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MadHits

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  1. Like
    MadHits reacted to David Youngs for an article, Week in Review: Lack of Consistency   
    Last Week's Game Results:
    Game 63 | MIN 3, SEA 2: Buxton's Early Bomb Proves Decisive
    Game 64 | SEA 5, MIN 0: Ryan Rocked in Return, Bats Blanked
    Game 65 | MIN 5, SEA 0: Offense Surges Late to Clinch Series
    Game 66 | AZ 7, MIN 2: Twins Drop Series Opener to Diamondbacks
    Game 67 | MIN 11, AZ 1: Dylan Bundy Shines, Offense Explodes as Twins Win
    Game 68 | AZ 7, MIN 1: Punished by Long Ball, Drop Rubber Game
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/13 through Sun, 6/19
    ***
    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 38-30)
    Run Differential Last Week: Even (Overall: +25)
    Standing: First Place in AL Central (1 GA)
    NEWS & NOTES
    For the first time this season the Twins headed west for a week in Seattle and Phoenix against two sub-par teams. Sitting in fourth and dead last in their respective divisions, the past week provided an opportunity to create some distance between the Twins and streaking Guardians. At the end of the day, that didn't happen. The Twins squeaked out a series win against the Mariners but fell in a disappointing series to the Diamondbacks that included two blowout losses. 
    For the first time in his career, Jorge Polanco was placed on the Injured List for lower back tightness on Thursday. Off to an adequate start, Polanco was slashing .245/.340/.729 with ten doubles and 33 RBI prior to the announcement. Placed on the 10-day IL, Jorge's presence as a core member of the middle part of the lineup was noticed. 
    On the flipside, the Polanco move opened the door for Alex Kirilloff to make his way back to Target Field, a move that many in the Twins community were calling for. 
    You can't blame the people. After a lackluster first stint with the Twins this year, Kirilloff tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A St. Paul over the past month and made as solid a case as there is that he belongs at Target Field. 
    Perhaps the most notable news of the week came from the return of starting pitchers Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray. Arguably the top two pitchers in the rotation, Ryan and Gray's return adds depth to a pitching rotation with a tank that was close to empty. Returning from the extended Covid List, Ryan made his first start since May 21 on Tuesday night against the Mariners while Gray returned on Wednesday night following a stint on the 15-day IL with a pectoral strain. 
    Given the return of Ryan and Gray, the Twins DFA'd RHP Chi Chi González this past Sunday. González was scooped up by the Milwaukee Brewers just two days later. Signed to a minor league contract prior to the start of the season, González made two starts for the Twins, giving up six runs on 12 hits in seven combined innings. 
    HIGHLIGHTS
    Despite the .500 result on the week, there was a flurry of excellent endeavors for the Minnesota Twins this past week. Coming off an extended stint on the IL is never easy, especially for a starting pitcher. Sonny Gray kicked that norm to the curb on Wednesday night with arguably his best start of the year in a shutout win over the Mariners. Through five scoreless innings, Gray allowed just three hits and no runs while striking out three in one hell of a comeback campaign. Anticipated by many to be the club's ace upon his signing, Gray's numbers are trending in the right direction. Gray has given up just three runs in his last four starts and opposing hitters batted a meager .182 against Gray in May (versus .208) in June. 
    Obviously, it's a small sample size, but the numbers are looking great and Gray's experience will continue to prove valuable for a rotation this continues to be fluid. Ace or not, Sonny Gray will be a valuable asset for the Twins as the season grows deep. 
    Speaking of consistency, Luis Arraez has continued his monstrous hitting campaign and currently sits at a lead-leading .361 batting average. Arraez holds a healthy lead over Paul Goldschmidt (.344 AVG) and has sat atop the leader board for over a week. 
    Batting .386 in the month of June, Arraez hit safely in five of six games this week, including three multi-hit games. It's no secret that Arraez deserves to be an MLB All-Star, yet his greatest strength is certainly his versatility at the plate. Well-known as a contact hitter, Arraez has shown his potential for power throughout the season while maintaining his incredible consistency for putting the ball in play. Here's Rocco speaking about his stellar hitting approach. 
    Perhaps the finest pitching outing of the week took place on Saturday night when Dylan Bundy mowed down the Diamondbacks through eight full innings. Coming off of a rough start against the Yankees, Bundy allowed just one run on no hits and struck out seven in his clear-cut best start of the year. Unlike Arraez, Bundy has lacked consistency this year but Saturday's masterpiece against the Diamondbacks was a true display of how high Bundy's ceiling can be. Hopefully, it instills confidence in the veteran and leads to more quality starts when it matters most. 
    Carlos Correa has continued to trend in the directions that Twins fans hoped he would. Traditionally a slow starter, Correa is now statistically playing the best June baseball of his career and is batting .341 so far this month. Corea's season-long average of .293 ranks second amongst everyday starters (only behind Arraez) and is sure to climb even higher. Correa did go hitless in two of three games against the Diamondbacks but did knock in an RBI in the middle game along with hitting safely in each game in Seattle.
    And on top of those, Alex Kirilloff's return to Major League play on Saturday night was excellent. With the game still competitive, Kirilloff crushed a third-inning two-out  RBI two-run double to open up the flood gates for the rest of the crew. 
     
    LOWLIGHTS
    A club that should win a majority of games (and certainly series) against bottom-feeder teams, this week's 50-50 split came as a result of dry bats, and rocky pitching...sometimes at the same time.
    Sunday's loss to Arizona was a prime example. Through four innings, Chris Archer allowed two runs (both homers) on three total hits while striking out three; not a great outing, but certainly not a game-ruiner. While not his finest rodeo, Griffin Jax kept the game within reach, allowing just one run (on another homer) in the fifth inning. The floodgates unfortunately opened in the sixth, with Caleb Thielbar allowing four runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk in just 2/3 of an inning. The blunder was uncharacteristic for Thielbar, who had previously allowed just one run in the month of June. Thielbar touted an impressive 2.08 ERA through 13 innings in May and will hopefully get past this road bump. 
    Yet through the misfires on the bump, the Twins' offense wasn't able to get much going minus a Luis Arraez run in the first. The Twins managed just five hits in the series finale against the D-Backs, a large contrast from 14 the night before and 10 on Friday. Just a few days earlier, the team tallied just four hits in their series-opening loss to the Mariners on Tuesday. The highs and lows of this team's hitting will eventually land somewhere on a plateau alongside the mountain. 
    Ryan Jeffers looks to be escaping from his hitting slump and young talent Jose Miranda seems to have found a groove. There aren't necessarily sole names at fault for the occasional offensive lapses, the problem seems to just be a team-wide consistency gap in occasional 'should-win games.'
    After finally hitting his stride, LHP Devin Smeltzer suffered his first poor outing of the season in the series opener against Arizona. Smeltzer allowed seven runs on nine hits through 4 1/3 against the Diamondbacks, the most runs and hits he's given up through seven starts this year. The crafty lefty gave up two homers in his outing and has given up seven in June after giving up none through three starts in May. That's certainly not a good trend, but Smeltzer has proven he can limit damage and keep opposing hitters' numbers low. While there is surely uncertainty given his fairly young track record, hopefully, Friday's shelling was just a rare bad day at the office.

    And finally, Joe Ryan's highly anticipated return to the bump on Tuesday night in Seattle didn't exactly go as planned. After three stellar innings, Ryan left just a few pitches up which led to the Mariners scoring two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. All in all the outing was horrific, it just wasn't "Joe-Cool-esque." Not shockingly, Ryan's velocity was down quite a bit from prior to landing on the Covid list. 
    Ryan's bland start shouldn't provide a huge concern for worry, as the star rookie has proven his consistency throughout the course of the season. This week's start against Cleveland should prove as a true test for the club's ace. 
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    The Twins did not meet or exceed their own expectations this past week. While there were certainly moments of brilliance the club lacked consistency against two very sweep-able ball clubs. Contending teams find ways to take care of business against clubs that they're clearly better than and the Twins simply played down to the level Mariners and Diamondbacks too many times. 
    Are the Twins still contenders? Absolutely. It would be foolish to foster deep concern following a .500 week at this point in the season, especially with key players returning to health. Yet the Twins do need to find consistency both at the plate and from the bump...and they need it to coincide. 
    Losing Jorge Polanco is certainly a blow, but unlikely heroes like Jose Miranda are beginning to get hot, and veterans Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez have shown the ability to be major contributors. The 'A-B-C' crew of Arraez, Buxton, and Correa continue to anchor this offense and all signs are pointing toward them all trending in the right direction. 
    Despite a trio of over-par starts, the Twins bullpen is in a decent place with Gray and Ryan back on the mound. Given Dylan Bundy's electric start in Arizona along with 'not-normal' outings from Smeltzer and Archer, the Twins truly control their destiny for the near future. 
    The reality of that begins on Tuesday. With red-hot Cleveland (8-2 in last ten games) coming to town, Minnesota will have the chance to beat a solid team that they're still probably better than. Following Sunday's loss, the Guardians are just one game behind the Twins for first place in the AL Central and are one of the most surprising stories of the year (along with the Twins). Joe Ryan will have a chance to redeem himself on the bump and all signs are pointing towards an electric series at Target Field. 
    LOOKING AHEAD
    With some toasty weather and first place in the division on the line, Target Field will be the place to be this week as Cleveland comes to town. Following that the Twins will have a chance to sweep the struggling Rockies over the weekend. 

    TUESDAY, 6/21: GUARDIANS @ TWINS - RHP Joe Ryan v. TBD
    WEDNESDAY, 6/22: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
    THURSDAY, 6/23: GUARDIANS @ TWINS- LHP Devin Smeltzer vs. RHP Zac Plesac
    FRIDAY, 6/24: ROCKIES @ TWINS- TBD v. TBD
    SATURDAY, 6/25: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD
    SUNDAY, 6/26: ROCKIES @ TWINS TBD v. TBD
     
  2. Like
    MadHits reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Ryan Jeffers is Secretly Turning a Corner   
    My colleague Nick Nelson recently wrote an article about Ryan Jeffers, outwardly wondering if the team mistakenly bestowed principal catching duties onto the former UNC Wilmington standout. While he never explicitly says it, and I would never want to speak for someone else, I walked away from the piece believing that he thinks that the Twins should not assume Jeffers to be a consistent, everyday starter for them unless he undergoes a serious evolution.
    Without a doubt, Jeffers’ initial hitting numbers are dreadful, mimicking Tim Laudnerian batting prowess instead of the league-average flirtation we expected from him. His career .202/.280/.378 slash line is dragged down by an even poorer .181/.271/.312 2022 season so far. The Manfred Mushball can’t explain that away. Jeffers’s initial 2020 offensive promise seems to be a mirage; he has failed to sniff even league-average production since that year. 
    However, there are under-the-hood stats that tell a different story. Dan Syzmborski’s recent Fangraphs article detailing under and over-performers based on his secret “z” stats caught my eye. Scrolling down a little to his “zSLUG Underachievers” list will procure a list of names, including our subject for today: Ryan Jeffers. ZIPS believes that Jeffers should be slugging .441—a number in the ballpark of Matt Olson's (.440) and Freddie Freeman's (.441) production levels, not the Adam Frazier (.309) plateau he currently sits at. Syzmborski’s projection system is his creation, so how it reaches that conclusion is hidden from us regulars, but it’s a good sign nonetheless. 
    There are other numbers as well. His Baseball Savant page doesn’t reflect un-impeachable elite performance like one sees from an Aaron Judge or a Mike Trout, but it does tell a tale of an unlucky slugger. Jeffers’ xwOBA is .339—right above league average for all hitters. Digging deeper, his barrel rate of 9.0%—a stat that indicates specific instances of a player hitting the crap out of the ball—puts him in elite territory; 26th amongst all qualified batters in MLB. Barrels aren’t an end-all stat—a player like Luis Arraez can be great because of other characteristics—but it is indicative of extra-base damage, and Jeffers’ current production does not reflect how much impact his bat has.
    There are other, more subtle numbers as well. Jeffers has tightened his command of the strike zone; his O-Swing % is down to 28.5, while his overall swinging strike rate has plummeted to 9.6%. Believe it or not, he swings at pitches outside the zone at the same rate as Luis Arraez (28.5%), and he whiffs at about the same rate as Paul Goldschmidt (9.5%). His total contact has also vastly improved (72.0% career vs. 78.5% in 2022, around Francisco Lindor territory (78.7%)). Those discipline numbers aren’t elite by any means, but they are average if not above-average in some cases, and average production would be a tremendous improvement for Jeffers.
    Jeffers’ walk rate reflects these changes (10.9%, up from 8.6%), while his strikeouts have dipped slightly, but probably less than one would expect (30.1%, down from 34.1%). I believe those punchouts will drop even further, given his improved plate control.
    Ryan Jeffers hits the ball hard at an elite level, has improved his plate discipline numbers across the board, and has worse surface-level hitting stats than before. That should change soon. The often-maligned 25-year-old has a good process in place; he has not found the final crucial step in unlocking his potential: luck. Once fortune turns in his direction, Jeffers will find himself as one of the better catchers in the game.
     
  3. Like
    MadHits reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins 9, Blue Jays 3: Short-Handed Twins Power Past Blue Jays   
    Box Score
    SP: Chi Chi Gonzalez: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (45 pitches, 32 strikes (71.1%))
    Home Runs: Kyle Garlick 2 (6), Jose Miranda 2 (4), Byron Buxton  (12)
    Top 3 WPA: Kyle Garlick (.317), Jharel Cotton (.290), Jose Miranda (.273)  
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

    Pregame Notes
    Friday morning, news broke that four Twins players did not travel to Toronto because of their vaccination status. They were replaced on the roster by starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, relievers Jharel Cotton and Ian Hamilton, and outfielder Mark Contreras. 
    Game Notes 
    Game Recap in Video.
    Kyle Garlick got them going in the game. Batting third, he came to the plate with a runner on base and facing a left-hander. Yusei Kikuchi and launched a two-run homer. 
    Chi Chi Gonzalez gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer (his sixth leadoff homer this year already), and a second first-inning run that tied the game.
    In the second inning, Jose Miranda came up and launched a solo home run to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.. 
    Garlick did it again. In his second at-bat, he came to the plate and hit his second homer of the game and sixth of the season. 
    After five innings, the Twins held a 4-3 lead. Jose Miranda came to the plate with Luis Arraez (entered game with Gio Urshela getting hurt on the base paths). The young Puerto Rican infielder got a hanger and crushed it for his second home of the game, his fourth with the Twins. 
    In the top of the 8th inning, #OldFriday Andrew Vasquez came into the game for the Blue Jays, ideally to get left-handers out. Nick Gordon (who came into left for Garlick for defensive purposes) led off and on an 0-2 slider, he took a pitch to the back side. He was balked to second and then stole third base. 
    Another lefty, Arraez came through with a soft line drive up the middle that glanced off of Vasquez's glove for an infield single to score Gordon. 
    In the ninth inning, Byron Buxton launched his 12th home run of a the season, a two-run shot to give the Twins the final runs. 
    Bullpen Phenomenal
    With veteran Chi Chi Gonzalez starting, the team had to know that the bullpen would be used tonight. Gonzalez finished three innings before being replaced by Jovani Moran. The lefty struck out the side in the fourth inning. 
    In the fifth inning, Moran walked the first two batters. Jharel Cotton came in and facing the middle of the order, he got the team out of the inning with allowing a run. Cotton then pitched a perfect sixth inning too. Tyler Duffey worked a scoreless seventh inning. Joe Smith pitched the eighth, and Griffin Jax closed it out in the ninth inning. 
    Three of the four players added to the Restricted List were bullpen arms. For this group to step up was very impressive! 
    Combined, those five pitchers worked six innings and gave up zero runs and zero hits. They walked three batters but struck out six and were terrific. 
    A Good Reminder
    Unlike many sports, in baseball, the underdog always has some chance. With several players on the IL, three more on the Covid-IL, and four players unable to be with the team because they are unvaccinated, the odds of a Twins win on Friday night were not good. But again, that's baseball. They got off to a quick start. They added on. Gonzalez kept them in it for three innings, and then several unlikely bullpen arms tossed six scoreless, hitless innings against one of baseball's best offenses. 
    Just like you hate to lose four out of five games in Detroit, games like Friday are a good reminder that anything can happen in this game. 
    What’s Next? 
    The Twins will take on #OldFriend Jose Berrios on Saturday in Toronto, looking to win the series. Dylan Bundy will make the start for the Twins. Game Time is 1:07 central time. 
    Postgame Interview 
    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet

      MON TUES WEDS THURS FRI TOT               Megill 34 0 20 0 RL 54 Jax 0 33 0 0 14 47 Moran 0 12 0 0 27 39 Smith 16 0 0 0 15 31 Duran 0 0 0 28 0 28 Minaya 0 26 0 0 0 26 Cotton 0 0 0 0 23 23 Duffey 0 0 0 0 20 20 Pagán 0 0 0 15 RL 15 Thielbar 0 11 0 0 RL 11    
  4. Like
    MadHits reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Worst Doctor We Can Find Thinks Unvaccinated Twins Are Getting a Raw Deal   
    Multiple unvaccinated Twins players must sit out this weekend’s series in Toronto due to Canada’s COVID policies. While the medical community almost universally hails the efficacy of the vaccines, the worst doctor we could find thinks the Twins are getting a raw deal.
    Dr. Gary Van Lowe, a retired family physician from Chanhassen, says the players (Max Kepler, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, and Trevor Megill)  are probably in better shape than their vaccinated teammates.
    “I was doing my own research just this morning,” said Van Lowe, “And realvaccinetruth.biz said the vaccines have little microchips in them that allows the government to turn you into a human microwave. I got right up off the toilet to see if any of that was in the newspaper. Not a word.”
    The 61-year-old, whose frequent malpractice settlements earned him the nickname “Mal” from Fairview Southdale's attorneys, said the lack of further media coverage points to a larger conspiracy.
    “I don’t think they’re doing this just to screw over the Twins in a critical road series,” said Van Lowe, nursing his “seventh or eighth” Mich Golden Light on the 17th tee box at Deer Run in Victoria. “Could it be to mess with the Vikings and Wild, too? Good luck finding that out in the Red Star (sic) from Michael Bland (sic).”
    Van Lowe, who left medicine in 2015 after a series of lurid sexual harassment accusations from fellow doctors, nurses, and the entire front of house staff at the Eden Prairie Buca di Beppo, now runs a medical consultancy firm for insurance companies looking to deny benefits.
    “The jury is still out on this vaccine,” he said, wobbling over a putt on 17. “All I know is that Betty White was perfectly healthy before she got the jab. Makes you think.”
    Van Lowe ended the interview in order to ask the beer cart driver if she needed a ride home.
  5. Like
    MadHits reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month - May 2022   
    Previous 2022 Hitters of the Month - April: Christian Encarnacion-Strand
    We’ll take a look at the top five hitters of the month, but before diving into it, let’s start with an honorable mention.
    Honorable Mention - Will Holland - Cedar Rapids Kernels 19-71, .268/.350/.507 (.857), two doubles, three triples, and three home runs
    Holland was a 5th round pick from Auburn by the Twins during the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. This has been one of his better months as a professional, and he now has an .800 OPS for Cedar Rapids.. It would be good for Holland to parlay a hot start into an eventual promotion to Double-A Wichita.
    Top Five Hitters

    Number 5 - Wichita Wind Surge - C Alex Isola - 22-68, .324/.425/.500 (.925), three doubles, three home runs
    Isola was a late-round selection in 2019, grabbed by Minnesota in the 29th round. Making his Double-A debut after a solid 2021 playing at High-A Cedar Rapids, Isola got hot in May. He’s never been a high batting average guy, but the .297 batting average this season is more than nice to see. Isola has a good amount of power and strong plate discipline. With Minnesota needing catching depth at the highest levels, his emergence early this season could afford more opportunity as the season rolls on.
    Number 4 - Fort Myers Miracle - SS Noah Miller - 30-87, .345/.457/.517 (1.006), five doubles, two triples, two home runs
    A first-round pick for the Twins last season, Miller looks the part of a true shortstop. He’s held down the position well thus far during his professional career, and his bat broke out in a big way during May. Speed is part of Miller’s game and that was evidenced by the pair of triples. He’s probably not going to hit a ton of homers, but he draws a lot of walks and already has 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts this season.
    Number 3 - Fort Myers Miracle - INF Mikey Perez - 21-82, .256/.361/.524 (.885), seven doubles, five home runs
    Minnesota grabbed Perez in the 15th round of last year’s draft out of UCLA. His pro debut was a good one, but it consisted of just 10 games last season. After a slow start in April, Perez turned it on in a big way last month. The 12 extra-base hits in just 23 games are impressive, and for a guy that never really hit for power in college, a month with five home runs is a development the Twins have to be excited about.
    Number 2 - Wichita Wind Surge - OF Matt Wallner - 25-84, .298/.422/.595 (1.017) seven doubles, six home runs
    Wallner was a first-round pick for the Twins in 2019 after he had been a 32nd-round selection out of high school (as a pitcher) three years prior. Spending three years at Southern Mississippi was the smart route for him. He improved his stock immensely, and Wallner has flashed big tools. He’s got one of the best arms in the system and hits for some of the most power. There’s always been a considerable amount of swing-and-miss in his game, but Wallner is now showing a stronger sense of plate discipline as well. He’ll have plenty of months where he hits lots of dingers. If he has a June that looks like his May, he could push a ticket to St. Paul.
    And the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month is:
    Wichita Wind Surge/St. Paul Saints - INF Spencer Steer - 28-90, .311/.388/.678 (1.066), six doubles, nine home runs
    At one point it, could’ve been argued that Steer was among the most underrated prospects in the Twins system, but I think we’ve blitzed by that point. He was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A St. Paul recently and has continued to crush the ball there. Steer was a third-round pick in 2019 and has hit at every stop of the farm. The 24 dingers last season showed the work he put in while minor league baseball was canceled in 2020. He’s already got ten homers this season and two of them have come in his week with the Saints. Steer has an exceptional approach at the plate and is a well-balanced hitter. He has quickly become someone that the Twins can look at as a future fixture in their lineup.
    The Twins current middle infield is a bit crowded with superstars and top prospects, but at some of the most impactful positions on the diamond, that’s a great problem to have. Steer will be tested plenty at Triple-A, but being 24-years-old, he could factor in as part of the next wave. Minnesota has to be impressed with the career trajectory thus far, and a strong May has made 2022 an exciting start.
    We’d like to congratulate Spencer Steer, Twins Daily’s choice for Minor League Hitter of the Month for May 2022. Feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions below.
     
  6. Like
    MadHits reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - May 2022   
    Previous 2022 Starting Pitcher of the Month
    April - John Stankiewicz
    Methodology:
    This isn’t a scientific ranking by any stretch of the imagination. Other minor league writers gave feedback on their top players before the author weighed their choices with his own opinions. Results were less clear-cut than one would hope (one writer had Matt Canterino 2nd while another had him 6th). This is meant to act as a general spotlight to shine on many players, not just the one we deemed “the best,” so don’t take this any more seriously than it needs to be. 
    Honorable Mention - Travis Adams - Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, 3.15 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 29.7 K%, 20 IP
    Travis Adams, the Twins 6th round pick in 2021 out of Sacramento State, threw his hat in the ring of notable college arms making noise in 2022. He allowed a few more runs than the arms that will grace this list, but he was still outstanding—allowing an opponent batting average of .162 in May against a WHIP of 0.85.
    Honorable Mention - Chi Chi González - St. Paul Saints, 2.53 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 24.4 K%, 21 1/3 IP
    Chi Chi González joined the Twins organization this past off-season, inking a minor league deal hoping that he could pitch his way into an unsteady major league rotation. That hasn’t happened yet, but González took a significant step towards that future in May. He rebounded from a shaky April to pitch to a respectable 2.53 ERA in May without giving up a long ball in four starts.
    Number Five - Sawyer Gipson-Long - Cedar Rapids Kernels, 1.74 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 29.5 K%, 20 2/3 IP
    Sawyer Gipson-Long, another recent college arm (someone should write about that), popped up on the prospect radar last season and is proving that his success is no fluke. The righty from Mercer crushed his competition in May, allowing a sub-.200 batting average against while striking out batters at nearly a 30% clip. That’s good, folks. His age, combined with his status as an older arm, curses his evaluations to be bland; Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin described him as someone who sits “90-94 with an above-average slider and plenty of strikes.” Keep an eye on him as an under-the-radar pitcher who could be in Wichita very soon.
    Number Four - Brent Headrick - Cedar Rapids Kernels, 0.93 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 26.0 K%, 19 ⅓ IP
    Another former-collegiate pitcher, Brent Headrick, has found command in 2022, and hitters have suffered for it. Headrick crushed May, holding a WHIP of just 0.78 with three of his four starts ending without him surrendering an earned run. His FIP held him back from placing higher on this list—the next three pitchers all dominated in ERA and peripherals—but that’s hardly a knock on Headrick’s pitching ability. Allowing two earned runs in an entire month is elite, no matter how you slice it.
    Number Three - Matt Canterino - Wichita Wind Surge, 2.00 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 37.3 K%, 18 IP
    Matt Canterino had an unusual month of May; he started four games while piggybacking in another but still ended up with fewer innings than all previously named starters. Nonetheless, he dominated. Canterino allowed runs in just one outing while striking out the world as he returns from an elbow injury that shortened his 2021 season. The Rice product walked more batters than one would prefer (12.0% of them), but his strikeout total in May was so ridiculous that he still ended up at the number three spot.
    Number Two - David Festa- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels/Cedar Rapids Kernels, 1.45 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 36.8 K%, 18 2/3 IP
    One of the most talked-about Twins prospects this year, David Festa, had a month to remember in May. The 13th-round pick out of Seton Hall embodied efficiency, striking out hitters like an elite MLB reliever while not sacrificing command in favor of his stuff; he walked just 5.9% of hitters in May. His performance earned him a promotion to Cedar Rapids, where he made two outings; one great and one forgettable. His ascent through the minors could be rapid, so make sure to stop and appreciate Festa before he switches levels again. 
    Number One - Steve Hajjar - Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, 0.51 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 42.6 K%, 17 ⅔ IP
    For a while, Steve Hajjar was like Cthulu—legendary and fearsome, but never seen as he pitched with a Fort Myers team that doesn’t broadcast their games and only occasionally plays against a team that does. Then May 26th happened. Hajjar took the mound against the Bradenton Marauders and shut them down completely, fanning 10 over 5 ⅔ innings with no earned runs. It was the perfect culmination of Hajjar’s ability.
    The Twins drafted the tall lefty out of Michigan in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft; enamored by his potential, they handed him over $1 million. Hajjar didn’t pitch for the organization that year, but grumblings from team sources indicated that they were pleased with his internal performance. 
    2022 hasn’t left much for the imagination. The fewest amount of strikeouts Hajjar netted in a single game is 5, and he’s already punched out 50 batters through 29 innings of work. 29; he’s thrown 29 innings and has 50 strikeouts. Walker Buehler has thrown nearly 60 innings and only has 49. 
    The primary issue left for Hajjar is command—he’s walked 17 hitters in those 29 innings to give him a ghastly 14.7 BB% on the year. Although, there may be signs of control as he’s walked just one batter respectively in each of his last two starts. Hajjar is a starter with immense potential, and it will be a great joy to watch him develop in the Twins system.
     
     
  7. Like
    MadHits reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, A Platoon Gem Providing the Twins Spice   
    When the Twins claimed Kyle Garlick, he had just 42 Major League games under his belt. A former 28th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garlick had posted a paltry. 691 OPS and had only eight extra-base hits to his credit. He saw success to the tune of a 117 OPS+ in his first 30 games with the Dodgers, but then failed to replicate that production with a -3 OPS+ playing 12 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020.
    As a 29-year-old, Minnesota saw him as an option to be their fourth outfielder. Possessing a left-hand-heavy group, Garlick presented a platoon bat that could play on the corners. Although not a given to make the 2021 roster, he was activated on April 29, 2021, and the intentions of his usage immediately became evident.
    Minnesota wanted him almost entirely to face left-handed pitching. Of his 107 plate appearances last season, 63 of them came against southpaws. He posted an .878 OPS and clubbed four of his five dingers against them. The downside was a lopsided 19/2 K/BB and the eventual sports hernia injury that ended his season on July 24.
    The production as a whole was hardly noteworthy, just a .745 OPS and 103 OPS+, ultimately making him dispensable and leading to an outright off the 40-man roster in November. Wanting to keep him in the organization and see what could happen, Minnesota gave Garlick a Spring Training invite as a non-roster player for 2022, and he became a necessary addition to the active roster just a few games into the season.
    Now with 19 games played this season, and a brief stint on the injured list interrupting continuity, Garlick looks like one of the league’s best platoon players. Minnesota has received a 1.011 OPS out of Garlick, equating to a 198 OPS+. He already has four homers to his credit and the 7/6 K/BB has made his plate discipline that much scarier for the opposition.
    The sample size remains extremely small thus far, but the Twins have done well to put Garlick in advantageous situations once again. Across 40 plate appearances, Garlick has seen a lefty 25 times. In those matchups he owns a .350/.440/.800 slash line with three homers and eight RBI. Going so well at the plate, Garlick came up in the biggest spot of his season on Sunday when he faced tough Kansas City Royals righty Scott Barlow, and took him deep for a two-run blast.
    The proverbial leash for Garlick has to have grown to immense proportions at this point. Although he hasn’t had a significant opportunity to cement the production as sustainable, he remains an oddity on a roster chock full of left-handed outfielders. Whether Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, Nick Gordon, or Alex Kirilloff flank Byron Buxton on a regular basis, there has to be a power-hitting option that can swap in for them. Gilberto Celestino has done an amazing job to stake claim as a regular this season, but it’s Garlick who can bring the same thump on the corners.
    Minnesota had to proceed with caution following a surgical procedure (sports hernia) for their platoon player, but bringing him back on a non-guaranteed deal has worked out fabulously thus far. Garlick will forever be overmatched against a consistent barrage of right-handed pitching, but if Rocco Baldelli continues to pull the right strings for his 30-year-old slugger, Garlick could have a truly magical season pounding southpaws into the dirt.
    A late-round pick that bounced around after some early success, Garlick seems to have found both a home and a calling in Minnesota. If he can keep mashing taters, he’ll continue to find his name on the lineup card.
     
  8. Like
    MadHits reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Rocco Baldelli Regaining 'Manager of the Year' Form, to the Dismay of Haters   
    Baldelli had the makings of a slam-dunk hire in 2019, when he became the youngest recipient of Manager of the Year in history, leading the Twins to a historic 101-win season. He followed with another division title in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. 
    One would think such an impressive start to his managerial career would earn the guy a bit of leeway in the eyes of fans. Turns out, not so much. 
    While experiencing his first rocky year at the helm, Rocco was routinely derided by a large portion of the fanbase and columnist hive in 2021's last-place debacle. Never mind he was supplied by the front office with Alex Colomé as his closer and the Happ-maker combo as his rotation reinforcements. Never mind dealing with a rotten hand injury-wise. 
    Baldelli took major heat nonetheless. It's the name of the game.
    As this 2022 season got off to similarly ugly start, with a 4-8 record two weeks in, fans on Twitter were calling for Rocco's head and a certain desperate-for-attention local media outlet was hilariously attempting to manufacture a manager controversy. 
    Since that 4-8 start, Baldelli's Twins are 17-7. They're winning tight games. They're playing far cleaner, crisper ball than opponents. And they're bouncing back from adversity.
    Tactically, Baldelli has been pressing the right buttons and his decision have paid off time and time again. Here are three examples from Monday's 3-1 victory:
    1: Chris Archer pulled after four innings.
    It wasn't an obvious call by any means. Archer had allowed only one run on two hits over four innings. He was at just 62 pitches when Baldelli made the decision to pull him. The Twins were in the midst of a stretch with nine games in nine days. They could've tried to squeeze another inning or two.
    The skipper did not want to see Archer face Oakland's lineup for a third time and that was absolutely the right call. Yennier Canó came in and mowed down the next two frames, giving hitters a very different look from the starter.
    Griffin Jax followed with two scoreless frames, and then Tyler Duffey closed things out in a clean ninth. Another shutout showing from the relief corps.
    Minnesota's bullpen, despite losing one of the best relievers in baseball on the eve of Opening Day, has been phenomenal. Elite by any measure. Elite! Who would've expected this based on the personnel we saw forming this unit?
    Twins relief pitchers – from Canó to Jax to Joe Smith to Jhoan Duran to Emilio Pagán and beyond – are getting it done. Rocco is putting them in spots to succeed, as has been his trademark. His bullpen ranked third in the majors in WAR in 2019, and second in 2020.
    Baldelli quietly has an argument as the best bullpen manager in baseball.
    2: Small ball pays off in the 5th inning.
    I'm not a big fan of small-ball tactics generally, and based on his tendencies I think it's safe to say Baldelli feels the same. (I mean, that 2019 team was basically a giant middle-finger to small ball as a concept.)
    But both of us could agree that it made sense to take such an approach in the fifth inning of a 1-1 game after Royce Lewis drew a leadoff walk. Nick Gordon, the #9 hitter who entered with a paltry .596 OPS, stepped in and got the bunt call. He executed, bringing up the team's best hitter with one out and a man in scoring position.
    Byron Buxton? Oh, you know he executed. 
    Even if it hadn't worked out, bunting with Gordon there is a move that simply made sense. Baldelli has shown he'll go that route when it's warranted. You wonder if the dead-ball trend might compel this calculating manager to keep adjusting in that direction.
    3: Buxton was on the field.
    There's been a whole bunch of grumbling lately about the team's "kid-gloves treatment" of Buxton. (Much of it, you'll be shocked to learn, coming from the aforementioned desperate-for-attention outlet.) Apparently it is now controversial to take a cautious approach in a 162-game season with your vitally important superstar who also happens to be banged up, and maybe the most injury-prone player in the league. 
    Yes, Baldelli and the Twins have opened up about their intentions to manage Buxton's workload this year in hopes of keeping him off the injured list. Their plan has been successful so far, in every way. Buxton has avoided the IL – despite a few scares that continue to affect him – and the Twins are six games above .500, leading the division, even with him playing only two-thirds of the time.
    Winning the division and having Buxton healthy for the playoffs should be this team's utmost aspiration. It's a combination they haven't yet been able to achieve yet. Right now, Baldelli has the Twins on track to do both. And people are still complaining. SMH.
    Some of us appreciate you, Rocco, and see the things you're doing to help this team exceed expectations. Many won't. But that's the name of the game.
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