher of late, but playing him at first would be a nice way to utilize his potent bat. Garver has destroyed lefties (1.147 OPS, 189 wRC+), but like Adrianza and Sano, he has been much better than Cron against righties as well (.864 OPS, 119 wRC+). Garver has hardly played any first base this year, but he has played the position in the past. Any or some combination of the previously mentioned players would offer an immediate upgrade over Cron. The Twins have an opportunity to not only improve offensively by getting Cron’s bat out of the lineup against righties, but also to improve defensively by getting Sano off of third more often. Cron could still play against lefties (and pinch hit) and the extra rest might be good for his thumb if it is still bothering him. Benching Cron also gives the Twins a chance to get Garver’s bat into the lineup more often and to get Adrianza, who has played very well in limited opportunities, more time on the field. Finally, once Buxton comes back, playing Cron less will allow Minnesota to continue getting Gonzalez in the lineup. So what do you think? Should the Twins continue to roll with Cron? If not, which combination of players do you prefer to play in Cron’s place?
  12. From the album: Cron Chart

    © baseballsavant.mlb.com

  13. Patrick Wozniak

    Cron Chart

    C.J. Cron
  14. "I wonder what he would look like surfing...?" I'm pretty sure his face would be exactly the same as it is in the article's photo. What a gem!
  15. During the run-up to the MLB Trade Deadline the Minnesota Twins were linked to several big-name starting pitchers. We heard rumors about the Twins potentially landing someone like Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, or even Trevor Bauer. When the dust settled, Minnesota was either unable or unwilling to meet the demands for those pitchers and decided to stand pat with the current rotation. The Twins were never going to give up a player like Byron Buxton and were rightfully protective of top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirililoff. With that taken into consideration, the Twins may well only have Jose Berrios returning from this year’s rotation for 2020, and they may have missed a golden opportunity to add a talented young pitcher. The Arizona Diamondbacks received rookie right-hander Zac Gallen from the Miami Marlins in return for Jazz Chisholm, a short stop prospect currently playing in AA. This was a somewhat unique deadline trade as it was a prospect-for-prospect swap (although Gallen made his MLB debut on June 20th and has been up ever since), but the Twins did something similar by swapping Lewin Diaz for Chris Vallimont in the Sergio Romo trade days prior to the Gallen trade. It’s possible that the Marlins were really after Chisholm and contacted Arizona, but the reverse seems more likely. The Twins had just had Miami on the phone and were also playing in Miami at the time of the Gallen trade, so it wouldn’t have been hard to inquire about Gallen. Gallen has certainly looked the part of a big league pitcher thus far in his MLB career. The Twins got an up-close peak at Gallen during the Marlins series on the day before he was traded, and he did not disappoint against Minnesota’s historic offense (7IP, 4H, 2ER, 8K). He was also great in his first start in Arizona, as he went five innings without allowing any runs and only one hit on 85 pitches while picking up the win. Gallen has really only recently began to sneak into the top 100 of some of the prospect lists, but his stock has risen significantly this season. He has added velocity to his fastball which now sits closer to the mid-90s with plenty of spin and he has a great change up along with a pretty good cutter. Gallen dominated the PCL with a 1.77 ERA and 33.6 K% this year and has pitched really well so far in the big leagues. The 24-year-old had a 2.72 ERA (3.58 FIP) with 10.65 K/9 in seven starts with the Marlins and is off to a good start in Arizona. The Marlins seem to be craving high-upside boom-or-bust type prospects and the Twins could have easily provided a similar or somewhat better package than Chisholm. Coming into the season, Chisholm was highly regarded as a short stop possessing both speed and power and he has hit 20 home runs so far this season. He’s a high-upside prospect with great physical tools, but his stock has dropped this year as he has only hit around .200 and is striking out in nearly 35% of his plate appearances. Most prospect rankings still consider him a top 100 prospect, but he fell out of Baseball America’s midseason list. Although Gallen’s MLB career is only beginning, he would still fit nicely in with Minnesota’s current rotation. In fact, he seemingly would have been a perfect addition to the team because he is pitching well now and would be under team control for many years to come. If the Twins decide not to pick-up Martin Perez’s team option for next season (and the proposition is looking less and less likely) they will need to fill four spots in the rotation. Gallen would have slotted in nicely somewhere behind Berrios and the Twins would have an established young starter along with a promising young arm to build around. The trade deadline has come and gone, but hopefully the front office took notice of the unique opportunity this trade provided. Arizona was able to pick up a young and promising starter while only giving up one high-risk, high-reward prospect. Of course, most teams are hesitant to give up young MLB-ready pitching, but the Twins would be wise to look into the possibility of making a similar off-season trade. One team that they may want to look at is…the Miami Marlins. Who knows how much young pitching Miami is willing to part with, but again, they seem to favor high-upside prospects and they are not going to contend in the near future. Although Gallen is out of the picture, the Marlins do have a couple more young pitchers the Twins may want to take a look at in Sandy Alcantara and Jordan Yamamoto. Of the two, Alcantara throws much harder, touching triple digits and sitting in the high-90s. Alcantara has had his issues so far, struggling with control (11.1% BB) and not getting as many strikeouts (16.8% K) as one would hope, but he would be an intriguing arm for Wes Johnson to work with. He is one of only eight MLB pitches to have a greater than 10% swinging strike rate on three non-fastball pitches (slider, curve, and changeup), so the strikeouts should come. The 23-year-old is a former top-100 prospect. Yamamoto doesn’t have the velocity or prospect status of Alcantara, but he throws six pitches and has done pretty well in his first stint with the Marlins after being called up from AA. In 54 innings he has pitched to a 4.17 ERA (4.18 FIP) with a 1.04 WHIP and has struck out 55 batters. Yamamota is also just 23 years of age and would presumably cost Minnesota less than Alcantara in terms of prospects. Even with the addition of one of these young starters, the front office will have their work cut out for them this off season. One would hope that the Twins would add at least two higher quality and more experienced starters through free agency and trade. However, a young, team controlled starter like Alcantara or Yamamota could be a nice depth piece with minor league options that could probably be had for a fairly insignificant price. The Twins have exciting pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Edwar Colina, and Jordan Balazovic all inching closer, but it would be nice to have some additional young pitching talent to help bridge the gap and fill out the rotation. The Twins made it through the trade deadline without losing any top prospects and the system is loaded with depth. Hopefully Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took heed of the Zac Gallen trade and will be able to identify some young pitching talent and make a similar deal with the Marlins or another organization. Obtaining pitching talent is never easy, but it was something Falvey was known for in Cleveland and the Twins are going to need all the pitching help they can get in 2020.
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