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  1. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Jonathon Zenk for a blog entry, Updated Top Five Prospects Who Should Be Promoted   
    Two months ago, I wrote an article here about who should be promoted. Well, four of those five on the list have been promoted, as well as two of the three of my honorable mentions. Well, I am back again to do an updated list. I decided to write this one before I head off to school to work on my Master’s because I likely won’t have much time when that time comes.
    Honorable Mentions:
    Johan Quezada, RP, Elizabethton
    Tyler Benninghoff, SP, GCL Twins
    Anthony Escobar, SP, DSL Twins
    Todd Van Steensel, RP, Chattanooga
    5. Janigson Villalobos, C, GCL Twins
    Villalobos was traded to the Twins earlier this season from San Diego in a deal that saw Minnesota say goodbye to Phil Hughes and a draft pick. In his first three seasons, he has improved dramatically, and he has made his biggest jump this year. In 56 at-bats this season in the Gulf Coast League, he has a slash line of .339/.413/.429. Only four of his 19 hits have been for extra bases, so hopefully that comes around for him. He does have a solid eye at the plate, as he has walked seven times in his 56 at-bats and has only struck out nine times (yes, I said that in an Ed Rooney voice). Having turned 21 a few months ago, he may have figured a few things out and a trip to Elizabethton could be in order. I mean, it makes sense, too. Ben Rodriguez was promoted to Fort Myers and Ryan Jeffers to Cedar Rapids. It makes logical sense that someone like Villalobos could take Jeffers’ roster spot in Tennessee.
    4.. Bailey Ober, SP, Cedar Rapids
    Ober’s stats do not ‘wow’ you over the entire season, but he has been lights out his past three starts (and really good over his last seven). The 23-year-old has an ERA of 3.88, but while that may not seem impressive, it certainly is considering how his 2018 started. His season got off to a rocky start, allowing six runs on five hits in 2/3 of an inning in a 10-5 loss to Burlington in late April. In his first three starts, he allowed 14 runs in 9.2 innings, as well as at least four runs in five of his first six starts. But since, he has only allowed eight runs in previous seven starts combined, and four of those came in a 7-4 win over Burlington last month. Since the calendar turned to June, he is 6-1 with an ERA of 1.58, slicing his season ERA from 7.86 to 3.88. His opponents batting average also went down from .339 to .252, and his WHIP went down from 1.59 to an impressive 1.08. In his last three starts, he has turned it up a notch, allowing just one run in 21.2 innings (0.42 ERA), while striking out a whopping 34. I don’t know if he will be promoted just yet, but if he has another few starts like he has had recently, there is no choice but to promote him. Last week, former teammate Bryan Sammons was promoted from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers. Ober could be next, maybe taking over a spot left by Tyler Wells, who I believe will move up to Double-A Chattanooga shortly.
    3. Robby Rinn, 1B, Cedar Rapids
    Rinn is an older prospect, and I normally don’t put them on this list, but he has been mashing for the Kernels. The 25-year-old was in Fort Myers for six games earlier this year, but was then returned to Cedar Rapids, where he has had 169 at-bats. In the 43 games he has played with the Kernels, he has hit .314 and has a real nice OPS of .826. Being an older prospect in a low level like Low-A, Rinn should be able to perform well, and he has done just that. Rinn, who was a 25th round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2016, was traded by the Royals to the Twins in March. In 322 at-bats for the Idaho Falls Chukars (Rookie) last year, Rinn had a slash line of .355/.429/.511. With Rinn turning 26 in October, he needs to be challenged and he can platoon with Lewin Diaz in High-A Fort Myers. It also makes sense for the Twins, as he can be replaced on the team by 2018 eighth round pick Chris Williams, who has a slash line of .271/.380/.551 for the Elizabethton Twins.
    2. Tyler Wells, SP, Fort Myers
    All Tyler Wells has done since being drafted is dominate. Since being drafted in 15th round by the Twins in 2016, he had his worst year in Elizabethton after being drafted....and he went 5-2 with an ERA of 3.23 and a WHIP of 1.20. Following a successful stint in Cedar Rapids in 2017, Wells has had his best season in 2018. In 15 starts for the High-A Fort Myers Miracle, the Cal State Bernardino product has gone 7-4 with an ERA of 2.97 and a WHIP of an incredible 0.93. Like Rinn, he is also is a bit of an older prospect, as he turns 24 next month. He has slumped a little in July, just going 0-1 with an ERA of nearly five this month. But this comes on the heels of a great June, in which he went 4-0 with an ERA of just 1.63. Unlike many of the pitchers in the Twins organization, Wells does not have control problems, having just walked 16 in 78.2 innings so far this season. He should be promoted sometime late this year, which would create a roster spot for Ober to move to Fort Myers.
    1. Victor Heredia, C/1B, DSL Twins
    There is a very real possibility you have never heard of this slugger from Venezuela. Well, he has used the Dominican Summer League as his personal launching pad. Heredia did decent last season as a 16 and 17-year-old, slashing .257/.356/.351. But he has turned it up a level this season. In 36 games, Heredia, who just turned 18 last month, has a slash line of .366/.404/.611. Of his 48 hits, 18 have been for extra bases. Last season, he was listed as a catcher, but he has played first base this season. He has the ability to do both, much like Ben Rodrguez, who was recently promoted to Fort Myers. After having a real nice June, having a batting average of .300 and an OPS of .867, he has gone into Terminator Mode. Since the calendar turned to the seventh month of the year, Heredia has a slash line of .466/.492/.759. Heredia has 10 extra base hits in his 58 at-bats in the month as well. Even as a right-handed hitter, he has shown to hit right-handed pitching better than lefties. In 82 at-bats against righties, the Venezuela native has a slash line of .391/.426/.685. There is nothing left to prove down in the Dominican Summer League. If they want to utilize him as a catcher, he can take the spot on the GCL Twins left by Villalobos, who I think should be promotoed soon. The Ryan Jeffers/Ben Rodriguez promotions could send help lead Heredia to the United States before the season ends.
    As always, feel free to critique and add who you feel should be promoted by the end of the 2018 season.
  2. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Top Two Progress Report   
    The Minnesota Twins came into the 2018 Major League Baseball season expecting to compete for a second straight postseason berth. Unfortunately, the offense has been nonexistent for the bulk of the schedule, and that's led to a situation where the club looks like it will sell off assets prior to the trade deadline. The immediate success of the organization lies on the backs of its former top prospects; chief among them are Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
    Sano and Buxton have had nothing short of disastrous seasons. They both find themselves down in the minors right now, and the latter is on the shelf with a hand injury. Whether or not Minnesota gets anything of substance out of either this season is largely unimportant at this point. What does matter however, is that both players are trending in a direction to be difference makers out of the gate in 2019.
    Now having spent a substantial amount of time down on the farm, it's worth checking on each to see where they're at.
    Miguel Sano
    After looking like an uncommitted shell of the player he both could and should be for the Twins, Sano was sent to High-A Fort Myers. Rather than scripting it like a punishment, Minnesota's front office communicated that this was a reinvestment in the player. Everyone in the organization wants more from Sano, they all believe it's possible, and the goal is to get the player on that same page as well.
    Although High-A is a drastic drop in surroundings, the idea is that Fort Myers essentially serves as the Twins hub. There's a training center and support staff there that is unrivaled across the rest of the minor league system. While performance is part of the equation, conditioning and support are arguably the greater piece of the pie. Expecting this to be best handled in South Florida, it made the most sense as a destination.
    Now through 19 games with the Miracle, Sano owns a .328/.442/.453 slash line. He's contributed four extra-base hits (two homers), and owns a 21/13 K/BB ratio. Looking at the numbers, there's some things to like and others to be skeptical about.
    Firstly, it's disappointing not seeing a higher power output from a guy who should be feasting on High-A pitching. Just two home runs in 77 plate appearances is a rather paltry display. It's fair to reserve judgement however, as the goal may be working on specific outputs in game situations as opposed to simply letting it fly. On the flip side, the strikeout to walk ratio is something that has to please Minnesota brass. Again, Sano should be much better than this level, but drawing walks at a higher rate is something he must do in the big leagues. As a power hitter, strikeouts will never be a significant problem so long as the longballs and free passes even them out.
    From my vantage point, I'm unable to evaluate Sano's off the field progress. Reports have all suggested he's been very committed to his conditioning program and is invested in the plan set forth for him. I've been vocal about Miguel's weight not ever being the real issue, and instead believing that it all revolves around a work ethic that strives for more. If the Twins are happy with the desire and drive they see from their promising slugger, that's as valuable as anything Miguel can bring back to the big leagues with him.
    It's hard to evaluate whether or not Sano should have any sort of timetable for a return to the Twins. Again, I don't think the numbers are the true barometer that should inform fans of an impending promotion. The talent and ability is all there for Sano; it simply comes down to whether or not he wants to get the most from it.
    Byron Buxton
    Nearly a polar opposite from the Twins first basemen, Buxton's issue has never been that he isn't committed or willing to work. Taken off the field due to injuries and ineffectiveness, it's all about whether or not Buxton can harness all of his abilities in conjunction with one another.
    Minnesota handled Buxton's injury situation rather oddly this year. There was time missed due to migraines, and then a skipped rehab assignment. Then there was a broken toe, and the blessing to play through an injury that hampered any real ability to be effective at the plate. Following a necessary rehab stint, the organization the decided Buxton's bat wasn't where it needed to be, and optioned him to Rochester for good. Fast forward to today, and a hand ailment has the talented outfielder on the shelf yet again.
    On the season, Buxton has played in just 47 games across all levels. He owns an MLB worst .383 OPS and has slashed .232/.303/.377 in 18 games with Triple-A Rochester. There's two trains of thought when it comes to the production, and it's either a result of inability at the current time, or there's the question as to whether lack of consistency has hampered any ability to settle in.
    Faults of both injuries and the Twins handling of them, Buxton hasn't found any sort of stability in 2018. It's been nothing short of a lost season, and right now it's a waiting game to see if that narrative can be corrected. There's significantly too much talent in the superstar outfielder for this to go on forever. Right now though, there has to be a strive towards getting him back on the field and keeping him there.
    After he heals from this wrist sprain, my hope would be that there's a few games at Triple-A used as a rehab assignment. From there, I'd like to see him sent back up to the Twins to compete in the big leagues. No matter how much he's currently scuffling at Triple-A, we've already seen him master that level. What Byron needs is the ability to adapt and compete at the plate in the majors. In a lost season for the club as a whole, the continued development at the dish needs to take place where it matters. Sparking his bat on the farm, only to then have him start over following a promotion, does no good.
    The Twins need to allow Buxton to settle into the level he appears destined to compete at for a long time. Developing consistency in a season that's had very little for him is a must. There's significant opportunity left to be had in 2018, and capitalizing on that would be best for Buxton as well as the Twins.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  3. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, The Future Twins and What's Ahead   
    Over the past week or so, the Minnesota Twins have certainly brought a higher level of intrigue to their 2018 season. Despite getting so little out of their offense for so long, they've at least made the idea of being sellers, one worth questioning. Ultimately I'm not sure 2018 is salvageable, but expecting them to again be competitive in 2019 is a very real proposition. For those wondering about what's even further out, this one is for you.
    I have been sitting on this question from "twins dude" on Twitter for over a month now. Wondering what the Twins lineup might look like in five years, I was waiting for a good opportunity to take a look. Immediately following the Futures Game and during this lull of Twins baseball, it seemed as good of a time as any.

    So, with all of that out of the way, who takes the field where in 2023? This is my stab at that answer:
    C- Ryan Jeffers
    The 2018 2nd round pick has gotten off to a hot start over his first 20+ professional games. While there were questions about whether he could stick behind the plate, Minnesota believes the answer is yes. The bat will play, and he's got a decent shot to race ahead of Ben Rortvedt in getting to the big leagues.
    1B- Miguel Sano
    For this to be accurate, a few factors would come into play. First and foremost, Sano would need to truly dedicate himself to his craft. Even in sliding over to first from third, staying in better shape and being committed to giving the Twins more than just a shell of himself is a must. He'll be eligible for free agency in 2022, so staying with Minnesota behind that point would be reflective of a renewed belief in his ability and work ethic.
    2B- Nick Gordon
    We should see Gordon as soon as 2018, and immediately taking over for Brian Dozier makes a ton of sense. He's probably not quite ready to step in as an above-average big leaguer, but he's still developing. Nick has a completely different skillset than that of Brian, but it's one that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could safely deploy at the top or bottom of the lineup.
    SS- Royce Lewis
    Superstar, that's really the only word I'm coming up with when trying to describe Lewis. He's an incredible athlete, top tier baseball player, and an even better person. I'd be far from shocked if we don't see him in the big leagues by 2020. He could slide to the outfield, but Minnesota would obviously be better suited if he stays at short. He's not going to be the best fielder, but from an all around standpoint, he could be the next Carlos Correa.
    3B- Jorge Polanco
    I think Polanco remains in the Twins long term plans. He's been fine as a shortstop, and has really worked at improving himself defensively. That said, it's probably more likely he moves off than position than Lewis. Not the typical slugging corner infielder, Polanco has plenty of pop to be an asset offensively as well.
    LF- Eddie Rosario
    Having gone from a free winging question mark to one of the best outfielders in the game, Eddie Rosario has absolutely broken out in 2018. This isn't some flash in the pan, as we've seen it substantiated for nearly a full year now. The Twins should be looking to extend him through arbitration and into free agency.
    CF- Byron Buxton
    At 24, it's still way too early to give up on one of the best defenders baseball has ever seen. Buxton is incredible in center field, and I believe the bat is legit too. We've had to practice a significant amount of patience with him, but in the not-so-distant future I think we see it pay off. He needs to do a better job of staying healthy, but there's a big time breakout waiting to happen here.
    RF- Alex Kirilloff
    Shooting up prospect lists this season, you'd hardly remember that Kirilloff missed a full year due to Tommy John surgery. Seen as a bat only prospect coming out of high school, the offensive upside has been through the roof. He crushed Low-A, and has started off well at High-A Fort Myers. I'd imagine we could see him in the big leagues by 2020, and that thump from the left side of the plate would be incredibly welcomed. Max Kepler is going to be in the mix here, but he'll need to flash more consistency than we've seen thus far.
    DH- Brent Rooker/Trevor Larnach
    Larnach is probably the better outfielder of this duo, but Rooker can slot in at first base in the big leagues. Rotating through some of those defensive positions while being focused on hitting first, both of these bats have an opportunity to do some serious damage at the highest level. Rooker needs to cut down on the strikeouts, and work more walks, but the power is absolutely real. We've yet to see what Larnach can do professionally, but his collegiate approach was a very good one, and there's plenty of thump off his bat as well. These two would be among the better athletes cast as DH's in the majors.
    If I were to construct a lineup out of this group, it might look something like this:
    Buxton CF
    Lewis SS
    Kirilloff RF
    Sano 1B
    Rosario LF
    Rooker DH
    Polanco 3B
    Jeffers C
    Gordon 2B
    Five years is a long time out, and there's so much that can happen prior to any of this actually taking place. It's fun to look at what's ahead, but given the immediate future of this club and the opportunity within the division, it's also best to not miss what is right around the corner.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Like
    DocBauer reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Top prospects - MLB included   
    Okay it is mid season and we are getting a reshuffle of prospects and their ratings. Which makes me wonder - what if the ratings include the players already in the major leagues?
    For example - if all the starting pitchers were put in one pot and we said who has the most potential for the next five years - I would certainly keep Berrios at number 1, but who is number 2? I take Romero. Then I think I would go back to the minors and then Brusdar Graterol. Is it time for someone on the MLB team? I think I would lean to Gibson and then Gonsalves. That is my top five. Who should you invest in?
    For the Bullpen - I am thinking of five years so we have to drop Rodney - I would drop Belisle if it was five days. So who are the top ranked prospects? Hildenberger has solidified his position. Who is next? Give me Tyler Jay, John Curtiss, Nick Anderson, Andrew Vasquez, and Busenitz. The vets are low on the list.
    very poor list
    Nick Gordon
    Wander Javier
    Royce Lewis
    Jorge Polanco
    Eduardo Escobar
    Travis Blankenship
    Byron Buxton
    Eddie Rosario
    Alex Kiriloff
    Akil Baddoo
    LaMonte Wade
    Jack Cave
    List them anyway you want - but by position, this is my Twins of the near future top prospects.
  5. Like
    DocBauer reacted to jorgenswest for a blog entry, A Brief History of the 20th Pick   
    The Twins have drafted more often that any other team in this slot. This will be the 7th time in 54 drafts.
    Three guys are among the top pick 20s according to WAR in Torii Hunter, Denard Span and Trevor Plouffe. One other pick was helpful though he never played in the majors. Johnny Ard twice made BA's top 100 and was traded to the Giants prior to the 1991 championship season for reliever Steve Bedrosian. Ard's career ended with arm injuries in the Giants system.
    Mike Mussina posts the best career from a pick 20 and Chris Parmelee's career is at about the median ranking 23rd in WAR of 48. The last five number 20 picks have not reached majors but I didn't include them in the median calculation as they have a chance.
    It is kind of sobering to know that our selection today may not hit the majors for several years. In taking a closer look at the last five pick 20s only 1 of 5 has ever been on a top 100 list. Baseball America had Casey Gillespie at 74 prior to the 2017 season. Sobering.
    The Twins have done very well with that pick relative to the league. I hope that continues today.
  6. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Axel Kohagen for a blog entry, Stay Off the Moors!   
    Gather round the fire, ye baseball fans. Imagine, if you will, a roaring blaze licking from beneath a tent of shattered bat handles. Listen to the tale I am about to tell, for EVERY word is true.
    I tell the tale . . . Of the BASEBALL WEREWOLF!
    A baseball werewolf behaves in much the same way as your regular, meat and potatoes werewolf. The moon and the night bring out its power, which is the ONLY possible explanation for why the Twins seem able to score ONLY AFTER THE FIFTH INNING in the last week of so.
    How did the power of lycanthropy find our hometown nine? In older times, a person might become a werewolf by donning the fur coat of an evil person or spirit. Unless Bill Belichick left his Ewok-hide duster around after the Super Bowl, this theory seems DEAD ON ARRIVAL. It’s likely a careful fan might notice a Twins player taking the field while wearing a fur coat.
    Kent Hrbek playing in a werewolf-fur coat is both likely to happen and a guarantee he will be the league MVP.
    Another theory suggests a person can become a werewolf by drinking rain gathered in the footprint of a wolf, so if anyone recently spotted Logan Morrison carrying a LONG STRAW and heading to the zoo’s Minnesota Trail, PLEASE inform this columnist post-haste.
    Most likely, a member of the Twins was bitten by a grizzled European character actor. After all, when’s the last time you’ve seen the Twins playing with their SILVER slugger awards?
    As long as they keep winning, THIS COLUMNIST will howl at the moonshots for the home team! Even if they don’t score runs until his old buttocks are already abed and asleep!
    Now comb your hair and let’s all head to Trader Vic’s!
    ⁃ Axel Kohagen of London
    (For more serious lunacy, head to www.supertruestories.com and check out my podcast!)
  7. Like
    DocBauer reacted to huhguy for a blog entry, Time to diss Dozier   
    Why would I diss Dozier? Have you seen what happened to Grossman and Rodney after I dissed them?
    Rodney has been phenomenal, Robbie much improved so here goes Dozier.
    Dozier looks sooooo old...I think he's still upset about the Twins refusal to extend him...um Brian you are old and Gordon is coming get it?
    So old man, start carrying your weight or at least hit it!
    (might take a few games but his improvement is virtually assured)
  8. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Polanco, Shortstops, and Stability   
    Over the past 13 seasons, dating back to 2005, the Minnesota Twins have started 11 different players at shortstop on Opening Day. Through those years, only Pedro Florimon has been given the nod in back-to-back seasons (13-14), and Jason Bartlett is the only other player to appear twice (05 & 07). To put it simply, consistency at the shortstop position isn't something that the Minnesota Twins have had in over a decade. With Jorge Polanco settling in to change that notion, it might be time to give it some real thought.
    To know where the Twins may be going, we'll first take a look at where they've been. Before the revolving door got started in 2004, the last point of stability was none other than Cristian Guzman. From 1999 through 2004, the Dominican native started every Opening Day for Minnesota, and racked up 841 games played. A fixture in the Minnesota lineup, Guzman was a serviceable option that allowed speed to carry his game.
    At the dish, you could argue that Guzman was a relatively replaceable asset. Owning just a .685 OPS with Minnesota, and averaging just a .303 OBP over his six-year tenure, there was nothing that jumped off the stat page. Leading the league in triples three times, and stealing double-digit bases in five straight years, quickness was highly valued at a time in the game where advanced analytics had yet to break in.
    In the field, Guzman was as acceptable as it gets. Defensive data at Fangraphs only goes back to 2002, but over the three seasons accounted for, Guzman provided two at a net zero outcome. Both in 2002 and 2004, a total of 0 DRS was the result in over 1,200 innings. He displayed solid zone ratings, and above average range at the most demanding position in the infield however. In short, Guzman was the option for Minnesota because he did just enough to warrant the job, but also never really pushed the needle.
    As the game has evolved, shortstops are among the most premier players on the diamond. To have a guy with an OPS south of .700 and be worth nothing more than league average defensively, you'd be hard-pressed not to insert the Pedro Florimon's of the world as a replacement. Fortunately for Minnesota, looking at stability this time around provides something of a significant advancement in the form of Jorge Polanco.
    The former top-100 prospect will be entering his second full season as the Twins everyday shortstop. He's coming off a .723 OPS and a -1 DRS across 1,119 innings played. The sample size compiled thus far is incredibly small, but given a brief taste in 2016, we can quantify improvement. In the field across 69 games in 2016, Polanco owned a -8 DRS across 406 innings. With questions regarding his arm at short, the initial showing did nothing to dispel the notion that he wasn't fit to play anything but second base at the highest level. Displaying substantial improvements across the board, and a positive RngR factor last year though, Polanco put forth an effort reflective of lots of extra offseason work.
    Regarding Polanco, it's always been the bat that was expected to carry him. After bottoming out at a .572 OPS on August 4th last season, a corner was turned. Over his final 53 games, Polanco posted a .942 OPS that saw him launch 10 homers and pick up another 14 doubles. Everything from launch angle to pitch recognition was maximized, and the turnaround was more reflective of the player Minnesota expected to have coming out of their minor league system.
    Knowing baseball is a mental game, the loss of Polanco's grandfather likely weighed on him at points of the season. Widely reported as a father figure to the 24 year old, it's hardly unfathomable that performance would dip as his mind struggled to stay engaged. On the field, locking back in to a disciplined approach that produced career bests in SwStr% and chase rate no doubt aided the turnaround.
    Looking ahead, Polanco should be in a position where he can secure the shortstop role to the point that a challenger needs to wrangle it away from him. The revolving door has stopped spinning at this moment, and by the time Royce Lewis or Wander Javier are ready for the next step, Polanco should allow Minnesota an opportunity to make them earn it. It's not far off that an up-the-middle tandem of Polanco and Nick Gordon can be seen as reality, but there should be little question in regards to who's best suited at short among that duo.
    For any number of organizations across the big leagues, having answers on the mound, at short, and in center remain of the utmost importance. More often than not, the Twins have done well in center, and they've begun to right the ship on the mound. Polanco taking steps forward to own shortstop is a much-needed revelation, and it's one that he's only begun to own into. Obviously the sustainability of a .900+ OPS isn't great, but a full season of Polanco contributing with both the bat and the glove seems to be more expectation than hope at this point.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  9. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Bryan Borchardt for a blog entry, Twins spend 4th most in Free Agency (sort of...)   
    Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?? After years of luke-warm stove off seasons the new front office has made their mark on the roster by signing five players to the big league roster who are ready and able to contribute on opening day. Add to that the trade for Jake Odorizzi and you’re talking nearly 25% of the 25 man roster acquired this off season from outside the team.
    What is particularly stunning about these additions is the money which was spent on acquiring the players. While the latest additions, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison appear to be team friendly deals, Lynn will still be the 4th highest paid player on the roster in 2018 and Morrison the 9th. Call is savvy management, or call it bargain hunting, these guys will command a healthy share of the Twins payroll in 2018.
    In fact, if you look at the 2018 Base Salaries of the five free agents the Twins signed, plus the $2M paid to Michael Pineda in 2018, the total ($34M) is the fourth highest for 2018 salaries paid behind only the Phillies ($56M), Cubs ($53M) and Rockies ($42.3M). Surprised? I was. And what is even more impressive is that these short term deals will allow the front office to continue to have roster flexibility into the future, particularly when the likes of Hughes and Mauer come off the books.
    After all the dust settles, it looks as though the Twins opening day payroll will be right around $130M. While this is an increase of about 24% over 2017’s opening day number, it puts the Twin’s only right around the median of all MLB teams in terms of total payroll.
    And how do we feel about being in the middle of the pack for payroll? I’ll take it. Particularly when the front office appears to be adding players in a smart way, to what is already a solid roster of young talent.
  10. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Rotation Overhaul In Overdrive   
    With the news of the Minnesota Twins signing Lance Lynn to a one-year, $12 million deal today, the overhaul of the starting rotation going into 2018 is complete. Despite the big fish of the offseason being Yu Darvish, it's hard not to see the avenue that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took as equally impressive. Coming off a Wild Card appearance, Paul Molitor's club has something it hasn't in years: a rotation worthy of praise.
    Going into the winter, Minnesota's front office new that the area of focus needed to be starting pitching. Coming off a season in which 16 different pitchers made starts (a club record), and 36 different arms were used, getting more meaningful innings from the jump was a necessity. Although the crop of free agents left something to be desired, Darvish was there at the top and he had some quality options lined up behind him. You can fault the Twins for not matching Chicago's six-year deal, but it may not have mattered anyways. In the end, for a team desiring depth, this outcome almost seems better.
    When the Twins leave Fort Myers at the end of March, their starting rotation will feature Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson. Ervin Santana is due back sometime in April or May, and the group at the top is backed by names such as Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, and Zack Littell. Solely by the letters on the backs of the jerseys, that group is much stronger than one featuring options such as Tepesch, Melville, and Wilk. What's more intriguing though, are the numbers that names bring with them.
    In Odorizzi and Lynn, Minnesota has added two players capable of striking out batters at an 8.0 K/9 clip or better. A season ago, only Jose Berrios entered that territory, and the Twins haven't had two pitchers best that mark in a season since 2006 (Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano). Last season, 12 of the Twins 16 starters took the ball a combined 54 times to compile a -0.2 fWAR. Despite a down year for Odorizzi (0.1 fWAR in 2017), he's consistently earned around a 2.0 fWAR on an annual basis. In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, Lynn posted a 1.4 mark. Both should help to significantly raise the water level as a whole for the staff, which is really what this boils down to.
    Talking yourself out of missing on Darvish is foolish, but there's also a level of realism to it. While Yu is a bonafide ace, he can only take the ball once every five days. Minnesota was in a place where Kyle Gibson would be relied upon too much, and Phil Hughes needed to be counted on as well. In adding two arms, the Twins push the latter out completely, and allow the former to be bolstered by the strong depth on the farm behind him. By gaining a 40% improvement in the rotation, the Twins effectively overhauled their greatest weakness, and dare I say, turned it into a strength.
    It'd be relatively silly to suggest that Lynn, Odorizzi, or even Michael Pineda (if and when he returns healthy) are going to make the Scherzer's or Kershaw's of the world blush. For an organization that's been starved to figure out who can be relied upon for multiple turns in the rotation on a yearly basis for over a decade though, you've done more than alright. Minnesota's blueprint when attacking the rotation was to grab talent that could help, and let what was already on board fall in line. By executing it this way, there should be competitive and reliable outings on a daily basis, and the depth is now a luxury as opposed to a necessity.
    Given what Falvey and Levine have done to Molitor's starting staff, and what Minnesota already had going for it, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that this team isn't going places. A strong lineup and good defense is now supplemented be a talented pitching staff (both starters and relievers) and that should put not only the Cleveland Indians, but the rest of the American League, on notice.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Matthew Lenz for a blog entry, Season Preview: Felix Jorge   
    Through the 2018 Adopt-A-Prospect draft I drafted Felix Jorge with the 27th overall pick as my guy for the upcoming season. It will my objective to give you bi-weekly(ish) updates on the Twins prospect this season, but I wanted to start by providing some background information and project what we might see from him in the 2018 season.
    Felix De Jesus Jorge is a 24 year old right handed pitcher who will be entering his 8th season in the Twins organization after being signed as an international free agent in 2011. He made is Major League debut on July 1st, 2017 against the Kansas City Royals. He pitched 5 solid, yet unspectacular innings before getting pulled and eventually shelled in his second and final Major League outing of the season against the Orioles. He enters the 2018 season currently ranked as the Twins 17th best prospect according to MLB and 7th rated pitching prospect. He is currently on the Twins 40 man roster and has been assigned to start the season at AAA Rochester.
    Scouting Report
    Jorge stands at 6' 2", 170 pounds which makes him on the smaller side for your standard Major League pitcher. He has four pitches in his repertoire with his fastball and change-up being his two best pitches followed by his slider and curveball, respectively. His fast ball sits low 90's and then he loses about 10 miles per hour on his change-up, which is a good change of speed. He's a classic Twins pitching prospect as he doesn't overpower hitters, is very hittable, yet has pretty good control averaging about 2.2 walks/9.
    His delivery is very clean and smooth and he throws from over the top as you can see below from Spring Training a year ago.

    Being that we already saw him in 2017, I am confident that we will see him again sometime in 2018. That said, he has fallen down the prospect list in the last year and he will be competing with Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves who are currently rated much higher than him. As it stands right now, I would put him third in the pecking order behind Romero and Gonsalves as those two have had pretty solid springs thus far. With injuries, double headers, and other factors it's hard to know exactly when we'll see him but worst case scenario he will be brought up when rosters are expanded on September 1st. Looking a little more long term, I don't think Jorge as the "stuff" to be a reliable starter at the Major League level. He's still young and has room to improve, but I think a #4 or #5 starter is the top end of what to expect from him. More realistically, I view him as being a guy who could come out of the bullpen as a long or middle reliever down the road.

  12. Like
    DocBauer reacted to menthmike for a blog entry, Falvey and Levine's Farm System   
    Of all the things that I love about the MLB, the farm systems are near the top. Following baseball is so much fun because even in the lowest years there is that optimism that comes with building up a minor league program. Honestly, I would rather be at that bottom than treading water in the middle. Now, it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyways, a World Series every now and then would be nice. However, for much of the last decade Twins fans have been watching the pipeline grow. Speculating about Miguel Sano’s future production, salivating at the thought of Buxton roaming the Target Field grass, and always searching for the top pitching prospect has been and continues to be a challenging enjoyment.
    What got the Twins to this place, building from the bottom, however; was the lack of consistent growth in the farm system. Like most Twins fans, I have been pleased with the work of Thad Levine and Derek Falvey. Honestly, it is hard not to be impressed considering the improvements the club has made over their watch. However, what I’m most excited about has been their ability to put a winning club together at Target Field and not just keep their prospects, but build out the farm system. MLB.com just put out their 2018 Prospect Lists and I thought it would be fun to look at who of the Twins Top 30 Prospects are the results of Levine and Falvey moves.
    Let’s take a look…
    Player/Prospect Rank/Acquire Through
    Royce Lewis #1 Draft
    Brent Rooker #8 Draft
    Blayne Enlow #9 Draft
    Zack Littell #15 Trade
    Andrew Bechtold #20 Draft
    Tyler Watson #22 Trade
    Jacob Pearson #25 Trade
    Landon Leach #28 Draft
    Yunior Severino #29 International Signing
    David Banuelos #30 Trade
    Taking into account only the moves made to acquire minor league talent it is safe to safe this front office did well last year. Certainly drafting from the top gave them an advantage. However, they took full advantage of that draft slot and the money that came with it. With one draft class Falvey and Levine have stacked their farm system with five talented players. Three of whom are in the top ten. Beyond the draft class which has yielded great early results, they were smart with their International Signing Money. The Twins were able to jump on Severino, who was made available after the Braves scandal. In addition to the middle infielder, the Twins made two smart trades sending away money to bring in Jacob Pearson and David Banuelos. Obviously, all three players have their flaws, but they are also young and were acquired wisely. I believe that is the best way to sum up the early returns of this new front office; wise moves. The Twins really haven’t yet made a big splash, but they have made smart, calculated moves. Falvey and Levine seem perfectly content to continue to stock the selves with raw talent, watch it grow and strike when the timing is right. I must admit, it’s been fun to watch so far!
  13. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, One Day Makes Twins Difference   
    Over the weekend, Minnesota Twins fans felt the full gambit of emotions. After announcing that Anibal Sanchez had been given a major league deal, frustration was felt in full force. A bounce-back candidate that has ugly numbers of late wasn't going to gain much confidence for a revamped starting rotation. Then, a day later, Jake Odorrizi was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays and the tide felt like it had turned. Putting a bow on the Minnesota offseason, it's hard not to like where this team is headed.
    Going into the offseason, the Twins had one focus in hopes of returning to Postseason play, fix the pitching. The 4.60 team ERA in 2017 came in 19th among MLB clubs, and the 7.31 K/9 was better than only the Texas Rangers. Both in the rotation and the pen, Paul Molitor's club needed better names and the ability to miss more bats. From the jump, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine knew this was where the focus had to be, and it appeared they had a plan to execute on.
    Signing Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke, the Twins bring in two arms with little risk and a relatively high upside. Rodney is an experience, but his 10.6 K/9 is an asset, and he allows arms like Trevor Hildenberger to be deployed outside of the 9th inning. Duke isn't just a LOOGY, and he too is a punchout pitcher when healthy. There's little arguing that Addison Reed was the pen headliner this winter however. After signing a 2yr/$16.75M deal with Minnesota, Falvey and Levine had somehow landed one of the premier options on what looked like a budget deal. Yet to hit 30, Reed owns a career 9.5 K/9 and a 2/3 BB/9 that makes him arguably the best arm in Minnesota's relief corps.
    While it's hard to overstate the importance of the three relief acquisitions on their own merits, it's also big to note what their inclusion does for Paul Molitor as a whole. Instead of rounding out the pen with toss in names, the Twins can now rely on arms like Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Ryan Pressly as complimentary pieces. Again, with the goal being a raised water level across the board, the front office accomplished that to a T in the pen.
    From the outset of the winter Minnesota was tied to starter Yu Darvish. Given all of the factors, a union of the two sides made an immeasurable amount of sense from the home town perspective. Unfortunately, Darvish chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs in the end. Falvey and Levine may have ruled themselves out by failing to match the Cubs offer, but the likelihood always remained that the former Rangers ace wanted a bigger market than the up and coming Twins. While a tough blow for sure, there's no sense of settling either.
    With Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Jake Arrieta all having their warts, the remaining top tier free agents left a decent bit to be desired. Draft pick compensation was tied to each of them, and the dollar ask would likely not be in the line with the expected level of production. Although I'll always be of the stance that you should spend from an unlimited cash pool as opposed to dealing from a limited talent pool in acquiring players, Minnesota found a way to make things look better the opposite way.
    Netting Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins gave up little more than a flier middle infielder. Jermaine Palacios went on a tear to start the 2017 season at Cedar Rapids, but struggled mightily as a 20 year-old at High-A Fort Myers. Odorizzi is a soon-to-be 28 year-old under team control for two more years, and immediately slots in among Minnesota's top three. Despite tallying his worst season as a pro in 2017, the numbers still equated to a 4.14 ERA and an 8.0 K/9. For the former Rays hurler, a 5.14 FIP and 3.8 BB/9 leave plenty of room for growth. His HR/9 rate spiked to 1.9 a season ago, and there's been plenty made about the idea that getting down in the zone could be a key to expanded success.
    Not the headliner that Odorizzi is for Minnesota, Anibal Sanchez being brought in as a depth signing looks much better than when it was originally reported. I still think it's odd the deal needed to be of the MLB sort, guaranteeing a current 40 man roster spot despite it being uncertain that he'll make the opening day roster. The ERA there is awful, but the 8.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are great marks. Sanchez posted a 2.52 FIP in his first two seasons with the Tigers, and then ballooned to a 5.01 mark the past three years. After never allowing home runs, he's gotten worse the last three seasons going from 1.7 to 1.8 to 2.2 HR/9. If Falvey saw a correctable adjustment to keep the ball in the park, that contract could end up being a steal for the Twins.
    As with the bullpen, the goal in the rotation was to raise the overall water level. Now with Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Ervin Santana locked in as the top three, Minnesota has an enhanced level of depth to fill out the back end. Nothing is guaranteed for Adalberto Mejia, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, or Sanchez in terms of a rotation spot. They'll all be pushed by the likes of Stephen Gonsalves, Fernado Romero, Zack Littell, and Dietrich Enns. For a club that used way too many arms, and saw a vast level of ineffectiveness at times a season ago, the situation as a whole looks much better entering 2018.
    Given the current roster construction, I'd imagine the Twins are done adding arms. They probably have room for a bat on a minor league deal, and 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson has been suggesting that could be Mike Napoli for weeks now. The Rays recently DFA'd Corey Dickerson, and he'd be a huge addition for Minnesota as well. Regardless, if another move is coming, it's probably a less noteworthy offensive addition.
    With the dust now settled, it's hard to look back on the offseason with any sort of displeasure. There was one ace out there, and the Twins chance was always a long shot. They added significant pitching in the bullpen, grabbed a good arm for the rotation, and added a couple of fliers along the way. While the division, including the Cleveland Indians, got worse, Minnesota retained it's talent and added pieces. The American League is going to be tough in 2018, with teams like the Yankees an Angels both getting better. For Minnesota, the Postseason may have to come through their own division, and you have to like how they positioned themselves for this season and beyond.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  14. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Shooting High Bodes Well For Minnesota   
    As the offseason continues, the Minnesota Twins will eventually make a free agent acquisition. While all of baseball appears at a standstill right now, dominoes will eventually begin to fall. Recently, Twins GM Thad Levine told MLB Network that the club is focused on both Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. Although neither may happen, that suggests the club is in a good place.
    In 2017, the Twins turned heads making the postseason as an Wild Card team. While the turnaround wasn't unexpected, winning as often as they did probably was a bit much to ask. The reality however, is that Minnesota did accumulate those wins, and the ship was righted as the youth continued to blossom. Arguably the greatest problem for the franchise in recent history has been pitching, and that didn't necessarily leap forward.
    Coming in 19th across MLB in team ERA (and 19th among starters), pitching still left a lot to be desired. By FIP measures, Minnesota checked in at 25th, and that really highlights how pitching was addressed prior to 2017. The reality is that not much changed going into last year, but an improved defense and a much better defensive catcher made a significant impact. With the defense and catcher returning, it's now time to raise the water level on the mound as well.
    The current free agent class leaves plenty to be desired in terms of pitching, and there will never be a time that quality arms come cheap. That being said, Levine's comments suggest Minnesota is putting their best foot forward. There's no denying that both Ohtani and Darvish are the two best available pitchers on the open market. Rather than aiming at the middle ground the Twins have targeted the cream of the crop. For Darvish, money will factor in significantly more than it will for the capped out Ohtani. Regardless, knowing that Minnesota can't possibly aim any higher than they already are is a good thing.
    Regarding Ohtani first, Minnesota isn't going to have to shell out an extraordinary amount of dough. The spending is capped through the posting system, and for a guy turning down literal hundreds of millions a year from now to compete early, the fit in an organization seems to be much more enticing. Minnesota can offer him a young team on the rise, and a place that he could truly find himself as a superstar.
    Coming to Darvish, cash is absolutely going to be king. While he may not choose the most lucrative offer, getting the former Rangers ace for anything less than $100 million simply isn't going to happen. His stumble in the World Series doesn't deflate his market, and the fact that he's bounced back from Tommy John surgery so nicely calms most of the injury concerns. Darvish is a true ace, with strikeout ability, and that's something the Twins have needed since the years of Johan Santana. Levine having a leg up here, working with him in Texas, definitely can't hurt the situation.
    At the end of the day, the Twins may wind up being without either Darvish or Ohtani. Starting there though suggests a few things. First and foremost, they realize that starting pitching has to be a priority. The club has more than a few options to round out the rotation, but the reality is they are barren at the top. Ervin Santana isn't an ace, and is likely only going to decline. Jose Berrios could push for more, but that still leaves the club with just one shut down starter. Bringing in another arm one way or another is a good plan.
    Also, the Twins aren't shying away from the top of the market. Now it could be all talk. but there's no uncertainty when it comes to the payday Darvish is going to land. If Minnesota wasn't interested in playing at that level, having discussions at all would seem to be a waste of time. The fact that there's been engagement suggests that there's a level of commitment financially to tighten things up on the mound.
    Finally, starting at the top makes a level of settling a bit more manageable. If Minnesota can't land either Ohtani or Darvish, a step down to Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb is hardly a throwaway. While neither of those two guys are going to be an ace, they could slot in at Santana's level or higher, which helps the Twins as a whole. If the club started their search at the middle ground, adding a back end option as a fallback does little to actually fix anything.
    Right now, teams and players seem to be playing a game of chicken. There's likely big numbers being thrown around, and it's going to be interesting to see who bites first. Once moves are made however, the expectation should be that they come in relative bunches. Commend the Twins for doing more than their due diligence, and being aware of the focus they should have. Although Ohtani and Darvish may not end up in Twins Territory, it's hardly a bad thing that they're being heavily discussed at this point in time.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  15. Like
    DocBauer reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Wins do count   
    https://www.si.com/more-sports/2011/07/01/kaplan-spahnmarichalToday I was motivated by reading an article on ESPN by Bradford Doolittle - hitting the reset on pitcher wins http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21439977/hitting-reset-button-starting-pitcher-wins-baseball
    As a baseball fan who started out rooting for Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves and then moving over to the new Twins as an usher for their first season my views are tainted by history and, while I like many new stats, I am bothered by the tendency to throw out the old stats with the recycling.
    Over and over I hear that wins don't count, then we drool over our greater win totals. True it is a team game and the wins by an individual pitcher have to be looked at under a new lens since the idea of a complete game where the pitcher really does control the outcome has changed and now we have shifted to the bullpen as masters of the mound, but the true aces rise above this.
    Sale and Kluber, Kershaw and Scherzer are not just great starters, they actually win games, even though they do not pitch very many complete games. To understand my love of the complete game and the true aces you should read about the Spahn/Marichal game in 1963 - https://www.si.com/more-sports/2011/07/01/kaplan-spahnmarichal
    How nostalgic this game is for me.
    Now admittedly in this era it is a thrill to see two starters go 7 innings against each other, but that does not diminish the win and loss records. It is true that the scorer never invokes his right to award the win to the most deserving so a relief pitcher can come in throw one ball and then get the win, but that is not all that common. The starter gets his record because he pitches long enough, often enough to get to the position to win.
    ​And I understand fielding and hitting are essential I remember when Ryan won the ERA title in 1987 came with an 8 - 16 record, hardly a great pct. Yet he overcame the poor teams he pitched for to surpass 300 wins just as Blyleven won 287 games pitching with some mediocre teams. I give him credit for this win total in addition to the new stats that pushed him in the Hall of Fame.
    I do not want to negate the new approach. In fact the bullpen era will create some interesting statistical aberrations that challenge our ability to compare pitchers from one era to another, but take nothing away from those winners of yesteryear.
    It is common place to always state today's athletes are the best ever. Kershaw is being anointed by ESPN weekly and he deserves his recognition, but necessarily his ranking. Give the same diet, training and opportunities, the greats of the past would be the greats of today and the greats of today put in another era would still rise to stardom.
    So how do we judge players? Old stats, new stats, the eye test? Maybe all of them. If real baseball was just a statistical exercise we could dispense with the field and just play strato-matic, but the human element is what gives it greatness and is the reason we still talk about players like Cy Young and Honus Wagner even though they are simply grainy photographs and statistical lines in our life times.
  16. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins To Perk-O-Late The Pen   
    After suffering a severe shoulder injury that required his labrum be reattached over the offseason, Glen Perkins is nearing a return to the big leagues. I was skeptical this day would ever come, but the Twins former closer has worked his tail off to be where he is today. The question remains, can this version of Perkins be an asset in relief for Paul Molitor's squad?
    Perkins last appeared on a big league mound on April 10, 2016. It marked two innings of ineffective pitching a year ago. You'd have to go back to July 11, 2015 to find the last instance in which Perkins was right on the mound. Fortunately for the Twins, when Perkins was right, he was among the best in the game. A three time All Star, Perkins totaled at least 32 saves each year from 2013-2015. He has been a steadying force at the back end of a bullpen for what amounted to pretty poor teams. As he returns though, it's fair to wonder what is left.
    Having now pitched at three different levels on the farm in rehab stints, Perkins has posted a 6.14 ERA across 7.1 IP. His 10 strikeouts in that span are exciting, but they've been paired with an unfortunate five walks. Velocity returning has been a big question, and aside from a few low 90's reports, he's hovered somewhere in the high 80's. It's hard to imagine the life on his fastball being better than what it was, and he's dipped from 96 mph in 2013, to 92.1 mph a year ago.
    Looking at the boost Perkins could provide however, is somewhat notable given the Twins current situation. While the bullpen has been better than it started out, there's still some easily replaceable parts. Maybe the easiest place to see the former closer slot in, is with a swap for lefty Buddy Boshers. Across 29.0 IP in 2017, Boshers has posted a 4.66 ERA that's due for even more regression with a 5.41 FIP. His strikeout rate has dipped to 7.4 K/9 and his walk rate has ballooned to a 3.1 BB/9 mark. Effective only against lefties, he's been exposed at the highest level of the game.
    Asking Perkins to slot in and take over Boshers' spot in the pen is a pretty mediocre ask. Being better than a 4.50+ ERA while limiting walks shouldn't be a tall task for a big league arm. What we don't know is whether or not Perkins still has the stuff to play at the highest level of competition. It's an easy move to tag him in, and it could end up being just as easy to remove him.
    The day appears to be coming that the Twins will need to make a decision. In terms of his rehab calendar, there's only a few days left in which the Twins can leave him on the farm. From everything Glen has stated publicly, he believes he's ready to go and wants to compete. For a guy that's given the organization so much, and has a team option left for next year, he's earned the opportunity for a swan song.
    It'd be pretty unfortunate to see Perkins go out and be shelled, effectively ended his time as a big league. His rope is probably pretty close to the end regardless, but it would be a much better story to allow him success and the ability to go out on top. This book is probably in its final chapter, but the author has yet to write the last few pages.
    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are going to have to give the Minnesota native an answer, and the result seems to be a harmless one no matter what takes place. Perkins replacing Boshers is of little note, and should he too need to be replaced, there's more than a few capable arms still in the prospect realms waiting to hear their names called.
    Baseball is a tough game, and it generally dictates to everyone when they'll be done playing it. Rarely do athletes go out on their own terms, and some have harder exits than others. I'm pulling for Glen Perkins to ride off into the sunset, but I'm not certain how rocky the path will be.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  17. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Bench Provides Room For Growth   
    Whether looking at the 25 man roster as it sits currently, or how it will be constructed a year from now, the Minnesota Twins have opportunity through their bench. In winning more games against other big league clubs, the goal needs to be raising the water level of your weakest link. For Paul Molitor's club, there's some ample opportunity for growth.
    On July 24, the Twins employ a bench of three players. Due to the extra (and frankly unnecessary) bullpen arm, the reserves rotate between a group of Eduardo Escobar, Chris Gimenez, Ehire Adrianza, Robbie Grossman, and Jorge Polanco. While none of those players are a black hole, the group itself has plenty that can be worked on.
    Looking at the starting roster, there's probable cause for each player to be a relative mainstay for the immediate future. Save for the shortstop and DH roles which are aided by the rotating bench, Minnesota virtually has their lineup claimed. In working towards a better overall talent level, a new bench construction could be a strong place to start.
    Of the four aforementioned players, Polanco is the one that sticks out. He's a guy that hasn't owned an OPS south of .600 since he was 16 in the Dominican Summer League. His bat was his calling card for the majors, and while his defense was above-average to start the year, that's regressed to more expected results. Now with a .578 OPS and out of options, the Twins are forced to stash him and allow the 23 year old to work through his problems at the highest level. Ideally you'd like him to go back to Triple-A and iron things out, but his spot isn't necessarily an egregious bench usage.
    As a fourth outfielder and designated hitter, Robbie Grossman drew rave reviews through the early part of the season. He's a patient hitter that forces a pitcher to throw strikes, and he simply gets on base. Over the past 33 games however, he owns just a .218/.321/.286 slash line. The .607 OPS is bolstered by no power, and he's contributed just eight extra base hits. Not being able to play an average level of outfield defense, there's plenty more to ask from a designated hitter. Grossman was a great story in 2016 owning an .828 OPS in 99 G, but the regression has set in and he's slipped well off that mark.
    Maybe most valuable of the group is Eduardo Escobar. Experiencing somewhat of a breakout in 2015, Escobar owns a career best .768 OPS this season. He's not a great defender, but being average at three positions around the diamond makes him an asset. His nine homers are the second most in his career (12 in 2015), and he's become a much more significant on-base threat (as witnessed by the career best .328 OBP). If you're filling out a bench, Escobar is the ideal candidate to take a spot.
    I had questions early on in 2017 as to whether or not Ehire Adrianza and Escobar could coexist. They offer virtually the same thing, with Adrianza being a whiz with the glove despite not hitting at all. Getting into 32 games for Minnesota, Adrianza has a career best .766 OPS. He doesn't generate any power, but he's been good for a timely single when needed. On a three man bench however, a backup catcher and Adrianza taking up two of the spots can be costly. Even in a four man rotation, having near identical players in Escobar and Adrianza seems to drop the ball a bit.
    That takes us to the backup catcher in Chris Gimenez. A natural clubhouse leader, Gimenez has posted a .689 OPS on the year. It's his best mark since 2015, and second highest total of his career. While that's great for him, the offensive production in that role is virtually non-existent. Gimenez has been average at best behind the dish, and that may warrant Minnesota looking elsewhere.
    Whether or not the Twins make any significant moves in 2017 or not, there's positions to be had on the big club. Mitch Garver seems an immediate boost over Gimenez giving the club plenty in terms of flexibility as well. There isn't a great argument to be made internally when looking at replacing Adrianza, but it stands to reason that a trio of middling infielders all rotating may be wasting a spot. Maybe Zack Granite can chip into Grossman's necessity, but that remains a slow play at best.
    Going into 2018, there's room for Minnesota to add offensively. While the bulk of the lineup may be set, and for quite a while, outside help could grab a few extra wins. Having additional firepower in reserve, and knowing it's more than just a placeholder, puts a club in a very good spot. While the 2017 Twins have surprised, the core of a solid team is there, with areas of improvement to take things to the next level.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  18. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Loosey for a blog entry, The New America's Past Time: Complaining   
    This blog entry will be sweet and short. The Twins are 14-12 on Cinco De Mayo. Last year on May 5 the team was already eliminated from playoff contention, at least it felt like at 8-20.
    But this year baseball is fun because the team is winning. Many of the guys helping the team win are guys who will be part of the future of this team. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario.
    However, anytime one mistake is made or a move is or isn't made by the front office the complaints come out in full force. A handful of fans don't like the new front office and think these new guys have same philosophies as the old regime and complain, complain, complain.
    They want Berrios up even though he might not be ready yet, they wanted Gibson sent to AAA and when he was they complained it took too long. They complain about Nick Tepesch, even though he might be an ok back end starter. Danny Santana . . . . Ok, I understand that complaint.
    But my point is, let's enjoy the winning and fun baseball team we are watching right now. I trust the front office even though I too scratch my head on some moves. I think we are watching the beginning of what will become a very good baseball team in the coming years.
  19. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Why Do So Many Twins Fans Miss The Boat?   
    Let me preface with the reality that fandom comes in different shapes and sizes. I realize there are those that are more casual observers, and there are diehards. There are those who watch the game, and then there are those that know the game. Simply defining someone watching Minnesota Twins baseball as a fan doesn't do the categorization justice. When it comes to the 2017 home nine though, there seems to be a growing and unfortunate confusion.
    Arguably the most frustrating notion is that this team is destined to be bad because, well, they lost 103 games last season. That's absolutely a fact regarding the loss total, outside of that, the statement couldn't be less confusing. Given the Twins emerged from nowhere in 2015 and won 83 games finishing 2nd in the AL Central, how can that be immediately dismissed?
    In 2016, Paul Molitor had virtually the same starting infield as he did the year prior (save for Eduardo Escobar replacing Danny Santana at shortstop). He had a new outfield that consisted of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario as opposed to the 2015 contingent of Oswaldo Arcia, Jordan Schafer, and Torii Hunter. Picking up the extra at bats as the designated hitter was Byungho Park instead of the replaced Kennys Vargas from 2015. As a whole, the Opening Day lineup remained a virtual clone.
    On the mound, Tyler Duffey replaced Mike Pelfrey in the big league rotation. The bullpen was thrown together with relatively similar pieces, and Molitor had a couple of new coaches at his disposal. What held true though was that nothing was truly groundbreaking.
    Here's the thing though, in 2015 the Twins overachieved significantly. Virtually all metrics suggested regression was coming, and the fact of the matter was there were too many placeholders to simply fill all of the holes. If 2015 gave you as a fan hope for 2016, you were likely as misguided as suggesting 2016 is a precursor for the season to come.
    So Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano are prospects you've heard about forever and haven't produced to the level you perceived? Is it incredibly surprising that a 22 year-old and two 23 year-old's are taking a bit longer to adjust at the big league level? Of course it isn't. Sano already has 40 career homers under his belt, Berrios has made a handful of starts, and Buxton is already playing Gold Glove caliber defense. At 23 years old, Kirby Puckett was at Single-A and Johan Santana was a reliever with a career 5.90 ERA.
    Exposure has given us a heightened level of insight into young prospects. There's lists, articles, Twitter, and countless other sources of information for the game's next stars. You may hear about a player earlier, but that doesn't change the adjustment period, or the reality that knowledge beyond those sources is key to understanding how quickly a kid may take to a man's game.
    Rounding out the trio of complaints is the one that encompasses both the overlooking of past results, and well as current roster construction. Why didn't Derek Falvey and Thad Levine come in and do more this offseason? The long and short of it is that they didn't have to. Both astute baseball minds, they realize this club is going to need to be carried by the likes of the Sano's and Buxton's. Signing a big bat, or a major arm, prior to the young guys being ready to shoulder more of the load, is a wasted year.
    Going into the offseason, I suggested multiple times that standing pat would be a good place for the Twins. I was interested in Wilson Ramos pre-injury. Jason Castro emerged, and then made immediate sense. He helps to address pitching and defense, is a low cost signing, and can hit at least to the level Kurt Suzuki was capable of. Outside of that, a throw in reliever until some of the young arms made sense. Minnesota has really strong relief prospects, and blocking them with significant retread veterans never would have been a good idea.
    Right now, the Twins executed everything as they needed to, and really, it's on you to see that. There's no one suggesting this club is making the playoffs, and even a .500 record would be a nice bonus. They aren't close to a 59 win team though, and the reasoning is relatively simple. The youth will continue to develop, and banking on those names you've heard forever to be stars is still a good bet. Finally, when it comes time to supplement with outside talent (and Minnesota is close to that point), then Falvey and Levine will be aware of the fact they are building, and not rebuilding.
    Don't miss the boat, and don't throw out baseless frustration. Whether comment sections, casual discussion, Twitter, or some other place is your stomping ground, have a little foundation to stand upon when considering what is being brought to the table. Baseball is a sport that allows you to consume it in multiple different ways. Understanding that opinions are also a reflection of that is a must.
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  20. Like
    DocBauer reacted to tnato for a blog entry, Who's on First (and Third)?   
    This post will be my first. It will not be based on any stats, and it will not have much to back it up.
    The Byung-Ho Park move could mean a lot of things. But I think there is one crazy speculation that has not been made yet. The move could mean Miguel Sano plays more first base this year.
    This theory really only works if you buy the idea that Sano's future is not at third base. The Twins won't move him just because they want to. I think Sano and the season could give them a reason to.
    First, they don't really have many long term options at either position.
    First base has a few more options than third base. Obviously Mauer is the stop gap here. He is signed for 2 more years, and while not the same player as before, the best established first baseman on the team. The concern here is Mauer's health.
    Here is a breakdown of Mauer's games played the last 3 years
    (Source: Baseball Reference Standard Batting table)
    2016: 134
    2015: 158
    2014: 120
    Here is a breakdown of Mauer's games played by position the last 3 years
    (Source: Baseball Reference Standard Fielding table)
    1B - 95
    DH - 34
    1B - 137
    DH - 20
    1B - 100
    DH - 19
    Mauer might stay relatively healthy, but we could see that DH stay at 34, or even go up. Which means Vargas will see more playing time at first. Vargas best skill is his bat, but its still up in the air if that will keep him in the majors. It's no guarantee Vargas sticks and Park is not only playing catchup with his career, but it appears catchup with the front office.
    Without Plouffe - the Twins only have one third baseman, Miguel Sano. And Miguel Sano is it. CBS Baseball currently lists Escobar and Polanco as his backups. Sano is the guy for at least the first half of the season. But there are plenty of questions about his ability to play third base long term. I think it is reasonable to think he struggles at third this year. Or, maybe he even gets hurt and can't play third.
    So, here is the scenario I see playing out -
    1. Defensively, Sano doesn't look like the the third baseman of the future. But his bat needs to stay in the lineup.
    2. Mauer plays more DH, and eventually misses an extended amount of time.
    3. Vargas gets more playing time, but becomes a defensive liability.
    4. Sano starts seeing more time at first base.
    Who plays third base? I don't have an answer for that. Maybe the Twins tread water with whatever they have at AAA. There is one chip the Twins could play - trading Dozier. Everyone is focused on getting a starting pitcher. Maybe the Twins get a third baseman instead.
    Tough to say exactly how the front office addresses a season where Sano struggles defensively at third, and they don't have great option at first. But if they can find someone to play third base, Sano could easily find himself at first. I may have started down this path with the finish line, and trying to find a path to it. I think Sano could end up at first long term, and I found a way for the season to play out that way.
    This being my first post, I'm half expecting someone to point out something obvious that blows this theory apart. Either way, I'm excited to start interacting with the community instead of just sitting on the sidelines. I hope everyone enjoys this!
  21. Like
    DocBauer reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Thoughts on Brian Dozier   
    Let me preface what will undoubtedly be a long entry by saying I am a Dozier fan. I have spoken to him at Spring Training a couple of times and like the young man. I believe he has been the Twins MVP for each of the last four seasons (counting this one) and I have no doubt that he is the team's best player at this point. Certainly, he isn't flawless, but the Twins need more players like Brian Dozier, not less.
    Over the course of this long, horrible season, Brian Dozier has often been a hot topic of conversation in Twins Territory. He isn't shy about stepping up to a microphone, my wife and daughters think he's good-looking and he's been a regular with the club as their second baseman for four years. If someone casually follows the Twins, they know who Dozier is, so it figures that he would be a topic of conversation.
    Let's see why Dozier has been discussed so much and what I think should be the conclusion for the topic: First of all, as the Twins started the season, Dozier couldn't get it going. After a bad second half in 2015, Dozier came out of the gate slow in 2016. Through all of April and May, Dozier barely reached .200 and the signature power was lacking. Had the league figured him out? Was the 28 year old (turned 29 in mid-May) regressing already? Should he be benched or put at the bottom of the order? My thought, then and now, was that it is a long season. If a guy is a good player, he'll come out of a funk. Robbie Cano had a similar stretch at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 and Cano might be a Hall-of-Famer. Along for the ride early in the season was the question whether BD was too pull-happy and if he used the whole field, he would be a more consistent and productive hitter. My thought was that Dozier needed to be able to hit the ball with authority when he was pitched away and as the season has progressed, he has accumulated some oppo hits and several to the middle of the field, the key being that he hit the ball hard, not a lazy popup or routine fly ball.
    Moving on, Dozier has spent most of the season hitting #1 or #2. Many have thought it wasn't ideal for a guy whose calling card is big power for his position to hit first or second. My thought then was that the Twins simply didn't have a better option. Dozier takes some of the longest at-bats on the team, he's walked a fair amount since arriving in the majors and he's a good base runner who doesn't clog the bases for those behind him. Ideally, he should have hit lower in the order to make a few more of his homers multi-run shots and I think that where Dozier hits in the lineup in 2017 will be a hot controversial topic if he is in a Twins' uniform next year.
    As the season rolled toward the All-Star break, the call to sell and rebuild the Twins included Dozier's name prominently. He had some value and the club is/was going nowhere in '16, so cashier him for a prospect or two and let Jorge Polanco handle second base. In June and July, Dozier recovered from his slow start. He put up a great line in June, posting an OPS for the month in excess of 1.000, he slowed in July, hitting only .240 but still putting up an OPS of .824. Trade Dozier at the deadline? Didn't happen and IMHO shouldn't have happened. He hasn't slowed down much since his monster June and with a team-friendly contract and relative youth, his value should only be higher in the off-season or at next year's trade deadline.
    Another topic that has emerged is defense. After a truly stout year in 2013, Dozier's defense has been categorized as below average by most metrics. While I don't believe Dozier is elite defensively, my eyes tell me he is in the average range. He makes a few outstanding plays (probably more than any other Twins player) and doesn't get to some balls he should, perhaps because of shifting, maybe because the position of shortstop has been in flux since he became a second baseman, maybe because in three of the last four years, the team never had a shot at contention. I don't know. In checking BB Ref, Dozier lags in zone rating, but is above average in runs saved. I see it as a wash, making Dozier average in the field. I'm waiting for someone to refute this, but in the final analysis, defense probably is an "eyes of the beholder" topic.
    Since the All-Star break, Brian Dozier has been en fuego. He's hitting .320, with an OPS of 1.091 and a mlb-leading 21 homers. I guess that puts to rest the "first half player" meme that was circulating among the diehard fans remaining. The question that stems from his performance both the cold April and May and his elite performance since is what to expect going forward. I have turned over in my mind what the most likely trajectory of Dozier's career figures to be. One extreme is Dan Uggla, who like Dozier wasn't highly regarded, got a chance in his mid-twenties and became a star in large part because of his power numbers. Uggla fell off a cliff in his early thirties. An opposing example is Jeff Kent. Kent was an okay player, but not even a full-time regular until he was 29. Starting from age 30, Kent won an MVP, was an All-Star five times with three different teams and posted OPS+ numbers over 119 every year until he was 39. This seems to be the extremes for power-hitting second basemen. Is Dozier going to be productive for most of another decade or is regression going to meet him around his 30th birthday? My answer is that no one knows for sure. It appears to me that Dozier has made adjustments to become a more complete hitter without diminishing his best asset--home run power. IMHO, it makes him a candidate to sustain high-end performance, although the end of 2015 and April-May of this year give a good argument that he could turn into a pumpkin at any time.
    In the last few weeks as the tumult in my life has moved Twins baseball on the back burner, I've managed to check the box scores, cluck over the disastrous pitching and watch highlights of games. Dozier has been front and center continuing his power surge. He now projects to exceed 40 homers and if he hits just one more long ball, he will have hit more in a single season than any Twin since Harmon in 1970. 40 homers would be a Top Ten season in franchise history dating back to the Senators who started playing at the turn of the 20th century. Only Harmon and Roy Sievers (once) have ever hit 40 homers in a single season in franchise history. Dozier is projected to score and drive in over 100 runs, also a rare feat, especially for guy who has hit first or second most of the season. He may or may not make 40 homers, 100 RBI or 100 runs, but on such a bad team those numbers stand out big and bold. Although I'm not a big fan of WAR, it does represent a quick and dirty assessment of value and Dozier's 5.6 WAR for this season is in the Top Ten in the league. Because the season has been so bad, I don't think Dozier has gotten the attention he deserves for his huge season. He won't win a Silver Slugger or MVP, he won't win the HR championship or set any other records, so there hasn't been any national coverage, but his overall season and particularly his production since June has been off the charts.
    Now in the season's final month, most Twins fans are thinking about the future (with good reason). Augmenting a terrible rotation is Priority One and trading Brian Dozier to get pitching help makes sense, since his value should be at an all-time high. This argument is buttressed by the play of Polanco, who has hit over .300, showing good on-base skills, but a questionable glove at short or third. I believe Jorge Polanco is best suited to second base and I believe adding him for Dozier wouldn't be all bad since Polanco is a switch hitter and wouldn't be prone to long slumps with his swing and approach. However, unless the payoff is monumental, Brian Dozier should be the Twins second baseman next year. He has had a season for the ages despite the wreckage around him, he's only 29 and if the last 100 days are an indication, he might get even better. Finally, he's been a solid citizen off the field. If the club wants somebody as the face of the franchise, they could do worse than Mr. Dozier.
    Just a couple more thoughts before I summarize--Dozier has been durable. Since becoming the team's second baseman, he hasn't been disabled and has missed only a handful of games with injuries. Secondly, my observation is that he is a good teammate. He doesn't sulk, cheers for his mates, appears to like their company off the field (loved the State Fair video) and despite having strong religious views, doesn't put that in the face of his teammates or the media.
    I have mentioned many of these thoughts in previous threads on the forums of Twins Daily. I find this player to be fascinating, especially in light of his minor league career and low status when drafted. I think Brian Dozier is a fine player who hasn't gotten the appreciation he deserves for this, his best season. I will continue to be a Dozier fan, hopefully as he continues to be a Minnesota Twin, but even if he's traded. In the event that he is traded, I will be pulling for the players acquired in return and hope they make the Twins better.
  22. Like
    DocBauer reacted to HitInAPinch for a blog entry, "We’re in dire straits here"   
    It's not a real awe inspiring article. But it does shed some light on management's involvement.
    "“Probably more than ever,” Ryan said of his talks with Pohlad.
    "Some people are calling it panic. I get that, OK. We’re in a mode here where I better be creative enough to do some things to help along the cause. We’re struggling to a point where we haven’t been able to right it. So I’m going to have to do some things.”
    I don't know if I would have called it "panic". I'm more of the mind that:
    Last year was a mirage.
    The remains of this team from the Metrodome days benefited a lot from that environment.
    The star prospects from the Minor leagues were probably overrated by us fans.

    The fact that Ryan says ownership is concerned is something I don't remember ever hearing before. This following the Pohlad's "System wide failure" comment make me think that bigger changes are in the near future.
    Terry Ryan and crew have been successful in the past. Post-Metrodome, that is rapidly becoming the distant past. Time to thank Ryan and company for their service to the Twins and the 2 World Series wins, but it's time to move forward with a fresh approach.
  23. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Tom Froemming for a blog entry, Should Be More Scrutiny Over Twins Playing Time, Not Payroll   
    If you've been a fan of the Minnesota Twins for a while, you're probably sick of hearing about payroll. It's a topic that's beaten to death, and the criticisms are often contradictory.
    People will rip the ownership for not spending more out of one side of their mouth and ridicule them for overpaying Joe Mauer out the other. You can't have it both ways.
    In no way am I trying to suggest ownership or the front office shouldn't be questioned. I'm just saying those are tired and lazy arguments and it's time to point frustrations in a new direction.
    The most important positive step the organization could take would be to stop taking into account how much money it has invested in a player when making roster decisions. They need to stop being so cheap, and accept the fact when they've made a poor investment.
    As much as I would have loved to see the Twins sign an ace or dump a bunch of money into the bullpen, the team's decision not to is entirely defensible. Big, long-term contracts almost never work out and relievers are pretty unreliable from one year to the next.
    It wasn't long ago all these multi-year contracts to relievers would have been met with pretty much universal disdain. But, of course, the Royals have changed all that. It's a copycat league.
    What is indefensible is to refuse to give up on guys like Mauer or Ricky Nolasco in an attempt to save face despite having numerous better options.
    As a big Mauer apologist, I'll always hold out hope that he'll get back to being an on-base machine. Maybe the farther Mauer gets from his concussion the more likely it gets he'll regain his hand-eye skills. And I don't think we've ever seen Nolasco healthy in a Twins uniform. There's some reason to hold out hope for him, too.
    But if it starts to look like more of the same from either Mauer or Nolasco the club must move them into lower profile roles. The goal has to be winning games, not protecting egos.
    The Twins don't necessary need to spend a bunch of money to build a playoff team. All they need to do is put the best 25 guys on the roster and set roles based on skills and performance rather than service time and contract status.
  24. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Provide Plenty Of Room For Thanks   
    Whether you're new here or not, a quick glance at a handful of the articles at Off The Baggy should give you a glimpse of what I'm about. Not a full blown sabermetrician, I find myself using statistics to tell a big story more often than not. In this post however, there's very little reason for numbers to quantify anything. With what the Twins gave us in 2015, and where they appear headed, there's plenty of obvious reasons for thanks.
    Following four dismal 90 loss seasons, the Twins turned things around big time under first year manager Paul Molitor. Posting their first winning seasons since 2012, September was fun again in Twins Territory. While the playoffs ended up being out of the picture, there wasn't a game that wasn't much watch down the stretch. For that, we can give thanks.
    Over the summer, Terry Ryan, Molitor, and the Twins brain trust introduced fans to names they had only heard of at the minor league levels. Alex Meyer, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano all made their big league debuts. Eddie Rosario shined in 2015, and Max Kepler was even there at the end. Getting contributions from players like Tyler Duffey was only icing on the cake. Turning the franchise around will happen on the backs of the emerging talent, and the season provided plenty of glimpses of that. For that, we can give thanks.
    On top of turning a page in the record column, the Twins did so by improving across the board. What has been arguably the worst stretch in team history, Minnesota made pitching a relative strength in 2015. Although the bullpen still struggled and the strikeout numbers weren't anywhere to be seen, depth emerged for the first time in a while. Monitor will have at least eight options to consider when filling out his 2016 rotation, and bullpen spots could be claimed by some hard throwing prospects. Pushing the needle further in the year ahead is going to start on the mound, and Minnesota has some answers. For that, we can give thanks.
    Though young, the offseason has provided plenty of excitement for the Twins. Starting with the out-of-nowhere bid for Byung-Ho Park, and stretching to the acquisition of catcher John Ryan Murphy, Terry Ryan has not stayed put. Park gives the Twins another legitimate middle-of-the-order power bat, and Murphy has the ability to be a long term answer behind the plate. Expect more moves to be coming, but Minnesota hit the ground running this offseason. For that, we can give thanks.
    Looking at what has taken place, and what can be expected, the Twins should be in a much more predictable place entering 2016. Although previous seasons have been predictable, it's been for all of the wrong reasons. The 2016 version of the Twins won't finish last in the division, and they have a very strong chance to push for a playoff spot. In having areas of improvement targeted, and coming off a big step forward, it's playoffs or bust in the year ahead. For that, we can give thanks.
    Then there's you. Stepping away from the on the field action, there's no doubt I'm thankful for you, my readers. I enjoy doing this, it isn't a job for me, and it's a hobby turned into so much more. Whether you follow me on Twitter, or read here at Off The Baggy, it's you that makes covering this team so much more fun. For all of the interaction, debates, questions, and tweets, I thank you!
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving, give thanks for baseball, the Twins, and for all you have going in your life!
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  25. Like
    DocBauer reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Speed, Defense and Perpetual Hope   
    Dick Bremer broached the subject of outfield defense in tonight's broadcast. He spoke of the Twins' wishes to have more athletic, speedier defenders in the outfield, particularly the corners. As with most things Bremer says, I am sure he is clear that the Twins want the topic out there or he wouldn't bring it up. In my mind, this brings up the acquisition of Jordan Schafer, who is 27 and has shown superior speed (and base stealing skill), while being deficient in most other areas. The Twins are getting a good look at Schafer (33 PAs so far this month) and he has utilized his base stealing skill.
    Actually, Schafer has been rather impressive in an extremely small sample size. He is 9 for 28, six for six stealing bases, and has made no glaring misplays in the field. Once thought to be a top prospect, maybe just maybe, could Schafer become more than a pinch runner? There's always a chance. The Twins are due to strike gold on a player given up on by other organizations. They have had their share of times where a player develops/evolves into a good player after the Twins have given him away for little or nothing. It is time for some payback.
    In light of the merry-go-round that has happened in center field the last two years, it would be heartening for Schafer to be part of the solution to the problem. More likely, however, the best the Twins can hope for with a career .223 hitter (1280 PAs) is someone who hits enough to be a fourth outfielder. Having a fourth OF, who could player center along with the corners and who could be decent defensively and provide value as a pinch runner would be pretty good for claiming a guy off the scrap heap.
    Another fast guy is Danny Santana. He has been given over 250 plate appearances since being recalled in May, mostly because the Twins didn't have anyone else available to call up from their 40-man roster. Santana has spent most of his time in center, and although he had hardly played there, he has been an adequate defender and has hit surprisingly well. Could Danny Santana be the solution to the center field problem? Two months ago, I would have said "no way, no how", a month ago, "barely a chance" and now I'm thinking "if no one else is ready, why not?" Santana is still regarded as a shortstop by the Twins organization, but if 1) Eduardo Escobar continues to be an above-average shortstop and 2) no one steps forward in center, then Santana should start 2015 as the Twins regular center fielder.
    What about the prospects? The Twins have three guys who have been or still are regarded as top prospects for center field in the upper minors--Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario, and #1 prospect Byron Buxton--and if any of those guys seizes center field it will be good for the organization. Each has their question marks--Hicks has failed twice to hold on to center for the Twins, Rosario has flirted with becoming a second baseman, been suspended for street drugs, and is currently hitting <.250 at AA, and Buxton has had an injury riddled season and only played one game above Class A. There is a lot of talent there, but also a lot of question marks and no guarantees.
    The prudent thing to do IMHO is to open center field up for a wide-open competition in the spring. Unless he tanks dramatically in the last six weeks, Santana will be starting somewhere. It probably would increase his value even more if Santana would be an option in left field as well as center. Hicks and Rosario have gotten reps in the corners as well as center and if one of them step forward, perhaps they could be playing a corner OF spot. Left field could be a consolation prize for one of the guys trying to become the Twins' regular center fielder. Finally, if the hype is to be believed, when Buxton arrives, he will take over center field for as long as he is a Twin.
    Having an outfield with two fast guys being out there between Buxton, Rosario, Hicks, Santana and Schafer would probably go a long way towards improving a leaky outfield. It also could provide excitement on the base paths and give the Twins balance between power and speed. If Santana claims shortstop, there is one less contestant in the competition, but regardless, it would be nice to see range out of at least two of the three outfield positions.
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