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Cory Engelhardt

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  1. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Mind Trick that Afflicts Twins Fans   
    The human brain is fantastic, but it doesn't have the power to consider everything. For example, before you read this sentence, you ignored that you could see your nose. Your mind had been ignoring that because it's not essential.
    Cognitive psychologists refer to our brains' shortcuts as heuristics or cognitive biases. There's nothing wrong with them, but they're important to remember. They play a part in the way we watch sports.
    There are popular shortcuts that many people know about, such as anchoring, where we tend to base our opinions on something more in a first impression than information we learn later. I won't name names, but some schmucks may still think Miguel Sanó could be an MVP based solely on his 2015 rookie campaign.
    Confirmation bias leads us to latch on to evidence that supports our preconceived notions over evidence against them. Perhaps another person supports their disdain for Miguel Sanó because of his many strikeouts, ignoring his 500-foot moonshots.
    If this stuff interests you, check out this very approachable list of a few dozen different biases and heuristics). There's a well-known bias that explains what I'm going to discuss, so I'll dip into developmental psychology for this discussion.
    Two episodes from the last year or so stand out to me when I think about how our brains consume sports, not so much because of what happened, but because of people's reactions.
    1. After a disappointing 73-89 2021 season, owner Jim Pohlad gave the front office an A+ grade. 
    2. During the 2022 season, the Twins were not completely transparent about Byron Buxton 's schedule as he worked through knee pain.
    In both episodes, fans and media were in the streets wailing and gnashing their teeth. Both instances were frustrating, but were they worth the consternation they received?
    One of the points in an infant's growth that developmental psychologists have identified is the development of object permanence. If you've ever played peek-a-boo with an infant, you will have seen it in action. When the adult's face hides behind the hands, then reappears, the infant gets excited because, before the face reappears, they didn't think it existed anymore.
    Infants struggle to understand that things they don't see can still exist. It is a bit wild to think about. Sometimes I'm, as an adult, convinced that I don't own buffalo sauce until my wife points out the bottle in the fridge and the bottle next to it from the last time I didn't think we had any.
    But enough about buffalo sauce, how does object permanence pertain to what I'm talking about here?
    In the first example, many fans took Jim's comments to mean that he genuinely had no issues with how the season went and was perfectly pleased. Because this was, for the most part, the amount of information fans had to go off of, it seemed like his complete thoughts on the topic.
    We, as fans, are not privy to the conversations behind closed doors between an owner and upper management of the team. Heck, others in baseball operations aren't made aware of every conversation. We can forget that.
    Instead, we latch on to the soundbite and forget that the group is constantly communicating for the other 364 days a year, working toward their shared goals. Because we don't see it, though, it doesn't exist.
    Please don't read this as me saying that there shouldn't be criticism of the group. We sometimes pay too much attention to the tiny bits of interaction with which we are privileged.
    The second example, regarding Bryon's knee, is a bit more egregious. Following his knee flair-up in Boston last April, his presence in the lineup was a bit scattershot, which was obviously frustrating for fans—if for no other reason than that fans want to see the best players play.
    However, there was a common attitude that Byron's seemingly haphazard presence in the lineup was evidence that there was "no plan" for him to play. Why? Because the team did not make any statement on his status on a day-to-day basis.
    In reality, the team was monitoring his knee and its pain and range of motion daily—adjusting whenever needed. It makes sense that no team personnel would make an official statement regarding his expectations because the situation was developing.
    This lack of information led some fans to see the handling as incompetent, and they believed that the team lacked a plan for getting him back out there.
    Instead, behind the scenes, Buxton spent hours every day working on getting his body ready to compete. His situation was fluid, and the team was adapting to new information daily. But we, as fans, had no explicit information telling us this, so instead, because we couldn't see it, our brains told us that nothing was happening.
    Perhaps there's an argument that teams should be more forthcoming with information so that fans can make more informed reactions. Still, we would have blind spots that our brains would fill in.
    It's important to remember that pro sports are filled with professionals working full-time jobs. The people on the other side of the glass spend their entire days making decisions about the team that we watch for four hours a day with a rain delay. They want to win more than you want them to (with minimal exceptions).
    If we fall into the trap of believing that what we see in press conferences or public statements is the entirety of the situation, our opinions can become relatively uninformed.
    Some people may be incompetent at their jobs and worthy of criticism, but that criticism should be based on what we can observe rather than the gaps our brains fill in. Remember that even if we don't see it, things are happening.
  2. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #16-20   
    Earlier this week, Seth Stohs took a dive into the deeper end of the Minnesota Twins system, highlighting players who finished in the 21-30 range of our voting tabulation, and honorable mentions who fell just outside that threshold. (For what it's worth, note that Luis Arraez was once found in these very same outside ranks of our lists and others. And he's only one fresh-in-mind example.)
    With that said, the odds of an MLB future start to increase as we break into the top 20 of our list. In this group of five, representing Twins Daily's choices for the organizations 16th-through-20th best prospects of 2023, we find an intriguing mix of untapped promise and fading high-end upside.
    20. Misael Urbina, OF
    Age: 20
    2022 Stats: 263 PA, .247/.323/.407, 5 HR, 27 RBI
    He was the Twins' big-money signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, scoring a $2.75 million bonus, but four years later he hasn't played a game above Low-A. That's how it can go for players that sign as extremely raw talents at age 16 (especially with a lost COVID season mixed in). Through it all he still won't reach legal drinking age until this April.
    Urbina's outstanding tools remain intact but he needs to start backing them up with production in order to keep his prospect status from fading. Thus far he has a .228/.326/.359 slash line as a pro.
    19. Jose Rodriguez, OF
    Age: 17
    2022 Stats (Rookie): 219 PA, .290/.361/.605 , 13 HR, 49 RBI
    Typically speaking, when teenage players sign from another country and head to the States to play pro ball, it takes a little while to acclimate and warm up. You'll often see meager results in short-season debuts for players who go on to accomplish a great deal. Rodriguez broke the mold after he signed last summer and joined the Twins' affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.
    He wasn't the most high-profile player acquired in Minnesota's 2022 international signing class, which helped make his spectacular showing on the field so jarring. Rodriguez posted a jaw-dropping .966 OPS and led the short-season league with 13 homers in 55 games. He was an absolute slugging machine and it's scary to think how that might evolve as he ages. The stellar showing earned him Twins Daily's nod as short-season hitter of the year.
    "Rodriguez’s exit velocities may have been even more impressive than his homer total," wrote Aaron Gleeman, who is higher than most on the prospect, ranking him 13th on his list. "He destroyed the ball, in an environment where that isn’t supposed to take place."
    So far, so very good. And the strikeout/walk rates are promising for future development. But Rodriguez has a long way to go, as a player from a mold that has high burnout rates. He's a candidate to fly up these rankings with a reinforcing 2023 campaign.
    18. Tanner Schobel, 2B
    Age: 21
    2022 Stats (Rookie/A): 136 PA, .242/.367/.303, 1 HR, 11 RBI
    The Twins snagged Schobel in the second round of last year's draft out of Virginia Tech, where he emerged as a slugging shortstop to boost his appeal. After signing him to a $1 million bonus the Twins him to get his feet wet in Low-A. There, Schobel's power evaporated.
    Following a 19-homer outburst in the college season, Schobel managed just one home run in 120 plate appearances at Fort Myers, producing a mere .303 slugging percentage. He did, however, show good plate discipline with a 23-to-18 K/BB ratio while swiping seven bags.
    The power drop-off and move from short to second keep Schobel's helium in check, leading to a lower ranking than you'd normally see from such a highly-drafted prospect in the latest class. But there are some Brian Dozier parallels here, and he's the poster child for late-blooming middle infield power. 
    17. Ronny Henriquez, RHP
    Age: 22
    2022 Stats (AAA): 95.1 IP, 5.66 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 
    The Twins were excited to get Ronny Henriquez as an addition to Isiah Kiner-Falefa in last offseason's Mitch Garver trade. They viewed him as underrated addition to their pitching pipeline, capable of racking up strikeouts and moving quickly to the majors.
    They were correct on those two counts. Henriquez tallied 106 strikeouts in 95 innings at Triple-A, and reached the majors in September at age 22, posting a 2.31 ERA in three appearances.
    data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== With the goods news out of the way, he also allowed a 5.66 ERA at St. Paul, coughing up 19 homers and 33 walks in those 95 innings. Some changes in pitch usage could help Henriquez take the final step to fulfill his potential, and that'll probably start with moving him to full-time relief duty. The righty made 14 starts for the Saints last year among 24 appearances. Don't sleep on him as a significant factor in Minnesota's bullpen this year.
    16. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    Age: 24
    2022 Stats (AAA): 70.2 IP, 7.39 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
    What was supposed to be Balazovic's breakthrough year turned into a total breakdown. From start to finish it was an abject disaster. He was all over the place, utterly hittable when in the zone, and incredibly home run prone. Virtually every start unraveled on the big right-hander, at least up until a decent final month softened his landing at season's end.
    There were reports of a bothersome knee issue, but Balazovic was healthy enough to avoid the injured list following his late start, so this seems more an issue of mechanics and execution. The reason he remains as high as he does in our ranks is because Balazovic had elevated himself to such a level prior to this lost season. 
    Bad as it was, it's only one season, and the 24-year-old still has time to get (at least somewhat) back on track to recapture the form that made him arguably the system's best pitching prospect prior. Over the past three years he's ranked fourth, sixth, and fifth on this list. 
     
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below. I will try to get to as any of them as I can. 
    For more Twins Daily content on these ten Twins prospects, click on the link with their name here: Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Tanner Schobel, Jose Rodriguez, Misael Urbina. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20 
    Prospects 11-15 - Coming Soon! 
  3. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Twins Awkwardly Add Max Kepler Back to Group Chats   
    When the offseason began, there were two certainties: The Twins would move heaven and earth to get Carlos Correa back, and Max Kepler was going to be traded.
    Through a wild series of events, Correa is back in Minnesota for a while. However, that second certainty? At this writing, it’s uncertain at best.
    “Spring Training is two weeks away and Max (Kepler, Twins outfielder) is still here,” said Twins outfielder Trevor Larnach. “We sort of removed him from all of our group chats. It’s weird.”
    The signing of fellow lefthanded corner outfielder Joey Gallo seemed to signal that Kepler’s time as a Twin was nearing an end. The trade for Michael A. Taylor seemed to put an exclamation point to it.
    And yet.
    “I sort of moved my stuff into his locker at Target Field,” said Larnach. “It’s going to be awkward already when we start texting him out of the blue about Fort Myers restaurants and agreeing he’s right about how great German chocolate is. We get it, bro, you’re from Germany. The locker is harder to explain.”
    Fellow outfielder Byron Buxton agrees that it’s going to take a little finesse.
    “We all kind of thought he was gone,” said Buxton. “And he doesn’t quite have a handle on how we use emojis here, so if we welcome him back with the wrong one, it could get sideways. The ‘cry laughing’ one means something so disturbing where he’s from that he didn’t talk to (Ryan) Jeffers for two months.”
    Larnach was asked if Kepler might be open to bargaining.
    “I just read some Grimm’s Fairy Tales to acquaint myself with his culture,” said Larnach. “These stories are messed up. The Godfather Death ruins harvests and the Three Nymphs of the Black Forest steal your soul and your maiden fair. I don’t know what a maiden fair even is. Maybe I should just buy him a car?”
     
  4. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Looking for the Next Griffin Jax   
    Griffin Jax got a look as a starting pitcher down the inconsequential stretch of 2021. It didn’t go great as evidenced by his 6.37 ERA in 82 innings, but when his bright spots popped up, they were typically driven by a slider-heavy approach. 
    While it can be rash to judge a starting pitching prospect when they struggle in their rookie season, the Twins opted to allow Jax to play to his strengths. In shorter stints, he could feature his wicked slider and complement it with a middling fastball that played up with a three mph increase in velocity. He went on to be a staple of the Twins bullpen, posting a 3.36 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. Could we see another Griffin Jax-type reliever in 2023?
    Cole Sands
    Sands became an afterthought to many in 2022 after being used to fill innings in several spots where the Twins were struggling to field a team. Never a prospect with a particularly high pedigree, it’s easy to see his ERA over 5.00 at both the Triple-A and MLB levels in 2022 and consider him as nothing more than a fringy fill-in type. The Twins however haven’t exhausted all of their options with Sands yet.
    Sands’ carrying tool as a prospect has always been his huge breaking ball which received an excellent 70 grade by Fangraphs. He doesn’t excel in any other department, but there’s a world where the offspeed is good enough to make him a legitimate weapon if he can go out and throw it as much as he wants for an inning. The pitch was in the 88th percentile in spin rate in 2022 and stymied opposing hitters even as he was often used for multiple innings. With several other starting pitching prospects graduating into the depth chart, it may be time for Sands to make the switch.
    Ronny Henriquez
    Henriquez is listed at what has been described as a generous 5’10. Regardless of his size, he’s shown the ability to run his fastball into the mid-to-high-90s with impressive spin. In addition, he features a well-regarded slider and changeup as well. Despite these tools, Henriquez just didn’t show what he needed to in Triple-A, posting a 5.66 ERA in 2022 due to issues with the long ball. He made his MLB debut working as a multi-inning bullpen arm for 11 innings.
    Henriquez could follow a similar path to Jax if converted to a traditional one to two inning reliever. He already featured his slider in his debut, throwing it about 46% of the time and drawing a 32% whiff rate. Like Jax, his fastball got absolutely pummeled. In a condensed role, it’s possible the fastball which debuted at 93.3 mph could gain a few ticks to help him get away with a few more mistakes. Unlike Jax, Henriquez appears to already have a solid left-hander equalizer in the changeup. If the Twins commit to the move for Henriquez at 23 years old, he has the tools to excel in short stints.
    Bailey Ober
    It may seem like a longshot for Ober to wind up in the bullpen, but he may be closer than many fans would like to believe. When it comes to the body of work for the 6’9 right-hander, it’s hard to complain about his performance. Ober has a sub 4.00 ERA across his first two MLB seasons and a legitimate four-pitch mix, making him a painful consideration to ever be moved to the bullpen.
    It’s more about quantity than quality in Ober’s case, however. He’s had an injury-riddled career and has surpassed 100 innings just once in his five professional seasons. His lack of reliability likely played a big part in the Twins acquiring Pablo López, which appears to have pushed Ober out of the Opening Day rotation. Many would be surprised to know that he’s already 27 years old, and at this point, another multi-week IL stint will likely push prospects like Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson ahead of him on the rotational depth chart.
    With his age, Ober not only becomes more of an injury risk every year, but his projectability becomes an issue. The idea of building up to even 140-150 innings is almost unfathomable following a 2022 season where he threw just over 70. At some point, the Twins may just decide that if Ober’s cap is 100 innings, he may be better off throwing 50-60 innings out of the bullpen and giving those bulk innings to younger starters who are still capable of reaching a starter’s workload. Ober’s already-sufficient pitch would most certainly play up in the bullpen, and it may even help keep him on the field.
    Do you think the Twins have any more starting pitching prospects who could be headed for a successful bullpen job? Let us know below!
     
     
  5. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, An Early Look at the 2023 Draft   
    The Twins had luck on their side when they moved up to the 5th draft spot earlier this winter. As a result, the organization is likely going to add another Top 100 prospect to their stable. Currently, the big two names are LSU outfielder Dylan Crews and Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander. You'll see a lot of names come in after that - almost exclusively hitters - which plays well for a Twins organization that has developed a pattern of drafting college hitters.
    #5 - Baseball America ranks prep outfielder Max Clark from Franklin, Indiana and a Vanderbilt commit as the #5 prospect. Clark fits the Twins M.O. as someone who is referred to as a “pure hitter.” As is typical with a hitter who doesn’t swing and miss often, there isn’t a lot of evident power. With the athleticism and instincts to play center field and the arm to play right, Clark checks a lot of boxes the Twins typically value.
    Likelihood: Low. While Clark fits the skill profile, the Twins organization has favored college hitters and the Twins shouldn’t miss out with a Top 5 pick. Jacob Wilson, a shortstop from Grand Canyon University, is ranked #7 and has elite bat-to-ball ability. He’s also got MLB bloodlines. It wouldn’t be hard to draw (aside from only being a right-handed hitter) comparisons to Brooks Lee.
    After drafting in Competitive Balance Round B last year, the Twins will draft in the Round A this year. Adding the 34th overall pick not only allows the team to add another highly-rated prospect, but gives them the advantage of having additional pool money to spend.
    #34 - A number of teams forfeited their second-round pick to sign a free agent, so the Twins get to draft tenth in the second round.
    The 34th-ranked player by Baseball America is Virginia Tech outfielder Jack Hurley. Having a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, Hurley is going to have to hit for power to make up for it. There’s not doubt the Twins saw plenty of Hurley while scouting Tanner Schobel, their second-round pick in 2022, as well as when Hurley played for Team USA this summer.  
    Likelihood: Reasonably high. It makes sense from the perspective that the Twins would draft another Matt Wallner-type player: strikeouts, power and powerful arm. But once you get out of the top 10 picks, let alone the first round, projecting any specific player to a team proves futile.
    #49 - This one might make you chuckle. Last year, the Twins selected a falling Alabama southpaw in Connor Prielipp. Right now, Baseball America has Grayson Hill, an Alabaman southpaw, ranked forty-ninth overall. Hill lacked great control both at Alabama and in the Cape Cod League, but has shown flashes of big-time stuff.
    Likelihood: Coin toss. Pitching will likely dominate the Top 10 rounds for the Twins and the organization has a great relationship with the Alabama coaching staff. Hill seems to be more a project than the Twins typically take.
    #82 - Coming in as the 82nd ranked prospect is Wisconsin prep right-hander Dylan Questad. Committed to Arkansas, Questad falls into the category where you either have to get drafted this high or enroll at college, which most Wisconsin prep pitcher do (most notable, of late, to do that is the aforementioned Prielipp.)
    Likelihood: Low. Not for any other reason than because the Twins have a penchant for going the college route. Three years from now, Questad could definitely figure prominently on the Twins draft board. 
    #113 - Jared Dickey is the 113th ranked prospect. A few things pop out immediately: He’s listed as an outfielder/catcher. The Twins desperately need to add catching prospects. He walks more than he strikes out. And he’s from Tennessee, a tough SEC school from which the Twins have plucked from three times since 2020 (Jorel Ortega, Jake Rucker and Alerick Soulaire).
    Likelihood: As high as you’d see at this point. He does things the Twins like and he’s from a place the Twins like to draft from.
    #149 - Ranked 149th is Liberty right-hander Trey Gibson. Gibson struggled and was hurt in 2022 and, when he was healthy, had a hard time throwing strikes. He’s raw, with upside, which is as good of gamble to take at this point of the draft as any.
    Likelihood: Low. But drafting a college pitcher here is almost definitely going to be the way the team goes. 
    #179 - The Twins match up with another son-of-a-former-MLBer in Oregon prep lefty Paul Wilson at #179. Wilson is committed to Oregon State, the same college his father, Trevor, pitched for in the 80s.
    Likelihood: I’d bet on Wilson fulfilling his commitment to the Beavers. It’s normal to see preps ranked in the Top 200 not sign or, in some cases, not even get drafted. And that’s part of the danger of taking rankings as trying to use them as a quasi-mock draft. 
    There’s still a lot of time to go between now and the July draft, but sometimes you just need a dose of it to get the draft blood flowing!
     
  6. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily Winter Meltdown Returns with a Bang: Event Recap   
    Taking place a few blocks away from Target Field at The Pourhouse, the 2023 Winter Meltdown brought together hundreds of people for a lively night of food, drinks, and baseball chatter. 
    The staff at the venue did an excellent job keeping up with a huge crowd of attendees, serving up tasty 612Brew beers, snacks, sliders, and more. Twins fans and media, many having walked over from TwinsFest at Target Field, filled both of Pourhouse's two levels to catch the action on-stage, which featured Aaron Gleeman and John Bonnes interviewing two iconic figures in Twins media, as well as several interactive games and giveaways. 
    The first interviewee was legendary columnist Patrick Reusse, fresh off being recognized by the Twins with the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of his decades covering the team. As always, Reusse was full of amusing anecdotes and snarky one-liners, sharing his thoughts on the Luis Arraez trade, Joey Gallo's strikeouts, and MLB's rule changes, among other things.
    Reusse was followed by featured speaker Glen Perkins, a former three-time All Star closer for the Twins who now serves as analyst and commentator for the Bally Sports North broadcast team. In the past I've called Perkins a Twins Daily Hall of Famer: a hometown big-leaguer who was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence, adopted an analytical mindset midway through his career, and once famously bought a bunch of TD pub-crawlers a round of beers from the bullpen during a rain delay.
    He was a perfect headliner for the Winter Meltdown's return, and was a great guest, reminiscing on his playing days while also sharing insights about the current team and the state of baseball. I found particularly interesting Perk's explanation of how the front office influences the contents of the TV broadcast: the increased presence of people like him who can speak to the analytical side of baseball is no coincidence. As he put it, they want fans and viewers to gain a better understanding of the game through this lens because it's fundamental to how they build and run the team.
    If you missed the event, you can catch recordings of both Reusse's and Perkins' interviews on the latest episode of the Gleeman and the Geek podcast.
    There were plenty of other highlights from the night, including some recognizable faces among the crowd (I enjoyed catching up with former Minneapolis mayor and staunch Twins Daily advocate RT Rybak) along with plenty of great apparel on display. The rebrand seems to be resonating with the fanbase, as the updated logo and styles were quite prevalent.
    With that said, the "best dressed" award has to go to the combo of Aaron Rupar and Brett Howe, who were sporting Giants and Mets Carlos Correa shirseys, respectively.
    It's all part of the unique Winter Meltdown experience that I have missed so dearly over these past two years. I'm filled with gratitude for everyone who played part in making it happen, and who came out to make it what it was. 
    HUGE thank you Bonnes, who did a majority of the legwork on planning and overseeing the event. Big thanks also to Reusse and Perkins, who were among the most engaging guests we've had; The Pourhouse for hosting us with such great accommodations; and to 612Brew for supplying the beers and take-home pint glasses. 
    The scale this event has reached is truly amazing to me, and speaks to the powerful sense of community among Twins fans, and surrounding this website specifically. We appreciate you all. If you didn't make it this year, I hope to see you at next year's Meltdown – or better yet, this summer at the ballpark.
     
  7. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, The Twins Need to be Realistic With Max Kepler   
    There have been points this winter where we were waiting for a Max Kepler trade announcement within the coming hours, such as when Joey Gallo was signed. Here we are at the end of January, however, and not only is Max Kepler still a Twin, it appears that may not change after all.
    When Disco Dan Hayes makes such a statement, it’s wise to listen. The Twins still see value in Kepler, at least more than other teams appear to on the trade market. It’s a fair stance. It’s hard to trade a player for less than a team feels they’re worth. That being said, if Max Kepler stays in Minnesota another year, the Twins need to get realistic about what they have in their homegrown corner outfielder.
    Max Kepler was seen as a breakout candidate for years before finally doing so in 2019. His 122 wRC+ that year made him appear to be a future star player, slugging 36 homers and crushing lefties, his biggest weakness as a hitter. We now have about 1,500 plate appearances prior to 2019 and over 1000 after saying that Max Kepler is not the player he was in 2019, and it’s time the Twins stop pretending he is.
    The realistic description of Max Kepler is that he’s a defense first strong side platoon player with a plate approach that should keep him out of the everyday lineup. In about 1,100 plate appearances since 2019, Max Kepler has slashed .220/.314/.392. His 98 wRC+ is 2% below league average for that time period, but playing the premier offensive position of corner outfield means that he’s even further below average than that relative to his positional peers. 
    The Twins roster is ripe with reasons for Max Kepler not to have right field locked down everyday. Trevor Larnach nearly had as many Defensive Runs saved as Kepler in far fewer innings defensively in 2022, and there’s still a chance he hits left handed pitching and becomes a legitimate everyday player. Joey Gallo, for as much hate as he gets, is a legit plus player in the outfield defensively, and his career wRC+ is over 30 points higher against left handed pitching while his splits against right handed pitching are nearly identical to Kepler. Newly added outfielder Michael Taylor, who is known for being a non contributor offensively, blows Kepler away against left handed pitching for their careers.
     In 2022, Max Kepler took 60% of his plate appearances in the 1-4 spots of the lineup and about 43% of his plate appearances in the cleanup spot. There’s simply no justification for the Twins to continue this moving forward. With a career .744 OPS, Kepler hasn’t even reached the .720 mark since the shortened 2020 season. Even against right handed pitching Kepler has been surpassed by players such as Nick Gordon, who performed considerably better offensively as a platoon player in 2022. The Twins have assembled enough depth to keep Kepler from hitting in the heart of the lineup, and from playing in same-handed matchups at all. At 30 years old it’s time to recognize that this is the caliber of player that Max Kepler is.
    All of this to say that Max Kepler is a fine player… as a depth piece. There will be times where his defensive value is needed, and given the Twins recent injuries, he'll be a fine everyday fill-in for short periods if need be. In terms of 2022 calculated value per WAR, Kepler was still a value as he was paid $6.75m and was worth a bit over $10m by 2022 free agency measures. His $8.5m salary in 2023 and $10m team option for 2024 become much more in question however.
    If Kepler plays less in 2023 and/or his defensive value declines even slightly, he becomes less of a value and a prime candidate to have his 2024 option declined. This is why it’s still somewhat puzzling that the Twins don’t appear to be determined to trade him. With the shift ban on the horizon, it’s not a stretch to call it likely that Kepler’s value may never be higher despite the fact that it doesn’t look like he’ll benefit all that much from the rule change.
    The Twins may still very well trade Max Kepler. If they don’t however, they need to use him in an appropriate role. He’s not a player whose performance demands at bats. He’s not part of the core of the lineup.
     
  8. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2023 Prospect Previews: Connor Prielipp   
    A Prospective Ace?
    As the Minnesota Twins prepared to make their second selection in the 2022 MLB Draft, Twins fandom held its collective breath. A fanbase rarely coalesces around a prospect so uniformly. It’s rarer still that said prospect is still available to be selected by the team whose fan base is obsessing over them. Rarest of all is the team selecting said player. With the 48th overall selection in the draft, the Twins selected Connor Prielipp, and the universe momentarily moved into perfect alignment.
    Prielipp is a left-handed pitcher from Tomah, Wisconsin, a town famous for existing on the I-90 corridor between the Twin Cities and Madison, where there are a lot of gas stations and not much else. The Twins drafted Prielipp in the second round and signed him to a $1.825 million bonus resulting in the rare actualization of many fans' draft fantasies. Most thought he would go in the middle to the end of the first round.
    Here's a quick video overview of Prielipp from Tom Froemming:
    Scouting and Signing
    Fastball: 60 Slider: 70 Changeup: 55 Control: 55 (scouting grades courtesy of Baseball America)
    Suppose our timeline had skewed into a different tangent, like Marty McFly's in Back to the Future 2. In that timeline Prielipp, a 6’0, 210 pound pitcher out of the University of Alabama, would have been a top ten draft pick. He posted a 0.98 ERA in 28 innings of work in 2020 pre-COVID, racking up an eye-watering 45.6 K%, with an 11.7 BB% against good competition. That is an incredible stat line. Prielipp’s 2021 season was cruelly ended by Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, the best left-handed pitching prospect in the draft was shrouded in uncertainty.
    Prielipp had to rely on pre-draft bullpen showcases to convince MLB scouts he was on the road to recovery. The Twins jumped at the chance, recognizing that a pitcher of his caliber would only be available to them with the 48th pick. Pitchers are generally a high-variance bunch, and Prielipp is an extreme example. The floor is never fully recovering from his arm injury. The ceiling? Well, let’s examine.
    To date, Prielipp has relied on three pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can reach as high as 95 mph. He has a changeup that sits 82-85 mph that had a good whiff percentage early in his college career but had less usage than his fastball or slider because he didn’t need to use it. The pitch to write home to mama about is his slider. It’s immediately in contention to be the best in the Twins system (with Raya and anyone else you’d care to mention). Pre-injury it was one of the best pitches in the entire 2022 draft class and generated a 50% whiff rate that scouts placed between a 65-70 grade pitch with an extremely high spin rate.
    Likely to Start At: Extended Spring Training
    During his pre-draft bullpens, Prielipp showed solid stuff but spotty command of his pitches, to be expected when a pitcher is recovering from a major injury. Talent evaluators seemed interested, as over 100 attended one of his bullpen sessions in the run-up to the draft. I’d expect the Twins to be extremely cautious with Prielipp (who's already working out in Fort Myers). Some extended time in Fort Myers followed by an assignment to low A to continue to build him up and monitor his arm seems likely. Prielipp is a challenging prospect to project because he has no track record. With an injury-free, effective season, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in top 100 prospect lists by the beginning of the 2024 season. If you want a pitcher to dream on, Prielipp is it. Injuries may not allow him to get there, but he has the tools to become a front-line starting pitcher.
    How excited are you by Connor Prielipp? What was your reaction to the Twins drafting him? What would constitute a successful 2023 season? Add your thoughts in the comments.
  9. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Should Jordan Balazovic Move to the Bullpen?   
    Jordan Balazovic was seen as the crown jewel pitching prospect in the Twins system for a few years prior to 2022. Even as a fifth round pick out of Canada in 2016, Balazovic became a big name quickly, as his 6’5 frame filled out quickly and velocity soon followed. He dominated his way up to Double-A in 2019 before the 2020 shutdown interrupted what looked to be an ascension to one of the Twins best starting pitching prospects in some time.
    2021 was a mixed bag as Balazovic threw 97 innings in Double-A with a mid-3s ERA. The strikeouts came down and walks came up a bit, but he still flashed the upside the Twins knew was there. While not the dominant pitcher he had shown he could be, 2021 never could have foreshadowed what we saw in 2022.
    Balazovic began the season a bit behind due to a knee issue. Still, the Twins had decided they’d seen enough in Double-A to bump him up to Triple-A, setting the stage for a potential call up later in 2022. Unfortunately, these plans did not come to fruition, as Balazovic wound up throwing around 70 innings and posting a panic-inducing 7.39 ERA. He was often chased from outings in the second or third inning, allowing a 2.55 HR/9 that would make Emilio Pagan blush.
    There were rumblings of the knee issue continuing to limit the right hander, but the 2022 season was enough for Balazovic to lose all national prospect status. Once bordering on Top 100 prospect lists as an up-and-coming mid-to-high end starting pitcher, Balazovic’s future is suddenly a massive question mark. The question of course, is how the Twins view him.
    At 24 years old, the Twins don’t have to rush to make a decision with Balazovic. Plenty of pitchers such as Josh Winder and Bailey Ober debuted at older ages. The issue, however, becomes the fact that Balazovic had to be added to the 40-man roster. If The Twins want to regain trust in him as a starter in 2023, it will likely take a sizable body of work for them to feel comfortable calling him up given what they saw last year. It also runs the risk of him either continuing to struggle or just putting up middle of the road numbers that don’t push the issue at all. Given how often the Twins churn over the fringes of the 40-man roster, it’s hard to stash Balazovic away in Triple-A as a starter if they’ve lost any faith in him. It’s possible they take another route instead.
    Balazovic’s stuff remains intact by all accounts. His massive frame allows him to throw mid-90s out of the rotation, and he has multiple secondary pitches that grade out well. It’s entirely possible that a move to shorter stints out of the bullpen allow him to approach triple digits, and he could greatly reduce the usage on his lowest-graded pitch being the changeup. He should have the raw stuff to put any command struggles behind him and simply overpower opposing hitters. This would also put him on an expedited track to the Major Leagues.
    Nobody ever wants to see a top prospect make the switch to the bullpen, but it’s a quite common outcome. Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Jhoan Duran, all former starters that made a shift for struggles of some kind and found massive success in the MLB. We’ve seen Griffin Jax, a low 90s fringe starting pitching prospect transition into a high leverage reliever who sits above 95 mph. Sometimes a move to the bullpen is exactly what a pitcher needs to reach their potential.
    It’s likely at this point that Balazovic opens 2023 as a starting pitcher in Triple-A once more, which is completely fair. Much like the 2022 Twins, it may be wise not to make any rash decisions when injury accounted for so much of the struggles. Still, it’s likely that Balazovic’s status as a future starting pitcher is on thin ice. Prospects get hurt and struggle every year, but Balazovic’s 2022 was so bad that it’s fair to wonder whether it’s possible for him to come all the way back.
    The Twins should have a backup plan on standby for Balazovic in 2023 should his struggles continue early in the year. He has the talent to make a real impact on the Major League team and if his odds of that impact coming in the rotation continue to wane, the Twins need to be ready to pivot. Jordan Balazovic could easily become the next Jhoan Duran starter turned reliever to make an impact on the Twins roster. It’s not what fans have hoped for all of these years, but it’s far from a bad outcome.
  10. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, Assessing the Luis Arraez for Pablo López Trade   
    After the Minnesota Twins signed Carlos Correa last week, it quickly became apparent that there was a logjam in the infield and that a move would have to be made. Logically the name that made the most sense for a trade was Luis Arraez. After rumors swirled for weeks about the mutual interest between the Twins and Marlins, the two teams finally came to an agreement.
    Luis Arraez is no-doubt an elite contact hitter, one of the best to ever put on a Twins uniform. Arraez’s elite contact skills helped to prop up a slumping offense all summer for the Twins in 2022. The Rod Carew comps, while lofty, are not exaggerated when it comes to Luis Arraez. He is a hitting savant who will always put together a good at-bat, and almost never strike out.
    Arraez isn’t without his flaws, though. While an elite contact hitter, Arraez lacks much of any power at all with his left-handed bat, which severely limits his overall upside as an elite player. Additionally, Arraez has consistently struggled with knee issues and has gone from an all-around utility player to a first baseman/designated hitter.
    Because of the flaws noted above, it has been a question of how much value Luis Arraez could bring back in a trade. Over the countless weeks of trade speculation between the Twins and Marlins, there was talk about López for Arraez being an even swap trade, or even that the Minnesota Twins might need to toss in prospects to make the deal work. As the trade details came in, though, the trade was much more favorable to the Twins than anyone imagined, with the Twins not throwing in prospects of their own, but instead receiving multiple prospects. 
    Pablo López isn’t a perfect pitcher by any means. His stuff doesn’t look like the stuff of an ace, and he has tended to wear down in the second half of seasons, but at 26 years old, López will slot right into the top of the rotation with Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle heading into 2023. A young (26 years old), affordable (set to earn $5.5M in 2023) and controllable (under team control through next season) starting pitcher is the exact kind of pitcher that Derek Falvey likes to go after (think Tyler Mahle). 
    In addition to López, the Twins acquired a fringe top-100 prospect in José Salas and another prospect in Byron Chourio. (For more on Salas and Chourio, click here.) 
    This trade was a slam dunk trade for the Twins’ front office for three reasons. 
    First, they are doing what you always want to do in trades, selling high on their player. Luis Arraez just won the American League batting title, appeared in the most games in his career, and posted a career high in fWAR. There’s a good chance that Arraez’s value will never be higher than it is right now and cashing in on that value is really smart.
    Secondly, the Twins traded from a position of strength (infield bat) and acquired a position of need (starting pitcher). They managed to find a trade partner that had a weakness in the Twins’ area of strength and thus dealt from a position of power. With rumors swirling for weeks about the framework of an Arraez/López trade, it's easy to connect the dots and see that the Twins knew they were holding the better hand and could hold out for the Marlins to toss in more assets, like they ultimately ended up doing.
    Finally, the Twins made a slam dunk trade because they were able to recoup some of the value that they lost in 2022 when they traded away prospect depth in Chase Petty, Spencer Steer, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, among others. With this deal, the Twins have added a B and C-level prospect to replenish the farm and give them more trade ammo for down the road.
    It’s impossible to write a Luis Arraez trade reaction piece without talking about how big of a bummer it is to lose Luis Arraez. While I write about baseball in an era of advanced metrics and numbers, it’s impossible for me to not get caught up in the emotion of baseball and no player on the Twins encompassed the emotion of baseball and love of the game quite like Luis Arraez. Luis was a true throwback player who was a joy to watch and had more fun than anyone and losing a player like that is hard.
    How would you assess the Arraez trade? Leave a comment and start the conversation! Be sure to keep coming back to Twins Daily for lots more trade reactions and content over the coming days.
     
  11. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2023 Prospect Previews: Brooks Lee   
    In advance of the 2022 draft, a clear top six industry prospects emerged in the pre-draft process. The Twins appeared to be on the outside looking in, selecting at number eight overall in the first round. The only predictable thing about the MLB Draft, however, is its lack of predictability. The Rangers shook up the draft taking Kumar Rocker at number three. The Twins ended up in the enviable position of being able to pick between Brooks Lee, Kevin Parada, and Cam Collier and opted for Lee, the prospect with the safest floor of the three, and a contender to go number one overall.
    Scouting and Signing
    Hitting: 70 Power: 50 Run: 40 Fielding: 50 Arm: 55 (scouting grades courtesy of Baseball America)
    Lee signed a $5.675 million bonus with the Twins, second behind Jacob Berry for all college players. Lee had a track record as a prospect, ranking as a consensus top 50 pick as early as 2019. After an injury plagued 2020 season, Lee hit well in 2021, and took off in 2022. In 58 games at Cal Poly he put up a .357 average with 15 home runs, 46 walks, and just 28 strikeouts. 
    Lee had the best hit tool in the 2022 draft class. He’s a true switch hitter, although more effective from the left side of the plate. Projecting forwards, Lee should be a .300 hitter at the major league level, with the ability to continue to develop power (15-20 home run range). While he has good hands and a strong arm, the critique of his play at shortstop in college was a lack of lateral agility. It’s likely that he moved to third base long term (particularly with Carlos Correa locked in at shortstop for the foreseeable future).
    Early Returns
    The Twins weren’t shy about throwing Lee into the mix at a variety of levels of pro ball when he made his debut in late 2022. After starting at the Complex League, Lee played 25 games at High-A Cedar Rapids. In 114 plate appearances he managed a 140 wRC+, walking 14% of the time and striking out just 15.8%. Lee was promoted to Double-A for their playoff run last fall and has already lived up to his billing as a fast mover.
    Likely to Start At: Wichita Wind Surge (AA)
    Lee dominated most of the pitching he saw in 2022. It’s likely he starts 2023 at AA Wichita. Expectations from Twins fans have understandably been high for such a promising prospect. In a very small samples size, Lee has delivered. If he can stay healthy, the smart money would be on a major league debut in 2023, a blistering pace that could have Lee with the Twins before he’s completed a full calendar year in the minors. If the Twins hold onto Lee and he stays healthy, he should be a starting infielder who hits .300 with average to above average power for the big league team for the next decade.
    What are your hopes for Brooks Lee in 2023? Where do you think his defensive home will be? What do you think his ceiling is? Join the discussion and leave your thoughts in the comments.
     
     
  12. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, What's the Appeal? What's the Deal? Exploring Trades for Starting Pitching Help   
    With Carlos Correa in the fold, the discourse of Twins fandom has turned to possible rotation upgrades. There has been rumored interest in Pablo López and the Marlins as a possible trade partner. Fair enough. López, however, doesn’t really check the cost-benefit box for the Twins. Coming off a career-best season, he accumulated 2.8 fWAR in 2022. A free agent in 2025, he doesn’t clear the Sonny Gray (2.4 fWAR in 2022) echelon of starting pitching candidates with enough conviction. Pass, especially if it would take a package including Max Kepler or Luis Arraez and more to acquire him. 
    I would assert the following guidelines in working toward a trade for starting pitching:
    They have to be clearly better than Sonny Gray (3.5-4.5 fWAR ideally), OR There has to be some projectability left. Edward Cabrera is a good example of the latter qualifier (25 K%, 24 years old, and not a free agent until 2029) With those criteria in mind, here are a few ‘less talked about’ starting pitching trade candidates for the Twins to pursue. For each, I’ll attempt to answer ‘what’s the appeal’? and ‘what’s the deal’? I leveraged ‘Baseball Trade Values’ to find approximate value equivalency for each trade. As with any hypothetical trade scenario, they’re meant to outline potential cost, as opposed to specific names teams might target, because, what do I know? 
    Zac Gallen
    What’s the Appeal?
    The Diamondbacks would maximize Gallen’s value by trading him now. In 2022, he accumulated 4.3 fWAR (14th in baseball) from 180 innings after accumulating 4.4 fWAR in his previous 270ish innings spread over three seasons. Gallen was misery for hitters last season, sporting a 26.9 K%, 6.6 BB%, and 111.7 stuff+. Gallen is under team control for three more seasons, so the cost would be breathtaking. The Diamondbacks aren’t in a position to win a loaded NL West division and have some of the most elite prospect talent in baseball. Trading with the Twins allows them to continue to load up for 2024 and beyond.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire RHP Zac Gallen from the Diamondbacks for SS Brooks Lee, OF Emmanuel Rodriguez, and RHP David Festa
    Verdict?
    Too rich for me.
    Nestor Cortes
    What’s the Appeal?
    Cortes was one of the feel-good stories in baseball in 2022. After a promising 2021, he exploded last season, amassing 3.6 fWAR with a 26.6 K% and a stingy 6.2 BB%. Cortes isn’t a free agent until 2026, so he would be expensive, but the Yankees and Twins are a good match to trade. The Yankees have Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Frankie Montas, Domingo Germán, and Luis Severino in the rotation mix, with more options close to the major-league level. Cortes might strike the balance between adding real quality to the rotation, at a price the Twins can stomach.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire LHP Nestor Cortes from the Yankees for OF Max Kepler, OF Matt Wallner, and RHP Josh Winder
    Verdict?
    I would accept this trade. The Twins have a huge dearth of left-handed corner outfielders. This trade gives the Yankees a defensively strong starting outfielder, an additional outfielder for the future who can also fill in at DH, and a powerful arm who hasn’t yet clicked in Minnesota.
    Brandon Woodruff
    What’s the Appeal?
    Simply put, a dominant track record. Over the last four seasons, Woodruff has averaged 3.4 fWAR. While Woodruff isn’t a free agent until 2025, we know that the Brewers are not opposed to cashing in on or maximizing value. In 2022, Woodruff struck out over 30% of batters faced while maintaining a 6.8 BB%. At his best, he’s dominant and would immediately be the Twins best starting pitcher.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire RHP Brandon Woodruff for 3B José Miranda, and RHP Bailey Ober
    Verdict?
    This deal is more a reflection of cost than a possibility. We all know Assistant General Manager Carlos Correa would immediately veto a trade of José Miranda. This situation simply bumped Ober, (who has struggled to remain healthy) from the bottom of the Twins' rotation and substituted Woodruff at the top. This also sees Brooks Lee as the Twins' long-term third baseman, debuting in 2023, with Miranda as more of a first base or DH option.
    Honorable Mentions
    I put the topic of pitching trade candidates on twitter and, as usual, Twins Daily readership came through in style. Other candidates that I didn’t include in-depth either as they had been recently written about, OR the trade fit wasn’t as obvious. They are, however, worth mentioning: Tyler Glasnow, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Logan Gilbert, Chris Sale, and Frankie Montas. The list goes on. It’s worth widening the lens when considering Twins trade targets. Thinking back to the Rangers/Yankees double trade last season, it feels likely they pursue a similarly creative path to upgrade the high-end talent on the roster.
    Ultimately, I’m in favor of the 3.5 fWAR threshold for starting pitching acquisitions. Given the prices, I think the Twins are unlikely to be, as it would involve parting with a close-to-the-majors prospect they see as part of their core, or MLB-level pieces they view as indispensable. Time will tell.
    Who would you like the Twins to trade for? Who are you willing to part with and who is off limits? Join the discussion and leave your thoughts in the chat.
     
     
     
  13. Like
    Cory Engelhardt reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Worst Doctor We Can Find Thinks Unvaccinated Twins Are Getting a Raw Deal   
    Multiple unvaccinated Twins players must sit out this weekend’s series in Toronto due to Canada’s COVID policies. While the medical community almost universally hails the efficacy of the vaccines, the worst doctor we could find thinks the Twins are getting a raw deal.
    Dr. Gary Van Lowe, a retired family physician from Chanhassen, says the players (Max Kepler, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, and Trevor Megill)  are probably in better shape than their vaccinated teammates.
    “I was doing my own research just this morning,” said Van Lowe, “And realvaccinetruth.biz said the vaccines have little microchips in them that allows the government to turn you into a human microwave. I got right up off the toilet to see if any of that was in the newspaper. Not a word.”
    The 61-year-old, whose frequent malpractice settlements earned him the nickname “Mal” from Fairview Southdale's attorneys, said the lack of further media coverage points to a larger conspiracy.
    “I don’t think they’re doing this just to screw over the Twins in a critical road series,” said Van Lowe, nursing his “seventh or eighth” Mich Golden Light on the 17th tee box at Deer Run in Victoria. “Could it be to mess with the Vikings and Wild, too? Good luck finding that out in the Red Star (sic) from Michael Bland (sic).”
    Van Lowe, who left medicine in 2015 after a series of lurid sexual harassment accusations from fellow doctors, nurses, and the entire front of house staff at the Eden Prairie Buca di Beppo, now runs a medical consultancy firm for insurance companies looking to deny benefits.
    “The jury is still out on this vaccine,” he said, wobbling over a putt on 17. “All I know is that Betty White was perfectly healthy before she got the jab. Makes you think.”
    Van Lowe ended the interview in order to ask the beer cart driver if she needed a ride home.
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