Dman reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, No, Top FA Starters Are Not Risky
With the 2021 season just about wrapped up for the Minnesota Twins, here’s yet another article to talk about starting pitching and why dumpster diving or even mid-tier free agent starters are actually much riskier than the top free agent starters with those big contracts.
Conventional Twins wisdom is that big name, free agent starters are simply too expensive and too risky. Jim Pohlad is very skittish when it comes to long contracts and big dollars. The idea of “crippling” a roster also sends some Twins fans into a panic. It makes sense, after all, the Twins free agent pitchers almost never actually pan out for more than a year.
For this year, the Twins’ front office decided not to pursue an arm to replace Odorizzi, leaving a major hole in the middle of the rotation. Instead, Happ and Shoemaker were signed to contracts all too typical of the Twins’ front office. The cost? $10MM utterly wasted. That said, the Twins are absolutely spending ace starter money in free agency and acquisitions every single year and have been spending $30-43MM annually for those arms for 7 consecutive seasons coming into 2021. I even adjusted the salaries for players which were traded away… Read it and weep.
Median WAR = middle bWAR season performance with 2020 being multiplied by 2.7 due to the shortened season. Total WAR = Total bWAR over the life of the entire contract, even if the player was traded away. $/WAR = Entire Contract Dollars, Adjusted for 2020 / Total bWAR, Not Adjusted for 2020. The salary figures shown are not adjusted for 2020 so they can be viewed in proper context.
Med. Tot $ Player WAR WAR /WAR 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Correia -1.1 -1.1 -5 6 Pelfrey 0.4 0.8 13.8 6 6 Hughes -0.1 5.5 11.9 8 9 9 13 8 7 Nolasco 0.5 2 24 12 12 8 4 Milone 0.8 0.9 8.1 3 5 Santana 0.5 9.8 5.6 14 14 14 14 1 Santiago 0.2 0.3 32.7 2 8 Odorizzi 1.2 4.4 6.1 6 10 18 Pineda 0.8 3.3 8 2 8 10 10 Lynn 0.4 0.4 25 10 Perez 0.1 0.1 40 4 Maeda 2.7 1.8 2.7 3 3 Bailey 0.5 0.2 22 7 Hill 2.1 0.8 2.4 3 Shoemaker -1.9 -1.9 -1.1 2 Happ -1.8 -1.8 -4.4 8 Season Total 31 43 37 38.7 39.8 29.5 40.8 23
In fact, almost none of the Twins signings and acquisitions were worth it, including the starters who were actually “worth the money” because they still weren’t worth starting. For example, Tommy Milone only cost $8.1MM / WAR. That’s an A grade signing. He was worth every bit of the money he was paid, on am average season. But he still wasn’t good enough to actually want him in the rotation. What about Ervin Santana? We all know what a huge asset he was over his first couple seasons and the Twins got one WAR for only $5.6MM which is an A+ kind of deal. The big issue is he was terrible over his last two years, dragging his median performance way down.
Ace = 4.0 WAR+ #2 = 3.0-4.0 WAR #3 = 2.5-3.0 WAR #4 = 2.0-2.5 WAR #5 = 1.5-2.0 WAR I’ve also adjusted the median values for 2020’s short season. That’s the problem with dumpster dives and even mid-tier free agents. All it takes is a slight decline and poof, all the money is utterly wasted because you’re paying guaranteed money to a starter who isn’t worth playing.
Well, everybody knows big free agent contracts never work out though, right? Wrong. Big name, free agent starters are almost always worth it. This is for two reasons. First, they often perform at ace levels even if they decline a bit, but if they take a major hit or injury, they almost always bounce back as a solid starter in the rotation. The money is virtually never totally wasted like it often is on mediocre or low cost starters. Of the 8 front line free agent starters signed since 2014, every single one of them has been worth a rotation spot in an average year. Most are even good deals. Don’t believe me again?
Med. Tot $ Player WAR WAR /WAR Future? 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Grade Lester 2.1 13.2 9.6 - 30 20 20 23 25 28 B Greinke 4.2 17.9 10.3 - 34 34 34 35 35 35 C Scherzer 5.5 41.4 4.1 - 17 22 22 22 37 36 35 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 A+ Price 1.8 11.1 13.9 F 30 30 30 31 32 32 32 F Darvish 5.6 7.6 9.9 A 25 20 22 22 19 18 B Corbin 4.1 5.4 8.6 F 15 19 24 23 24 35 A Cole 5.6 7.6 6.4 A 36 36 36 36 36 36 36 36 36 A Wheeler 6.8 7.6 3.45 A 22 23 26 25 24 A+ Strasburg 0 0 Inf F 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 27 27 F- *The summary is updated to reflect the addition of Strasburg to the chart. I decided against adding Bauer. Bauer doesn't have a long term contract, and part of the reason FA ace caliber pitchers are a low risk is a single lost season is easy to overcome. Among the 9 listed starters, only 3 have lost an entire season (Price x1.5, Darvish, Strasburg x2). Of the 38 seasons on the contracts from the 9 starters, 4.5 seasons have been lost. A risk of a starter losing a season is approximately 10% per contract season.
Right now, Corbin and Strasburg both look like a bad deals, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they rebounded. If you look at those contracts, something really stands out to me. Only Strasburg has played poorly enough so the team who signed them wouldn’t have wanted in the rotation and 6 of the 8 are bonefide ace level pitchers on their average season. Even David Price with all his injuries and down performance is worth trotting out there. Also, 7 of 8 of those front line starters have been absolutely C or better signings. Here’s how I’d arbitrarily grade signings based on the dollars spent per WAR.
$16MM+ = F- $14-16MM = F $12-14MM = D $10-12MM = C $9-10MM = B $6-9MM = A 0-6MM = A+ To sum it up, the scary big contracts for front line starters almost always work out over the life of the contract, and even when they don’t work out exactly as intended, the pitchers are almost always worth running out there every 5 days as part of the rotation. However, the low end and middle of the rotation arms are almost never worth it based on nearly a decade of track record by the Twins and over a dozen such starting pitchers. Considering the Twins absolutely do not need any #4-5 starters, the front office also needs to stop wasting money with their annual dumpster dive, refocus and acquire top pitching talent. After all, it’d barely cost more on an annual basis to replace the typical free agent signings they’ve been wasting money on to sign two top of the rotation arms as they’re available.
Dman reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Which Prospect Anchors 2022's Rotation?
The Twins' 2022 rotation has been a hot topic all year and has managed to reach molten lava temps lately with Kenta Maeda confirmed out with a hybrid UCL reconstruction surgery having just been performed. An absolute best case scenario is Maeda returning in June of 2022, but even with no setbacks, normal healing times could extend his absence to September. Just one little setback along the way is likely to end Maeda's 2022 before it even gets started.
Maeda was absolutely key to the 2022 rotation. He was expected to be the anchor in the middle of the rotation where pieces could be added around him to build a World Series contender if the Twins so chose or the lone potential top of the order starter in a sea of young arms if the Twins chose to retool. While his struggles in 2021 tempered expectations of his legitimate Ace potential, the loss of Berrios cemented the need for the Twins to find a true number 1 starter to compete. Do the Twins even have a potential mid-rotation anchor anymore?
Exploring the options will undoubtly lead to the exciting prospects in the Twins rotation today named Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. These aren't (waves hand) the mid/upper rotation arms you're looking for. Ryan has 4 pitches, technically, but his curve and changeup are both borderline for the MLB level. One of both of those pitches are likely to be cut from his repertoire and in order to even stay in the rotation, Ryan will need one of them to stick and improve. Ober also has 4 pitches, but he has exactly zero plus offerings. Ober's fastball was not MLB caliber coming into the season, but some diligent work on his part and the pitching coaches has found a couple mph Ober desperately needed to elevate it. A fastball which now actually plays at the MLB level along with some other average offerings does not a mid rotation pitcher make. I'm not trying to take anything away from Ryan or Ober and what they've accomplished this season. I think both of these guys can and will spend time in rotation long term. That's a huge accomplishment if both of them make it. Then there are the Griffin Jax's and Randy Dobnak's. Dobnak is the better of the two, but honestly counting on either one of these guys to give you 20+ starts a year feels like a recipe for disappointment. They've both enjoyed some success at the MLB level, but the scouting reports are going to get better and better on them.
What about Jordan Balazovic? As exciting and dominating as some of his starts have been across AA this year, he's been inconsistent with his control and he only has 2 offspeed/breaking ball options. Unless the pitcher has multiple plus-plus offerings (Berrios does, Balazovic doesn't) the absolute ceiling for a 3 pitch pitcher is filling a #3 spot. Expecting Balazovic to waltz into the rotation to start the season and be the best pitcher he can be from day 1 is completely unreasonable. Wes Johnson talked about Balazovic recently in a quick interview. He made it clear Balazovic's ceiling was looking clearer and league average, maybe a bit better is how he's seen. Again, that is a huge accomplishment, not a knock against him. Dominating minor leagues, but without hiccups, is how most top of the rotation starters advance to MLB in 1 to 3 years.
Jhoan Duran? Can't throw strikes, hasn't gotten results at AAA, hasn't pitched more than a handful of innings and is out with a UCL strain. If you're holding out hope for Duran making the opening day rotation as an anchor piece, that's grasping at straws.
There is one pitcher, though, who could fill a role of mid-rotation starter out of the gate... maybe with a little more upside than that. A pitcher who has taken big steps forward in scouting reports and utterly dominated at a higher level of the minors who I don't hear in the 2022 rotation discussions. In a lot of ways, this prospect is similar to a former Twins prospect from the mid 2010s who's made a nice career for himself. Our current prospect has exploded up the ranking charts and has been ranked as high as #4 in our system this year by major sites in 2021. Keith Law is on record this year as saying this pitcher is legitimate and could be a true #3.
Grading system refresher: 70+ "Plus-plus" - 60 "Plus" - 50 "Average MLB" - 40 "Non-MLB"
2014 Twins Prospect - Fastball 60, Slider 45, Curveball 50, Changeup 55, Control 45 2021 Twins Prospect - Fastball 55, Slider 55, Curveball 50, Changeup 50, Control 55 The 2014 Twins prospect is Trevor May. May had mid rotation upside, but in order to reach it, he needed to improve his control and for his curve and slider to play at the MLB level. Ultimately, May always struggled a bit with his control and was never able to get the curve to fool MLB hitters. May chose to focus on a different grip on the slider and a permanent move to the bullpen where he's carved out a role as a late inning power reliever. The 2021 prospect is Josh Winder and those scouting marks do not fully take into account his improvement in velocity yet. Think of Winder as a potential better version of Trevor May with better control and all 4 pitches likely to play at the MLB level. Winder has added 3-5mph to what was a 50 grade fastball from 2019, but the preliminary reports are his slider and curveball have also sped up and the curve, particularly, is getting better bite and action. In addition, the changeup is reported to have stayed about the same velocity making it play up because of the increased differential in speed. Even more than that, Winder hasn't walked more than 2 batters in any appearance this year and in many cases, 0. His control may be better than graded as well... Winder may well have the stuff to be a true mid-rotation anchor for the Twins. Right now, he's sitting on the 7 day IL because of a "shoulder impingment" which the Twins have called dead arm or shoulder fatigue as well. They were expecting Winder to be out for 2-3 weeks meaning he could yet return for a game or two this year, but even if he doesn't, there's every reason to expect him to be ready for opening day.
The best shot the Twins have in their system of an opening day 2022 mid rotation starter on the roster is Josh Winder. Make no mistake, Winder does not have the plus-plus offerings to buckle the knees and make MLB batters look like little leaguers which is required of Ace caliber pitchers. He does not project as a top of the rotation arm and the Twins still absolutely need to fill those two rotation spots at the top of the order if they're seriously looking to compete, but Winder could be the potential anchor for the 2022 rotation.
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Believing in Ober
The Minnesota Twins have slogged through a dismal 2021 in large part due to an inability to find consistent pitching. With a starting rotation now entirely flipped on its head, finding a silver lining may seem difficult, but I encourage you to dream on Bailey Ober.
During his first Major League Baseball draft as the Twins President of Baseball Operations, Derek Falvey’s club selected Ober in the 12th round. Ober was a 21-year-old pitching for the College of Charleston and threw 28 innings for Elizabethton during the summer of 2017. In 2018-19, Ober rose the ranks from Single-A to Double-A and finished with a 0.38 ERA across 24.0 IP for Pensacola. The strikeout numbers were gaudy, and the walk rate was stingy.
At 6’9” Ober has the uncanny ability to get on an opposing batter with quickness. His average fastball velocity this season has been just 92 mph, but with such a long stride the pitch is being delivered much closer to 50 feet from home plate. The year with no minor league action certainly didn’t help a guy needing innings due to injury, but it’s clear that he’s put in work.
Despite the Twins needing to call on Ober sooner than they may have liked; he also forced their hand by owning a 2.81 ERA across his first 16 innings of work for Triple-A St. Paul. What we can easily see in the track record is that there’s never been a point at which Ober wasn’t a dominant force on the farm. The only knock on him thus far has been his availability, or more succinctly, his injury history.
Now over 63 innings into his Major League career, we’re seeing the same type of results that have become the expectation thus far. A 4.38 ERA through 14 starts is hardly anything to scoff at, but it’s an even more impressive 3.46 through his last eight turns (39.0 IP). Ober’s bugaboo thus far has been the longball, giving up 14 in his time with the Twins, and a 2.0 HR/9 that seems certain to normalize. He has maintained the strong strikeout rate (9.2 K/9) and continued to limit free passes (2.3 BB/9).
Understanding that this is Ober’s initial run through a big league gambit, it’s fair to assume we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s still learning the opposition, and of course the league will be given a chance to adjust to him as well. Although the Twins have been dealt multiple blows in the rotation this year, allowing Ober to showcase his stuff is something that should provide plenty of excitement for Minnesota fans.
As has been the case over the course of his career to this point, keeping Ober healthy and on the mound is the next must for the organization. Maybe he gets shut down soon having now reached a career high in professional innings pitched during a single season. That isn’t a bad idea given where the season currently stands, and it still allows the heightened hurler plenty to build off of for 2022. It’d be hard to see a scenario where Ober isn’t in the rotation on Opening Day next year, and that should be cause for more excitement than concern.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to Tim for a blog entry, Wheeling n' Dealing in The West - Dodgers and Padres
The National League West is looking like it will be a battle to the end. Maybe even to the death ? Ok, not that far.
The first place San Francisco Giants have been the surprise team in baseball this season. It's a great story as they've been able to hold off the Dodgers and Padres, two teams many had as the favorites to battle for the National League pennant.
I like the Giants. Gabe Kapler seems like a cool manager with his cool shades, they've pieced it together without a true star, and you cant forget they have sweet uni's. As much as I like them, they aren't going to hold off the Dodgers and Padres.
The Dodgers (1 GB) are the defending world series champions and the front office has constructed this roster to go back to back in 2021.
The Padres (4.5 GB) are the new team on the block. The most exciting team in baseball and the flashy young star in Fernando Tatis. The Padres General Manager, Aj Preller, was extremely aggressive this past offseason pushing all the chips in the middle to take down the Dodgers.
Both teams are built to win now and have world series hopes.
Both teams happen to be struggling with pitching.
Now before you jump down my throat, this is a hypothetical scenario and just a mythical piece of writing that some kid whipped up on the couch today.
Ok, Let's get into it.
Los Angeles bolstered the rotation this past offseason, signing the reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to a 3 year / 102 million dollar deal. Unless you have been living under a rock, you've probably heard that he doesn't treat women with the most respect. He's been placed on the commissioners list and it doesn't sound like he's coming back anytime soon.
Adding insult to Trevor's horrible decisions, Clayton Kershaw was recently placed on the Injured list with what's being called a "sore right forearm" . That's typically not what you want to hear in baseball when it comes to pitchers, and we don't want to speculate. He could be back in a week for all I know. The point is they are down 2 of their top starters who happen to be 2 Cy young winners.
Now, the bullpen. Closer Kenley Jensen has been fantastic with a 1.27 ERA, but he's a free agent after this season and is going on age 34. Joe Kelly has bounced back this season with a 3.86 ERA, but has a 12 million dollar team option following the season and the Dodgers aren't picking that up. Newly signed Blake Treinen has been just what they hoped for with a 2.78 ERA in 36 games. Looks pretty good right? Statically these 3 have been great. They also all happen to be right handed, have less han 2 years remaining on their current deal or have an option that won't be exercised. Throw in the fact they all are 34 next year. Not exactly spring chickens.
Victor Gonzalez, the only trusted lefty out of the pen this year, just went on the IL. His timetable for a return is unclear at this point. Prior to that he had a 5.06 ERA in his previous 8 outings.
They need a lefty reliever and they need someone to potentially fill in for 1 or both of their 2 top starters. Like, right now.
Dodgers - Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers
Self explanatory after what we just broke down. They acquire 2 controllable assets through next year and fill glaring holes in the pitching department as they chase another ring. I'd assume the Dodgers are going to treat the Bauer situation like he's not apart of the team, until, well he is. Truthfully no one knows when that might be and no one knows what long term repercussions will result from the situation. Jose Berrios isn't Trevor Bauer, but he's a better and cheaper option, than anything you can acquire at the deadline or this upcoming offseason. Taylor Rogers is the shutdown lefty they don't currently have. Younger and Controllable through next year, Rogers gives the team payroll flexibility, fills empty an empty bullpen spot next year and enables them to move on from whatever long-term commitment a 34 year old Jensen might command.
Twins - Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot, Andre Jackson
Prior to going down with Tommy John in the spring, Dustin May was on his way to becoming an ace. The 23 year old had a 2.74 ERA with 35 K's in 23 IP. That seems good. Personally I don't care if you have to wait until the middle of next season if you get a pitcher of this caliber, who ill say again, is 23.. . Fun kicker, he's controlled through 2026. The Dodgers are giving up a lot in May but they can't wait and need reinforcements now. Ryan Pepiot has been on every "name to watch" prospect report since May. He's lit up AA with a 1.73 ERA in 41.2 IP to go along with 57K's.. Pepiot's fastball works around 93-95, with his changeup being the best pitch. He wasn't really stretched out much early in the season but in his last 2 starts he's gone over 6 innings twice, might be to boost trade value or for their personal use, not sure. Andre Jackson is currently at AA right now and is a bit older of a prospect being 25. He's got a 3.78 ERA, with 63 K's in 50 IP.
If you want to talk about a team that's built to "win-now", your in luck. The Padres have dealt away pretty much half the farm system in the past 365 days to build an all-star rotation. Now im embellishing, they still have a ridiculously good farm system. But in the past year they have added Yu Darvish, Jose Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Mike Clevinger. This is a team that already had the top pitching prospect in all of baseball being Mackenzie Gore. We can't forget Ryan Weathers, Dinelson Lamet, and Chris Paddack. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. So much depth they cant fail, wait......
Clevinger is currently recovering from Tommy John. Blake Snell has been absolutely horrible. Failing to pitch over 5 innings in all but 1 of his last 7 starts. He currently has a 6.60 ERA in his last 30 IP to pair with 19 BB's, and is thought to be headed to the IL as he's struggled to "build strength" following his last start. Dinelson Lamet is on the IL with forearm issues after dealing with a setback. Ryan Weathers is on a 120 inning limit and currently at 60.1 IP. Chris Paddack allowed 9 runs last night and has a 7.71 ERA over his last 7 starts... Maybe Mackenzie Gore can step in? He's got a 5.85 ERA at AAA.
Things are tough in slam diego.
Padres - Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers
In an offseason of all-in moves, why stop now? I've read reports about them potentially going after Joey Gallo of the Rangers, but if the pitching is this bad, you can't splurge when you have a lineup that's more than capable of scoring runs already. Jose Berrios gives them a durable, reliable, starter behind the 1-2 punch that is Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. Taylor Rogers anchors the setup role in the bullpen that can be safely handed over to Mark Melancon in the 9th. Hoarding prospects isn't really an option for a team that is so committed to winning and Aj Preller has never shied away from doing so. The Padres ease their pitching concerns with this deal.
Twins - Robert Hassell, Ryan Weathers, Justin Lange, Brayan Medina
The headliner for the Twins is outfielder Robert Hassell. MLB.com has him as the no. 62 prospect in all of baseball and he's going to sky rocket in upcoming years. Through 51 games at low A, "bobby barrels" as Padre fans refer to him as, owns a .379 OBP, .297 AVG, .843 OPS, and 19 stolen bags. This is also his first taste of pro ball, as he's only 19. Ryan Weathers isn't a bad no. 2 return in this deal either. The lefty has a 3.02 ERA through 10 starts and 16 games this year at the major league level and he's only 21. He works in the mid 90s with a solid curve and slider to back it up. Justin Lange is a 6'4, comp. round selection from 2020. Having a 65 grade fastball and wipeout slider, Lange may be more of a project but the potential if he reaches his ceiling is worth it. Brayan Medina is actually my favorite piece of this deal. Medina is a 6'1, 180lb, 18 year old who already is working in the mid 90s. He looks to have the control and delivery to stick as a starter. Similar to Lange, he may be a bit of a project but from a few reports I've read, some scouts think he could move through the system quickly with his advanced control.
These teams are desperate. It's not often the top starter on the trade market has control beyond this year. There also aren't too many controllable dominant lefty relievers laying around either.
Let me know what you guys think about these 2 options.
Dman reacted to Brock Beauchamp for a blog entry, Introducing Achievements!
Welcome to the brief rundown of Twins Daily’s newest feature, achievements! I’ve been waiting a *really* long time to roll this feature out to users and have spent a rather unhealthy amount of time developing it for the site. I hope you enjoy experiencing it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Achievements, or awards, or gamification… you’ve probably run into it before in other avenues of your digital life. Achievements are most common (and were largely born out of) the console video game world, beginning on the Xbox platform in the mid-2000s.
Basically, it boils down to this: do stuff, get (sometimes silly) awards and badges for doing it. Over the past month, I’ve designed over 60 custom badges that you can be awarded for performing sometimes mundane, other times complex, tasks across the Twins Daily platform. Comment on a post, get a badge. Write a blog post, get a badge. Vote on a poll, get a badge… you get the point. Do some of these tasks multiple times and sometimes (many times) you’ll get additional badges.
If you visit your user profile page, you’ll see it now looks different, with achievements being prominently displayed near the top.
With over 60 badges available right now, some of you older, veteran Twins Daily users will start accumulating achievements the moment you begin participating in various aspects of the site, as many (as many as possible, but not all) of the achievements are back-dated to the time you began using the site. So explore the site, try completing some random tasks like post a status update, and see if you get a badge for doing it!
As you "achieve" new things, on top of badges, you will also be awarded points. Once you hit certain milestones in points, you raise in rank (out of 14 ranks in total). In the image above, my rank is "draft eligible", the third rank you will achieve.
Here is a sampling of a few of the badges you can be awarded right now:
Some achievements will be won seemingly at random but I assure you, there is a specific set of items that awarded you the badge (and sometimes, those items need to be completed in a specific order). And some badges will be awarded manually for “exceptional” things done on the site. Those will be the hardest to collect and the rarest achievements available on Twins Daily.
And if anyone manages to get them all or one of the *really* difficult-to-uncover achievements, Twins Daily may have some special prizes available to users who can accomplish those rarest of feats on the site…
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Rooker Left Out on Opening Day
The Minnesota Twins finalized their 26-man roster today for the upcoming 2021 Major League Baseball season. If there was a mild surprise at all, it’s in the form of Brent Rooker being optioned to Triple-A.
Rooker, a former first round pick, played just seven games for the Twins last year prior to breaking his forearm. In that action he posted a .960 OPS and hit his first Major League home run. Alex Kirilloff was seen as the favorite to win the Opening Day left field job but didn’t earn it at the plate this spring. Rooker seemed like a platoon fit with Jake Cave as a fallback option, but he posted a .662 OPS that was weighed down after a hot start.
Instead of the former Mississippi State product, the Twins turn to waiver claim Kyle Garlick. The former Dodgers draft pick is 29 years old and has 76 Major League plate appearances across 42 games. He owns just a .691 OPS in that stretch but has raked to the tune of an .881 OPS in nearly 500 minor league games. This spring Garlick posted a 1.011 OPS for Minnesota and was arguably the darling of camp. He also represents a better fielding option than Rooker, who is below average in the outfield.
The tough reality here for Rooker is that his opportunities are quickly evaporating. He was drafted as a bat first prospect that could very quickly become bat only. Speed and efficiency aren’t in his toolkit defensively, so he’s stretched in the outfield. Footwork has been noted as a deficiency when playing first base so that could be a detractor there as well. Brent owns an .861 OPS in 259 minor league games and he posted a .933 OPS n 65 games at Triple-A back in 2019. The bat plays, but if not now, then when?
As mentioned earlier, Alex Kirilloff was the assumed favorite for left field coming into big league camp. He’s 23-years-old and a top prospect. While he’ll be sent down for roughly the first month of the season, Rocco Baldelli has noted it’s not the intention to bring him up and send him back or allow him to sit. Not far behind Kirilloff is another highly touted corner outfielder in the form of Trevor Larnach. Should Kirilloff eventually transition to first, Larnach could find himself next in line to take over.
It’s been apparent for some time that Rooker needed to factor in sooner rather than later. At 26 he’s hardly got youth on his side anymore, and while the bat certainly does look like it will play, it may just not work out in Minnesota. The Twins are going to be a good team in 2021, and good teams generally add more talent. Maybe it’s Rooker that is pieced out in order to lure something more useful for this roster construction. Either way, today was probably a difficult one to swallow for a guy that has already tasted some Major League success.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to Doctor Gast for a blog entry, Josh Donaldson's calves?
I've thought about writing this blog for some time now. I trust that Donaldson is surrounded by professionals so I've restrained myself from writing on this subject.
I'd like to start with personal testimony. A short time ago, I had a surgery and was bed ridden for some time. As soon as I went back to my walking. As usual I stretched out and started my walk. I started out with just a short walk but my calves and hamstrings cramped up like everything. I knew muscle cramps is a deficiency of magnesium. So I started to take magnesium supplements and the cramps went away immediately. Recently I reduced and eliminated taking supplements and my legs started to tighten up when I stretched out.
I'm sure Donaldson goes through a regiment of stretching, massages, soaking, use heavy duty calf supports and even most likely was tested for magnesium deficiency. But magnesium blood tests can be deceiving. Magnesium is necessary for proper cell development like muscle, nerve, bone etc. most Americans are deficient of it.
I don't recommend Donaldson to nurse his big calves with "milk of magnesium" (sorry I couldn't resist). But I do suggest maybe a magnesium cream, a magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) soak. Donaldson really works those calves so he might need to take magnesium supplements. Magnesium is normally safe but you can over do it so I recommend to consult his health care giver.
I'd really like to see him overcome this problem and be a super star with the Twins.
Dman reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Prospects number 125-150
https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/how-many-mlb-draftees-make-it-to-the-majors/ It would be nice to think that everyone signed to a baseball contract would see a day in the majors, but here is what this site has to say, "Over three days in early June, more than 1,200 players will have their long-time dreams come true. They will hear their names called as selections in the 2019 draft.
Of those more than 1,200 draftees, more than 900 players will agree to terms and sign contracts to become professional baseball players. With one dream fulfilled, they will set their sights on a bigger dream—becoming a major league player.
And for more than 700 of those 900 pro players, that dream will go unfulfilled.
In studying every draft since Baseball America began covering the draft in 1981, we wanted to answer a very simple question: how many players drafted in June’s MLB draft will eventually make it?
The answer is less than one in five. It’s too early to judge the 2011 to 2018 drafts, but from 1981-2010, 17.6 percent of players who were drafted and signed ended up making it to the majors.
Those odds vary dramatically depending on where a player is drafted. First-round picks can expect to reach the major leagues. First-round picks who don’t make it are the exception. From 1981 to 2010, 73 percent of first-round picks reached the majors. In 2004, only two of the 29 first-round picks who signed failed to make the majors—a 93 percent success rate that will be hard to beat.
But that success rate drops off quickly. By the second round, the rate of players who reach the majors dips to 51 percent. In the third round, 40 percent are eventually going to be major leaguers. From there it continues to steadily dip."
There are four minor league affiliates plus two short season teams for each MLB team now. In 2007 the average lifetime of a MLB career was 5.6 years. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070709131254.htm
"Early in the talks between MLB and MiLB, MLB discussed a roughly 150-player limit for teams’ domestic minor league rosters. Players playing in the Dominican Republic would not be subject to this limit. MLB teams are already limited to two clubs in the Dominican Summer League.
A 150-domestic player limit would ensure each MLB team would be limited to one U.S. complex-based team in the Gulf Coast or Arizona leagues. When you include players on the injured list, restricted list and other non-active players, a 150-player limit would mean MLB teams have no choice other than to field only five domestic minor league teams—four full-season clubs plus one complex team. One size fits all." https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/mlb-expected-to-expand-milb-player-limit-for-full-season-clubs/#:~:text=When%20you%20include%20players%20on,clubs%20plus%20one%20complex%20team.
Of course MLB has continuously underpaid the players in the minors and (I think) overpaid those in the majors.
So who are those prospects at the bottom of the 150 player limit? And why do they hang on? Love of the game? No marketable skills? MLB needs them to fill the roster and they should pay them.
Who are the ten players in Elizabethtown who played the fewest games and what do we expect from them? In AAA there were 7 position players over 30 years old, and seven pitchers in the same age range. What do we expect them to do? I do not mind that we have these older players still chasing their dream, in fact I like it, but MLB is cutting them out, cutting teams, cutting dreams.
I enjoy the lists that TD writers put up, but I wonder about the bottom 20. Those who have no chance, but love the game and love the opportunity. They need to be recognized too. When MLB cut the minor league teams these underpaid, under appreciated ball players were the ones who suffered. One year of Trevor Bauer's salary would keep them employed for the rest of the century.
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, The Twins Earn Their “A”
And there was much rejoicing…Remember when the Chicago White Sox won the AL Central back in December 2020? Unfortunately for them, the Minnesota Twins have a few tricks still up their sleeve. Now days before Spring Training is set to commence, the reigning champs are positioned for a repeat.
After signing Nelson Cruz and Alex Colome to deals for the upcoming season, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have all but put a bow on their winter spending. I’d still think a pact with Tyler Clippard or a reliever in the $2 million range could make sense, as does a trade or non-roster invite for some starting pitching. No matter what happens from here on out though, the Fightin’ Baldelli’s are ready to go.
Continuing to view this organization through the lens of Terry Ryan and Bill Smith regimes has been a fool’s errand for some time now. It’s been the blueprint of Falvey and Levine to be calculated, risk averse, and strike where opportunity is deemed to match projectability.
Andrelton Simmons is not someone’s leftovers, and Josh Donaldson allowed Minnesota a new high-water mark in free agent history. Colome comes in above the bottom of the relief market, and both Happ and Cruz look like team-friendly deals in the landscape of their peers.
The Twins didn’t go out and sign George Springer or Trevor Bauer this offseason, but they didn’t need to. This is already a club that had all of the pieces for a deep run, and reality suggests they just need to get out of their own way. Anything can happen in a short series, which is why winning a World Series in incredibly tough. That said, you should continue to expect Postseason appearances often into the foreseeable future.
Today it was announced that 28% of Hammond Stadium will host fans for Spring Training, the players are just days from arriving, and we’re soon going to hear “play ball!” Minnesota is ready to make noise in the American League, and there isn’t a team in the National League that should be licking their chops come October either.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to Danchat for a blog entry, 2021 Prospect Rankings: 9-16
Continuing on from Part 2:
#16 - Blayne Enlow RHP (3rd Round 2017, HS)
Enlow has had a very average minor league career so far. He throws 4 different pitches, which gives him an edge to be a starting pitcher, but his K/BB ratio (2.39) leaves a lot to be desired. He averages 92 MPH but can touch 95-96 on occasion. Enlow still has time to take a big step forward, and a good 2021 season could vault him into the top 10.
#15 - Edwar Colina RHP (International from Venezuela, 2016)
Ignore his bad outing in the final game of the 2020 season, I think Colina has a bright future, albeit as a reliever. His fastball can reach up to 100 MPH, and in combination with a strong slider, he was able to average about a strikeout an inning. Walks have been a problem for him, with a career 3.9 BB/9. He found more success in 2019 once he mostly ditched his changeup, though if he could bring that back, his repertoire would be all the more stronger. Colina should bounce between AAA and the MLB team in 2021, with the hope that he can figure things out like Jorge Alcala did in 2020.
#14 - Misael Urbina CF (International from Venezuela, 2018)
Urbina gets the nod over the other top [internal] international prospects after he had a strong 2019 in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .825 OPS. Urbina is ahead of most other prospects his age (he'll turn 19 soon), as scouts praise his plate discipline and hand-eye coordination. If he can develop power later on, he should jump up into the top 5. He was a base-stealing threat as well, but it's questionable if he'll continue to be such a fast runner after he puts on more muscle.
#13 - Keoni Cavaco 3B (1st Round 2019, HS)
Many considered Cavaco to be a reach in the draft at pick #13, and his play in rookie league only confirmed this for some. Cavaco hit .470 OPS with a dreadful 38% strikeout rate. Hope should not be abandoned for the young infielder, as many project him to have a 55 to 60 power ranking, and he's working on accessing this power. He's also blazing fast, having enough quickness to play SS, but is currently error-prone. Cavaco needs to get his career on the right path with a strong 2021 season.
#12 - Cole Sands RHP (5th Round 2018, Florida State)
Sands has dealt with some injury issues, but when he's healthy, he deals. He had a quality fastball that touches 95/96 and mixes in a curveball that might be the best in our system. He turned in a strong 2019 season, posting a 2.68 ERA in 18 starts with healthy K/BB numbers. Sands turns 24 in 2021, and needs to pitch a whole season (likely at AA) to prove himself as a starting pitcher. He could challenge for a spot in the 2022 rotation if all goes well.
#11 - Matt Canterino RHP (2nd Round 2019, Rice)
We haven't seen a full season in the minors from Canterino yet, but the scouts are raving about him. He's recently developed a nasty changeup that complements his strong fastball, which has already seen an increase in speed since his college days. He's going to be getting strikeouts by the dozens, if his track record is anything to go by. Canterino is still a ways away, and for pitching prospects, I don't count chickens until the eggs are close to hatch.
#10 - Gilberto Celesinto CF (International from , acquired in 2018 trade)
Unquestionably the best outfielder defensively on the prospect ranking, Celestino boasts a 60-60 run and fielding toolset and could be an elite defender in CF. As you might expect, his bat has been a bit shaky in the minors, as his 2019 season ran hot and cold - his first half was dismal, but his second half was stupendous. He won't be a power hitter in the big leagues, but he did knock out 10 HRs. Celestino profiles as a CF in the same vein as Kevin Kiermaier or Kevin Pillar.
#9 - Aaron Sabato 1B (1st Round 2020, North Carolina)
The Twins just can't resist a good hitting prospect, no matter how their caliber of athleticism. Sabato, the Twins' latest 1st rounder, crushed the ACC conference at college as he had a crazy .332/.459/.708 line. That's only over 368 career PAs, however. He's already rated as a 60 power hitter, meaning he could be a 30+ HRs a year guy. The problem will be what position he plays... it's either going to be 1B or DH. He's already a hefty guy and will need to learn how to play 1B. I don't mind having a pure hitting prospect like this, there's just a few too many of them just like him for my taste.
Dman reacted to Danchat for a blog entry, 2021 Prospect Rankings: 17-24
Continuing on from part 1:
#24 - Gabriel Maciel CF (International from Brazil, acquired in 2018 trade)
The second best prospect acquired in the Escobar trade, Maciel is a speedy outfielder who loves to spray singles all around the field. He's a frequent base stealer who's capable of swiping 20+ a year, but gets caught more often than he should. He has a career .288 average in the minors and will rarely strike out, but the downside is that he has little power. Not just a lack of HRs, but also 2Bs and 3Bs. He profiles as a 4th OF who will be useful as a pinch hitter, defensive replacement, and pinch runner.
#23 - Luis Rijo RHP (Acquired in 2018 trade)
Rijo jumped onto the scene after a great 2019 season as he posted a 2.86 ERA over 19 starts at single A Cedar Rapids. Sporting a WHIP of nearly 1.0 and a healthy 8.3 K/9, Rijo's fastball touches 95 and his secondary pitches are rated well. Scouts have critisized the 'hitability' of his fastball and deemed his curveball to be too predictable, which probably factors into why he was passed up in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. He's still got time to improve his pitches and build more innings in the minors to try and become a #4/5 starter. Unlike other pitching prospects, he doesn't strike me as a future reliever, unless he becomes a long reliever.
#22 - Nick Gordon SS/2B (1st Round 2014, HS)
Gordon has had a long and drawn out minor league career, but seemed to be heading towards the majors in 2019 once being added to the 40 man roster, but a leg injury prevented that (he was a near lock to at least be called up in September). He then had a long bout with COVID in 2020 and never even made it to the alternate site. He's now 25 and has just one option left, but remains on the roster. His minor league track record isn't bad, as he's been a decent pure hitter (.276 average), but he never developed any power and will likely end up like his older brother Dee - a sub .700 OPS hitter. To provide value he'll need to become a strong defensive player, but he's also got a shaky track record as a fielder and might end up as a second baseman. All in all, Gordon will likely settle into a utility role if he can crack the majors.
#21 - Spencer Steer 2B (3rd Round 2019, Oregon)
Steer had a quality debut in 2019, hitting .949 OPS at Elizabethton and went to single A Cedar Rapids and hit for .358 OPS (.745 OPS). He handled 3B and 2B primarily, and doesn't seem likely to play SS. The Twins will need to figure out how to develop his power, after hitting just 12 HRs in 3 years at Oregon (and 4 in the minors so far). The scouts seem to believe that there is potential for more pop in his bat, and that would elevate him into a top 15 spot if he could.
#20 - Ben Rortvedt C (2nd Round 2016, HS)
Ben seems destined to be a long-term backup catcher in the big leagues. Scouts rave about his defensive capabilities behind the plate, consistently blocking balls in the dirt, pitching frame, and throwing out runners. He's also go the potential to hit a few HRs and will take plenty of walks. The main problem is that he's a mediocre hitter, likely doomed to be a .210-.230 hitter in the majors. MLB teams will put up with that if he's as good defensively as the scouts say.
#19 - Wander Javier SS (International from Dominican Republic, 2016)
The Twins poured $4M into Javier in 2016, and the returns don't look good so far. After hitting well in Elizabethton in 2017, Javier missed 2018 with an injury, and turned in a very poor 2019 season at Cedar Rapids. Javier needed a rebound year in 2020 to get back on track, and now he's already Rule 5 eligible despite having just 552 professional PAs. Javier should be better than a .177 hitter, and has a skillset that should play at SS, but his time is running out. He needs several years in the minors just to get back on track, but if he could, he's got the potential to be a top 5 prospect. Everyone below him on the rankings doesn't have close to the ceiling Javier does.
#18 - Travis Blankenhorn 2B/3B (3rd Round 2015, HS)
Like many other prospects in this system, Blankenhorn's strength is hitting the ball hard, and is a bit on the chunky side. Splitting most of his time between 2B, 3B, and LF (he stopped playing 3B at AA, though), Travis took a step forward in 2019 at AA and crushed 19 HRs with a nice .278 average. He doesn't take a lot of walks, and his strikeout rate isn't a big concern. He's on the slower side, and would likely be a liability at 3B and LF. He's got the bat to play 2B, and he's probably ready to get his first big chance (he got into 1 game with the Twins in 2020). Expect to see him on the bench and play a bit in Marwin Gonzalez's old role when injuries inevitably hit.
#17 - Jose Miranda 3B (2nd Round 2016, HS)
Miranda is the last player on this list to have been passed over in the Rule 5 Draft. He boasts a solid set of tools but nothing splashy - he looks the part to handle 3B, but his bat has never quite developed. In almost 600 PAs at Fort Myers, he hit just .659 OPS. Scouts think there's potential for more power (just 8 HRs in 2019) and multiple sources lauded his bat speed and swing, but so far he's been unable to realize his potential. He needs to take a big step forward if he's going to want to become a starter in the big leagues.
Dman reacted to Allen Post for a blog entry, Why Are We So Down on Luis Arraez?
Think back to October 2019 – the Twins had just gotten pantsed in the playoffs. Again. A really fun season had ended in disappointment. Again. But there was still ample reason for hope. One such reason for optimism was the emergence of Luis Arraez, a rookie contact-hitting savant. Now, one (odd) season later, and we’re in about the same place. The Twins are fresh off another fun season that ended in postseason embarrassment, but this year, we’re much less excited about the 23-year-old second baseman. And for what? All Arraez did in 2020 was fight through injury to hit for a .321 batting average (best on the team) and a .364 on-base percentage (second best) while playing a decent second base. So why are some Twins fans throwing his name into every possible trade deal or into a platoon with whoever ends up as Minnesota’s utility man? Hasn’t Arraez earned himself a spot in the Twins future?
Okay, obviously saying that Arraez “fought through injury” to bat .321 is a fairly rose-tinted way of looking at what Luis brought to the Twins last year. To put it a different way, “Arraez was an injury liability and, when he was in the lineup, he regressed in all major stat categories and offered very little in the way of power.” The truth about Arraez is somewhere in between these two takes, but I’ve heard a lot more extreme pessimism than optimism. Yes, he regressed last year and no, he doesn’t help the team when he’s injured, but we’ve found ways to excuse nearly every other Twin for those same exact problems without casting them off as trade bait (I’m looking at you, Garver and Buxton). Also, Arraez’s “regression” brought him down to a .321 average that would’ve been good for third-best in the American League if he had enough at-bats to qualify. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still a pretty good season.
Arraez's 2020 campaign was disappointing, but there's reason for hope going forward
I understand that, nowadays, you often have to do more than just hit at a high average to be a solid MLB player, but worry not, because Arraez actually improved slightly in a number of more telling advanced statistics last season. His 2020 campaign saw him improve in average exit velocity, sweet spot percentage and hard hit percentage, per Baseball Savant. None of these improvements was particularly significant and he’s by no means excelling in any of these categories, but it’s clear by looking at the advanced metrics that Arraez is not getting worse at the plate. In fact, it seems that his 2020 season should have been even better than his breakout rookie year.
So why did it feel disappointing? Because we were hoping for that second-year leap and we got a regression to the mean instead. Arraez’s improvement in advanced hitting metrics and regression in average and OBP show us that his rookie year was a statistical outlier more than it was a stepping stone to even greater success in the future. Still, if .321 is the mean he regressed towards, Twins fans ought to be excited, especially considering that he was injured and is still only 23. We’ve written off much worse pandemic performances from healthier and more experienced guys, so let’s afford Arraez some of that forgiveness.
Unfortunately, ZiPS (and every other projection service) doesn’t seem to be helping me make my case. They predict a slash line of .313/.371/.406 for his third year in the bigs. On the surface, this looks worse than it is because Arraez’s average is projected to take another hit, but ZiPS actually projects that .313 mark to lead the majors. They have his on-base and slugging numbers improving, too, so, really, they’re not down on Arraez at all. Even if Arraez does level out as a .313 hitter – and I think he’ll be better than that long-term – adding some power and taking more walks would be a massive improvement for his career and for the Twins lineup. And I believe he can make those improvements because, again, he’s only 23.
ZiPS projects a .313/.371/.406 slash line for Arraez in 2021
So, where does that leave us? I saw the regression from his rookie year (we all did) and no, his 2020 year wasn’t what we hoped for, but Arraez is still a great asset for the Twins moving forward. I believe in his contact hitting that has been the best on the team and I believe in the advanced metrics that show his improvements in other areas. Most of all, though, I believe in the player. Arraez has hit .300 at every level of professional baseball, and is the same age or younger than some of the Twins’ top minor-league prospects. He’s already a great hitter and he has a lot of opportunity for growth ahead of him. Luis Arraez may very well win a batting title soon, and the Twins better make sure he does it in a Minnesota jersey.
Dman reacted to Jamie Cameron for a blog entry, Hansel Robles: The Beginning of the Bullpen Rebuild
The day the Padres officially announced their status as contenders by officially landing Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, the Twins countered with their own power move for, *squints at notes*, Hansel Robles. Jokes aside, Twins fans should be encouraged that an initial move has been made to deepen a bullpen losing several key 2020 cornerstones. What should we make of Robles, his stuff, his profile, and his fit?
Robles had a dire 2020 that should be largely thrown out as his 317 recorded pitches amounted to less than one third of any of his other five MLB seasons besides his debut year.
Robles is a mostly 3 pitch righty, with a hard fastball with some decent ride that sits 95-97mph. Robles fastball was his undoing in 2020, with opposing hitters lighting it up to the tune of a .667 SLG, with a bloated BaBIP that should normalize with a 900ish pitch sample in 2021.
Robles' other two pitches are likely what the Twins hope to capitalize on. He throws a changeup around 35% of the time (often to lefties) and a slider around 12% of the time, mostly to righties. While the Twins are becoming known as a slider loving organization, it's Robles’ changeup which has been his most effective pitch, holding opposing hitters to a wRC+ of 11 on the pitch in 2019, by far his best year, and 86 in a very poor 2020. Expect the Twins to tinker with his pitch mix significantly, as they have with other bullpen additions in recent years.
While Robles isn’t someone to write to your momma about, he’s not a scrapheap guy either. He’s a solid MLB pitcher with a 5 year track record. He essentially offered a 1st percentile season in 2020 and a 99th percentile season in 2019. In 2021 he should be good for 50ish innings (season length dependent) of work in low to mid leverage spots. While perhaps underwhelming given some of the other moves made around MLB yesterday, Robles pitch mix gives him the versatility to throw to just about anyone, and he offers solid upside in a bullpen severely lacking in depth. Over to you Wes Johnson.
Dman reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Randy Dobnak defies the odds
Not sure why, but Randy Dobnak got me thinking about the odds of ever being a major league player. According to MLB stats there have been 18, 918 to play in the majors since 1871. I do not know if that is accurate – who does? Does it include the Negro leagues? Does it include the female league? No those last two are not included. It does not include the independent or the minor leagues, but even if it did it still represents such a small percentage of the population. There are 328.2 million people in the US according to the census. If all of the players who ever played in MLB were playing now they would still be just 5.7% of the population and we have a game that draws from all over the world. Out of this group 333 are in the hall of fame – 1.8%. It is a demanding game.
Only 21 players have gone from drafted to the majors with no stop in the minors. When MLB heartlessly cancelled the minor league season there were 160 teams and towns impacted and about 8000 players. In the majors there are 30 teams and 60 players on their lists 1800 total. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/sports/baseball/minor-league-baseball-season-canceled.html
I try to imagine how many players are let go or retire and how many are signed each year. Baseball America https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/how-many-mlb-draftees-make-it-to-the-majors/ says that about 900 players are signed each year. Since they do not create new leagues for them we must also lose 900 a year. Wow – talk about crashed dreams. The same article said, “from 1981-2010, 17.6 percent of players who were drafted and signed ended up making it to the majors.” And “Only 9.8 percent of draftees who signed have managed to register 0.1 career WAR, which is roughly 83 players per season.”
What about undrafted players? There will be many more this year with the aborted draft that was held. I cannot find a number for all the undrafted players – of course before the draft everyone was in that category. But I did find this list that includes our own Dan Gladden and HOF pitcher Bruce Sutter and HOF outfielder Larry Walker - https://www.mlb.com/cut4/best-undrafted-players-in-mlb-history-c278967168 plus some more really good players.
Which brings me to my final stat – there are 750,000 Uber drivers in the US and we have only one former driver in the big leagues – Randy Dobnak. Think of those odds – 1/750,000 and then 5.7% of the current US population having ever made the majors.
Hat’s off to Randy. Enjoy every pitch. The ride might turn into pumpkins eventually, but he is already among the luckiest and most achieving.
Dman reacted to Martin Schlegel for a blog entry, Perfecting his swing: A look at Max Kepler's start to 2020
After his two-homer game to begin the season, Max Kepler said he wanted to be more aggressive at the plate. On Tuesday, in an extremely rare 1 p.m. game, Kepler showed a patient side to his approach, drawing four walks in five plate appearances but no at-bats.
Normally 10 to 12 games into the season, there’s at least some pause as to whether we’ve seen enough to make a judgment on how well someone is playing.
This isn’t your normal season.
By now the importance of each game in this 60-game season has been overstated. Each game means more to the team that wins. Well, here the Minnesota Twins are 11 games, 9-2 overall, into a 60-game season. Kepler has played in 10 of the team’s 11 games. To put in perspective, roughly six more 10-game stretches and the regular season is over.
Now is it not too early dissect Kepler’s performance without it being “too small of a sample size” relative to the length of the season.
Kepler’s Scouting Report
Last season, Kepler made headlines by hitting five home runs in five consecutive at-bats against current Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer. In April, Bauer released a video breaking down Kepler’s at-bats.
Bauer shows early in the video what the scouting report was for pitching Kepler. Throughout the video the scouting report remains the same and he references it many times.
Bauer mentions the report says anything above the line must be a fastball. Anything below the line and on the outer half of the plate must be off-speed. Additionally, do not throw anything to Kepler in the circled area.
Capitalizing on Missed Locations
It would appear that scouting report remains accurate as Kepler has turned on thigh-high fastballs on the inner portion of the plate.
His first and second home runs, both off Lucas Giolito, were near identical fastballs. Giolito missed his spot on each pitch. Wanting to stay away with the fastball, he missed right in the zone Bauer alluded to as a danger zone to Kepler.
Kepler took Cleveland pitcher Mike Clevinger deep for his third home run of the season. Similar to Giolito, it appeared as Clevinger’s target was low and away but he missed over the plate just above the knees.
Later in the Cleveland series, Kepler lined a breaking ball to right field for a double off Aaron Civale.
After the victory on Opening Day, Kepler said in The Athletic, “you’ve got to rely on yourself and your confidence to get a good swing off.”
Whether it is a fastball or off-speed, lefty or righty, Kepler has been more aggressive in early counts. Via Baseball Savant, his first-pitch swing percentage is 67.4 while his overall swing percentage is 43.9. He’s also making solid contact more frequently, hitting 13.3 percent solidly, nearly double than each of his previous two seasons (7.5 percent).
When Kepler makes solid contact he’s rotating the hips toward the pitcher first; keeping a stiff front leg and his arms level to the ball at about the same angle.
On all of Kepler’s hits in 2020, and even some of his outs, he’s had all three parts activate in his swing.
On Tuesday against the Pirates, Kepler showed how locked in he was by seeing 28 pitches in five plate appearances which included four walks. He saw nine strikes and missing only one. On the only pitch Kepler put in play, again his hips rotated straight toward the pitcher while his hands followed on the same angle as the ball.
Kepler has swung the bat with a purpose, even if he’s been more aggressive. In the last week his OPS has skyrocketed from a mere .667 to a sizzling .943.
Taking a stroll through MLB’s vast video library, when Kepler struggles his hands come through too early he tends to make weak contact or swing and miss completely.
In past seasons, Kepler was too passive. Last year, he broke out at the plate by being more aggressive and hunting fastballs low. This season it appears he's realized what pitches he can drive and in the process, keeping his swing consistent.
Clearly he's confident in his swing though as he has been the Twins second best hitter to start the season.
Dman reacted to Bashwood12 for a blog entry, Top 20 Twins Prospects
I always know that baseball season is quickly approaching when I see all of the prospect lists coming out. It is always entertaining to read differing opinions about the same guy. At the end of the day, prospect lists are always a crapshoot. That being said, they can still be entertaining and informative, especially if the person conducting the list is plugged in with scouts who have seen the player or have seen the player live. Unfortunately, this is not one of those prospect lists. I have seen a handful of these guys live and have seen some of them on TV, but I am not an authority on prospects. That will not keep me from telling you my opinion though, so strap in.
Before reading the list, I wanted to tell you my overall philosophy on valuing prospects. I am of the opinion that, in a vacuum, position prospects are more valuable that pitching prospects. I know what you are thinking. But Mr. bashwood12, pitching is half the game and pitching is always a vital factor in the postseason. First of all, Mr. bashwood12 was my father; you can call me Bash. More importantly, pitching prospects are incredibly volatile and, even surefire pitching prospects get hurt and miss time. Injury risk is an important factor in my rankings. I do not completely devalue pitching, but if everything is even between a pitcher and a position player, I am choosing the position player every day.
Another factor is my rankings is floor vs. ceiling. A guy like Wander Javier has a very high ceiling, but his floor is, well, incredibly low (see his 2019 season). I value known commodities, or at least commodities with less variance, than I do the complete unknown like Javier. Please keep this is mind when looking at my rankings.
1. Alex Kirilloff
Dude can mash. Watching him this spring training has been eye opening as he appears to have a good deal of power the other way. He ended the year healthy and he started hitting for more power. His 2018 season was incredible and I believe this guy could be an average right fielder while hitting over .300 with 25-30 homers. That is a top-flight player and I think there could be more power there as he gets older. Even if he ends up at first base, that would still be a great player. I also think he is a year away at the most.
2. Royce Lewis
I am a little less bullish on Lewis than most, but the ceiling is sky high. He moves well and, at worst, should be a top flight defender in center. At best, he is an above average short stop. Defensively, I like the variance. However, the offense scares me. He may be the fastest guy in the organization not named Byron Buxton, but there is a lot of moving parts to his swing. The high leg kick is part of it, but he is moving his hands a lot before the swing as well. It is easy to get away with some of that stuff in the lower levels, especially for a guy this talented. However, he is starting to face better competition and I do not believe it is pure coincidence he had a down year. That being said, he did well in the Arizona Fall League and I work in insurance. What do I know?
I think Lewis could be a perennial All-Star if he can quiet things down at the plate. The kid obviously has a great work ethic and everyone seems to love him as a person. Sky is the limit for him, but I really think making the leg kick less pronounced and keeping his hands quiet before the pitch could help him.
3. Trevor Larnach
I was contemplating putting Larnach at #2, but I did want the 9 people who read this to get upset with me. His spring training at -bats (I know, I know, it is just spring training) have been great and he really looks like he belongs. He does not appear to be a bad athlete, but I know Keith Law called him "lumbering". I have not seen much of him in the outfield yet, but it looks like the consensus is an average at best left fielder. Larnach is going to live and die with his hit and power tools. The hit tool looks fantastic thus far. He is not afraid to go the other way and has had high batting averages this far in the minors. He also appears to have a good eye at the plate with the high OBP. The power tool is what is going to separate Larnach from a good prospect to a great prospect, and I believe the power will come, even if it is at the expense of the batting average some. I also think Larnach might be the best Twins prospect that is most likely to get traded with Kepler, Buxton and Kirilloff looking like the outfield of the future.
4. Jhoan Duran
Power pitcher who is getting 57% ground ball rate and averaging close to 11 strikeouts per 9 innings in high A and AA? Sign me up. If he can keep developing the changeup to deploy against lefties, he could be a stud. Worst case, he looks like a mid-rotation guy to me or a late inning reliever. I do not see him having to go to relief as he will be 22 years old this year and has already had some success in AA.
5. Jordan Balazovic
I think the ceiling is higher for Balazovic than Duran overall. However, Balazovic has never thrown more than 100 innings in a season, so I can not, in good conscience, put him higher than this. It looks like he is growing into his body and the velocity is starting to present itself. There may be some more velocity to gain and he has some complimentary pitches already. If he can keep developing, this is a guy who could eventually be a solid number 2 starter.
6. Ryan Jeffers
I have watched several at-bats from him this Spring and I think I may be bad luck for him. I am pretty sure he has struck out every at-bat I have watched. However, it looks like his timing is off right now, so I am not concerned. Jeffers plays a premium position and will most likely be called upon to shoulder some of the catching load as soon as next year. From everything that has been discussed online, it sounds like his defense has really improved. The bat seems like it will be good enough to be a starting catcher, which is good because it does not look good enough thus far to carry him if he were a first basement, corner outfielder or DH. If you can play good defense at catcher while hitting .250 with some power, you are at least an average regular, if not more. His floor looks like that of a backup catcher, which would be still be valuable.
7. Matt Canterino
Canterino looks like a guy who will fly through the Twins system if he can stay healthy. If he can, looks like a power pitcher that can kick it up a notch if he can develop a changeup. Mid-rotation starter is the ceiling, but looks like another guy who could be a bullpen stud if starting does not work out.
8. Keoni Cavaco
There is so much variance here, but the talent is hard to deny. Everyone seems to think he will stay on the left side of the infield, but remains to be seen if that will be SS or 3B. Rookie ball was a bit of a struggle, but it is tough transition to go from high school to the pros (not to mention a metal bat to a wood bat). This guy seems like a project, but one that could pay huge dividends down the line. I am very curious to see how he does in short season ball this year.
9. Gilberto Celestino
I am a huge fan of this young man. Plays excellent defense at a premium position (CF) and appears to put the barrel on the ball at a high rate. It also appears he has some OBP skills as well. He has looked good in spring training and appears there may be some power there as he gets older. He may never hit 20 homers a year, but he could get to double digits while being a doubles machine, while getting on base and playing good to great defense. That sounds like a average regular or better to me.
10. Blayne Enlow
Enlow is a guy who seems like he could blow up just like Balazovic did as a prospect. High school pitcher who is still growing into his body/velocity, I do want to see Enlow get more innings before I move him up any further. Twins are bringing him along a little faster than Balazovic, so that gives me some optimism that he may be a bit more advanced that some other high school pitchers at this stage.
11. Lewis Thorpe
Feels like Thorpe should be 35 years old as it seems he has been around forever. We finally got a nice glimpse of his future last year and he was a little up and down. The peripherals were solid, even if the ERA was not, but I was a little concerned with his control/command. I think Thorpe is a nice back end piece for the Twins and will continue to provide quality innings for a cheap price, which is so valuable to an organization like the Twins (rather than pay 10 million a year to a fourth starter year after year).
12. Misael Urbina
There is a lot to dream on here. The OBP skills appear to be prodigious, as it is very rare to see a 16 year old kid walk more than they strikeout in pro baseball. Aaron Gleeman wrote that several teams tried to get him at the trade deadline, but the Twins would not budge, so they obviously think highly of the kid. This is a guy who could fly up prospect lists over the next few years. I can't wait to see how he does this year stateside.
13. Chris Vallimont
I am scouting the stat line a bit with Vallimont, but he has big strikeout numbers while keeping the walks under control. The fact the Twins parted with Lewin Diaz to get a few months or Romo and Vallimont tells me the Twins really like Vallimont, considering Romo is a good, but old, reliever who was a pending free agent. Sounds like a guy who can work up in the zone, which is a skill the Twins seem to covet right now. I imagine he starts in AA, which will be the real litmus test for how good of a prospect he is.
14. Randy Dobnak
I have a man-crush on Dobnak. He is a great story, going from undrafted free agent to the majors in just a few years. He added a one seam fast ball and things really took off for him. It looks like he throws a heavy ball, meaning it looks like there is some downward action right before it reaches the catcher. This can cause a lot of ground balls and weak contact. He also seems to have pretty good control. I enjoy watching him pitch. I think he can be a solid mid-rotation guy for the Twins for years. I think Thorpe has the higher ceiling, but I think Dobnak is a better pitcher currently
15. Brent Rooker
It is about to be sink or swim time for Rooker. Watching him in the outfield is an adventure and first base is going to be blocked by Sano for the foreseeable future. Rooker plays defense in the OF like a future DH, so he will need to have a big bat to be a viable major leaguer. The strikeout rate is concerning, but the dude can mash when he makes contact and has some OBP skills. I have a hard time seeing Rooker as a full time starter at DH because I do not think he will make enough contact. Is a .230/.320/.475 slash line with close to 200 strikeouts palatable for a starting DH? I do not think it is, and I think that is Rooker's ceiling.
16. Edwar Colina
I like the velocity and I am kind of hoping the Twins leave him as a starter this year. I doubt they will as I think Colina pitches for the Twins in the bullpen this year, provided he is healthy. Anyone with a triple digit fastball and a hard breaking plus slider may not need a third pitch in relief, so Colina looks to have the floor of a good relief pitcher. However, if he can develop something off speed for the lefties, even like a Sergio Romo caliber changeup (i.e., just good enough), he could be a starter.
17. Cole Sands
I like Sands alot as I think his floor is that of a mid to back of the rotation. I think his ceiling is not much higher, but he seems like a very safe bet to make the majors as starting pitcher. However, he needs to stay healthy to do that. He had some injury issues in college and missed some time last year, which is concerning. I think, if Sands remains healthy, he will be in the Twins rotation within the next 2-3 years.
18. Akil Baddoo
I like the OBP skills, the speed, and the power he has at such a young age. I do not like the low batting averages, weak arm, and the injury history to date. He is still young, so there is still a chance he can improve the hit tool. However, I just am not a fan of guys who have low batting averages and great on base skills unless they have alot of power.
19. Matt Wallner
We have already seen Wallner hit a walk-off homer this spring and throw a runner out on the base paths from the OF. Dude has a cannon for an arm and looks like he has amazing power and good OBP skills. First taste of pro ball did not show great contact skills, which is concerning for a guy who has been in college for 3-4 years. We will see how he does this year.
20. Nick Gordon
I think you are looking at the Twins utility man next year, unless his offense completely falls off a cliff this year. He had a decent season last year at the plate and can play multiple positions, including shortstop. Adrianza is a free agent next year. Gordon would make a decent, cheap replacement for Adrianza next season. Not what we were hoping for when Gordon was drafted, but I think he is a sure fire major leaguer.
Dman reacted to jorgenswest for a blog entry, Two Wild Cards: Luis Gil and Dakota Chalmers
In the spring of 2018 the Twins traded Luis Gil for Jake Cave. At the time of the trade Luis Gil had been in the Twin organization since 2015. He had thrown 65 innings over those three years with 73 strike outs and 46 walks. He did not pitch due to a shoulder injury in 2016 and had yet to pitch in rookie ball. He did not make Seth Stoh's 2018 prospect handbook. He did have a big fastball.
In July of that season the Twins traded Fernando Rodney for Dakota Chalmers. Chalmers was injured at the time of the trade. He had been in the Yankee organization since 2015. He had thrown 121 innings over those years with 137 strikeouts and 91 walks. He would not pitch due to Tommy John surgery in 2018 and had yet to pitch above Low A.
They have some similarities.
They both had injuries that caused them to lose a season.
They both had big strike out and walk numbers early on.
They both needed to be put on the 40 man roster this off season and start their options clock.
Keith Law ranked Luis Gil as the Yankees 14th prospect writing...
He was ranked 5th in the MLB pipeline and 10th by Fangraphs.
Keith Law ranked Dakota Chalmers as the 19th best prospect writing...
He was ranked 23rd in the MLB pipeline and unranked by Fangraphs.
Here is a recent article on Chalmers from Baseball America following his successful AFL season.
Both have significant command issues as shown. Both look to be relievers. Luis Gil will be 22 this year and likely needs to start in High A where he has only three games of experience. He has three options to figure out the strike zone and gain experience at the higher levels. Dakota Chalmers is 23. He will likely start in AA. He also has three options to gain command of his pitches.
The Twins acquired Jake Cave for Luis Gil. He has given the 2.3 fWAR as their 4th outfielder in two seasons. The Twins have 4 more seasons of control.
The Twins traded Fernando Rodney to acquire Dakota Chalmers. They gave up control through 2019. Rodney netted -0.1 fWAR for the A's before he was released and then part of the Nationals World Series team (0.5 fWAR).
Would you trade Chalmers for Gil today?
Chalmers is closer. He might help in the pen this year if the Twins went that direction with him. Gil will likely start the year in high A and still be given the chance to be a starter. His value to the Yankees would be to show better control in the first half as a starter and then moving him at the deadline. Gil is further away with a history of shoulder trouble. Any injury set back and it is hard to imagine that he will be ready before his options run out. I will be interested in where they both start and whether Chalmers is in the pen or rotation.
I would probably trade Chalmers for Gil. I like the upside of that arm and the possibility of having that trade piece at the deadline. Chalmers may be ready to help this year though. I see them both in a similar place as pitchers with a history of arm trouble, swing and miss stuff and command issues. They both need spots on the 40. In the moments when I regret the trade of Gil for Cave I need to remember appreciating the acquiring Chalmers for Rodney.
Dman reacted to Cody Pirkl for a blog entry, Opinion/Rant: Don't Give Another Dime for Maeda
Late last night we heard rumblings of a deal held up due to a questionable physical between the players exchanged with the Dodgers, Red Sox and Twins. This morning we found this to be true, as Ken Rosenthal confirmed. The deal is currently in limbo, as we wait to find out the next step between the teams exchanging Mookie Betts, David Price, Kenta Maeda and Brusdar Graterol.
Rosenthal reports today that the physical in question is that of Brusdar Graterol's. What is truly ridiculous is the wording given behind the hold up. Essentially Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox have decided that they see Graterol as a reliever long term. Totally fine. What's the next step the Red Sox take however? Of course, they're asking for more.
Graterol was already reported to be Boston's number one prospect if the deal went through. The 21 year old flamethrower hovered around the 3-5 mark in the Twins system. They also received Alex Verdugo, a 23 year old who put up 2.2 wins in only 106 games last season. It may not seem like a lot for Mookie Betts and David Price, but Boston stands to lose Bett's for nothing but a draft pick. As for Price, his injury history is arguably worse than Graterol's, with the difference being that he's 34 and owed almost $100m over the next 3 years, all to be paid by the Dodgers if the deal goes through.
The Red Sox have watched teams around them improve all offseason. Meanwhile, it seems that their goal has been to offload Betts. They even brought the Twins in on it to be a third team to make things work. They likely identified a piece they wanted in return, ultimately being Graterol. His injury history was public knowledge up to this point. The Twins even announced that they were using him in the bullpen going forward. Seems pretty ridiculous to me that they get down to dotting the i's and crossing the t's and all of a sudden have an issue with all of this.
This leads me to my point for writing this other than to rant about the Sox trying to gouge our Twins farm system. I love Kenta Maeda and was very excited to have him pitching in a Twins jersey. That being said, he's projected to slot in as our number 3. Very valuable, but there's a cap on that value. I also love Graterol and was sad to see him go. I believed it was a fair trade, though I recognized that there was a chance the Twins already regret the trade down the line.
The Twins were already projected to win the Central fairly handily before acquiring Maeda. Maeda however, didn't even move the needle that much.
The Twins were trying to be active in the trade market, but this isn't a bona fide ace that's fallen into their lap. The front office shouldn't be pressured to feel like this is a deal that needs to be done at all costs. Worst case scenario, Graterol is throwing 100 mph gas out of the bullpen to open the season and we continue to pursue trades elsewhere.
For the Red Sox to ask for more than Verdugo and what would be their number 1 pitching prospect, a 21 year old flamethrower who's already showcased his ability to get outs at the Major League level, is ridiculous. They're likely sitting in 3rd place in the east in 2020 with little salary space to work with (which they suddenly care about). They're in no position to decide a top prospect's future mid trade and demand more.
If the Red Sox want to play hard ball and pretend they hold all the cards, I say let them. Let them try to compete with the Yankees and Rays who make active attempts to get better while the Sox sit dormant for the next 3 offseasons while being weighed down by the remaining $96m owed to the 34 year old David Price. Let them enjoy one last season of Mookie Betts before cashing him in for a draft pick. Don't offer another piece, whether it's cash or a prospect. If Graterol is wearing a Twins jersey to start 2020, that's far from a failure.
Dman reacted to RDLARK for a blog entry, Starting Pitcher Analysis: Randy Dobnak
I’m going to dive into blogging here and see where it goes. Sometimes, as a writer, the hardest thing is to come up with an idea that’s worth writing about and that people will actually be interested to read. I expect that to be my struggle, but I’ve got what I think will be an interesting series to kick things off, and maybe that will be the extent of my contributions. Time will tell.
In any case, nobody wants to read about me. You want to see what information you can glean about our Twins. Given the rampant discussions on Twitter and on various blogs regarding the state of the Twins’ pitching staff, I thought it would be interesting to do a series on the numbers underlying the starters currently projected to be in the mix for the Twins.
While I’m sure others will make starts this season, here are the guys I’m hoping to work my way through for this series:
By way of framing the series, I think there are pretty clearly three different groups. The known (but in some cases misunderstood) quantities, the new veterans, and the prospects.
When the season starts, we know Pineda and Hill will not be in the rotation, and we know Berrios, Odorizzi, and Bailey will be (barring injury, of course). That being the case, I decided to start off by diving into the three prospects (a term I’m using loosely, given the MLB experience they got last year), starting with Dobnak.
A common question we hear, read, and think to ourselves as we are trying to fall asleep: “Can Randy Dobnak be a key piece of a successful playoff run?” I can cut to the chase and just say the answer is yes, but if you want to know why, go ahead and keep reading the words.
Let’s start by looking at Dobnak’s surface-level stats:
28.1 IP – lots and lots of caveats about the small sample
7.31 K/9 – not inspiring, but we will need to take a look at his swinging strike rates
1.59 BB/9 – elite, but let’s see how often he’s really in the strike zone
1.59 ERA – wow, but a lot of this depends on the above
2.90 FIP – also wow
3.77 xFIP – still wow, but we will need to look into his batted ball tendencies because 0.32 HR/9 is the reason for the jump from his FIP to his xFIP.
Okay, so we have a few things to dive into:
Swinging Strike Rates, which are generally highly correlated to K/9
Zone Percentage, which is highly correlated to BB/9
Batted Ball Tendencies, which are going to be a bit more difficult to use to extrapolate, given the small sample.
Getting hitters to swing and miss, and throwing strikes are generally skills the pitcher possesses (or does not), while the results – K/9, BB/9, HR/9, etc. Fluctuate due to randomness, umpire tendencies, opponents’ skill, etc. (esp in small samples).
Here’s what we see for Dobnak on those plate discipline skills:
43.8% of his pitches were in the strike zone
12.9% of his pitches resulted in a swinging strike
Putting those numbers into context, 61 pitchers qualified for the ERA title last season, so the median pitcher would be the one whose result was 31st among qualified starters. For swinging strike, it turns out that is a couple of familiar names: Jose Berrios and Homer Bailey at 10.8 percent. Looking at zone percentage, there is a three way tie among Jeff Smardzija, Mike Soroka, and Bailey again at 42.6 percent (a bit of a preview of the Bailey post. Hmm). By now you’ve surely noticed that Dobnak’s numbers were markedly above the median.
In fact, his zone percentage of 43.8% would have tied him with Zach Eflin for 20th among all qualified starting pitchers, just a tick below Noah Syndergaard at 43.9 percent. His swinging strike rate of 12.9% puts him in a three way tie with Charlie Morton and Clayton Kershaw, who were tied for 14th among qualified starters. Obviously good company.
It gets better. If you look at qualified starters who posted at least a 12.9% swinging strike rate combined with a 43.9% zone percentage – that rare combination of being in the zone and missing bats – here is the list you get for 2019:
Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2%
Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6%
Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2%
Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2%
Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5%
Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1%
Does this mean Dobnak is in the company of these elite aces? Of course not. What it does suggest, though, is that his success was not a fluke. He displayed an elite combination of skills in missing bats (which generates strikeouts) and living in the strike zone (which prevents walks). This suggests that he has considerable upside. He also threw essentially a major league innings load last year – compiling more than 160 innings across 4 levels from High A to the majors. This suggests he’s capable of providing the Twins with volume as well as quality, something that is not always the case for prospect pitchers.
There are reasons to be worried, though. The difference between Dobnak’s FIP and his xFIP was driven by an unsustainably low 5.3% HR/FB rate. The lowest HR/FB rate among qualified starters was 9.3%, and given Dobnak’s 42.5% hard hit rate, it’s safe to assume more of those fly balls will reach the seats going forward. That said, if he regresses to the mean in HR/9 and posts 150 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA, that’s obviously a serviceable starting pitcher. And, given that FIP and xFIP were driven by his 7.31 K/9, if those swinging strikes turn that into a 9.00+ K/9, he has considerable upside to deliver a lower ERA.
Dman reacted to samthetwinsfan for a blog entry, 5 Predictions for the 2020 Minnesota Twins
One of the best part of the offseason is the hope every fanbase has for their team in the upcoming year. Twins fans have not had this much hope in quite some time. With high hopes come high expectations from many fans. I am no different so here are 5 of my predictions for the 2020 Minnesota Twins.
1. Byron Buxton will play in 130 games and receive MVP votes.
The boldest part of this prediction is Buxton staying healthy for 130 games. He has played in 130 games in only one season so far with the Twins wwhich was 2017. That year he was a below average hitter with an OPS+ of 93 and he still received some MVP votes. I expect hit to be an above average hitter and with his defensive value the MVP votes are sure to come.
2. Luis Arraez will again bat over .300 and make the All-Star team.
While some may expect some sort of regression with Arraez he is such a pure hitter .300 seems like a definite possibility. With that I think he can be one of the top 2-3 overall second basemen in the American League. Sure Jose Altuve is probably ahead of him but guys like Gleyber Torres and Whit Merrifield are expected to play other positions this year. This leave him having to battle for votes with a lot of unproven guys, decent veterans, and some better guys like DJ Lehmahieu. Based on this I do not see it as unreasonable for Luis Arraez to make the All-Star game if he is batting .300 again.
3. Jose Berrios will become the true ace our starting staff really needs.
Some of you may be thinking Berrios is already at this level as he has made the All-Star game the past two seasons and has been the best starter the Twins have had in a few years. I would agree that he is a top 30 or so starting pitcher but I think this is the year he pushes toward the top 10. It has been well documented that Berrios puts up much better number in the first 4 months of the season than he does in the August and September. This will be the year he figures out how to stay fresh and effective throughout and entire season and make a push for the Cy Young award.
4. The Twins will acquire another starting pitcher that excites the fan base.
I am unsure of who they will target but I do think the front office will make a trade for a decent starting pitcher before the offseason is over. Some realistic targets would be Matthew Boyd, Robbie Ray, Jon Gray, and a handful of others. I like the idea of getting someone with at least two years of team control as Michael Pineda and Jose Berrios are our only starters around past this season. I believe the front office sees the opportunity in front of them and will seize it by trading for a pitcher sooner rather than later.
5. The Twins finally win not only a playoff game but a playoff series!
I know this might be tough to believe but I think it is actually possible for the Twins to win not just a single game in the playoffs but three out of five. I see too few flaws in this team for them not to win at least one game against a team the caliber of the Astros or the dreaded Yankees. On top of this I think once there is smoke there is fire and the Twins will get a series win. After that it is only two more and your the 2020 World Series Champs!
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Donaldson Provides a Twins Day for the Ages
Tonight Josh Donaldson agreed to a four-year, $92 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. It's the largest in franchise history by nearly double the financial commitment, and it's the first major commitment placed by the new front office. Early into the decade or not, this one is something that will go down in history.
Last offseason I touched on Donaldson as a guy that the Twins should target. Coming off of injury it seemed like he could be a guy that they nail for a one-year deal and utilize as a massive superstar. Unfortunately he chose to make good in his hometown state, but the opportunity presented itself again. While the front office looked to be dragging their feet, and Donaldson was obviously angling for the largest payday, and eventual resolution was reached.
Although Donaldson is known for punishing baseballs into the stratosphere, he presents a far greater impact to a team like the Twins. With such strong infield defense at the hot corner, a reconfiguration of bodies on the corners should give the overall unit a boost. Rocco Baldelli's club was not good up the middle on the dirt last year, and Josh Donaldson has an ability to change that. We'll wait and see how Miguel Sano adapts to first base, but the assumption should be net zero at worst.
After possessing the second best lineup in baseball a year ago, the Bomba Squad just landed a guy who posted a .900 OPS on his own. There have been injury concerns in recent seasons, but a clean bill of health allowed performance to reign supreme in Atlanta. Adding that level of production to a group that tallied an .832 OPS is unheralded, and one way to combat staunch pitching.
There's certainly reason to gripe about what Minnesota has done on the mound. Michael Pineda and Rich Hill are nice additions, but neither are available from the outset. Falvey and Levine have built the rotation to compete when it matters, and this club will have a lineup capable of pounding the opposition to a pulp.
At this point there's no other option for those tossing out the "Pocket Protector" remarks and doubt towards the front office than to take a lap. Spending has always made the most sense when there's opportunity and sustenance behind it. We've reached that window, and the men in charge have made good.
Now, it's time to Bring the Rain.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to Brandon for a blog entry, 4 Year Window?
It seems like the Twins are settling in on a 4-year window of being competitive. Last year the Twins signed 2 of their core players to 5-year contracts totaling just over 60 million. Note, they now have 4 years left on those extensions. Just a few days ago the wins signed Sano to an extension that has a guaranteed 3-year extension with a 4th year option. The Twins are looking to sign Donaldson to a 4-year contract as well. I am beginning to think the longer Donaldson doesn’t sign the better our odd are of signing him become. I think the more extensions they sign that give more payroll certainty, the more the Twins will feel comfortable increasing their offer to JD and get the deal done.
As far as the other position players go, we have 5 years control on Garver, 3 years for Buxton, and 5 years for Arreaz. That is 7 of the 9 starters who are locked up for 3 years and 6 can be locked up for 7.
The 2 positions not locked up the full 4 years are DH/ 1B and LF. The Twins have Killeroff, Rooker, Raley, Larnarch and Blankenship among others.
To replace Gonzales as the everywhere player is Lewis. He has shown he can play CF, 3B and SS in the minors. He can come up and be an everyday player at every position.
In the pen and back of the rotation there were numerous pitchers who have shown they can be effective in those roles. It’s a matter of giving them another year to show who is really ready and who is not. As far as extensions go for pitchers; if we can sign May and Rogers in the pen to extensions and Berrios and maybe Odorizzi in the rotation, we would have a really strong core locked up and quite a few young pitchers with years of team control remaining. That makes the next 4 years where the Twins are working around the edges and looking for a star starting pitcher to come here.
Looking forward at the next 4 years starting in 2024, the Twins will still have 2-3 years control for players coming up like Killeroff, Larnarch, Lewis, Rooker, Baddoo. Plus, they will have any players extended in arbitration under control for an extended period of time like Arreaz? Garver? On the pitching side the picture is not as clear but as of now we have Graterol as either a starter or reliever, Balazovich is on his way, and we have numerous other pitchers who came up in the last year or next year and may be at the back of the rotation or in the pen as well such as Thorpe, Smeltzer, Littell, Dobnak, Alcala, Wells, Jax, Stashak, and so many more. And the Twins will have 4 years to develop other players and pitchers as well and the Twins could be well set up to have another 4-year window….
Dman reacted to Cody Pirkl for a blog entry, Waiting May Hurt
Tonight we received the news that Eric Thames had signed with the Washington Nationals for the VERY reasonable price of $4m. Thames put together a slash line of .247/346/.505 last season, as well as 1.9 fWAR. He was likely a secondary option for the Minnesota Twins this offseason, who in my opinion very much still in need of a corner infielder after seeing C.J. Cron sign with the Tigers for $6.1m. First base was always a position the Twins were likely to wait on filling, as there were plenty of options on the market. Thames could have admirably platooned with his .877 OPS against righties. As somebody who had already moved on from Donaldson, I wondered why the Twins would allow Thames to go for such a cheap price. Shortly thereafter, I got my answer.
According to Darren Wolfson, the Twins do not appear to be engaged in the corner infield market.
In my opinion, there are two reasons this may be the case.
The first is the most likely in my opinion. Josh Donaldson remains on the free agent market. It may be fair to say that the Washington Nationals are out of the bidding war after signing Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, and finally Eric Thames. The bigger issue however is the Atlanta Braves involvement. Donaldson has grown up in the area and has been up front about his desire to return in 2020. The last update on the situation had all teams offering 4 years for undisclosed amounts to lock Donaldson up. As we've seen this offseason however, the price may become a moot point to some extent. In fact, it has now been reported that Donaldson may not have any interest in signing with the Twins at all.
As I had worried throughout this entire saga, Donaldson may have just been using the Twins to bulk his offer up from the Braves. This report also explains that the Twins are exploring other options, which is perplexing given the above report from Wolfson. It appears the Twins aren't willing to let go of hope of signing Donaldson after making no progress on the "impact" talent acquisition mentioned at the start of the offseason.
The second scenario for the Twins passing over the corner infield free agent market is a more troubling one for me. There have been rumblings of the Twins using Marwin Gonzalez as a full time first baseman this winter, and they could be content with their internal options rather than spending in free agency. I had actually just written a blog on Marwin Gonzalez having a better year offensively in 2020 citing a full spring training and hopefully less injuries. I was not advocating however that he be given a full time role as a corner infielder. With league average wRC+ coming in at 100, Marwin was 7% worse in 2019 with 93. The bar to clear for "league average" on offense is higher for corner infield as a position that typically houses premier hitters. Even if Marwin rebounds to a bit above league average on offense in 2020, they will still likely have an offensively below average first baseman. On top of that, he would no longer be utilized so widely on the field, which has been his main source of value in his career. They will essentially be taking value away from the roster to fill a spot that they could have easily done more effectively in free agency.
Regardless of reason, the thoughts above remain true. If the Twins don't sign another corner infielder and get stuck with internal options for a premier position like 1B, this will be yet another failure this offseason. Unlike with Bumgarner and Wheeler, this will have been an avoidable one. The offense will no doubt regress to some extent. The rotation is already an injury away from being a mess again. Every roster spot that we put a bandaid on instead of seriously addressing is another opportunity for the teams in the AL Central. If the Donaldson decision is holding up other deals, it's time to come to a conclusion one way or another. If the Twins front office believes they have their man already for corner infield, I seriously doubt it, but we'll have to wait and see. One thing is for certain though. Sitting here in January coming off 101 wins with over $10m less in payroll and this roster is not what I had pictured in October.
Dman reacted to Cody Pirkl for a blog entry, What To Do With Devin Smeltzer
2019 was a fun year for so many reasons. Our Minnesota Twins fielded a historically great offense, bashing teams into submission for the entirety of the regular season. We watched huge homeruns soar out of Target Field, we watched clutch performances from our workhorses like Jose Berrios, as well as game ending dominant performances from Taylor Rogers. 2019 will be a year of fantastic Twins memories for me. Looking back on it however, no memory is quite as vivid to me as Devin Smeltzer's debut for some reason.
Smeltzer was acquired at the trade deadline in 2018 along with Luke Raley for Brian Dozier. Twins fans were sad, Dodgers fans were happy, just another year for Minnesota sports fans. As 2019 rolled on however, we started to see that we hadn't just given Dozier away for peanuts. Smeltzer rifled through AA after 30 innings. Apparently a .60 ERA was enough to get a promotion. In AAA, Smeltzer fared well, pitching to a 3.63 ERA and respectable 23.2 K%. When the Twins were in need of a spot start on May 28th, Smeltzer got the call.
Smeltzer was tasked with facing a vaunted Brewers lineup. The big storyline as you have all likely heard by now was that Devin Smeltzer, a childhood cancer survivor, had fought his way into the major leagues. It was about as fantastic of a storyline you'll find in the MLB, and that paired with my excitement to see the individual behind the gaudy numbers he had put up in the minors, I was glued to that couch cushion for this one. He went on to allow 3 hits over 6 innings, striking out 7 Brewers that night.
Smeltzer would finish the year cycling in and out of the rotation, as Pineda's suspension and Kyle Gibson's illness left plenty of innings to fill. He would finish the season with a 3.86 ERA and 4.58 FIP. He had a tougher time striking out hitters at the major league level, sending only 18.8% of the batters he faced down on strikes. This along with his difficulty with the longball (1.47/9) were the reason for the discrepancy in his ERA and FIP.
Smeltzer was used in a few roles as the season went on. He accumulated 30.2 innings pitched as a starter, finishing with a 4.11 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .239/.294.410 slash line. As a reliever in 18.1 innings, Smeltzer had a seemingly better 3.44 ERA, although this appeared to be questionable given his triple slash allowed of .306/.342/.556. Let's also not forget the 3.1 innings of 2 hits 4 Ks, and no runs against the Yankees out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
Looking ahead to 2020, Devin Smeltzer's role is up in the air. He comes off a relatively strong rookie season. While some peripherals say he overperformed, he also has some favorable Statcast number with his fastball spin rate falling into the 87th percentile, as well as a curveball in the 81st percentile. Would these measurements be best maximized in the traditional starter role we saw Smeltzer debut in? As it stands, there are two rotation spots open for the combination of Dobnak, Thorpe, and Smeltzer until Rich Hill returns from injury and Michael Pineda comes off his suspension. Even if Smeltzer gets the short end of the stick for a rotation spot, he can begin the season in AAA to stay stretched out until we need him (A strong possibility after what we've seen in 2019). Would Smeltzer's skill set play up in a bullpen role? The Twins still lack a lefty other than Taylor Rogers in the bullpen. Where would you like to see Devin Smeltzer in 2020 for our Minnesota Twins?
I would also like to take this opportunity to share the link to Devin Smeltzer's ongoing fundraising for pediatric cancer. As a childhood cancer survivor himself, Devin has set up a page of awesome merchandise where the proceeds go to Katie's Krusaders, a foundation that funds expenses for pediatric cancer patients. This program made headlines a few months ago, but I wanted to make sure people are aware of the great work Devin does off the field, which can be lost in the shuffle when you're tuning into what he does on the field.
Dman reacted to Cody Pirkl for a blog entry, Jimmy for the Back End
As December winds down, the Minnesota Twins have two established starters in their rotation penciled in for opening day. As Michael Pineda serves his remaining 39 games of suspension, the Twins will look to fill those innings with more than the 2019 group of rookies consisting of Dobnak, Smeltzer and Thorpe. I am still a believer in the front offices ability to swing a trade that brings in the prized arm that we've been hoping for all winter. However, I am 100% certain that we will see them take some dart throws on a pitcher or two to fill in or cover the back end of the rotation. In 2019 we saw them sign Martin Perez who despite his struggles to finish the season, set the world on fire to begin the year. A similar reclamation project I would love to see the Twins make for 2020 is Jimmy Nelson from the Brewers.
Jimmy Nelson had a career year in 2017, striking out 10.21/9 and only walking 2.46. While it admittedly wasn't anything like the year of the juiced ball in 2019, his .82 HR/9 was absurd. He finished with a 3.49 ERA and 3.05 FIP and an fWAR of 4.8 in 175.1 innings. It was his third consecutive year of 175+ innings pitched. So why haven't we heard Jimmy Nelson's name in 2018 and 2019?
Jimmy Nelson was running the bases on September 8th 2017 when he had to dive back into first base, tearing his rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder. Just like that the Brewers lost their ace for the remainder of the season. It's a devastating injury for a pitcher, and wound up costing Nelson his 2018 and most of 2019 season as well. His return to the mound didn't inspire much confidence in the Brewers for the price he was due to earn, as they non tendered him, leaving him as a free agent.
Nelson's 2019 was ugly to say the least. He walked 6.95/9, allowed a crippling 1.64 HR/9, leading to a 6.95 ERA. It was a lost season for Nelson. I can't lie and say I have confidence in Nelson's 2020 bounceback looking at those numbers, but I do think he would be worth the low risk gamble. A high walk rate isn't completely unexpected following an almost two year layoff. While his average FB velocity was down almost 2 MPH from his last full season, his 10.64 K/9 suggests the talent is still in there somewhere, as visually represented by a rehab start from earlier in 2019.
Jimmy Nelson is still only 30 years old and should still have plenty in the tank if that shoulder is healthy, which it appeared to be in 2019 despite poor results. He would likely be healthy for the start of spring training and may benefit from his first regular preseason routine since 2017. The Twins coaching staff would likely afford him plenty of rest as we've seen in the past, and may be able to offer some adjustments as he continues to build back into a reliable pitcher. To expect another 2017 Jimmy Nelson is a mistake, but the Twins need innings, especially to begin the season. Whether you like where the rotation is at or not, it's time to consider these options at the back end. In terms of pitchers in Nelson's tier of lottery picks that would cost little and have little expectation, Nelson is the most exciting option. It would tell me our front office has identified potential in a pitcher who was previously very successful but whose numbers have suffered due to injury. Announcement of a Jimmy Nelson signing wouldn't do much to silence the fears of fans, but I would love to let him compete for a spot at the back end of our rotation in 2020. What do you think?