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  1. Sad
    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Alex Kirilloff Situation Is a Colossal Bummer   
    Alex Kirilloff's first stretch in the majors (not counting his postseason debut in 2020) was a great example of why you shouldn't put too much stock into results over a modest sampling of at-bats, at least without taking a deeper look. He started out his career in an 0-for-15 slump, but it was clear to anyone watching that Kirilloff was hardly overmatched. He wasn't striking out and when he connected he was driving the ball. 
    We all knew the hits were going to come. And they did, in a hurry. The outfielder broke out with a nine-game hitting streak that included three doubles and four home runs. But during that stretch – on May 3rd, while sliding into second on one of those doubles – Kirilloff hurt his wrist. And since then nothing has really been the same.
    He kept playing for a couple more months but managed only 13 extra-base hits in 46 games the rest of the way before undergoing surgery in July. The hope was that this procedure would correct the wrist issue while also giving him plenty of time to rehab and be ready for this 2022 season. Unfortunately, it hasn't played out like that.
    At no point this year has Kirilloff really looked like himself. He opened the season in a 1-for-17 slump and unlike that opening drought from last year, this one carried no signs of being a mirage. He admitted his wrist was still causing him "a lot of pain" while swinging and went on the injured list, receiving a cortisone shot. Since returning, little has changed.
    Statcast, which measures the quality and characteristics of batted balls, paints an almost incomprehensibly grim picture of Kirilloff's performance. His highest exit velocity all year is 100.8 MPH, which puts him in the 9th percentile of MLB hitters for Max AV. Last year he topped that number 35 times. His average exit velocity is down to 85 MPH from 91 last year. He has recorded zero barrels all season, meaning he basically has not once truly squared a ball up.
    Kirilloff's launch angle is what really tells the story. It's at -14.1 degrees this year, which means he is basically hitting everything directly into the ground. The extreme nature of that figure cannot be overstated – there is not a single qualified MLB player with a negative launch angle this season, much less that deep in the red. Last year there was one player in the negative (Raimel Tapia of the Rockies at -4.4). 
    It's unheard of. Kirilloff's swing is completely broken and that is especially hard to see from a player of his natural talent, who was showing glimpses of letting that talent shine. Kirilloff says he's never been able to swing pain-free since the surgery, and he now sounds like he's just trying to cope with this new reality.
    "There's still discomfort, and he thinks that his swing does feel different from how it did before the surgery," wrote Do-Hyoung Park for MLB.com. "He's just not able to pinpoint the exact ways in which it feels different. It might be physical. It might be mental. It's likely some combination of both."
    I wish I could feel confident he was going to head to Triple-A and figure things out in short order. But Kirilloff is just so far from where he needs to be, and the path to getting there is so unclear. Playing in a doubleheader for the Saints on Sunday, he notched four hits – all singles. The former standout slugger still has yet to collect his first extra-base hit through 69 plate appearances in the majors and minors.
    The Twins need his bat at its full potency. Kirilloff can be a pivotal difference-maker for this lineup, as without him they are severely lacking for left-handed power. They need this swing back: 
    Is it still within him? The 24-year-old is going to try to find something that works over the coming weeks at St. Paul. If another month or so passes without the power starting to manifest, you have to wonder if they'll turn to Plan B: another surgery. 
    Park mentioned in his article that a procedure could be done to create more space between bones where Kirilloff's cartilage has worn away, contributing to the discomfort. He added that this surgery is "more invasive and involves shortening his ulna altogether by breaking and cutting out a section of the bone."
    Sounds unpleasant and undesirable. But we're now basically sorting through bad scenarios to land on the least bad. And in the meantime, Kirilloff – who already lost a full year of his career to Tommy John surgery – is watching his prime playing days pass by while he wrestles with, in his words, "one long, continuous puzzle to try to figure out."
  2. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Are These Twins For Real?   
    (*Get it? Fielding? Little baseball pun there. It's well known that The Baseball Gods love baseball puns.)
    The team didn't look "for real" last night against the Astros and Justin Verlander, but Verlander clearly has some celestial blood running through his veins. He's 39, coming off Tommy John surgery, leads MLB in innings pitched, and has a 1.55 ERA. If that doesn't whisper "demigod," you deserve whatever wrath those Divine Deities of the Diamond throw your way.
    But despite last night, the Twins are for real. I won't suggest the path will be an easy one because I don't want to assume that the Twins players won't continue to drop like flies. (The Baseball Gods hate it when you assume your team's players won't drop like flies.) And because The Baseball Gods love stats (they work overtime devising new stats), let's look at a few.
    Twins run differential +35

    Runs are the currency by which wins are purchased. I think Bill James wrote that, and if so, I'm sure it'll be referenced when The Baseball Gods consider him for Assumption. Runs tend to stay in sync with win-loss records. If they don't, one or the other is likely to adjust. 
    But they're in lockstep for the Twins. Given how many 1-run games the Twins have recently won (seven in a row), they might feel like they're getting a little lucky. And they are. The crazy endings versus the White Sox and Tigers were undoubtedly The Baseball Gods entertaining themselves. But their run differential, which ranks third in the American League, suggests the team is also pretty good. 
    Twins record vs teams better than .500 = 5-3

    Doubters love to look at a team's record against winning teams, but the Twins are one of only three teams better than .500 versus winning teams. That can be a tricky stat. Some teams go back and forth over that line. For instance, the Twins are 3-0 versus the White Sox, who are precisely .500 when I'm writing this. If they win one more game, the Twins' record improves to 8-3, which is even better.
    AL Central's cumulative record = 12 games below .500

    The Baseball God hate taking opponents for granted. But they also hate the hubris that can result from leading a bad division. So let's be clear: the AL Central is bad. The Twins need to take advantage of that.
    The Twins get to play 67 more games against the worst division in the American League. Finishing atop that division doesn't guarantee any postseason success (a fact that The Baseball Gods have emphasized mercilessly for the Twins' last 18 postseason games), but it still punches a postseason ticket.
    The news gets better. There are also three Wild Card teams in the postseason this year. While the Yankees, Rays, and Jays are scrapping, the Twins will be competing with the Guardians and White Sox for a high 80s win total.
    So put me in the "cautiously optimistic" category about the Twins' chances this year because that is as high a category as The Baseball Gods condone. It might even be too high. (After all, they were already merciful once in that category. Remember, we were "cautiously optimistic" about Buxton's knee.)
    But to be safe, let's sit and watch and enjoy the season. The Baseball Gods love that.
  3. Haha
    chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Grandfather Amuses Child with Apocryphal Tales of Twins Offense   
    Rowan Landskog, 6, loves it when his grandfather Bill Landskog comes over to read him bedtime stories. He especially loves it when the stories are in the realm of the fantastic and unbelievable, with tales of monsters and Martians sending him to sleep.
    Lately, the stories have taken an even more outrageous turn, as “Grampa Billy” tells his baseball-crazy grandson about the legend of the Minnesota Twins offense.
    “Grampa Billy said the Minnesota Twins used to hit a bunch of dingers,” said the junior Landskog, who lives with his mother in Stillwater. “He says they would hit them all the time and score a bunch of points. Wow!”
    The elder Landskog usually starts his reading shift with Dr. Seuss, moves on to Shel Silverstein or Where the Wild Things Are, then completes his duties by reading the Baseball Reference page for the 2019 Minnesota Twins.
    “Grampa said that when I was in preschool the Twins set the record for home runs,” said an astonished Rowan. “I think he knew I didn't believe him but he swore it was true." 
    The kindergartner was especially awestruck by a new term he learned last night.
    “He told me a fun story about a friendly dragon who saved a pretty princess,” said an excited Rowan, his eyes filled with wonder. “And then Grampa Billy said that if a batter gets a home run when the bases are loaded, they call it a grand slam, and that the Twins have done it a lot! I love it when he tells me his crazy stories.”
    The storytelling grandfather was unavailable for comment but could be overheard issuing a series of expletives at his car radio when the Twins hit into their second double play during Thursday afternoon’s game against Kansas City.
  4. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Tyler Duffey's Dreadful Start Is Déjà Vu All Over Again   
    To suggest that Duffey is solely responsible for the two losses he's been tagged with is not quite fair. In both cases he was working with an extremely thin late-game lead thanks to an offense that just can't seem to get going.
    Nevertheless, both on April 9th against Seattle and on Tuesday night against Kansas City, Duffey entered with a fresh inning and one-run lead. In both cases, those leads turned to deficits (and eventual losses) on his watch.
    As a result, Duffey enters play on Wednesday with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) among all major-league players. If this feels familiar, there's a reason. In 2021, Alex Colomé had the worst WPA in the majors by a wide margin for the month of April. We saw the effect his implosion had on the course of the Twins season. It's difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu.
    Now, it also must be noted that we're dealing with incredible small sample sizes here. Duffey has made only three appearances this season. Making rash decisions on such a basis tends to be unwise. For example, Liam Hendriks also finds himself near the bottom of the WPA leaderboard – I doubt the White Sox are about to bump him into mop-up duty.
    But there is really no optimism to be drawn from Duffey's performance. He looks TERRIBLE. It seemed clear that he was on the road to regression last year as his peripherals all slid downward, but it was hard to envision such an extraordinary manifestation of this regression so rapidly.

    The main problem is that Duffey's fastball, which needs to be a reliable mainstay to set up his breaking ball, is an unusable pitch. He has thrown it 22 times so far and produced zero swings and misses. When putting the four-seamer in play, opponents are 4-for-6 with two doubles and a  home run. The average exit velocity on this contact is a whopping 103 MPH. Good grief.
    Rocco Baldelli is short on alternatives at the back end of the bullpen presently, which casts a pall on the decision to trade Taylor Rogers on the eve of Opening Day. (Rogers, by the way, is 5-for-5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA for the Padres.) 
    But using Duffey in big spots is simply not an option right now. He needs to be relegated to low leverage and unless things change quickly he's probably going to be on DFA watch. 
    It's unfortunate to see from a well-liked player who's been with the organization for so long. But the Twins don't have the luxury of letting sentimentality affect their decision-making. Baldelli simply cannot stand idly by and let another season spin off the rails out of deference to a bad relief pitcher based on nothing more than stature and track record. He just can't.
  5. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Joe Smith, Velocity, and the Twins' Ultimate Gamble   
    In the fanfare and celebration of signing Carlos Correa, you'd be forgiven if you missed the Twins inking 38-year-old Joe Smith to a one-year pact. Smith, an MLB pitcher since the Bush administration, is precisely the style of reliever favored by Falvey and company. His average fastball hasn’t tickled 90 MPH in years, and much of his effectiveness is rooted in “funkiness,” a pitching trait in the Potter Stewart philosophy of “I know it when I see it.” In the case of Smith, his unique, low arm slot is his special calling card.
    Smith now joins the likes of Matt Belisle, Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard as an “unusual Twins reliever” acquired during the Falvey regime. That is to say, these bullpeners are (or were) atypical in their archetype—age or poor fastball velocity lowered the industry opinion of them, whether fair or not. But the Twins, perhaps believing in a philosophical blind spot, decided to trust in their past effectiveness and were rewarded with mixed but generally positive results. Belisle caught fire in the second half of 2017 to help lead the team to their first playoff appearance in seven years, Rodney and Duke both performed just well enough to net prospects in 2018, Romo was crucial in cementing a shaky Twins bullpen in 2019, and Clippard was a quality reliever for the Twins during the truncated 2020 season.
    Of course, the Twins haven’t solely focused on cast-offs from the island of misfit toys; they have signed or acquired more prototypical relievers like Addison Reed, Sam Dyson, and Alex Colomé on top of their usual assortment of unique funkmasters. Funny enough, it seems like they have had better fortune with odd relievers than with your more standard ones, but that isn’t quite the point of this article. 
    Why ignore velocity?
    The Twins, as pointed out by Tom Froemming, had a velocity problem in May 2021 and had not fixed that issue by October 2021. It is March 2022, and the symptoms still persist. None of the four assumed starters possess an average fastball velocity that tops 93 MPH—a fact entirely at odds with the front office’s implications that velocity would be a top priority when they took over command of decision-making in 2016. Both newly-acquired starters, Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy, are more masters of breaking balls than fireballers. Taylor Rogers and Jorge Alcala are the only true flamethrowers established in the bullpen.
    When diagnosing the malady, we must remember that there is nuance in team building; teams like the Twins count all their chips to the last penny as their room for error is smaller than other franchises. The team could quickly cash in and deal their top prospects for high-octane arms or sign the fastest-tossing relievers with little care for the long-term implications of those decisions. Still, such moves would not only likely hurt the franchise, but it would also open them up to being dunked on by randoms on Twitter years in the future, and that’s a risk no one wants to take.
    Why ignore velocity?
    Velocity is expensive, perhaps too much so. Corey Knebel (96.5 MPH) signed for $10 million, Joe Kelly (98.1 MPH) signed for $17 million over two years, and Kendall Graveman (96.5 MPH), signed for $24 million over three years. With no disrespect, none of those three players have been particularly consistent in their performance (or with health), but teams see their “stuff” and can’t help but imagine a perfect world where it all comes together for such a player.
    Trading for velocity can also be expensive. The White Sox parted with two young, talented players in Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer to acquire Craig Kimbrel, the Padres gave up their 9th best prospect, Mason Thompson, for half a season of Daniel Hudson, and the fact that the Twins received anyone for Hansel Robles showed that teams are willing to ignore performance in favor of the allure of stuff.
    The same can be said for prospects. Arms that can sit in the high-90s are valued highly because the upside of that player is tantalizing. We’ve seen the natural sheen of “stuff” blind teams into ignoring risk because they see the next Roger Clemens in an arm that will likely flame out in high-A. The Twins have recognized this and seem to tap their higher-velo arms in deals; Huascar Ynoa, Luis Gil, Brusdar Graterol, and Chase Petty all own big fastballs, but now pitch for other organizations.
    The guess is that the team is leveraging industry opinions on fastball velocity to acquire major-league talent they otherwise could not have if the pitcher were your average 93-95 MPH Joe. Or, to simplify, they think other teams over-value fastballs and are trying to find value in overlooked arms. Consider the Smith signing; $2.5 million for Joe Smith’s consistency is a bargain if you choose to look at his performance absent velocity implications. The Gray trade looks exquisite as well. Acquiring a great starting pitcher for a pitcher four or so years away from debuting is a masterclass in fleecing. 
    Has it worked? The results are iffy. Twins pitching was undeniably elite in 2019 and 2020 when their team average fastball velocity sat in the bottom five of the league but fell off entirely in 2021. We shall see how 2022 plays out, but the prospects so far do not look good. Shoot, 43-year-old Johan Santana might be an upgrade to the starting rotation.
    That isn’t to say the team is completely ignoring velocity. Jordan Balazovic is capable of sitting 94-95, Jhoan Duran hits 100 daily, Josh Winder can sit in the mid-90s, and Matt Canterino can do the same. The team is still focusing on velocity, but more on developing said heat, not paying for it upfront. If a pitching prospect can throw hard, great, but their velocity isn’t as prioritized as other aspects of their game. If another team overvalues a prospect’s velocity? Ship him off and receive a more bountiful return than expected. Again, it is unclear if the plan has been successful or not, but the Twins unquestionably believe in their process.
  6. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Your 2022 Twins Sleeper Rotation Arm   
    The Twins drafted Bailey Ober in the 12th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He was taken from the College of Charleston and went to Elizabethton as a 21-year-old. After posting a 3.21 and 3.84 ERA, respectively, in each of his first two professional seasons, 2019 saw a massive leap. Compiling a 0.69 ERA across 78 2/3 inning from Rookie-ball to Double-A, Ober had announced his presence.
    At 6’9”, it’s pretty hard not to notice Ober, and while he doesn’t reach triple-digits, that frame allows his fastball to get on hitters quickly. He had a track record of high strikeout rates with few walks in the minors. Despite not being invited to the Twins alternate site during the 2020 minor league shutdown, Ober continued to put in work. Dominating quickly at Triple-A in 2021, he earned a big-league promotion after just 7 innings.
    Looking back at Ober’s track record before his promotion, there is no evidence of sustained innings. He had never pitched more than his 2019 total and had the entire 2020 season without games. What that suggests is that Minnesota would be willing to allow an opportunity for an arm they feel is ready, even if it’s not battle-tested or proven through longevity.
    Right now, the Twins have no less than two open rotation spots. Whether they’re filled externally or not, it’s a good bet that someone will emerge and turn heads sooner than expected. Although not a 12th rounder, my bet this season is Florida State product, Cole Sands.
    Arguably the most significant thing working against Sands at the moment is his recent inclusion to the Twins 40-man roster. Subject to the lockout, he cannot get the season going with other minor leaguers currently down in Fort Myers. However, Sands substantiated a strong 2019 and worthy draft position with an even greater step forward last season.
    Following 75 innings of work at Florida State in 2018, Sands didn’t debut professionally until 2019. He posted a 2.68 ERA and made starts from Low Single-A to Double-A. A 10.0 K/9 was paired with a 1.8 BB/9 and a 1.027 WHIP. The production looked every bit the reason why he was targeted so early in the draft.
    Getting back to professional games following the 2020 shutdown, Sands spent all of 2021 at Double-A Wichita. His 2.46 ERA solidified the strong debut and again was combined with a double-digit strikeout rate. He did allow an alarming number of walks at 3.9 BB/9, but the missed bats and lack of hard contact allowed him to keep opposing lineups at bay.
    Sands should begin at Triple-A St. Paul this year, and he could be knocking at the Major League door quickly. While the development may not be as surprising as that of Ober, this is still a guy that’s a borderline top-20 prospect for Minnesota on most national lists. He’s not going to be an ace, but a strong contributor in the middle of a rotation exists here. Ober turned in 20 starts to the tune of a 4.19 ERA in his rookie season with Minnesota, and seeing Sands do that or better might not be a crazy thought.
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  7. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, The Twins Shouldn't Trade for an Ace   
    Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober… Dylan Bundy… Folks, that’s your Minnesota Twins rotation at the time of this writing. After trading Jose Berrios and losing Kenta Maeda to injury, the starting pitching lacks depth, high-end talent, floor, etc. Despite this fact, 14 of the top 15 starting pitchers on the free-agent market signed with teams before the lockout without a single whisper of interest from the Twins front office.
    This development led some to call shenanigans on the organization's statement that they plan on competing in 2022. Plenty of fans still hold out hope however that the Twins have some enormous splashes left to make that will push the Twins back into the driver’s seat of the AL Central.
    There are several starting pitchers on the trade market that would instantly become the leaders of the Twins rotation. Luis Castillo, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas to name a few that have been thrown around in hypotheticals. One such hypothetical was just recently proposed by TwinsDaily’s own Nash Walker:
    The package here is steep but fair, as right-hander Frankie Montas has two years of control and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting in 2021. In acquiring Montas, the Twins would part with Luis Arraez who is controlled through 2026 in addition to recently acquired Drew Strotman, former 1st round pick Keoni Kavaco, and Jhoan Duran whose triple-digit arm suffered an injury in 2021 but made it to AAA. Such a deal would cost the Twins in the present while leaving them open to get burned in the future, as these trades are often composed.
    Such a deal should raise questions, the first of which being “Does this move push the Twins over the top?”. To which I would argue “not even close”. The Twins had two front-end starters in 2021 in Berrios and Kenta Maeda for most of the season and finished in dead last place in the worst division in baseball. With a similar returning lineup (without Nelson Cruz) and a bullpen that likely won’t have any significant additions, it could be argued that the Twins are paying top dollar just to get halfway to where they were at the beginning of a disastrous 2021. 
    Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan will certainly have a huge role in how the rotation performs, but to push the chips in while leaning so heavily on two rookies totaling well under 200 career innings would be quite the gamble.  The pair would need to replicate their 2021 performances if not improve upon them to set the foundation of the Twins 2022 rotation. It’s certainly possible both are up to the task, but with such little track record and an offseason of scouting reports, it’s fair to expect some turbulence from the two rookies. It may be more realistic and fair to expect these two to perform closer to #4 starting pitchers than the rotation leaders the Twins need to make a Frankie Montas pairing worth their while.
    The other consideration in regards to acquiring Frankie Montas is that he’s exactly where Jose Berrios was before 2021 with two years left under contract. What would stop the Twins from similarly shipping him out at the trade deadline if the team is struggling again come July? The return would certainly be less than the price they paid in the preseason.
    If the Twins do in fact struggle in 2022 and hold onto Montas for the following year, he could definitely become a huge piece of the rotation in 2023 where it’s much easier to see the Twins returning to contention. That being said, they’ll have paid top dollar for two years of a premier arm and only get one meaningful season from him.
    In short, the Twins have a ton of question marks heading into 2022. In order to truly feel good about the rotation they probably needed at least two legitimate starting pitching additions. There are few impact options left in free agency and it’s hard to imagine them swinging two enormous trades to make up for it.
    What the Twins have now is a rotation problem that doesn’t come close to being solved by one big move. There are moves to be made in free agency and admittedly they could very well hit on some lower-profile additions. The lineup and bullpen could also shine bright enough to pick up some slack from the rotation. It’s hard to look at the roster and say this is the likelier scenario, however. Given the hoops we have to jump through to imagine a contender in 2022, wouldn’t it make more sense to be prudent before Opening Day and respond accordingly at the July trade deadline?
    It may be the anti-fun stance, but it would be a shame to see the Twins mortgage their future for a huge addition that doesn’t pay off. Especially with so many high-end prospects nearing the Major Leagues. Of all the times to acquire a huge starting pitcher the last few years, right now may be riskiest with the least amount of possible payoff. The Twins shouldn’t be looking to go all-in on an ace.
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  8. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Josh Winder Could Be THE Twins Rookie Pitcher in 2022   
    A 7th round pick in 2018, Josh Winder didn’t break into professional baseball at the top of Twins prospect lists. It would be understandable, in fact, if you hadn’t even heard his name until he really raised some eyebrows last spring.
    Winder reportedly made a lot of good progress during the canceled 2020 Minor League season, but it’s entirely possible he would have debuted long ago without the interruption. After totaling just under 40 innings pitched in his debut 2018 season, he topped 125 innings in 2019 at Cedar Rapids with decent strikeout numbers as well as an impressive avoidance of walks and home runs in A ball.
    2021 showed Winder was far from what you’d expect out of a 7th round draft pick. In 54 innings at AA his strikeout rate eclipsed 31%. He walked under 5% of his batters faced and posted a 0.82 HR/9. His ERA was under 2.
    Upon his promotion to AAA, his strikeouts dropped a bit and home runs increased dramatically in a small sample before his season was cut short with shoulder fatigue. It was a disappointing end to 2021, especially for those hoping to see the 6’5 right-hander at Target Field by season’s end. Still, Winder showed enough to keep your eye on him in 2022.
    Winder has built up his prospect status since his selection in the draft. Scouts give him a 55 future grade fastball with 50 grades for his slider, curveball, and changeup. His pitch mix shows a lot of promise when it comes to sticking in a rotation. He may not have quite the fastball command of Joe Ryan, but the depth of his pitches doesn’t make future bullpen arm concerns quite as obvious.
    In regards to pitch mix, Winder matches up quite well with Bailey Ober who is deservedly receiving quite a bit of buzz headed into 2022. Winder has a superior fastball and slider, while Ober has a plus changeup and impeccable command as Twins fans saw in his 92 innings pitched last season.
    Where Winder undoubtedly bests Ober, however, is his past body of work. The 125 innings in his second professional season were very encouraging. It’s a benchmark that Ober has yet to reach after throwing a career-high 108 innings in 2022 across AAA and the majors. Winder’s season-ending shoulder fatigue was likely just a result of so many innings after a year off, and his injury/durability concerns moving forward shouldn’t be as significant as Ober’s who’s dealt with his fair share of injuries already throughout his career.
    Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober get a lot of love from Twins Territory, and rightfully so. There isn’t much substitution for watching a young arm succeed at the Major League level. It is important to remember that we were right on the edge of Josh Winder possibly being in the same conversation. For as good as Ryan and Ober might be, one could argue that Winder could be the more well-rounded of the trio when it comes to a future in an MLB rotation.
    I’d put my money on Winder spending Opening Day in St. Paul. That being said, depending on how the Twins address the rest of the rotation it’s not impossible that Winder could win a rotation spot out of Spring Training. He’s the next man up when it comes to the Falvine pitching pipeline, and we likely won’t have to wait too long to see him in Minneapolis. 
    He may not receive the attention of the Chase Pettys of the world, but Winder deserves a lot of credit for his meteoric rise from being a 7th round pick where even decent Minor League careers are far from the norm. Regardless of how the season goes, 2022 will be a fun year when it comes to the pitching pipeline. Expect to see Josh Winder as the first of many to stake their claim in the Twins future rotation.
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  9. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, What if the Minnesota Twins Go All In on Offense?   
    The Minnesota Twins have long struggled to acquire top-end starting pitching. This was the case with prior Twins’ front offices and has been the case under Falvey/Levine’s leadership. Whether it is because of injuries (Kenta Maeda) or poor evaluation (J.A. Happ), betting on starting pitchers is extremely risky as the Twins have seen play out season after season.
    After getting largely shut out from the first wave of free agent starting pitchers, the Twins have now found themselves in a spot where they need to sign Carlos Rodón, trade for starting pitching (they shouldn’t), or be in for another long season with a better shot of fighting for the number one pick in the draft than a playoff spot.
    But what if there is another direction that the Twins could go? What if the Twins went all in on offense?
    While there is a shortage of impact starting pitching left on the free agency market, there are no shortage of bats. This surplus of bats on the market could present an opportunity for the Twins to pivot, settle for back-of-the-rotation arms, and instead go heavy on bats to bolster up what is already a strength of the Minnesota Twins. Names like Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Nicolas Castellanos, and Michael Conforto are all all-star bats and are all still available as free agents.
    Not only is there a nice supply of big bats left on the free agent market, but the Twins have a need to fill multiple holes in their lineup as well, including shortstop, outfield and (potentially) designated hitter.
    The Minnesota Twins committed to Byron Buxton this offseason with a seven year contract. Additionally, the Twins have the young bats of Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Royce Lewis and Austin Martin ready to contribute for the next decade as well. An intriguing path for the Minnesota Twins to take would be for them to sign even more bats, completely lean into their offense and take on the identity of a bat-first team that will out-hit all of its opponents for years to come.
    Assuming that the Twins have $55M to spend this offseason, they would have the funds to bring in two superstar bats this offseason like Trevor Story and Kris Bryant. They could then fill out the rest of their team with fringe starting pitching, or trade Max Kepler and a marginal prospect for a moldable arm.
    Yes, this would leave the Twins with quite the shaky starting rotation, but with a lineup core of Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, and Alex Kirilloff, on top of Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco. John Bonnes could be pitching for the Minnesota Twins and they’d be in good shape with that potent lineup. 
    I mean..just look at this team:

    You hear about football teams that take on an offensive identity and out-score their opponents in order to win games, but you hardly find that in baseball. The Twins are in a position that they could go all in on offense and outscore the rest of the league by producing fireworks all Summer at Target Field.
    What do you think? 
  10. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Local Man Angrier at Millionaires than Billionaires   
    The owners of Major League Baseball locked out the players just after midnight on Thursday morning, ensuring baseball’s first work stoppage in over a quarter century. And Shad Browne knows who to blame.
    “These players are greedy and entitled, I’m sick of ‘em,” said the Fairmont landscaper. “They get paid money to play a game and sometimes you’ve gotta take a stand.”
    The owners, wealthier than the players by a monstrous degree and living lives of unimaginable luxury, do not receive the same level of disdain from Browne.
    “Lotta these owners are entrepreneurs who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to make their money,” said Browne incorrectly. “Meanwhile, the modern player just takes a day off when they feel like it. The way I see it, you don’t play, you don’t get paid.”
    Browne, who took PTO last Monday because the Vikings lost and he was “super hungover,” said he sees a lot of himself in owners, despite this being remarkably untrue.
    “They’re just trying to run a business same as anyone else,” he said with the steady resolve that only the deeply ignorant possess. “I guess I’d just like to see a little more gratitude and a little less attitude from the millennial generation.”
    Browne, who used the word “meritocracy” in reference to a country where you don’t have to work a day in your life if your great-granddad sold mustard gas to Kaiser Wilhelm, dismissed the notion that the owners should take some of the blame for instigating the lockout they instigated.
    “At the end of the day, they’ve got a business to run,” said Browne, for whom the concept of generational wealth has never so much as registered for one second of one day. “If the players can’t handle that, they can get a job just like anyone else.
    “It’s just not right,” said the cornfed rube.
  11. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Back in the Saddle: My Twins Offseason Blueprint   
    First, let's go over the ground rules. In my plan, I'm aiming to be relatively realistic. This means trying to incorporate limitations and constraints that the Twins front office will actually face in its quest. Two implications:
    Payroll: In the roster tool, you can choose from a variety of preset payroll thresholds, or enter your own custom number. You could select a 10% increase from 2021 ($143M), or even punch in a number like $160M if you want to give yourself some bigtime money to play with. Personally, I think it's optimistic (but plausible) to project payroll remaining steady at $130M, so that's the self-imposed limit I'm working with. Free Agent Choices: Even if you can find the money in your budget to bring in a guy like, say, Max Scherzer, the reality is that he and other top-tier stars will have preferences pulling them away from Minnesota as a destination. It's a smallish market coming off a last-place finish, and these players will be in demand. We've seen in the past with targets like Zack Wheeler that money isn't everything and it takes two to tango.  With that out of the way, here's a look at my roster, and how I built it.

    Starting with the Starters
    The rotation is naturally where our journey begins, because it is far-and-away the biggest need on the roster. With both of the rotation carryovers being inexperienced young pitchers who offer nothing close to certainty, I knew I'd have to bring in some legitimate names to give this unit contention cred.
    Atop the list, my boldest offseason move: signing free agent RHP Justin Verlander to a one-year, $20 million contract. Verlander looks very much like a gun for hire, coming off Tommy John surgery at age 39. Given those factors, he carries considerable downside, but also massive upside: we're talking about a ready-made ace who finished first and second in the Cy Young voting his last two full seasons (2019 and 2018). Will $20 million be enough to outbid the competition for Verlander? It should be in the ballpark.
    I've already used up a huge portion of my available funds on Verlander, so for my next free agent target, I set my gaze on the middle class of starters. There are a number of guys available here in the $10 million range – including Michael Pineda – but instead I decided to go with RHP Jon Gray on a three-year, $30 million contract.
    Like most at this level, Gray's a good pitcher with flaws and shortcomings, but he brings the qualities I'm looking for in a secondary rotation signing behind Verlander: decent track record of durability, reasonably high floor, and a touch of real upside. If Gray merely pitches up to his Pineda-esque career 3.91 FIP and 107 ERA+, I'm fine with that, but it feels like there's another level for the former No. 3 overall pick to unlock outside of Coors. He turns 30 next month.
    For my third rotation edition, I'm turning away from the free agent market and toward the trade market. In a deal inspired by J.D. Cameron's feature in the Offseason Handbook, I'm trading OF Max Kepler to the Oakland Athletics for LHP Sean Manaea. This hypothetical swap was put forth by J.D. in his story, and to me it makes a lot of sense: The cost-conscious A's need outfield help, and are likely to value Kepler's contract (owed about $16M over the next two seasons with a team option in 2024) over Manaea's (projected by MLBTR to make $10.2M in his final year of arbitration). It's a bit of a lopsided exchange in that regard, and maybe the Twins can get Oakland to tack on a bit more, but quality starting pitching is at a premium. 
    Manaea was worth 3.3 fWAR in 2021, posting a career-high 9.7 K/9 to go along with a 3.66 FIP and 3.91 ERA in 180 innings.

    Turning Back to the Lineup
    Admittedly, my efforts to bolster the rotation come at the expense of the position player group. With so many dollars committed to our three new starting pitchers, there wasn't much left in the bank for impact hitters. So I went instead with a transitional approach here.
    First: signing Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $3 million deal. Galvis is no one's idea of a long-term solution at shortstop, but he can play the position capably, and he brings enough power at the plate to be useful offensively. I'm looking at him as nothing more than a stopgap to fill in until Royce Lewis is deemed ready (maybe midway through the season?). This move is as much a vote of confidence in Lewis as anything. 
    I'm sliding Miguel Sanó to designated hitter and Alex Kirilloff to first base. These aren't static assignments – I foresee Sanó playing plenty of first, and Kirilloff plenty of outfield – but they'll be their prime positions, since it's where I think they're best suited. Luis Arraez reprises his role as a roving utility regular, seeing a health dose of action at third base with Josh Donaldson spending two days per week at DH. 
    Our corner outfield depth has clearly taken a hit since I've traded Kepler, non-tendered Jake Cave, and moved Kirilloff to regular first base duty. To offset this, I'm signing Corey Dickerson to a one-year, $5 million contract. There's nothing especially appealing about Dickerson, who has slashed a mediocre .266/.321/.406 in 161 games over the past two seasons, but he strikes me as a solid buy-low candidate that will be available on a one-year deal. 
    I've filled Kepler's vacancy in right field with Trevor Larnach, which might be a hazardous gamble after Larnach unraveled in his rookie campaign. But I'm a believer in his talent. I'm confident he'll get back on track, and quickly. That said, I'm for sure bringing in a few Kyle Garlick/Rob Refsnyder types to compete in camp, and leveraging the presence of Brent Rooker to protect Larnach from lefty pitchers. But at the end of the day, I'm inclined to let him run at age 25. 

    One other detail in the position players section might catch your eye: Byron Buxton's salary. I've got him slated to make $14M instead of the $8M he's projected to get in his last year of arbitration. That's because I'm electing to channel some of my limited spending flexibility toward taking care of my utmost priority.
    A Long-Term Contract for Byron Buxton
    This is the last chance to keep Buxton in Minnesota long-term. Leverage is running low with only one year remaining until he can hit the open market, but Buxton's history of serious injuries should at least keep him open-minded about long-term security. So too should his aforementioned arbitration salary projection.
    Injuries have hampered Buxton's earning potential in arbitration. Getting the center field for around $8M next year – at age 28 and fresh off flashing his full potential – is an absolute bargain that the Twins (or any trade partner) will be happy to take. Since extension talks fell short over the summer, I'm trying to figure out a framework that will be attractive to his side. The first step is nearly doubling his 2022 salary, in the first leg of a five-year, $84 million contract for Buxton (technically a four-year extension):
    2022: $14M (plus incentives) 2023: $16M (plus incentives) 2024: $18M (plus incentives) 2025: $18M (plus incentives) 2026: $18M (plus incentives) The "plus incentives" aspect of this should be accentuated, given that it's where the last round of talks apparently fizzled. I don't have specifics in mind but I'm pretty open to whatever Buxton's side wants. As long as he's doing the things necessary to trigger those bonuses, I'm happy to pay significantly more than the above for this historic player, and I'm not sure why the Twins wouldn't be. 
    In any case, this deal protects the Twins' financial interests with relatively low annual guarantees. It locks Buxton up throughout his remaining peak athletic years, and gives him a chance to hit the open market once again at age 33. 
    And Finally, the Bullpen
    My additions to the rotation and lineup, along with Buxton's salary boost, have mostly depleted my spending flexibility under the $130M threshold. With incumbents Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcalá all returning, I'm left with about $6 million to spend on filling the final four bullpen spots. Here's how I'm divvying that up:
    Randy Dobnak ($800K) is the long reliever. He's making that guaranteed money as part of his contract so we might as well try to get some value from it. I'm hopeful an offseason of recovery for his problematic finger gets Dobnak back on track. In his proper form, he's a good fit for this role as an efficient, strike-throwing ground ball pitcher. Héctor Neris ($3M) is a setup man. He spent a few years as Philadelphia's closer – which will be handy, given Rogers' uncertainty – but lost the job this season due to first-half struggles. He rebounded in the second half, but Neris has never quite had the results to match his stuff, and that figures to keep him in an affordable range as a free agent. I'm taking my chances on that nasty splitter. Juan Minaya ($1M) is a middle reliever. As we wrote in Arbitration Decisions section of the Handbook, "His FIP (3.97 in 2021) is more representative than his ERA (2.48); nonetheless, Minaya’s probably as dependable of an option as you’ll find for twice the price in free agency." He brings experience and a 95 MPH fastball. I'm fine with letting him keep a seat warm for one of the upcoming arms in the system.  Kirby Yates ($1M plus incentives) is a gamble. The Twins were in advanced talks with him last winter before he ultimately signed with Toronto, and then underwent Tommy John surgery in March. He might not be ready for the start of the season but the upside and track record are good enough to be worth the wait on a low-risk deal.  In short, my view of the bullpen is that 2021 was an outlier, and this organization still has what it takes to identify and unleash overlooked relief arms in a cost-efficient manner. We saw them do that over the past couple seasons, building high-quality bullpens at low costs for division winners, and in fact we saw them pull it off on a smaller scale this year (Minaya, Danny Coulombe, Ralph Garza Jr.) following a series of misfires. 
    To me, this is the only model for building a bullpen when you're a team with Minnesota's resource constraints and competing needs. We've seen time and time again how easy it is to completely whiff on free agent relievers – even those with seemingly safe track records (paging Addison Reed and Alex Colomé). Give me one proven commodity in Neris, a wild card in Yates, and then build the depth with minors signings, waiver claims, and internal arms like Jovani Moran .
    The Final Product
    Ultimately, my intent with this blueprint was to create something that aligns philosophically with what the Twins front office might actually do. For the most part, it's a series of short-term commitments – one year for Verlander, Manaea, Galvis, and Neris – thus keeping the ability to build from within intact. I am bringing some longer-term stability to the rotation with Gray's three-year contract, and most importantly, cementing Buxton as a franchise centerpiece for the next half-decade. 
    What would your 2022 roster look like if you held yourself to a $130M payroll limit? Grab a copy of the Offseason Handbook, use it with our Roster Creator tool and share your own blueprint to share in our forums!
  12. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Fans Living Vicariously Through Rosario   
    At the end of the 2020 season, Rosario posted just a 1.0 fWAR which was worth $7.7 million. He was projected to land somewhere in the $10 million range through arbitration and fell short of that number again in 2021, putting up a 0.9 fWAR and $7.3 million valuation. The Twins saw that Rosario hadn’t been worth $10 million over a single season since 2018, and it was more than evident the type of player he was.
    No team disagreed with Minnesota’s assessment as the talented Puerto Rican went unclaimed on waivers. He ended up in Cleveland and bottomed out. The .685 OPS across 78 games was a career-low, and despite being at peak age, Rosario was finding new ways to fall short. He was sent to Atlanta for peanuts, or better yet a Panda, and somehow came alive.
    He attributes the resurgence to the warming temperature, and maybe he’s right. It’s certainly easier to perform outside of the frigid north, and Rosario’s .903 OPS in his final 33 games was the performance at its best. Now he’s on center stage and has given braves fans the full experience.
    In Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Braves leadoff man found himself doubled off second base on a gaffe Minnesota fans had become too acquainted with. That came after the outfielder misplay against the Milwaukee Brewers on a ball hit by former Twins teammate Eduardo Escobar. That’s just half of the Eddie Rosario experience, though.
    The flip side of this coin is that Atlanta is using the former Twins lefty as a leadoff man and anchor in the middle of their lineup. He’s responded with a 1.690 OPS in the NLCS, complete with two homers, a triple, and coming up just shy of a postseason cycle. Across both rounds of the Postseason this year, Rosario is batting .467 (14-30). In six previous postseason games for the Twins, Rosario had just five hits and a .217 average (5-23).
    There are two different stories at play here, and they’re both fascinating to watch. The first is that the highs and lows of The Eddie Rosario Experience are a complete thrill ride. The man is on his way to winning the NLCS MVP, and something like that only highlights the latter point. Winning in the postseason is about getting hot at the right time. That can be a team thing or an individual completely carrying the load. It’s hard to spend and guarantee success (just ask the Dodgers in this series or the Yankees over the last decade).
    Money stacks the deck in your favor, but when you deal a Panda for an Eddie, and everything breaks right, you sit back and crack some peanuts while enjoying the show. Minnesota may be riding an 0-18 streak, but this is a thrill ride all of Twins Territory can enjoy.
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    chpettit19 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, No Half Measures   
    In a vacuum, Josh Donaldson is not overpaid despite what some frustrated fans may tell you. His time missed in 2020 was frustrating albeit not as costly as it appears considering his prorated salary in the 60 game season. In 2021, he was actually one of the regulars in the lineup day in and day out. As a whole, Donaldson has slashed .243/.355/.474 with the Twins, far from the “wasted payroll” reputation some have pinned on him.
    That being said, he’s 35 years old with a tremendous injury history in addition to having about $50m remaining on his salary over the next two years. The result of all of these factors leave the Twins with a fantastic player with an enormous ceiling and about as low of a floor a player can have. For that very reason, it’s difficult to blame them for at least exploring the trade market given the year they just came off of. They shouldn’t be so quick to pull the trigger on a deal without lining themselves up for a slam dunk however. 
    This was a recently reported idea for a trade between the Twins and Milwaukee who will likely need an impact third base option in 2022. It’s a perfect example of the type of trade the Twins shouldn’t do. There’s almost no scenario where the Twins don’t pay down significant money to get Donaldson’s contract off the books. The issue is trades like this make the Twins worse in the present and offer little payoff for the future.
    Dumping about $35m in future payroll would likely look appealing to ownership. That being said, doing so probably lands them in a situation like this one where the Twins take on money of their own in Jackie Bradley Jr.’s $9.5m and $6.5m buyout in 2023. JBJ slashed .163/.236/.261 en route to a -0.8 fWAR finish on the season. Worse than Matt Shoemaker, Andrelton Simmons etc.
    Perhaps taking on money isn’t out of the question, but the younger pieces in the deal have to be at least somewhat appealing. In this scenario, they receive 19 year old RHP Logan Henderson and 22 year old outfielder Joey Wiemer, #21 and 23 in the Brewers system respectively. Prospects from the 20s range aren’t very exciting for most teams, but the Brewers in particular are a bottom 5 system by most prospect sites. 
    So in review, the Twins get to save a bunch of money in the future, although not a ton after taking on a much less valuable player. Their lineup and team as a whole takes a significant downgrade in regards to the 2022 Opening Day lineup. They also get two prospects who have a very insignificant chance of making any impact on the team in the future. This type of trade would be a mistake.
    The Twins have two options in my opinion. They may very well be gearing up to spend big this winter and acquire some legitimate pieces via free agency and trade. In which case, gamble on the health of Josh Donaldson who will still be one of the premier players on the team if healthy. His salary doesn’t impede their spending plans nearly as much as it gets credit for.
    The second option is to come to terms with 2022 not being the year. If you don’t want to spend down immediately for a comeback season, paying most if not all of that contract in a trade should be the goal. It’s already on the payroll and one way or another, they’ll pay some sort of price on it. Might as well write a fat check to a competing team in a deal where the recipient gets instantly better and the Twins can command some impactful prospect capital in return.
    One way or another, the Twins need to commit 100% when it comes to the Josh Donaldson decision. There’s no point in taking half measures for a team whose winter will have an enormous tilt not only on the 2022 season, but the next few years to come. Should they hold onto their star third baseman or sell him off for the best trade package? Let us know below!
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  14. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 4 Plausible Developments That Would Dramatically Alter the Twins' Fortunes   
    When things are going bad, as they did in 2021, it's easy to get caught up in the mindset that nothing ever goes right. But of course, we all know that's not the case. 
    Twins fans have seen many unanticipated "glow-ups" over the years – players rising above their stations and surpassing expectations to become pivotal game-changers in the team's strategy. Examples would include: Taylor Rogers going from middling SP prospect to All-Star RP; Tyler Duffey doing more or less the same; Mitch Garver emerging as an elite offensive catcher; Jorge Polanco and Brian Dozier developing 30-HR power in the middle infield; and so on, and so on.
    With these precedents in mind, let's leave the misery of this season behind us and envision some plausible best-case scenarios.
    If any of these four developments play out, they could significantly ease and expedite the current team's return to contention.
    1: Joe Ryan is a frontline starting pitcher
    During his brief five-start MLB debut, Ryan did some rare things. It's not often you see a major-league pitcher take a perfect game into the eighth, or strike out seven consecutive batters. Even a veteran.
    There are three possible paths forward for Ryan. The first is that big-league hitters figure him out and he implodes, perhaps shuttling between the minors or shifting to a bullpen role. The second is that he goes through the standard adjustments and reaches his low-end potential as a back-of-rotation arm.
    The third path is that instead of being adjusted against, he makes the adjustments. He gets better. What if Ryan's best moments were entirely representative of what lies ahead?  
    The 25-year-old posted a 3.43 FIP with the Twins this year, and threw strikes at a rate that you don't really see, from rookies or otherwise. If he can continue to do that while missing bats and keeping the ball in the yard (last part is most in question), Ryan could easily settle in as a legitimate No. 2 starter. Imagine what a difference that would make in the rotation-building initiative going forward.
    #2: Griffin Jax becomes a relief ace
    No one would've thought Tyler Duffey was destined to become a dominant major-league pitcher when he was posting a 6.43 ERA in 26 starts during his first full season in 2016. But, you might've looked at certain elements of his game – namely, a clearly excellent breaking ball that was producing great results – and seen the potential for something more. 
    A few years later, Duffey was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the league.
    Jax was no better as a starter this year than Duffey in 2016, but he also looked equally miscast in the role. The clearest sign is that he was VASTLY better his first time through a lineup (.197 AVG, .597 OPS) than the second time through (.283, 1.010). Within that, you also have the existence of a clearly excellent breaking ball – Jax's slider generated a 36% whiff rate and .270 xwOBA – but little else.
    "Relief ace" might be a small stretch, but I almost think "solid reliever" should be the baseline expectation for Jax once the Twins stop letting him get bombed as a starter. Move your gaze a shade in the optimistic direction and you could easily have a prime Duffey-type here. How big of an asset would that be for a bullpen that is currently short on high-quality options?
    #3: Alex Kirilloff blossoms as a perennial MVP contender at first base
    Kirilloff's numbers as a rookie were far from spectacular. In 59 games before undergoing wrist surgery, he slashed .251/.299/.423 with eight homers and 34 RBIs. His OPS+ of 98 reflects slightly below-average offensive performance. But he did all this as a 23-year-old with essentially zero previous experience above Double-A, and he was battling through a torn wrist ligament for most of his time on the field.
    Despite all this, he flashed upside aplenty. Kirilloff shrugged off an 0-for-15 start and went on a tear as April turned to May and he acclimated. In the four games before spraining his wrist, he launched four homers and two doubles, boosting his slugging percentage to .571. His average exit velocity at the time would've ranked third in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge if he qualified. Not only that, but Kirilloff showed to be stunningly smooth and adept defender at first base, which will almost surely be his long-term defensive home.
    As a sweet-swinging, run-producing lefty whose fielding chops at first can contribute to a sterling overall reputation, Anthony Rizzo stands out as a decent high-end comp for Kirilloff. He never was never named Most Valuable Player, but in his age 24-through-26 seasons (which are the three lying directly ahead of Kirilloff), Rizzo was a three-time All-Star, and twice a top-five MVP finisher. In the last of those three seasons, Rizzo was among the leaders on a championship-winning Cubs team. 
    #4: Royce Lewis makes an immediate and sustained impact
    The expectation for Lewis should be a slow, methodical return to action, with some rough patches as he regains his footing on the field. By the time spring training rolls around next year, he'll be two years removed from last real competitive baseball action. Most players would need some time to shake off the rust. 
    Of course, Royce Lewis is not most players. He's a former No. 1 overall draft pick who was ranked by MLB.com as the 17th-best prospect in the game before losing his 2020 to a pandemic and his 2021 to a torn ACL. Sometimes natural talent rules out, as we saw with the aforementioned Mr. Kirilloff, who came back after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery and slashed .348/.392/.578 at Single-A.
    The idea that Lewis will hit the ground sprinting upon his return feels a bit more far-fetched, given that he had some mechanical issues to iron out even before the injury. At the same time, he hasn't been sitting around doing nothing over the past two years, and he's also had the opportunity to mature mentally and physically. Lewis turns 23 next season, so he'll be the same age or older than fellow top prospects like Kirilloff and Byron Buxton were when they debuted. 
    Lewis' defensive utility makes him a very intriguing figure in the team's planning. He's played primarily shortstop in the minors but some believe he's more likely to end up in center field. Those happen to be perhaps the two biggest positional uncertainties in Minnesota's future outlook (assuming Buxton is not re-signed).
    If the Twins operate under the belief that Lewis could viably take over at shortstop midway through the 2022 campaign, they can opt for a cheap short-term plug at the position this offseason and channel the brunt of their resources elsewhere. This may require a leap of faith, but Lewis is a guy who warrants it. And if he can stick at short (or even in center), he can be a game-changing factor for the franchise. 
    Just as they planned when they drafted him in 2017.
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    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, In Defense of the Twins Front Office   
    The Twins hired Derek Falvey (who hired Thad Levine) in the wake of a disastrous 103-loss season in 2016. By that point, the Twins had gone six straight years without making the playoffs, and during that span they lost more games than any team in baseball. 
    The following year, Minnesota stunningly reached the postseason as a wild-card team. Then they missed out in 2018, still finishing second, before rebounding in 2019 with one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. The Twins followed in 2020 with another division title. 
    To run all that back: this front office took over a team that had gone 407-565 (.419) with zero playoff appearances in its previous six years, and went 300-246 (.549) with three playoff appearances in the next four. 
    Does their success owe somewhat to the foundation built before they arrived? Of course. No one would deny that Terry Ryan and Co. had cultivated an impressive nucleus before being ousted. But during those years, the Twins repeatedly failed in the draft, failed in acquisitions, and failed in player development. The results bore that out.
    Let's be clear about something here: This current regime was so successful and so impressive through four years that they were repeatedly poached of talent, both in the front office and the coaching staffs they assembled. Not only that, but Falvey and Levine themselves have been courted by big-name franchises like the Red Sox and Phillies. 
    What did they say, according to publicized reports on the matter? 
    "No thanks, we're going to see through what we're building here."
    And so, to see flocks of fans calling for their heads because of one bad season, which is no worse than the ones we saw repeatedly before they arrived ... it's a little hard to take. 
    Falvey became the youngest head exec in the league when he took Minnesota's top job. Currently he is 38 years old, which is three years younger than the DH he traded to Tampa Bay last month. Up until now he never experienced serious adversity during his tenure, which speaks to how smoothly things have gone in the first four years. 
    The same could be said, by the way, for his managerial choice Rocco Baldelli, who was named Manager of the Year in 2019 (as the youngest skipper in baseball, with no experience in the role) and then won a second straight division title in his second season.
    These people have shown their mettle. They've won. A lot. I realize they haven't won in the playoffs, and that sucks, but they haven't had nearly the opportunity of their predecessors. 
    Are we not going to give them a chance to learn from failure?
    Obviously the free agent pitching additions from the past winter have failed at every level. But this front office has made plenty of good and savvy pickups in the past, which helped fuel the success of high-quality staffs the last two years. And in any case, Falvey wasn't really hired to sign pitchers. He was hired to develop them.
    On that front, the jury is still out. This operation was four years in when a pandemic came along and wiped out an entire minor-league season. The fact that Minnesota's upper minors are currently loaded with intriguing high-upside arms would suggest the mission was on track, and is just now getting back on the rails. 
    Soon we'll start seeing those arms (along with the ones acquired at the deadline this year) ushered into majors, and at that point we'll be able to make real assessments. But until then, you're judging an incomplete project. 
    This reassembled baseball ops department has been working ahead of schedule basically since they took over a moribund franchise in despair. They hit a setback this year, and it's been painful. Let's give them a chance to get back on track in the wake of a major disruptive event and humbling follow-up season.
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  16. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Front Office Facing Pitching Problems   
    Across the division in Cleveland, Falvey grew a reputation for being able to develop pitching. Minnesota needed to overhaul that aspect of their development, and the early returns were promising. Despite the Bomba Squad emerging in 2019, Minnesota also became the best pitching version of itself that the franchise had seen in years. Taylor Rogers was elite, Tyler Duffey was transformed, and a number of fliers worked out.
    Enter 2021 and things couldn’t be further from that reality. This Twins club owns the 29th overall fWAR mark from their pitching staff, and both starters and relievers have been collectively terrible. The lineup took a bit to get going, but it hasn’t been an issue for weeks. With the White Sox now having all but ended Minnesota’s chances in the year ahead, a look at 2022 puts both Falvey and Levine squarely on the hot seat.
    Given the amount of talent eyeing a return on this roster, and the unexpected nature of these results, a full rebuild should not be the course of action in 2022. Reloading and trying it again with some new pieces makes all the sense in the world. What the front office must not do again however, is look to shop in the bargain bin and think the process will entirely translate into results.
    I have long harped on the infrastructure brought in by this front office as being exceptional. That still rings true. Wes Johnson is a good pitching coach, and throughout the farm there’s intelligent instructors. At some point though, you can’t bank entirely on a blueprint squeeze more juice from an already cashed fruit. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were fine back-end additions, but they both relied entirely on depth with nothing done to raise the water level.
    From the vantage point we have now, walking through this smoldering warzone, Falvey has virtually nothing to show for this season. The plethora of waiver claims all failed to pan out, save for the small sample of Luke Farrell. Happ and Shoemaker have been terrible. Randy Dobnak was extended, then optioned, and has never had a real defined role. On the farm, each of the top prospects has now gone down with arm issues, likely due to the year off. Yes, Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic look good, but there’s more reason to be cautious than excited at this point.
    In the year ahead it will be on the Twins to use their depth as a fall back plan rather than seeing it as a source of reliance. Signings like Happ and Shoemaker indicated a belief one or both would soon be bumped as prospects came for their spots. Now Shoemaker is gone entirely, and the lack of options becomes even more glaring with yet another miss added to the books. Jose Berrios has been good, but not yet elevated to the next step, and now the talk of trading him lands even more into a questionable realm for me.
    Over the winter the plan has to be pitching, spending on it, and making sure it’s right. Relief arms are generally fickle year over year. Expecting Alexander Colome to fall this hard wasn’t a good bet. In 2022 you can reshuffle that group and bring in new faces, but they can’t be supplemented with a bunch of fall back options just ran out in case of emergency. The starting staff needs a legit arm that slots in to the top three, and that’s on top of paying or at least keeping Berrios.
    One bad season in the midst of such turnaround isn’t going to cost the front office their jobs, but there is plenty of reason to question why Derek Falvey hasn’t come through with his calling card should we see two years’ worth of these results. It’s time to right this ship, fix it, and prove the belief has been warranted. Dollars, development, whatever path you want to take, pitching can not be a problem for the Twins in the year ahead.
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