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  1. Like
    Eris reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, A New Sheriff In Town?   
    Chris Paddack burst onto the scene in 2019 posting a 3.33 ERA in San Diego over about 140 innings. He paired a dominant mid to high-90s fastball with a plus-plus changeup and fantastic command to put together a rookie campaign that hinted at a future ace-level pitcher. Over the next two years, however, Paddack came to find that the MLB is unforgiving toward starting pitchers with only two pitches. And so he went to work.
    Contrary to popular belief, Paddack wasn’t quite a two-pitch pitcher in 2021. He had incorporated a curveball 12% of the time and had fantastic results on the pitch. His 5+ ERA finish was instead a result of an underperforming fastball, although you could argue that Paddack wasn’t throwing the breaking ball nearly enough which could have helped the performance of the rest of his repertoire. Luckily, Paddack appears to have made significant adjustments to both pitches.
    This small change should pay off twofold. On one hand, getting the fastball away from the heart of the plate is always a good idea. Also consider the fact that he’s upped his breaking ball usage to over 20% so far, meaning it’s harder to look fastball. Mixing in more breaking balls typically makes any fastball more effective, but now that he has one to pair with a devastating changeup, his fastball at the top of the zone should be that much harder to get around on. We’ve seen early signs of hitters already having difficulties with this change.
    While it’s admittedly a small sample size, Paddack’s better overall performance appears to be tied to his once broken fastball making a huge rebound. After batters hit .314 on the pitch in 2021, they’re posting a .250 mark so far this year. More impressively, after allowing a .531 slugging % on the pitch last season, hitters have posted a .357 mark so far in 2022. This is all despite the fact that his average fastball velocity is down from 94.8 to 92.9 this year after a shortened spring and pitching in colder weather. It’s possible the pitch may actually improve as the season rolls on.
    The biggest Chris Paddack storyline to keep an eye on however is his development of yet another pitch. As a fastball/changeup pitcher for most of his career, Paddack has posted fantastic reverse splits as we often see with pitchers whose primary offspeed is a changeup. Holding left-handers to a .226/.273/.408 line is impressive for a right-handed pitcher, but in Paddack’s case his lack of an equalizer for right-handed hitters has resulted in them posting a healthy .742 OPS against him. Luckily it appears the Twins were two steps ahead on this one.
    In his third start with the Twins, Paddack threw what Statcast calls a cutter seven times. Whether it’s a cutter or a slider, this would really round out Paddack’s repertoire with a pitch that traditionally stifles right-handed pitching. It’s too small of a sample to draw any conclusions from the pitch, but the fact of the matter is if Paddack can make any strides in limiting right-handed hitters, it’s not hard to see him being one of the leaders in the rotation for the next three years.
    It was easy to question parting with Taylor Rogers for a struggling Chris Paddack at the time, but it’s become very clear in this early season that the Twins did so with a very specific plan in mind. At 26 years old after a few tough seasons, Paddack appears to still have the raw talent that once earned him the reputation as one of the up-and-coming stud pitchers in baseball. With a change in scenery, a change in pitch sequencing, and possibly a new trick or two up his sleeve, Chris Paddack could become the high-end pitcher fans were calling for all offseason. Do you agree?
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  2. Like
    Eris reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Confidence and Patience are Keys for Wander Javier   
    Entering play on Saturday, Cedar Rapids shortstop Wander Javier has gone hitless in his past four games (0-for-13). However, over his previous 14 games, Javier had hit a cool .333/.379/.683 (1.062) with two doubles, two triples and five home runs. 
    As important, the quality of the plate appearances has greatly improved. With the help of Kernels coach Jairo Rodriguez translating, Javier said that when the season started, he didn’t feel good about his swing. “It was slow,” stated Javier. 
    However, he added, “Right now, I feel much better and more comfortable with my swing. I have worked hard in the cage and on the field. My swing feels better now, quicker.” 
    Kernels manager Brian Dinkelman pointed out recently, “Wander’s at-bats have been getting better. Not chasing as much. Squaring balls up more and hitting the ball hard. He and Bryce (Berg, Kernels hitting coach) have been working hard in the cage on his approach and getting good pitches to hit. Hopefully he can build off these (recent games), and keep it going for himself.”
    Let’s go back in time. In 2015, Javier was a well-known prospect in the Dominican that many teams wanted to sign. The Twins signed a 16-year-old Wander Javier to a $4 million signing bonus. It was the largest in team history for an international signing, topping the $3.15 million bonus that Miguel Sano got in 2009. 
    At that time, Javier was ranked among the Top 10 international prospects. So were Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (Toronto, $3.9 million), Christian Pache (Atlanta, $1.4 million) and Gilberto Celestino (Astros, $2.5 million). Also among the Top 30 were Juan Soto who signed for $1.5 million with the Nationals, and Fernando Tatis, Jr., who signed for $700,000 with the White Sox. 
    Growing up, Javier noted that he began playing and working with several professional baseball players when he was 11, 12 years old. He said, “It was a good experience to practice with a lot of guys who play professional baseball.”
    At that time, Javier noted that he was a big fan of Derek Jeter, “but now I like Francisco Lindor. I think he plays very well.” 
    With that type of signing bonus comes notoriety and attention, and with it, very high expectations for such a youngster. 
    Javier made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2016 and hit .308/.400/.654 (1.054) in nine games. He had three doubles and two homers before an injury ended his season. In 2017, he came to the States and hit .299/.383/.471 (.855) with 13 doubles and four homers in 41 games at Elizabethton. 
    Unfortunately, he missed the 2018 season due to a shoulder injury. It also cost him a couple of months at the start of the 2019 season. He then went to then-Low A Cedar Rapids where he hit just .177/.278/.323 (.601) with nine doubles and 11 homers in 80 games. 
    If there was anyone who wanted or needed a 2020 season, it was Javier. Unfortunately, with the COVID pandemic, there was no season. However, he continued to work. 
    Javier noted, “When the quarantine started, I just worked out at home in the Dominican for a couple of months. After that, I went to Santo Domingo and worked with a coach every day.” 
    No one should question Javier’s work ethic. Occasionally he posts some video of his offseason workouts, and it is impressive. He has grown and gained strength. 
    Javier admitted, “I worked a lot on offense because I didn’t have a good year in 2019. It was very important to be a better hitter this year.” 
    When the 2021 minor league season began, Javier returned to Cedar Rapids. However, the Kernels are now the Twins High-A affiliate. He got off to a slow start. Through the season’s first 13 games, he was hitting just .143/.208/.224 (.432). 
    In 29 games since then, he has hit .254/.304/.500 (.804) with six doubles, two triples and six homers. 
    His manager said, “Confidence is part of it…. Once you start swinging well and have confidence in what you’re doing, stick to your plan and stay in the strike zone, he can do damage on a lot of pitches.”
    Javier says, “I try to hit line drives in the games every day, but I do have the ability to hit for power too. But I’m looking to hit more line drives.”  
    His goals for the remainder of the season are to continue to make hard contact and reduce his swing-and-miss percentage. 
    On defense, Javier has been quite good. Some have described his shortstop defense as “plus-plus.” Dinkelman says, “He’s solid out there at shortstop and makes the plays.” 
    Javier noted, “When I started playing baseball, I played shortstop all the time. I continue to work every day there, and I feel good about it.” 
    On Friday night in Cedar Rapids, Javier got a game off. The Kernels’ eight-game win streak came to an end, but he has enjoyed his time with this team. “Everybody plays together. Everybody is a good teammate in the clubhouse. Everybody’s working together every day. It’s very good because it helps us play better on the field.” 
    2021 is a big season for Wander Javier. At season’s end, he could become a minor league free agent if not added to the Twins 40-man roster. 
    It seems as though Javier has been in the organization forever, but at the same time, he will not turn 23 until the end of December. The Twins haven’t given up on him, and neither should Twins fans. 
    Dinkelman said, “He’s young, and he shows the skills that he has with the defense and with his bat. He’s been playing with a lot of confidence after a slow start the first couple of weeks. Now he’s playing well, playing better defense too. He’s only 22, it’s not old by any means in baseball. We continue to work with him and help him get better, and hopefully he can move up the ladder sometime this year and become the major-league baseball player that everybody’s hoping he will be.” 
    Javier wants to join his good friends Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis, Jr., in the big leagues. “They certainly motivate me, but I need to continue to work hard every day because I want to play in the big leagues next year… or this year. Soon!” 
    Wander Javier has found some confidence in his game. Now, he (and Twins fans) will have to continue to be patient.
     
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