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DocBauer

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  1. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 6 Questions that Will Determine the Twins' Offseason Course   
    In the Offseason Handbook (reaching your inbox in ONE WEEK if you preorder now!), we cover a wide array of options to address various needs via free agency and trade. However, before perusing these options, it's necessary to take a step back and figure out what the objectives are.
    Here are six questions the team must ask itself. The answers will bring focus to a presently hazy offseason agenda.
    #1: Are we grooming Royce Lewis to take over at shortstop, or do we need a long-term solution?
    With Andrelton Simmons' one-year deal expiring, the Twins are back to square one at shortstop. They seem disinclined to move Jorge Polanco back there, and Nick Gordon isn't a legit full-time option, so they'll be shopping this winter. The question is: to what degree?
    If they still believe in Lewis and his viability at the position, they'll likely aim at the lower end of free agency, seeking a short-term stopgap. In the Handbook, we divide the Free Agent SS class into two tiers, with the second featuring players who'd fit this purpose. But be warned: with the exception of Dodgers utilityman Chris Taylor, the second-tier names are not very appealing targets. 
    If the Twins don't feel Lewis is the ultimate solution at short – either because his defense there isn't up to par or because his long layoff produces too much overall uncertainty – then they could try to get in on the high-end free agent action, with five different All-Star caliber shortstops hitting the market. It's rare that you see ever see this kind of talent up for grabs, which is why the Twins are under some pressure to make a call on Lewis. If he's not the guy, they might not get another chance like this to procure their next fixture on the open market.
    #2: Are we attempting to build a credible contending rotation, or are we intent on developing the pitching pipeline?
    There are plenty of intriguing names in the free agent starter class (we profile more than 50 in the Handbook), and the Twins will surely sign at least a couple. But again, the external approach here will be contingent on an internal decision, which directly links back to the overarching question cited at the outset.
    If the Twins are serious about investing and contending, they could be in play for someone like Justin Verlander or Noah Syndergaard, who offer proven ace potential and relative affordability coming off lost seasons. But they also carry a ton of risk. Only if guided by an adamant intention to contend would the Twins make a splash like that.
    Should they commit to a transitional year, it's very possible someone like Michael Pineda could be Minnesota's biggest rotation signing – more of a steady innings eater than a high-upside replacement for José Berríos and Kenta Maeda. In this scenario, the strategy would be more oriented toward building from within around Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. The Twins do happen to have a ton of near-ready prospects to sort out, although health is a question mark with nearly all of them.
    Speaking of health question marks:
    #3: Do we trust Taylor Rogers to bounce back from his finger injury?
    In the Arbitration Decisions section of the Handbook, we break down a dozen different cases for arbitration-eligible players this year. No decision is tougher than Rogers, who's coming off an All-Star season that ended with a scary middle finger injury. 
    He's projected to make around $7 million in his final year before free agency – a rather exorbitant price for a reliever, even without the looming uncertainty. If they're going to tender him, the Twins better have every confidence he can return to form next year, because that expense would deplete a sizable chunk of their resources.
    For a similar salary, you could likely land a more reliable closer from the free agent pool, such as Raisel Iglesias or Mark Melancon. And if Rogers is moving on, you almost need to go get a guy like that, because without him, the back end of this bullpen becomes a glaring weakness.
    #4: How much confidence do we have in controllable relievers who performed well last year?
    Lowering our gaze from the closer role, decisions around what's keepable from the 2021 mix will dictate the broader bullpen strategy. If the Twins have faith in a series of second-half performances that helped propel the Twins relief corps to a surprising 2.0 fWAR (11th in MLB) and 5.82 WPA (3rd in MLB) after the break, turnover in this unit could be fairly light.
    Alex Colomé is a critical crux point in this scenario. He posted a 3.51 ERA and 3.86 FIP after his nightmarish April, including 3.51/3.71 after the All-Star break. Not exactly a no-brainer to bring back on his $5.5 million option for 2022, even if you disregard the first month, but it's really a $4.25 million decision when you account for his buyout.
    If the Twins decide to move on from Rogers, they could theoretically just activate Colomé's option and plug him into the closer spot, although that's surely not a move that would generate much enthusiasm with fans.
    Then you've got Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcalá. All three seem likely to return (Duffey and Thielbar are arbitration-eligible, Alcalá is still pre-arb so he'll cost around the minimum). But how will they be slotted into the hierarchy? 
    Duffey was rather unreliable for much of the season but turned a corner after the trade deadline, posting a 2.05 ERA, 2.17 FIP and 28-to-6 K/BB ratio in 22 innings between August and September. The same pattern played out to a greater extreme with Alcalá, who entered August with a 5.27 ERA before putting up a 0.96 ERA, 1.78 FIP and 24-to-3 K/BB ratio in 18 ⅔ IP the rest of the way.  
    Finally, there's Juan Minaya and Danny Coulombe. Both were minor-league signings who took opportunities and ran with them this year. Minaya posted a 2.48 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 40 innings. Coulombe turned in a 3.67 ERA and 4.7 K/BB ratio in 34 ⅓. Each has a history of big-league success, so they're not total flashes in the pan. Each will also arbitration-eligible for the first time; it'll cost about $2 total million to bring both back.
    Theoretically, if the Twins decide to bring back all of the above players (Rogers, Colomé, Duffey, Thielbar, Minaya, Coulombe) they'd have six of eight bullpen spots filled, greatly reducing the work to be done this offseason. However, it's pretty easy to envision only three or four being retained, which would lead to a heightened reliance on the utter crapshoot known as relief free agency.
    #5: How will the designated hitter position be utilized going forward?
    For most of the past three years, the Twins have had a full-time DH in Nelson Cruz. He'll be available this winter (likely at a reduced cost following his post-trade drop-off in Tampa), as will a few other primary DH types like Kyle Schwarber. Internally, someone like Miguel Sanó or Brent Rooker might make sense.
    Of course, the Twins can also steer away from a regular designated hitter and leverage the position rotationally. This would open up a world of different possibilities, such as using Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson as part-time DH, thus reducing their likelihood of getting injured while opening up more playing time for young players behind them (i.e., Jose Miranda and Ryan Jeffers). Using Luis Arraez there semi-regularly would be another option, protecting his balky knees and limiting his defensive exposure.
    #6: What to do with Byron Buxton?
    This is the biggest question of the coming offseason, no doubt. The Twins have three paths forward with regards to Buxton: trade him, extend him, or retain him with one year of service remaining. The last of those three seems least likely and the first seems most likely, based on the indicators we've received. But it's all on the table.
    Within the trade scenario, there is another decision that correlates directly with the "retool or rebuild" ultimatum: Are we looking to get back MLB-ready talent (maybe even a replacement center fielder) or seeking to increase the upside with younger, rawer prospects?
    Cody Christie has a feature story in the Handbook that breaks down the Buxton decision in depth. Suffice to say that it's a pivotal moment for the franchise and its future.
    Let's hear from y'all. Which way do you lean on these six questions, and which important ones did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments. 
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  2. Haha
    DocBauer reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Also Receiving Votes   
    1977 Rod Carew A sturdy and stylish neck fan for hot press box nights. “Porge Jolanco” A screenshot of the happy hour menu at The Loon Justin Fields The cool dark of the grave A pre-owned 1990 Toyota Celica that’s paid off and can still get you around town. Nicorette Staring into space as Andrelton Simmons takes another horrifying at-bat, pondering your place in the universe, realizing you’re just a speck, a mote in the vast tapestry of existence and realizing that none of it matters and that’s OK. Secretly delighting when fans start the wave and spill beer and nacho cheese on themselves. Kirill Kaprizov Billy Zane, the actor Some town ball guy from the Hadley Buttermakers who used to work at the feed store and hit a home run that landed in Slayton. Think his name was Brian, might have been Wade though. Pictures of dogs and sunsets on Instagram but not at the same time, that’s trying too hard. Bone-deep sighs. Gleeman’s HBO Max password. LaMonte Wade Jr. LOLOLOLOL BOGO frozen pizza week at area Lunds & Byerlys stores. Boneless wings Bone-in wings, what are you a baby Blue Bloods, every Friday night at 9 on CBS. Coffee that’s been sitting in the pot for three hours. Bitter, sludgy, the good stuff, let’s you know you’re alive. The artistry of Billy Joel. Going to Target on a Saturday night when no one else is shopping and you have the store to yourself and you see yourself on the security cam at the self-checkout and you look like you lost a little weight in your face. Caleb Thielbar
  3. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, No Half Measures   
    In a vacuum, Josh Donaldson is not overpaid despite what some frustrated fans may tell you. His time missed in 2020 was frustrating albeit not as costly as it appears considering his prorated salary in the 60 game season. In 2021, he was actually one of the regulars in the lineup day in and day out. As a whole, Donaldson has slashed .243/.355/.474 with the Twins, far from the “wasted payroll” reputation some have pinned on him.
    That being said, he’s 35 years old with a tremendous injury history in addition to having about $50m remaining on his salary over the next two years. The result of all of these factors leave the Twins with a fantastic player with an enormous ceiling and about as low of a floor a player can have. For that very reason, it’s difficult to blame them for at least exploring the trade market given the year they just came off of. They shouldn’t be so quick to pull the trigger on a deal without lining themselves up for a slam dunk however. 
    This was a recently reported idea for a trade between the Twins and Milwaukee who will likely need an impact third base option in 2022. It’s a perfect example of the type of trade the Twins shouldn’t do. There’s almost no scenario where the Twins don’t pay down significant money to get Donaldson’s contract off the books. The issue is trades like this make the Twins worse in the present and offer little payoff for the future.
    Dumping about $35m in future payroll would likely look appealing to ownership. That being said, doing so probably lands them in a situation like this one where the Twins take on money of their own in Jackie Bradley Jr.’s $9.5m and $6.5m buyout in 2023. JBJ slashed .163/.236/.261 en route to a -0.8 fWAR finish on the season. Worse than Matt Shoemaker, Andrelton Simmons etc.
    Perhaps taking on money isn’t out of the question, but the younger pieces in the deal have to be at least somewhat appealing. In this scenario, they receive 19 year old RHP Logan Henderson and 22 year old outfielder Joey Wiemer, #21 and 23 in the Brewers system respectively. Prospects from the 20s range aren’t very exciting for most teams, but the Brewers in particular are a bottom 5 system by most prospect sites. 
    So in review, the Twins get to save a bunch of money in the future, although not a ton after taking on a much less valuable player. Their lineup and team as a whole takes a significant downgrade in regards to the 2022 Opening Day lineup. They also get two prospects who have a very insignificant chance of making any impact on the team in the future. This type of trade would be a mistake.
    The Twins have two options in my opinion. They may very well be gearing up to spend big this winter and acquire some legitimate pieces via free agency and trade. In which case, gamble on the health of Josh Donaldson who will still be one of the premier players on the team if healthy. His salary doesn’t impede their spending plans nearly as much as it gets credit for.
    The second option is to come to terms with 2022 not being the year. If you don’t want to spend down immediately for a comeback season, paying most if not all of that contract in a trade should be the goal. It’s already on the payroll and one way or another, they’ll pay some sort of price on it. Might as well write a fat check to a competing team in a deal where the recipient gets instantly better and the Twins can command some impactful prospect capital in return.
    One way or another, the Twins need to commit 100% when it comes to the Josh Donaldson decision. There’s no point in taking half measures for a team whose winter will have an enormous tilt not only on the 2022 season, but the next few years to come. Should they hold onto their star third baseman or sell him off for the best trade package? Let us know below!
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  4. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Scouting Twins Prospects: Gilberto Celestino   
    Still, the outfielder acquired from the Houston Astros as part of the Ryan Pressly trade displayed enough talent, particularly at the minor league level, in 2021 to warrant excitement about his prospects.

    Celestino is an athletic and speedy outfielder whose defense projects best in centerfield but would be a viable option in right. Across the three levels (Double-A, Triple-A, and MLB), he played at this season, he appeared in 57 games in center, 25 in right, and five in left. With Byron Buxton (temporarily?), Austin Martin, and perhaps even Royce Lewis either in or near the majors, Celestino’s long-term outfield home remains up in the air.

    While his defense was worth -2 outs above average — albeit with a small sample size — while with the Twins, he made several two- and three-star caliber catches, which is suggestive for possessing good range. This assessment is backed up with the eye test as he made many highlight-reel catches during Spring Training and in the minors.
    Celestino boasts solid doubles power at the plate (29.3 per 140 game pace for his career), but his home run power remains a work in progress; his .153 ISO was the third-best of his career, while his nine home runs in 93 games pace represented a career-best. Although his average exit velocity (87.2 mph) and launch angle (5.4 degrees) were both below the MLB average, he achieved a maximum exit velocity of 111.4 mph — good for the 80th percentile — which suggests he may have hidden power potential.
    He possesses a decent eye and approach to batting, as evidenced by his walk rate (11.5% at Double-A; 11.4% at Triple-A), which is above average. His strikeout rate (25.0%; 20.4%), by comparison, hovers closer to the mean. 

    Celestino’s bat-to-ball skills — as indicated by his average exit velocity — could use some refinement. This was particularly exposed at the major league level, where he had difficulty catching up to higher speed fastballs and could not hit offspeed or breaking ball offerings to save his life (combined: 2-for-20, 10 K).

    To their credit, the Twins recognized this and often made in-game adjustments to Celestino's stance, likely in an attempt to better position his hands to catch up to the increased velocity.
    As things currently stand, Celestino's median outcome would likely be the fourth outfielder on a playoff-caliber Twins team. He can play all three positions at least an average clip, which makes him a suitable replacement for the likes of Buxton, Trevor Larnach, and Max Kepler in 1-3 game intervals. However, hitting from the right side of the plate limits some of his and the Twins' lineup versatility as the roster is currently constructed. 

    If his power progresses to the point where he's hitting home runs at a 20 per 130-140 game pace, his ceiling progresses to that of a solid everyday centerfielder. 
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  5. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Tom Froemming for an article, Giants, Red Sox Proving You Don’t Need These 3 Things   
    Before we get into those three items, here’s a video that takes a bit of a deeper look at where the Giants and Red Sox were the past couple years and how they re-emerged after quiet offseasons.
    You Don’t Need A Rebuild
    All that recent success makes it easy to forget neither the Giants or Red Sox made the postseason the past two years (four years for the Giants). That’s especially noteworthy since 16 teams qualified for the playoffs in last year’s shortened season.
    With aging rosters and former stars on bloated contracts, both orgs were in the type of position where rebuilding had to have been considered. Yes, Boston traded away Mookie Betts prior to last season, but they never turned it into a full-on tear down, throw in the towel type situation.
    Meanwhile, several of the league’s bottom teams repeat their place in the standings year after year. Some organizations like the Houston Astros have made rebuilds work in the not-so-distant past, but they are looking more like the exception than the rule.
    Re-tooling can work.
    You Don’t Need A Flashy Offseason
    The Twins spent more on free agents this past offseason than both the Giants and Red Sox. The Twins shelled out $41.75 million while the Giants spent $41.35 million and the Red Sox were at $38.95 million. On the flip side, those teams actually acquired a greater number of players (10 signed for the Giants and eight for Boston), choosing to spread the wealth more than the Twins (six players).
    Meanwhile, the top two spending teams last winter (the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies) and three of the top-five spenders (adding the New York Mets) all missed the playoffs. And if there’s any team that “won” the 2020-21 offseason it was the San Diego Padres. That’s where their winning streak ended.
    The offseason most definitely matters — the 2021 Twins are as much proof of that as any team — but big splashes and flashy signings (or lack thereof) still don’t guarantee anything.
    You Don’t Need A Lavish Bullpen
    There are some expensive, big-name bullpens among this year’s playoff participants but Boston and San Francisco are not among them. 
    The Red Sox have a couple of highly-paid members of their bullpen, but Garrett Richards isn’t there by design (he was signed as a starter) and Adam Ottavino was acquired as a salary dump. It’s not as if either of those guys is exactly a difference-maker, either.
    In fact, the Red Sox bullpen leader in WAR was Garrett Whitlock, their Rule 5 pick. They had eight different pitchers record saves in the second half alone, including former Twins great Hansel Robles.
    The Giants have done even more with a great deal less invested. They signed Jake McGee to a modest two-year, $7 million deal, just $2 million of which was paid this season. Oh, and he was their highest-paid reliever. McGee ended up as one of only nine pitchers to save 30 games this season. 
    San Francisco had a handful of underpaid studs in their pen including Tyler Rogers, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Alvarez, Zack Littell (ouch) and Dominic Leone. When McGee went down, however, it was rookie Camilo Doval who stepped up and was the National League reliever of the month for September. He had a 4.99 ERA and a 7.0 BB/9 in 28 games at Triple-A this season!
    Sometimes a reliever just happens. That’s exactly the kind of thing the Twins need next year.
    The Giants ranked sixth in bullpen WAR (per FanGraphs) and the Red Sox were ninth, a spot ahead of the Mets, who ended the year with four of the top-20 paid relievers in baseball (Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Trevor May and Edwin Diaz). The Mets also only won four more games than the Twins this year.
    The Twins have a long way to go from 89 losses back to contention, but they don’t need to tear it down, have an extravagant offseason or spend big on risky bullpen arms to do so. The Giants and Red Sox are proof of that.
  6. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 4 Plausible Developments That Would Dramatically Alter the Twins' Fortunes   
    When things are going bad, as they did in 2021, it's easy to get caught up in the mindset that nothing ever goes right. But of course, we all know that's not the case. 
    Twins fans have seen many unanticipated "glow-ups" over the years – players rising above their stations and surpassing expectations to become pivotal game-changers in the team's strategy. Examples would include: Taylor Rogers going from middling SP prospect to All-Star RP; Tyler Duffey doing more or less the same; Mitch Garver emerging as an elite offensive catcher; Jorge Polanco and Brian Dozier developing 30-HR power in the middle infield; and so on, and so on.
    With these precedents in mind, let's leave the misery of this season behind us and envision some plausible best-case scenarios.
    If any of these four developments play out, they could significantly ease and expedite the current team's return to contention.
    1: Joe Ryan is a frontline starting pitcher
    During his brief five-start MLB debut, Ryan did some rare things. It's not often you see a major-league pitcher take a perfect game into the eighth, or strike out seven consecutive batters. Even a veteran.
    There are three possible paths forward for Ryan. The first is that big-league hitters figure him out and he implodes, perhaps shuttling between the minors or shifting to a bullpen role. The second is that he goes through the standard adjustments and reaches his low-end potential as a back-of-rotation arm.
    The third path is that instead of being adjusted against, he makes the adjustments. He gets better. What if Ryan's best moments were entirely representative of what lies ahead?  
    The 25-year-old posted a 3.43 FIP with the Twins this year, and threw strikes at a rate that you don't really see, from rookies or otherwise. If he can continue to do that while missing bats and keeping the ball in the yard (last part is most in question), Ryan could easily settle in as a legitimate No. 2 starter. Imagine what a difference that would make in the rotation-building initiative going forward.
    #2: Griffin Jax becomes a relief ace
    No one would've thought Tyler Duffey was destined to become a dominant major-league pitcher when he was posting a 6.43 ERA in 26 starts during his first full season in 2016. But, you might've looked at certain elements of his game – namely, a clearly excellent breaking ball that was producing great results – and seen the potential for something more. 
    A few years later, Duffey was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the league.
    Jax was no better as a starter this year than Duffey in 2016, but he also looked equally miscast in the role. The clearest sign is that he was VASTLY better his first time through a lineup (.197 AVG, .597 OPS) than the second time through (.283, 1.010). Within that, you also have the existence of a clearly excellent breaking ball – Jax's slider generated a 36% whiff rate and .270 xwOBA – but little else.
    "Relief ace" might be a small stretch, but I almost think "solid reliever" should be the baseline expectation for Jax once the Twins stop letting him get bombed as a starter. Move your gaze a shade in the optimistic direction and you could easily have a prime Duffey-type here. How big of an asset would that be for a bullpen that is currently short on high-quality options?
    #3: Alex Kirilloff blossoms as a perennial MVP contender at first base
    Kirilloff's numbers as a rookie were far from spectacular. In 59 games before undergoing wrist surgery, he slashed .251/.299/.423 with eight homers and 34 RBIs. His OPS+ of 98 reflects slightly below-average offensive performance. But he did all this as a 23-year-old with essentially zero previous experience above Double-A, and he was battling through a torn wrist ligament for most of his time on the field.
    Despite all this, he flashed upside aplenty. Kirilloff shrugged off an 0-for-15 start and went on a tear as April turned to May and he acclimated. In the four games before spraining his wrist, he launched four homers and two doubles, boosting his slugging percentage to .571. His average exit velocity at the time would've ranked third in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge if he qualified. Not only that, but Kirilloff showed to be stunningly smooth and adept defender at first base, which will almost surely be his long-term defensive home.
    As a sweet-swinging, run-producing lefty whose fielding chops at first can contribute to a sterling overall reputation, Anthony Rizzo stands out as a decent high-end comp for Kirilloff. He never was never named Most Valuable Player, but in his age 24-through-26 seasons (which are the three lying directly ahead of Kirilloff), Rizzo was a three-time All-Star, and twice a top-five MVP finisher. In the last of those three seasons, Rizzo was among the leaders on a championship-winning Cubs team. 
    #4: Royce Lewis makes an immediate and sustained impact
    The expectation for Lewis should be a slow, methodical return to action, with some rough patches as he regains his footing on the field. By the time spring training rolls around next year, he'll be two years removed from last real competitive baseball action. Most players would need some time to shake off the rust. 
    Of course, Royce Lewis is not most players. He's a former No. 1 overall draft pick who was ranked by MLB.com as the 17th-best prospect in the game before losing his 2020 to a pandemic and his 2021 to a torn ACL. Sometimes natural talent rules out, as we saw with the aforementioned Mr. Kirilloff, who came back after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery and slashed .348/.392/.578 at Single-A.
    The idea that Lewis will hit the ground sprinting upon his return feels a bit more far-fetched, given that he had some mechanical issues to iron out even before the injury. At the same time, he hasn't been sitting around doing nothing over the past two years, and he's also had the opportunity to mature mentally and physically. Lewis turns 23 next season, so he'll be the same age or older than fellow top prospects like Kirilloff and Byron Buxton were when they debuted. 
    Lewis' defensive utility makes him a very intriguing figure in the team's planning. He's played primarily shortstop in the minors but some believe he's more likely to end up in center field. Those happen to be perhaps the two biggest positional uncertainties in Minnesota's future outlook (assuming Buxton is not re-signed).
    If the Twins operate under the belief that Lewis could viably take over at shortstop midway through the 2022 campaign, they can opt for a cheap short-term plug at the position this offseason and channel the brunt of their resources elsewhere. This may require a leap of faith, but Lewis is a guy who warrants it. And if he can stick at short (or even in center), he can be a game-changing factor for the franchise. 
    Just as they planned when they drafted him in 2017.
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  7. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Most Improved   
    But before we get to Polanco, let's discuss those athletes who finished just short.
    HONORABLE MENTIONS
    Byron Buxton, CF: 61 G, .306/.358/.647, 23 2B, 19 HR, 9 SB, 4.2 fWAR, 169 wRC+
    Jorge Alcala, RHP: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA, 61 K, 14 BB, 10 HR allowed, 90 ERA-

    Byron Buxton would have undoubtedly landed in the top spot on this list had he stayed healthy, but even still, one could argue that he should have placed in the top three. (Full discloser: Buxton received my top vote.) 

    No one in the history of the Minnesota Twins has ever performed better overall than Buxton did throughout his 61 games. His 4.2 fWAR and 169 wRC+ led the team by a significant margin, with only Jorge Polanco's and arguably Mitch Garver's advanced metrics able to hold a candle to what he put forth (*hint hint*). 

    Alcala, on the other hand, finished the season strongly after getting off to a slow start. He allowed only eight earned runs in 25 innings following the All-Star break while striking out 30 and walking five. His performance in September and October was particularly encouraging as he surrendered only a single run and struck out 15 of the 44 batters he faced.

    Had his first half of the season not been a relative stinker (4.67 ERA, 3.9 K:BB ratio), he maybe would have squeezed into the top three.
    Show: Caleb Thielbar, LHP
    64 IP, 3.23 ERA, 77 K, 21 BB, 8 HR allowed, 75 ERA-, 0.9 fWAR

    It would be difficult to find a better story among the 2021 Twins roster than that of Caleb Thielbar. An 18th-round pick out of South Dakota State in the 2009 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, Thielbar posted career-highs in virtually every statistical category en route to putting together the best season of his career at age 34.



    Thielbar was arguably the team's top performer overall out of the pen, placing third in ERA- (Tyler Duffey, 73; Juan Minaya, 57) and second in fWAR (Taylor Rogers, 1.6) among the relievers who threw at least 40 innings. He was able to accomplish the feats due in large part to possessing one of the best fastball-slider combinations in the game.

    While he is arguably more well-known for his borderline-eephus curveball, which sits in the upper-60s, Thielbar's fastball and slider accounted for most of his outs this past summer. The four-seam fastball has always been his most utilized pitch — it accounted for 49% of the offerings to batters in 2021 — Thielbar more than doubled the use of his slider compared to 2020 while cutting his curveball usage nearly in half, according to Baseball Savant.


    Opposing batters could not figure out his slider as they slugged a meager .296 and struck out 19 times. It registered an average of 14.4 inches of horizontal break in 2021, which was a whopping 5.4 inches above average.
    Similarly, they couldn't touch his fastball with regularity despite it sitting in the low-90s. Thielbar's heater was worth a Run Value of -12, meaning it theoretically allowed 12 fewer runs over the course of the season compared to an average fastball.
    Thielbar's 2021 performance showed that his 2020 season wasn't a fluke and cemented himself a prominent role during 2022.
    Runner-Up: Mitch Garver, C
    68 G, .256/.358/.517, 15 2B, 13 HR, 2.1 fWAR, 137 wRC+

    2021 Mitch Garver was a facsimile of 2019 Mitch Garver, which should be encouraging to Twins fans; the only blemish on his otherwise great season was a plethora of injuries that limited him to only 68 games. The reason for Garver's turnaround from a disastrous 2020 that saw him slash .167/.247/.264 in 23 games? He remembered how to hit fastballs. 



    Not only did Garver hit fastballs in 2021, he destroyed them to the tune of a .688 slugging percentage with 10 home runs and 10 doubles. These numbers approximate his .829, 25, and 12 rates from the juiced-ball 2019 season, re-establishing him as one of the most powerful catchers in MLB
    Garver will likely enter the 2022 season as the team's primary catcher and will once again split time with Ryan Jeffers, barring an offseason trade. There's little reason to doubt that he can't put forth a similarly strong season if he can remain healthy, and doing so would make the Twins' offense that much scarier. 
    Winner: Jorge Polanco, 2B
    152 G, .269/.323/.503, 35 2B, 33 HR, 11 SB, 3.9 fWAR, 122 wRC+

    Jorge Polanco was the Twins' best player, and he put together arguably his best season one year after ankle injuries debilitated him to the degree that many wondered if he'd be long for the team. 

    Polanco became the first Twins' second baseman not named Brian Dozier to eclipse the 30 homer mark in a season, and his 35 doubles were the most on the team by nearly double-digits; Josh Donaldson's 26 came in second.



    His numbers would have looked even better had he not hit .237 with a near 7:1 K:BB ratio during the final month of the season. 

    Polanco's meteoric rise from light-hitting albeit promising prospect to an All-Star-caliber, 30-home run middle infielder has been a joyous surprise to watch. His 2021 season reinvigorated his status in the fans' minds and likely the front office as well, as he figures to again be a staple of the Twins' lineup for years to come.

    Others receiving votes: Rob Refsnyder, Juan Minaya, Danny Coulombe, Miguel Sano, Nick Gordon, Taylor Rogers, Bailey Ober
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  8. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2021 Awards: Rookie of the Year   
    JUDGE: It is my understanding that six different parties would like to have their petitions heard before us. Is that correct? 
    COLLECTIVE MURMURING: Yah
    JUDGE [fidgeting with reading glasses]: Okay, first name I have here is ... Ryan Jeffers, catcher.
    [JEFFERS REP APPROACHES THE PODIUM, SHUFFLES PAPERS]
    JEFFERS REP: Ahem. Your Honor. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Good evening. My client Ryan Jeffers might have won this award last year, but dang it folks he deserves it once again. He still technically qualified as a rookie and he was a very reliable one, starting nearly half the team's games at catcher and putting up some very strong defensive metrics! Jeffers was also an offensive force, launching 13 home runs ...
    OPPOSING COUNCIL: Objection, Your Honor! [Glances at data sheet] Jeffers batted .199 with a .270 on-base percentage, negating much of the value from his power. 
    JEFFERS REP: Ah, be that as it may ...
    OPPOSING COUNCIL [heightening intensity]: Furthermore, Your Honor, Jeffers struck out at the highest rate on the team and his OPS+ of 83 shows he was in fact substantially below-average as an offensive producer. 
    JUDGE [banging gavel]: I've heard enough! Thank you Mr. Jeffers, but you've had your day in this spotlight, you may move along. Who's next?
    [LARNACH'S REP LOOKS UP FROM FILES, SLOWLY STEPS TO PODIUM AND BEGINS SPEAKING]
    LARNACH REP: Production speaks for itself folks. And my client, Trevor Larnach, is a producer, despite his lack of experience. He came up far earlier than expected and proved he's a major-league player. In his first 50 games with the Twins, Mr. Larnach batted .261 with a .361 on-base percentage and .445 slugging. By this time his advanced and mature approach at the plate was earning him regular appearances at the No. 3 spot in the batting order. A remarkable rookie effort without question, and as such, I rest my case.
    JUDGE [peering skeptically]: Mm-hm. And as for the period following this 50-game sample?
    LARNACH REP: Come again, Your Honor?
    JUDGE: Your case seemed to conspicuously exclude any results beyond July the 7th, when your client hit his last home run. I'm just wondering what happened afterward.
    LARNACH REP: ... Afterward? Well [chuckles nervously]
    OPPOSING COUNCIL: If I may, Your Honor, I have the numbers here. [Starts reading] Following the date of July 7th: 29 games, a .156 batting average and .188 slugging percentage, with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks. This stretch lowered Mr. Larnach's overall OPS to a decidedly sub par .672, prompting a demotion to Triple-A in mid-August. 
    JUDGE [considers briefly]: Mmm, yes. A promising showing in some regards but not the stuff Rookies of the Year are made of. Thank you, Mr. Larnach, you may depart. [Glances at agenda] It sounds as if a Mr. Ryan would like to be heard?
    [SILENCE]
    JUDGE [gazes around room, looks back at list]: A Mister ... Joe Ryan?
    [INCREASINGLY AWKWARD SILENCE]
    JUDGE [taps finger impatiently]: Well, if Mr. Ryan's case is not ready ...
    [RYAN'S REP BURSTS THROUGH DOOR, SHIRT HALF-TUCKED AND TIE HANGING LOOSELY ASTRAY]
    RYAN REP: Your Honor! Fine people of the jury! How are you all doing. Listen, I know I'm a little late, and that's true of my client as well. Let's get down to brass tacks. Was Joe Ryan a member of the Twins organization in March? No he wasn't. Was he here in June? He was not folks! Was Mr. Ryan in the big leagues in August, even? [Locks eyes with random elderly woman in jury] Was he Doris? Was he??
    [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY SHAKES HEAD]
    RYAN REP: He wasn't! My client did not receive an opportunity in the majors until the month of September! But that's only because he was busy representing our wonderful country in the world's greatest international competition, the Olympics. And you know what? He kicked some ass. For America! Do you love America or don't you, Doris??
    [ELDERLY WOMAN SLOWLY NODS]
    RYAN REP: Then all he did was come back, acclimate instantly to a new organization, debut with amazing poise, flirt with a perfect game in his second MLB start, strike out seven straight men in his fourth, and altogether rack up six times as many walks as strikeouts. That fastball is something, ain't it!
    [SPORADIC APPLAUSE RISES FROM COURTROOM]
    JUDGE [bangs gavel]: Order, ORDER! You said your client made how many major-league starts this year?
    RYAN REP: I didn't, Your Honor, but thanks for inquiring!
    OPPOSING COUNCIL: Five starts, Your Honor. Twenty-six total innings. 
    JUDGE: Too little volume for legitimate consideration I'm afraid, Mr. Ryan. But please, try again next year. Who do we have next?
    [GORDON REP STANDS, CLEARS THROAT]
    GORDON REP: What is a Rookie of the Year, really? Is it the player who has the best stats? The guy with the gaudy heralded status who brings all the buzz? Is this award made for the silver spoon prospect who's been on cruise control through the minors and into majors? Or are we trying to recognize the underdog who overcame the odds and silenced the doubters? The kid who went through hell and was written off, only to re-emerge as a legitimate factor in the team's plans. My client, Nick Gordon, did everything that was asked of him, even learning entirely new positions on the fly. He sat silently while less deserving players got opportunities. He fought and clawed his way to at-bats and increasingly made the most of them, posting a .752 OPS in September while earning the team's confidence at shortstop. He brought speed and athleticism to a team that was sorely lacking in both, stealing 10 bases on 11 tries. If that's not a Rookie of the Year, well I don't know what is.
    JUDGE [leans back in chair pensively]: You make a good argument, and recent trends work in your favor. The young man certainly looked more impressive as time passed. However, it is this court's duty to look at the full body of evidence and so we cannot ignore that a .647 overall OPS is rather lackluster. And while Mr. Gordon's versatility is noted, it doesn't seem clear to me that he truly excelled at any of these positions. I'm afraid that this worthy candidate cannot be our choice. Thus it comes down to the final two. 
    [KIRILLOFF REP PACES BACK AND FORTH FOR A WHILE, FINALLY WALKS TO PODIUM, SETS STACK OF NOTES FACE-DOWN]
    KIRILLOFF REP: May I ask you a question, Your Honor?
    JUDGE [impatiently]: You may not. On with it, please.
    KIRILLOFF REP: Oh. Fine then. Well if I WERE to ask you a question I'd inquire about how well you could bang your little gavel there with a torn tendon in your wrist, and I bet the answer would be, not very well! My client, Alex Kirilloff, carried enormous expectations as the team's No. 1 prospect and he was sure making good on them before this whole wrist thing came along and threw a wrench. Prior to that he was launching missiles all over the field and lighting up the Statcast charts. Mr. Kirilloff slugged .500 in his first 18 MLB games and that's WITH an 0-for-14 start to his career! He looked good in left, and like an absolute natural at first base. Even while hampered by the wrist injury, he posted an OPS+ of 99 overall, meaning he was basically a league-average MLB hitter at age 23 despite no real experience at Triple-A. Pretty good, right?
    JUDGE: Pretty good indeed. There's a lot to like here. I just wonder about the lack of total volume combined with numbers that can only be described as ordinary. Fifty-nine games and an average OPS? What's special about this season? I'd like to hear the final case.
    [OBER'S REP STRIDES UP CONFIDENTLY]
    OBER REP: Good day Your Honor. And to all of you in the jury as well. What we have here is really an open-and-shut case. While many of the previous candidates we've heard from showed positive signs and offered heartwarming stories this year, could any of their seasons really be described as 'good'? Let's be honest with ourselves. The data is clear on this matter.
    [PULLS UP A POWERPOINT THAT SIMPLY LISTS TWINS ROOKIES AND THEIR WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT FOR 2022]
    OBER REP: As we can see, according to the website FanGraphs.com, my client Bailey Ober was worth one full win above a replacement player this year, a mark that no other rookie came close to matching. After stepping into a needy rotation in early June, he took the ball every fifth day, becoming a stable and steadfast presence in a unit that otherwise lacked for one entirely. Mr. Ober's 5.05 K/BB ratio was one of the best in major-league history for a first-year starter. All this from a former 12th-round pick who wasn't on the prospect radar prior to this season. Whether you want to talk about situational impact, inspirational narrative, long-term implications, or simply pure performance, my client is the obvious choice for best Twins rookie. Thank you.
    JUDGE [deliberates briefly]: I don't think we're even going to need to send this one to the jury. I agree with the ultimately conclusion that Mr. Ober is a clear choice for this award. Congratulations sir on this well deserved honor. This court is now adjourned ... We'll see you all tomorrow when we convene to settle upon a Most Improved Twin of 2021.
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  9. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Grading Rocco Baldelli’s First Losing Season   
    MLB managers have a direct impact on the game, from line-up construction to in-game decisions. However, a good manager can lose a lot of games if the talent on the field doesn’t perform. Players and the front office that compiles the roster have a more significant impact than the manager, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to point out about Rocco Baldelli this season. 

    The Good
    The team didn’t quit, which would have been easy to do following a trade deadline where the team sold away veteran players. For most of the second half, the Twins rotation was composed of unproven players that weren’t expected to impact the 2021 big-league roster. Things didn’t go perfectly, but the team certainly didn’t fall apart. 

    Minnesota went 29-28 (.509) following the trade deadline, which included going 8-4 to end the season and avoid 90-losses. There was little to play for in the season’s final months, but that’s when the Twins were playing their best baseball. If Baldelli gets some of the blame for the team’s early-season struggles, he should also get credit for the club not completely falling off the rails. 

    The Bad
    Minnesota had a chance to have an incredible, feel-good story, but Baldelli didn’t put a player into the game. Drew Maggi was a 32-year old rookie having a career year at Triple-A. Minnesota called him up for a weekend series in Toronto and had him talk to the media before the game about being in the big leagues. Unfortunately, Baldelli never put him in a game. 

    There were opportunities with Jake Cave, Rob Refsnyder, and Willians Astudillo all getting starts in the series. Even giving him a late-inning at-bat would have been enough. Instead, the Twins demoted him following the weekend series, and the team never recalled him. Minnesota was a bad team going nowhere in 2021, and Maggi should have gotten the opportunity to appear in a game. 

    The Ugly
    There were a lot of ugly moments throughout the 2021 season, especially with expectations being so high entering the year. This year’s Twins were one of the most disappointing teams in franchise history, but how much of that falls on the manager. In April, the Twins dug a hole that was impossible to get out of with Alex Colome blowing multiple late-inning leads. It’s easy to point at the manager and say he left Colome in too long or stuck with Colome too far into the season. 

    Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ pitched poorly and were allowed to continue starting games well into the season. Andrelton Simmons had a terrible offensive season, but he started at shortstop until the season’s final games. Some of these decisions came from the front office, and some rested squarely on Baldelli’s shoulders. 

    Final Grade
    After the season’s first month, many fans would have given Baldelli an F grade. June and July were also tough as the team was eight games under .500 in those two months. In the end, baseball has a long season, and Baldelli was able to redeem himself in the final months. The team didn’t quit, and they helped to earn the manager a C-. 

    What grade would you give Baldelli? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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  10. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, 3 Things Learned About the Twins' Farm System in 2021   
    1. Pitching Depth is the Strength... 
    For years, the Twins were known for producing soft-tossing pitchers and preaching a pitch-to-contact approach. However, if one needs an example to display that is no longer the case, it would be challenging to produce a more blatant example than the 2021 season.

    Partially due to the natural evolution of the game as well as the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime's propensity to select hard-throwing high schoolers and college arms with solid reputations, the Twins farm system is currently replete with pitching talent.

    Jhoan Duran and Chase Petty are among those who sit in the upper 90s and touch 100 mph with regularity. Sawyer Gipson-Long, Matt Canterino, and Louie Varland all boasted K% north of 30%. There's so much talent in the system that top prospects Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Simeon Woods Richardson couldn't even be bothered to pop up until the fifth paragraph of this article!

    And the talent doesn't stop at the backend of the starting rotation. While Jovani Moran and his 42% strikeout rate earned a promotion to the big league club by the end of the season, he was only one of a handful of genuine bullpen arms that excelled over the summer.

    Zach Featherstone, Jordan Gore, Osiris German, Aaron Rozek, Yennier Cano, and Denny Bentley put up huge strikeout numbers across various levels, and all boasted ERAs below 3.40. Ian Hamilton, a former top prospect in the White Sox system, put together a strong season at Triple-A, and it could be argued that he deserved a call-up at multiple points this season.

    In short, this is no longer your Dad's Twins farm system. Their approach to acquiring and developing pitching is night and day from 5-10 years ago. In short order, the team will be reaping the benefits of what they sowed, whether by advancing critical pieces to the majors or by swapping prospects for MLB-ready talent.
    2. …, However, Offensive Depth is Lacking
    It's well known at this point that infield prospect Jose Miranda had one of the best seasons in all of MiLB this past summer. The 23-year-old slashed .344/.401/.572 to go along with 30 home runs, 32 doubles, and a 158 wRC+ across Double- and Triple-A en route to garnering numerous awards.

    Besides Miranda, who could play a prominent role on the Twins as early as next spring, the system lacks definite MLB-caliber offensive talent, particularly up the middle. Top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin possess the raw talent to succeed at the MLB level for years to come. However, Lewis has not played organized baseball for nearly two years due to COVID and injury, and neither are guaranteed to stick at shortstop. (In fact, Martin played the majority of his innings in centerfield after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade.)

    Utility guy Edouard Julien put together arguably the most potent offensive season besides Miranda — he posted a 154 wRC+ due largely to his absurd 21.4% walk rate. He also showed more pop (18 home runs, 28 doubles) and base stealing ability (34 in 39 attempts) at Low- and High-A than he did while at Auburn University. However, he lacks a true defensive home, having appeared all over the diamond this past summer, though he is most robust at second base.

    Beyond the two, the Twins top offensive performers, according to FanGraphs, were a who’s-who of borderline top 30 prospects and minor league veterans. 



    Luckily for the Twins, the majority of their offense at the big league level comprises established athletes who are under contract, so the need for prospects to reach the majors next summer is at a minimum. However, beyond the summer of 2022, the lack of offensive depth in the system may begin to rear its head unless key pieces are retained or a few of the borderline prospects breakout. 
    3. Watching Minor League Ball was a Good Distraction
    Perhaps distraction isn't the correct term here. The Twins were terrible this year and, at many points, virtually unwatchable. But their minor league teams all performed well this year and served as an excellent alternative for the baseball hungry. 

    There are many issues with minor league baseball — the players are poorly compensated, the life is a grind, the production value of non-Twins streams was often pretty bad, etc. — but baseball is baseball at the end of the day. Few teams across MLB put forth a better minor league product than the Twins, which made the summer much more enjoyable.
     
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  11. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Looking Back at Michael Pineda’s Twins Tenure   
    Leading into the 2018 season, the Twins took a unique approach to add to the starting rotation. Michael Pineda was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he didn't appear in a game for the club that season. Minnesota was showing faith in Pineda, and he rewarded that faith during his Twins tenure. 

    There are usually struggles in a player’s first season back from Tommy John surgery, but Pineda slid into the Twins rotation and posted a 113 ERA+. His 4.01 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in a heightened offensive atmosphere helped the Twins clinch the AL Central for the first time since 2010.

    Unfortunately, Pineda wasn’t able to help the Twins in October. He was handed an 80-game suspension in early September for taking a banned diuretic. The suspension was later reduced to 60 games after he and his representation argued that he was using it to control his weight, not as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. It was still a blow to the Twins as the team started rookie Randy Dobnak in the ALDS Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. 

    Entering that off-season, Pineda was a free agent, and his Twins tenure could have ended at that point. However, Minnesota showed confidence in him and his abilities by signing him to another two-year deal. He missed the start of the 2020 campaign, but the team thought they’d have him to upgrade the rotation before the All-Star Break. 

    The 2020 season didn’t start like anyone planned, which meant Pineda couldn’t debut until the season’s final month. He made five starts and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each appearance. Pineda didn’t have a chance to make an October start, but he ended the year with a 3.38 ERA and a 25 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio in 26 2/3 innings. His performance gave hope that he could help the Twins contend again in 2021. 

    Things haven’t gone perfectly for Pineda in 2021, as he missed six weeks on the injured list with an oblique strain and forearm inflammation. When on the mound, he provided value with 117 ERA+. He made 53 appearances with the Twins and held opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 83% of those outings. His strikeout per nine is lower than his career total, but he has also reduced his walk rate.   
    His steadying presence is something the organization might need moving forward. Looking to 2022, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan are the only starters penciled into the starting rotation. Pineda is a veteran that can add depth to a rotation even if he isn’t a high-end starter that can push the Twins back into contention. 

    “He’s been about as important of a member of this group over the last three years as anyone,” Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “He’s been a constant, his performance has been a constant, his leadership has been a constant, and his personality, too, which matters.”
    Pineda isn’t an ace, but the Twins need pitching depth, and he is a known quantity. He’s made it clear that he wants to stay in Minnesota, but the two sides will need to work out a fair deal for each sides.

    Do you think Pineda has made his last start in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
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  12. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Basking in Buxton’s Season   
    Yes, it’s been very abbreviated. Buxton has dealt with a handful of injuries as he has throughout his career, but he’s carried on with a talent that’s truly unmatched. Contributing 3.8 fWAR through just 58 games, he’s nearly chased down team leader Jorge Polanco (4.1 fWAR), who has played 150 games. There have been several highlight-reel plays, and plenty of statistics have been thrown out to quantify his value.
    Rather than take the time to sell you on another reason why Minnesota needs to take advantage of their opportunity to get a superstar player at a discount, I think it’s worth just sitting back and allowing the body of work this season to do the talking.
     
    There's any number of highlights you could choose to induce a jaw-dropping reaction, but none of this is new. The Twins star has been doing this for years now, and while we still await a full season worth of health, there's no denying that watching him produce like this for someone else will hurt. The Minnesota Twins drafted, developed, and have enjoyed their man. It's time to pay him and make sure he's here for a long time to come.
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  13. Like
    DocBauer reacted to David Youngs for an article, Twins Daily 2021 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year: Louie Varland   
    Louie Varland spent his childhood on the dirt of ballfields across the northeast sector of the Twin Cities. The Maplewood native turned his successful tenure at North St. Paul High School into an even better pitching career at Concordia-St. Paul. After that? A 15th round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft by his hometown Minnesota Twins. 
    And after a sprinkle of 2019 games in rookie ball and just one full season of pro ball, Varland has distinguished himself as one of the most prolific pitchers in the entire Twins organization. For that, he's been voted as our 2021 Starting Pitcher of the Month.
    Varland started the 2021 season with Low-A Fort Myers where he posted a 4-2 record and 2.09 ERA in ten appearances (eight starts). In that span he struck out 76 men and opposing batters hit a meager .208 against Varland. Those numbers earned him a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids, just four hours from home. With his family able to finally attend games, Varland did not disappoint, going 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA in ten starts with the Kernels. While he didn't post as many strikeouts as he did in Fort Myers, Varland was more efficient, posting a stellar 0.99 WHIP and only 14 walks while holding opponents to just a .202 batting average. 
    Varland joined a talented Cedar Rapids rotation of Ben Gross and company upon being called up. That rotation was amplified towards the end of the season with Sawyer Gipson-Long, Cody Lawyerson, and Casey Legumina joining the rotation. Yet despite the addition of talented arms, Varland was the clear choice to start Game 1 of the High-A Central Championship Series against Quad Cities. Following a career-high 11 strikeout performance against Peoria on September 16, Varland dazzled in his postseason debut, tossing seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball while striking out four and walking one en route to a 2-1 Cedar Rapids victory. 
    There's no doubt that Varland's 2021 stat line makes him a clear-cut selection for this award. A 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA is pretty darn great at any level. For a pitcher to tally those numbers in his first full season?
    Unbelievable. 
    Prior to this season Varland only had three professional baseball appearances, all with the Elizabethton Twins in 2019. Varland only started one of those games and compiled a slim 8 2/3 innings in that three game span. With the 2020 minor league season scrapped due to COVID-19, it's truly incredible that Varland was able to trailblaze such an incredible 2021 season. Congrats, Louie!
     
    THE TOP SIX
    Varland wasn't the only pitcher in the Twins' farm system to have a standout season. In addition to Varland, these five pitchers round out the top six starting pitchers in 2021 per the Twins Daily Minor League staff.
    1. RHP Louie Varland, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (18 GS, 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 103 IP, 82 H, 24 ER,  30 BB, 142 K)
    Check out Seth Stohs' interview with Louie prior to his electric season and other Twins Daily content on Varland!
    St Paul to Stardom: Louie Varland is the Real Deal Twins Prospect Varland Won't Stop at Pretty Good 2. RHP Cole Sands, Wichita (18 GS, 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 59 H, 22 ER, 35 BB, 96 K)
    Despite loads of movement in the organization, Cole Sands was an absolute workhorse for the Wind Surge all season. While many of his starts did not surpass five innings, it wasn't because of poor performance. Sands was as efficient as could be, holding opposing hitters to a .203 average on the year and touting seven scoreless starts. Ironically enough, one of Sands' two losses came on August 14 against Tulsa in a start where he recorded a season-high ten strikeouts. 
     
    3. RHP Jordan Balazovic, Wichita (20 GS, 5-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97 IP, 98 H, 39 ER, 38 BB, 102 K)
    Arguably the most notable pitching prospect in the organization, Jordan Balazovic had a season full of ups and downs. When he's on, the 2016 5th round pick is unstoppable with his blazing fastball and deceptive off-speed pitches. We saw that on July 15th when the Ontario-native lit up the Tulsa Drillers with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball.
    On the flipside, Balazovic has struggled with control, command, and pitch selection at times leading to a few bad outings that have deflated his stat line. It's clear that the talent is there, Balazovic will continue to hone in on consistency as he reflects on his first season of Double-A ball. 
    4. RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (19 GS, 8-8, 4.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 97 IP, 99 H, 49 ER, 27 BB, 137 K)
    After a rocky month of May with Fort Myers, Sawyer Gipson-Long flipped a switch and was rock-solid through the summer, posting a combined 2.76 ERA in June, July, and August. 
    That stellar summer in the Sunshine State earned Gipson-Long a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids on August 9th. Gipson-Long has qualities that resemble both Balazovic and Varland. Similar to Balazovic, Gipson-Long had some incredible outings this season but also saw a few outings get out of hand. Like Varland, Gipson-Long was drafted in 2019 out of Mercer and had just a few opportunities to get his feet wet in pro ball that year. After his first full-season of pro ball, Gipson-Long should be happy with his quality performance. Yet like any other young pitcher, experience and innings on the mound will help garner the young pitcher's consistency. 
    5. RHP Josh Winder, Wichita/St. Paul (14 GS, 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 72 IP, 55 H, 21 ER, 13 BB, 80 K)
    If it were not for injuries and bad luck, there's a good chance that Josh Winder would be higher on this list. After an amazing two months in Wichita, Winder was promoted to Triple-A St. Paul on June 28th. Winder dazzled in his first start with the Saints, throwing 5 2/3 innings of eight-strikeout ball while giving up one run. With all the momentum stacked his way, Winder was struck by a line drive in his next outing that removed him from the game. Two starts later, he was placed on the 7-Day IL for a shoulder injury and has not pitched since. 
    It's likely that the Twins are taking the safe route when it comes to Winder's rehab. And why shouldn't they? The 2018 draft pick has been impressive each season since signing and will only continue to improve. If Winder continues his progress once healthy it wouldn't be shocking to see him at Target Field at some point next season. 
    6. RHP Ben Gross, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (17 GS, 5-4, 4.06 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 95.1 IP, 99 H, 43 ER, 32 BB, 122 K)
    Ben Gross closes out a talented crop of 2019 draft picks on this list. Gross was the heart and soul of the Kernels rotation prior to his late-summer promotion to Wichita. The 10th round pick has shown versatility on the mound with his pitch arsenal but also through how he retires hitters. Most of Gross' starts feature 4-8 strikeouts and a plethora of groundouts and pop flies. However, the 24-year-old diced on August 11th against Peoria when he struck out a career-high 13 batters. 
    While there's certainly work to be done, Gross has shown that he can be a consistent starter day in and day out. If things continue the way they are, he'll have the opportunity to showcase that consistency at a higher level.
    HONORABLE MENTION
    RHP Tyler Beck, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (13 GS, 3-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 84 IP, 64 H, 28 ER, 30 BB, 91 K)
    LHP Charlie Barnes, St. Paul (16 GS, 6-4, 3.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 76 IP, 73 H, 32 ER, 24 BB, 62 K)
    LHP Andrew Albers, St. Paul (16 GS, 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 96 IP, 113 H, 40 ER, 11 BB, 85 K)
    RHP Austin Schulfer, Wichita (24 GS, 6-8, 4.34 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 110 IP, 109 H, 53 ER, 49 BB, 105 K)
    LHP Kody Funderburk, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (10 GS, 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 67 IP, 46 H, 19 ER, 28 BB, 82 K)
    RHP Sean Mooney, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (12 GS, 0-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 42 IP, 22 H, 13 ER, 23 BB, 71 K)
    Previous Starting Pitcher of the Year Winners:
    2019 winner- Randy Dobnak
    2018 winner - Tyler Wells
    2017 winner - Stephen Gonsalves
    2016 winner - Stephen Gonsalves
    2015 winner - Jose Berrios
    2014 winner - Jose Berrios
    2013 winner - Taylor Rogers
    2012 winner - BJ Hermsen
    Congrats to all those mentioned! Comment your thoughts below!
     
     
     
  14. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nash Walker for an article, Twins Daily 2021 Minor League Hitter of the Year: Jose Miranda   
    It’s not wise to overreact to a robust 15 games in the Puerto Rican Winter League, especially for a Minor Leaguer who hit just .252/.302/.369 in the prior season. For Jose Miranda, though, it was a glimpse into the future. His strong showing for Caguas was no mirage: he was improving. 
    Miranda always possessed an elite ability to make contact, evidenced by his solid batting averages and low strikeout rates throughout his first handful of years in the minors. That’s why his power surge is so exciting.
    Starting the year with Wichita at Double-A, Miranda came out firing. He began the season going 13-for-32 (.406) with a double and three homers and never looked back. Miranda’s last 20 games before his promotion were outstanding. He hit .386 with a 1.085 OPS with seven homers and two doubles. 
    Miranda’s ultimate statement came on June 29th in his debut for the Saints. He hit three homers, drove in six runs, and added a double in one of the best Triple-A unveilings you’ll ever see. Miranda proved that his great stretch in Wichita was no mirage.
    Miranda’s 153 wRC+ at Triple-A is the third-highest for a Twin since 2006 (min. 300 plate appearances). His 162 wRC+ at Double-A is tied for the third-best in that span. 

    Miranda added patience to his profile while still maintaining a strikeout rate below 13%. He’s walking more, hitting for elite power, and spraying the ball all over the field. There are very few flaws to point out in his 2021 campaign. 
    The 23-year-old leads the minors with 292 total bases, 176 hits, and 568 plate appearances. He’s started 48 games at third base, 29 at second base, 26 at first base, and 12 at Designated Hitter. He offers the infield versatility that the Twins value. 
    So what does the future hold? Well, it’s interesting. While Miranda seemingly has nothing left to prove in the minors, there’s a log jam on the Twins’ roster. Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sanó (option) are both under contract at the corners until 2023. Alex Kirilloff impressed in his debut at first base, and Jorge Polanco had an MVP-level season at second. If that’s not enough, Luis Arraez needs a spot too.
    These things tend to work themselves out, so for now, let’s appreciate this incredible season from Jose Miranda. His future looks bright and offers hope that more contact-oriented prospects (like Austin Martin) can develop power in this system. 
    While the Twins struggled to win games throughout the 2021 season, many fans found hope in the minors, especially in Jose Miranda. 
    Congratulations, Jose!
    Below are the Top 8 Twins Minor League Hitters in 2021 (according to our 10-person, Twins Daily minor league writing staff) as well as others who received votes. If you click on their names, you will be directed to the search results for that player and find several other articles they are tagged in. 
    TOP 8:
    1. IF Jose Miranda - (.342/.400/.568 with 29 doubles, 29 homers at AA/AAA)
    T-2. 1B/OF Trey Cabbage - (.264/.346/.535 with 20 doubles, 27 homers at High-A/AA)
    Cabbage blasted 27 homers in 108 games and finished his season with a .535 slugging percentage. He posted an OPS over .880 for both Cedar Rapids and Wichita. 
    T-2. IF Edouard Julien - (.266/.434/.480 with 28 doubles, 18 homers at Low-A/High-A)
    Julien stole 34 of 39 bases, hit 18 homers and walked 110 times in a breakout season. Julien mashed for Fort Myers before hitting .247/.397/.494 in Cedar Rapids. 
    4. IF Spencer Steer - (.254/.348/.484 with 18 doubles, 24 homers at High-A/AA)
    Steer found his power in 2021, stroking 24 homers across two levels. Steer posted a .915 OPS at Cedar Rapids and hit 14 homers for Wichita. 
    5. OF Mark Contreras - (.253/.341/.488 with 29 doubles, 19 homers at AA/AAA) 
    Contreras is quietly hitting .253/.341/.488 and improved after a promotion to St. Paul. It was his best season as a Minor Leaguer. 
    6. OF BJ Boyd - (.294/.352/.491 with 15 doubles, 16 homers at AA/AAA)
    Boyd posted a .923 OPS in Wichita and earned a late season promotion to Triple-A. Boyd hadn't played professional baseball since 2018 but impressed in his return. 
    7. OF Jimmy Kerrigan - (.265/.336/.487 with 16 doubles, 19 homers at AA/AAA) 
    Kerrigan is a steady force for the Saints, hitting .265/.336/.487 in over 100 games. Kerrigan has tallied 169 total bases, the most in his career. 

    8. OF Brent Rooker - (.245/.367/.564 with 8 doubles, 20 homers at AAA)
    Rooker destroyed at Triple-A before another promotion to Minnesota, where he's working himself into a 2022 role. "Rook" hit 20 homers in 62 games for the Saints.
    OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
    OF Gilberto Celestino - (.280/.379/.431, 7 HR, 16 2B at AA/AAA)
    OF Matt Wallner - (.264/.350/.508, 15 HR, 14 2B, 2 3B at A+) 
    IF/OF Drew Maggi - (.255/.358/.470, 16 HR, 13 2B, 2 3B at AAA)
    IF Yunior Severino - (.273/.372/.430, 8 HR, 29 2B, 2 3B at A/A+)
    IF/OF Michael Helman - (.246/.336/.462, 19 HR, 21 2B, 4 3B at A+)
    SS Jermaine Palacios - (.259/.340/.439, 19 HR, 17 2B at AA)
    C/1B Alex Isola - (.243/.342/.425, 17 HR, 15 2B at A+)
    C/OF Jeferson Morales - (.255/.370/.438, 12 HR, 24 2B at A/A+)
    C/1B Tomás Telís - (.292/.336/.411, 11 HR, 11 2B, 2 3B at AAA)
    1B/3B Andrew Bechtold - (.239/.328/.459, 18 HR, 23 2B at AA)
    OF Ernie de La Trinidad - (.266/.344/.415, 9 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B at AA)
    PREVIOUS WINNERS:
    2012 - Oswaldo Arcia
    2013 - Miguel Sano
    2014 - Mitch Garver
    2015 - Max Kepler
    2016 - Daniel Palka
    2017 - Mitch Garver
    2018 - Alex Kirilloff
    2019 - Trevor Larnach
  15. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Game Score: Blue Jays 6, Twins 1   
    Box Score
    John Gant: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
    Home Runs: None
    Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon -.175, Kyle Barraclough -.114, Luke Farrell -.079
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

    As has been the case more times than not this season, the Twins simply didn’t have the juice Saturday evening. 

    John Gant took to the mound approximately an hour after the game was scheduled to begin — more on that in a second — and relatively breezed through the opening frame. However, the second didn’t go as smoothly.

    Teoscar Hernandez wedged his 31st home run of the season in the ivy that coats the batter’s eye in centerfield to give the Jays a 1-0 lead. A couple of hits and a bobbled ball in rightfield later, Toronto extended their lead to 2-0, which ultimately proved enough to take down the Twins.

    Minnesota’s offense was anemic all evening, mustering a meager three hits, only one of which — a Josh Donaldson double — went for extra bases. 

    However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Twins. Jovani Moran produced his best big league outing, throwing 19 pitches — 15 for strikes — and punching out four. Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco picked up stolen bases, while Mitch Garver just missed launching his 14th home run, settling for a long sacrifice fly instead.

    That’s about where the positives end, though. Minnesota has seven games remaining on their schedule and they’ll have to win at least four to avoid a 90-loss season.

    The Twins will conclude their series against the Blue Jays on Sunday as Griffin Jax (3-4, 6.75 ERA) and Alek Manoah (7-2, 3.36 ERA) go head-to-head. First pitch is slated for 1:10 p.m. CT.
     
    Morneau Enshrined
    The reason the game was delayed nearly an hour was because Justin Morneau became the 34th player inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. The four-time All-Star and 2006 American League MVP played his first 11 seasons in a Twins uniform and wracked up 221 home runs with a .278/.347/.485 slash line. He along with his good friend and fellow MVP winner Joe Mauer formed the foundation for some of the most fearsome and fun Twins’ lineups.

    Morneau’s speech was long but perfectly enmeshed inside jokes with touching commentary and memories. The entire thing can be viewed below.
    Another thing that I will always remember is the way he was talked about in my hometown. I grew up in a small town in southcentral Minnesota, the same town that Morneau’s wife, Krista, grew up in. It’s one of those farming communities that dot the landscape south and west of the Twin Cities where the only place to eat is a Dairy Queen. Whenever Justin and Krista were in the area, good-natured rumors would spread like wildfire. The neighbor kid saw him riding his moped down by the park. Word on the street is that he had agreed to play with the local townball team once he retired. That kind of stuff.

    While I wasn’t around to witness it, Morneau stopped by at my brother’s little league game the day after winning the 2008 home run derby with his award. The game paused in the middle innings so that all the kids could take individual pictures with him. He also recognized the rough shape of the dugouts and donated money for them to be refurbished.

    For all intents and purposes, Justin Morneau is one of the “good ones” and seeing his name forever in the confines of Target Field will never not bring joy and fond memories for myself and all Twins fans.
    Postgame Interviews
    Coming soon
    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
      TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Barraclough 35 0 0 0 33 68 Coulombe 17 0 0 0 37 54 Duffey 11 12 0 17 0 40 Farrell 0 0 19 0 18 37 Colomé 7 24 0 5 0 36 Minaya 0 13 0 19 0 32 Thielbar 16 0 14 0 0 30 Alcalá 10 10 0 6 0 26 Moran 0 0 0 0 19 19 Garza Jr. 0 0 16 0 0 16 Vincent 0 0 13 0 0 13
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  16. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, A 32-Year-Old Rookie, Twins Promote Drew Maggi   
    The road has been long and windy for Drew Maggi. The Phoenix native was drafted out of Brophy College Prep by the hometown Diamondbacks in the 47th round of the 2008 draft. Two years later, he was the Pirates 15th round pick out of Arizona State. And that began his pro journey. 
    Maggi spent five seasons with the Pirates organization. He reached Double-A in 2014. 
    He posted a .606 OPS in 125 games for the Angels Double-A affiliate in Arkansas in 2015. 
    In 2016, he went to the Dodgers organization and split the season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. There, he was a teammate of Twins minor league director Alex Hassan. 
    He remained in Oklahoma City in 2017. 
    In 2018, he played for Cleveland's Triple-A affiliate in Columbus. 
    Then in 2019, he signed a minor league deal with the Twins. He began that season with 11 games at Double-A Pensacola. He then played 108 games with Triple-A Rochester and hit .258/.384/.405 (.788) with 19 doubles, four triples and 10 homers. 
    In 2020, he was invited to Twins big-league spring training. As we know, the season was delayed and the minor league season was cancelled, but Maggi was invited and worked out at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul.
    This spring, he was again invited to big-league spring training. He has played in 86 games for the St. Paul Saints. He has hit .261/.364/.486 (.850) with 12 doubles, two triples and 16 home runs. 
    On Saturday morning, he was officially called up to the Twins. 
    Now I know many will ask why I get excited for feel-good stories like this? Many will ask why Maggi instead of top hitting prospect Jose Miranda. I understand that. I initially wondered the same thing, but that dissipated pretty quickly for me. 
    I love feel-good stories. The Twins have done it in the past. All teams have, and I think it's great. Remember five years ago when the Twins called up James Beresford for September. It gave him a chance to make big-league money for a month, but it was also a Thank You from the organization that he called home for ten years. 
    Maggi has only been in the Twins organization for three seasons, but he's been in the game a long time. He's a good player. He's displayed power. He has played wherever he's been asked. He can play all four infield spots and even has spent some time in the outfield. 
    He may rarely play with the Twins. Or, he could come up and get a shot and have a great two-week stretch. 
    Maggi will likely be DFAd at season's end, and that's fine, but forever, he will be able to call himself a big leaguer.  
    From the Twins perspective they have called up several players that they had signed to minor league contracts this year. And, a story like this isn't going to get lost on minor league free agents this offseason, or next offseason. 
    Jose Miranda is a part of the future. He's going to contribute to the Twins for years to come. Drew Maggi is probably playing the final two weeks of his professional career, or maybe he'll be thrilled to come back to the Twins next year because he knows that they have done right by him and others. 
    In a bad season, a dark season, we do need to find the positives. We should be excited for the person, and we should hope for good from Drew Maggi. I know I am happy for him! 
    As mentioned Rob Refsnyder was placed on the Injured List to make room for Maggi on the 28-man roster. Taylor Rogers was placed on the 60-Day IL to make room for Maggi on the 40-man roster. 
     
  17. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Envisioning a Good Twins Rotation in 2022 (For Real!)   
    Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more.
    There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 
    1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal
    Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block.
    How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen.
    Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. 
    His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. 
    Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022.
    2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency
    No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. 
    Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others.
    3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade
    Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. 
    We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining.
    The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 
    4. Re-sign Michael Pineda
    The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. 
    Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. 
    His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 
    5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track
    As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone.
    Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. 
    When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation.
    There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter.
    6. The minors provide depth and jolts
    Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. 
    Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right.
    Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. 
    The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. 
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  18. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Naming the Twins 2022 Opening Day Starter   
    I have been a big proponent of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to right the ship that sunk in 2021. Unfortunately, the Maeda injury is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Replacing the entirety of a rotation, needing to overhaul the bullpen, and still being uncertain of what to do with Byron Buxton, this club has its hands full.

    It will be a busy winter but if we want the team to tackle one thing first, then starting on the bump is an excellent place to begin. Here is how I’m currently handicapping the odds for Rocco Baldelli’s starter on Opening Day this coming season.

    Bailey Ober 10%
    Ober has made 16 starts for the Twins in what has been a lost season, but he’s fully entrenched himself as a legitimate big-league arm. The sub-4.00 ERA includes a couple of rough turns, and he’s competed to the tune of a 9.3 K/9 while owning just a 2.0 BB/9 rate. The home run has been his bugaboo, and that can be something of a focus as he continues to learn the competition. I like Ober a lot. He’s got a shot to be a top-3 arm in Minnesota’s future rotation, but I don’t think this club wants to run him out as the ace after just getting his feet wet.
    Joe Ryan 5%
    He’s here, and he’s beautiful! That’s how this works, right? Ryan was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I’m still baffled about how Minnesota pulled that off, but either way, the Olympic hurler has been great since joining the organization. His big-league debut went fine, with not much to be drawn from a lackluster Cubs lineup. It remains to be seen how the fastball will play at the highest level, lacking velocity, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a productive member of a good rotation. Unfortunately, Ryan is someone you likely want on the back half of the unit in 2022.

    The Prospects 2%
    It would’ve been great to see someone emerge from this group in a year that didn't feature much big league positivity. Ober was an outsider who made it, but Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, and Josh Winder all spent time on the shelf. Only two of them took turns at Triple-A, and all of them remain distant from any immediate plans. You can make a case that each has seen their prospect status take a hit, and while there’s plenty of reason to believe an impact arm or two will emerge here, none of them are going to be in the equation when the season kicks off.

    The Suspects 3%
    The additional one percent afforded to this group comes from the fact that they’ve already made it. Hello to Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, and Lewis Thorpe. This foursome has taken turns for the Twins this year, but none of them have faired particularly well, and none of them should be considered beyond starting depth. Dobnak’s future is the clearest given his contract situation. There’s a real possibility the Australian (Thorpe) may be out of the organization in a couple of months, and while both Barnes and Jax have gotten their feet wet, it’s not fair to expect a substantial leap for either. This group isn’t producing your first starter of the season.

    The Field 80%
    Take your pick as to who the Twins will sign; they’re going to need at least three starters not presently with the club. Michael Pineda is a good bet to return, but if that’s your Opening Day starter, then you can imagine how the season will go. I’m less inclined to believe a long-term deal with Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard makes sense when it could be a rebuilding year. Maybe an older veteran on a one-year deal happens depending on where the price tag lands. This winter, how Minnesota spends will hinge heavily on what happens with Buxton and the expectations for the returning core. Either way, I’d bet a reasonable sum that the man Baldelli gives the ball to on Opening Day is not currently in the organization.

    If you’re the manager, who is it that you’re going to? Put on your GM hat and share which arm you think gets plucked and tasked with kicking off 2022.
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  19. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Can the Pitching Staff Compete in 2022?   
    The Twins had a tall order when it came to the 2022 pitching staff even when Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were slotted into the first two spots. Berrios has since been traded and we’ve received word that Maeda has an ominous elbow injury and will have exploratory surgery next week which could turn into Tommy John.
    Kenta Maeda
    That brings us to the number one factor in the Twins rotation rebuild in 2022: Kenta Maeda needs to be anchoring it. The Twins can’t really affect whether Maeda is healthy and at this point it appears him being relied on in 2022 is a long shot, but not having a single veteran arm returning creates a scenario in which some might call it nearly impossible to field a reliable 1-5. Even if Maeda isn’t the bona fide ace we hoped, having him at 2 or 3 in the rotation would at least give the Twins something to work with. Without Maeda, the rotation troubles likely become too much to recover from.
    Build From Within There’s no doubt that the Falvey/Levine pitching pipeline is growing ever closer to MLB ready and some of it has already arrived. Bailey Ober is likely a favorite to shore up the rotation on Opening Day after he put up an ERA around 4.00 in his first 68 innings. Griffin Jax will likely finish the season in the rotation, and Randy Dobnak should be back in the rotation before year’s end. Joe Ryan may be up in short order as well. Additionally, the Twins do have Duran and Winder at the AAA level with newly-acquired Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands and Jordan Balazovic at AA.
    The issue with using internal options is it largely depends on youth, much of which hasn’t even pitched in the majors yet. For as talented as many of the Twins young arms might be, there’s no telling how they’ll perform in their first taste of the big leagues. Furthermore, the Twins simply won’t let any of these young arms throw enough innings to take the ball every fifth day through season’s end even if they are effective.
    Duran threw over 100 innings in 2019, had 2020 off, and has thrown 16 innings this season. Winder followed a similar trend and has thrown 72 innings this season. Bailey Ober, whose fans typically express their disgust with his limited innings in starts, leads this group with 84 innings in 2021. It would be simply shocking to see any of these young arms reach even 150 innings in 2022. Some innings will be filled internally, but it will likely take some of them debuting down the stretch rather than being leaned on throughout the entire season.
    Outside Help
    The Twins are going to have a heavy offseason of trying to acquire pitching on the free agent and hopefully trade market. Even coming into this year they preferred to spend $10m on a combination of Happ and Shoemaker to take up two spots rather than spending on a higher quality arm and dedicating a rotation spot to a young arm like Dobnak. Picking up two free agent starters with three already penciled in in 2021 hints that the Twins will likely pursue three to four starting pitchers this winter at the very least.
    There are some high level free agent arms available this offseason, but it’s hard to see the Twins pursuing any of them. Spending $15-20m on one single pitcher would limit the Twins ability to effectively fill 3-4 other rotation spots. Instead the Twins will likely have to fill their rotation with middling arms that they can try to tweak and unlock something with. Their rotation’s success will likely have everything to do with their ability to effectively identify some under the radar arms and make the necessary tweaks.
    So essentially the Twins are relying on a miracle when it comes to Maeda and their effectiveness in bringing in outside options when it comes to their pitching rebound. They’ll certainly be counting on some younger pitchers contributing, but they’re almost certainly going to try to make them complementary pieces. 
    In short, the Twins are in a difficult spot no matter how you spin it. They’re likely going to be headed into 2022 with either four or five starting pitchers in the rotation that weren’t there on Opening Day 2021. That’s an incredibly steep mountain to climb for any front office trying to compete, let alone one that missed on nearly every pitching decision they made just last winter. 
    It’s no fun being negative, but 2022 may be a year to just sit back and enjoy whatever positives shake out with this pitching staff rather than having soaring expectations. There will be a fair share of excitement along the way, but it may be wise for Twins fans to temper expectations. 
     
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  20. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Scouting Twins Prospects: Sawyer Gipson-Long   
    Gipson-Long stands at a robust and athletic 6-foot-4-inches tall with long arms and legs. His windup is smooth, athletic, and repeatable, and he utilizes a three-quarter arm slot for all three of his pitches.
    Gipson-Long's pitch mix consists primarily of a fastball and slider, though he does throw in an occasional changeup as well. What makes the former Mercer Bear stand out from most of his fellow pitching prospects is his overall command and control. To put it bluntly, the kid doesn't throw balls. In his 102 1/3 total innings in the minors, Gipson-Long has walked a total of 24 batters, has hit only two, and has issued a mere six wild pitches. 
     
     
    However, Gipson-Long's impressiveness doesn't stop there. He's also struck out 144 and has never posted a FIP above 3.34, despite owning ERAs of 5.40 and 4.54 at rookie ball and Low-A. Since being called up to High-A Cedar Rapids on August 9, Gipson-Long has struck out 26 batters, walked two, and glided to a 1.86 FIP. 
    In short, Gipson-Long has been one of the more dominant pitchers in the Twins system since 2019. And, yet, you won't find his name on any top prospect list, not even Twins Daily's.
    While being able to watch Gipson-Long's starts has been difficult due to Low-A Ft. Myers not broadcasting their games, leaving his name outside of the Twins' top 30 prospects has been a grand oversight, in my opinion. His fastball has pop and plays well up in the zone. His slider is a solid strikeout pitch that often leaves opposing batters flailing. And he's shown some signs of having a decent changeup. 
    It would not surprise me if Gipson-Long quickly rises through the Twins system and begins making appearances on the top prospect lists in the not-so-distant future. What he is doing is truly not that different from, say, Louie Varland, and, frankly, Gipson-Long's stuff may be better, particularly when considering his command.
    There is no such thing as a sure-thing baseball prospect, especially concerning pitchers. However, what Gipson-Long has done this season should not be ignored. He's been great and should be considered among the likes of Varland, Drew Strotman, and Chris Vallimont as good, under-the-radar pitching prospects. 
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  21. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Getting Jhoan Duran Back on Track   
    The team has not yet announced that Duran will miss the rest of 2021, but, given the nature of elbow strains, I find it difficult to see him returning to the mound in any meaningful way. There's just no decent reason to push him. Now, 2022 will be about rebuilding (essentially) two years of missed time while juggling playing time at both the AAA and major league levels. That sounds like quite a challenge. Fortunately, there is another player that the Twins can mimic in how they build Duran back up. Unfortunately, that player is on a rival squad.
    Michael Kopech; you probably know him. The White Sox brought him over with Yoán Moncada when they traded scissors-enthusiast Chris Sale to Boston as a kick-start to their rebuild. Kopech debuted in 2018 with mild success-barely any walks, but a ton of homers-and emerged as something of a budding ace. The following two years were less kind. Kopech missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and then he opted out of the 2020 season for 'personal reasons'. Kopech was still more-or-less as talented as when he debuted, but he faced an uphill climb in 2021 to build back the stamina needed to be a successful starter. What has been the plan?
    Use him as a reliever, of course. Kopech has started just three games against 27 relief appearances as of August 23rd. Oddly enough, Chicago immediately threw Kopech into the heat of battle-eight of his first ten appearances lasted longer than one inning-before reining him in afterward. Since May 18th, he has thrown multiple innings just three times, with none of those outings lasting longer than two innings. 
    Perhaps part of that is caution. MLB teams are notorious for treating young pitchers like buried treasure, but I think there's a somewhat different philosophy at play here. Yes, the White Sox want to be careful with Kopech, but they want to get him cheap playing time. Relief pitchers are much easier to command because the manager can control the situations they find themselves in. Do you want to avoid using a guy in a high-leverage context? Then don't. Do you want to get him multiple innings? Go right ahead. The reliever moniker allows the team to be flexible in a way that starters cannot be.
    I believe that the Twins should follow suit with Duran. His lack of innings perfectly mirrors the situation Kopech was in, and the 2021 season has been fantastic for Chicago's righty (I wrote this sentence before he gave up five earned runs in one inning, whoops.) The team should use Duran as a sort of swingman or as a piggybacker at the major league level as soon as they can. Forcing Duran to burn time at AAA in a vain effort to build back his stamina will only cause the team to avoid utilizing one of their most exciting pitching prospects.
    "But Matt," you say, "why not just keep him as a starter in AAA? Why force him into the bullpen? What difference does it make?" These are fair questions. 
    The Twins will strongly limit Duran in 2022. My guess is 80 innings-it could be more but likely not by much. Why, then, should Duran waste innings at AAA when he could instead get accustomed to major league talent while also building back his innings? The team will not be competitive in 2022, so Duran taking his occasional licks will hurt no one.
    Keep in mind that Duran will be 24 when the 2022 season begins, and if they keep him as a starter that season, he likely will not be up in any significant fashion until 2023, when he's 25. That's far from old, but he's getting to the point where his prospect status needs to become actual tangible major league ability. The Twins should be looking solely to prep Duran for 2023, and I see a spot in the major league bullpen as a better alternative than more time at AAA.
  22. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Why Get a Second Opinion For an Elbow Injury?   
    Let's begin with a brief anatomy and biomechanics lesson. 
    The ulnar collateral ligament — more frequently referred to as the UCL — is a robust and triangular sheet of tissue that helps support the inner elbow against valgus stress. The elbow experiences the most valgus stress during a baseball game when the arm is driven forward at high rates of speed while throwing a ball.

    Damage to the UCL occurs when the torque produced as the arm is thrust forward — the technical term is internal rotation — is more significant than what the structure can compensate. Injury can occur chronically as well as acutely and is generally described as a sprain. The degree of damage is graded on a scale of 1-3. Grade 1 sprains are usually minor injuries that heal within a week or two. Grade 2 sprains — also referred to as partial tears — cause instability in the joint as some 50% of the ligament fibers have been damaged; the most frequently reported symptoms are pain and swelling. The recovery timeline for grade 2 sprains generally extends into months. Grade 3 sprains — or ruptures — result in significant instability and require Tommy John surgery to address. 
    Grade 2 sprains are where the best route of treatment is murkiest. As the UCL is technically an extension of the joint capsule — a larger sheet of tissue that envelops a joint and provides stability and nourishment — it has a relatively good blood supply, meaning it is technically capable of healing on its own without surgery. (Side note: This is why ACL injuries require surgery in most instances. Although the ACL is inside the knee, it is technically separate from the joint capsule, and, thus, has almost no blood supply.)
    However, the UCL does not have the same blood supply throughout its structure. A recent study found evidence to suggest that the blood supply is best nearer where it connects to the upper arm bone — proximal — and decreases as the ligament extends to the forearm — distal. This finding may suggest that grade 2 sprains of the UCL that occur proximally are more likely to heal without surgery than those that are distal (or, read another way, Tommy John surgeries that treat proximal tears are more likely to be "successful" than their distal counterparts.) (Another side note: Interestingly, a study conducted in 2020 found data to suggest the opposite, though it should be noted that the study had a small sample size and was retrospective; both factors limit the findings' strength.)
    Rest and anti-inflammatory medication are most often the first two steps in treating a grade 2 UCL sprains followed by physical therapy to improve range of motion and increase the strength of the surrounding muscles. While the UCL provides static stability for the inner elbow (i.e., its fibers don't contract and act as a brace), the forearm musculature provides dynamic stability (i.e., its fibers do contract and pull the inner elbow together). Having strong forearm muscles is vital for protecting the healing UCL.
    Another treatment often reported after an athlete is diagnosed with a UCL sprain is platelet-rich plasma (PRP). 
    The theory behind PRP is sound. The process involves drawing blood into a test tube, spinning it around rapidly in a centrifuge to separate the blood into plasma and red blood cells, sucking the plasma into a syringe, and injecting the plasma into the injured tissue. Plasma contains a variety of cells and other substances, one of which are platelets. Platelets help form the foundation on which new tissue grows and secret substances that help aid the healing process.
    Again, theoretically.
    The results surrounding PRP injections and return to play in baseball are … inconclusive, at best. Read one study, and you may come away believing that they work exceptionally well. Read another, and you may think they're just a bunch of hocus pocus. The fact of the matter is this: Despite being relatively well studied, there is little evidence, at this point, to suggest that PRP injections are the medical savior they were once considered to be.
    So, back to the original question. Why should Maeda and the Twins even pursue a second opinion?
    Well, the short answer is "Why not?" If the injury Maeda suffered is a UCL sprain, and if he ultimately undergoes surgery, he'll miss the entirety of the 2022 season anyway. Waiting another week or two to gather more information won't prevent him from playing next year.
    The longer answer is that the most appropriate course of treatment may or may not be surgery, depending on various factors, including grade, location, and, frankly, a specific doctor's training and treatment philosophy. Again, if Maeda is dealing with UCL damage and if it is partial and proximal, it may have a chance to heal on its own. 
    Also, and this bears repeating, what's the harm in trying conservative rehabilitation and waiting on surgery? Best case scenario: Maeda can pitch again in relatively short order and definitely be next season. Worst case scenario: Maeda has to undergo surgery, which, again, would keep him out of 2022 anyway. 
    At this stage, there is minimal downside for the Twins and Maeda in gathering as much information as possible. The team isn't going to the playoffs, he's under contract next year, and he's one of the more critical pitching pieces in the Twins' system.
    I'll pose the question again. Why should Maeda and the Twins seek a second opinion? Because it's the right thing to do.
  23. Like
    DocBauer reacted to David Youngs for an article, Joe Ryan and Byron Buxton Highlight an Eventful Night at CHS Field   
    Sticky air, high winds, and a foreboding forecast didn’t stop 8,209 baseball fans from coming out to CHS Field on Friday night to watch highly-touted prospect and Olympian Joe Ryan make his Twins organization debut. Even better? The game marked Byron Buxton’s highly-anticipated return after a lengthy stint on the IL from a hand injury he suffered on June 21st.
    Ryan was electric out of the gate, hitting 93, 94, and 95 MPH in his first matchup of the night, striking out former Twins outfielder Ian Miller on six pitches. The former Rays prospect carried his dominance through the first inning, striking out the side on a total of 15 pitches, 11 of those being strikes. 
    After a perfect first inning, Ryan’s second inning was a carbon copy. The 6’2 gun-slinger needed just 18 pitches to fan the heart of the I-Cubs order. Six hitters, six strikeouts. 
    After two innings of strikeouts, Ryan must’ve realized that it would be selfish not to get his fielders involved in the action. Ryan drew two groundouts to the middle infield and tossed in another strikeout, bringing his total to seven. 
    One of Ryan’s few mistakes came in the fourth inning when he left a pitch up that Cubs’ outfielder Nick Martini hit over the right-field fence. Yet just as he showed in Tokyo, Ryan wasn't phased, striking out two of the next three batters to end the inning and a stellar first outing as a Minnesota Twin. 
    In today’s game, it’s not uncommon to see managers take top prospects out of games early to protect arms and hone in on development. Given that Ryan hasn’t pitched since starting (and winning) the Olympic semifinals for Team USA on August 4th, it’s not shocking that Toby Gardenhire removed his starter after four dominant innings. The organization had developed a plan that included Ryan throwing 60-70 pitches on Friday night. 
    Four innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts, one walk, and 49 strikes on 67 pitches. Not bad for a guy pitching in a new environment that hasn’t thrown in a Minor League game since July 18th. 
    Twins fans knew that Joe Ryan was a talented pitcher when he was acquired in the trade that sent Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay. As a recent MLB Top 100 Prospect and two-game winner at the Olympics, Ryan’s numbers speak for themselves. 
    Yet like so many other things in life, seeing is believing. Twins and Saints fans got to see arguably the strongest debut performance from a pitcher in the organization this year on Friday night.
    Here are three takeaways from Ryan’s debut in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
    Ryan’s velocity on his fastball ranged from 92-95 MPH all evening, and he was painting the corners of the strike zone. It’s no secret that the heater is Ryan’s pitch, but his ability to consistently nail his spots was impressive. Pitching with a lead is a pitcher’s best friend (Editor's note: It's right up there with the double play and dogs.). The Saints provided that to Ryan by scoring six runs in the first inning. It will be interesting to see how he handles tighter game situations.  Perhaps the most impressive feat of the night for Ryan came after he gave up the mammoth homer over the right-field wall. For many, the situation could have been a slippery slope. Not for Ryan, who struck out the next batter, got a ground ball, and retired the final batter with another strikeout. Ryan’s confidence shows when he’s on the mound. The guy has swagger, and he’s not afraid to show it.  
    Buxton Returns
    Buxton’s performance wasn’t as noteworthy as his last rehab debut with the Saints, when he went 2-for-3 with a triple on June 8th against Omaha (Royals). Buxton went 0-for-2 with an RBI sac-fly and a strikeout before being removed from the game after the fifth inning. Buxton’s sac fly was inches away from being a double but was caught by a sprawling Greg Deichmann in right field. (Editor's Note: Slo-motion replay showed that it likely was a trap, but with no replay in Triple-A, the call stood.)
    No, it wasn’t the April MVP-caliber Buxton that fans had hoped to see but just watching the organization’s centerpiece compete again was a treat for all. Buxton will likely stay with the Saints over the weekend and longer if needed. There’s no rush for the superstar. With the Twins out of playoff contention, it’s crystal clear that getting Buxton healthy is a priority of the organization. 
    For more in-depth recaps from across the Twins minor league affiliates be sure to check out tonight's Minor League Report!
     
  24. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, A Heartfelt Apology to Jorge Polanco   
    May 5th was a bad day. I attended the Twins game at Target Field and watched a lifeless team sink to 11-18 with a 3-1 loss against the last-place Rangers. Polanco and Max Kepler went a combined 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. I came home grumpy, and lamented that the Twins had seemingly founded their team-building strategy upon faulty cornerstones. In my frustration, I may or may not have fired out a tweet labeling Polanco and a couple other laggards "garbage."  That same night, I declared I had seen enough, and wrote off the 2021 Twins as contenders.
    Sadly I was not wrong on the latter assertion, but the unkind assessment of Polanco looks downright silly in the wake of his dramatic and remarkable turnaround.
    In my defense, there was plenty of validity in the expression of doubt. Polanco became a heightened subject of my scrutiny, in part because his swing looked so blatantly bad and in part because his manager seemed oddly unconcerned.
    In mid-April, I wrote an article here wondering when Rocco Baldelli's faith in Polanco's bat would be shaken, noting the mounting evidence of his diminished offensive ability. At that point, Polanco owned a .358 OPS and had slashed .260/.313/.393 over his previous 164 games – good for a .303 wOBA that was nearly identical to Andrelton Simmons over the same time period. 
    Given this evidence, there was just no real reason to believe in Polanco. I didn't doubt that his poor production was more a reflection of ongoing health issues than his true talent, but there were no signs of improvement on that front. Even after a second consecutive offseason ankle surgery, he was still unable to put his lower half into his left-handed swing, and thus, his numbers against right-handed pitchers remained abysmal. 
    What's happened since is a good reminder that the body can sometimes take a long time to get right, and patience is generally a good policy. 
    Since my aforementioned cranky tweet on May 5th, Polanco has slashed .290/.351/.533 with 20 home runs in 86 games, and lately he's turned into a walk-off machine. His Statcast metrics look radically different from the ones I shared in April. He's hitting for as much power as anyone in the league.
    Polanco is not just playing at an All-Star level; he'd be right in the MVP conversation if the Twins weren't so bad.
    Most importantly, Polanco has re-established himself as a high-quality building block and a key fixture in the club's contention hopes going forward. 
    Hard to remember another time when I've been this delighted to be this wrong. Sorry again, Jorge. 
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  25. Like
    DocBauer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Luis and the Legends: A Twins Great Coming?   
    Never a top prospect or one worthy of national attention, Arraez has long gone about his business quietly. He put up a .331 average across more than 300 minor league games, and the Venezuelan has continued to replicate that success at the Major League level. He’s a second baseman by trade, but not in the same vein that Minnesota has seen in recent seasons. He’s not a great defender, but it matters a whole lot less when the stick keeps him producing.
    Ever since Jorge Polanco moved off of shortstop for the Twins and Josh Donaldson took over at the hot corner, Rocco Baldelli has needed to get creative in deploying his best batting average hitter. Arraez has adapted to playing a utility role, which has included time in the outfield and given some additional rest for a balky knee issue. Playing multiple positions has allowed for offensive flexibility, and really, that’s why he’s here in the first place.
    To date Luis Arraez owns a .326/.388/.421 career slash line. The power production will likely never trend towards a .500 slugging mark, but it’s that average that has Twins fans dreaming of two All-Time greats. Rod Carew is a legend among these parts, and the late Tony Gwynn was one of the best pure hitters ever to play the game. Between the two of them, both Hall of Famers, there’s a total of 15 batting titles. Minnesota hasn’t had a player accomplish that feat since future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer did so in 2009.
    Dreaming on Arraez with a career trajectory like that of Carew or Gwynn is probably far-fetched, but expecting similar offensive accomplishments is far from hyperbole. Right now, Arraez is just 24-years-old. Carew debuted at 21, while Gwynn showed up at 22. In his first three big-league seasons, the former owned a .299 average, while the latter put up a .329 mark. Both captured their first batting crown in year three.
    Right now, Arraez doesn’t have the plate appearances to qualify for the award, but he trails only the Astros Michael Brantley (.325) in the American League. Neither Carew nor Gwynn would win their second award for another three seasons but then did pull off a run of multiple years in a row. Hoping that Arraez takes crowns year over year before grabbing his first is putting the cart before the horse, but it’s clear the recipe is there.
    Carew had virtually the same strikeout to walk tallies, while Gwynn loaded up on free passes and went back to the dugout just over half as often. Minnesota’s two-bagger owns the same on-base percentage as the Padres legend, and the parallels run deep between this threesome. If we can separate career expectations from production viewed at the moment in time, it’s fun to see just how closely this trio is related.
    There’s a lot of career left for Luis Arraez, and as long as the knee issues subside or stay at bay, there’s plenty of reason to believe that one thing he’ll always do is hit for average. Maybe Minnesota wasn’t banking on him working out like this, but he’s made his mark and established it as truth. This is the type of guy you describe as rolling out of bed and being ready to hit. He’ll continue to put up the numbers in a Twins uniform, and one can only hope that there’s a shoulder full of batting titles at rest when it’s all said and done.
    Make no mistake about it, comparing Arraez to the best average hitters of All-Time is fairer than you may think. He’s got the goods, and they keep on coming.
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