howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Tale of the Fifth Starter Tape
There are not many question marks on the Minnesota Twins 26-man roster coming into the 2020 season. Jake Cave and Willians Astudillo are in contention for the final bench spot, and the rotation has turned into a two-man race. How do Randy Dobnak and Jhoulys Chacin stack up?
Coming into the spring there’s no denying the Twins hope was to have the veteran Chacin make this decision easy. Forget that Dobnak was the game two starter during the 2019 ALDS in Yankees Stadium, he’s a guy that showed up out of nowhere and has options remaining. The caveat though, is that he is the one continuing to force Minnesota’s hand.
By now you know the story. Former Uber driver that played through all three levels of the farm in 2019 while posting a ridiculous 2.07 ERA, he’s the fun-loving guy with the handlebar mustache. Although he deviates from the traditional strikeout hurlers of today, he’s also incredibly strong with both his control and command. In not allowing hitters to beat him with big innings, he’s pitching in front of a lineup that will always give him a chance.
After arguably his worst spring start, Dobnak now own a line of 10.0 IP 5 H 3 R 3 ER 3 BB and 6 K. Dominant, maybe not, but he’s looked the part of a big leaguer ever single time he’s stepped on the mound. Again, with the Twins hoping to unlock the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers version of Chacin, this wasn’t likely part of the equation.
The long-time vet was an absolute mess last year. Jhoulys posted a 5.79 ERA while walking everyone before being jettisoned from The Crew. He landed in Boston and things actually got worse. Contributing just north of 14 IP, he tallied an ERA north of 7.00 and continued giving out free passes for frequently than an ice cream man at the playground.
Looking to rekindle the arm that produced a 3.50 ERA in 192 innings during the 2018 season, Minnesota made a smart decision by nabbing him on a non-roster deal. Given his big-league experience, the assumption should have always been that the final rotation spot out of the gate was his to lose. He’s been projected as such in each of my roster breakdowns in this space, but it’s becoming ever harder to do so.
After his last outing Chacin has now totaled 8.0 IP in Grapefruit League play for Minnesota. Although he does have a solid 8/2 K/BB, he’s given up seven hits, plenty of hard contact, and six earned runs. To say that hitters have rarely been fooled by his stuff would be accurate.
Obviously as a newly developed pitching institution, there’s plenty of tweaks the Twins are working on with the Venezuelan. Between analytical deep dives and scrapping of offerings, the goal has been to rekindle a career under the tutelage of Wes Johnson and the infrastructure that Derek Falvey has built. So far, the fruits of everyone’s labor have yet to produce anything ripe.
We’re probably still too far out to call this race over, and still with an option Dobnak is going to need to be head and shoulders above his competition. Right now though, it’s inaccurate to call him anything but the most productive candidate, and once again the taxi driver is weaving his way through traffic.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to TwinsFan268 for a blog entry, Taking A Look At MLB's Projected 2020 Standings
Yesterday, MLB released their projected standings on Twitter, and while the American League looked very close to last year, the National League was a little different. Since the playoffs are going to be the same next year, I'm going to take a look at what this means for us.
Now, MLB placed the Twins atop the AL Central, 7 games ahead of last year's competition, the Cleveland Indians. Of course I love having distance between us and Cleveland, but I was kind of hoping that we had more projected wins. Here's what the standings for the Central looked like:
White Sox: 83-79
Obviously, the only change here is the Tigers go to fourth and the Royals go to fifth, but they're only one game apart. The Twins and Indians get worse, while the White Sox, Tigers, and Royals improve. The Tigers have vastly improved over their 47-114 season last year.
Now, I know that you're wondering where we place with the other American League teams. So, let's chat the American League East, the division of our biggest postseason rivals, the New York Yankees. Here's what their projected standings look like.
Red Sox: 85-77
Blue Jays: 77-85
These are literally the exact same standings as last year, just with different numbers. The Yankees have as many wins as the Orioles have losses. Same goes with the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The Red Sox have as many wins as the Blue Jays have losses.
Now, I know that you're getting impatient because you want to know who we would play in the playoffs, who's the Wild Card team, all that! But, first let's go over to the AL West.
This is a very close division! The Angels are taking the jump up from 4th and moving into the 2nd place spot. The Astros and Mariners have their same places as 2019, but the middle teams have shifted around.
Now, time to talk about the playoffs. From these standings, the Angels and Rays would face each other in the Wild Card team. The Yankees face whoever wins. The Twins and Astros are the 2nd and 3rd place teams, so they face each other in the ALDS. Yes, you heard me right! No Yankees! As long as the Astros don't have trash cans and TVs, I say we have more of a chance. And I am 100% sure that they learned their lesson from that one.
Let's go over to the National League and just talk about them, not quite in as much detail as we talked about the American League. We'll start with the Central, our division in a different league.
This division is going to have to battle it out, as all the teams are so close to each other. This will be a fun one to watch!
All right, next let's chat about the NL East.
Again, close close close. Nobody historically terrible like the Marlins were last year. Just a lot of average teams.
The last division is the NL West.
Oh, a tie for second! Those are cool. These standings look basically the same as last year except for the Padres improve a bit.
Playoffs. Cubs vs. Nationals for the Wild Card game. Dodgers face whoever wins. Mets vs. Reds in the NLDS as 2nd and 3rd place teams.
What do you think of the projected standings? How do you think it'll turn out? Will teams be better or worse than MLB projected them to be? Please give opinions in the comments!
howieramone2 reacted to TwerkTwonkTwins for a blog entry, Kenta Maeda Trade V2 - How The Twins Struck A Better Deal
The three-team mega blockbuster involving the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers is finally complete.
At this point, most Twins fans are aware of what happened - a deal was in place on February 4th, sending Graterol to Boston as part of the return for offloading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. However, that soon changed after Boston came to the conclusion that Graterol was not destined to be a starting pitcher. This was a conclusion that the Twins publicly announced well in advance of the trade. Chaos, medical speculation, and finger pointing ensued, and the entire trade between the three teams was put on ice.
This was perhaps the most dramatic trade saga of my Minnesota Twins fandom, maybe ranking behind the Johan Santana rumors that dominated the entire 2008 offseason.
I will spare you all the back-and-forth rumors between Boston getting cold feet and the revised agreement between the three teams, as this is a massive movement of players. Instead, the changes in the Twins aspect is highlighted below:
2/4 Twins Agreement V1
Twins trade Brusdar Graterol to Boston.
Twins acquire Kenta Maeda from Los Angeles.
2/9 Twins Agreement V2
Twins trade Brusdar Graterol, 2020 Comp B Draft Pick, and Luke Raley to Los Angeles
Twins acquire Kenta Maeda, $10M in cash assets, and Jair Camargo © from Los Angeles.
The second version is much more complex, but paints a better picture of the Twins 2020 mindset. While the delay was agonizing, irritating, and heart-burn inducing, I think the Twins used time to their advantage and improved their haul from the first version.
Let’s review what changed from the first trade to the second, and how the Twins sacrificed future unknowns for increased flexibility to improve the 2020 club at a later date.
The 67th Pick In the 2020 MLB Draft
Here’s a look at the Twins’ last 25 second round picks - ranging from pick number 37 to 92.
There’s a lot of variability here, with 71% of the bWAR coming from the combination of Scott Baker and Jesse Crain. The Twins have failed to receive value from the second round in the last decade, but the second round picks from the Falvine regime are legitimate prospects within the system. The jury is out on anyone drafted from 2016 onward.
Make no mistake - the Twins are taking an unprecedented risk for this organization by trading a draft pick this high, especially after losing the #99 pick for signing Josh Donaldson. However, there’s a very realistic chance this pick doesn’t reach the MLB level. If the player were to reach the majors, it would likely be in year outside of the Twins current competitive window. There’s plenty of second round draft talent currently in the system to supplement the current core.
Another way to look at the value of this pick is by equating it to a monetary value. Fangraphs placed the value of the 67th pick in 2019 at $4.1M. That factors in a signing bonus subtracted from projected future value, based on historic WAR from players picked in that slot. That’s an interesting way to look at this part of the trade, considering the dollar amount that Los Angeles is providing.
$10M in Cash Assets
Cash. Don’t worry, this isn’t meant to line the pockets of the Pohlads. This is spending money for the 2020 Trade Deadline in late July/early August. This allows them to acquire an asset at the deadline using more financial capital, and less prospect capital.
Judging from their pre-Donaldson free agent signings, it’s clear that Falvey and Levine crave financial flexibility. Here are several ways to look at this incoming cash, beyond use in a trade scenario:
Covering the majority of Kenta Maeda’s base salary ($12.5M through 2023)
Covering Maeda’s full 2020 contract, if he hits the majority of his incentives.
Pays for the #67 Comp B draft pick, with roughly $5.9M in excess value.
This is a huge benefit over the previous agreement, as it protects the Twins if Maeda flames out, or allows more budget room to acquire a pricier trade target in July. The $10M from Los Angeles will go to valid use in many scenarios.
Luke Raley for Jair Camargo
Luke Raley boomerangs back to the organization that dealt him to Minnesota for Brian Dozier in 2018. In exchange, the Twins are receiving a low-level catching prospect in Jair Camargo.
Camargo is a young catcher at 20 years old, and played at Class A last year in the Great Lakes league. His offensive line was middling with a .642 OPS, but he is rumored to have a strong exit velocity from his bat (90 MPH+) with a high hard hit percentage. The Twins seem to like that offensive profile, and the fact it's coming from a catcher is extra appealing. It never hurts to add catching depth at any level.
The Twins are giving up Raley, who was a fine prospect, but he suffered through an injury for the majority of 2019. He projects as a corner outfield platoon/bench piece, and that role is valuable to MLB clubs. However, the Twins outfield depth is immense, with a young starting core on the MLB team, and multiple top 100 ranked outfield prospects behind him in Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff.
Even with blockages in front of him, and top prospects behind him - Raley was competing alongside multiple outfielders at a similar level of development. Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr, and Brent Rooker are all fellow outfielders with similar ages and projections to Raley. All of these similar corner outfielders were occupying 40-man roster spots.
The major benefit in trading away Raley to Los Angeles, is that it immediately opens up a 40-man roster spot for the 2020 team. Camargo is years away from being added, and is essentially a lottery ticket at a premium position. For now, the open 40-man roster vacancy creates a large amount of flexibility. The open spot can be used for Jhoulys Chacín, an injury replacement, or a future acquisition.
Brusdar Graterol Is Gone - But To A Different Opponent
Fair trades are supposed to hurt, right? This aspect did not change, as pitchers who throw 100 MPH+ do not grow on trees.
It still hurts to lose Graterol, but the same analysis that applied a few days ago remains the same. The Twins are betting that Graterol will remain in the bullpen, and are filling an area of need in the starting rotation, from an area of strength on the 2020 team. Unlike Boston, Los Angeles is fine with Graterol’s likely reliever projection. The Twins are hoping Graterol doesn’t turn into Aroldis Chapman.
So why is the version of the trade more beneficial to the Twins, in relation to Brusdar? Simple, the Twins won’t have to face him nearly as much over the next few years if he’s pitching in the National League, compared to two guaranteed series per year against Boston. Of course, that could change with a few late October match-ups against Los Angeles, but we’d all be very pleased if that’s the case. It’ll be much easier to root for him in Dodger Blue for the next few years.
The End Result
The one constant between the two versions of this trade is that Kenta Maeda is still coming to the Twins, as the #3 starter to open the season. The Twins had to get a bit more creative after Boston shied away from Graterol, but Los Angeles was a flexible trade partner.
While the first version of this trade was already risky with the Twins shipping away Graterol’s sky-high potential, the second version adds even more risk to the equation. The loss of the Comp B draft pick and Luke Raley could come back to sting in their own rights. However, I’m glad the Twins doubled down, as the increased roster and financial flexibility for 2020 are the only known factors in this entire deal.
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Projecting the Twins 2020 Opening Day Roster 2.0
The last stab I took at this was on January 20th. There haven’t been many moves since then, but the ones that have been made are absolutely monumental. While I felt good about where that version of the Twins was, it’s undeniable they are much better off now. Putting out one final projection prior to Spring Training getting underway, here’s where I see things as of today.
Catchers (2) – Mitch Garver, Alex Avila
No change here. These two are locked in and ready to go. Garver will need to stave off some expected regression, but he’ll also be dealing with an expanded workload. If Willians Astudillo pushes his was onto the roster, I don’t see the playing time coming behind the plate.
Infield (5) – Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson. Ehire Adrianza
Another position group with no change. Donaldson punctuated the offseason when Minnesota signed him to the 4th biggest deal handed out this winter. This group will need to take a step forwards defensively, and I’m confident that they should be able to.
Outfield (5) – Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave
More status quo here. The final position spot comes down to Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo for me, and I don’t see the utility of Astudillo being a net positive. He’s below average everywhere, while Cave can handle the bat and play all three outfield positions. The infield is more stable this season, and although Marwin should spend most of his time in a corner outfield spot, he’s the utility guy you feel comfortable about moving around.
Designated Hitter (1) – Nelson Cruz
Yes, still here to hit bombas.
Rotation (5) – Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacin
This is the group that has seen the most change. Chacin was signed to a minor league deal, and while 2019 was awful, he was great in 2018. If the Twins see signs of that at all during the spring, they’ll have picked up a very solid 5th starter. I like the long-term ability of Lewis Thorpe, and both Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer have looked strong, but they all have options remaining. Now adding a bonafide stud in Kenta Maeda, this is a group that should be plenty capable of racing out to a second straight division title.
Bullpen (8) – Taylor Rogers. Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Matt Wisler, Cody Stashak
This group stays the same as I had it in round one, but that was prior to Minnesota designating Brusdar Graterol a reliever. He absolutely would have been on the roster, but instead was used to swing the deal for Maeda. Coming off a 2019 that saw this group finish as the third best unit in baseball, they’ve added some very quality pieces to make another run at the top.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to RDLARK for a blog entry, Starting Pitcher Analysis: Lewis Thorpe
Okay, time to take a look at Lewis Thorpe. This is, afterall, the reason we all woke up this morning, right? Thankfully for all involved, we can skip the lengthy preamble and just get into the analysis.
Like Dobnak, whom I covered in this space last week, Thorpe made his MLB debut for the Twins last season (though he started the year off in AAA, whereas Dobnak basically covered every level in the organization in 2019).
Let’s take a look at Thorpe’s results from his MLB stint:
• 27.2 IP (essentially the same sample as Dobnak)
• 10.08 K/9 (yes, please)
• 3.25 BB/9 (that’ll play)
• 6.18 ERA (yikes)
• 3.47 FIP (okay, let’s take a look at the BABIP, HR rates, and other batted ball tendencies)
• 4.14 xFIP (so he had a lower than league average HR/FB rate, but honestly ½ of a run isn’t much in this small of a sample, it’s a difference of 1.5 ER allowed in 27 IP)
I see a number of things I want to look at here, and we will see where this takes us:
• Swinging Strike Rate: 11.8%
• Zone Percentage: 44.3%
• BABIP: .438
• HR/9: 0.98
• HR/FB: 10.3%
• Line Drive Rate: 31.3%
Let’s start with his plate discipline numbers to see whether we think these strikeout and walk rates, which are the stuff aces are made of (a quick a dirty thing to do to identify elite skills is to subtract the BB/9 from the K/9; anything over 6 is great).
Let’s start off with the walks and underlying control skills. Thorpe was in the strike zone with 44.3% of his pitches in his limited MLB innings. Among qualified starters, he would have ranked 17th, just behind Yu Darvish and just ahead of Lance Lynn. As I mentioned last week, there were 61 qualified starters, so the top 20 is the top 1/3rd. It’s also worth mentioning that his BB/9 in nearly 100 AAA innings was 2.34 in 2019 and in AA and AAA in 2018, he compiled 130 innings with a 2.5 BB/9. I think it’s safe to say Thorpe has great control and can likely be relied upon to avoid free passes.
On to strikeouts. Thorpe has consistently delivered a K/9 in the double digits throughout his time in AA, AAA, and MLB in 2017 (10.50), 2018 (10.92 in AA; 10.80 in AAA) and 2019 (11.12 in AAA, 10.08 in MLB). I’m happy to report that his swinging strike rate during his MLB stint backs this up. His 11.8 swinging strike rate would have been 22nd among qualifying starters (again, right around the top 1/3). As I noted with Dobnak, it is not particularly common for the same pitcher to post strong control numbers and miss a lot of bats.
Here is the list of pitchers who had a zone percentage of at least 44.3% and a swinging strike rate of at least 11.8% (if you read the Dobnak post last week, this will look familiar).
• Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2%
• Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6%
• Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2%
• Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2%
• Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5%
• Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1%
• German Marquez – 12.7%/46.6%
• Walker Buehler – 12.1%/46.5%
• Joe Musgrove – 12%/45.5%
Still good company, just as it was for Dobnak last week (and I’m on board with prying Musgrove away from Pittsburgh).
Okay, so he’s in the zone and missing bats. Those skills have consistently translated to strikeouts and walks (for pitchers in general, and for Thorpe since he was promoted to AA in 2017). So if he’s so great why did he post an ERA of more than 6 runs per nine innings?
I know a lot of people won’t like to hear this, but he was unlucky. Pitchers cannot control everything that happens, and particularly in small samples some bad luck can really torch your ratios. For starters, he allowed a .438 BABIP. The highest BABIP among qualified starters was .347 – one hundred points lower! That’s a fluke. Thorpe also only stranded 66% of his baserunners. Only three qualified starters had lower strand rates, and none of then posted a K/9 over 8.5 (Musgrove had the lowest strand rate in the major leagues; more evidence that he'd be a great add).
He was helped a bit by having a relatively low HR/FB, particularly given the fact that he allowed a lot of hard contact (39.8%), and the BABIP was fueled by a 31.3% line drive rate. It’s likely intuitive to anyone who has read this far, but line drives are by far the most likely type of batted ball to result in a base hit. Again, though, so much of all of this is dependent on such a small sample that it’s hard to know if that’s really who he is. If those line drives turned into fly balls he’d likely see his BABIP come down, but he’d also likely allow more home runs. It’s also feasible that a pitcher who misses bats like he does can figure out how to induce weaker contact, especially if he relies more heavily on his slider.
A commenter noted on the Dobnak post that Dobnak had faced some weaker offenses. That’s also true of Thorpe, who faced AL central foes for the majority of his appearances. Something to keep in mind.
Honestly, he’s a lot like Dobnak. The biggest difference between the two (aside from pedigree) is that Dobnak had good fortune with batted balls and Thorpe had bad fortune. All-in-all, I’d say Thorpe gives us plenty of reason to be excited about the possibilities for the back end of the rotation in 2020. The Twins don’t need all of the potential starters on the 40-man to be great, and they appear to have put together a system full of high variance, high upside arms. Not a bad place to be.
howieramone2 reacted to RDLARK for a blog entry, Starting Pitcher Analysis: Randy Dobnak
I’m going to dive into blogging here and see where it goes. Sometimes, as a writer, the hardest thing is to come up with an idea that’s worth writing about and that people will actually be interested to read. I expect that to be my struggle, but I’ve got what I think will be an interesting series to kick things off, and maybe that will be the extent of my contributions. Time will tell.
In any case, nobody wants to read about me. You want to see what information you can glean about our Twins. Given the rampant discussions on Twitter and on various blogs regarding the state of the Twins’ pitching staff, I thought it would be interesting to do a series on the numbers underlying the starters currently projected to be in the mix for the Twins.
While I’m sure others will make starts this season, here are the guys I’m hoping to work my way through for this series:
By way of framing the series, I think there are pretty clearly three different groups. The known (but in some cases misunderstood) quantities, the new veterans, and the prospects.
When the season starts, we know Pineda and Hill will not be in the rotation, and we know Berrios, Odorizzi, and Bailey will be (barring injury, of course). That being the case, I decided to start off by diving into the three prospects (a term I’m using loosely, given the MLB experience they got last year), starting with Dobnak.
A common question we hear, read, and think to ourselves as we are trying to fall asleep: “Can Randy Dobnak be a key piece of a successful playoff run?” I can cut to the chase and just say the answer is yes, but if you want to know why, go ahead and keep reading the words.
Let’s start by looking at Dobnak’s surface-level stats:
28.1 IP – lots and lots of caveats about the small sample
7.31 K/9 – not inspiring, but we will need to take a look at his swinging strike rates
1.59 BB/9 – elite, but let’s see how often he’s really in the strike zone
1.59 ERA – wow, but a lot of this depends on the above
2.90 FIP – also wow
3.77 xFIP – still wow, but we will need to look into his batted ball tendencies because 0.32 HR/9 is the reason for the jump from his FIP to his xFIP.
Okay, so we have a few things to dive into:
Swinging Strike Rates, which are generally highly correlated to K/9
Zone Percentage, which is highly correlated to BB/9
Batted Ball Tendencies, which are going to be a bit more difficult to use to extrapolate, given the small sample.
Getting hitters to swing and miss, and throwing strikes are generally skills the pitcher possesses (or does not), while the results – K/9, BB/9, HR/9, etc. Fluctuate due to randomness, umpire tendencies, opponents’ skill, etc. (esp in small samples).
Here’s what we see for Dobnak on those plate discipline skills:
43.8% of his pitches were in the strike zone
12.9% of his pitches resulted in a swinging strike
Putting those numbers into context, 61 pitchers qualified for the ERA title last season, so the median pitcher would be the one whose result was 31st among qualified starters. For swinging strike, it turns out that is a couple of familiar names: Jose Berrios and Homer Bailey at 10.8 percent. Looking at zone percentage, there is a three way tie among Jeff Smardzija, Mike Soroka, and Bailey again at 42.6 percent (a bit of a preview of the Bailey post. Hmm). By now you’ve surely noticed that Dobnak’s numbers were markedly above the median.
In fact, his zone percentage of 43.8% would have tied him with Zach Eflin for 20th among all qualified starting pitchers, just a tick below Noah Syndergaard at 43.9 percent. His swinging strike rate of 12.9% puts him in a three way tie with Charlie Morton and Clayton Kershaw, who were tied for 14th among qualified starters. Obviously good company.
It gets better. If you look at qualified starters who posted at least a 12.9% swinging strike rate combined with a 43.9% zone percentage – that rare combination of being in the zone and missing bats – here is the list you get for 2019:
Gerrit Cole – 16.8%/45.2%
Max Scherzer – 16.4%/45.6%
Justin Verlander – 16.1%/45.2%
Lucas Giolito – 15%/47.2%
Yu Darvish – 13.4%/44.5%
Charlie Morton – 12.9%/45.1%
Does this mean Dobnak is in the company of these elite aces? Of course not. What it does suggest, though, is that his success was not a fluke. He displayed an elite combination of skills in missing bats (which generates strikeouts) and living in the strike zone (which prevents walks). This suggests that he has considerable upside. He also threw essentially a major league innings load last year – compiling more than 160 innings across 4 levels from High A to the majors. This suggests he’s capable of providing the Twins with volume as well as quality, something that is not always the case for prospect pitchers.
There are reasons to be worried, though. The difference between Dobnak’s FIP and his xFIP was driven by an unsustainably low 5.3% HR/FB rate. The lowest HR/FB rate among qualified starters was 9.3%, and given Dobnak’s 42.5% hard hit rate, it’s safe to assume more of those fly balls will reach the seats going forward. That said, if he regresses to the mean in HR/9 and posts 150 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA, that’s obviously a serviceable starting pitcher. And, given that FIP and xFIP were driven by his 7.31 K/9, if those swinging strikes turn that into a 9.00+ K/9, he has considerable upside to deliver a lower ERA.
howieramone2 reacted to Hans Birkleberry for a blog entry, Twins Pitching Trade Targets - All of em
It looks like the pitching market is really shaping up for 2020 in terms of who is going to be available via trade. We have the Red Sox with David Price, Nate Eovaldi and maybe even Chris Sale. The Cubs may dangle Yu Darvish and there has even been some Mike Clevenger talk. Matthew Boyd continues to pop up; Robbie Ray, as well.
Beyond that I haven’t heard much, and that’s a shame because the hot item come July is rarely who we expect going into Spring Training. With the way teams prefer to retool as opposed to rebuild these days, it is, a lot of times the underperforming teams that went into the season as contenders that give away assets at the deadline. Look at the Yankees trading away Chapman in ’16. Or who would have thought Zack Greinke was on the block last year at this time?
It is true that it is generally the teams that are retooling or rebuilding who have players on expiring contracts that are the best bet. But my point is, what about if teams that we expect to contend, don’t? We didn’t expect the Red Sox to fall off so badly last year, the Phillies had all sorts of hopes pinned to them, as did the Mets, the Angels, and to a lesser extent the Padres and Reds. I won’t include the Cubs since they were in it till the end but there are always a couple of teams that either through injury or underperformance, just don’t do it that year. So I’m going to go through an exercise of finding out who might be available if the 2020 just ends up sucking for every team. I will skip the AL Central because 1) We aren't getting Clevinger 2) The Royals and Tigers don't have any assets unless you really love Brad Keller and Matt Boyd (I don't).
My criteria are that the player be at 3 or less years till free agency, and that he be better than Jake Odorizzi, since that's what it really comes down to when we inevitably face Gerrit Cole and the Yankees in October. Grades are for how likely the Twins are to end up dealing with said team. F= less than 0% D=0% C=3% B=6% A=10%
Yankees – Along with the Dodgers I would say the Yankees are the biggest locks to make the playoffs. We saw what happened when their entire team got hurt last year: 103 wins. Even if they struggle, their roster is so potent I can’t imagine they would punt on the season by July 31st. If by some stroke of luck they did, Masahiro Tanaka as a rental would likely be available pretty cheap. James Paxton is signed through 2021 so he could be had, as well, but at a much higher price. Chance of anything happening: F+
Rays – This is possible, as injuries to their bullpen, the aging of Charlie Morton, a sophomore slump for Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell unable to “prove it” would put a lot of pressure on their offense. And Hunter Renfroe may not work out as well as the metrics would predict. Snell is locked up through 2023 and Glasnow has got to be near untouchable, so that leaves Morton as a rental, which I like a lot (Except don’t get fleeced by the Rays like everyone else). Chance of anything happening: C-
Red Sox – Price or Eovaldi as a salary dump could make sense, although both come with huge health and performance related warts. I don’t see a Sale trade happening, and Eduardo Rodriguez has 3 more years. Although if he takes the next step and dominates he could be the best target of them all, though it would cost a fortune. Chance of anything happening: C+
Blue Jays – Chase Anderson has shown flashes, though no one seems to give him any credit for being a borderline ace in 2017 before getting hurt and then not being allowed past the 5th inning under Craig Counsell. I could see him having a bounce back and teams going after him, but it would require him figuring out his gopherball problems in the AL East... so maybe Matt Shoemaker is the play? Chance of anything happening: C
Orioles – John Means is probably dear to them after 2019. If Alex Cobb bounces back he could be in play, but would he be better than Odorizzi? Chance of anything happening: D+
Oakland – This team has talent and depth, so I don’t see them falling more out of contention than they usually do. If the worst happens, I suppose you could ask about Mike Fiers or try and give a king’s ransom for 3 years of Sean Manaea. Chance of anything happening: D
Angels – Suppose there were a situation where the Angels weren’t any good but Dylan Bundy and/or Julio Teheran were pitching well. Wait that actually sounds really likely. I mean not for both to rebound, but one? Sure, it’s a big park out there and the Astros won’t be stealing their signs. Chance of anything happening: C
Rangers – You have Lynn and Minor on expiring contracts in a division they likely won’t win. Absolutely, although it sounds like Minor loves Texas a lot, and Lynn would have to repeat being great for the first time in 5 years. Chance of anything happening: B
Astros – Can you imagine the mighty Astros playing .500 ball through July? It would require Verlander and Greinke to come back to Earth, the bullpen to realize Will Harris was their glue guy, Carlos Correa to keep getting hurt and Yordan Alvarez to just be a young player with power, not a young player with power who knew which pitch was coming. Add in the turmoil and distractions, a new manager and yeah it’s possible. But who do you get? Give them salary relief for either of the aces, or give a huge prospect package for McCullers? I’d probably lean for the former- Chance of anything happening: D-
Mariners – Marco Gonzales could probably be had, but again, is he better than Odorizzi? Not that he isn’t good, and durable, but he strikes me as a clear #3 or 4 and would cost a lot. Chance of anything happening: D+
Braves – They have a hole at 3B but Johan Camargo and Austin Riley aren’t nothing. They are stacked everywhere else so I don’t see them punting in July, but if they did Cole Hamels could be a rental, and Mike Foltynewicz could be available, depending on how he’s pitching. If he struggles then he’s cheap but you don’t want him. If he’s pitching like the #2 he can be, he’s expensive as hell and has a super inconsistent track record, so I’d lean towards Hamels if he’s pitching well and healthy. Chance of anything happening: D
Nats – Anibal might be the guy if the Nat’s offense realizes you can’t have a lineup full of #7 hitters and Juan Soto (You CAN have an offense like that if you add Anthony Rendon, as this is proven science). Anibal might not be better than Odorizzi on paper, but he performs in the post and wouldn’t be expensive as a rental. Chance of anything happening: D+
Mets – You go for Thor here when the Mets inevitably implode. Regression for McNeil and Alonso means your offense will likely struggle and although the top of the rotation is great, the bullpen and outfield defense is not even close. You know they wanted Buxton for 2.5 years of Thor, so 1.5 years would require what, Brent Rooker? I’d make that trade. Stroman just ain’t good enough for me, dawg. Chance of anything happening: C+
Phillies – I hate the way the Phillies build teams lately. You throw money at adding on to a contender, you don’t throw money at creating a foundation. Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola are your foundation pieces- that wasn’t enough then and it’s not enough now even after the additions they’ve made. Their lineup runs 7 deep and their rotation has 1 sure thing in it. Maybe 1.5 if you like Zach Eflin (Which I actually do). No depth, no NL East, no options for the Twins to trade for unless Arrieta has a big bounce back. Which he won’t- he hasn’t been good in years. Chance of anything happening: F+
Marlins – I don’t think Sandy Alcantara is that great. Do you? Maybe Caleb Smith if he backs it up. Chance of anything happening: D+
Cardinals – I could see them falling hard out of contention, but a part of me knows that won’t happen. Some scrappy guy will come up from triple A and spark their offense while their pitching remains solid as hell and they either win the division or the wild card. Probably the division. But if disaster strikes I don’t know who you target, Miles Mikolas? He’s nice, but I’m not sure about him being better than Odorizzi (He’s been good in the playoffs though). Chance of anything happening: D
Brewers – I don’t understand how a team has 1.5 starting pitchers and I still have to acknowledge that they will likely be in contention come July. If their pitching falls apart like I know it should but feel it won’t, they really have no one available unless Brett Anderson is pitching out of his mind. But then you’re targeting Brett Anderson to make a playoff start for you? I wouldn’t make that trade. Chance of anything happening: F+
Cubs – Yu Darvish is considered the guy, but I have never trusted his style of pitching. I saw it when he had a no hitter going against the Twins a few years ago and gave up a home run to Chris Hermann in the 7th. The following hitter was a broken down Justin Morneau, who also homered. The way Darvish looked so affected by the Hermann home run stuck out to me, and I feel like Morneau smelled blood, which Hermann noted in the link above. Darvish is (in my opinion) too cerebral, like a CJ Wilson or a Kevin Slowey. - Those guys can have good years but they won’t be the dumb hero you need to beat the Yankees.
Now Jose Quintana on the other hand, might be a good move as a rental. Chance of anything happening: B
Reds – You could see this season turning in a hurry. How often do the teams that “win” the offseason have good years? Never. Speaking of cerebral pitchers, Trevor Bauer is playing out the last year of his contract and has shut down the Yankees in the playoffs before. Chance of anything happening: C+
Pirates – Cerebral Chris Archer could bounce back, or perhaps cerebral Trevor Williams could be pried away (What is with the NL Central and nerd pitchers?) Chance of anything happening: C+
Dodgers – I doubt it, but the Dodgers pitching ain’t great and if say, Cody Bellinger gets hurt for an extended period this team could get into desperation mode. But Kershaw and Buehler aren’t going anywhere, Julio Urias would have to be pitching great, and if he was it would take Royce Lewis and Alex Kiriloff to even tempt the Dodgers. I don’t want Kenta Maeda, thank you. Chance of anything happening: F+
D-Backs – I don’t think they would trade Mad Bum in his first year, and the rest of their staff is very young and controllable. Is Robbie Ray good enough to start in the playoffs? I’m gonna say no- the Yankees don’t chase in the playoffs and strikeout guys with so-so control don’t tend to do well in that situation. Chance of anything happening: C-
Giants – Cueto and Samardzija could be available and the team isn’t going anywhere. I guess you have the whole first half to evaluate whether they have enough left, but Samardzija is unproven in the playoffs while Cueto was very spotty with the Royals and
A Frankensteined Kevin Gausman could be a better play, but he’s never pitched well for more than half a season. Chance of anything happening: B+
Rockies – Kyle Freeland and German Marquez are both big talents. Again, if they are pitching well they would cost a fortune, particularly Marquez since hasn’t ever been bad at the big league level. And if they aren’t pitching well then keep them away from ALDS game 2 against Luis Severino. Jon Gray was a 4.5 win player last year and might be a good change of scenery guy, but he’d be expensive for 2.5 years of control. Chance of anything happening: C+
Padres – The Padres need to add pitching- if they’re winning they need more to augment, and if they’re losing its because they don’t have enough. If Garrett Richards is pitching well I suppose you could ask about him, but the Padres really are a unique case. Chance of anything happening: F
After all that, my top 5 targets would be, factoring in the likelihood that the player's team is a seller as well as prospect cost:
1. Jon Gray
2. Charlie Morton
3. Mike Minor
4. Noah Syndergaard
t5. Lance Lynn
t5. Jose Quintana
Morton would be my #1 but I think it is less likely that the Rays punt than any other team on this list.
howieramone2 reacted to Nash Walker for a blog entry, Plan B: Dallas Keuchel and Josh Donaldson
Somewhat expected news dropped on Saturday night when LaVelle E. Neal of the Star Tribune basically removed Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Twins' potential list of targets in his latest Winter Meetings primer article.
Similar to Zack Wheeler, Ryu has a preference to stay on the coast. For Wheeler, the east was most desirable. But for Ryu, he would like to remain in or near Los Angeles, where he has spent his entire career.
With this presumably in mind, Madison Bumgarner has the best resume of the remaining free agent pitchers. Tom Froemming wrote today about why you shouldn't be fooled by Bumgarner's legacy.
There is no doubt that the Twins need to improve their rotation to repeat success, but if Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryu are off the board, and Bumgarner isn't as advertised, who is next?
His name may carry ill-advised weight because of the Cy Young Award back in 2015, but former Atlanta Braves hurler Dallas Keuchel could still provide depth to the staff for at least the next two years.
Keuchel is entering his age-32 season and has posted sub-4.00 ERA seasons in back-to-back years. His strikeout numbers don't pop, and his fastball averaged just 87.8 MPH in 2019, so how is he getting outs?
Keuchel posted the highest ground ball rate among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched last year. He did benefit from his defense as his FIP was almost a full run higher than his ERA.
The Twins had one of the worst infield defenses in baseball in 2019, but can improve defensively and help maintain Keuchel's ERA with the common denominator: Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson saved 15 runs and posted a 2.4 UZR at third base last year for the Braves. Keuchel started two games in the NLDS and struggled, but that was mostly because he allowed three home runs in eight innings.
Donaldson's 6.1 bWAR in 2019 was higher than Wheeler, Bumgarner and Ryu, and was just shy of Strasburg and Cole. He will also likely demand only a three-year contract because of his age (he turns 34 on Sunday).
Acquiring Keuchel and Donaldson on three-year deals, along with team friendly contracts on Odorizzi, Pineda, and Alex Avila, is hardly a failed offseason. I would consider that haul a slam dunk with Donaldson as the headliner.
What do you think? Enjoy your Sunday!
howieramone2 reacted to Cory Engelhardt for a blog entry, 2020 Minnesota Twins Blueprint, version 1.0
Here is my first blueprint for the Twins offseason. I'm using baseballtradevalues.com to come up with the trade scenarios.
1) Let CJ Cron walk.
2) Re-sign Sergio Romo, 1 year 3 million. Re-sign Jason Castro, 1 years 6 million with an option.
3) Keep Odorizzi, either through QO or work out a 3 year deal.
4) Trade Eddie Rosario, Jordan Balazovic and Lewis Thorpe to Arizona for starter Zac Gallen. I REALLY like his upside, and he comes with 6 years of team control. His changeup and command would look great long term.
5) Trade Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Nick Gordon and Blayne Enlow to Miami for Brian Anderson. 4 years of team control, solid defensive 3rd baseman and can hit. This would move Miguel Sano to 1B. This might be an underpay in trade value, but I really think he would upgrade our infield defense.
6) Sign Madison Bumgarner, 4 year deal, 88 million. I think he is up for a 2nd wind in his career, like Justin Verlander has had with Houston.
7) Sign Jake Diekman, 1 year 8 million with an option.
8) Sign Alex Gordon, 1 year 13 million with an option.
C Mitch Garver 0.60
1B Miguel Sano 5.50
2B Luis Arraez 0.60
SS Jorge Polanco 4.0
3B Brian Anderson 0.60
LF Alex Gordon 13.0
CF Byron Buxton 3.50
RF Max Kepler 6.3
DH Nelson Cruz 12
Starting lineup total cost = 46.10 million
Jason Castro 6.0
Marwin Gonzalez 9.0
Lamonte Wade 0.60
Ehire Adrianza 3.0
Bench total cost = 18.6
Madison Bumgarner 22.0
Jose Berrios 4.5
Jake Odorizzi 17.8, or give or take 15
Zac Gallen 0.60
Randy Dobnak (or Devin Smeltzer, until Duran/Graterol/et al are ready) 0.60
Rotation cost = 42.7 to 45.5, depending on Odorizzi signing a 3 year deal or taking the QO
Taylor Rogers 4.0
Tyler Duffey 1.3
Trevor May 2.5
Jake Diekman 8.0
Sergio Romo 3.0
Zack Littell 0.60
Cody Stashak 0.60
Graterol/Alcala/Smeltzer/churn of guys between AAA and the majors 0.60
Total bullpen cost = 20.6
Total team cost
Lineup = 46.1
Bench = 18.6
Rotation = 45.5 (I'm putting this in as if Odorizzi takes the QO)
Bullpen = 20.6
Total = 130.8
We traded away a lot of prospect capital for the guys coming back. But we also would still, potentially have 4-5 top 100 prospects, all who could make their debuts this year, not including Graterol who made his debut this year. But there would certainly be room for Kirilloff and Lewis to push to make the team at some point in 2020 ongoing.
howieramone2 reacted to diehardtwinsfan for a blog entry, 2020 Offseason Blueprint
Overall, it's not hard to be excited about the Twins in 2020 given a 101 win season in 2019. The ending certainly wasn't ideal, but 2019 showed us that our window is open and it should be for a few years. Cleveland remains the only real competition in the central. Chicago is up and coming, but they are likely another year or two away before they can have a realistic shot of competing. KC and Detroit are dumpster fires right now. So with that in mind, it's up to Falvey and Levine to construct a roster that can not only win the central but advance deep into the post season.
There's no question that starting pitching is our biggest need, and if I were running the team, this is where I would focus if I were them, but we need to start by trimming and expanding the roster in advance of the Rule V draft. The Twins already made the easiest of moves by picking up Nelson Cruz's option, but it gets a bit tougher from here: This is our current 40 man roster. The following players are free agents: Gibson, Odorizzi, Schoop, Romo, and Castro. That leaves us at 36 before changes are made. I'd DFA/nontender/trade if someone wants to give up something for the following as well: Sam Dyson, Kohl Stewart, Ronald Torreyes, Ryan Lamarre, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ian Miller. I would also not pick up Perez's option. That brings us down to 28 guys on the roster going into winter meetings. Buxton and Poppen will most definitely return, so that moves us up to 30. CJ Cron is a bit of a wild card here. His play may not be worth the money spent on tendering him, but there's no replacement waiting in the wings just yet (more on him in a bit, but I haven't removed his spot). So as it stands right now, we need the following (several starting pitchers, a backup catcher, an 2B (though there's a replacement in house), possibly a 1B, and if possible another shut down reliever). Other than starting pitching help, this team is in pretty good shape...
So on that note, I'm going to start by tendering Odorizzi a QO, with the clear desire to sign him to a 3 year deal. I'm going to guestimate that at 3/45 to make it work, as the 17M QO is probably the starting point to a negotiation. Jake was very good for us this year, but I'm not sure he's good enough for teams to surrender a pick and pay him 50+M on a multi-year deal. That brings the roster to 31. With Odorizzi at 17M, our current payroll sits at 48M. I'm going to tender the following candidates with a note that I'd be willing to extend any extension candidate willing to sign a reasonable deal. Some players won't sign them (Buxton for sure as his value is low due to health), but I suspect a couple guys likely sign a longer term contract.
Ehire Adrianza – $1.9MM
Trevor May – $2.1MM (extension candidate)
Eddie Rosario – $8.9MM (I'd stay year to year here, I could see trading him if a better FA option was available, but I'm most likely tendering him)
Miguel Sano – $5.9MM (extension candidate)
Byron Buxton – $2.9MM (extension candidate)
Taylor Rogers – $3.9MM (extension candidate)
Tyler Duffey – $1.1MM (extension candidate)
Jose Berrios – $5.4MM (extension candidate)
That's an additional 32.1M. Add Garver in there as he's not going anywhere, but his total is about .5M. That leaves payroll at roughly 81M without Cron. Cron's arb estimate is around 7.7M, which isn't terrible for a .780 OPS. He's roughly an average bat at 1B. The problem with him though is that there aren't ML ready options to take his place... not now at least. Rooker, Raley and Weil could use more seasoning, and Kirilloff is also questionable at this point. Next year at this time, one of those guys will hopefully be knocking at the door or perhaps even had some success at the major league level, but I'm not sure there should be a plan to count on a rookie to perform. Surveying the FA market, you have a couple options available. Josh Donaldson would likely be my primary target, as he could also play 3B giving Baldelli some flexibility with Sano/Garver at 1B on occasion as well. I doubt he comes cheap, and certainly not cheaper than Cron. He's likely going to get something similar to his salary last season and quite possibly a multi-year deal, so I'd guess around 20M. Zimmerman, Rizzo, and Thames all have club options available, and to be honest there really isn't much in terms of sure fire help out there. I don't think trading for a 1B makes any sense at all unless there's someone who is essentially on the last year of his deal and performing. In all, I think tendering Cron is the right answer here unless they know they can get Donaldson... and I doubt that. So I tender him at 7.7M bringing our payroll up to roughly 89M.
I'm not quite sure who all needs protecting and exposing. I'm using roster resource and protecting anyone that has R5 or Dec 19 as their status if their play warrants it. That said, I know this tool isn't completely accurate, so hopefully I haven't missed anyone. I see 10 names that warrant discussion. Let's start with the easy ones:
Griffin Jax (protect)
Luke Raley (protect)
Jake Reed (expose. He was not good last year)
Zander Wiel (expose. He was not good last year)
It gets a bit more difficult from here.
Travis Blankenhorn - He will likely get a crack at AAA in his age 23 season. He had a .785 OPS in AA, and really does seem to be turning a corner. Those numbers are nothing special, but question at hand is can he stick on a ML roster. I don't think it's worth the risk. I protect him.
Jhoan Duran - Duran likely starts in AA in his age 22 season, though he could also be promoted as he did spent some time there. He does a fantastic job keeping the ball in the park. His walk rate is acceptable and he doesn't give a lot of hits. He's kept his K rate around 10/9 IP for the last 2 seasons. I protect him.
Dakota Chalmers - Chalmers is a sleeper. I could see a bad team poaching him and stashing him with their extra spot as he will be 23 next season. The MLB roster size expands to 26 in 2020, and I think bad teams will use that to grab players like Chalmers with upside who may be exposed. The Twins have a few of them and ultimately I think someone gets left off. Chalmers is posting some sexy strike out numbers striking out 48 in 34 innings of relief work. He's also very stingy with the long ball. His walk rate though is scary as he gave 23 free passes. Bottom line for Chalmers is that right now, he won't do well on a major league roster. His AFL performance to date has not changed my view of this. I'm going to expose him.
Tom Hackimer - Hackimer pitched pretty well in his age 25 season in AA. He's one that could possibly stick in a mop up role in MLB. I lean towards not protecting him as well given his age. He got the strikeouts this season, his walk rate was a bit high at just over 4 per 9 innings but overall had a pretty good season between high A and AA. He likely starts in AA or AAA, but I'm going to expose him.
Jovani Moran - Moran is a similar pitcher to Chalmers if you look at the numbers. He gets lots of strikeouts and gives up too many free passes though he tends to be prone to the long ball. He will also be 23 next season. He's another one risking losing, but I think I expose him.
Tyler Wells - Wells is the hardest one. He was absolutely money in the minors but TJS derailed his 2019 season before it started. He will be rehabbing and should be able to pitch most of the year. I think the upside is too good to risk this, so I keep him.
That leaves us with 5 additions. Our roster now sits at 36. We need to figure out at least 2 starting pitchers, a backup C, and ideally a shutdown RP. We're also sitting on a couple individuals (Harper, Poppen, and Gonsalves) that I'd like to keep but could be set free in the event a better opportunity comes along through cost cutting or trade.
Falvey and Levine stated they weren't afraid to blow up the payroll when the windows is open, so now it's time to see if they will put the Pohlad's money to the test. They need pitching help badly, and having someone that can sit in front of Odorizzi and Berrios is a must in my opinion. Sign Gerrit Cole or Steven Strassburg (if he opts out) to a 5 or 6 year deal at 30M/season. That's probably what it will take to get either one of them. Feasibly, they could get them both and still have payroll sitting south of 150M, but I'm guessing that won't happen as much as I'd like and there are other needs I'd rather address... But they have to go big here, even if that means out bidding the competition by a significant margin. That moves payroll to $119M and gives us a pretty nice starting trio in Cole, Berrios, and Odorizzi. I'm guessing there's a QO attached here too for Cole at least, and I sacrifice the pick.
They still need 2 more pitchers. I'm fine letting Dobnak, Thorpe, Gonsalves, and Smeltzer compete for one of the spots. Most of these guys did well enough that I'm not losing sleep over the role. It's Dobnak's to lose at this point, but he earned it in limited looks. The reality is that unless there's a trade in the works that involves sending one or two of these guys off as part of a deal for a more established option such as say Mike Minor, I think this spot is going to go to pre-arb guys. That's another 500k on the payroll. Note that I didn't mention Graterol. I'm assuming he's going to remain as a starter, but that also means he's capped at about 120 innings. He could be this guy as well, but I think he could pair well with Michael Pineda if they bring him back... which brings me to my next FA target:
There are a few names I'd probably target here, they will have varying costs/years attached to them: Bumgardner, Wheeler, and Pineda would likely be my top 3. I'm personally not sold on Ryu from the Dodgers, but if my analytics guys liked him, then perhaps he's an option as well. Pineda actually pairs well with Graterol in that he can be stretched out and be the 5th starter in April/May and switch more to long relief/spot starting as the season wears on and Pineda returns from his suspension. That would keep Graterol's innings around 120 for the year (baring injury of course, which with Graterol is not low risk). Pineda would have been a QO option had he not been suspended. With roughly 40 days left on his suspension and of course the risk that he gets suspended again for longer, he's likely going to sign for much less than that. I'd offer him a 1/7 make good deal unless of course there's an unexpected price drop for the other guys on this list. That also means Graterol is on the 26 man, so that's another 500k to add to the payroll. If one of these other big names sign, I'm likely going to give Graterol a late start to his season in AAA and stretch him out to be the spot starter for the inevitable pitching injury. Once he gets closer to his 120, I'd shift him to the MLB pen during the stretch run.
If you're keeping track at this point, I've added another 8M here and now I'm sitting at roughly 127M.
Next up, I target a catcher. I'm not liking the idea of going with Astrudillo as my backup C. Rortvedt and Jeffers may be knocking at the door next year at this time, but counting on either in 2020 would not be wise. Astrudillo, while a fan favorite, still has options and is extremely valuable to the team earning frequent flier miles between Rochester and Minneapolis when someone gets hurt, so I'm going to sign someone. Retaining Castro is fine in my opinion if he's OK with a backup role. I'm looking though for no more than a two year deal. Castro works fine here, but I'd also target Austin Romine, Brian McCann, or Steven Voght. I'd be fine sacrificing a few home runs for some OBP. These guys are not young, so they won't be getting a huge deal. I'm going to guess it will be somewhere around 2/10-15, giving you a 5-8M cost in payroll. I'm going to assume this is 6M for now, bringing payroll up to 133.
Last, I'm targeting a RP. I didn't learn my lesson about free agent relievers (and hopefully I'll update that blog at some point later this month), and there's 1 FA reliever that I want on this team and think that Falvey should pay for. I'm targeting Will Smith and spending what it takes to get him. I'm guessing he's signing for a 3-4 year deal at 10M+. He signed a 3/24 deal with SF in his last go around, and I have to think he's going to get at least that. I'm going to assume 3/30, but I'd be willing to pay more.
That brings payroll up to 143.
My 26 man roster is now as follows:
C - Garver
1B - Cron
2B - Arraez or Gordon
3B - Sano
SS - Polanco
CF - Buxton
RF/LF - Rosario/Kepler
DH - Cruz
Cole/Strassburg, Berrios, Odorizzi, Graterol/Pineda or other pitching FA, Dobnak
Smith, May, Duffey, Rodgers, Littell, Graterol, Harper (I'd have some open competition, but these are who I've penciled in).
Adrianza, Cave, Castro or other FA, Gonzalez
I didn't count the salaries of Littell, Harper, and Cave or whomever internally would beat them out which comes out to another 1.5M. That puts my total payroll at roughly 144.5. I would hope this could go up a bit if my estimates were a bit low, but there's room there in my opinion.
So there you have it. We can add a top shelf starter and relief pitcher and keep our payroll under 150M. I'm not sure what the front office will target, but this seems like a very reasonable option to field a very competitive team in 2020 and one with a good shot of advancing deep in the post season.
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Postseason Perils Provide Reality for Twins
For years I’ve suggested that the goal of a Major League Baseball team should be reaching the Postseason. The ultimate prize is a World Series ring, but you can’t accomplish that without making it into the final tournament. A run of Postseason berths provides excitement that often trumps a single World Series ring, and outside of the casual fan boost, attendance generally follows that trend. Plenty of unfounded frustration has been flung towards a 101-win Twins team, but thankfully we have the Dodgers to bring us down to earth.
After a sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series plenty of Twins fans were sought searching for more. There’s been hot takes and wild opinions thrown out left and right. Analysis of a season is now being done through a three-game window, and hindsight has become everyone’s favorite tool. Instead of understanding a good team, that has nothing in common with historical matchups, beat the Twins in a short series there’s a need to find justification for the outcome.
Forget that the organization had no idea they’d lose Michael Pineda, there wasn’t enough starting pitching. More was supposed to be added at the trade deadline despite the best arm being moved having a full no trade clause and being hit around in his first Postseason outing. The front office didn’t spend enough in the winter (which was a fair argument), but still churned out a ridiculous 101 wins. Take your pick, there’s plenty of avenues available to gripe that may make you feel better about how one of the best seasons in Minnesota history ended.
Then again, you could go ahead and think about the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles has won 90 games every year since 2013 and haven’t had a losing record since 2010. They have picked up seven straight division titles and reached the World Series twice. Last night they fell to a Washington Nationals team that owned a run differential over 100 points less than theirs. You could say they should have acquired more pitching, but then you remember Buehler, Kershaw, and Ryu. You could say they should have spent more, but then you remember they were in the top five to begin the year.
What we saw take place in the Division Series round is complete pandemonium. We’re a Tampa Bay Rays victory over Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros away from complete chaos in the Championship round. That’s not to suggest the Postseason is a complete crapshoot, but it absolutely solidifies the reality that nothing in October is certain. The Dodgers and Astros had no business facing a game five. They were on a collision course to meet in the World Series. Instead, here we are.
As Derek Falvey and Thad Levine look to build a consistent winner, their goal will be in the form of projectable success. While owning one of the best farm systems in baseball, and now having a Major League roster flush with controllable talent, they’ll look to stack the deck in their favor for years to come. Rather than sacrificing high level assets for a fleeting hope or additional percentage points, they’ll be calculated and well thought out in pushing for consistency.
There are avenues for handwringing to take place, but angst about the Twins not having a better showing in their first season of a competitive window is hardly the place to bring it out. Division titles will get old after four or five are strung together. Hopefully a Championship Series or two culminates in a ring, or shot at one, but the reminder has been put in front of us. Nothing is guaranteed in the Postseason, and very little goes as planned. Get there often, position yourself well, and let the chips fall where they may.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Patrick Wozniak for a blog entry, Could Jake Cave Bite into Eddie Rosario’s Playing Time (This Year and Beyond)?
With injuries to Byron Buxton and the more recent hamstring injury to Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave has had an extended opportunity with the Minnesota Twins and has made the most of it. After hitting two home runs in the opener against the Detroit Tigers he came back in Saturday's game and hit another dinger, with a double to boot. Buxton is off to a short rehab assignment in Cedar Rapids but he could rejoin the big league club as soon as Tuesday in Chicago. Rosario’s injury is listed as day-to-day but hamstring injuries are tricky, so he could potentially land on the 10-day IL. Either way, with the way Cave has played of late the Twins will have an interesting decision to make when Rosario returns.
Cave was a pleasant surprise for the Minnesota in 2018, as he hit .265/.313/.473 with a wRC+ of 108 and was good for 1.3 bWAR in just 91 games. He filled in for Buxton during Buxton’s disastrous and injury-riddle 2018, spending a lot of time in center field, where he played decently but showed that he was definitely better suited for the corners. Flash forward to 2019 and Cave was slated to be the Twins fourth outfielder, but he struggled out of the gate slashing just .176/.299/.243 for a 52 wRC+ in the first half and Cave was sent down to AAA to figure things out.
And boy did he figure it out in Rochester. Cave hit the cover off the ball (.352/.393/.592) and since returning to the Twins, Cave hasn’t cooled a bit. Since the All-Star break, Cave has hit an unreal .417/.482/.708 for a 209 wRC+. With his second-half surge, Cave’s numbers on the year are now looking quite good as well. Cave has hit .280/.381/.464 on the year for a 125 wRC+. His on-base percentage has risen from .313 in 2018 to a very good .381 in his second season. In watching Cave, he seems to be taking much better at-bats of late, showing an ability to lay off pitches outside of the strike zone. While Cave will probably never have an elite walk rate, he has shown significant improvement in this area, going from a 5.8% walk rate in 2018 to 8.4% in 2019. He is getting better pitches to hit and hitting them hard, with a 52.6% hard hit percentage.
Rosario on the other hand, hadn’t looked particularly good at the plate prior to his injury. Rosario has just a 3.9% walk rate on the year and lately, even when getting into a hitter’s count, he’s been liable to put a weak swing on a pitch outside of the strike zone. On the year he has hit .282/.307/.515 for a wRC+ of 107, which is certainly respectable but not as good as Cave. Rosario started the year off with 11 home runs by the end of April but has hit just 10 in the last three months. In the second half, Rosario’s walk rate is down to an almost non-existent 2.9% with just a 93 wRC+.
Although Rosario and Cave have similar skill sets (hit left-handed, play aggressively, and are streaky), Cave’s ability to reach base gives him a definite advantage over Rosario. Beyond that, Cave has clearly been the hotter hitter of late and it would be really hard to take his bat out of the lineup at such a critical juncture of the season. Although Cave has not looked good defensively in center field, he is probably a better overall outfielder than Rosario. MLB Statcast measures Rosario at a -2.0 jump vs. average with 31.5 feet covered. Cave on the other hand is better than average with a 0.8 jump and 34.5 feet. Both Rosario and Cave are liable to make a few boneheaded mistakes in the field, but Cave seems more athletic overall and better able to make difficult catches.
Of course, Rosario has the longer track record as a major leaguer, is a fan-favorite, and has had his share of big moments in the 2019 season. Cave has slightly better career numbers but has only played 141 games in parts of two seasons. Cave also has a really high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) at .400 for the season, but he has always carried a very high BABIP in both the minors and the majors (though not quite that extreme). Part of this may be due to Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, allowing him to beat the shift. Cave’s ability to hit the ball hard brings a lot of swing and miss as well. He is currently striking out in 31.1% of his plate appearances, so there is definitely room for improvement.
Now entering the final stretch of the season and caught in a tight race with Cleveland, it will be imperative for the Twins to run out the players who give them the best chance to win. We have already seen this happen with Luis Arraez taking the second base gig from Jonathan Schoop. The Twins greatest strength may be their overall depth. With players who are ineffective due to injury or other factors, such as Rosario and C.J. Cron, the Twins would be amiss not to take advantage of the depth they have and put their best nine out on the field.
It remains to be seen how much playing time Cave will take from Eddie Rosario this season, but Cave’s success may make Rosario more expendable in the offseason. Minnesota could dangle Rosario as part of a package to obtain starting pitching, knowing that Cave at the very least gives the team a stop-gap in left. The Twins farm system is loaded with corner outfield types who are close to big league ready in Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker and the MLB team will still have Marwin Gonzalez under contract in 2020. Rosario has been a valuable player for the Twins, but he seems unlikely to improve upon what he already is. With little to no plate discipline and decreasing speed with age, the Twins may be better off moving on from Rosario and getting something in return for him while they still can (Rosario becomes a free-agent in 2022). In the meantime, whether a long-term solution or not, Jake Cave has presented the Twins with a welcome problem.
howieramone2 reacted to Brandon Warne for a blog entry, Despite Recent Turmoil, Twins Rotation has Provided Immense Boost in Strong Season
This excerpt is from an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full.When Devin
Smeltzer was summoned to make a spot start after Michael Pineda was placed on the injured list last Sunday, he became the first pitcher outside of the team’s established rotation to make more than two starts in 2019.
Kohl Stewart has made two starts and Lewis Thorpe has made one. Through 100 team games, 95 of them were started by one of Jose Berrios, Martin Perez, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi or Pineda.
Last Sunday was game 111. Make that 105 of 111, then.
That means that 94.59 percent of the team’s first 111 starters were made by one of that quintet. If that seems like a lot — it’s because it is. Only the Cincinnati Reds (95.45 percent) had a higher rate of starts made from their top-five pitchers in the rotation, and like the Twins, that’ll go down with Trevor Bauer being added into their top five.
By the way, it’ll probably come as no surprise that the Los Angeles Angels are by far the lowest, with their top-five guys making just 54.87 percent of the starts. The next worst team? The Toronto Blue Jays — nearly 20 percent ahead at 71.05 percent.
And it’s not just about making the starts for Twins pitchers. Amidst all the uproar — and deservedly so — about the sagging bullpen of late, it’s worth noting that the rotation has to get the game to the point where the bullpen can even have the chance to blow it. Through last Sunday, Twins starters with fifth in MLB in ERA at 3.77. They were fifth in MLB and second in the American League in innings pitched per game, and third in fewest pitches per inning as well.
All of those numbers — plus the team’s historic offense — pretty clearly spits out a team that’s 24 games over .500 even despite their struggles since the All-Star break.
But what makes a rotation go? Or more importantly, how do you keep pitchers healthy? It’s an age-old question that even the Twins don’t necessarily know the answer to — even despite the fact that they’ve proven to be pretty good at it over the long, or perhaps more accurately, medium-haul.
“Credit goes to our pitching coaches, medical staff, strength and conditioning staff as well as to our pitchers,” said general manager Thad Levine.
“Some of it is luck,” said Gibson.
“I think you have to give Rocco, Wes and Hef a lot of credit for how they’ve managed our pitchers and certainly our bullpen as well,” said team trainer Tony Leo.
“We put a strong emphasis here on recovery and the weight room,” said pitching coach Wes Johnson.
“I think everybody (is) just doing their work, really,” said Odorizzi.
“It’s been a really good run that we’d like to continue as best we can,” said manager Rocco Baldelli.
Each of these seems to hint at a larger idea, so let’s see what else these key performers had to say about how this starting staff has been able to stay so durable.
Odorizzi was the first subject approached, and he immediately revealed an answer perhaps not easily seen on the surface — but very easy to digest.
“We have a group of guys here who understand what it takes to get through a full season, and that’s something only experience can bring,” Odorizzi said. “How you need to manage yourself as the season goes on, that sort of thing.”
True enough; this is the most experienced Twins rotation in quite some time. Pineda will almost certainly go over 800 career MLB innings when he makes his next start. Odorizzi’s closing in on 1,000 himself. Gibson is over 1,000 and Perez is a couple starts away from 900.
And Berrios, the baby of the group, has thrown nearly 550 MLB innings — and is prodigious for his workouts to keep himself in shape. “Jose is really, really good at recovery,” Johnson said.
howieramone2 reacted to Nash Walker for a blog entry, How will the AL Central finish?
MINNESOTA TWINS OPPONENT (# OF GAMES) - SERIES PREDICTION
@ Texas (4) - Twins 3-1
vs. Chicago White Sox (3) - Twins 2-1
vs. Detroit (3) - Twins 3-0
@ Chicago White Sox (3) - Twins 2-1
@ Detroit (4) - Twins 3-1
@ Boston (3) - Red Sox 2-1
vs. Cleveland (3) - Twins 2-1
vs. Washington (3) - Twins 2-1
@ Cleveland (3) - Indians 2-1
vs. Chicago White Sox (3) - Twins 2-1
vs. Kansas City (4) - Twins 3-1
@ Detroit (3) - Twins 3-0
@ Kansas City (3) - Twins 2-1
Final Record: 101-61
CLEVELAND INDIANS OPPONENT (# OF GAMES) - SERIES PREDICTION
@ New York Yankees (4) - Split 2-2
@ New York Mets (3) - Mets 2-1
vs. Kansas City (3) - Indians 3-0
@ Detroit (3) - Indians 3-0
@ Tampa Bay (3) - Rays 2-1
vs. Chicago White Sox (4) - Indians 4-0
@ Minnesota (3) - Twins 2-1
@ Los Angeles Angels (3) - Indians 2-1
vs. Minnesota (3) - Indians 2-1
vs. Detroit (3) - Indians 3-0
vs. Philadelphia (3) - Phillies 2-1
@ Chicago White Sox (3) - Indians 2-1
@ Washington (3) - Indians 2-1
Final Record: 99-63
Conclusion: If the Indians and Twins split their remaining six games, it will be very difficult for Cleveland to win this division. They are tasked with 10 games on the road with the Yankees, Mets and Rays. The Twins toughest road games come against Boston and Texas. The Indians are a good team and I think they continue to show that, but the Twins take care of business and head to October by 2.0 games.
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Twins Show Poise in Winning Deadline
For weeks we’ve heard talk of the big names. Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, and Noah Syndergaard were all assets expected to be moved at the July 31 trade deadline. Because the Minnesota Twins are one of the best teams in baseball they were consistently linked to the best gets, and so too were every other major market. In the end, that trio went nowhere, but it’s in how Minnesota executed on their moves that makes the maneuvering something to get behind.
Without hammering out more thoughts on Sergio Romo, it’s hard to see that move as anything but a come up. I already wrote about the move when it happened over the weekend, but they turned a guy who was going to be lost during the Rule 5 draft into a strong reliever and an equal or better prospect. Knowing the goal was relief help, Derek Falvey struck early on the former Marlins close.
As the deadline neared on Tuesday afternoon, apprehension began to set in. Hours faded away, they turned into minutes, and the 3pm CT mark came and went. Then there was a tweet Darren Wolfson sent simply saying, “Stay tuned.” As long as deals are finalized with the league office prior to the cutoff, they go through. Having not yet been reported, Minnesota was in fact making a move.
All along it was thought that Smith was the San Francisco Giants reliever on his way out of town. Stringing together some victories of late however, Bruce Bochy’s club is going to make one more run and held onto their top starter and reliever. In doing this, Falvey likely pivoted to what can be argued as a better get.
Sam Dyson is a 31-year-old reliever with closing experience. Having familiarity with Thad Levine from his Texas days, Dyson closed out 38 games for the Rangers in 2016. This year he’s posted a 2.47 ERA 2.74 FIP 8.3 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. He doesn’t still throw upper 90’s like earlier in his career, but he sits in the middle and doesn’t give up free bases. Under team control through next season as well, this move plays into the future.
Going into the deadline I opined that the Twins could do no worse than two relievers with a starter pushing someone to the bullpen as gravy. None of the big relief names moved and Dyson represents the best arm to switch teams. Outside of Chris Martin, who is an impending free agent, Romo likely comes in above the rest as well.
If you find yourself disappointed that the likes of Thor, MadBum, or Greinke won’t be in the home dugout any time soon I’d like to offer some perspective. First and foremost, neither of the first two players switched teams. The Mets asked for the most important player on the Twins roster in the middle of a season, while the Giants we’re holding a big name with declining performance back for a king’s ransom.
Houston did well to land Greinke, and coming in after the buzzer he certainly provided the big bang to end the day. The former Diamondbacks starter would’ve been an ideal candidate for Minnesota as adding salary is certainly an avenue they could’ve went down. He would’ve helped to solidify the rotation and also is under contract. He is 35-years-old though, and most importantly had a full no-trade clause. It was his choice where he went, and that wasn’t here.
Almost as what the Twins got at the deadline is what they held onto. With the big names floated for weeks, so two were prospects like Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol, and Trevor Larnach. Falvey added talent in the most necessary part of the roster without giving up a single top 20 prospect. Lewin Diaz was the highest ceiling moved, and he was unquestionably buried behind some better depth. Jaylin Davis is having an incredible 2019, but it’s come out of nowhere and again is in an area of depth.
You want to see a team start to push chips in when a window opens, but you must be certain that it isn’t just cracked. The Astros have made waves the last two seasons now in the midst of a third straight 100 win campaign. The Cubs traded Gleyber Torres in a final piece World Series move after winning 97 games the year prior, and are now looking at a fifth straight 90 win campaign. Those types of moves are risky but were beyond substantiated.
Minnesota should win 100 games this year but it comes on the heels of a losing season. This core looks the part of a team that should be a Postseason and World Series contender for at least the next five seasons. They have no less than 15 players that are impact talent and will be 32-years-old or under four years from now. Rocco Baldelli’s 25-man roster is good enough right now to beat anyone in the Postseason. In 2020 and beyond, some of the additional depth can be turned into more talent, as the opportunity stays present.
To summarize the past few weeks that led up to a frenzied couple of hours today, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine showed poised perfection in how they handled talent acquisition. The big league club got substantially better. The farm system did not get any worse. Sustained winning is still a probable outcome and the team from Twins Territory is as dangerous as it’s ever been.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Andrew Gebo for a blog entry, Don’t Look Now but the Twins Bullpen is Pretty Good
It’s certainly no secret that a strong bullpen is a common trait among championship teams. The Kansas City Royals made back-to-back World Series appearances, in 2014 & 2015, winning it all in 2015 on the backs of a very strong bullpen. The likes of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland were a major part of their success.
The team that beat them in 2014, the San Francisco Giants, also posted a stellar bullpen. Led by their “Core Four” (Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla) they were able to win three titles in five years. While they had had other key members such as former ROY & MVP Buster Posey and Postseason legend, Madison Bumgarner, the impact of ther bullpen cannot be overlooked.
Now, since this is a Twins site I should probably talk about the Twins. Going into the season the bullpen was supposed to be downfall of this team. They were only going to go as far as the bullpen would let them. This was not an illogical expectation. Strong bullpens are a foundation of really good teams (see above). However, after a month and some pocket change into the season their bullpen is having all the laughs at that early season rhetoric.
For the purpose of this blog post let’s all just close our eyes and pretend Mejia hasn’t pitched in 2019. I usually close my eyes when he pitches anyway so it’s all the same. With the exception of Mejia, the Twins have gotten stellar performances from a numbers of guys in their ‘pen.
Per FanGraphs, here is how some of their relievers have performed so far this year.
Trevor Hildenberger - 10.1ip, 3.48 ERA
Taylor Rogers - 13.2ip, 1.98 ERA
Blake Parker - 9.1ip, 0.96 ERA
Trevor May - 10.2ip, 3.38 ERA
Ryne Harper - 11.2ip, 2.31 ERA
I do realize it’s only early May and there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. I’m not saying Rogers will have a sub-2 ERA over the course of the full season. Would be awesome if he does but let’s be real about all this.
Now with all this said, I would like to see them add another quality arm or two at the deadline. The guy that jumps to mind right now is lefty Will Smith of the Giants. They’re not going anywhere and they have a surplus of quality bullpen arms. Until then, however, let’s recognize and appreciate what this group has done so far this year.
Thank you for reading!
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Big Bert and the Hard Road Ahead
It’s long been a thing in baseball that struggling or failed starting pitchers could simply head out to the bullpen and find another path to success. From the short burst outings, to avoiding multiple lineup turns, and even decreasing the total pitch mitch, it’s a whole different recipe beyond the outfield wall. Adalberto Mejia was thrust into this role for 2019, but it doesn’t appear to be going as smoothly as Minnesota may have hoped.
Let me start out by saying that we’re still dealing with a small sample size. Only 27 games have been played, and with the Twins housed in the Midwest, weather has been the enemy more often than it hasn’t. There’s reason to believe that the Dominican native could settle in as the weather warms up, but the flip side of that argument is in the benefit provided to the hitter and batted baseball in those same circumstances. While not dismissing and of these realities, looking at the generated inputs is a must.
Prior to 2019 Mejia had operated solely as a starter for Minnesota. With a full rotation for Rocco Baldelli’s squad, the out of options lefty got moved to the bullpen. There was never any indication that this was a more logical path to success as it was a necessity to get all the pieces on the 25-man roster to coexist. Now that we have some actionable data to work with, we can start to make some comments regarding how the transition is working out.
Through 11.1 IP Mejia owns an ugly 8.74 ERA having given up earned runs in four of his 11 outings. On three of those occasions, the damage has been in the form of a crooked number. As expected, the velocity and strikeout rates have spiked a bit in short bursts, but the greatest problem has been a complete lack of command. He’s sporting a 7.1 BB/9 and an 11/9 K/BB ratio. Adding in the 8.7 H/9 and a HR/9 rate nearing 2.0 only helps to complete a recipe for disaster.
Typically, the thought process of moving a starter to relief would be in the hope that a smaller repertoire and enhanced velocity would provide a two-headed approach towards a more effective arm. Mejia has jumped his velocity, but only minimally. Averaging 93.8 mph he’s up one mph on his number from 2018, but there’s an argument to be made that more is in the tank once the weather warms up. Maximizing effectiveness in his offerings though, the pitch mix is far from specialized.
Utilizing the same repertoire as when he was starting, Mejia throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider, and has lightly mixed in a curveball. The four main offerings are all utilized at a relatively high clip, and the greatest change this season has been in muting the traditional fastball while turning to the changeup more often. The lack of specialization, however, is indicative of a guy without a true out pitch. There isn’t enough velocity on the fastball to make it a plus pitch, and just a 9% whiff rate doesn’t scream that any other offering is missing bats either.
If you could construct Mejia in the model that Minnesota would like to see, it’d be a lefty that is able to generate power from his size into his fastball. Pairing that one pitch with an off-speed slider or changeup would allow him to effectively keep opponents off balance. Just 2.8% of Adalberto’s fastballs have been whiffed on, with sliders generating a 3.7% whiff rate. That’s far too much contact allowed from a relief pitcher often tasked with keeping opportunities at bay. Add in that you’re giving out free passes at an alarming clip, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
At this point the Twins are getting closer to a point in which they’ll need to decide. It’s unfortunate to lose out on starting pitching talent, and there’s reason to believe that Mejia could bolster the back of a rotation. At almost 26 though, we’re getting to the point that there needs to be more of a plan than just reliance on stuff. He can’t go down without passing through waivers, so unless a flip-flop is being made with Martin Perez in the starting five now, continuing to employ him in the bullpen looks like a losing proposition.
As good as Taylor Rogers is, having him be your sole lefty in relief is probably not a path you’d choose to go down. Jake Reed deserves a shot in Minnesota but is of the wrong-handedness for this discussion. Right now, that leaves one of Andrew Vasquez or Gabriel Moya. Both of those guys could certainly take their lumps but investing in them as long-term relief solutions seems to be a better idea than fitting this square peg in a round hole.
We can wait another couple of weeks to see if warmth is able to correct any of Adalberto Mejia’s situation, but right now it looks to be larger than something the mercury can correct.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Down Under to the Show
Over the course of the past decade the Minnesota Twins have shown some scouting prowess in their findings down under. From the early stories of Peter Moylan and Liam Hendriks, to a recent hat tip pointed at James Beresford, Australia has produced big leagues in a Twins uniform. Although Todd Van Steensel displayed some nice minor league numbers, he got to Minnesota by way of the St. Paul Saints. The system still has more talent from down under, and one could be on his way north soon.
Lewis Thorpe has worked four times in 2019 for Triple-A Rochester. After two very bad outings against the same Lehigh Valley club to start the year, he’s settled in as the pitcher that previously appeared on top 100 prospect lists. Thorpe’s last two outings have seen him work 13.2 IP with a 1.98 ERA and .497 OPS against. He’s fanned 24 batters and walked just one. To call his work dominant would be putting it lightly.
As a lefty, Thorpe isn’t the traditional soft-tossing type. This is a guy who can blow the fastball by professional hitters, and his career 10.9 K/9 is plenty indicative of that reality. Since returning from both Tommy John surgery, and then mononucleosis, Lewis has picked up right where he left off. His walk rate hovers around 3.0 BB/9 which is probably a bit higher than you’d like but combatting that with solid hit and strikeout rates make for a strong profile.
To date Thorpe has just eight career starts at the Triple-A level. At just 23 years-old, that’s plenty impressive, but it’s also not a seasoned amount that reflects an immediate need for a promotion. Given the volatility at the back end of a starting rotation, we know that a need will arise in Minnesota sooner rather than later. Long term the Twins would like to see Thorpe come up and stick, but a spot start or something to get his feet wet could soon be on the horizon.
Over the past year we’ve seen Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, and Stephen Gonsalves all make their debuts for the Twins. Thorpe trends more heavily towards the highly-touted prospect that Gonsalves resembles and could be handled in a similar fashion. That would mean he’d be destined for a later season role in which he’d stick long term. If the current level of production remains though, it’d be plenty logical for Rocco Baldelli to run him out on a day he simply needs a starter.
Back in February I opined that Thorpe was the guy to watch this season. He’s done very little to pump the brakes on that notion and making it a reality in the immediate future continues to become something to keep an eye on.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to TwinsTakes-RD for a blog entry, 2019 Minnesota Twins Season Preview Baseball from Falvey, Levine & Baldelli
Working Together to Win Baseball Games. It’s a Partnership!
Ahem! Are the Royals really a Home Highlight? Come on, now!
The Minnesota Twins embark on their 59th season and, maybe more importantly, their 3rd season under CBO Derek Falvey & GM Thad Levine, who have now added another “partner” in new Manager Rocco Baldelli. This is the Twins moving on from their past and into the next era of the Minnesota Twins.
Will it work? Unfortunately, there is no way to know until we get through this season and, arguably, 2-3 seasons. We will see how this team develops throughout the 2019 season and that will tell us how it’s going and this season will definitely tell us if the Front Offices of Falvey, Levine & Baldelli are on the right track.
The Future is Now
Ahh...the old “future is now” saying. We’ve heard that before, huh? It has different meanings, though. For the Twins, it means they need to find out what they have in their young core players. They have a pretty good read on SS Jorge Polanco, LF Eddie Rosario, starting RHP Jose Berrios and reliever LHP Taylor Rogers. The rest of that young core is still up in the air on if they can be key parts to this team becoming a perennial playoff & championship-contending team.
They aren’t completely sure what they have in CF Byron Buxton, 3B Miguel Sano, RF Max Kepler, OF Jake Cave, C Mitch Garver, RHP Jake Odorizzi and the two Trevors, May & Hildenberger. This is a big season for all of these players. They have a chance to secure their time with this team with good seasons.
A good part of this offseason was about getting CF Byron Buxton & 3B Miguel Sano right after both of them had miserable 2018 seasons due to both injuries and bad play. They need to find out if either of them can be the impact players they have the potential to be and until they find that out, it pretty much keeps the front office from going all in on big-time free agents.
The good news is both Byron Buxton & Miguel Sano realized that a lot of this is on them. They need to figure out how to be major league baseball players. Not only how to play but everything around the game. How to prepare both in the offseason and during the season for each game. It’s not as easy at the major-league level as it is coming up through the minors when their talent will get it done most of the time. This is a big part of failure being a reason for success.
Ironically, weight was a big deal for both of them but Byron was trying to gain weight while Miguel was trying to lose it. Byron wanted some more weight on his body so he could take all the plays he makes in the outfield against the walls and the outfield grass. Miguel needed to lose weight so he could be more flexible and allow his body to handle the rigors of a 162-game major-league baseball season. They both looked great coming into spring training.
Sano made some noise in the offseason by helping his Winter League team win a championship and he ended up getting a pretty good gash on his heel that will end up keeping him out until May. That’s a tough setback for Miguel. It was easy to tell that he put a lot of work into getting healthy this offseason. It is also easy to tell how disappointed he is to not be able to be out there with his teammates getting ready for the season.
Rocco to the Rescue
Just a couple days after the 2018 season ended, the Twins fired manager Paul Molitor. Derek Falvey probably would’ve fired Molitor after the 2017 season but they made the playoffs and he was named American League Manager of the Year. So they gave him a 3-year extension instead because his team did the unthinkable and made the playoffs after going 5-10 after the All-Star Break and being an under .500 baseball team. Then they went 35-24 for the last two months of the regular season and clinched a Wild Card spot.
Remember, Falvey was forced to keep Molitor as his manager when he was hired in October of 2016 so it’s not that surprising that he’d want to bring in his own manager as soon as possible. So, a search began for the 14th manager of the Minnesota Twins. About 3 weeks later, they found their man in former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder and coach, Rocco Baldelli.
Rocco has never managed a team before so he didn’t go over well with some Twins fans because, of course, they don’t know him, yet. They still don’t know him but from afar he appears to be a very down to earth person who likes to get to know people, how they tick and wants to know their opinions on baseball. That includes his players, too.
Rocco is Falvey’s guy, a “partner” he can work with who enjoys all elements of the game of baseball, including the analytics side. He’s also very open to change and trying new things in the game. They’ve worked together along with the rest of the baseball operations staff to change a lot of how this team is run. They changed a lot of Spring Training to keep the players from having to be on their feet more than they need to and to keep them healthy throughout, especially the catchers. That will continue through the season as well and I’m sure we’ll hear some unorthodox ways the Twins are doing things.
For me, it’s refreshing because they are trying to find ways to beat other teams on & off the field and the players have liked it, too. They are doing things that other teams might not be doing. For example, they are changing how catchers receive low pitches with different catching positions so the ump can see the pitch better so they can get more low strikes for their pitchers.
One question a lot of fans will ask is how will Rocco do as a game manager? How will he manage his pitchers, the starters and the relievers and how will he manage his bench? I imagine this could be different than we’re used to as well. We already heard the Twins are going to begin the season with an 11-man pitching staff and a 5-man bench. A lot of that might be all the days they have off in the first 2-3 weeks of the season. They won’t need a 5th starter until April 16th.
Agents of Change
The Twins traded away some key players last season. IF Eduardo Escobar, 2B Brian Dozier, RHP Ryan Pressly, RHP Fernando Rodney, LHP Zach Duke and RHP Lance Lynn were all traded at the end of July through the end of August. Then 1B Joe Mauer announced his retirement in November so the Front Office had some work to do to fill those spots.
They decided to make a waiver claim when the Tampa Bay Rays decided they didn’t want 1B C.J. Cron even though he just came off a season where he hit 30 home runs in his first season with over 500 at-bats. Did they not want to pay him? Or was it Cron turning 30 soon? They have Ji-Man Choi listed as their 1B. He brings about the same as Cron with better on-base skills and about $4M less in salary so maybe it was the money.
A couple weeks later, the Twins filled their vacant 2B spot with Jonathan Schoop on a 1-year for $7.5M. Mr. Schoop had a rough season in 2018 after a breakout 2017 that saw him make the All-Star team and slug 32 home runs. Still only 27-years-old, he is betting on having a comeback season and cashing in on it for 2020. He still hit 21 home runs last season for a bad Orioles team and the playoff Brewers. He had a monster month of July with 7 doubles, 9 home runs & 19 RBIs which made him wanted at the trade deadline but he struggled with the Brewers.
At the beginning of January, the Twins signed a player that may have the biggest impact on the 2019 Twins on and off the field as any other player added in the offseason and maybe any player currently on the team. Jonathan Schoop helped recruit him to the Twins, too. DH Nelson Cruz signed with the Twins on January 2nd for 1-year and $14.3 million. He has a big bat. Any player with the nickname Boomstick is probably known for hitting the long ball. He brings that for sure but he also brings some leadership into the clubhouse. He will help fill the void of the Joe Mauer retirement. A clubhouse leader is a big thing in today’s game. Cruz will help mentor the younger players. I’m excited to see how this affects a player like Miguel Sano. He may be the next Boomstick.
The Twins filled their biggest needs with their early signings. All of the vacated spots in the field were now filled but they had yet to add anything to the pitching staff and everyone was hoping they’d add a couple pitchers to the bullpen.
Pitch to Contract
Free Agent relievers were coming off the board and we weren’t really even hearing the Twins were in on any specific pitchers, especially the ones that could really help their bullpen, the higher-tier free agents. The Twins do have RHPs Trevor May, Addison Reed & Trevor Hildenberger and LHP Taylor Rogers for the backend of their bullpen but why not try to improve that if you can with a free agent.
Is it because they feel the cost is too high? Are the players available are too old? Or do they feel they have the pieces to build a good bullpen already in house? It’s probably a bit of all 3 of these reasons but here’s a statement from a Dan Hayes article in The Athletic about the bullpen,
“The Twins chose not to overspend on relievers because they think there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that buying a bullpen is a crapshoot. They can point to Addison Reed’s struggles in 2018 after he received one of the better free-agent contracts before the season.”
That says quite a bit about what they think about high-priced free agent relievers. Does it have any merit? Well, the Oakland Athletics had one of the best bullpens in the league last season, 3rd with a 3.37 ERA & 2nd with a .220 Batting Average Against (BAA.) They were 25th (4.57) & 20th (.250) in those stats in 2017. They added Ryan Buchter (offseason) & Blake Treinen (2017 midseason) in trades and signed RHP Yusmeiro Petit in free agency. They also added Shawn Kelley, Juerys Familia & Fernando Rodney around the deadline for the stretch run.
That’s a big jump to make in one season. Twins fans just want their team to have a good bullpen and they obviously don’t believe (yet?) that can happen with the pieces they have in place right now. That’s why they kept clamoring for Craig Kimbrel and likely still are.
The Twins did sign veteran right-handed reliever Blake Parker to a 1-year/$1.8 million deal with $1.4 million in bonuses based on how many days he is on the Twins roster. He was the Los Angeles Angels closer in 2017 and 2018 and they released him in the offseason making him a free agent. He will add to the Twins options at the backend of the bullpen with the ability to strike out hitters.
At the end of January, the Twins addressed the backend of their starting rotation by signing former Texas Rangers starting pitcher, LHP Martin Perez, to a 1-year, $4.0M (with a $7.5M option & a $500K buyout which could rise to $8.5M based on 2019 innings pitched; $500K in performance bonuses, too). The 27-year-old Perez is coming off a rough 2018 season where he struggled with the Rangers and ended up in the bullpen. He’s never really been a strikeout guy (5.5 career strikeouts per 9 innings (SO9) and his WHIP has risen almost every season to a career-high of 1.781 last season. His career WHIP is 1.479 so a lot of people didn’t understand this move but…
This is almost a test for the Twins new analytics staff and coaches. Can they get this pitcher with a pretty good arm back to being a serviceable pitcher or even better? Only time will tell but he’s looked pretty good in Spring Training. His velocity was up along with his strikeouts and his WHIP was 1.286.
The Twins have one other recent addition to their major-league bullpen and he’s a pitcher who’s been with the organization for just over a year and today is his Birthday as he turns 30. Clarkson, Tennessee native, RHP Ryne Harper was lights out in Spring Training as he pitched 11.0 innings. He allowed just 7 hits, 2 unearned runs, 0 earned runs, 0 walks and he struck out 14. He was drafted out of Austin Peay State University (in Clarkson, Tennessee) in the 37th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He’s been a professional baseball player for going on 9 years and that includes playing for 3 organizations and 13 teams over his 8 seasons.
He signed with the Minnesota Twins in February of 2018 and started that season with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts and it took all of 4 appearances for him to be promoted to AAA Rochester but it then took all of 4 appearances for him to be demoted back to AA Chattanooga. So he got back to work and for the next 2 ½ months he pitched in 20 games before his results of 29 hits allowed, 16 unearned runs, 9 earned runs, 0 home runs allowed, 5 walks and 44 strikeouts over 34.2 innings pitched (2.34 ERA, .228 Opponents Batting Average, .256 OBP & a WHIP just under 1.00) got him promoted back up to AAA. Then he got on a roll and finished the season in Rochester. Over his 38 games last season, he had 2 games when he didn’t strike out a batter but he also had 30 games where he didn’t walk a batter. All in all, he had a great season and the Twins noticed and gave him an invite to Spring Training and the rest is history.
He gets a lot of his strikeouts with his curveball and here’s the thing for me. I think it’s strange that over 8 minor-league seasons, a pitcher who has pitched over 450 innings can have a career ERA of 2.56, a WHIP of 1.140, walk only 135 batters (2.7 BB9), allow only 24 home runs (o.5 HR9) and strike out 553 batters (11.0 SO9) and not get much of a shot at the major leagues until now. Is it the low draft pick thing? Is his fastball not good enough? Is it the lack of analytics in the minors to know what the spin rate is on his curveball?
That being said, it’d be great to find out how last season went for him as a member of this new era of Twins baseball where analytics is now a big part of working with and developing these players.
Geez! I rambled there, didn’t I?
Everyone figured the Twins were done signing free agents but with some quality players still out on the market late in Spring Training and knowing what the Twins did last offseason late in Spring Training, it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that they went out and signed super-utility “multi-positional everyday player” Marwin Gonzalez to a 2-year, $21 million contract but it still was a surprise.
The Miguel Sano injury may have been a reason to go get Marwin. Knowing they’d be without Sano until at least May may have made them look for an upgrade to their bench, even though Marwin isn’t necessarily considered a bench player to them.
Swiss G? If you don’t know what that means, it comes from Marwin Gonzalez’ agent, Scott Boras, who calls him that because he plays everywhere and do a lot of things like a Swiss Army Knife. He has a good bat and was a big reason the Astros won the 2017 World Series. He even received some MVP votes. He wasn’t as good in 2018 and he’s had a rough Spring Training at the plate but he’ll be the starting 3rd baseman for the Twins so we’ll find out if was taking his time getting into the swing of things.
Use the 4th?
Since Marwin can basically play everywhere, it really makes me wonder if they will keep or need a 4th outfielder. Right now, he’s the starting 3rd baseman but once Miguel Sano gets healthy when May hits, someone will have to go from the bench. Will it be OF Jake Cave who still has options remaining or Tyler Austin who doesn’t have options remaining? This question may be answered by how these players play in the next 4 weeks. The Twins have a roster crunch coming anyway since they are starting the season with 11 pitchers and 14 positional players.
Two and a half weeks in, on April 16th, they will need a 5th pitcher for the rotation so Martin Perez will move from the bullpen to the rotation and the Twins will call up a pitcher to relief pitcher to replace him. Also, at some point RPs Addison Reed and Matt Magill will come off the injured list so, are the Twins already letting teams know Tyler Austin is available?
Where Will They Finish?
So, with all the additions to the 2019 Minnesota Twins, where will it take them? The Cleveland Indians have been the class of the American League Central Division for quite a while but they didn’t really do very much in the offseason. They did very little for their bullpen or their outfield but they still have Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor (hurt?) and that starting rotation.
The Twins have narrowed the gap between them and the Indians and I think Rocco will keep this team feeling good and happy throughout the season. Jose Berrios will be even better than last season, showing more consistency on the mound. Kyle Gibson will start slow but be the much of the same pitcher he’s been for the last year and a half. Miguel Sano will surprise us all when we get to see him show off in May.
The analytics staff and new pitching coach Wes Johnson will show their merit with Martin Perez and the bullpen arms and come out on top in the end. This lineup is going to hit a lot of home runs and the rotation will get a bounce-back season from Jake Odorizzi and a return to form for Michael Pineda and we will see Byron Buxton running around the outfield and the bases all season long.
Wow! That’s a lot of things going right. The Twins will have some ups and downs and some injuries, too, but they’ll deal with them and move on with the next man up with great leadership from Rocco and Nelly Cruz.
It’s taken a while for the Twins to get to this point but this will be the season the Twins show promise for the future in the present as they complete a move to the modern era of Major League Baseball and it’s no longer about implementing analytics, It will just become part of what they do.
Those are our TwinsTakes on the 2019 Minnesota Twins! What are your TwinsTakes? Let us know in the comments or on social media via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
howieramone2 reacted to AJ Condon for a blog entry, Series Recap: Twins Win One; Pitching Continues to Struggle
The Minnesota Twins were able to respond well after a series loss to the Blue Jays with a 3-game sweep against the Orioles, but were only able to grab one game against one of the league's top teams, the Houston Astros.
Going into this series, all I wanted from the Twins was to win one out of the three games this series, and I knew it wasn't going to be the third game when I saw the pitching matchups: TBD vs Justin Verlander. That meant they needed to take one of the first two, and they did exactly that.
Jake Odorizzi was able to pick up his second win of the season, and second straight, in a 9-5 win on Monday. Odorizzi dealt 5.2 innings, giving up only two runs on eight hits and no walks. He moved to 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA in five appearances on the season.
Unfortunately, the bullpen wasn't too clean in their relief. Ryne Harper came in for the seventh inning, but gave up a 3-run bomb to Carlos Correa. Adalberto Mejia and Blake Parker were both able to come in and throw shutout innings to close the game off.
Polanco was able to have himself a night going 4-5 with four RBIs, including one home run. The Twins racked up 12 hits plus two runs late to help seal the win and take the first game of the series, which was also the first game the Astros have lost at home this year.
The next two games of the series got out of hand, lacked offensive, and included struggles from both the starting pitchers and the bullpen. They allowed 17 runs total while only scoring five.
The Twins got up 3-0 early in the first game thanks to another Eddie Rosario 3-run home run in the top of the first, but could only manage to score one more run the entire game. Michael Pineda was the starter for this game and went 5.1 innings but gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks. He, luckily, didn't pick up a loss because the Twins were able to tie the game seventh.
The tie didn't last long as the bullpen wasn't able to keep the game close. Again in the seventh, the Twins bullpen gave up runs, this time only being two but coming from Trevor Hildenberger and thanks to a couple errors, four runs were scored in the eighth against Tyler Duffey. The twins ultimately lost game two 10-4.
We saw two of our relievers surrender their first runs of the year. Harper gave up three runs in game one and Hildenberger give up two runs in game two. The bullpen was again pretty unreliable in these first two games, but probably wasn't the only reason for the loss in game two.
The series finale was tonight and Verlander continued to hurt the Twins, pitching eight innings, striking out eight and only giving up four hits and one run. The one run was a home run off the hot hand of Polanco, but was the sole run for the Twins tonight.
Before the game, the Twins made some roster moves to get a starter for tonight and another reliever. The two guys brought up, Kohl Stewart and Fernando Romero were the only two pitchers the Twins had to send out tonight. Stewart dealt six innings, but gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks, and Romero finished the game with two innings and two runs. With this transaction, they sent down Tyler Duffey and Jake Cave.
I am actually content with how the Twins played this series finale. They've had to play 12 games in just as many days and were playing against the Astros ace. The Twins were able to give some guys the night off in the field and in the bullpen. Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver, and Jonathan Schoop were all given the night off as well as the whole bullpen, besides Romero who we just called up.
Like I said at the beginning, going into the series, I wanted one win out of this series and I got that. However, I would've liked to see a better performance from the pitchers. The Twins face the Orioles again, but this time at home in what hopefully is another bounce back series both for the offense and pitchers.
After this series the Twins moved to 13-9 but still have a half game lead on the Cleveland Indians for the lead in the A.L. Central.
The Twins busy schedule isn't even close to over after they get one off day tomorrow, they play 13 straight days with seven being home and six being on the road.
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Eddie Bombing the Baseball
It’s April 24 and the Minnesota Twins have played 21 games during the 2019 Major League Baseball season. In that time, left fielder Eddie Rosario has taken the American League by storm being a co-owner of the home run lead, and he’s spearheading an offensive outburst not generally seen around these parts. It wasn’t long ago that Rosario looked the part of an All Star, but where is all of this coming from?
Through 21 games, Rosario has already tallied ten dingers on the season. That puts him on pace for over 70 on the season, and it’s the fastest any player in Twins history has ever reached double-digits. When you’ve got that much power production this quickly it becomes hard to fly under the radar. At the 2018 All Star break Twins fans saw Rosario own a .311/.353/.537 slash line with 19 homers however, and that story didn’t have an entirely great ending. Figuring out how this may be different is key for the continued success of the budding star.
After racing out to gaudy numbers in 2018, Rosario finished the season owning just a .622 OPS in his final 45 games and sending another five balls out of the park. His year ended in the middle of September and the tale of the first half seemed like a distant memory. Fast forward to today and we’re once again in the midst of a hot start. The .274/.315/.679 slash line is a pretty one, but there’s a couple of inputs to the batted ball profile that should make us smile.
As a free swing who tends to expand the zone, and rarely take walks, we need to view Rosario’s approach through a different lens. He’s chased 42% of the time in 2019 and whiffed on 11% of pitches. Neither of those occurrences are beyond career norms, and his 79% contact rate is a new high. When making contact in the zone, he’s doing so at nearly 90%, essentially daring opponents to throw strikes. It isn’t where he’s swinging though, as much as it is how he’s making contact.
On the season Rosario owns a career best 39.7% hard hit rate. This is a 3% improvement from 2018 and is a 7% jump from his career average. On batted balls, only 39% are being hit on the ground with 50% being fly balls and 10.3% being line drives. Elevating the ball is certainly a positive trend, and it’s a direct reflection of a significant launch angle increase. On base hits during 2018, Rosario had an average launch angle of just 13.5 degrees. This season, that number is all the way up to 22.3 degrees.
From a spray perspective, you could call Rosie the left handed Brian Dozier. All the way up to a 52.9% pull rate, all but one of Eddie’s home runs have been hit to the right side of centerfield. The concentration on power was strong that way in 2018 as well, but the final pull percentage landed at 43.4%. This isn’t to say that Rosario won’t find success going the other way as pitcher’s attack him more on the outside. What we can see immediately is that Eddie is putting strong swings on balls he can yank to his strong side.
For now, we’re dealing with a small sample size. Knowing how much action is left this season, we’ll have plenty of time for this to all normalize. The early season power surge is reflective of a guy getting more loft while hitting the ball significantly harder. That’s a straightforward path to these types of results, but it’s comforting to note that the results aren’t coming with the caveat of an approach that has changed in any negative or impactful way.
Lost in all this offensive narrative is that Rosario has regained a focus in the outfield that rounds himself into something special. Putting up six defensive runs saved through his first 165 innings, and notching four outfield assists in the early going, he’s again a guy you don’t want to test in the grass either.
I’d be willing to bet any sum of money that Rosario won’t wind up with 70 home runs in 2019. He’s not going to hit 10 every 20 games, and there will be a month or weeks in which he experiences a real slump. For a guy that looked to display his absolute ceiling a season ago however, it’s comforting to see that even if that may be the height of things, the floor is a pretty darn good player as well.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Hip Hip Jorge, Polanco has Arrived
We’re only 20 games into the 2019 Major League Baseball season, but Jorge Polanco is currently the fifth most valuable hitter in baseball by fWAR standards. The Twins shortstop has a cycle to his credit, nearly paired that with another, and has been on an absolute tear out of the gate. For a guy who was always expected to be carried by his bat, the production isn’t that surprising, but the level in which he’s producing is a bit shocking to say the least.
Coming up through the Twins system, there was plenty of questions regarding where Polanco would play. He had the athleticism and quickness for shortstop, but his arm strength and glove work left some to be desired at such an important role. Starting out in the organization as a 16-year-old, he bounced between the middle infield and some brief outfield work until 2014. Getting in 117 starts at short between High-A and Double-A that year, it looked like he’d found his home. Then 2016 happened. After playing 64 games for Triple-A Rochester at second, he was promoted to the big leagues as the regular shortstop. It didn’t go well.
During his first full time experience with the Twins, Polanco turned in a -8 DRS and -9.8 UZR in just over 400 innings at short. From there, he’s worked incredibly hard to make that a thing of the past. North of 1,100 innings in 2017 saw just a -1 DRS, and in a suspension shortened 664 innings last year, that -1 number was replicated. Working with the small sample size of 162 innings in 2019, Polanco owns his first positive DRS tally of his career.
We’re here for the sexy part of this story though, and everyone knows that’s offense. Minnesota’s shortstop owns a .392/.452/.716 slash line and his .478 wOBA is 6th among qualified hitters in all of baseball. Sure, the sample size here is equally small, but there’s less than five players going better offensively than Jorge Polanco is right now.
It’s painfully obvious how nice the production is, but the real questions are how, and will it continue? Jorge currently owns a 42.9% hard hit rate which is easily a career high and is 14% higher than his career average. He’s also elevating the ball more, combining to get it off the ground over 80% of the time. That’s helped to not only produce extra base hits but has him looking at a career best 12.5% HR/FB ratio.
Like many of his teammates, Polanco’s swing chart hasn’t changed too drastically. He’s up slightly in his swinging strike rate, but chase rates and swing percentages are all along career norms. If there’s an outlier, it’s that Polanco has increased his contact percentage by about 7%. Aggressiveness and ambushing opposing pitchers is a blueprint that this Rocco Baldelli team has bought into, however. Minnesota has the lowest pitches per plate appearance tally in baseball, seeing just 3.68 on average.
As the season goes on, Polanco’s greatest adjustment will be like one many in this lineup will see. If their current attack focuses on jumping early, they’ll need to make sure pitches still warrant swinging at. With opposing pitchers looking for soft contact and to generate more swinging strikes, they’ll likely need to work down in the zone, or serve up fewer enticing offerings altogether. If Polanco can keep honed into an eye allowing him a career best 9.5% walk rate, he should be able to discern what is being wasted on him early in counts.
There’s no reason to believe that Jorge Polanco, or any hitter in today’s game, is going to hit remotely close to .400 over the course of a season. From a batted ball profile though, hitting the ball harder, higher, earlier, and on better offerings is a recipe destined for success. We’ll see regression, but the only question is whether that trends towards a more stable level, or just average career norms. Right now, I’d bank on that being closer to the former than the latter.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, Have Hildy, Won’t Travel
Fairly, the Minnesota Twins bullpen has been a lightning rod of discussion in 2019. From talks about what more could be done, to the breakdowns that have cost the club a couple of games, this group will remain under the microscope. With the bright lights on them, internally developed arms have been the anchors at the back of the group. Arguably the most impressive reliever has been Trevor Hildenberger, and that’s a development Twins fans can get behind.
Hildenberger was a 26-year-old pitching at Triple-A Rochester in 2017. He owned a 1.57 ERA across 171.2 minor league innings pitched, and as a 22nd round pick out of Cal Berkeley, was never lauded as a top prospect. Despite an impressive 10.5 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in his time on the farm, he needed to scratch and claw his way up the ladder to the big leagues. Owning a low-90’s fastball, this was a sidearmer that does it through deception more than velocity. Plenty of things can go wrong for a guy like that, and after initial success, they did.
As a rookie in 2017, Hildenberger quickly became one of Paul Molitor’s favorite options out of the bullpen. Across 42 innings he posted a 3.21 ERA backed by a 3.02 FIP and 9.4 K/9 with a 1.3 BB/9. Essentially, he continued to be everything he was on the farm and then some. Going into 2018, Molitor continued to rely on his new toy, but this time likely rode him right into the ground. Posting a 2.06 ERA through his first 36 games, Trevor had been used in almost half of the Twins contests for a total of 39.1 IP. From June 30 forward, Molitor turned to Hildenberger another 37 times for a total of 33.2 IP that saw him turn in a 9.36 ERA.
Fast forward to 2019 and we’ve got a fresh Trevor Hildenberger with a few more pen options to turn to. On the season, Trevor has thrown 7.2 IP allowing no earned runs, striking out 11.7 per nine, and giving up free passes at just a 2.3 BB/9 clip. To put it mildly, Hildenberger has been nothing short of exceptional. We have been down this road before however, and Minnesota will need to monitor workload to avoid a second straight season of burnout.
The Twins have played 19 games thus far, and Hildenberger has pitched in 11 of them. The 19 inherited runners Trevor has been handed is the most in baseball, and his 14 inherited runners stranded is five more than Rangers reliever Shawn Kelley, who comes in second. Operating as the Twins fire man, Hildenberger has come in during the highest of leverage, and slammed the door at a relatively high clip.
It’s not so much that it’s a surprise Minnesota is getting solid production out of Hildenberger. He’s proven capable of performing in big moments for significant stretches over the course of his major league career. What we’ll need to keep tabs on, and be mindful of, is how much this could factor into potential issues down the stretch. Right now, Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Blake Parker have been assets for Baldelli. Ryne Harper has been a nice surprise, and there’s some potential reinforcements on the way. Generating more production that that of just four or five arms is a must, however. Another option must emerge so that it’s not always on Hildenberger to carry the load.
Good news is that Minnesota looks to have their developed relief star back to himself in 2019. The flip side is that they’ll need to avoid going down a similar path to what took place a year ago. For now, though, take solace in the fact that when a sidearming righty runs in with runners on, they’re likely to wind up failing to cross home plate.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
howieramone2 reacted to Thiéres Rabelo for a blog entry, The importance of Castro
I have seen complaints about many Twins players so far across our comment sections and Twitter. Even Nelson Cruz, who’s been almost unanimously admired by the fanbase and may be the team’s most threatening bat. It happens. No one is to tell you how you should think, no matter how statistically unusual your opinion might be. But there’s one particular take that has spread quickly all over Twins Territory and it puzzles me.
I don’t think there is any Twin who has been more complained about this season than Jason Castro has. Even though I don’t agree with the large number of fans (at least that I have seen so far) that have been vocal about wanting him gone from the Twins, it’s completely understandable. Afterall, Minnesota’s offense has been amazing, especially after this weekend’s series in Baltimore. Castro, very obviously, hasn’t been nearly as productive as his teammates. But ditching him might be too simple of a solution and, in my opinion, not the wisest of choices.
Castro is in the last year of his three-year contract with the Twins, signed in late 2016. Per Baseball Reference, he is the third highest paid position player of the roster this season, in which he is owed $ 8 million. At 31 and with two very hot bats battling him for the position of catcher, it’s very unlikely that Minnesota will renew its commitment with Castro after the season is finished. But that doesn’t mean he serves the team no purpose this season.
Since the start of the 2017 season, the Twins haven’t won more games while starting any other catcher than Castro. Here’s the team’s record with each starting catcher since then:
Jason Castro: 69-62 (.526)
Mitch Garver: 38-48 (.441)
Chris Gimenez: 32-29 (.524)
Bobby Wilson: 24-21 (.533)
Willians Astudillo: 10-8 (.555)
Juan Graterol: 2-0 (1.000)
Whether you associate the team’s record with Castro’s presence or not, the numbers don’t lie. The Twins have been a winning team with him behind home plate. But, of course, this could be highly circumstantial and it’s too hard of a connection to make. But, wait. The list of perks from having Castro on board goes on.
The biggest point used by the anti-Castro party so far is how bad he’s been on offense, not only this year, but ever since he came to Minnesota. And that becomes a much stronger point when you have Mitch Garver blossoming into one of the best offensive catchers in the game and the also the Willians Astudillo phenomenon captivating our hearts each day more. A lot of folks label Castro as dead weight on offense. But, is he?
Well, he isn’t, for sure, as prolific as the remainder of the Twins lineup. But, to be fair, neither are two thirds of all MLB lineups. But that doesn’t mean Castro hasn’t done his part. Right now, he holds the team’s fourth highest OBP, with .360. Other than that, that’s tied for MLB’s 12th best OBP among catchers (min. 25 PA). I’m sorry, but one doesn’t just throw away a Joe Mauer-type occupation of bases just like that.
Besides that, Castro’s .333 OBP as an 8th batter ranks 15th in MLB among all such hitters (min. 21 PA). This may sound like very little, but when you look at the fact that Minnesota has one of the league’s best bottom part of the lineup, you can tell how important Castro’s contribution really is. Currently, when taking into account the positions seven, eight and nine of the lineup, Minnesota has a .273 AVG (3rd best in the league), .346 OBP (4th), .487 SLG (3rd) and .833 OPS (3rd). Say what you want about how Byron Buxton is the biggest responsible for such productivity. You’re right. But you can’t realistically say that Castro hasn’t done his part.
Then, one might point out that Garver and Astudillo have been incomparably more productive on offense and one would definitely be right. They both have been raking, especially my former UNM colleague. If offense was the only aspect on the table, there wouldn’t be a lot of reasons to start Castro over the other two much more than Ehire Adrianza over Jorge Polanco. It wouldn’t make any sense. Well, but it isn’t.
At the same proportion that Castro’s offense is no match to his competition, his defense would similarly be no match to his competition. And I’m not just talking about widely explored pitch framing stats, Castro’s biggest advertisement tool throughout his career. Twins pitchers have performed much better while being caught by him than by any of the other two.
Jason Castro (63.0 innings) - 3.57 ERA, .703 OPS, 65% strikes
Mitch Garver (67.0 innings) - 5.78 ERA, .773 OPS, 61.8% strikes
Willians Astudillo (39.0 innings) - 3.69 ERA, .677 OPS, 65.2% strikes
Finally digging into the somewhat popular pitch framing stats, by using Baseball Prospectus’ Framing Runs metric, we can notice that Castro is the 11th best catcher at it in the MLB, with +0.6. Astudillo ranks 51st, with -0.2 and Garver ranks 60th, with -0.5. This is not a hit at Garver, whom I absolutely enjoy seeing play and am sure is going to be the team’s main catcher for years, but he is still not on the same defensive level as Castro is. But, hey, that’s not even a bad thing, because now we get to Castro’s biggest importance for the Twins.
It’s obvious that Garver can hit. We’ve known this since he was a minor leaguer. But picture this: what if we could get Garver’s offense and combine it with Castro’s defense? That, ladies and gentlemen, could be Jason’s biggest contribution for Minnesota. I have been personally tracking each pitcher strike percentage with each catcher on this spreadsheet since the beginning of the season and I can tell you how much Garver has been evolving. By mentoring Garver, especially defense-wise, Castro could lead him into the Twins best catcher since… well, you know who.
Once again, let me make it clear that I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion here. But I do give a piece of advice. Instead of getting angry and vent over how bad Castro’s bat is, why not look at him as a source of improvement for one of the Twins biggest hopes for the future? I don’t believe it’s good to take his help for granted. Besides, like demonstrated in the beginning of this article, the Twins are a winning team with Castro on board. It has been like that in 2017, culminating in their first playoffs appearance in almost a decade. They were dreadful without him last year. Now, they are back, at least momentarily, at the top of the Central. This can’t be a coincidence.
howieramone2 reacted to Channing1964 for a blog entry, finally national attention
I have always been upset that even when we have a good team nobody else in the country ever gives us props...maybe that's changing.... from mlb.com..3. Twins (8-6)
You can look at the Twins a certain way and make an easy case that they’re now the AL Central favorite. And it’s not just because the Indians appear to be more vulnerable than they’ve been at any time in this string of three straight division titles.
The Twins are off to a good start despite an offense that is in the bottom half in almost every category except one: OPS. Minnesota is ninth with an .814 OPS, which could be an indication that there’s more there after adding Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop and Willians Astudillo to an everyday lineup that already had Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler.
Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda have been excellent at the front of the rotation, and once Jake Odorizzi gets on track, he will add quality depth. Addison Reed ’s return from the injured list should make the bullpen as good as any in the division.
Also interesting is how the AL Central will play out. The Tigers and White Sox could both get better as their youngsters settle in, and the Tribe will start to get its core guys back at some point.
But if Twins center fielder Byron Buxton -- who has an .868 OPS with three steals and seven doubles -- finally is the player he has been long projected to be, Minnesota will be in excellent shape.
I have been saying we SHOULD be taken seriously for awhile now. What do You think?