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  1. Like
    nclahammer reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, A Deeper Dive after 13 Games   
    The top line is that the Twins are 9-4 and lead the AL Central by two games. They've outscored their opponents 58-34, the second-best run differential in the American League. 34 runs allowed is second-best in MLB while the 58 runs scored is 17th of 30 teams. Team batting stats are so-so at best--23rd in team BA and OPS, 17th in runs scored, 15 (T) in homers, 20th in walks and seventh (worst) in strikeouts. The pitching stats make up for the poor offense and then some: second in ERA, second in least walks, first in strikeouts, first in WHIP and a middling 19th in homers allowed. The defense has been very good--a few sparkling plays and very few forced or unforced errors. They have been charged with four errors total, about what the White Sox might do for a three-game series. 
    Now for some thoughts on individuals:
    Pablo Lopez--Dare I say 'ace"? Each start seems to be better. After having the first four hitters reach, with two in and two in scoring position for his last outing, Lopez got out of that inning without further damage and set down a total of 23 straight batters. He's going deep in games, striking guys out and making adjustments as the games develop. What's not to like? Yeah, he got traded for a guy hitting .500.
    Sonny Gray--Two of his three starts were "meh", except he managed to keep the other guys from scoring. In between, he had a great start, fanning 13, and allowing only one run. The overall results are very good. He uses his entire array of pitches and gets outs, even when he doesn't have his best stuff.
    Joe Ryan--In another year, we'd be raving at his effectiveness. He is 3-0 with an ERA below 3. Ryan seems to have picked up velocity and is using his secondary stuff effectively.
    Jhoan Duran--Three for four in saves and the Twins won the game where he had a blown save. He allowed home runs in his last two outings, but mostly hitters don't have much chance against him. 
    Donovan Solano--He's stepped in at first base for Joey Gallo and all he's done is hit, albeit without much power. Solano is hitting .342 with an OPS of .811 in 41 plate appearances. Remember when he was 2-25 in spring training? Neither do I.
    Trevor Larnach--After being far and away the Twins' best offensive threat in the first week of the season, Larnach has cooled off substantially. His numbers are now a .260 batting average, .716 OPS, with only two extra-base hits. Larnach leads the club in strikeouts (19) and IMHO has been victimized a bit by sketchy called third strikes. He also leads the club in walks. I would expect some good things from Trevor in the coming week or so. He's due to bust out again. 
    Christian Vazquez--He has been very effective as a hitter in the bottom of the order. Batting average is currently .379 with an OPS of .954. The offense is a bonus added on to his solid work behind the plate. The catchers probably deserve some credit for the outstanding work of the pitching staff. 
    Jose Miranda--The results haven't been great or even okay for Miranda so far. Miranda has started all but one game at third base (DHed in that game) and performed satisfactorily in the field, but so far the hitting has been a disappointment. He's hitting just .212 with 5 RBI and only one extra-base hit (a double). The OPS stands at .512, with five walks and nine strikeouts. Miranda has too good of a hitting pedigree for his struggles to continue much longer.
    Nick Gordon--Coming off last year's success for Gordon, many thought he deserved a regular role. Injuries have provided Gordon with regular at-bats, but so far the results aren't there. The batting average stands at .103 with a .253 OPS. Gordon has hit in tough luck and didn't strike out until his 32nd plate appearance, but if more players get healthy, Nick might see a lot of bench time. Gordon has played second base and left field defensively and done a nice job, especially at second, despite not having a good defensive reputation. 
    The first 13 games have been very satisfying to this lifelong Twins fan. The pitching has been all that could be expected and more. They've managed a couple of late-game wins and looked like a solid defensive club. Certainly, the pitching will regress to the mean a bit and there will be some tough losses in the course of the long season. The club has managed well despite a lot of early-season injuries. It's my hope (and probably all Twins fans) that the injuries aren't as overwhelming as in the previous years and that this club can continue to do well. It should be fun!
  2. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Devlin Clark for a blog entry, Podcast Interview with The Sandlot Director   
    "Remember kid, there's heroes and there's legends; heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart kid, you'll never go wrong"That iconic line spoken by "Babe Ruth" to Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, moreso than any line truly encapsulates what The Sandlot is all about. 
    Benny befriends the new kid. We all have either been a Benny or Scott Smalls, trying to fit in, make new friends,waiting for someone to reach out with a warm smile and a friendly hand.
    In 2018, for the 25th Anniversary of The Sandlot, I had the amazing privilege to interview the writer, director, and narrator of that film; David Mickey Evans.
    We talked about a variety of topics including how the origin of the film was based on a true experience, what our favorite scenes are, how the swimming pool scene was filmed, what the movie means to people, and much more. 
    The Sandlot transcends baseball films. Yes, on its surface it's a baseball film, but underneath its more. It's about commoradarie, friendship, coming of age, struggling to be accepted, and much more that kids throughout time have battled with. 
    I have included time stamps below so you can see what we talked about. If you love baseball and baseball movies, this is an interview you absolutely CANT miss.
    As always, my sincerest thanks to David Mickey Evans for taking 31 minutes to be on the show.
    You can find The Show About The Show on my YouTube Channel (MLBTheShowPodcast) and follow me on Twitter @Devlin_Clark84.
    Origins of The Sandlot, where the idea came from and growing up in the CA valley and also details how Hercules was a real neighborhood dog.  7:00 - 
    Did they know that they were making something special? How special the movie was.  9:00 - 
    Why they decided to shoot in Utah? 10:34 - 
    Why the friendship between Benny and Smalls is so relatable. Was Benny always the one who was going to be the good guy? 13:02 - 
    How great the adult cast was and what it was like working with James Earl Jones,how he was added after a few weeks of filming and how all his scenes were shot in a single day.  16:20 - 
    How the swimming pool scene happened, how it resonated with most teenage boys. Based on real life experience. The hilarious "advice" he gave Squints, what Squints asked him about the scene.  21:04 - 
    Fourth of July scene is both of our favorite scenes. He talks about that scene, how it went down. He shot that entire scene in 2 hours.  24:30 - 
    How the iconic last PF Flyers came about.  The slogan played into the scene.  26:40 - 
    How often does he keep in touch with the kids from the movie? 28:30 - 
    What ever really happened to Bertram? He got really into the 60s and nobody ever saw him again, plus his favorite line from the movie.  If you like more interviews about baseball movies, comment down below and I will keep making them and sharing them. The Sandlot is much more than a movie: it's magic. 

  3. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Devlin Clark for a blog entry, Gallo strikes twice, Ryan pitches gem. Twins win series finale 7-4.   
    My 6-4-3 on Sundays Twins Game
    Sunday was the game many Twins fans were hoping for. After two consecutive close games, both by 2-0 wins, the Twins were able to put up seven runs today. four of them coming off the bat of off-season free agent signed Joey Gallo. He was 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI. 
    The Twins start the season 3-0. They start a three-game series against Luis Arraez and the Marlins on Monday, but before that let's look at what happened today:
    Max Kepler drew a five-pitch walk to start the game. Maybe this will be what gets him going and allows him to relax at the plate. He was left stranded. He had a hard hit out to end the third inning with runners on. He's been hitting more hard line drive outs than weak ground balls and fly outs.  Jose Miranda stays hot and extended his hit streak in the second with a single to center. He's really seeing the ball well.  Ryan Jeffers in his 2023 debut shot a broken bat single through the infield in the second for an RBI and 1-0 lead for the Twins. He had another RBI single, this time to center, in the fourth, scoring Gallo. RISP The Twins have done a nice job of getting guys around to score, when they were on base in scoring position. compared to the Royals who were 0-18.  Joey Gallo had his first three extra base hits of the season today, including a massive home run into right field of 431 feet. Hard contact in back to back at bats. Great sign for Gallo. His second one of the season and day was in the seventh and extended the Twins lead to 6-1.  Joe Ryan was absolutely dealing today. Other than a solo home run, which was the first run of the season for the Royals, it was Ryan's day. He was changing speeds, but also got his velocity up to 95.7 in the first inning. His final line is 6IP, 3H (1HR), 1ER, 2BB, 6Ks. The home run came on a 3-2 pitch. Ryan had Olivares 1-2 and missed the outer corner the next two pitches. It was extremely close.  4 Things I liked to see
    Byron Buxton continues to get on base at the DH position.  Trevor Larnach continues to reach base with a single in the seventh and an RBI single (two outs) in the eighth.  Joey Gallo and the offense getting going. Three extra base hits, two home runs and four RBI. He can be the key off-season signing if he hits 40 home runs. They need him to be at his All-Star and Gold Glove level.  Seven of the hits the Twins had today were with two outs. Other than one of the Gallo home runs, every other Twins run was scored with two outs.  3 stats about the series
    Twins were 9-for-26 (34%) and Royals were 1-for-20 (5%) with RISP.  The Twins were also patient, drawing 11 walks in three games. Twins pitchers recorded 25 strikeouts (8.3/game) over the series with game totals being 11, five and nine.  This wasn't the cleanest game for the Twins, but it was a stark contrast to the close pitchers duels we saw the first two games. The Twins escaped with a win and ended up 3-0 to start the season. Ryan and Gallo carried the team today as they embark on a road trip to Miami. Your first place Minnesota Twins take on the Miami Marlins tomorrow with Tyler Mahle making his 2023 debut against Johnny Cueto. 

  4. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Devlin Clark for a blog entry, Buxton and the Bullpen help Twins improve to 2-0. My 6-4-3 about Saturdays game.   
    2-0. That's been the theme of the 2023 season so far, for the 2023 Twins. Two days after defeating the Royals 2-0 behind two runs in the 6th inning, and some very timely infield defense, the Twins managed to scrape across runs and turn it over to the bullpen. Sound familiar?

    Here is my 6-4-3 on Saturday's 2-0 victory. Six things or players who stuck out to me, during today's game. Four things I really liked to see, and updates on three former Twins who had a good day!

    • Byron Buxton remains hot at the plate. Buxton doubled to left in the first, a hustle double that resulted in Twins fans collectively holding their breath after he had the wind knocked out of him and was slow getting up. After a walk by Larnach, Jose Miranda singled to center to score Buxton. In the sixth, Buxton singled to right, and advanced to second on a passed ball by Perez, Miranda grounded into a fielders choice, advancing Buxton to third, he scored on a shallow sac fly which was made possible by a great piece of base running by Miranda who faked like he was going to tag, which caused the ball to be cut off, rather than have a play at the plate. Through two games as DH, Buxton is slashing .444/.444/.778. I love to see him pulling the ball, taking extra bases, being aggressive on the base paths and you've seen what the results are through the first two games.
    • Christian Vazquez collected two more hits today and is batting .571 on the season. After calling an outstanding game two days ago with Lopez, and having seen Gray struggle after a seven-pitch first inning, Vazquez hasn't had any issues at the plate. Given he's in a timeshare with Jeffers, I have to think we will see Jeffers tomorrow in the series finale, as the Twins try to remain unbeaten. Having that veteran bat in the catcher position, usually a weak spot on offense, has been a pleasant surprise so far through two games.
    • Sonny Gray-- Gray wasn't as sharp as he normally has been, issuing four walks in five innings. He's been trying a two-seam fastball and Morneau on the broadcast said he's trying to get a feel for it and see where he can be effective. Three of those four walks were in the third inning, yet he was able to hold the Royals off the scoreboard. Gray had his defense help him in the fourth with two guys on and one out. He got Nicky Lopez to ground into an inning-ending double play. He got the win but wasn't as sharp as he has been. His final line was (W-1) 5IP, 3H,0R,4BB, and 1K on 81 pitches, just 53 strikes.
    • Twins bullpen-- For the second game in a row, the Twins bullpen pitched outstanding and was the highlight of the game. After Gray threw his five innings, the Twins bullpen consisted of Alcala, Jax, Thielbar, and J. Lopez. The bullpen pitched well and gave up just one hit and struck out four combined. Alcala, Jax, and Thielbar all recorded a hold, while Jorge Lopez recorded his first save of the 2023 season.
    • Twins infield defense-- Once again, the infield defense, save for a Miranda error early in the game, was spectacular, showing range of motion, quick releases, and an awareness of the situation(which the Twins haven't had in recent years on defense) this was a welcome sight. They were aided again by two HUGE double plays by Lopez in the fourth and Isabel in the sixth, both of which ended any hopes of KC scoring. If the infield defense continues to generate double plays at this rate, (four in the first two games; and in BIG situations to get out of potentially dangerous innings) it will be another boost to the pitching staff.
    • Strike rate of 49%. The Twins pitchers combined, continued to throw strikes, with the exception of Gray, whose command was hit and miss all day, the Twins threw 86 of 132 pitches overall for strikes and 20/35 (57.1%) first pitch strikes. The bullpen threw 34/49 pitches for strikes, a whopping 69.3%. Not issuing free passes and managing to get double plays, will continue to be crucial for the Twins bullpen as we get deeper in the season.

    4 Things I really liked seeing

    • Timely hitting--More clutch hits in the middle to later parts of the game, getting insurance runs for the Twins.
    • Aggressive baserunning-- Buxton turned a single into a double, and later scored today and was also aggressive on opening day. The Twins being able and willing to be aggressive and take chances on the bases has paid off so far and gotten them extra runs.
    • Continued to get out of jams-- The Twins have gotten out of two potential jams per game, via ground ball double plays. These have been huge for them as it's really handcuffed the Royals to a few extra-base hits and no real threats after.
    • Bullpen success-- Through two games, the Twins bullpen has pitched 7.1, 1H,0R, 2BB, 4K. They've entered in the middle of the game both days and have been lights out after that. Given last season's struggles, this has been the brightest spot so far in the 2023 season so far, in my view.
    3 Former Twins who had a good day:

    • Mitch Garver-- The former Twins catcher hit a pair of 3R HRs today in a 16-3 win over the Phillies. He was two for four with 3R scored, 2HR, 6 RBIs and is hitting .500 in this young season.
    • Josh Donaldson- Hit his first HR of the season in a 7-5 loss to the Giants. That was his only hit,
    • Gio Urshela-- He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI in a 13-1 routing of the Athletics.

    The Twins have looked good so far and have yet to allow a run on the season, Gray wasn't as sharp as Lopez was, but he made enough pitches to get himself out of jams and keep his team in the game. The Twins will go for a series sweep tomorrow with Joe Ryan on the mound.
  5. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Devlin Clark for a blog entry, What are the 6 biggest HRs in Twins history?   
    Since 1961 the Twins have had some huge Home Runs hit against them (looking at you Didi Gregorious and Tom Lawless), but they've also hit their fair share of big ones. Most have come in the World Series, but two in particular in my mind, have been huge regular-season home runs. Below, I outline all of them and the reasons why I ranked them where I did. If you have any comments, please let me know below!
    • 6. Brian Dozier--July 10, 2015 vs Tigers
    The Twins came into this game 42-40 and were set up for a mid-July battle with the division rival Tigers. The Twins trailed six to one going into the bottom of the ninth, then the Twins bats came alive off Tigers closer Joakim Soria. After a two-run single by Danny Santana brought the Twins back to within a run at six to five, Brian Dozier stepped up and cranked the first pitch, with two runners on, into the LF bleachers for the win. The win, erased a 6-0 Tigers lead in the 8th inning, to this writer, is the most dramatic walkoff HR ( second biggest regular season HR in Twins history), in Target Field history. Listen to Dick Bremers call on this if you haven't, I can listen to it over and over. 
    • 5. Jacque Jones--April,1, 2002 vs Royals
    After an entire off-season of contraction rumors from MLB, Bud Selig, and many news media outlets, Jacque Jones took the 2nd pitch of the season from Jeff Suppan and deposited it over the fence. Statement made. The Twins were here to stay, and it was a perfect way to kickoff what would be a special, but heartbreaking, season for the Twins and their fans. This HR, by extension the season, showed everyone nationally that the Twins deserved to be in MN, in MLB and weren't going to roll over and move to NC. Still one of my favorite HRs. It makes this list due to the statement it made after an off season of controversy and an unknown future. 
    • 4. A.J. Pierzynski--October 6, 2002 vs A's
    The Twins were tied with the A's at two games each with a deciding game five, to determine who faced the Angels in the ALCS. With flamethrower Billy Koch on the mound, AJ Pierzynski stepped up and took the first pitch he saw over the RF fence to give the Twins a 4-1 lead. (Ortiz later homered to extend it to five to one). This wasn't the game-winner, but it was the most important as it extended the lead and gave the Twins the ability to win the game in the ninth, even if they gave up runs (which they did). It's the HR that's become synonymous with that series, and in my view, is the 4th most important one in Twins history, given the situation, and who it came off of. 
    • 3. Dan Gladden--October 17th, 1987 vs Cards
    One of the most iconic HRs in Twins history is also one of the most important. The Twins, in their second WS in franchise history, had the Dome field advance. The crowd of 55,171 were waiving Homer hankies and waiting for something to cheer about, in the fifth inning, (newest) Twins HOFer Dan Gladden gave them just that. He deposited the second pitch from right-hander Bob Forsch over the LF fence into the bleachers. This lands at number three on the list because it took place in a WS game, it was Game one and for all intents and purposes, sealed the win for the Twins. It's one of the biggest and most iconic HRs in Twins history, but it's not even the most important one from this series by a Twin, what are the two above it? 
    • 2. Don Baylor,Kent Hrbek--October 24th, 1987.
    This is kind of a cheat to add two guys to this spot, but honestly, they both deserve it, given the circumstances. With the Twins down five to two going into the bottom of the fifth, they scored a run on a Gaetti rbi, and then Don Baylor came up with the Twins down 5-3, and promptly hit a two-run home run off lefty John Tudor to tie the game at five. The Twins scored again that inning and made it six to five. In the sixth, Hrbek hit a GS to centerfield to give the Twins a 10-5 lead at the time. The Twins don't win this game, and therefore the series, without either of these two gigantic home runs, in the most clutch spots, with their season on the line. These land at two on the list because when I asked TK once at Twinsfest where ranked these he replied "behind Kirby, in front of everyone else". That was good enough for me!
    • Kirby Puckett--October 26,1991 vs Braves
    What else was it going to be? In the 11th inning, after telling Chili Davis he was thinking about bunting, to which Davis replied "bunt my a**", Kirby took a Charlie Leibrandt changeup on the outer half of the plate, into the LF bleachers, sending all 55,155 Twins fans into exuberant cheers, and giving the Twins new life in the series, after getting absolutely destroyed in ATL and coming back to MN down three games to two. It wasn't just that it was an extra-inning game. It was just that it was the World Series. It wasn't just that the Twins won the WS the next day, this comes in at number one because...it was Kirby. The best player, a fan favorite and a player that I, and many many other fans in the Twins Cities and all around Twins Territory idolized, just hit the biggest HR in team history. In the eyes of this (at the time 7-year-old)fan, it made Kirby something even more than a player, and almost larger than life. There wasn't anything he couldn't do on the field, this proved it. This was also the moment that I became a Twins fan and is the one lasting memories from my childhood that I will never forget. That day, Kirby went from a man to something more. A hero in all Twins fans eyes, it is also the day my love affair and undying fandom (and a lifetime of heartbreak, apparently) began.
  6. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Devlin Clark for a blog entry, Newcomers help Twins win 2-0 on Opening Day, my 6-4-3 on Game 1   
    The new rules regarding larger bases, pitch clocks, and banned shifts didn't seem to bother the Twins on Opening Day. Baldelli's bunch pieced together a sparkling 2-0 win behind 5.1 very solid innings by off-season trade acquisition Pablo Lopez. (Although he wasn't the only Lopez who pitched well).

    The Twins didn't hit any home runs, they didn't resemble the 2019 Bomba Squad. But they did resemble a team built with depth and bench players who can give you quality, MLB level at bats, and not give them away.

    I will be highlighting my 6-4-3 below, what is it? 6 things or players who stuck out to me during today's game, 4 things I really liked seeing, and updates on 3 former Twins, who have had a pretty good Opening Day!

    So sit back, read your 2023 Media Guide (or Twins handbooks from previous years), pour yourself a drink in your Twins Winter Meltdown glass, and enjoy:
    6 Things or Players who really stood out to me:
    Pablo Lopez-- It always starts with your starter. When you get a good strong quality start (or better!), you keep your team in the game, and especially on Opening Day, you give your team a chance to get you runs and win, and that's what he did. His line was pretty stellar: 5.1 IP, 2H, 3BB, 8Ks. In a sentence: Pablo shoved. He was in control all day, and when he did get into a jam I'm the 5th, he managed to stay calm and induce your standard 3-2-4 double play. Byron Buxton-- What can I say about this guy that hasn't been said? He is the engine that makes this team go. You saw it when they needed a spark and he hit an oppo triple to RCF that the KC CF missed and Buxton made third (He later scored on the very next AB on a single up the middle by Larnach, but more on that later). He really makes this lineup longer and better, even as the DH. He was 2-4 today with a single in the 1st and a triple and run scored in the 6th. His run scored put the Twins ahead 1-0, and was the first run scored of the season. More of this all year please! Trevor Larnach-- Larnach had maybe the best day of any Twins hitter, as an oft injured player with a very high ceiling, 2023 was seen as a crucial season for him, some even saying a make or break. He drove in Buxton with a single (up the middle, which is great to see him taking the ball back up the middle) giving the Twins a 1-0 lead. After a Buck Farmer walk gave the Twins runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out, newly acquired Donovan Solano came up a single to RF to score Larnach and give the Twins, and Lopez all the insurance and runs they'd need. 2-0. Very encouraging start for Larnach as 2023 is an important season for him and he remains a HUGE bat for the Twins if he stays healthy. Twins infield defense. They got two HUGE Double Plays, both off the bat of MJ Melendez, at important times. None more so than the beautiful Gallo to Vasquez to Gordon, 3-2-4 Double Play to get the Twins and Pablo off the field, and out of trouble, after the Royals had mounted their only threat of the day. If the Twins infield defense, led by Correa, can continue to be solid, reducing errors, mental mistakes and taking advantage of ground balls hit at them(and producing 2 puts from them), that is a HUGE benefit for Twins pitchers this season. It will be something to monitor as the season progresses. Twins Bench-- After Farmer and Solano (combined 2-3 with a walk and RBI) replaced Nick Gordon and Joey Gallo (combined 0-4 with a K) at the plate, the Twins scored their two runs, one coming off the previously mentioned single from Solano. This is the kind of bench depth the Twins have lacked in past years, real, quality depth. Guys who give you good, smart, MLB ABs and don't get overwhelmed by the moment. (See not Jake Cave, Gilberto Celestino, etc, the last few years). If the Twins bench can continue to produce like they did, next man up, so to speak, that will be a big advantage for the Twins, and for Rocco, especially in late inning games when he's going based on match ups. Twins Bullpen-- Just because they're last on the list doesn't mean they're last in my heart. The Twins bullpen was one word today: outstanding! After Thielbar replaced Pablo Lopez in the 6th inning with 1 out, the bullpen went 3.2 hitless innings. That's right, no hits allowed by the pen. They struck out 2. It seemed like whoever Rocco brought in was always in control, and the Twins minimized any damage. This was, to me, the best part of the game today, especially given the issues the bullpen faced last year. The 3.2 innings were thrown between Thielbar, Lopez Jax, and Duran. All of them, except Duran, getting a Hold, while Duran recorded his first save of the 2023 season. 4 things I really liked seeing:
    Offense never gave up. They were mostly shut out for the first five innings by Grienke, but the bats came alive in the 6th and produced 2 runs without a home run. One of them by a non starter (Solano). Good to see. Quality start by Lopez in his Twins debut, 5.1 IP 2 H, 3 BB, 8 Ks. Not much to say that I didn't say earlier. Today was his day. Buxton kickstarting the offensive scoring with an opposite field triple. He's such a difference maker for this team. Let's hope he stays healthy. Rocco's decisions, I liked his call to pull Lopez at 81 pitches and turn the game over to the bullpen, especially given how good they were (and can be) against a lowly KC team. He also made the right call to pull Gordon and Gallo for Farmer and Solano, which ended up securing the Twins an insurance run! 3 former Twins who had a good day on Opening Day:
    Robbie Grossman (the human OBP machine) hit a big 3R HR in the Rangers game to tie it at 5, and help them later to secure the win after a very shaky start by DeGrom. Spencer Steer-- Former Twins prospect Spencer Steer hit a HR on Opening Day for the Reds, it was his 3rd career big league Home Run. Congratulations, Spencer. Luis Arraez, in his first AB as a Marlin, he roped a single down the LF line in typical Arreaz form. He later had a run producing 2B and finished 2-4 as the Marlins fell to the Mets 5-3. This was a great win for the Twins, a team win. One of the few wins in the last 3 years where I never really felt the Royals were going to make a run or tie the game, or where the Twins would give up the lead. They were in cruise control from start to finish. If the Twins continue this style and level of crisp, solid play, throughout the summer, it will be a VERY fun summer at Target Field.
  7. Like
    nclahammer reacted to troyjuhn for a blog entry, My Favorite breakout players for the Twins   
    The Twins come into the year with a lot of guys that can play at the major league level, but with such a logjam at certain positions, it might be hard for some players to distance themselves. These are 5 guys that I think will have potentially huge roles to play if everything goes right for them. In no particular order...
    1. Jorge Alcala 
    This is a pretty common breakout pick and yet I also feel like Alcala is not talked about enough for whatever reason. Alcala, 27, was one of the pieces sent to the Twins in the Ryan Pressely trade back in 2018, Alcala was decent during the COVID season with a 2,63 ERA in 24 innings and a 3.92 ERA in nearly 60 innings in 2021 before a injury to his throwing shoulder sidelined him for the majority of last year. Outside of Duran, Thielbar and Jax, the twins have a lot of uncertainty in the bullpen that was fairly middle of the pack in the MLB last year. Alcala has touched 98 with his fastball this spring and I truly believe he might have a Duran type full breakout depending on his role. The Twins didn't do much this offseason to address the bullpen, so they clearly have a lot of belief in what they have already. I feel like Alcala has the tools already to etablish himself for a long time in the bulpen. 
    2. Royce Lewis. 
    We already saw a small sample size of Royce last year, which for the most part showed a ton of promise. In just 12 games, he batted .300 with a grand slam as his first big league homer, and also made some plays out in center. Unfortunately, he suffered another torn ACL that ended his year and will keep him out for at least half of this year. When he eventually goes come up though around the middle of the summer, Royce should provide a great amount of depth in the middle infield and potentially the outfield. Maybe even get reps at SS when Correa has an off day. I thought Royce was going to have a ROY like campaign, but alas that never happened. However the true test for Royce is probably 2024, where I really think he'll start to become an everyday starter for the Twins. 
    3. Trevor Larnach
    Trevor Larnach just had a 4-4 day against Boston in a spring training game today, falling a triple shy of the cycle. I've always liked Larnach, despite relatively mediocre stats in 130 games in two years. With Alex Kirloff starting the year most likely on the IL, it gives more of an opportunity for Larnach, who has a .951 OPS and 3 home runs this spring. With injuires to Polanco as well, it pretty much secured Larnach his spot on the opening day roster for the beginning of the year. If he continues to play like this at the beginning of the regular season, expect Larnach to lock down a lot of playing time, whether that's in a corner outfield spot or as a DH. 
    4. Bailey Ober
    I've always been a fan of Bailey, and this year I think he'll really get a chance to shine in the rotation as the 5th/ maybe even 6th starter. He's thrown 6 shutout innings this spring and has shown that he is at 100% before the year, especially after he struggled to stay healthy last year and only made 11 starts.  Still, teams struggled against Bailey when he was on the mound, with only a .227 average and only 4 home runs hit off of him in 56 innings. I'm not going to be too worried if we do suffer an injury in the rotation, because I genuinely believe Bailey has the tools to be a full-time guy in an MLB rotation. If he has to start at AAA, I'm excited to see how he improves before inevitably getting a call up at some point. 
    5. Austin Martin 
    This is a wildcard pick for me. Lots of infield prospects could have big breakouts in the majors or at the minor league level this year. I've always liked Austin, his start to last year was rough and the torn UCL didn't help either. His Arizona fall league performance was very promising, as a elite level contact hitter with great discipline, it shouldn't take long for him to rake at AA and get a fast call up to AAA. If he impresses in the minors this year, a 40 man spot might open up, making this year a big audition year for the 24 year old former top 5 draft pick. 
  8. Like
    nclahammer reacted to SportsGuyDalton for a blog entry, Spring Training Winners and Losers   
    After a long, harsh Minnesota winter, Spring Training offers and a glimpse of green grass and the hope of a successful Twins season. The Twins’ time in Florida is like any trip to the Sunshine State—some visitors leave with a golden tan, others depart with bad sunburn. As the team prepares to head north, here are my winners and losers from the Twins’ Spring Training. Let’s start with the guys who got burned.
    1. Kenta Maeda
    Spring Training stats should never weigh heavily in player evaluations, but when a veteran pitcher like Maeda returns from 19 months of Tommy John rehab, his performance will be scrutinized. Despite a solid outing today, Maeda’s spring has been mediocre. He has posted a 4.91 ERA in 14.2 innings, issuing 10 walks, striking out 14 batters, and showing inconsistent fastball velocity. These numbers aren’t awful, yet with Bailey Ober, Louie Varland, and Simeon Woods-Richardson all seeking a spot in the rotation, Maeda’s grasp of the fifth starter role grows looser. King Kenta will need to regain his pre-injury form quickly or risk being relegated to a diminished role.
    2. Trevor Megill
    Megill’s arm talent is undeniable. His fastball consistently touches 100 MPH and advanced metrics show that his breaking pitches are competent. Unfortunately, the on-field results never seem to match the underlying metrics (much like his bullpen mate Emilio Pagán). Megill entered the spring with a shot at a bullpen role with the Twins, then struggled to a 10.80 ERA and 2.10 WHIP before being demoted to Triple-A on March 19. Twins fans will probably see Megill again this season as he will be one of top relief options available in St. Paul, yet it’s fair to wonder how many second chances Megill will receive.
    3. Gilberto Celestino
    2023 is the most important season of Gilberto Celestino’s career. That is a strange statement considering Celestino played 122 games with the Twins last season and will likely spend most of 2023 in Triple-A. However, given Celestino’s limited minor league experience (only 75 career games above High-A), this season at Triple-A is critical for his maturation as a player. The thumb injury Celestino suffered early in camp required surgery, putting his development plan on hold while he is out until late April. Missing one month isn’t catastrophic, but finger injuries can linger. If Celestino rushes back or suffers a setback, his long-term development will pay the price.
    1. Edouard Julien
    Despite all the praise that top prospect Brooks Lee garnered in Fort Myers, Julien is undoubtedly the Twins prospect whose stock has risen the most this spring. Across seven games with the Twins and four games with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, Julien is hitting .394 (13 for 33) with five homeruns and six walks. His advanced approach at the plate looks MLB-ready, mixing patience with power. The Twins’ infield depth and questions about Julien’s defensive home created a roster crunch that resulted in Julien being optioned to Triple-A on March 14, but Julien’s performance this spring shows that he is ready to contribute at Target Field.
    2. Kyle Farmer
    Farmer’s solid Spring Training—an OPS of 1.052 and four homeruns—has flown under the radar as health questions about Alex Kiriloff, Jorge Polanco, and Jose Miranda have dominated Twins infield storylines. The 31-year-old Farmer is a six-year veteran, so a good month of March doesn’t change his projected upside, but he is a “winner” here because he will leave Fort Myers poised to parlay his hot bat into important at-bats for the Twins. His infield counterparts Polanco and Kirilloff are starting the season on the Injured List, meaning Farmer will play a critical role in the Twins’ early-season success. If Farmer keeps hitting, the Twins offense will get a massive boost and Farmer could become a valuable trade chip to fill an everyday role on another team.
    3. The Twins Front Office
    There are plenty of valid questions about the Twins’ offseason moves. Will Joey Gallo rebound from his terrible 2022 season? And did the team need another left-handed hitting outfielder? How will the offense replace the bat-to-ball skills of Luis Arraez? etc. Regardless, one thing is clear this spring: this Twins roster is deep. Yes, Jorge Polanco and Alex Kiriloff are starting the season on the IL, however the Twins have starting-caliber replacements in Kyle Farmer, Donovan Solano, and Nick Gordon. Typically, exclusively DH-ing a Platinum Glove winner like Byron Buxton would wreck a team’s defense, but the Twins adding recent Gold Glove winners in Michael A. Taylor and Joey Gallo minimizes the defensive decline. And Bailey Ober, probably the odd man out of the Twins’ early-season starting rotation, has yet to allow a run this spring and continues to look like a fourth starter in a competent MLB rotation. Not to mention the prospect reinforcements waiting at Triple-A. All said, Spring Training has shown that this front office deserves credit for building the deepest Twins roster in recent memory.
    Thanks for reading! I'm interested to hear your thoughts and your winners/losers of the spring.
  9. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Luke Thompson for a blog entry, The Downfall of Byung-Ho Park   
    When the Minnesota Twins signed Korean slugger Byung-Ho Park, fans believed he was the next "big thing" and that he was the player they needed to compete. But what happened to Byung-Ho Park? 
    Park was a huge superstar in the Korean Baseball Organization with the Nexen Heroes. In five seasons with the Heroes, Park led the KBO in home runs five times, RBIs four times, slugging percentage twice, a 2X MVP of the KBO, and was a five-time Gold Glove winner. In the KBO, Park had two consecutive seasons with 50 home runs (2014–2015) and was the home run title winner for four consecutive seasons (2012–2015). He holds the KBO record for RBI during a single season, with 146 RBI in 2015. With those numbers, the Twins gave the highly wanted Park a four-year, $12 million contract. With those numbers in the KBO, you would think It would be a steal of a contract; the only problem is that Park wasn't a very good MLB player.
    The move for the Twins made sense as he dominated pitching in the highest league in South Korea, and many teams were after him. It was exciting when the Twins won the bidding war for Park because things like that usually don't happen to Minnesota. It was initially very exciting to see what he could do in America, but ultimately it was another disappointing move. When Park arrived with the Twins, he only played 62 games, hitting .191/.275/.409 with 12 homers before he was sent to Triple-A Rochester. The only real hope Park had at the time of his demotion was his 12 homers, which had him on pace for 31 homers if he had played the whole season. After spending an entire season with the Rochester Red Wings, Park asked to be released and returned to the Heroes for the 2017 season. He performed well in Park's first year back in the KBO League. Park batted .345 with an OPS of 1.174 with 43 HR in 113 games. Currently, Park is on the KT Wiz in the KBO. He is slashing .275/.349/.556 with 35 HRs. He has only been incredible since he went back to the KBO. This leads me to wonder what went wrong for Park in the majors and why he did not perform up to expectations.
    In 2016, Park's only season in the MLB, he had a strikeout rate of 32.8%. He struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances. Whereas in 2016, the league average strikeout rate was 21.1%, Park's strikeout rate was over 10% more than the average. The following reason for his struggles: Park's batting average in 2016 was .191. This was well below the league average of .255. On-base percentage, Park's on-base percentage (OBP) in 2016 was .275, which was also below the league average of .321. Park struggled to hit the breaking pitches. In 2016, he had a batting average of just .111 against curveballs and a batting average of .125 against sliders. Park also had difficulty staying on the field, suffering a knee contusion and a wrist injury that ended his season. Park also had issues with the front office and how they handled his injury. Park believed little treatment was given to him during his injuries which slowed down getting him back on the field. 
    I wish the Twins would have kept Park on their roster, it's very possible that his performance would have improved in the Major Leagues, he just needed to be given more playing time and consistent at-bats. However, it's a possibility that he would have continued to struggle and been demoted or released. In 2016, Byung Ho Park's rookie season with the Twins, he played in 62 games and had 244 plate appearances. He hit .191 with 12 home runs, 24 RBI, and a .658 OPS. In comparison, the Twins' starting DH in 2016, Robbie Grossman, played in 99 games and had 380 plate appearances. He hit .280 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and a .386 OBP. If Park had been given consistent playing time and more at-bats, it's a real possibility he could have improved his numbers and been a good player for the Twins. However, it's also possible that he simply wasn't built for the MLB and would have continued to struggle.
    I wonder what would've happened if Park would have had more time to adjust to MLB pitching and his injuries didn't keep him off the field. We know he had the potential but sadly couldn't piece it together. Byung-Ho Park's career would have been an interesting one for sure. Sadly, Twins fans will have to live with the disappointment of Park not panning out quite as we hoped.
  10. Like
    nclahammer reacted to CoryMoen for a blog entry, Why Donovan Solano is a Better Fit than you Might Think.   
    As you have likely seen at this point, the Twins signed Infielder Donovan Solano to a 1 year, $2 million dollar deal. When you first look at this deal, you may have thought that Solano is a similar role to Kyle Farmer and seems to be redundant. While there may be some overlap, I think there are a few reasons where both guys still get a good amount of at bats this year, especially against lefties. 
    So let's compare Solano to a few other guys that I saw many people mention as targets for the Twins, Luke Voit and Yuli Gurriel. One reason the ladder two guys were brought up was their ability to hit lefties, so let's look at that first. 
    Luke Voit versus lefties in 2022 had the following line: .174/.298/.271. I will concede that these stats are lower than his career .236/.329/.439 line against lefties. 
    Yuli Gurriel versus lefties in 2022 had the following line: .265/.298/.441. These are slightly lower than his career .282/.333/.474 line against lefties as well. 
    As for the Twins most recent acquisition, here are his stats versus lefties: 
    Donovan Solano had a slash line of .301/.348/.422 line versus lefties in 2022. His career line is .282/.322/.389. 
    The next thing I wanted to compare these players on was their Walk%, K% and their projected WAR going forward. 
    Walk %: 
    Voit: 10.2%
    Gurriel: 5.7%
    Solano: 5.7%
    K %: 
    Voit: 28.5%
    Gurriel: 11.2%
    Solano: 18.0%
    Projected WAR (using ZiPS): 
    Voit: 0.8 WAR
    Gurriel: 1.5 WAR
    Solano: 1.2 WAR
    Seeing these stats, you might try to say that Gurriel would be the best choice of the three for a fit. The reason I think this is not the case can be summed up in one word: versatility. 
    Donovan Solano can not only play 1B, but can also play 2B, 3B, and will likely get some ABs as a DH as well, against lefties specifically. Gurriel at this point in his career is a 1B with the ability to DH of course as well. Voit is a 1B/DH as well. 
    Not to overlook Solano's ability to hit against righties as well. He doesn't hit righties super well, but can at least give you a good AB if needed. He has a career slash line of .276/.329/.367 against RHP.
    One thing to remember is Solano is a depth piece who, similar to Kyle Farmer, will play mostly against LHP with occasional starts coming against RHP. Solano's versatility will also be helpful in case someone gets dinged up (which will happen at some point) and as a potential defensive replacement depending on who is in the game as well. Solano hits a lot of line drives, as evidence by his career .332 BABIP. 
    I'd like to make this clear, I don't think Donovan Solano is an all star level player, but I think he's a solid depth piece that gives manager Rocco Baldelli another option this coming year. The Twins depth is much different than the past years, and hopefully this means they learned their lesson regarding not being too top heavy on the roster and not having as much depth. 
    Let me know what you all think of the Solano signing. Who do you think this bumps off the roster? My gut reaction says Larnach, but maybe things change before opening day (perhaps a trade?). 
  11. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Wiedmann for a blog entry, Does Alex Reyes Make Sense for the Twins?   
    The St. Louis Cardinals non-tendered their once top prospect; since then, there has been little news regarding Alex Reyes. The former all-star has seen a lack of reported interest so far in free agency and could be a fit for any team looking for relief help, meaning every team. There are several reasons to and not to sign Alex Reyes. I want to examine his current outlook to see if he is a fit for the Minnesota Twins. 
    Feature Image Via Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports 
    The first thing you notice about Alex Reyes when you look at his career is injuries, injuries, injuries. And more injuries. Health has not been a blessing Reyes’ has received in his career and was likely the reason the Cardinals gave up on him. Reyes crossed the 20-inning threshold just twice in his career, in 2016 and 2021. Most recently, he missed all of 2022 due to a shoulder injury. His injuries prior to 2021 didn’t seem to impact his stuff much, but every injury is different. It is unknown whether or not he can be the same pitcher he was two years ago. Given his health track record, it is more likely he doesn’t pitch at all than he gives you innings, and it is very valid that teams are concerned about this. 
    The other major concern with Alex Reyes is his control. His raw stuff can compare with the best in baseball but where it’s going is a different story. In his lone full season in 2021, he had the second-highest BB% and second-highest BB/9 in all of baseball. He also had 10 wild pitches in 2021, which would have ranked fifth among qualified starting pitchers. Alex Reyes, a reliever, pitched over 100 fewer innings than his counterparts in that category. His command issues track back to his early minor league days, so it’s likely this problem never goes away. 
    So what about the good stuff? He walks everyone, and we have one season to base our entire case to bring him in; what’s the upside? As mentioned before, Reyes was an all-star in 2021, and for good reason. According to Baseball Savant, he was 95th percentile in xBA, 94th percentile in xSLG, 91st percentile in Barrel%, 95th percentile in whiff%, and 87th percentile in K%. Reyes is effective against both left-handed and right-handed hitters as well. Versus lefties, he had a .155 batting average against and a 26.9% K%; versus righties, he had a .195 batting average against and a 33.1 K%. He served as the Cardinals’ primary closer and recorded 29 saves for a team that won 90 games.
    His fastball routinely crests triple digits, but I want to focus on his best pitch, his slider. Reyes has maybe the best slider in all of baseball. In 2021, among pitchers with 100 PA against, his slider generated the lowest RV/100 (run value per 100 pitches*) in all of baseball at -3.8, just ahead of Jacob deGrom. It finished top ten in batting average against (3rd .089), SLG against (9th .222), wOBA against (7th .196), swing and miss% (2nd 55.8%), and K% (2nd 56.9%). This is one of the most devastating pitches in all of baseball. 
    Alex Reyes is about as big of a risk as you can take on a player. With his persistent command issues and colossal injury history, this could blow up as much as any reliever signing could (shoutout Joel Zumaya). Fortunately, Reyes isn’t set to make much, his arbitration projection, according to MLB Trade Rumors, was just under three million, so a one-year deal for two to three million would make sense. If the Twins were to pull this off, they would likely have a second-year option attached to it. Reyes might have the best stuff out of any Twins reliever, including Jhoan Duran. If Alex Reyes can stay healthy, he could be one of the most dominant relievers in Major League Baseball. 
    *Run Value: http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/article/run-values-by-pitch-count
  12. Haha
    nclahammer reacted to Greggory Masterson for a blog entry, What the Recent Number Changes can Tell Us   
    On December 10th, it was announced that a few Twins had changed their jersey numbers. Trevor Larnach from 13 to 9, Emilio Pagán from 12 to 15, Kyle Farmer from 17 to 12, Bailey Ober from 16 to 17, and Griffin Jax 65 to 22.
    This is nothing out of the ordinary; a few players each offseason on any team will request a number change for one reason or another. However, this time, something peculiar happened shortly thereafter.
    Joey Gallo was signed less than a week later, and he claimed the 13 number, his number in Texas and New York, which had conveniently been vacated by Larnach. Is this a coincidence? My money is on no; it's incredibly meaningful.
    I did exactly what you have come to expect from old Gregg--I've scoured the list of remaining MLB free agents to see what this might mean for the rest of the offseason, and it leaves more questions than answers. Here are my findings:
    #9 (Taken by Trevor Larnach)
    The only remaining free agent who wears 9 is Dee Strange-Gordon, Nick Gordon's half-brother. Might there be a rift between Larnach and Gordon now that he's preventing his big brother playing for Minnesota? Probably. It's a good thing that Correa is back to try to help keep the locker room intact. Between this and fighting over left field playing time, things could get ugly.
    #12 (Vacated by Emilio Pagán; Taken by Kyle Farmer)
    Farmer really stepped on Pagán's toes here. It looks like Emilio may have been trying to open the door for Rougned Odor to don a Twins jersey, which makes sense given his history of sucker-punching opponents who homers off his pitchers. Having Odor at second base would definitely help keep Pagán's homerun numbers in check. Watch for a rift between these two teammates as well.
    #15 (Taken by Emilio Pagán)
    It's been a rough 24 hours in Twins territory with the last two #15 free agents signing elsewhere in Raimel Tapia and Brian Anderson. When will the team finally pull the trigger on the guys they really want?
    #16 (Vacated by Bailey Ober)
    This was the spot that showed the most promise, though with Trey Mancini coming off the board this week, the remaining pool is thin in Cesar Hernandez and Travis Jankowski. I would bet that the Twins were more in on Mancini than suggested, given that they clearly forced Ober to change numbers to attract him.
    #17 (Taken by Bailey Ober)
    Ober apparently looked Chris Archer in the eyes and said "This town ain't big enough for two five-and-dives" and took his number, preventing his return. Go get 'em, Bailey!
    #22 (Taken by Griffin Jax)
    Learned men like me know that there was no shot of the Twins getting Andrew McCutchen with this stunt pulled. Think of the team, Griffin!
    This also rains on Jeremy Nygaard's hopes to bring back Miguel Sanó. Surely the big man wouldn't come back if he couldn't get his number back from a relief pitcher. To make matters worse, this also eliminates Robinson Canó from contention. Sure, he switched his number for Roger Clemens in New York, but Jax is no Rocket; he's Air Force, not Space Force.
    This also removes Luis Torrens as an option. Sad day for those of you with Luis Torrens on your offseason bingo card.
    #65 (Vacated by Griffin Jax)
    There isn't even a potential free agent with Griffin's old number. So selfish.
  13. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Adam Neisen for a blog entry, Derek Falvey's best trade   
    We've reached the point in the offseason where the free agent market has dried up and - aside from Correa - there's no one left for the Twins to target.  If the Twins are looking to upgrade their roster prior to opening day, they will have to turn to the trade market. The front office of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have made numerous trades over the past couple of years, with mixed results. Giving up an aging Nelson Cruz to acquire Joe Ryan turned out to be an instant success. On the other hand, the acquisition of Emilio Pagan and Chris Paddack has been anything but. Given the amount of trades over the past five years, one of the most influential deals has flown under the radar: the 2018 Eduardo Escobar trade. 
    Coming off of 2017, in which the Twins snuck into the wildcard after beating out the weak American League, the Twins looked to improve upon a young core consisting of players such as Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios. After the Twins got off to a poor start, they were not able to recover and found themselves sellers at the trade deadline. After all was said and done, the Twins traded Brian Dozier, Ryan Pressley and of course, Eduardo Escobar. 
    In return for Escobar, the Twins received 3 players out of high A ball: 22 yr old Ernie De La Trinidad, 19 yr old Gabriel Maciel and 20 yr old Jhoan Duran.
    At the time of the trade, Escobar was slashing .274/.338/.514 with an OPS+ of 129. With his defensive flexibility, he also provided the Diamondbacks with some much needed infield depth. Despite never taking the Diamondbacks to the playoffs, Escobar was solid during his time there. 
    Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards 2018 29 ARI NL 54 223 198 30 53 11 0 8 21 1 1 18 35 .268 .327 .444 .772 102 88 5 2 0 5 2 5/H   2019 30 ARI NL 158 699 636 94 171 29 10 35 118 5 1 50 130 .269 .320 .511 .831 111 325 8 3 0 10 3 *54/HD   2020 31 ARI NL 54 222 203 22 43 7 3 4 20 1 0 15 41 .212 .270 .335 .605 63 68 5 2 0 2 4 *5/D4   2021 32 ARI NL 98 400 370 50 91 14 3 22 65 1 0 29 85 .246 .300 .478 .778 107 177 1 0 0 1 1 54/H6 Over the course of roughly four years, Escobar posted a 102 OPS+ and a WAR of 5.6
    Now on to the Twins.
    Ernie De La Trinidad played in the Twins organization until 2021 and reached AA. Gabriel Maciel also played in the Twins organization until 2021 and reached A+ ball. 
    As for Jhoan Duran, he was arguably the most beneficial player for the Minnesota Twins in 2022. 
    Before looking at his stats, it's hard to miss his stuff. His fastball was the fastest in the MLB, averaging 100.8 MPH and topped out at 103.8. His famous "splinker" was also the fastest in the league at 96.4 MPH. On top of that, his 88 MPH curve held opposing batters to just a .120 batting average and has gotten a swing and a miss almost 50% of the time. 
    As you dive into his underlying metrics, it just keeps getting better. 

    His chase rates and K% are elite with 89 strikeouts over 67.2 innings pitched. Duran has also done an incredible job at throwing strikes with just 16 and a 2.1 BB/9. His chase% and whiff% are both 10% above league average. 
    Duran excelled at keeping batter's exit velocity and barrel percentage low, as well as forcing a groundball more than 60 percent of the time. All of this allowed for Duran to have great home run rates, something the Twins struggled with in 2022. 
    As a team, the Twins' bullpen ranked 18th in win probability added at +1.26. Duran alone had a +4.56 WPA, good for second out of all relivers this past year. While it may be hard to quantify, it's no understatement to say that Duran singlehandedly kept the bullpen afloat this past year. 
    In terms of overall value, Duran had a 1.5 Fwar, which Fangraphs valued at 12 million dollars. In comparison, Eduardo Escobar posted a 4.9 Fwar during his time in Arizona. It is important to note that the Twins have Duran through at least the 2027 season and he should be a prime candidate for an extension. The Diamonbacks however, got less than four years with Escobar before trading him to the Brewers. 
    While it is difficult to directly compare Escobar and Duran because of their different positions, the overall value and talent that Jhoan Duran will provide to the Twins seems likely to greatly exceed what Escobar provided to the Twins. 

    Fan morale is at a low, and a part of that is the front office and their lack of spending and big moves. But when they make a move that clearly worked out for them, it is important to recognize and acknowledge it. 
    Because of them, we get to watch Duran pitch for the next five years.  
  14. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Alex Boxwell for a blog entry, They’ll Love You When You're Dead   
    A major pitfall of human beings is eulogizing people once they are gone. The nicest comments you’ll ever hear about another person is when they are, sadly, no longer with us. Isn’t that depressing? We can’t appreciate people while they are here or to quote The Office “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them”. As Twins fans we bring this unfortunate reflex to our fanhood aggressively and without question. Some examples Joe Mauer, our current Front Office, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa… we’ve done it to them all. 
    The fanbase’s criticism of the front office is natural. We were supposed to be good last year, blew it, and now we’ve done little to rectify the depth issues. However, I’d like to open the hood on the front offices moves a bit more. Remember where we’ve come from Twins fans, and we will love this front office when they are gone…
    Rather than acquiring contracts like Ricky Nolasco or Nathan Eovaldi, this front office has turned towards the trade market rather than bending the knee to an overpriced pitching market. They have acquired Kenta Maeda who when we last saw in a full season, granted it was 2020, was receiving Cy Young votes in a Twins uniform. We traded away Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan and rather than pay Berrios we shipped him off for (at the time) a fantastic haul. Berrios is on the verge of losing a spot in that Blue Jays rotation don’t forget. All these arms, Chris Paddock included, would have cost 15-20 Million annually on the open market. That’s just the fact of the free agent pitching climate. 
    I understand that the dollar signs point to a lack of effort but don’t lose sight of where we have come from. The arms we have brought in are good and have saved the organization hundreds of millions of dollars rather than getting equivalent arms in free agency. This year is no different. We are clearly close to being legit contenders and we want to lose sight of the process and chase the finish line by blowing money on pitchers that make no sense. Stay the course, something is coming, we’ve made creative moves every off-season and I don’t see why this year will be any different.
    Don’t forget where we have come from, appreciate what we have, be hopeful for the future. If you don’t like it, we can go back to getting guys like Adam Everette at shortstop, trading Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps and getting guys like Mike Pelfrey to hold down the rotation. None of them are bad players but we saw how moves like that didn’t move the needle or were way too short-sighted. We will miss them when they are gone.
    The pinnacle of we will love you when you’re gone is Joe Mauer. Besides with Kirk Cousins this year, I’ve never seen the average fan swing so wildly with their opinion on a player. I get it was an emotional deal seeing Mauer regress, he was and is still OUR guy. Minnesota born and raised, three batting titles, MVP, Gold Glove catcher, he was OUR guy. Battered with injury he came out from behind the dish and Joe Mauer was the target of everyone’s frustration because his body couldn’t do what it used to. He was still a productive player, and the contract was not bad enough to keep the old regime from trying to acquire and lock up talent. We as a fan base hated him for it anyways.
    Almost as if we lifted a curse, as Mauer strapped on the gear one last time in his last game it was like the angst of the Minnesota Twins fan evaporated into thin air. An outpouring of love and pounding the table for first ballot hall of fame induction. It is some of the strangest behavior I have ever seen. Even when he was wining batting titles, it was- “he should hit more home runs". “he doesn’t catch enough”, “he never swings at the first pitch”. Now that we’ll never see him play again, we all have taken a running leap back onto the band wagon and for no reason other than we will love you when you’re gone...
    I do not think the front office or any of the players are perfect as players, executives, or people. I just firmly believe they can do better and will do better. We can also do better as fans and people. Take a step back and appreciate what you have in front of you as much as you can. Whether it’s Buxton patrolling centerfield, the front office making a trade for a controllable starting pitcher, or if it’s someone or something in your everyday life. Love people while they are here, not when they are gone. What makes us great as a community is we get to choose.
     Go Twins, love you all.
  15. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Wiedmann for a blog entry, Do the Minnesota Twins have 2 Joey Gallo's?   
    In my previous piece I talked about how Alex Kirilloff may fit into the Minnesota Twins’ long term plans and what his outlook could be in the Major Leagues. For this article I want to look at the Twins other touted corner outfield prospect, one who has spent much of his professional career being compared to Kirilloff; Trevor Larnach. 
    Trevor Larnach is another player the Twins likely view as a core piece as they build for 2023 and beyond. Making a name for himself for his refined approach and raw power, Larnach found himself a top 50 prospect in all of baseball and as high as no. 34 on Fangraphs; with some sites ranking him even higher than Alex Kirilloff. It took Larnach only 183 minor league games to get called up to the Majors in 2021 where he showed flashes of that power and developed approach before injury issues started to affect his production; he was ultimately sent down to AAA. 2022 was a similar story for Larnach as he once again had some very encouraging moments before an abdominal injury ended his season in late June. 
    As stated in my previous piece, injuries have a high variance and almost no predictability so I won’t spend much time on them for a future outlook of a player. Although they have been present in Larnach’s career so far their unstable nature offers little help if you are trying to guess a player’s future. 
    Between 2021 and 2022 Larnach has played almost a full season of games, 130 to be exact. It’s not a huge sample but more to work with than some other Twins prospects, so let’s see what we can find when we dig into it. Through 481 plate appearances Larnach is slashing .226/.316/.371 with 12 home runs, 46 RBI, 95 wRC+ and a 1.7 fWAR. Nothing to brag about but solid production to this point. 
    I probably should’ve addressed the title of the article by now but I tend to tangent. In my opinion, Trevor Larnach has a career outlook very similar to Joey Gallo, who the Twins just recently signed. While not as extreme of a three true outcome player, I think there are undeniable parallels in their games that we cannot ignore. 
    Let’s compare some numbers shall we? 
    Larnach: .226/.316/.371, 10.2% BB%, 33.5% K%, 95 wRC+, 12 DRS/1,000 innings, 2.1 fWAR/162
    Gallo: .199/.325/.469, 14.8% BB%, 37.3% K%, 110 wRC+, 10 DRS/ 1,000 innings  3.2 fWAR/162 
    It’s not a perfect match on the surface but when we dig a little deeper the numbers get even more similar. 
    Batted ball data (per Statcast)
    Larnach: 116 MPH Max exit velocity, 90.0 avg EV, 42.2% hard hit%, 35.4 SwSp% (ball with a batted launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees) 
    Gallo: 117.5 MPH Max exit velocity, 92.5 avg EV, 49.1% hard hit%, 33.3 SwSp%
    But wait there’s more! Let’s look at their plate discipline numbers:
    Larnach: 62.3% Z-Swing%, 73.1 Z-Contact%, 25.1 Chase%, 31.7% Chase Contact%, 43.0% Swing%, 39.4% Whiff%
    Gallo: 69.3% Z-Swing, 67.5% Z-Contact, 24.8% Chase%, 37.1% Chase Contact%, 45.0% Swing%, 41.2% Whiff% 
    It’s important to remember that we are still comparing a very small sample of Trevor Larnach to a very large sample of Joey Gallo so in a year or two this could look ridiculous. However, that being said, when I see the career numbers of both Gallo and Larnach they look like very similar players. They both have tremendous raw power combined with good plate discipline and they both are extremely prone to swing and miss. While Larnach has yet to prove he is capable of batted balls turning into extra base hits (.371 career SLG), he has shown in his young career he consistently finds the barrel and hits the ball hard when he does make contact. Larnach is also a considerably worse athlete than Gallo and is unlikely to provide the defensive or base running upside that Gallo does. However, Larnach is, as traditionalists like to say, a more “pure hitter” than Gallo. His pull% 6.1% lower than Gallo’s and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .331; Joey Gallo’s career BABIP is .257 making it likely that Larnach will hit for a much higher average. 
    It may not be a perfect one for one comparison between two players, but I think there are enough similarities in Trevor Larnach’s game to Joey Gallo’s that it was noteworthy. I doubt Larnach will ever reach the extremes that Gallo has normalized in his career so if you are not a fan of Gallo I wouldn’t worry too much, I believe there are aspects of Larnach’s play that will prevent him from reaching those anomic heights. What do you think of Trevor Larnach? Is my comparison accurate or am I way off base on this one? Let me know what you think.
  16. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Nick Hanzlik for a blog entry, Peanuts, Crackerjack and D&D?   
    I want to start off this entry by saying that I am no writer. I joined Twins Daily so that I could follow the blog of a life-long friend of mine, who is much more talented than I. Shout out to Alex Boxwell, former Gopher outfielder and the next Ernest Hemmingway (follow his blog and become enlightened).
    Maybe it’s the holidays being around the corner or the fact that I am snowed in and bored, but after what is appearing to be the mundane end to what could have (and should have?) been a historic FA signing period for the Minnesota Twins, I felt the need to find some positives and reflect on why I should continue to give my time to a team I follow with a passion. As well as why I should keep up with a sport that appears to be dying.
    The answer is a seemingly strange one and stems from the origins of how I became interested in baseball as a kid. Growing up I was super into all the nerdy things. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, comic books, video games, you name it. Then I received MVP Baseball 2005 (Manny cover) as a gift on my 10th birthday. I had zero interest in sports at this time, but my best friend (RIP Brandyn) insisted that I try it so I caved and began to play. It was the greatest gift a nerd could receive. The in-depth simulation, the statistics, the attention to detail, stadium creation, owner mode, everything about that game kept me glued to my computer screen. That game is literally how I became interested in baseball. I was horribly unathletic but I decided to sign up for Little League the following Spring. I was terrible, I mean TERRIBLE, unwatchable even for an 11-year-old. Each year I managed to get a bit better and through sheer love of the game I willed myself onto the varsity baseball team my junior year of High School (as a PO obviously, hitting is hard). As I began to spend more time with skilled athletes, the personalities of the people I spent my time with changed drastically, and the true beauty of baseball revealed itself. It became a wonderful bridge between nerdom and sports culture.
    As I have gotten older, I have realized I am far from alone in experiencing this ‘world between worlds,’ something about baseball fascinates nerds unlike any other sport. Maybe it’s the heavy influence of statistics, maybe it’s the fact that you don’t need to be a world class athlete to play it, who knows, but there is no denying that nerds love baseball. Just look at Dungeons and Dragons, an amazing game I suggest everyone tries at least once in their life. That game, which I think most people would consider to be the first game that used character stat sheets and involved freedom of choice, came out in 1974. Strat-O-Matic, a baseball simulation game using character sheets, statistics and dice rolling like that of D&D, came out in 1961. That is 13 years prior...
    I have played D&D almost every Tuesday for the last 6 years and I can tell you that anyone watching such a game without having played, is going to fall asleep. However, that does not mean there isn’t anything going on. It’s just a heavily nuanced world filled with strategy, branching narratives, statistics, probability and larger than life characters.
    Look at baseball now, every moment has nuance and complexity that leads to anticipation of 1000 different outcomes. I understand there aren’t seven-foot-tall specimens flying around dunking on each other, or 250-pound dudes colliding in full pads, but the game is more complex than that. A matchup between the likes of Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer is beyond interesting. Every pitch something changes. What pitch was thrown? Where was it thrown? How has the hitter been approached by the league? How has the hitter been approached by the specific pitcher? Are there runners on base? What’s the score? What inning is it? All of this can change with every pitch and the mental warfare between hitter and pitcher is absolutely fascinating.
    I read an article a while back that made a similar connection between D&D, nerdom and baseball. They made the point that it would be amazing to bring together a D&D party in full cosplay and a group of hardcore baseball fans in team attire, face paint, foam fingers and all. I found this to be hilarious, and I imagine the look on their faces when they realize how remarkably similar they are, would be priceless.
    At the end of the day, I will always follow the Minnesota Twins and baseball as a whole. It is a beautifully complex game that bridges two wonderfully unique yet similar worlds. At times it feels like David vs Goliath for both the franchise among the league, and baseball among the other major sports, which are often seen as more action oriented and ‘exciting.’ Hopefully MLB can find a way to market the game to the next generation better so it doesn’t go belly up. It’s scary to think of the 11-year-old kid who almost never got to experience the immersive culture and beauty of baseball. It would have been a damn shame if the game had never reached me. Friendships that would never have been made, memories lost and a passion left undiscovered. With the game in its current state, that may have been my reality.
  17. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Alex Boxwell for a blog entry, Joey Gallo- your dads least favorite player   
    To say Joey Gallo was bad last year would be like saying a turd isn't particularly tasty... it hardly describes the full truth. He hit .160 with 19 homers and a .638 OPS. Not to mention the 163 punch-outs in 410 plate appearances, that's just shy of a 40% strike-out rate. Absurd. His defense took a step back as well last year but inconsistent playing time can do that to an outfielder in terms of in-game jumps. On the surface, this sign makes little to no sense with the roster in its current state and if you don't believe in Joey Gallo as a player, the fact that he could improve, and if deployed properly that he is a productive player. HOWEVER, I would now like to present to you the Max Kepler situation
    I love Max Kepler, as a young player I thought he was a candidate to grow into a player to hit .275-.300, threaten 30 jacks a year and play very good defense. You can't use a scouting report from 2014 to evaluate your talent, you can't think emotionally as a front office. You have to call a spade a spade. Max Kepler has had a combined OPS of .692 over the last two seasons (936 plate appearances) that's below the league average even for last year in a historically terrible year for offense (in '21 league average was .728). OPS is the easiest way to see how good a hitter is, if you want one statistic to rule them all... that is it. Kepler does not lift the ball well and that is fine but it has seriously limited his offensive ceiling and disbanding the shift is not going to be the sole reason to raise his batting average, he flat-out has to play better. The bottom line is he is a player that had an outlier season and has yet to improve in 8 seasons. 
    Between Gallo and Kepler if you look at OPS, advantage Gallo. Even with Kepler having a clunker season last year Gallo was not far behind (.638 vs .666). I get Gallo strikes out way more than anyone in the world at the pro level but he could be a great fit. A lineup can only suffer so many Ks before it becomes wildly unproductive and frustrating regardless of OPS or whatever positive statistic they can provide. It's also a one-year deal, if the guy stinks they aren't going to play him there is hardly any risk. The people that say 'Wallner could do what Gallo does', it's a fair point but do you honestly think the scouting department didn't have that conversation? They clearly grade Gallo as a better player at this moment and that's fine. It's one year and Wallner could win the job and Gallo can ride pine all year, we are not married to him in any way shape, or form.
    All this being said, with the addition of Gallo I become very hesitant to trade Arraez. With a guy like Gallo, the protection you need in the lineup for him is a player like Arraez. Strikeouts are bad, I hate seeing a guy punch out with less than two outs and a guy on 3rd more than anyone. I truly believe a lineup has a breaking point for how many strikeouts it can take before it becomes unproductive but I'll let some guy who has never played baseball find that statistic. A lineup can still be elite with Joey Gallo in it but other hitters in the lineup need to have some bat-to-ball skill. 
    It's a long walk for a short drink of water but I lean towards liking the Gallo signing, we will have to use our personnel properly or he needs to improve dramatically. You will need to scheme your lineup around him, having Gallo hit 9th and Arraez hit leadoff would be how you would have to write it. Gallo and Kepler were both terrible last year, both will likely not be Twins in '24. I think the lineup has more potential with Gallo but if you have potential that just means you haven't done s**t yet. Regardless if your rightfielder is Kepler or Gallo they both need to take a considerable step forward from their recent performance. I think everyone is well within their right to be critical of this signing but you can't honestly say this signing isn't steeped in short-term potential. Sadly, more potential than it would've had with my guy Max Kepler.
  18. Haha
    nclahammer reacted to Greggory Masterson for a blog entry, The Joey Gallo signing makes sense, actually   
    Go ahead, give me your hokey analytics about "Joey Gallo only hits .200," "There are now 5 lefty corner outfielders on this team," and "Joey Gallo has the highest K rate of all time." Well guess what nerds, I care about the stallion in the Italian, not what his "box score" may look like.
    Jokes aside, although not a world-moving acquisition, I think that it makes some sense, though it broke at an unfortunate time--two days after Correa signed with San Francisco and one day after Carlos Rodón signed with New York. Certainly, if the Twins' biggest signing this offseason is Joey Gallo, fans have reason to be upset. I do follow the offseason move-to-move and react to each move, but I am not one to put the label OFFSEASON FAILED on a team until the season begins and the Opening Day roster is finalized.
    First, though, let's cover the negatives. Gallo had a horrendous season last year, with a slash line of .160/.280/.357. If he performs like that again in 2023, he will likely be out of the league. He strikes out way too much and has a laughably low batting average, and that can only be expected to continue without an approach change. Players' bat-to-ball skills do not improve with age, and Gallo will enter 2023 as a 29-year-old. Furthermore, Gallo enters a crowded space of left-handed corner outfielders alongside Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Nick Gordon, and Matt Wallner. Of all the player types the Twins could have pursued, they got a guy who plays at their arguably deepest position.
    With those strikes against him, why don't I mind the signing? There are a few reasons:
    The corner depth is hypothetical
    Yes, there is a glut of corner outfield depth on this roster, and they are all lefties (with the exception of Gilberto Celestino, who is a corner guy in name only, given his poor stick). However, let's go through those options. Even before the Gallo signing, Kepler was going to be moved. Even if he didn't already have one foot out the door, it's debatable that Kepler would be better than Gallo. Both have high floors, given their defensive ability, but Kepler, outside of 2019, has not shown the chops to be anything better than a league average hitter. Gallo, on the other hand, has shown the ability to hit at an all-star level as recently as 2021.
    After Kepler, the top two guys are Kirilloff and Larnach, neither of which have proven much of anything between 2021 and 2022. Both have shown flashes of potential to be high-level hitters, and I still believe in them, but both have also been bogged down by significant injuries. Gordon was on the shortlist to be DFAed during the 2022 season prior to his development as a top hitter in the depleted Twins lineup in 2022, but his performance was bolstered by a high BAPIP and he is more suited as a utility player than an everyday left fielder or the strong side of a platoon. Wallner impressed last season at both AA and AAA and had a solid run after his late season callup, but that's all the major league experience that he has.
    Between the four of them, they have 1,584 MLB plate appearances combined, the equivalent of about three seasons as an everyday player. If the Twins started the season without Kepler or another corner outfield acquisition, they would start with Kirilloff in left and Larnach in right, and if either of them got injured, which is likely given their history, Gordon would be pushed into an everyday role, and Wallner would probably be up as a fourth outfielder. I think that they can all ball, but that's a thin group to enter the season with.
    I do believe that there is another righty bat coming the Twins way (Jurickson Profar is the guy I want to see now), and I can be convinced that it's not the end of the world for either Larnach or Kirilloff to start the season in AAA, given that neither is a sure thing.
    Joey Gallo can reasonably become Joey Gallo again
    In terms of buy-low hitters, Gallo probably has the highest ceiling outside of Cody Bellinger and his 17.5MM contract with a 12MM mutant option for 2024. When Gallo is playing at the form he's capable of, he can get on-base 35% of the time despite his astronomical strikeout rate and low batting average because of his astronomical walk rate (13% for his career). He can bop 30+ homers, with two 40 home run seasons to his name. He can play Gold Glove defense in right field.
    Obviously, there's a lot of ifs in this conversation, but it's better to take a shot at a guy like Gallo than to fill a spot with a low-ceiling Trey Mancini, AJ Pollack, or Adam Frazier type of player for the same money. If you're going to give out a one-year contract to a veteran, give it to someone who is one year removed from an All Star season and is still under 30.
    If the Twins and Gallo are fortunate and he makes good on his prove-it deal, he will likely be up for a big payday prior to the 2024 season. The Twins would love to watch him go. It would mean that he turned in a good year for the team, helping them contend for an AL Central title. However, there is an added bonus that only schmucks like me care about. Because he performed poorly in his final arbitration year (and was traded in-season), he did not receive a qualifying offer and is eligible for one in 2024. If he puts up a Gallo-esque season with a 125 OPS+, 35 homers, and great right field defense, he would likely decline the offer, giving the Twins an extra draft pick for 2024. I for one would like to see that happen.
    Positional flexibility
    Gallo is a great right fielder, due to his solid range and great arm. He also has experience at all three outfield positions, first base, and third base. I don't see Gallo ever returning to the hot corner.

    However, we all know that the Twins love themselves some position flexibility. The only alignment that would make sense to put Gallo at first base would be three of Byron Buxton, Gordon, Larnach, and Celestino being in the game alongside Gallo, as they would likely prefer Kirilloff and Wallner at first over him. Still, the option is there.
    More importantly is his ability to fill in in centerfield. He has not played there much since 2019, partially due to the personnel of the teams he was on. He didn't look bad in his work in center, though it has been 4 years since he had significant time out there. That being said, he would provide an extra layer of security for centerfield, which is important given Buxton's injury history.
    Is he a long-term replacement candidate if Buxton misses extended time with injury? Probably not, but I would bet that he will end up playing more centerfield this year than Max Kepler, another top defensive right fielder with the ability to play center, did last year (9 innings across 3 games). I wrote about the importance of having a third centerfielder and keeping Celestino down in AAA for the sake of the team and the player a couple weeks ago. Gallo fits the bill there.
    It's only 11 million for one year
    The cat was out of the bag by the time Gallo signed: the Twins do not plan on devoting 25MM+ to any one player this offseason. With 50MM to spend to reach last year's payroll, it's not a terrible use of 11MM. If he hits .160 through May and Wallner is killing it at AAA, I don't think the Twins will sweat the lost pay. He can easily be cut at that level.
    All of this is incumbent on him hitting at least .200, but that's a given.
  19. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Steven Trefz for a blog entry, What if you went to all 81 "away" games? Making the dream a reality...   
    Hello everyone, allow me to introduce myself.
    Steve Trefz, 42 yrs old, Twins fan by virtue of birthplace (farm in rural NorthCentral South Dakota), of influence (Herb and John every summer evening for 3.5 hrs), and of circumstance (first World Series that I remember watching was 1987, which was also the year of the first Metrodome trip and Twins game of my life).
    I have more to share when it comes to "Why the Twins?," but for now I just want to introduce where this blog is headed...literally.
    26 Series
    22 Stadiums
    81 Games
    1 Idea that I just can't shake
    What started out as a dream...a vision...is now actually happening.  The original vision for this journey emerged in the winter of 2019-20.  I had planned out the travel, the cost, the ramifications of attending all 162 Twins games in person  Needless to say, 2020 would not be the year that I attended all 162 games for my favorite squad.  The reasons are legion, and obvious to all of us who have lived through the past few years.  But in the meantime, and in the present, the dream continued.  An altered quest emerged.
    As a resident of Mitchell, SD, I've discovered that while I've loved having a flex-plan season ticket package off and on for the past several years, getting to Minneapolis for home games has become less and less feasible.  In many ways, every pilgrimage to Target Field serves as a reminder that while I feel at "home" at Target Field, going to all 162 essentially "away" games was not going to happen with my current life circumstance (Husband of an awesome lady, and Father of two awesome teenage boys).  The dream, however, refuses to leave me.
    Enter a negotiation, a truce, a window of grace...
    "All 81."  
    An epic, albeit difficult, journey to be with my team out on the road.  A pledge to be present and accounted for in a Twins jersey at each of the enemy stadiums.  A quest to rekindle a love for community, and my country, after a couple of years of being isolated.  A hope for the kind of experience that might shape me for years (if not generations) to come.
    Plus it should be a blast!
    Stay tuned please, I would love to share this journey with you.  I plan to post every few days during the "planning" phase of the season.  Let me know as we go how far into the weeds you want me to get.  I have spreadsheets, data points, mileage and cost estimates, qualitative community assessments for the various cities and neighborhoods, etc.   I'm prepared to nerd out.   I also look forward to sharing the stories, sights, emotions, and insights that emerge from the quest.  I'm prepared to get personal.  I also look forward to a freaking division championship and a World Series run that adds another dozen or so "away" games to my list :)  I'm prepared to get medication to help with that part.
    I'm going to need your help in this.  I'm starting this quest with this community in mind.  The TwinsDaily family (aka you the reader) has helped me navigate through much of the nastiness of the past few years.  It's my prayer and hope that by me going to all 81, you will be right there with me.  
    Grace and peace, and thanks for reading!  Until next time,
  20. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Greggory Masterson for a blog entry, The Twins are a righty away from some fun matchups   
    Okay, the title ignores the whole shortstop situation, but hear me out. Actually it also ignores the catcher issue as well, but just keep reading. I'll briefly address them later.
    When @vikingsfan1936 commented "Failvine found there missing piece ..." and "World Sereis here we  come" under Dan Hayes's tweets about the Twins' trade for Kyle Farmer and resigning of Kyle Garlick, respectively, he might not actually be too far off the mark. Obviously, no one would say that the Two Kyles™️ solve all the problems that the Twins face, but there may be some interesting strategy in development.
    The term "set the floor" has been thrown around quite a bit in regards to the acquisition of Farmer; his presence provides a shortstop that the team can, at minimum, tolerate while holding its nose and paying ~6M for the season. However, the floor could have also been set with the likes of Elvis Andrus, Aledmys Diaz, or Jose Iglesias. Hell, old friend Andrelton Simmons or phantom signing Johan Camargo could technically fill the role of Floor™️ without giving up a mid-level prospect in the process. So why did the Twins go out of their way to snatch up Kyle Farmer before the Reds likely non-tendered him? One reason: his ability to kill two birds with one stone and be the Floor™️ at both shortstop and catcher.
    Kidding, of course. His catching background is nice to have in a team's back pocket and satisfy the Ron Gardenhire 3-Catcher-Quota, but the real reason is that the Twins plan on using him as a vital piece of the lineup on a regular basis. Assuming that the team manages to sign or otherwise acquire another shortstop, relegating Farmer to a utility infielder, the lineup against righties would look something like this:
    C: Jeffers
    1B: Kirilloff*
    2B: Polanco
    3B: Miranda
    SS: <insert shortstop>
    LF: Larnach*
    CF: Buxton
    RF: Kepler*
    DH: Arraez*
    *left-handed hitter
    There's likely some give on this, and an assumption that Larnach and Kirilloff are both healthy and ready to perform, but, should they not be, the in-house replacements are Nick Gordon and Matt Wallner, which is less than ideal, but it's what they've got. And did I mention that they're also both lefties?
    We all know what Kyle Garlick is here to do, and that's to mash lefties (130 wRC+ in the past two years), play a passable left field, and look like a sexy firefighter in the dugout when there isn't a lefty on the mound. As was noted quickly after the trade by members of Twins Territory, Kyle Farmer also has very fun splits versus lefthanded pitching, with a wRC+ 22% above league average and an absurd triple slash line last year of .309/.380/.568 (.948 OPS) in 158 plate appearances. Farmer has the additional value over Garlick of also being a serviceable option at shortstop defensively and a good fielder at both second and third base, which is where a platoon strategy comes into play.
    Platoons are great. In the absence of an all-star player, a team can opt to selectively play two players in opportunities that suit their strengths, often based on handedness. Lefties hit righthanded pitchers better, righties hit southpaws better. Everyone knows this. The Twins have the misfortune of having lefties in both corner outfield positions, first base, and designated hitter at the present, which are the top four positions counted on to provide offensive thump. This is an issue when facing a lefthanded hurler, and it's shown in recent years as the squad has struggled against lefties for the past three years with an OPS below league average.
    So, let's do a little plug-and-play. Let's say that Garlick will play left field and Farmer will play third base. This will slide Miranda over to first base vs. lefties. For the sake of argument, we'll let Kepler and Larnach alternate games in right, and Arraez and Kirilloff will split games at DH (could also be first base with Miranda DHing, but stop questioning me). Here's what we're looking at, along with each player's wRC+ vs lefties last year.
    C: Jeffers (161)
    1B: Miranda (132)
    2B: Polanco (75)**
    3B: Farmer (157)
    SS: <insert shortstop>
    LF: Garlick (128)
    CF: Buxton (159)
    RF: Kepler*(98)/Larnach*(108)
    DH: Arraez*(101)/Kirilloff*(73)
    * lefthanded hitter
    ** let's hope Polanco can get at least back up to his 93 career wRC+ and hopefully closer to his 118 between 2020 & 2021, or I'll look real silly
    We've now worked our way down to two spots in the lineup occupied by lefties when the Twins face a LHP. And those numbers look like a lot of fun. Scanning the rest of the in-house options for righties brings us to Gilberto Celestino, who is actually a worse hitter vs. LHP than any of the lefties at the bottom of that lineup. It ought to be noted that virtually all shortstops available as free agents or rumored to be trade targets to any extent (except for lefty Brandon Crawford) are righthanded hitters, so they would all fit well into this lineup as well.
    But if we take this one step further, we can arrive at a solid, balanced team that can succeed against both right- and lefthanded pitchers. And that, finally, brings us to the real reason I wrote this blog. Did you really think this was another "No, seriously, guys, Kyle Farmer is actually a galaxy-brain move and not cringe Falvine at it again, liking a good deal better than a good player, stop laughing!!!!" blog?
    The Twins need a solid righthanded bat that can play a corner infield spot or first base, and it doesn't need to be a stud. Jose Abreu was snapped up yesterday by the Astros, removing potentially the biggest bat from the group. Although it would be great to bring in high-upside, belle-of-the-ball guys like Willson Contreras as that last piece of righty oompf, the front office can reasonably aim lower and still do a good job at rounding out this squad.
    If the team has the budget to pay for a Josh Bell- Mitch Hanniger-  or Juickson Profar type, those guys are available and would fit the bill. I would personally like to see money spent on a shortstop, but if the value is right and the money is there, why not? We can go down the ladder to a few more reasonable options. 
    Andrew McCutchen brings name recognition and a great clubhouse reputation, providing some true experience to a group of players who are largely in their 20s still, and he can be penciled in in left most days, though his age seems to be catching up to him. The same goes for J.D. Martinez, who has been one of the league's most dependable hitters as he reaches his mid-30s, though he's also showing signs of slowing down and would be restricted to DH. Brandon Drury had something of a pop-up season, and his market has yet to be determined, but if pro scouting believes in him, he could also fit into those plans and have more positional flexibility than the rest of the names on this list, except maybe Profar.
    Trey Mancini and Wil Myers are two names that have been getting thrown around for several teams as easy targets to fill a similar role with some level of positional flexibility. Brandon Warne seems to think that Luke Voit could be a match as a plug-and-play option at first. The list goes on and on. The bar for a serviceable righthanded corner outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter is so low. Personally, I'd love to see the team take a flyer on Adam Duvall to have a bounce back year returning from wrist surgery. His numbers look rough in his injury-shortened age-33 year, but he was really turning it on in with a 136 wRC+ in the 8 weeks before his injury after an abysmally slow start (49 wRC+ prior to May 28), and he provides centerfield insurance.
    All that is to say that the team acquiring one righthanded, starting-caliber player to provide some thump should not be a tall task. That player may result in one of the corner outfielders being pushed out (likely Kepler, but Larnach and Kirilloff as well, for the right price, could be on the move). If that additional player is a first baseman (Bell, Voit, Mancini unless you really squint) or DH-only (Martinez), Kirilloff would get more play out in left field. Moving Larnach over to right seems to be less of a scary topic given the solid arm that he's always been known to have and his surprising range exhibited last season. Gordon can also be used to take on some of the work against righties if, for example, a McCutchen-type signing struggles to hit vs. RHP consistently but can still knock around the lefties. 
    Bonus points for signing Omar Narvaez and allowing Jeffers to bash lefties to his heart's content, too.
    Would you like to see the Twins add a righty bat? If so, who would be your #1 choice?
  21. Like
    nclahammer reacted to John Bonnes for a blog entry, The Lantern Bearer (Revisited)   
    Since this week was the 20th anniversary of Senator Paul Wellstone's death, I thought I might run one of my favorite columns, which I wrote to eulogize him.  I got quite a bit of feedback on it, and it mostly left me depressed, since many missed the point of the column.  Many readers who were critical of the column couldn't see beyond his politics, and even more sadly, neither could many of his supporters who praised it.  For me, the magic of Wellstone wasn't what he fought for, it was how he fought.  He made the impossible, possible and he inspired a generation to challenge their assumptions about the world and about themselves.  That's the lantern that he brought to my life.

    The Lantern Bearer
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And the world grew darker.
    We react to the infinite realities the world holds in a straightforward way.  We simplify it by choosing, consciously or not, which reality we care to embrace.  But whichever illusion we choose can also constrain us and too often turns into a shadow that we dare not challenge.
    How do people react to you when you leave a room?  Do they laugh at you?  Some might.  Of course, some might admire you.  And some won't like you and some will and some won't give you a second thought, one way or the other.  Which illusion do you subscribe to?  And how does that shadow world modify what you say or do before you leave the room?  Illusions like that are everywhere.  And are so all-encompassing as to be invisible, like water to a fish.  
    And then comes a Lantern Bearer, who holds up their light to the shadows and walks through them and takes us along.  They remind us that we created these shadows, and that we can dispel them.  We just have to pick up our lanterns, hold them out in front of us, and walk bravely forward.
    Think your idea can never work?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think that which you care about cannot be achieved?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think you are alone in your passion?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  The world has room for you, your energy, and your passion.  Indeed, it desperately needs it.
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And the world grew darker.  
    Paul Wellstone's death left sizeable holes in our world in many ways.  An election, uncompleted.  A Senate, undecided.  A movement, leaderless.  A family, parentless.  
    But the largest hole might be spiritual.  For a slice of my generation, he wasn't just someone who championed their political philosophy, but someone who reminded them of the joy and strength that flows from acting in a fundamentally moral way.  
    "I lost my Kennedy." one friend told his wife this weekend.
    His believers flocked to the Twins Cities and followed him to Washington.  They participated in a system that they otherwise might have disdained. And they watched him challenge the shadows.
    Think an outsider can't change the system?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think voting your conscience will alienate you from the decision makers?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think a good man can't hold onto his convictions when clothed with the trappings of power?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    And then the believers started picking up their own lanterns.  
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  And it happened the way it always seems to with lantern bearers.  Suddenly.  Tragically. Too damn early.  
    And, of course, the world grew darker.
    When a bright light is suddenly taken away, isn't that always when things are darkest?  But that, too, is an illusion. Time passes, the eyes adjust, and one starts seeing the other sources of light.
    Because this Lantern Bearer's light has spread throughout this generation.  Some lantern bearers are trying to change how politics works.  Some are ushering underprivileged kids into college.  And if you look around, you'll find hundreds more have raised their own lanterns, found their own path, and chased their own shadows.   
    Is it still too dark?  Sure.  So maybe it's time you picked up your lantern.
    Think your voice won't be heard?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think you're powerless?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.  
    Think YOU can't make a difference?  That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.
    A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.  
    And a thousand more Lantern Bearers strode forward.
  22. Like
    nclahammer reacted to LastOnePicked for a blog entry, Why Winning Matters   
    There’s a great scene in the first season of Ted Lasso. Coach Lasso is sitting and mulling over end of season strategy with his assistant, Coach Beard. Lasso realizes that his approach with his players might not give the team the best shot at winning, but smiles and reassures Coach Beard that “winning ain’t how we measure success.”
    Coach Beard turns red. He slams his fist on the table and hollers, “DAMN IT, IT IS!”
    Winning matters. Which brings us, ironically enough, back to the Minnesota Twins. In the last 18 years of baseball, only two MLB teams have failed to win a postseason game. One of those teams, the Seattle Mariners, are a virtual lock to win a Wild Card spot. That may soon leave the Twins alone at the bottom of the postseason winning heap for this stretch. Last in success, out of all 30 major league teams.
    “C’mon,” you’ll argue. “Stop blowing this out of proportion. Just look at those division pennants waving atop Target Field. One of them is even as recent as 2020. That’s success.” Sure, I know they’re there. I just can’t shake the feeling that they just don’t matter all that much. Sure, the Twins have had some success in a weak division - the children’s table of baseball - building up midseason leads and slipping ahead of marginal competition. But when the heat is on, when the top teams are in town, when the playoff bunting flies, the Twins aren’t much of a ballclub. They don’t win when it really counts, when it would generate excitement, when it would really bring the state together. They are a professional organization run and staffed by what seem to be genuinely decent and otherwise competent people. 
    But they don’t win … and that matters.
    In 1986, I fell head over heels for the Minnesota Twins. They were a bad ballclub, but I loved the game and I loved the team and I loved the Metrodome (yeah, I know). My dad took me to ten games or so that year, taking time from a very busy work schedule to indulge me. He even took me to Fan Appreciation Night, where Bert Blyleven apologized to the crowd for a disappointing season, adding that he saw the core of a talented club that could bring a World Series to Minnesota in 1987.
    My father audibly groaned. “It’ll never happen,” he said. 
    “What if it does,” I asked.
    “Look, if the Twins go to the World Series next year, I’ll buy us both tickets. But it won’t happen, kid.”
    You know the rest. Like magic, it did happen. And we were there. And my father, a serious man, hooted and cheered and waved like a kid. He loved the Twins more than I had realized, and he’d waited his life for this. When they won Game 7, he paraded me through the streets of Minneapolis on his shoulders. We hugged and high-fived strangers and police officers. We celebrated the success of our local team, a scrappy small market underdog. 
    “Enjoy it” he told me. “Because it’ll never happen again.”
    We did not buy tickets to the 1991 series. We watched all the drama from the comfort of home. But I grew up with an embarrassment of baseball riches. More than that, I have memories of my father - the stoic US Navy veteran and successful man of business - that are priceless. I got to see my father become a kid, just like me, bursting with joy over the game of baseball.
    The years are wearing on him now, and it's hard to know how much time we have left together. We don’t talk Twins much anymore, my father and me. He never watches games and rarely reads the box scores. I tried to sit him down to watch the 2019 Twins take on the Marlins on TV. I hyped him up for the “Bomba Squad” and chose an opponent I was sure the Twins could beat. I wanted him back on the bandwagon with me. I thought a special season was coming together again.
    Newly acquired Sam Dyson blew the lead. Buxton injured his shoulder. The Twins lost 5-4 in extras. But my dad didn’t see it end - he had gone to the garage to tinker with the lawn mower engine. Somehow, he knew that team wasn’t anything special. “Wake me up when they look like a winner again,” he told me.
    So here we are, three years removed from the 2019 season which ended in another postseason whimper. The consolation at the time was that the Twins appeared on the cusp of a breakout - a potential string of AL Central dominance that might lead them deep into the playoffs. Instead, we’ve just witnessed an absolutely epic late-season collapse that will leave them in third place and likely below .500 for the second straight year. Worst to third in the AL Central, particularly after signing the #1 free agent in baseball in the offseason, hardly inspires much hope.
    It’s not that these things don’t happen in baseball, or in all professional sports. It would be foolish to expect the Twins - a mid-market team - to win back-to-back championships every decade, or to be angered by occasional rough seasons or disappointing endings. It’s not so much that the Twins lose, but how they lose - and that they lose when it matters most and even when they seemingly have what they need to succeed - that is so hard to stomach. It’s a culture of losing that has essentially destroyed fan morale and widespread interest in the game here in Minnesota. 
    Here’s what I’m trying to say: It’s not just that the Twins lose, it’s how losing no longer seems to be a problem for the organization. 
    No one who represents the Twins really seems disappointed or upset by what's happened this season. There’s no visible sense of urgency or frustration. The club’s director of communication admonishes critics for any negativity and tells fans to “ride with us,” without acknowledging that the club’s trainwreck bullpen failures made getting back in the fandom car seem like a death wish. “We played our game, we played hard,” is Baldelli’s general mantra after bitter losses, as though professionals being paid hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars shouldn’t be expected to “play hard” as a basic condition of their employment. Instead of playoff wins, we’ve gotten endless strings of excuses: injuries, payroll limitations, called strikes that only seem to pinch our batters, and platitudes about being “almost there” and busy “reloading.”
    What’s that old saying? Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Though scratch that - what I wouldn’t give for even a little well-placed fury from this club. They endlessly preach process, but seem to have no real interest in results.
    Meanwhile, there is an entire generation of young people who have never once seen a Twins playoff victory. They’ve never seen their friends or family members turn giddy at the prospect of coming out on top, of beating the big boys of baseball in late autumn.They’ve never seen the way a playoff run can pull people together and shake up the routine of life. Winning inspires chatter and energy. It changes dull small talk about the weather into tales of late-inning heroics. The perfect throw to the plate to preserve a close lead. The seeing-eye single that brought in the tying run. The walk-off home run that electrifies a city.
    Minnesota is a beautiful state. The Twin Cities represent two vibrant metropolitan centers within a short cross-river drive. Greater Minnesota features majestic beauty and kind-hearted communities. At times, we become two very different kinds of people living in the same state. We sometimes lose a common worldview and a common cause. On top of that, we’ve weathered a pandemic, civil unrest, extreme political division and economic instability. Any of the top professional teams in this state that actually commits to winning - and actually does win when it counts - will find that, beyond their own satisfaction, they’ve added a stitch or two to a sense of unity and pride in the state. 
    Winning gives people relief and hope - even in small ways - and it gives them moments and stories with those they love. Yes, baseball is only a sport and maybe even a dying one, but winning is symbolic. Winning inspires.
    I know I’m cranky. There will soon be any number of articles coming from people who are less cranky about how the Twins had some positive developments this year, and that the FO gave their trades and signings their best shot, and that some prospects took major steps forward, and that winning at the professional level isn’t the only thing that matters. I’m going to shake my head when I read those stories. I may even pound my fist on the table.
    Because damn it, it is.
    Winning is how you measure success in MLB. Winning is the only thing that matters at this level (and please don’t counter with “playing the game fairly is more important,” because that, too, is a basic professional expectation that should go without saying). And the Twins don’t win when it counts. And that matters. And anyone who does not make this the top priority for this team should no longer be involved with this organization. Find out why injuries keep derailing promising prospects. Find out why high-leverage situations at the plate and on the mound keep resulting in failure. Find out why the team looks like roadkill when the Yankees come to town. Find out why the team lacks fundamental skills on the bases and in the field. Focus less on mundane processes and more on getting situational results. Put the team through high-stress drills. Get the players ready for battle, rather than stocked with excuses when they fail.
    Because Coach Beard is right. Winning matters. And it’s been far, far, far too long since the Twins have won anything when it counts.
  23. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Matt Braun for a blog entry, Matt's Top Prospect List (August) + Writeups   
    Before hopping into the list, I wanted to say a few things about this process: I started these writeups to kill time, but I’ve found them fun to write, and the community has responded with great support. My system lacks the professionalism of scouts, but I want to strive toward respectability; this edition is the one I’m most proud of. Previous write-ups lacked consistency, and I failed to consider crucial aspects of a player’s performance. Reminder: tier matters more than specific ranking.
    Royce Lewis (Prev: 1) I think Royce Lewis is a legitimate franchise-altering player with a greater potential influence than any other prospect. He still has questions—his ability at shortstop remains in flux—but no one can deny his aura, a baseball and personal sense innate in his spirit. He also hit like a machine before suffering his injury in 2022. 
    Brooks Lee (Prev: 2) Brooks Lee could fall out of bed and hit. Since the last writeup, the 2022 1st round pick packed his bags for Cedar Rapids and—while still being younger than the average hitter at the level—has continued to hit. The switch-hitter is walking 9.3% of the time while striking out in just 17.3% of plate appearances. Is Lee a shortstop long-term? Probably not; his clumsiness at the position has already shown, but the bat is such a lock that his position barely matters. Lee could legitimately start at 3rd base for the Twins in 2023 if they desire to push him.                                                                  
    Noah Miller (Prev: 3) Noah Miller’s numbers have declined since his white-hot start, but I remain high on the 19-year-old for two reasons: he’s a virtual lock to play shortstop, which is rare and vital, and his hitting peripherals remain solid. The extra-base authority isn’t there, but his elite 15.8% walk rate and stomachable 23.5% strikeout rate reflect a deep understanding of the strike zone. The power should come later, but even if it doesn’t, Miller could stick around for a while as a glove-first shortstop; that’s a piece many teams could use. 
    Emmanuel Rodriguez (Prev: 4)    You could flip-flop Emmanuel Rodriguez and Miller without hearing a peep from me; the young outfielder steamrolled low-A with an athletic force unique amongst Twins prospects at that level. Naturally, he suffered a brutal knee injury that curtailed his season, but I don’t anticipate a drop-off for Rodriguez when he returns in 2023. Expect big things from him once he’s healthy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
    Connor Prielipp (Prev: 5) Professional baseball has still not yet seen Connor Prielipp on the mound, but that barely affects his prospect stock; the college lefty possesses immense “boom” ability if he can return from Tommy John surgery. He owns arguably the best slider of anyone drafted in 2022; his fastball is a plus pitch as well. There have been whispers—a tweet here and there—about Prielipp pitching before the season ends, but nothing is official yet. He will be a name to remember for 2023.
    Simeon Woods Richardson (Prev: 7) This is where I admit a past error in these lists: I failed to consider Simeon Woods Richardson’s league while evaluating him. The Texas League tilts towards hitters, so while Woods Richardson’s numbers looked fine, they reflected an impressive ability to thrive in a competitive context built to suffocate him. His play with St. Paul since his promotion proves this; the young righty made two excellent starts, showcasing an elevated strikeout rate of 34.3%. Woods Richardson should impact the Twins soon, and he may become a rotation staple for years.
    Edouard Julien (Prev: 10) The lack of support for Edouard Julien as a genuine top prospect is baffling to me; the French-Canadian is a walking machine with pop; do people understand how rare that is? August was another dominant month, as he slashed .290/.426/.473 with three stolen bases (and three caught attempts). Sure, he’s a defender in name only, but the Twins could stomach merely passable defense at 2nd base to go with a tremendous bat—they’re already doing that with Jorge Polanco. I earnestly think Julien could be the starting 2nd baseman sooner than later—or at least he should be.
    Marco Raya (Prev: 9) Marco Raya only pitched twice in August—probably due to injury, but I couldn’t confirm this—yet, he remains a marvel through his raw stuff. “Electric” is the only word that can accurately describe him; his slider, curveball, and fastball possess desirable traits; whether he can put it all together is the big question. The Twins treated the youngster with kid gloves, so he will end 2022 with fewer innings than other, older prospects. Still, Raya remains a talented and intriguing arm. 
    Matt Wallner (Prev: 11) I was low on Matt Wallner to start the season—even while he crushed the ball, his strikeouts always caused me to hesitate when considering his prospect status. What changed? Wallner has shaved points of his strikeout rate—it now sits at 26.9% in August, which I can live with. He’s still an on-base wizard and owns a bazooka out in right field; these tools add up to a volatile player, but one with more impact than I gave him credit for earlier in the season. If it all clicks, we’re looking at a consistent ~3-win player who could crack a few All-Star games.
    Louie Varland (Prev: 13) Like Woods Richardson, my failure to consider the context of Louie Varland’s league caused me to rank him far too low on these lists. Varland isn’t just a cute hometown kid story; the righty owns a deadly fastball that overpowers hitters and sets a strong foundation from which his other pitches can grow. Those secondary offerings remain iffy, but Joe Ryan has proved that a great fastball can lead to success early in one’s major league career while other pitches develop in the background. Varland has struck out 27.5% of hitters at AAA. 
    Yasser Mercedes (Prev: 19) Of all the young players on this list, Yasser Mercedes possess the best chance of becoming a dynamic star; the 17-year-old—yes, he still needs an adult in the car while driving in the United States—lit the DSL on fire, stealing 30 bags while slashing .355/.420/.555. He played 41 games. If that’s a sign of things to come—and that’s a major “if” given his age—the Twins could have a future superstar. 
    Misael Urbina (Prev: 23) Misael Urbina is growing into some power and looks like a much finer prospect because of it. In 2021, the athletic outfielder couldn’t find a double if someone pointed it out on a map, but he’s now slugging .506 with a slightly worse BB/K rate; I think both he and the Twins are ok with that. There’s still a lot of development in front of Urbina, but 2022 is an excellent step in the right direction.
    Austin Martin (Prev: 6) I’ve been downright mean to Austin Martin on these lists, and I think that needs a slight correction. He’s not a shortstop, and his lack of power still scares me, but you don’t see guys who walk about as often as they strike out every day, and he could carve out a niche as a super-utility guy in the mold of Nick Gordon. Such a role represents a step-down from his potential when coming out of Vanderbilt, but that type of player is still valuable for a major-league team. His drop on my list results from other players rising, not necessarily him falling.
    Brent Headrick (Prev: 15) Brent Headrick spent all of August at AA and posted impressive numbers; he struck out 36.8% of batters against just a 6.3% walk rate. The lefty is creeping up on 100 innings pitched in 2022, and I imagine the Twins will strongly consider protecting him from the rule 5 draft after the season.
    Jordan Balazovic (Prev: 8 ) Jordan Balazovic might be the hardest player to rank in the system; the righty crushed his competition in previous years, but AAA batters have taken him to town, and I have no clue what to make of it. August was another rough month for Balazovic, and I’m left wondering if his stuff fell off a cliff or if the team is forcing him to pitch through an obviously debilitating injury; batters have hit 16 homers against him in just 49 ⅔ innings.
    Cole Sands (Prev: 16) I have a soft spot for Cole Sands; the righty commands one of the finest sweeping breaking balls in the system, and his new split-change could aid him against left-handed batters. Unfortunately, a right elbow contusion halted his great run in the majors, but he’s set to start a rehab assignment soon. The timing of his injury could not have been worse as Sands had pitched seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts since re-joining the Twins in August. 
    Ronny Henriquez (Prev: 17) On the surface, Ronny Henriquez’s 2022 season looks like a disaster; the righty owns a 5.79 ERA after all, but promising signs are hiding underneath the surface; he’s a 22-year-old with very little professional experience coming off a month where he punched out 28% of batters. I think the Twins will sit on him for a while, instead choosing to let Henriquez develop at AAA for most of 2023 before giving him the call.
    Noah Cardenas (Prev: 21) Much like his Noah brethren—the one with “Miller” as his surname—Noah Cardenas represents my favorite kind of position-playing prospect: a lock at a demanding defensive position with a chance to provide above-average value through their bat. Cardenas is smoking A ball as an old-for-the-level hitter—he’s walking more than he’s striking out—so the real challenge will begin once he sees more advanced pitching. For now, he’s a great piece to dream on.
    Jose Rodriguez (Prev: Unranked) As a 17-year-old, Jose Rodriguez bashed 13 homers in 55 games in the DSL. Yes, we should all be wary of hyping up literal teenagers, but that total led the league, and Rodriguez did it as a well-touted prospect who also batted .289 with a palatable strikeout rate of 23.7%. Like Mercedes, Rodriguez’s development will be a slow burn, but his initial impression has been excellent.
    David Festa (Prev: 12) David Festa has cooled significantly since his excellent start to the season, enough, in fact, that it raises questions about whether he was playing over his head. The college arm had a great ERA in August (1.15), but a dreadful FIP (5.27) thanks to a mediocre strikeout rate and an inflated walk rate (20.6% and 11.8%, respectively). I believe he can turn it around—he’s younger than the average A+ pitcher—but September will be crucial for Festa.
    Blayne Enlow (Prev: 14) August was a fine month for Blayne Enlow; he worked almost entirely in relief, striking out 20.5% of hitters against a high but still palatable 9.5% walk rate. The move to the pen raises some eyebrows—is this a long-term move or perhaps a play to shuffle him upwards towards the majors quickly? I believe in the latter, so Enlow remains a well-regarded prospect. 
    Chris Williams (Prev: 20) Hiding behind the word “interesting” is a soft move, but I’m not sure any other word can more precisely describe what Chris Williams is. The 25-year-old popped out of his bed one day earlier in the season, started mashing, and hasn’t slowed down since. A promotion to AAA has only fueled his fire as he’s slashing .241/.368/.667 since joining the Saints and has hit seven homers in 17 games.
    Cody Laweryson (Prev: Unranked) There’s something irresistibly intriguing about Cody Laweryson; the righty doesn’t throw hard and has never impacted major prospect lists, but his equal parts graceful and aggressive delivery has befuddled AA hitters. Laweryson carried a 2.13 FIP in August, buoyed by a monstrous 31.9% K rate; he split time as a starter and a reliever. It’s low-hanging fruit, but one is reminded of Joe Ryan when Laweryson is at his best.
    Alex Isola (Prev: Unranked) 29th-round picks don’t usually stick around as Alex Isola has; the righty has more than held his own at AA and could find himself in promotion conversations soon. You don’t see catchers with a 12.3% walk rate and a sub-20% K rate too often.
    Yunior Severino (Prev: 25) Yunior Severino brewed as a prospect for years before annihilating A+ ball to start 2022; the Twins were so impressed that they promoted him to AA a few days after the start of August. The higher competition level has stifled Severino—the walks and strikeouts have each trended in directions hitters don’t like—but the sample is so small that I’m willing to overlook it for now. September will be an important month for Severino.
    Alerick Soularie (Prev: 24) Alerick Soularie was in the process of melting A+ ball pitchers in August before the Kernels suddenly stopped playing him halfway through the month. If he’s injured—and I don’t see another answer—then I hope it doesn’t steal too much playing time; Soularie is already an old-for-his-level hitter with serious strikeout problems; he needs at-bats.
    Tanner Schobel (Prev: Unranked) The Twins drafted Tanner Schobel in the 2nd round of the 2022 draft. He has all of 81 plate appearances, so judging him off his stats is unwise; he’ll need more time to marinate before his prospect picture becomes clearer.
    Cesar Lares (Prev: 22) Cesar Lares is a DSL statistical outlier to whom I attached myself and will refuse to ignore. He led the DSL in K% amongst pitchers with at least 40 innings (37.6%) and, I mean, that’s an impressive number! Lares just turned 19, so his early dominance is an encouraging sign; next season will be important for the lefty.
    Aaron Sabato (Prev: 26) I’ve been harsh on Sabato—perhaps unfairly; maybe justified—but I may need to change my tune; he has now twice bounced back from dreadful starts at a level to match expectations drawn from his 1st round pedigree. It’s been no different at Wichita; the righty’s slash line is unsightly, but he’s walked a hearty amount since his promotion (11.3%), and his BABIP is dirt-low. There’s a good chance he turns it around in September.    
    Jair Camargo (Prev: Unranked) A number of players could have claimed this spot, but I chose Jair Camargo, the hitting machine. Camargo has slashed a lopsided .275/.320/.514 throughout a few levels of the minors in 2022, perhaps revealing legitimate power from the catching position. He’s still younger than the average AA hitter.
  24. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Curt DeBerg for a blog entry, A Tribute to Tony Oliva   
    I've recently written a short story paying tribute to Tony Oliva and to my favorite author. Here's a blurb. I think readers of Twins Daily will find it to be of interest! Thanks....Curt
    Ernest Hemingway and Tony Oliva
    A Tale of How the Great Writer Helped the Great Ballplayer
    What do you get when The Old Man in the Sea meets Field of Dreams? You get an inspirational story by Curtis L. DeBerg. This charming little tale, only 58 pages long, is a tribute to two men: Ernest Hemingway, the great writer, and Tony Oliva, the great ballplayer for the Minnesota Twins. Oliva was formally inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on July 24, 2022.

    In the summer of 1960, Hemingway was sixty years old and in failing health. He and his fourth wife, Mary, were forced to leave their bucolic estate southeast of Havana, next to a little village called San Francisco de Paula. For nearly twenty-two years, the Hemingways had made the Finca Vigía their home base, but now, under pressure from the U.S. government, they vacated their beloved, fourteen-acre property.

    Meanwhile, Tony Oliva was playing baseball for his country team in the Pinar del Río province in western Cuba. By professional baseball standards in the United States, he was over the hill. Hardly anyone over the age of twenty would attract the attention of baseball scouts. Oliva was nearing his twenty-second birthday. A scout for the Minnesota Twins recognized his talent, but he needed to "fudge" Oliva's age in order for the Twins to sign him. This could only be accomplished with some inside help.

    Did Papa Hemingway and Tony Oliva ever cross paths before leaving Cuba? Did the great writer help the great ballplayer forge the identity on his passport and travel visa? It could have happened. This story is part yarn, part fantasy and part truth. It is left to the reader to decide which parts are true and which are fiction.
    A perfect book for readers who love The Old Man and the Sea! See http://curtdeberg.com

  25. Yikes
    nclahammer reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, State of the Twins Farm System - 6 Years Into Falvey's Reign.   
    Jim Pohlad made the decision to hire Derek Falvey 6 years ago after a disappointing 2016 season where expectations were raised based on improvements seen in 2015. The primary decision to choose Falvey was modernizing the player development system with analytics so the Twins' farm system could sustain competitive play long term operating like a smaller market team. The biggest issue the Twins had was their utter failure to develop front line starters. Jose Berrios, despite his stellar numbers in the minors, had been eaten alive by MLB hitters and the farm system was looking a bit rough. Naturally, having graduated Sano, Buxton, Kepler, and Berrios in the last two years, that's going to see a farm system take a beating.
    Falvey went into 2017's playoffs with a virtually identical team as the Twins fielded in 2016, and again in 2019 and 2020. The winning tradition was restored! Except Falvey did it all with a roster largely created from the drafts and signings of Bill Smith and Terry Ryan. Falvey had major hits... but most of the hits eventually turned into misses. Ervin Santana, Jake Odorizzi and Jason Castro all ended their time with the Twins with a whimper, but this article is really about the sustainability factor. That's why Falvey was hired. Not for free agent signings. For a sustainable, productive draft and development system built from analytics and cutting edge baseball knowledge.
    I graded Falvey's top 3 rounds of drafting a couple months ago, and the situation has changed quite a bit, but again, I'm interested in the sustainability of the team. What do the Twins have in the system to fill the enormous holes on the roster coming up? Again, the idea was not that Falvey constructs a roster out of free agents when he was hired. What did the system look like when Falvey started?
    #1 - Nick Gordon*
    #2 - Tyler Jay
    #3 - Fernando Romero*
    #4 - Alex Kirilloff*
    #5 - Stephen Gonsalves*
    #6 - Wander Javier
    #7 - Kohl Stewart*
    #8 - Adalberto Mejia*
    #9 - Ben Rortvedt*
    #10 - Zach Granite*
    *7 of those players made significant appearances at the MLB level, and in general, they were viewed pretty highly at the time. The Twins' farm system was right in the middle.

    So what about today? There isn't much there. MLB's top prospects set for the Twins are:
    #1 Lewis (a23)- Undoubtedly the only elite prospect in the Twins system. He could be a star. He's also younger than Martin or Balazovic... as hard as that is to believe. Lewis torched AAA and proceeded to shine bright in a handful of plate appearances at the MLB level. With a character as brilliant as his athleticism, the sky is the limit... if he can stay on the field and prove his performance wasn't a SSS fluke.
    #2 Martin (a23) - Has seen his stock take a real beating this year. He went from a consensus top 50 prospect to falling well out of the top 100 on the failure to develop power and a lower batting average coupled with embarrassing defense. There was improvement in Martin's defense at SS with the error rate trending towards almost acceptable, but Martin's suffered an injured elbow diving for a ball at the beginning of July. It wasn't expected to be a big deal, but here we are a month later and he still hasn't played while (stop me if you've heard this one) the Twins hadn't been able to diagnose the issue at least as of mid July...
    #3 Balazovic (a23) - If Martin's stock had a silver lining, it's Balazovic's stock. It's not possible to understate how disastrous his performance has been this year. He wouldn't even be ranked on a good farm system top 15 at this point. While there is the hope Balazovic's struggles are related to injury, the Twins don't seem to feel like the injury is an issue. They keep sending him out, Balazovic continues to get consistently destroyed.
    #4 Woods-Richardson (a21) - He had another great start to the season, but he started struggling with control like last year leading to a rocketing WHIP and lots of runs. Then, there was a lengthy IL trip for COVID. Woods-Richardson probably moves to my #2 prospect in the Twins system at this point with overall impressive strike out rates, a great 4 pitch combo and stretches where he dominates. There's still a lot of potential.
    #5 Matt Canterino - (a24) - Bordering on non-prospect age, Canterino is putting up impressive K rates with equally depressing BB rates in AA. He's working his way back from yet another elbow strain in the Florida Complex league where he was knocked around in his latest 1 inning appearance. He's certainly not a top 10 prospect in a good farm system and hasn't pitched into the 5 inning this year.
    #6 Noah Miller (a19) - The only remaining draft pick from the first 3 rounds of 2021's draft now that Petty, Povich and Hajjar have all been moved, Miller is holding his own at the plate in Ft. Myers while playing very good defense. He's not an elite prospect at this point, but there's a chance Miller can improve his contact skills as he was drafted out of high school. Right now, Miller looks passive at the plate with a 15% walk and 25% strikeout rate more associated with power hitters, but Miller's power tool is scouted as pretty modest and he hasn't shown any of it this year.
    #7 Matt Wallner (a24) - Wallner was racing up the prospect lists as a full fledged supernova-style bright spot in the Twins' system. Since his promotion to AAA, Wallner has gone stone cold with a .116/.224/.140 triple slash. That said, it's just 49 plate appearances. Please, please let his swing return to crush the opponent pitchers to end the season.
    #8 Misael Urbina (a20) - A speedy center fielder international prospect signed out of Venezuela, Urbina had a really great year in Ft. Myers last season. Unfortunately, he missed half this year due to visa issues. Currently getting his legs under him back in rookie ball, Urbina's hoping to salvage the season.
    #9 Brayan Medina (a19) - Came over in the Rogers/Rooker trade for Paddack/Pagan as a toss in. It speaks volumes when the Padres' PTBNL is in your top 10... In rookie ball, Medina has walked a ton of batters while holding the hits to a reasonable number with the help of a .265 BABIP and paltry 5.0% HR/FB rate. He's not in a good farm's top 20, possibly not top 30.
    #10 Ronny Henriquez (a22) - The extra player received as part of the Garver trade to the Rangers, Henriquez has struggled to keep batters off the base paths in AAA. Ronny was ranked as the Rangers #15 prospect due to his ability to generate strikeouts and limit the free pass last year in AA. He's probably taken a step back this year as the walk rate has increased by 50% at AAA and batters have been able to generate hits at will leading to his 1.52 WHIP and very rough 5.71 ERA. Also, the Twins have not really been limiting pitches much with Henriquez allowing him to throw up to 92... but he's rarely been able to finish 5 innings. That said, Henriquez has been able to keep a solid K% (though certainly not elite for MiLB), the .352 BABIP is way too high and the walk rate still isn't terrible by any means. So there's still some potential. On a good farm, Henriquez is probably borderline top 20, helped by his age.

    I'd argue the farm is currently a big step back from the position it was in back at the start of 2017, where it was middle of the pack. Barring some real turnarounds, I expect the Twins to grade out bottom 5.

    So where does that leave Falvey? He was brought in to rebuild the farm system so it would produce high value prospects and especially stock the rotation with high value, inexpensive cost controlled rotation arms the Twins could depend on for several years. While the farm has essentially produced 2 years of Sonny Gray, he's not cheap at $12MM per year and 2 years is hardly a long time. We also used the farm to pick up Tyler Mahle for 1.5 years, but he's also not going to be cheap next year, and certainly not long term. Maybe $12MM? The one glowing example in terms of expense and control is honestly Kenta Maeda. We got 4 years of a cheap, high value rotation arm from moving Brusdar Graterol. That said, I'm not sure the agreed upon strategy was to trade all the talent in the MiLB system for a couple years of productive MLB starters. That's not sustainable and it honestly hasn't been cheap overall. Instead, the Twins have typically felt like a directionless Frankenstein monster to me, pieced together each offseason in the hopes the pieces all gel and what comes out is a lightning strike with the scream "It's ALIVE!!" to begin a playoff season. 

    Of course, winning solves everything. If the Twins win the World Series or even win a single playoff series, all will likely be forgotten. Every step short of that, though, has to heat up the seat under Falvey, especially given Falvey stretched the Twins' budget to $138MM (and beyond with recent trades) this year. Hard to believe the Twins turn a profit based on the attendance levels I saw and the Pohlads do not run this team as a hobby.
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