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  1. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to Matt Braun for a blog entry, Matt's Top Prospect List + Explanations   
    Royce Lewis I have been conservative about Lewis for a while, and it is time to admit that he is the best prospect in the Twins system. His hit tool looks real, at least much better than before, and the eye test shows that he can currently play a passable shortstop, a significant point in his development. The Twins are lowering him into a super-utility role, which is fine given his athleticism, but I would prefer to have him challenged at shortstop every day. There is no real easy answer to that conundrum until Carlos Correa no longer calls that position home. For now, we shall appreciate watching a unique talent perform at the highest level for years to come.                                                
    Austin Martin  2022 has not been the best season for Martin. He is striking out at a lower rate but is somehow hitting for less power than before; his season wRC+ sits at 95. While I have supreme confidence in his bat turning around eventually, his glove is a different story. He is not a shortstop; that is clear now. I’m not sure what position he can play, but the Twins will have to find one, and his value is now much lower as a super-utility guy unable to cover such a crucial position. He also has a ridiculous 20 steals, perhaps hinting at a skillset philosophy leaning closer towards a traditional, scrappy type of player. I think he’ll figure it out and become a useful major league player, but his future is far hazier than one prefers from one of their best prospects.                                  
    Jose Miranda           Although not because of his performance, Miranda moves up one spot in my ranking. He hasn’t hit during his time in the majors, owning terrible batted ball data during his brief stint that ended with Lewis’ re-appearance on the Twins. One should never overreact to 70 plate appearances, and Miranda’s 2021 was so legendary that I tend to believe this to be a fad and not an indictment of his hitting ability. He owns a rare batting average/power combo that few in baseball can claim, and that alone is what keeps Miranda sitting near the top of this list. Time shall tell whether Miranda can find his groove again.          
    Jordan Balazovic       I’m still a firm believer in Balazovic as the team’s best pitching prospect, but it has been an extended period since he last unquestionably dominated hitters for a significant stretch, and it’s fair to lean into doubts. Early returns at AAA have been ugly, although the eye doesn’t catch exactly what the problem for him seems to be. He’s avoided major injury, but the nicks and dings are starting to add up, holding him back from being the “set-it-and-forget-it” ace that many thought he would become after his excellent 2018 and 2019 performances. Again, let’s not overreact, but it’s time for a correction of sorts for Balazovic.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
    Noah Miller    Miller is good, and people should recognize this as soon as possible. 19-year-old shortstops are not supposed to dominate A-ball like this, and the ones that do tend to become exceptional players. He’s hitting for a 146 wRC+ with reportedly silky smooth defense that could play if the team called him up tomorrow. He isn’t hitting for much power (ISO of .113), but that feels like an extreme nitpick for an otherwise otherworldly performance this far into the season. Get used to his name this high on prospect lists.
    Emmanuel Rodriguez Rodriguez could have easily claimed the five spot, but Miller’s shortstop potential broke the tie, and Rodriguez ends up here. He’s also just 19, which is ridiculous, and he’s walking at a 27.3% clip while slugging .475. If one wanted to nitpick, he’s also striking out 28.5% of the time, a number digestible given his age, but one to keep an eye on given how sticky strikeout numbers tend to be as a player changes levels. His profile will clear up with time (mainly whether he owns discipline or is plain passive against wild pitchers), but things are exciting for the former international big shot signing. 
    Spencer Steer I don’t think that Steer is legitimately a 147 wRC+ batter, but it is apparent that he is a well-rounded player with a potentially rare batting average/OBP/power combination. His best comp is probably Jose Miranda’s 2021 season which was equally impressive in how he didn’t have to sacrifice batting average for power. We’ve seen that combo struggle in the majors over a short sample with Miranda, but a player like Ty France proves that it can work with refinement. He can pass at both 3rd and 2nd base, giving the team options if they ever decide to clean out their gutter at 3rd or trade Jorge Polanco. 
    Simeon Woods Richardson I originally had Woods Richardson above the previous three hitters, but I kept questioning whether I was more excited about him or the other batters, and you can see the answer I came to. Woods Richardson’s ERA is excellent, but his FIP is merely passable, and his xFIP is dreadful; combine that with a suspicious BABIP, and I’m not sold that he has improved significantly since struggling at AA all of last season. He’s still just 21, which feels impossible, but his stock remains stagnant in my eyes.
    Matt Canterino Canterino is a reliever. Usually, I don’t consider relievers prospects, but his stuff is so otherworldly that it’s not out of the question that he becomes a 2-3 inning fire-breathing dragon, which can be extremely valuable to every team in MLB. He has already bested his innings total from last season, and he should be up with the team down the stretch if he can remain healthy. Walks are up this year, but I believe that to be a mirage and not a loss of command for a pitcher who has otherwise thrown strikes during his time in the minors. 
    Cole Sands I like Sands more than I probably should. He flashed an incredible sweeper during his cup of coffee, a pitch that I believe can carry him to some sort of helpful niche in the team’s pitching staff. The rest of his profile is pretty vanilla, and he’s currently on the IL, a statement often too true about Sands, but the power of his breaker keeps him elevated on my list.
    Ronny Henriquez Henriquez is still a somewhat mysterious prospect. He came over as an afterthought in the Mitch Garver deal and has flashed some major league playable stuff but has yet to play enough for me to get as good of a read on him. It’s been a rough go at AAA so far, but he’s not even 22-years-old yet, and his development feels like it will be more of a slow burn a la Woods Richardson rather than a fiery explosion like Jhoan Duran. 
    Edouard Julien Julien is unfortunately injured at the moment, but his profile is far too intriguing to ignore. It’s not every day that one comes across a player practically guaranteed to get on base at a .400 clip, but Julien is precisely that kind of player. His OBP is true, a sign of patience over passivity, which will carry him across all levels of baseball. He’s more positionless than one would like, but his bat projects so well that the Twins will find a way to make it work.
    Marco Raya Raya was a popular pop-up pick in the pre-season, and he’s impressed so far with an 18.8 K-BB%. His stuff is electric, the classic mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider combo that fans can dream on with a curve and change that will need refinement as he elevates through the minors. It has been less than 30 innings into Raya’s professional debut, but it’s easy to see why the Twins were so high on him in the 2020 draft.
    David Festa The Twins system has lost top-end credibility due to some graduations and players in that tier struggling, but their middle area has beefed up considerably thanks to arms like Festa. Festa came out of nowhere in 2022, dominating hitters with Fort Myers before enjoying a promotion to Cedar Rapids. His K-BB% sits at 28.9%, the highest in the system amongst pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings.
    Christian Encarnacion-Strand Encarnacion-Strand went supernova to begin the season, netting all the RBIs before gently cooling off and settling in as a merely great, not Bondsian hitter. Evaluators are still baffled by Encarnacion-Strand; he fits into the scary right/first baseman/college bucket from which hitters go to die (or become Pete Alonso), and it’s unclear if he’s made proper adjustments since joining the Twins organization. For now, it’s best to shrug your shoulders and continue to ride the wave.
    Cade Povich Povich, like Raya, was also a popular breakout pick for 2022. He’s responded with an eye-catching 27.4 K-BB%, a total bested only by Shane McClanahan amongst qualified MLB pitchers this year. It’s not a 1:1 comp, but his success should not be understated, and he could find himself at AA sooner rather than later at this rate.
    Blayne Enlow I remain a firm believer in Enlow. Tommy John surgery derailed his path to AA in 2021, but he recently returned from the procedure, and his performance the rest of the season will help illuminate his prospect status; it says a lot that the Twins protected him in the rule 5 draft despite his injuries and underperformance. 
    Brayan Medina Medina has yet to pitch in an organized game for the Twins, so this ranking is an aggregate of other publications rather than a personal evaluation.                                                                             
    Louie Varland    Varland is not having as fine a season like 2020, but he has still settled in as a consistent, reliable arm at AA. The walks have crept up while his home run rate has ballooned, perhaps an ominous sign of regression waiting in the wings. Back-sliding has not hit yet, so he remains solidly in the mid-tier of prospects until otherwise.      
    Steve Hajjar Hajjar, like Povich, was an intriguing breakout arm to keep an eye on in 2022. He’s punched out a small army but has also walked far too many batters for his good; less than 50% of plate appearances against him have ended with a ball put into play. It has been less than 30 innings, but I’m far leerier of his skillset translating unless he tames his walks. 
    Brent Headrick Like Gipson-Long in the next spot, Headrick is an old-for-his-level starter who has easily crushed his competition. His command is much improved in 2022, and hitters are now overwhelmed by stuff that they can no longer just wait out for the inevitable walk. He’s so similar to Gipson-Long in this regard that I gave him the one-spot nod for better peripherals (28.3 K-BB %).
    Sawyer Gipson-Long Gipson-Long is an old-for-the-level starter but should not be ignored when looking at this system. He has picked up right where he left off in 2021, owning the 9th best K-BB% rate amongst all pitchers with 30 innings in the system this year (22.4%). He should get a taste of AA soon, which will help illuminate his prospect status more than feasting on A+ hitters. 
    Kala’i Rosario Rosario is a raw, toolsy prospect dipping into the full-season waters for the first time. His 94 wRC+ is far from disastrous, but his 39.2% strikeout rate is ghastly, perhaps a sign that he’s still too green. As a 19-year-old, he exists in that frustrating “potential” sphere of prospect evaluation where his struggles are summed up as him “learning,” and no actual analysis is gleaned from his performance. In summary: early returns are not favorable but not indictable yet. 
    Matt Wallner  To be blunt, I have little faith in Wallner becoming a valuable major league player. Hitters who strike out 34% of the time need legendary power to negate their whiffs, and Wallner seems to have merely great, not jaw-dropping power. He can still walk and bop homers, but I remain skeptical of his skillset translating at the major league level; Brent Rooker soured any ability I have to overlook one’s strikeout rate.
    Aaron Sabato Speaking of hitters striking out too much, Sabato has been disappointing since the Twins took him in the 1st round in 2020. He can take a walk, but his ISO is far lower than one wants from a pure 1st baseman (.163). At this point, I don’t expect Sabato to become a useful contributor for the Twins, and he can join Keoni Cavaco in the club of “Falvey and Levine’s unwise 1st round picks.” Speaking of which…
    Keoni Cavaco Cavaco has never shown any consistent ability to hit at any level during any extended period of play. His career minor league OBP begins with a .2, which should tell you everything you need to know. Yes, injuries have played a role in his poor performance, but injuries can’t excuse his immense strikeout problems, and his ranking on any prospect list is honorary at this point. I’m holding on to his draft pedigree, but he will be dropped soon unless his performance turns around.
    John Stankiewicz I have no idea what to make of Stankiewicz. He was an undrafted free agent in 2020 and has performed very well during his time in the Twins system. Time will tell if it’s a lower-level mirage, but he should still be a name to remember throughout the remainder of the season. 
    Jake Rucker I just wanted to get Rucker a mention on one of these lists. Since the Twins drafted him in 2021, he's held his own and has improved his ISO (.059 to .111) despite the rest of his stat-line not falling in line. He feels like the kind of prospect who can suddenly be in AAA despite flying under the radar for the entirety of his professional career. 
    Misael Urbina Urbina showed great peripherals in 2021 (12.3% walk rate, 18.7% K rate), which lost out overall to his otherwise poor slash line. Visa issues have delayed the start of his season, which is both a shame and a detriment to his development. Hopefully, he’ll be playing baseball in the Twins system soon.
    Drew Strotman The clickbait 30 spot goes to Strotman out of deference towards teams far wiser than I. The Rays added Strotman to the 40-man roster, and the Twins targeted him in a trade now overshadowed by Joe Ryan’s success, showing that there are franchises that believe in him. He is now a reliever, limiting his upside, but I’ll wait to give up on him when the Twins do.
  2. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to Melissa Berman for a blog entry, Both Sides of the Royce Lewis AAA Situation   
    Waking up yesterday morning on May 18, I was taken aback to see that Lewis was sent back to AAA. Here are both viewpoints regarding the Twins sending down Royce Lewis, and then my own take. 
    Those in favor:
    The Twins don't know how long Carlos Correa will be with the Twins, so they are sending Lewis down to continue developing at SS In case Correa does stay for a while, it's necessary to find somewhere else in the field for Lewis to play, and AAA is the best place for him to try out new positions You don’t just “try” your #1 future investment in new positions at the MLB level, especially since he’s coming off missing a lot of playing time due to injury He'll be back soon anyway- this is just temporary  More regular playing time in case the Twins aren't able to get him in the lineup every day You're not going to change long-term plans based on < 2 weeks of high production  Those against:
    The Twins are a highly competitive team. Lewis helps the Twins be more competitive and is one of their top hitters They sent him down right after a game in which he had a double and a home run!? He has played outfield in the minors before, there's no reason why the Twins could not put him in left field in particular  Sent down before Miranda!? (likely it's just a matter of time before he too heads back to St. Paul to work some things out) What a way to kill excitement among the fans  If he can play short stop, the hardest position on the field, he could play anywhere, especially 1B. If it doesn't work out after a week, send him down With some shuffling around, the Twins should be able to find a spot for Lewis with some regular playing time  My take
    I understand the nuances of both sides, but I'm still not a fan of the move at all. I understand he will be back soon, and Correa said he spoke with Lewis after the game and Lewis seemed to take it well, but I think it's a disservice to him to send him down while in the midst of such a hot streak.  I'm glad he's taking it well, and I assume management explained that he's doing great and will be back as soon as he develops some more, perhaps at different positions, but still, one of my first immediate thoughts was a fear that, what if this crushes his confidence. To me, if you have a player who is on fire to the extent Lewis is, you find a spot in the lineup for him, period. Fans reacted so strongly because the Twins are competitive and the fans care. A lot of them have been following Lewis for years, ever since he was drafted. Fans caring is a good problem to have- strong emotion is better than apathy. The Twins are battling the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central crown and playing Lewis in the current lineup makes them a better team. Like I said. hopefully he is back soon, but letting him learn alongside Byron Buxton does not seem like a bad idea either.
  3. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to Richie the Rally Goat for a blog entry, Report From The Fort   
    photo courtesy Expedia 
    Day 3 at the fort. Haven’t ventured to Lee County ballpark yet. Do intend to do so, probably Monday. Thus far have been to the beaches, the pool at the Airbnb, 6 mile slough, has a great meal at the Mucky Duck on Sanibel.
    enjoying the escape from the cold of NW Wi.
    it’s currently 85 degrees and Sunny
    day 4: lakes park in the AM, off to the Swimming pool for the PM. Currently 82 and sunny
    on deck for the weekend: heading up to Orlando. Universal Studios on Monday, Cape Canaveral Tuesday
    Back to the Fort Intending to catch a Dolphin cruise and hang out at the ballpark, hoping to catch some drills or bullpen sessions, hitting off the tees with the minor leaguers.
    I’ll try to check back in later.
    im missing baseball terribly but still having a great vacation

  4. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, 2022 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects   
    While we have no baseball right now because of the league locking out its players, there’s still minor league prospects to dream on. 2021 provided us a full season of minor league action and the Twins saw a ton of movement from their biggest names.
    It was certainly tough to see the injuries mount this season, but that can likely be tied to the non-traditional 2020 and having to get back into a demanding flow. The last update to the top 15 in this space came in June, prior to the Major League Baseball draft, so now feels like a good time to refresh the list. 
    Previous rankings can be found below. Let’s get into it:
    2016 Top 15 Prospects 2017 Top 15 Prospects 2018 Top 15 Prospects 2019 Top 15 Prospects 2020 Top 15 Prospects 2021 Top 15 Prospects 15. Cole Sands RHP
    Sliding Sands back a spot here has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with additions before him. He posted a 2.46 ERA in 80.1 IP all at the Double-A level in 2021. The strikeouts are there and while the walk rate was up, he still worked around damage. Some time on the IL wasn’t a great thing, but he could be an option for Minnesota soon.
    14. Matt Wallner OF
    I’m pretty bullish on Wallner being a better version of Brent Rooker. His .854 OPS at High-A was a professional best this season, and he raked for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. He has massive arm strength and should be fine in a corner spot. He’s going to hit for power, and I think the on-base abilities are there too.
    13. Noah Miller INF
    Taken 36th overall by the Twins, Miller’s brother Owen is a big leaguer. Noah is expected to be a better all-around prospect and has plenty of speed on his own. I think he’s got a pretty good shot to stick in the middle of the infield, and it’ll be exciting to see him on the field in 2022.
    12. Blayne Enlow RHP
    Throwing just 14.2 innings this year, Enlow was put on the shelf early and then underwent Tommy John surgery. He was added to the 40-man roster protecting him from a Rule 5 selection. He’s still one of my favorite breakout prospects, but he won’t be healthy to start 2022.
    11. Josh Winder RHP
    After dominating Double-A, Winder earned a pretty quick promotion to Triple-A. He was just ok in his four starts at St. Paul, but there’s no reason to believe this isn’t a talented arm. He’s consistently had strong strikeout stuff and avoided free passes. Winder was bit most by the longball for the Saints. He did experience a trip to the IL but should be healthy coming into 2022.
    10. Keoni Cavaco INF
    In 60 games for Low-A Fort Myers Cavaco did little to impress. That said, he’s still just 20 years old and it was great to see him advance beyond the complex league. He’s still filling out form a body standpoint, and 2022 will be an important year for his development.
    9. Chase Petty RHP
    Selected as the 26th overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft, Petty was seen as a great value selection given his ability to reach triple-digits on the mound. He’s still got a good amount of refinement to undergo, but this is a great arm for Minnesota to mold.
    8. Matt Canterino RHP
    Spending a good amount of time on the IL this year, Canterino certainly wanted to get in more than 23 innings. The work he did do was dominant, however. A 0.78 ERA and 45/4 K/BB is plenty indicative of him needing the challenge of at least Double-A to start 2022.
    7. Simeon Woods-Richardson RHP
    One piece of the return for Jose Berrios, Woods-Richardson pitched just eight innings for the Twins at Double-A. After playing with Team USA in the Olympics, he needed a good amount of time to ramp back up. The strikeout numbers are exciting, but he does have command issues to work through. Still, this is a top-100 prospect that should be fun to watch in 2022.
    6. Jhoan Duran RHP
    After being among the best Twins pitching prospects coming into 2021, Duran took a slight step backwards. He was injured for a good part of the season and contributed just 16 innings. The high strikeouts were combined with too many walks. The velocity is certainly there, but he could wind up being a reliever too. 2022 will be a big season for him.
    5. Joe Ryan RHP
    Acquired in exchange for Nelson Cruz, Ryan wound up being among the best things to happen for the Twins last season. After pitching for Team USA, Ryan made five starts at the big league level. His 3.43 FIP was better than the 4.05 ERA, but a 30/5 K/BB is beyond impressive for a guy who doesn’t have dominant velocity. How Ryan adapts to more tape on him in year two is going to be intriguing.
    4. Jose Miranda IF
    No player in the Twins system had a better year than Miranda. He tallied a .973 OPS across Double and Triple-A while blast 30 homers. He played all over the infield and it’s clear the bat is ready for his next challenge. I’m not sure where he fits for Minnesota yet, and it may not be Opening Day, but he’s coming and soon.
    3. Jordan Balazovic RHP
    Starting 20 games for Double-A Wichita, Balazovic turned in 3.62 ERA with a 9.5 K/9. He looked every bit the pat of an ace at times while going through growing pains as well. He’ll need a clean bill of health and complete season in 2022, but he’s very close.
    2. Austin Martin SS/OF
    The headlining return for Jose Berrios, Martin is a very similar player to Minnesota’s top prospect Royce Lewis. Playing shortstop but potentially an outfielder, Martin owned a .779 OPS at Double-A Wichita. He hasn’t really hit for any power, but that should come. The athleticism is strong, and the speed is there as well.
    1. Royce Lewis SS/OF
    Putting him back on top of the prospect rankings, Lewis missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL. He’ll return to the field healthy in 2022 and looking to distance himself from a 2019 that left production to be desired. Lewis’ bat has flashed plenty, and he’s looked comfortable at both short and in the outfield. A quick rise to the big leagues may be in the cards.
  5. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to AChase for a blog entry, Non-tendering Taylor Rogers Would Be a Huge Mistake   
    I'm seeing a lot of discussion suggesting the Twins may consider non-tendering Taylor Rogers. There's no debate about Rogers's ability or performance, but the concern seems to be whether or not he's worth his projected ~$7MM salary in his final year of arbitration (per MLBTradeRumors).
    I believe Rogers is worth it and then some. It's not close. Non-tendering Taylor Rogers would be a huge mistake.
    Below are the 22 free agent contracts offered to relief pitchers in the last three offseasons with and average annual value of $7MM or more:

    First, note that $7MM is clearly not an exorbitant amount for a quality relief pitcher. On average over these three years, about 7 relievers achieve that AAV or more.
    But how does Rogers compare to those elite arms? On a rate basis, Rogers has been worth 2.0 WAR/60IP. As shown above, this is matched by only 2 players: Liam Hendriks at 2.4 and Andrew Miller who ties Rogers at 2.0. It's the same story in FIP (unsurprisingly); Rogers's 2.62 is bested by only Miller's 2.16 and Hendrik's 2.17. By just about any measure, Rogers can be considered a standout among these relievers. In fact, he would be would be one of the very best RPs to enter the FA market in recent years. He's been that good.
    There's more to like about Roger's recent performance too. His velocity on both pitches has continued to climb, reaching new highs with his fastball (95.7) and his slider (84). He posted a new career high in K% at 35.5, easily improving his 2020 performance of 26.4 and his previous best of 32.4. Only four RPs in 2021 can claim a better K-BB% than Rogers, and his groundball rate of 50.0% is a return to form.
    All of this leads to a career best FIP of 2.13. In fact, only Josh Hader and former teammate Ryan Pressly finished 2021 with a FIP- better than Rogers's 50 (minimum 40 IP). I'd make a case that Taylor Rogers has been easily one of the top 5 left-handed relievers in baseball at any point over the last 4 years. On a counting or rate basis, only Hader has been better by WAR.
    Projections like Rogers as well. ZiPS has projected him to be worth 1.1 WAR in 2022, his age 31 season (and 2023). The usual suspects are ahead of him: Edwin Diaz, Hendriks, and Hader as the only other lefty. These projections were prepared prior to the 2021 season, so it remains to be seen what the projection systems think of him after his season. On one hand, he did have his best year as a big leaguer. On the other, he did end his season injured, leaving a cloud over his status for 2022.
    If he stacks up well in such elite company, how much is Rogers worth in the free agent market? It's tough to say, especially with his recent injury. I will point out that Hendriks and Miller, the two pitchers in the last three years with an obviously better free agent case than Rogers, combined to receive 6 years and $88.5MM for a $14.75MM AAV. All together, the 22 contracts above average almost exactly 2 years and $20MM, a $10MM AAV. Rogers is also younger than many of the names above at the time of their contracts, and he has a longer track record of elite performance than almost all of them. I think it's reasonable that a healthy Rogers would receive something north of $10MM annually for 3+ years.
    Rogers's finger injury really is the only question here. We all know a healthy Rogers is worth more than his arbitration figure, but we don't know how much this injury will impact his game in 2021, if at all. Only the Twins and Rogers can know for sure, and we can only speculate until the day Rogers is offered arbitration, signs a deal, or not. And any team interested in his services for next year should be concerned.
    However, it's worth pointing out two things: Rogers has been exceptionally durable through his entire career, and he may be be worth his arbitration amount either way. Look at the list of names above again. There's a lot of serious arm injuries in there. Betances landed a deal with the Mets despite him appearing in just one game the previous season as he recovered from his shoulder impingement and a torn Achilles. Trevor Rosenthal got two of these deals. He received the first after missing more than a season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The second contract came after he recently passed through waivers unclaimed.
    Even if you think poorly of his prospects in 2022 due to injury, perhaps it would be a perfect time to work out a multi-year extension based around vesting options. They may not get a ton of value next year, but he would have time to make up for it into the future.
    My point is this: Rogers is one of the very best relievers in the game, especially from the left side. For a Twins team desperate for pitching, replacing his production would be very costly in either dollars, prospects, or both, and there's almost no one in the league who could replace him anyway. It's worth mentioning too that he's smart, regarded as a leader, and well liked by teammates, media, and fans alike. Sure, his injury is worrisome. But in a similar way as Buxton, that risk is one of the only ways the Twins may be able to afford real, impact talent for this roster. If the Twins don't take that risk, there will be several teams that will, just as they have shown in the past.
    Sign Taylor Rogers. You'll likely come to regret it if you don't.
  6. Like
    LewFordLives reacted to Allen Post for a blog entry, Why Are We So Down on Luis Arraez?   
    Think back to October 2019 – the Twins had just gotten pantsed in the playoffs. Again. A really fun season had ended in disappointment. Again. But there was still ample reason for hope. One such reason for optimism was the emergence of Luis Arraez, a rookie contact-hitting savant. Now, one (odd) season later, and we’re in about the same place. The Twins are fresh off another fun season that ended in postseason embarrassment, but this year, we’re much less excited about the 23-year-old second baseman. And for what? All Arraez did in 2020 was fight through injury to hit for a .321 batting average (best on the team) and a .364 on-base percentage (second best) while playing a decent second base. So why are some Twins fans throwing his name into every possible trade deal or into a platoon with whoever ends up as Minnesota’s utility man? Hasn’t Arraez earned himself a spot in the Twins future?
    2020 Season
    Okay, obviously saying that Arraez “fought through injury” to bat .321 is a fairly rose-tinted way of looking at what Luis brought to the Twins last year. To put it a different way, “Arraez was an injury liability and, when he was in the lineup, he regressed in all major stat categories and offered very little in the way of power.” The truth about Arraez is somewhere in between these two takes, but I’ve heard a lot more extreme pessimism than optimism. Yes, he regressed last year and no, he doesn’t help the team when he’s injured, but we’ve found ways to excuse nearly every other Twin for those same exact problems without casting them off as trade bait (I’m looking at you, Garver and Buxton). Also, Arraez’s “regression” brought him down to a .321 average that would’ve been good for third-best in the American League if he had enough at-bats to qualify. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still a pretty good season.

    Arraez's 2020 campaign was disappointing, but there's reason for hope going forward 
    Advanced Stats
    I understand that, nowadays, you often have to do more than just hit at a high average to be a solid MLB player, but worry not, because Arraez actually improved slightly in a number of more telling advanced statistics last season. His 2020 campaign saw him improve in average exit velocity, sweet spot percentage and hard hit percentage, per Baseball Savant. None of these improvements was particularly significant and he’s by no means excelling in any of these categories, but it’s clear by looking at the advanced metrics that Arraez is not getting worse at the plate. In fact, it seems that his 2020 season should have been even better than his breakout rookie year.
    So why did it feel disappointing? Because we were hoping for that second-year leap and we got a regression to the mean instead. Arraez’s improvement in advanced hitting metrics and regression in average and OBP show us that his rookie year was a statistical outlier more than it was a stepping stone to even greater success in the future. Still, if .321 is the mean he regressed towards, Twins fans ought to be excited, especially considering that he was injured and is still only 23. We’ve written off much worse pandemic performances from healthier and more experienced guys, so let’s afford Arraez some of that forgiveness.
    2021 Projections
    Unfortunately, ZiPS (and every other projection service) doesn’t seem to be helping me make my case. They predict a slash line of .313/.371/.406 for his third year in the bigs. On the surface, this looks worse than it is because Arraez’s average is projected to take another hit, but ZiPS actually projects that .313 mark to lead the majors. They have his on-base and slugging numbers improving, too, so, really, they’re not down on Arraez at all. Even if Arraez does level out as a .313 hitter – and I think he’ll be better than that long-term – adding some power and taking more walks would be a massive improvement for his career and for the Twins lineup. And I believe he can make those improvements because, again, he’s only 23.

    ZiPS projects a .313/.371/.406 slash line for Arraez in 2021 
    So, where does that leave us? I saw the regression from his rookie year (we all did) and no, his 2020 year wasn’t what we hoped for, but Arraez is still a great asset for the Twins moving forward. I believe in his contact hitting that has been the best on the team and I believe in the advanced metrics that show his improvements in other areas. Most of all, though, I believe in the player. Arraez has hit .300 at every level of professional baseball, and is the same age or younger than some of the Twins’ top minor-league prospects. He’s already a great hitter and he has a lot of opportunity for growth ahead of him. Luis Arraez may very well win a batting title soon, and the Twins better make sure he does it in a Minnesota jersey.
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