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  1. Like
    Bodie reacted to Steve Lein for an article, The Next Minnesota Twins - 2023   
    Those Next Minnesota Twins consisted of position players Jose Miranda, Royce Lewis, Mark Contreras, Jermaine Palacios, Caleb Hamilton, and Matt Wallner. Joining them from the pitching side were Jhoan Duran, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, Yennier Cano, Louie Varland, Ronny Henriquez, and Simeon Woods Richardson. 11 of those names were profiled in this same column before the start of last season, missing out on only Hamilton and Wallner, as the Twins minor league depth was relied upon in a “break glass in case of emergency” fashion due to the well-chronicled injury issues on the big league roster.
    Many things will have to go wrong, or right depending on which side of the glass half full or empty pendulum you swing, for the Twins to get even close to that number again during the 2023 season. Most of those 2022 debuts are now firmly-rooted depth on the 40-man roster, with Duran, Miranda, Sands, and if not for injury, perhaps Henriquez and Winder earning their full-time pinstripes.
    It is not a question of if a player will make a debut for the Twins in 2023, only when, so who are some of those potential Next Minnesota Twins for 2023?
    As mentioned, the Twins' 40-man roster depth is full of players who have already had at least a cup of coffee in the majors, as the set of names available for this category consists of just four players. It omits pitcher Matt Canterino, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and will likely not pitch in 2023. The fun thing here is that depth also consists of a lot of the organization's “top prospects,” so the St. Paul Saints are going to be a popular ticket throughout this season (count me in for attending the “They’re One of Us” double bobblehead game on August 29th, featuring Louie Varland and Matt Wallner).
    Edouard Julien (23 years old on opening day), IF - Twins Daily’s #5 Prospect (Julien made his MLB debut on 4/12 against the Chicago White Sox, going 0-for-2 with a walk)
    A prospect darling due to his on-field performance since being drafted in the 18th round in 2019, all Julien has done since becoming a pro is get on base. For almost inexplicable reasons, he spent all of the 2022 season with the Wichita Wind Surge, where he hit .300/.441/.490, leading the Texas League in on-base percentage and then following that up by tapping into even more power in the Arizona Fall League. He took home the Breakout Prospect Award while there, though arguably could have been the MVP as he led the circuit in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. He followed that up by impressing with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic and with the Twins this spring.
    With injury questions looming around infielders Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff, if the veteran backups the Twins went out and got aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, Julien could be given a shot early.
    Jordan Balazovic (24), RHP - TD’s #16 Prospect
    Almost everything went wrong for Balazovic during the 2022 season, where he was a borderline top-100 prospect at its outset. Then he was knocked around in triple-A for the entire year and plummeted to the point he’s not even a top 10 prospect for the Twins in our own rankings to start in 2023. I will say that I got to see him in St. Paul late in the 2022 season, and he showed plenty of flashes of what made him so highly regarded in that game, including mid-90’s velocity as a starter, so I’m not giving up on him by any means. 
    Brent Headrick (25), LHP (Headrick made his MLB debut on 4/19 at Fenway Park. He pitched three innings, allowing one run on one hit and two walks, while striking out three)
    Added to the 40-man roster in the 2023 offseason after he spent only half of 2022 in double-A, Headrick has impressed the organization this Spring, appearing in three games and striking out 10 in seven innings that were good for a 2.57 ERA. He looks ticketed for the triple-A rotation, which was already crowded, so that says a lot about how the Twins view his potential. He was fantastic with Cedar Rapids last year, going 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 15 starts, before finishing the year with double-A and absolutely dominating in two postseason starts, allowing zero earned runs and punching out 19 while walking none in 12 innings.
    While this category is a little light this year, that’s because all of that prospect depth I’ve mentioned already got their feet wet last season. That doesn’t mean this section isn’t still exciting, because one name was arguably the top hitter in all of college baseball last season. The other is a former top-five draft pick coming off a stellar resurgence in the Arizona Fall League.
    Brooks Lee, IF (22) - TD’s #1 Prospect
    Lee had quite the 2022 season as he transitioned from college to the pros. First, by reinforcing the notion he was a top hitter in his draft class by batting .357/.462/.664 for his father’s Cal Poly squad, getting drafted 8th overall, and finally ending his introduction to pro ball in the double-A playoffs with Wichita. In a little talked-about blurb in his career, he was already familiar with Minnesota, having played for the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League during the summer of 2021. In 31 games in the minors last season, he hit .303/.389/.471 overall, clubbing six doubles and four home runs, while striking out in just 14.4% of his plate appearances against a walk rate of 11.5%. All these numbers mean, is he did everything expected of a prospect of his pedigree, and then some, after a long year of baseball. While there are questions about his ability to handle shortstop in the majors, that’s not much of a concern while Carlos Correa is around, and his bat will always be his calling card. He’s perhaps the top hitter prospect the Twins have had since that Mauer guy, and I think you’ll see a lot of similarities in their games when he arrives. 
    If all goes according to plan, he will be in St. Paul in midsummer and just how good he’s hitting, from both sides of the plate, will determine if he forces the issue or not. I just love the swing he put on this pitch for Cedar Rapids last year, and hope to see it at Target Field soon:
    Austin Martin, IF/OF (24) - TD’s #10 Prospect 
    The caveat here with Martin is he’s been dealing with an elbow issue this spring, and it could end his season with Tommy John surgery before it even starts. While this isn’t as serious for position players as it is for pitchers, it’s still a disappointing cloud to have hanging over him after his excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League to close out his 2022 season. 
    In 90 games with Wichita in 2022, perhaps the best thing Martin did was achieve a .367 on-base percentage. But that came with just a .316 slugging percentage resulting in a sub .700 OPS, hardly impressive for a prospect with his pedigree. This can perhaps be blamed on an altering of his approach in search of power, but if so, it probably should have been abandoned well before it was. Sent to the AFL, Martin appeared to embrace just being himself (not unlike the stories of Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis), and the results he and the Twins had been looking for followed. In 21 games, he batted .374/.454/.482 and stole 10 bases in 11 attempts, being named to the All-AFL team in the process. The parallels to Lewis here are undeniable, unfortunately, the injury part of that is in play as well.
    It is some slim pickings again in this category, as veteran and already debuted prospect depth dominates the roster of the St. Paul Saints. It’s likely a fairly well-established pecking order to join the big league club when a need arises at this point. But teams will almost always need a third catcher during the grind of the MLB season, and with St. Paul just miles away from Target Field you never know who may be the guy that is available the day an extra arm is needed across the river.
    Jair Camargo, C (23)
    Carmargo is ticketed to start the season with the St. Paul Saints after spending the bulk of his 2022 season with the Wichita. He clubbed 18 home runs in 74 games, including 12 in 46 games with the Wind Surge after a midseason promotion. Listed as a sturdy 5’ 10” and 230 lbs Camargo looks the part of a catcher and utilized his arm strength to throw out 38% of would-be base stealers in double-A. 
    Austin Schulfer, RHP (27)
    Schulfer was absolutely dominant out of Wichita’s bullpen for the first two months of the 2022 season, amassing seven saves and striking out 30 in 23 innings in his first 15 appearances. That also came with a minuscule 0.39 ERA and 0.65 WHIP before being promoted to St. Paul. He wasn’t nearly as good there for the rest of the season, but it is hard to ignore what he did before then. He should play a big role in the Saints bullpen for all of 2023, and if he’s performing when a fresh arm is needed could find himself spending a lot of time on the Green Line during the season. 
    Michael Helman, IF/OF (26)
    A typical utility player prospect, Helman has been a swiss army knife for whatever team he has played for since the Twins drafted him in the 11th round back in 2018. He had an OPS of .840 for Wichita last season before being promoted to St. Paul, and is a ready replacement on the Twins bench for the likes of Donovan Solano or Nick Gordon, should they miss any time. He also stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new bases and pitching rules, as he swiped 40 bags in 45 attempts last season.
    Cody Laweryson, RHP (24)
    Laweryson split his 2022 season between Cedar Rapids and Wichita, making appearances as both a starter and reliever at both stops. The fun quirk with his stat lines over the season, was his dominance when thrust into a starting role (0.84 ERA, 0.89 WHIP), but he was also very good coming out of the bullpen (2.25 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) and increased his strikeout rate from 9.9 to 11.1 per 9IP. It will be curious to see if the Twins continue to utilize him in this way, or cut him loose out of the bullpen full-time with Wichita to start the 2023 season. Never know, maybe pretty soon he can do this on the big league stage:
    Now we get to some shots in the dark, or players who could come out of nowhere to make a surprise debut. They might be a well-known name but not that far up the ladder at the start of the season, returning from an injury so they may have been forgotten some, or have a unique pitch or other ability that could pay off big if other areas develop as well.
    Blayne Enlow, RHP (24)
    Enlow made it through waivers after being removed from the 40-man roster early this offseason, and I’m hoping the Twins will end up ecstatic about this fact in the near future. Highly regarded coming out of high school, Minnesota was able to keep him away from his commitment to LSU by going over slot in the third round of the 2017 draft. He made three excellent starts and looked to be breaking out for Cedar Rapids to start his 2021 season, before having to undergo Tommy John surgery. Notable about his recovery, however, is he was pitching again in games in less than a year, though those came with perhaps expected struggles. The reins should be off in 2023, and I’m looking for a bounce-back season from the right-hander. Perhaps with a Tyler Duffey-like resurgence out of a bullpen with his big curveball.
    Connor Prielipp, LHP (22) - TD’s #7 Prospect
    Yeah, I’m gonna be that guy.
    In the conversation to go number one overall in the draft before having to undergo Tommy John surgery during the 2021 season, Prielipp slipped to the Twins in the second round in 2022 and is loaded with upside. A left-hander with a mid-90’s fastball and wipeout slider, Prielipp struck out basically everyone he faced in the SEC (15.1K/9IP rate), the big asterisk there being it was just 28 total innings over two seasons. But reading stuff like this is exactly why I’m placing him here:
    Now, there are absolutely going to be innings and probably other limitations on Prielipp this season, but the pipedream scenario I envision for a debut to happen in 2023 is like that of Chris Sale way back when, where he’s just too good to not utilize as a weapon from the bullpen in a playoff push.
    These are just some of the names I’d love to see don the new Minnesota Twins uniforms for the first time this season. When do you think any of them will arrive at Target Field? Who are you looking forward to the most even though that answer is Edouard Julien? Who are some of the players you think I may have missed? Let’s play ball!
  2. Disagree
    Bodie reacted to Melissa Berman for an article, World Baseball Classic Illustrates Why Pitch Clock Should Not be Used in MLB Postseason   
    As baseball fans are familiar with by now, 2023 will mark the first year MLB uses a pitch clock in the major leagues- 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. 
    So far, MLB has shown a great willingness to listen to feedback on the pitch clock and make tweaks and adaptations to improve it. In advance of Opening Day, MLB has already implemented a few minor changes, such as allowing more time for the pitcher to return to the mound after being involved in a defensive play (like covering first base or home plate) and giving the catcher additional time to put on his gear after running the bases or making the final out of the inning on offense. 
    MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the Associated Press that MLB is listening to feedback from players and is willing to make further changes to the pitch clock if needed. 
    "We have another set of issues that we want to see some regular season games before we make a decision on them," Manfred said. "I've met with six teams' players already. Our feet are not in stone on this. On the one hand, and we are prepared to make adjustments based on input. On the other hand, we want to give it a chance to see exactly how it plays out after a period of adjustment in some regular-season games before we make any really significant alteration."
    Last year, I wrote a piece evaluating the pros and cons of a pitch clock, but it’s a done deal now, and evaluating whether they should or should not use a pitch clock at all is no longer relevant. The pitch clock has shaved twenty-five minutes off games (regular season games in 2022 lasted an average of 3 hours and five minutes), pitch timer violations have gradually declined this spring, and the pitch clock has been acclaimed by many, including the Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer. (One can imagine why the pitch clock might make a broadcaster’s job easier; they have to fill 25 fewer minutes of on-air time). 
    However, there is still discussion to be had regarding when and how exactly MLB uses the pitch clock. The excitement and drama of the WBC games earlier this month, especially in the aforementioned USA vs. Japan final, illustrate why the pitch clock does not belong in postseason games. Anyone who watched a WBC game, even during the first round of pool play, can attest to their playoff-like feel. Due to the high stakes of each playoff game, like the high stakes of playing a game representing your country, players should be able to take their time during at-bats.
    There is an entire extra layer of strategy involved, and playoff games are often much louder than regular-season games. Therefore, it would be better to let those games play out naturally. In the WBC championship, it was incredible to let the game breathe and hear the crowd cheer as the camera zoomed in on Shohei Ohtani on the mound. Fans noted that Ohtani would have had a pitch clock violation perhaps every pitch during Mike Trout’s at-bat. The MLB postseason features high-stakes at-bats like this too, and as cliché as it sounds, the playoffs are where history is made. People will be re-watching this clip of Ohtani vs. Trout for decades. Why rush along moments like this?
    Scott Boras, agent to Carlos Correa and many other MLB players, agrees and said in The Athletic that based on player feedback he’s received, MLB should not use the pitch clock in October.
    “In the postseason, there clearly should be no pitch clock,” Boras said. “It’s the moment, the big moment. They need to reflect, they need more time, it’s a different scenario than the regular season, and we do not want their performances rushed.”
    “We understand why they would probably (use a clock) during the season, for the efficiency of the game and what they believe to be a fan-positive move for the shortening of games — understood. But in the postseason, we don’t want these men in a completely different emotional environment, where the settings mean so much more, where all their work and effort, all their goals are achieved. And at this level, we want them to have the appropriate time, both pitchers and position players, to evaluate and move forward in the most prepared and directed way.”
    Boras is in the business of representing his MLB clients during contract negotiations, and he doesn't want potentially career-altering moments to be rushed because those could feasibly impact a future contract. During regular season games, I agree with Boras that it is beneficial to move the games along. Will it attract new fans to the game? No, but it might help keep some fans a little more engaged by packing the same amount of action into a shorter amount of time. But in the postseason, fans in the stands pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for playoff tickets; their number one priority probably isn’t to get out of the stadium as fast as possible. Fans who truly love baseball and the playoffs will watch the games regardless if they are 2 hours 40 minutes or 3 hours and 30 minutes. People who don't care about baseball will have probably tuned out already and won't still be watching baseball in October anyway; NHL, NBA, NFL, and college football will have started. 
    And who is to say, after an entire season of using a pitch clock, the players wouldn't be so used to keeping the game moving that they would do so anyway without a pitch clock? I find it unlikely that if MLB took away the clock for the postseason, these games would immediately balloon back up to the average pace of the past, around 3.5 hours, especially considering many players who have been in the minor leagues the last couple of years have previous experience playing with a pitch clock. 
    If MLB decided to distinguish between pitch clock usage in the regular season and the postseason, it would not be uncharted territory rules-wise: MLB already does this with its runner on second “ghost runner" rule, which it does not use in October. The reasoning here is clear: MLB doesn’t want a high-stakes postseason game decided by a sacrifice fly to the outfield, which allows a runner no pitcher allowed to get on base to score. So why would MLB want a postseason game to be decided from rushed decision-making, or worse, on a pitch clock violation, like happened to the Braves in spring training? Braves hitter Cal Conley was not ready to go in time with a full count in the ninth, and the umpire called a strikeout to end the game.
    "I don't think this (rule) was intended for a game to end like that," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the game. 
    If MLB does not want to eliminate the use of a pitch clock in the postseason altogether, perhaps they could consider adding a few seconds onto the clock as well.
    I have also seen suggestions that the pitch clock should not be used late in regular season games, such as after the 7th inning, or there should be no pitch clock in the 9th inning. However, this brings about an issue: it would make it unfair to have pitchers competing under different conditions; it would make it harder to compare oranges to oranges or Griffin Jax to Jorge López. Pace issues are most prevalent at the end of games anyway, so if we are concerned about the length of games, not having a pitch clock during the potentially-longest innings of the game defeats MLB's stated goal of shortening games. Inconsistent pitch clock usage in a game could be confusing for pitchers & batters and fans too; I think it should either be used in the full game or not at all. 
    I am encouraged at MLB's willingness to listen to player feedback on the pitch clock and to adjust the rules as needed. Time will tell if this feedback leads to further tweaks on the pitch clock's usage, or if players become so used to it that it's a nonissue for the playoffs anyway, 
    As I watched the WBC championship at a bar, the tension and nerves in the room came to a head during that dramatic, historic ninth inning. I leaned over to one of my friends and asked, "Aren't you glad there isn't a pitch clock right now?" 
  3. Like
    Bodie reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, A New Outfielder Could be Twins Saving Grace   
    For years the Minnesota Twins have had one of baseball’s best players patrolling the middle of their outfield. It’s hard to deny how extraordinary Byron Buxton is. The problem is that he’s always been shelved for a period of time. This year, Derek Falvey brought in an insurance policy named Michael A. Taylor.
    There will never be a question about how good Byron Buxton is. He is on the level with Mike Trout and Aaron Judge as among the best in the game when he is on the field. Staying on the field has been a problem, and it’s why he was able to be signed for just a $100 million contract. Employing him comes with risk, and for the first time, Minnesota spent to support themselves in that regard.
    Rather than needing to run out someone like Rob Refsnyder or ask Nick Gordon to make an emergency start in centerfield, Rocco Baldelli now has a Gold Glove talent ready to play in place of Buxton. Michael A. Taylor has consistently been one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Twins fans have seen this on display as Taylor was showcased within the division with the Royals.
    Taylor joins the Twins making $4.5 million this year. He’s not some cast-off worth little more than the major-league minimum. He has won a World Series. Taylor has played in nearly 1,000 major-league games throughout his career. This is a guy that can be thrown out there, and expectations are straightforward.
    No one should expect Buxton’s offensive production from Taylor, but that has never been the case for any of his previous backups. As Buxton is eased back into his defensive role, keeping him healthy and in the lineup is a worthy goal. The Twins have watched Buxton turn into a slugging threat, and regular at-bats could see him blast more than 40 homers this season. He doesn’t need to steal bases, even with the new rules, as his gap power produces plenty of extra-base hits. Taylor playing the field takes away pressure from Buxton putting additional stress on his body. Just once throughout his nine-year career has Taylor been above a league-average hitter. As a 26-year-old in 2017, Taylor posted a 104 OPS+ for Washington. His .806 OPS was the result of a career-best 19 home runs, and it is something he hasn’t replicated since. Minnesota doesn’t need that from him, but something more than the 83 OPS+ produced over the last two seasons as a regular for Kansas City would be ideal.
    At some point, the hope is that Taylor will be relegated back to a fourth outfielder role, and Minnesota can start their best offense on a daily basis. If he can hold down his spot at the back of the batting order until then, the time he’ll see when everyone is healthy should undoubtedly rise.
    Last season the Twins saw what can happen when depth is beyond thin. Having producers at the top works, but the reality is that players will get hurt, and there are few times when everyone is available all at once. A built-in insurance policy to keep him available has been necessary for having a superstar like Buxton, who provides so much on both sides of the ball.
    Minnesota made more than a handful of moves this offseason. Dealing for Pablo Lopez, re-signing Carlos Correa, and bringing in Kyle Farmer all drew headlines. The acquisition of Taylor, though, could provide the most significant dividends and ripple effects for the Twins. Expect to see him plenty this season, and the more Buxton can remain healthy because of his presence, the better.
  4. Disagree
    Bodie reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Byron Buxton is Worth It   
    Byron Buxton sat out a majority of spring training games to many fans' dismay before debuting at DH last week. Buxton’s appearance indicated a readiness for Opening Day but was quickly followed by news that he wouldn’t be playing in the field to begin the season. 
    Byron Buxton is a dynamic player. At the beginning of his career, while struggling at the plate, he still enamored fans with his ability to run down fly balls to a superhuman degree. He still holds the highest stolen base percentage in MLB history.
    He’s a different player than he was when he debuted. We rarely see him try to steal bases anymore. Over the years he’s made reckless dives at balls less often and rarely goes crashing into the wall as we once saw him do. He rarely takes off from first base. Early in 2023, he won’t be roaming centerfield at all. 
    As Buxton’s game has changed defensively and on the bases, so too has his offensive profile. Not only has Buxton molded himself into an offensive contributor, but he’s projected to be the best hitter in the lineup this season as he arguably has been the last few years. The issue of course isn’t talent, but how often Buxton has been able to use it.
    The Twins know this, which is why they’re opting to DH him to begin the season. They’ve made the decision that his bat is too valuable to risk losing in pursuit of his defensive value, at least for now. Is that the right decision?
    In 2022, Byron Buxton put up an .833 OPS, a down year relative to 2020 and 2021. His knee was ailing him, and he became something of an all-or-nothing hitter, something he could hopefully avoid in 2023. Despite his struggles with consistency, he was 36% above the league-average hitter. This would have put him behind only the Astros Yordan Alvarez in regard to designated hitters in all of baseball. Buxton’s bat is special enough that even when he’s as banged up as he was in 2022, he can be a game-changer without playing the field.
    The Twins also insulated their center field depth to a degree they never had before. If you think the Twins will miss Buxton’s center-field defense, it’s worth noting that Michael A. Taylor is a defensive wizard in his own right. While Outs Above Average has him comfortably below Buxton defensively, his 19 defensive runs saved in 2022 paced out to a similar number to what Buxton would have reached in a full season. It’s safe to say that Taylor’s presence on the roster should significantly soften the blow of Buxton not playing the field. 
    Byron Buxton’s inability to play the field when the season starts is disappointing, but he’s got plenty of star power to add solely at the plate. Michael A. Taylor still will give the Twins one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, even though the thought of getting the full Byron Buxton Experience is enticing.
    Fans may be tired of Byron Buxton being treated with kid gloves, but he’s the kind of star player that’s worth taking the conservative route with. By all accounts, a return to centerfield is in his future, and they’re in much better shape than in past years while they wait until he’s ready. Byron Buxton is worth it.
  5. Love
    Bodie reacted to Thiéres Rabelo for an article, Is The WBC Even Worth it?   
    For three weeks, most of the baseball world celebrated the multicultural festivities of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) that took place in four different cities across three countries and two continents. The tournament had some of the world’s best players and broke, with ease, all of its attendance and viewership records. Still, in the middle of all that baseball fun, some people still managed to find a negative way to look at the competition.
    When Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz got hurt celebrating his country’s crucial win over the powerhouse from the Dominican Republic on March 15th, several media outlets and personalities bashed the WBC and its “lack of relevance.” Most notably, Barstool’s Kevin Clancy went on a rant about how “nobody gives a [expletive] about the WBC except for [expletive] losers.” Then, podcaster Keith Olbermann piled on by claiming the WBC is “a meaningless exhibition series designed to (...) split up teammates based on where their grandmothers got laid.”
    Despite being made in a grotesque way, there’s a very valid point in those statements, and they are definitely worth being politely discussed: is the World Baseball Classic fun worth the risk of superstars getting injured? Here are some reasons why I think it is.
    For many people, the WBC matters much more than the MLB
    This year’s WBC broke all of its attendance and viewership records. The tournament drew 1,010,999 fans to the stands during pool play, shattering the previous record of 510,056 set in 2017 with a 98% increase. Pool D, which was played in the US, drew 295,850 fans to the stands, making it the most-attended WBC round ever played in the United States – an 81% increase compared to the previous record.
    The TV viewership of this year’s WBC was also outstanding. Numbers on Tuesday night's championship game are not officially out yet, but one of the Samurai Japan games in this edition already broke an interesting record. Until this year, the most-watched baseball game in history was considered to be Game 6 of the 1980 MLB World Series, when 54,86 million people tuned on NBC to watch the Phillies defeat the Royals. But when Japan played against South Korea in their third pool play game, around 62 million people were watching the game in Japan – nearly half of the country. Tuesday’s championship game has the potential to be the most-watched game in baseball’s history.
    To put things in perspective, according to MLB, the 2022 World Series averaged 12.02 million total viewers per game across FOX, FOX Deportes, and FOX Sports streaming platforms. The final game of the series reached a peak audience of 14.73 million viewers during the game.
    Another fun number: when Puerto Rico played against the Dominican Republic in the final game of Pool D, about 62% of the island was watching the game, including 24% of viewers under the age of 35, and 55% were female viewers. Can you imagine over 60% of a country watching the same game? You can find some more fun stats about the WBC here and here.
    Finally: the players love it. Former Twin Nelson Cruz said, "the WBC is the real World Series.” It is easy to notice how important representing their country is for players, especially from countries like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, where baseball is the number one sport. But it’s not only them. Here’s what Mike Trout and Mookie Betts had to say right after the Edwin Díaz injury.
    Injuries will happen anywhere, at any time
    Wanting the end of the WBC over injuries makes no sense. First and foremost because Major League Baseball has insurance in place to protect its teams in circumstances like this. The Mets, for instance, will get reimbursed for Edwin Díaz’s salary during the star closer’s time on the injured list. That should be the end of this.
    But in case that’s not enough, people should remember that injuries like that could happen anywhere, at any time. Gavin Lux suffered a non-contact knee injury in this year's spring training and will miss the entire season. Brandon Nimmo got injured sliding into second. Last Sunday, both Juan Soto and Austin Nola left their respective spring training games due to injuries, and the Padres might miss them for a while. Nola, specifically, was hit in the nose with a pitch. Yet, no one is calling for spring training to be canceled. And no one should, as it doesn’t make any sense.
    Injuries are unpredictable. Remember when Francisco Liriano missed out on roughly $11M when he broke his arm slamming into a door to scare his kids on Christmas? The odds of that happening might be the same as Díaz suffering a torn patellar tendon while celebrating a WBC win with his teammates.
    The WBC puts baseball on the map
    Finally and most importantly, the WBC makes baseball stronger. The United States is the birthplace of baseball, and it might even sound weird for a US native to hear that baseball needs to be strengthened. But the truth is that baseball is not among the most globally-spread sports in the world. Outside the US, it is only considerably popular in Central America and east Asia.
    I’m not from the USA. I’m a born and raised Brazilian who’s been living in Brazil my entire life. I had never watched a baseball game until I was 16, and I didn’t know the first thing about the sport. Unfortunately, that’s the case for most people in most countries outside the US and those two other areas. A global event such as the WBC is vital for baseball’s future, especially since it has been dropped from the Olympic Games.
    Baseball is the greatest game on the planet, and the whole world needs to know that. The WBC isn’t nearly as representative as other sports’ world cups, like FIFA’s, FIBA, the cricket world cup, the rugby world cup, etc. But it can be. It has to be. It will be, as long as we don’t give up on it over a superstar injury.
    What do you think? Is the World Baseball Classic important enough for superstar players to risk getting injured? Share your thoughts in the comments!
  6. Like
    Bodie reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Report from the Fort: Updates from Twins Territory South   
    We’re quickly approaching Opening Day, and as the Minnesota Twins look to iron out their 26-man roster before heading to Kansas City, they’ll continue to make cuts from the major league side of things. As the World Baseball Classic wraps up in the coming days, there will be a few players that return to camp as well.
    Here’s what I’m hearing and have observed through the past week of action:
    Sonny Gray
    Gray threw against the Boston Red Sox Single-A team on Wednesday afternoon. As expected, he was dominant. Ryan Jeffers came down to the back fields to catch the outing, and it was a bit more traditional. Not using pitch com, Gray did have a pitch clock set up behind the batter. He mowed down hitters, and during his final inning, allowed a Red Sox batter to start at first base in order for him to work from the stretch.
    With Wednesday being his day to pitch, he is lined up for an Opening Day start against the Royals. It was Joe Ryan who captured that honor last year, but appears Gray will take it from here. He should have two more starts before the regular season kicks off. Gray could certainly be a difference maker on the mound for the Twins this year. Entering the final year of his deal, a strong season could earn another big payday. Carlos Correa
    He returned to Minnesota’s lineup on Friday after missing some time following the birth of his son. He noted working out while away, and there is little reason to think he’ll have any rust to knock off. Correa has been a pillar of preparation this year for Minnesota and could be in for a massive season during year one of the mega deal.
    Nick Gordon
    Thursday saw a return to action for Gordon. He had missed time following an ankle injury suffered on a defensive play. Rocco Baldelli had him at second base against the Rays and he went 1-for-3 on the afternoon. Gordon should again be expected to play a substantial amount in a utility role, and is a key part of Minnesota’s 26-man roster. Royce Lewis
    Thursday morning saw Lewis doing sprint work on the Twins practice field before he stepped in the cage. Resuming hitting roughly a week ago, the stroke looked smooth as he sent a handful of batting practice balls over the fence. Returning from a second ACL injury, Lewis looks strong and back to form. He’ll continue to rehab having been placed on the 60-day injured list, but should be an option for Minnesota come early summer.
    Lewis did take live at bats on the back fields prior to the Twins game on Friday. He continues to do rehab work and has a bit longer rehab day on Saturday. I plan to talk with him following his workout, so be on the lookout for a more in depth interview in the coming days.
    Alex Kirilloff
    The good news is that Kirilloff is reportedly swinging with no pain. He has been seen smiling and upbeat following batting sessions and that is not something that Minnesota saw much of last season. The bad news is that he has yet to appear in any game action and time is running out. It remains to be seen how he will be utilized the rest of the way this spring, but logic says he’d need to get game action before being an option to start on Opening Day.   Kirilloff got in some love at bat work prior to Friday’s action on the back fields. He does have a noticeable amount of wrist tape on his left forearm. The swing is still smooth, but it doesn’t appear he lets it fly every time. He was struck out in a few at bats by Alex Phillips and Sean Mooney. It was nice to see him a bit more ramped up than the casual batting practice action Thursday. Byron Buxton
    Although he has yet to appear in a major league game this spring, Buxton is getting plenty of work in. He got five at bats during the Triple-A game on Thursday as Louie Varland worked against the Braves minor leaguers on the mound. Buxton batted second each inning and did not play the field. He finished his day with a walk and didn’t have much opportunity to show off the wheels. Regardless of where the cuts are coming, it’s good to see Buxton appears on track to go north with Minnesota. Omari Daniel
    The 2022 draft pick was taken in the 14th round last year and swayed away from college. He underwent Tommy John surgery not long after and never made his professional debut. He was in the lineup Wednesday for his first professional action. The speed was on display and is impressive. He’s not a guy that appears on prospect lists, but the Twins did significant work to get him into pro ball and it’s nice that he’ll be completely healthy this year. Hernan Perez
    Minnesota continues to bring in depth and did so in the form of Hernan Perez. He is playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic alongside of Pablo Lopez, Luis Arraez, and Eduardo Escobar. There shouldn’t be much expectation for him to sniff the big league roster, but he can help at St. Paul. Perez hasn’t accumulated much major league time of late but had a run with the Milwaukee Brewers. Edouard Julien
    He was incredible on a global stage during the World Baseball Classic. Going 7-for-13 with a pair of doubles and homers, the bat just continues to play. He’ll return to Twins camp this week, and after being optioned earlier this week he’s ticketed for more time in the minors. Triple-A is probably the next stop, but he certainly is making a compelling case that he belongs. Should someone miss time, his bat could be enough to warrant opportunity. Lineups
    The Tampa Bay Rays brought one of the worst lineups I have ever seen for their action against the Twins on Thursday. There wasn’t a single player close to being a big-league regular that was in the lineup. Because that how spring training goes, Tampa won the game 2-0. It’s certainly a good thing that the result doesn’t matter. Joe Ryan did work four innings and punched out five. That would put him on track to start Minnesota’s second game of the season. He should have two more outings before heading north. What other Twins questions or comments do you have as spring training continues on?
  7. Love
    Bodie reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Guy Who Overvalues Prospects Thinks Matt Moses Is Finally Ready   
    It’s the age-old baseball debate: Do you hold onto your prospects at all costs, or part with them in order to upgrade the current major league squad?
    Terry Utgaard is in the former camp.
    “Remember when the Tigers traded John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander,” asked the Roseville-based claims adjuster.  His few friends confirm he has used this argument to oppose any trade of any minor leaguer since Detroit dealt the future Hall of Famer in 1987. Alexander would go on to lose both his ALCS games against the Minnesota Twins that season.
    Utgaard, who still has a threadbare Michael Restovich shirsey in his t-shirt rotation, has some unorthodox opinions about the 2023 team as well.
    “I love Jose Miranda,” said the 47-year-old bachelor. “But if he falters or gets hurt, I think this might be time for Matt Moses. He fits the bill.”
    Moses, Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2003, is 38. He hasn’t pl
    ayed professionally since 2009 for Double-A New Britain. While Moses might have stopped chasing his MLB dream, Utgaard hasn’t.
    “Some beat writer hacks limit their top prospect lists to 40 or 100,” said the maniac, opening a spreadsheet that takes minutes to load despite Caribou Coffee’s robust visitor wi-fi. “As you can see, I have Moses sitting in the mid-600s by BJ Hermsen and The Real Deal JD Durbin . He would bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse that, say, Yunior Severino can’t.”
    When it’s mentioned that Moses is likely retired for good, a shadow passes over Utgaard’s face.
    “So you’re saying you just want to give up on Matt Moses. You want to discard him for some veteran who will be gone in a year or two. Is that what you’re saying?”
    When it’s pointed out that the Twins would likely be thrilled to get anything in return for a player who hasn’t been on the team in 14 years, Utgaard scoffs.
    “This ‘win now’ mentality baffles me. You’re looking at potential All-Stars up and down this list and you want to get rid of them for what? When A.J. Achter and Levi Michael are winning rings, I want them winning rings in Minnesota.
    “And before you tell me they’re both retired, did you ever think that’s just a ploy to drive down their trade potential and prevent the team from making an incredible mistake?”
    “I worry about Terry, and I’m me,” said Seth Stohs, Twins Daily senior prospect knower and the only other Twins fan who remembers A.J. Achter.
    Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash
  8. Love
    Bodie reacted to Ted Wiedmann for an article, Ryan Jeffers is Facing an Uphill Battle   
    There's been plenty of speculation about how MLB's new rule changes will affect hitters and pitchers. It makes sense, given the current roster the Twins have that contains Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, and a plethora of fly-ball pitchers. But, one other Twins player may be significantly affected by these rule changes, catcher Ryan Jeffers. 
    Jeffers has a classic backup catcher prototype, lots of power with little contact, and a good defensive reputation. However, the current and some inevitable rule changes could hinder Jeffers' value this year and moving forward. 
    First off, we need to understand where Jeffers provides value. This piece will focus purely on his defensive strengths and weaknesses, so offense aside for now. We have comparable quantitative data for three defensive categories: pitch framing, blocking, and throwing out runners. Other aspects of catcher defense, like understanding the pitching staff, calling pitches, leadership, and other intangibles, play a significant part in catching too. Still, from the outside, it's difficult to see who excels in those areas outside of player and staff quotes. 
    Let's start with the good for Jeffers, his pitch framing. It's a big reason the Twins have been high on Jeffers coming into the season the last two years. From 2021 to 2022, Jeffers established himself as one of the better pitch framers in baseball. According to Fangprahs, Jeffers' 3.3 framing runs above average (FRM) placed him 22nd among 51 catchers that caught at least 400 innings. However, limiting the pool to catchers that have caught at least 1000 innings over those two years makes him look much more impressive. Jeffers' 6.8 FRM ranks 14th out of 36, notably ahead of the presumed starter, Christian Vazquez, who was 18th at 3.7 FRM. 
    This data is supported by Statcast as well. In 2022 Jeffers was 18th out of 60 qualified catchers in catcher framing runs, which was good for the 64th percentile. He also finished 21st out of 60 in strike rate. Jeffers performed similarly in 2021, finishing 21st out of 59 qualified catchers in catcher framing runs and 15th in strike rate. While not among the elite in strike zone manipulation, Jeffers certainly provides value in stealing strikes behind the plate. Unfortunately for Jeffers, with the automated strike zone being tested in the Minor Leagues, this could potentially neutralize his best skillset as a catcher. 
    Let's move on to areas Jeffers could improve. The first area is his ability to control the running game. Jeffers had a poor caught-stealing rate in 2022, only throwing out 7 of 38 runners in motion. That is a stolen base success rate of over 81%. This has been a problem for Jeffers throughout his career, as in his three years behind the plate, he has allowed more than 80% (91/113) of stolen base attempts to be successful. 
    We can also look to another stat to show Jeffers' struggles in this area. Fangraphs as a stat called stolen base runs saved (rSB). This statistic credits the catchers with their caught stealing rate and the rate at which runners try to steal. In 2022 Jeffers finished with -1 rSB, placing him 35th among 51 catchers that caught at least 400 innings. While -1 might not seem like a huge issue, if we expand the sample, we get a better picture. If we look at catchers that have caught at least 1,000 innings between 2021 and 2022, Jeffers ranks 35th out of 36 in rSB at -5. Only Austin Nola finished below him. 
    The third defensive area to focus on is pitch blocking, the first thing youth catchers learn to do. Statcast recently released a new stat called blocks above average, which measures "the number of passed balls and wild pitches compared to the expectation of an average catcher." Jeffers ranks 53rd out of 66 qualified Statcast catchers in this metric with -3. There is a pretty sizable runs gap between the bottom ten players and where Jeffers ranks, as the bottom couple of catchers are -11 and lower, so that 53rd ranking may be a bit misleading. Nonetheless, Jeffers still finished below Gary Sanchez, who was made notorious (probably too much so) for having passed balls and wild pitches issues. 
    While it is unclear how the pitch clock, the pickoff limit, and the bigger bases will affect baserunning, they were undoubtedly created to incentivize aggressive baserunning. This likely means more stolen base attempts, bigger leads, and better jumps on balls in the dirt. Because Jeffers already struggles to control the running game as is, these new rules can potentially severely hurt Jeffers' value as a defensive catcher. In addition to his struggles at the plate, if Jeffers' most valuable asset on defense also becomes neutralized, Jeffers’ ceiling as a starting catcher could be in question.
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