mikelink45 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Minnesota Twins Are Whiffing Away at a Momentous Opportunity
In so many ways, it feels like the stars are aligned for the Minnesota Twins here in 2023. They've managed to assemble one of the best pitching staffs in the league, with a rotation that piles up strikeouts and regularly goes deep. The Twins miraculously landed Carlos Correa during the offseason in one of the most stunning twists seen in the history of MLB free agency, or this franchise.
A wave of incoming top prospects was set to imminently join the cause, blending with an established veteran core supported by remarkable depth to provide a seemingly sturdy offensive floor.
Most importantly, as we're learning, the American League Central division has turned out to be an absolute atrocity that can seemingly be won with ease. A quality team could essentially lock the thing up by the deadline and start plotting for the postseason.
All of which makes it so much more frustrating and deflating that this group of hitters seems hell-bent on derailing the team's quest. As the bats continually whiff away at the plate, they are threatening to swing and miss at an opportunity the likes of which we may not see again.
An offense plagued by strikeouts
Looking at their overall OPS+ and runs total doesn't quite paint an accurate picture for the Twins offense, which ranks merely as a little below-average in both categories. The timing of their production and distribution of their scoring have drastically minimized the unit's effectiveness in a practical sense.
Minnesota's lineup has popped off for a few big games, but between those sporadic instances, it's been a sprawling desert of lackluster performance, providing the team with no real shot at winning games. The Twins have scored two or fewer runs in 25 of their 63 games (40%) and they've unsurprisingly gone 4-21 in those games, which singularly explains their sub-.500 record and lack of separation in this dreadful division.
Several factors can be traced to this pitiful production, but none more so than the lineup's profound penchant for strikeouts. They are on their way to obliterating the all-time K record, and without corresponding immense power to offset the lack of contact, it's a trend that – at its current extreme – eliminates any chance of success.
Veterans driving the downfall
The youthful lumber infusion hasn't sparked the lineup as many hoped. Jose Miranda is in Triple-A and struggling there. Trevor Larnach is again struggling to stay on the field and produce consistently. Royce Lewis went ice-cold after a loud arrival. Nick Gordon fell completely flat before breaking his shin last month.
However, the team wasn't depending on unproven youngsters to carry the load. These guys were supposed to be supplemental to the veteran core that the Twins assembled – one that looked clearly capable coming into the season, so long as it could avoid another catastrophic bout with injuries.
This year's team certainly hasn't avoided injuries in the position-player corps, but that can hardly be pegged as the primary source of blame this time around. These players plain and simply aren't doing their jobs.
Players like Christian Vazquez and Max Kepler are hitting vastly below their career benchmarks, sinking to baffling new lows. Byron Buxton has arguably been a liability overall, requiring full-time DH duty that limits the lineup while providing decent production that – mimicking the offense in general – comes in short spurts separated by long, costly slumps.
Taking center stage in this scourge of ineptitude is, of course, Correa. He has been a replacement-level player as we approach the halfway mark, fresh off signing a $200 million contract that locked him in as the franchise's foundational building block for years to come.
Flailing away at hittable pitches in the zone and churning out brutal, overmatched plate appearances, Correa has shown minimal signs of improvement. It's tough to get excited about Thursday's game, where he launched a long homer to snap an extended power drought, as a slump-breaker, given how Correa went directly back in the tank after his last flurry of life at the plate in mid-May.
No easy answers
The most vexing part of this offense's persisting poor performance: there aren't really any fixes available. Nearly all of their hopeful impact reinforcements have already arrived. The trade deadline isn't too far off, but acquiring one or two good hitters isn't going to resolve the lineup's pervasive issues, and – as we're all too aware – nothing is guaranteed in deadline pickups.
Making a change at hitting coach is on the table, and I'd argue we might be getting close to that point. As I wrote a month ago, David Popkins doesn't have much of a leg to stand on as a 33-year-old plucked out of Single-A before last year. Correa's effusive praise for Popkins doesn't do much to help validate his efficacy, all things considered. Nor does the inability of numerous young hitters to make adjustments and emerge.
Beyond that, there's this bizarre trend of veteran hitters across the roster striking out at levels that don't jibe with their track records.
It was conspicuous, to me at least, that Dan Hayes' latest column in The Athletic included this tidbit:
"One of those solutions could be adjusting how they approach their game plan. Under hitting coach David Popkins, the Twins are said to feature a technology-heavy approach, one championed by shortstop Carlos Correa. Last offseason, Correa described Popkins as the best hitting coach he’s ever had.
But within the clubhouse, there’s some concern that not everyone is capable of handling the approach and the team may need to adjust how they prepare their hitters."
That doesn't NOT sound like setting the stage for making a change. And really, a new voice couldn't hurt. But people need to be realistic about what is available at this juncture in terms of replacements, and how much an impact any hitting coach can actually have. A new instructor isn't a magical elixir. They can't go out there and swing the bat.
Players like Correa and Buxton and Vazquez and Kepler aren't developing talents who need to be taught how to handle major-league pitchers. They're longtime veterans who earn millions based on their lengthy track records, which earned them the faith of a front office that bet big on them. Alas, those track records betray the continuing failures to launch we've seen from them and so many others.
Some help might be on the way, but none of it will matter if a few of these cornerstone pieces, around whom the entire 2023 team was constructed, don't step up and start bearing the load.
If they can't, they'll have to bear the weight of blowing one of the most prime opportunities you could ever be handed, while obliterating the morale of an embattled fan base trapped in some sadistic groundhog's day.
For now, with 100 games remaining on the schedule, I choose to believe that the tides will turn, and the veterans on this team will awaken to some degree, enabling the Twins to pull away and avert all-out disaster. I choose that because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate.
mikelink45 reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, Should the Twins Try to Pull Off an Early Trade?
The Minnesota Twins fan base went into this season with palpable angst, and a mediocre record that continues to graze a .500 winning percentage hasn’t helped. What usually happens next in this scenario is a call from impassioned followers to make some trades, shake up the roster, and ignite a spark by any means necessary.
And while the deadline is still nearly two months away, whispers of an early market have already been heard around the league. Whether any deals happen in the near-future is still to be determined. But the idea of making a move or two in June could be beneficial to a team like the Twins, who are currently in pole position in their division race, but need considerable help getting their vehicle up to speed. However, there are certainly drawbacks to trying to make an early deal. With merits and concerns on both sides of this coin, the Twins will have to figure out what they are going to prioritize relatively soon.
Pros of an early trade
While the team has boasted a few notable strengths so far in the 2023 season (a stellar starting rotation, some impressive stretches from key youngsters in the lineup, a fire breathing dragon at the back end of the bullpen, to name a few), there is no doubt that they could use a pick-me-up in a few different areas. The team’s depth has been tested multiple times this year, most of the bullpen has been inconsistent and the sluggers that were supposed to star on this squad are marred by injury, ineffectiveness or both.
If a team can identify their needs for the rest of the year, an early entrance into trade conversations could be prudential. They can theoretically alleviate their woes with an effective addition, remap their depth chart with their acquisitions and hopefully get more balance on their roster.
Not only could they improve the club in the short-term, but acquiring a key contributor in June would give them an additional month of production from this hypothetical player. For example, it’s pretty clear that if the Twins remain on the path that they’re currently on, a high-leverage bullpen addition will be necessary. If they were to swing a trade for a relief arm right now, that’s probably around 10-12 additional appearances that they’d be getting instead of waiting for the August 1st deadline to approach.
Obviously, a high-impact deal in June is unlikely, and has become more-rare around the league with each passing year. But there are a few notable swaps that worked wonders for the teams involved, sometimes even more than the clubs anticipated. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired infielder Chris Taylor in June of 2016, and he went on to be a stalwart in their lineup for years to come. The eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox traded for Steve Pearce in June of 2018, and he instantly became a catalyst for the club, eventually being named the World Series MVP that year. Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics just after the calendar flipped to July in 2014, and went on to lead his new club to a postseason appearance.
Each of these players were able to give their new teams additional contributions thanks to their early acquisition. And while that’s beneficial, it can come with a price.
Cons of an early trade
There’s a reason why these early trades have become so rare. It’s not that buying teams are unwilling to pull the trigger, but rather, the market is still in its infancy and the selling teams use the time left on the clock as leverage. If they get to the day of the trade deadline, sellers will surely be sifting through offers to determine the best return. But in June, what’s to stop a selling team from sitting on any offer and waiting for a better proposal down the road?
Say the Twins are in the market for a starting-caliber, right-handed hitting veteran infielder. They could go to a team like the Red Sox and offer a mid-level pitching prospect (let’s go with Matt Canterino) for Justin Turner. Boston could sit on that offer and tell the next team that they’ll need to beat the Twins’ proposal if they want a shot at landing the veteran slugger. They have the luxury of waiting for the market to heat up to their liking. Sure, there’s a risk for these sellers in that they could sit on their hands too long, and their tradable asset either declines or gets injured. But in the end, sellers have the upper hand in June.
That leads to the next con when looking at early trades: increased cost. If the Twins or any other buying team really wants to nail down a trade with so much time before the deadline, they’ll need to offer a package that is too good for the other side to pass on. That could mean a headlining prospect, multiple valuable assets, or taking on more salary in return. Just this week, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Kansas City Royals are open for business when it comes to bullpen weapon Aroldis Chapman, but they want a steeper prospect package and/or additional salary relief to make a move this far in advance of the trade deadline. While that could be worth it for a team like the Twins, it’s understandable why teams might be hesitant.
The needs of the team are also in flux for teams like the Twins. They could have a totally different shopping list by the time the trade market usually heats up in mid-July, so they might be apprehensive about meeting a higher price for an asset right now. Maybe some of their veteran cornerstone players start performing to their expectations, or maybe some of their upper-level prospects take hold of a roster spot in the coming weeks. There’s a lot of moving pieces, and adding another movable piece might not be what’s ultimately best for the club in the long-haul
What do you think? Are there other pros or cons to making a trade this early in the season? What do you think are the Twins’ biggest needs right now? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Reevaluating the Value in the Pablo Lopez for Luis Arraez Trade
Minnesota and Miami seemed like ideal trade partners this winter. The Twins wanted more starting pitching depth, an area of surplus for Miami. The Marlins wanted hitters, an area of surplus for the Twins. Rumors swirled for weeks leading up to the trade, but it seemed like Pablo Lopez and Luis Arraez would be swapping teams before the season began.
Pablo Lopez's 2023 Value
Lopez started strongly in the season's first month. He built off a strong spring training, and the Twins named him the team's Opening Day starter. He posted a 4.00 ERA in six starts with a 1.11 WHIP and 11.5 K/9. The Twins liked what they saw from Lopez and announced they signed him to a four-year, $73.5 million extension. He will be part of Minnesota's rotation for the foreseeable future, but that future value wasn't part of the initial trade. The first two years of Lopez's team control were part of the equation, and his performance has struggled in recent weeks.
Things have gone less smoothly for Lopez after the calendar turned to May. Over his last six starts, he has posted a 5.09 ERA while allowing seven home runs in 35 1/3 innings. Baseball-Reference pegs him at 0.7 WAR, while FanGraphs values him at 1.2 WAR. Those totals are adequate, but they don't paint a complete picture of the value Lopez has provided the Twins. He currently ranks ninth among Twins pitchers with a 0.05 WPA. His ERA+ is below 100 for the first time since 2019, and he has the highest home run rate of his career.
Luis Arraez's 2023 Value
The Twins knew what kind of player Arraez was when they traded him away. He is an elite contact hitter with limited defensive skills. Arraez has also missed time in recent years because of knee injuries. He was coming off an All-Star season where he won the AL batting title. The Twins saw plenty of value in Arraez, but it might have been hard to predict his 2023 totals.
Through 57 games, he is hitting .401/.451/.495 (.946) with 17 extra-base hits and an 11-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He leads the NL in multiple categories including batting average, OBP, hits, and OPB+. Baseball-Reference values him at a 2.9 WAR, and FanGraphs pegs him at 2.0 WAR with a 0.25 WPA. Only four NL players rank higher than him in rWAR, and he's over 70 points up in the batting race. As expected, he's been worth negative value defensively, but his offensive value has been off the charts.
Other Value from Trade Pieces
Arraez had one more year of team control than Lopez at the time of the trade, so Miami included two prospects to balance the trade value. Jose Salas was one of the top-ranked position players in the Marlins organization, but he had yet to play a game above High-A. Byron Chourio was 17 at the time of the deal and had minimal professional experience since the Marlins signed him. Both players are a long way from Target Field, and it will be multiple seasons before the Twins will know what kind of value they will provide to the organization.
Salas played 48 games in the Midwest League during the 2022 season when he was 19 years old. The Twins sent him back to the same league for the 2023 campaign, and he has struggled out of the gate. In 43 games, he has hit .160/.237/.220 (.457) with six doubles and one home run. Salas has yet to face a pitcher younger than himself this season, so some struggles are expected for a young player. Chourio played the 2022 season in the Dominican Summer League (.838 OPS in 53 games) and has made his stateside debut in the Twins system earlier this week..
Arraez is under team control for two more seasons, and plenty of Twins fans will look back on the trade with regret. He is a throwback-style hitter to a bygone era that all fans can find reasons to support. The Twins and Lopez are tied together for the long term, and both sides need to figure out a way to get him back on track. Both players have a chance to provide tremendous value to their clubs, but the early months of the trade don't look great from the Twins' perspective.
Which player will provide more value to their club in the long term? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, The St. Paul Saints Are the Biggest Beneficiaries of the Twins' Roster Depth
For some fans, getting used to the idea of the St. Paul Saints being the Twins' Triple-A affiliate still takes a little. The 2023 season marks the third year of an affiliation between the crosstown teams. Pros and cons of this affiliation have been evident since the organizations joined forces, and it will be interesting to see how the relationship continues to evolve in the years to come. However, the most significant positive for the Saints this season is the caliber of players on the field on any given night.
Last season, the Twins had to dig into the team's Triple-A depth quite regularly because of the vast number of injuries at the big-league level. The Saints finished the season with a 74-75 record, which placed them 17 games back in the International League West Division. Mark Contreras and Jermaine Palacios were the lone position players to play over 100 games for the club. At the same time, Ronny Henriquez, Dereck Rodriguez, and Mario Sanchez were the only pitchers to toss over 90 innings. Some of the team's top prospects appeared on the club, but it was a roster full of veterans looking for another shot at the big-league level.
Minnesota's front office focused on adding depth to the big-league roster for the 2023 season. These moves naturally added more talent to the Saints' roster because the Twins pushed players down the organizational depth chart. Many big-league teams would be forced to use players like Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and Edouard Julien. Luckily, the team has allowed these players to find their footing at the Triple-A level, no matter if they are playing well or struggling when they get called up.
This depth has helped the Saints to start the season at the top of their division. Through Sunday's game, St. Paul had a 32-23 record with a +42 run differential. The Saints rank in the top 10 in runs per game, home runs, and OPS in the International League. St. Paul's pitchers have fared even better, ranking in the top-5 in ERA, strikeouts, and K/9. The top seven teams in the IL West Division are only separated by 4.5 games, so the Saints must continue to rely on organization depth to qualify for the playoffs.
Saints fans can also look to Double-A for players that can reinforce the roster in the second half. Yunior Severino has started the year on a tear for Wichita with 12 home runs and an .899 OPS in his first 44 games. Brooks Lee is considered by many to be the organization's top prospect, and he's holding his own (.756 OPS) during his first full professional season. Alex Isola and DaShawn Keirsey have an OPS higher than .800 and can provide different defensive skills at Triple-A. Those are just some offensive weapons that could be in a Saints uniform later this year.
On the mound, Blayne Enlow seems like a lock to enter St. Paul's rotation in the second half. The Twins removed him from the 40-man roster this winter, but he's out to prove he belongs. He has been terrific with a 3.30 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 61-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 49 innings. David Festa is another pitcher to watch at Double-A, but he's had a slower start to the 2023 campaign. The Wind Surge have been giving many late-inning opportunities to Alex Scherff, and he has posted a 12.13 K/9 that might translate well to the Saints bullpen.
Injuries have started to impact the Twins, but it has yet to deplete the Saints' rosters. Fans in the Twin Cities can head to CHS Field and watch some impact players working toward Target Field. Minnesota's depth is substantial, and the Saints will continue to benefit throughout 2023.
Do you think the Saints will continue to stay in the division race? Which players will significantly impact the Triple-A roster most in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
mikelink45 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, The Twins Have Struck Gold With Brock Stewart
Brock Stewart has been a pleasant surprise. After dominating in St. Paul for just under nine innings, the right-hander got the call to the big leagues for the first time since 2019 and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s overcome an unsightly 15.5% BB rate with his 28.2% K rate in order to post a 1.06 ERA. He would have been a nice supporting piece to an already quality bullpen, but instead, he’s been a big reason it’s stayed afloat.
It’s safe to say the Twins bullpen has not shaken out in the way they intended. After making no additions this offseason, things could be going worse, but they haven’t quite been up to the task of supporting what has been a stagnant offense. With little margin for error, 2022 breakout Griffin Jax has allowed a barrage of blown leads. Jorge Alcala has not rebounded from elbow surgery. Caleb Thielbar has missed time with injury. 2022 trade deadline acquisition Jorge Lopez has somehow been even more of a liability than he was down the stretch in 2022.
All of this has led to Brock Stewart becoming an invaluable piece of the Twins late-game formula, as evidenced by his Win Probability Added being second-best in the bullpen. The Twins deserve credit for seeking out Stewart on a minor-league deal a year ago to rehab under their watch, but they’re fortunate that it’s turned out so well that Stewart has been one of their go-to relievers in 2023.
Beyond the context of what Stewart has meant to this bullpen, his development is a major credit to him. A former top starting pitch prospect, he’s completely reinvented himself at the age of 31 after a career of struggles and injury. Stewart’s average fastball during his last MLB action was a modest 91.7. It currently sits at 97.2. In addition to the heater, Stewart has a five-pitch mix including a sinker, sweeper, cutter and changeup, all of which are inducing whiffs at a rate of over 35%. He has an entire arsenal of weapons.
All of this to say, the Twins are fortunate to have Brock Stewart on call. There was little fanfare coming into the season, and he’s taken an opportunity and run with it. There’s no telling what the future holds for Stewart at 31, but the right-hander isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2025 so long as he can keep the magic going. Like they’ve done in the past, it appears the Twins have found a diamond in the rough. It’s hard to say where they’d be without Brock Stewart.
mikelink45 reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, Twins Minor League Week in Review (5/29-6/4)
Don’t forget to read Nick’s Week in Review (written by Nash Walker) to catch up on the Twins week.
RHP Miguelangel Boadus promoted from FCL Twins to low-A Fort Myers. RHP Cory Lewis promoted from low-A Fort Myers to high-A Cedar Rapids. RHP Orlando Rodriguez activated from development list for high-A Cedar Rapids. RHP Pierson Ohl promoted from high-A Cedar Rapids to AA Wichita. RHP Regi Grace promoted from high-A Cedar Rapids to AA Wichita. RHP Chad Donato placed on AA Wichita's development list. RHP Seth Norlin released from the organization. RESULTS
Tuesday (5/30): Major Leaguers Pitch and Hit Saints to Victory Wednesday (5/31): Wallner Wallops the Baseball Thursday (6/1): Saints March In, Cedar Rapids Did What? Friday (6/2): Affiliates Struggle Saturday (6/3): Schobel Racks Up Four Hits in Average Night on the Farm Sunday (6/4): Zebby Deals and Schmidt Rakes MORE TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE CONTENT
Minnesota Twins 2019 Draft Retrospective: Late-Round Steals Edouard Julien Has a Blueprint to Work On Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - May 2023 Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May 2023 Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month - May 2023 Minnesota Twins 2020 Draft Retrospective: Raya Sunshine TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Iowa @ St. Paul (7:07PM CST) - TBD Wichita @ San Antonio (7:05PM CST) - TBD Cedar Rapids @ Dayton (6:05PM CST) - TBD Clearwater @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) - TBD FCL Twins @ FCL Rays (11:00AM CST) - TBD DSL Twins @ DSL Phillies Red (10:00AM CST) - TBD WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints (Week: 5-1)
Overall: 32-23, 0.5 game ahead in the International League West. Overview: An excellent week for the Saints took them from second-place into the lead and they’ll look to extend that league this week. 🔥: Matt Wallner has been on fire since being sent down. He had eight extra-base hits (with three home runs) with 10 RBIs among his 11 hits. 🔥: Brent Headrick pitched ten innings across two starts, with 11 strikeouts and four walks. He allowed three runs on 10 hits. 🥶: Mark Contreras struck out 11 times and went 5-23. 🥶: Randy Dobnak made a start and threw 4 1/3 innings allowing seven hits and four walks. He struck out two. What's Next: The Saints host the Iowa Cubs (31-23) in a battle for a first-place in the division. Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge (Week: 1-5)
Overall: 21-29, 13.5 games back in the Texas League North. Overview: A rough week for the Wind Surge dropped them four games further back in the standings. 🔥: Curtis Taylor pitched 4 1/3 perfect innings over two relief appearances. 🔥: DaShawn Keirsey led the team with seven hits and four stolen bases. Yunior Severino and Alex Isola both hit two home runs. 🥶: Aaron Rozek, Travis Adams and Chad Donato all struggled in their starts this week. Donato lasted five innings, but gave up six runs. Rozek gave up four runs in 2 2/3 and Adams gave up two runs in one inning. 🥶: Seth Gray got a hit in a one-game mid-week cameo for St. Paul, but went 0-11 for the Wind Surge this week. He struck out six times. What's Next: Wichita will head to San Antonio (27-24) who sits a top of the South Division. High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels (Week: 4-2)
Overall: 29-22, 2.0 games up in the Midwest League West. Overview: A four-win week - highlighted by a 24-run performance on Thursday - keeps the Kernels in first place. 🔥: Kala’i Rosario keeps crushing it for the Kernels. He had four home runs on eight hits and drove in nine runs. 🔥: Tanner Schobel deserves his own fire emoji too. He had 14(!) hits in 29 at-bats this week, including two home runs. He drove in 10 and scored seven runs. 🔥: Zebby Matthews made his first start at High-A and was great. He struck out six in six innings, only allowing three hits and one run (on a home run). 🥶: Misael Urbina went 1-for-19. He appears to have been a victim of BABIP, as only three of his 18 outs came via strikeout. 🥶: Christian MacLeod gave up four hits and four walks in four innings. He only allowed one earned run (a home run), but putting two runners on per inning is not a recipe for success. What's Next: The Kernels travel to Dayton (26-25). Dayton is 8-2 in their last ten, so it will be a battle of two of the hottest teams in the league. Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels (Week: 3-3)
Overall: 28-23, 8.5 games behind Clearwater in the Florida State League West. Overview: The Mighty Mussels split with St. Lucie, but lost two games in the standings. 🔥: C.J. Culpepper threw five shutout, hitless innings and struck out six. He did walk three. 🔥: Kyle Schmidt led the team with six hits (in only 12 at-bats) and five RBIs. He had three extra-base hits as well. 🥶: Cory Lewis walked three and only recorded two outs in his lone start of the week. 🥶: Danny De Andrade, Carlos Aguiar and Jorel Ortega combined to go 5-51 with a double, two home runs, four RBIs, 11 walks and 22 strikeouts. Hopefully it’s a better week ahead for this young trio. What's Next: Clearwater (36-14) will come to Ft. Myers. Hopefully the mussels are mighty against the top team in the league. PROSPECT SUMMARY
This Prospect Summary shows our current Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings and how they performed last week. The Prospect Tracker will be updated on the first of each month throughout the season. Notice that these pages now include stats and splits, as well as past article links, video and more. (Season-long stats will be in parenthesis.)
20. Michael Helman, UTIL, St. Paul: On the Injured List with a dislocated shoulder. (.333/.434/.711. 1.145 OPS) 19. Yunior Severino, 3B, Wichita: 6-20, 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. (.282/.359/.540. .899 OPS). 18. Jose Rodriguez, OF: Extended Spring Training 17. Blayne Enlow, RHP, Wichita: 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 7.1 IP (two games), 4 H, 7 R (4 ER), HRA, HB, 3 BB, 13 K. (1.10 WHIP, .225 BAA) 16. Matt Canterino, RHP: Still recovering from Tommy John surgery. 15. Brent Headrick, RHP, St. Paul: 2-0, 2.70 ERA, 10 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 11 K. (1.41 WHIP, .285 BAA) 14. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 13.5 ERA, 2.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, HB, 5 K. (1.41 WHIP, .243 BAA) 13. Noah Miller, SS, Cedar Rapids: 2-19, 2 R, BB, K. (.204/.279/.282. .561 OPS), played shortstop in five games (40 total) and committed no errors in 15 chances (four errors in 166 total chances); played no games (six total) at second base (no errors in 16 total chances). 12. Jose Salas, INF, Cedar Rapids: 4-18, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB, 4 K, SB. (.162/.240/.223. .463 OPS), played one game at shortstop (10 total) and committed no errors in four chances (three errors in 33 chances total), played one game (10 total) at third base no chances (three errors in 22 total chances). He played three games (21 total) at second base with no errors in 12 chances (one error in 84 total chances). 11. Austin Martin, SS: Martin has an arm injury, but is expected to resume playing shortly.. 10. Yasser Mercedes, OF: Extended Spring Training 9. Matt Wallner , OF, St. Paul: 11-26, 4 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R, BB, 5 K. (.299/.405/.577. 982 OPS); Minnesota: (.368/.520/.579. 1.099 OPS) 8. David Festa, RHP, Wichita: 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, HRA, 3 K. (1.45 WHIP, .262 BAA) 7. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 4.15 ERA, 4.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K (1.88 WHIP, .329 BAA); Minnesota: (1.85 WHIP, .313 BAA) 6. Marco Raya, RHP, Cedar Rapids: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 2 H, ER, HRA, 4 K. (0.73 WHIP, .145 BAA) 5. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Cedar Rapids: On the injured list, but expected to resume throwing. (1.75 WHIP, .294 BAA) 4. Edouard Julien, 2B, St. Paul: 4-11, 2 2B, HR, 7 RBI, R, 3 BB, 3 K. (.294/.447/.513. .960 OPS), has played all 30 games at second base and has committed two errors in 140 chances; Minnesota: (.210/.296/.435. .731 OPS) 3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Cedar Rapids: 5-19, HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB, 7 K, 2 SB. (.177/.338/.372. 710 OPS) 2. Royce Lewis, SS: (.333/.395/.692. 1.087 OPS), played one game (four total) at shortstop and committed no errors in four chances (no errors in 12 total chances). Lewis played one game (four total) at third base and committed one error in five chances (one error in eight total chances); Minnesota: 5-25, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 8 K (.200/.200/.480. .680 OPS), played five games at 3B (five total) and had no errors in 16 chances. 1. Brooks Lee, SS, Wichita: 5-18, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 R, 4 BB, 6 K, SB. (.262/.341/.415. .756 OPS), played five games (43 total) at shortstop and committed one errors in 18 chances (four errors in 179 total chances). Lee has committed one error in three chances in one game at third base this season. PLAYERS OF THE WEEK (as voted on by fans on Twitter)
PITCHER - Brent Headrick, St. Paul (Headrick 50%, Matthews 22%, Culpepper 17%, Taylor 11%): I don't think Headrick is who I would have voted for, but it's nice to see that despite the injuries and the lack of progress from other AAA arms, that the Twins still do have some stater-depth in St. Paul.
HITTER - Matt Wallner, St. Paul (Wallner 90%, Rosario 6%, Schmidt 3%, Keirsey 1%): Wallner is on one of the best runs of a hitter in recent memory. After reaching base eight straight times with the Twins before being demoted, he handled the step down by absolutely crushing AAA pitching. Considering all the Kirilloff/Larnach talk coming into the season, it's now fair to say that Matt Waller deserves just as much publicity as anyone.
Who would have been your picks? Any early season surprises or disappointments? Ask questions and discuss the Twins prospects in the COMMENTS below.
mikelink45 reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Lessons Learned From the 2022 Trade Deadline
Typically, analyzing deals less than a year after they occur is bad process. Players often make massive, gigantic strides in their game, and performance fluctuates—lagging before suddenly clicking, perhaps. But the outcomes of two of the trades are already mostly apparent, allowing us to play anthropologist and unearth what happened on August 2nd, 2022.
But first: the historical context. It’s always easy to admonish trades long after the fact, but with some exceptions (hello, Pirates and Chris Archer), every trade makes sense at the time. Front office executives aren’t fools; they may be desperate to varying degrees, but the heat of the moment will always justify whatever eventual poor trade they make.
And so we must travel back in time a little to where the Twins were at the trade deadline.
Sitting six games above .500—comfortable, perhaps not cozy—Minnesota could easily command the AL Central crown over yet another tepid division. Things weren’t perfect, but they were good, and sometimes that’s all one can get in baseball. Still, the duel swear words “Dylan Bundy” and “Chris Archer” (there he is again!) made up 40% of the starting rotation, and Emilio Pagán was Emilio Pagán-ing, leaving the Twins hungry for upgrades to the pitching staff.
Traded by the Baltimore Orioles with cash to the Minnesota Twins for Juan Nunez (minors), Cade Povich (minors), Juan Rojas (minors), and Yennier Cano.
The Jorge López deal was the first to break that day. I was still sleeping when news hit Twitter—I’m on the West Coast; not lazy, mind you—so waking up to a sudden All-Star influx of closing ability was more pungent and invigorating than the first cup of coffee. The deal hurt, given that Cade Povich was a tremendous talent laying waste to minor-league hitters, but that’s the price the devil extracts when you don’t plan your bullpen well. And López would be worth it, right?
This was a blatant breaking of a very serious rule the A’s have known about for decades: closers are built, not bought. High-octane relievers are alluring, but like a sports car purchased to flaunt opulence, they can break easily. López’s ERA has jumped almost two runs since his half-season of elite play in Baltimore, while Yennier Cano currently leads MLB in reliever fWAR. That’s the kind of swindle that appears in documentaries with Very Smart people wondering how the hell a team could get duped that badly. For your health, don’t look up Povich’s peripherals at AA this year.
Traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Minnesota Twins for Christian Encarnacion-Strand (minors), Steve Hajjar (minors), and Spencer Steer.
The monkey’s paw curled once more before the day ended, and suddenly the common troubles of a talented and underperforming starter became Minnesota’s problem to figure out.
They didn’t. Or, rather, they never got the chance to: Tyler Mahle’s Twins career lasted 42 innings (less than Gabriel Moya’s), and he will likely spend 2024 on a different team—one fine with eating a few months of Tommy John recovery in the hopes that he can be an effective pitcher in the nebulous sometime future.
As tragic as this deal was as well, it had to be done, sort of.
The value of a competent starter has never been higher than now; the vast dearth of arms capable of eating five, six innings with any consistency has created a market of desperation where teams are taking risks on players in the hopes that the low odds of them breaking out turn favorable. They have to; there’s no other choice. It’s why Minnesota stirred up all the hoopla over acquiring Chris Paddack; it’s why Toronto sends Yusei Kikuchi out to the mound every handful of days. The Twins were burned—obviously—but so were the Yankees when they signed Carlos Rodón and traded for Frankie Montas. And I think if you ask any team with a similar situation, they would say that they remain fine with the chance they took.
Ironically, the depth Minnesota sought to avoid and protect now appears to be the answer in front of their face: Bailey Ober and Louie Varland are solid rotation fixtures.
So let this be the lesson: risks are good and necessary, but the Twins may best avoid future disasters if they choose to trust themselves. They’ve proven excellent off-season identifiers of pitching talent, but their nervous in-season trade decisions have almost always bitten themselves, save for one awesome Sergio Romo addition. Hopefully, they realize this before it’s too late this season.
mikelink45 reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Minor League Report (6/5): Complex Opening Days!
I enjoy following the Twins minor-league system. I've been doing that for a minimum of 20 years, and really even further back. Why? Well, even when the Twins are struggling, I can follow four more box scores and keep up with over 100 Twins prospects. Well, then in early June when the short-season, rookie leagues begin, there are two more teams and nearly 60 more prospects to keep up with.
The FCL roster includes several of the Twins top young prospects, like 17 and 18 year olds who were signed to seven-digit signing bonuses six months ago. Soon, you will see the Twins Daily Minor League Week in Review which will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly. That will be limited to the four full-season this week. But we would love your input. Is it better to post a Twins Minor League Report on Monday's for the two Complex teams, or do you think it should be included in the Week in Review? Let us know below.
Let’s get to the report. As always, please feel free to discuss and ask questions.
Austin Martin began a rehab assignment with the FCL Twins.
RHP Miguelangel Boadas has been promoted from the FCL to Fort Myers.
Infielder Jankel Ortiz and outfielder Argenis Jimenez have been placed on the FCL Twins 7-Day IL.
RHPs Pierson Ohl and Regi Grace promoted from Cedar Rapids to Wichita.
RHP Cory Lewis promoted from Fort Myers to Cedar Rapids.
RHP Orlando Rodriguez activated from Cedar Rapids' Development List.
Wichita placed RHP Chad Donato on the Development List, and RHP Seth Nordlin was released.
COMPLEX THOUGHTS from FLORIDA
FCL Twins 4, FCL Rays 1
Opening Day for the Florida Complex League Twins was on Monday at noon local time at Bill Smith Field in Fort Myers. The roster certainly has some intriguing players.
The first thing to point out is that Austin Martin played in his first game since early in spring training. He has been rehabbing an elbow injury. He batted second and played second base. He grounded out to shortstop in his first plate appearance. Then in the third inning, he came up and hit a solo home run. He came to the plate one more time and was hit by a pitch. He added a stolen base. His game was complete soon after, replaced by Isaac Pena who singled in his line at-bat. He scored the team’s fourth run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jose Rodriguez.
The offensive star of the game was Venezuelan catcher Daniel Pena who went 3-for-3. In the fourth inning, the 18-year-old hit a two-run homer to increase the Twins lead to 3-1.
19-year-old lefty Cesar Lares posted a 2.93 ERA in 11 starts in the DSL last year (with 71 strikeouts in 46 innings). On Monday, he got the nod to make the team’s first start. Lares gave up one run on two hits and two walks in four innings. He had an impressive nine strikeouts.
Juan Mercedes then struck out five batters over three scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and one walk. Yon Landaeta walked two and struck out two batters in a scoreless inning. 24-year-old Ricardo Velez struck out the side in a perfect ninth to record the save.
Velez signed with the Twins in July of 2021 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, an NAIA school. He had been playing in the United Shore League. He has pitched a lot the last couple of offseasons in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
Byron Chourio, who came to the Twins in the Luis Arraez/Pablo Lopez deal, batted fifth and played center field. He went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Bryan Acuna batted fourth and played shortstop. Ronald and Luisangel’s younger brother went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Finally, the Twins 14th round pick last year was Florida prep infielder Omari Daniel. He didn’t play in 2022 because he had Tommy John surgery. So Monday was his professional debut. He batted ninth and played third base. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
COMPLEX THOUGHTS from BOCA CHICA
DSL Twins 1, DSL Giants Orange 5
The DSL Twins began their season with a home game. Ledwin Taveras started and gave up three runs in the first inning. The 18-year-old responded with two scoreless innings before two unearned runs scored in the fourth frame. The error was his own. In four innings, he gave up five runs (3 earned) on eight hits and two walks. He also notched seven strikeouts.
Eduardo Soriano (20) came on and tossed three scoreless innings. He gave up four hits and no walks, and he struck out four batters. Eider Machuca (18) worked the final two innings without further runs scoring. He gave up one hit, walked one, and hit one batter. He had three strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the DSL bats were quiet in their first game of the season. Hendry Chivilli had two of the team’s four hits in the game. He played shortstop and hit leadoff. The 17-year-old signed with the Twins in January for $2.1 million. Yilber Herrera had the lone extra base hit, a double, and added the team’s lone walk in the game. He also stole a base. Moises Lopez, who turned 17 a month ago, had the team’s lone RBI, a single to score Herrera. Lopez also stole a base and was hit by a pitch.
The Twins top international signing in January was outfielder Ariel Castro who reportedly received a $2.4 million bonus. He batted third and played center field. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The third seven-digit signing bonus the Twins gave in January went to catcher Carlos Silva, who got $1.1 million. On Opening Day, he batted seventh and was the team’s DH. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Cesar Lares (FCL) - 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K.
Hitter of the Day – Daniel Pena (FCL) - 3-for-3, HR(1), R, 2 RBI
Check out the Prospect Tracker for much more on the new Twins Top 20 prospects after seeing how they did on Monday.
#10 - Yasser Mercedes (EST) - 0-for-5, K
#11 - Austin Martin (St. Paul) - 1-for-2, HBP, HR(1), R, RBI, E (played 2B)
#18 - Jose Rodriguez (EST) - 1-for-3, SF, RBI, K
TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE AND PITCHING PROBABLES
Iowa @ St. Paul (7:07 PM CST) - RHP Jordan Balazovic (0-1, 4.45 ERA)
Wichita @ San Antonio (7:05 PM CST) - TBD
Cedar Rapids @ Dayton (6:05 PM CST) - RHP Kyle Jones (3-3, 4.70 ERA)
Clearwater @ Fort Myers (6:00 PM CST) - TBD
FCL Twins @ FCL Rays (11:00AM CST) - TBD
DSL Twins @ DSL Phillies Red (10:00AM CST) - TBD
Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Monday’s Complex League Opening Day games!
mikelink45 reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Week in Review: Mixed Feelings
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/29 through Sun, 6/4
Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 31-29)
Run Differential Last Week: +3 (Overall: +45)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.5 GA)
Last Week's Game Results:
Game 54 | MIN 7, HOU 5: Lewis Powers Twins to Win in Extras
Game 55 | HOU 5, MIN 1: Twins Lineup Fails to Launch in Houston
Game 56 | MIN 8, HOU 2: Bats Erupt, Varland Throws a Gem
Game 57 | MIN 7, CLE 6: Twins Lose (Players), but Win in Walk-off Fashion
Game 58 | MIN 1, CLE 0: Bailey Ober Crushes Cleveland on Apple TV… Again
Game 59 | CLE 4, MIN 2: Gray Allows First Home Run of Season, Twins Lose
Game 60 | CLE 2, MIN 1: Seventh Inning Costs Twins Again
NEWS & NOTES
It was another busy week on the Twins transaction front. Royce Lewis made his highly anticipated return a year after his second ACL surgery as the Twins transferred Nick Gordon (tibia) to the 60-day IL, freeing up the 40-man roster spot for the former No. 1 pick.
The team activated Max Kepler (hamstring) from the injured list and optioned Matt Wallner, who had reached in eight straight plate appearances last weekend at Target Field. The Twins sent Kenta Maeda (elbow) and Caleb Thielbar (oblique) to St.Paul on rehab before activating Thielbar for Sunday’s finale. Gilberto Celestino (thumb) is on the recovery trail, joining Low-A Fort Myers for a rehab assignment.
Jorge Polanco (hamstring) returned from his second stint on the IL and Edouard Julien re-joined the Saints in a clean swap at second base. Julien was 2 for his last 16 with seven strikeouts and two walks before the demotion. Joey Gallo’s left hamstring remained a problem and landed him on the IL after Friday’s game. With a slew of left-handed starters on the schedule, Kyle Garlick received the call and joined the team Saturday.
And finally, the Twins placed Cole Sands (shoulder impingement) on the injured list Sunday in the move to activate Thielbar.
It takes a special person and player to miss an overwhelming majority of the last three seasons, endure back-to-back knee surgeries, and still return as an instant star-level talent. In his first game back Monday in Houston, one year to the day of his second ACL tear, Lewis blasted a three-run homer in his second at-bat. Lewis proclaimed he felt “something special” was going to happen in the game and… that was an understatement.
With the Twins trailing by one with two on and two out in the ninth, Lewis lined an opposite field single off Ryan Pressly to tie the game. It was an exceptional swing on an exceptional slider from one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Twins went on to win in extras en route to a fantastic road series victory.
A grossly similar script to last year’s headaches played out again in Thursday’s series opener with the Guardians. Cleveland barraged Pablo López with singles, erasing the Twins’ advantage and turning a three-run lead over to its fantastic bullpen. Lewis remained unfazed, blasting a two-run, game-tying homer to the centerfield berm off Trevor Stephan in the eighth.
The Twins went on to walk-off the Guards on a Willi Castro sacrifice fly. Without Lewis, this week looks starkly different. It feels like the Twins just added one of their best all-around players, with Lewis flashing his elite athleticism at third base and in the batter’s box.
In a scary and distressing turn, Lewis tumbled mightily in a scary collision with Gabriel Arias late Sunday. Luckily, Royce walked off under his own power after several minutes on the ground. Rocco Baldelli said it doesn’t appear Lewis is concussed or seriously injured.
The Lewis and Alex Kirilloff duo Twins fans have dreamed on forever is finally taking hold. Kirilloff went 7-for-17 with seven walks in 25 plate appearances on the week. AK is hitting .304/.439/.468 in 26 games, combining patience with an elite slashing ability that made him one of the top prospects in the game just a few years ago.
Jhoan Durán remains unbelievable. The Twins’ superstar reliever pitched two scoreless frames in Monday’s extra innings win over the Astros, striking out Yordan Álvarez on a disgusting 99 mph splinker to finish the game. Duran went multiple innings again in Friday’s win, dicing up the Guardians in a 1-0 Twins shutout win. Bailey Ober was also tremendous with six scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.33. Ober now owns a 3.47 ERA in 39 MLB starts and looks more like a frontline starter than a depth one.
Louie Varland is making a similar case. The St.Paul native shoved with seven scoreless innings on the road in Houston on Wednesday, working with a mid-90s heater and a nasty cutter. Varland has a 3.51 ERA and 23% strikeout rate through seven starts. Of note, Joe Ryan owned a 3.55 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate in his rookie campaign last season.
If there’s been a worse start to a $200 million contract, I’d like to see it. Carlos Correa went 1-for-12 with six strikeouts and one walk in another horrific week. Correa missed all but seven innings in a vital series with Cleveland as he nurses lingering pain from his plantar fasciitis. Correa is hitting .207/.299/.372 while leading the American League in double plays as essentially a replacement-level player.
Byron Buxton is hitting .177 and slugging .318 since the start of May. He’s been largely terrible with 27 strikeouts and just six runs driven in over that span, making all his starts at DH. To add injury to insult, Cleveland starter Tanner Bibee drilled him in the ribs with a 97 mph fastball in Thursday’s series opener. Buxton had to sleep in a rocking chair and missed the rest of the series.
Speaking of long-term building blocks, Pablo López has been entirely underwhelming. López unraveled Thursday night and has allowed 31 earned runs in 45 ⅓ innings since signing his four-year, $73.5 million extension. Jorge López hit a new low… and a gatorade cooler. The Twins’ prized 2022 deadline relief addition has coughed up five home runs over his last 3 ⅓ innings.
The Twins’ belief in Kepler continues to prove misguided after he returned from the injured list to go 3-for-26 with seven strikeouts and zero walks. With Wallner crushing at Triple-A and Trevor Larnach on the mend from pneumonia, it’s worth wondering just how long the Twins will let this ineptitude happen. Kepler is not under team control beyond this season with a $10M club option (and $1M buyout) left on his extension. He's a corner outfielder hitting .192 with a 76 wRC+ in 140 plate appearances. In any other circumstance, a DFA would seem likely. Given how the Twins have stuck by Kepler, though, that seems improbable.
It sounds like Buxton, Correa, and Kirilloff will all return to the lineup early this week. The Twins offense remains inconsistent at best and feeble at worst. Can they finally click with all of their guns in the lineup?
On paper, this is one of the most difficult weeks of the year. The Rays and Blue Jays await on an American League Beast road trip following the off-day. The Twins will miss Shane McClanahan in a dash of good fortune but may have to solve Tyler Glasnow and Kevin Gausman.
TUESDAY, 6/6: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Louie Varland vs. RHP Zach Eflin
WEDNESDAY, 6/7: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Pablo López vs. RHP Yonny Chirinos
THURSDAY, 6/8: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Bailey Ober vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow
FRIDAY, 6/9: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Sonny Gray vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi
SATURDAY, 6/10: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Joe Ryan vs. RHP Alek Manoah
SUNDAY, 6/11: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Louie Varland vs. RHP Kevin Gausman
mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Twins Hot Corner Is Settled for the Future
This offseason, the Minnesota Twins found themselves winners of the twisting and turning Carlos Correa free agency saga. He was back with the club he signed a record deal to play for following the lockout before the 2022 season. In doing so, it seemed that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had their answer at shortstop for at least the next half-decade.
For the top Twins prospect, Royce Lewis found himself working as a shortstop but seeing that position accounted for at the highest level. Not eligible to return for the Twins until late May, an opportunity was always going to need to present itself.
Both clients of agent Scott Boras, there have obviously been conversations among the three parties about their futures. As Lewis raked his way through a rehab assignment, all it took for something to materialize was 2022 breakout Jose Miranda losing his way. The hot corner was open, and although Kyle Farmer had played there in recent weeks, Lewis represents the future.
At this exact moment, Correa is struggling through a painful bout of plantar fasciitis. When he originally was taken out of the lineup, I wondered whether Farmer would take over behind him, or Lewis would slide into the position he has played the majority of his professional career. The answer was immediate. Lewis stayed at the hot corner, and things appeared to be settled.
It’s been a very small sample at third base thus far, but the hot corner is not unfamiliar territory for Lewis. He spent all but his senior year at the position during high school, and if nothing else, it should be a bit easier of a spot. He’s taken to it swimmingly, and we have seen both his glove and arm play.
The timeline for Correa’s return is not straightforward. He could need sporadic time off for the rest of the season. That puts the shortstop position in flux while he deals with the malady. Maybe Miranda turns things around with Triple-A St. Paul, but his spot now seems to be gone. Jorge Polanco is only under contract at second base through this season, but both Edouard Julien and Brooks Lee could play themselves into that role. All over the diamond, Minnesota has relatively straightforward developmental plans.
Leaving Lewis at third base while Correa has been out gives the Twins youngster an opportunity to settle into a home that he could call his own for the duration of his career. We have seen players like Anthony Rendon, Manny Machado, and Alex Rodriguez both get big paydays as third basemen. There is plenty of money to be made at the hot corner. Within the AL Central, Jose Ramirez is also at third base and can claim to be one of the best players in the sport.
If Lewis never finds an opportunity to move off the position, that probably says more about what the Twins have done from a development perspective than a disservice to a role he once held. If early returns are any indication, and again the sample is minuscule, then things should be viewed as extremely promising. Just five games in, Lewis already has contributed two outs above average, and earning a Gold Glove at third base is much easier in a league without Nolan Arenado.
Maybe Royce Lewis never plays shortstop again for the Minnesota Twins, but that’s why you draft athletes that can play up the middle, and from there you deploy them wherever the team sees a fit.
mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Can the Twins Predict Injury With Byron Buxton?
The short answer is obviously no. The Minnesota Twins, even with new head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta, cannot predict when an injury will occur. Obviously what they are trying to do is prevent long-term absences, and they appear to be threading a needle when looking to accomplish that feat.
When the Twins signed Byron Buxton to his $100 million extension, it was a steal. He would have received substantially more on the open market with more suitors, and the only reason his value wasn’t closer to $300 million is due to his availability, or lack thereof. Locked into a long-term contract, Rocco Baldelli now wants to see his All-Star in the lineup more often than not.
How the Twins have handled that so far this season is to lock Buxton in as the designated hitter. Coming off a knee procedure that stemmed from a base running incident last year, Buxton has been eased back into action. He has yet to appear in the outfield, and that reality doesn’t seem anywhere close to happening.
Unfortunately, as players have been out of position and the designated hitter spot has been less fluid, it’s worth wondering just how well this plan is working?
Here’s the deal, Buxton is the same player he has been for the past few seasons. That means when he slumps there is plenty of Miguel Sano to his game. Give him credit for 2023 development as the walk rate is a career best, and despite only being deployed as a hitter, he’s still making the production work.
The downside to Buxton being limited as a designated hitter is that the lineup flexibility leaves plenty to be desired. Over the weekend, we saw Willi Castro playing centerfield against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s a spot he only began starting at in 2022 with Detroit, and it’s clear there is plenty to be desired from him there. Castro incorrectly ceded opportunity to his corner outfielders on a fly ball that would go on to produce runs. It’s fine when Michael A. Taylor is commanding the outfield, but very clearly not the same when Castro is.
There is also the idea that Buxton is healthier by being off of his feet. In theory, that would seem to make a good deal of sense. He’s not standing for innings on end in the grass, and he isn’t throwing his body all over trying to track down fly balls. We have seen him jog down the first base line though, as he did once or twice last weekend, and need time due to the ailing body part. He has played in 48 of the first 53 games however, and that number would be substantially less had he also been tasked with roaming centerfield.
I don’t think it’s quantifiable how many games Buxton would have played to this point of the season if he was also playing the outfield. Certainly the answer is less, and Minnesota needs him to be in more, but if we aren’t talking a drastic number then meat is being left on the bone. Baldelli’s comments about Buxton’s knee recently don’t bring on the warm fuzzies either. Maybe there is opportunity for him to factor in late with September or postseason games on the mind, but that's well on the horizon for now.
Acknowledging a guy may be slumping is one thing, but Baldelli unequivocally attributes the slide to Buxton’s knee. That’s an unfortunate reality in that he has not progressed to playing the outfield, is being given time off, and is only running a few times each night.
After a season in which Buxton injured himself early on by sliding into second base, it seems that just being active at the plate and on the base paths isn’t quite enough bubble wrap either. I’d prefer we don’t see Buxton in the outfield at all if it means he’s able to contribute for 140 or more games. That said, if the plan still results in the outcome being a long-term stint on the injured list just to let things heal, will it ever get better or was he brought back too soon?
Taking a guy like Buxton out of the defensive alignment is tough in and of itself. For the Twins to have made that decision and still be faced with the harsh health reality they are feeling is something that they’ll seemingly wrestle for the months ahead.
mikelink45 reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month - May 2023
Earlier in the week, we announced the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher and Relief Pitcher for the month of May. Today, we conclude the series by posting our minor league hitter of the month. There were several good choices, and several St. Paul Saints showed up on the honorable mention list. They would likely be higher in the rankings if not for big-league promotions during the month which meant less minor-league opportunities. I do factor games played when I rank these players, but I always like to promote the honorable mention guys. You will notice that a couple of catchers are mentioned. They play just every other game, and in some cases, every third game. They can only perform when they are placed in the lineup, and a couple backstops played really well in May.
Edouard Julien (St. Paul): 16 G, 18-54, .333/.471/.537 (1.008), 5-2B, 2-HR, 12 R, 6 RBI, 12 BB, 13 K
David Banuelos (Wichita): 11 G, 9-35, .257/.381/.600 (.981), 1-2B, 1-3B, 3-HR, 7 R, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 11 K.
Hernan Perez (St. Paul): 15 G, 18-51, .353/.414/.549 (.963), 3-2B, 2-3B, 1-HR, 8 R, 13 RBI, 6 BB, 12 K, 4-SB
Matt Wallner (St. Paul): 16 G, 21-65, .323/.348/.615 (.963), 5-2B, 1-3B, 4-HR, 10 R, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 28 K.
Jair Camargo (St. Paul): 11 G, 15-49, .306/.343/.592 (.925), 2-2B, 4-HR, 10 R, 10 RBI, 1 BB, 22 K.
Hitter of the Month Number 4: Andrew Cossetti (Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids)
20 G, 20-68, .294/.437/.485 (.922), 5-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 9 R, 13 RBI, 13 BB, 17 K.
Cossetti was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Month in April when he hit .327 with a 1.124 OPS, five doubles and four home runs for the month. He walked as much as he struck out. He spent the first two-third of May with the Mighty Mussels before ending the month with a handful of games in Cedar Rapids. The 2022 11th round pick from St. Joseph’s has made a strong first impression in the organization. The promotion to High-A has been challenging early in his time there. However, with Cossetti and Noah Cardenas (2022 TD Minor League All Star) team to form a pretty strong 1-2 punch for Brian Dinkelman to get good production regardless of which one is playing.
Hitter of the Month Number 3: Jorel Ortega (Fort Myers)
24 G, 28-95, .295/.374/.537 (.915), 8-2B, 3-3B, 3-HR, 23 R, 17 RBI, 11 BB, 29 K.
Ortega is certainly an intriguing prospect. The Puerto Rico native was the Twins sixth-round draft pick in 2022 out of the University of Tennessee. He played in one game for the Mussels last season but after an RBI single in his first at-bat, he broke his wrist and his season was over. He was an Honorable Mention choice in April when he hit .265 with an .837 OPS. In April, he walked 18 times and struck out 16 times. In May, he appears to have made an adjustment, more willing to be more aggressive and strike out more in an attempt to add power. And for the month, that was successful. He led the organization with 14 extra base hits in the month.
Hitter of the Month Number 2: Yunior Severino (Wichita)
21 G, 29-97, .299/.358/.557 (.915), 5-2B, 1-3B, 6-HR, 16 R, 17 RBI, 9 BB, 34 K
For the second straight month, Severino comes in second in our hitter rankings. He has generally been pretty consistent all season. He hit six home runs in both months. However, he added more doubles and a triple in May. As you can see, he will certainly strike out quite a bit, but his prospect status should be rising. A promotion to Triple-A could be in his future, although he’s at a point now where he simply needs to be in the lineup most every day.
Hitter Number 1: Kala’i Rosario (Cedar Rapids)
24 G, 31-93, .333/.441/.591 (1.032), 7-2B, 1-3B, 5-HR, 14 R, 16 RBI, 15 BB, 29 K.
Rosario was the Twins fifth-round pick in the five-round 202 MLB Draft. He had made a name for himself as one of the most powerful high school hitters in his draft class. His career began in 2021 with the GCL Twins, and he spent 2022 with the Mighty Mussels. Like several of the young prospects who made the jump to High-A Cedar Rapids this season, it was not an easy decision. It wasn’t an obvious choice.
However, Rosario has been terrific throughout most of the season’s first two months, and it all came together in May when he hit for average, was willing to take walks and showed terrific doubles and home run power. Yes, there are still strikeouts and that’s something he will need to continue working on, but it’s been a very nice showing for Rosario this season, and his prospect status should be on the rise.
What do you think of the choices made for the top four Twins minor-league hitters? Discuss these prospects and their potential impacts.
mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking the Twins' Top 5 Potential 2023 All-Stars
Voting for MLB's All-Star Game opened on Wednesday, and some Twins players will need a boost from the fan base to play in the 2023 All-Star Game. Seattle will host the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 11, with other events like the Futures Game (July 8), the MLB Draft (July 9), and the Home Run Derby (July 10). It will be the third time Seattle plays host to the Midsummer Classic (1979, 2001), and the second time it will be held in their current ballpark. Let's examine the Twins that have a chance to join the festivities.
Ryan Jeffers is currently tied for fifth in fWAR among AL catchers, so he likely has a tough shot at being named a starter. Christian Vazquez has struggled in 2023 and ranks 22nd among AL catchers, including being behind former Twins Ben Rortvedt and Mitch Garver, who have combined to play fewer than 20 games this season. Jonah Heim and Adley Rutschman top the current AL fWAR rankings, with Seattle's Cal Raleigh in third place. Rutschman is a budding superstar, and it's his first chance to be voted in as a starter. However, Mariners' fans could vote in one of their own behind the plate.
Minnesota has rotated through multiple players at first base, with Joey Gallo and Alex Kirilloff getting the bulk of the time. Gallo ranks seventh among AL first basemen in fWAR, while Kirilloff is tenth. Gallo is among the league leaders in home runs, which might help him garner some votes. Yandy Diaz has been one of baseball's best hitters this season, and Tampa Bay has dominated to start the season. Anthony Rizzo ranks second among AL first basemen, so that he might get a bump in the voting from Yankees and Cubs fans.
Jorge Polanco has missed too much time to be in consideration for the All-Star Game. The Twins have used three players fairly regularly at second, and they all rank among the top-25 in fWAR for second basemen. Polanco ranks 13th, Kyle Farmer ranks 16th, and Edouard Julien ranks 22nd. Marcus Semien sits atop the AL leaderboard and will be the frontrunner when voting opens.
Jose Miranda's struggles at third will leave the team out of the running for an All-Star at the hot corner. Royce Lewis is taking over third base, but he won't play enough games to be in consideration for the All-Star Game. Matt Chapman and Jose Ramirez are two of the more prominent stars near the top of the fWAR rankings, so it will be interesting to see who separates themselves in the voting.
Carlos Correa is arguably the most well-known player on the Twins, so an excellent start to the season might have made him a contender for the All-Star Game. His struggles have been well documented, and some young stars deserve votes. Wander Franco, Bo Bichette, and Bobby Witt Jr. sit atop the fWAR rankings, but Seattle's J.P. Crawford is close behind. Franco is a budding superstar on the AL's best team, so it will be an exciting position for baseball fans to watch.
Julio Rodriguez, arguably Seattle's best player, has started heating up, and it seems appropriate for him to be among the starters at his home ballpark. Other superstar players like Aaron Judge and Mike Trout are near the top of the fWAR leaderboard. It seems like a foregone conclusion that those three names will be the starters when the AL squad takes the field. Gallo is Minnesota's highest-ranking outfielder, but he's 27th on the list and won't be among the top vote-getters.
Designated Hitter might be Minnesota's best chance to get a starter into the All-Star Game. Byron Buxton currently ranks sixth among AL DHs in fWAR, so he'd need a strong month of June to put himself in contention. Last season, he started in center field for the AL and hit a critical home run. Yordan Alvarez, Brent Rooker, and Shohei Ohtani are three players ahead of him in the fWAR rankings. MLB's updated voting format might help Buxton's candidacy if he can qualify as a finalist and get enough support in the final round.
Fans don't vote for the All-Star pitchers, and that is where Minnesota should have multiple players on the roster. Sonny Gray (3rd) and Joe Ryan (4th) are among the AL leaders in fWAR for starting pitchers. An argument can be made for Gray to be the AL's starting pitcher for the Midsummer Classic. On the reliever side, Jhoan Duran has been one of baseball's best relievers over the last two seasons and should be elected to his first All-Star Game. He is among the AL leaders in WPA, and his pitching repertoire is ideally suited for a showcase like the Midsummer Classic.
Current Twins All-Star Rankings
Sonny Gray Jhoan Duran Joe Ryan Byron Buxton Joey Gallo Will Gray and Duran be the team's All-Stars? Can Buxton do enough in June to be a finalist at DH? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
mikelink45 reacted to Thiéres Rabelo for an article, Twins 8, Astros 2: Bats Erupt, Varland Throws a Gem, Twins Win the Series
Starting Pitcher: Louie Varland, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K (86 pitches, 66 strikes, 76.7%)
Home Runs: none
Top 3 WPA: Louie Varland (.229), Donovan Solano (.184), Ryan Jeffers (.095)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
Early offense (finally!) delivers with the bases loaded
Rookie starter Hunter Brown took the mound for Houston, hoping to carry on his solid season thus far. Instead, the Twins’ offense drove his pitch count up early and did some bases-loaded damage to back up Louie Varland. Though the offense went down in order in the first two innings of the game, a 12-pitch at-bat from Alex Kirilloff in the first had Brown reaching 21 pitches to end the inning. Meanwhile, Varland needed only 17 pitches to cruise through two, and he got some run support right away.
The bottom third of the Twins’ lineup ambushed Brown in the third, with the first three Minnesota batters reaching: after Max Kepler and Willi Castro hit back-to-back singles, Michael A. Taylor drew a four-pitch walk to load them up. Before tonight’s game, the Twins had gone 5-for-46 (.109) with the bases juiced this season – the worst batting average in said situations. Could they break the slump?
Édouard Julien struck out next for the first out, but Donovan Solano didn’t waste his opportunity and snapped a team 0-for-14 skid with the bases loaded. He slapped a single to shallow right to score Kepler and Castro and send Taylor to third. Then, Kirilloff came through with a chopper to the gap at short to push Taylor across and make it 3-0 Minnesota.
Bats cash in with the bases loaded again; Varland still cruising
Despite closing in on 80 pitches, Brown remained in the game, and the Twins took advantage of that once again. After coming out of the fourth empty-handed, Minnesota’s offense added on in the fifth. Solano and Kyle Farmer reached on a one-out walk and a two-out single. But with Brown surpassing the 100-pitch mark, he was pulled from the game with two outs.
Facing reliever Parker Mushinski, Joey Gallo got hit in the elbow on the very first pitch of the at-bat, and suddenly, the bases were loaded again. Red-hot Jeffers, who had been slashing .400/.500/.867 in the previous seven games, made Mushinski pay: he smacked a long double to center that would’ve been a bases-clearing hit had it not one-hopped into the bullpen and been ruled a ground-rule double. Solano and Farmer scored, making it 5-0 Twins. This was the first time in the season that the Twins got two bases-loaded hits in the same game.
Varland continued to dominate the Astros lineup with ease, completing five scoreless on only 53 pitches. He also continued to be rewarded for his superb performance with more run support. Castro and Taylor opened the top of the sixth with a single and a walk against Mushinski, and the offense was at it again. Solano crushed a double to left to bring home both runners and make it 7-0 Minnesota.
Varland completes seven, a career-high
Heck, even when Varland wasn’t so sharp, he got some more run support. After recording the first two outs in the bottom of the sixth on only nine pitches, the Minnesota native lost the next two batters to a single and a walk, his first of the night. He got the force out in the following at-bat and kept the zero on the scoreboard, but not before throwing 20 pitches in the inning, his longest one of the night.
The offense added on against reliever Seth Martinez in the top of the seventh. Castro drew a two-out walk, stole second, then was pushed across by a Taylor double to center, making it 8-0 Minnesota. Varland came back for the home half of the inning with only 73, and he delivered yet another scoreless frame to complete seven shutout innings. Before tonight’s game, Varland’s longest start of his young career had been the 6 1/3 he tossed against the Cubs earlier this month.
Jorge López continues to struggle badly
Having allowed earned runs in three of his previous four games, Jorge López came into the game in the eighth hoping to get back on track after an awful month of May. Unfortunately, he would end up having what was maybe his worst outing as a Twin. Jake Meyers hit a leadoff home run on the very first pitch of the inning, which was followed by another home run next, by Yainer Díaz, scoring Houston’s second run.
He then lost Mauricio Dubón on a ten-pitch walk and hit Jeremy Peña on the fingers next, giving Houston the chance to cut the lead down to only three on a swing of the bat. Rocco Baldelli decided to bring Brock Stewart in before López could record an out. Stewart did a phenomenal job by striking out the side on 13 pitches to shut down the Astros’ rally. López, who didn’t allow a single run during his March and April outings, ends the month of May with a 9.00 ERA.
José De León pitched around a hit batter in the bottom of the ninth, and with that, the Twins secured only their second road series win on the season, the first one since the Royals series that opened the season for the Twins.
The Twins head back home, where they’ll start a four-game series against the Cleveland Guardians at Target Field. The series opener is scheduled for 6:40 pm CDT on Thursday (6/1), with Pablo López (3-3, 4.11 ERA) set to make the start for Minnesota and Tanner Bibee (1-1, 2.88 ERA) toeing the rubber for Cleveland.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Sands 0 16 0 48 0 64 Stewart 13 0 18 0 13 44 J. López 22 0 6 0 16 44 De León 0 27 0 0 16 43 Durán 12 0 29 0 0 41 Jax 0 12 0 8 0 20 Morán 9 0 0 1 0 10 Pagán 0 7 0 0 0 7
mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Daily Hitter of the Month - May 2023
As was the case for April, Rocco Baldelli has seen the Minnesota Twins remain in first place atop the AL Central largely due to an improved pitching staff. While the bullpen has had some hiccups, the starting rotation has been nothing short of exceptional. Even still, there have been a couple of batters doing some heavy lifting in order to keep the lineup afloat. Take a look.
Honorable Mention #2: Willi Castro 24 G .319/.355/.500 (.855) 4 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI
Arguably the last position player to make the Twins 26-man roster out of spring training, Castro has become an invaluable piece for Baldelli and the lineup construction. His utility has been used all over the field, and with Byron Buxton relegated to designated hitter duties, it has been Castro filling in behind Michael A. Taylor in centerfield.
Coming into the month with playing time happening sporadically, Castro has forced Minnesota’s hand with his bat. Playing in 24 games and posting an .855 OPS, Castro has contributed more than just singles. He has four doubles to his credit, and a trio of dingers.
Things have been even better the second half of May as Castro has a .908 OPS across his last 13 games. With Minnesota still working through health situations regarding Max Kepler, Joey Gallo, and Jorge Polanco, expecting Castro to fill in everywhere remains a good bet.
Honorable Mention #1: Ryan Jeffers 19 G .263/.429/.474 (.903) 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
It has been somewhat of a mixed bag defensively for Jeffers this year, but he’s on the short side of a timeshare with Christian Vazquez at the moment. Should his bat continue to look like it did this month, that could change as the year goes on.
After playing in just 12 games last month, Jeffers has pushed his usage up some during May. He’s still not hitting for a high average, but the OBP is impressive and his .903 OPS is beyond impressive and especially as a catcher. Jeffers has three extra-base hits this month, a pair of doubles (one which recently came with the bases loaded) and a pair of homers, and he’s rocking a strong 10/6 K/BB.
The Twins drafted Jeffers early for his bat behind the dish. It has always been a question if he would stick defensively, and while he has, there are still going to be lumps that keep him from an every day starting role. For now though, the bat belongs in the lineup.
Hitter of the Month: Alex Kirilloff 23 G .314/.448/.486 (.934) 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI
When the Twins broke camp without Alex Kirilloff or Jorge Polanco, it was less than ideal. Returning on May 6 though, Kirilloff has done nothing but hit. He owns a .934 OPS through his first 23 games, and his plate discipline has been unbelievable out of the gate.
Kirilloff announced his return to the lineup in a big way when he hit a pair of big flies on May 13 against the Cubs in just his seventh game back. His 22/14 K/BB has helped to put pressure on opposing pitchers, and he has often found himself in advantageous counts because of it.
If there is a level of concern it’s that the exit velocities, hard hit rate, and barrel percentage are all down a bit from his career norms. Being able to hit for power, and without pain, is what the wrist injury directly impacted. If he can keep going like this and ease back into the corner slugging player he looked to be, Minnesota will have a middle-of-the-lineup fixture.
Who do you think was the best hitter for the Minnesota Twins in May? Leave a comment below and start the conversation.
mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Diamond Sports Bankruptcy Coming to a Head: What Does That Mean for Twins TV Deal?
Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of the Bally Sports regional networks, informed the Padres that it wouldn’t be making a scheduled payment to the organization. The payment was due to San Diego multiple weeks ago, but DSG had until May 30th to make the payment if they wanted to continue broadcasting games. This has created a chain reaction that can impact televised Twins games in the weeks ahead.
Beginning on Wednesday, Padres games will be broadcast in-market games for free on MLB.TV. These games will also be free of blackout restrictions, and that portion of the deal runs through Sunday’s game. Starting on Monday, fans can purchase MLB.TV for $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the remainder of the season. San Diego also announced fans in-market can watch on DirecTV, Spectrum, Cox, Fubo and on MLB.TV. Adding these services opens Padres broadcasts to an additional two million fans.
MLB announced, “By offering a direct-to-consumer streaming option on MLB.TV in the Club’s territory for the first time, MLB is able to lift the blackout for Padres games previously distributed on Bally Sports San Diego.” It’s a chance for MLB to test this type of distribution method with what might be a glimpse into the future of baseball viewing.
DSG has missed payments to other teams this season, but they have always made up the debt during the grace period. The Padres are in the middle of a 20-year, $1.2 billion deal for Bally Sports San Diego that runs through 2032. Because of San Diego’s market size, it is not profitable for DSG, and they have decided not to fulfill their subsequent payment.
In a statement sent to the Sports Business Journal, Diamond said, “While DSG has significant liquidity and have been making rights payments to teams, the economics of the Padres’ contract were not aligned with market realities. MLB has forced our hand by its continued refusal to negotiate direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming rights for all teams in our portfolio despite our proposal to pay every team in full in exchange for those rights. We are continuing to broadcast games for teams under our contracts.”
The Padres will keep their on-air broadcasting staff in the transition to a direct-to-consumer streaming option. There might be some changes to the pregame or postgame staff because of the switch to a different media outlet. Minnesota fans can see San Diego as an example of what can happen when DSG misses a payment.
For the Twins, the Bally Sports saga is something fans have paid attention to for months. It must also be frustrating since the Twins are in the final year of their current television deal. Diamond has been paying a group of teams, like the Twins, at a lower rate since their bankruptcy proceedings began. DSG feels those contracts should be restructured to align more closely with their current market values. Conversely, MLB believes their clubs should be paid the total value of the originally agreed-upon deals.
On Wednesday, a bankruptcy hearing will be held that Twins fans can follow with anticipation. According to multiple reports, MLB doesn’t expect a ruling on Wednesday. Still, it might be the first step toward the Twins getting a similar direct-to-consumer streaming options like the Padres will have to start this weekend.
Would you prefer different methods for streaming Twins games? How do you feel the DSG situation will play out? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
mikelink45 reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand Could Haunt the Twins For a Long Time
While the Minnesota Twins paid a steep price when they traded for Tyler Mahle (three top-20 prospects), most considered the deal to be a good one as the Twins avoided trading away any of their top-five prospects in the deal. After all, there’s nothing more haunting for a fan base (or a front office) than trading away a future star and watching that player do damage for years on another team.
Unfortunately for the Twins, not only did the Mahle Era in Minnesota go completely sideways, but it’s looking like two of the prospects that the Twins gave up in the trade could be guys who do damage on another team for years to come.
Spencer Steer was the prized prospect that was traded away to the Cincinnati Reds in the Mahle deal. At the time of the trade, Steer was the sixth ranked prospect in Twins Daily’s prospect ranking as he was performing well at Triple-A at the time and was extremely close to the Majors.
Steer got his feet wet in the big leagues late last season, but didn’t knock anyone’s socks off with a meager .632 OPS in 28 games to end the 2022 season. The 2023 season has been a completely different story for the right-hander. Through 50 games, Spencer Steer is slashing .288/.353/.485 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. Steer’s 23 extra base hits and .838 OPS would be first and second, respectively, on the Twins this season.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Steer’s offensive numbers is that he had a slow start to the year. Through May 2, Steer had a .699 OPS. Since then, over his last 23 games, Steer has posted a .984 OPS with 14 extra base hits. While Steer’s defense certainly leaves more to be desired, his offensive arrow is pointing upward, and he is certainly someone that the Twins could be kicking themselves for trading away for a long time.
The next highest-rated prospect that the Twins traded away for Mahle last July was corner infielder/designated hitter, Christian Encarnacion-Strand. At the time of the deal, Encarnacion-Strand was Twins Daily’s 16th ranked prospect. His bat was always a strength, but his limited defensive abilities hampered his ability to climb higher up the prospect ranks.
While Encarnacion-Strand is still likely headed for a career at first base or designated hitter, his numbers at the plate in Triple-A this season have lessened the concerns about his defensive future and instead heightened the excitement about his future at the plate.
In 31 games with the Louisville Bats, Encarnacion-Strand is slashing .341/.387/.710 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI. His 1.097 OPS leads all active minor leaguers and his call-up to the big leagues appears to be imminent. CES certainly needs to work on his eye at the plate, as his 39/9 K/BB ratio is less than ideal, but Encarnacion-Strand is mashing at the plate right now unlike any other player in the minors and, similar to Steer, is looking like a guy that could haunt the Minnesota Twins for years to come.
How do you think that Steer and Encarnacion-Strand’s careers will play out in Cincinnati? Do you think these players will haunt the Twins? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Carlos Correa is Coming On for Minnesota
I don’t think you’d find anyone more disappointed in his 94 OPS+ than Carlos Correa. As we have seen during his time with the Twins, he is an analytical player and absolutely knows his numbers. Manager Rocco Baldelli needs more, teammate Byron Buxton needs more, and the Minnesota Twins as a whole need more.
When April ended, Correa owned an abysmal .634 OPS. He was just two points north of the Mendoza line, and while his play in the field helped to mask some of his offensive woes, this wasn’t the production anyone signed up for. Not surprisingly though, Correa never should have been fazed.
As May wraps up, Correa has begun to turn a corner. He’s not lighting the world on fire but a .232/.337/.439 slash line puts him well above league average. In just his last 14 games coming into Monday’s action, Correa has hit a new gear. He has an .874 OPS in that span and has racked up six doubles while locking in at the plate to the tune of a 15/11 K/BB.
With more than 3,500 at-bats under his belt at this level, Correa has essentially seen it all. Knowing his numbers, it’s also likely not a surprise to him that a slow start could happen. April and March are statistically his worst months, even though he spent most of his career playing in the warmth of Houston, Texas. With a .787 OPS to start the season over the duration of his career, he’s needed to wait into the summer months for an uptick to take place.
May has often been better with an .842 career OPS during the second month, but June has always been his launching pad. A .969 OPS during June is easily the best calendar turn every season, and building up towards that as he has this year should have Minnesota fans excited about what may come next.
A season ago, Correa posted an ugly .633 OPS before May only to jump up to an .884 OPS in May and go bonkers with a 1.012 mark in June. He was equally bad to start this year and hasn’t quite been as good in May, but June is coming.
The Twins need some heavy lifting from their superstar, and the calendar presents an opportunity for it to come at the most important time. Facing Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Atlanta all during June, the Twins will have their hands full. Looking to keep the rest of the AL Central at bay, the turnaround for a lineup needing it can come through the bat of Correa.
Arguing against the Twins trading Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez this offseason doesn’t impact much on the field for this lineup. Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray have helped to make Baldelli’s staff one of the best in baseball, and a lineup capable of supporting them is already in place. It should be a matter of when, not if, they turn it around and Correa can lead that charge.
There is no denying that the Twins swing and miss too much. They’ve stunk with the bases loaded, and they have left opportunity unanswered more times than they’d like to count. Still, the ability for this collection to go on a run seems apparent, and Correa executing in his favorite month can be a catalyst for that.
It hasn't been a great start to the week facing his former Houston teammates, but Correa gets to flip the calendar and can remind himself that June is here. No one across the organization wanted to see Correa paid only for him to slump. Everyone involved has seen this play out before though, and now we’ll get a look at where things go from here with warmer weather coming.
mikelink45 reacted to Steven Trefz for an article, Astros 5, Twins 1: Twins Fail to Launch in Space City
SP: Joe Ryan: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K (88 pitches, 56 strikes (63.6%)
Home Runs: None
Bottom 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (-0.281), Byron Buxton (-0.115), Max Kepler (-0.059)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
Say it Ain't So, Joe!
Ryan has been the most consistent Twins starter, and his W/L record shows it. Tuesday was not his night, however, as the Astros got to him early and often. Alex Bregman led off the second inning with a rocket shot (94 mph, barely cleared the fence) to left for a home run. A few batters later, it was Chas McCormick and his .222 batting average's turn to inflate Ryan's ERA with a moon shot to the train tracks in left. 3-0 Astros.
The hits just kept on coming for the Astros in the bottom of the third. A walk to Jeremy Pena with one out, and a single by Yordan Alvarez put runners on the corners for Bregman, and he delivered again with a run-scoring single to left to put the Astros up 4-0. Two batters later, Jose Abreu came up with the bases loaded, and while he couldn't replicate Jose Altuve's grand slam mojo, he did plate another run with a sacrifice fly (that Max Kepler caught while leaping into the wall in right). The Astro lead ballooned to 5-0, and it stayed that way until the fifth inning.
Royce Lewis, Save Us!
In the top of the fifth inning, Lewis stepped up to the plate and unleashed a 104.1 mph double to left. What followed shouldn't surprise Twins fans for the most part. Max Kepler struck out. Michael A. Taylor hit a ground out. The stage was set for the newly "Champion Ringed" Christian Vazquez to find a way to break out of his season-long slump, and he found a way to deliver a small dose of hope back into the game.
The Twins Offense Stinks...Bad
The top of the sixth inning started out well for the Twins, thanks to some uncharacteristic defense from the Astros. Edouard Julien led off with a shot to second base, and Altuve booted it. Carlos Correa drilled a 15 foot squirmer down the third base line which wasn't fielded. Suddenly, the Twins had two on with no one out, and Byron Buxton strode to the plate.
One changeup later, Buxton hit into a 6-4-3 double play, and the hope meter decreased several notches yet again. Alex Kirilloff continued to get on base, however, and there were runners at the corners with superhero Lewis up at the plate. That walk chased Brandon Bielak from an excellent start, but reliever Phil Maton proved to be kryptonite to Lewis' abilities, and he struck him out swinging to end the threat.
Sands Saves the Week, Win or Lose
Out of all the predictions that were bandied about Twins Daily this week, a four-inning start by Ryan was not a common take. That's where the Twins found themselves Tuesday night, and luckily Cole Sands answered the call. After pitching only once in the last week, Sands found himself thrown into the fire against a hot lineup. He escaped the fifth and sixth innings without allowing a run, but left the game after walking two Astros in the seventh. Jovani Moran was the next man up, and one pitch and an Alvarez 4-6-3 double play later, the score remained 5-1.
The ability to eat up innings won't bring the win home today, but it factors into every other game this week as the Twins don't get another off day until next Monday.
A Double Play Kind of Day
The heart of the Twins order came up in the top of the eighth, with the team amassing only three hits in the first six. Julien led off with a bloop to right that barely missed Altuve's glove. Correa was first pitch swinging, however, and chopped a 6-4-3 to remove the threat. The string of that poor at-bat lingered, as Buxton walked and Kiriloff shot a single into right to put runners at the corners with two outs. This time Ryne Stanek played the role of kryptonite, and Twins fans were forced to reckon with the fact that Lewis can't win 'em all.
The Twins ended up getting six hits, limited the Astros to five hits, and managed to lose 5-1. That sums up Tuesday night's ballgame and the first third of this "Home Run or Bust" season quite well. Tough to watch, but a chance to redeem the series tomorrow.
The Minnesota Twins will look to secure the series win again in game three as they send Louie Varland to the mound. The Astros will counter with young right-hander Hunter Brown. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm CDT.
(Coming Soon, if available)
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Sands 0 0 16 0 48 64 De León 19 0 27 0 0 46 Durán 0 12 0 29 0 41 Stewart 0 13 0 18 0 31 Pagán 21 0 7 0 0 28 López 0 22 0 6 0 28 Jax 0 0 12 0 8 20 Morán 0 9 0 0 1 10
mikelink45 reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, Twins Minor League Week in Review (5/22-5/28)
Don’t forget to read Nick’s Week in Review to catch up on the Twins week.
None as of publishing. RESULTS
Tuesday (5/23): Carlos Aguiar Flexes His Mussels Wednesday (5/24): A Walkoff, a Blowout Win, a Loss, and a Rainout Thursday (5/25): Sanchez Slings for Saints Friday (5/26): Pitching Continues To Be Solid, Even in Losses Saturday (5/27): The Dog Days Are Over; a Near Clean Sweep for Minnesota's Affiliates Sunday (5/28): Royce Lewis Catches a Flight MORE TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE CONTENT
Carlos Aguiar Slugging His Way Into the Top Prospect Conversation Playing at 120 Percent, Royce Lewis is Ready for his Return to the Big Leagues These 3 Minnesota Twins Prospects Are Off to Disappointing Starts in 2023 Blayne Enlow is Out to Prove He Belongs Is Royce Lewis Going to be Here to Stay? TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Iowa @ St. Paul (7:07PM CST) - TBD Tulsa @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) -RHP Blayne Enlow (2-1, 3.02 ERA) Cedar Rapids @ Lansing (5:00PM CST) - RHP Jaylin Nowlin (2-3, 3.75 ERA) St. Lucie @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) - TBD WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints (Week: 4-2)
Overall: 27-22, 2.5 games back in the International League West. Overview: A good week with four wins over Omaha only kept pace with the Iowa Cubs. 🔥: It hasn’t been a good year for Aaron Sanchez , but he had a very good start last week pitching six shutout innings. 🔥: Hernan Perez and Andrew Stevenson both had huge weeks at the plate. Perez totaled 17 total bases on 10 hits in 20 at-bats with 10 RBI and Stevenson had 18 total bases on the nine hits and scored nine runs. 🥶: Simeon Woods Richardson threw 8 1/3 innings over two starts and allowed 11 earned runs on 16 hits and five walks. He only struck out four. A hard reset may be in order. 🥶: Jose Miranda is floundering. Four singles in 24 at-bats. Six strikeouts. One walk. Two runs batted in and one run scored. What's Next: A trip to Buffalo (24-27) for six games. Both teams are 5-5 in their last ten. Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge (Week: 2-4)
Overall: 20-24, 9.5 games back in the Texas League North. Overview: A poor week against Springfield dropped the Wind Surge even further behind Tulsa. 🔥: DaShawn Keirsey led the offense with nine hits (and three doubles). Brooks Lee had eight hits and hit his fourth home run of the season. 🔥: Aaron Rozek pitched seven one-run innings and struck out five while only walking one and allowing just three hits. 🥶: Will Holland was 3-for-16, but his three hits were two doubles and a triple. He struck out five times. 🥶: Andrew Cabezas struggled in his lone appearance of the week. He allowed four runs on four hits and three walks while only retiring three batters. What's Next: Wichita will host first-place Tulsa (30-15), who is on a six-game winning streak. Though dominant at home, the Drillers are only 8-10 on the road. High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels (Week: 3-3)
Overall: 25-20, 1.0 game up in the Midwest League West. Overview: A 3-3 week was enough to propel the Kernels past a struggling South Bend team (losers of five straight). But Quad Cities has gone from 12-21 to 24-21 and are now just a game behind Cedar Rapids. 🔥: Marco Raya was perfect in his three innings, striking out five. 🔥: Jordan Carr pitched six innings and earned a win. He allowed only an unearned run on four hits and two walks. He struck out six. 🔥: Kala’i Rosario and Noah Miller led the offense. Rosario had two home runs among his six hits. Miller had seven hits including three extra-base hits. 🤩: Andrew Cossetti gets a write-up almost every week, so we should mention his promotion. He got three hits in 13 at-bats including two doubles. 🥶: Pierson Ohl had an interesting start. He was one out short of pitching six innings. He struck out seven… but he allowed nine hits and two walks which turned into seven runs (six earned). 🥶: Jose Salas . Man, it’s been a rough start for Salas. Nine strikeouts in a 2-for-20 week. What's Next: A road trip to Lansing (21-24). The Kernels have a better road record so far this year, so hopefully they can keep the lead in the West Division. Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels (Week: 3-3)
Overall: 25-20, 6.5 games behind Clearwater in the Florida State League West. Overview: Fort Myers split with a decent Dunedin team and made up a half-game in the standings. 🔥: Ricardo Olivar’s nine hits were tied for an organizational high this past week. But his solid performance may have been overshadowed by Carlos Aguiar’s three-home run game and Jorel Ortega continuing to impress with his bat (two home runs) and legs (three stolen bases). 🔥: Zebby Matthews earned a promotion with six strikeouts in five shutout innings. He allowed two hits. 🥶: Maddux Houghton struck out six times in 10 hitless at-bats. 🥶: Jose Olivares is the youngest pitcher on the staff, but allowing seven runs on six hits (three home runs) isn’t great. What's Next: It should be a big week for the Mighty Mussels. St. Lucie (13-31) is the worst team in the entire league… but they are coming in with a three-game winning streak. PROSPECT SUMMARY
This Prospect Summary shows our current Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings and how they performed last week. The Prospect Tracker will be updated on the first of each month throughout the season. Notice that these pages now include stats and splits, as well as past article links, videos, and more. (Season-long stats will be in parenthesis.)
20. Michael Helman, UTIL, St. Paul: On the Injured List with a dislocated shoulder. (.333/.434/.711. 1.145 OPS) 19. Yunior Severino, 3B, Wichita: 7-24, 3 R, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K. (.279/.355/.526. .881 OPS), played his first game at second base this past week after playing exclusively at third base all season. 18. Jose Rodriguez, OF: Extended Spring Training 17. Blayne Enlow, RHP, Wichita: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 6 H, ER, 1 K. (1.13 WHIP, .237 BAA) 16. Matt Canterino, RHP: Still recovering from Tommy John surgery. 15. Brent Headrick, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 4 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), HRA, 2 BB, 3 K. (1.41 WHIP, .292 BAA) 14. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 7.36 ERA, 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. (1.37 WHIP, .227 BAA) 13. Noah Miller, SS, Cedar Rapids: 7-21, 2 2B, 3B, 5 RBI, R, 4 K, SB. (.216/.293/.302. .595 OPS), played shortstop in four games (35 total) and committed no errors in 21 chances (four errors in 151 total chances); played no games (six total) at second base (no errors in 16 total chances). 12. Jose Salas, INF, Cedar Rapids: 2-17, 2B, RBI, R, 2 BB, 9 K. (.154/.231/.215. .446 OPS), didn’t play shortstop (three errors in 29 chances in nine games total), played one game (nine total) at third base with one error in five chances (three errors in 22 total chances). He played four games (18 total) at second base with no errors in 12 chances (one error in 72 total chances). 11. Austin Martin, SS: Martin is still recovering from an arm injury. 10. Yasser Mercedes, OF: Extended Spring Training 9. Matt Wallner, OF, St. Paul: (.271/.392/.486. 878 OPS); Minnesota: 7-11, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, SB (.368/.520/.579. 1.099 OPS) 8. David Festa, RHP, Wichita: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K. (1.49 WHIP, .260 BAA) 7. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, St. Paul: 0-1, 11.88 ERA, 8.1 IP (2 starts), 16 H, 11 ER, HRA, 5 BB, 4 K (1.88 WHIP, .329 BAA); Minnesota: (2.14 WHIP, .350 BAA) 6. Marco Raya, RHP, Cedar Rapids: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 5 K. (0.74 WHIP, .138 BAA) 5. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Cedar Rapids: On the injured list, but expected to resume throwing. (1.75 WHIP, .294 BAA) 4. Edouard Julien, 2B, St. Paul: (.287/.442/.481. .923 OPS), has played all 27 games at second base and has committed two errors in 119 chances; Minnesota: 4-17, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K. (.224/.316/.510. .826 OPS) 3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Cedar Rapids: 3-22, 2B, HR, 6 R, RBI, 5 BB, 7 K, SB. (.160/.316/.362. 678 OPS) 2. Royce Lewis, SS: St. Paul: 5-17, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K, SB. (.333/.395/.692. 1.087 OPS), played one game (four total) at shortstop and committed no errors in four chances (no errors in 12 total chances). Lewis played one game (four total) at third base and committed one error in five chances (one error in eight total chances). 1. Brooks Lee, SS, Wichita: 8-26, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K, CS. (.261/.335/.418. .753 OPS), played five games (38 total) at shortstop and committed no errors in 25 chances (three errors in 161 total chances). Lee has committed one error in three chances in one game at third base this season. PLAYERS OF THE WEEK (as voted on by fans on Twitter)
PITCHER - Marco Raya, Cedar Rapids (Raya 42%, Matthews 35%, Rozek 15%, Sanchez 7%)
HITTER - Hernan Perez, St. Paul (Perez 68%, Rosario 23%, Keirsey 5%, Olivar 3%)
Who would have been your picks? Any early season surprises or disappointments? Ask questions and discuss the Twins prospects in the COMMENTS below.
mikelink45 reacted to Nate Palmer for an article, Twins 7, Astros 5: Royce Lewis Storybook Return Fuels Extra-Inning Win
SP: Sonny Gray: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (79 pitches, 46 strikes (58.2%)
Home Runs: Royce Lewis (1), Ryan Jeffers (3)
Top 3 WPA: Royce Lewis (0.543), Ryan Jeffers (0.340), Jhoan Duran (0.325)
Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)
As our nation celebrates Memorial Day and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, the Minnesota Twins also played a baseball game. While Memorial Day ultimately ruled Monday this week. There was another memorable day on Monday focused around one Royce Lewis. Lewis did his best with his play to try and overshadow everything else going on Monday.
A year to the day Lewis tore his ACL for the second time, the first-round pick returned to the big leagues to start for the Twins at third base alongside Carlos Correa. It was a Correa injury that allowed Lewis to break into the big leagues initially in 2022, where Lewis went on to slash .300/.317/.550 with a .867 OPS and two home runs over 12 games and 41 plate appearances.
Lewis got everyone’s excitement flowing early as he came to bat in the first inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Lewis gave a J.P. France slider a ride to deep left field, which flirted with home run status but ultimately would fall short. Defensively later in the first, Lewis was involved again as he began a double play to help starter Sonny Gray get out of the inning facing the minimum. The play went from Lewis to Correa to Gallo, and that Lewis-Correa combination is one Twins fans would be happy to see regularly.
It was then in the third inning that Lewis put his “I’m back” mark on the game. Once again, coming to bat with runners on first and second, Lewis wouldn’t leave them stranded this time. Instead, he sent the ball to the opposite field, securing a three-run home run right into the corner to put the Twins up 3-0 in the third inning.
Castro Continues to Show His Value
Willi Castro continues to prove he has value on this roster, even as many of us are trying to find ways to get him out of the lineup. Monday afternoon, we again saw his speed on display to score the Twins' fourth run of the game. The events began with Castro beating out the throw at first base to keep the Astros from turning a double play.
During Michael A. Taylor’s at-bat, Castro looked poised to try and steal second base, and instead, his presence may have caused France to throw a wild pitch creating the same result. Shortly after that, Taylor pushed the ball through the right side of the infield, giving Castro just enough time to fly around third base and slide under the tag at home.
Once again, Castro proved his value through his flexibility and production in timely situations. Castro ended the game by going 2-for-5 and scoring that critical run in the fourth inning.
Another Sonny Day
It may not have felt like an overly dominant outing with strikeouts, but Sonny Gray pitched very well again for the Twins. There were a few innings where Gray had to work out of jams, namely the fourth, where the Astros secured their first run, but the right-hander still made it through six innings with only 68 pitches thrown.
While Gray cruised well through those six, this game will be remembered for when Gray stepped back onto the mound to pitch the seventh. Gray struggled early with the low pitch count and found himself with runners on first and second. The Twins then and there chose to turn away from Gray, and Brock Stewart took the ball to try and pitch out of the scoring threat.
Stewart Did It Until He Didn’t.
As Stewart took over for Gray, he was somehow on his way to getting out of the jam and making a solid appearance again. With two outs and Jose Altuve up to bat, there was one last battle left to move the Twins into the eighth inning. Instead, Altuve changed the game's trajectory by hitting a grand slam and putting the Astros up 5-4.
Lewis to the Rescue!
Lewis wasn’t finished putting up numbers and big at-bats just yet. In the 9th inning, with former Twin Ryan Pressly on the mound, Lewis came to bat with runners on first and second, again! This time Lewis hit a two-out single to bring around Kyle Farmer to score.
What led up to the Lewis at-bat was an Alex Kirilloff walk. While Kirilloff didn’t have any truly impactful at-bats as Lewis did, he quietly was very effective for the Twins as he collected two hits, three walks, and scored on the Lewis home run.
The Twins could only get the score even at five in the ninth, and after Jhoan Duran held off the Astros in the ninth, it would take extras to see if the Twins could finish off this storybook game.
Jeffers Delivers Winning Blow
As extra-innings began, Max Kepler took his place on second base, and Ryan Jeffers took his place in the batter’s box. It didn’t take long, and Jeffers put the Twins back in the lead as he took a first pitch, an 86 mph slider from Bryan Abreu, and hit a line drive home run to left field.
Duran came back in to pitch the tenth. He pitched through the inning, going three up, three down. The culmination of the outing was a face-off with Yordan Alvarez in which Duran got the slugger to strike out looking. A great way to punctuate a fantastic day of baseball. Lewis grabs the headline today, but many others were critical contributors.
The Minnesota Twins will look to secure the series win in game two as they send Joe Ryan to the mound. The Astros will counter with right-hander Brandon Bielak. Bielak has pitched in five games this season with four of those being starts and holds a 3.55 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 25 ⅓ innings.
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT De León 0 19 0 27 0 46 Durán 0 0 12 0 29 41 Stewart 0 0 13 0 18 31 Pagán 0 21 0 7 0 28 López 0 0 22 0 6 28 Sands 0 0 0 16 0 16 Jax 0 0 0 12 0 12 Morán 0 0 9 0 0 9
mikelink45 reacted to Mike Rose for an article, Twins Fantasy Fix (5/26): The First Third Check-in
Happy Memorial Day weekend, Twins fans! As you’re reading this, I’m probably hiking somewhere around Bemidji. I hope you’re able to have a fun and relaxing weekend with family and friends.
I also want to thank everyone who has read Twins Fantasy Fix so far. It’s been a blast writing about the Twins from a fantasy perspective, and I hope you have enjoyed these articles.
For this holiday weekend, I thought it’d be a good time to check in on the big picture when it comes to Minnesota fantasy performance. Game 54, which will be on Monday against Houston, will officially put us a third of the way through the season. Here’s who I’ve got as the team’s best performers so far alongside my preseason predictions.
Offensive MVP: Byron Buxton
Preseason pick: Buxton
Buxton has been good if not great, but that’s enough to get the nod here. The Twins have been inconsistent on offense, and other contenders in this area have either gotten off to slow starts (Carlos Correa) or not played enough (Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff).
While Buxton is only batting .238, his .832 OPS helps offset that, and he’s managed 10 home runs and six stolen bases in 45 games. The most encouraging thing is that he hasn’t gone on the injured list yet (knocks on wood), so the Twins’ plan to use him exclusively as a DH has to be considered a success so far. Fans can debate how big of a loss it is not having Buxton in center field, but fantasy managers shouldn’t care as long as he stays healthy because Buxton should have outfield eligibility in most formats. He’s currently the eighth ranked outfielder in ESPN leagues, and if he stays on the field, more good numbers should come, especially if he can get that average up a bit.
Pitching MVP: Joe Ryan
Preseason pick: Jhoan Duran
This was a harder choice, as the Twins have gotten excellent pitching so far, at least from the starting staff. The bullpen has been a bit dicier, but Duran (and Jorge Lopez, until recently) has been good, so I’m not feeling too bad about my preseason pick. Duran has a 1.47 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings and leads the team with seven saves.
All that said, this ultimately comes down to two players at the moment in my mind: Ryan and Sonny Gray. The latter leads the MLB in ERA (1.82), but Ryan isn’t far behind (2.21) and he’s ahead of Gray in wins, strikeouts and WHIP. Ryan is actually second in the majors with seven wins, and his 70 strikeouts are good for ninth. Wins can be tricky to chase in fantasy, but Ryan’s 2.32 FIP suggests that he can keep up the solid work and be a top-line fantasy contributor the rest of the way. Considering that he wasn’t a particularly high draft pick in most leagues, fantasy players who have him have to be ecstatic about their return on investment so far.
Sleeper: Bailey Ober
Preseason pick: Max Kepler
Kepler is currently out with a hamstring injury and was inconsistent while in the lineup, so Ober is an easy pick here. He was in St. Paul to start the season, and while Minnesota fans probably expected to see him at some point, fantasy players can be excused for not having the righty on their radars.
However, he’s been excellent since joining the rotation in place of an injured Kenta Maeda. Across six starts, Ober has a 2.55 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. Maeda should return at some point, but with Tyler Mahle lost for the year, Ober should have a rotation spot locked up for the foreseeable future. He had some MLB success in 2021 and 2022 as well, so this production isn’t coming completely out of the blue. Ober is currently owned in around 37% of ESPN leagues, which is up significantly from early April. If he continues to pitch like this, that number should continue to climb.
Super sleeper: Brock Stewart
Preseason pick: Edouard Julien
Julien did make his MLB debut and has shown flashes of potential with three home runs and a .864 OPS across 46 at-bats. However, it’s unclear if he’ll stick in the majors when Polanco returns. Julien is definitely worth keeping tabs on in fantasy leagues, particularly keeper or dynasty formats, but his short-term outlook remains murky.
Stewart is my pick here because he’s come out of nowhere to become a significant contributor for Minnesota. He’s yet to allow an earned run over 14 appearances, has struck out 15 across 14 innings, and even picked up his first career save since 2017 this weekend. His 11 walks are way too many, and he’ll have to exhibit better control if he wants to sustain his success, but it’s hard to argue with a 0.00 ERA. As I wrote about last week, Stewart probably isn’t worth owning in most leagues quite yet, but if anything happens to Duran, or if Lopez continues his downward trend, he becomes way more interesting. For now, Stewart has probably leapfrogged Griffin Jax in the Twins’ bullpen pecking order.
Who have been your Minnesota fantasy MVPs and sleepers so far? Let me know in the COMMENTS, plus share your outlook for Twins players the rest of the way.
mikelink45 reacted to Steven Trefz for an article, Series Preview: (@HOU 5/29-5/31) Winning in Houston Fixes Everything
The Twins limp into Houston on the heels of a 2-4 homestand against the Giants and Blue Jays. In their two victories, the Twins netted seven runs apiece. In their four losses, the Twins scored one, three, one, and zero runs respectively. Their reliance on the home run for offensive success again rose to the front of the storyline, and their inability to manufacture runs with consistent contact continued to waste quality starts and winnable games.
However, the team still finds itself in first place in the division as we approach the 54th game of the season. This success glimmers like fool's gold, as a series sweep against the Astros would also find the Twins two games under .500.
The imminent return of Royce Lewis to the lineup should be enough reason to get anyone excited, but the absolute offensive tear that he’s been on makes the waiting almost unbearable. Where will he play? (Third base) Who gets sent down? (Kyle Garlick, Matt Wallner) Can the Twins find a way to get him an at-bat in every inning like in a spring training rehab start? (We wish).
Storylines abound this Memorial Day week, so let’s dig into the details.
Interesting Fact: The Astros have only missed the playoffs once since 2014. For a great read about the years of “glory” that they’ve experienced, check out Winning Fixes Everything by Evan Drellich, 2023.
Weather Factor: Sunny and high-80’s as the Texas summer kicks into gear. The roof of Minute Maid Park will most likely be closed for the series, so weather shouldn’t be a factor.
Game 1 – Monday, May 29, 2023 – 3:10 pm CDT – The Twins turn to RHP Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.82 ERA) to kick off the series, and he will face Astros RHP J.P. France (1-1, 3.43 ERA). Both teams are coming off of a short night of sleep, and the advantage should be in the hands of the pitchers.
How will Carlos Correa be received in Houston now that his permanent home has been established? (Note, along with Puerto Rico, Correa's permanent home is in Houston, but his baseball home is the Twin Cities.) Will he finally find a respite from the boo-birds on the road? (Yes) Will he finally find his swing again? (We hope so!)
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 30th, 2023 – 7:10pm CDT – Twins RHP Joe Ryan (7-1, 2.21 ERA) looks to extend his All-Star resume when he faces Houston RHP Brandon Bielak (1-2, 3.55 ERA) on Tuesday night. Ryan got the victory against the Astros in early April, giving up four runs over six innings.
Game 3 - Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 – 7:10 pm CDT – In the final game of the series, the Twins call upon RHP Louie Varland (2-1, 4.24 ERA) to continue his winning ways against fellow young hurler, RHP Hunter Brown (5-1, 3.12 ERA) for the Astros. Brown is 7-1 in 17 starts, with a 1.17 WHIP in his first two seasons.
Varland looks to keep his role in the rotation with Kenta Maeda beginning his rehab assignment. Brown looks to make Astros fans forget about some guy named Justin Verlander. With the Twins facing the Guardians for four games beginning Thursday, Varland’s ability to eat up innings on Wednesday couldn’t be more important.
What's your prediction for this series? Can the Twins maintain their lead in the AL Central through this series? Who do you see being the biggest impact player in Houston this week? Let us know in the comments! Go, Twins!
mikelink45 reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Prospect Outsiders Dominating Minnesota's Minor Leagues in 2023
This originally began as a look at a few prospects having great seasons, something of an off-setting on Matthew Taylor’s piece from the other day. I already knew of some of the names I could target, but a search revealed a fascinating pattern: nearly all the minor leaguers crushing the season are not well-regarded. That isn’t an insult to these young men—prospect evaluation is far from a perfect science, and internal synopses likely vary greatly from the public lists—but I found it worthy of mentioning that the “non-prospects” have been the ones performing the best in 2023.
Let’s look at the names, speed-date style:
RHP Zebby Matthews
Freshly promoted to Cedar Rapids, Matthews crushed his time with Fort Myers, striking out 35.3% of the batters he faced while walking 3.3% (!!) of them over 38 2/3 frames. Of 448 pitchers in the minors with at least 30 innings, that’s good for the eighth-lowest walk rate (but not even the best in the system! More on that soon). An 8th-round selection out of Western Carolina University in 2023, Matthews may soon move up prospect lists, but he is still something of an unknown.
RHP Cory Lewis
Lewis is the only player in this article currently on MLB.com’s top-30 list for the Twins; he takes the very last spot. Owning a spinny fastball, downer curve, and a knuckleball—yes, a knuckleball—Lewis has been nearly as good as Matthews in Fort Myers’ rotation, punching out 34.4% of hitters while walking them 7.6% of the time, still elite peripherals for nearly any pitcher. You may remember Lewis after he helped toss a combined no-hitter for Fort Myers a few days ago.
INF Jorel Ortega
This could have just been a “the Mighty Mussels are better than we probably gave them credit for” piece. Yet another 2022 draft pick, this one a 6th-rounder out of Tennessee, Ortega has struck the ball impressively at a pitching-dominated level, putting up a 152 wRC+ off a .295/.409/.487 slash line—mere points away from the classic .300/.400/.500 line reserved for the truly special hitters.
C Andrew Cossetti
.330/.462/.607 served as Cossetti’s Fort Myers slash line before Minnesota decided to stop terrorizing Florida State League pitchers with such offensive domination. A product of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia (the same college as Jamie Moyer; what a pull), Cossetti quickly earned a promotion to Cedar Rapids, where he will help stimulate a Kernels team looking for some extra thump. Cossetti was yet another 2022 draft selection.
OF Kala’i Rosario
After a mediocre season with Fort Myers in 2022, Rosario's prospect status atrophied as the former 2020 draft selection had yet to have an overwhelmingly impressive season in the minors. Things have turned around so far in 2023. Rosario shaved a few points off his strikeout rate, replaced them with walks, and improved his isolated power to above the major-league average (.191). He’s currently holding a 153 wRC+; he may inch back onto top prospect lists soon.
C Noah Cardenas
Few people have more of an interest in Cardenas than I do. Catchers who can hit are rare; catchers who walk more than they strike out are unicorns. Cardenas may not spout a horn on his head, but his 2023 play looks an awful lot like his 2022 line: an elite walk rate buoying competent average and power capabilities. His isolated power is down a little (.119 from .152), but the hitting package still looks excellent.
RHP Pierson Ohl
Remember the comment about Matthews’ walk rate? Here’s the guy who has him beaten. Ohl has walked four batters over 35 2/3 innings, good for a rate of 2.6%. That’s unheard of. He may actually throw too many strikes for his own good—as evident by his ERA far elevated above his peripherals—but the Twins have shown a consistent ability to coax effectiveness from command-first repertoires like Ohl.
Check almost any major stat, and you'll find similar results; the Twins' minor league system is succeeding off the backs of "lesser" prospects, not the players you would most expect to lead the pack.
What do we make of this? It can be difficult to rank freshly drafted players, especially those taken lower in the draft, so the lack of prospect respect for these players is unsurprising. They just need time. For the others? Either they never commanded attention in the first place, or the industry opinion altered and never recovered. No matter—these players and their performances should be appreciated, and hopefully, they can keep it up as the season marches on.
mikelink45 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Beautiful Weather, Ugly Baseball
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/22 through Sun, 5/28
Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 27-26)
Run Differential Last Week: -1 (Overall: +42)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (1.0 GA)
Last Week's Game Results:
Game 48 | SF 4, MIN 1: Ober Faceplants, Bats Can't Pick Him Up
Game 49 | SF 4, MIN 3: Offense and Bullpen Combine for Brutal Loss
Game 50 | MIN 7, SF 1: Twins Avoid Sweep in Error-filled Blowout
Game 51 | TOR 3, MIN 1: Lineup Flounders Again as Slump Persists
Game 52 | MIN 9, TOR 7: Twins Ride Rookies, Willi Castro to Big Win
Game 53 | TOR 3, MIN 0: Another Embarrassing No-Show from Offense
NEWS & NOTES
The Twins are playing really badly right now, and it's getting worse not better.
While one might've made an argument in the previous week that bad umpire calls and unfortunate breaks were key factors in letting several winnable games slip away, this past week was marked by undeniably poor play from front to back. Even Minnesota's two victories weren't all that impressive, with both sleepy teams kicking the ball around on Wednesday and the Twins nearly blowing a huge lead on Saturday.
They need to start picking it up and they need to stop wasting time, as the sub-.500 Tigers are suddenly nipping at their heels, one game behind in the Central. It would be nice if the good news would begin to eclipse the bad news on the health front, but we're not there yet.
The stalling start to Trevor Larnach's career sadly continues; the outfielder has now landed on the injured list due to a severe bout with pneumonia. The former first-round draft pick has seen his past two seasons majorly diminished by injuries, and is trying to finally establish himself at the big-league level. He's struggled to produce in sustained fashion for the Twins this year and now he's going to be down for awhile, which is especially unfavorable for Larnach given how well his replacement fared in a brief window.
Let's start there: Matt Wallner delivered a definitive jolt for this lineup. He provided one of the best individual offensive performances from a Twin all season on Saturday when he went 4-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs, also gunning down a runner at second on a laser-beam throw. Wallner followed by going 2-for-2 with two walks on Sunday, reaching base in all eight plate appearances between the two games.
The organization's reigning Minor League Player of the Year finally flashed his upside in a big way on the MLB stage, and it came at a crucial time, although he ironically was optioned after Sunday's game due to logistical factors.
The stumbling Twins have been begging for someone to step up, and it's been the rookies and role player answering the call. Wallner wasn't alone over the weekend.
Edouard Julien joined the fun on Saturday with three hits, including two doubles and a home run. Earlier in the week he went deep against San Francisco, and he sprinkled in four walks over his six starts. Amid some rookie lapses in the field and on the basepaths, Julien's biggest strengths were on display – namely, a disciplined plate approach and huge raw power to the opposite side and to left-center specifically.
Also contributing to Saturday's night-run outburst (nearly all of which ended up being needed) was Willi Castro, who is himself making a strong case on the fringe of the roster with an impact that makes him "disturbingly valuable," as one might say.
While the limitations of his game will prevent anyone from confusing him for a star, Castro's defensive versatility and ability to put together an occasion power-fueled hot stretch at the plate – as we've seen of late – makes him a solid asset, and puts him in good position to survive some tough upcoming roster decisions.
Much like in the lineup, a few key fixtures are keeping the bullpen afloat while others lapse and languish. The rising star of the unit is Brock Stewart, whose out-of-nowhere emergence as essentially the team's most trusted setup man has been life-saving for a spiraling relief corps.
Stewart still has yet to be charged with a run through 14 appearances, and he pulled off his biggest high-stakes acrobatic act yet on Saturday, averting disaster by recording three outs to fend off an inherited late threat against Toronto. The outing left him with the best WPA in the Twins bullpen (0.86), despite his arriving nearly a month into the season.
Yes, Stewart's WPA bests even Jhoan Duran, but there's no doubting who is the king of this unit. While less unexpected, Duran's ongoing dominance is the steady foundation keeping the Twins bullpen from collapse. He notched four strikeouts over 1 ⅔ clean innings this past week, adding to his illustrious imprint in the record books. He set a new franchise record by reaching 104.6 MPH with his fastball on Wednesday, and also unleashed several triple-digit splitters in the same outing.
Given how routine it has become, I almost have to remind myself from time to time: this is not normal. This is special. Duran is an incredibly rare breed and while there is a great deal of improvement needed around him in the bullpen, you can't ask for a better centerpiece.
As this lineup keeps displaying a consistent sense of explosiveness and potency, it's increasingly difficult to look past the player who's supposed to be its beating heart. Byron Buxton shook off some renewed knee soreness to start all six games last week, and he did hit a home run on Tuesday, but overall he was a net negative, finishing 4-for-25 with the following production outside of his homer: three singles, no runs scored, no RBIs, no walks, 10 strikeouts.
We all know that Buxton is an inherently streaky player, and to some extent, analyzing him in the midst of a downswing like this is bound to underplay his value. But that sort of hints at the core point here, which is that Buxton's hot streaks aren't outweighing his slumps to the extent this team needs them to. Yes, he leads the team's position players in Win Probability Added – a faint accomplishment on this squad – thanks to some huge moments, but too often those moments feel like oases in a desert of surrounding emptiness.
Last week was a perfect example. Buxton came through with the homer but otherwise yielded a flurry of outs, stranded runners, and low-quality at-bats. He looks like he's flat-out guessing on almost every pitch, with no plan or protocol in the box.
Making Buxton's latest swoon even tougher to stomach is the growing inconvenience of his situation and its collateral implications.
As the offense continues to repeatedly short-circuit and the defensive miscues mount, it gets harder and harder to ignore the elephant the room: accommodating Buxton's needs means the Twins are putting one of their best defensive players at DH everyday while in turn being forced to run out sub-par hitters (i.e. Michael A. Taylor, who went 2-for-19 with 12 strikeouts last week) and make tough defensive concessions like playing Castro in center field or Julien at second base.
Alas, the situation shows no signs of changing. By all accounts, the Twins feel that this arrangement is the only way to keep Buxton on the field, and that's difficult to argue against in the wake of another knee scare.
Minnesota needs Buxton in the lineup, however they can get him there, so long as he's healthy. They just need him to be better, and to find a way to mitigate these hideous slumps, even if that means taking a physical break. Of course the same goes without saying for Carlos Correa, who himself apparently dodged an injury scare last week but continues to not click at the plate while looking totally out of wack. Following a 1-for-4 on Sunday, his slash line sits at .216/.308/.392 and he's on pace to finish the season with 1.2 fWAR, which would be lower than Gary Sánchez posted in 2022.
On the pitching side, Jorge López has officially established himself as a big problem. His brilliant April, in which he allowed zero earned runs, has given way to a horrific May in which the right-hander has an 8.10 ERA and 1.042 OPS allowed. His struggles snowballed this past week, with López taking the loss on Tuesday when he gave up a go-ahead two-run homer, and then threatening to turn a lopsided win on its head Saturday, giving up three earned runs while recording no outs in the ninth.
Sadly, López looks every bit the discombobulated mess that he did in the second half for the Twins last year. His confidence has unraveled and his body language on the mound has been alarming. If there's a positive it's that his velocity and stuff look okay, suggesting the issues could be resolvable, but I'm not sure how anyone who's watched him much as a Twin can have any faith in his mental fortitude.
Given the integral role López plays in the way this bullpen was designed, his implosion would have dire consequences if it continues this way. Durán cannot carry the entire load by himself (again).
Reinforcements are on the way. The team announced after Sunday's game that Max Kepler and Royce Lewis will rejoin the team in Houston this week, with Garlick and Wallner going down to make room. Polanco also appears to be getting close after working out on the field alongside Kepler on Sunday.
Swapping in Kepler for Wallner isn't the most exciting move, given how well Wallner was going and how mediocre Kepler's been for the past 20 years or so, but there was a little choice. What IS exciting is the highly anticipated return of Lewis, who proclaimed himself to be at 120 percent, after posting an absurd .333/.371/.727 slash line with four homers and 10 RBIs in eight games at Triple-A.
The Twins badly need a spark. It's hard to imagine many individuals more equipped to provide it, on multiple levels, although you don't want to put too much pressure on the kid.
If the Twins don't start playing better baseball in a hurry, this is going to get ugly. They're off to Houston for a three-game series versus the dynastic (albeit underperforming Astros) and then it's back home for four against the Guardians, who still may pose the greatest long-term threat in the division.
MONDAY, 5/29: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP J.P. France v. RHP Sonny Gray
TUESDAY, 5/30: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Brandon Bielak v. RHP Joe Ryan
WEDNESDAY, 5/31: TWINS @ ASTROS – RHP Hunter Brown v. RHP Louie Varland
THURSDAY, 6/1: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Tanner Bibee v. RHP Pablo Lopez
FRIDAY, 6/2: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Hunter Gaddis v. RHP Bailey Ober
SATURDAY, 6/3: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – LHP Logan Allen v. RHP Sonny Gray
SUNDAY, 6/4: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Cal Quantrill v. RHP Joe Ryan