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  1. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Brock Beauchamp for a blog entry, Introducing Dark Mode!   
    This has been one of the most-requested features for a long time and I'm happy to announce that Dark Mode is finally a thing you can use across the site! Dark Mode is a new way to use Twins Daily, especially at night or in darkened rooms. Instead of the background being black text over white background, it's the inverse: white text over black background. Some people find sites easier to use and read in this inverted scheme and now it's really easy to toggle back and forth as needed.
    At the top right of each page, you will see four icons in the red bar; the first icon is a half-filled circle. Click that to toggle back and forth from light to dark modes on the site. That's it!
    Now, the site has become quite sprawling and while I tried to check every aspect of how this renders on each page, I surely missed some things. Therefore, dear user, you are my quality assurance team. If you see anything that's hard to read, doesn't work right, or just plain looks weird, add a comment below and I'll get it fixed as soon as possible.
    For those of you who have been asking for this feature for so long, sorry it has taken this long. What seemed like a pretty simple feature actually turned into an overly-complex problem that I couldn't solve without quite a bit of effort.
    Once again, I'd like to give a big thanks and shout out to our caretakers of Twins Daily; without their continued support, small-but-important features like Dark Mode would be much more difficult to implement. The added freedom to hire additional staff allows me to spend more time focusing on these types of projects. Thanks again!
  2. Like
    DocBauer reacted to TwerkTwonkTwins for a blog entry, Gilberto Celestino - The Contact King   
    Gilberto Celestino has had an interesting path to the majors, and one that reduced his initial shine for most of the fanbase. Celestino was acquired for Ryan Pressly at the 2018 trade deadline, alongside Jorge Alcala, in a very unpopular deal at the time. MLB Pipeline ranked Celestino the 15th best prospect in 2019, and 14th best in 2020. The consensus was that Celestino was a standout defensive center fielder, but questions about his bat and power limited his overall projection.
    When Celestino was called up out of emergency in 2021, his initial performance not only confirmed the offensive questions in the prospect rankings but the calling card of his defense was also poor with -2 Outs Above Average coming from 56 attempts. Celestino was clearly overmatched at the major league level, as he played a handful of games at AA before making the jump to the Twins. Celestino accumulated a 22 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR in only 62 plate appearances in 2021. 
    Needless to say, when Celestino was added to the 2022 Opening Day roster the reaction amid the fanbase was tepid. It's probable that the Twins didn't even envision Celestino making the roster, as they optioned him to Triple-A St. Paul on 3/31. Many believed that his status on the roster was to be temporary, with rumors swirling about the Twins adding Justin Upton to be a source of right-handed power in the outfield. 
    Derek Falvey even went as far to say that Celestino could be off the major league roster in a week's time. 
    Flashing forward to early May, Celestino has outperformed expectations, and probably any output that could have come from Justin Upton. As of 5/9, Celestino has provided some of the best offensive and defensive numbers on the team. 
      AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ wRC+ wOBA fWAR bWAR Gilberto Celestino .324 .390 .405 .796 144 143 .361 0.6 0.4 FanGraphs has Celestino as the 6th most valuable offensive player on the Twins in fWAR and his wRC+ is the third highest on team behind Byron Buxton and the legendary Kyle Garlick. On the defensive side of his game, Celestino has 2 Outs Above Average (84th percentile). It's a small sample size, but how has Celestino been so valuable this early on? 
    The answer to that question: Celestino has had amazing plate discipline. 
    Season Pitches Zone % Zone Swing % Zone Contact % Chase % Chase Contact % Edge % 1st Pitch Swing % Swing % Whiff % Meatball % Meatball Swing % 2021 235 51.5 64.5 82.1 26.3 63.3 43.8 30.6 46 23.1 6 85.7 2022 145 52.4 65.8 96 15.9 72.7 46.2 28.6 42.1 8.2 8.3 66.7 MLB   48.5 66.8 82 28.3 58.4 42.6 29.2 47 24.6 7.2 76
    The highlighted cells show that areas where Celestino has been outperforming both his 2021 self, and the MLB average. He's simply become one of the most contact-oriented players in the game, and one of the most discerning about balls and strikes. He's swinging and making contact at pitches that are meant to be swung at in the zone, and spitting at the outside pitches that usually result in outs. 
    Among all players with at least 25 plate appearances, Celestino ranks 3rd in Whiff % (8.2%) , and 16th in Chase Rate (15.9%). To put that in further perspective, here's a look at Celestino compared to two other players with great plate discipline reputations. 
      Pitches Zone % Zone Swing % Zone Contact % Chase % Chase Contact % Edge % 1st Pitch Swing % Swing % Whiff % Meatball % Meatball Swing % Gilberto Celestino 145 52.4 65.8 96 15.9 72.7 46.2 28.6 42.1 8.2 8.3 66.7 Luis Arraez 351 43.6 66 92.1 25.8 88.2 46.4 19.5 43.3 8.6 5.7 60 Juan Soto 549 43.4 56.7 80.7 19.3 66.7 41 20.3 35.5 23.1 5.8 78.1 MLB   48.5 66.8 82 28.3 58.4 42.6 29.2 47 24.6 7.2 76 Am I saying that Gilberto Celestino is the next Juan Soto or Luis Arráez? No, but I am saying that Celestino is a supremely disciplined hitter with extreme contact skill. That doesn't always take a large sample to determine. Soto has a chase rate of 19.3%, which ranks in the 90th percentile. Arráez has a miniscule whiff rate of 8.6%, which is in the 100th percentile of MLB players. Celestino tops both players in these areas at this point in the season. 
    The only knock on Celestino this year can be his lack of power. Both his Barrel Rate (3.2%) and his average exit velocity (86.9 MPH) rank below the MLB average. However, the Twins have plenty of slugging across their lineup to make up for that. Luis Arráez used to be the lone bat-to-ball man in the lineup with names like Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez, Alex Kiriloff, and Gio Urshela. It helps to have offensive diversity, and Gilberto Celestino may be filling a needed niche that nobody expected. 

    If Celestino's current blend of strong defense and astounding swing decisions holds up, he probably ranks as a starting-caliber outfielder on most major league teams. The lack of power will always hold him back from being a true star, but his skillset fits today's game more so than the previous half-decade. The surprise addition to Opening Day roster may have been the perfect fit for the 2022 brand of baseball. 
  3. Like
    DocBauer reacted to mnfireman for a blog entry, Not Baseball, but Morneau and Mauer!!   
  4. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Brandon for a blog entry, Competitive Balance Tax Wobbly Floor   
    I was just thinking about the Competitive Balance Tax in Baseball and the negotiations going on and was thinking about the concept that was proposed of a 100 million floor.  for a lot of small market teams that would be too high of a floor as it makes sense to dip down when doing a rebuild.  but the thought that crossed my mind is.... why does it have to be a solid floor?  I mean with the competitive balance tax on the top end of teams payrolls they have an escalating penalty each year they are above a limit.  
    Shouldn't that work if teams drop below a certain limit as well?
    I think a better current floor would be between 70 million and 80 million.  Drop below it once and receive a slap on the wrist 10% drop in revenue sharing revenue.  Do it 2 years in a row make it 40% drop in revenue sharing received and a competitive balance draft pick or have that pick drop a round.  do it 3 years in a row loos all revenue sharing designed to boost small market teams and lose all additional competitive draft picks designed to help low revenue teams.  I am sure the exact amounts can be negotiated.  But I would support a floor built the same way a ceiling has been installed so a team can't be brought down to the studs and receive lots of money....
    This would also make tanking more interesting because how would you do it?  trading for bad contracts and prospects which teams would probably do.  This would help tanking teams get more prospects and get out of the cellar faster.  This would be a new wrinkle in the game and a benefit for the players.
    Weigh in and tell us what you think about a wobbly floor?
  5. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, 2022 Minnesota Twins Top 15 Prospects   
    While we have no baseball right now because of the league locking out its players, there’s still minor league prospects to dream on. 2021 provided us a full season of minor league action and the Twins saw a ton of movement from their biggest names.
    It was certainly tough to see the injuries mount this season, but that can likely be tied to the non-traditional 2020 and having to get back into a demanding flow. The last update to the top 15 in this space came in June, prior to the Major League Baseball draft, so now feels like a good time to refresh the list. 
    Previous rankings can be found below. Let’s get into it:
    2016 Top 15 Prospects 2017 Top 15 Prospects 2018 Top 15 Prospects 2019 Top 15 Prospects 2020 Top 15 Prospects 2021 Top 15 Prospects 15. Cole Sands RHP
    Sliding Sands back a spot here has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with additions before him. He posted a 2.46 ERA in 80.1 IP all at the Double-A level in 2021. The strikeouts are there and while the walk rate was up, he still worked around damage. Some time on the IL wasn’t a great thing, but he could be an option for Minnesota soon.
    14. Matt Wallner OF
    I’m pretty bullish on Wallner being a better version of Brent Rooker. His .854 OPS at High-A was a professional best this season, and he raked for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. He has massive arm strength and should be fine in a corner spot. He’s going to hit for power, and I think the on-base abilities are there too.
    13. Noah Miller INF
    Taken 36th overall by the Twins, Miller’s brother Owen is a big leaguer. Noah is expected to be a better all-around prospect and has plenty of speed on his own. I think he’s got a pretty good shot to stick in the middle of the infield, and it’ll be exciting to see him on the field in 2022.
    12. Blayne Enlow RHP
    Throwing just 14.2 innings this year, Enlow was put on the shelf early and then underwent Tommy John surgery. He was added to the 40-man roster protecting him from a Rule 5 selection. He’s still one of my favorite breakout prospects, but he won’t be healthy to start 2022.
    11. Josh Winder RHP
    After dominating Double-A, Winder earned a pretty quick promotion to Triple-A. He was just ok in his four starts at St. Paul, but there’s no reason to believe this isn’t a talented arm. He’s consistently had strong strikeout stuff and avoided free passes. Winder was bit most by the longball for the Saints. He did experience a trip to the IL but should be healthy coming into 2022.
    10. Keoni Cavaco INF
    In 60 games for Low-A Fort Myers Cavaco did little to impress. That said, he’s still just 20 years old and it was great to see him advance beyond the complex league. He’s still filling out form a body standpoint, and 2022 will be an important year for his development.
    9. Chase Petty RHP
    Selected as the 26th overall pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft, Petty was seen as a great value selection given his ability to reach triple-digits on the mound. He’s still got a good amount of refinement to undergo, but this is a great arm for Minnesota to mold.
    8. Matt Canterino RHP
    Spending a good amount of time on the IL this year, Canterino certainly wanted to get in more than 23 innings. The work he did do was dominant, however. A 0.78 ERA and 45/4 K/BB is plenty indicative of him needing the challenge of at least Double-A to start 2022.
    7. Simeon Woods-Richardson RHP
    One piece of the return for Jose Berrios, Woods-Richardson pitched just eight innings for the Twins at Double-A. After playing with Team USA in the Olympics, he needed a good amount of time to ramp back up. The strikeout numbers are exciting, but he does have command issues to work through. Still, this is a top-100 prospect that should be fun to watch in 2022.
    6. Jhoan Duran RHP
    After being among the best Twins pitching prospects coming into 2021, Duran took a slight step backwards. He was injured for a good part of the season and contributed just 16 innings. The high strikeouts were combined with too many walks. The velocity is certainly there, but he could wind up being a reliever too. 2022 will be a big season for him.
    5. Joe Ryan RHP
    Acquired in exchange for Nelson Cruz, Ryan wound up being among the best things to happen for the Twins last season. After pitching for Team USA, Ryan made five starts at the big league level. His 3.43 FIP was better than the 4.05 ERA, but a 30/5 K/BB is beyond impressive for a guy who doesn’t have dominant velocity. How Ryan adapts to more tape on him in year two is going to be intriguing.
    4. Jose Miranda IF
    No player in the Twins system had a better year than Miranda. He tallied a .973 OPS across Double and Triple-A while blast 30 homers. He played all over the infield and it’s clear the bat is ready for his next challenge. I’m not sure where he fits for Minnesota yet, and it may not be Opening Day, but he’s coming and soon.
    3. Jordan Balazovic RHP
    Starting 20 games for Double-A Wichita, Balazovic turned in 3.62 ERA with a 9.5 K/9. He looked every bit the pat of an ace at times while going through growing pains as well. He’ll need a clean bill of health and complete season in 2022, but he’s very close.
    2. Austin Martin SS/OF
    The headlining return for Jose Berrios, Martin is a very similar player to Minnesota’s top prospect Royce Lewis. Playing shortstop but potentially an outfielder, Martin owned a .779 OPS at Double-A Wichita. He hasn’t really hit for any power, but that should come. The athleticism is strong, and the speed is there as well.
    1. Royce Lewis SS/OF
    Putting him back on top of the prospect rankings, Lewis missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL. He’ll return to the field healthy in 2022 and looking to distance himself from a 2019 that left production to be desired. Lewis’ bat has flashed plenty, and he’s looked comfortable at both short and in the outfield. A quick rise to the big leagues may be in the cards.
  6. Like
    DocBauer reacted to cjm0926 for a blog entry, For The Future: A Possible 2025 Roster   
    Recently I was thinking about the future of the Twins past this offseason and was wondering what a future roster would look like. Everybody is so wrapped up in this year's offseason, and rightfully so, that they are willing to sell off the farm to try and jump back into contention with a loaded White Sox team in our division. Personally, I would like to be competitive in 2022, but wouldn’t expect to be World Series contenders without ruining our future. With that being said, I was bored and I drew up an idea for a possible 2025 lineup for the Twins. The kicker though, was no free agent additions. It is too easy to pencil in certain guys that we COULD sign. I went with all home grown talent on this one. I also didn’t set a 26-man limit, moreso just an open roster, to allow more creativity. Without further ado, the 2025 lineup .
    Starting Lineup (Age on 2025 Opening Day in parentheses)
    C - Ryan Jeffers (27)
    1B - Alex Kirilloff (27)
    2B - Jorge Polanco (31)
    3B - Jose Miranda (26)
    SS - Royce Lewis (25)
    LF - Austin Martin (26)
    CF - Byron Buxton (31)
    RF - Trevor Larnach (28)
    DH - Aaron Sabato (25)
    Backup Catcher - Ben Rortvedt (27)
    Utility - Luis Arraez (27), or Keoni Cavaco (23)
    4th Outfielder - Gilberto Celestino (26), Emmanuel Rodriguez (22) ETA 2024, Misael Urbina (22) ETA 2023
    Other Options - Matt Wallner (27), Brent Rooker (30)
    This plan really relies on many prospects to live up to a good chunk of their potential, which doesn’t always happen. Hopefully by 2025 many of these guys will have 1-3 years of Major League time though and will be ready. To start it off at catcher, I have Ryan Jeffers. I would assume the Twins could platoon Jeffers and Rortvedt, not making one of them too much more of a Catcher #1 than the other. I think they could both be above average catchers, Jeffers due to the bat, and Rortvedt from the defense. Next, I have Kirilloff manning first base. I think he will be a huge piece for the Twins for the next many years, he could also spend a little time in the outfield if needed, or DH, and give some time at 1B to Sabato. Jorge Polanco is at 2B, there are a couple option years for Polanco around $10 Million leading to 2025, but if he plays anywhere near he did this year, it should be a no brainer. At 3B I have Jose Miranda. I could see where Arraez could take over 3B and Miranda become utility, or visa-versa. They could even split time and the other be a utility man. At SS I have Royce Lewis. I think he is the SS of the future. He can provide good defense, and with a few tweaks his bat could really play. In left field I have Austin Martin. I felt like he could stick at SS for a while, but after some recent research, my opinion really swayed. I think Martin could become a superstar left fielder though. He can provide above average defense and has a super high ceiling with the bat. For centerfield, it all relies on the Twins retaining Buxton. I am speaking for all of Twins Territory when I say this, EXTEND BUXTON!!!! In right field I have Trevor Larnach, his defense is poor, but his bat could really play. Hopefully when we extend Buxton, that can help make Larnach’s defense look better for years to come. Lastly, at DH I have Sabato. DH could very likely be a revolving door where everyone cycles through, or, if Sabato can show something he could be the primary DH. Sabato has light-tower power, and a good eye at the plate. He had a rough start to his professional career but things seemed to be looking up towards the end.
    On the bench I have Rortvedt as the backup catcher. That is very interchangeable though. For Utility, I have Luis Arraez and Keoni Cavaco. You could change Arraez and Miranda, whichever one continues to perform gets 3B. Cavaco has underperformed but has skills to be a solid Major Leaguer. For the 4th Outfielder I have Celestino, Rodriguez, and Urbina. Celestino should be Major League ready in 2022. I am showing optimism for Rodriguez and Urbina. They both may be too young to take on a 4th Outfielder role in 2025, but it could happen. They will set up nicely for the future though. You could take one or even two of the three on your bench. Lastly I have Rooker and Wallner. I truly don’t know how they fit. They both profile similarly, high strikeout rate but light-tower power. Wallner does provide slightly better defense though. Either would be a below average defensive corner outfielder and/or a power hitting DH.
    Jordan Balazovic (26)
    Simeon Woods-Richardson (24)
    Blayne Enlow (26)
    Cole Sands (27)
    Josh Winder (28)
    Bailey Ober (29)
    Joe Ryan (28)
    There is plenty that could go right here, but also plenty that could go wrong. The Twins have lots of guys that profile as back of the rotation guys. The only 2 on this list with big league experience are Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Balazovic and SWR have the most potential to pitch at the top of a big league rotation. Enlow was profiled as a 2-3 in the past, but has been out due to Tommy John surgery, so we will see how he returns. Although there are all these scouting reports, only time will tell. Heck, Jacob DeGrom, the best pitcher on the planet, was drafted as a shortstop out of college. Some guys could find something out and become the ace of a staff, and some guys could flat out forget how to pitch, only time will tell. Although there are all of these potential arms, it is highly unlikely the Twins roll with all home grown talent, but for the sake of this article, I will. Lastly, I didn’t set a 5-man rotation because I felt that was too restricting. Rather, I added guys that have serious potential to stay in a big league rotation and could be sorted out any which way.
    Jorge Alcala (29)
    Jhoan Duran (27)
    Drew Strotman (28)
    Louie Varland (27)
    Chris Vallimont (28)
    Matt Canterino (27)
    Jovani Moran (27)
    As you may notice, this bullpen is made up of mostly current minor league starters. One thing that all of these guys have in common (minus Alcala), is that they are currently mostly successful starters but aren’t projected to be great starters in the majors, but they have great stuff. Great stuff is crucial to becoming a great bullpen arm. A bullpen is so unpredictable (*cough cough Alex Colome*), so there are really a lot of routes a team could take. This plan is a super big shot in the dark, because 2025 is 3 full seasons away, and a lot of things could change. It is a given that the bullpen will have some free agents in it. These guys listed haven’t seen an inning in the Majors besides Alcala. I think Alcala or Duran could become the closer due to their great stuff and high velocity. I just included some guys that could become good bullpen pieces for the future, like the rotation, in no certain order.
    Making a roster for 3 seasons down the road is really just a shot in the dark, but I had fun doing it. A lot of guys' contracts expire before then so you have to rely on the prospects a lot. I also didn’t include a few guys who will be under team control past 2025. Those guys include Dobnak, Gordon, Jax, etc. These guys could very likely stick, I just don’t see it happening due to the upcoming wave of prospects. If you see anything you could change, drop a comment, would love to hear some feedback!
  7. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Jose Berrios Stings Again for Twins   
    The Minnesota Twins dealt Jose Berrios to the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2021 Major League Baseball season. Today he signed a seven year deal worth $140 million to stay in Canada for the bulk of his career. The wound is opened again. 
    When the Twins flipped Berrios to the Blue Jays, they did a great job acquiring prospect capital. Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson are both top-100 prospects. Despite Martin looking more like a centerfielder than a shortstop, his talent still plays up the middle. Woods-Richardson will get a shot to re-establish himself after competing in the Olympics last season. If Minnesota wasn’t going to sign Berrios, then getting that type of haul was nice.
    In seeing the deal get struck with Toronto, it’s very clear that Minnesota’s sticking point was the duration. As Darren Wolfson points out, the front office is not keen on offering seven year pacts to players. That’s a fair stance, even with someone who’s been as durable as Jose, and even though he’s just 27-years-old. What remains to be seen is how they will compete for those top talents otherwise. If you’re taking a hard and fast approach on avoiding length, then you must make a more aggressive push on value.
    A $20 million average annual value for Berrios seems like a fair amount. That’s below what Noah Syndergaard will get, albeit on a one year deal, despite pitching just two innings since 2019. Should Minnesota look to mitigate risk by avoiding length, they’ll need to tack on a percentage above market rate to lure free agents into their organization. 
    We’ll very quickly get an idea how this plays out for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Ultimately, they “saved” the money on Berrios by flipping him for outstanding prospects. Instead of breaking up the $20 million annually across two or three pitchers, they must be willing to spend that type of coin on one arm that fills the void. They’ll be hoping the length of the deal is shorter, but banking that salary flexibility, or trying to patch it together through multiple players is not something that should be met with praise. 
    As I’ve harper on for months, this offseason is going to be the most important in determining the true ability of the front office, and they should be judged accordingly.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. Like
    DocBauer reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Royce Lewis: the Man, the Leg Kick, the Shortstop?   
    Lewis is undeniably the highest ceiling prospect in the Twins’ system. Drafted #1 overall with a collection of physical tools often boiled down to just “athleticism” but what that actually means is Lewis possesses elite speed, a strong arm, quick feet and raw power. Lewis also has the work ethic and attitude to succeed.
    Anybody having questions about Lewis’ professionalism or makeup can watch this clip from an interview posted on YouTube by MLB on March 5th, just shortly after Lewis’ ACL surgery. He’s more articulate, confident, charismatic and thoughtful than most MLB veterans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coBBWY0hlBI
    Here’s an awesome 45 minute USA Baseball interview with Royce Lewis from April of this year. It’s worth a watch, but as a warning, you’re going to come away from it pulling even harder for Lewis to succeed. Hard to believe it only had 70 views when I found it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooangyknwdg
    So it all sounds great on paper, but there are quite a few lingering questions about Lewis. The question I’ve seen concern about most recently on Twins Daily is whether the Twins expect Lewis to stick at shortstop. In specific, there are some scouts out there who aren’t sold on Lewis’ arm at shortstop and Lewis has really struggled with errors in his first season at short in the minors. So what’s the problem with his arm if it’s graded as a 60? According to scouting reports I’ve dug up and read closely, it’s his release. Lewis’ throws tend to have a long release or windup which offsets his actual strength and there’s questions about his throwing accuracy. In 2020’s alternate site, the Twins worked closely with Lewis to improve his throwing technique to address those issues. If you watched the latter video link above, Lewis makes it very clear the Twins are dead set on Lewis being a shortstop so whatever concerns there are about his arm seem to exist only outside the organization.
    The other question is about Lewis’ hit tool. Regardless of glowing scouting reports and athleticism, players have to ultimately put up the numbers at the plate worthy of promotion and playing time at the MLB level. Lewis’ hit tool has taken a huge beating over the past couple years. Lewis’ walk rate is poor and his strikeout rate is mediocre at best suggesting a poor eye at the plate and he had weak batting average and power numbers. Any of Lewis’ struggles are sometimes attributed to his exaggerated leg kick, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s massive. Leg kicks create problems when it comes to timing and Lewis’ leg kick is so early and large, it seems like it can put him in a position where he’s off balance when he needs to swing. Timing both the pitcher’s delivery and the pitch’s location and speed increases the difficulty of having success at the plate. But does a big leg kick have to be detrimental to a young player? Not at all. Royce Lewis has been quoted as being confident in his leg kick and positioning, but he understands people immediately turn to it because it’s unusual. If there’s one thing Twins fans who’ve followed our prospects know, a coaching staff having a player constantly fiddling with leg kicks makes a mess of young hitters. The Twins are also on record saying the leg kick is not a problem. Still, it’s the target of amateur batting coaches everywhere.
    So how about that big leg kick being impossible for success? Let’s compare. A 23 year old Blue Jays All Star shortstop named Bo Bichette to our own 22 year old top prospect shortstop Royce Lewis. Bichette on the left and Lewis on the right.

    Bichette generates most of his big power from his corkscrew approach, winding up his core so that his back angles towards the pitcher, and that approach is particularly problematic for timing and hit tools, but he makes it work because he keeps his balance and his shoulders and arms stay level. Lewis’ leg kick is very similar to Bichette, but Lewis’ mechanics are more simple and don’t involve the big corkscrew windup. Lewis’ swing has been called messy with too many moving components making it inconsistent. If you look at the images, though, you can see there isn’t a ton of extra noise and the Twins have been continuing to work with Lewis on his approach including the 2020 alternate site, though the high hands required Lewis to add movement before the swing both down and in the opposite direction of his swing beforehand. Keep in mind, the GIFs I created show Bichette this year and Lewis 2 years ago. Regardless, Bichette is All Star proof the leg kick can work just fine, even for a young player.
    So if the leg kick isn’t preventing Lewis’ success, what’s wrong? Where are the results? Well, he was age 20 in AA and he only had 148 plate appearances at the level in the last season Lewis played, not to mention Lewis ripped the cover off the ball later that year at the Arizona Fall League to the tune of .353/.411/.565 OPS .975 in 95 plate appearances. When dealing with small sample sizes for a young player who is making adjustments, struggling can be part of the game. After all, the approach and adjustments are the most important part, not the end result. That said… I feel like the AFL is more tuned towards performance and getting experience than adjustments the coaching staff might make during the minor league season and Lewis absolutely produced and impressed there, just like you’d expect of a top prospect.
    The linked scouting report breaks Lewis down quite a bit and provides some insight into his troubles at the plate. https://www.prospectslive.com/scoutingreports/royce-lewis “Shows an eye for the zone but does not want to walk; passive approach early in counts may play against him, yielding poor strikeouts and walks both.” Of course, the same scouting report attacks the leg kick, but if we’re to believe the leg kick isn’t the issue, Lewis has some significant room to improve with his approach at the plate to balance his aggression. That kind of thing can just come with experience… unless your name is NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario…
    When it comes down to it, there is no prospect in the system with more potential to be a super star or who causes more anxiety with Twins fans than Royce Lewis. If any prospect has the character, work ethic and physical skills to make it all work, Lewis fits the bill. 2022 is unbelievably important for Lewis and his development. Here’s hoping the young prospect recovers fully from his ACL surgery, doesn’t lose a step and shows all the work at the alternate site and in the classroom pay off big time. The Twins could sure use an MLB caliber shortstop sooner than later and I’m sure nothing would please Lewis more than to prove he’s got what it takes.
  9. Like
    DocBauer reacted to ashbury for a blog entry, Scorpions Stomp Solar Sox   
    Thursday afternoon's game in Mesa was marred by an injury to Matt Wallner due to an errant pitch high and inside.  I wrote up what I know here.  I find it disquieting that we have not quickly heard a simple "X-rays proved negative" by mid-evening.  The 11-4 drubbing administered to the home Solar Sox by our Twins' Scottsdale Scorpions pales in comparison to the concern I have for Matt, but here is my game summary from a Twins fan perspective.
    In attendance along with me at Sloan Park was Twins Daily stalwart USAFChief.  Perhaps there were other luminaries in attendance, but this was enough star power for me!
    Wallner was the only Twins representative in the batting order, playing in RF.  In terms of fielding, he handled a routine fly out and dealt capably with the base hits in his direction.  As for his work at bat... after striking out to end the first inning, he launched a no-doubter HR to left center to lead off the third, off of Oakland pitching prospect Jeff Criswell (presumably no relation to the famed narrator of Plan Nine From Outer Space).  Two innings later, he came to bat again and on 2-0 was hit in the leg on the bounce by a 55-foot pitch that I'll assume to be a curve that got away from Criswell, still in the game for the last of his four innings of work.  I thought nothing of it at the moment,  but then the next inning Wallner faced a different pitcher, Hogan Harris also of the A's, and I really, really, really hope this was nothing more than a coincidence - the two HBP had little in common in terms of the kind of pitch, and the second one occurred on a 1-2 count which is not a typical situation for a purpose pitch - but in the box score they all look the same.  Wallner headed straight to the dugout after the 95-MPH beaning, not taking even a step toward the base he was being awarded.  After the third out he was escorted across the field, walking under his own power and seemingly steadily, to the left field corner where presumably medical attention was to be had.  Here is a photo of him, a pitch or two before the fateful one:

    The only Twins farmhand to pitch was Zach Featherstone.  As with Laweryson yesterday, the fastballs I saw were low-90s at best, but his mix of pitches was effective and his body of work in the eighth inning was a clean 1-2-3, with two swinging strikeouts after a harmless fly to left.  (Chief noted that, what with Funderburk also, the Twins apparently are cornering the market on three-syllable pitcher names.  Maybe it's the new market inefficiency.)
    The layout of the ballpark allows fans to wander over toward the bullpen and observe pitchers warming up from a vantage point above them, and here is a shot of Zach before he came into the game:

    These are the only Twins tidbits to offer from the game, but it happens that Wallner was not the only person on the field who had unwanted contact with a baseball.  Scorpions third base coach Ydwin Villegas (Giants) was nailed, in the shoulder I think, by a sharp foul liner.  He was cool as a cucumber, having dodged actual injury, and popped right back up to resume signaling the base runners as though nothing at all had happened.  Occupational hazard, which is why base coaches earn the big bucks.
    The AFL has some experimental rules.  One I noticed in both my games so far is that the umpires frequently check pitchers caps and other areas of the uniform for banned substances.  Chief remarked on the lack of extreme defensive shifts.  And a walk seems to have been awarded to Scorpions first baseman Triston Casas (Red Sox) when the pitcher apparently exceeded the 15-second time limit while there was a 3-ball count - we at first thought a balk had been called, to advance the runners, except that Casas also trotted down to first.  This prompted me to look up the rules for the AFL this year, and some these are covered at this website.  (I had failed to notice that the bases were slightly larger, and also that in last night's Salt River game the balls and strikes were not being called by the plate ump.)
    It was a super pleasant afternoon, with temperatures in the low 80s.  But it is sobering to realize that Chief and I have not brought the best of luck to Twins prospects in the AFL when we view games together, as we have witnessed AFL-season ending injuries to Taylor Rogers (struck in the shoulder by a line drive) and Lamont Wade (concussion after collision with a fellow outfielder).  I hope that Matt bounces back as well as these two players have been able to.
    Mrs Ash and I will be concluding the Phoenix area portion of our vacation with one more game, a home game at Scottsdale, Friday afternoon.
  10. Like
    DocBauer reacted to TheLeviathan for a blog entry, A 21-22 Offseason Idea   
    Full transparency: This is not a team intending to compete in 2022.  This team is loading up for 2023.
    Trades and Extensions:
    Sign Byron Buxton to a 7 year, 119M contract with incentives
    Trade with Florida Marlins - Mitch Garver for SP Sixto Sanchez 
    Trade with New York Mets - Josh Donaldson (plus 14M spread over two years) for RP Jose Butto
    Let Colome walk.  Release Austidillo, Refsnyder, Minaya, and Cave.
    Free Agency: 
    Sign Corey Seager a 5 year 27M contract to play shortstop
    Sign Michael Pineda back to a 2 year 24M contract with incentives
    Sign Jon Gray to a 3 year 45M contract
    Sign Sandy Leon to a 1 year, 2M contract
    Sign Leury Garcia to a 1 year 5M contract
    Sign Corey Knebel to a 3 year 24M contract
    Sign Ehire Adrianza to a 2 year, 3M contract
    C - Jeffers  500k
    1B - Kiriloff  500k
    2B - Polanco 5.5M
    SS - Seager 27M
    3B - Arraez 2M
    LF - Rooker 500k
    CF - Buxton 17M
    RF - Kepler 6.75M
    DH - Sano 9.25M
    Bench - Gordon 500k
    Bench - Sandy Leon 2M
    Bench - Leury Garcia 5M
    Bench - Garlick or Larnach 500k
    Bench - Adrianza 1.5M
    Regular Lineup - Arraez-Buxton-Seager-Polanco-Kiriloff-Sano-Kepler-Rooker-Jeffers
    SP - Gray 15M
    SP - Ryan 500k 
    SP - Ober 500k
    SP - Pineda 12M
    SP - Sixto Sanchez 500k
    CL - Rogers 6.7M
    BP - Alcala 500k
    BP - Duffey 3.7M
    BP - Theilbar 1.2M
    BP - Knebel 8M
    BP - Dobnak 800k
    BP - Gant 3.7
    Total Salary: 138.6M  (Including the 7M deferred)
    Rotation Depth: Gant, Dobnak, Smeltzer, Balazovic, Winder, Duran, SWR 
    Bullpen Depth: Butto, Thorpe, Moran, Stashak, Strotman? Other assorted AA and AAA guys
    OF Depth: Larnach needs to hit himself into a job. Marten should be a guy looking to get the job in LF.  As soon as mid-summer.  Almost the entire bench, plus Kiriloff and Arraez can also play in the OF.  
    IF Depth - Adrianza is a jack of all trades, Gordon as well.  Being a lefty and a switch hitter gives some options for lineups.  Royce Lewis and Jose Miranda should be in this conversation mid-summer as well.
    Catching depth: Leon exists to give Ben Rotrevedt time to be the long-term backup.  
    The idea here is that 2022 is a transition year.  So, let Rooker/Larnach and Jeffers and Arraez play. Martin is going to take 2B or LF eventually.  Lewis and Miranda are going to be up to take over other positions eventually.  The team is strong up the middle, depth is better, and the team is primed for a 2023 coming out party.  Ditto the rotation - Gallen, Sanchez, Ryan, Ober, and the fleet of young arms gives this team options and upside.  Bullpen is stabilized.
    By September 1 I’d love to see this group:  Seager-Buxton-Polanco-Kiriloff--Marten-Larnach-Miranda-Kepler-Jeffers  with a rotation of Gray-Ryan-Ober-Sanchez-Duran/Balazovic  That group is an upgrade here or there in 2023 from being a real force if we develop our talented youngsters.
  11. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Andrew Mahlke for a blog entry, What should the Twins offer Byron Buxton?   
    Back in March, Matthew Trueblood wrote an excellent article on Twins Daily about what a potential Byron Buxton extension would look like. Now, obviously this was before Buxton’s phenomenal (injury plagued, but still phenomenal) 2021 campaign. After the season Buxton had, his value for a future extension skyrocketed.
    With Byron Buxton up until about 2019, the main question was always: “Will he be able to hit major league pitching?”. He always played phenomenal defense, ran the bases ridiculously well, and had an incredibly strong arm. He just had to put it together at the plate. Well, since the start of 2019, Buxton is 20th in the MLB in OPS and 4th in the MLB in slugging percentage. Buxton has really put it together at the plate in the last 3 seasons and it has been a joy to watch. 
    Before we get into his contract specifics, let’s highlight how special Byron Buxton is.
    5-Tool Player
    Byron Buxton helps the Twins win games, plain and simple. Since the beginning of 2019, the Twins are 104-68 when Buxton plays, and 106-106 when he does not. This means that they play at roughly a 98 win pace when he is on the field and an 81 win pace when he is not. This is the difference between not making the playoffs at all and getting home-field advantage in the playoffs. Let’s take a dive into what makes Buxton such a difference-maker for the Twins.
    I mentioned earlier how Buxton has really found his stride with his swing. Back in May of 2019, towards the beginning of Buxton’s outbreak, Parker Hageman wrote a phenomenal article about Byron Buxton’s swing. He took a deep dive into the swing adjustments Buxton had made that year that led to his success. Ever since then, his career has taken off.
    Buxton has been riddled with injuries his entire career, that is no secret. But since 2019, out of all players with a maximum of 700 plate appearances, Buxton leads with 102 extra base hits. The next closest player is Buxton’s teammate, Mitch Garver with 79 extra base hits. With limited appearances, Buxton is thriving.
    Using Baseball Savant’s handy Affinity feature, you can see which players have the most similar batted ball profiles to each other. In 2021, the most similar batters to Buxton were Yordan Alvarez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Rafael Devers, Salvador Perez, Josh Donaldson, and Aaron Judge. Buxton is up there with the cream of the crop. If you follow baseball at all, you know all of these guys are absolute stars and Buxton’s name belongs in that conversation as well.
    2021 was his best year yet. He had a 169 wRC+, had 42 extra base hits (19 home runs), and a 1.005 OPS. Buxton proved in 2021 that he couldn’t just hit, but absolutely MASH major league pitching.
    Buxton has always been elite defensively, winning a platinum glove as the AL’s best defensive player in 2017. Since 2016, Buxton has 58 outs above average (OAA), the 5th most among all center fielders. All of the players ahead of him (Lorenzo Cain, Kevin Kiermaier, Billy Hamilton, and Ender Inciarte) played at least 140 more games than Buxton in that span. If Buxton had played 140 more games, he would have the most OAA by 10 outs. It is safe to say that when Buxton is healthy he is the best defensive CF in baseball. He also has an absolute cannon in the outfield. His arm strength has been measured at 99 MPH before, so he definitely has an above average arm.
    Buxton has always been one of the fastest players in the MLB. In 2021, Buxton was in the 99th percentile in sprint speed. His average sprint speed was 30 ft/sec and he had the fastest average home to first time at 4.00 sec. Buxton is a game-changer on the bases and has made a huge impact on many games on the basepaths, most notably walking off the Detroit Tigers on a seemingly routine ground ball to the shortstop. 
    Overall Value
    Since 2019, Buxton has been worth 8.1 fWAR in 187 games, or a pace of 7 fWAR per 162 games. To put that number into perspective, there were zero position players with a WAR of 7 or over in 2021. In the last full season, 2019, the only players with a WAR 7 or above were Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Marcus Semien, and Anthony Rendon.
    Buxton’s WAR in 2021 was 4.2 over 61 games. Extrapolated to 162 games, that would be the equivalent of 11.2. That is absolutely ridiculous. That would be tied for the 17th best single season of all time in terms of WAR.
    Just looking at his raw per 162 numbers, you would think that the Twins should sign Buxton to a 10 year, $500 million extension. Unfortunately, Buxton has been injury prone throughout his career. As of July 2021, Buxton had only played 181 of 484 possible games since 2018. It is hard to justify giving him a big extension if he isn’t going to be healthy for a majority of it.
    Extension structure
    In short, I would offer Buxton an extension over seven years. It will start in 2023 and go through 2029, his age 29 through 35 season. As Buxton ages, his defense and speed will most likely deteriorate and he will not be as valuable. You also have to factor in his injury history so you won’t be paying full price.
    Consider the following:
    Since 2019, Buxton has played 187 of a possible 384 games, or 48% of possible games.  Since 2019, Buxton has accumulated 8.1 WAR in 187 games, or 7 WAR/162 games According to Fangraphs, you should pay $8M/WAR. So,
    If Buxton were to play 162 games, he would be worth 7 WAR x $8M/WAR = $56M/year This is obviously egregious, especially considering the Twins usually have a payroll from 125-140M.
    According to spotrac, with the exception of the Dodgers, the top payrolls are right around $200M. We are going to assume those teams are able to use the $8M/WAR calculation
    Since the Twins will use maximum 140M of payroll, 70% of what the top payrolls use, we will also use 0.7 as our multiplier for the WAR value calculation.
    $8M/WAR x 0.7 = $5.6M/WAR
    Using our new 5.6M/WAR, he would be worth roughly $39M a year if he played 162. I think this is fair for a player of his caliber. He has been an MVP level player the last 3 seasons, and shows no signs of stopping.
    Besides injuries.
    Since Buxton has only played about 48% of possible games, I would pay him 48% of that $39M per year.
    39M x 0.48 = about $19M a year. This is the base salary I would give Buxton. His base contract should be 7 years, $133 million
    However, we should account for the fact that there is a chance he remains healthy. This is where it gets tricky. This is where I bring in incentives to the contract.
    Buxton’s 7 WAR per 162 is worth 0.043 WAR per game. The current contract is assuming he plays 80 games If Buxton plays 120 games, he will get the original 19 million plus an additional amount of money We will determine this amount of money by multiplying his WAR per game by the additional 40 games he will be playing
    40 games x 0.043 WAR per game = 1.7 WAR x $5.6M per WAR = $9.5M If Buxton plays 120 games, he should earn an additional 10 million.
    For 130 games, he will be worth an additional 2.4 million using that formula For 140 games, he will be worth another 2.4 million And for 150, he will be worth 2.4 million more. Contract Summary
    Base contract: 7 years, $133 million ($19M AAV)
    120 games incentive: $9.5M/yr ($28.5M AAV)
    130 games incentive: $2.4M/yr ($30.9M AAV)
    140 games incentive: $2.4M/yr ($33.3M AAV)
    150 games incentive: $2.4M/yr ($35.7M AAV)
    If Buxton plays 150 games, he could be making up to $35.7 million per year. This is the contract I would propose to Buxton because he would be getting a good amount of guaranteed money and it also helps him understand that playing a certain amount of games could get him an absurd amount of money.
    How does this contract compare?
    A salary of 19M per year (if he meets no incentives) would make him the 27th highest paid position player in baseball. Since 2019, he is 33rd in WAR among all position players, so this base contract would be just about right. If he meets all of the incentives, he would be the highest paid position player in baseball, which is fair considering the amount of talent he has and his production over a full healthy season would be at an MVP level. I think at his peak, he will play about 120-130 games, making his salary between 28 and 31 million. This would put him in the range of the 5th to 8th highest position player in the league. 
    TL: DR version
    Pay Buxton a base salary of $19 million a year for 7 years, with games played incentives from 120 games to 150 games of various amounts that could net him up to $35.7 million per year.
    Byron Buxton is a generational type of talent and I haven’t seen anyone like him in a Twins uniform my whole life. It would be a mistake to let him go just because of financial concerns. He is a player that you would rather overpay than not pay at all, so priority number ONE this offseason needs to be extending him. If there’s one player to offer this type of contract to, it’s Buck.
    Thank you for reading, and Go Twins.
  12. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Did Nick Gordon Do Enough?   
    This upcoming season the Minnesota Twins have plenty to decide when it comes to their middle infield. They need a shortstop, and while that could be Jorge Polanco, I’d advise them looking elsewhere. Where, though, does that leave rookie Nick Gordon?
    Playing in 73 games and getting exactly 200 plate appearances, Gordon found himself getting a good amount of run for Rocco Baldelli’s squad. There should have been more opportunity had Andrelton Simmons not clogged things for the entirety of the season, but nonetheless Gordon was given a glimpse.
    For the past few seasons, I have wondered whether Gordon’s time would come with Minnesota at all. He has a track record of performing well when repeating a level for the second time, and despite missing 2020 with the minor league shutdown, he showed up ready to go in 2021. Miscast as a shortstop, and lacking the power for a second basemen, Gordon needed to reinvent himself. He proved capable of that this season, but where does that leave him going forward?
    As a fielder, Gordon saw action at six different positions this past season. The bulk of his playing time came in centerfield (34 G), and his true home of second base was doubled up (17 G). He also made 14 appearances at shortstop, where he’d contest is home, and 12 in the corner outfield with two cameos at third base. Because of his versatility, he was routinely an option for the Twins and fantasy managers alike.
    From an all encompassing perspective, it was a jack of all trades, master of none approach. To be fair, that’s ultimately what a utility player is. Gordon adapting to the outfield on the fly should be seen as an incredible boost for the Twins, and something definitely working in his favor. Recording just over 220 innings in centerfield, Gordon posted a -1 DRS there with a -0.8 UZR. It’s too small of a sample size to take much from, but he did also record 1 DRS in 110 innings at second base.
    Ultimately, I think that Nick Gordon proved he can be useful anywhere on the diamond. The question still remains if Minnesota should want him in that capacity. On the offensive side of things, the former first round pick slashed .240/.292/.355 for a .647 OPS and a 79 OPS+. Minnesota’s last two utility players posted a 94 OPS+ (Marwin Gonzalez) and a 103 OPS+ (Ehire Adrianza) during the final full year that was 2019. Both were terrible in 2020, but I’d imagine that’s not the bar the Twins are looking to clear.
    Gordon’s additional strength is that he can run. The Twins haven’t had much of a stolen base threat outside of Byron Buxton in recent seasons. They definitely have not had a capable pinch runner on their bench. Swiping ten bags and being caught just once, Gordon displayed an ability to generate runs on the basepaths this season. If that’s a skill or advantage Minnesota is looking for, he’s the cheapest option.
    I’m not sure if Gordon makes the 26-man to start 2022 or not, but he’s certainly made his case better than it was at any other point coming into his career. There’s not a ton to hope on future development here, but if Minnesota wants to make use of their former first round pick, then it’s seeming like they’ve got a path to get it done.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  13. Like
    DocBauer reacted to AChase for a blog entry, Non-tendering Taylor Rogers Would Be a Huge Mistake   
    I'm seeing a lot of discussion suggesting the Twins may consider non-tendering Taylor Rogers. There's no debate about Rogers's ability or performance, but the concern seems to be whether or not he's worth his projected ~$7MM salary in his final year of arbitration (per MLBTradeRumors).
    I believe Rogers is worth it and then some. It's not close. Non-tendering Taylor Rogers would be a huge mistake.
    Below are the 22 free agent contracts offered to relief pitchers in the last three offseasons with and average annual value of $7MM or more:

    First, note that $7MM is clearly not an exorbitant amount for a quality relief pitcher. On average over these three years, about 7 relievers achieve that AAV or more.
    But how does Rogers compare to those elite arms? On a rate basis, Rogers has been worth 2.0 WAR/60IP. As shown above, this is matched by only 2 players: Liam Hendriks at 2.4 and Andrew Miller who ties Rogers at 2.0. It's the same story in FIP (unsurprisingly); Rogers's 2.62 is bested by only Miller's 2.16 and Hendrik's 2.17. By just about any measure, Rogers can be considered a standout among these relievers. In fact, he would be would be one of the very best RPs to enter the FA market in recent years. He's been that good.
    There's more to like about Roger's recent performance too. His velocity on both pitches has continued to climb, reaching new highs with his fastball (95.7) and his slider (84). He posted a new career high in K% at 35.5, easily improving his 2020 performance of 26.4 and his previous best of 32.4. Only four RPs in 2021 can claim a better K-BB% than Rogers, and his groundball rate of 50.0% is a return to form.
    All of this leads to a career best FIP of 2.13. In fact, only Josh Hader and former teammate Ryan Pressly finished 2021 with a FIP- better than Rogers's 50 (minimum 40 IP). I'd make a case that Taylor Rogers has been easily one of the top 5 left-handed relievers in baseball at any point over the last 4 years. On a counting or rate basis, only Hader has been better by WAR.
    Projections like Rogers as well. ZiPS has projected him to be worth 1.1 WAR in 2022, his age 31 season (and 2023). The usual suspects are ahead of him: Edwin Diaz, Hendriks, and Hader as the only other lefty. These projections were prepared prior to the 2021 season, so it remains to be seen what the projection systems think of him after his season. On one hand, he did have his best year as a big leaguer. On the other, he did end his season injured, leaving a cloud over his status for 2022.
    If he stacks up well in such elite company, how much is Rogers worth in the free agent market? It's tough to say, especially with his recent injury. I will point out that Hendriks and Miller, the two pitchers in the last three years with an obviously better free agent case than Rogers, combined to receive 6 years and $88.5MM for a $14.75MM AAV. All together, the 22 contracts above average almost exactly 2 years and $20MM, a $10MM AAV. Rogers is also younger than many of the names above at the time of their contracts, and he has a longer track record of elite performance than almost all of them. I think it's reasonable that a healthy Rogers would receive something north of $10MM annually for 3+ years.
    Rogers's finger injury really is the only question here. We all know a healthy Rogers is worth more than his arbitration figure, but we don't know how much this injury will impact his game in 2021, if at all. Only the Twins and Rogers can know for sure, and we can only speculate until the day Rogers is offered arbitration, signs a deal, or not. And any team interested in his services for next year should be concerned.
    However, it's worth pointing out two things: Rogers has been exceptionally durable through his entire career, and he may be be worth his arbitration amount either way. Look at the list of names above again. There's a lot of serious arm injuries in there. Betances landed a deal with the Mets despite him appearing in just one game the previous season as he recovered from his shoulder impingement and a torn Achilles. Trevor Rosenthal got two of these deals. He received the first after missing more than a season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The second contract came after he recently passed through waivers unclaimed.
    Even if you think poorly of his prospects in 2022 due to injury, perhaps it would be a perfect time to work out a multi-year extension based around vesting options. They may not get a ton of value next year, but he would have time to make up for it into the future.
    My point is this: Rogers is one of the very best relievers in the game, especially from the left side. For a Twins team desperate for pitching, replacing his production would be very costly in either dollars, prospects, or both, and there's almost no one in the league who could replace him anyway. It's worth mentioning too that he's smart, regarded as a leader, and well liked by teammates, media, and fans alike. Sure, his injury is worrisome. But in a similar way as Buxton, that risk is one of the only ways the Twins may be able to afford real, impact talent for this roster. If the Twins don't take that risk, there will be several teams that will, just as they have shown in the past.
    Sign Taylor Rogers. You'll likely come to regret it if you don't.
  14. Like
    DocBauer reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Josh Donaldson Crushed Baseballs in 2021   
    Many people are down on Donaldson thanks to his good, but not exactly great performance at the plate this year compared with his $21MM payday over 2021 and still guaranteed for the next two seasons. The expectation is his legs have all but given up with him coasting into his mid 30s on a big contract as another aging star fading out. The thing is, his batted ball data says Donaldson was absolutely getting the shaft. Donaldson is actually having a career year in terms of the metrics. He’s annihilating the baseball with the best barrel rate and exit velocity of his career, he’s launching it at an optimal angle, he’s striking out less than he has since 2016 and still walking in the top 10% of all baseball. The expected markers say Donaldson should be performing at the plate like his 5+ WAR seasons of old, but the results just weren’t there. Is it luck, is it the shift, the lead plates in his shoes or high speed worm burners instead of towering fly balls coming off Donaldson’s bat?

    Before we get into the analytics, what were Donaldson’s results compared to his peak years from 2015-2019 and his career averages? Looking at Fangraphs data:
      AVG OBP SLG ISO OPS BB% K% 2021 .247 .352 .475 .228 .827 13.6 21.0 Peak .276 .382 .541 .265 .923 14.0 20.5 Career .269 .367 .505 .235 .872 12.7 20.0
    The glaring issue is really the batting average which drives both the AVG and SLG components of OPS, and there’s good news in regard to Donaldson’s results on the surface here. He had the lowest BABIP of his entire career last year by 10 points at .268 with his previous low of .278 coming way back in 2014 before he turned into the MVP caliber hitter he became. Donaldson’s BABIP was also nearly 30 points lower than his career BABIP of .295. There are factors which influence BABIP from running speed to batted ball type to exit velocity and launch angles and as hitters push into their 30s, sometimes their eyes and legs show it. Swing and miss increases, walks taper off, balls don’t pop off the bat like they used to and that extra time to get to first base turns one time hits and doubles into outs and singles. Donaldson’s walk and strikeout rates remained right at his prime levels so it seems unlikely his reactions and eyes have aged. Let’s look into the rest.

    2021 vs. Peak years of 2015-2019 reveals line drive rates (17.1% vs 19.1%), ground ball rates (43.0% vs. 42.1%) and fly ball rates (39.9% vs. 38.8%) are right where they should be, but Fangraphs shows a potentially insignificant increase in pop up rates (12.9% vs. 10.6%) and drop in HR/FB rate (18.6% vs. 22.4%). Pop up rate increases and decreases in fly balls which turn into home runs can come from luck or be used as a signal a player just isn’t hitting the ball as well. Is Donaldson hitting the ball as hard as he used to? Yes, actually, even harder. Using Statcast data on Baseball Savant, Donaldson’s 94.1mph average exit velocity ranked 4th in MLB and his 17.4% barrel rate per batted ball event ranked 8th in MLB. Donaldson’s 52.7% hard hit rate from Statcast (balls hit over 95mph) was good for 11th best in MLB where Fangraphs had his 40.2% hard hit rate ranked 17th across all qualified MLB hitters using the much tougher Baseball Info Solutions algorithm. The bottom line? Donaldson was an elite MLB batter in terms of walk rate, exit velocity, hard hit rate and barrel rate. He also had a near ideal 14.6% launch angle. Even looking into Donaldson’s average fly ball distance didn’t reveal any obvious changes from his peak years. Based on the advanced batted ball data and metrics, nobody could be as angry about the results as Josh Donaldson himself. He was hitting the ball like an MVP, but getting results which don’t even look All Star level. Plotting Donaldson’s batted ball data out against the rest of MLB…

    It's clear, Donaldson is putting all but the other elite MLB batters to shame in the way the ball rockets off the bat. Donaldson’s numbers are all obviously heads above the top 10% batter thresholds. There aren’t any accidents when it comes to ranks… and about those ranks, Donaldson’s page on Baseball Savant has enough red marks (top 10% in MLB) on it since 2015, including this year, to make you think the website was broken.

    That said, even if a player is hitting a ball hard, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d be expected to produce at a high level. Hitting a whole bunch of 100mph worm burners isn’t going to do much for a player’s OPS. So how about those expected results? They’re impressive and Donaldson seems to be the victim of bad luck right across the board. If you’re still not into wOBA, .385 would probably correspond with an OPS+ or wRC+ in the mid 140s. For calculating xOPS, I used xBA + Donaldson's actual walks and hit by pitch data along with his xSLG.
      Actual Expected AVG .247 .266 SLG .475 .533 OPS .827 .901 wOBA .353 .385 Homers 26 30 Of course, some players simply don’t seem to track consistently with metrics. There are pitchers who routinely and significantly outperform or underperform their FIPs, for example. What about Donaldson? The graph below paints a very clear picture. His xOPS has typically been better than expected, but his xwOBA is almost always pretty close to expectations. Keep in mind that 2018 and 2020 were small sample size years for Donaldson. This past season was the first time in his career that Donaldson was way off his expected wOBA, and it was the first time his actual production was significantly below his expected wOBA.

    The next item up for me is always the shift. According to Fangraphs’ data, Donaldson hit .289 against the shift this season, but his overall production against the shift wasn’t great at wRC+ 81 in a somewhat small sample size. It seems like his walk rate and ISO tanked. Since we are still dealing with quite a bit of randomness in regard to Fangraphs’ shift reporting and small sample size, I don’t think there’s much to take away from it. That said, Fangraphs showed a higher shift rate deployed against Donaldson than he’d ever seen in his career by a mile even though Donaldson isn’t strictly a pull hitter. Considering Donaldson was certainly effective at recording hits against the shift, I don’t think the shift is the reason for the lack of production.
    Finally, how about speed? Well here’s one place where Donaldson is in obvious and serious decline. Being one of the slowest players in all of baseball can have a serious negative impact on batting average and slugging percentage. Back in Donaldson’s heyday, his sprint speed was in the 26.5 ft/sec range, putting him into a pretty solid average runner category. It’s dropped precipitously the last few years placing him as one of the slowest runners in all of MLB this year with a miserable 24.5 ft/sec. It takes about 4 seconds on average to run from the plate to first base. In 2021 Donaldson was 10 feet and 2 strides away from the bag when 2016 Donaldson or this year’s Brent Rooker would have crossed it. The gaps continue to increase on an attempt at a two bagger. Donaldson reaches 2nd base in his prime 17 feet ahead of today’s Donaldson. Doubles have to be no-doubters for 2021 Donaldson. This plays into defense, too as Donaldson’s range has fallen from average-ish to very poor this year. Fangraphs UZR indicates Donaldson was unplayable at 3B this year with a UZR/150 of -19.4 due almost exclusively to his fall off in range. Baseball Reference, as expected, graded him much better using Range Factor as the shift artificially hides how poorly Twins fielders actually perform by providing Twins fielders with more opportunities to field balls which would have otherwise slipped through the gaps.
    So what was Donaldson missing from his production which he should have seen? Was it the missing doubles from Donaldson scrambling down the basepaths like a car running a dragstrip dragging two flat tires? Seemingly, no. Donaldson managed 26 two baggers; maybe a tick higher than typical career expected rates. Honestly, it seems like singles and home runs are what’s lacking. Looking at the hit spray chart, I counted 11 doubles which could very well have been home runs, depending on the field where Donaldson hit them this year. Baseball Savant’s expected home runs for one thing sat at 30. That correlates with how many home runs he would have hit at the average MLB ballpark given his individual, real fly balls. If he played all his games in San Diego, he would have hit 36 bombs. Surprisingly, Target Field seems to be a poor location for Donaldson this year with just 27 expected based on his batted ball data. Considering Target Field doesn’t typically punish right handed hitters like it does lefties with that tall right field wall, I’d chalk this up to a straight up fluke. It’s worth noting a few unlucky doubles turning into home runs helps Donaldson somewhat, but his iron boots would prevent him from wheeling around 1st to stretch that single out for an extra base so some stat lines are likely to drop off from his absolute prime, which is to be expected as Donaldson navigates through his mid 30s.
    Let’s summarize this up. Donaldson his crushing the baseball and he had the worst luck he’s ever had in his career in multiple ways. From hits which should have been home runs to balls having eyes for pillowy soft gloves instead of green fields, nothing seemed to go right. His batted ball data is undeniably elite and he’s hitting the ball as well as he’s hit it in his entire career, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in decline. Seemingly chronic, frustrating calf injuries and age have sapped his speed to diminish his defensive value and undoubtedly stolen some extra bases or even a couple singles. The Twins are likely looking to move Donaldson this offseason, even if they have to eat some of his contract, but it may be foolhardy to sell low on a player who may well have a couple more 4-5 WAR seasons left. There are other DH options taking up space on the roster who might be less expensive to move and likely to produce less at the plate. If Donaldson crushes baseballs yet again next year, it would be unfathomable for the bad luck to continue and nothing would be crazy frustrating to watch Donaldson start a couple more All Star games wearing the wrong uniform while the Twins pay for it.
  15. Like
    DocBauer reacted to the_neds for a blog entry, Let Me Talk About Catchers   
    The Minnesota Twins have four catchers in the conversation for the 2022 season that I can see - even if some of those conversations aren’t going to be very long. Let’s start with what I consider one of those quick ones. 
    Willians Astudillo 
    La Tortuga is a folk hero, and we love him. Everyone loves our relief pitching, chubby base-running, helmet losing backup-backup-backup catcher. But at this point, keeping him on the 40 man is pretty much just keeping someone else with more value off of it. He doesn’t have a defensive upside apart from being able to plug a hole at most fielding positions - not any of them particularly well - and batted at .238 in the Majors this year, which really isn’t good enough to leapfrog other waiting catchers with long term defensive upside. I just don’t see a realistic expectation that he is going to play out as an average or better member of the team, and should probably be signed to a Minors deal. The fact that he’s listed on the 40-man as a 1B is a pretty good indicator of how he ranks in terms of Minnesota catchers. 
    2022 Prediction - Will not break camp with Twins, will not make 40-man roster.
    Now onto the catchers that I figure will be involved in the plans for the Twins. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that I mean Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. I’ve included their stats for the year as a refresher (via FanGraphs). 
    Offensive Stats 2021 

    Defensive Stats 2021
    Mitch Garver
    Mitch is my Do Not Trade catcher. Whilst he pretty much grades out average in terms of catcher defense, his 2019 season and the  mid to latter half of the 2021 season (barring That Injury We Don’t Like To Think About) make him by far - and I mean far - the most productive catcher we have offensively. He ranked 13th amongst catchers in AVG (min 50 PA), 7th in OBP and 5th in slugging, finishing the year on .256/.358/.517. He was definitely struggling at the plate early on, but he did settle in and he was playing pretty darn well before he spent five weeks dealing with that groin injury and another four with back tightness. If someone honestly wants to take Garver off our hands, I see it taking an extremely sizeable haul because at the moment he’s our safest bet. Yes he’s older than the other two and has had some injury, and a veteran catcher to split time with them wouldn’t cost much if we do trade him, but like I’ve said - unless the promised return is huge I don’t see why we’d deal a catcher who hits like that. 
    2022 Prediction - will not be traded, breaks camp as Opening Day catcher for the Twins.
    Ryan Jeffers
    Jeffers actually took the lion’s share of games this year thanks to Garver’s injuries and whilst he is projected to end up as the better defensive catcher (though this year Garver was ranked 93rd percentile in pitch framing per Baseball Savant to Jeffers’ 74), his bat just did not carry this year. To the point where - had we had another catcher ready - I imagine he would have been sent to St Paul to work it out. He managed an average of just .199 across 267 at-bats. I have faith though, that his bat will grade out to average and in my mind, he’s probably the one who will end up taking the most time behind the plate if the Twins attempt to rotate the DH role for the 2022 season (which I think they will). Let’s not forget he had a pretty darn good 2020 season with his bat, finishing with a stat line of .273/.355/.436/, which was a tick above league average. He’s got the goods, I just think he caught a bad case of the sophomore slump. Hard work required, but Jeffers will hang around long term.
    2022 Prediction - he will break camp with the Twins and split catching duties with Garver. 
    Ben Rortvedt
    I’m just going to get this out of the way. He’s got huge arms, okay? We’ve seen them. And defensively, he’s projected to have the highest upside of all four catchers. But in terms of Major League production, he’s just not ready. Batting at .169 for the year (over 87 PA), his OBP was a paltry .227, far below the league average .317, and slugged at just .281. This places him second last in all Twins hitting categories with just Gilberto Celestino ranking lower in AVG and OBP, and Andrelton Simmons ranking last in SLG. His defense has him ranked above Jeffers in terms of overall WPA for the year, but the bat is going to need to improve drastically if he’s going to make league average, or even a low-offense/high-defense combo. There is the chance a team could carry a slightly below average hitter if he has a huge defensive upside (Simmons anyone?) but there’s not many that would take that kind of offensive shortage. He needs to start 2022 in the minors, have a solid spring, and work on his offense. 
    2022 Prediction - he’ll probably make the 40-man, but will spend the year in St Paul working on his bat skills. 
    Let me talk a minute on a Garver trade. As I already said, I don’t like the idea at all. And honestly, is he valuable enough to another team (apart from the Marlins, who Cody Christie wrote about already) for them to trade with proven, high quality pitching? Because that’s what the return needs to be. The Twins have a whole heap of prospect arms at/about to be tested in the Majors in the upcoming season but we need impact rotation pitching now. I don't know if Garver on his own would bring enough back for us... maybe if he was in a package deal?
    If the 2022 season includes a universal DH, Mitch Garver becomes more valuable. His average this season was only just above league average, but his slugging percentage - when viewed with his 2019 Silver Slugger - mean he might draw interest from a National League team looking to possibly platoon through the DH, or who struggle to find a bat only DH at good value. He’s still in arbitration, made less than $2M this year, and is projected to make a hair over $3M next year. Compare that to the $13M we paid Nelson Cruz just to hit, and he becomes a much more valuable piece to a broader audience.
    I like the combo of Garver and Jeffers for next year. They seem to have a decent balance sorted out and provided Jeffers can get his bat to click in 2022, there’s no need to create a problem at catcher when we have enough things we need to address. 
  16. Like
    DocBauer reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Is Brent Rooker Better Than His Stats?    
    Among Twins fans, few players have been given a shorter leash despite showing flashes of solid play than Brent Rooker. While Rooker’s results in 2021 have hardly been inspiring, the underlying data says Rooker may be much better than his weak triple slash has shown so far. 
    So what are his “results” so far? Regardless of the metrics you want to use, be it the traditional triple slash or others: .201/.294/.397, OPS .691, wRC+ 91, wOBA .302 or OPS+ 90, Rooker’s offensive production has been below par. In fact, for somebody who is touted as a glorified DH, way below par. Rooker would really be expected to produce an OPS above .750 to remain viable and over .800 to produce good value. Of the 15 players who qualify as “DH” with more than 300 plate appearances in MLB this year on Fangraphs, the median OPS is Josh Donaldson’s .816.
    On his way to the triple slash he’s produced, Rooker has struck out 32.5% of the time while walking in just 7.6% of his plate appearances. That’s not a great ratio, but for a power hitter, 32.5% K rate isn’t unusual and it’s also in only 197 plate appearances so far this year. This is, for all intents and purposes, Rooker’s rookie season and his first taste of MLB action after showing far above average production in the high minors for years now. The question at this point is not whether Brent Rooker is too good for AAA, it’s whether or not he’s destined to be labeled a AAAA player.
    I’ve seen some other posts suggesting Brent Rooker may be cooked already, but a dive into some of the advanced metrics show a very different set of numbers.
      AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA Actual .201 .294 .397 .691 .312 Expected* .236 .325 .448 .773 .345 *BaseballSavant has xBA at .237 and xSLG at .449 which result in 41.24 hits and 78.13 total bases. Those aren’t real numbers so I rounded them down to 41 hits and 78 total bases. I used Rookers actual walks and hit by pitch numbers to calculate his new xOBP so I could calculate his xOPS.

    So Rooker’s expected batting line numbers are far better than his actual results, but that can be true for a lot of hitters who don’t use the whole field because of the shift; however, Rooker is not the typical dead pull hitter who is helpless against the shift. Of course, Rooker does pull the ball a lot, 44% of the time in fact, but he also goes to the opposite field 26% of the time. Among qualified hitters, Rooker is actually in the top half of hitters going to the opposite field and he’s not in the top 25% in pull hitting. Fangraphs has limited data on Rooker’s plate appearances, but he gets shifted against about 59% of the time vs. say Max Kepler who gets shifted against 97% of the time (yes, 97% is the real number). Another consideration is whether or not the shift should even actually hurt a hitter. Ground ball hitters are hurt the most, then fly ball hitters, then line drive hitters. The shift is less effective against line drive hitters because the balls generally have high exit velocities and hit the ground quickly so even if defenders are “shifted,” the ball really has to be hit directly at the defender in order to have a play. Despite his excellent power, Rooker is more a line drive hitter than a pure fly ball hitter. He very rarely pops the ball up, and Fangraphs has him at 26% line drive and 38% fly ball with Baseball Savant having him at 31% line drive and 31% fly ball. With Rooker’s batted ball profile, the shift should not be highly effective against him.

    Beyond Rooker being somewhat shielded from the shift, there are other things to consider when it comes to hitting. Exit velocity, launch angle, hard hit and barrel rates are extremely important when trying to figure out whether or not a hitters bad luck is actually bad luck and not a function of just a lot of weak contact. Rooker’s average exit velocity is very good at 90.9mph (top 82% in baseball). His launch angle is 12.8% this year which reflects the high line drive rate, but it’s not quite high enough to be “optimal” for a hitter with Rooker’s power. There’s a hard core, in depth article on Fangraphs if you’re interested in getting into the deep end of the pool (I’m not, haha). https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/lets-talk-about-launch-angle-generally/ Rooker would probably experience better slash lines and an increase in home runs with a launch angle closer to 20* because of his power, but he should be very close to having his optimal batting average where he is. What about hard hit rate? Fangraphs says Rooker is 35.5% hard hit rate based on Baseball Info Solutions algorithms, which is good for the top 37% of hitters with 300 plate appearances, but BaseballSavant has Rooker with a higher 47.6% hard hit rate (different definition at 95mph+) and puts him in the top 15% of hitters with 100+ batted ball events. When it comes to barrel rate, Rooker is showing up as 11.8% putting him in the top 16% of hitters for Fangraphs and BaseballSavant. Btw, think of barrel rate as absolutely crushing a ball. The baseline is a launch angle of 25-31* and an exit velocity of at least 98mph. For every 1mph of exit velocity you add, you get about 2 degrees more leniency in the launch angle. Like 100mph gets you to 24-33*. It’s that no doubter home run or absolute rocket off the bat where no amount of shift makes any difference because the ball is in the outfield before the infielders even know what happened.
    Some charts to help folks who don’t follow metrics closely. This data was pulled from Fangraphs using Statcast numbers for the 252 players with at least 300 plate appearances this year prior to today. Rooker himself was not included as he only has 197.

    Now we can discuss his plate discipline. Does Rooker have the hit tool to play at the MLB level? How do opposing pitchers view him? BaseballSavant shows pitchers have become wary of testing Rooker, throwing him fewer fastballs and more breaking balls while avoiding the strike zone as much as possible. Interestingly enough, Rooker has better results against the breaking balls than fastballs, but according to the expected data, it should be the exact opposite. Rooker against the fastball is batting just .177 with a SLG of .375, but his xBA is 80 points higher at .256 and his xSLG is .487.  Rooker’s performance against breaking balls is closer to where it should be with a .245 AVG vs. xBA of .225 and a SLG of .434 vs. an xSLG of .418. His bat is not a black hole against breaking pitches in practice or theory and his bat looks like it should be downright dangerous against fastballs and changeups. In regard to plate discipline, Fangraphs shows his O-swing% (swing percentage of pitches outside the zone) at 30.6-32.3% depending on the source, but that’s not bad at all. His PitchFX data shows Rooker swinging outside the zone at 32.3%, which would rank as better than 43.5% of MLB hitters with more than 300 plate appearances so far this year. A tick below average. His contact rate on balls outside the zone does need some work suggesting he can be completely fooled a bit too easily. His Z-swing% (swing percentage of pitches inside the zone) rates are a little lower than they should be and Rooker takes too many called strikes because he’s not aggressive enough when he gets a pitch in the zone. Again, based on players with 300+ plate appearances from PitchFX data on Fangraphs.

    Lastly, something pretty interesting to me. Defense. While Rooker carries with him the expectation he’s a lost cause at the corners, BaseballSavant hints at Rooker not being a guaranteed waste in the outfield. Rooker’s sprint speed is above average. Yes. You read that right. His sprint speed on BaseballSavant shows 27.3 ft/sec, above average for an MLB player or left fielder for that matter. His defensive metrics show Rooker is above average when it comes to route running, but his reaction is terrible (feet in 0 to 1.5 seconds) with Rooker’s acceleration in sprint speed being iffy. The combination of Rooker not recognizing the ball off the bat quickly enough and his mediocre acceleration is what is hurting Rooker defensively. Some of that can be improved with work and experience, though it’s a little bit late for Rooker to take an active role in becoming a better fielder.
    In summary, What does all of this mean? Well, for starters, we don’t have a ton of data on Brent Rooker. He’s only at 197 plate appearances this season and a paltry 21 from 2020. At about 200 plate appearances in a season is where the first set of luck metrics just start stabilizing and they move quite a bit to 300 plate appearances where things start to get pretty stable. Rooker shows adequate plate discipline, his batted ball profile suggests he’s having terrible luck, but he’s frequently shown off his power. Opposing pitchers have formed enough respect for Rooker that they’ve made the adjustment to try to avoid throwing him anything decent to hit and Rooker hasn’t turned into a strikeout machine in the process. Rooker is primarily a pull hitter, but he’s gone to the opposite field enough to keep defenses semi-honest on the shift. Rooker also hits the ball much harder than the average major leaguer, he barrels up the ball well enough and doesn’t make a lot of weak contact. It seems like Rooker needs to be more aggressive when he gets a strike rather than waiting for a meatball because MLB pitchers are definitely being extra careful not to give him something easy to hit and MLB pitchers do not make mistakes like MiLB pitchers do. An MLB hitter might see 1 mistake pitch per game vs seeing several in the minors. Defensively, he waits a little too long to make a jump on the ball and he could work on improving his running technique to get better off the line acceleration, but he has the speed to cover a corner outfield position. With a little opportunity for his luck to even out and some minor adjustments, Rooker may turn into a real force at the plate with adequate corner outfield defense. Despite his limitations, it’s too soon to pull the plug on Rooker as he’s definitely got the potential to be a legitimate every day starting MLB player.
  17. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Can The Twins Fill a Rotation for 2022?   
    Right now, the Minnesota Twins starting rotation is completely turned over. The group that started the 2021 season is gone, and the anchors intended for 2022 are no longer realistic options. So where does the team go from here?
    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine already had their work cut out for them going into the winter. The bullpen was nothing short of a disaster this season, and the starting rotation has been lackluster in plenty of different instances. Now faced with the reality that Jose Berrios is gone, and Kenta Maeda is injured, the uphill battle has grown substantially.
    Of course, dollars have to, and will be, spent. Before considering the options on the open market, and they are relatively plentiful, looking at who can be an option internally on Opening Day is where we should start. Unfortunately, the names are more plentiful than the logical options you’d hope to ink in.
    Bailey Ober
    If there’s a guy that’s earned a role among the five openings to kick off 2022 it’s Ober. He’s been lights out of late and now has a sub-4.00 ERA. Ober owns a 2.45 ERA over his last seven starts and he’s posted a 9.3 K/9. The home run bit him hard early, and a 1.8 HR/9 still isn’t great, but that only leaves further opportunity for heightened levels of success. He’s not an ace but pitching himself into the top half of a rotation would hardly be a shock.
    Joe Ryan
    It’s still surprising the Twins got this type of return for Nelson Cruz, but Ryan has seemed every bit as exciting as you’d hope. Across 66.0 IP at Triple-A this season Ryan owns a 3.41 ERA and has punched out 12.5 K/9. He needs to make his next turn in Minnesota, but regardless, you could do a lot worse than this type of arm as a 5th starter to open the next campaign.
    Randy Dobnak
    Dobnak has put himself in an interesting situation given the lack of effectiveness and injury issues he’s dealt with this season. Still probably a 4th starter at best, the ceiling really isn’t there in comparison to the two aforementioned arms, and the prospects behind him could close the gap quickly. He’s a great depth guy, but Minnesota can’t afford to fill the rotation with options of this caliber.
    Lewis Thorpe
    There’s probably a decent chance that Thorpe is dropped from the 40-man roster this offseason. The Twins were granted an additional year of control, but the Aussie hasn’t done anything with it. The velocity has continued to be lackluster, and nothing about the upside that was once there has reappeared. It’s been a disappointing fall through health and personal complications. Either way, this isn’t a viable option.
    Griffin Jax
    A really great story this season, and one worth keeping in the organization, Jax is a rotational depth piece in my mind. He’s shown that there’s a capable level of stuff to get big leaguers out but relying on him for 30 turns a season could expose Minnesota in a bad way. Jax doesn’t have the high end velocity or strikeout stuff to dominate, but he is a big league arm that can eat innings when necessary.
    Charlie Barnes
    Of the fringe arms to debut this season for Minnesota, Barnes has been the most underwhelming. His strikeout numbers have never really been anything to write home about and that makes the margin for error at the highest level very slight. Barnes is 25 and hasn’t ever had much in the form of prospect status, but that doesn’t negate the fact he could be a nice depth piece. That’s probably still to be determined, but it won’t be realized in an Opening Day rotation.
    The Prospects (Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Drew Strotman, Josh Winder)
    Outside of the Ober and Ryan pairing at the top, this is the group the Twins are dreaming on developing some high level arms from. Unfortunately, the majority have either been hurt or are not yet in a place where they’re kicking down the door for a big league promotion. Getting each back to health has to be the chief concern, but beyond that, they’ll need to force their way in. Assuming Minnesota wants to compete, or at the very least be respectable next season, they’ll need to sign a starter for the top of the rotation. Hoping one or more of these arms can then challenge that status sooner rather than later would be the goal.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  18. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Making the Most of Miguel   
    Early on this season Miguel Sano might have been the biggest mess he’s even been during his big league career. There was an inability to time a fastball, and he was a detriment to the Twins lineup. That has changed, and he’s back to being who he’s always been.
    Rewind to the Twins slog through April and May to find a slumping Miguel Sano. The team was bad, and Sano owned a .675 OPS at that point. His playing time was reduced as he was splitting reps with Alex Kirilloff at first base. Eventually he’d begin to ride the pine even more often, and there was clamoring from fans to DFA him and pass him down to the St. Paul Saints.
    Fast forward to where we are now. Sano isn’t having some sort of revolutionary resurgence, but since June 4 he’s posted an .815 OPS with 22 extra-base hits (including nine home runs) in 47 games. The batting average is respectable (.256) for a power hitter, and while the on-base percentage isn’t where he’d like it (.321) the number is passable.
    All season long the problem has been timing more than anything else. His strikeout rate is 35.6%, or below his career average, and substantially below the 43.9% he posted in 2020. Sano’s hard hit rate is above his career average, and basically in line with some of his best seasons. Unfortunately, his barrel rate is at a three-year low, and that again is indicative of point of contact. Sano has dropped his whiff rate back to 2019 levels however, and his CSW% is right below his career norm.
    What we’re seeing is the same player that Minnesota paid $30 million over three years for. The problem is that the peaks and valleys have been more pronounced, but at this point you’d have hoped the organization had a better idea as to the player they have. Sano is a former top prospect, but not in the vein of a Guerrero Jr. or even Buxton. Miguel’s tools have always been plus-plus power and a plus-plus arm. Yes, he was a young Dominican shortstop, but it quickly became apparent he wouldn’t stick there. He’s passable at third base, but the frame has always profiled better at first base, a position he’s actually adequate at.
    The .923 OPS Sano posted in 2019 is very likely a mirage given his tendency to be inconsistent. His .859 OPS as an All-Star in 2017 makes a lot more sense. The average will always lag behind, but he actually commands the zone well and his hard contact output will always trend towards a slugging outcome. Given the run, he’s a good bet for 25-30 homers a year, and as a guy you can put in the bottom half of a lineup, that seems like a decent asset.
    It’s very clear that Miguel Sano isn’t a foundational cornerstone. He can absolutely be worth what the Twins front office decided to pay him though. Committing to him on a regular basis rather than second guessing what he is through slumps doesn’t make a ton of sense. He’s the type of player that isn’t going to benefit from extended time off. Not all prospects pan out the same way, and while this isn’t the 99th percentile of where you’d like development to be, that might not be the worst thing any ways. If Sano was the best version of himself, paying him $30 million might not have happened in order to send him elsewhere for another hopeful return.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  19. Like
    DocBauer reacted to TwerkTwonkTwins for a blog entry, Falvine's Waiver Claim Game   
    Critique of a front office is easy to make in the midst of a deeply disappointing season. While many fans are languishing over the incoming July trade deadline, I've heard a lot of complaints about the lack of waiver claims made this season by the Minnesota Twins.
    Why are the Twins continuing to trot out the likes of Colomé, Happ, and (formerly) Shoemaker, when the front office can claim replacement-level players from other teams for essentially nothing? 
    The outright waiver transaction process is a deeply complicated one. Whenever a team wants to remove a player that is already on the 40-man roster, that player must first be offered to each of the other 29 major league teams. If another team claims that player, the player goes on that new team's 40-man roster. The full definition from MLB can be found here. 
    Because I'm insane, and this season is awful, I decided to compile a list of every player that the Falvey/Levine front office has claimed from other organizations, in addition to players they've lost via waiver claims.
    How have they fared in the waiver claim game?  Should they pick up the pace, now that they have nothing to lose? Do these claims actually amount to anything?
    These questions are important... but so is the trip down memory lane, once you read some of these names. 
    Players Acquired Via Waiver Claim
    Date of Claim Player Claimed Position Team Claimed From fWAR in Minnesota 2/6/2017 Ehire Adrianza UTL IF San Francisco Giants 2.1 5/10/2017 Adam Wilk LHP New York Mets -0.2 6/7/2017 Chris Heston RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.0 3/24/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 4/26/2018 David Hale RHP New York Yankees -0.2 5/28/2018 Taylor Motter UTL Seattle Mariners -0.3 8/3/2018 Johnny Field RF Cleveland Indians 0.1 8/3/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Cleveland Indians 0.2 10/31/2018 Michael Reed CF Atlanta Braves - 11/26/2018 C.J. Cron 1B Tampa Bay Rays 0.3 10/29/2019 Matt Wisler RHP Seattle Mariners 0.6 10/30/2020 Ian Gibault RHP Texas Rangers - 10/30/2020 Brandon Waddell  LHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.3 2/5/2021 Ian Hamilton RHP Philadelphia Phillies - 2/11/2021 Kyle Garlick RF Atlanta Braves 0.3 6/22/2021 Beau Burrows RHP Detroit Tigers -           Total fWAR 2.6 The Twins have claimed a total of 16 players from opposing organizations since Falvey/Levine took over after the 2016 World Series. Of these 16 claims, their most consequential claim was their very first one. Ehire Adrianza was never a star, but a very productive role player for a number of contending Twins teams. 

    After that, the list isn't so impressive. Matt Wisler was great at slinging sliders in the bullpen during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Twins cut him last offseason in a puzzling move. C.J. Cron and the currently-injured Kyle Garlick have been the largest "successes" outside of Adrianza and Wisler, each account for 0.3 fWAR as right-handed hitters that were acquired to mash left-handed pitching. 
    Most of these players did not remain on the 40-man roster for a long time. Quite a few were lost to waivers shortly after the Twins acquired them, which include Kenny Vargas, Johnny Field, Oliver Drake, and Brandon Waddell. Such is the life on the waiver wire for many MLB players. 
    Players Lost Via Waiver Claim
    Date of Claim Player Position Team Claimed By fWAR after Minnesota 11/18/2016 Adam Brett Walker LF Milwaukee Brewers - 8/26/2017 Tim Melville RHP San Diego Padres -0.2 9/14/2017 Engelb Vielma SS San Francisco Giants -0.1 11/3/2017 Randy Rosario LHP Chicago Cubs -0.3 11/3/2017 Daniel Palka OF Chicago White Sox -0.7 11/6/2017 Nik Turley LHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.2 1/22/2018 Buddy Boshers LHP Houston Astros 0.1 2/23/2018 JT Chargois RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.5 3/22/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 7/9/2018 Ryan LaMarre CF Chicago White Sox 0.4 10/10/2018 Juan Graterol C Cincinatti Reds -0.2 11/1/2018 Johnny Field RF Chicago Cubs - 11/1/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Tampa Bay Rays 0.4 1/11/2019 Aaron Slegers RHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.4 5/26/2019 Austin Adams RHP Detroit Tigers -0.1 7/20/2019 Adalberto Mejia LHP Los Angeles Angels 0.0 8/14/2019 Ryan Eades RHP Baltimore Orioles -0.2 9/16/2019 Marcos Diplan RHP Detroit Tigers - 11/4/2019 Stephen Gonsalves LHP New York Mets - 9/5/2020 Ildemaro Vargas 2B Chicago Cubs -0.5 10/1/2020 Sean Poppen RHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.1 5/8/2021 Brandon Waddell LHP Baltimore Orioles 0 5/14/2021 Travis Blankenhorn 2B Los Angeles Dodgers -0.1 6/5/2021 Dakota Chalmers RHP Chicago Cubs - 6/18/2021 Shaun Anderson RHP Texas Rangers -           Total fWAR -0.5 You'll immediately notice this list of players lost via waivers during the Falvyey/Levine regime is a lot longer than the list of players they've acquired via waivers. All together, they have lost 25 players, which is 9 more players than they've claimed from other teams. 
    The good news for the organization, is that this cumulative list has not come back to bite them. 10 of the 25 claimed players provided negative value for their new teams, after departing Minnesota. Daniel Palka's 2017 season really sunk this group, as he posted a -1.4 fWAR in only 93 plate appearances for the White Sox (after he provided 0.7 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ in 2018). 
    The largest losses from this group have definitely been in the relief category, highlighted by JT Chargois, Oliver Drake, and Aaron Slegers. However, most of these players have had inconsistent careers, injuries, or both, in their time after playing for Minnesota. 
    Even when factoring in some bullpen pieces this organization might regret losing, the total fWAR from these players after departing the Twins is -0.5 fWAR. The current front office has been right far more than wrong, when deciding how to churn the 40-man roster. 
    Yearly Trends And Overall Takeaway
    Year Players Claimed From Other Teams Players Claimed By Other Teams 2016/2017 3 6 2018 7 7 2019 1 6 2020 2 2 2021 3 4 Total Players 16 25       Total fWAR 2.6 -0.5 fWAR Difference   3.1 Overall, the Twins have gained 3.1 fWAR from their decisions to gain and lose players from the waiver wire. That's a pretty decent result for a type of front office transaction that is often overlooked. It averages out to about 0.69 fWAR per season, factoring in the 4.5 seasons of the Falvey/Levine regime. 
    Most of that waiver activity came in 2017 and 2018, when the front office was still adjusting to their inherited players from the previous front office. Successful teams don't always gamble roster spots on players exposed to outright waivers, which is evident in the 2019 team. 
    One major caveat to point out across the yearly trend is that teams were probably hesitant to claim players from other organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2020 and early 2021 should be viewed through that lens.
    However, that didn't stop the Twins from claiming 3 bullpen arms (Ian Gibault, Brandon Waddell, and Ian Hamilton), and Kyle Garlick this offseason. The jury is still out on these claims, but Waddell did not go well. 
    The most interesting thing about 2021 is that the Twins lost 4 players during their early season free-fall (Brandon Waddell, Travis Blankenhorn, Dakota Chalmers, and Shaun Anderson), before claiming Beau Burrows a few weeks ago from the Detroit Tigers.
    Is former first-round draft pick Beau Burrows the tip of the iceberg? Now that 2021 is officially kaput, will the front office be more aggressive? 
    I sure hope so. Moves will be made in the next few weeks, and this 40-man roster will be significantly different as we approach the trade deadline. The 40-man roster will likely be smaller, and the Twins will be in front of the line when contenders have to cut players to account for their deadline additions. 
    Waiver claims are rarely sexy transactions, but sometimes you stumble into a Ehire Adrianza or a Matt Wisler. The Twins have proven to be more successful than not when it comes to their waiver claim game. It's time to play, because there's simply nothing to lose. 
  20. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Tide Turning for Twins Pair   
    It always had to be this way. This was the only plausible outcome. As the Twins look towards a resurgence, the talent had to rise to the occasion. For a pair of Minnesota mashers, it’s starting to happen.
    Coming into the 2021 season Rocco Baldelli’s club had won two straight AL Central division titles while also having heightened expectations for the year ahead. There wasn’t supposed to be a slide, and the roster as constructed should’ve been among the best in baseball. The results haven’t followed that narrative, but there’s never been a doubt when it comes to what this team is capable of.
    The reality for Minnesota is that regression struck for so many at roughly the same time. April was not a good month, and to be frank, May hasn’t been that great either. Combined with injuries and a slight covid scare, suggesting nothing has gone right would be putting it kindly. Now faced with a stretch of winnable games and opportunity for a turnaround, having a resurgence from a few guys at once would be nice.
    Enter Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver.
    Sano has long been a lightning rod of criticism for Twins fans. He’s a prolific power hitter that, at his best, remains an on-base and slugging machine. If he’s not hitting the fastball though, he’s a check swinging mess and the value tanks. After discussion surrounding a demotion cropped up, an eventual benching took place following the May 8 contest. We’ve seen this before with the Dominican, and he’s responded by righting the ship. Once again, that’s playing out before our eyes.
    In 13 games since being put on the pine, Sano has reinvigorated his season. Across 51 plate appearances he has a .261/.333/.717 slash line to go with nine extra base hits, six of which have left the yard. The 16 strikeouts are still high, and you’d like to see more than four walks, but it’s apparent his process is back to a better place. Earlier this season Sano was leading the league in free passes, and it was a timing issue that had him failing to produce the bigger results. Now the timing is there, and while the discipline may have slid a bit, dreaming on a more perfect combination gives the Twins their middle of the order threat back.
    Funny enough, a teammate of Sano’s also finds himself in a similar situation. Although Mitch Garver was never benched this season, he’s dealt with plenty of maladies along with an inability to crush the fastball as has become his calling card. With just a .644 OPS through April, a flipped script was necessary come May. Across 56 plate appearances this month Garver owns a .261/.393/.500 slash line with five extra base hits including three dingers. I think it’s a bit far-fetched to assume Mitch is the backstop with a near 1.000 OPS that he was in 2019, but anything north of .850 in that regard makes him among the best hitting catchers in baseball.
    When Garver is right, he’s barreling the ball, but more importantly he’s working counts and taking walks. Garver has always excelled as a hitter due to his ability to be patient and find his pitch. The 43/13 K/BB is still out of whack, but in May it’s been an exceptional 16/10 K/BB and that will play all year long.
    It’s hard to fathom a complete turnaround for Minnesota. The hole they dug themselves out of the gate has been immense. That said, if the expectation was for this team to be great coming into the year, all of those pieces are still in place. Getting guys back to a median level of expectations will bear fruit, and given the quality of competition within the division, a run is hardly unfathomable.
    Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano have begun to turn their tide, now the Twins need others to continue following suit.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  21. Like
    DocBauer reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Ch-ch-changes?   
    The Twins play their 30th game this afternoon and are currently 11-18. They've been beset by bad luck, bad play and have taken a beating with two rule changes (extra-inning runner on second, 7-inning games for doubleheaders). How do they get out of this funk? I'm sure many in the organization will preach patience and they may be right, but that isn't any fun. Here are some possibilities for change that might help the team:
    Role change. We've already seen one role change. At least temporarily Alexander Columé is not going to see high-leverage innings. Columé has been a huge disappointment and even when he has worked scoreless innings, he's been shaky. The problem is that taking Columé out of high leverage situations leaves the Twins with few good options, particularly when going 6 or more innings for a starter is a rarity. I think one pitching role change that should be made is to use Taylor Rogers in non-save high leverage situations as happened early in 2019 and sometimes use him for multiple innings. Rogers shouldn't be used in back-to-back days. Moving Alcala to high leverage situations seems to be gradually happening. If things continue to go bad, it makes sense to have him give a shot as a closer. Position players--it seems to me that both Polanco and Kepler should have their roles diminished from full-time regular to something different. Kepler can play a corner and center and Polanco has played short and second, maybe Max should be slotted as the fourth OF or at least platooned with Garlick. I think giving Polanco the role of three-position infielder wouldn't be a stretch. He could get some at-bats as a platoon partner for my choice of regular second baseman (Arraez) and left-handed at-bats in place of Simmons and when Donaldson takes a day off (or is injured).
    Promotions/demotions. Assuming that Alex Kirilloff is in the big leagues to stay, when healthy the Twins have one extra position player and someone will have to be sent to the minor leagues or released. Discussion has centered on Jake Cave. Several others could be sent down and that doesn't begin to discuss the pitching staff. Many pitchers'performances could merit their demotion.
    Trades. It is unlikely that anyone will make a significant trade this early in the year. However, the Twins would be a good candidate for a major trade nearer the trade deadline. They have some redundancy (left handed hitting corner outfielders) and holes that need patching (bullpen, perhaps catching) and many candidates to trade. They also have a lot of players who would be free agents after this season. I do wonder if someone who was considered a cornerstone (Polanco, Kepler, Sanó) could be traded. None of these guys have performed remotely well so far but an uptick could make them more marketable. I have to believe that the Twins will bring in new pitchers either in the bullpen or the rotation. What they have at this time in the bullpen just hasn't worked.
    Personally, I think the Twins will need to do a little bit of everything to turn the corner. I am a proponent of changing roles. I think Kepler and Polanco could be candidates to have limited roles. The Twins need to add at least one strong arm in the bullpen, most likely by trade and Trevor Larnach is reputed to be nearly as much a sure thing as a hitter as Alex Kirilloff, plus he is a better outfielder. There is too much talent for the club to continue to play sub.400 baseball, but I think they need to make changes immediately.
  22. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Shoemaker and the Twins Starting Depth   
    When the Minnesota Twins set out to supplement their roster this offseason a couple of different areas presented themselves as needs. Starting pitching will always remain one as you can never have enough, but the organization is in rarefied air.
    Following his signing with the Houston Astros it’s more than fair to suggest the Twins would’ve been well-served to wait out Jake Odorizzi. He clearly over-anticipated his market however and found a landing spot only after Framber Valdez dealt a blow to Dusty Baker’s starting rotation. Instead, Minnesota went with a one-year deal to Matt Shoemaker that set the club back just $2 million. At the time, and even now, that has the makings of a pretty shrewd move.
    If you’re at all familiar with Shoemaker’s track record you know this, he hasn’t been available often. Across seven full Major League seasons he’s made 15 or more starts just three times, while failing to reach double digits in each of the past three. Injury issues have plagued him, but it’s worth noting that the injuries haven’t been arm related. In hoping for a regression to the fluky nature that has kept him sidelined, you have to take note of the production that has been there.
    Back in 2016 was the last time Shoemaker threw more than 100 innings. Across 27 starts that year he posted a 3.88 ERA backed by a 3.51 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. It was the third year in a row in which he’d tallied both 20 starts and 130+ innings pitched. In that time, he owned a 3.80 ERA with a 3.77 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. When available the veteran has been incredibly consistent. He’s good for a high-threes ERA while striking out right around eight per nine and being very stingy on the free passes. Even as a third starter that would play, and he’ll pitch out of the Minnesota five-hole.

    What’s maybe most important for the Twins in all of this isn’t even what Shoemaker himself brings to the table, but rather what he affords the club in regards to those around him. Randy Dobnak has started a Postseason game, Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect that has been the darling of Spring Training, and the duo of Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are close. That doesn’t even touch on Devin Smeltzer, who has Major League experience as well. None of them will factor into the rotation on Opening Day.
    In 2020 Rocco Baldelli had 11 different players starts a game (two of which were openers). For the Bomba Squad a year prior, 10 different players made starts (one of which was an opener). Depth is something every team must have in the rotation, and that will probably ring truer than ever coming off such a shortened schedule a season ago. Because of what this front office has done in the development department, the Twins could be more prepared now than they ever have been before.
    A year ago, the Twins posted the 5th best fWAR among starters in baseball. That improved upon a 7th place finish in 2019. Derek Falvey had long been considered a pitching guru for his time in Cleveland, and he’s quickly carried that acumen to a new organization. I’m not sure who will contribute what, and which starters will be there at the end, but you can bet the stable is right where the organization feels comfortable when it comes to pieces at their disposal.
    Maybe Matt Shoemaker only gives his new club something like ten starts in 2021. That’s still more than Rich Hill or Homer Bailey a season ago, and the flexibility he provides the Twins in terms of additional depth is a bonus that can’t be overstated. Let him be healthy because he’s been good when available. When the time comes to make a change, options will be plentiful.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  23. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, 2021 Minnesota Twins Roster Projection 2.0   
    The Minnesota Twins have played more than a handful of Spring Training games and Opening Day is less than a month away. Who will make up the 26-man roster in Milwaukee on April 1?
    There’s been a couple of additions since roster projection 1.0 exactly one month ago, and spring performances may wind up influencing some of the roster decisions as well. It appears there will be fans in the stands no matter where you turn on Opening Day, so who will fans of the reigning AL Central division champions be seeing? Here’s the first revision:
    Starting Pitchers (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker
    Randy Dobnak gets bumped from the group as the addition of Shoemaker on a one-year deal worth $2 million all but cements his place as the final starter. The former Angels pitcher has been good when healthy, he’s just rarely remained that for significant stretches of time. Minnesota has solid starting depth, even if the ceiling is lowered behind Pineda. This should be a solid group.
    Relief Pitchers (8): Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe
    I’m really uncertain what to do with this group. Only six spots seem like certainties, and despite Caleb Thielbar needing to be a seventh, he may miss the start of the season with an injury. Minnesota also seems likely to carry 14 pitchers given the workload differential in adding 102 games this season. That said, I have no idea how they get there. Shaun Anderson is on the 40-man roster already. Thorpe and Dobnak have looked good this spring, but both should remain stretched out to start. Ian Hamilton, Ian Gibault, and Brandon Waddell would all need a spot on the 40-man roster if they were to be included.
    Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers
    Removing Willians Astudillo here solely from the idea that the options elsewhere seem better suited for the roster. He’s not a true catcher and the top two should be able to split duties evenly.
    Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez
    No changes here and the only thing that could make some sense would be a true shortstop to spell Andrelton Simmons. Jorge Polanco will likely be asked to play that role at times rather than including someone like J.T. Riddle, who would need a 40-man spot should he make the club.
    Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Brent Rooker
    Talk about a group brimming with options. Kirilloff should be the Opening Day left fielder. The team has suggested Arraez isn’t being groomed to play the outfield, and there’s no Triple-A action for a month. Jake Cave is the holdover fourth outfielder, but he’s a bit redundant as another left-handed bat. Keon Broxton is a non-roster guy that can truly play centerfield and he’s looked very good in the early going. Kyle Garlick is a right-handed hitter with a 40-man spot who’s also looked good, but he’s probably destined more for the corners. If you’re adding another bat, it probably needs to be Brent Rooker. He’s not a centerfielder, but he too is right-handed and looked the part before his injury in 2020.
    Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz
    No change here
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  24. Like
    DocBauer reacted to South Dakota Tom for a blog entry, Roster, financial flexibility says no to Cruz reunion   
    Right now, I'd project the opening day lineup to consist of Sano at 1b, Polanco at 2b, Simmons at ss, Donaldson at 3b, Arraez in LF, Buxton in CF, Kepler in RF, and Garver catching. Assuming a 13-man position player active roster, that leaves 5 spots open. Ryan Jeffers is one. Jake Cave is another. At some point, sooner rather than later, Alex Kiriloff is a third. Brent Rooker is a fourth, leaving Lamonte Wade, Astudillo, Blankenhorn, Gordon to fill in (or rotate in) the final spot.
    Once Kiriloff arrives, left field stops rotating, and while Cave is backup outfielder number one, having Rooker in the lineup (as well as Arraez, who is not great in LF, but his bat needs to stay in the lineup), tilts toward a second infield utility player being handiest. We can argue over who that should be (Astudillo as 3rd catcher, 3b, LF?; Blankenhorn or Gordon), but I'm sticking with my hopeful prediction of Gordon taking on that part-time skeleton key spot, offering some speed, flexibility, and reasonable pop.
    The depth chart says that (after catcher), Rooker backs up 1B, or potentially Kiriloff or Kepler, with Cave getting an OF start; Arraez backs up 2b along with Gordon; Polanco backs up SS; Arraez or Polanco or Sano backs up 3b, depending on whether the team prefers keeping Jorge to a primary-2b, sometimes ss role or moves him around more.
    Once Kiriloff arrives in LF, (or RF, if they want to shift Kepler to LF), there will be fewer ABs available for any outfield position reserves.
    DH, then, rotates between a handful of players - Sano (Rooker plays 1b, or Kiriloff plays 1b with Cave/Arraez in LF), Donaldson (Arraez or Polanco plays 3b, the other plays 2b), Rooker, Cave, Arraez as DH with no substitutions needed, maybe Polanco with Arraez playing 2b.
    While a Cruz reunion is favored by many, and for good reason (this is not to bash Nellie, who is a leader and great baseball player), none of the above is possible with a single, non-position-player taking on 500+ at-bats in the DH slot. There is a sound argument that Cruz's production would dwarf doling out 500 ABs between Rooker, Arraez, Cave, or whichever catcher isn't starting that day, but there's a logical argument that it wouldn't.
    And then there's the money. I think the figures thrown around ($12M with incentives to $15-16) are a little light, and gobbles up all - or almost all - of the remaining budget. I don't pretend to know what that number is, and clearly the team isn't saying, but multiple reports indicate that the annual salary for Cruz would constitute the lion's share of it.
    This team needs bullpen help and (in my opinion) one more starting pitcher for depth. We can hope against hope that Maeda, Berrios, Pineda, Happ and Dobnak all make 30 starts, but it never happens. We can hope against hope that Smeltzer, Thorpe, Duran and Balazovic can ably fill in, but that, too, walks a thin rope (and depending on how it shakes out, Thorpe could be lost from that depth chart if he doesn't make the relief corps). 8-9 starters is not enough, especially when two have never pitched a major league inning, and all are expected to throw 250% of their 2020 innings.
    It is also noteworthy how close our top prospects are to reaching ML level - a glance at the MLB prospects list https://www.mlb.com/prospects/2020/twins/ reflects that no less than a dozen of the top 30 (those who haven't already appeared in a big league game) have "2021" as their anticipated date of arrival. I don't see a dozen spots opening up this year, but wouldn't it be nice that if Celestino pounds AAA, or Miranda or Larnach or Lewis, that we would have the ability to move pieces around to make that happen.
    Our clearest open path to at-bats in 2021 is through the DH slot. The remaining 8 offensive starters seem pretty locked in (again, once AK moves to everyday play). The same dollars that bring us Cruz could fetch a couple of relievers (Colome, Rosenthal, Kennedy, Clippard?) and a starter (Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Rodon, Cole Hamels?) who slip through the cracks.
    One final point - I know the team will miss the homers from Eddie and Nelson, but this team too often sat around waiting for some player to hit a bomb. The playoffs the past two years only highlight that shortcoming. Improved flexibility throughout, better defense, room for promotion from prospects, and more reliance on 1-9 rather than solo homers, while beefing up pitching depth, seems a stronger formula for success in 2021 (and beyond).
  25. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Allen Post for a blog entry, Happ Signing Means Bigger Things to Come...We Hope   
    The Twins signed veteran starter J.A. Happ to a one-year, $8 million deal this afternoon. Happ is 38 years old and pitched to a 3.47 ERA and a 1.054 WHIP in nine starts with the Yankees in 2020.
    At first glance, Happ’s addition feels like the kind of boring move that is necessary for contending teams to make. He’s not making national headlines, but he’ll slide right into the fourth spot in the rotation and he’ll get a lot of important outs throughout the year as long as he stays healthy. With the addition, the rotation looks as follows:
    The other of Maeda/Berrios

    That’s all well and good. That’s a high-level American League rotation. The eight million feels a little steep and Happ wasn’t on many of our radars, but you can’t be too mad at a hole getting filled.

    Happ pitched well in 2020 and hopes to keep fans smiling in Minnesota 
    It’s certainly still possible that the Twins still spend on another starter to get closer to a 2011 Phillies-esque “Four Aces” roster construction, but I just don’t see it. The rotation is seemingly set and there are bigger holes elsewhere. While Trevor Bauer was probably always going to be too spendy, guys like Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton no longer seem like possibilities for the Twins. Of course, Jake Odorizzi could come back into the fold and push Pineda and Happ down to the four and five slots respectively. But I think Dobnak and a number of capable arms in the Twins system would hold down that five spot pretty well, so I would argue that there’s more upside in leaving Odo on the market and spending money elsewhere.
    So, now that starting pitching is no longer much of a target position, the Twins’ intentions for the rest of the free agency period become a little bit clearer. We’ve been hearing about and hoping for the possibility of big moves in the coming weeks and months, and now we know better where the money will be spent. Before today, the holes in the roster were primarily at shortstop (or utility), DH, the four spot in the rotation, and in the bullpen. Falvey and Levine just filled the hole in the rotation with a somewhat cheap one-year deal. This limited commitment to the starting rotation suggests that the front office is saving money for big moves elsewhere. And it seems that any big commitments from the Twins’ will be made at short, DH or in the bullpen.

    Happ's low-commitment deal allows the Twins flexibility to acquire top talent 
    At DH, the Twins are in position to bring back Nelson Cruz for one more ride or for a big multi-year investment in Marcell Ozuna. There are options at short too, such as Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, or blue-chip trade options Trevor Story or Javier Báez. They could also go out and get top relievers like Trevor Rosenthal and Brad Hand, but filling out the pen with cheap signings and homegrown talent is more Minnesota’s style. We could also see the club sprinkle money in a lot of places at once, signing a bunch of mid-level guys instead of one big-ticket player.
    There is, of course, a chance that the Twins remain pretty inactive, and rely on guys currently in the organization to make another playoff run. For most Twins fans, this would be a worst-case scenario and, as the days go on, our collective worries grow. For the most pessimistic fans, this signing will provide little comfort. J.A. Happ isn’t a big signing. But for me, he fills a hole that allows the Twins more flexibility to pursue the bigger fish in the free agency sea. And, they will make those big signings eventually…we hope.
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