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  1. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, 5 Realistic Offseason Moves That Would Set the Twins Up for 2024 Success   
    Last season, the Minnesota Twins front office provided Rocco Baldelli with a franchise-record Opening Day payroll. It was a raise on the pocketbooks for another year and has been consistently moving that way for a while. With decreasing television revenues, it always made sense Minnesota may dial things back. Beyond that, though, having the possibility of ten players all pre-arbitration and making a league minimum of $740,000, dialing back was just part of an expected reset.
    Using the Twins Daily Payroll Tool this is the starting point I am operating from. Working with the parameters we know now, buckle up for the moves I would make before Opening Day.
    1. Sign Rhys Hoskins for two years and $40 million
    This is probably a bit on the high side for Hoskins, as I’d prefer to get him at $18 million annually, but the Twins should do what they can to make him say no. They need a right-handed bat. Check. They need a middle-of-the-order bat. Check. They need a serious player at first base. Check. Hoskins checks so many boxes for Minnesota that it becomes difficult not to love that fit. He costs money rather than prospects, as Pete Alonso would, and takes significant pressure off any expectations for Alex Kirilloff. Coming off a knee injury that kept him out all of last season, there shouldn’t be any concerns in the future, and he doesn’t hamstring the roster construction in any way.
    2. Trade Matt Wallner, Yasser Mercedes, and Andrew Bechtold to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Mitch Keller and Canaan Smith-Njigba
    Moving Wallner, as a Minnesota prospect right after his debut, won’t be well received. Getting Keller, a Cedar Rapids prospect, after his first All-Star Game might help to soften the blow. Wallner is penciled in to start as Minnesota’s left fielder, but there’s an immediate alternative in the form of Trevor Larnach. You could make the case to include Emmanuel Rodriguez, but his ceiling is substantially higher, and Keller only has two years of team control left. Mercedes is only 19 and made his stateside debut in 2023. He has incredible tools but is raw as a prospect. Bechtold is at Triple-A and plays every position, including pitcher. 
    Acquiring Smith-Njigba in the deal, whose brother is the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, also gives Minnesota another outfield option. He isn’t a free agent until 2029, but has fallen down the Pirates depth chart despite being on the 40-man roster. He posted an .839 OPS at Triple-A in 2023 and will be 25 years old in 2024.
    3. Trade Kyle Farmer to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dylan Carlson
    Minnesota tender Farmer a contract not because they intend to keep a backup at nearly $7 million in 2024 but because the shortstop class in free agency is horrible, and he has the talent to start. Sending Farmer to the Cardinals gives them an immediate veteran alongside Nolan Arenado and shores up their roster should they keep Paul Goldschmidt in the final year of his deal. Prospect Masyn Winn is waiting in the wings, but he posted just a 29 OPS+ in his first 37 games last season, and this would allow him more time to develop. 
    Carlson is a name the Twins have been tied to previously, and he has former top-10 prospect allure to him. The luster has worn off, but he hit 18 home runs while finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting just two years ago. Carlson was hurt some in 2023, but even at depreciated production in 2022, he posted a 99 OPS+ across 128 games. The Twins may unlock more production from him, and he provides a switch-hitting bat that is substantially better against lefties. He could be the Byron Buxton insurance Minnesota needs to replace Michael A. Taylor or become a high-quality bench option.
    4. Sign Harrison Bader for one year and $7 million
    We saw last season that having a viable full-time starting centerfield option alongside Buxton is a must. Given the uncertainty of health at the centerfield position for Minnesota, having a couple of guys makes sense. Cody Bellinger is the gold standard, but that isn’t going to fit from a logic or dollars standpoint. Kevin Kiermaier could be an option, but coming off a strong year for the Blue Jays, he’s much more likely to get a multi-year deal. Taylor should be paid handsomely after his season with Minnesota, but Bader could potentially be had on a prove-it deal.
    Looking at some projections and the fit with Taylor leaving via free agency, Bader would be a seamless transition for the Twins. He plays at a Gold Glove-caliber defensively, and while he doesn’t bring much to the table offensively (77 OPS+ since 2022) at this point, he was exactly league average by OPS across his first 451 major league games. He has also gone 37/43 in his last two seasons of steal attempts, and replacing that for Baldelli would be beneficial.
    5. Sign Matt Moore for one year and $6 million
    By payroll measures, this pushes the total dollars close to the high end of where Minnesota is projected to be, and that may not work. I’d love to see Lou Trivino, but he won’t be ready until midway through 2024 and may wait until then to sign. Dakota Hudson isn’t a reliever, and while Spencer Turnbull could be used as a long man or depth starter, pushing the envelope at the back end of Minnesota’s pen makes sense.
    Moore was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels, and Minnesota put in a claim for him, but he was awarded to the Cleveland Guardians. After Cleveland fell out of it, Moore was claimed by the Miami Marlins. He made $7.55 million last year, and a similar contract makes sense as he will be in his age-35 season. Moore wasn’t as good in 2023 as he was with the Rangers in 2022, but his 2.56 ERA substantiated the strong transition to relief. The Twins bullpen could have five players making the league minimum, so adding the largest contract since Addison Reed could make sense even for a front office that has avoided spending on that group.
    There may be a consideration for trading Nick Gordon, as Willi Castro has surpassed him for the main utility role. That said, he’s going to command a little over the league minimum and was very good in the Castro role a year ago when healthy. If he gets to the point of ineffectiveness, there’s no reason he can’t be released at some point during the year. At that time, Austin Martin may be ready for the same type of role.
    Along with Polanco, Max Kepler’s name will be heard this offseason, as shedding him would result in a $10 million gain for the books. How the Twins handle the outfield configuration concerning Kepler, Larnach, and Wallner should be very interesting, but it’s Kepler’s 2023 that has me intrigued. He decided to lift the ball over the shift rather than hitting through it, and unlike in 2019, this time, it didn’t have the help of a juiced baseball. Kepler is still a great defender, and keeping him throughout his extension makes sense.
    With the dust settling there, the Twins would be on the hook for a $138 million Opening Day payroll. Of course, that will rise throughout the season as incentives are hit, but they could also ship players if things go sideways. Cutting further could be done with a similar talent at a lesser amount than Moore, but a $140 million bill is still nearly a $20 million savings from 2023.
    Unfortunately, the franchise isn’t run with a bit more spending correlation to the talent present or expectations in front of them, but this is maybe the best of both worlds. Losing the television contract means those dollars will need to come elsewhere, but even if taken over by a new entity, $30 million in revenues for 2024 would represent almost a halving of what was considered among the worst broadcast deals in the sport previously. No one should be crying poor here, and the Twins still get to field a team capable of making a run for the division and beyond.
    What are your thoughts? What would you do differently? Give it a try for real using the Twins Daily Payroll Tool here.
  2. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Estimating the Time of Arrival for the Top 10 Twins Prospects   
    Baseball player development is a non-linear path, with players facing different obstacles on their way to the big-league level. Organizations can be aggressive with some top prospects and move them through the farm system quicker than expected. Other prospects might suffer injuries or poor play and be forced to repeat a level for multiple years. Every prospect follows a different journey, making it intriguing for fans to follow. 
    Below is a look at the top 10 prospects in the Twins organization according to Twins Daily’s end-of-the-season voting. Not every outlet updates its ranking multiple times per year, but Twins Daily updates the player rankings and scouting reports monthly so there is a live view of each prospect's progress. Multiple names below are on pace to impact the Twins roster next season. 
    1. Walker Jenkins, OF
    ETA: 2026
    The Twins took Jenkins with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 draft. He was promoted relatively aggressively during his professional debut by ending the year at Low-A. In 26 games, he hit .362/.417/.571 (.989) with five doubles, four triples, and three home runs. It’s expected that he will start the year in Fort Myers with a chance to play in Cedar Rapids at the end of 2024. That should put him on pace to reach the big leagues in the second half of 2026, at which point he'll be 21 years old. 
    2. Brooks Lee, SS/3B
    ETA: 2024
    The 2023 campaign was Lee’s first full season as a professional after the Twins took him with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. He started the year at Double-A, posting an .841 OPS in 87 games. Minnesota promoted him to St. Paul in the season’s second half, and his OPS dipped to .731 at a level where he was over four years younger than the average age of the competition. Lee will start the year in St. Paul and be one injury away from making his big-league debut. 
    3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    ETA: 2025
    Rodriguez will have an advantage over other names on this list due to being added to the 40-man roster this winter. These roster spots are valuable, and it gives him a better chance at making his debut because the team might need to dig into their depth if there are multiple big-league injuries. Rodriguez played the 2023 season at High-A, hitting .240/.400/.463 (.863) with 38 extra-base hits in 99 games. The Twins will plan for him to spend the 2024 campaign at Double-A, which puts him on pace to debut in 2025. 
    4. Marco Raya, SP
    ETA: 2025
    The Twins have taken a unique development path with Raya by aggressively promoting him while limiting his innings pitched. He ended last season at Double-A in his age-20 season. Between two levels, Raya posted a 4.02 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP in 62 2/3 innings spread across 22 starts. He never pitched more than four innings in an appearance and never threw more than 54 pitches. It seems likely for Raya to spend all of 2024 at Double-A unless the team continues to be aggressive with him.  
    5. David Festa, SP
    ETA: 2024
    Festa emerged as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects last season after being taken in the 13th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. He pitched at Double-A and Triple-A with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. He posted an 11.6 K/9 in 92 1/3 innings across 24 appearances (22 starts). Minnesota faces a self-imposed payroll crunch next season, which may leave the team relying on internal options for added depth. Festa will be at Triple-A, waiting for his opportunity to join the Twins’ rotation at some point next season. 
    6. Charlee Soto, SP
    ETA: 2027
    Soto has yet to make his professional debut after being drafted by the Twins with the 34th overall selection last June. He didn’t turn 18 until after the draft, so he has a lot of time to develop in the organization’s farm system. He will likely be the last player on this list to debut, but he has an exciting future with his pitching profile. 
    7. Austin Martin, 2B/OF
    ETA: 2024
    Martin was the top-ranked prospect included in the Jose Berrios trade with Toronto, and he’s seen some ups and downs during his time with the Twins organization. He struggled during the 2022 season with a .683 OPS at Double-A before heading to the AFL and being one of the league’s best hitters. Last season, he injured his elbow during spring training, and there was some discussion that he’d need surgery. Martin rehabbed the elbow and posted a .791 OPS in 59 Triple-A games. The Twins have an opening in center field, and Martin might be able to take over that role at some point in 2024. 
    8. Brandon Winokur, OF
    ETA: 2027
    Minnesota went well over-slot to sign Winokur for $1.5 million as a third-round pick. Winokur played 17 games during his professional debut and hit .288/.338/.546 (.884) with five doubles and four home runs. He has shown flashes of being a potential five-tool outfielder, but he is far from Target Field. Like Soto, he won’t debut for multiple seasons, and many things can go wrong with development along the way.  
    9. Luke Keaschall, 2B
    ETA: 2026
    The Twins love to draft college bats, so the club targeted Keaschall with their second-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. Minnesota was aggressive after signing him by having him play at three different levels and finishing the year with Cedar Rapids. In 31 games, he hit .288/.414/.478 (.892) with 14 extra-base hits. The Twins will likely have him return to High-A to begin 2024, which puts him on pace to debut during his age-23 season. 
    10. Tanner Schobel, 2B/3B
    ETA: 2025
    Schobel was selected in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft, so his development path shows what the Twins might follow with Keaschall. He split time in 2023 between High- and Double-A while posting a .776 OPS in 126 games. Minnesota continues to play him at second and third base, and this defensive flexibility might help him reach the big leagues even sooner. 
    Do you agree with the ETAs listed for each prospect? Which player will have the most significant impact on the Twins next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  3. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Organizational Depth: A Look at Hitters Throughout the Twins System   
    The Twins could always draft or sign and then develop position players. Consider the names drafted and signed under the regimes of Mike Radcliff and Terry Ryan. It’s a Who’s Who of Twins hitters. Hunter. Mientkiewicz. Jones. Cuddyer. Morneau. Mauer. Kubel. Span. Buxton. Sano. Kepler. Polanco.
    And with many of the same people in the scouting department, we are again seeing emerging, talented position players. Many have debuted in recent years to varying success (and opportunity). Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, and Matt Wallner were keys to the Twins second-half success.  Meanwhile, players like Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and Nick Gordon have helped the Twins win over the past couple of seasons.
    While there are finally more pitchers in the Twins system to be excited about, there continue to be solid-hitting prospects around the diamond.
    Let’s take a look at some of the depth around the field that can be found in the Twins organization:
    The Twins have two catchers on the big-league roster, Ryan Jeffers and Christian Vazquez. Jeffers will not be eligible for free agency for three more years. Vazquez has two years remaining on his three-year deal.
    Jair Camargo was added to the Twins 40-man roster since the end of the World Series. The burly backstop showed his powerful arm and his power with the bat for the St. Paul Saints in 2023. He will likely return to the Saints to start the 2024 season and be the guy called up if there is a need.
    Chris Williams, who is not on the 40-man roster, has become one of Twins most prominent power prospects the past two years with the Saints. He can catch, but he’s got enough bat to be a DH or get time at first base if needed. Patrick Winkel was the primary catcher with the Double-A Wind Surge. He is arguably the best defensive backstop prospect, but he can also hit with extra-base power. Noah Cardenas spent the entire season at Cedar Rapids. He can hit and get on base at a strong clip while playing well behind the plate. Andrew Cossetti may have as much power potential and offensive prowess as any of these catching prospects. He split his first professional season between Ft. Myers and the High-A Kernels. He ended the season representing the Twins in the Arizona Fall League.
  4. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Peter Labuza for an article, Ranking the Potential Free Agent Targets in the NPB and KBO   
    Of the many bright spots of 2023 baseball season was the absolute delight of the World Baseball Classic, highlighting a number of players beyond Major League Baseball who have made splashes across their respective leagues. Now, a number of those players are looking to make their debut here in the States. 
    In recent years, stars from both the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) as well as Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) have not only succeeded in the MLB but become top-shelf talent. Beyond Shohei Ohtani, stars like Ha-Seong Kim, Masataka Yoshida, and Kodai Senga have all made serious pushes to be the best players on their respective teams. 
    With a weaker free agent class in general this year, many teams will certainly turn toward these leagues for some talent that might translate across the Pacific. Headlining that group will be Yoshinobu Yamamoto, while phenom Rōki Sasaki will remain in NPB for at least another year. But there are a number of other players (and more cost friendly alternatives) that might find themselves in a Twins uniform.
    Jung-Hoo Lee (Kiwoom Heroes)
    387 PAs, .318/.406/.455
    There are always questions about how KBO players might translate into MLB hitters, but Jung-Hoo Lee has been a mashing machine throughout his young career in the KBO. Already agreed to be posted by his team, the outfielder posted a 162 WRC+ and a 175 WRC+ in his age 22 and age 23 seasons on top of a couple of gold gloves for his Buxton-esque outfield defense.
    His weaker .318 batting average this year only came on an ankle surgery that ended his season in July. That might make teams more wary toward his recovery as he attempts to get used to major league pitching, but Lee also did well in the World Baseball Classic against some fierce completion in the Tokyo Dome, going 6-for-14 (including one hit off Cy Young contender Yu Darvish).
    Lee likely won’t come cheap, but if the Twins want a major upgrade to assist their outfield core, he might be a strong contender for a singles and doubles hitting machine.
    Shota Imanaga (Yokohama Bay Stars)
    148 IP, 2.80 ERA, 174 K, 24 BB
    On an inning-per-inning basis, Japanese star Shota Imanaga might actually outshine Yamamoto. Throwing in the low-to-mid 90s, Shota includes a four-pitch mix that can really work to fool hitters both on the left and right. Over his twenty-two games in NPB, Imananga struck out a career best 29.4% of NPB hitters this season while walking fewer.
    On the plus side, we already saw him this year against the MLB’s best, when he started the championship game of the WBC against the United States. Though only giving the team two innings and allowing a homer to Trea Turner, the southpaw otherwise looked strong against the high-quality US team and put forth the highest Stuff+ in the entire tournament.
    It’s likely Shota will command a contract equivalent to Kodai Sengai’s $75 million / five Year deal with the Mets, which given his role in leading that team’s pitching, was an absolute steal. 
    Yariel Rodriguez (Chunichi Dragons)
    2022 Stats: 54.2 IP, 1.15 ERA, 60 K, 18 BB
    Cuban-born Yariel Rodriguez skipped his 2023 season with the Dragons in order to better position himself for free agency in MLB. He spent 2023 first by moving from reliever to starter during the World Baseball Classic and then more recently putting on shows in the Dominican Republic for scouts, all creating a lot of hype for the former NPB reliever to become a big-time pitcher.
    In his 2022 relief role, his career best 1.15 ERA did not include a single home run. Rodriguez sports a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s as well as a sinker and curveball that show strikeout potential (including 10 Ks over his two WBC starts). The big question will be whether teams think his stuff is ready for a back of the rotation starting role or if he should remain an elite reliever. If the latter, he might fit nicely within the Twins organization. 
    Yuki Matsui (Tokohu Rakuten)
    Stats: 57 1/3 IP, 1.57 ERA, 72 K, 13 BB
    In a world of Bailey Obers and Felix Bautistas, Tokohu’s Yuki Matsui stands only 5’8”, which for many might throw up a red flag. But as a reliever his last three seasons in NBP, the pitcher’s command of a fastball / splitter might be the kind of thing difficult for MLB pitchers to adjust to in a sixth or seventh inning.
    As a closer in NPB, Matsui posted 236 saves (becoming the youngest ever to 200 saves in the league’s history) and the second-best chase rate for the 2023 season over his young career. The biggest concern for the left-hander actually came in the World Baseball Classic, where he struggled to find a proper grip on MLB balls compared to the smaller, pre-sticky Japanese balls. But if Matsui can overcome those difficulties, he could be a surprise weapon for the Twins’ bullpen.
    Erick Fedde (NC Dinos)
    Stats: 180.1 IP, 2.0 ERA, 209 K, 35 BB
    After Merrill Kelly cemented his legend with his commanding performance in Game 2 of the World Series, a number of teams are looking for other possible washouts who have found newfound success in the KBO. The obvious name here is Erick Fedde, who pitched with the Washington Nationals for six years before finding himself on the NC Dinos.
    That 2023 season includes 180 innings with a strikeout to walk ratio for an astonishing 5.97 (his previous best in MLB was less than half that), becoming the first American born to win the league’s pitcher triple crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts). Like many pitchers, Fedde visisted a Driveline competitor called PUSH that added a sweeper to his mix, resulting in his 149 strikeouts. Although something of a celebrity in South Korea, Fedde has expressed interest in a return, and I imagine the Twins could find a gamble here.
    Naoyuki Uwasawa (Nippon Ham Fighters)
    170.1 IP, 3.49 ERA, 124 K, 41 BB
    Probably the least-discussed headliner among NBP agents available by posting, Naoyuki Uwasawa could at least make a viable long-term investment for teams interested in a transition project. The 29-year-old posted an ERA under 3 with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2023, allowing only fourteen dingers over his 170 innings.
    Uwasawa comps closely to Kenta Maeda, with a fastball sitting around 91mph but a pitch arsenal that includes a half dozen other pitches to fool batters around the zone. While one of the least strikeout effective pitchers, that arsenal induces numerous weak ground balls and fly balls as he has forced hitters to chase. Unlike the Twins’ need for a top line starter, Uwasawa could provide potential depth for future seasons.
    Do you think any of these international free agents should come to the Twins? Sound off in the comments.
  5. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Adam Friedman for an article, The Best Free Agent You've Never Heard Of   
    If the Twins can make one more massive long-term investment in this team, Yoshinobu Yamamoto makes the most sense of any free agent, reasonably assuming Minnesota won't shatter an MLB record to sign his Japanese compatriot, Shohei Ohtani . Given the lack of investment in any free agent pitching and the status of the T.V. deal, it would be surprising to see the Twins shell out big money, but besides Ohtani, there's nobody better in the free agent market to help the Twins build off their 2023 division title and playoff run. 
    A Special NPB Performer
    Yamamato burst onto the NPB scene for the Orix Buffaloes at 19 years old in 2017 and hasn't looked back. In that season, he posted a 2.35 ERA in 57.1 IP. He then hit a new level in 2021, winning the first of three consecutive Sawamura Awards (the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young Award)- becoming the first player to do so since 1958.  
    He has been simply dominant to the tune of a 1.82 career ERA- including a 1.16 ERA in 2023. Tim Britton of the Athletic put together a version of ERA+ for Japanese pitchers who came over to MLB- which adjusts their ERA for the NPB run-scoring environment. Using this metric over their final three seasons in NPB, Yamamoto will be the best NPB pitcher to come stateside, edging out Masahiro Tanaka . 
    Ace-Level Stuff
    Yamamoto's success in the NPB makes him an exciting free-agent target, but his stuff makes him an incredibly tantalizing talent. He has a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, a nasty splitter, and a unique and fantastic high-spin curveball- which work together to keep the ball on the ground and strike out plenty of hitters. That is a nasty mix that will allow him to get lefties and righties out. 

    Yamamoto has only given up 36 home runs in 967 NPB innings. That is an absurd .4 HR/9. Further, in 2023, he posted a solid 9.3 SO/9 and a fantastic 1.5 BB/9. Keeping the ball in the ballpark, minimizing walks, and putting up a solid strikeout rate bodes well for sustainable success. Scouts, unsurprisingly, view him as a potential number-one starter and as a step up from Kodai Senga , who had an exceptional rookie season in 2023.   
    A Rare Expensive Opportunity
    A 25-year-old with ace-level stuff is not often available in free agency, so Yamamoto will demand a lot of money- likely over $200 million, and the team who signs him will have to pay Orix a posting fee over $20 million. But Yamamoto seems highly likely to perform even better than his massive contract because it's unlikely any team will pay what he's worth, given his lack of MLB experience. 
    The Twins have never paid a starting pitcher long-term, but the chance to bring in a number-one starter at a slightly depressed value hasn't come around. They should pay over the market value because he's far more likely than a typical free agent to outperform his market over the entire term of the contract. The Twins front office should pay for Yamamoto's stuff and upside because he could be as good as any starting pitcher they've had in years. 
    The Mets are reportedly the favorites to land Yamamoto, so it's unlikely the Twins will land him, but they should attempt to make him an offer he can't refuse- one that accurately values his ace-level upside. With a Yamamoto/Pablo Lopez one-two punch for the immediate future, the sky is the limit for the rotation.
    Do you want the Twins to pursue Yamamoto?
  6. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Major Decisions Imminent Regarding Two Twins Minor Leaguers   
    In reality, the World Series could be over as early as Wednesday night. At the latest, a Game 7 would be played on Saturday. 
    When that final out is recorded, hundreds of players will become free agents. As you know, big league pitchers Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, and Emilio Pagan, infielder Donovan Solano, and outfielder Joey Gallo will be among the newly-minted free agents. Five days later, they can start signing with other organizations. 
    Things get interesting on the minor-league side, and it isn't always as easy to know who is a free agent. This year, players drafted in 2017 and not on a 40-man roster will become free agents. Those players signed contracts to play in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023. In addition, they were given credit for 2020 despite the season being cancelled by Covid. 
    2017 Draft
    Royce Lewis was the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. However, he was added to the Twins 40-man roster after the 2021 season and remains on the 40-man roster to this day. No, Royce Lewis will not be a free agent. The same is true for Bailey Ober, the team's 12th round pick in 2017. 
    2016 International Signings (or Earlier)
    In addition, players signed when they were 16 years old in 2016 who are not on the 40-man roster can also become free agents. The Twins didn't spend big on any one international prospect that year. While I found Wander Valdez and Jesus Feliz very interesting prospects, neither came close to the big leagues. One player signed that year was right-hander Prelander Berroa. However, he was traded to the Giants in the ill-fated Sam Dyson. He was later traded to the Mariners and made his MLB debut in 2023. What we can learn from Berroa, however, is that when a player is dealt to another organization, his free agency timeline doesn't change. 
    In addition, a player signed in 2015 became a free agent after last year's World Series. When he signs another minor-league contract, he becomes a free agent again a year later. 
    Case #1: C Jair Camargo
    That is the exact scenario that played out a year ago for catcher Jair Camargo. In fact, he was the one pending minor-league free agent a year ago that I recommended the Twins bring back. That is exactly what happened. The Twins and Camargo quickly came to terms on a one-year minor-league contract. The Twins have the same season again this year. 
    Camargo signed with the Dodgers out of Colombia in 2015. He came to the Twins with Kenta Maeda in the Brusdar Graterol deal before the 2020 season. He had a breakout season in 2022 between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Combined, he hit .262 (.793) with 18 home runs. With the minor-league signing last offseason, Camargo was left at risk to be lost in the Rule 5 draft. Fortunately, he was not selected. 
    However, as a 23-year-old in 2023, Camargo jumped up to Triple-A St. Paul. In 90 games, he hit .259/.323/.503 (.826) with 16 doubles, 21 home runs and 63 RBI. 
    If the two sides reach an agreement again quickly on a minor-league deal, there is no way that Camargo is not lost in the Rule 5 draft. A power-hitting catcher who is athletic and a solid-to-average defensive backstop? It's likely Camargo would be the first pick of the Rule 5 draft.  
    The Twins were able to go through the entire 2023 season and only used two catchers, Ryan Jeffers and Christian Vazquez. That is not normal. Jeffers, 26, is entering his first arbitration season and won't be a free agent for three more years, after the 2026 season. Vazquez, 33, just completed his first season of a three-year, $30 million contract. 
    Most years, the Twins bring in a veteran catcher or two on minor-league contracts. They essentially become the team's #3 catcher and can be recalled if and when needed. Examples of that in recent years include Tony Wolters, and later Mark Kolozsvary, in 2023. In 2022, veterans such as Chance Sisco, Grayson Greiner, and later Jose Godoy. Tomas Telis was a Triple-A catchers for the Twins for three years before that. 
    What Should Happen? 
    Before the World Series ends, the Twins should absolutely add Jair Camargo to their 40-man roster. That move can be done without a corresponding move as the Twins 40-man roster is already below 40. Camargo should go to spring training understanding that if Jeffers or Vazquez miss some time, he will be the first call. In addition, they should still bring in one more veteran catcher for St. Paul, and to work with other younger catchers in the organization. 
    What Will Happen? 
    The Twins will absolutely add Jair Camargo to their 40-man roster. 
    Case #2: RHP Blayne Enlow
    The case for Enlow is a lot more difficult and a case could be made either way. In case you are new to Twins fandom, Blayne Enlow was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2017 out of high school in Louisiana. He dropped in the draft because he had a commitment to LSU and a specific number in mind that it would take to get him signed. Royce Lewis agreed to sign with the Twins well below slot and the extra money was used to sign Enlow. 
    Enlow moved up the Twins organizational ladder slowly, but he was long a top 10 Twins prospect. He threw in the low-90s and was known to be able to spin the ball well. Unfortunately, he was not able to pitch in 2020. In 2021, he began at Cedar Rapids. Through three starts, he had a 1.84 ERA, and in 14 2/3 innings, he had 23 strikeouts. Missing bats was the one thing he needed to start doing. Unfortunately, in a bullpen, something didn't feel right in his elbow. Soon after, he had Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of that season. Still, the Twins had seen enough improvement and with his rehab that they added him to the 40-man roster after the season. 
    He was able to return to the mound quickly, He threw 43 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of a May 7th rehab with Fort Myers, and the Twins deemed his rehab complete. They sent him to Double-A Wichita and he made 10 starts and 14 relief appearances. In 57 1/3 innings, he posted a 4.40 ERA. He had 64 strikeouts (10.0 K/9) but he also walked 30 batters (4.7 BB/9). Last offseason, the Twins were making player claims for pitchers such as Oliver Ortega. When they did that, Enlow was outrighted from the 40-man roster.  
    He started the 2023 quite well. In Wichita, he made 11 appearances and went 3-1 with a 3.17 ERA. In 54 innings, he had 65 strikeouts (10.8 K/9) to go with just 13 walks (2.2 BB/9). He had found his lost control and he was still missing bats at career-high rates. He moved up to the Saints and made 15 appearances (12 starts). Things didn't go as well. He went 2-5 with a 7.94 ERA. In 45 1/3 innings, he had 44 strikeouts (8.7 K/9) and 19 walks (3.8 BB/9). He gave up a lot of hits and two homers per nine innings. 
    Enlow will turn 25 in March. He's still young and still learning. He is a hard worker, and he knows the game well. However, he should have a lot of options this offseason. 
    What Should Happen?
    I would like to see the Twins try to sign Enlow and keep him around another season. He lost a full season to Covid. He lost a full season due to Tommy John surgery, and that 2022 season was more about getting through the season healthy. Since he's at Triple-A and healthy, give him another six-to-eight weeks as a starter. If that doesn't go great, move him to the bullpen full-time. See how he can perform in that role where he can air it out more often and see if it can play out. The hope would, of course, be that he becomes a dominant reliever and either help the Twins in the season's second half or make himself an easy addition to the 40-man roster. 
    If the Twins don't add Enlow to the 40-man roster, they should still attempt to sign him to a minor-league deal. However, Enlow should certainly take advantage of his free agency, talk to any and all teams that show interest and do what is best for him. Of course, that means, which team does he think he has the best opportunity to get called up to the big leagues and live out his lifelong dream. 
    What Will Happen?
    I would be surprised if the Twins added him to the 40-man roster, and that's probably the right decision. I would like to think that the Twins would make him a fair minor-league offer. However, Blayne Enlow needs to go to an organization that needs pitching in the upper-levels of their minor-league system and there is more opportunity than there would be with the Twins. 
    Other Free Agents
    There is one other member of the Twins 2017 draft class that is still in the organization is Andrew Bechtold. He was the Twins fifth-round pick out of Chipola. He played all over the infield during his early years in pro ball. Blessed with a huge arm, his most natural position is third base. He also spent a lot of time at second base earlier in his career and at first base the last couple of seasons. In 2021, he started working bullpens in the catchers gear and ended the season making one start behind the plate. That year, he went to the Arizona Fall League and caught some more. In 2023 with the Saints, Bechtold added another position. Because of his arm, he was given a chance to pitch out of the Saints bullpen. He made 20 appearances, and in 18 innings, he had 24 walks and 16 strikeouts. Nothing like learning on the job in the highest level of the minor leagues. 
    What I'd Like to See Happen? I would really like to see the Twins bring Andrew Bechtold back and give him a real opportunity on the mound. See where it goes. Let him hit. Let him catch. Let him play the corner infield spots. It doesn't need to be an everyday role, but building his versatility can hopefully keep his career going. 
    Gilberto Celestino came off of the 40-man roster as the playoffs were about to begin. He was outrighted, but because it was his first outright, he could not elect free agency. Once the World Series ends, Celestino will become a free agent. But could the Twins add the still-just-24-year-old before then and keep a right-handed outfield bat on the roster, at least for right now? 
    Right-hander Alex Scherff was the Red Sox fifth round pick in 2017 out of high school in Texas. He came to the Twins in a July trade deadline deal in 2021 that involved Hansel Robles. Once a very exciting prospect, injuries have really cost hi a lot of consistent development time. This year, he posted a 3.57 ERA in 53 innings at Wichita. he had 66 strikeouts but also walked 31 batters. He made five appearances with the Saints. Not a guy that would be considered for the 40-man roster, but an intriguing arm worthy of a minor-league deal. 
    Obviously this is not a complete list of potential minor-league free agents (meaning, guys who could be free agents in the next several days), but these are certainly names that likely received quite a bit of conversation in the Twins offices. 
    If you were Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Jeremy Zoll, Alex Hassan, Drew MacPhail, a minor league coach or coordinator and could have your voice heard, what would you recommend? 
  7. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Two Paths for Emmanuel Rodriguez and the Twins   
    The Twins signed Emmanuel Rodriguez to a $2.5 million bonus during the 2019 international signing period. At the time, MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 8 prospect in his signing class, but there is a long road to the big leagues for players signed as teenagers.
    Rodriguez wouldn’t make his professional debut until the 2021 season because of the pandemic. He showcased plenty of skills during his first season in the FCL, including hitting 10 home runs in 37 games. Minnesota moved him to full-season action for his age-19 campaign, and he combined for a 1.044 OPS in 47 games. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus ended his season, but he had already established himself as one of baseball’s best prospects.
    The 2023 season would be a memorable one for Rodriguez and the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Rodriguez was a fixture in the middle of the lineup while posting an .836 OPS in 105 games. There were some up-and-down moments in the season’s early months, but he turned it on for the team’s stretch run. In August and September, he posted a .959 OPS with 18 extra-base hits in 36 games. He also hit the go-ahead home run in the deciding game of the Midwest League Championship Series. 
    Rodriguez will likely spend most of the 2024 season at Double-A when he will be 21. The Twins can face two different paths with Rodriguez this winter.
    Path 1: Trade Rodriguez for Frontline Starting Pitching
    The Twins’ current front office has shown a willingness to trade highly rated prospects for starting pitching. Some of these trades haven’t worked out in the team’s favor (see Tyler Mahle), but most of the team’s 2023 rotation was compiled by trade. The Twins are likely losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency, which puts the club in a position to need more rotational depth, especially playoff-caliber starters.
    The Twins have two prospects in their system that rank higher than Rodriguez, which could make him a more expendable option. Brooks Lee and Walker Jenkins are consensus top-20 prospects, and they would likely be untouchable in trade talks. Rodriguez has shown some flaws, including strikeouts and time missed due to injury, that might make the Twins willing to part ways with him if it brings back a pitcher that can help the team win in October. The Twins will attempt to add a starter this winter, and Rodriguez is the player I’d be trying to shop.
    Path 2: Continue to Develop Rodriguez
    The Twins aren’t going to give Rodriguez away in a trade, so the club might decide to keep him for the upcoming season. During the winter months, it can be challenging to convince teams to trade a top-tier starting pitcher because every team feels like they have a chance to compete next season. Both World Series teams lost over 100 games two seasons ago, so there is hope for any team to make a quick turnaround. The best time to trade Rodriguez might be next season’s trade deadline when there are clear buyers and sellers, but that also means he will need to play well to start 2024.
    Double-A can be challenging, especially for a player young for the level. Last season, Rodriguez was over two years younger than the average age of the competition at his level, and that age gap would likely increase next season. There were only two at-bats where he faced a pitcher younger than himself last season. That age gap can make it challenging for prospects to show their true talent level. 
    His plate discipline is among the best in the Twins system, as he accumulated 92 walks in 99 games. However, his strikeout rate decreased (26.0%) after cutting back in this area during the 2022 season (38.2%). He also continues to play nearly all his defensive innings in center field. He may have to move to a corner spot as he continues to add muscle, so his current defensive position would add to his trade value. If he continues trending upward, he might join Lee and Jenkins near the top of baseball’s national prospect rankings. 
    What path will the Twins follow with Rodriguez? Will he make his big-league debut in a Twins uniform? Leave a COMMENT and start the conversation.
  8. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nate Palmer for an article, Twins 10, Guardians 6: Lewis Hits Another Grand Slam as Twins Pour on Runs to Win   
    Box Score
    SP: Kenta Maeda: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (66 pitches, 43 strikes (65.2%)
    Home Runs: Royce Lewis (8), Matt Wallner (10), Jorge Polanco (10)
    Top 3 WPA: Royce Lewis (0.357), Jorge Polanco (0.278), Matt Wallner (0.119)
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) 

    Twins Find Themselves in Familiar Territory Early
    Sunday, the Twins found themselves down 5-0 after the 4th inning. After the Cleveland half of the second inning, the Twins would find themselves down once again. This time by a 4-0 margin. In the second inning, the Guardians bats found Kenta Maeda’s pitches with some hard and effective contact. 
    The run-scoring was accented by a Gabriel Arias double to put the Guardians up 2-0. Then Bo Naylor flashed his power, hitting a two-run home run to score the third and fourth runs of the inning. By the inning's end, Cleveland had three hits with an exit velocity above 100 mph.     
    Royce Lewis Grand Again
    A Xzavion Curry Balk and a Donovan Solano double got the Twins on the board first, cutting the lead in half to 4-2. Unfortunately for Solano the inning will not be remembered for his RBI effort. Instead, we will remember the second inning of Monday night’s game for Royce Lewis. Like Sunday, Lewis found himself at bat with the bases full of Twins. Just like Sunday, Lewis launched a pitch over the outfield. This one dropping into the bullpen. 
    The grand slam is Lewis’ third of his career. Lewis also became the first Twin in the club’s history to hit grand slams in back-to-back days. Lewis continues his tear after finding his groove earlier this season after some early struggles. Coming into tonight, Lewis had hit for a .352 average and .942 OPS in the past 29 games.
    Wallner and Polanco join the party
    Over the third and fourth innings, the Guardians and Twins traded runs. With the score 6-5, another rookie in Matt Wallner also went deep. Wallner put the ball into the seats in right-center field for his 10th home run on the season to put the Twins up 7-5. 
    Cleveland would get a run back on a pair of doubles off the bats of Arias and Steven Kwan in the fourth inning, making it 7-6. The Twins wouldn’t leave the lead that small for long. Jorge Polanco, during his at-bat, joined the home run parade. He hit his 10th of the season, scored three runs and put the Twins up 10-6. 
    Kody Funderburk Makes Debut
    Shortly before the game, the Twins announced that Bailey Ober was being sent down to St. Paul while they brought up left reliever Kody Funderburk. After Maeda could only make it through four innings, Funderburk was called upon for his major league debut to protect the Twins 10-6 lead. 
    He started his MLB career off by fielding a grounder off the bat of Kole Calhoun. He then recorded his first MLB strikeout by freezing Ramon Laureano. After the strikeout, Funderburk finished the inning the way he started it by fielding an Andres Gimenez grounder to get out of the inning three up, three down. 
    Many have been waiting to see Funderburk step on a major league mound, and all of Twins Territory saw why as he completed two perfect innings. If he keeps this performance up, another solid left-handed arm like Funderburk's would help bolster a weak point of the Twins roster all season down the stretch. 
    Winder Proves Valuable Again
    Over the homestand, Josh Winder has come up big by providing bulk innings twice this homestand. He has provided six innings of shutout pitching. Three coming tonight in an all too important spot after Sunday's extra-inning game and Maeda's short start, which left the bullpen a bit taxed.
    What’s Next?
    Pablo Lopez will take the mound to attempt to continue the Twins winning ways. While Lopez has been very good for the Twins this season, he will look to rebound after struggling his last time out and giving up a career-high three home runs. Cleveland will counter with rookie Gavin Williams, who will bring with him a 3.52 ERA over 64.0 innings pitched. 
    Postgame Interviews
    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
      THU FRI SAT SUN SUN TOT Winder 46 0 0 0 24 70 Jax 15 0 28 0 0 43 Sands 0 32 0 0 0 32 Floro 0 0 12 19 0 31 Funderburk 0 0 0 0 28 28 Pagán 0 0 14 11 0 25 Durán 0 0 12 9 0 21 Thielbar 0 0 10 11 0 21 Balazovic 0 0 0 0 0 0  
  9. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Willi Castro's Unique Skill Set Makes Him Irreplaceable on Current Roster   
    “Willi’s is the key to all this.” – Rocco Baldelli, probably.
    On Monday, the Twins announced that Royce Lewis would be making his return from an oblique injury that had him sidelined since July 1st. The bad news was that Willi Castro would hit the injured list with an oblique injury of his own—through a lesser strain than the one that sidelined Lewis for six weeks.
    Castro was a mere afterthought at the season’s onset—a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract. However, the Twins saw something in the then-25-year-old, as the contract was worth $1.8 million.
    Castro wasn’t a standard minor league signing, as he still had three full years of team control after spending parts of four seasons in Detroit. If the toolsy, versatile player could carve out a role on the MLB team, he would be quite the asset.
    He carved out a role he has, but it wasn’t apparent that he would.
    Originally added to the active roster ahead of Opening Day as a placeholder for injured players Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff, Castro didn’t see any action until the end of the fourth game of the year, replacing Carlos Correa in an 11-1 blowout against the Marlins. Through 10 games, he had played in four—starting only three.
    On some teams, that usage would be expected of the last guy on the bench, but it’s undoubtedly not Baldelli’s style. It probably indicated that the team saw him as a non-factor, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option with his switch-hitting and ability to play anywhere.
    He played more as the season went along, generally used as a late-game replacement. Through May 11th (37 games), he had appeared in 26 games, starting only 12, and entered the game in the seventh inning or later 12 times. He also struggled, posting a .186/.300/.302 (.602) slash line with one home run in 50 plate appearances.
    His name was often thrown around by commentators as a candidate for demotion whenever another player returned from the injured list. Somehow—mainly as a result of other players on the active roster getting hurt before he headed to the chopping block—he kept his spot with the big league team.
    He also got hot at the right time. From April 30th to June 1st, he was one of the few bright spots on a team struggling offensively, slashing .329/.358/.500 (.858), stealing 10 bases in 11 attempts and playing six positions. Through that stretch, he managed to carve out a niche and, since, has rarely had his role questioned.

    Baldelli has also grown attached to utilizing his skillset. One might even say that Castro is the key to all of Baldelli’s chicanery this season. He has become infamous—or famous, depending on your stance—for tinkering in-game and playing matchups. Castro brings several skills that can help in these endeavors.
    First, he can play everywhere. In 2023, he has appeared at third base, second base, shortstop, all three outfield positions, and even pitcher on two occasions, drawing starts at all those positions other than shortstop and pitcher. If there’s a hole in the lineup card, Castro can fill it.
    He’s also a switch-hitter, which allows him to start games in the outfield against left-handed starters, giving one of the left-handed Twins corner outfielders a break. He’s posted a meager .670 OPS against left-handed starters, but he fills the role that Baldelli seeks.
    Those bits are good, but he mainly enables Baldelli’s deepest, darkest impulses after the first pitch has been thrown. Castro is the Band-Aid to any move Baldelli wants to make.
    If Baldelli wants to pinch-hit Donovan Solano for Max Kepler against a tough lefty reliever, he can move Castro from third base to right field. If he wants to hit Edouard Julien for Michael A. Taylor, Castro can move from second base to center field to make it happen. Are Kepler, Kirilloff, Joey Gallo, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Wallner suddenly all in the lineup together? No worries, just sub Castro in for one of them and put him wherever the open spot in the defense is.
    Sure, Castro has had his share of pinch-hitting himself, as he’s pinch-hit 11 times, but he’s more likely to solve problems caused by other substitutions. He’s also pinch-run nine times, and his 29 stolen bases in 33 tries have also been a valuable asset.
    He’s been put to use whether he starts or enters later in the game. In fact, between May 10th and July 16th, he played in 54 of 56 games, starting only 41 of them. There have only been 22 games, as of August 18th, that Castro hasn’t played at all. Five of those games have been since his injury. He’s played 101 of 123 games but only started 71 of them. He has entered the game late or switched positions in the field 59 times this season.
    He’s also thrived in the role, relatively. The bar will always be lower for a role player like Castro. Still, he’s stolen bases at a remarkable clip and has a respectable (for a utility player) 94 wRC+ (six percent below an average hitter). He’s provided solid defense at each position he’s played (OAA and DRS both have him at a -2 in center field, his lowest ratings, but he only had 121 MLB innings before 2023 and hasn’t been bad there).
    He’s certainly been worth the $1.8 million paycheck. Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs project him to finish with a WAR around 2, about a league-average starter, though his injury may offset that.
    For comparison, consider a player like Marwin Gonzalez, tabbed as a high-end super-utility player in 2019 and 2020. Gonzalez played a crucial role in the 2019 season, putting up an OPS+ of 94, right on par with Castro this year. Castro beats Gonzalez out in defensive versatility and base running, though. The Twins gladly paid Gonzalez $12 million that year, seven times what Castro was paid for 2023.
    Pound-for-pound Castro’s signing probably resulted in the best value that the team got this offseason. Competent Swiss Army knives are difficult to find (look no further than the extended look that Willians Astudillo got), and Castro has filled that role better than almost anyone would have expected. No one would say he’s a top-15 player on the team, but he’s done his job.
    At no point during the offseason would anyone have expected Willi Castro’s presence to be so valuable, but Baldelli will be hamstrung in the coming weeks without his Get Out Of Lineup Jail Free card. If you believe his moving and shaking is more than it’s worth, maybe the injury will relieve you, but Baldelli will need to think a little harder for now.
  10. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Where Do the Twins Fit All of the Youth   
    After injuring his oblique during the middle of the summer, Royce Lewis is back for the Twins on Tuesday night. He played four rehab games with the St. Paul Saints, and his time there was spent at third base. He went 5-for-12 with a pair of home runs and certainly looks ready to go. Rocco Baldelli could use the influx of offense for his lineup the rest of the way.
    With Lewis ticketed to take back over at the hot corner, that puts veteran Jorge Polanco in an interesting position, and Minnesota must consider where everyone will play both this year and next.
    On the season, Polanco has a 102 OPS+, but he has hit just .228/.343/.386 since returning from the injured list at the end of July. Assuming Lewis takes his spot at third base, it will be the second time this season that Polanco has been outdone by a younger talent, and Edouard Julien has settled in nicely at second base. Polanco doesn’t seem likely to be benched, so the designated hitter spot could become his regular home going forward. If there is fear Julien's defense holds him back, rather than is necessary development, the positioning between the two could be swapped.
    The Twins have hamstrung themselves in terms of lineup flexibility when Byron Buxton plays this season. Currently on the injured list and looking for a health reset, he doesn’t seem ticketed for centerfield any time soon. That means he will continue to clog the designated hitter spot, and he’s doing so at a detriment to the Twins with just a 99 OPS+.
    Shuffling will need to take place.
    First base can presumably be Joey Gallo and Donovan Solano’s role until Alex Kirilloff returns from injury. It remains to be seen whether he can get healthy, but the shoulder issue is not the same as his wrist plaguing him in recent seasons. Kirilloff has seemed to be an everyday player this season, and that would be the hope for 2024 as well. He has the ability to play corner outfield, but keeping him at first is straightforward.
    Right now, there is no reason to take Max Kepler out of the lineup, and Matt Wallner fits in at the other corner spot. Should Kepler’s option be declined next season, Trevor Larnach could figure to factor back into plans, but he has struggled to do anything with opportunities presented to him thus far. The Twins glut of corner outfielders becomes substantially more manageable in 2024, and seems to have sorted itself out for 2023.
    At centerfield, a player like Austin Martin could find a chance to establish himself. Martin probably profiles more as a utility type, but could rotate with Michael A. Taylor. He’s a better defender in the grass than on the dirt, and his speed plays in center. He’s a high on base percentage guy, and it could give Minnesota a different look down the stretch.
    Logically, it makes sense that Lewis could also start in centerfield for 2024, but that won’t be part of the equation this year. Even with the injury being a fluke in 2022, the Twins are set on their youngster not playing off the dirt this season. Giving him a full offseason to transition into the outfield helps to take some of the mouths needing to be fed on the infield out of the equation.
    Carlos Correa will remain the starting shortstop this year and into the future, which then pushes Brooks Lee to third base. Julien is settling in at second, and unless he’s given more reps at first base, that seems like the role where he will stay. Lee has already advanced to Triple-A St. Paul, and although he won’t be with the Twins in 2023 or to start 2024, a quick debut could be coming.
    At this point it’s hard to suggest what the future looks like for Jose Miranda, who failed to take the path he was provided and run with it. Losing the starting third baseman job, and then essentially losing a season due to injury, his future with Minnesota is a bit murky.
    Beyond the big names, there are a few guys that could push for playing time, but these are the talents that should be expected to anchor Minnesota in years to come. A left-to-right infield of Lewis, Correa, Julien, and Kirilloff can add Lee at third a season from now. Wallner then flanks Lewis in the outfield, with one spot up for grabs. The Twins have more to shuffle on the infield than they do the outfield, but having this much young talent pushing for time is hardly a bad place to be.
    As Minnesota turns the books to 2024, the amount of pre-arbitration contracts should provide ample opportunity for a big addition or two. Pairing that with established youth is something that should be exciting to fans for years to come.
  11. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Hans Birkeland for an article, Twins 8, Phillies 1: Script Flipped: Pablo López Dominates; Joey Gallo Carries the Offense   
    Coming off of a loss that is certainly in the running for worst loss of the year (the second game against the Mariners at Target Field is my choice), the Twins needed to bring a lot more energy to stop their losing streak and establish some positive momentum at the end of a difficult road trip. The Guardians did their part, blowing a 5-3 lead in the ninth inning against Tampa Bay to extend their run of futility, and giving the Twins a chance to retake a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central. The Twins delivered, and then some.
    Box Score
    Starting pitcher: Pablo López: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (92 Pitches, 60 Strikes, 65.2%)
    Home Runs: Matt Wallner (8), Joey Gallo 2 (20), Carlos Correa (15)
    Top 3 WPA: López (.329), Gallo (.152) Correa (.083)
    Win Probability Chart (Via Fangraphs):

    Things started out promising. Facing a solid but unspectacular right-handed pitcher in Taijuan Walker, the night began with walks to Edouard Julien and Jorge Polanco. After Carlos Correa hit a grounder soft enough to avoid a double play and advance the runners, Max Kepler hit a grounder up the middle to score Julien. Ryan Jeffers also drew a walk before Matt Wallner lined out sharply to Jake Cave in center. The Twins put runners on base in the second and third innings, as well, but came up empty even as Walker's control wavered.
    Pablo López also started out positively, getting dominating strikeouts against Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper sandwiched around a liner from Alec Bohm that struck López on the inner thigh. López was fortunate to avoid injury and didn't appear any worse for the wear.
    After drawing five walks against Walker in the first three innings, the Twins decided to do some actual damage in the fourth, starting with an impressive homer off the bat of Wallner. He stayed back on a curveball on the outside edge of the plate and hammered it 108 MPH, a homer in all 30 parks.
    Wallner's ability to adjust to a pitch he may have been fooled by caused me to outwardly exclaim that he is fundamentally a different hitter than Joey Gallo, someone I was worried would represent Wallner's ceiling. Wallner is still no sure-thing, but being able to adjust mid-pitch and crush a breaking ball is something Gallo rarely does.
    On queue, Gallo took a splitter from Walker and bashed it the other way, just over the fence in left field. Is it possible that Gallo is making an adjustment to let the ball travel a bit more? Testing the theory, he later managed to line a 1-2 slider of the right field wall facing lefty Matt Strahm in the sixth. Finally, he broke the game open with a three-run homer in the seventh. He added a two-strike single in the ninth. If nothing else, he at least is giving himself a chance in deeper counts, and that's a nice development.
    Meanwhile, López cruised through the fourth inning, racking up strikeouts and spotting his sweeper and change-up where he wanted. He got away with a few fastballs in the middle of the plate, but Phillies' hitters were late on it, perhaps with offspeed on their minds.
    Things got hairier in the fifth inning, López allowed a sharp single to the red-hot Trea Turner before striking our JT Realmuto on a 3-2 fastball way outside the zone. With López's sweeper seemingly not cooperating, Cave then looped one to right field for a single before Rodolfo Castro got the barrel on a 2-1 change-up and lined out to Kepler. That brought up reigning NL home run champ Kyle Schwarber, capable of tying the game at three with one swing, but López got the Phillies' leadoff hitter to pop out to end the threat, preserving the 3-0 advantage.
    The Phillies put up a potential rally in the sixth, as well. Bryce Harper ripped a one-out double before Nick Castellanos roped a line drive to the left-center gap. Somehow, Michael A. Taylor caught up to the hooking liner, making an excellent diving catch to quell the uprising. Bryson Stott grounded out to end the inning, giving López six shutout innings when the Twins really needed them.
    Correa then added some insurance off tough lefty Gregory Soto, hitting a 1-1 slider out to left field to extend the lead to 4-0, but the Twins weren't done. Kepler followed with a booming double off Soto and scored on a single from Wallner. Gallo then added his second home run, a three-run shot that put the game out of reach. The add-on runs are a welcome sight.
    The good:
    Kepler stroking a 99 MPH fastball from a lefty off the wall in right-center after battling back from an 0-2 count;
    Whatever strides Gallo is making; his OPS (.770) and batting average (.185) are now higher than Schwarber's, who somehow continues to hit leadoff for a playoff team.
    López has managed to string together a few great starts, and has his ERA down to 3.66. He has to be the front-runner to start game one of a playoff series.
    The bad:
    Julien looks like he has lost his timing a little. He still is only swinging at strikes, but is also swinging and missing a lot. He also has not yet had an extra-base hit in August.
    Correa looked a little slow rounding the bases on his home run, and was removed for Farmer in the seventh. The team was up 8-0 at that point, so it may have been just a precautionary move.
    What’s Next: Sonny Gray (5-5, 3.18 ERA) faces lefty Ranger Suarez (2-5, 3.96 ERA) as the Twins try for a series victory in Philadelphia. Suarez has been solid for the Phillies since coming up in 2021, but never dominant, and his baseball savant page is hardly impressive. However, he is a lefty.
    Postgame Interviews:
    Bullpen Usage Chart:
      TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Winder 42 0 0 43 0 85 Balazovic 0 39 0 0 18 57 Sands 28 0 0 0 0 28 Floro 0 0 28 0 0 28 Durán 0 0 18 0 0 18 Jax 0 0 0 0 15 15 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 15 15 Pagán 0 14 0 0 0 14  
  12. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Claim Outfielder Jordan Luplow   
    Well, this move certainly won't excite the Twins fan base. However, looking for offense against left-handed pitching, Jordan Luplow certainly fits the bill. 
    The 29-year-old was DFAd by the Blue Jays following Toronto's deadline day acquisitions. He had played just seven games with the Jays including three just before the deadline. 
    To make room for Luplow on the 40-man roster, Brock Stewart was moved to the 60-Day Injured List. 
    When he gets into a game with the Twins, it will mark his sixth big-league club that he has played for. He was originally a third-round draft pick by the Pirates in 2014 out of Fresno State. At 23, he made his MLB debut with 27 games in 2017. He played 37 games for the Pirates in 2018. 
    Twins fans will likely mostly remember Jordan Luplow from his years with Cleveland. In parts of three seasons, he played in 150 games and hit .234/.348/.486 (834) with 25 doubles and 24 homers. 
    Since then, he has become a journeyman. He's played for the Rays, the Diamondbacks, and the Blue Jays. In total, he has played in 329 big-league games and hit .213/.314/.428 (.742) with 37 doubles and 45 homers. 
    In his career, he has hit just .199/.289/.354 (.644) with 16 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs off of right-handed pitching. 
    However, against southpaws, he is a different player. He has hit .226/.337/.497 (.833). Not great numbers, by any means, but for a Twins team struggling mightily against lefties, the move is certainly understandable. 
    He's not going to hit for batting average, but how many do at this point? He gets on base at a decent clip against lefties. He does have much more power and drives the ball against left-handers. 
    In his career, he has mostly played the two corner outfield positions. He has also played 53 games at first base, mostly the last couple of years. 
    He has played in 29 games against the Twins in his career, second only to the Detroit Tigers. In those games, he hit just .164 but did hit six home runs. 
    Since 2018, he has played primarily in the big leagues. He has missed time with injury the last few years. In 48 games this year at Triple-A Buffalo, he hit .239/.341/.438 (.779). Against right-handers, he has a .653 OPS. Against lefties, his OPS is .914. 
    If he spends the rest of the season with the Twins and they like him so much, he has one more arbitration season remaining, and he only signed for $1.4 million for 2023. 
    This is definitely not a difference-maker, but it's a sneaky solid little pickup. Of course, the Twins still need to make a roster move to get Luplow onto the 26-man roster. That could be interesting. 
    Share your thoughts below. 
  13. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Complacent Twins Front Office Stands Pat at the Trade Deadline   
    While they were surely plugging away behind the scenes, the Twins were never openly prominent players at this deadline, appearing in very few publicized trade rumors and none of particular ambition. 
    Fans would have been satisfied with even a relatively low-wattage move or two on deadline day to improve upon the club's clear areas of weakness: most notably bullpen depth and right-handed hitting.
    They've been the worst team in baseball against lefties, having punctuated their pre-deadline schedule by getting shut down by Ryan Yarbrough for comedic effect. No reinforcements acquired. Their bullpen has shown increasingly concerning signs of wear. No reinforcements acquired, outside of swapping Jorge Lopez for Dylan Floro last week, which itself was an admission of failure on one of last year's big deadline swings.
    Making matters worse, it was announced minutes after the deadline passed that Brock Stewart had a setback with his elbow and is going for an MRI. Expect him to miss the rest of the year. With no Stewart, no Lopez, and no Jorge Alcala, the Twins are down three key right-handed arms they might've relied on in the late innings.
    Given the chance to offset these high-leverage losses and provide some desperately needed support for Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax, the front office passed on their chances. 
    I haven't heard any quotes yet from Derek Falvey or Thad Levine but I don't need to. They'll say the asking prices were too high. They'll say they like the guys they have. They'll say a bunch of other BS that we're all incredibly tired of hearing. The bottom line is that this was an inexcusably passive and complacent way to handle a crucial moment for the franchise. There were plenty of players moved at this deadline, and plenty of bold or at least beneficial additions made by teams with much lower playoff odds, much less at stake.
    The Twins are content to watch this same old shoddy product sputter the rest of the way untouched. And content to force us all to do the same.
  14. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Matt Braun for an article, The Twins Did Well in Trade of Jorge López Trade (The 2nd Time)   
    Minnesota kicked off their 2023 trade deadline on Wednesday, dealing Jorge López to the Marlins while getting Dylan Floro in return. Let’s talk about it. 
    For the Twins, it was untenable to keep López in Minnesota; he allowed a run in his second career outing with the Twins, and it only got worse from there. Like a flicked switch, López went from dominating All-Star to a messy coin flip, with Rocco Baldelli never quite knowing what to expect whenever he called for the righty. A poor 2022 begat a disastrous 2023—one that has seen his ERA and FIP skyrocket to absurd levels. All the stuff in the world didn’t matter as batters pounded López’s offerings, hitting seven homers over just 35 ⅓ innings.
    There was more than just athletics, though. López was placed on the recently-created mental health IL, as he revealed that he was not right mentally, perhaps in part because of health problems ailing his son, perhaps because of his sudden fall-off in performance. The mound can be the loneliest place in the world, as the camera’s spotlight captures failure and success alike, leading to painful agony as the numbers balloon and the outs never come easy. Any man’s fortitude would be tested when such pressures are magnified by personal sorrow; we root for López to find the things in life that can better bring him joy. Hopefully, that joy is in Miami. 
    (It feels weird to continue analyzing the deal after writing such a thing, but analyze we must, so.)
    In return, the Twins received the 32-year-old Dylan Floro. Floro—a champion with the 2020 Dodgers, perhaps most well-known as Kenley Jansen’s set-up man for a bit—is better than your typical throw-in. His ERA disagrees with him in 2023, but his peripherals rave about him; Floro is striking out batters at the highest rate of his career, and he’s acquiring groundballs at a 55.1% rate. The result is… a 4.54 ERA. That’ll happen when your BABIP is nearly touching .400. 
    But his FIP is an elite 2.74. It's unlikely that he's a true-talent 2.74 FIP pitcher these days, as he has a a bit too much loud contact in his profile; still, somewhere in the mid 3s would represent enough reliability to fulfill an effective role in the second-tier of Minnesota's bullpen. 
    With a boilerplate sinker/four-seam/slider/changeup repertoire, Floro likes to bully batters with a lively sinker before finishing them off with a well-placed slider. The occasional lefty will see a four-seamer. He’ll likely slot in behind Griffin Jax on the bullpen hierarchy, likely seeing time in the seventh or earlier before Brock Stewart’s return, bumping him to a more flexible, roving middle-relief guy.
    And, honestly, a solid middle reliever is a pretty good get for the Twins. It was clear that López was in dire need of a change of scenery, leaving the team without much leverage in negotiations. To get a potentially, historically reliable arm for a player they couldn’t do much with is a win; the onus is now on Miami to work with López and get him to the place he needs to be. 
    It's interesting as well that the Twins were willing to admit a mistake: rather than double-down and continue playing a player obviously not as good as the one they expected, the team dealt López not even a year after acquiring him. This is no promise that a player like Joey Gallo will follow suit, but if I'm him, I'm less certain about my spot on the team going forward. 
    Floro is only a rental, being a free agent at year’s end, while López is under team control for another year. There remains a chance that López figures it out in Miami, but that shouldn’t cause Twins fans to lose sleep: he probably wasn’t going to do that here. This is an atypical deal, involving no prospects, only two relievers with unattractive ERAs; the Twins probably did about as well as they could do, but this isn’t the impact deal that will define the team, and there’s a real chance this acquisition is washed over by the sands of time, with only immaculate grid weirdos remembering each player and whom they played for.
  15. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2 Lessons Learned from the Twins 2023 Draft   
    Before we dig into some reflections on the Twins 2023 draft class, I wanted to provide a few notes on the second annual Consensus Draft Board. I ranked 311 players using nine industry boards and added 115 player write ups in what I believe to be the first and only board of its type available for the MLB Draft. Through six rounds of the draft (around 200 picks), 90% of players drafted were on the Consensus Board. By the end of the draft, only six college players I listed weren't drafted. I'm working on a more robust look at where prospects were drafted in relation to their consensus position compared to their ranking on others boards, but that's a work in progress. Thank you to everyone who used and engaged in it.
    The Twins ‘Preferring College Players’ is a Myth Busted
    For multiple years now, we’ve heard the refrain ‘Twins prefer college bats’ from draft analysts and in draft content (including here at Twins Daily, and including me). It’s time to put that narrative to bed. The Twins drafted prep players at 5 (Jenkins), 34 (Soto), 82 (Winokur), and 150 (Questad). High school players comprised four of the Twins first six picks.
    Indeed, looking at the past 25 years of MLB Drafts, the Twins have taken college players on average 61.6% of the time, the fourth smallest percentage in MLB. By contrast, the Twins have taken high school players on average 38.1% of the time, the fourth highest percentage in MLB over that same span.
    The transferable takeaway, then, is that trying to simplify the Twins preferences to a particular demographic is a far too reductionist approach. In a pre-draft interview with Darren Wolfson, Twins VP of Amateur Scouting Sean Johnson stated that the organization's goal is always to ‘lean into the strength of the draft’. That's a much more useful principle to center when considering Twins draft picks in future cycles.
    The Twins Leaned into What They Excel at, Developing Arms
    In addition to leaning into the strength of the Draft, MLB organizations with excellent talent recognition also lean into their player development strengths. The Marlins took Noble Meyer and Thomas White with their first two picks, for example. In the case of the Twins, it’s developing pitching and adding velocity to arms. 
    Another misapplied principle in Twins organizational parlance is the idea of ‘Falvey’s pitching pipeline’, as we tend to fixate on arms who have contributed to the major league team, and in an even more hyper-focused fashion, on starting pitching. The Twins organization is flush with pitching in a variety of roles that has been exceptionally developed since the beginning of the Falvey regime.
    At the major league level up to 40% of the Twins rotation this season has at times been pitchers the Twins drafted and developed in or after the 12th round (Bailey Ober and Louie Varland). Other pitchers at least partially developed in house that have contributed include Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Brent Headrick, Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, Brock Stewart, and Caleb Thielbar. Look through other levels of the minor leagues and you’ll find many more promising arms at various stages of the development continuum from David Festa and Marco Raya, to Cory Lewis and C.J. Culpepper. The Twins know how to develop arms.
    In the 2023 draft, The Twins went on a college pitching run, selecting college pitchers in 12 consecutive picks between rounds seven and 18. Many of those pitchers are from smaller schools and colleges and have a pitch, a feature, or a quirk the Twins feel like they can meaningfully develop. To inspire confidence in this approach, we only need look back at the Twins 2022 draft, and the performance to date of arms drafted in similar rounds:
    Zebby Matthews, RHP, 8th round (234th overall pick)
    70.1 IP, 3.71 ERA, 77 K, 7 BB (A and A+ combined)
    Cory Lewis, RHP, 9th round (264th overall pick)
    63 IP, 2.29 ERA, 81 K, 21 BB (A and A+ combined)
    C.J. Culpepper, RHP, 13th round (384th overall pick)
    57.1 IP, 1.88 ERA, 61 K, 16 BB (A and A+ combined)
    All three of these pitchers were drafted outside the top 200 picks, but have added velocity, have already been promoted to A+ Cedar Rapids in their first full professional seasons, and have excellent production. An extremely promising start to their careers with the organization.
    While it's easy to look at an outlets pre-draft rankings and struggle to see why the Twins may not take a player ‘still on the board’, this is both the nature of the later rounds of the MLB draft and an excellent example of the Twins leveraging their strengths. After the outstanding early returns on 2022’s college pitching class, the Twins talent identification and player development should have the full confidence of fans in their ability to develop useful arms to contribute or trade for other assets.
    Stay tuned in the next few weeks for an announcement from Jeremy Nygaard and me about how we’ll be expanding our coverage of the draft for the 2024 cycle. Thanks for reading and engaging since February. The Draft community at Twins Daily is the best.
    Do you have any reflections or trends to share from the 2023 draft cycle? join the discussion with a comment below.
  16. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Where Do the Twins Go from Here   
    To say that Rocco Baldelli, Derek Falvey, and Thad Levine hoped this collection would be playing better is selling it short. There is no denying that a Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa-led offense should be better, and one of the game's best starting rotations is suffering for it.
    Although the Cleveland Guardians don't look like a juggernaut, they will begin the second half leading the division, and it's on the players in Minnesota's clubhouse to find a way to close the gap.
    What was remarkable, ugly, and everything in between at times? Here are some takeaways from the first half.
    1. The AL Central is a Terrible Division
    Maybe this could have been expected with the Guardians doing so little over the offseason and the White Sox's most significant move being Andrew Benintendi, or the removal of Tony La Russa. 
    At any rate, the latter has continued to be terrible, while the former has remained mediocre. Terry Francona took the division for Cleveland last year when the Twins threw it away. They are trying to do it again at the halfway point this season, but calling any of the contending teams' real playoff threats would be lying.
    2. Pitching and Defense Aren't Enough
    Coming into the year, this Twins team looked like it was going to pitch, and there was hope they could field. Questions about the lineup were present, and additions such as Joey Gallo and Christian Vazquez didn't bring the warm fuzzies to consistent production. Seeing Buxton be limited to a hit-or-miss designated hitter and Correa a shell of himself, the lineup has been among the worst in the sport.
    3. The Old Guard is Dug In
    Over the offseason, the front office had opportunities to move on from Max Kepler and chose not to. They are determined for him to show a shred of value, which continues to come at the expense of such youth as Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner. The Twins roster is hampered enough by having a strict designated hitter, but their handedness in the outfield, and a right fielder producing little value, has drug things down further.
    4. Bullpen Depth Wasn't Considered
    As has been the case for most of the tenure under this front office, the bullpen remains an afterthought. You don't have to spend big like the White Sox have, but not doing anything has continued to bite this group. Adding nothing more than minor league free agents left Brock Stewart and Jose De Leon as necessary developments rather than pleasant surprises. With Jorge Lopez regressing, Emilio Pagan unable to pitch in leverage, and Joah Duran only backed by Griffin Jax, Baldelli is hamstrung on a nightly basis.
    5. A Big Deadline Looms, Again
    Last year the Twins found themselves floundering as they approached the trade deadline. With injuries crushing them all over the roster, they swung big, landing Tyler Mahle and Lopez. The former was an upside play, while the latter was a response to a poor unit. They have less prospect capital they want to trade this year, and the roster has fewer logical places to add. A bat has to come, and relief help must be on the way, but Minnesota can't get burned for the second year.
    6. Belief in Better Only Goes So Far
    It's fair to assume that this Twins team should be much better. They lead the division in run differential by a substantial amount, and their Pythagorean record is far better than the mark in the standings. Expecting those things to correct themselves over 162 games is a logical ask, but at some point, time runs out. It's getting late early for this squad if they want to be better than what they have shown thus far.
    Thankfully the AL Central continues to leave the door wide open for Minnesota, but that will close as games go on, and this collection should only be given a pass if they capitalize on the opportunity. It will be a sprint to the finish, and anything but a division title following the regular season would be a failure.
  17. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Twins could have Six Top-50 Draft Picks in 2024   
    The rules governing MLB are nothing, if not labyrinthine. The draft rules are no different. Between qualifying offers, competitive balance picks, and the standard first-round pick, the Twins have the potential to fill their draft boards.
    MLB teams can offer their impending free agents a Qualifying Offer (QO) at the end of the season. If the player rejects it, teams can receive an additional draft pick. The rules are complicated, but if the Twins are still a revenue-sharing recipient and the player signs a contract north of $50 million, they will gain a draft pick between the first and second rounds. The pick would be between the second and third rounds if the player signs for less than $50 million.
    Have you got it? Super simple. The bottom line is that if the Twins give the QO to an impending free agent, and he rejects it, they essentially get an extra first-round pick.
    Do the Twins have any players who could receive the QO? Yes, several. To give a player the QO, the team has two criteria. First, the player must not have received a QO from their current team or any other team. Second, the player has to have spent the entire season on the team’s roster.
    The Twins have seven players projected to be eligible for the QO. However, the QO is a one-year deal equal to the average of MLB’s top 125 player salaries, likely around $20 million. Something has to go horribly right for three players—Donovan Solano, Michael A. Taylor, and Emilio Pagán—to sniff the QO.
    Depending on how they play, a solid case can be made for each of the other four to receive the QO. It’s something of a win-win for the team. If the player accepts the offer, the team pays them a hefty salary for only one year—no strings attached. The team gets a draft pick for their troubles if they reject it.
    So, who are these four players, and what are the odds they will receive a QO?
    Kenta Maeda
    Maeda is likely the longest shot in this camp, but it’s not unfeasible. It’s hard to predict how he will play this season, coming off of Tommy John surgery at almost 35, but if he pitches anywhere close to how he did in 2020, it’s reasonable.
    He would also be the most likely of the group to accept the offer. At his age, his chances of securing a multi-year deal are lower, so if he doesn’t think he could get a deal in free agency around $50 million over two years (Justin Verlander’s 2022 deal coming off of Tommy John, for reference), a $20 million payday would be good for him. It would also be an affordable veteran arm for the younger 2024 team.
    Sonny Gray
    2023 will be Gray’s 11th year in the big leagues, but he signed an extension early in his career that kept him from testing free agency (and kept him underpaid). Now he’s 33 and an established #2 starter heading into free agency after the season.
    A comparable (albeit more durable) player who signed a deal in free agency this year is Chris Bassitt. Bassitt signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the QO attached to him. If Gray has another season like 2022, with better health and more innings, he could be in line for more than Bassitt got. The Twins would gladly bring him back for $20 million or get a draft pick.
    Tyler Mahle
    Mahle is the highest-upside pitcher in this group and, not coincidentally, the youngest. If his shoulder proves healthy and he keeps his home runs down in pitcher-friendly Target Field, he could put together a season solidifying himself as an upper-level number-2 starter.
    In 2022, similar starters in age and ability Eduardo Rodriquez and Marcus Stroman fetched contracts over $70 million guaranteed. Rodriguez had the QO attached, and Stroman accepted his QO the year prior.
    If Mahle and his representation saw $70 million as feasible, they would likely pursue free agency. Given his age, he may sign a contract for five-plus years, taking him into his mid-30s and even push $100 million. Again, the Twins would gladly accept either outcome from him.
    Joey Gallo
    Here’s the wildcard. Gallo is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He also hit .160 last year. If he had been a free agent last offseason, he would have netted over $100 million on his next contract, even with his struggles down the stretch. Instead, he’s on a make-good, one-year deal with Minnesota.
    If he rediscovers his form, playing elite defense in the outfield, getting on base at a .335 clip, and hits 35 home runs, he will assuredly receive the QO and reject it. Even if he plays at 80% of that pace, there’s a case to be made. (Andrew Benintendi signed a five-year, $75 million deal this offseason).
    What are the odds that all four players play well enough to justify a QO? Probably low. The Twins current front office has only ever offered one player the QO—Jake Odorizzi in 2019—and he accepted it. I would be shocked, though, if none of them received it, and I think there’s a better chance for all four to get one than for none of them to get one.
    Combined with their standard first-rounder and a potential competitive balance pick, which they have been receiving lately due to market size and revenue, the Twins could have as many as six draft picks before the second round.
    I’m not saying it’s likely, but as JP from Angels in the Outfield would say, “It could happen.” I’m sure Twins scouting director Sean Johnson is licking his chops.
  18. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Is Now the Right Time for a Royce Lewis Extension?   
    Last week at The Athletic, Dan Hayes wrote a great story about Chris Paddack and why the right-hander was open to a three-year contract extension with the Twins as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. On the surface, the $12.5 million pact seems immensely team-friendly, locking him down at $2.5 million in 2024 -- when he will ostensibly be back to full health -- and buying out his first free agent year for a mere $7.5 million.
    If Paddack, who recently turned 27, can return to pitching anywhere near the level he was at prior to surgery, he'll be an incredible bargain and an ultra-valuable asset for the rotation in 2024/25. But that can't be safely assumed coming off a second TJ surgery, and he gets it.
    “I’m always kind of gambling on myself,” he told Hayes. “If this was my first one, maybe we’re talking just a one- or two-year deal with risk and gambling on myself going into my contract year. But this is something I couldn’t pass up, man. It’s a win-win for me."
    Which brings us to Royce Lewis, who is facing his own version of Paddack's journey, and happens to have the same agent (Scott Boras).
    Lewis is rehabbing from a second consecutive tear of the same right ACL. His odds of returning to the field as an impact player are probably much higher than Paddack's, given the murky history of double-TJ pitchers, but the risks of going through this ordeal cannot be downplayed, especially for a player whose game is based on springy athleticism.  
    Of course, the Twins' No. 2 prospect is in a very different situation career-wise compared to Paddack. By virtue of MLB's service system, Minnesota controls Lewis' rights for the next six years, including at a league-minimum salary for the next three. 
    Many teams have exercised their leverage in this position to work out long-term contracts with highly touted young players who've barely played in the majors, if at all. (The Rays have become famous for it and the Braves just did it with Michael Harris II.)
    In the case of Harris, Atlanta locked down the 21-year-old outfielder for eight years and $72 million last August, midway through a Rookie of the Year debut. The contract buys out his first two free agency years with a pair of team options after that. Here's how it shakes out: 
    2023: $5 million 2024: $5 million 2025: $8 million 2026: $8 million 2027: $9 million 2028: $10 million 2029: $10 million 2030: $12 million 2031: $15 million club option ($5 million buyout) 2032: $20 million club option ($5 million buyout) The big draw for Harris in this arrangement, aside from the ultimate security of guaranteeing himself $72 million, is the elevation of his income in the next few years. Rather than earning the league minimum each year in 2023-25, he'll make $18 million total over those campaigns. 
    Compared to Harris, Lewis obviously has a lot less bargaining power at the moment. He's three years older. He briefly debuted in the majors and looked good, but didn't make nearly so emphatic and convincing a statement as Harris. And of course, there's the knee injuries.
    Still, Harris contract might provide a helpful framework for thinking about a Lewis extension that makes sense for both sides: increased pre-arb paydays, as part of a total sum of guaranteed money that assures generational wealth, in return for cost-controlled years of arbitration and free agency, plus the flexibility of some team options at the back end.
    The proposal below amounts to roughly a seven-year, $34 million contract, buying out one year of free agency with an additional two team options on the back end (not entirely dissimilar from the extensions given to Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, albeit further along in their development):
    2023: $1M 2024: $3M 2025: $3M 2026: $5M 2027: $5M 2028: $7M 2029: $10M 2030: $12M team option ($1M buyout) 2031: $15M team option ($1M buyout) For the Twins, the incentive here is obvious -- adding a star-caliber talent in Lewis to the entrenched long-term core alongside Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa -- with cost certainty that fits nicely alongside their progressive salary allocations. (Notably, by the time Lewis reaches even a $10 million salary in this framework, Correa would already be into his option years with declining salaries.)
    The team downside is nominal: if Lewis completely fails to make it back and pan out as an effective MLB player, the Twins would be on the hook for a total sum of money slightly below Correa's 2023 salary. 
    For Lewis, the incentive also should be obvious, but it might not be quite enough. Very possibly, he's inclined to bet on himself and aim for bigger paydays, especially if he's feeling really good at this stage of his recovery. No one would begrudge him. 
    At the same time, should anyone be surprised if he and Boras are open to this kind of extension? Not only has Lewis seen his outlook become shrouded in doubt by two straight freak injuries to the same knee, but at a higher level, he's experienced the way this game can cruelly take things away from you, in ways that are completely out of your control. For what it's worth, he also seems to genuinely enjoy being a part of this organization, which could factor as well.
    If Lewis is looking for long-term security, the Twins should be welcoming that conversation with open arms. Even if the terms above are not agreeable, there's a lot of room for flexibility to still find a framework that makes a ton of sense for both sides.
  19. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Minnesota Twins Pitchers and Catchers Report: An Offseason Summary   
    For the Minnesota Twins, 2023 represents an opportunity to right the ship. Rocco Baldelli got off to a great start in his managerial career, but since the 2019 Bomba Squad, things haven’t been the same. Despite a postseason berth in 2020, the Twins have missed playoff baseball each of the past two years. This roster looks the part of being the best we’ve seen in some time, and the front office now wants to see it matter on the field.
    While we are still a bit away from seeing the Twins in game action, there is plenty to catch up on from the offseason. Who’s Out
    From the Opening Day roster last year, just 14 players currently remain in the system. Notably, starting catcher Gary Sanchez is gone, and so too are starting infielders Luis Arraez and Gio Urshela. Minnesota flipped the arbitration-eligible Urshela to the Los Angeles Angels for prospect Alejandro Hidalgo, while Arraez’s departure brought in Jorge Lopez (along with Jose Salas and Byron Chourio). The rotation will no longer see Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer among it, and longstanding organizational piece Miguel Sano remains unemployed at the moment.
    For Minnesota, this roster is one of renewed belief. Although Arraez was beloved by fans, his deal brought in much-needed pitching help. It will be weird to see Sano in a different uniform if and when he ever surfaces again, but not being in the organization has removed a vein for storylines. The rotation a season ago was largely pieced together, and with both departures for the Twins still being unemployed, it’s not shocking that the new group shows more promise.
    Who’s In
    Most importantly, Carlos Correa is back. Although it took some weird twists and turns to happen, Correa is with the organization at least for another six years, meaning that his deal lines up perfectly with Byron Buxton’s. A true superstar shortstop, Twins fans could watch C4 trend towards an eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement due to his exploits in the new Minnesota threads. The shortstop is also joined by a new backstop in Christian Vazquez. He is expected to start the bulk of Minnesota’s games, and will push Ryan Jeffers into more of a reserve role than he saw a season ago. The outfield grabbed an addition in Joey Gallo, and while he’ll need to bounce back from a down season with the Dodgers and Yankees, he adds defensive talent that could make Minnesota’s outfield the best in baseball.
    The rotation brings back Kenta Maeda at 100% after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery, and the aforementioned Lopez should be expected to contribute in a big way as well. The bullpen has largely gone unaddressed, but that could be an area Minnesota looks to tweak before Opening Day. Kyle Farmer was added as a fallback option, and now immediately slots in as a high-level utility player.
    What Are We Watching For
    This season is one for the youth. Jose Miranda is going to start at the hot corner and be expected to contribute immediately. Plenty of promise has followed Alex Kirilloff, and it’s up to his wrist as to whether he can be the regular at first base. Trevor Larnach has looked the part of a true impact bat, but injuries have kept him off the field. He was solid in left field last season, but will need to show he can remain healthy. That was the major downfall last year, health, and Nick Paparesta’s addition to the organization can hopefully make a quiet impact. Seeing the likes of Buxton, Tyler Mahle, Jeffers, Jorge Polanco, and any number of other players remain available should only enhance Minnesota’s chances. Which Twins player will breakout in 2023? We have seen Louie Varland win the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year each of the past two seasons (2021, 2022). Royce Lewis made his big league debut in 2022 and should be back this summer. Simeon Woods Richardson showed up for one start at the end of the year as well. Does Austin Martin or Brooks Lee get the call? Maybe David Festa forces his way into big league action. Although the Twins may not have the top end talent of some other organizations, their prospect depth is plenty exciting.
    Many of Minnesota’s regulars will remain in camp with the organization. There are a few others that will play for their native countries in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Checking out a few of them in action during more meaningful games could give fans a glimpse of how ready they are for the regular season to start.
    With Cleveland having made just minor upgrades in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, their top spot is ripe for the picking. Andrew Benintendi is a nice get for Chicago, but expecting Mike Clevinger to contribute there any time soon isn’t a good bet. The division is again right there for the taking, and it starts this week.
  20. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, The Twins Most Underrated Player?   
    MLB teams need players to fit different roles on the roster, from the big bat off the bench to a fireman reliever out of the bullpen. Jorge Polanco is entering his tenth big-league season, and he has quietly become one of Minnesota’s most consistent presences in the line-up. Multiple traits make Polanco underrated as he has developed into one of baseball’s best second basemen before entering his age-29 season. 
    Minnesota originally signed Polanco as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in a strong signing class that included Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. Kepler and Polanco agreed to contract extensions leading into the 2019 season to add to their years of team control. He signed what turned out to be a very team-friendly deal for five years and $25.75 million. There is a vesting option for 2024 ($10.5 million) if he reaches 550 PA in 2023. Minnesota also holds a $12 million team option for 2025, with escalators based on All-Star Games, Silver Sluggers, and Gold Gloves. He’s earned over $18.3 million in his career, but his value to the Twins has been much higher than his earnings. 
    Polanco has outperformed his contract nearly every season since becoming a big-league regular. He was limited to 104 games last season, and FanGraphs pegs his value at $14.6 million. His best season was the 2021 campaign when he provided 4.2 WAR, which equals $33.4 million in value. In 2019, he was the AL’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, and he was worth $26.2 million. Overall, he has been worth 13.9 WAR and $111.3 million. 
    Every winter, MLB Network ranks the top players at each position. Polanco improved by one spot in the rankings, moving from seventh to sixth overall. Fans did not think as highly of Polanco as he didn’t make the top-10 fan list from MLB Network, with players like Ozzie Albies and Jazz Chisholm Jr. jumping over him into the list. Polanco isn’t a household name, so it’s easy to see why he might be forgotten about in fan voting. 
    Among AL second basemen, Polanco has the third-highest WAR over the last two seasons behind Jose Altuve and Marcus Semien. He ranks sixth among all second basemen in the same period. Altuve is the only second baseman with a higher wRC+ over the last two years. Last season, he ranked in the 70th percentile or higher in xwOBA, Barrel %, xSLG, Chase Rate, and Sprint Speed. His best category was BB%, as he ranked in the 98th percentile after drawing a career-high 64 walks. He is clearly among baseball’s best second basemen in many offensive categories. 
    Defensively, Polanco struggled in 2022, but a knee injury might have impacted his defensive value. Only three AL second basemen ranked lower than Polanco according to SABR’s Defensive Index. Baseball Savant ranked him in the 14th percentile for Outs Above Average and in the 25th percentile for Arm Strength. It will also be interesting to see how MLB’s shift rules impact his defensive value. Defensive metrics have been hard to trust the past couple of seasons, with the second baseman regularly standing in shallow right field. His ankle and knee issues may have slowed him down, which might impact his defensive value without being able to play on the grass. 
    Polanco missed the last month of the season after a knee injury, but the team is reporting that he should be ready for spring training later this month. Minnesota also has multiple top prospects behind Polanco on the second base depth chart. Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Edouard Julien , and Austin Martin look to impact the roster in 2023, and second base might be their path to playing time. If Polanco’s injuries reemerge, the Twins might turn the position over to a younger player. 
    Since the start of 2019, only Byron Buxton has provided more value to the Twins than Jorge Polanco. Some fans might have yet to fully appreciate that value, which is one of the biggest reasons he is underrated. Do you feel Polanco is an underrated player? Is he the most underrated player on the Twins roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  21. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking the Twins Offseason Moves   
    Throughout the winter, fans will react differently to any transaction the club makes, from significant acquisitions to prospects left off the 40-man roster. Teams can trade away fan-favorite players or sign free agents to multi-million dollar deals. There are no guarantees in baseball, and the Twins front office has left themselves open to praise or criticism depending on the long-term outcome of these moves. On paper, the Twins have improved and added depth throughout the roster, which projects to have the team back in playoff contention. 
    7. Trading Gio Urshela for Alejandro Hidalgo
    According to Baseball Reference, Urshela provided the fourth-most WAR on the team in 2022. One of the keys to his value was that he tied Luis Arraez for the team lead with 144 games played. Minnesota traded him to the Angels for Alejandro Hidalgo, a 19-year-old pitcher with a career 4.64 ERA in 17 appearances. Urshela is in his last arbitration season, and the Twins were ready to give Jose Miranda the starting job at third base. It's at the bottom of the list because the trade return was minimal.
    6. Signing Joey Gallo to a 1-year, $11 million deal
    The Twins front office thinks Gallo can return to his previous form, but it will take time to know if signing him was the correct decision. Last season, Gallo hit just .160/.280/.357 (.638) with 19 home runs and 163 strikeouts in 126 games. He was an All-Star in 2021, leading the AL with 111 walks while hitting 38 home runs. Gallo is a multi-time All-Star and has won two Gold Gloves, but there is no guarantee he will return to that level in 2023. 
    5. Trading Steven Cruz and Evan Sisk for Michael A. Taylor
    Many thought the Twins were in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder on the free agent market. The Twins decided to go in a different direction and traded for one of baseball's best outfield defenders. On paper, it seems like a solid plan to use Taylor for games when Buxton is not available to play in the field. He can bat at the bottom of the line-up and help the pitching staff on the defensive side. This move has the potential to be a sneaky-good move for the Twins, especially if it helps Buxton play over 100 games. 
    4. Trading Casey Legumina for Kyle Farmer
    Adding Farmer helped the Twins establish a floor for their middle infield this winter. If Correa signed elsewhere, Farmer would likely take over the starting shortstop role until Royce Lewis returned in the second half. Instead, Farmer can shift to a utility role that suits his skill set. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged over 145 games per season while playing every infield position. He's not a player to get excited about, but fans will come to appreciate what he adds to the roster. 
    3. Trading Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez, Jose Salas, and Byron Chourio
    It was tough for the front office to trade away Luis Arraez, a fan favorite, but the return helps the team in the short- and long term. Lopez adds depth to the starting rotation, especially with injury concerns tied to multiple arms. Arraez's 2022 season showcased his peak value, but there is little upside in a first baseman with little to no power. The Twins also received two prospects in the deal, including one that already ranks in the team's top 10 prospects. Minnesota needs Lopez to be the pitcher he was in 2022, and it will be a bonus if either prospect is a regular at the big-league level.
    2. Signing Christian Vazquez to a 3-year, $30 million deal
    The Twins had to improve behind the plate, and Vazquez should help to solidify one of baseball's most important positions. He's been on multiple World Series teams and has caught over 1,900 innings over the last two seasons. Minnesota will be relying on some young pitchers in the coming years, and Vazquez can be a veteran presence to help usher them into their big-league careers. Adding Vazquez was a move the Twins had to make, and that's why it ranks so high on this list. 
    1. Signing Carlos Correa to a 6-year, $200 million deal
    No other transaction will define the Twins franchise more over the next decade than signing Correa... the second time. He is one of baseball's best two-way players and has the rare ability to impact nearly all facets of the game. Minnesota saw what he provided on and off the field, so they were eager for him to return, even with questions about his ankle. Fans may have yet to fully embrace Correa because it looked like his Twins tenure would be short-lived. Now, there is a chance he will end his career in Minnesota, and that's something for fans to enjoy. 
    How would you rank this winter's moves? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  22. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #16-20   
    Earlier this week, Seth Stohs took a dive into the deeper end of the Minnesota Twins system, highlighting players who finished in the 21-30 range of our voting tabulation, and honorable mentions who fell just outside that threshold. (For what it's worth, note that Luis Arraez was once found in these very same outside ranks of our lists and others. And he's only one fresh-in-mind example.)
    With that said, the odds of an MLB future start to increase as we break into the top 20 of our list. In this group of five, representing Twins Daily's choices for the organizations 16th-through-20th best prospects of 2023, we find an intriguing mix of untapped promise and fading high-end upside.
    20. Misael Urbina, OF
    Age: 20
    2022 Stats: 263 PA, .247/.323/.407, 5 HR, 27 RBI
    He was the Twins' big-money signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, scoring a $2.75 million bonus, but four years later he hasn't played a game above Low-A. That's how it can go for players that sign as extremely raw talents at age 16 (especially with a lost COVID season mixed in). Through it all he still won't reach legal drinking age until this April.
    Urbina's outstanding tools remain intact but he needs to start backing them up with production in order to keep his prospect status from fading. Thus far he has a .228/.326/.359 slash line as a pro.
    19. Jose Rodriguez, OF
    Age: 17
    2022 Stats (Rookie): 219 PA, .290/.361/.605 , 13 HR, 49 RBI
    Typically speaking, when teenage players sign from another country and head to the States to play pro ball, it takes a little while to acclimate and warm up. You'll often see meager results in short-season debuts for players who go on to accomplish a great deal. Rodriguez broke the mold after he signed last summer and joined the Twins' affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.
    He wasn't the most high-profile player acquired in Minnesota's 2022 international signing class, which helped make his spectacular showing on the field so jarring. Rodriguez posted a jaw-dropping .966 OPS and led the short-season league with 13 homers in 55 games. He was an absolute slugging machine and it's scary to think how that might evolve as he ages. The stellar showing earned him Twins Daily's nod as short-season hitter of the year.
    "Rodriguez’s exit velocities may have been even more impressive than his homer total," wrote Aaron Gleeman, who is higher than most on the prospect, ranking him 13th on his list. "He destroyed the ball, in an environment where that isn’t supposed to take place."
    So far, so very good. And the strikeout/walk rates are promising for future development. But Rodriguez has a long way to go, as a player from a mold that has high burnout rates. He's a candidate to fly up these rankings with a reinforcing 2023 campaign.
    18. Tanner Schobel, 2B
    Age: 21
    2022 Stats (Rookie/A): 136 PA, .242/.367/.303, 1 HR, 11 RBI
    The Twins snagged Schobel in the second round of last year's draft out of Virginia Tech, where he emerged as a slugging shortstop to boost his appeal. After signing him to a $1 million bonus the Twins him to get his feet wet in Low-A. There, Schobel's power evaporated.
    Following a 19-homer outburst in the college season, Schobel managed just one home run in 120 plate appearances at Fort Myers, producing a mere .303 slugging percentage. He did, however, show good plate discipline with a 23-to-18 K/BB ratio while swiping seven bags.
    The power drop-off and move from short to second keep Schobel's helium in check, leading to a lower ranking than you'd normally see from such a highly-drafted prospect in the latest class. But there are some Brian Dozier parallels here, and he's the poster child for late-blooming middle infield power. 
    17. Ronny Henriquez, RHP
    Age: 22
    2022 Stats (AAA): 95.1 IP, 5.66 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 
    The Twins were excited to get Ronny Henriquez as an addition to Isiah Kiner-Falefa in last offseason's Mitch Garver trade. They viewed him as underrated addition to their pitching pipeline, capable of racking up strikeouts and moving quickly to the majors.
    They were correct on those two counts. Henriquez tallied 106 strikeouts in 95 innings at Triple-A, and reached the majors in September at age 22, posting a 2.31 ERA in three appearances.
    data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== With the goods news out of the way, he also allowed a 5.66 ERA at St. Paul, coughing up 19 homers and 33 walks in those 95 innings. Some changes in pitch usage could help Henriquez take the final step to fulfill his potential, and that'll probably start with moving him to full-time relief duty. The righty made 14 starts for the Saints last year among 24 appearances. Don't sleep on him as a significant factor in Minnesota's bullpen this year.
    16. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    Age: 24
    2022 Stats (AAA): 70.2 IP, 7.39 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
    What was supposed to be Balazovic's breakthrough year turned into a total breakdown. From start to finish it was an abject disaster. He was all over the place, utterly hittable when in the zone, and incredibly home run prone. Virtually every start unraveled on the big right-hander, at least up until a decent final month softened his landing at season's end.
    There were reports of a bothersome knee issue, but Balazovic was healthy enough to avoid the injured list following his late start, so this seems more an issue of mechanics and execution. The reason he remains as high as he does in our ranks is because Balazovic had elevated himself to such a level prior to this lost season. 
    Bad as it was, it's only one season, and the 24-year-old still has time to get (at least somewhat) back on track to recapture the form that made him arguably the system's best pitching prospect prior. Over the past three years he's ranked fourth, sixth, and fifth on this list. 
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below. I will try to get to as any of them as I can. 
    For more Twins Daily content on these ten Twins prospects, click on the link with their name here: Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Tanner Schobel, Jose Rodriguez, Misael Urbina. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20 
    Prospects 11-15 - Coming Soon! 
  23. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 5 Twins Players with Something Specific to Prove This Year   
    Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. 
    As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain.
    These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle.
    Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals.
    1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams?
    Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents.
    In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings.
    Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. 
    The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. 
    Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason.
    2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void?
    There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost.
    You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. 
    If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better.
    To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 
    3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential?
    Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart.
    He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt.
    Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric.
    Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can.
    4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively?
    The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. 
    Now he needs to define his defensive future.
    If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route.
    Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors.
    But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves  at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit.
    5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out?
    Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21?
    The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end.
    Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties.
    Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way.
  24. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Prospect Rankings (Part 2: Prospects 21-30)   
    For the first time, Twins Daily is now sharing our choices for the Top 30 Twins prospects. In reality, it's just one more article for you to read as we are including prospects 21-30 today. It is really an interesting mix of prospects in this range, which isn't surprising. There are several prospects who are very young in their careers. These are players with lots of tools and potential, but a long, long way to go before even approaching the big leagues. There are a couple of pitchers who had exciting 2022 seasons that catapulted themselves to this level, but they were previously lesser known so some weren't willing to push them any higher. As you would also expect, there are some minor leagues who were once Top 20, and even Top 10, prospects and whether it be injury or performance, they have dropped down the rankings. They still have the talent and at least one took that will need to carry them to an opportunity. 
    Twins prospects ranking between 21-30 in our series highlights a dynamic group of players, some brimming with upside and others with higher-perceived floors. Let's break them down. 
    30. OF Byron Chourio 
    Age: 17
    2022 (DSL Marlins): 51 games, .344/.429/.410 (.838), 9-2B, 1-HR, 12.4% K, 11.5% BB
    Just one year ago, the Marlins signed a 16-year-old Chourio from Merida, Venezuela, for $200,000. He stands 6-2 and weighs about 175 pounds. He had a very impressive professional debut in 2022 with the Marlins’ DSL team. He hit for average, got on base, showed good bat-to-ball skills, and showed doubles power. He also stole 19 bases in 26 attempts. He played 20 games in center field, 19 games in right field, and three games in left field. He has a strong arm. The Twins acquired him as a flyer in the Arraez/Lopez trade recently. Jose Salas is the top prospect, but Chourio is equally intriguing. As I like to say, he was impressive in the DSL, but that is six promotions from the big leagues. Chourio is certainly filled with athleticism and tools that should excite Twins fans. 
    29. 1B Aaron Sabato 
    Age: 23
    2022 (A+/AA): 103 games, .215/.336/.438 (.774), 17 2B, 22 HR, 4/5 SB, 32% K, 13% BB
    The Twins were excited to select Sabato with the 27th overall pick out of North Carolina where he put up numbers very similar to those of Spencer Torkelson. He really struggled in his pro debut in 2021. He hit just .189 in 85 games in Ft. Myers but came on strong after a late-season promotion to Cedar Rapids where he added eight homers in 22 games. That’s where he began the 2022 season. In 80 games, he hit .226 with 13 doubles and 17 homers. He moved up to Wichita for 23 games late in the season and hit .179 with four doubles and five homers before his season ended with a fastball to his wrist. To this point, he has not hit for average. However, he does walk a lot. He has immense power, so when he does make quality contact, he has the ability to hit the ball a long way. The problem is that he has had trouble making contact, especially on good fastballs. He has become a decent defensive first baseman. He should start 2023 at Wichita and will continue to get opportunities, including another spring training invitation. 
    28. OF Kala’i Rosario 
    Age: 20
    2022 (A): 109 games, .239/.320/.408 (.727), 21 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 32.5% K, 8.1% BB
    In the five-round 2020 draft, Rosario was the team’s fifth-round pick out of high school in Waiakea, Hawaii. He was one of the most powerful prep bats in that draft. He debuted with 51 games in the FCL in 2021 and hit .277 with 10 doubles, four triples, and five home runs. As a 19-year-old in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, his overall numbers may not look exciting, but he was productive and provided some extra base power. However, with that power comes a lot of strikeouts, something that he will need to continue working on as he moves up the organizational ladder. Rosario played both corner outfield positions with about two-thirds of that time in right field. He has good speed and plays average defense. He’s got an average arm for right field. He’s very young for the level, so he could repeat in the FSL in 2023, though it would be great if he can spend some time in Cedar Rapids as well. 
    27. INF Yunior Severino 
    Age: 23
    2022 (A+/AA): 83 games, .278/.370/.536 (.907), 17 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 25.9% K, 11.1% BB
    Twice a top international signing, Severino has slowly worked his way up the Twins system. He began 2022 where he ended the 2021 season, in Cedar Rapids. In 46 games, he hit .283/.398/.572 (.970) in 46 games and hit nine doubles and 11 homers. He missed significant time with an injury but when he returned he was soon promoted to Double-A Wichita where he played 37 games. In that time, he hit .273/.338/.497 (.834) with eight doubles and eight homers. He does strike out more than you could like, but he also has a strong on-base percentage thanks to a lot of walks. At Cedar Rapids, he primarily played second base. Once he moved up to Wichita (and Christian Encarnacion-Strand was traded), Severino spent most of his time at third base. While he lacks plus-range, he does make most of the plays. He should start the 2023 season with the Wind Surge where at 23, he’ll be about a year younger than the average player. 
    26. SS Bryan Acuna 
    Age: 17
    2022 (DSL Twins): 43 games, .310/.409/.393 (.803), 12 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 21.1% K, 11.7% BB
    You can’t help but start with the Acuna genetics. Ronald Acuna Sr. played in the New York Mets organization from 1999 through 2004. He then spent one season each with the Blue Jays and Brewers organizations. In 2005, Bryan was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Double-A home of the Blue Jays. Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was the NL Rookie of the Year as a 20-year-old in 2018 and has been an All-Star in three of the past four years. 20-year-old Double-A shortstop Luisangel Acuna was just added to the Rangers 40-man roster. 
    Bryan Acuna signed with the Twins last January from Venezuela for $950,000 and made his pro debut in 2022 in the DSL. His overall numbers look solid, including an OPS over .800. That is more impressive when you consider that in his first 11 games, he went 2-for-30 with 13 strikeouts in 37 plate appearances (35%). That also means that over his final 32 games, he hit .368/.455/.465 (.919) with 11 of his 12 doubles, and he struck out just 17% of the time. While maybe not to the same level as his All-Star brother, Bryan Acuna does have a lot of tools. He played in 42 games at shortstop and had 13 errors. He’s got work to do defensively. He had no homers, but his 12 doubles show that the power could come too. He should come to the States in 2023 and play in the FCL.  
    25. LHP Brent Headrick 
    Age: 25
    2022 (A+/AA): 23 starts (25 G), 108 1/3 IP, 3.32 ERA, 31% K, 6.1% BB
    Headrick was the Twins ninth-round pick in 2019 out of Illinois State University where he pitched for former Twins catcher Steve Holm. Like most minor leaguers, he did not pitch in 2020. He made 15 appearances for the Mighty Mussels in 2021 and posted a 3.82 ERA. In 61 1/3 innings, he walked 33 batters, but he struck out 86 batters. In 2022, he made 15 starts with Cedar Rapids and went 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. In 65 1/3 innings, he had just 13 walks to go with 77 strikeouts. He moved up to Double-A, and after a rough first outing (7 runs on 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings), he posted a 3.54 ERA and had 57 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings. Following the season, he was a pretty easy addition to the Twins 40-man roster.
    24. INF Danny De Andrade 
    Age: 18
    2022 (FCL Twins): 48 games, .242/.333/.371, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 4/6 SB, 13.5% K, 7.5% BB
    De Andrade signed with the Twins out of Venezuela in January 2021 for a $2.2 million bonus. He spent that summer in the DSL where he hit .264/.340/.348 (.688) with 13 doubles and a triple in 50 games. He came to the States in 2022 and played most every day. He made 32 starts at shortstop and 13 more at third base. He is a solid defender with good range, soft hands and a strong arm. Offensively, he’s a work-in-progress. He is an aggressive hitter with a strong swing and good bat-to-ball skills. There is potential for some power. He could spend the 2023 with the Mighty Mussels, which is likely to present a major challenge for him offensively, so don’t be surprised if he repeats the level as he will be very young. 
    23. RHP Cole Sands 
    Age: 24
    2022 (AAA): 19 games (13 GS), 61 2/3 IP, 5.55 ERA, 25.4% K%, 8.5% BB%
    2022 (MIN): 11 games (3 GS), 30 2/3 IP, 5.87 ERA, 19.3% K%, 9.0% BB% 
    Sands represented Team USA events in high school. He was drafted but chose to attend Florida State University. Three years later, he was the Twins fifth-round pick in 2018. That next season, he pitched at three levels, ending the year with one Double-A start. He didn’t pitch in 2020, and in 2021, he posted a 2.46 ERA at Double-A Wichita. He had 96 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings. Moving up to Triple-A in 2022, he maintained his strikeout rate and actually reduced his walk rate. However, as you can see above, he gave up a lot of runs. It was an inconsistent year for Sands. He was promoted and optioned several times throughout the season, and also spent a couple of stints on the injured list. Is he a starter or reliever? There are a lot of similarities in terms of stuff between Sands and Tyler Duffey. Sands sits in the low-90s with his fastball but can touch 95. He also has a couple of very nice, albeit inconsistent,  breaking balls. As we saw with Duffey, that can be very valuable. He would not be the first player to struggle in his big-league debut, learn from it, and have some level of success. With the Twins pitching depth, will he get that opportunity? 
    22. RHP Blayne Enlow 
    Age: 23
    2022 (AA): 24 games (10 starts), 57 1/3 IP, 4.40 ERA, 24.8% K, 11.6% BB
    Another Team USA alum, Enlow was the Twins third-round pick in 2017 out of high school in Louisiana when they met his signing bonus request to keep him from LSU. It was a slow-go for Enlow early in his career. Like many, Enlow did not pitch in 2020. He returned to Cedar Rapids (now a High-A affiliate) in 2021, but just three starts into the season, he hurt his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in June. Enlow worked hard through his rehab, and in November 2021, he was added to the 40-man roster. He returned to the mound in May 2022, 11 months after surgery, and made one rehab appearance for Ft. Myers before heading up to Double-A Wichita. He made 10 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 1-3 and had three saves. He was clearly working to get back his form. He walked 30 batters in 57 1/3 innings, well over his ‘normal’ walk rate. That is a number he can reduce quite a bit. He also struck out 64 batters which showed that the stuff was still there. Recently, the front office took the risk of placing him on waivers, but he cleared and was outrighted to the minors. While not necessarily great, it might be exactly what he and the Twins need. It might take some of the pressure off of him in 2023 and he can just work on things. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a solid breaking ball and an improving change up, Enlow has potential. Again, will that be as a starter or as a reliever? We shall see. (As you can see in the video below, right before his elbow injury, Enlow was dealing, with all of his pitches.)
    21. LHP Jaylen Nowlin 
    Age: 22
    2022 (A/A+): 22 games (14 starts), 71 IP, 3.80 ERA, 36.0% K%, 11.6% BB%
    Yet another late-round steal by the Twins scouting department, it appears. Nowlin was the Twins 19th round pick out of Chipola College. He attended Westlake High School in Atlanta with A’s prospect Lawrence Butler. In the summers, he played with Braves outfielder Michael Harris. He pitched in just one FCL game in 2021, but he made his mark at Fall Instructional League when the southpaw was touching 97 mph with a fastball and showing a solid slider as well. He carried that into the 2022 season. He began at Ft. Myers where he went 4-4 with a 3.65 ERA. In 56 ⅔ innings, he walked 29, but he struck out 89 batters. He moved up to the Kernels late in the season and made three starts. He was 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA. In 14 1/3 innings, he walked seven but struck out 22 batters. Overall, that is 11 strikeouts in 71 innings, a rate of 14.1 K/9. Clearly he will need to improve his control and command, but the Twins can be patient with him and should be because he has immense talent, he just needs to keep improving. 
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below. I will try to get to as any of them as I can. 
    For more Twins Daily content on these ten Twins prospects, click on the link with their name here: Jaylen Nowlin, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands, Danny De Andrade, Brent Headrick, Bryan Acuna, Yunior Severino, Kala'i Rosario, Aaron Sabato, Byron Chourio. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20 - Coming Soon!
    Prospects 11-15
  25. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily Winter Meltdown Returns with a Bang: Event Recap   
    Taking place a few blocks away from Target Field at The Pourhouse, the 2023 Winter Meltdown brought together hundreds of people for a lively night of food, drinks, and baseball chatter. 
    The staff at the venue did an excellent job keeping up with a huge crowd of attendees, serving up tasty 612Brew beers, snacks, sliders, and more. Twins fans and media, many having walked over from TwinsFest at Target Field, filled both of Pourhouse's two levels to catch the action on-stage, which featured Aaron Gleeman and John Bonnes interviewing two iconic figures in Twins media, as well as several interactive games and giveaways. 
    The first interviewee was legendary columnist Patrick Reusse, fresh off being recognized by the Twins with the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of his decades covering the team. As always, Reusse was full of amusing anecdotes and snarky one-liners, sharing his thoughts on the Luis Arraez trade, Joey Gallo's strikeouts, and MLB's rule changes, among other things.
    Reusse was followed by featured speaker Glen Perkins, a former three-time All Star closer for the Twins who now serves as analyst and commentator for the Bally Sports North broadcast team. In the past I've called Perkins a Twins Daily Hall of Famer: a hometown big-leaguer who was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence, adopted an analytical mindset midway through his career, and once famously bought a bunch of TD pub-crawlers a round of beers from the bullpen during a rain delay.
    He was a perfect headliner for the Winter Meltdown's return, and was a great guest, reminiscing on his playing days while also sharing insights about the current team and the state of baseball. I found particularly interesting Perk's explanation of how the front office influences the contents of the TV broadcast: the increased presence of people like him who can speak to the analytical side of baseball is no coincidence. As he put it, they want fans and viewers to gain a better understanding of the game through this lens because it's fundamental to how they build and run the team.
    If you missed the event, you can catch recordings of both Reusse's and Perkins' interviews on the latest episode of the Gleeman and the Geek podcast.
    There were plenty of other highlights from the night, including some recognizable faces among the crowd (I enjoyed catching up with former Minneapolis mayor and staunch Twins Daily advocate RT Rybak) along with plenty of great apparel on display. The rebrand seems to be resonating with the fanbase, as the updated logo and styles were quite prevalent.
    With that said, the "best dressed" award has to go to the combo of Aaron Rupar and Brett Howe, who were sporting Giants and Mets Carlos Correa shirseys, respectively.
    It's all part of the unique Winter Meltdown experience that I have missed so dearly over these past two years. I'm filled with gratitude for everyone who played part in making it happen, and who came out to make it what it was. 
    HUGE thank you Bonnes, who did a majority of the legwork on planning and overseeing the event. Big thanks also to Reusse and Perkins, who were among the most engaging guests we've had; The Pourhouse for hosting us with such great accommodations; and to 612Brew for supplying the beers and take-home pint glasses. 
    The scale this event has reached is truly amazing to me, and speaks to the powerful sense of community among Twins fans, and surrounding this website specifically. We appreciate you all. If you didn't make it this year, I hope to see you at next year's Meltdown – or better yet, this summer at the ballpark.
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