DocBauer reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Jose Miranda Deserves a Shot
Jose Miranda was brought aboard the Twins organization as a shortstop/second/third base type player years ago. Despite that fact, he's played first base almost exclusively since making his debut, and basically only plays a couple days per week against left handed pitching. Not only has his usage directly contradicted the Twins handling of top prospects in the past, but it's also crippled his ability to show that he belongs in the MLB. Jose Miranda is deserving of so much more.
Miranda has come to develop the reputation as a terrible defender among fans already, which is true if you're talking about first base. Many are quick to judge his ability at third base as surely if he can't handle what's considered the easiest infield position he can't play anywhere else. Unfortunately for Miranda, he was thrust into the role he has now as the Twins lack any other right handed hitters capable of playing first base.
Miranda played some first the last few years in the minors, though his innings there were insignificant compared to his time at second and third. We've seen him mess up all kinds of in between plays on defense, which makes sense considering he's been forced to debut at what is not his primary position. In his limited time at 3rd base with the big league club, he's made one error and there isn't close to enough of a sample size yet to deem him a bad defender.
Despite the Twins unwillingness to budge from their current platooning of Miranda, his bat has been good enough to warrant more of a look. While players such as Sanchez, Kepler and Larnach are limping through June, Miranda has posted a .314/.340/.510 line which almost directly coincides with his recall from AAA at the end of May.
Any hitter can go on a hot stretch, but Miranda's numbers since returning to Target Field are showing off what made him the 2021 minor league hitter of the year. He has contact skills, he has plate discipline, he has power. We saw a defensively inept Luis Arraez make himself expendable in 2019 based solely on his bat and look at him now. What else does Miranda have to do at the plate?
The Twins Can Make Room
The Twins don't have quite the log jam it appears they do in the lineup. It's understandable why Miranda is on the short end of a platoon at first base when they have Kirilloff and Arraez to mash right handed pitching. Across the rest of the lineup however, opportunity should exist. The Twins just continue to write out lineup cards that include both Gary Sanchez and Ryan Jeffers. Not only does this open them up for disaster if the starting catcher gets injured, it's just plain ineffective. Both catchers are capable of going on a run offensively for short periods, Jeffers is on one now. Both however are below league average hitters at the moment, and going an extra mile to get a second catcher in your lineup regardless of the name seems like getting too cute. MI'd argue it's worth getting Miranda some DH at bats instead of one of the catchers that we expect little offensive value from.
In addition to DH, Gio Urshela just does not need to be the 7 days per week starting third baseman. The best day at the plate he's had all season on Wednesday elevated him from a below average hitter to slightly above. He was worth 0 fWAR coming into that game making him exactly a replacement level player. His increase by 0.2 in one game is impressive, but his total value on the season still isn't anything special and I don't think we expect such performances from him regularly.
In addition, Urshela's defense appears to be overrated by many, mainly because he can make some incredible plays at the hot corner while also booting plays that should be routine.
It's a very interesting skillset for Urshela who definitely holds his own but doesn't have a gold glove like defensive skill to keep him in the lineup regardless of his bat. Mixing Miranda in every once in awhile just to evaluate him at his primary position just shouldn't be difficult.
The Twins usage of Miranda has been perplexing. We've heard them say it a million times, most recently with Royce Lewis. They don't want him on the big league club if he can't play everyday. Miranda isn't the high profile prospect Lewis is, but they're treating him like they don't care about his development at all. They're DHing below league average catchers and awarding 100% playing time to players who don't deserve it while Miranda, one of the team's hottest hitters in June, plays a couple days per week.
It's possible the Twins don't see Miranda as a future regular, an odd conclusion to already be drawing. Perhaps they see him as a trade piece as many have suggested, although I'd argue playing him solely at a foreign position on very rare occasions isn't the best way to showcase his skills.
At any rate, Jose Miranda needs more of a look. After one of the single greatest minor league seasons in Twins history, Miranda has earned more than pinch hit and weak side platoon duty on a big league club that hasn't exactly been steamrolling the competition recently.
Would you like to see more Jose Miranda in the Twins lineup? Let us know below!
DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Minnesota Twins 2018 Draft Retrospective: Promising Early Results
Major League Baseball's 2022 Draft is scheduled to start on July 17, 2022. Each team prepares for the draft with a specific plan, and sometimes those plans play out better than others. To prepare fans for the upcoming draft, here is a look at some of the most important drafts in recent Twins history.
The 2017 regular season was a resurgent time in Twins Territory. Minnesota finished second in the AL Central after losing 103 games in 2016. Unfortunately, the Twins faced the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game, but the team seemed headed in the right direction. With an improved record, Minnesota had a pick in the second half of the first round with multiple options at their disposal.
Minnesota selected Trevor Larnach with their first pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Larnach was coming off an outstanding junior season at Oregon State University as he helped his team win the College World Series. His college experience meant he quickly moved through the team's farm system compared to other younger prospects in his draft class. Only six hitters from the 2018 draft have accumulated more than 400 at-bats in the big leagues. Among those players, Larnach has the third-highest WAR total (2.0 WAR) so far in his career.
In every draft, some players perform well even though they fell to picks later in the round. Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan (4.1 WAR) and Chicago's Nico Hoerner (3.7 WAR) have accumulated the most WAR among 2018 first-round picks, and they were both selected after Larnach. Both players came from the college ranks, as only four high schoolers from this draft have made their debuts. Larnach is on a path to being an everyday player, but the Twins also needed to find value in the draft's other rounds.
Minnesota's second-round pick has proven to be nearly as valuable as Larnach. Ryan Jeffers was seen as a bat-first catcher as he had little defensive coaching out of college. Since joining the Twins, Jeffers has developed into one of the game's best pitch framers. He has also accumulated more WAR than any other second-round pick from this draft. His offensive approach has failed to live up to his tremendous 2020 season, but there is still time for him to make adjustments.
The Twins also found some value in the fifth round and later of the 2018 draft. Minnesota selected Cole Sands with their fifth-round pick (154th overall) and Josh Winder with their seventh-round pick (214th overall). Sands has struggled in his five big-league appearances, but he is considered one of the team's top-20 prospects. Winder rebuilt his pitching repertoire during the non-existent 2020 minor league season and established himself as one of the team's top pitching prospects. The Twins thought highly enough of him to include him on the team's Opening Day roster, and he started the season strongly (104 ERA+) before a shoulder injury moved him to the IL.
Minnesota lost their third-round pick by signing Lance Lynn and that didn't turn out great for the club. In the fourth round, the team added DaShawn Keirsey, a college outfielder. He is hitting .233/.308/.352 (.660) in 53 games at Double-A this season. In the sixth round, the Twins took Charles Mack, a high school shortstop, but the organization has moved him to catcher. As a 22-year-old, he has posted a .604 OPS at High-A this season, where he is slightly younger than the average age of the competition.
OTHERS REMAINING IN TWINS ORGANIZATION FROM 2018 DRAFT:
- 8th Round - C Chris Williams, Wichita (showing power with an .839 OPS)
- 9th Round - RHP Regi Grace, Ft. Myers (big arm, moved to bullpen in 2022, over 11.0 K/9)
- 10th Round - OF Willie Joe Garry, Cedar Rapids (speedy OF was getting hot for the Kernels when he broke his hand)
- 11th Round - IF/OF Michael Helman, Saint Paul (recently promoted to St. Paul where he has an .856 OPS)
- 12th Round - RHP Jon Olsen, Wichita (rehabbing with the FCL Twins after right elbow UCL reconstruction)
- 15th Round - LHP Kody Funderburk, Wichita (Pitched in last year’s AFL and has a 2.41 ERA at Double-A)
-19th Round - RHP Austin Schulfer, St. Paul (promoted to Triple-A after dominating out of the Wind Surge bullpen)
-25th Round - LaRon Smith, 1B/C, Fort Myers (limited to five games this season, posted a .769 OPS in the FCL last year)
-31st Round - LHP Zach Neff, Wichita (currently on the 60-day IL, had a 4.78 ERA last season)
-33rd Round - LHP Denny Bentley, Wichita (Solid bullpen arm that has posted nearly 13.0 K/9 this season)
Other late-round picks may develop and surprise from this draft, but both of the team's top two picks have developed into big-league regulars. There is also hope that Sands and Winder can impact the pitching staff in the years ahead.
What do you remember about this draft? What is Larnach's ceiling? What can Sands and Winder mean for the pitching pipeline? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
-2012 MLB Draft Retrospective
-2014 MLB Draft Retrospective
-2016 MLB Draft Retrospective
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Are the Twins Brewing up Steals in the Minors?
Let’s look at his team specifically: the Wichita Wind Surge. Currently, they sit as the 3rd most steal-happy team in their division, the Texas League. The two most effective culprits are Austin Martin and DaShawn Keirsey, as Martin has 22 bags swiped under his name, and Kiersey has 18. Michael Helman has also broken double digits—without being caught as well—but no other player stands out like Martin and Kiersey. Instead, the team offers a democratic approach, with only one player, Catcher Alex Isola, lacking a successful steal so far this season.
For Martin, his stealing acumen appears to be a new or at least unreleased skill. He had a comparatively low 14 steals last year, holds a 50 FV grade in “Run” according to Fangraphs, and the only mention I can find about his speed on Fangraphs’ scouting reports is Eric Longenhagen calling it “solid.” Although, Jeffrey Paternostro at Baseball Prospectus noted that he “was aggressive on the basepaths” in college. Perhaps the Twins wanted to unleash a wild baserunner otherwise limited by the Blue Jays.
Wichita isn’t the only team running mayhem on the base paths. The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels are also 3rd in their division in burglary. Mikey Perez alone has gotten away with an otherworldly 24 steals—a total that defines him as the 19th most prolific stealer in Minor League Baseball. Noah Miller, Jake Rucker, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Daniel Ozoria join Perez as double-digit swipers; like Wichita, their catchers, Kyle Schmidt and Dillon Tatum, are the only regular players without a steal.
Slight tangent: Mikey Perez is an enigma. I’ve been writing about his great play all year, but I can barely find any information on him. No one at Fangraphs has written anything him; Baseball Prospectus is equally silent. The only articles/mentions/smoke signals/morse code orders/messages from a bottle I can find about him come from an MLB. com article from last year and the three sentences that make up his Perfect Game scouting report. How is a player so good at stealing? I want to know!
One big question remains: why more steals? The stolen base and its adjacent scrappy playstyle have taken a back seat to power since the Kansas City Royals lost their credibility following their World Series victory. Guess who the league leader in steals is; do you know? It’s Julio Rodriguez, but only Mariners fans and other niche hipster baseball dorks aggressively celebrate it. Once teams realized that hitting the ball over the fence ensures a run on the board, speed fell quickly out of favor as MLB’s metagame moved towards homers.
But the steal may return soon. Proposed rule changes like bigger bases, a limit on pickoffs, and the seemingly inevitable pitch clock all at least implicitly support a rejuvenated stolen-base metagame. One of my followers pointed out that the pitch clock can work as a countdown for the baserunner as well; they can take off at the precise moment the pitcher must throw the ball.
Anyways, it’s unclear whether this is an affiliate-at-large movement. The Cedar Rapids Kernels are 9th in their 12-team division, while the St. Paul Saints are 14th out of 20 teams. This swiped bags movement could be a serendipitous meeting of a few steal-happy players collaborating to annoy catchers in an otherwise neutral team philosophy; little stands out in the stats to say otherwise. Still, the franchise has a handful of successful stealers moving through their system, and their playstyle could add a dynamic wrinkle to a homogenous power-focused offense.
DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Royce Lewis Had ACL Surgery With a Twist
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the most important structures in the knee as it pertains to athletics. It’s a robust structure comprised primarily of collagen—the compound that gives ligaments and tendons their strength and elasticity—that stabilizes the knee. When the ACL is compromised—either by a partial tear or a complete rupture—the knee becomes much more unstable, particularly with rotation and highly-athletic movements such as cutting and jumping.
During a typical ACL reconstruction procedure, a portion of the athlete’s patellar or hamstring tendon is removed and inserted into the femur (i.e. thigh bone) and tibia (i.e. shin bone) in the location where the ligament was originally located. Over the span of 9-12 months, the tendon transforms structurally until it resembles a ligament—a process known as ligamentization—and the athlete gradually rehabs until they are strong enough to return to play. The majority of athletes will go on to rebound to their prior levels of success and will continue on with their careers without a hitch. But depending on the sport and type of tendon graft utilized, upwards of 6-31% will go on to either re-tear their ACL or rupture the one in their other knee. Such was the case, unfortunately, for Lewis.
The reasons why ACL re-tear rates are so high are myriad, complex, and up for debate. However, one theory that has rise to prominence over the last handful of years involves the compromise of the anterolateral ligament (ALL).
In terms of anatomical discoveries, the ALL is much like that of Big Foot, except if Big Foot was actually real. The ligament was first described in the 1870s by a French surgeon, but was not officially recognized as actually existing as an isolated structure until the early 2010s. While the ACL is the primary stabilizer against rotation in the knee, the ALL is believed to hold a role in rotational stabilization as well. It has been theorized that the ALL likely ruptures along with the ACL and that individuals who do not have their ALL repaired will continue to suffer from some rotational instability in the knee and, thus, be at a greater risk for re-injury.
Now, I don’t know for sure that this is exactly what happened with regard to Lewis. And, frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Subsequent ACL injuries aren’t uncommon. An athlete, surgeon, rehab team, front office, and coaching staff can “do everything right” and ACL re-injuries can still happen. Such is the unfortunate nature of sport.
But what we do know is that the surgery team in Dallas “basically, [did] something with the IT band,” according to Lewis to help “brace” his knee and improve its stability. The “something” he is likely referring to is known as a lateral tenodesis.
The IT band is a long, thick tendinous structure that runs from the hip to just below the knee. It’s most commonly known as a structure that gives long distance runners one heck of a time if they don’t remain flexible, but it also serves as a key attachment point for various lower extremity muscles and assists in moving the leg.
Due to its inherent strength, it serves as a good candidate for a graft during ACL reconstruction. Additionally, the lower portion of the IT band can be surgically relocated (i.e. tenodesis) to provide rotational stability. In short, the IT band takes over for the compromised ALL to provide extra rotational stability for the knee.
The long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, is unknown, but theoretically it should allow Lewis to return to play with greater stability in the knee. The recovery will still take 9-12 months, but the procedure should not reduce Lewis’s speed or power much beyond the natural regression that is expected with aging. Baseball is a fairly linear sport, which reduces the potential impact of multiple ACL surgeries on performance compared to a sport like basketball that relies on quick pivots, explosive jumping, and constant running to be successful.
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Twins Minor League Week In Review (6/14-20): Wallner Continues to Rake
With short-season teams starting play recently, player names and teams can be somewhat overwhelming. When writing about Rookie Ball and the DSL, I can admit to having to click on a player’s name in the box score to remember their first name; you know you’re digging deep when the players don’t have a photo on MiLB.com. But those games are just as important; the Twins of the future have to start humbly, and they’ll make their way to the upper levels with hard work.
The Twins traded veteran infielder Daniel Robertson to the Phillies for Cash considerations. He has been rehabbing with the FCL Twins for the past two-plus weeks.
Previous Week in Review (6/7-6/13): Saints Sweep Red Wings
Tuesday: Alex Kirilloff Does It Again
Wednesday: Rucker walks it off, Varland Double-Header Split Highlight Wednesday in the Twins System
Thursday: Wallner Blasts on Tough Night for Twins Farm
Friday: Cedar Rapids Throws A Shutout, Wichita *is* Shutout
Saturday: Kernels Clinch Division Title, Playoff Berth
Sunday: Walk-off in Cedar Rapids, Saints Blister Bats
MORE TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE CONTENT
Minnesota Twins 2014 Draft Retrospective: Swings and Misses
TwinsDaily 2022 Draft Coverage, June 16
This season, MLB Fining Parent Clubs for Minor-League Brawls
MONDAY’S SHORT SEASON RESULTS
FCL Twins 11, FCL Orioles 9 (10 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Juan Rojas (4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Danny De Andrade (2-for-4, BB, R, 2 RBI), Alexander Pena (2-for-5, 2 R, RBI, 2 K), Yonardy Soto (3-for-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 K), Jefferson De La Cruz (2-for-4, 2 RBI, K, SB), Ricardo Olivar (3-for-4, RBI)
2B: Alexander Pena (5), Ricardo Olivar (2)
HR: Alexander Pena (2), Yonardy Soto 2 (2), Gregory Duran (1)
Rehab Players: Daniel Robertson (0-for-2, K)
Top Prospects: Danny De Andrade (2-for-4, BB, R, 2 RBI), Fredy Michel (0-for-6, R, 4 K).
Summary: What a wild and wacky game! Going into the 9th inning, the Twins held a 4-0 lead. They added another run in the top of the 9th to go ahead 5-0, but the Orioles scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. The Twins scored six runs in the top of the inning to take a big league. They gave up four runs in the bottom of the 10th inning and barely held on.
DSL Twins 6, DSL Guardians Blue 14
Starting Pitcher: Jose Betancourt (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Isaac Pena (2-for-3, 2 BB. 2 R, 2 SB), Jose Rodriguez (3-for-4)
WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints
Week: 3-3, playing in Columbus
Season: 33-32 overall
The Saints treaded water this week, but sometimes that’s all a team needs to do. The Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate for the Cleveland Guardians, are no pushovers either; they ended the week with a 38-28 season record. These were close affairs; just one run was the difference in five of the six games, including Sunday’s 11-10 thrilling win by the Saints. Manager Toby Gardenhire remained on paternity leave, but the team still gifted him a fine Father’s Day present with his 100th win as St. Paul’s skipper.
Alex Kirilloff earned his promotion to the Twins on Friday after collecting four more hits this week. Kyle Garlick began a rehab assignment on Wednesday. The outfielder is hitting .300 over 21 plate appearances but has also struck out eight times. Josh Winder continued his rehab assignment, allowing one run over 3 innings with a strikeout. Curtis Terry hit a blistering .368/.429/.842 with a pair of homers and just one strikeout the entire week. Michael Helman slashed .400/.455/.600 and captured the most hits on the week for the Saints. Spencer Steer returned to orbit as he slashed .179/.200/.321 with 10 strikeouts. Hopefully, this is just a blip on his otherwise outstanding season. Recent signee, Aaron Sanchez, struck out six over 7 1/3 IP but also allowed five earned runs, including a pair of homers. Jordan Balazovic worked in relief this week, allowing two runs over 2 2/3 innings. What’s Next? The Saints are off to Buffalo to play in what was technically a major league ballpark for a year and some change.
Pitching Probables (RHP Ronny Henriquez, RHP Josh Winder, RHP Jordan Balazovic, TBD, TBD, TBD)
Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge
Week: 1-6, @ Tulsa
Season: 33-29 overall
Things could have gone better for Wichita. The team has cooled off tremendously, and the result was an ugly 1-6 week, although five of those losses were by one run, so things may not be as bad as they seem.
Matt Wallner obliterated the ball and walked away with a hilarious .313/.621/.750 slash line. Even more impressive, he walked more than he struck out (11 to eight). Edouard Julien did well also, hitting .280/.400/.560 with a pair of homers.
Casey Legumina carried the torch on the mound, allowing only three earned runs over 10 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. Daniel Gossett impressed in his first start with Wichita, tossing five shutout innings. Sawyer Gipson-Long finally earned a promotion to AA but was touched up for five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. Let’s hope he can brush that off and find his footing with the Wind Surge. Andrew Cabezas threw four shutout innings in relief this week, striking out six while allowing just one hit. What’s Next? Wichita returns home to host the San Antonio Missions. Hopefully, some home cooking will help get them back on track.
Pitching Probables (RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, LHP Kody Funderburk, RHP Blayne Enlow, RHP Casey Legumina, RHP Louie Varland, TBD)
High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Week: 4-2, hosting Dayton
Season: 41-22 overall
The Kernels were one of the teams that clinched a playoff spot this week. The team’s win on Saturday secured the first-half division crown, and the team can rest easy knowing that they will have a spot reserved for them in the post-season. In the meantime, there are ballgames to win.
Yunior Severino smoked the ball all week, picking up seven hits, including two homers with eight RBIs. Alerick Soularie continued his season turn-around, hitting .368/.478/.632 with a pair of stolen bases. Cody Laweryson spearheaded the pitching effort with 5 2/3 scoreless innings and an incredible 11 strikeouts. Cade Povich wasn’t far behind, as he punched out 11 over 5 innings in his lone start of the week. Aaron Rozek walked away from this week unscathed, as he pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings as part of Cedar Rapids’ shutout on Friday. What’s Next? The Kernels will remain at home and host the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Pitching Probables (RHP David Festa, LHP Brent Headrick, LHP Aaron Rozek, LHP Cade Povich, RHP Sean Mooney, RHP John Stankiewicz)
Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
Season: 39-22 overall
The Mighty Mussels were the other team that clinched a playoff spot this week. Their win on Wednesday ensured that no team in their division could catch them, and their spot in the post-season is now set in stone.
Rubel Cespedes burst out of nowhere and dropped nine hits in just 17 at-bats. Kala’i Rosario launched a pair of homers while slugging .857 overall for the week. Luis Baez hit a scorching .500/.579/.563 while striking out as often as he walked (three to three) Noah Miller had just two hits but also walked five times Matt Mullenbach was elite in relief, punching out eight over 5 ⅓ innings devoid of an earned run Malik Barrington followed suit as he tossed 3 shutout innings with six strikeouts. Jordan Carr allowed one earned run in his 5-inning start What’s Next? The Mighty Mussels will head out to Lakeland to take on the Flying Tigers
Pitching Probables (RHP Jordan Carr, RHP Travis Adams, RHP Pierson Ohl, TBD, TBD, LHP Jaylen Nowlin)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Hitter of the Week: OF Matt Wallner, Wichita Wind Surge
Matt Wallner might be turning a corner. The hometown talent has always been a slugger—power was never a question—but this week, he showed off an incredible talent for OBP on top of his already legendary ball-crushing ability. His eight strikeouts were still a touch high, but it feels nitpicky to call out when he walked 11 times while slugging .750. His OBP for the week starts with a .6. Enough said.
At 24 years old, Wallner appears to be rounding into form at the right time. The lefty battled an assortment of injuries over his first few years in the minors—a bruise here and a nick there—and they added up to sap Wallner of consistency. His power kept him afloat, despite many (including I) questioning whether he could offset the large strikeout totals he racked up.
Those strikeouts may never go away, but figuring out how to walk a bunch is an excellent way to even them out. His OBP on the year sits at a massive .408, thanks partly to a (probably) surprising batting average of .270. And, in case you weren’t convinced that his game is more well-rounded than before, he’s even stolen eight bases. It’s hard to see Wallner staying at AA for much longer.
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Cody Laweryson, Cedar Rapids Kernels
It’s rare to see a reliever win this distinction, but when you have the kind of week Cody Laweryson had, it’s easy to hand it to him. Laweryson made two relief outings; on June 14th, he struck out six over 3 ⅓ scoreless innings, while on June 17th, he struck out five over 2 ⅓ scoreless innings. That’ll play.
Laweryson is under the radar, if not entirely off the grid, but that might not be fair to his ability. The righty made noise in 2019 by dominating Rookie-Ball as a 20-year-old, culminating in a monster 15 strikeout performance on August 26th of that season. His road has been bumpier since that breakout, but he could have a nice niche as a long reliever out of the bullpen. Given the breakdown of pitching barriers, that role can be valuable to a team.
For a scouting report, Eric Longenhagen described him as a “How the hell is this guy doing this?” style of pitcher, sitting 89 MPH and crushing his competition with it. We’ve seen that work for Joe Ryan; perhaps it will serve Laweryson also.
DocBauer reacted to David Youngs for an article, Week in Review: Lack of Consistency
Last Week's Game Results:
Game 63 | MIN 3, SEA 2: Buxton's Early Bomb Proves Decisive
Game 64 | SEA 5, MIN 0: Ryan Rocked in Return, Bats Blanked
Game 65 | MIN 5, SEA 0: Offense Surges Late to Clinch Series
Game 66 | AZ 7, MIN 2: Twins Drop Series Opener to Diamondbacks
Game 67 | MIN 11, AZ 1: Dylan Bundy Shines, Offense Explodes as Twins Win
Game 68 | AZ 7, MIN 1: Punished by Long Ball, Drop Rubber Game
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/13 through Sun, 6/19
Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 38-30)
Run Differential Last Week: Even (Overall: +25)
Standing: First Place in AL Central (1 GA)
NEWS & NOTES
For the first time this season the Twins headed west for a week in Seattle and Phoenix against two sub-par teams. Sitting in fourth and dead last in their respective divisions, the past week provided an opportunity to create some distance between the Twins and streaking Guardians. At the end of the day, that didn't happen. The Twins squeaked out a series win against the Mariners but fell in a disappointing series to the Diamondbacks that included two blowout losses.
For the first time in his career, Jorge Polanco was placed on the Injured List for lower back tightness on Thursday. Off to an adequate start, Polanco was slashing .245/.340/.729 with ten doubles and 33 RBI prior to the announcement. Placed on the 10-day IL, Jorge's presence as a core member of the middle part of the lineup was noticed.
On the flipside, the Polanco move opened the door for Alex Kirilloff to make his way back to Target Field, a move that many in the Twins community were calling for.
You can't blame the people. After a lackluster first stint with the Twins this year, Kirilloff tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A St. Paul over the past month and made as solid a case as there is that he belongs at Target Field.
Perhaps the most notable news of the week came from the return of starting pitchers Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray. Arguably the top two pitchers in the rotation, Ryan and Gray's return adds depth to a pitching rotation with a tank that was close to empty. Returning from the extended Covid List, Ryan made his first start since May 21 on Tuesday night against the Mariners while Gray returned on Wednesday night following a stint on the 15-day IL with a pectoral strain.
Given the return of Ryan and Gray, the Twins DFA'd RHP Chi Chi González this past Sunday. González was scooped up by the Milwaukee Brewers just two days later. Signed to a minor league contract prior to the start of the season, González made two starts for the Twins, giving up six runs on 12 hits in seven combined innings.
Despite the .500 result on the week, there was a flurry of excellent endeavors for the Minnesota Twins this past week. Coming off an extended stint on the IL is never easy, especially for a starting pitcher. Sonny Gray kicked that norm to the curb on Wednesday night with arguably his best start of the year in a shutout win over the Mariners. Through five scoreless innings, Gray allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out three in one hell of a comeback campaign. Anticipated by many to be the club's ace upon his signing, Gray's numbers are trending in the right direction. Gray has given up just three runs in his last four starts and opposing hitters batted a meager .182 against Gray in May (versus .208) in June.
Obviously, it's a small sample size, but the numbers are looking great and Gray's experience will continue to prove valuable for a rotation this continues to be fluid. Ace or not, Sonny Gray will be a valuable asset for the Twins as the season grows deep.
Speaking of consistency, Luis Arraez has continued his monstrous hitting campaign and currently sits at a lead-leading .361 batting average. Arraez holds a healthy lead over Paul Goldschmidt (.344 AVG) and has sat atop the leader board for over a week.
Batting .386 in the month of June, Arraez hit safely in five of six games this week, including three multi-hit games. It's no secret that Arraez deserves to be an MLB All-Star, yet his greatest strength is certainly his versatility at the plate. Well-known as a contact hitter, Arraez has shown his potential for power throughout the season while maintaining his incredible consistency for putting the ball in play. Here's Rocco speaking about his stellar hitting approach.
Perhaps the finest pitching outing of the week took place on Saturday night when Dylan Bundy mowed down the Diamondbacks through eight full innings. Coming off of a rough start against the Yankees, Bundy allowed just one run on no hits and struck out seven in his clear-cut best start of the year. Unlike Arraez, Bundy has lacked consistency this year but Saturday's masterpiece against the Diamondbacks was a true display of how high Bundy's ceiling can be. Hopefully, it instills confidence in the veteran and leads to more quality starts when it matters most.
Carlos Correa has continued to trend in the directions that Twins fans hoped he would. Traditionally a slow starter, Correa is now statistically playing the best June baseball of his career and is batting .341 so far this month. Corea's season-long average of .293 ranks second amongst everyday starters (only behind Arraez) and is sure to climb even higher. Correa did go hitless in two of three games against the Diamondbacks but did knock in an RBI in the middle game along with hitting safely in each game in Seattle.
And on top of those, Alex Kirilloff's return to Major League play on Saturday night was excellent. With the game still competitive, Kirilloff crushed a third-inning two-out RBI two-run double to open up the flood gates for the rest of the crew.
A club that should win a majority of games (and certainly series) against bottom-feeder teams, this week's 50-50 split came as a result of dry bats, and rocky pitching...sometimes at the same time.
Sunday's loss to Arizona was a prime example. Through four innings, Chris Archer allowed two runs (both homers) on three total hits while striking out three; not a great outing, but certainly not a game-ruiner. While not his finest rodeo, Griffin Jax kept the game within reach, allowing just one run (on another homer) in the fifth inning. The floodgates unfortunately opened in the sixth, with Caleb Thielbar allowing four runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk in just 2/3 of an inning. The blunder was uncharacteristic for Thielbar, who had previously allowed just one run in the month of June. Thielbar touted an impressive 2.08 ERA through 13 innings in May and will hopefully get past this road bump.
Yet through the misfires on the bump, the Twins' offense wasn't able to get much going minus a Luis Arraez run in the first. The Twins managed just five hits in the series finale against the D-Backs, a large contrast from 14 the night before and 10 on Friday. Just a few days earlier, the team tallied just four hits in their series-opening loss to the Mariners on Tuesday. The highs and lows of this team's hitting will eventually land somewhere on a plateau alongside the mountain.
Ryan Jeffers looks to be escaping from his hitting slump and young talent Jose Miranda seems to have found a groove. There aren't necessarily sole names at fault for the occasional offensive lapses, the problem seems to just be a team-wide consistency gap in occasional 'should-win games.'
After finally hitting his stride, LHP Devin Smeltzer suffered his first poor outing of the season in the series opener against Arizona. Smeltzer allowed seven runs on nine hits through 4 1/3 against the Diamondbacks, the most runs and hits he's given up through seven starts this year. The crafty lefty gave up two homers in his outing and has given up seven in June after giving up none through three starts in May. That's certainly not a good trend, but Smeltzer has proven he can limit damage and keep opposing hitters' numbers low. While there is surely uncertainty given his fairly young track record, hopefully, Friday's shelling was just a rare bad day at the office.
And finally, Joe Ryan's highly anticipated return to the bump on Tuesday night in Seattle didn't exactly go as planned. After three stellar innings, Ryan left just a few pitches up which led to the Mariners scoring two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. All in all the outing was horrific, it just wasn't "Joe-Cool-esque." Not shockingly, Ryan's velocity was down quite a bit from prior to landing on the Covid list.
Ryan's bland start shouldn't provide a huge concern for worry, as the star rookie has proven his consistency throughout the course of the season. This week's start against Cleveland should prove as a true test for the club's ace.
The Twins did not meet or exceed their own expectations this past week. While there were certainly moments of brilliance the club lacked consistency against two very sweep-able ball clubs. Contending teams find ways to take care of business against clubs that they're clearly better than and the Twins simply played down to the level Mariners and Diamondbacks too many times.
Are the Twins still contenders? Absolutely. It would be foolish to foster deep concern following a .500 week at this point in the season, especially with key players returning to health. Yet the Twins do need to find consistency both at the plate and from the bump...and they need it to coincide.
Losing Jorge Polanco is certainly a blow, but unlikely heroes like Jose Miranda are beginning to get hot, and veterans Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez have shown the ability to be major contributors. The 'A-B-C' crew of Arraez, Buxton, and Correa continue to anchor this offense and all signs are pointing toward them all trending in the right direction.
Despite a trio of over-par starts, the Twins bullpen is in a decent place with Gray and Ryan back on the mound. Given Dylan Bundy's electric start in Arizona along with 'not-normal' outings from Smeltzer and Archer, the Twins truly control their destiny for the near future.
The reality of that begins on Tuesday. With red-hot Cleveland (8-2 in last ten games) coming to town, Minnesota will have the chance to beat a solid team that they're still probably better than. Following Sunday's loss, the Guardians are just one game behind the Twins for first place in the AL Central and are one of the most surprising stories of the year (along with the Twins). Joe Ryan will have a chance to redeem himself on the bump and all signs are pointing towards an electric series at Target Field.
With some toasty weather and first place in the division on the line, Target Field will be the place to be this week as Cleveland comes to town. Following that the Twins will have a chance to sweep the struggling Rockies over the weekend.
TUESDAY, 6/21: GUARDIANS @ TWINS - RHP Joe Ryan v. TBD
WEDNESDAY, 6/22: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
THURSDAY, 6/23: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- LHP Devin Smeltzer vs. RHP Zac Plesac
FRIDAY, 6/24: ROCKIES @ TWINS- TBD v. TBD
SATURDAY, 6/25: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD
SUNDAY, 6/26: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD
DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Truth About Catchers, Framing, and Deception
Ryan Jeffers has been lost at the plate for most of the season. As Matt Braun recently pointed out for Twins Daily, he’s starting to find it, but one thing that has never wavered is his defense. Minnesota has placed an emphasis on receiving for some time, and to the degree that runners largely run wild on the pitching and catching tandems. It’s of the belief by the organization that generating additional strikes over the course of a game is more impactful than nabbing the occasional base stealer.
This implementation of focus has been observed in the way Jeffers himself has developed but also is noteworthy in steps forward made by otherwise poor defensive catchers such as Gary Sanchez or Mitch Garver before him. That’s why a play like the one that happened against Walker on Saturday night was such a beautiful sight.
Immediately after Tripp Gibson rung up Walker I jumped over to Baseball Savant. The electronic strike zone on the screen indicated the slider was off the plate, and so to did Statcast’s official measurement. From there, Bally Sports North did an amazing job highlighting what had just taken place. In a slow motion replay, it was evident that Jeffers had perfectly received a baseball in an effort to frame it positively for the umpire.
It’s in this type of movement that the belief as to what framing is and the accurate understanding of the principle are inconsistent. Jeffers doesn’t move the ball or manipulate his glove at all after the point of contact. What he does is generate motion prior to making connection with the baseball in a way that draws perception back to the strike zone. He is receiving the baseball in a way that he attacks the incoming object, and then presents it within an accepted frame of reference.
This instance is a perfect representation of how to play the catcher position at an elite level. Framing a pitch is not about manipulating the landing spot following a point of contact. It’s about presenting a reference point that positively impacts the pitcher and does so without looking at anything but intended to the umpire.
Saturday night’s example was evident if you were paying attention to the exact moment, but it’s hardly an outlier for someone like Jeffers. Per Statcast, Jeffers has generated the 8th most catcher framing runs in baseball. His 48.6% strike rate is also 15th among catchers, considered strong in that category as well.
For a guy who isn’t going to throw out many runners, he’s caught just three of 27 this season, excelling in an area of focus for the organization is a worthy consolation. Minnesota has to be proud of a backstop so perfectly exhibiting what they’re intending, and until there’s an electronic strike zone, it’s something the best catchers will look to hone in on.
Sometimes advancements in baseball are viewed too much through the lens of a definition and not enough from the practicality of implementation. Numbers or quantitative data are less about removing a human element than they are trying to advance how impactful those humans can be.
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Ryan Jeffers is Secretly Turning a Corner
My colleague Nick Nelson recently wrote an article about Ryan Jeffers, outwardly wondering if the team mistakenly bestowed principal catching duties onto the former UNC Wilmington standout. While he never explicitly says it, and I would never want to speak for someone else, I walked away from the piece believing that he thinks that the Twins should not assume Jeffers to be a consistent, everyday starter for them unless he undergoes a serious evolution.
Without a doubt, Jeffers’ initial hitting numbers are dreadful, mimicking Tim Laudnerian batting prowess instead of the league-average flirtation we expected from him. His career .202/.280/.378 slash line is dragged down by an even poorer .181/.271/.312 2022 season so far. The Manfred Mushball can’t explain that away. Jeffers’s initial 2020 offensive promise seems to be a mirage; he has failed to sniff even league-average production since that year.
However, there are under-the-hood stats that tell a different story. Dan Syzmborski’s recent Fangraphs article detailing under and over-performers based on his secret “z” stats caught my eye. Scrolling down a little to his “zSLUG Underachievers” list will procure a list of names, including our subject for today: Ryan Jeffers. ZIPS believes that Jeffers should be slugging .441—a number in the ballpark of Matt Olson's (.440) and Freddie Freeman's (.441) production levels, not the Adam Frazier (.309) plateau he currently sits at. Syzmborski’s projection system is his creation, so how it reaches that conclusion is hidden from us regulars, but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
There are other numbers as well. His Baseball Savant page doesn’t reflect un-impeachable elite performance like one sees from an Aaron Judge or a Mike Trout, but it does tell a tale of an unlucky slugger. Jeffers’ xwOBA is .339—right above league average for all hitters. Digging deeper, his barrel rate of 9.0%—a stat that indicates specific instances of a player hitting the crap out of the ball—puts him in elite territory; 26th amongst all qualified batters in MLB. Barrels aren’t an end-all stat—a player like Luis Arraez can be great because of other characteristics—but it is indicative of extra-base damage, and Jeffers’ current production does not reflect how much impact his bat has.
There are other, more subtle numbers as well. Jeffers has tightened his command of the strike zone; his O-Swing % is down to 28.5, while his overall swinging strike rate has plummeted to 9.6%. Believe it or not, he swings at pitches outside the zone at the same rate as Luis Arraez (28.5%), and he whiffs at about the same rate as Paul Goldschmidt (9.5%). His total contact has also vastly improved (72.0% career vs. 78.5% in 2022, around Francisco Lindor territory (78.7%)). Those discipline numbers aren’t elite by any means, but they are average if not above-average in some cases, and average production would be a tremendous improvement for Jeffers.
Jeffers’ walk rate reflects these changes (10.9%, up from 8.6%), while his strikeouts have dipped slightly, but probably less than one would expect (30.1%, down from 34.1%). I believe those punchouts will drop even further, given his improved plate control.
Ryan Jeffers hits the ball hard at an elite level, has improved his plate discipline numbers across the board, and has worse surface-level hitting stats than before. That should change soon. The often-maligned 25-year-old has a good process in place; he has not found the final crucial step in unlocking his potential: luck. Once fortune turns in his direction, Jeffers will find himself as one of the better catchers in the game.
DocBauer reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Three Trade Targets That Fit The Twins Style
The lineup is solid and an addition probably isn’t 100% necessary. The bullpen is probably in need of two solid arms at the very least. The question is whether the Twins see it necessary to add to the rotation. With arms shuffling in and out with injury and none of their top prospects in AAA looking like options as late-season additions, it’s possible the front office finds themselves searching for help. The Tyler Mahle’s and Luis Castillo’s of the world are fun to dream on, but the Twins have a type.
We’ve typically seen them target arms that need fixing as we saw with Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddack. The prices are lower and despite injuries to both, they’ve shown that they can be trusted to fix talented arms that haven’t reached their full potential for whatever reason. There are a few such pitchers that could be available this summer.
Could this finally be the year? The Rockies could have gotten a haul for Marquez at one point if they had only accepted that their best-case scenario was fourth in their own division with no shot at a wild card. Present-day not much has changed in that regard and perhaps their tune has changed. Since the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Marquez’s performance has dropped off precipitously despite being just 27 and now the Rockies will likely have to accept a much more modest return in trade if they ship off their former ace.
Part of his issue is plain bad luck this season as Marquez has posted a 6.09 ERA with better peripherals despite pitching in Coors. His home runs have spiked and his strikeouts have dried up. With a year and a half of control left, the Twins could swoop in and save Marquez from the thin air of Colorado. His once-vaunted mid-90s fastball and disgusting slider are getting clubbed this season and just a few tweaks paired with a better park could revitalize Marquez. It’s unclear whether the Rockies intend to continue trying to contend, but the Twins have plenty to choose from at all levels of their system for a trade return.
“The Professor” as he’s known in Chicago has had a storied career on the North Side, helping the Cubs break their World Series drought in 2016 and serving as their ace for several years. The back end of the four-year deal Hendricks was given has not gone according to plan, as he’s posted middling numbers at best in 2021 and to begin 2022. The Cubs have a lot of question marks in their near future and they may finally be open to talking trade in regard to their 32-year-old soft tosser who has a year and a half left under contract.
Hendricks' average fastball has settled in around 87 mph at this point which sounds scary, but the right-hander has never averaged even 90 on the heater as he’s dominated lineups with command and poise. It’s certainly walking a tightrope with such little velocity, but Hendricks has done it before and nothing in his stuff screams that he can’t do it again. He’s recently changed to a changeup-heavy approach, his best pitch which has led to a few better outings lately. Perhaps the Twins have their own ideas to fix, but given Hendricks’ 4.95 ERA so far this season, the Twins would be paying far from the ace starting pitcher price.
Perhaps the riskiest target, Rogers has legitimate ace upside and has very recently shown it in the MLB. During the minor league shutdown, Rogers gained significant velocity on his fastball which has held ever since, contributing to his 2.64 ERA in 133 innings in 2021. So far this season, however, Rogers has been a completely different pitcher, posting 5.87 ERA and seeing his K rate drop from 28.5% to 18.7%. At 24 years old with four and a half years of control remaining, this could be the highest upside gamble the Twins could make.
Rogers’ decline is puzzling, as his plus-plus changeup has underperformed and the rest of his repertoire has followed suit. His release point has steadily dropped ever so slightly since his debut which could be one issue the Twins could look to clean up. The Twins and Marlins have long been discussed as a great trade fit, as the Twins need young pitching and the Marlins need some young MLB-ready bats to support their already fantastic rotation. Make no mistake, this would be a blockbuster, likely involving someone like Jose Miranda and several other painful pieces leaving Minnesota. Still, Rogers might be just a small tweak away from a return to form, an outcome that would likely make him the undisputed #1 pitcher in the Twins rotation. That’s a possibility that’s hard to ignore.
It’s possible this is the year the Twins go and get a ready-made ace. Personally, I’d hold off on such ideas until we actually see it. Instead, there are several pitchers that could be on the market that fit the Twins mold of acquiring talented arms in need of a tweak or two. Do you think any of these names are likelier than others? Do you have any names that aren’t on this list? Let us know below.
DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Getting Solid Work from a Former Ace
For years it seemed like Chris Archer was the type of arm any team should want to acquire, and Twins fans were of that thinking for a while too. No one wanted him more than the Pittsburgh Pirates piecing out their farm for him, but that’s another story. Fast forward to now and Archer is a few years removed from being healthy, and even further from being effective.
The Twins gave Archer a $3.5 million deal this offseason, but incentives can push that to nearly $10 million. He has a mutual option for 2023, and while those largely go unexercised, both parties have to be proud of where they’re at to this point.
On the season, Archer has made 11 starts for Minnesota, the most among the group. He’s pitched 44 1/3 innings which averages out to just about four innings per start. In a world where lengthy starts are no longer the norm, that number is significantly below the league average. However, for everyone involved, this is definitely by design. As noted, Archer hasn’t pitched more than 119 innings since 2019, and he hasn’t topped 150 innings since 2017. As a guy that routinely gave Tampa Bay 200 or more innings in a season, he’s coming off of surgery to address Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and had plenty of time off prior to that.
As analytically inclined as Archer is, he’s likely a fan of avoiding lineups the third time through. He’s faced lineups twice in each of his 11 starts this season, but made it a third time on just three occasions totaling six plate appearances. The first time through, Archer is allowing a paltry .615 OPS, but that jumps to .828 the second time through the lineup. As a guy who is still trying to build back up in regards to innings, it’s also not surprising that he would wear down as the game goes on.
Minnesota is obviously managing the arm while dancing around danger as well. Archer owns a 3.65 ERA but that’s backed by a 4.92 FIP, 5.10 xFIP, and 5.26 xERA. As someone who’s always given up a healthy amount of homers, Archer has avoided additional damage by shaving from his H/9. Unfortunately, his walk rate and strikeout rate are also at career-worst marks.
Unquestionably the production from Archer was always going to be a process for Minnesota. Pitching coach Wes Johnson needed to help re-establish velocity, and that’s happened with a one mph gain over last season. He’s still not the 95 or 96 mph pitcher he was in his heyday, but sitting just below 94 mph can work with a revamped repertoire. Minnesota has become one of the most slider-reliant teams in baseball, and Archer is using it more than he ever has. A curveball has been reintroduced sparingly, and the fastball has been cut down substantially.
Results aren’t evident of a guy who will again be an ace, and there are plenty of advanced numbers to suggest this could go belly up at any time. However, chase rate trending positive and a hard hit rate lower than anything he’s produced since 2016 are both strong developments. Archer won’t suddenly be some sort of reliable horse for the Twins, but in a season where their pitching staff has largely been in flux, he’s provided a stabilizing presence.
Give it to the Twins for coaching up an arm and teaching an established veteran some new tricks. It’d be positive if the bullpen was stronger when covering for his short outings and ideal if the rotation wasn’t constantly needing him to get it done every five days, but so far things have worked out. If another arm can be added to this group, having Archer provide this value at the bottom of it is hardly a negative.
DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Hits Keep Coming
Last Week's Game Results:
Game 56 | NYY 10, MIN 4: Duffey Clobbered, Yankees Roll
Game 57 | MIN 8, NYY 1: Twins Offense Blows Up in Rout
Game 58 | NYY 10, MIN 7: Pitchers Waste 5-Homer Night
Game 59 | MIN 9, TB 4: Buxton and Twins Ambush Rays
Game 60 | MIN 6, TB 5: Arraez Grand Slam Keys Victory
Game 61 | TB 6, MIN 0: Lineups Cools Off, Can't Seal Sweep
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/6 through Sun, 6/12
Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 35-27)
Run Differential Last Week: -2 (Overall: +25)
Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA)
NEWS & NOTES
Let's get the unbelievably bad news out of the way first. A second MRI on Royce Lewis' knee, with his swelling reduced, revealed a partially torn ACL. This means he'll once again need to undergo reconstructive surgery on the same ligament they just repaired last year. He's expected to be sidelined for another 12 months.
It's an excruciatingly crushing blow for one of the most likable players in the organization and one of the most talented prospects in the game. Somehow Lewis managed to maintain an optimistic and unflappable front in the face of this unthinkable setback to his career.
Not only does the Lewis news eliminate a key potential difference-maker from the rest of this season's picture, but it also throws a big wrench into the team's future plans. With Carlos Correa expected to opt-out after this year, Lewis was lined up to take over as shortstop. Now, he could be out into June of 2022 and at that point he'll be coming back from two straight major knee surgeries. We'll cross that bride when we get there, I guess.
In happier news, the Twins did get Correa back from COVID IL. He had an excellent week, launching two homers and a double among eight hits in four games. It sounds like he's still dealing with some fatigue, but showing zero signs. Correa's successful return meant Jermaine Palacios headed back to Triple-A after making a great impression with his glove.
Chi Chi Gonzalez was added to the 40-man roster with Lewis going on the 60-day IL. He started Saturday and was okay. At week's end Gonzalez was DFA'ed to make room for reliever call-up Tyler Thornburg, who made a solid debut on Sunday. Cole Sands was recalled for starts against both New York and Tampa, struggling against both. He's likely to be optioned on Monday.
Juan Minaya was swapped off the 40-man roster in favor of Jharel Cotton, who's earned a bigger shot. Kyle Garlick landed on the IL with a hamstring injury, though it sounds like he won't be out long.
The Twins offense proved last week beyond a shadow of a doubt that it belongs in the conversation as one of the best in baseball. Day in and day out, they showed up and flat-out raked, despite facing some genuinely excellent pitching all week long.
Going against three straight All Star-caliber starters for the Yankees, and then taking on a Rays staff full of quality arms, the bats never went quiet – at least until the final game of the homestand. All told, even with Sunday's shutout, the Twins piled up 34 runs on 61 hits and 12 homers in six games, including back-to-back-to-back bombs off Gerrit Cole and a walloping of the league's ERA leader (at the time), Nestor Cortes. The Twins currently find themselves third in the AL in runs scored and second in OPS. No one can say their bats are getting fat off weak competition.
While Correa's physical return made a big impact, it was Byron Buxton's spiritual return that led the way in this offensive barrage. Buck simply hadn't been himself for the better part of a month, leading some schmo to suggest that an IL stint could be in order to help him heal up. But soon after, he flipped the switch and turned right back into the guy who terrorized pitchers in April.
Buxton showed signs of awakening last weekend in Toronto, when he homered and doubled in Saturday's win. Then, he went 1-for-7 with five strikeouts in his next two games and you wondered if he was sinking right back into the funk. No sir. Buxton proceeded to collect six hits in 13 at-bats over the next three games, five of them home runs.
Buxton is now hilariously on pace to hit roughly 45 home runs in 115 games this season.
Luis Arraez continues to be one of the most consistent and effective offensive forces in baseball, and he's even begun sprinkling in some power. His long ball against Cole opened the triple-whammy on Thursday, and Arraez delivered a game-breaking grand slam against Tampa on Saturday.
After wrapping an 8-for-22 week, Arraez is leading the world in batting average and on-base percentage – neither by a slim margin. Although his lack of defensive impact takes a major toll on his overall value from an analytical standpoint, I do think that if he keeps this up (especially the bursts of power), the narrative around Arraez could propel him into the MVP conversation, and it wouldn't be totally unwarranted.
Other big performances in a statement week for the Twins offense:
Jorge Polanco opened up with a four-hit performance against New York and finished 9-for-21 with a homer and pair of doubles. After an extended cold spell that dragged his OPS down into the mid-600s, Polanco seems to be back in the groove. José Miranda continues to come into his own at the plate. (In the field and bases, not so much.) He had three hits and three RBIs in Wednesday's lopsided win over the Yankees, and added another double as the #3 hitter on Saturday. (Though he got thrown out trying to stretch it to three. Like I said.) Trevor Larnach managed only four hits in 19 at-bats, but he did absolutely CLOBBER a home run off Cole: LOWLIGHTS
As good as the hitting was for the Twins last week, the pitching was almost equally bad. That's gonna happen to some extent when you're throwing the likes of Sands and Gonzalez at very good offenses, but it wasn't just the temporary plugs contributing to these woes.
Tyler Duffey bombed again on Tuesday night, turning a close deficit into a blowout by surrendering a back-breaking home run to Anthony Rizzo. He gave up another homer and double in garbage time on Sunday.
Dylan Bundy – whose fastball velocity has now incredibly slipped below that of soft-tossing lefty Devin Smeltzer – coughed up four runs in four innings on Thursday, wasting a big early cushion before the bullpen combined to allow six runs in a painful loss that slipped away. This included an uncharacteristic implosion from Jhoan Duran, who was charged with two runs on four hits while recording only one out.
Jovani Moran's control issues reared their head in the same outing, as he issued three walks in 1 ⅔ innings and threw just half of his 36 pitches for strikes. Joe Smith continued hurdling back to Earth with three runs allowed on four hits in his two innings. He's allowed at least one run in five of his past eight appearances after allowing zero in his first 16. Minaya punched his ticket off the 40-man roster with a laborious and ugly outing against New York.
While both the starters and relievers have grown rather unreliable, it's easy to see a path to improvement in the rotation with its best two starters, Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan, both slated to return in the coming week. The bullpen, however, is a much more worrisome animal. Impact reinforcements are not close and the Twins have already burned through a whole bunch of their internal options.
Jorge Alcalá had his rehab stint put on pause last week due to renewed elbow stiffness. Cody Stashak is out of the year due to labrum surgery. Matt Canterino – the highest-upside arm in the system currently – went on IL with a forearm issue that's been dubbed "minor." (We'll see. Canterino was limited to 23 innings last year by elbow problems.)
The trade deadline is still a month and a half away, but you wonder if the front office may be compelled to spring into action early on this increasingly urgent need.
The Twins aren't exactly in dire need of offensive help at the moment, but it's still getting harder and harder to justify leaving Alex Kirilloff and his scorching hot bat in the minors. The 24-year-old has done everything he can at St. Paul to prove that his wrist is no longer impeding him. Saturday was just the latest example – Kirilloff launched a pair of home runs to boost his slash line at Triple-A to .350/.453/.607, including .405/.488/1.000 in the month of June.
Power was the last remaining piece that we've been waiting on for Kirilloff, who's consistently displayed a strong plate approach ever since being sent down. His 1.000 slugging percentage this month is a pretty good indicator that we can check off that final box.
At a glance it might seem tricky to find a fit for Kirilloff in a mostly-healthy Twins lineup, but in reality it won't be that hard. As great as Arraez has been offensively, his defense at first leaves much to be desired and this was evident on a few occasions last week. Plugging in Kirilloff at first and moving Arraez to DH as a regular setup against righties will improve the Twins defense – a recurring sore spot amid the pitching struggles last year – and make their lineup even more imposing.
The question is how to make room for Kirilloff on the active roster. No one in the current picture looks like a clear candidate to go, unless the Twins decide to cut down to 13 pitchers (something they'll be forced to do in a week anyway). Keep in mind the team will also need to find a spot for Garlick soon.
Nick Gordon came out of Saturday's game with a hamstring injury, and placing him on the IL might have helped alleviate the logjam, but he entered Sunday's game as a sub, negating that possibility.
The schedule relents in the week to come, as the Twins hit the road to take on a pair of fourth-place teams. With Gray and Ryan expected to return in the "TBD" spots, Minnesota is poised for successful stretch if the bats can stay hot.
Of note: The Twins are lined up to face three straight left-handers starting on Wednesday. Garlick is eligible to come off the injured list on Tuesday.
MONDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Chris Flexen
TUESDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ MARINERS – TBD v. RHP Logan Gilbert
WEDNESDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ MARINERS – TBD v. LHP Marco Gonzales
FRIDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ DIAMONDBACKS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. LHP Madison Bumgarner
SATURDAY, 6/18: TWINS @ DIAMONDBACKS – LHP Devin Smeltzer v. LHP Kyle Nelson
SUNDAY, 6/19: TWINS @ DIAMONDBACKS – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Merrill Kelly
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Can Nick Gordon Carve Out a Niche Role on the Twins?
Consider this author among those once skeptical of Gordon’s MLB potential. The son of longtime MLB pitcher Tom Gordon fell flat on his face at AAA in 2018 and only rebounded to respectable, not elite, numbers in 2019. His bat’s potential was less dynamic, his ability to play shortstop was in the “capable of standing in the infield” camp of defensive quality, and the MLB meta grew detached from speed as a desirable trait. Perhaps some role as a utility player—the cursed designation for every fringe player—could fit Gordon’s general skillset, but he would never become a “set it and forget it” type of starter like Jorge Polanco or Max Kepler; he had to fight for a role.
There are a few ways for an outside player to force a team’s hand; you either hit so well that a team has no choice but to find a position for you, or you scrap around and man numerous positions at an above-average level, allowing a team to use you as a stopgap player. Gordon fits in the latter category.
His bat isn’t otherworldly, but he does provide value with it in atypical ways. You probably take one look at Gordon—a 160-pound human according to Baseball-Reference—and assume that he’s the type to dink, dunk, and slash his way to doing damage at the plate. However, Gordon is something of a Statcast hero, owning a max exit velocity of 110.7 MPH in 2022, a number ahead of players like Luke Voit, Nick Castellanos, and Tyler O’Neill. Hitting the ball hard is far from the only way a hitter can do damage, but it does represent extra-base upside, and Gordon (perhaps surprisingly) possesses that kind of potential. xwOBA likes him as well, as Gordon currently sits a few points above the league average in that stat (.333 to .329).
How he reaches these concluding stats is the more exciting part. Gordon isn’t one to walk, and he has more swing-and-miss in his game than one would expect, but his contact is strong enough to offset his negative attributes; he owns a .429 xwOBACON in 2022. That’s xwOBA but only including balls in play. Do you want to know how good a .429 xwOBACON is? Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts, and Paul Goldschmidt all have a lower number in that stat. When Gordon puts the ball in play, good things happen.
What has given Gordon the most value, though, is his newfound ability to play multiple positions. Various afflictions have required him to play left field, center field, shortstop, second base, and the guy even pitched once; talk about utility. He does more than just moonlight at these positions; Statcast credits him with an OAA in both left and center in 2022, as his reaction and burst make up for amateur routes. Considering that most of his minor league innings occurred at shortstop, his early success in the outfield is awe-inspiring; he played just 27 2/3 innings there in the minors.
Gordon should continue to be considered solely a “break glass in case of emergency” shortstop, and he’ll probably only rarely play at 2nd base given the glut of talent the team already has there, but his defensive acumen should demand a more active team role than one of a player like Jake Cave. If playing time only exists in the outfield, he’s more than capable of making that work.
If baseball has an equivalent to the 6th man in basketball, Nick Gordon fits that role perfectly. He’s good at many things but not undeniably elite in any aspect of the game; Gordon instead takes a “jack of all trades” approach, one that stats can only partially quantify. This is also conjecture, but Gordon seems like an excellent clubhouse presence as well, and he can claim a stake in building the culture that many players have raved about this season. The 26-year-old may not be the star we once anticipated, but he’s a useful player on a winning team, and that counts for something.
DocBauer reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Partial ACL Tear Ends Lewis's Season... Again!
It's just not fair! Why can't we have nice things?
When did this start anyway? Joe Mauer was hurt in his second game, hurting his knee sliding on the Metrodome turf. That was April 2004. Since then, Jason Kubel missed over a year when he tore up his knee playing in the Arizona Fall League. Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff had Tommy John surgery when they were in the minor leagues. Of course, several pitchers have lost development time due to Tommy John, including Francisco Liriano, maybe the best pitcher over any two-month stretch in Twins history, is the toughest example.
The list goes on and on, and we haven't even mentioned the concussions that altered the career trajectories of Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, and others.
And Byron Buxton. Like Buxton, Royce Lewis works incredibly hard. He is well-liked by everyone around him, especially their teammates. They want to play. They want to play well. They want to win. But unfortunately, staying on the field
Players get hurt. That's part of the game. We know that. But it certainly seems the Twins have had way more of their fair share.
Lewis told reporters, "It sucks!"
The initial report was a bone bruise, but there was so much swelling, another MRI was needed. Encouraged to get a second opinion, Lewis saw the MRI. "I love my teammates, and I'd love to be out there as much as I can, but I don't want to be out there halfway."
He also said that this time, they will also take steps to brace the knee so it has a little less give to make any further similar injuries less likely. "It basically tightens your right side and makes it more stable."
Maybe the most frustrating part is he doesn't know exactly how it happened. "All I remember was I was about to make a really cool play," he said, laughing. "You can just tell when you're about to make a catch.
Lewis is expected to miss 12 months again after the complete reconstruction of his ACL again. "Yeah, I'm not afraid of the surgery. That's for sure. The first time, if I told you I wasn't, I was definitely hiding it."
"It's just another pause in my life here."
Lewis hit over .300 in his 11 games with the Twins. He showed off his power, speed, arm, and defense in his short stint. Lewis knows he can and will come back, and be able to play in the big leagues.
The Catch? "Yeah, I just mistimed my jump. I'm not familiar with the outfield, in general. So that's probably why. I'm very happy I made the catch, though."
But he certainly is taking lessons from the incident. "So, yeah, I'm afraid of the wall."
But he definitely does not regret playing the outfield. "I'm a baseball player. I want to help my team and compete. It's unfortunate I got hurt. It's a freak injury. Nothing we could have done. Truly wouldn't have done anything different."
His manager, Rocco Baldelli, feels the same way. The organization had a need, and Lewis had some experience in center field, including a couple years ago in the Arizona Fall League. "On my end, and on the organization's end, I don't think we would say we regret any part it. I regret that he has to go through this right now."
Baldelli, who struggled with his own health issues throughout his playing career, is impressed with what he sees from Lewis, even as he faces this frustration head on. "He's handling is as well as I think any young person could handle something like this. Or anyone at all. He is, as we know, a very upbeat and positive individual,"
Needless to say, the mood was pretty somber in the Twins clubhouse as the news was digested. "It's one of those things that it's almost hard to wrap your head around, that fact that this is going to happen again," Baldelli reflected. "But I fully expect him to come back and do exactly what he did this time around. I see no reason why he won't. And he's one of the best young players in baseball."
DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Playing for What May Happen
Following a big answer from second baseman Jorge Polanco in the bottom of the 5th inning, Minnesota was trailing by just a single run. After Juan Minaya and Yennier Cano bridged the game to that point, Tyler Duffey was tasked with facing Jose Trevino, Joey Gallo, and D.J. LeMahieu in the 7th inning. To set the stage, all of Minnesota’s best relievers including Jhoan Duran, Joe Smith, and Emilio Pagan were available and rested. Tyler Duffey has arguably been the worst of the group in the bullpen this season, and issued a single and a walk before Anthony Rizzo stepped in.
Despite having two outs in the inning, Duffey appeared shaky. He nibbled around Gallo, and put LeMahieu on second with a wild pitch. Then he intentionally walked Judge after getting to a three-ball count. If there was a point to second guess the move to give him the inning, this was it, but it also goes against everything Minnesota has practiced in recent seasons.
Asked following the game by MLB.com’s Do-Young Park, Rocco Baldelli explained that trailing in the middle innings just simply isn’t a leverage situation by Minnesota’s standards. He said, “We play a lot of close ballgames. It feels like we’re in close ballgames most games in those spots. If we treat games where we’re down as if we’re up, then when we are up we’re not going to have the pitchers that we really want setup to throw in those games. It doesn’t always feel satisfying at times and that’s fine. But we have guys like Duran and Pagan who've thrown late in a lot of games and Joe Smith, those guys have pitched mainly in games where we’re winning and we want them to be available and ready to finish ballgames when the time comes.”
Deep breath, exhale, Duffey serves up a three-run shot to Anthony Rizzo effectively ending any chance for Minnesota to mount a comeback. The opportunity to win never presented itself as the opportunity not to lose wasn’t capitalized on.
There’s room for debate as to what should have happened, but the question becomes, what should the process be going forward? Minnesota plays a lot of consistently evident situations analytically. In regards to the bullpen, as Baldelli stated, their horses don’t pitch without a lead to protect. On the infield dirt, it’s routine to see the fielders play in, even early in a game, to cut down a run at the plate. Platoon advantages throughout the lineup are present often. It’s not to say this organization and team is run by a computer, but rather that data drives many decisions with the understanding that numbers normalize over time.
Unfortunately for Baldelli, and we’ve seen this in previous years as well, sometimes the decision comes down to a 50/50 coin flip on which he is consistently seeing the wrong side of.
With regards to this specific situation, the bullpen, there’s two competing thought processes at play for Minnesota. The Twins have next to no reliable middle relief help right now. Minaya was DFA’d following the Yankees loss, and Cano has been erratic at best. Duffey isn’t close to what he was a couple of years ago, and Caleb Thielbar hasn’t seen the results that his advanced metrics are there. Whether leading or not, Minnesota has nearly no one to turn to when looking for a bridge to the back of the pen.
On the flip side, while playing close games with a lineup capable of damage, it’s worth wondering how often a hypothetical opportunity never presents itself because the gap is widened. Had one of the horses entered in the 7th inning down by a run and slammed the door, what kind of momentum is generated to recoup the single run and take a lead. Without that process ever being explored, it’s hard to suggest a definitive answer.
Ultimately the Twins are strapped in relief. On a nightly basis they don’t have a bullpen that can make up for starters going just five innings or less. Winning or losing, Duran, Smith, and Pagan can’t be expected to lock down three innings something like five times per week. There has to be help brought in, both for the rotation and bullpen, but it may also be time Baldelli and Wes Johnson consider protecting the opportunity in front of them rather than just the potential one they may never see.
Share your thoughts below. How would you handle pitching from behind in a close game?
DocBauer reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Minor league Week in Review (5/31-6/6): Another No-No, and Huge Offensive Performances
In the past, the beginning of the short-season, rookie leagues was right near the time of the MLB Draft. However, now that the draft has been pushed back to July, Opening Day of the short-season leagues came up in a hurry. On Monday, the Florida Complex League and the Dominican Summer League seasons began. At Twins Daily, we will be providing reports on those teams in our daily Minor League Reports. Below you can see how the two Twins affiliates played on Monday.
If you missed it, read Nick's Twins Week in Review after you've read about the minor league week.
With no Monday Minor League Report, here are the transactions from later on Sunday and on Monday:
RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Jharel Cotton and OF Mark Contreras back to St. Paul. IF Daniel Robertson began rehab stint with FCL Twins. Twins signed RHP Aaron Sanchez to minor-league deal and assigned him to St. Paul. IF Ernie Yake was placed on the Wichita Injured List. RESULTS
Previous Week in Review (5/24-5/30):Mighty Mussels Out-Muscle Marauders Tuesday: Another No-No in Ft. Myers and Stranger Things for St. Paul Wednesday: Offensive Fireworks in Cedar Rapids and Emmanuel Rodriguez is On Fire Thursday: Rodriguez Rakes as Mussels Mount Comeback Friday: Prato Paces the Kernels, Strong Pitching Turned In Saturday: Alerick Soularie Hits For the Cycle! Wind Surge Win in Walk-off! Sunday: Steer, Kirilloff, Hamilton Power Home Run Record for Saints MORE TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE CONTENT
Prospect Retrospective: Jermaine Palacios Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month - May 2022 Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - May 2022 Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May 2022 Reviewing the Jose Berrios Trade SHORT-SEASON RESULTS
It was opening day in the short-season leagues on Monday as both the Dominican Summer League Twins and the Florida Complex League Twins played the first game of their seasons. We are going to include these teams in our daily Minor League Reports.
FCL Twins 2, FCL Pirates 7
Starting Pitcher: Develson Aria (3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Alexander Pena (2-for-2, R, 2 RBI), Ismael Perez (2-for-3, R, SB)
2B: Alexander Pena (1)
HR: Alexander Pena (1)
Rehab Players: Daniel Robertson (0-for-2, K)
Top Prospects: Danny De Andrade (0-for-4), Fredy Michel (0-for-3, 1 BB, 2 K, SB).
DSL Twins 5, DSL Rockies 6
Starting Pitcher: Julio Bonilla (3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Anderson Nova (2-for-4, RBI, K), Daniel Pena (2-for-4, R, RBI, K), Javier Roman (2-for-2, HBP)
Top Prospects: Bryan Acuna (0-4)
WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints:
Week: 4-2, @ Iowa
Season: 24-29 overall, 9th place out of ten teams in the International League West. They are 10 games behind Nashville.
After putting up 49 runs in seven games the previous week, the Saints scored 57 runs in six games. Three times the Saints scored more than a dozen runs in a game. The Saints pitching staff gave up 50 runs in seven games the previous week. Last week, they gave up 41 runs in the six games. The Saints hit 18 home runs including a franchise-record seven homers on Sunday afternoon. Seven hitters had an OPS over .960. It was a good week for the Saints, and now they head home to take on the former Twins Triple-A affiliate, the best team in the whole International League. Get your tickets here!
Alex Kirilloff was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Week and the International League Hitter of the Week. In four games, he went 8-for-17 and hit .471/.571/1.353 (1.924) with three doubles, four homers, and eight RBI. He walked four times with just three strikeouts. Caleb Hamilton played in three games and went 4-for-8. He hit .500/.667/1.375 (2.042) with a double, two home runs, and six RBI. He also had four walks. Tim Beckham finally made his way to St. Paul. He played in four games and went 8-for-17. He hit .471/.526/.882 (1.408) with a double, two homers, and seven RBI. Spencer Steer was one of two Saints to play in all six games. He went 7-for-30 and hit .233/.303/.700 (1.003) with two doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI.
Jake Cave played in five games and went 8-for-22. He hit .364/.440/.682 (1.122) with two doubles, a triple, a homer, and three RBI. Elliot Soto went 4-for-16 in five games. He hit .250/.400/.563 (.963) with two doubles and a home run. He also walked four times. Michael Helman was the second Saint who played in all six games. He went 7-for-26 and hit .269/.367/.462 (.829) with two doubles, a home run and three RBI. The best start for a Saints pitcher last week came from Mario Sanchez. He gave up two runs on five hits over an impressive 7 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out two and deserves bonus points from the whole team and front office for getting through that many innings. Tyler Viza pitched in three games, and finished two of them. He gave up one run on two hits over five innings. He struck out six batters without a walk. Austin Schulfer worked 3 2/3 innings over two appearances. He allowed an unearned run on two hits. He walked two and struck out four batters. What’s Next? #OldFriend ALERT! The Rochester Red Wings, the long-time Twins Triple-A affiliate, will be making their first appearance at CHS FIeld to take on the Saints this week. The 35-19 Red Wings are managed by former Twins C/DH Matthew LeCroy.
Pitching Probables (RHP Daniel Gossett, RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Ronny Henriquez, TBD, TBD, TBD)
Double-A Wichita Wind Surge
Week: 4-2, hosting Frisco
Season: 30-19 overall, 1st place in the Texas League North Division. They remain just 1 1/2 game ahead of Tulsa (28-20).
The Wind Surge continue to win and find different ways to do it. Sometimes they score. Sometimes they pitch. This week, the games were mostly low scoring, but Wichita had another winning week. Over the six games, they outscored Frisco 23-17. The pitching staff was fantastic. They gave up more than three runs only once during the week.
Here are some of the top performances for the Wind Surge this past week:
Matt Canterino tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked four and struck out four. Steven Cruz and Osiris German each pitched twice and worked 3 1/3 innings. German gave up just one hit and struck out five batters. Cruz gave up two unearned runs and struck out four batters. Kody Funderburk pitched twice, including one start. In six innings, he gave up just one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out six bases. Matt Wallner played in all six games. He went 8-for-22 and hit .364/.417/.545 (.962) with a double and a home run. He stole two bases.
Jair Camargo played in three games before going on the IL. He went 3-for-12 (.250) with a double, two homers and five RBI. Likewise, Alex Isola went on the IL after just one game last week. He had a double and a homer, and he walked once.
Chris Williams had just three hits and batted .188, but he had a double and two homers. 2021 draft pick Ernie Yake went 3-for-9 (.333) and hit two doubles, including a huge bases-clearing double on Sunday against Frisco. What’s Next? The Wind Surge travel to Arkansas for six games against the Mariners’ affiliate. The Travelers are 27-24 and in third place in the North Division.
Pitching Probables (RHP Blayne Enlow, RHP Matt Canterino, RHP Casey Legumina, RHP Louie Varland, RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Blayne Enlow)
High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Week: 4-2, @ Lansing
Season: 33-18 overall, 1st place in the Midwest League West Division, 2.0 games ahead of Wisconsin (31-20). They are 5.0 games ahead of South Bend (28-23).
In the first half of the week, the Kernels went 1-2, though their win was by a score of 10-2. They went on to win the final three games of the series and scored eight or more runs in each game. Overall, they outscored the Lugnuts 39-28 and were able to increase their division lead by a game. Several Kernels’ hitters had big weeks. Pitching wasn’t quite as strong, but you just have to see what Sean Mooney did.
Alerick Soularie has had a tough start to his 2022 season, but he had a big week last week. In five games, he went 6-for-17 and hit .353/.560/.882 (1.442) with a double, a triple, two homers, and six RBI. He also walked eight times. He hit for the cycle on Saturday. Aaron Sabato was named the Midwest League Hitter of the Week. He played in five games and went 8-for-16. He hit .500/.619/.813 (1.432) with two doubles, a homer, and five RBI. He also walked four times. Christian Encarnacion-Strand played in all six games. He went 8-for-27 and hit .296/.387/.704 (1.091) with five doubles, two homers, and four RBI. Yunior Severino returned to the field from the IL. In four games, he went 6-for-16 and hit .375/.474/.563 (.1.037) with a double and a triple. He also walked three times. Anthony Prato played in three games for the Kernels before being promoted to Wichita. In that time, he went 4-for-15 (.267) and had a double, triple, home run and four RBI. He also stole two bases. Sawyer Gipson-Long had the top start of the week for the Kernels. He gave up one run on three hits with two walks over six innings. He struck out three batters. Sean Mooney was the piggyback arm in one game. He tossed four shutout innings. He did not give up a hit. He walked one and struck out ten batters. Cody Laweryson also worked once out of the bullpen. In 2 2/3 scoreless innings, he gave up one hit, walked two and struck out three batters. What’s Next? The Kernels will travel to South Bend to take on the Cubs.
Pitching Probables (RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, RHP John Stankiewicz, RHP David Festa, LHP Brent Headrick, LHP Aaron Rozek, LHP Cade Povich)
Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
Week: 4-2, hosting Tampa
Season: 34-16 overall, 1st place in the Florida State League West, 8.0 games ahead of Clearwater (26-24).
Ft. Myers was able to increase their lead in the division with a 4-2 week. The Mussel bats outscored the Tarpons 33-17 on the week. It was a terrific week for the pitchers as well, with the team’s second no-hitter of the season on Tuesday. And Emmanuel Rodriguez put together arguably the greatest week of production that I can recall!
Emmanuel Rodriguez had a huge week. In five games, he went 7-for-12 and hit .583/.700/1.500 (2.200) with a double, two triples, two homers, and six RBI. He also had seven walks to go with just one strikeout! And he stole a base. No surprise he was named the Florida State League Hitter of the Week. Luis Baez played in five games. He went 4-for-9 and hit .444/.545/.444 (.989) with two walks. He also stole two bases. Kala’i Rosario played in five games and went 6-for-16. He hit .375/.474/.500 (.974) with two doubles and two walks. Mike Paredes was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week. In his start, he tossed six scoreless innings. He gave up no hits, walked two, and struck out five batters. Pierson Ohl made a start and threw three scoreless innings. He gave up three hits and walked two batters. All nine outs he recorded came on strikeouts. Ariel Jurado made his first start, a rehab appearance after having Tommy John surgery. He gave up no runs on one hit. He walked two and struck out four batters. Hunter McMahon pitched two games and three innings. He gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out seven batters. Juan Mendez pitched twice and threw two perfect innings. Five of the six outs came on strikeouts. Matt Swain made two appearances with the Mussels before his late-week promotion to Cedar Rapids. In two innings, he struck out four batters. Travis Adams gave up one run in five innings in his start. He struck out eight batters without issuing a walk. What’s Next? The Mighty Mussels make the long trek to Daytona (19-31) for a six-game series.
Pitching Probables (LHP Steve Hajjar, TBD, LHP Jaylen Nowlin (vs Chase Petty), TBD, TBD, TBD)
This Prospect Summary shows our current Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings and how they performed last week. The Prospect Tracker will be updated on the first of each month throughout the season. Notice that these pages now include stats and splits, as well as past article links, video and more.
#1 - Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - Did Not Play (Season: 34 G, .313/.405/.534 (.940), 12-2B, 1-3B, 5-HR, 30 R, 14 RBI, 18 BB, 32 K)
#1 - Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - Did Not Play (.000), 0-2B, 0-HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K (Season: 12 G, .300/.317/.550 (.867), 4-2B, 0-3B, 2-HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K)
#2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 6 G, 4-for-23 (.174), 0-2B, 1-3B, 0-HR, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K (Season: 46 G, .247/.361/.324 (.685), 7-2B, 2-3B, 1-HR, 34 R, 14 RBI, 23 BB, 28 K, 21 SB, 2 CS)
#3 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - In MLB (Season: 21 G, .256/.295/.442 (.737), 10-2B, 2-HR, 10 R, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 14 K)
#3 - Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 5 G, 5-for-18 (.278), 1-2B, 2-HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K (Season: 25 G, .202/.237/.405 (.641), 6-2B, 4-HR, 8 R, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 22 K)
#4 - Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K (Season: 5 GS, 16.1 IP, 21 R, 16 ER, 27 H, 12 BB, 17 K, 0-2, 8.82 ERA, 2.39 WHIP, 6.6 BB/9, 9.4 K/9)
#5 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - 2 GS, 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 8 K (Season: 10 GS, 48.0 IP, 17 R, 16 ER, 37 H, 17 BB, 50 K, 2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.4 K/9)
#6 - Matt Canterino (Wichita) - 1 GS, 3.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 4 BB, 4 K (Season: 11 G, 10 GS, 34.1 IP, 8 R, 7 ER, 17 H, 22 BB, 50 K, 0-1, 1.83 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 5.8 BB/9, 13.1 K/9)
#7 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - (Season: 35 G, .307/.385/.591 (.976), 13-2B, 1-3B, 8-HR, 27 R, 30 RBI, 14 BB, 23 K)
#7 - Spencer Steer (St. Paul) - 6 G, 7-for-30 (.233), 2-2B, 4-HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K (Season: 13 G, .255/.349/.636 (.986), 3-2B, 0-3B, 6-HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 6 BB, 11 K)
#8 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Ft. Myers) - 5 G, 7-for-12 (.583), 1-2B, 2-3B, 2-HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 2 K (Season: 45 G, .280/.495/.568 (1.063), 5-2B, 3-3B, 9-HR, 35 R, 25 RBI, 54 BB, 51 K)
#9 - Noah Miller (Ft. Myers) - 6 G, 1-for-22 (.045), 1-2B, 0-3B, 0-HR, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K (Season: 45 G, .256/.387/.357 (.744), 7-2B, 2-3B, 2 HR, 33 R, 12 RBI, 34 BB, 51 K)
#10 - Marco Raya (Ft. Myers) - 1 GS, 3.2 IP, 4 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K (Season: 8 G, 7 GS, 32.2 IP, 15 R, 12 ER, 26 H, 12 BB, 35 K, 3-1, 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 9.6 K/9)
#11 - Cade Povich (Cedar Rapids) - 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K (Season: 8 GS, 37.0 IP, 19 R, 17 ER, 30 H, 13 BB, 52 K, 3-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 12.6 K/9)
#12 - Louie Varland (Wichita) - 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 9 K (Season: 10 G, 9 GS, 52.1 IP, 24 R, 21 ER, 43 H, 24 BB, 62 K, 4-1, 3.61 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 10.7 K/9)
#13 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, 1 BB, 5 K (Season: 8 G, 6 GS, 29.0 IP, 26 R, 37 H, 13 BB, 30 K, 0-2, 8.07 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 9.3 K/9)
#14 - Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - 1 G, 2.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 4 K (Season: 4 G, 3 GS, 13.1 IP, 10 R, 9 ER, 15 H, 7 BB, 19 K, 0-0, 6.08 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 12.8 K/9)
#15 - Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 6 G, 8-for-22 (.364), 1-2B, 1-HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K (Season: 46 G, .273/.387/.527 (.914), 9-2B, 0-3B, 1-HR, 33 R, 39 RBI, 30 BB, 68 K)
#16 - Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 5 G, 5-for-19 (.263), 0-2B, 1-HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K (Season: 29 G, .269/.417/.398 (.815), 4-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 17 R, 11 RBI, 25 BB, 28 K)
#17 - Cole Sands (St. Paul) - Did Not Pitch (Season: 6 G, 5 GS, 18.2 IP, 15 R, 23 H, 6 BB, 21 K, 0-4, 7.23 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 10.1 K/9)
#17 - Cole Sands (Minnesota) - 1 GS, 4.0 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 4 K (Season: 3 G, 1 GS, 8.0 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 4 BB, 10 K K, 0-1, 7.88 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 11.3 K/9)
#18 - Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Cedar Rapids) - 6 G, 8-for-27 (.296), 5-2B, 0-3B, 2-HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K (Season: 49 G, .303/.368/.551 (.919), 13-2B, 3-3B, 10-HR, 33 R, 43 RBI, 19 BB, 55 K)
#19 - Steve Hajjar (Ft. Myers) - 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K (Season: 1 G, 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K, (Season: 8 GS, 33.1 IP, 10 R, 8 ER, 17 H, 19 BB, 57 K, 2-1, 2.16 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, 15.4 K/9)
#20 - David Festa (Ft. Myers) - (Season: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 6 K, (Season: 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 0.0 BB/9, 13.5 K/9)
#20 - David Festa (Cedar Rapids) - 1 GS, 5 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K (Season: 3 G, 1 GS, 13.2 IP, 4 ER, 10 H, 3 BB, 14 K, 3-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 9.2 K/9)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Hitter of the Week: Outfielder Emmanuel Rodriguez, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
This is the second consecutive, and third overall player of the week honor for Rodriguez this season. He was the choice for Hitter of the Month in April. He was solid again in May, and he has started June on fire. Two weeks ago, he went 0-for-12 for the week, but he walked 10 times, continuing to show his much-improved strike zone management. In the two weeks since then, he has played in ten games. He had gone 13-for-30 and hit .433/.591/1.000 (1.591) with a double, two triples, four home runs and 11 RBI. He has also walked 13 times and struck out ten times.
Rodriguez played in five games last week at Hammond Stadium against Tampa. He went 7-for-12 and hit .583/.700/1.500 (2.200) with a doubles, two triples, two home runs, and six RBI. He also had seven walks to go with just two strikeouts. Those numbers are just crazy!
Overall, he has played in 45 games for Ft. Myers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He has hit .280/.495/.568 (1.063) with five doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 25 RBI. He is also 11-for-15 in stolen base attempts, and plays a solid center field.
Rodriguez signed with the Twins in July 2019 for $2.5 million out of Santiago. He was unable to make his debut until 2021. Last year, in 37 FCL Twins games, he hit .214/346/.524 (.870) with five doubles, two triples, and 10 home runs. He also stole nine bases.
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Mike Paredes, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
Mike Paredes was the Twins 18th round draft pick in 2021 out of San Diego State University. He went to college about 10 miles from where he went to high school, San Diego High School where he was a strong two-way player. As a freshman, he worked mostly out of the bullpen and struck out 56 batters in 51 innings. He also went 1-for-2 with an RBI double. He made four starts in the shortened 2020 season. In 2021, he went 4-0.
Upon signing, he pitched in two games for the FCL Twins. He gave up one run on one hit and one walk in four innings. He struck out six batters. This season, he began the season in the Ft. Myers bullpen. Gradually he got extended and then did some piggybacking before entering the team’s rotation. He has made four starts now. Overall, he is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA. In 31 1/3 innings, he has walked just five batters while striking out 31 batters.
In his start last week against Tampa, he struck out five batters over six scoreless, hitless innings. He walked two. Hunter McMahon got the final three outs to keep the no-hitter, the Mussels third no-no over the past nine months, and second this season.
In his four starts, he has gradually worked more and more. In his first start, he threw three no-hit innings. In his second start, he threw four, one-hit innings. He went five innings in his third start (two runs on three hits). And, six innings of no-hit ball in his fourth start. What is next for the 21-year-old right-hander?
Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the players and the teams in the COMMENTS below.
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Gary Sánchez is Different (And May be Underperforming)
We’ll focus solely on Sánchez’s bat in this article; defensive analysis can be left to Parker Hageman or some other actual baseball knower with a shred of a clue regarding mechanics. The Twins weren’t acquiring the frustrating catcher for his glove, after all; they were after his inconsistent yet potentially game-altering bat.
You’re well aware of Sánchez’s MLB career narrative. He set the world on fire in 2016, finishing 2nd in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Michael Fulmer, before running it back in 2017 with an elite wRC+ (131) that no qualified catcher has topped over an entire season since. It’s been shaky after that season; Sánchez has oscillated between mediocre, good, and dreadful, with “frustrating” working as the only consistently accurate description of his play in New York.
But he’s in Minnesota now; a fresh start with a new franchise. Has he changed?
Yes, to a degree. His strikeout and walk rates have moved in the wrong direction for a hitter (career 9.8 BB% to 5.8, and 26.7 K% to 28.3), but the under-the-hood numbers tell a far more interesting story.
This story drew inspiration from this one image.
Look at that cluster in right-center; does that reflect what you would expect from a traditional dead-pull righty? It may only be four doubles, but that’s enough to catch one’s eye. A similar grouping only ever shows up in his 2017 hit map; what’s going on?
WARNING! Numbers ahead, like a lot of them.
After seeing that, I moved to check his batted ball data, and wouldn’t you know it, Sánchez has inched towards a more democratic approach to hitting. His pull rate is down (45.5% vs career 51.7%), moving more batted balls into center (31.8% vs career 30.2%) and right (22.7% vs career 18.0%). Becoming a more well-rounded hitter in this vein sounds like a good thing by itself, but it may not be ideal for a powerful pull-hitter. We need more information—is Sánchez doing more damage with this new philosophy?
Yes! Actually. Sánchez owns a wRC+ of 172 on batted balls sent to what Fangraphs defines as centerfield—a number almost equal to what he did during his fabulous 2017 campaign (174). He’s still not great on balls shot the other way (57 wRC+)—we didn’t expect him to become righty Juan Soto overnight—but it certainly appears that he’s found a more well-rounded stroke. Is it any coincidence that his BABIP is back up to .282 after he wallowed in Keplerian levels for the last four seasons?
The good news is that he isn’t sacrificing any of his crucial pull-power to accomplish this. Sánchez is crushing balls to the tune of a 240 wRC+ when he sends them to left field—a number even finer than his legendary 2017 season.
He’s not perfect, however. It seems that his new approach has cost him valuable walks, and his strikeouts have ticked up a touch as well, although I question how sticky the extra Ks are. Walks are valuable, but extra-base hits are even more precious, and the Twins seem to believe that Sánchez is a cleaner fit in the lineup when he’s doing damage, not setting the table.
The "underperforming" part of the title stems from his Statcast data; Sánchez is walloping fastballs at a .412 xWOBA clip but only has a .328 wOBA against the pitch. Sure, some of that is due to the soggy ball draining power from everyone's bat, but nearly .100 points of wOBA cannot be explained away with that answer; luck must be involved. It's easy to imagine that his approach will bear even more fruit once the summer heat pushes those warning track disappointments into free souvenirs.
There you have it; sometimes, an intuition or a minor blip of information can send you down a rabbit hole from which a truth hides. Gary Sánchez has adjusted his hitting style, and it may have been precisely what the doctor ordered. The former hulking slugger has embraced right-center field and may flourish for it.
DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Time Has Come to Place Byron Buxton on the Injured List
Last week, the Twins played games on all seven days and Buxton was out of the starting lineup for three of them. This included two days off in a three-day span (Monday and Wednesday), and Sunday ahead of an off day. Granted, there are mitigating circumstances to account for – he played both ends of a doubleheader on Tuesday, and the team was wrapping an exhausting stretch on Sunday – but they're clearly sticking to their plan of plentiful respites.
The plan is working, to an extent: Buxton has avoided the injured list through two months. That's a big victory in and of itself. But he's also doing little to contribute right now, and hamstringing the roster by so frequently being a healthy(ish) scratch.
Back in mid-May, when many were debating over the team's handling of Buxton and his frequency of rest days, I tweeted my point-of-view on the matter: If anything, the Twins weren't being cautious enough. When your most important player is wincing through knee and hip ailments, the safe bet is simply to place him on the shelf for a while to heal.
Since the date of that tweet (May 16th), Buxton has slashed .155/.254/.241 with one home run and three RBIs. After producing a staggering 1.5 Wins Above Replacement in his first month's worth of games, his WAR over the past month sits at 0.0 – a dead-on replacement level player. Those words feel extremely weird to even type out in connection with Buxton.
Slumps happen in baseball. That's the nature of the game. When you go on a tear like Buxton did to open the season, a corresponding downswing is to be expected. Moreover, his underlying metrics haven't taken a worrisome nosedive or anything. I'm not suggesting Buxton is unplayable right now or that there's a dire need to keep him out of the lineup.
At the same time, it's impossible not to believe his physical state is negatively affecting his play. The sheer magnitude of his slump, along with the occasional grimace and gingerly step, make clear that he's hampered. When asked a couple weeks ago whether his knee injury was improving, Buxton offered a tepid "no comment." He also, unsurprisingly, expressed a desire to stay off the IL.
Since then his numbers have improved a bit – highlighted by Friday night's game, which featured a double and a homer. But he still doesn't look right. He's still taking as much time off as ever. And the Twins are facing some tough roster decisions ahead.
Max Kepler will be activated when the Twins return home to open a three-game series against the Yankees. It sounds like Carlos Correa will be activated soon after. Okay, easy enough to make room for those two guys – simply send down Mark Contreras and Jermaine Palacios, who were called up specifically to replace them.
But what about making room for Alex Kirilloff? He has found his swing once again in Triple-A, where he's slashing a ridiculous .387/.477/.693 since being optioned in mid-May. Crucially, the power has resurfaced, with Kirilloff mashing four doubles and five home runs in his past eight games for the Saints to earn International League Player of the Week honors. There is simply no reason to leave him in the minors right now.
But who gets ousted from the position-player ranks to enable such a move? Trevor Larnach, who was originally swapped in for Kirilloff, certainly isn't going anywhere – he's been one of the team's best players since getting called up.
How about Gilberto Celestino? It would make sense logistically, but are you really gonna send down a kid who's batting .350 with an .816 OPS?
Nick Gordon? He's been playing pretty regularly and pretty well, with a .265/.308/.490 slash line in his past 15 games, and sending him down would mean losing him on waivers since he's out of options.
José Miranda? He would've been the obvious candidate a couple of weeks ago but he too has begun to find his stroke, with a .361/.378/.722 slash line dating back to May 20th. His right-handed power feels too important to lose at this moment.
Now, maybe this takes care of itself for the time being, because Kyle Garlick suffered a hamstring pull on Saturday that could lead to him landing on the IL. But I do think that sort of distracts from the point, which is that it would make sense from multiple perspectives to shut Buxton down for a while, sort through the roster crunch, and then bring him back in a couple week. During that span, the crunch figures to work itself out. Maybe Celestino or Miranda start slumping, or Kirilloff's bat doesn't take in the big leagues. Most likely, someone else will get hurt. By the time Buxton comes back, he'll hopefully be healthier, requiring a bit less time off, and ready to get back to mashing.
Buck won't like it, but he seems to be aligned with the Twins on this critical directive: doing whatever it takes to ensure he stays on the field throughout the second half and is able to be there for the team when it matters most.
DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, How Can Alex Kirilloff Fit Back in the Twins' Line-Up?
During the 2021 season, Alex Kirilloff showcased some impressive hitting skills that made him one of the organization's top prospects. In 59 games, he posted a .722 OPS while combining for 20 extra-base hits. However, a wrist injury during the season sapped a lot of his power, and he made a tough decision. Minnesota was out of the playoff contention, so it made sense to shut down Kirilloff and get him the surgery he needed to be a more effective player.
The Twins hoped the surgery and an offseason of recovery would do wonders for Kirilloff's ailing wrist, but things didn't go as planned to start 2022. In 10 big-league games, he went 5-for-29 with no extra-base hits and a 12-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Something wasn't clicking with Kirilloff's swing, and the team decided to option him to St. Paul. He wasn't adding much to Minnesota's line-up with his swing at the time, and this allowed him to rediscover his swing in a less pressure-filled environment.
It took time and a demotion, but Kirilloff's swing has returned at Triple-A. In 19 games, he is hitting .387/.477/.693 (1.171) with five doubles and six home runs. Entering play on Monday, he was in the middle of an eight-game hit streak, slugging 1.031 with a 1.570 OPS. He's also only 24-years-old so all but seven of his at-bats have come against older pitchers. Kirilloff is destroying the baseball, and he has multiple assets he can add back to the Twins' roster.
Minnesota has been experimenting with multiple parts of the roster this season, including regularly playing Luis Arraez at first base. Arraez has gotten off to the best start to his big-league career, so the Twins continue to find ways to get him in the line-up. However, Minnesota's overall production at first base has been poor. The Twins' WAR production ranks 21st among first basemen, according to FanGraphs. Kirilloff's powerful swing can help improve those numbers, and his defense at first is considered very good.
Now the question remains, where does Kirilloff fit into the current team's roster? Minnesota's outfield already has five players seeing regular playing time in Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, Kyle Garlick, and Gilberto Celestino. Each of those players brings specific skills that it's hard to imagine Kirilloff taking playing time away from any of them. José Miranda seems to fit a similar skillset to Kirilloff, but he's posted a 1.101 OPS over his last 11 games. Kirilloff and Jose Miranda also bat from different sides of the plate, so that is likely something the team considers before making a move.
Roster depth is critical for any contending team, so having Kirilloff mashing the ball at Triple-A is definitely a good sign. He is part of the team's long-term plan, but his place on the current roster is a bit of a puzzle. Minnesota needs more production from first base, but some of Arraez's success this season might be tied to him not changing defensive positions every day. In the end, Kirilloff will be back at some point in 2022, but there isn't a rush to react to a sample size of Triple-A games.
How would you fit Kirilloff back into the Twins line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
DocBauer reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, Is It Time to Move on From Tyler Duffey?
On Sunday, in a series against a red hot playoff contender, Tyler Duffey entered the game with a 8-3 lead, courtesy of solid pitching, some good luck, and a remarkable offensive performance by the Twins against Kevin Gausman. He left it having given up a walk, three hits, a three-run home run, and recording just two outs. Jovani Moran replaced Duffey to get the final out for the Twins and secure an unlikely series win in Toronto.
I’m not usually one to advocate for reactionary moves or cut bait on long-time contributors to the team, but it’s time to move on from Tyler Duffey.
Duffey By the Numbers
Let’s start by putting some of Duffey’s 2022 numbers in perspective. Out of 193 qualified relievers, he ranks 172nd in ERA, 187th in xERA, and 170th in HR/9. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, there are a lot of categories in which Duffey ranks in the bottom handful of relievers in the league.
If we look into more advanced numbers, we see a similar story. Looking at his Statcast profile percentiles, Duffey is 6th percentile in average exit velocity, first percentile in HardHit%, first percentile is xBA. The list goes on, and it does not make for encouraging reading.
Results and Process
Duffey’s numbers may be poor, but perhaps a peek under the hood tells a story his numbers do not? After all, we’re talking about the same reliever who managed a 33.6 K% and 2.79 xERA in 2020, and was even better in 2019.
Duffey’s command tells the story of his 2022. Here’s the location of his four seam fastball in 2022.
Here’s the location of his curveball in 2022.
Let’s compare the curveball to that of Jhoan Duran in 2022.
There are two major takeaways here. Duffey is leaving his fastball out over the heart of the plate far too often. He has some of the poorest velocity and stuff in the Twins bullpen. Duffey’s fastball location is a non-starter. Simply put, it is not a good enough pitch to have location this poor. Opposing hitters are teeing off on it, to the tune of a .649 SLG and 64% hard hit %.
Additionally, he’s throwing too many uncompetitive curveballs. There are too many breaking pitches starting off the plate and finishing way off the plate. Hitters are picking up on this and sitting on his fastball because his curveball often starts slightly too low or too far outside.
Duffey earns $3.2 million in 2022, hardly expensive for a reliever. Even though from a performance perspective I think he should be DFA'd, I think it’s unlikely the Twins will. He has a lengthy tenure with the team and is a strong presence in the clubhouse. The challenge becomes, who do you send down to the minors to keep Duffey on the roster? Every option I can think of has an advantage in velocity or stuff that I wouldn’t sacrifice to keep Duffey on the team. Trevor Megill? Throws 98 mph and has a 36% K% in his first 8 innings. Jharel Cotton? 3.22 xERA so far in 2022. Jovani Moran? 46% K% and a legitimately dominant left-handed changeup. Throw into the mix that Jorge Alcala will return to the team in the next week and give the bullpen a much needed boost and the Twins could have a bullpen crunch in the near future.
Duffey has been an incredible servant to the Twins and burned brightly in 2019 and 2020 as a legitimately dominant reliever. But now is not a time for sentimentality. The AL Central is there for the taking. Which inning of a close game do you want Tyler Duffey pitching in September against the White Sox?
DocBauer reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Worry about the Minnesota Twins
1. Reinforcements are on the way
A big reason why the Minnesota Twins have struggled over the last couple weeks have been because of the sheer number of players that they have been missing in these games. Just to list the name of players that have hit the injured list over the past two weeks illustrates how dire it has been: Carlos Correa (COVID-19), Joe Ryan (COVID-19), Gilberto Celestino (COVID-19), Josh Winder (Shoulder), Sonny Gray (Pectoral), Royce Lewis (Knee), Danny Coulombe (Hip).
The good news for the Twins, though, is that many of these players figure to be back shortly. It’s been just about one week since Ryan, Celestino and Correa hit the COVID-19 list and they figure to be back in the fold in just a few short days. Additionally, Jorge Alcala has already begun his rehab assignment as he reaches the end of his time on the 60-day injured list, and all reports point to his arm looking strong.
The return timelines of Josh Winder, Sonny Gray and Royce Lewis are less clear, but all three of these vital players appear to have avoided major injuries and figure to be healthy in turn for the late summer home stretch of the season.
Finally, the Twins are close to getting Alex Kirilloff added back onto the squad as well. Kirilloff struggled mightily during his time with the Twins, but since getting sent back down to AAA, Kirilloff has found his groove to the tune of a .863 OPS. Getting Kirilloff back to his expected form would be a big time addition.
2. White Sox Look Terrible
For as bad as the Minnesota Twins have looked lately, the Chicago White Sox have looked even worse. The team that everyone expected to run away with the American League Central has not at all looked the part all season. After falling prey to a sweep from the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon, the White Sox now find themselves at 23-26 with a negative-55 run differential, the second-worst run differential in the American League.
While true that the schedule is about to get tough for the Twins, the White Sox face an equally tough slate with their next six games coming against the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s hard to envision the Guardians, Tigers, or Royals making any sort of run at the American League Central, and with the White Sox looking as bad as they have looked, there’s still plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the Twins’ chances of making the playoffs.
3. Third Wild Card Spot
If the White Sox do figure things out and start playing much better than they have over the first third of the season, the Twins still have a great shot at making the playoffs via the Wildcard. As a part of the new CBA agreement, there are now three Wildcard teams that make the American League playoffs. In an American League where nine teams currently have a record under .500, it shouldn’t take any more than 85 wins to make the playoffs. To put that in perspective, the Twins would just need to play .500 baseball over the balance of the season to lock down a playoff spot. Additionally, all Wildcard teams are now guaranteed an extended playoff series, rather than a one-game playoff.
There is certainly reason to be frustrated with how the Minnesota Twins have been playing lately. However, with the reinforcements on the way, along with the way the White Sox have been playing and the fact that three Wild Card teams from the American League will make the playoffs, the Minnesota Twins still find themselves in a good spot to reach the postseason, where anything can happen (even if you’re the Minnesota Twins).
Are you worried about the Minnesota Twins? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
DocBauer reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Trevor Larnach: The Breakout Tour
Trevor Larnach's name can be found in many mock trade proposals from last offseason. The imperfect but enjoyable MLB Trade Simulator put Larnach’s value in a solid range, naturally pushing Twins fans to float the 25-year-old outfielder as a trade candidate to acquire viable starting pitching. The Twins were desperate for starters (and still are), but they kept Larnach despite moving 2021 first-round pick Chase Petty, Josh Donaldson, Mitch Garver, and Ben Rortvedt in a wild post-lockout frenzy.
Larnach, who won the Twins’ Minor League Hitter of the Year Award in 2019, is proving them right. He’s produced 1.4 f-Wins Above Replacement, tied with Max Kepler for the most on the team through the end of May. Larnach hit .299/.375/.515 in his first two months, a far cry from the .167/.275/.205 line he posted in the second half of 2021. He’s walking in nearly 12% of his plate appearances and chasing only 23% of pitches outside the zone.
Pointing out retrospective injuries after a tough season can seem like low-hanging fruit. It checks out for Larnach, who reportedly dealt with a hand injury in the second half of last year. He consistently posted great exit velocities in the minors, and his approach is translating to the majors, especially now that he’s healthy.
Before he tallied two hits and a walk in the doubleheader, Larnach’s average exit velocity was 91.6 MPH. That’s a top-30 mark in baseball and higher than Freddie Freeman, Bo Bichette, and Manny Machado.
While Larnach is producing in a meaningful way at the plate, his most shocking development is in the field. Larnach entered Tuesday with seven Defensive Runs Saved, tied with Kyle Tucker for the second-most among MLB outfielders. His arm in left has played exceptionally well, and the Twins have felt comfortable enough to start him in right. He’s been an all-around contributor.
Larnach’s emergence is far from insignificant. As currently constructed, the Twins have an offense built around Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, and Luis Arraez. As Buxton struggles and Correa heads to the Covid IL, the Twins require an offensive boost. Larnach provided it in the first inning of Tuesday’s game one win, slashing a two-run double that would’ve been a homer in 28 of 30 ballparks.
It’s not just for right now that Larnach’s production is vital. When Buxton returns to form and Correa is healthy, the Twins could have a great top-five in their lineup, with Gary Sánchez and Max Kepler providing depth in the six and seven spots. Add in Gio Urshela, and the Twins’ lineup becomes very deep and challenging to handle. Defensively, Larnach, Buxton, and Kepler across the outfield has a chance to be one of the best units in baseball.
It can be unwise to slap the breakout stamp on a season after 100 plate appearances, but nothing about Larnach’s success seems fluky. He’s a former top-100 prospect who hit .290/.373/.452 in 190 Minor League games. He was excellent before the hand injury in 2021, and he’s 25 years old with more comfort at the Major League level. It’s the perfect storm.
It was easy to see why Larnach could be expendable to the outfield-heavy Twins, but he’s showing why those trades only happened on the simulator.
DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, What’s the Ceiling for Trevor Larnach?
Back in mid-April I wrote about Trevor Larnach’s process. That was just five games into the season and he had just a .616 OPS. Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs quipped that making much out of such a small sample (3 games) was likely nothing, but the hard-hit rates were impossible to ignore. Fast forward to the end of May, and the process has turned into results.
On the season Larnach has been worth 1.3 fWAR, the highest total on the Twins. His .886 OPS is already a strong number considering the state of offense across the league this season. Over his last 18 games though, Larnach has slashed .339/.424/.625 with seven doubles and three dingers. The 161 OPS+ on the season is indicative of an offensive threat nearly twice that of the league average.
What’s also impressive is that Larnach isn’t simply generating hard contact, but he’s reigned in some of the swing and miss as well. After being at a nearly 17% whiff rate last season, Larnach has dropped that to 13.9% in 2022. That’s helped to slightly increase his walk rate but has also added to his overall contact ability. Larnach has been a good hitter everywhere he’s gone, and he’s been more choosy this season as well. Shaving nearly 5% off his chase rate, pitchers are having to attack him within the strike zone.
The scouting report on Larnach has never changed. He’s going to make loud contact and do damage because of it. Dealing with lower-body injuries last season, there’s reason to believe that hampered performance. His 41.9% hhard-hitrate in 2022 is nearly 10% higher than what it was a season ago. Larnach has also dropped points off his ground ball rate adding both to fly ball and line drive production, both outcomes providing a better opportunity for success.
It’s been a game of adjustments for Larnach as well, and being the extremely smart player he is, he’s handled them well. Pitchers have basically tried throwing slop at him since he entered the league. The book on him, and teammate Alex Kirilloff, was that they could handle velocity. Larnach has seen four-seam fastballs just 27% of the time this season. Slider has been the most common offspeed offering, but the pitch selection runs the gambit when looking at breaking balls. Because of the work he’s put in, there’s a drastic shift in how the production looks, specifically against the slider, compared to last season. Being able to sit on breaking pitchers, Larnach has made it so there’s nothing he can’t handle at the dish.
If there’s something somewhat unexpected it’s on the defensive side of things. Larnach was never going to be a hack in the outfield, but I’m not sure his arm was expected to play as it has. He’s already generated three outfield assists this season and it shouldn’t be too long before runners stop testing him. Larnach also has 7 defensive runs saved (DRS) in left field with an additional added in right. That number leads all Major League left fielders.
When Minnesota took Larnach they were keyed in on a powerful college bat that was set up to do damage any time he made contact. He was already an advanced hitter that didn’t simply swing to launch or miss, but there was refinement needed. Now getting to the big leagues, Larnach looks the part of a player that can anchor the heart of a lineup and put up a thirty-homer season in his sleep. It’s still early in his career, but multiple All-Star game selections don’t seem like a lofty expectation anymore.
No doubt Minnesota hopes this new core will blossom together. Larnach is starting to see that take shape. If Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, and Jose Miranda can follow suit, they’ll experience plenty of victories along the way.
DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Is Chris Archer Starting to Become a Liability?
Minnesota’s front office knew what they were getting when they signed Chris Archer to fit into the team’s rotation. He was multiple years past his All-Star caliber seasons in Tampa, and injuries and ineffectiveness allowed the team to sign him for a $3.5 million contract. There was no reason to have high expectations, but the Twins hoped Archer could be effective in a back-of-the-rotation role.
Archer has been largely ineffective in his nine starts for the Twins. He has posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP and a 29-to-16 strikeout to walk ratio. Also, Archer is one of two pitchers to make over five starts and have an ERA+ of 90 or lower. For his career, he has a K/9 close to 10.0, but that total has dipped to 7.6 K/9 in 2022. His Statcast numbers are also well below the league average in virtually every category.
Archer is being used similarly to a long-reliever that happens to be starting a game, but this might be the only option with his current skill set. Like a reliever, he relies heavily on two pitches as his slider and four-seam fastball are used more than 84% of the time. Unfortunately, batters have produced an .811 slugging percentage when facing his fastball, so he relies more on his secondary pitches.
At this point, Minnesota’s coaches have to expect that the bullpen will pitch significant innings when Archer starts. In his Week in Review, Nick alluded that the bullpen has become a revolving door with players being shuffled back and forth from St. Paul. Luckily, the Twins’ bullpen has been relatively effective, but innings are starting to add up at this early juncture of the season.
Minnesota ranks third among American League teams with over 200 innings pitched by relievers. According to Win Probability Added, the Twins’ bullpen has generated over two wins for the club, ranking in baseball’s top-5. However, the team’s fWAR is one of two clubs (Arizona) to have a negative value for the entire season. As innings continue to pile up, one has to wonder if the bullpen will be able to continue to carry this kind of load.
Archer is hardly Minnesota’s biggest problem at this point in the season, but it’s hard to imagine the team will be able to continue to use him if he can’t pitch deeper into games. There also aren’t prospects knocking down the door to take his place at the big-league level. Top pitching prospects Jordan Balazovic and Cole Sands are at Triple-A, but neither has performed particularly well with the Saints. Simeon Woods-Richardson and Matt Canterino are performing well at Double-A, but neither is on the 40-man roster. For now, it seems likely for the Twins to continue to trot Archer out there, yet he continues to be a liability for the pitching staff.
What have been your impressions of Archer so far in 2022? Can the team continue to use him in his current role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Improving College Arms: The Falvey Method?
If you hadn’t been paying attention to the Twins’ minor leagues, you don’t read this site enough, which is a shame. Twins Daily has been covering the system, uhhh, daily, and there has been an apparent development so far in the season: college arms dominating. Cade Povich, Brent Headrick, Steve Hajjar, David Festa, Travis Adams, Matt Canterino, and Sawyer Gipson-Long have all performed well, especially in the context of a minor league system with less sheen after graduations and under-performance amongst the best prospects. Those names stand out.
I find K-BB% to be the best quick-and-dirty stat analysis for pitching prospects. It sums up just how dominant a pitcher is against his penchant for walking batters, and it completely removes poor minor league defense from the equation. It’s an incomplete picture for sure, but that’s how minor league stat-scouting goes.
How well are those arms performing in context with their peers? With a minimum of 30 innings pitched, here’s how they compare with pitchers in their division. Players ranked by rank relative to division:
*Hajjar has 29 innings pitched as of writing this, but he’s an essential piece of the story, so I included him anyway.
Festa has pitched with both Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids in 2022, which makes his placement in the table messy—just know his K-BB% would be elite in either league.
The Twins have targeted college arms specifically for years now. Since 2017, their drafts have been 43%, 43%, 38%, and 45% college arms, respectively, with 2020 ignored as it should be for every topic. Bailey Ober, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder were college arms, and while they didn’t draft Joe Ryan, he came from the collegiate ranks as well. It took a few years of cleaning out the gutters, but the system is now overflowing with college arms.
This focus is nothing new for Derek Falvey; he coveted multiple collegiate arms during his time as a Cleveland executive. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, and Aaron Civale rose through the college ranks before joining Cleveland’s system and found varying levels of success in the majors. That’s three Cy Young winners for those keeping track.
An advantage to drafting college arms is their seasoning; those players have more time performing against high-level talent and require less time in the minors than their high school counterparts. Teams know this; it’s why the Angels, probably foolishly, drafted 19 college pitchers in 2021. The draft is 20 rounds.
Another truism about drafting college pitchers is that, because their cement is more dry, taking one is less a game of projections and more a project of finding undervalued characteristics. High schoolers might as well be light-years away from the majors, and their development presents an immense risk. The Moneyball book perfectly represented the idea with Billy Beane’s anger at drafting Jeremy Bonderman, a projectable arm with a “clean delivery, and a body that looked as if it had been created to wear a baseball uniform.” Although, Bonderman had the last laugh when he pitched more than 1,200 innings in MLB over a nine-year career.
Is this simply just the game repeating itself; it’s meta-game moving full-circle back towards what was cutting edge thinking 20 years ago? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you looked carefully, you’d see that players like Povich and Hajjar found extra velocity ticks after joining the organization. The team could be identifying players with more data attached to them to target a fix or two and enjoy the benefits of a more realized player. After all, this is the landscape of Big Data in baseball, and the Twins might be using it to their advantage.
DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Prospect Retrospective: Jermaine Palacios
Minnesota originally signed Jermaine Palacios back in 2013 as a teenager from Venezuela. In 2014, he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .270/.404/.399 (.803) with 11 doubles and six triples. He stole 14 bases and walked 35 times in 49 games. There were plenty of positive signs for a 17-year-old that was young for his level.
During the 2015 season, Palacios made his stateside debut and posted a 1.061 OPS in 26 games for the GCL Twins. He continued to hit well after being promoted to Low-A. In 31 games, he hit .336/.345/.507 (.852) with 18 extra-base hits in 31 games. His 2016 season was the first time he struggled as injuries limited him to 71 games, and his bat could never get going. For Cedar Rapids, he hit .222/.276/.287 (.564) with 12 extra-base hits.
After a rough 2016, Palacios set multiple career highs in 2017 thanks to a relatively healthy campaign. He split time between Low- and High-A, where he was still younger than the competition at each level. In 62 games for Cedar Rapids, Palacios posted a .907 OPS with 30 extra-base hits. His numbers dipped in Fort Myers (.662 OPS), but he was nearly three years younger than the average age of the competition in the FSL.
Leading into the 2018 season, the Twins traded Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Jake Odorizzi. During his Twins tenure, Odorizzi pitched three seasons with a 107 ERA+, and he was named an All-Star. Palacios struggled in his first season in the Rays organization with a .575 OPS in 118 High- and Double-A games. His performance didn’t improve in 2019, as his OPS dropped over 30 points, and he was limited to 75 games. He never made it past Double-A in the Rays organization before becoming a minor league free agent.
Minnesota re-signed Palacios before the 2021 season, and he played the entire season at Double-A. He hit .259/.341/.439 (.780) with 17 doubles and 19 home runs in 110 games. Also, he went 18-for-26 in stolen base attempts. Last offseason, he played in the Venezuelan Winter League, and he posted a .987 OPS in 42 games. Entering his age-25 season, Palacios wasn’t viewed as a top-20 prospect in the organization, but he had reestablished some value with his 2021 campaign.
Palacios reached Triple-A for the first time in 2021 as he has played the entire season in St. Paul. In 39 games, he has hit .262/.325/.376 (.701) with eight doubles and three home runs. On the bases, he has gone 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts. Defensively, he has been used all over the diamond, including every infield position and both corner outfield spots. His versatility will help him at the big-league level, but the Twins have a clear hole at shortstop that he needs to fill.
What do you remember most about his minor league career? What can he bring to the Twins in the absence of Correa and Lewis? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.