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?
Dman reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Falvey and Lavine fear loss of readers for TD
As I read our reactions to each missed free agent and the excitement of the winter meetings I have come to the conclusion that the FO really is concerned about readership and postings on TD. I mean we have had a "why we should sign him" article about every FA that has been signed so far. Just to be clear - not signed by us. We went from everyone with an arm that has not fallen off to all the hitters who can add to Bomba mania.
We debate, we anguish, and we hope. Well at least we read and post.
So imagine if we made the first big signing of the off season. Over - done, nothing to talk about. So we wait.
Then we get four articles about the winter meetings which actually turned into reports about other teams signings.
So we write about how Dobnak is better than we think (how do you know what we think?). Maybe the Twins would sign another level of pitcher - no. Maybe the next level. How perfect an opportunity for our favorite site. If the Twins had not passed on all the players we have heard from we would not be writing about all the FA that we have never heard of. They are FAs? Wow, who cares? Well we do.
Gleeman and the Geek get a chance to really dig deep into the pool of possible. We get to anguish and almost forgot we had 101 wins with this same group of players - sorry we did lose Cron, Perez, and Gibson. But now we can talk about the wisdom of Wisler and trading Eddie Rosario - the player we say was not as good as people think he is but we can trade him to the dumb teams who do not know he is as bad as TD writers think he is.
So thank you Mr Falvey and Mr Levine.
Dman reacted to scottz for a blog entry, How the Twins Can Improve on 2019 Without Adding A Stud Starting Pitcher
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Did Schoop Work for the 2019 Twins?
In early December 2018 the Minnesota Twins found their replacement for Brian Dozier. With the fan-favorite having been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to his free agency, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine needed to find another second basemen. Replacing Dozier’s pop wouldn’t be easy, but they tabbed a former All Star to do so when they inked Jonathan Schoop to a one-year deal. Now with the season behind us we can evaluate how it turned out.
At the time of his signing I wasn’t too terribly interested in the pact. Dozier provided a significant amount of power, but also displayed strong on-base skills. For a Twins team also losing Joe Mauer, getting guys that could fill the basepaths seemed like a must. Schoop owned just a career .294 OBP and he was coming off a poor .682 OPS. After being dealt from the Orioles to the Brewers for the stretch run, things got even worse.
Obviously, it was the goal of Minnesota to rekindle the 25-year-old All Star that picked up MVP votes in 2017. He’d played all but two games from 2016-2017 and could be counted on as an everyday contributor. Although range wasn’t his greatest asset at second base, there was a howitzer attached to his shoulder and the arm would help to substantially upgrade the defense that Dozier brought to the position for the Twins.
We didn’t know that Major League Baseball was going to juice the pill for 2019, but it helped a guy like Schoop to launch dingers at a relatively significant rate. With so many power hitters around him in the lineup however, his skillset became somewhat redundant and the emergence of Luis Arraez made him replaceable. The 23 longballs in just 121 games was plenty respectable, and the .777 OPS checked in as the second highest mark over the course of a full big-league season. At the end of the day though, it was the .304 OBP that likely did him in.
The bulk of his 2019 was spent batting in the final three spots of the lineup. Even outside of run production lineup positioning, Schoop became a punchline due to the times in which he would come through. Late and close situations saw him post just a .658 OPS while he owned just a .618 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs. By leverage, he was at his best (.813 OPS) in the lowest stress scenarios. If you needed a hollow home run it seemed that Schoop became a lock.
Having just turned 28 there is plenty of runway ahead for the Curacao native. It obviously won’t be with the Twins, and I’m not entirely sure he’s rebuilt his value on the back of his 2019 exploits. Power at second base isn’t exactly guaranteed, but the sport has also shifted much more towards an on-base production model. It was that skill Minnesota appeared to need most, and ultimately that downfall that led to him being replaced.
There’s no reason to categorize the $7.5 million Minnesota handed to Schoop as foolish, but I think we can effectively say it worked out as planned. That’s a bit more than you’d like for a replaceable asset, but given the dollars paid to Arraez it should be considered as a wash. Minnesota’s offense was otherworldly in 2019, and whatever Schoop provided became a relative footnote.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to Patrick Wozniak for a blog entry, Is Max Kepler Becoming the Next Christian Yelich?
2019 has been a breakout year for Max Kepler. Kepler’s talent and upside has been on display since his days in the minor leagues but he has seemingly put it all together this season. In the year of the home run, Kepler has been no exception as he has led the best home run-hitting team in baseball with 36 long balls. His previous career high was 20, which Kepler will more than likely double. He will put up career highs in all of the traditional batting stats and has been good for a team best 4.4 fWAR. Defensively he is among the best right fielders in baseball and he has filled in admiringly in center field during Byron Buxton’s trips to the IL.
When dreaming about Max Kepler’s upside a comp that has often been made is to Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich. Like Kepler, Yelich spends the majority of his time in right field, hits for a lot of power despite not having a traditional power hitter’s build, and leads his team in home runs and WAR. Yelich’s contract situation is also very similar to Kepler’s as he is currently signed to a seven year, 49.57 million dollar contract that ends in 2021 with a club option in 2022. Kepler is also signed to a seven million dollar AAV through 2023 with a club option for 2024. Needless to say both Minnesota and Milwaukee can be nothing less than thrilled with those contacts.
While Kepler’s power surge came to fruition this season, Yelich had a similar transformation in 2018. Prior to being traded over to Milwaukee before the 2018 season, Yelich’s previous home run high with the Miami Marlins was 21 in 2016. However, last season Yelich exploded for 36 dingers in his first season with Milwaukee and has hit a career high 43 so far this year. Yelich’s 2018 numbers (.326/.402/.598, 166 wRC+, 7.6 fWAR) were good enough to win the NL MVP award and lead his team to within a game of the World Series. Although Milwaukee is now on the outside looking in for a wild card spot, Yelich has been every bit as good, hitting .326/.421/.672 for a 169 wRC+ and a 7 fWAR.
Kepler’s numbers have not yet reached the level of Yelich’s, but his great leap forward has happened at the same age as Yelich’s. Both players were consistent and above average players in their earlier years, but something clicked in their age-26 seasons. As both players became more familiar with major league pitching and most likely added some strength, there power numbers surged. Both started hitting the ball harder than ever as Yelich’s hard hit percentage went from 35.2% in his age-25 season, to 47.6% at age 26 (and 50.3% this year!), while Kepler has gone from 37.1% to 42.9% (and up from 33% for his first two seasons).
Both players have had similar power trajectories but there are clear differences in their overall skill sets. Kepler and Yelich both have good speed, but Yelich is a very good base stealer (26 SB on the year with only 2 CS) while Kepler very rarely attempts to take a bag. Yelich is also a much better overall hitter than Kepler thus far in their careers. Yelich has a career .301 batting average with a .381 on-base-percentage and a .373 wOBA. Kepler on the other hand has hit just .239 with a .320 OBP and .326 wOBA. Yelich has the advantage of having an extra year of being an elite hitter on Kepler, but his overall numbers would still be much better than Kepler’s.
Their career walk rates are similar (Yelich 11.0%, Kepler 9.9%) and Kepler actually has the better isolated power numbers (.208 ISO to .190) but Yelich has a huge advantage when it comes to batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Kepler has always had a notoriously low BABIP (career .254) and this season has been no different at .246. Contrast that to Yelich who has always been able to “hit it where they ain’t” with a career .358 BABIP. While BABIP can fluctuate a fair amount from season to season and is somewhat luck based, a career difference of over .100 is certainly more than just luck. Yelich’s ability to hit the ball slightly harder than Kepler and his faster sprint speeds probably helps a bit, but Yelich is also less pull-heavy than Kepler which makes him less susceptible to hitting into the shift. Kepler is currently pulling the ball at a 53.7 % clip while going opposite field just 19% of the time. Yelich hits the balls to all fields, pulling 38.5 %, going to center 38.3 %, and going opposite field 23.2 % of the time.
With Kepler hitting for as much power as he has, the Twins are probably loath to change his approach in order to improve his average. There is, however, one area where Kepler already exceeds Yelich – defense. Yelich is not a bad defender per say, but he is probably average at best and is rated negatively by both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference (which could be the deciding factor in Cody Bellinger winning the NL MVP this year). Conversely, Kepler rates as one of the best right fielders in the MLB with a 19.8 UZR/150 and has played well in center with a 12.8 UZP/150. FanGraphs even has Kepler rated as the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball.
Christian Yelich is already one of the top players in all of baseball, but Max Kepler is not so far behind. If Kepler can continue to improve his overall offensive game and maintain his homerun power, he could join the elite few in baseball. MVP awards may be hard to come by with arguably the best player in MLB history also playing in the American League (Mike Trout, in case you’ve been living under a rock), but at the young age of 26 Max Kepler is starting to turn some heads. Minnesota would naturally be happy if Kepler can continue to replicate the success he has had in 2019, but it may even be possible that the best is yet to come.
Dman reacted to Patrick Wozniak for a blog entry, Did the Twins Miss Out On Zac Gallen?
During the run-up to the MLB Trade Deadline the Minnesota Twins were linked to several big-name starting pitchers. We heard rumors about the Twins potentially landing someone like Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, or even Trevor Bauer. When the dust settled, Minnesota was either unable or unwilling to meet the demands for those pitchers and decided to stand pat with the current rotation. The Twins were never going to give up a player like Byron Buxton and were rightfully protective of top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirililoff. With that taken into consideration, the Twins may well only have Jose Berrios returning from this year’s rotation for 2020, and they may have missed a golden opportunity to add a talented young pitcher.
The Arizona Diamondbacks received rookie right-hander Zac Gallen from the Miami Marlins in return for Jazz Chisholm, a short stop prospect currently playing in AA. This was a somewhat unique deadline trade as it was a prospect-for-prospect swap (although Gallen made his MLB debut on June 20th and has been up ever since), but the Twins did something similar by swapping Lewin Diaz for Chris Vallimont in the Sergio Romo trade days prior to the Gallen trade. It’s possible that the Marlins were really after Chisholm and contacted Arizona, but the reverse seems more likely. The Twins had just had Miami on the phone and were also playing in Miami at the time of the Gallen trade, so it wouldn’t have been hard to inquire about Gallen.
Gallen has certainly looked the part of a big league pitcher thus far in his MLB career. The Twins got an up-close peak at Gallen during the Marlins series on the day before he was traded, and he did not disappoint against Minnesota’s historic offense (7IP, 4H, 2ER, 8K). He was also great in his first start in Arizona, as he went five innings without allowing any runs and only one hit on 85 pitches while picking up the win.
Gallen has really only recently began to sneak into the top 100 of some of the prospect lists, but his stock has risen significantly this season. He has added velocity to his fastball which now sits closer to the mid-90s with plenty of spin and he has a great change up along with a pretty good cutter. Gallen dominated the PCL with a 1.77 ERA and 33.6 K% this year and has pitched really well so far in the big leagues. The 24-year-old had a 2.72 ERA (3.58 FIP) with 10.65 K/9 in seven starts with the Marlins and is off to a good start in Arizona.
The Marlins seem to be craving high-upside boom-or-bust type prospects and the Twins could have easily provided a similar or somewhat better package than Chisholm. Coming into the season, Chisholm was highly regarded as a short stop possessing both speed and power and he has hit 20 home runs so far this season. He’s a high-upside prospect with great physical tools, but his stock has dropped this year as he has only hit around .200 and is striking out in nearly 35% of his plate appearances. Most prospect rankings still consider him a top 100 prospect, but he fell out of Baseball America’s midseason list.
Although Gallen’s MLB career is only beginning, he would still fit nicely in with Minnesota’s current rotation. In fact, he seemingly would have been a perfect addition to the team because he is pitching well now and would be under team control for many years to come. If the Twins decide not to pick-up Martin Perez’s team option for next season (and the proposition is looking less and less likely) they will need to fill four spots in the rotation. Gallen would have slotted in nicely somewhere behind Berrios and the Twins would have an established young starter along with a promising young arm to build around.
The trade deadline has come and gone, but hopefully the front office took notice of the unique opportunity this trade provided. Arizona was able to pick up a young and promising starter while only giving up one high-risk, high-reward prospect. Of course, most teams are hesitant to give up young MLB-ready pitching, but the Twins would be wise to look into the possibility of making a similar off-season trade.
One team that they may want to look at is…the Miami Marlins. Who knows how much young pitching Miami is willing to part with, but again, they seem to favor high-upside prospects and they are not going to contend in the near future. Although Gallen is out of the picture, the Marlins do have a couple more young pitchers the Twins may want to take a look at in Sandy Alcantara and Jordan Yamamoto.
Of the two, Alcantara throws much harder, touching triple digits and sitting in the high-90s. Alcantara has had his issues so far, struggling with control (11.1% BB) and not getting as many strikeouts (16.8% K) as one would hope, but he would be an intriguing arm for Wes Johnson to work with. He is one of only eight MLB pitches to have a greater than 10% swinging strike rate on three non-fastball pitches (slider, curve, and changeup), so the strikeouts should come. The 23-year-old is a former top-100 prospect.
Yamamoto doesn’t have the velocity or prospect status of Alcantara, but he throws six pitches and has done pretty well in his first stint with the Marlins after being called up from AA. In 54 innings he has pitched to a 4.17 ERA (4.18 FIP) with a 1.04 WHIP and has struck out 55 batters. Yamamota is also just 23 years of age and would presumably cost Minnesota less than Alcantara in terms of prospects.
Even with the addition of one of these young starters, the front office will have their work cut out for them this off season. One would hope that the Twins would add at least two higher quality and more experienced starters through free agency and trade. However, a young, team controlled starter like Alcantara or Yamamota could be a nice depth piece with minor league options that could probably be had for a fairly insignificant price. The Twins have exciting pitching prospects like Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Edwar Colina, and Jordan Balazovic all inching closer, but it would be nice to have some additional young pitching talent to help bridge the gap and fill out the rotation.
The Twins made it through the trade deadline without losing any top prospects and the system is loaded with depth. Hopefully Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took heed of the Zac Gallen trade and will be able to identify some young pitching talent and make a similar deal with the Marlins or another organization. Obtaining pitching talent is never easy, but it was something Falvey was known for in Cleveland and the Twins are going to need all the pitching help they can get in 2020.
Dman reacted to Brandon Warne for a blog entry, Twins Clubhouse Reacts to Escobar's Homer off Dozier on Saturday Night
This is an excerpt of an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full.
On the surface, it was just a home run. In a year where 4,588 of them have been hit already, that hardly seems like
a real headline-grabber.
MLB hitters have been hitting home runs at a rate of 1.39 per game -- by far the most in a season in history. It's not even really close; the 2017 season ranks second at 1.27 long balls per nine, and no other season is over 1.20.
The homer also came late in a game that ended 18-7. That type of score is more commonplace in today's game with balls flying out of the park at an unprecedented rate.
Also more commonplace in today's game is position players pitching, and in this case, it was a position player serving up the hitter's second home run of the game.
Alright, that's enough of that cryptic business.
The home run was in Phoenix, and it came off the bat of Eduardo Escobar.
That pitch was thrown by perhaps his best friend in all of baseball -- Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier. If Dozier isn't his closest friend in the game, it's possible the guy catching is -- Nationals backstop Kurt Suzuki.
So when Dozier -- a right-handed thrower -- attempted to sneak a 69 mph floater past Escobar -- a switch hitter batting from the right side -- the Diamondbacks' jack-of-all-trades crushed it into oblivion, well into the left-field seats.
All three guys did a fairly good job of letting the moment play itself out, until Escobar did his customary home run celebration after rounding third.
That's when Suzuki had to get involved, as he playfully told Escobar to get back into the dugout while Dozier simply smiled as he watched his former teammate round the bases.
The trio was like mismatched socks -- a Hawaiian, a Mississippi boy and a guy from Venezuela -- who drew glee during their Twins days from bouncing around each other like said socks in a dryer.
Dman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Swing Strong Deal for Romo
For weeks it's been apparent that the Minnesota Twins need bullpen help. As we've gotten closer to the trade deadline the certainty that moves would be made has only become more clear. Tonight while in the midst of a battle with the Chicago White Sox, Derek Falvey was working the phones and landed RHP Sergio Romo from the Miami Marlins.
Romo was a free agent this offseason and signed with Miami on a one-year, $2.5 million pact. He was someone I liked for the Twins but the front office decided to stand pat after the acquisition of Blake Parker. Romo was abysmal to start the season for Miami but has been lights out of late, and his dominant slider remains as good as it's ever been.
Since May 22nd Romo has pitched in 22 games going 21.2 IP. He has a 2.49 ERA and a .585 OPS against. The strikeouts have been down this year and he was at just 16/3 K/BB over that stretch, but the stuff may be as good as it's ever been. Right now he owns a whiff rate near 14% in 2019 and his 40% chase rate is a career best.
When you've been doing this for as long as Romo has, and without ever being a velocity pitcher, it's the offspeed stuff that must work. Sergio throws his slider nearly 60% of the time and it's continued to be an incredible offering. His slider posts an RPM of 2852 which is 9th best among sliders in baseball this season.
Falvey obviously had to part with an asset in trade, and choosing Lewin Diaz makes a lot of sense here. He's a 22-year-old that posted a sub-.600 OPS at Fort Myers last season. Having put in significant work to get his body right this winter, he's having a breakout campaign with 19 HRs and an OPS north of .900 split between A+/AA. That's really where the good news for the Twins and Diaz ends however.
Lewin would need to be added to the 40 man roster this winter or be subject to the Rule 5 draft. He went unprotected and unchosen last year, but that wasn't going to happen after the results this year. In that scenario the Twins lose him for nothing. He's a great defender at first and a nice power bat, but he's also behind at least Miguel Sano, Brent Rooker, and Alex Kirilloff for major league reps at first base in the not-so-distant future.
This wasn't a one for one trade either. Minnesota also got back 2018 5th round pick Chris Vallimont from the Marlins. He's pitching at Low-A currently as a starter and the righty has been a high strikeout, low walk hurler in his young pro career. He too is 22-years-old but is not subject to 40 man necessity yet and gives the Twins depth on the mound, where they need it more. Reports have also suggested Minnesota picks up a PTBNL in the deal.
It would be hard to see a Diaz for Vallimont swap as anything but a win for Minnesota. They get a more usable asset and the expiration date is pushed out. If the assumption was that Diaz could be packaged to net a bigger return that's one thing, but you'd have to imagine Falvey explored those options as well. This isn't going to be the Twins only move, and probably not even their only move for the pen. As a first deal though, they smashed this one out of the park.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
Dman reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Escobar and Gonzalez
Two 30-year-old natives of Venezuela, both switch-hitters, both came to the majors as shortstops who became utility players and were to become free agents at the end of the 2018 season. I was looking at Baseball Reference and thought I would compare the former Twin with the current Twin. I was surprised how similar their numbers were.
While they are very similar, there are differences. First of all, Gonzalez has remained a versatile defender, while Escobar has become a fixture at third base for his new club. Neither are spending appreciable time in the middle of the diamond, this year Escobar has played one game at second base and Gonzalez has played one game at shortstop. Gonzalez has started mostly at third, but with the return of Miguel Sanó, he's started multiple games at first, third, left and right field.
Escobar has truly come into his own as a hitter. He hits in the middle of a good Arizona lineup and leads the National League in games, plate appearances and at-bats. So far, he is putting up numbers worthy of All-Star consideration. After an extremely slow start, Gonzalez has put up numbers in line with his career norms.
It is intriguing to consider what might have happened if the Twins had somehow managed to retain Escobar. Would he have been able to have the role that Gonzalez is filling? Would the Twins then converted Sanó to first base and not acquired Cron? For what it's worth, it appears that this has worked out for all concerned.
Dman reacted to Brandon Warne for a blog entry, WARNE: Twins Capitalized on Unusual Offseason Marketplace to Build a Winner
This content originates at Zone Coverage here -- please click through to read it in its entirety.
In the mid-1980s, MLB teams colluded to keep player contracts — both in terms of length and dollars — from getting out of control. And while we’d stop short of using the c-word to describe the last two offseasons, there are some stunningly similar situations playing out before our very eyes.
Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are both sitting at home twiddling their thumbs as teams now wait for the MLB draft — early next month — to pass so they can be signed without draft pick compensation being required. Future Hall of Famer Tim Raines was in the midst of his prime when he had to miss the first month of the season in 1987 because the deadline to re-sign with his original club had passed.
Fast-forward back to 2019, and the Minnesota Twins are the class of the American League Central and among the best teams in either league — just one year after a disappointing 78-84 finish led to a managerial firing and quite a bit of roster turnover.
For the second year in a row, the Twins moved slowly — or maybe deliberately is the better word — in the free-agent market, grabbing players at peak value to add to an existing roster of exciting, but unproven youngsters.
For the first year in a row, it’s actually working.
The Twins come into Wednesday’s series finale with the Los Angeles Angels with the potential for a sweep and with a record of 32-16. For those — such as myself — who aren’t mathematically inclined, that’s twice as many wins as losses. It’s the first time the Twins have been 16 games above .500 since the end of the 2010 season — the inaugural year of Target Field.
That feels like so long ago, doesn’t it?
There’s plenty of credit to go around and no shortage of worthwhile recipients for it. That includes guys like Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver from within, but also pretty much every player the Twins brought in from the outside.
C.J. Cron is mashing home runs you could hang laundry on. Jonathan Schoop has more than replaced Brian Dozier. Marwin Gonzalez has gotten red-hot in the month of May and looks like he’s willing to play just about anywhere to keep this thing going. Nelson Cruz was mashing until a wrist injury shelved him. On the pitching side, both Martin Perez and Blake Parker have been better than advertised.
That’s kind of a lot of players to add in one offseason, isn’t it? It’s almost like the Twins had a bunch of payroll room clear up and…nah. We won’t go there, but it isn’t only because Joe Mauer came off the books that the Twins were able to make these moves.
The Twins were able to add all these players because the free-agent market is broken — and they were one of the few teams willing to glue the pieces back together.
Let’s look at each player individually:
For the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays made the baffling decision to move on from a productive player whose salary should not have been cost-prohibitive. After 2017, that player was Corey Dickerson, who went on to hit .300/.330/.474 for the Pittsburgh Pirates while making a tidy $5.95 million.
Even if the Rays want to cry poverty, that’s hardly a kingly sum for a player who still had two years of club control and was coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Also, it’s not like the Pirates are the gold standard for taking someone else’s overpaid veterans — they might even be the NL’s answer for the Rays in that respect.
Dman reacted to Tom Froemming for a blog entry, Why I'm Out On Craig Kimbrel
Even a really great meal goes stale eventually.
I desperately wanted the Twins to do more to upgrade the bullpen this offseason, and was supportive of the idea of them pursuing Craig Kimbrel at one point, but I'm out now. I don't really want anything to do with him.
My frustration with the bullpen inactivity was never tied to any one particular reliever. Things have boiled own to that, since Kimbrel is the last man standing, but there were several attractive free agent bullpen pieces out there this winter. The Twins didn't sign any of them. I'm over it.
I'm not saying this bullpen is fine as it's currently constructed. While Ryne Harper has been a pleasant surprise and the backed trio of Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers and Trevor May has mostly looked good, there are some legit concerns about the depth.
But bringing in a project isn't the answer. Kimbrel is one of the greatest closers of all time. There's also a reason why he's still unemployed. Here are a few:
-He has to be rusty. This is item No. 1 with a bullet. There's no way he can possibly be sharp, I don't care what kind of simulated games he may be throwing.
-He had a 4.57 ERA in the second half and a 5.91 ERA in the postseason last year.
-His fastball velocity dropped from 98.72 mph in 2017 to 97.63 mph last year.
-It actually took him awhile to work up to that velocity last season, sitting below 97 mph through April. Yes, he's been working out, but I'd still be concerned it would take him some time to get up to full speed.
-His ground ball rate dropped from 37.0% to 28.2% last year.
-His line drive rate went up from 19.4% to 24.8% last year.
-He had a worse first-pitch strike rate (56.3%) than Fernando Rodney last year.
-He had the eighth-lowest rate of pitches in the zone (36.6%) of the 151 qualified relievers last year.
-He walked 12.6% of the batters he faced last year. That is horrible. It was the 20th-worst rate among 336 pitchers who logged more than 50 innings last year.
In nearly every single positive mention of the Twins I see, there is somebody in the comments who calls for Kimbrel. I get it, I just think the idea of Kimbrel doesn't even accurately reflect who he actually is at this point.
If the Twins seek to improve the bullpen, they should be looking for guys who are trending upward. Or at least, you know, active. Maybe Kimbrel will be great, I don't know, but I am comfortable with another team taking on that project. There are other ways to boost the bullpen.
Dman reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, A Great Start to 2019
Here we are on May 9th and the Twins have the best record in Major League Baseball. They have had some low moments, but mostly everything has gone as well as, or better than, expected. Chatter about the Twins has been positive, especially after dominating a bad Baltimore team and then winning a series (and the season series) against the Houston Astros. A 4-2 road trip, including a dominant sweep in Toronto have put the Twins a season-high 11 games over .500.
I doubt everything will continue to come up roses for the Twins, it never does. They will suffer injuries and players will slump or disappoint. Even in the best of years, these things happen. However, it appears that in most respects, the team assembled by the relatively new executive team of Falvey and Levine is set up well to handle struggles and snags when they occur.
Let's look at what has transpired in the mostly cold and wet months of April and early May. With the exception of Miguel Sanó, the offense has been healthy and rolling. The Twins are in the top tier in the league for run-scoring, home runs, slugging and OPS. They don't walk much (most of the lineup is comprised of aggressive hitters), but they don't strike out much, relative to the rest of the league. The Twins are averaging well over five runs a game, playing many games in poor weather conditions. They appear set to challenge team records in runs scored and home runs this year. The power is well-distributed, with most of the regular lineup already hitting six or more homers. They have endured slumps from regulars and a slow start from Marwin Gonzalez (who has essentially replaced Sanó) without suffering much on the scoreboard.
Pitching has been a surprise. The team is in the top half of many key pitching stats, including runs per game, quality starts, shutouts, innings pitched by starters, and opponent's batting average. Three of the five starters have been outstanding, with a fourth (Kyle Gibson) rounding into form in recent starts. The starters good work has taken pressure off of the bullpen. The bullpen hasn't been spotless, but they've gotten the job done. The late-inning quartet of May, Hildenberger, Rogers and Parker has been satisfactory, if not dominating.
Defensively, the team is also doing very well. New acquisitions Gonzalez, Schoop and Crom have all played well in the field and the team has mostly been able to keep it's regular outfielders on the field, all of whom are plus defenders.
Individual performances of note include José Berríos ascending to ace or near ace status. Jorge Polanco playing good defense and breaking out with the bat, Martín Pérez finding a few mph on his fastball and coming up with a cut fastball to (so far) become an outstanding rotation piece. The catching duo of Mitch Garver and Jason Castro (with a few appearances by Willians Astudillo) has been outstanding with the bat and has been given credit for helping the pitching improve. On the negative side, Marwin Gonzalez hasn't hit much, new rotation member Michael Pineda has struggled mightily in his last four starts and several relievers at the front end of the bullpen have had trouble getting people out. Many more players have stepped it up beyond those mentioned. Basically, the good play to this point has been a team effort.
Can this run continue? Well, I think the competition changes with many more games against familiar opponents in the Central Division--three of those teams (KC, Chicago and Detroit) are in one stage or the other of rebuilding--so the schedule figures to be somewhat more favorable. I doubt the Twins can keep hitting so many homers (they are on a pace to hit almost 300!) and I also doubt the pitching will continue to be dominant, but there is no doubt that they are improved.
I think the need going forward this year is adding pitching. A starter to perhaps supplant Pineda and a strong bullpen arm would be helpful and when injuries happen, such improvements might be vital. The Twins are now considered favorites to win the Central, but they need to keep doing what they're doing.
Credit for this improvement should be given to Falvey and Levine, who also hired rookie manager Rocco Baldelli. They've shown they pay attention to the metrics that are part of the game now and made good decisions in putting together a team for today without breaking the bank or mortgaging the future. There's a long way to go, but the ride this year promises to be fun and it might be magical.
Dman reacted to Matt Braun for a blog entry, Max Kepler (And the Belated Breakout)
Max Kepler is my favorite Twins player, something that has been true ever since he stole my heart with his performance in July of 2016. If you remember (I truly hope you do not), the Twins were mostly unwatchable that year as they rolled over and died from the very beginning and slogged their way towards the worst record in baseball. Their reward was Royce Lewis and a fresh FO, but at what cost? There wasn’t much else to gain from the season but the play of the young prospect caught my eye and his 3 home run game on the 1st of August that year cemented my appreciation for him. My connections to Kepler run a bit deeper too as my last name implies a strong German heritage (Braun means “brown” in German), so naturally I stuck to Kepler. Of course, the similarities pretty much end there as he can hit major league pitching and my baseball career ended once the breaking balls were introduced to me.
Anyways, Kepler ended that year with a modest 93 wRC+ and a 1.3 fWAR over 113 games. Passable numbers for sure, but the potential for Max seemed higher thanks to his top prospect status, great athleticism, and low BABIP which seemed to be signs that a breakout season was coming soon. 2017 came and went and Kepler put up the same wRC+, a somewhat baffling occurrence as a breakout seemed all but inevitable that year. Of course, there is always next year and the Kepler celebrations were paused until 2018 where he hit for a wRC+ of… 97. Scientists and baseball writers were bewildered as his walk rate jumped 3.3% while his strikeout rate dropped 4.4%, both things that would suggest a breakthrough, yet it didn’t quite occur. Kepler’s defensive numbers were better in 2018 so his fWAR jumped from 1.4 to 2.6, but this was not quite the way everyone wanted Kepler to improve.
Between his start in 2016 and the end of the 2018 season, Kepler’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) sat at an astonishingly low .257. Among those with 1500+ plate appearances in that time period, he comes in with the 5th lowest BABIP in all of baseball. Some of the names that come in around him are Todd Frazier, Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols, Carlos Santana, Maikel Franco, Curtis Granderson, and Salvador Perez. There’s a general theme here of slow, lethargic and (mostly) guys who would no longer be considered “athletic” or at least not as athletic when compared to other MLB players. But then there’s Kepler, who BaseballSavant has in the 59th percentile for sprint speed, an above average level.
Why his BABIP is so low remains beyond me as looking into his batted ball profile leaves me even more confused than before. His soft/med/hard hit % slashline is almost identical to George Springer from 2016-2018, yet Springer holds a BABIP .049 points above him. His pull/center/oppo % slashline resembles Victor Martinez’s from 2016-2018, yet even old man V-Mart was able to put up a .281 BABIP. And to top it all off, his FB/GB/LD % slashline over 2016-2018 matches up well with Rougned Odor, yet the small stink was able to out BABIP him by .017 points.
Now, every player has a BABIP that is unique to them and their batted-ball profile. Some can hold higher numbers than others while some just naturally have lower ball in play ability, but Kepler’s BABIP will always remain perplexing to me, what is making it so that this guy cannot get a hit to save his life?
But enough about the past, we can’t change it anyways. What about Kepler so far this year? Well thank you so much for asking, Kepler is holding a respectable 113 wRC+ in 2019 as he continues to usually bat lead off in an extremely potent Twins lineup. His average exit velocity of 91.4 MPH is higher than his career average of 89.2 and the MLB average of 87.4. What is probably the least shocking about a hitter in 2019 is that he also now has a career high pull rate of 55.4% which is 10.7% higher than his average and his average launch angle is currently 15.7 degrees, a number that is actually lower than his 2018 launch angle average, but a mark that is above the MLB average of 11.0 degrees. Or, to put it simply, he’s pulling the ball in the air more, which is a good thing.
Oh and by the way, he’s also swinging way more than usual, which is probably a good thing for him. His swing rate is at 52.3%, a number that would place him in the top 20 of qualified free swingers in baseball last year and is also 9.7% higher than his swing rate last year. The return is that his walk rate is slightly down (but still great) while his K rate is slightly up (but still very manageable) yet because he’s hitting the ball hard I don’t think he or the Twins care too much.
At the start of spring training, the Twins inked Kepler to a 5 year $35 million extension that would make Kepler a free agent in 2025. The deal basically ensured that Kepler would be paid a guaranteed amount of life-altering money while the Twins hedged their bets that the still young Kepler could break through and make a $7 million AAV deal look like a steal. And even if he never improved over his 2018 self, $7 million a year for a solid OFer is still pocket change. The next major sign of confidence has come in his nearly daily placing at the very top of the Twins lineup, a move that has been questioned less and less as the year has started but was a somewhat puzzling play when it was first announced.
Nonetheless, the budding star (and yes, I do mean star) has started to flash the offensive capabilities that the Twins believed he had in him thanks to some changes in his approach at the plate and if he holds it over a full season with his 2018 level of defense, you are looking at a legitimate top 5 right fielder in all of MLB.
Dman reacted to Matt Braun for a blog entry, What's The Deal With Relievers?
Relievers are weird. Not only because they do strange stuff like play video games on the side, but they are probably also the most volatile position in baseball. Go look up the best relievers of 2015 and have a good laugh at some of the names that appear. Liam Hendriks? Kevin Siegrist? Luke Gregerson? Josh Fields? The top 10 or so names have been relatively consistent and are still playing at a high level now, but after that, there is little to no guarantee that production will be sustained at all. Contrast that with the best position players the same year and it seems that relievers are about as dependable as the current economy.
Or even just consider the Twins bullpen this past year, who would have predicted that Taylor Rogers would add a slider and become the Terminator basically from July until the end of the season, or that Trevor Hildenberger would continue his great 2017 season for the first half or so until the ghost of Matt Capps took control of his body and he struggled from August until the end of the season, or how about Addison Reed starting off en Fuego and then losing velocity as the year went on until he couldn’t even strike out my grandmother.
The point is, relievers are unpredictable, but what if we could predict them? More importantly, if we could predict if a reliever will bounce back? Ignore the snake-oil-salesman-style question and let me explain my thought process. I want to be able to identify how likely it is for relievers to bounce back, so I looked at data from 2016, 2017, and 2018 to see how many relievers came back from a poor season and how many didn’t. To be exact, I am looking for relievers who had good/great 2016 seasons, noticeably poor 2017 seasons, and then how they fared in 2018. I want a solid basis of talent first, a season that can tell me that this guy has the potential to be legit, which is the point of the 2016 season data. Then I want a poor 2017 season. Since what is “poor” is debatable, I’ll say that if a reliever had either an ERA, FIP, or xFIP that was .75 points higher than the year prior, I will consider that a “poor” season in context with their body of work. I will leave a little wiggle room if the numbers are close enough to give me a bigger sample, but generally, I will stick to the .75 rule. Then I want to see how they performed in 2018 so that I can draw my conclusion and make my closing statement. I will be using their pitching “slash line” of ERA/FIP/xFIP. I also will not be including pitchers who did not pitch in 2017 or threw a fraction of innings that they usually do because there is not enough sample size to draw from.
These are the first 10 players who fit my criteria and we have some interesting information already! About 4 players rebounded in my mind; Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Seung Hwan Oh, and Jeurys Familia (5 if you include Herrera’s ERA but not his peripherals), while 6 players had 2018 seasons that continued their downward trend (or 5 if you think peripherals are for schmucks). Interestingly enough, these were 10 of the top 11 pitchers by fWAR in 2016 with Kenley Jansen being the only player in the top 11 who had a great 2016 and 2017. Let’s continue!
This list of players requires a bit more nuance than the previous one and I really need to stick to the peripherals to draw a solid conclusion. I see 5 players who bounced back in a significant way through their peripherals; Edwin Diaz, Will Harris, Brad Ziegler, Zach Duke, and Hector Neris. But the interpretation of this data can vary depending on the reader, if you value ERA, then you might see different bounceback players than me, but I believe that the 5 players I mentioned here had a noticeably better 2018 season compared to their 2017 season. Alright, let’s continue!
I’m just going to throw Buchter out of here because he doesn’t seem to really care about what his FIP or xFIP says he should be doing. After that, I see Shawn Kelley, Alex Colome, Sam Dyson, Hansel Robles, Alex Wilson, Ryan Pressly, Tony Barnette, and Jeremy Jeffress as guys who bounced back in significant ways in 2018. That’s 8! The only guy here who didn’t really bounce back was Justin Wilson.
These 30 pitchers were among the top 50 relievers from 2016 and 17 of them rebounded after a poor 2017 season in my eyes, good for a 57% success rate. How can this apply to the Twins? Well, I see this as good news for Trevor Hildenberger, who is looking to have a 2019 season that is more in line with his 2017 campaign, but I see this as bad news for Addison Reed who saw his numbers decrease heavily thanks to another drop in velocity. I also see this as good news for Cody Allen, the player who inspired this article, as there’s a better than average chance that he can have a better year than his awful 2018 campaign. This could also be somewhat neutral news for Taylor Rogers, who had the most dominant season of his career so far but needs another one to really cement himself as a top relief arm. An interesting thing to note is that a fair amount of these players who had bounceback years did so on a different team, so maybe there is some credibility to the idea that sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery.
Dman reacted to jtkoupal for a blog entry, Are the Twins Flipping 9 Coins in 2019?
The offseason has been slow thus far for the Twins. The only notable additions have been Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, and Ronald Torreyes. There have been some rumblings about Nelson Cruz heading to Minnesota in 2019, but thus far, no notable additions have been made. If the season started today, Minnesota's lineup would look something like this:
C: Jason Castro
1B: C.J. Cron
2B: Jonathan Schoop
SS: Jorge Polanco
3B: Miguel Sanó
LF: Eddie Rosario
CF: Byron Buxton
RF: Max Kepler
DH: Tyler Austin
Looking up and down that lineup, there are reasons for optimism. There is also plenty of room for concern. There are no sure bets in that lineup. The Twins are hoping for a lot of breakthroughs, and they will need to happen in order for the Twins offense to be competitive in 2019.
Jason Castro is not an offensive catcher, but catcher has become a starved offensive position in Major League Baseball. He has a career wRC+ of 92, very similar to his 2017 mark of 93. Castro only played in 19 games last year, so a return to health would be huge for the Twins. That being said, it's far from a guarantee that he will be healthy and productive. Castro could be the first of many coin flips in the Twins lineup next season.
C.J. Cron is a solid player who jacked 30 homers for the Rays in 2018 while posting a wRC+ of 122. However, his OBP was pretty low at .323 and his career wRC+ is only 111. It's possible that playing in the AL East boosted his power numbers. Cron is a decent player, but it would be hard to count on him being more than just decent.
Jonathan Schoop belted 32 for Baltimore in 2017, but the total dipped to just 21 bombs in 131 games in 2018. The Twins are taking a chance on Schoop, hoping he regains his 2017 form. If this is starting to sound familiar, I promise it's not going to get any better. The Twins are flipping a coin with Schoop, hoping he bounces back and fills the void left by Brian Dozier at Second Base.
Jorge Polanco had an underrated half-season in 2018. He put up 1.3 WAR despite missing the first 80 games due to suspension. I believe Polanco may be destined for Second Base in the future, and I don't imagine him being a star offensive player, but for now, he will be close to average at shortstop defensively while putting up a decent OBP (such as the .345 he posted in 2018).
Miguel Sanó might be the most frustrating player the Twins have had in recent years. Not just because of his underperformance in 2018, but also due to the continuing questions about his character and drive. It is likely that his poor fitness affected his performance last year. It is difficult to be optimistic about his future with the information we have now.
Eddie Rosario was an elite player in the second half of 2017 through the first half of 2018. Unfortunately, his production fell off a cliff after that (wRC+ of just 64 in the second half, compared to 137 in the first half, and 127 in the second half of 2017). Hopefully, his dip was due to injuries and he will be ready to go. However, it is not out of the question that he crashed back to earth after about a year of elite production.
Byron Buxton is much like Miguel Sanó from the standpoint that they have been counting on him since 2012 to resurrect the franchise. I am not comparing Buxton's character and work-ethic to Sanó's, but I am comparing their importance to the franchise. Buxton has had a calamity of injuries and has struggled to gain any consistency on offense. His defense is never in question, but the career wRC+ of 76 and the piling injuries is legitimate cause for concern now that he is almost four years into his Major League career.
Max Kepler has the organization, and fan base, in purgatory almost as much as any other player. We keep waiting. And Waiting. And Waiting. But the breakout hasn't happened. He has a hot streak, like he did to start 2018. Then he sleepwalks. Then he has a miserable month. Then he heats up. Then he sleepwalks again. Kepler isn't going to put up a 147 wRC+ every month (April 2018), but he needs to avoid the 28 wRC+ month (June 2018). Sooner or later, some consistency is necessary.
Tyler Austin may be the odd man out if the Twins do land Nelson Cruz, who would be huge for this lineup. It's possible the Twins will find somebody else for 1B/DH anyhow. That being said, if the season started today, it is likely that Austin would get the bulk of the workload at DH. Austin has talent, but he is probably a platoon player at best.
I'm not trying to be too much of a cynic, but it is hard to look at the lineup and be too optimistic about everything going right. A lot has to go in the Twins favor for this offense, as it is today, to be competitive in 2019. Falvine has their work cut out for them, time to spend a few bucks (or maybe a few more).
Dman reacted to Vanimal46 for a blog entry, My Aggressive Plan to Sign Manny Machado
Let me preface this post by acknowledging that the odds are low Machado signs with the Twins in real life. With low odds, we need to be BOLD and aggressive right upfront to schedule a meeting with him.
Mr. Machado, I want you to remember 3 numbers. 60, 40, and 3. We'll go into more detail what those numbers represent.
Let's start with the first number, 60. That's the number (in millions) I'm willing to offer you to play for the Twins in 2019. The organization is in a great spot financially with little to no extensive contract commitments after 2019. No one in baseball will be within $20 million of your annual salary. I hope this gets your attention.
The second number is 40. And that will be your AAV of your contract with the Twins for the first 3 years of the contract. After the first year where you make $60 million, you'll drop down to $30 million and still be one of the top paid players in the game. Not even Mike Trout has an AAV of $40 million. I hope this gets your attention, Mr. Machado.
Now let's talk about the last number, 3. This number is especially important because it allows you to control your own destiny. I'm willing to offer 3 opt-out clauses for you after your the 3rd year of your contract. If the team is failing to contend, it's your prerogative to opt-out and play somewhere else. However, we're confident the next wave of prospects in our system will compliment you very well from years 4-6 of the contract.
So what do you think Mr. Machado? Is this bold enough for you to spend the next 6 years of your career with the Twins?
Dman reacted to Jonathon Zenk for a blog entry, Updated Top Five Prospects Who Should Be Promoted
Two months ago, I wrote an article here about who should be promoted. Well, four of those five on the list have been promoted, as well as two of the three of my honorable mentions. Well, I am back again to do an updated list. I decided to write this one before I head off to school to work on my Master’s because I likely won’t have much time when that time comes.
Johan Quezada, RP, Elizabethton
Tyler Benninghoff, SP, GCL Twins
Anthony Escobar, SP, DSL Twins
Todd Van Steensel, RP, Chattanooga
5. Janigson Villalobos, C, GCL Twins
Villalobos was traded to the Twins earlier this season from San Diego in a deal that saw Minnesota say goodbye to Phil Hughes and a draft pick. In his first three seasons, he has improved dramatically, and he has made his biggest jump this year. In 56 at-bats this season in the Gulf Coast League, he has a slash line of .339/.413/.429. Only four of his 19 hits have been for extra bases, so hopefully that comes around for him. He does have a solid eye at the plate, as he has walked seven times in his 56 at-bats and has only struck out nine times (yes, I said that in an Ed Rooney voice). Having turned 21 a few months ago, he may have figured a few things out and a trip to Elizabethton could be in order. I mean, it makes sense, too. Ben Rodriguez was promoted to Fort Myers and Ryan Jeffers to Cedar Rapids. It makes logical sense that someone like Villalobos could take Jeffers’ roster spot in Tennessee.
4.. Bailey Ober, SP, Cedar Rapids
Ober’s stats do not ‘wow’ you over the entire season, but he has been lights out his past three starts (and really good over his last seven). The 23-year-old has an ERA of 3.88, but while that may not seem impressive, it certainly is considering how his 2018 started. His season got off to a rocky start, allowing six runs on five hits in 2/3 of an inning in a 10-5 loss to Burlington in late April. In his first three starts, he allowed 14 runs in 9.2 innings, as well as at least four runs in five of his first six starts. But since, he has only allowed eight runs in previous seven starts combined, and four of those came in a 7-4 win over Burlington last month. Since the calendar turned to June, he is 6-1 with an ERA of 1.58, slicing his season ERA from 7.86 to 3.88. His opponents batting average also went down from .339 to .252, and his WHIP went down from 1.59 to an impressive 1.08. In his last three starts, he has turned it up a notch, allowing just one run in 21.2 innings (0.42 ERA), while striking out a whopping 34. I don’t know if he will be promoted just yet, but if he has another few starts like he has had recently, there is no choice but to promote him. Last week, former teammate Bryan Sammons was promoted from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers. Ober could be next, maybe taking over a spot left by Tyler Wells, who I believe will move up to Double-A Chattanooga shortly.
3. Robby Rinn, 1B, Cedar Rapids
Rinn is an older prospect, and I normally don’t put them on this list, but he has been mashing for the Kernels. The 25-year-old was in Fort Myers for six games earlier this year, but was then returned to Cedar Rapids, where he has had 169 at-bats. In the 43 games he has played with the Kernels, he has hit .314 and has a real nice OPS of .826. Being an older prospect in a low level like Low-A, Rinn should be able to perform well, and he has done just that. Rinn, who was a 25th round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2016, was traded by the Royals to the Twins in March. In 322 at-bats for the Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie) last year, Rinn had a slash line of .355/.429/.511. With Rinn turning 26 in October, he needs to be challenged and he can platoon with Lewin Diaz in High-A Fort Myers. It also makes sense for the Twins, as he can be replaced on the team by 2018 eighth round pick Chris Williams, who has a slash line of .271/.380/.551 for the Elizabethton Twins.
2. Tyler Wells, SP, Fort Myers
All Tyler Wells has done since being drafted is dominate. Since being drafted in 15th round by the Twins in 2016, he had his worst year in Elizabethton after being drafted....and he went 5-2 with an ERA of 3.23 and a WHIP of 1.20. Following a successful stint in Cedar Rapids in 2017, Wells has had his best season in 2018. In 15 starts for the High-A Fort Myers Miracle, the Cal State Bernardino product has gone 7-4 with an ERA of 2.97 and a WHIP of an incredible 0.93. Like Rinn, he is also is a bit of an older prospect, as he turns 24 next month. He has slumped a little in July, just going 0-1 with an ERA of nearly five this month. But this comes on the heels of a great June, in which he went 4-0 with an ERA of just 1.63. Unlike many of the pitchers in the Twins organization, Wells does not have control problems, having just walked 16 in 78.2 innings so far this season. He should be promoted sometime late this year, which would create a roster spot for Ober to move to Fort Myers.
1. Victor Heredia, C/1B, DSL Twins
There is a very real possibility you have never heard of this slugger from Venezuela. Well, he has used the Dominican Summer League as his personal launching pad. Heredia did decent last season as a 16 and 17-year-old, slashing .257/.356/.351. But he has turned it up a level this season. In 36 games, Heredia, who just turned 18 last month, has a slash line of .366/.404/.611. Of his 48 hits, 18 have been for extra bases. Last season, he was listed as a catcher, but he has played first base this season. He has the ability to do both, much like Ben Rodrguez, who was recently promoted to Fort Myers. After having a real nice June, having a batting average of .300 and an OPS of .867, he has gone into Terminator Mode. Since the calendar turned to the seventh month of the year, Heredia has a slash line of .466/.492/.759. Heredia has 10 extra base hits in his 58 at-bats in the month as well. Even as a right-handed hitter, he has shown to hit right-handed pitching better than lefties. In 82 at-bats against righties, the Venezuela native has a slash line of .391/.426/.685. There is nothing left to prove down in the Dominican Summer League. If they want to utilize him as a catcher, he can take the spot on the GCL Twins left by Villalobos, who I think should be promotoed soon. The Ryan Jeffers/Ben Rodriguez promotions could send help lead Heredia to the United States before the season ends.
As always, feel free to critique and add who you feel should be promoted by the end of the 2018 season.
Dman reacted to Thrylos for a blog entry, 2018 Twins mid-season preliminary prospect list 1-60
Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
Now that the 2018 draft signing deadline has passed and a substantial amount of international free agents signed for the Twins, it is time to update my 2018 mid-season prospect list. As usual my mid-season lists are preliminary, unlike the off-season lists, and they have minimal commentary and analysis. Also, unlike other lists, players who made it to the majors have graduated from mine, also players older than 25 are not included. As a reminder, here is my off-season 2018 list:
The off-season top 60 list (2017 off-season in parenthesis) and ETA included.
1. Royce Lewis (--), SS/OF, 2020
2. Wander Javier (1), SS, 2020
3. Brusdar Graterol (13), RHP, 2020
4. Brent Rooker (--), 1B/LF, 2018
5. Fernardo Romero (4), RHP, 2018 - graduated
6. Rainis Silva (32), C, 2020 - traded
7. Blayne Enlow (--), RHP, 2020
8. Zack Littell (--), RHP, 2018 - graduated
9. Stephen Gonsalves (6), LHP, 2018
10. Lewin Diaz (3), 1B, 2020
11. Akil Baddoo (24), OF, 2020
12. Tyler Jay (2), LHP, 2018
13. Alex Kirilloff (8) OF, 2020
14. Luis Arraez (11), IF, 2019
15. Michael Montero (--), RHP, 2021
16. Nick Gordon (5), IF, 2018
17. Tyler Wells (54), RHP, 2020
18. Jose Miranda (--), IF, 2021
19. Jean Carlos Arias (36), CF, 2020
20. Jovani Moran (--), LHP, 2020
21. Lewis Thorpe (30), LHP, 2019
22. LaMonte Wade (22), OF, 2018
23 Yunior Severino (--), IF, 2022
24. Chris Paul (--), UT, 2019
25. Landon Leach (--), RHP, 2021
26. Andrew Bechtold (--), 3B, 2020
27. Travis Blankenhorn (15), 3B/1B/OF, 2020
28. Charlie Barnes (--), LHP, 2020
29. Tyler Watson (--), RHP, 2020
30. David Banuelos (--), C, 2020
31. Ben Rortvedt (16), C, 2021
32. Kohl Stewart (17), RHP, 2018
33. Alberoni Nunez (--), OF, 2021
34. Derek Molina (--), RHP, 2021
35. Bryan Sammons (--) LHP, 2020
36. Bailey Ober (--), RHP, 2020
37. Pedro Garcia (45), RHP, 2021
38. Lachlan Wells (29), LHP, 2020
39. Wander Valdez, (--) 3B, 2021
40. Aaron Whitefield (59), OF, 2020
41. Ricky De La Torre (--) SS, 2021
42. Jake Reed (25) RHP, 2018
43. Jacob Pearson (--), OF, 2022
44. Yeltsin Encarnacion (--) IF, 2022
45. Ryley Widell (--) LHP, 2022
46. Andrew Vasquez (52), LHP, 2019
47. Tom Hackimer (--), RHP, 2019
48. Kerby Camacho (--), C, 2021 - released
49. Hector Lujan (--), RHP, 2020
50. Colton Burns (--), OF, 2021
51. Cody Stashak -(55), RHP, 2019
52. Jaylin Davis, (39), OF 2019
53. Alex Robles, (--), OF, 2022
54. Ruben Santana, (--), IF, 2022
55. Carlos Suniaga, (--), RHP, 2022
56. Sandy Lugo, (--), RHP, 2020
57. Nelson Molina, (47), IF, 2020
58. Ben Rodriguez (--), C/1B, 2022
59. Carson Crites (--), 2B, 2022 - released
60. Jesus Toledo (--), LHP, 2022
Here is my mid-season 2018 list (2018 off-season ranking in parenthesis, followed by ETA) :
1. Brusdar Graterol (3), RHP, 2019
2. Royce Lewis (1), SS/OF, 2020
Same age, played at the same level. Could have gone either way. Graterol has ace stuff and his performance at the same team as a pitcher was a bit more impressive than Lewis's as a hitter thus this switch. 17 errors at SS in half a season for Lewis, also a concern. Might not remain the same this off-season. These two are very close.
3. Wander Javier (2), SS, 2020
Taking a mulligan for surgery in non-throwing, non-hitting shoulder. Still a true 5 tool player.
4. Brent Rooker (4), 1B/LF, 2018
Heir apparent to Joe Mauer, even as early as this September
5. Trevor Larnach (--), OF, 2020
6. Alex Kirilloff (13) OF, 2020
Huge jump because he delivered with the stick - fielding still an issue. Larnach similar player, but better defensively and more of a pure hitter, thus the ranking
7. Luis Arraez (14), IF, 2019
Could be the heir apparent to Brian Dozier starting in 2019. Purest hitter in the organization, glove will play fine in the least challenging position in the diamond.
8. Misael Urbina (--) OF, 2023
True five tool talent, he can fly through these rankings if he responds as a pro. Still 16.
9. Nick Gordon (16), IF, 2018
Ranking before his injury. Second half disappearances every season signal endurance/conditioning concern. 150 lb frame does not help
10. DaShawn Keirsey (--) OF, 2022
5 tool player looks a lot like Joe Benson from here.
11. Tyler Wells (17), RHP, 2020
The most consistent Twins' pitcher for the last two seasons; surprised he has not gained much momentum.
12. Blayne Enlow (7), RHP, 2021
13. Yunior Severino (23), IF, 2022
14. Akil Baddoo (11), OF, 2020
15. Ryan Jeffers (--), C, 2020
If he stays at catcher can be a tremendous asset for the Twins. 60+ power and 50+ contact already.
16. Michael Montero (15), RHP, 2021
17. Stephen Gonsalves (9), LHP, 2018
Disappointing season, esp. since his weakness (quality and command and control of the fastball) became even worse this season. Still helium in the national lists; sell high candidate.
18. LaMonte Wade (22), OF, 2018
19. Tyler Jay (12), LHP, 2018
20. Jovani Moran (20), LHP, 2019
21. Lewin Diaz (10), 1B, 2020
22. Travis Blankenhorn (27), 3B/1B/OF, 2020
Tremendous start, not so hot when the temps rose...
23. Lewis Thorpe (21), LHP, 2019
Might need another season to shake the spider webs. Pre-injury FB was at 95-97 at close to 70; now down to 92-93 and about 50-55
24. Yeltsin Encarnacion (44) IF, 2022
25. Victor Herredia (--) C/1B, 2023
26. Charlie Barnes (28), LHP, 2020
27. Andrew Vasquez (46), LHP, 2019
28. Jean Carlos Arias (19), CF, 2020
29. Zander Wiel (--), 1B/OF, 2018
Should receive consideration for minor league player of the year honors for the Twins
30. Jimmy Kerrigan (--), OF, 2018
31. Jeferson Morales (--), C, 2023
32. Taylor Grzelakowski (--) C, 2020
33. Jim Caceres (--) SS, 2023
34. Ben Rortvedt (31), C, 2021
Still not much of progress as a hitter, small for a catcher, arm exposed at Fort Myers.
35. Cole Sands (--), RHP, 2021
36. Jordan Balazovic (--), RHP, 2021
37. Landon Leach (25), RHP, 2021
38. Bryan Sammons (35) LHP, 2020
39. Ricky De La Torre (41) SS, 2021
40. Ruben Santana, (54), IF, 2022
41. Charles Mack (--) SS, 2023
42. Andrew Bechtold (26), 3B, 2021
Along with David Banuelos and Jose Miranda, the biggest drops as far as position players go
43. Wander Valdez, (39) 3B, 2021
44. Nomar Urdanetta (--) SS, 2023
45. David Banuelos (30), C, 2021
46. Jacob Pearson (43), OF, 2022
47. Jose Miranda (18), IF, 2021
48. Cody Stashak (51), RHP, 2019
49. Josh Winder (--), RHP, 2021
50. Jake Reed (42) RHP, 2018
51. Alberoni Nunez (33), OF, 2021
52. Pedro Garcia (37), RHP, 2021
53. Mark Contreras (--), OF, 2020
54. Jaylin Davis, (52), OF 2019
55. Lachlan Wells (38), LHP, 2020
56. Carlos Suniaga, (55), RHP, 2022
57. Chris Williams (--) 1B, 2021
58. Griffin Jax (--) RHP, 2020
First time he has been included in my lists; full time pro now with no Air Force responsibilities. Still lots of work to do.
59. Bailey Ober (36), RHP, 2020
60. Trevor Casanova (--) C, 2021
Chris Paul (24), UT, 2019
Tyler Watson (29), RHP, 2020
Kohl Stewart (32), RHP, 2018
Derek Molina (34), RHP, 2021
Aaron Whitefield (40), OF, 2020
Ryley Widell (45) LHP, 2022
Tom Hackimer (47), RHP, 2019
Hector Lujan (49), RHP, 2020
Colton Burns (50), OF, 2021
Alex Robles, (53), OF, 2022
Sandy Lugo, (56), RHP, 2020
Nelson Molina, (57), IF, 2020
Ben Rodriguez (58), C/1B, 2022
Jesus Toledo (60), LHP, 2022
Dman reacted to Miles Death for a blog entry, The Matt Magill Improvement Story
By now, most of us have noticed how Matt Magill has been a solid arm in the Twins bullpen this season. He made his first appearance of 2018 in a clunker of a game (which I attended ) on April 29th against the Cincinnati Reds. He threw 2.1 innings that Sunday and gave up just 3 hits and 0 earned runs, adding 2 punch-outs as well. So far this year with the Twins, he’s given up a total of 3 ER over 23.2 IP, for an ERA of 1.14.
Magill was drafted in 2008 in the 31st round to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had two briefs stints in the majors with both the L.A. Dodgers (2013) and the Cincinnati Reds (2016) before joining the Minnesota Twins (2018). During that time, he had ERA’s of 6.51 and 6.23 respectively. He’s clearly been around for a while; so why the recent success on the bump?
In my mind, there’s two simple reasons:
He’s throwing more strikes:In 2013 as a starting pitcher, Magill gave 28 free passes in 27.2 IP (BB/9 = 9.11 – ouch.)
In 2016 as a relief pitcher, he had a BB/9 of 10.38 in just 4.1 IP
Now, in 2018, he currently holds a BB/9 of 1.3 – and that is fun to watch
[*]His stuff is a lot better:
His fastball velocity has an average of 95.1 MPH so far in 2018, compare that to 93.1 MPH in 2016, and 91.8 MPH in 2013.
He’s getting more movement on both his 4-seam fastball, and his “cutter” or hard slider. Check out the charts from FanGraphs below on the horizontal movement for Magill's pitches (2018 first, 2016 second). For your reference, a positive value on horizontal movement means the ball will be moving away from a right-handed hitter, and therefore a negative value means the ball is tailing in on a righty.
Clearly, in 2018 he’s getting more movement on that cut fastball (FC), slightly more run in on the righties, and again more velocity with the 4-seamer (FA). This could be a contributing factor to why he's been so effective this season at producing weak contact (.219 BABIP - Nice!).
Check out the vertical movement below (2018 first, 2016 second):
Again, the notable difference is with the cut fastball (FC).
Magill is throwing the ball over the plate, and he has increased his velocity considerably, while getting more movement on his cutter. This is a recipe for continued success and I believe it’s time for Molitor to start utilizing him in higher leverage spots. Can somebody explain to me why he hasn’t gotten this chance yet?
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Dman reacted to Steven Buhr for a blog entry, Kernels: "Lot of Guys Doing Some Really Good Things"
The Cedar Rapids Kernels hit the frozen ground running this season, jumping off to a 6-0 record before finally suffering their first loss of the year on Friday night against Clinton.
Bryan Sammons delivers a pitch Friday, April 13, against Clinton (Photo: SD Buhr)
Don’t say the start surprised their manager, Toby Gardenhire, though. With a lineup as full of highly regarded prospects as this Kernels roster is, he’s not going to be too surprised with short term success.
“I don’t know if I’d call it surprised,” Gardenhire said on Friday before that night’s frigid game. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are doing some really good things right now. Any time you can run off a stretch like we’ve done here, it means there are a lot of people doing their job and doing a really good job of it.
“That’s the nice thing about our lineup,” he continued. “We have a whole bunch of guys that are really exciting. Whether they’re going to do it on a given night, that’s the question, but we’ve had a lot of guys step up and do some pretty impressive things, so it’s been fun.”
Still, even if the early success isn’t surprising, this is not exactly how the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ season was supposed to start out.
You simply don’t expect four of your first 11 games (including three of your first five home dates) to be postponed due to cold and snow.
Cold or not, you can’t argue with success.
Cedar Rapids opened the 2018 campaign April 5 with a 2-0 shutout of the Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, then had the next night’s game postponed.
They topped Quad Cities again, 4-3, in Cedar Rapids’ home opener on April 7. Then had another postponement the next day.
They did get an entire four-game series played in Peoria during the middle of the week and it’s a good thing they did, too! The Kernels swept all four games from the Chiefs.
They won the first game of the series 3-1, which means they had outscored their opponents 9-4 through the first three games they played. It wasn’t exactly a demonstration of the kind of offensive fire power that fans were expecting to see from a lineup that included two first round draft choices and often saw “slot picks” (players drafted in the first 10 rounds of the amateur draft) at all nine spots in the batting order.
That all changed as the weather crawled up to more normal levels over the final three games of the series in Peoria. The Kernels scored 8, 12 and 9 runs, respectively, in those games while posting their perfect 6-0 record through Thursday.
In three of those four games against the Chiefs, Cedar Rapids had to mount comebacks after falling behind Peoria. That fact wasn’t lost on their manager, either.
“That’s our lineup,” the manager said. “You don’t expect that, but I would say, at this point, right now, we don’t really ever feel like we’re out of it with the group of guys that we’ve got going.
“Now that changes, it fluctuates throughout the season. There’s days when you’re going to be down and think, ‘uh oh, we’re never going to come back in this one,’ but with the way the guys are playing right now and swinging, their confidence level is very high right now and that helps out a ton, too. With these guys’ confidence level right now, being down doesn’t scare them.”
Alex Kirilloff, the first round pick of the Twins in 2016, had a two-home run game in the series and 2017 first overall pick Royce Lewis notched his first home run of the season during the Peoria series, as well.
Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire (Photo: SD Buhr)
For our purposes, we’ll just try to pretend Friday night’s 2-0 loss to Clinton didn’t happen. I’m sure the Kernels hitters would like to, anyway, after managing just a pair of singles and one walk against the Lumberkings on a frigid night in Cedar Rapids. (Games 2 and 3 of the scheduled weekend series were postponed due to cold and snow).
That one forgettable game aside, it’s been a pretty impressive opening act for this group of Minnesota Twins prospects.
On a team with a pair of first round picks, it might come as a surprise that outfielder Mark Contreras has led the team’s offense, so far. The Twins’ 9th round pick out of UC-Riverside is off to a hot start in the five games he’s played, with a .444 batting average and a 1.029 OPS. And that’s after an 0-3 night against Clinton on Friday.
Catcher (and 2016 2nd round pick) Ben Rortvedt also went 0-3 against the Lumberkings, but Rortvedt is still hitting .400 and has a healthy .979 OPS.
Obviously, this early in the season, these are all small sample sizes and it would be unwise to put much (or any, really) stock in stat lines that accumulate over just a handful of games, most of which took place in very unpleasant weather conditions.
Still, that 6-1 record is looking pretty good, so far.
As encouraging as the way his young lineup is playing under challenging conditions, Gardenhire is just as happy with what he’s seeing from his pitching corps.
“Our starting pitching has been good,” Gardehire observed. “They’ve been able to get us into the fourth or fifth inning just about every game.”
That may not seem like much and, later in the season when temperatures warm up and arms are healthy and loose, the bar will be set at a much different level. But this is April and many of these games have had game time temperatures around 40 degrees. Maybe lower.
“In the beginning of the season,” the manager explained, “(getting 4-5 innings) is all you’re hoping for. Get us 75 to 80 pitches and get us into the fifth. Past the fifth is great. And they’ve been doing that just about every game and keeping it close while they do it.”
Bryan Sammons, the only Kernels starting pitcher to take the mound for two starts so far, has a 0.96 ERA in those two starts, spanning 9 1/3 innings, and a WHIP of just 1.07.
But four or five innings is only half the game and the Kernels have been holding opponents in check after that, as well, as Gardenhire pointed out about his relief arms.
“Our bullpen has been great. They’ve just done a really good job. Guys are starting to get comfortable. This early in the season, you expect a lot more of the yips and guys being pretty nervous going out there. And we haven’t had a ton of that. We’ve had some guys go out there and be a little bit nervous, but for the most part, guys have stepped up and done really well.”
Kernels pitcher Derek Molina (Photo: SD Buhr)
Three members of the bullpen, Jared Finkel, Calvin Faucher and Derek Molina, have yet to surrender an earned run. Finkel has made three appearances and Faucher a pair of them. Molina threw two scoreless innings of relief Friday night after joining the team as a replacement for Ryan Mason, who had been so effective in his three appearances that he earned a promotion to Class High-A Fort Myers.
All told, ten of the fourteen pitchers who have made at least one appearance for the Kernels so far have early-season ERAs of 2.25 or lower.
Of course, it’s early and nobody will claim ERA means everything (or even much) when it comes to judging a pitcher’s effectiveness, but up and down the stat list, several Kernels are striking out a batter or more per inning and walking less than half of the number of batters they are striking out.
It’s an encouraging start.
The Kernels have a scheduled off day on Monday, following the two unscheduled days off on the weekend. Then they head to Beloit for a three-game series against the Snappers, where temperatures are projected to run anywhere from a low of 25 to a high of 45 over those three days. Oh, and there’s a fair chance of snow on Wednesday. Of course there is.
All of these postponements are going to wreak havoc on an already hectic schedule for the Kernels in May, too.
They start out the month of May with series against Eastern Division clubs and will go on the road to Dayton and then Bowling Green. Their only scheduled day off in the entire month is Sunday, May 13. But since that’s the day after their series finale in Bowling Green the night of the 12th, how do you think that day is going to be spent?
If you guessed a very long bus ride throughout the night and into the morning, you’d be correct.
Then from May 14 through June 3, the Kernels will play 24 games in 21 days.
Their make up game with Quad Cities will be on May 16. This will be a “split double header,” with the first game being the regularly scheduled noon game and the nightcap starting at 6:35. Both games will be 7-inning games, just as traditional double header games are in the Midwest League.
Memorial Day weekend could be the real gauntlet for the ballclub, though.
That’s the next time that Clinton is scheduled to return to Cedar Rapids and both of this weekend’s games will be made up as part of traditional double headers over the Holiday weekend. One on Saturday, May 26, starting at 5:05, and the other on Sunday, May 27, beginning at 2:05.
I know it’s probably not going to be necessary, but I’m thinking I’m going to loosen up the throwing arm earlier that week. You just have to figure Gardenhire and his pitching coaches are going to be looking around for anyone who can throw the ball 60 feet by the time that Sunday evening rolls around.
That’s next month’s concern, of course, so we’ll worry about that when the time comes.
The next home series in Cedar Rapids kicks off this coming Friday night, April 20, and it’s a special one.
Royce Lewis is the first “number one overall” draft pick to suit up for the club and the Kernels are celebrating with a “Royce Lewis Bobblehead” promotion.
While the Kernels have done bobblehead promotions honoring past players with some level of frequency, this is the first time they’ve honored a current Kernels player in that manner.
Only the first 1.000 fans through the gates will get a bobblehead, though, so if you want one, you probably should plan to get in line early.
Royce Lewis poses with his bobblehead (Photo lifted from Kernels Twitter feed, but if you don't tell them, I won't tell them, ok?)
(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)