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2022 Twins Top Prospects Ranking
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Everything posted by JYTwinsFan
I look at it like they have setup 2023 like this: Core Starters: Gray, Ryan, Mahle, Maeda Competing Starters: Ober, Winder, Paddack, Archer/Bundy/Similar FA Pickup (let's assume one from this group) AAA Starter Depth: Smeltzer, Sands AAA Starter Prospects: Balazovic, Enlow, Woods-Richardson Core Relievers: Alcala, Lopez, Jax, Duran, Thielbar, Megill Competing Relievers: Moran, Varland, Canterino, Henriquez Assumptions: Twins don't offer Pagan arbitration Canterino, Varland, Henriquez are ultimately Jax/Duran-like high leverage bullpen converts Maeda returns to quality starter form and Winder is able to stick as a starter All things being equal and healthy (which obviously won't happen) and absent some major shakeup or FA pitching signing, my ideal looks like the following: Starters: Gray, Mahle, Maeda, Ryan, Winder Relievers: Alcala, Lopez, Jax, Duran, Moran, Thielbar, Paddack, Canterino/Varland None of this factors in the $20 - $50mil in FA spending they will have. If Correa comes back for another year, they spend what they have left to sign Willson Contreras at catcher and then a good bullpen arm (replacing Canterino/Varland for 2023). If Correa does not come back they're probably looking at a short term shortstop, a quality starter on 2-3 year deal, and ideally still have room to go after Contreras. None of this factors in any trades they have to make because of lack of 40man space or dealing from other areas of strength (1B/3B/2B) in the system. Too many machinations of how this could play out to be worth typing up here right now, so leaving that alone.
This is not an argument for/against "win now" nor for/against the utility of an "ace". But I enjoy watching the Twins stockpile starting pitching. 2023 potential starting pitching depth/options MLB Roster: Maeda, Paddack, Bundy, Archer, Ober, Ryan, Gray MLB Ready (1 Full Yr in AAA): Winder, Henriquez, Strotman, Balazovic, Sands MLB Breakout (.5 Yr AA / .5 Yr AAA): SWR, Canterino, Varland, *Assuming Duran permanent move to bullpen & Enlow not ready for consideration until 2024 That's...a lot. And that's before spending any money on free agency (of which they have plenty). This gives them considerable leverage in the market to a) not make a desperation move and spend money unwisely, b) trade from strength where mid rotation controllable & affordable arms can yield outsized return to fill in a missing puzzle piece, c) protect against major injury impact, d) protect against overworking arms in-season, e) shift focus to stockpiling the lower minors upside pitching depth which can be acquired more quietly/cheaply.
Obviously we'd be more excited by spending the money we know is available on less of a lottery ticket (earlier this offseason). And I'm going to assume the cost for Manea or Montas are not reasonable. Given where we are and the Archer signing is done, the Twins continue to build a lot of flexibility into the roster as a means to compete best they can. The creative contracts are windows into this. With the three inning incentive for Archer, perhaps we'll see something like this play out in principle: Archer, Jax, and Cotton splitting the 5th starter "role" in a sense. Archer starts and one of the other two get the second trip through the batting order after 3ish innings. Or some combination of the same idea. This is aided by reduced need for the 5th starter due to off days in April (though that's minimal this year unless we get a bunch of rainouts). Assuming the rosters do expand to 28 to start the year, they can carry a Jax or Cotton or both without much downside (same with the three catcher situation). Builds a bridge to the service time deadline to save on another year of control for any in the prospect pipeline (and lets them develop a little more in AAA to start the year) - though correct me if that's different with the new CBA...I may have missed it. This would be consistent with Thad Levine's statement late last year that they were looking at other ways to construct/use a pitching staff. I realize this is a rosy way of looking at it. I'm not validating it as an optimal plan, but given the cards dealt with a week and a half until opening day, it's not a bad way to play a mediocre hand. I do like the fact that the Twins always grab an affordable option year on these fliers. Not only do they have a pipeline of pitching prospects AA or higher (Ryan, Ober, Duran, Balazovic, SWR, Strotman, Winder, Sands), they have a potential abundance of veteran depth (Bundy, Archer, Gray, Maeda) for 2023. If only one or two stick as affordable back end rotation starters that's fine. So you are looking for 5 guys out of 12 to stick for 2023 and that's before you spend a dime (which they have plenty of in 2023) on free agency. Obviously all of these guys could be Shoemakers or maybe one could Hughes. You could also spend a fortune on a free agent elbow that blows out with one random pitch. But it's clear to me the Twins value pitching depth as a more sustainable path to winning (now bolstered by the expanded playoffs).
@John Bonnes I think this is the most likely scenario. When you look at your anecdote above +: The list of Ryan, Ober, SWR, Strotman, Balazovic, Duran, Winder, Sands all at AA or higher (not to mention Enlow, Petty, Varland, and Canterino all at A or below), each acquired under Falvey and come with their own development accolade (e.g. high draft pick, targeted in a trade, successful development story) that supports the case that this is part of a strategy and not an accident. Falvey's history building a pitching pipeline in Cleveland. Levine's comment "We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?" The success of the Ray's pitching factory as a model. The move of the AAA team to St. Paul to make pitcher movement between leagues that much easier. I'm not ready to say they're going to flip the switch on the notion of a "starter" per Levine (books will be written about it if they do!) but it's pretty clear to me they have little interest in building a pitching staff around $20mil+ late 20s/early 30s pitchers on contracts longer than...3 years? We know other teams are wise to this as well, though the thresholds are probably different per each team's analytic model. It obviously makes good business sense given the cost per inning, the risk of injury, and the obvious decline of aging pitchers. Forget about whether the Twins are a "small market" team or have more money to spend than they allude to. The Twins FO believes there is something off in the way pitching staffs are built and managed regardless of how much money you have. They seem to be going after an approach that puts much less emphasis on any individual contributor and/or you capitalize on an ace pitcher's abilities only while they are affordable and young. Not a new idea, but that only works...if you can build a successful pipeline. So it all starts there. They obviously need pitching to fill the gap in 2022, so let's hope they can still bring in Stroman cause they have the money to do it this year, but it seems to fight against their instincts about how to build a sustainable approach to winning. Fingers crossed it works.
Thanks! I agree with you. There are basically two cores right now. The existing core which is still young and inexpensive and the 2023 core which is larger, even cheaper, and arguably more talented given the pitching depth. Regardless of how 2021 turned out, if one flips their mindset to think of the 2023 core as a better foundation on which to build, you look at the scenarios around the current assets and or prospective acquisitions (e.g. Ray or Montas as you've noted) and the 2022 season much differently. It's also quite possible that the Twins and Buxton are in agreement on this approach. Maybe Buxton wants to see how the Twins fare on 2022 pitching acquisitions. Maybe they're in agreement that if the Twins can bring in some pitching talent to improve the 2022 outlook AND supplement the 2023 core then it makes sense for him to stay. And if not then it makes sense to cash in Buxton's value in a trade and set him up for a big pay day with someone else. All this to say I have no problem with Falvey's comments about navigating the market. It's also why I still think signing Buxton makes sense since we're not talking about 20-30mil AAV.
It's true that if the Twins trade Buxton, they are admitting to not being competitive in 2022. But it won't be because they trade Buxton. If they are not able to find three quality and experienced starting pitchers, it is not realistic to assume they have a shot at the playoffs...probably not even a .500 record. There's a significant chance that they'll simply lose out on most if not all quality experienced starters. If the reality is that 2022 is a lost cause anyway, does that change our view of a potential Buxton trade? I think we should consider a new term in addition to "Rebuild" and "Retool". "Rebuild" suggests a team is tearing down to the studs, restocking a depleted farm system, and trading away high priced established stars in their prime in the hopes of returning to competition in 4-5 years. "Retool" suggests a team was recently competitive (meaning you weren't in last place this year) that's shuffling the deck chairs a bit to address a need or maybe up the ante due to a competitor in your division on the rise. Though there are elements of both that apply to the Twins, I think the FO believes they are in a unique situation. Consider the following: Position Kiriloff (1B?) Arraez (2B?) Miranda (3B?) Lewis (SS?) Jeffers / Garver (C) Larnach (RF?) Celestino (CF?) Martin (LF?) Rooker (DH?) SP Winder Balazovic Duran Sands Woods-Richardson Ober Ryan Strotman RP Alcala Moran Thielbar That's an awful lot of multi-year controllable major-league-ready (by 2023) talent across every position on the field. Though there are obvious question marks there and some of that talent will take time to establish quality major league effectiveness, regardless, after 2022 no one on that list will, in theory, have anywhere to go or anything left to prove in the minors. They kinda have to be with the Twins in 2023 at some point, or they're gone for one reason or another. If anyone on that list were a bust, it would be seen as a failure of drafting, development, or evaluation from multiple sources...so this is not fringe talent we're pinning our hopes on, even if they are not all current/former Top 100 prospects. Which means that as we sit here ahead of the 2022 season...everyone on this list below is essentially expendable by 2023 or sooner in the sense that there is a legitimate prospective player ready to take their place: Polanco (team friendly control) Kepler (team friendly control Buxton Sano (team friendly control) Rogers Donaldson Maeda (team friendly control) Whether quantity or quality, what could you add to the 2023-2027 major league roster noted above by trading the 7 (or 6 if you don't count an injured Maeda) players here? A few solid pieces at the very least. With a tiny payroll over those years, what kind of top dollar FA acquisition could you make to supplement a winning team? FWIW I think the Twins should sign Buxton to a contract of 100mil / 7 years for no other reason than inflation...in 5-7 years 14mil AAV for an average player will be commonplace (seems like it already is!). And I think they should keep Polanco cause he's very good and he and Buxton would be the veteran leaders for a young team. Heck I'm even fine with them signing an expensive FA shortstop now if they can free up the salary space to do it. I'm not in favor of trading big league ready prospects for 1 year of a pitcher (e.g. Manea) just to be mediocre in 2022. But to circle back to the original point...I don't think that "Rebuild" or "Retool" accurately describe the unique situation the Twins FO believes they are in. And I think 2022 might be a lost cause anyway if all you can scrape together are Pineda and 2 x J.A. Happs. I do know that their decision-making in this moment will define the next 10 years, so though I give them the benefit of the doubt...the pressure is most certainly on.