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  1. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, What if These Twins Worked Out?   
    As we trudge through this ugly lockout and look forward to the Twins revamping their 2022 roster, I found myself thinking back to some of the guys that could have been. Maybe they were fan-favorites we had hoped for more from, or perhaps a flash in the pan never extended. At any rate, these were some names that immediately came to mind.
    Oswaldo Arcia
    Arcia had a decently-long career with the Twins playing in 251 games. He was a top 100 prospect in 2013 and owned a career .901 OPS in the minors. The body type just suggested he should be able to rake even if he was a poor defender. The problem was that he couldn’t make contact. The strikeout rates were egregious, and the on-base ability was non-existent. I held out hope for quite a while, but it became evident he didn’t have it. At 30, Arcia did tear up the Venezuelan Winter League this year.
    ByungHo Park
    If there’s a What Could Have Been in recent memory, it’s Park for me. On top of acclimating to new teammates in a new country, Park dealt with a wrist injury in 2016 that he played through for most of the season. The .684 OPS was indicative of a guy who lost his power bat, and even the .823 mark at Triple-A Rochester didn’t afford him another opportunity. After playing in 2017 at Triple-A, he returned to the KBO and immediately posted a 1.175 OPS. Now 35, he’s at the tail end of his career, but there was a productive player here had circumstances worked out differently.
    Fernando Romero
    Probably the last pitching prospect Twins fans dreamed on before this current crop, Romero was supposed to be an impact arm. He was a top 100 prospect as recently as 2018 and owned a 3.57 ERA at Triple-A that year. The strikeouts never came, and his command got completely lost after transitioning to the bullpen. Visa issues kept him from being an option for Minnesota in 2020, and he’s since gone to Japan trying to find it again as a 27-year-old.
    Kennys Vargas
    Debuting for Twins fans at Target Field during the Futures Game alongside Jose Berrios, Vargas drew plenty of fanfare. He was seen as a David Ortiz protégé, and that’s a comparison no Minnesotan will ever turn away from. The 115 OPS+ in his debut season was a positive sign, but a .626 OPS the next year fell flat. Vargas seemed to come into his own for 47 games during 2016, where he posted an .833 OPS, but that was the height of his abilities. Vargas has been out of affiliated baseball since 2018 but did post strong numbers in Mexico and Puerto Rico this past season. At 31, though, it’s unlikely another chance is coming.
    Alex Burnett
    After posting a 1.85 ERA at Single and Double-A in 2009, it was hard not to get excited about Burnett pitching out of the pen. Making his debut in 2010, Burnett compiled a 5.40 ERA across 98 and 1/3 innings the next two seasons. He had mediocre defensive help, but his FIP still sat at just 4.60. He did manage a smoke-and-mirrors level of success with a 3.52 ERA in 2012 despite a 36/26 K/BB in 71 2/3 innings. It wasn’t ever that the ceiling was incredibly high, but I wanted to believe there was more for whatever reason.
    Max Kepler
    It’s understandably an egregious ask to put Kepler here, but given his ceiling, it also seems to make sense. Kepler has played 722 games for the Twins and posted just a .756 OPS. His .855 OPS in 2019 looked like a solid response to a contract extension, but it hasn’t been touched since. Kepler is an extraordinary defender, but the bat has always profiled as so much more, and a guy who deservedly flashed as a former top 100 prospect has largely failed to substantiate his ceiling.
    What other Twins players do you wish would have worked out? Are there some prospects you consistently expected to be great?
  2. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Kenta Maeda On Track For 2022 Return   
    When Kenta Maeda had Tommy John surgery in September, it seemed likely to count him out of the team's starting rotation for the entire 2022 season. Now that might not be the case as he told Japanese reporters that he hopes to be back on the mound in September. According to the article, Maeda is on pace to start playing catch in mid-February. Hopefully, he will be playing catch as part of spring training, but the MLB lockout would need to be over for spring training to start on time. 

    Another reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year.

    It will be intriguing to see how the Twins treat Maeda's recovery. By September, the team will know if they are in or out of the playoff race. Maeda has a chance to provide a late-season boost for a contending team. If Minnesota is out of the race, Maeda may still want to get back into a big-league game to prove he is healthy.

    Minnesota's initial acquisition of Maeda looked like a solid move by the front office, especially for a team searching for starting pitching. Brusdar Graterol looked like he would be a reliever, and that's how the Dodgers have used him. There's no question that Maeda greatly impacted the Twins rotation during the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. 

    In 11 starts, he dominated by posting a 2.70 ERA with an MLB-best 0.75 WHIP. He compiled an 80-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio and had a 160 ERA+. He set career-best marks in multiple statistical categories, including ground-ball rate (49.0%), walk percentage (4.0%), strikeout percentage (32.3%), swinging-strike rate (17.2%), and opponents' chase rate (40.8%). At the season's end, he finished second to Cleveland's Shane Bieber in the AL Cy Young voting.
    Last season, Maeda experienced regression before being shut down with his elbow injury. In 21 starts (106 1/3 innings), he posted a 4.66 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and a 113-to-32 strikeout to walk ratio. Multiple reasons may factor into Maeda's struggles. His elbow may have been bothering him before he went on the IL, and MLB's crackdown on sticky substances may have impacted his spin rate. 

    Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan are the three pitchers penciled into next year's starting rotation. Maeda would undoubtedly provide a second-half boost if his rehab stays on track. Organizationally, many of Minnesota's top prospects are pitchers close to the big-league level. Late in the season can be a time for younger pitchers to prove they belong. Will Minnesota want to give Maeda starts over some of their top prospects? That is a question to be answered later this year. 

    Do you think Maeda makes an appearance with the 2022 Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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  3. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, 4 Ex-Twins Who Could Make the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot   
    Torii Hunter
    - 19 Seasons
    - 353 Home Runs
    - 5x All-Star
    - 9x Gold Glove
    - 2x Silver Slugger
    After receiving 5.3% of the vote share in the 2022 voting, former Minnesota Twins center fielder, Torii Hunter, clinched a spot on the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot as a holdover. Hunter had an extremely successful career in the Majors, as evidenced by his 19 seasons in the Big Leagues. Thanks to the multiple all-star appearances and nine Gold Glove awards, Hunter earned enough votes to stay on the ballot. While he certainly won’t make it to Cooperstown, he has the potential to add to his vote share in 2023 with big names such as David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens falling off the ballot.
    Glen Perkins
    - 12 Seasons
    - 3.88 ERA
    - 3x All-Star
    - 120 Saves
    Now that five years have passed since his retirement, Glen Perkins will finally have a shot at making the Hall of Fame ballot for 2023. Perkins provided the rare accomplishment of completing a double-digit year career with the same team as he played all 12 of his MLB seasons with the Minnesota Twins. After struggling mightily as a starting pitcher, the Twins moved Glen Perkins to the bullpen full time in August of 2010 where he thrived. In his career as a reliever, Perkins amassed a 3.09 ERA with 120 saves and three all-star appearances. Perkins certainly won’t stay on the ballot for any period of time, but a ballot appearance is possible.
    R.A. Dickey
    - 15 Seasons
    - 4.04 ERA
    - 2012 NL Cy Young
    - 1x All-Star
    - 1x Gold Glove
    While Dickey reached impressive heights, highlighted by a Cy Young Award, many forget that he once played for the Minnesota Twins. Dickey pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 2009 after the Twins signed Dickey to a Minor League contract that offseason. Dickey appeared in 35 games for the Twins, mostly as a reliever, posting a 4.62 ERA in 64 1/3 innings. Dickey was then plucked away from the Twins via the Rule 5 draft in 2010 where he would ultimately end up in New York with the Mets where he used his knuckleball to thrive as a starter, winning the previously mentioned Cy Young in 2012. Although he won the top award for an MLB pitcher, Dickey doesn’t figure to get much run on the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot.
    J.J. Hardy
    - 13 Seasons
    - 1,488 Hits
    - 188 Home Runs
    - 2x All-Star
    - 3x Gold Glove
    - 1x Silver Slugger
    After acquiring J.J. Hardy in exchange for Carlos Goméz ahead of the 2010 season, Hardy played one season in Minnesota where he posted a .268 average with six home runs. Hardy provided excellent defense for the Twins at the shortstop position and was a constant presence in their lineup during their inaugural season at Target Field, after which he was ultimately traded away. Playing 13 seasons in the big leagues at the shortstop position is certainly impressive and might be enough to put him on the Hall of Fame ballot, however similar to the other players, he doesn’t figure to stay on the ballot for long.
    Do you think any of the above players have a chance to last on the Hall of Fame ballot? What memories do you have of these ex-Twins during their time in Minnesota? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
  4. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Do You Remember These Guys As Twins?   
    This isn’t intended to be a space where the thought process derives from guys being bad or otherwise unproductive, but more about remembering that these players wore a Twins uniform. Some of them were very brief, and some were in games that didn’t count, but they were there and going through the motions nonetheless.
    Here are a few of the more obscure ones I could come up with:
    Carlos Quentin

    This one may be my favorite and is where this idea came from. Remember Quentin being a two-time All-Star for the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres? He had a pretty good career posting an .831 OPS and 154 homers. He retired in 2014, though, until he didn’t. In February of 2016, Minnesota signed Quentin to a minor league deal. He played 15 games for the Twins in Spring Training and posted an .833 OPS. However, instead of bringing him north, the Twins opted to play Miguel Sano in right field and asked Quentin to go to Rochester. He chose to be released instead. That Twins club lost 103 games.
    Jason Bartlett

    You remember the piranha Jason Bartlett, a scrappy shortstop for Ron Gardenhire clubs in the early 2000s. This is about the 34-year-old Bartlett that came back in 2014 and was all of a sudden a left fielder. In over 7,400 Major League innings, Bartlett had never played the outfield, but he acted as a defensive replacement for Gardy. That role lasted just two games and seven innings. It didn’t go well, and he hasn’t played since.
    Sean Burroughs

    Another former Padres player that had some name recognition. Burroughs played in 440 games at the Major League level from 2002 to 2006. He then didn’t resurface until 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Coming to camp with the Twins in 2012, he played in 10 games compiling a .343 OPS before being released.
    John Ryan Murphy

    Minnesota acquired Murphy from the Yankees in exchange for Aaron Hicks. Both guys looked like they needed a fresh start, and after Murphy took star closer Glen Perkins deep at Target Field, apparently the Twins decided they needed to be that place. He played in just 26 games for Minnesota, posting a .413 OPS. Somehow, despite a .591 OPS in 143 Major League games since, Murphy was still getting big league jobs until 2020.
    Vance Worley

    One guy that will never forget his time with the Twins is Vance Worley. Ask him to sign a Minnesota baseball card, and he’d rather shred it. Acquired in the Ben Revere trade alongside Trevor May, Worley was the club’s Opening Day starter in 2013. He was beaten to a 7.21 ERA in just over 48 innings and never pitched with the club again. It was May who Minnesota wanted most in the Phillies deal, but the Major League-ready arm certainly didn’t work out.
    Sam Fuld

    One of my favorite acquisition stories in Twins history, Terry Ryan worked a laugher in Sam Fuld. Claiming him a couple of weeks into the season from Oakland, Fuld played 52 games for Minnesota before the Athletics needed his services back. In the deal, Tommy Milone was acquired by Minnesota and went on to pitch in 49 games for the Twins. Just the idea of flipping Oakland their asset back and gaining something in the ordeal was incredible.
    David Murphy

    Murphy’s Baseball Reference page ends at Triple-A in 2016, and that’s because he never actually played for the Twins. Needing outfield help, he was signed to Triple-A Rochester and played ten games before Minnesota needed his services. The 2016 Twins were an abomination, losing 103 games, and rather than accept his promotion to the big leagues, a 34-year-old Murphy called it quits.
    What are some players you remember being involved in weird Twins roster decisions?
  5. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Minnesota's Offseason Strategy Doesn't Work with a Lockout   
    As a disappointing 2021 season came to a close, Minnesota's front office faced plenty of questions about the club's future direction. With the team's current roster make-up, it's clear the club doesn't want to enter a long rebuilding phase. Plus, there are multiple reasons why it is a terrible time to try and rebuild. 

    "I fully anticipate, this offseason, we're going to try to find a way to get better for '22 and beyond," Derek Falvey told reporters. "I've approached each of the last three offseasons, really even going back after '17, with an approach: 'How do we find a way to get better now and in the future?' We talk about sustainability. In order to do that, you have to keep an eye on short-term and long-term."

    Patience and attempts to find good value have been the critical factors in many of the team's offseason moves under the current regime. That strategy has played itself out in recent years. 

    2021 Offseason
    Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Alexander Colomé, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker
    Minnesota's five most significant moves last winter came after the start of the new year. The Twins were patient with Cruz as he tested the market, but the NL not having the designated hitter limited his potential landing spots. Simmons was one of the best available free agent shortstops, but the Twins only turned to Simmons after Marcus Semien signed with Toronto. Semien finished third in the AL MVP vote, and Simmons had a career-worst season. 

    The trio of free-agent pitchers signed by the Twins seemed like cheap deals at the time, but there was little upside involved. In hindsight, all three contracts ended up being poor as both starting pitchers were out of the organization by the season's end. Colomé improved throughout the year, but his terrible first month put the Twins into a hole from which they couldn't recover. 

    2020 Offseason
    Key Moves: Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Sergio Romo, Alex Avila, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard
    This was a massive offseason with Minnesota spending north of $150 million and trading for Kenta Maeda. Like other offseasons, things didn't go exactly as planned. Rumors were linking the Twins to some of the top free-agent pitchers, but none of those deals worked out for various reasons. Luckily, the front office pivoted and signed Josh Donaldson to the biggest free-agent contract in team history. 

    Donaldson's deal fell to the Twins after other free agents went by the wayside. Bailey and Hill's contracts followed a similar pattern of the front office looking for cheaper one-year deals, but once again, there was little upside involved with either arm. As with previous offseasons, Minnesota waited for other teams to make moves, and they examined what was still available. Names at the top of the team's wish list were already signed, so the club had to shift to a different strategy. 

    2019 Offseason
    Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, Martin Perez, C.J. Cron
    Signing Cruz became one of the best free-agent moves in franchise history. He immediately impacted the line-up and helped transform the Twins into the Bomba Squad. At the time, Gonzalez looked like an intriguing signing after his impact on the Astros World Series run. Schoop and Cron projected to add some pop to the line-up, and Perez was a rotational boost. The AL Central was wide open, but the team only made marginal moves. 

    All of the acquisitions provided a boost to the team, and the team went on to win over 100-games. However, Minnesota followed a similar offseason plan as they waited out the market and signed players late into the winter. At the time, Falvey and Levine made it clear that they believed in the club's core. That mantra may hold true for the 2022 offseason, but it's tough to be overconfident in the current core. 

    It's hard to argue with the front office's strategy since the team has won two division titles in the last three years. However, the lockout impacts Minnesota's ability to sign players later in the cycle. The new CBA may also add a wrinkle to the team's offseason plans as there is a potential to add a payroll floor. If this happens, small payroll teams will be looking to add players that have typically been Minnesota's fallback options. 

    Do you feel the front office's off-season strategy doesn't work this winter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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  6. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Dave Overlund for an article, If Selig Is In, They Should All Get In   
    The Hall of Fame steroid witch hunt needs to come to its end. The guessing game of who did (or didn't) do performance-enhancing drugs is so arbitrary and without base that it is turning the Hall of Fame itself into kind of a joke. 
    It's wild to me that some players are above suspicion (Jim Thome, Ken Griffey, Jr) even though they played in an era in which there was a large group of players who did PEDs, while others (Mike Piazza had backne!) are vilified based on anecdotal evidence or opinion.  There's really no way of knowing at this point who did- or didn't- do PEDs and/or how long they did them. 
    This week there is a debate raging amongst baseball fans about David Ortiz's candidacy for the Hall of Fame, and here's where it gets tricky: Ortiz WAS named on the supposedly confidential Mitchell Report as a player who allegedly used PEDs. However, Ortiz never failed a Major League Baseball drug test and was never suspended for violating the league's policy. 
    To me, that's the line of distinction: Did you ever fail a test given by MLB that resulted in a punishment such as suspension. Beyond that, it's all guessing and a popularity contest among the writers. 
    The architect of the steroid era, Bud Selig, is in the Hall of Fame. Let that sink in for a moment. The man who presided over one of the dirtiest eras in baseball history, the guy who seemingly looked the other way while guys were juicing themselves up for YEARS, is in the Hall of Fame. And I am supposed to believe that guys who are just suspected of wrongdoing should be kept out of its sacred halls? Please. 
    The shark has officially been jumped here. Barry Bonds never failed an MLB PED test? He's in. How about Mark McGwire? He's in. Roger Clemens? He's in. They are all in... unless they failed a test that definitively proved they used performance-enhancing drugs AFTER the rules were put in place. Looking at you, A-Rod and Manny Ramirez. 
    Changing the criteria to punish people who maybe used PEDs before the rule was in place is stupid. That's like banning any player who threw a spitball before it was outlawed by baseball. They were just playing by the rules. 
    Personally, I am a bit conflicted when it comes to the steroid era. 
    As a kid, I loved keeping track of the home run record holders and all of the charts and lists that make baseball great. The steroid era effectively ruined the record books since a lot of the power-hitting records are unattainable without proper help. 
    At the same time if it weren't for the steroid era I might not even be a big baseball fan at this point. The 1994 strike happened when I was 12. and I was pretty much done with baseball at that point. Out of sight, out of mind. Top that off with Kirby Puckett's retirement in 1995 and the generally crappy Twins teams of that era... I was content not caring. 
    The summer of 1998 was so magical, though. Following Sosa and McGwire's home run chase was addicting and every day brought some new drama. The Cubs and Cardinals each made visits to the Metrodome that summer and I got to see both players in their record-setting season. There were more people at the stadium for McGwire's batting practice than there were for 99% of the actual games there that season. 
    Since 1998, I have been a devoted, die-hard baseball fan, and I am not going to pretend steroids had nothing to do with it. Baseball shouldn't either. 
    No matter how history remembers it, I will always look back at 1998 fondly. I think it's time we all do. 
  7. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Ranking the Twins Top Pitching Prospects by ETA   
    If the Twins truly choose to “punt” on 2022 and get a long look at their young pitching, which prospects can fans expect to see first?
    11. Chase Petty
    Petty, 18, may be the most exciting pitcher in the Twins’ system, with a triple-digits fastball headlining a potentially electric array of weapons. He’s also the furthest away from the majors. The hope for Petty in 2022 is a full-season loaded with strikeouts. 
    10. Simeon Woods Richardson
    That Woods Richardson, who pitched at Double-A last year, is the ninth most-likely to debut shows you how many young starters are coming. SWR, 21, struggled to get going in 2021, but a full season in one place should help him progress in 2022. 
    9. Louie Varland
    The Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2021, Varland completely broke out to the tune of a 2.10 ERA across Low and High-A. Varland, 24, struck out 142 of the 421 batters he faced (34%) and figures to headline Wichita’s rotation when he breaks camp. 
    8. Chris Vallimont
    Vallimont struck out 32% of hitters he faced in 2021 but walked 14% and gave up 15 homers. He’s 24 with 94 innings under his belt at Double-A, albeit with a 6.13 ERA. Vallimont could debut out of the Twins’ bullpen with a good stint in St.Paul. 
    7. Matt Canterino
    This may be a surprising spot for Canterino, 24, considering he finished 2021 at High-A in Cedar Rapids. His stuff is flat-out devastating and if the Twins decide he’s a future reliever, his path to Minnesota could be expedited in a hurry. 
    6. Cole Sands
    Sands, 24, owns a 2.58 ERA and 28% strikeout rate in over 177 Minor League innings. He was outstanding down the stretch in 2021 and is set to man a spot in the Saints’ rotation to start 2022. If he stays healthy, he should debut by the summer. 
    5. Jordan Balazovic
    The Twins are rightly-set on Balazovic as a future starter, which could dial back his debut by a hair. Balazovic, 23, was tinkering with different pitch mixes throughout the 2021 season. He could do more of that in St.Paul to start 2022. 
    4. Drew Strotman
    Strotman, 25, pitched over 100 innings at Triple-A in 2021. He started 12 games for the Saints after the Rays traded him to the Twins, and he allowed an .850 opponent’s OPS. A move to the bullpen would speed up his timeline. 
    3. Jhoan Duran
    Duran, 24, struck out 14 of the first 28 hitters he faced for St.Paul in 2021, then struggled and missed the rest of the season with an elbow strain. A hybrid Major League role to build Duran’s workload and experience would make a lot of sense.
    2. Josh Winder
    Winder was one of the best starters at Double-A before the Twins moved him up to St.Paul, where he dominated in his first Triple-A start. Like Duran, Winder, 25, then struggled and missed the rest of the season due to injury. He could be the first call-up of 2022. 
    1. Joe Ryan
    Ryan has already won over his fair share of Twins fans with a cool demeanor and outstanding results. Ryan’s fastballs look like they ride to the plate on a ramp, and as of now, Ryan is pitching on opening weekend in Chicago. 
    The takeaway: you're set to see a lot of young starters pitch for the Twins in 2022. If healthy, the first five seem like locks, with Sands not far behind, and Canterino a sleeper bullpen addition. Vallimont and Varland aren't miles away either, with Petty and Woods Richardson trailing as the youngest of the group. 
    Who are you most excited to see in 2022? Comment below!
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  8. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, There's a Very Simple Solution to Minnesota's Shortstop Problem   
    When the offseason resumes, Minnesota's front office will be feeling pressure to address its extensive needs on the pitching staff. But as things stand, they won't be able to dedicate their full attention to this focus.
    Because as things stand, the Twins don't have a starting shortstop. Nothing even resembling a feasible option or fallback plan. That is, unless they're willing to change their position on Jorge Polanco's ... position.
    A ready-made starter at shortstop
    Polanco was the starting shortstop on the American League All-Star team in 2019. Of his 596 games started in the majors, 470 have come at short. He played the position almost exclusively until last year, when he shifted across the diamond to second base.
    No one would deny this was a successful pivot for Polanco and the Twins. He was never a defensive asset at short, but showed standout ability at second, where he looked increasingly comfortable and natural over time. Polanco was able to shake off his power-sapping ankle issues and recapture his excellent standard of offensive production. 
    As a second baseman, Polanco got his career back on track and then some. He was the team's most valuable player.
    In light of this development, you can see why the Twins would be reluctant to turn around and reverse course. As Dan Hayes of The Athletic mentioned when I posed the idea on Twitter, "It was not lost on [the Twins] that Polanco’s health was not an issue after early May and that he responded well physically to second base."
    In Dan's well-informed estimation, moving Polanco back to shortstop is "somewhere around Plan M" for the Twins. And I believe it. But my question is ... should that be the case?
    Clearly the Twins are not diametrically opposed to playing Polanco at short. He was their primary backup last year and started there 26 times. It's a question of how willing they are to shift him back into regular duties, as a temporary solution to a pressing problem. Maybe the M in "Plan M" stands for...
    Making the best
    This Twins front office prides itself on being flexible, adaptable, and opportunistic. Through this lens, when you look at all circumstances, sliding Polanco back to shortstop makes a great deal of sense.
    Not only does his presence at second base leave a complete void on the shortstop depth chart – it also creates a logjam behind him at second. Luis Arraez is displaced to the point where he looks like a prime trade candidate. Behind him, young talents like Nick Gordon and Jose Miranda have nowhere to play regularly even if they're deserving. Top prospect Austin Martin also might be best suited at second.
    Moving Polanco back to short for the time being would free up second base for one or several of these players to step in and receive valuable playing time. Meanwhile, it would prevent the front office from having to make a desperation-fueled move to address the shortstop vacancy.
    What else is out there?
    The high end of free agency at shortstop has mostly been picked over. The Twins aren't going to sign Carlos Correa and they're probably not going to sign Trevor Story. There are a handful of starting-caliber options remaining, in the Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons mold, but they are not very inspiring. If just a few more names come off the board quickly when free agency fires back up, you're exclusively in backup territory. 
    Trades are an option, of course. But that means giving up assets that you could be using to acquire pitching.
    Finding a shortstop who's going to pair with Polanco, and give you a better keystone combo than Polanco and Arraez, will be very hard. I say that while being fully aware of the defensive shortcomings yielded by the latter arrangement.
    If nothing else, moving Polanco back to short would be a temporary fix designed to buy time. Until Royce Lewis demonstrates that he is (or isn't) the franchise's future at shortstop. Until they've had a chance to sort through second basemen like Arraez, Gordon, Miranda, and Martin. 
    Once a better shortstop option comes along, the Twins can move Polanco back to his preferred position across the bag. 
    Is this kind of back-and-forth player shuffling ideal or optimal? No, but "optimal" has sorta gone out the window at this point. Polanco's a veteran with plenty of experience at both middle infield positions. He's answered the call whenever needed. If anyone can handle the disruption it's him, and he'd be doing the team a hell of a solid.
    Sorting through solutions
    Even with the limited remaining options to address shortstop, I'm not saying this is the best one. If the Twins can find a viable taker for Josh Donaldson, or get a really good offer for Arraez, that changes the equation by alleviating the infield logjam. Similarly, if they can swing a no-brainer deal for a shortstop like Paul DeJong, I could get behind that.
    But if the "solution" to their problem is signing someone like Iglesias or Simmons as a stopgap, and then struggling to find at-bats for better players buried on the 2B depth chart behind Polanco ... is that really any better than pivoting back to the 2020 setup? 
    The simplest solution to the front office's current problem at shortstop is right in front of their face. Are they willing to embrace Plan M?
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    mikelink45 reacted to David Youngs for an article, From the Soil of Nimrod: Dick Stigman   
    Pitch a canoe on the currents of the Crow Wing River, and you’ll stumble across Nimrod, Minnesota, population 69.
    A bar, church, and campground make up the bulk of the one-horse town that was once a flourishing logging community in the World War II era. Take a few steps past the bar and the sight of four bags 90 feet apart and lush green grass will christen the eyes. 
    Dick Stigman Field, home of the Nimrod Gnats and named after the town’s most famous son. 
    A starting pitcher for the Twins’ infancy in Minnesota, Stigman spent seven years at the Major League level. Starting with a $200 per month contract, the tall lefty grew up in Cleveland’s organization, played two years with the parent club, and spent four years with the Twins from 1962-65. Stigman finished his career with the hallowed Boston Red Sox in 1966. 
    Stigman’s life has run full circle; A small town boy with a deep love of America’s Pastime who had the opportunity to play for the Minnesota Twins. On his 86th birthday, Stigman couldn’t be more thankful for the road that transcended from the rural pines of northern Minnesota to baseball’s biggest stage.  
    The Booming 50’s
    Despite its current quaintness, Nimrod was a bustling small town at the midpoint of the 20th century with a handful of industries painting the Wadena County town. 
    “We had two grocery stores, two gas stations, two restaurants, a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, and a creamery,” Stigman recalled. “There was a pretty good-sized lumber mill. They used to pull logs down the river. It was a great experience. We had a community.”
    Young Dick spent his childhood selling grit, a popular newspaper option in rural America through the 1950s. 
    “We sold it for five cents a copy. I think I got two cents back,” he laughed. 
    Yet in an era when many young men were being drafted for World War II, Nimrod’s isolation provided solace for Dick and his brothers; an opportunity that sprouted a lifelong love for the game of baseball. The son of a catcher, Dick and his brothers spent hours simulating game situations and playing catch. 
    Both Dick and his older brother were southpaws. That didn’t stop them from finding a catcher’s mitt at Montgomery and Ward to compliment each other on the mound.
    The mound? An old tire and some plywood. 
    “We’d put a 2 by 4 on top of a rubber tire to pitch from and simulate situations,” Stigman said. “It wasn’t very high up, but it worked.”
    Barren winters didn’t stop the Stigmans from practicing their craft. The boys’ mother managed the town hall, creating a pseudo-bullpen for them over the winter months. 
    “It was a pretty decent-sized building so we’d pitch inside the hall,” Stigman said. “We'd build a fire and take care of that if there was an event and then we'd have our baseball sessions.”
    Stigman's love of pitching ran deep. With no team in Minnesota during his childhood he fell in love with Cleveland because of talented pitching from the likes of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon. 
    And with a  rich list of MLB names like Williams, Lemon, and Mays to look up to, Dick’s and skill level only rose with time. 
    “There were a couple of other guys in Nimrod that were interested in baseball, but not like we were,” he recalled. 
    That small-town talent would expand outside the silos of Nimrod to the greater Minnesota community. Stigman pitched for Sebeka High School and began to draw looks by shutting down larger schools and towns on the mound. A tournament with strong performances against the ‘big cities’ of Aitkin and Brainerd drew the eye of Cleveland scout Marv Nutting. 
    Impressed with the small town hurler, Nutting name-dropped Stigman to Cy Slapnika, a Cleveland scout based out of Cedar Rapids who had a stellar track record. Slapnika had signed the legendary Bob Feller to Cleveland alongside other household names like Gordy Coleman and Herb Score. 
    Slapkina made the trek up to Minnesota to watch Stigman play Legion ball against Hawley, something that Stigman wasn’t aware of at the time. 
    “I probably would have wet my pants if I had known that someone was watching me.”
    Stigman was electric, striking out 21 batters in seven innings alongside racking up a few hits himself. He even struck out Rodney Skoog, the brother of Minneapolis Lakers star Whitey Skoog who was batting in the .500 range at the time. 
    The magic had been noticed. Slapnika drove Dick and his parents to the Greystone Hotel in Detroit Lakes to sign his first professional contract for the organization he cheered for growing up. 
    That $200 per month contract (with an additional $200 for each month with the club) was a $50 pay raise from what Stigman was receiving at his job at the lumber mill. Was the pay raise nice? Absolutely. Yet the opportunity for Dick was priceless. 
    “I loved baseball so much that I probably would have paid to play.”
    Reflecting with Grace
    Stigman finished his MLB career with 74 wins. His best season was his first with the Twins in 1962, finishing the year with a 12-5 record and 3.66 ERA with three saves to top it off. And while the star season in his home state was memorable, the transition to the Twins from the organization that he cut his teeth in was tough. 
    Being in Cleveland and coming up in the farm system, it was a difficult transition, Dick recalled. “I was very apprehensive about coming to Minnesota; playing in front of people that you know, there's an added expectation.”
    Yet when the nerves melted, the homecoming was one of joy.
    “It was a pleasant surprise,” Stigman said “It was great with all the attention we got, everywhere we went people knew us. And I had a really good year so that added to it.”
    The innings on the ground were great; the memories, comradery, and relationships were what solidified. 
    “Earl Battey was one of my best friends. We played cards on the plane. He was just an amazing guy," Dick recalled. "Guys like Lenny Green, Don Mincher, and Jim Kaat (were incredible). Baseball isn't all about skill, it's about chemistry. Even as big of a star that Harmon (Killebrew) and Tony Oliva were, it wasn't about them. It was about winning. And we proved that with some pretty good years.”
    Stigman is now 55 years removed from his MLB career. After years in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, he and his wife moved to the beaming sun of Florida. He still stays knitted to the Twins through rich admiration of the organization and participation in things like Twins Fantasy Camp. 
    A man of deep faith and humility, Stigman looks back with a sense of appreciation and gratefulness that society can admire. Yet even he recognizes the wild ride that the uncertainty and beauty of life has graced him with. 
    “I look back and think to myself ‘did I really do that,’ coming from where I came from,” Dick recalled. “I try not to get in front of myself, I always remember where I came from and who I am.”
    If you're in west-central Minnesota during the summer and happen to catch a baseball game, there is a decent chance you might see the Stigman name in the lineup. 
  10. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Josh Donaldson is Better Than You Think   
    2020 was admittedly a bad start to the four-year, $92m contract the Twins gave Josh Donaldson after whiffing on a big-name starting pitcher the offseason before. The former MVP missed more than half of the 60-game season with injuries including the best of three playoff series that ended in a whimper from the offense. Per game, however, Donaldson was the same star hitter he always has been, and he showed that across a much bigger body of work in 2021.
    For those unfamiliar with MLBs use of Statcast measurements, these numbers read in percentiles, meaning Donaldson is in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity, 95th percentile in barrel percentage, etc. In most offensive measurements, Donaldson’s raw skills were among the top 5-10% in all of baseball. For a season many considered disappointing, I think such a strong showing deserves some context.
    As you can see, Donaldson actually bested fan-favorite Nelson Cruz in many raw measurements in 2021 according to Statcast. It’s interesting to look at considering one of these players is discussed as the cornerstone of whatever lineup he’s in while the other is being discussed as a possible salary dump. Why might that be?
    2020 Left a Bitter Taste

    2020 was a season that likely had the front office wishing for a do-over on the largest free-agent contract the team had ever handed out. There was an understandable amount of frustration as the biggest addition to the team was nowhere to be seen for most of a season where the Twins captured their second consecutive division title only to be swept out of the playoffs once again.
    To make matters worse, those feelings of frustration had gasoline thrown onto the fire when Donaldson injured his hamstring on opening day 2021 and missed a chunk of time. For many, their minds were made up. Donaldson’s availability down the stretch was an incredible accomplishment, however, and showed that while his injury concerns are very much a reality, he’s still capable of being an everyday player across a full season. To once again make a Cruz vs. Donaldson comparison, DH Nelson Cruz played in 140 games compared to Donaldson’s 135 in 2021 which may surprise even the biggest Twins fans to hear.
    2021 Was Unlucky

    The ongoing joke in 2021 was the continued use of the phrase “bad luck” as so much went wrong that it’s impossible to chalk it all up to misfortune. For Donaldson however, we have Statcast measurements saying his raw offensive ability hasn’t declined at all at age 35. His .247 average was much lower than his .268 expected batting average. His .475 slugging percentage was much lower than his .541 expected slugging. He also hit four fewer home runs than expected given the way he impacts the ball. His speed on the bases may be a partial explanation for these discrepancies but his hampered legs can only explain away a portion of these gaps in expected performance.
    If you aren’t a believer in expected stats, it’s still difficult to look back and be disappointed in his body of work that included a triple slash of .247/.352/.475, good for 24% above league average. Repeating that line would be just fine for 2022, but he appears to still have the physical capabilities to garner MVP votes if he can remain on the field as he did in 2021.
    So why point out Donaldson’s impressive performance in 2021? To be honest, he doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves. His impact would have essentially erased a disappointing 2020 in the eyes of fans had he performed exactly the same and the team hadn’t crumbled. Statcast says he could have performed even better.
    He’s talked about like he’s over the hill and his contract needs to be dumped before it’s too late so the Twins can improve. In reality, however, Donaldson is probably one of the three most important pieces of the Twins offense in 2022. Without Nelson Cruz, Donaldson is an important figure on the team not just on the field, but as a veteran-hitting savant who can have a huge impact on the upcoming prospects.
    It’s entirely possible that Donaldson’s health in 2022 could go the way of 2020 rather than 2021. That being said, at bat for at bat there still aren’t a ton of players you want in the heart of your lineup over Josh Donaldson, and he’s still a tantalizing talent that should have Twins fans looking forward to the beginning of the 2022 season.
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    mikelink45 reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, Rod Carew or Kirby Puckett: Who Had the Better Career?   
    If you look at any ranking of the best Minnesota Twins players of all time, you’re going to find Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett firmly locked into the top five of that list. Both Carew and Puckett were legends whose names will be remembered forever. Today, we will dive into their careers and determine, once and for all, who had the better career.
    The Case for Rod
    The case for Rod Carew having a better overall career than Kirby Puckett starts with his numbers at the plate. Over the course of his career, Carew posted a higher batting average (.328 vs .318) and on-base percentage (.393 vs. .360) than Puckett. Carew’s career batting average ranks 30th all-time, and his seven career batting titles are tied for the fourth most in MLB history. Carew amassed over 3,000 hits in his MLB career, ranking 26th in MLB history. Even when accounting for era, Carew was still the better batter as evidenced by his career OPS+ of 131 compared to Puckett’s 124.
    On the bases, Carew also has the edge. Over his 19 year career, Carew amassed 353 stolen bases, nearly triple the number of career steals as Puckett.
    Another area where Carew bests Puckett is his longevity. While Puckett’s career was cut short (through no fault of his own), Carew was able to play at an extremely high level for 19 seasons in the Big Leagues.
    Additionally, Carew reached a higher individual peak than Puckett ever did, marked by the MVP award that he won in 1977 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. In this season, Carew led all of baseball with a .388 batting average, .449 on-base percentage, and 1.029 OPS. Carew led the majors that season in hits (239), runs (128), and triples (178).
    Carew was the standard of consistency during his Major League Baseball career. Carew was an all-star in 18 consecutive seasons, eclipsed a .300 batting average in 15 consecutive seasons, won four consecutive batting titles, and played in at least 140 games in eight consecutive seasons. Carew played for two different franchises, earning all-star appearances and MVP votes with each team.
    The Case for Kirby
    While Rod Carew bests Kirby Puckett at the plate, Kirby more than held his own on offense. Puckett led the Majors in batting average in 1989 and led baseball in hits on four different occasions and total bases on two occasions. Puckett didn’t break any home run records, but consistently put the ball in play and drove in runs, leading the Majors in RBI in his penultimate season in 1994.
    A huge mark in Kirby’s favor over Carew comes in the field where Puckett was a wizard with his glove at one of the most important defensive positions in baseball, centerfield. Over his 10-year career, Puckett earned the Gold Glove award for best center fielder in baseball six times, including four consecutive from 1986-1989. While Carew wasn’t a butcher in the field, he certainly wasn’t dominant and played a position in second base that just doesn’t bring the importance of center field.
    Where Kirby absolutely set himself apart from Rod Carew came in his performance in the absolute biggest of moments. Starting off with just clutch performance, Kirby was about as clutch as they come. In high leverage situations over the course of his career, Puckett posted a career OPS of .863 in 1,400 plate appearances compared to Carew’s .823 OPS in 2,095 plate appearances. 
    Moving into the postseason numbers, the difference between the two becomes even more stark. Puckett played in four postseason series in his career, winning all four series en route to two World Series titles. In those four playoff series, Puckett amassed a .897 OPS, highlighted by a ridiculous .913 OPS across his world series appearances in 1987 and 1991. Compare that to Carew who was 0-4 in the four playoff series of his career where he hit just .220 with four extra-base hits.
    The moment that all Twins fans will remember from Kirby Puckett, and the absolute highlight of a Hall of Fame career was his performance in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series that single-handedly kept the Twins’ playoff hopes alive and sent them to Game 7 where they would eventually win their second title. In this game, Puckett hit a triple in the first inning, robbed Ron Gant of extra-bases in front of the Plexiglass wall in the third inning, and then won the game in the bottom of the 11th inning when he launched a game-winning, walk-off home run in front of the Twins’ faithful. 
    The Verdict
    Kirby Puckett revitalized an entire generation of Minnesota Twins fans through his "clutchness" and late-game heroics. Puckett’s joy for the game was contagious and his leadership mindset and impact in the community made him a fan favorite for many. Rod Carew, however, had a better career than Kirby.
    As previously mentioned, Rod Carew beats out Kirby Puckett in just about every offensive category. Carew similarly has the edge over Puckett in terms of value-added. Over his 19-year career, Carew contributed 72.3 fWAR, 3.81 per season compared to Puckett providing 44.9 fWAR over his 12-year career, 3.74 per season. Carew accumulated more individual hardware with his all-star games, MVP awards, and batting titles.
    Whether fair or not, Puckett is hurt by his career being cut short. Only playing in 12 seasons, Puckett just didn’t have the runway to collect the number of accolades that Carew did. It’s entirely possible that if Puckett didn’t contract glaucoma, he would have gone on to have a 20-year career and rack up MVP awards and all-star game appearances, but with only 12 years, he just didn’t do enough to beat out Carew for the better career.
    Who do you think had the better overall career between Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, leave a comment below and join the conversation!
  12. Sad
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, CBA Musings (1/21): What’s Happening and What’s Next?   
    The players were disappointed in what the league presented to them a week ago, especially after taking more than a month to do so. The sides have not met at all this week, but the latest reports have them getting together in person on Monday, January 24. That meeting will take place over a week since the last proposal, and no counter-proposal is necessarily set to come from it.
    The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote a scathing piece the other day that started with the sentence, “Not a single game should be lost.” He’s not wrong, but I fear that won’t be reality. After being let go from MLB Network because Rob Manfred thought the reporter was too critical, Rosenthal comes out firing in this one. As Rosenthal notes, this is Rob Manfred’s legacy at stake. He represents the owners but seemingly gets in his own way when trying to put a PR spin out for fans.
    Stephen Nesbitt penned another piece for The Athletic that highlighted fan responses from more than 11,000 respondents across a handful of subjects. Not entirely labor or CBA related, there was plenty that did intersect, however. Just 2.8% of fans responded they were happy with the current overall state of MLB, with another 9.4% being indifferent. The rest all responded with being either angry, hopeful, or disappointed. Over 66% of fans blame the owners for the lockout, with both sides sharing blame at a 33% clip. 92.1% of fans think that this mess will impact Spring Training, with respondents being virtually split on regular-season games being lost. It’s a great look at the state of affairs for the league and not a glowing one in any sense.
    Just yesterday, Evan Drellich wrote that the “owners are testing the players,” which is the last thing fans want to hear. Billionaires are playing a game of chicken with the players while we all suffer because of it. Major League Baseball has made only minor concessions in their proposals, and they’ve hardly addressed each key area in one fell swoop. Drellich notes that this is by design, and the owners are looking to see whether players are willing to lose paychecks. As time dwindles, the hope from MLB is that players will cave and return to the field without having the majority of their demands met. Manfred’s goal is to find a way forward that has owners giving in to the least amount of change.
    We’ve crossed the one-month mark until pitchers and catchers are supposed to report for Spring Training. That’s not going to happen on time, and we spent these last seven days without any meaningful progress.
  13. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 3 Twins Prospects That Need Healthy 2022 Seasons   
    Earlier in the week, Baseball America discussed some of baseball’s top prospects looking to return from injury in 2022. It was tough to gauge prospects from an evaluation standpoint, especially on the heels of a nonexistent 2020 minor league season. There are some prominent names in the Twins’ system, and the three names below have a lot riding on how they look next season. 

    Royce Lewis, SS/OF
    2021 Injury: Torn ACL 
    Lewis is widely considered one of Minnesota’s top prospects, as he was the top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. However, he hasn’t appeared in a minor league game since November 2019, and that’s a long time in the prospect development world. When Lewis was last on the field, he won the MVP of the Arizona Fall League while getting an extended look in the outfield. Lewis was sent to the AFL that year on the heels of a sub-par 2019 regular season where he hit .236/.290/.371 (.661) at High- and Double-A. 
    All signs point to Lewis being on pace to start the 2022 season with the chance to begin the year at Triple-A. However, it’s hard to know what he will look like and how long it will take to shake off the rust. A significant knee injury can impact his best tools like his speed and athletic ability. His long-term defensive position and swing have been questioned in the past. There is a lot for Lewis to prove in 2022. 

    Matt Canterino, RHP
    2021 Injury: Strained Elbow
    Minnesota initially selected Canterino from Rice in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Based on his college experience, his pro debut put him on the prospect map as he posted a 1.44 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP in the low minors. With no 2020 minor league campaign, Canterino worked on his changeup, and reports had this as a dangerous pitch coming out of the shutdown. All signs pointed to Canterino having a breakout 2021 season, but injuries eventually played a factor. 
    Canterino dominated hitters at Cedar Rapids to start 2021 as he struck out 45 batters in 23 innings and only allowed two earned runs. His elbow began bothering him from there, and he was limited to five innings the rest of the season. Canterino’s time at Rice may point to some of his injury issues. Rice University is notoriously known for overworking its pitchers, with many of its graduates having injuries during their professional careers. Canterino has the potential to be Minnesota’s top pitching prospect, but he needs to prove he can get past his 2021 injuries. 

    Jhoan Duran, RHP
    2021 Injury: Strained Elbow
    Duran joined the Twins organization as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade back at the 2018 trade deadline. At the time, he was a teenager in the low minors, but the Twins believed he had a high ceiling. Since the trade, he has established himself as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects with a fastball that can hit triple-digits and various off-speed offerings. He got plenty of attention to start 2021 as radar guns had his fastball clocked at over 100 mph. Already at Triple-A, it looked like Duran was knocking on the door to the big leagues. 
    Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his 2021 season. He was limited to 16 innings before being shut down with a strained elbow. There was some hope he would be back on the mound after six weeks on the IL, but he didn’t make another appearance last year. So far, he has avoided surgery, and this recent injury has some believing Duran may be heading for a bullpen role. Earlier this month, he turned 24 years old, so there is still time to prove that he can stick as a starter. 

    Which player do you feel has the most to prove? Can they all avoid injury in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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  14. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, How Far has Royce Lewis' Stock Dropped?   
    Drafted 1st overall in 2017, Royce Lewis looked the part in his debut season as well as 2018. Unfortunately he followed it up with three years that significantly hurt his outlook in the eyes of many evaluators. We now have to look back nearly two full seasons to find the former top prospects last professional at bat.
    It’s important to note that 2019 wasn’t exactly a banner season for Lewis when he was on the field. He finished strong, earning MVP of the Arizona Fall League but was a below league-average hitter between A and AA ball. Questions were also starting to arise regarding his ability to stick at shortstop, the premium position that surely played a hand in his 1st overall draft selection. With such a gap in play, his prospect capital was bound to decline, but how far has it come down since the beginning of that 2019 season?
    Prospect rankings can be arbitrary and interchangeable, and there are tons of sources of all sizes that regularly provide them. Three such sources are MLB.com, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus, all widely respected evaluators of young talent. 
    At the beginning of 2019, these three sources ranked Lewis 5th, 9th and 8th respectively just two years after he was drafted out of high school. He was one of the most anticipated prospects not just in the Twins system, but in all of baseball. As the calendar turns to 2022, however, MLB.com’s ranking has dropped from 5th to 35th. Baseball America from 9th to 82nd. Baseball Prospectus, who many believe to be the industry standard in evaluating prospects, went from ranking Lewis 8th to not ranking him in their top 101 at all.
    Royce Lewis has a lot working against him when it comes to these evaluators trying to make an honest assessment. It began in 2019 when many believed the excess movement in his swing was being exploited as he ascended through the system, a claim that was supported by his .231/.291/.358 batting line in AA. Also of note is the aforementioned question marks emerging about his ability to man shortstop long term as many had hoped when he was drafted.
    2020 offered little opportunity for Lewis to address these concerns in his defense. While he was in “summer camp” with the Twins along with other top prospects, there was little visual evidence available for fans or prospect evaluators that could have been used to indicate any kind of development.
    2021 did little to change the outlook, as hope of any development was dashed before it began when Lewis tore his ACL in the offseason. He was unable to get the reps that he so desperately needed to be able to access his loud raw tools. The Twins former #1 overall pick hit a snag in his development as plenty of top prospects do. In this case however, Lewis’ opportunity to adapt and progress had been interrupted by two straight seasons without game situation reps. This unfortunately is how one of the top prospects in all of baseball finds themselves plummeting out of top 100 lists.
    For what it’s worth, it’s not all doom and gloom with Lewis. For what seems like a significant amount of lost time, he’s still only 22 years old. MLB has a decent history of players like Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and Wilson Ramos who returned to form after torn ACLs just to name a few. Assuming his athleticism and explosiveness are intact, it’s entirely possible that a few mechanical tweaks could quickly put him back on a superstar path given the raw talent he’s shown in his young career.
    Reports have never waned from the Twins being incredibly bullish on their former top prospect. It’s likely that they’ll be aggressive to an extent in making up for lost time. He’s likely to begin 2022 in AA or even AAA in an everyday shortstop role in order to try to sort out his defensive future as quickly as possible. Even if the swing is still a work in progress, if Lewis shows an ability to stick at the shortstop position he’d likely be climbing back up prospect boards as well as the board of public opinion. One thing is certain, 2022 is the biggest year yet when it comes to the development of Royce Lewis. 
    Lewis was added to the Twins 40-man roster following the 2021 season. It is a great thing for any prospect. However, until their is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, Lewis will not be able to work at the Twins facilities or even be in contact with Twins personnel. Until there is an agreement, Lewis again finds himself unable to play. For that reason alone, Twins fans should want this lockout to end quickly. Royce Lewis does not need any more missed time. 
    Do you think Royce Lewis’ consensus drop-off is too harsh after his two years away from competitive baseball? Does he have to use 2022 to earn the status of one of the top prospects in all of baseball again? Let us know below!
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  15. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Gardenhire, Gladden, and Tovar to Twins Hall of Fame   
    The trio will become the 35th, 36th, and 37th members of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. The organization began the Hall of Fame with its inaugural class back in 2000. In the 22 years since, we’ve seen names like Bert Blyleven, Torii Hunter, Zoilo Versailles, and Justin Morneau added to the ranks. The lone player to be elected but not inducted was Chuck Knoblauch back in 2014.
    Ron Gardenhire served the Twins as a manager for 13 seasons. He posted a .507 winning percentage owning a final record of 1,068-1,039. His wins trail only Tom Kelly for most all-time in team history. During six of Gardy’s 13 seasons as manager, the Twins won the American League Central Division. Gardenhire’s high win total came in 2006 when Minnesota recorded 96 wins. The team was strapped in the postseason, having recently lost starting lefty, Francisco Liriano. He went on to win the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010 when the Twins ripped off 94 victories. Ron Gardenhire will always be synonymous with the strong divisional Twins clubs of the 2000s.
    Dan Gladden may now be most known for his work with Twins Radio but has been a member of the organization for 28 years. Winning two World Series rings in Minnesota, Gladden operated as the leadoff hitter and owns the club record for postseason runs scored and stolen bases. Gladden crossing home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series gave the Twins their second World Series. A staple on Twins Radio, Gladden is coming up on an opportunity to land himself as the fourth-longest tenured broadcaster in club history.
    Cesar Tovar has long been advocated for enshrinement by fans and now will finally get his due. Playing eight seasons for the Twins, Tovar racked up MVP votes in five consecutive years from 1967-1971. A speed threat, Tovar is third all-time in stolen bases for the Twins and ranks seventh in triples. While position players pitching may have become a thing now, Tovar became the second player in American or National League history to play all nine positions in a single game on September 22, 1968. 
    The Minnesota Twins announced that on-field ceremonies would take place pre-game on August 20 and 21st at Target Field before Minnesota’s tilts with the Texas Rangers.
    What are your favorite memories of Gardy, Gladden, and Tovar? Who would you like to see inducted next season?
  16. Sad
    mikelink45 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Lockout Diaries: Week 7   
    When I wrote to you last I expressed minimal hope for the bargaining session that was about to take place. It turns out my total lack of faith was warranted.  
    Passan's assessment above is being generous. Spring training starting on time is not "in peril," it's out the window. The question now is how far it'll be pushed back, and whether the delays will spill over to the regular season.
    Just writing that last sentence fills me with dread. This is all so dumb. The game of baseball is incredibly profitable and fans are hungry for it. Reasonable compromises are surely available. 
    Yet there is no evident sense of urgency. The league waited six weeks before making a formal proposal on core economics. The players rejected it, and a week later, are said to be "preparing a response to MLB’s recent proposal to be delivered within days." We're fast closing in on February.
    "At present, the 'talks' between the parties still amount to theater," writes Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, "a Kabuki dance of proposals and counter-proposals that neither side is taking seriously."
    I feel no confidence or optimism. Why would I? There hasn't been one signal to justify a positive attitude toward this process. 
    It sucks.
    To reference a 20-year-old quote in Rosenthal's article from Bud Selig (the former commissioner who looks remarkably competent in comparison to his successor): "If you remove hope and faith from the mind of a fan, you destroy the fabric of the sport.”
  17. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 3 Twins Pitchers Due to Bounce Back in 2022   
    Two of the names below struggled mightily last season, and the other pitcher missed multiple seasons throughout his career. All three have something to prove in 2022, which can be exciting for a team like the Twins that need big-league pitching depth. 

    Dylan Bundy
    Bundy was Minnesota's lone free-agent signing before the lockout, but there might be some reasons to hope he can bounce back in 2022. Bundy surprised many during the pandemic shortened 2020 season with a resurgent year, including finishing in the top-10 for the AL Cy Young. He posted a 3.29 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. It looked like Bundy was finally reaching the ceiling many thought he had as one of baseball's top prospects. 
    Last season, Bundy couldn't replicate his 2020 numbers, and that's one of the main reasons the Twins were able to sign him for such a relatively cheap contract. One of Bundy's most prominent issues in 2021 was his inability to strand runners. Bundy has a 70.8 LOB% for his career, but last season that number dipped to 64.0%. Another change last season was he doubled his sinker usage, and batters posted a .609 SLG against it. Minnesota likely pushes Bundy to throw more sliders and batters combined for a .494 SLG versus that pitch in 2021. 

    Randy Dobnak
    Dobnak's name will be featured on multiple bounce back lists this winter because he can't be as bad as he was in 2021. Last season, Dobnak was pushed out of the rotation coming out of spring training, but it was clear that he wasn't a reliever. In 14 big-league appearances, he allowed 43 earned runs in 50 2/3 innings. At Triple-A, he made four starts and posted a 3.00 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP. A finger injury caused him issues throughout the season, and he was eventually put on the 60-day IL. His terrible, no good, very bad season came to an end, so things can't go much worse for him in 2022. 
    Minnesota doesn't need Dobnak to be a frontline starter, but he needs to fit into the backend of the rotation. Last season, his slider got plenty of hype during spring training as he looked like a whole new pitcher. Then during the season, his slider was his worst pitch as batters posted an .815 SLG against it. Dobnak needs to prove he is healthy, and then he can be relied on to be more than rotational depth. Fans are understandably low on him, but a healthy Dobnak will be a welcome addition to the team's rotation next year. 

    Jharel Cotton
    Minnesota claimed Cotton off of waivers from Texas this winter, and he certainly offers some intrigue for a pitcher-hungry team. Previously, Cotton was a top-100 prospect in the Oakland organization, and they gave him opportunities to stick as a starter. Last season, he pitched in the big leagues for the first time since 2017 and compiled a 3.52 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP. All his appearances came as a reliever in 2021, but some believe he might provide some valuable innings for the Twins in 2022. 
    One of the reasons for this optimism is the amount of spin Cotton has added to his fastball. According to FanGraphs, his fastball had the second-highest amount of vertical movement in baseball last year among pitchers with at least 30 innings. He also utilizes a changeup with a lot of movement that is more than 10-mph slower than his fastball. By adding in his average slider and it's easy to see how he might fit into the rotation when needed next season. Minnesota will have starting opportunities, and Cotton has a chance to prove he can be more than a reliever.

    Which pitcher is most likely to bounce back? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.  

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  18. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Securing Sauce: Should the Twins Extend Mitch Garver?   
    Mitch Garver, 31, was incredible during the Twins’ magical 2019 run to a division title. He hit 31 homers and drove in 67 runs in 359 plate appearances. Since then, he struggled in a shortened 2020 and bounced back in 2021. Let’s examine his case for an extension. 
    The Case FOR Extension
    Among catchers with at least 600 plate appearances over the last three seasons, Garver ties Dodgers’ Will Smith for the highest wRC+ (135). He’s arguably been the best-hitting catcher in the league over that span, even with a brutal 2020 season. 
    Garver has produced 29.2 FanGraphs offensive WAR since 2019, ranking right behind Phillies’ star J.T. Realmuto among catchers. To have an elite bat at the catcher spot is one of the most valued commodities in the sport. Garver qualifies as that. 
    Nine Twins have logged 1,000 or more plate appearances since 2018. Only Nelson Cruz (162) has a higher OPS+ than Garver (124), who has hit .256/.341/.494 since becoming a regular.
    An intercostal strain and ineffectiveness marred Garver’s COVID season, but he returned to form in 2021. Garver had 28 extra-base hits in just 68 games. If not for a brutal injury shortening his season, the Albuquerque native was on pace for a repeat of 2019. He set career-highs in hard-hit rate (54%) and walk rate (13%). 
    Garver ranked in the 93rd percentile in pitch framing, furthering his progression behind the plate. Garver was negative-17 in Defensive Runs Saved in 2018. Since then, he’s been a plus-defender, saving four runs. He’s made serious strides and is now a masher who you can rely on defensively. 
    Extension Comp: James McCann, New York Mets
    This is a little tricky, but McCann was around the same age as Garver when he signed a four-year, $40.6 million deal with the Mets. McCann was a free agent coming off two terrific seasons in Chicago. Both are right-handed sluggers who crush left-handed pitching. 
    McCann tanked in his first season in New York with a .643 OPS and negative-bWAR, but he provides a solid look at what a Garver deal could encompass. Garver projects to make $3.1 million in 2022 and about $6 million in 2023 via arbitration.

    The Case AGAINST Extension
    That Garver is a catcher has been a significant plus in addition to his offense. The Twins are assuming he remains a solid catcher in an extension like this. That’s a rosy assumption. Garver is heading into his 30s and has already dealt with multiple injuries over the last few years.
    There’s also redundancy with two right-handed catchers on the roster. Ryan Jeffers looks very similar to Garver, with strong framing skills and differing splits against right and left-handed pitchers. It’s not an ideal tandem, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to navigate. 
    Garver has had periods where he’s late on fastballs, and he doesn’t precisely limit his strikeout rate. There’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, and he has been streaky at specific points. When Garver's on, he’s lethal. When he’s not, you get stretches like 2020 and the first month of 2021. 
    The Bottom Line
    Garver, like Luis Arraez and Taylor Rogers, is a staple of the Twins. He’s another favorite who has given Twins fans unforgettable moments of cheer since his debut. He’s become a rock-solid defender and has combined it with a beautiful right-handed swing. 
    It’s always important to note that you are paying for the future in any discussion of a new contract. Garver has been great up to this point, but will he age well into his 30s? Can the Twins afford to invest in their catcher with so much uncertainty in the rotation?
    With an open DH spot in 2022, it’s conceivable that Garver will get to 500 plate appearances. What if he mashes, and the Twins risk losing him after 2023? Now could be the time to avoid that fate. Or maybe you ride out the next two years and move along at that point. 
    What do you think? Should the Twins extend Mitch Garver?

    Comment your thoughts below! 
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  19. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2022 Prospect Previews: Chase Petty   
    While the MLB lockout continues to stagnate the offseason, minor-league players are preparing to travel to Florida and Arizona to begin preparation for their seasons. In this series, I’ll look at some of the Twins' notable picks from the early rounds of the 2021 draft. I’ll dig into scouting reports and storylines to look for ahead of the 2022 season. In the first piece of the season, we'll look at the Twins first pick in the 2021 draft, RHP Chase Petty.
    Scouting Grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 70 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55 (scouting grades courtesy of Baseball America).
    Signing and Scouting
    The Twins selected Chase Petty with their first-round pick in the 2021 draft (26th overall). Petty, out of Mainland Regional HS in New Jersey, signed for a slightly below slot $2.5 million bonus. Petty was ranked the 29th best available prospect by Baseball America and 27th by MLB.com. Despite the consensus around his overall prospect status, he qualifies as an extremely high variance pick due to being a prep pitcher who throws at extreme velocity. 
    The Falvey regime has never drafted a high school pitching prospect in the first round. The Twins, as an organization, haven’t done so since Kohl Stewart in 2013, generally preferring high floor, college power bats. It’s easy to see what drew them to Petty, whose arm talent is elite.
    Petty was the most famous prep pitcher in his class, thanks to a fastball he can run up to 102 mph and was compared by some evaluators as the best they had seen from a prep-pitcher since Hunter Greene and one of the best in the history of the draft.
    Petty’s fastball and slider both have 70-grade potential. Petty’s fastball benefits from a ton of arm-side movement. Petty used his changeup infrequently in high school (he didn’t need to) but the Twins believe this can be developed as a plus pitch also. 
    Petty’s upside is incredible, with two caveats. High school prep pitchers are an inherently risky group of players to draft. Some get injured, some don’t live up to their lofty potential. Petty needs to keep his arm slot in the three-quarter range to maintain consistent control of his fastball.
    What Makes Him Special?
    So what does all this arm-talent look like close up? Here’s a clip from the summer of 2020, where Petty was already blowing away his competition.
    Another clip from March of 2021 shows not only the incredible velocity by the arm-side movement generated by his fastball.
    This tweet from Ben Brewster (a must-follow if you're interested in player mechanics) is a great breakdown of how Petty generates so much velocity and includes a link to a more in-depth YouTube breakdown of why he is a such a special talent.
    Offseason Additions
    By all accounts, in addition to having incredible on-field upside, Petty is an incredibly hard worker, charismatic, and has an effervescent personality, as evidenced by his interview shortly after he was drafted by the Twins.
    Petty has clearly been working hard on his changeup since being drafted by the Twins, as shown by this recently posted video from his training facility in NJ. While Petty will need significant time to develop, the addition of a plus changeup would give him three plus pitches (two at 70-grade) and the type of arsenal capable of being a front-line MLB caliber starting pitcher.
    Likely to Start At: Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (A)
    While Petty will need time to develop and carries inherent prospect risk, the talent and stuff are as good as the Twins have ever had in their system. Petty is a starting pitcher to dream on.
    The next article in the Prospect Preview series will look more closely at Noah Miller, the Twins competitive balance pick at the end of the first round (36 overall). If there's any additional information you would like to see in these 2022 prospect previews, please let me know in the comments.
  20. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Time to Cash in On Ryan Pressly Trade   
    There was never any question that losing Pressly would hurt the Twins in the short term. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA with Houston over the final half of 2018. In 139 1/3 innings since Pressly has tallied a 2.45 ERA to go with an 11.8 K/9. He had become one of baseball’s best relievers with the Twins and has only ratcheted that up with the Astros. After making 60 appearances in 2021, Pressly’s team option vested into a fully guaranteed $10 million deal for 2022. He’ll hit the open market again before 2023 for his age 34 season.
    On the Twins side of things, they’ve seen a bit of what both Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino can do, but 2022 should represent an opportunity for both to establish themselves completely. Let’s start in the bullpen with Alcala, as he’s a much more integral piece of the immediate puzzle.
    Pitching 59 2/3 innings last year for the Twins, Alcala owned a 3.92 ERA to go with a 9.2 K/9. Despite the 0.97 WHIP, his bugaboo was a 1.5 HR/9, pushing his FIP to 4.06. However, what’s worth noting is that it was a tale of two seasons for the Minnesota reliever. Through 40 appearances, he posted a 5.73 ERA and had allowed nine home runs in just 37 2/3 innings. A stretch of 22 innings pitched from that point forward, Alcala owned a 0.82 ERA, keeping opposing batters to a .420 OPS. His 27/3 K/BB was incredible, and only one ball left the yard. That’s what we must hope for coming into 2022.
    Derek Falvey didn’t flip Ryan Pressly for what Jorge Alcala was at the time, but he did make that move for what he could be now. At just 26-years-old, Alcala is still pre-arbitration and won’t hit free agency until 2026. Getting an elite level of production out of him for pennies on the dollar over the next four seasons would be a massive victory. He looks the part of a late-inning arm and could undoubtedly eat up closer opportunities should they present themselves. That alone would make the deal worth it, and we’ve yet to discuss Celestino.
    Forced into action early from Double-A after a run on outfield injuries last season, Celestino appeared in 23 games for the Twins. It went as to be expected, and he posted just a .466 OPS. Defensively the skills looked very close, but the bat needed more time to mature. Going to Triple-A St. Paul the rest of the way, Celestino made his case. Over 49 games with the Saints, he slashed .290/.384/.443 with 18 extra-base hits included five home runs. It was unquestionably his best offensive showing in the minors and should help re-establish his confidence in the future.
    Minnesota is always going to need a solid fourth outfielder behind Byron Buxton. I have some feelings about who they should look at outside of the organization, but Celestino could easily play himself into a better option for that role. Without needing to be an impact player immediately on Opening Day, it’s more than fair to suggest Celestino could parlay his strong finish at Triple-A into a forced promotion early on in 2022. Hitting on both inclusions in the Ryan Pressly trade would be the type of result Falvey had undoubtedly envisioned.
    It’s never easy to evaluate a baseball trade when it is made with an indication of how it will pan out. You can draw conclusions based on the level of prospect returned, but the real evaluation always takes place once players have had an opportunity to develop. Minnesota has pushed both talents through their system and is now ready to cash them in. It could soon become time to call this swap a victory.
  21. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Wondering What Francisco Liriano Could’ve Been   
    Having made his Major League Debut in 2005, Liriano had just 23 2/3 innings under his belt coming into the 2006 season. Ron Gardenhire put Liriano on his Opening Day roster, but the talented lefty was set to begin out of the bullpen. He made his season debut in the second game, throwing two innings of relief against the Toronto Blue Jays. Minnesota won that game 13-4, and Liriano tallied his first three strikeouts of the season.
    From there, Gardenhire used Liriano mainly for late-inning work. Across 12 games, Liriano pitched 22 1/3 innings of relief work, compiling a 3.22 ERA and impressive 32/4 K/BB mark. Of the eight earned runs given up, five came in a three-inning clunker against the Detroit Tigers. Minnesota lost that game 18-1, and it was the lone stain on Liriano’s relief work.
    Then the switch happened. On May 19, 2006, Francisco Liriano took the ball to start for the Twins against the Milwaukee Brewers. He didn’t relieve a game again the rest of the way. Against the Brewers, Liriano went five strong innings giving up just one run on two hits while striking out five. A few turns later, this time against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 16, 2006, Liriano punched out double-digit batters for the first time in his career. Notching 11 strikeouts against the Buccos, Liriano improved to 6-1 on the season, and his ERA sat at just 2.16. 
    Facing the Brewers again on July 2, 2016, Liriano set a new career-high in strikeouts with 12. Throwing eight shutout innings, Liriano pushed his ERA down to 1.99. After a couple more wins, Liriano then put a bow on his early work with a 10 and 12 strikeout performance against Cleveland and Detroit, respectively.
    Then things changed. Making a start against the Tigers on August 7, 2006, Liriano threw just 67 pitches while allowing four runs on ten hits before being lifted. He was scratched the start prior with forearm inflammation and then lifted against Detroit with what was called a left elbow injury. After an MRI revealed only inflammation on July 31, Liriano was set for another one and told reporters he was more scared this time, saying, “it bothered me. It’s getting worse you know.” Liriano returned for a start on September 13, 2006, but lasted just 27 pitches before his season was over. He had suggested hearing a pop in his elbow. The 1st place Minnesota Twins would be without one of their top arms, ultimately falling to the Oakland Athletics in the American League Division Series.
    Discussing the MRI’s Liriano had undergone, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said, "The MRI came back exactly the same as the previous one. He has a ligament strain, but there is no structural damage. That's the good news.” On September 15, 2006, surgery was not the planned course of action. Fast forward less than a month, and on November 6, 2006, Francisco Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery.
    Working on getting back from his procedure, Liriano returned to the mound for Minnesota on April 13, 2008. It was his first start in more than a year, and the rust showed. He allowed four runs on six hits and didn’t make it through the 5th inning. Throwing his fastball at just 91.9 mph, he’d lost nearly 3 mph off the 94.7 mph he averaged in 2006. The All-Star and third place Rookie of the Year finisher didn’t look the same and ultimately never would.
    Those 121 innings from a 22-year-old Liriano in 2006 were among the highlights of the Minnesota Twins during the 2000s. Paired with Johan Santana, Ron Gardenhire appeared to have a duo of lefties that could mow down even the best opposing offenses. Playing 12 more seasons and putting up a 4.28 ERA is hardly something to scoff at, but there’s no denying that this is a talent you have to wonder what could have been. Liriano doesn’t have a shot at the Hall of Fame, but maybe he would have. Perhaps the Twins wouldn’t have flipped him for Eduardo Escobar in 2012. His career was solid but ultimately defined by a “what if?”
    Outside of Liriano as a player on his own, it's worth wondering how the 2006 Minnesota Twins season would've ended had he been a healthy part of the Postseason rotation. The Twins were ultimately swept by a good Oakland Athletics team, but they had to start Boof Bonser in game 2 and turned to Brad Radke in game 3. The Twins came in with home field advantage and have not won a Postseason game dating back to 2004. Just another part of the what could've been story.
    Do you remember back to that first season of Francisco Liriano? What did you think the Twins had in him? What are some of your favorite memories?
  22. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Matthew Lenz for an article, Player Retrospective: Francisco Liriano   
    Francisco Liriano was signed as an international free agent in 2000 by the San Francisco Giants before being sent to the Twins in the A.J. Pierzynski trade following the 2003 season. At the time, Liriano was the 83rd ranked prospect in baseball, per Baseball America via Baseball Cube, and was the headliner in a trade that also netted the Twins Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser. Liriano would spend the majority of the next two seasons dominating at AA-New Brighton and AAA-Rochester before exploding onto the scene in 2006.

    Liriano started the season with the Twins as a reliever where he was quite effective posting a 3.22 ERA and a 32:4 K:BB over 22 1/3 innings pitched. On May 15th, the Twins decided to move struggling right-hander Carlos Silva to the bullpen and promote Liriano to the starting rotation where he went on to make 15 dominant starts with a 1.96 ERA/2.85 FIP, 3.9 K/BB ratio, and held opponents to a .238 wOBA. This stretch included being selected for the All-Star Game and bookended with back-to-back starts of double-digit strikeouts against Cleveland on July 23rd and the Detroit Tigers five days later. Ultimately, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, Liriano was shut down due to a strained ligament in his throwing arm after his start on August 7th. He needed Tommy John surgery after lasting just two innings against Oakland on September 13th. Despite starting the season in the bullpen and losing the last two months of the season to injury, the Twins rookie phenom affectionately dubbed “The Franchise” finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. It was 578 days between Major League starts for Liriano. He lasted just three starts before being sent to AAA-Rochester until August of 2008. He showed flashes of his old self in the last two months of the season, but it was clear he wasn’t the same pitcher from 2006. In fact, it wasn't until the 2010 season when the Twins got consistent, effective production from the former budding star. He even received Cy Young Award votes, but alas, that season ended up being a one-off. 
    Aside from a (messy) no-hitter on May 3rd, 2011, the lefty struggled over the next 48 starts leading to him being dealt to division rival Chicago White Sox at the 2012 trade deadline for star-to-be Eduardo Escobar (thanks again, A.J.) and LHP Pedro Hernandez.

    His tenure with the White Sox lasted just two months and he spent the next three-and-a-half years with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he enjoyed a bit of a resurgence making 86 starts from 2013 to 2015 and posting a 3.26 ERA/3.23 FIP and a 9.6 K/9 but struggled with control walking 3.8 batters per nine innings. These control issues only got worse in 2016 which led to him being dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline and then again a year later from the Blue Jays to the Houston Astros.
    He spent 2017 with the Detroit Tigers making 26 starts but with a decreasing fastball velocity and K/9 coupled with an increasing BB/9, ERA, and FIP, it was clear that his run as an effective starter was over at 34 years old. Back in Pittsburgh for the juiced 2019 season, he had a bit of a renaissance as a reliever where he made 69 appearances with a respectable 8.10 K/9 and 3.47 ERA/4.14 FIP. He signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in 2020 before being released ahead of the start of the season and then, in 2021, a minor-league deal with Toronto before being released ahead of that season.

    In his 13 roller coaster seasons, Francisco Liriano made 300 starts and 119 relief appearances. As a starter, he ended with a 4.16 ERA/3.88 FIP, striking out 1,682 batters, while as a reliever he had a 4.08 ERA/3.94 FIP and sitting down 133 hitters. He’s the ultimate “What Could Have Been?” story, but gave Twins fans one of the best 15 game stretches in franchise history. So with that in the forefront, let’s wish Francisco Liriano a happy and healthy retirement from Twins Territory by leaving your favorite story or memory in the comment section.
  23. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Locking up Louie: Should the Twins Extend Luis Arraez?   
    With four seasons of arbitration before he reaches free agency, Arraez will earn built-in raises, starting with an estimated $2 million in 2022. With relevant comps and projections, let’s examine the case for an extension beyond those four years. 
    The Case FOR Extension
    Arraez is a joy to watch. It’s not just his elite propensity to spit on or foul off the most challenging pitches or his uncanny ability to spray line drives all over the field. Arraez, 24, plays the game with pure giddiness and buzz. He’s someone you want on your team and in your lineup. In a league with more and more swing and miss, Arraez is a welcomed change of pace. 
    In 245 games, Arraez has hit .313 with a sterling .374 On-Base Percentage. The man coined as “La Regadera” (The Sprinkler) finished 2021 in the 100th percentile in whiff rate and the 99th percentile in strikeout rate. 
    Since making his debut in 2019, Arraez ranks first on the Twins in average (.313), second in hits (271), and fifth in FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (4.7). Any reasonable expectation you had for Arraez, who ranked as the Twins’ 17th best prospect in 2019, has been exceeded. 
    Arraez saved five runs at third base in 2021 with a positive Outs Above Average score. He’s far from a butcher at the hot corner. While he was poor defensively at second base in 2019, Arraez has bounced back with two positive DRS seasons and graded favorably in left field. The defensive concerns have been somewhat overblown. 
    As it stands, Arraez is a Twin through his age-28 season (2024). The built-in raises will likely push his contract value to $22-25 million. It’s already a very affordable deal for the Twins, but an extension could create even more weight if he adds some pop and improves defensively. 
    EXTENSION COMP: David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels
    Angels' second baseman Fletcher is an excellent comp when considering extension numbers. Fletcher, 27, is older than Arraez but almost identical as a player. Fletcher hit .292/.346/.386 in 283 games before a horrific 2021. 
    He’s a high-contact second baseman with solid offensive numbers. Arraez is a better hitter, but Fletcher is one of baseball's best defensive second baseman. Fletcher inked a five-year, $26 million deal with two option years, potentially taking him through his age-33 season. Fletcher, like Arraez, was set to be a free agent following the 2024 season. 

    The Case AGAINST Extension
    Like any player and even our favorites, Arraez has apparent flaws. While his defense grades out nicely, he’s visibly stretched at second base and lacks the arm strength to make plays consistently at third. His experiment in left field wasn’t impressive, and he has no home with Jorge Polanco entrenched at second and myriad outfielders coming, plus José Miranda. 
    Arraez has a history of knee problems, with stints on the injured list a common occurrence. Extending him beyond four years and into his 30s seems like more of a risk than it would be for other 24-year-olds. 
    One of the pulls with Arraez is that he seems like a constant. The sluggers will streak, but Arraez is a consistent sparkplug. That wasn’t quite the case in 2021. Arraez was incredibly streaky, which is even more damaging for a hitter with zero power. When Arraez isn’t slashing the ball or walking, he adds virtually nothing to the lineup. The positive streaks are also less valuable when you aren’t punishing home runs. 

    The Twins boast a glut at Arraez’s central positions. Polanco is a Twin through at least 2025, and Miranda is knocking. Josh Donaldson is still on the team, and Alex Kirilloff looks like the future at first base. Add Trevor Larnach in left field, and things get murkier. 
    The best call might be to trade Arraez before his knees become a more significant issue. Or maybe the Twins bounce him around, including at DH, and re-assess in four seasons. There’s no urgency here. 
    The Bottom Line
    The Twins are at a pivotal point. They must address the starting rotation and build a winner. While it’s true that Arraez would likely bring back an excellent return, this is a fanbase that needs any positive vibes it can get. Arraez is beloved and can help fans stay engaged and return to the ballpark. 
    The reaction to an Arraez extension would be overwhelmingly positive. That shouldn’t dictate whether the Twins decide to pursue it, but it should be a consideration, as it was with Byron Buxton. 
    An Arraez extension wouldn’t touch the $100 million the Twins guaranteed to their star centerfielder for the reasons mentioned above. You mitigate risk by adding in a couple million on top of what Arraez would earn, plus a few more guaranteed years. 
    This is not a Buxton-type extension. It’s not feasible to expect Arraez to significantly outplay a contract, which is a reason against such a deal. What he could do, though, is cement himself as another central face for the next 5-10 years at a reasonable cost to the team. 
    Comment your thoughts below! 
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  24. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Tracking Former Twins on the Hall of Fame Ballot   
    To be elected to Cooperstown, a player must be named on 75% of the ballots submitted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Players remain eligible for ten years as long as they continue to receive a minimum of 5% of the vote. Some former Twins players are sitting dangerously close to falling off the ballot. 

    David Ortiz, DH
    Cooperstown Case
    Ortiz is currently one of three players trending at over 75% of the known ballots, and he has the highest vote total with 83.5% of the vote. Twins fans are well aware of Ortiz and his case for Cooperstown as he went on to a legendary Red Sox career after Minnesota released him following the 2002 season. Entering this voting cycle, Ortiz's first ballot election wasn't guaranteed because his transition from Twins castoff to legendary slugger came under a cloud of steroid suspicion. It doesn't seem like those suspicions will keep him from being elected as it has with other players on the ballot. 

    Joe Nathan, RP 
    Cooperstown Case
    Nathan is one of the best relievers in baseball history, but relief pitchers are highly unrepresented in Cooperstown. It also means Nathan is dangerously close to falling off the ballot because of a slew of other worthy candidates on the ballot and a 10-vote limit. Through 170 ballots, Nathan has four votes (2.4%) which means he likely needs another 16 votes to reach the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot for 2023. Billy Wagner, another reliever, has comparable numbers to Nathan, and he is tracking at over 47%. Nathan has a Hall of Fame resume, but he may have to wait for a committee vote in the years ahead. 

    Torii Hunter, OF
    Cooperstown Case
    Hunter's case is unique because of how he started and ended his career. He was an elite defender who won nine straight Gold Glove awards as a younger player. In his career's second-half, he became an improved hitter as he posted a 120 OPS+ from 2006-2013. Hunter received 8.1% of the vote in 2021, his first year on the ballot. This season, he has three votes (1.8%), and he will need 17 more votes to reach the 5% threshold. Hunter's closest comparison on the ballot may be Andruw Jones, also known as an elite defender, and he is tracking at over 48% of the known votes.

    Justin Morneau, 1B
    Cooperstown Case
    Morneau collected many accolades throughout his big-league career, including an AL MVP Award and an NL Batting Title. Those accomplishments likely will not be enough to keep him on the ballot past 2022, as he currently has one vote, and he will need to be listed on 19 other ballots to reach 5%. Morneau had some great moments throughout his career, but there's no question that one slide in Toronto changed the course of his career.

    AJ Pierzynski, C
    Cooperstown Case
    Pierzynski is best known in Twins Territory for being part of one of the most famous trades in team history. He'd go on to have a long career at a grueling defensive position, and some writers may consider this as part of the voting process. Like Morneau, he has one vote so far, and he would need a significant boost in the remaining ballots to reach 5%. 

    Are the results playing out as you expected? Do you think Nathan or Hunter deserves to stay on the ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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  25. Like
    mikelink45 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Taking Stock of the Twins: Top 20 Assets of 2022 Recap   
    The intent of this list was to answer a question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? 
    We ranked current MLB players and prospects based on factors like production, age, upside, pedigree, health, contract, and positional scarcity.
    Here's how the top 20 shakes out for 2022 (click on the player's name to find his writeup):
    20. Matt Canterino, RHP
    19. Josh Winder, RHP
    18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    17. Gilberto Celestino, CF
    16. Chase Petty, RHP
    15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
    14. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    12. Trevor Larnach, OF
    11. Luis Arraez, UTIL
    10. Ryan Jeffers, C
    9. Max Kepler, RF
    8. Mitch Garver, C
    7. Joe Ryan, RHP
    6. Bailey Ober, RHP
    5. Austin Martin, OF
    4. Royce Lewis, SS
    3. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF
    2. Jorge Polanco, 2B
    1. Byron Buxton, CF
    If we're treating Kirilloff as an outfielder and Arraez as an infielder, that breaks down to:
    8 pitchers 6 outfielders 4 infielders 2 catchers It's not a bad balance, roughly reflecting the proportions of positions on an MLB roster. However, the Twins do have a few clear areas of weakness and scarcity, as well as some areas of abundance that point to possible trade opportunities. 
    We'll explore these along with other noteworthy observations and takeaways as we break down the list, taking stock of the Twins organization as a whole.
    Return of the King
    When I first took a shot at compiling this list, ahead of the 2018 season, Byron Buxton was at the top. At that time he was 24 years old, coming off a breakout season in which he was (mostly) healthy, a fringe MVP contender, and recipient of a Platinum Glove. It all seemed to be coming together.
    If only we knew.
    Recurring injuries and progressively diminishing team control have kept Buxton's stock in check since then, to the point where he nearly slipped out of the top 10 in last year's rankings. But all that's transpired since has vaulted him back to the #1 spot at last. 
    While still dealing with his share of injuries in 2021, Buxton proved more than ever he's a rare difference-maker, stacking up against any player in franchise history on a per-rate basis. And after the season, Minnesota opportunistically locked him up.
    The uniquely team-friendly nature of Buxton's contract extension, which takes him through the entirety of his remaining prime, makes him one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. 
    The Fall of Maeda
    In last year's rankings, Kenta Maeda ranked #1. He was an accomplished veteran starter coming off a Cy Young runner-up season, with a highly favorable contract to boot. Maeda was the centerpiece around which the rotation would be built.
    Maeda didn't appear in this year's rankings. His dramatic drop-off encompasses the rotation's downfall as a whole. 
    The 2021 season really couldn't have done much more to tank Maeda's value: he largely struggled through 21 starts, then underwent elbow surgery late in the season. By the time he returns in 2023, he'll be 35 and in his walk year. 
    His team-friendly contract, with only $3M in guaranteed base salary, means Maeda's absence in 2022 won't hurt the team too much resource-wise, which was a big part of his value. But the Twins were counting on his arm for the coming season, and now they'll be without it, as well as that of José Berríos (#4 in last year's rankings). 
    In a nutshell, this tees up the immense challenge of building a new starting rotation – from two starting pitchers among the top five assets to zero. On the bright side, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan (#6 and #7 this year) are both under control for the next six years, so if either or both can affirm their early promise, they are poised to become premium commodities. Notably, neither one cost this front office very much to acquire. 
    Power and Parity in the Pitching Pipeline
    This franchise's success over the next 3-4 years will be heavily dependent on the fruits of a pitching pipeline this front office has been cultivating since it arrived. 
    The disruption of a pandemic stalled progress, but the Twins currently have a huge assortment of high-upside arms nearing MLB-readiness. Those arms are all grouped together around the back end of this top 20 list. 
    The last three players we ranked – Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winder, Matt Canterino – are all part of this group, and if we extended the list to 30 or 40, several more would show up: Cole Sands, Blayne Enlow, Louie Varland, Chris Vallimont, Drew Strotman. Maybe even Randy Dobnak and Griffin Jax.
    By passing up the high end of free agent pitching, the front office has essentially made clear that it's staking itself to this group. If next year's rankings are flush with pitchers from it, that'll be a good sign. If not, then that'll be the most damning strike against this regime yet.
    Short on Shortstops
    Around the time I first put these rankings together in 2018, people were wondering if the Twins were filling their system with *too many* shortstops. They'd taken Royce Lewis first overall in the previous draft, adding him to a system that already included Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, and Wander Javier (all of whom appeared in that inaugural top 20 ranking).
    What's happened since shows why it's so damn hard to develop shortstops (and why the great ones are such tremendous commodities). Javier flamed out. Polanco and Gordon have moved to different positions. Lewis is still tenuously considered a shortstop, but the jury is out. 
    Outside of him, the cupboard is now bare. With Andrelton Simmons gone, there's no current occupant at the MLB level, though the Twins will presumably sign someone to a short-term deal. In the system, Lewis sorta stands alone as a high-end prospect with legitimate major-league shortstop potential. 
    Lacking Left-handers
    One commonality among all eight pitchers to appear on this list – and the next handful of honorable mentions – is that they're all right-handers. The most glaring scarcity in this system, without question, is left-handed pitchers.
    Were we to extend the list, who would be the top-ranked lefty pitcher? It's an interesting question. Without thinking too deeply about it, it's probably a toss-up between their three top bullpen lefties: Taylor Rogers, Caleb Thielbar and Jovani Moran. But they're all relievers with flaws and limited upside.  
    How much does this particular scarcity matter? Hard to say. The Twins aren't short on high-quality arms in their system, but the most valuable and projectable ones are virtually all right-handers. I wonder to what extent this was intentional, and to what extent the team might try to course-correct and add balance going forward.
    Top Trade Candidates
    One of the most pertinent insights to emerge through this exercise is a clear understanding of where the logjams exist and which areas of strength the Twins are most likely to trade from. That analysis feels especially meaningful in this offseason, because the front office essentially has no choice but to leverage the trade market in order to acquire impact talent, with free agency now picked at key positions.
    For me, this is a pretty simple equation: Which players rank lower on this Twins-specific list than they would in other organizations? From this angle, five names stand out (listed roughly in order of what they'd bring back):
    Austin Martin Max Kepler Luis Arraez Jose Miranda Gilberto Celestino One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list, although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other. Kepler and Celestino are both made somewhat more expandable by the Buxton extension, but the most intriguing redundancy from my view is with Martin, Arraez, and Miranda.
    With Buxton now entrenched in center, Martin's most likely destinations seem to be second, third, or left. The same can basically said for Arraez and Miranda (though I suspect left field is considered much less desirable for both).
    Second and third are currently occupied by Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson, who are under guaranteed contract for two more years.
    Trading Donaldson would alleviate this logjam in a big way, but the team's opportunities to do so are much more limited. Martin, Arraez and Miranda are all coveted young players with appealing contract situations. If the Twins want to bring in frontline pitching via trade once the lockdown ends, this would appear to be the path.
    What strikes you as you review this evaluation of players in the Twins system? Are you feeling good about the state of the franchise? Bad? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to catch up on past lists for a trip down memory lane:
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