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  1. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, The Twins Were Wise to Pass on These 3 Sluggers   
    All in all, most of the Twins’ needs were addressed in the off-season, with a few glaring exceptions. One of the areas that went relatively untouched was the need for a right-handed slugger that could play first base. The club was rumored to have some interest in a few notable names, and eventually landed on Donovan Solano as the de facto plug for their leak. 
    He didn’t follow the mold of the players that are on this list, but he’s put up numbers that are solid, if unexciting. On the year, Solano is batting .270/.360/.350 (104 wRC+), and playing passable defense at first base (with rare appearances at second and third). His performance has been a likely outcome for a 35-year-old veteran with a high on-base profile. But how does Solano stack up against the other names that were loosely-attached to the Twins in the off-season?
    Josh Bell
    A one-time top prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bell entered free agency as one of the better options among corner infielders. Despite a rocky couple of months with the San Diego Padres post-trade deadline, he finished the season with a .262/.362/.422 clip and 17 home runs. That’s the type of player many wanted for the Twins as someone that could split time with a left-handed platoon partner such as Alex Kirilloff or Joey Gallo.
    Bell went on to sign a two-year contract with the Cleveland Guardians, worth $33 million with an opt-out after the first year. The player option grants him the ability to re-enter the free agent market if he has a big year in 2023. But so far, Bell doesn’t look like somebody that’s lining up for a big payday this winter. In 45 games, the switch-hitter has a .228/.342/.348 clip with just three home runs. 
    It should be noted that Bell has only been given 46 at-bats against left-handed pitching, which has been the Twins’ kryptonite all year. If they wanted someone that could mash from the right side of the plate, it’s probably wise that they passed on Bell. 
    Luke Voit
    The home run king of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season looked like an ideal fit for the Twins on paper. He still boasted plenty of power from the right side in 2022 while blasting 22 home runs for the Padres and Washington Nationals, but his overall output was roughly replacement level (102 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR). Like Solano, Voit’s market failed to materialize until February, when teams were already in the thick of spring training. 
    That soft market was part of the appeal when it came to Voit’s potential fit in Minnesota. The club could have theoretically signed the 32-year-old to a cheap, incentive-laden deal to be one of the last names on the 26-man roster, or even a minor-league “prove it” contract as he ended up doing with the Milwaukee Brewers.
    No matter how insignificant the price tag could have been, it’s fortunate that the Twins didn’t land Voit. In 22 games with the Brew Crew, he has a brutal .221/.284/.265 (54 wRC+) and has missed significant time with a neck injury. Like Bell, his numbers against left-handed pitching have been abysmal, as he’s slashing just .091/.091/.121 (-53 wRC+) with a shocking 60% strikeout rate. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody with a worse clip against southpaw pitching. If the Twins had signed Voit to be the right-handed side of a platoon at first base, it would have been a huge swing-and-miss, something Voit is all too familiar with.
    Jose Abreu
    Arguably the biggest name on the first base market last winter was the former-MVP who had a brilliant nine-year career with the rival Chicago White Sox. Abreu won three Silver Slugger awards and was named to three All-Star teams, so his offensive reputation was enough to land him a three-year, $58.5 million guarantee from the reigning world champion Houston Astros. Early in the off-season, he looked like a perfect fit for the Twins as a veteran leader that could still mash in the middle of a lineup and play a reasonably sound first base. 
    But now, Abreu is one of the more confounding players in the league, and not in a good way. His power has seemingly vanished, as he has yet to hit a homerun in 47 games played this season. His anemic .221/.281/.260 (52 wRC+) slash line is borderline unplayable, and his .540 OPS is fourth-lowest among all qualified hitters. His inability to do any damage against breaking balls (36.1% whiff rate) has been a main culprit when trying to diagnose a cause for his sharp decline, but honestly, his numbers against fastballs (.263 slugging) and off-speed (21.7% whiff rate) aren’t going to save him, either. 
    He would have been viewed as a Nelson Cruz-esque acquisition for the Twins – someone who could still be productive in his late-30s while leading by example from a corner locker. But instead, it looks like father time is catching up to one of the premier Cuban-born players of this generation. 
    At the end of the day, it looks like the Twins chose wisely when they signed Solano to a one-year deal, especially when compared to these three rumored off-season targets. An ideal fit would have been to go the route that the Boston Red Sox ended up taking, by signing Justin Turner and transitioning him to a primary first baseman/designated hitter. He’s currently batting .267/.360/.407 (111 wRC+) and absolutely crushing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .291/.391/.509 (146 wRC+) clip while playing slightly above-average defense. Passing on the former Dodger legend is regrettable. Passing on the other names on this list has ended up being a blessing for an already-troubled Twins lineup. 
    What do you think? Are you surprised by the lackluster performance of these three rumored targets? Who else would be a good fit as a right-handed hitting first baseman? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 
  2. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/26): Pitching Continues To Be Solid, Even in Losses   
    Wind Surge activate RHP Francis Peguero from 7-day injured list Mussels OF Luis Baez reinstated from the development list. Mussels INF Yohander Martinez (right groin strain) placed on the 7-day injured list. Saints Sentinel
    St. Paul 4, Omaha 6
    Box Score
    Omaha worked quickly to get on the board in the first inning with two runs off starting pitcher (aka, The Opener) Connor Sadzeck. Sadzeck was replaced by Jordan Balazovic, who also gave up two runs in the second inning to give Omaha a 4-0 lead. Balazovic went 3 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out three batters.
    The Saints offense was smothered by Omaha's Drew Parrish and couldn’t come up for air. Parrish only struck out one batter in four innings, but he only allowed two hits and no runs.. The few times that the Saints were able to get on base, they were unable to manufacture any runs and left ducks on the pond. 
    Omaha continued to control the game from the mound and in the batter's box. The Storm Chasers got another run in the fifth inning after another series of walks and singles to push Omaha ahead 5-0. 
    Austin Schulfer provided 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. Kody Funderburk gave up one run on one hit and one walk over the final 2 2/3 innings. He also had two throwing errors. 
    Tyler White hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Saints added single runs in the eighth and ninth innings but fell short in this game. 
    White, Mark Contreras, and Hernan Perez each had two hits. The Saints had eight hits and seven walks, but they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. 
    Wind Surge Wisdom
    Wichita 0, Springfield 1
    Box Score 
    There was a pitching duel in Springfield on Friday night between Wind Surge starter Aaron Rozek and Springfield’s Wilfredo Pereira and went deep into the game. Only one run was given up during the battle. Unfortunately, it was allotted to Springfield after a walk and a few singles, but Rozek reclaimed control and made it through seven innings. Rozek struck out five hitters and only allowed three hits and the one earned run. 
    The Wichita offense fell victim to Pereira’s accurate assault of the strike zone (10 strikeouts over five innings). They only recorded four hits and were shut out. It wasn’t for lack of trying. The offense was able to string together hits but were either groundouts, or flyouts. The few that got on base due to a walk or a single, were stranded on base. Shortstop Brooks Lee was stranded three times on base and left fielder Alerick Soularie stranded four times. It was an uphill battle all night for the offense, and one they couldn’t win. 
    The Surge tried their best to bring in runs in the ninth inning. Yunior Severino reached on an error, and Will Holland pinch ran for him. After a strikeout, Aaron Sabato walked, and Anthony Prato ran for him. DaShawn Keirsey ripped a line drive to center, but Holland was thrown out at the plate. The next batter grounded out and the game was over. 
    Sabato played in his first game since going on the IL after breaking a bone in his wrist on a hit-by-pitch on April 11th. He had a single and the walk. Severino knocked his first triple of the season earlier in the game but was unable to score. Keirsey had a single and a walk. The team had just five hits and three walks, but they also struck out 14 times in the game. 
    Following Rozek’s strong seven-inning performance, Michael Boyle tossed a perfect eighth frame. 
    Kernels Nuggets
    Cedar Rapids 4, Wisconsin 1
    Box Score 
    The Kernels snapped their losing streak and got a win under their belt on Friday night. The Kernels offense started the night on a steady pace scoring three runs by the fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead over Wisconsin. 
    Cameron Wagoner made the start for Wisconsin. The Kernels scored three runs (2 earned) on nine hits and a walk. In the fourth inning, there was an interesting plate appearance between Kernels infielder Ben Ross and Wagoner. They battled through a 16-pitch at-bat with Wagoner ultimately getting the “W” when Ross popped out. However, it forced the Rattlers to make a pitching change. Luis Amaya was brought in to close out the inning. 
    Kernels starter Marco Raya had another wonderful outing. Since Raya’s start on April 21st this season, his ERA has continued to drop from 6.75 to 3.07, and he hasn’t given up an earned run during the entire month of May. Raya struck out five batters in three innings and only threw 40 pitches. The 20-year-old prospect gave up no runs, hits or walks in his appearance, giving the Kernels a comfortable start to the game. 
    Raya was replaced by lefty Jordan Carr in the fourth inning and he worked six innings to finish the game. Carr kept the Rattlers from making any progress in his six innings pitched. Carr struck out six batters, and he gave up only an unearned run. 
    Kyler Fedko led the offense. He went 2-for-4 and hit his second homer of the season in the sixth inning. Andrew Cossetti had two doubles in three at-bats. He was also hit by a pitch. Emmanuel Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with his second double. 
    Mussels Matters
    GAME 1 - Fort Myers 8, Dunedin 4
    Box Score
    The Mussels had a full day Friday against the Dunedin Blue Jays. They began by completing the game that started on Thursday night but was suspended due to weather. When there is a scheduled doubleheader, both are seven-inning games. However, when a game is suspended, that game is played first and played to nine innings. The regularly-scheduled game is then a seven-inning game. 
     C.J. Culpepper gave up one run on one hit and one walk over the first two innings. Andrew Morris ‘started’ when the game resumed on Friday. He gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out three batters. Jarret Whorff recorded the save with three innings of one-run ball. He gave up two hits and three walks. 
    The bats got hot early in the game and never slowed down in the first of two games on Friday. The Mussels came out strong in the third inning running. The inning started when Alec Sayre and Dillon Tatum were both hit by pitches. Proving that they were OK, they were successful on a double steal. So when Jorel Ortega grounded out, he got an RBI. Danny De Andrade came to bat next and singled to score their second run of the inning. (This is when the game ended on Thursday and where it began on Friday.) A new pitcher entered, but Ricardo Olivar and Dalton Shuffield added back-to-back singles to bring De Andrade home. 
    Tatum doubled to score Sayre with the team’s fourth run in the fourth inning. Dunedin scored twice in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the Mussels’ lead to 4-3. However, Rubel Cespedes’s second homer of the season gave Ft. Myers a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning. The Blue Jays got a run back in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Cespedes drove in a run in the eighth frame on a fielder’s choice. 
    The Mussels added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning. Ortega singled in Sayre, and Olivar singled in Ortega. 
    Sayre had two singles, and Tatum had two doubles. Ricardo Olivar led the offense. He went 4-for-5. He also stole his seventh base of the season. And just for fun, he threw out a runner at home from his position in left field. 
    GAME 2 - Fort Myers 0, Dunedin 2
    Box Score 
    Fort Myers bats were cold throughout Game 2 of the double-header. 
    Mussels starter Cory Lewis allowed a double and a home run in the first inning, which allowed Dunedin to go ahead 2-0, but unlike Game 1, the Mussels’ bats couldn’t get anything going. 
    Third baseman Jorel Ortega provided most of the offense. In the first inning, he singled and stole second and later third base but was left stranded. He went 2-for-3 in the game to boost his batting average to .301. His second hit of the game was his 15th double of the season. 
    The Mussels continued to threaten throughout the night, even stringing together hits (Dylan Neuse and Sayre hit back-to-back singles) in the second inning, but all the gas was out of the line-up and carried through on the mound from the Blue Jays whose pitching staff only allowed four hits total and struck out 12 batters.
    Lewis and the bullpen didn’t give up any further runs throughout the remainder of Game 2, but the damage was done. The right-hander gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out seven batters. Zach Veen gave up a hit and a walk in the sixth, but no runs.  The bats were unable to create any runs to close the gap, and Lewis fell to 4-2 on the season. 
    Pitcher of the Day – Marco Raya (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5K, 40 pitches, 26 strikes)
    Hitter of the Day – Ricardo Olivar (Fort Myers Mighty Mussels) - 4-for-5, R, RBI, K   
    The Twins Prospect Tracker  is the best way to see how each of the Twin's top prospects performed during their games, but in case you wanted a quick look, Here is how each of the top 20 performed today: 
    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 1-for-4, K
    #2 - Royce Lewis (Rehab-St. Paul) - 1-for-4, BB, R, K. 
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 2-for-4, 2B(2), R
    #4 - Edouard Julien (Minnesota) - 
    #6 - Marco Raya (Cedar Rapids) - 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5K 
    #9 - Matt Wallner (Minnesota) -
    #12 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 3 K
    #14 - Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3K
    #19 - Yunior Severino (Wichita) - 1-for-4, 3B(1), K 
    Omaha @ St. Paul (7:07 PM CST) - RHP Randy Dobnak (1-1, 5.45 ERA)
    Surge @ Springfield (6:35 PM CST): RHP Travis Adams (1-4, 7.01 ERA)
    Wisconsin @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) - RHP Alejandro Hidalgo (0-1, 2.33 ERA)
    Fort Myers @ Dunedin (5:00 PM CST) - 
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Friday's games! 
  3. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Playing at 120 Percent, Royce Lewis is Ready for his Return to the Big Leagues   
    ST. PAUL – Royce Lewis had his second call-up to the Major Leagues a year ago and started in center field against the Kansas City Royals on May 29, 2022. 
    The first two innings of the game went smoothly for the Twins' top prospect, then in the top of the third, everything changed for Lewis. 
    “I remember like it was yesterday,” Lewis said. “It was just a ball hit by Emmanuel Rivera very well, that I didn't think he got a ton of, and then I realized mid-running like, ‘Oh, he got this better than I thought.’ it was bad timing on my part and a freak injury where it happened at the end." 
    He tore his ACL for the second time in a year and was out for the rest of the 2022 season. It's now been a year since that happened and his return to the big leagues is just around the corner. 
    Lewis has raked at the plate as his rehab began on May 11 hitting .333/.375/.700 (1.075) with three home runs, and nine RBI in the eight games he’s rehabbed in between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. On top of that, he’s been successful in four out of five steal attempts and flashing defensively with the glove on the left side of the infield. 
    “He seems good right now,” said St. Paul Saints manager Toby Gardenhire on Lewis. “It's always tough coming back from an injury, especially the long injuries like this one where it takes a year to come back from it. But he really hasn’t skipped too much of a beat.”
    The journey back from the second ACL tear wasn’t an easy one at first for Lewis. He said the first three days following the surgery were some of the toughest he has gone through. 
    “The next three days [post surgery] were hell. It was horrible. I would never want anyone to go through something like that, like the pain that I had. It would just hurt for the whole week, week and a half. Finally as I started walking more and moving it around more, it got better,” said Lewis. 
    While those first three weeks were painful for Lewis to get through, he would go through it all again as it’s made him stronger both physically and mentally as an athlete. 
    “I am glad I did it. It's something that you wish you never went through it, like kind of like hell week for football, right? They go and do that, and they come out of it better and stronger and better people. That's how I feel like I came out of that surgery. So I would do it 100 times over,” he said. 
    (Editor's Note: Let's hope two is the charm, and that he doesn't need a third, much less a 100th time!)
    Lewis didn’t get through the rehab off the field without help. Former Twins centerfield Torii Hunter and his son Torii Jr. were a massive help to him while he was recovering in Texas. 
    “He's the man, and he is always there to take care of everybody. He's taken care of me like another son and I couldn't thank him enough. And Torii Jr. has been the same way with me as well. I listened to both of Torii's, and if I can get any advice or wisdom for them, I'm gonna take it,” Lewis said. 
    While Lewis didn’t see any in-game action during spring training his time on the back fields built him back up to the player he’s always known himself to be. And it was during extended spring training when he knew Royce Lewis was back to full health as the player he can be. 
    “I knew I was back probably a month ago in Florida when we started doing some running stuff. They had me do everything, and it was unbelievable. We're doing way more in rehab. They're crushing you. There's no game we played, and we need to make sure you can do everything once you're in the game. So they push you to 150% where when you play at 100% in games, it makes it so much easier,” Lewis said. 
    Lewis now describes his energy as starting at 120% at the beginning of each game now. He’s feeling comfortable at the plate, in the field at third base and shortstop, and his running game is better than ever. 
    “The biggest thing is for him to keep improving, just keep getting better with his development. He's still young, he's still got a long way to go but he's got so many tools and so much talent that he can really go a long way,” said Gardenhire. 
    His performance during this rehab stint points to Lewis bringing a similar performance to his first call-up to the Twins a year ago when the Twins made the move to bring him back. He can be activated as early as Monday, landing his potential return date on the anniversary of his second ACL tear. 
    While it is in the back of his mind, it’s not holding weight on Lewis and what his performance will be day in and day out while he makes his return to the game on a full-time basis. 
    “I'm just being myself and having fun. I think honestly when I perform well, whether it's defense or offensive, that happens to go with how I'm feeling emotionally and it just tells you where I'm at emotionally and I'm so happy to be back on the diamond and just playing the game that I love and missed,” said Lewis. 
    For much, much more on Royce Lewis, click here. 
  4. Haha
    nclahammer reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Man Who Calls in Sick for Hangovers Wonders Why Correa Won’t Play Through Stabbing Pain of Plantar Fasciitis   
    Carlos Correa was already slumping. And the diagnosis of an arch strain and plantar fasciitis lends credence to the theory that he was playing through pain.
    Luke Kelso is having none of it.
    “When you sign a $200 million deal, you play through nicks and cuts,” said Kelto, who took a sick day on Friday after “going super hard” at the late-night Buffalo Wild Wings happy hour on Thursday. “Plus he’s a veteran! You’ve got a lot of young guys on that team who look up to him.”
    Plantar fasciitis is described by those who’ve experienced it as the worst pain of their lives, comparing it to knitting needles being driven into your heel. Kelso, who bailed on three consecutive March Mondays at his business machine sales job because Sunday Funday “with the boys” wiped him out, wonders if this is just a convenient excuse.
    “He’s been underperforming all season and all of a sudden he has an ouchie on his foot,” said the Hopkins native, who is the reason his previous employer no longer has a holiday party but does have a section on “Appropriate Items to Place on Copier” in their employee handbook. “Does he think we’re morons?”
    The recovery time varies from person to person. For some it’s a couple weeks of rest and therapy. For others, it’s an ongoing ordeal that lasts for months, even years, every step like walking on hot coals or having “razor blades at the bottom of my feet.”
    Kelso, who cut out early on Thursday and is “defo calling in on Friday if none of the bosses are around,” wants to know what happened to toughness.
    “Players are just soft these days,” he said from his couch.
  5. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Cody Schoenmann for an article, Can José De León Provide the Help the Bullpen Needs?   
    With once reliable relief arm Griffin Jax struggling, Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcala injured, and dread-inducing Emilio Pagán inducing dread, it feels as if the only relief arms that Twins fan can trust are Jorge López, Jhoan Duran, and, unexpectedly, Brock Stewart. With the Twins front office struggling to both find arms and maintain adequate depth, the Twins will soon have to resort to taking flyers on young arms and veterans looking for another chance at the Major League level. 
    On May 16th, the Twins selected the contract of a veteran right-handed pitcher looking for another chance at the Major League level, and that veteran's name is José De León. 
    De León, who dons number 87, last worn by shortstop Jermaine Palacios in 2022, has pitched himself to a 3.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 26 strikeouts, and 12 walks through 27.1 innings pitched with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints so far this year. Although reasonably limited, these numbers were encouraging enough for the front office to promote him and have him pitch both the sixth and seventh innings versus one of the best teams in baseball.
    The 2023 World Baseball Classic introduced many Twins fans to José De León for the first time as he threw 5 1/3 perfect innings for Puerto Rico versus Israel on just 65 pitches, which is the maximum number of pitches that are allowed to be thrown by a starting pitcher in the World Baseball Classic. Since then, De León had likely fallen off the radar for most Twins before having his contract selected by the Twins on May 16th. 
    On the surface, this addition to the 26-man roster may seem uninspiring, but what if José De León, unlike the Derek Laws and Jharel Cottons of years past, can, similarly to Brock Stewart, become a reliable setup man? This proposition may seem ludicrous on the surface. Still, during his first two relief appearances with the Twins, De León showed flashes of possessing the ability to handle mid-to-late high-level relief situations. 
    De León, who made his Twins’ debut in the sixth inning of a tied game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 17th, struck out James Outman on five pitches, got Chris Taylor to lineout in nine pitches, and got Trayce Thompson to pop out to the catcher on three pitches to end the innings. Over his first inning of relief work for the Twins, De León looked effective in utilizing a sinker that hovered around 95 MPH as well as an 80-81 MPH slider that was effective against the right-handed hitting Taylor and Thompson.
    De León's next inning started out even more encouraging than his first as he struck out former MVPs Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman on three straight pitches. Not many pitchers can say they struck out Betts and Freeman back-to-back on just six pitches. Unfortunately, the wheels began to fall off after the impressive beginning of his second inning of relief work. After striking out Freeman, De León gave up a first-pitch single to arguably the best catcher in baseball in Will Smith, another single to Max Muncy, and was pulled for the soon-to-implode Pagán. Of course, those baserunners were charged to De León's ERA. 
    De León's second relief appearance had similar results to his first. On May 21st, while facing the Los Angeles Angels, De León replaced López in the bottom of the seventh inning and was met with facing Shohei Ohtani with a runner on third and only one out. De León started the at-bat off by getting ahead of Ohtani with a 95 MPH fastball. De León then got Ohtani to chop into a weakly hit ground ball to second baseman Donovan Solano, which led to Solano throwing Angels left-fielder Mickey Moniak out at home on a 4-2 fielder's choice. De León then got Angels right-fielder Hunter Renfroe to strike out on an 80 MPH changeup, ending the once daunting threat. 
    De Leon's next inning was similar to his first relief appearance against the Dodgers. After getting Jared Walsh to ground out on just two pitches, De León gave up an opposite-field single to former Minnesota Twin Gio Urshela. In the next at-bat, while facing Luis Rengifo, Ryan Jeffers threw down to second base attempting to throw out a stealing Urshela. Jeffers errant throw skipped past Carlos Correa, which led to Urshela being able to take third base on Jeffers' throwing error.
    Despite having Urshela on third base with only one out, De León persevered and got Rengifo to ground out to second base. With two outs and an end to his second inning of relief in sight, De León gave up an RBI triple to Matt Thaiss, which grew the Twins' deficit to 2-4. Despite giving up an RBI triple, De León was able to hone in and get Zach Neto to strike out on an 85 MPH changeup.  
    Although De León ended his first two appearances on a relatively negative note, his first 3.1 innings of work, and particularly how effective he looked against Betts, Freeman, and Ohtani, gave traction to the idea that De León could potentially become a reliable relief option for the Twins, which is something they desperately need in this particular moment of the season. De León's fastball, which head analyst Justin Morneau tabbed as a sinker, looked especially effective, as it sunk in on both right-handed and left-handed hitters. De León's slider, which he appeared to have some control issues with, was a valuable complement to his sinker as he induced the handful of the righties he faced to chase it as it slid low and outside, and De León’s changeup, which he used much against the Angels than he versus the Dodgers, looked extremely effective as Angels hitters were caught swinging through it multiple times.
    De León, who this Twins front office has been enamored with since they were discussing trade packages with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Brian Dozier in 2018, was impressive for most of his first two relief outings with the Minnesota Twins. Now, the only question is if he, like Stewart, can continue to impress and capitalize on his opportunities to where he can supplant himself as a reliable relief option for the Twins. 
  6. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Steve Lein for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/23): Carlos Aguiar Flexes His Mussels   
    With OF Trevor Larnach heading to the IL with the Minnesota Twins, #OneOfUs OF Matt Wallner was recalled to the majors from the St. Paul Saints in his place. In an odd scheduling quirk, Wallner started (and finished) Tuesday’s game for the Saints, and was available for the Twins vs. San Francisco at Target Field (where he was hit by a pitch in a pinch-hit appearance). In double-A, the Wind Surge activated OF Alerick Soularie and 1B Aaron Sabato, while also transferring OF Armani Smith to the Development List. The Cedar Rapids Kernels released C Charles Mack, and in his place assigned early-season standout C Andrew Cossetti from Fort Myers. In a corresponding move with Cossetti’s promotion, C Frank Nigro was assigned to the Mighty Mussels from the FCL Twins roster. SAINTS SENTINEL
    Omaha 6, St. Paul 1
    Box Score
    In a matinee affair at CHS Field in St. Paul, the Storm Chasers rode a pair of major league rehabbers to a 6-1 victory on Tuesday.
    Omaha starting pitcher Daniel Lynch has made 42 starts for the Kansas City Royals over the last two years (including a 1-3 record against the Twins in seven starts) but has not appeared in the majors yet this season as he returns from injury. He took his Twins organization frustrations out on the Saints this afternoon, spinning six innings of shutout baseball, allowing just three hits and striking out five.
    In opposition, St. Paul sent right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson to the hill, looking to get on track in his 2023 campaign. Unfortunately, he didn’t come close to matching his fellow major leaguer. He pitched into the fifth inning, but finished his day with four-plus innings pitched, allowing five earned runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out three. After the outing, his triple-A ERA sits at 7.12 and you have to hope his stuff takes over sooner rather than later.
    On the offensive side, the rehabbing Drew Waters was also a menace to the Saints. He finished 4-for-5 with two doubles and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot, proving to be a catalyst for the Storm Chasers all game.
    The home team didn’t cross the plate until the ninth inning, when Matt Wallner led off with a single, moved to third on a Chris Williams double, and scored on a groundout off the bad of Andrew Bechtold. The Saints managed just six hits on the game, with Williams’ double being the only extra-base-hit. Ryan LaMarre finished 2-for-4, but as a team, St. Paul went just 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left only seven men on base for the game.
    After Woods Richardson’s four-plus innings, Patrick Murphy (2 IP, BB, 4 K), Kody Funderburk (1 1/3 IP, BB, 3 K), and Austin Schulfer (1 2/3 IP, 2 H, ER, K) finished out the game for the Saints pitching staff.
    In #OldFriend news, lefty Evan Sisk pitched two innings of relief for the Storm Chasers, allowing one hit, walking two, and striking out two of his former teammates.
    Wichita 3, Springfield 8
    Box Score
    The Wichita Wind Surge visit Springfield, Missouri, this week, a town I have spent quite a bit of time in, to face the Cardinals at the underrated Hammons Field downtown.
    Unfortunately, they and starter Carlos Luna were greeted by the Texas League’s home run leader, Chandler Redmond, and the rest of the Cardinal faithful. Redmond clubbed two home runs in the contest, driving in four, to take down Wichita.
    Starter Carlos Luna went the first four innings, surrendering one of those homers and allowing four total earned runs on six hits, while striking out two. Hunter McMahon gave up one run on three hits in two innings. Lefty Michael Boyle was the next victim for Redmond, resulting in three earned runs on three hits and one walk in his lone inning. He struck out one. Osiris German finished off the game for the Wind Surge with a scoreless bottom of the eighth, striking out one.
    All three of Wichita’s runs came in the fourth inning as they closed the early Springfield lead to 4-3. Jake Rucker, Yunior Severino, and Alex Isola loaded the bases with singles to start the inning, and Anthony Prato drove in two with a single of his own before a sac fly from Alerick Soularie capped their scoring.
    Rucker finished 3-for-4 with a run scored, and Isola 2-for-4 with a double and run scored to lead the lineup.
    Wisconsin 8, Cedar Rapids 4
    Box Score
    In positive notes from this game, starter Pierson Ohl was able to finish 5 2/3 innings for the Kernels, though most of those came after he had already allowed five runs in the first two. From the third through the fifth, Ohl had seemed to settle in, taking advantage of the Timber Rattler's aggressive nature, but a pair of two-out walks in the sixth finally ended his night. Charlie Neuweiler came on from the bullpen and gave up a single, and both those runners then scored after a throwing error from outfielder Willie Joe Garry Jr. In all, Ohl was charged with seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and two walks, but did notch seven punch-outs.
    Neuweiler went on to finish 2 1/3 innings, retiring seven in a row, and allowed just the one hit, while striking out three. Matthew Swain came on for the ninth and gave up an unearned run after a pair of singles and an error, striking out two.
    Emmanuel Rodriguez tied the game at one in the bottom of the first with a solo home run, his fifth of the season. In the bottom of the sixth Noah Cardenas led off with a double and was driven in by Garry Jr. with a single. The Kernels added single runs in the seventh and ninth innings thanks to Kala’i Rosario, with an RBI single and solo home run, respectively.
    Despite being outhit 12-8, the Kernels had 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position compared to the Timber Rattler's five, but the visiting team picked up four hits compared to their two in those situations.
    Rosario (2-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K) and Cardenas (2-for-4, R, 2B, BB) each had two hits in the game, while Tanner Schobel, Garry Jr. (2), Ben Ross, and Rosario picked up stolen bases.
    Fort Myers 13, Dunedin 3
    Box Score
    The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels blew out the Dunedin Blue Jays on Tuesday night behind a big fifth inning in which 14 batters stepped to the plate, and five of them hit home runs.
    Before we get to that, however, Dunedin had taken the lead against Fort Myers starter Develson Aria, who allowed three earned runs on two hits and a pair of walks, while striking out just one. The Mighty Mussels had two runs of their own to that point thanks to a solo home run from Carlos Aguiar to lead off the fourth, and a Dylan Neuse RBI single later in the frame.
    Aguiar’s first blast was a harbinger, both for his team, and himself. Because in the fifth inning, he and the squad flexed every mighty muscle they had.
    Jorel Ortega led off with a solo home run, his third of the season. After a Danny De Andrade single, Ricardo Olivar and Aguiar went yard back-to-back. Two batters later, Rafael Cruz hit his first home run of the year, a two-run shot. Three singles, a walk, and wild pitch later, Aguiar clubbed his third home run of the game, and second of the inning, a three-run shot to make it 13-3 in the visiting team's favor.
    After that outburst, the Fort Myers bullpen trio of Ricky Mineo (W, 2 IP, 2 BB, 2 K), Danny Moreno (2 IP, H, 2 K), and Jackson Hicks (1 IP, H, BB, K) shut out the Blue Jays the rest of the way.
    Joining Aguiar (3-for-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI) with multiple hits in the contest were Ortega (2-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB), Olivar (2-for-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K), Cruz (2-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, K) and Neuse (3-for-4, R, RBI, K). All hitters in the starting lineup except Rubel Cespedes reached base at least once and scored a run. Be sure to check out this one’s box score to catch it all.
    Pitcher of the Day - Patrick Murphy, St. Paul Saints (2 IP, BB, 4 K)
    Hitter of the Day - Carlos Aguiar, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (3-for-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, BB)
    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 0-for-4, K
    #2 - Royce Lewis (Rehab-St. Paul) - 0-for-4, K
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, R, HR, RBI, BB, K
    #4 - Edouard Julien (Minnesota) - 0-for-4, 2 K
    #7 - Simeon Woods Richardson (St. Paul) - 4+ IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
    #9 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul / Minnesota) - 1-for-4, R, K / HBP (pinch-hit appearance)
    #12 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 2 K
    #13 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-5, 2 K
    #19 - Yunior Severino (Wichita) - 1-for-3, R, BB, K
    Omaha @ St. Paul (7:07 PM CDT) - LHP Brent Headrick (1-1, 4.94 ERA)
    Wichita @ Springfield (6:35 PM CDT) - RHP Blayne Enlow (1-1, 3.28 ERA)
    Wisconsin @ Cedar Rapids  (12:05 PM CDT) - LHP Jaylen Nowlin (2-3, 4.06 ERA)
    Fort Myers @ Dunedin (6:00 PM CDT) - TBD
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!
  7. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, How Can the Twins Be This Unfathomably Bad with the Bases Loaded?   
    Despite owning a 25-21 record, Rocco Baldelli’s team is seen to be even better by using the Pythagorean win-loss evaluation. With 217 runs scored and 172 runs allowed, their record could be as strong as 28-18, which would put them comfortably ahead of the competition. Although that evaluation is reflective of only actual results, it’s hard to overlook the missed opportunities for Minnesota.
    A season ago it seemed that the Twins struggled mightily with runners in scoring position. They had a slash line of .244/.319/.385 which produced a .704 OPS. That came in nearly 40 points lower than the league average .741 OPS and was a big reason why the club could seemingly never came back from deficits. They weren’t much better with the bases loaded, producing a .716 OPS in comparison to the .758 league average, but they’d beg for those numbers in 2023.
    Through the first 47 games this season, the Twins are an astounding 5-for-43 with the bases loaded, and have produced a paltry .289 OPS in those spots. Not a single batter has recorded an extra-base hit, and Twins hitters have an 13/4 K/BB in those spots. With a league average .737 OPS when the bases are loaded, it’s hard to quantify just how terrible Minnesota has been.
    What makes things a bit more puzzling is that Minnesota’s struggle seem to be isolated just to when the sacks are full. If there are runners in scoring position, essentially keeping first base free, the Twins shine. Their .871 OPS in those scenarios is more than 100 points better than the .749 league average. Converting runners on second and third base is how teams build leads, but the Twins apparently don’t want to just blow things open.
    When discussing high leverage the term clutch is often mentioned. That’s a difficult term to put into numbers, but Baseball Reference does so by looking into win probability added and assessing situations. With two outs and runners in scoring position the Twins have a ridiculous .952 OPS this year. They have clubbed 25 extra-base hits in those spots with 12 of them being home runs. That number is more than 200 points above the league average .735 OPS and shows they can get the job done when an inning is on the line.
    It’s hard to believe just how bad Minnesota is with an extra runner on, and it’s worth wondering if the pitcher is more locked in with nowhere to put the batter. The Twins are even worse when they have more leeway afforded to themselves. With no outs and the bases full, they are a stunning 0-for-7. With one out they are 2-for-12, and with two outs they are just 3-for-24.
    At some point it would stand to reason that positive regression can come from Minnesota. After all, it’s unlikely that a good team performs so poorly in key spots over the course of a full season. What is concerning though, is that the approach for many Twins batters trends towards a negative outcome in big spots. Only the Giants and Mariners strike out at a higher clip than Minnesota, and the Twins 12.8% whiff rate is the highest in baseball. If pitchers know they can get the ball by Baldelli’s hitters when it matters most, avoiding damage is easier to do.
    Clearly manufacturing runs is not the problem for Minnesota given their results with runners in scoring position. They shouldn’t be looking to chip away at bases loaded opportunities by opting for sacrifice bunts. Instead, players that come up have to be looking for an opportunity to put the ball in play and generate action rather than clearing the bases altogether.
    There is no greater opportunity to blow a game open than when you have an opposing pitcher on the ropes. This season we have watched Minnesota allow the opposition to escape jams and keep games close more times than anyone wants to count. Flipping more of those scenarios in a positive manner will undoubtedly lead to tallies in the win column, and if it’s a trend that can be ended quickly, there’s still plenty of runway to benefit for the rest of the year.
  8. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, One Pitcher From Each Minor League Level That Deserves a Promotion   
    Even though we’re less than two months into the minor league season, we’re getting to the point where sample sizes for prospects start to require more serious discussion in terms of what comes next. Whether the organization decides to reward them with a promotion to the game’s next level is very much up in the air. But at the very least, the players are getting the attention of the Twins’ top-brass. Here are three players that should be in the conversation when the time comes to adjust the competition level. 
    Pierson Ohl (High-A Cedar Rapids Kernels)
    After being drafted in the 14th-round of the 2021 draft, Ohl made only one appearance for the Florida complex league. But before that, he was a three-year starter for Grand Canyon University, where he started a total of 35 games. He had a career ERA of 2.99 in college, and while he didn’t get the fanfare of some other college arms in that draft class, he showed some strengths that led him to a professional career. In his final collegiate season, Ohl threw just over 100 innings of 2.60 ERA ball and averaged just over a strikeout per inning. Baseball America liked his plus-changeup and usable curveball, saying he was “the textbook example of a pitcher thriving on pitchability to compensate for a below-average fastball.”
    Without the comfort of a big heater, Ohl had to develop his off-speed as a swing-and-miss offering. He’s always been a pitcher with strong control, averaging just 1.3 walks per nine innings at GCU. That has carried over to professional ball, and has even reached new heights in his second year with the Twins Organization (0.69 BB/9). 
    All in all, Ohl has a 2.77 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate and just two walks in the season’s first month. Yes, that’s a small sample, but players with three or more seasons at the collegiate level under their belts tend to progress quickly – or not at all. If Ohl keeps pitching like he has thus far, a promotion to Double-A Wichita is a reasonable jump since he’s going to turn 24-years-old later this summer. 
    Blayne Enlow (Double-A Wichita Wind Surge)
    There was much ballyhoo in January when the Twins placed Enlow on outright waivers. He was the odd man out when the club needed to make room on the 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Oliver Ortega. The logic behind the decision was sound, as the team needed to bring in some competition for their bullpen spots, and Enlow was still easing back into his development after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021. 
    He had become somewhat of an afterthought on the depth chart, but many were still disappointed to see him cut from the roster. After all, he was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft and was touted as a first-round talent that only slipped due to signability concerns. The Twins were able to give him an over-slot offer after saving some funds by taking Royce Lewis first overall. They liked Enlow for his lethal curveball and his big-league starter upside coming out of high school.
    Now in 2023, he’s starting to show flashes of that potential in the upper-minors. Through seven starts with Double-A Wichita, the 24-year-old right-hander has a solid 3.28 ERA, but he’s striking out 31.8% of opponents and limiting his walks back to the levels he was showing pre-surgery. He had a rough go results-wise upon returning to the hill last season, especially when it came to control (11.6% walk rate), so it’s nice to see him button this up so far in 2023 with just a 6.8% walk rate. 
    Now that more time has passed since his procedure, he’s showing why fans were worried about another team claiming him when he was outrighted. He’s benefitted from adding a pitch to his repertoire – something he has in common with a handful of arms on the Twins’ staff.
    “Like several other Twins pitchers, he’s added a sweeper to the mix this year, giving him five usable offerings and some potential for untapped upside as he gets more comfortable with it,” Aaron Gleeman said in a recent piece for The Athletic. “Durability and consistency will be key, but Enlow is still young enough to get back on the prospect map.”
    Jordan Balazovic (Triple-A St. Paul Saints)
    The former fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft has lost some of his luster since being a back-end Top 100 prospect a few years ago. He battled various injuries, most notably a left knee injury that affected his delivery for much of last season. He was then sidelined for the first few weeks of spring training after breaking his jaw in an off-field incident. It was a real punch to the face for the 24-year-old, both figuratively and literally. 
    But Balazovic has found a way to put the past behind him, and has had an impressive first month at Triple-A with the Saints. On the year, he has a 2.89 ERA across 18 ⅔ innings pitched. He has made eight appearances (three starts), and seems to be the ideal candidate for the Twins’ desire to find a crop of arms to be bulk relievers. If all goes well, he’ll get a promotion to the major league club as a low-leverage reliever that can sop up innings if a starter departs early, or if the score gets out of reach for either team. 
    And by all accounts, all is going well so far for Balazovic. His strikeout numbers are strong (12.5 K/9) thanks to a very strong 14.6% swinging-strike rate, and he’s only allowed one home run, which was his biggest crux in 2022 when he allowed 20 bombs. Scouts praise his curveball as his best offering, and his splitter draws solid marks, as well. If he can limit the damage done against his fastball, he’ll take the next step as an MLB-ready arm entering the prime seasons of his career. 
    What do you think? Are we going to see any of these three at the next level in 2023? Who else has impressed you enough to deserve a promotion? Let us know what you think in the comment section below. 
  9. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, What’s the Twins Center Field Contingency Plan?   
    Minnesota’s front office had a clear roster plan when addressing the team’s center field depth. The club traded for Michael A. Taylor this winter to provide depth and defensive flexibility in the outfield. Expectations were for Nick Gordon and Joey Gallo to have the ability to play in center depending on the pitching match-up. 
    Gordon went on the IL earlier this week after fouling a pitch off his leg. He fractured his right shin and will be sidelined for multiple weeks. It’s a tough break for Gordon, who was looking to build off a strong 2022 season where he posted a 111 OPS+ in 136 games. His 2023 season was off to a slow start (.143 BA in April), but he had raised his batting average by over 50 points in May. Now, the Twins will need to look at other center-field options. 
    Gordon had been getting more playing time in center because Taylor was dealing with a sore back. In his age-32 season, Taylor has seen some ups and downs with his performance. Through April, he hit .244/.294/.419 (.712) with three doubles and four home runs. Since May 1, his OPS has dropped to .583 as he’s been limited to one extra-base hit. His back has been an issue recently, likely tied to his decreased offensive production. The Twins can hope his back improves, but that seems unlikely if he is forced to play more regularly with Gordon on the IL. 
    Byron Buxton is the other elephant in the room. When healthy, Buxton is one of baseball’s top defenders in center field. He has yet to play a defensive inning because the club wants him in the lineup as much as possible. He’s played in 40-of-44 games to start the year while posting a 128 OPS+ and ranking sixth in fWAR among DHs. He may play in center field later this season, but Buxton and the team have to be happy with his abundant availability so far in 2023. 
    Gallo and Willi Castro are the only players on the big-league roster who have seen time in center field. Center field isn’t the optimal defensive position for either of these players. Castro can play nearly every defensive position, but he’s stretched in center field. The Twins needed Gallo at first base while Alex Kirilloff was returning from injury, and he’s won Gold Gloves in both corner outfield spots. Like Gordon, Gallo left Wednesday’s game after fouling a ball off his shin, but he didn’t suffer a fracture. Minnesota would likely call someone up before giving either of these players significant innings in center field. 
    Royce Lewis is rehabbing at Triple-A in the minor leagues, but the team plans to use him at shortstop and third base. Also, he can't be activated from the 60-day IL until the last day of the May. Also, last season, he tore his ACL for the second consecutive season when playing center field. It doesn’t seem out of the question for the Twins to reevaluate whether he can be used in center field in the future, but third base might be his best chance for regular playing time at the big-league level this season.  
    Austin Martin, one of the team’s top prospects, would be a prime candidate to see time in center field. However, the team shut him down during spring training with a UCL sprain. He has yet to resume baseball activities, and there is a chance that he will need surgery. Like Martin, Gilberto Celestino injured himself this spring, or he might be in the center field conversation. He ruptured the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, which has a recovery period of 6-8 weeks. It has been over eight weeks since his surgery, and he hasn’t begun a rehab assignment. 
    At Triple-A, Andrew Stevenson and Mark Contreras have seen the bulk of playing time in center field. Stevenson is a 29-year-old signed with the Twins this winter after playing eight seasons in the Nationals organization. The former second-round pick is hitting .276/.372/.391 (.762) with seven extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 31 games. Contreras played 28 games for the Twins in 2022 and posted a 22 OPS+ with 21 strikeouts. He’s off to a strong start with the Saints this year with ten doubles, five home runs, ten steals, and an .888 OPS. Contreras might be the best option from Triple-A if the Twins need a center-field replacement, especially because he hits left-handed.
    Many fans will call for Buxton to start getting reps in center field, but that seems unlikely. Will the Twins need more center-field depth in 2023? Who is the next best option? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Adam Friedman for an article, Should the Twins Have Signed a Reliever in Free Agency?   
    Many viewed the Twins' bullpen as a strength heading into this season, which was reasonable given the strong group at the top: Jhoan Duran, Jorge López, Griffin Jax, and Caleb Thielbar. While those guys are excellent, it seemed clear that for the bullpen to shine, it needed improved performances from a combination of Emilio Pagán, Jovani Moran, or Jorge Alcala. If they didn't step it up, an injury to one of the top four could be catastrophic, and beyond the injury concerns, a team needs more than four reliable relievers to succeed. 
    While the Twins may have uncovered a hidden gem in Brock Stewart, it does not seem enough for the bullpen to thrive, with none of Pagán, Moran, or Alcala inspiring much confidence and Thielbar injured for now. The Twins are 23rd in relief pitcher xFIP in all of baseball, indicating they are lucky to be 12th in relief pitcher ERA. 
    On Wednesday, the group's apparent weakness reared its ugly head when the Twins had a one-run lead over the Dodgers, with seemingly none of the back four available. Without their services available, Twins fans were subjected to a familiar sight- Pagán blowing the lead via a home run- in this case, a grand slam. 
    With the lack of bullpen depth and the mystifying decision to bring him back, Pagán blowing a game isn't a shock. Many analysts advocated that the Twins add a reliever in free agency, but they chose not to sign a single reliever on a major league contract. That decision begs the question: how are the free-agent relievers doing in 2023? Could they have improved the Twins' bullpen?
    The Expensive Signings ($10 million+ AAV)
    This Twins front office has been reluctant to invest financially in the free agent reliever market, and when they have done it, it yielded poor results. Relievers can be highly volatile, so investing large sums of money in them is risky, but it can certainly pay off. 
    The 2023 free agent class had six pitchers sign $10 million per year contracts or more- four of those signings being for multiple years. The four pitchers who received multiyear contracts are Edwin Diaz, Kenley Jansen, Rafael Montero, and Taylor Rogers. David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel each signed a one-year, $10 million deal. Diaz suffered a season-ending injury celebrating at the World Baseball Classic after becoming the first $100 million reliever, and Montero was resigned quickly by Houston. Rogers, Jansen, Kimbrel, and Robertson are the only four of the group who were seemingly available to the Twins and with any performance to evaluate in 2023. 
    Rogers, Kimbrel, and Jansen have all been underwhelming- with ERAs of 4.72, 6.60, and 4.26. However, all have produced batted ball metrics indicating they've been above average but unlucky- with Jansen having an outstanding xERA of 3.06. He's probably the only of the three that would've been a worthwhile investment- but $32 million over two years is expensive for somebody with a 4.26 ERA- regardless of the underlying numbers. 
    Robertson, on the other hand, has been one of the best relievers in the league. He's posted a dazzling 0.95 ERA with a 98th percentile xERA of 2.03. All that for $10 million is certainly worth it. It's an improvement on last season but not particularly surprising because he was also one of the better relievers in 2022. If not priced out, the Twins should have been at least interested in Robertson's services- and he would have improved the current bullpen.
    Middle-Priced Options (Less Than $10 Million AAV) 
    This group of relievers is much larger and not necessarily worth discussing in individualized detail. Still, it is worthwhile to see what options would've worked out and which might've been failed signings had the Twins brought them.
    The group of pitchers who have been successful in 2023 in this price range is surprisingly large. Matt Moore, Adam Ottavino, Carlos Estevez, Andrew Chafin, Chris Martin, and even Aroldis Chapman have all been at least well above average by xERA. Assuming their performance would be the same for the Twins, all of those pitchers would have massively improved the Twins' bullpen. It's also unsurprising that Moore and Chafin are thriving- given their strong 2022 seasons. 
    Admittedly, a few relievers signed in this price range have been poor or injured- so the Twins would have had to choose the right guy. But, surprisingly, at least so far, most of the relief pitchers signed for between $3 million and $10 million have had strong 2023 seasons, so it would have been hard to miss. Michael Fulmer, Pierce Johnson, and Trevor May (who was awful before getting injured) would have hurt this bullpen group. Still, it seems the Twins, had they spent Pagán's $3.5 million or more on a different reliever, would have helped a group that needs it. 
    Consequences of Not Signing at Least One Reliever 
    Choosing not to invest heavily in the bullpen via free agency has been a constant throughout the current regime's tenure. However, signing zero relievers to a major league deal is a new extreme. By choosing not to add bullpen depth, the Twins likely will lose a few extra games between now and the trade deadline, which could be costly for a team gunning for the playoffs. 
    Further, barring breakouts from internal options or waivers, they will need to trade for at least one reliever at the deadline. Any trade will cost them prospect capital, and they'll have to pay a couple of months of that pitcher's salary anyway. The cost at the deadline to add needed bullpen help will likely be steeper than it would have been this winter. It is clear now that not adding a single reliever was a mistake, but it remains to be seen just how costly.
  11. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Time for Twins to Address the Elephant in the Room   
    Emilio Pagan is still a Minnesota Twin. Calls for his release by fans date back to his implosion when he blew three games against the divisional foes Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians. 
    He started the month of June 2022 with an even 3.00 ERA, by the end of the month it was an alarming 5.26. From the moment Pagan had that last blown lead on June 28 against Cleveland, every Twins fan’s brow begins to sweat mercilessly as he enters a game. 
    There have been flashes of his upside since then, but almost a year after that horrific month of June, Pagan is in a similar boat. Wednesday afternoon in the series finale against the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers, Pagan was brought into the game in the bottom of the seventh to replace Jose De Leon who had two runners on with two outs. 
    The first batter Pagan faced was the resurging Jason Heyward; he walked him on six pitches. Bases were now loaded with two outs, and the rookie Miguel Vargas came to the plate. He was walked on five pitches, the game was now tied 3-3. 
    Then the moment of terror, speaking truth from the old baseball adage ‘Walks will haunt’, and they did. Fellow Dodgers rookie James Outman didn’t need to see anything beyond Pagan’s 95.4 MPH fastball. He crushed a grand slam to center field, securing the Dodgers' 7-3 victory over the Twins. 
    Entering the game with a 4.15 ERA, the grand slam ballooned it to a 5.60 ERA. Pagan’s efforts to improve himself after an atrocious long relief outing on April 20, in which he gave up six runs to the Red Sox, turned to ash with that grand slam.
    Is this the moment the Twins finally cut ties with fans' greatest source of frustration in the bullpen? It may be.
    Every single pitch in his arsenal has dipped in velocity, minus his curveball (up to 81.2 from 80.4 average in 2022). Hitters are also making better contact against his pitches with a wOBA of .356 against his fastball, .612 against his splitter, and .333 against a curveball. The only pitch Pagan has made harder for hitters to see is his cutter, which has a .111 wOBA against 100 hitters. 
    There are also young arms in St. Paul posting great numbers itching for their first or second opportunity in the Majors. Jordan Balazovic has redeemed himself from his dreadful 2022 season with a 2.89 ERA in 18 2/3 innings pitched. Brent Headrick has had a 3.24 in 8 1/3 innings with the Twins and they are still lacking a lefty in the bullpen with Caleb Thielbar on the IL. 
    Between the pitch arsenal seeing an overall drop in velocity, young arms waiting in the wings, and a continual number of outings where leads and tied games are blown. The time to cut Pagan has never been clearer, and if the Twins don’t go through with it, the fans will make them hear about it until they do. 

  12. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/18): Enlow Excites Again   
    Alex De Gotti reinstated from Development List for Triple-A Ryan LaMarre reinstated from Development List for Triple-A Elliot Soto placed on IL for Triple-A with right thigh strain Alerick Soularie placed on Temporary Inactive List SAINTS SENTINEL 
    Columbus 2, St. Paul 1
    Box Score
    Brent Headrick took the ball tonight for the Saints, and having gotten work for the Twins already this season, his goal was to hold serve and show he belonged. Working six innings of two-run baseball, Headrick did just that. He gave up only four hits while walking none and striking out seven on the evening. Ronny Henriquez, who was recently optioned following a rehab assignment, worked two hitless innings with four strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk.
    After getting behind on a second inning double, the Saints answered with a Hernan Perez sac fly that drove in Andrew Stevenson. Making it a 2-1 game, that’s as close as the good guys would get.

    Rehabbing Royce Lewis went 0-for-3 with a strikeout on the evening. Only Edouard Julien was able to pick up a pair of hits. With Kyle Garlick kept off of the lineup card, it stands to reason he’ll be called up for Minnesota in place on Nick Gordon on Friday.
    Wichita 6, Arkansas 2
    Box Score
    Making another start for the Wind Surge, Blayne Enlow was again dominant. Lasting 5 1/3 innings, the right-hander allowed only a single run on six hits while punching out ten. The run came on a solo blast and he dropped his ERA to 3.28 in the process.
    Anthony Prato put Wichita on the board in the third inning with a two run blast that scored Will Holland. Robbie Tenerowicz made things interesting in the 4th inning with a solo blast, but from there the Wind Surge ran and hid.
    David Banuelos blasted his third homer of the season in the fifth inning to make it 3-1, and then he drew a bases loaded walk in the sixth inning to plate Alex Isola and make it 4-1. Jake Rucker lifted a seventh-inning sacrifice fly to make it 5-1 and Wichita was able to weather an eighth inning solo blast by Jonatan Clase.
    Banuelos was again involved in run production when his eight-inning double play pushed DaShawn Keirsey Jr. across the plate. Not necessarily needing the breathing room, it was 6-2 Wichita.
    Yunior Severino grabbed a pair of hits on the evening and his lone multi-hit effort was enough to get it done.
    Cedar Rapids 6, Peoria 4
    Box Score
    The Kernels turned to Jaylen Nowlin tonight and he gave them six innings of solid work. Allowing just three runs on six hits, the Cedar Rapids starter issued no free passes while punching out four.
    All of the Peoria runs off of Nowling came in the first inning. Getting behind 3-0 in the opening frame, he had work to do. Buckling down, Nowlin allowed the offense to pick him up.
    In the bottom of the second inning Jose Salas singled in Kala’i Rosario to get on the scoreboard. Then Willie Joe Garry Jr. plated Noah Miller on a groundout before Jeferson Morales singled in Salas to bring Cedar Rapids even.
    Having scuffled since being activated from the injured list, Emmanuel Rodriguez made his presence known with a solo blast that put the good guys ahead. An inning later, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Tanner Schobel singled to drive in Morales and make it a 5-3 lead. Ben Ross scored on a sixth inning wild pitch, and while Cedar Rapids gave a run back in the seventh inning, they still led by enough to make this one predictable.
    Rodriguez grabbed a pair of hits on the evening and he was joined by Rosario in that column.
    Fort Myers 2, Lakeland 1
    Box Score
    C.J. Culpepper started tonight’s game for the Mighty Mussels but he went just a single inning while allowing no baserunners and punching out one. Ricky Mineo then came in and pitched 2 2/3 innings while allowing just a single run on four hits. He struck out three and the one run came on a solo shot from Lakeland’s Mike Rothenberg.
    It took a bit for the Mighty Mussels to answer but Mikey Perez singled in Alec Sayre in the sixth inning to even things up. Perez then showed up again in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly that plated Maddux Houghton and Fort Myers found themselves ahead.
    Pitcher of the Day – Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - 5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
    Hitter of the Day – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 2-4, R, RBI, HR(4), BB
    We will again keep tabs on the Twins top prospects. You’ll probably read about them in the team sections, but if they aren’t there, you’ll see how they did here. 
    Here’s a look at how the current Twins Daily Top 20 performed:
    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 0-3, BB, K
    #2 - Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - 0-3, K 
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 2-4, R, RBI, HR(4), BB
    #5 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 2-4, 2B, 2 K
    #8 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4, R, RBI, K
    #11 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 3-4, K
    #14 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4, R, K
    #17 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - 2.0 IP, 4 K
    #18 - Tanner Schobel (Cedar Rapids) - 1-3, RBI, BB
    St. Paul @ Columbus (6:05PM CST) - RHP Aaron Sanchez
    Arkansas @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) - RHP David Festa
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) - RHP Marco Raya
    Fort Myers @ Lakeland (5:30PM CST) - TBD
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Thursday’s games!
  13. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Trevor Plouffe: From Fan Favorite to Media Star   
    The Twins drafted Trevor Plouffe with the 20th overall selection in the 2004 MLB Draft out of high school in California. He moved quickly through the Twins' system and reached Double-A in 2007, where he was over four years younger than the average age of the competition. Offensively, he never posted an OPS higher than .740 until his third season at Triple-A. In his age-25 season, he finally seemed to put it all together in 2011 when he hit .313/.384/.635 (1.019) with 11 doubles, three triples, and 15 home runs 
    Plouffe's big-league debut came in 2010 when he struggled through his first 22 games. He went 6-for-41 (.146 BA) with three extra-base hits and a 14-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 2011, he got his first extended look at the big-league level and posted a 91 OPS+ in 81 games. Over most of the next decade, he became a regular in the Twins' line-up. Plouffe posted an OPS+ of 102 or higher in three out of four seasons from 2012-2015, including two seasons with 20+ homers. His most valuable season was in 2014, when he finished with a 4.2 WAR, which ranked third on the Twins behind Brian Dozier and Phil Hughes. 
    He bounced to four organizations over his final two seasons, including Oakland, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and Texas. He played 100 games in 2017 for the As and Rays but struggled offensively by hitting .198/.272/.318 (.590) with 16 extra-base hits. His final seven big-league games came in a Phillies uniform, where he went 3-for-12 with one home run and six strikeouts. His final home run was a 16th-inning walk-off home run versus Dodgers' Kike Hernandez. In 2019, he was a non-roster invitee to Phillies spring training and informed them that he planned to retire instead of toiling at Triple-A. 
    Plouffe searched for his place in the baseball world in his post-playing career. The Twins and Bally Sports North initially approached Plouffe about a television role before the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the pandemic changed many plans for baseball that year, and Plouffe found a different media avenue. He started collaborating with Jomboy Media because of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, and his role grew from there. 
    He has become a regular on Talkin' Baseball to give insights into a former player's perspective on issues (sign stealing, labor negotiations, etc.) while also interviewing current players about the game. Jomboy has over 1.75 million subscribers on YouTube and is regularly ranked as the most downloaded baseball podcast. Media has continued to evolve in recent years, with baseball fans searching for other avenues to consume content. Jomboy is one of those outlets, and Plouffe has helped to continue the company's growth. 
    Plouffe's role with BSN will continue to evolve throughout the season. While the Twins are in California, he will provide on-field insights similar to what fans have seen in the Dodgers series. BSN also plans to use him for spots after the Twins leave the West Coast. These appearances could be part of the pre- and post-game shows or for in-game insights. Hiring Plouffe is a forward-thinking move for BSN that can bring a new lens to analyzing Twins games. He has kept his pulse on baseball since retiring, and how fans consume the game will continue evolving in the coming years. It will be interesting to see what he can bring to the broadcasts for the remainder of the season. 
    What have your initial impressions been regarding Plouffe? What is your favorite Plouffe memory from his time with the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  14. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/17): Tough Day for the Twins Organization   
    As you all know, Wins and Losses are not as important in affiliated, minor-league baseball as player development. So, the fact that all four affiliates lost on Wednesday night doesn't matter at all in the big pitcher. Of course, you also like to think that part of the development process is learning how to win, and that development and improvement could lead to more Wins over time. There have been several days when all four affiliates have won. And, three of the four Twins affiliates have winning records. 
    St. Paul Saints: 22-17 
    Wichita Wind Surge: 16-18
    Cedar Rapids Kernels: 19-16 
    Fort Myers Mighty Mussels: 20-15 
    Let’s get to the report. As always, please feel free to discuss and ask questions. 
    No transactions on Wednesday. However, three Twins players left their Wednesday afternoon game in Los Angeles. Nick Gordon has a fractured shin. Jorge Polanco has a “minor” hamstring strain. And, Joey Gallo left after being hit in the foot with a foul ball. In other words, the Twins have an off day on Thursday, but expect them to make some moves before their Friday night game in Anaheim, and you'll want to watch the Saints and Wind Surge lineups on Thursday. 
    St. Paul 3, Columbus 4
    Box Score
    The Saints fell behind 2-0 in the second inning. Both runs were unearned after a throwing error by starter Simeon Woods Richardson. The Clippers added a third run in the third inning. The Saints scored one in the fourth and one in the sixth inning to cut the lead to just one. Columbus scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning. So when the Saints added one more run in the top of the seventh, it only cut the deficit to one, and that is where the score remained. 
    Woods Richardson has had a tough start to his season. In this game, he went five innings and was charged with all four runs (two earned). He gave up six hits, walked four and struck out three batters. Connor Sadzeck, who has spent big-league time with the Rangers, Mariners and Brewers, came in and allowed an inherited runner to score. However, he worked two innings and gave up just one hit. Josh Winder pitched a scoreless eighth inning. He walked one and struck out one. He also had two pitch-clock violations. 
    On the offensive side, the Saints got two hits from Andrew Stevenson, Jose Miranda, and Mark Contreras. Contreras, Chris Williams, and Andrew Bechtold each hit a double. 
    Elliot Soto had to leave the game in the second inning because of injury. Manager Toby Gardenhire was told to leave the game in the fifth inning by the umpire for disagreeing with the call on a double play. 
    Wichita 1, Arkansas 2
    Box Score 
    Carlos Luna made his sixth start of the season for the Wind Surge. He gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. Unfortunately, the runs scored in the fifth inning on a Connor Hoover two-run home run that put Arkansas ahead 2-1. Unfortunately, that was the end of the scoring in the game. 
    Luna got one more out in the sixth inning before Alex Scherff came in to replace him. He gave up two hits, but he recorded five outs, four of them on strikeouts. Michael Boyle gave up four hits, but no runs in 1 1/3 innings. Hunter McMahon came on and walked two before getting the final two outs in the ninth. 
    Wichita had plenty of opportunities in the game. They had nine hits and two walks, but they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. Yoyner Fajardo continues to rake. The minor-league Rule 5 pick from the Pirates is now hitting .315 after going 2-for-4 with a walk in this game. He also stole his 13th base. Alex Isola went 2-for-4 and his fourth-inning, solo home run scored the lone run on the day. Pat Winkel had a single and a walk, and Seth Gray hit a double. 
    As with the Saints game, the Wind Surge manager didn’t get to see the end of the game from the home-team’s dugout. He was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a call at first base. 
    Cedar Rapids 4, Peoria 6 
    Box Score
    Pierson Ohl had his first tough start of the season for the Kernels. He gave up five runs (4 earned) on six hits over four innings. However, it won’t surprise you to hear that he had five strikeouts and no walks. In 30 innings this season, he now had 31 strikeouts… and just two walks. 
    John Stankiewicz worked two scoreless innings and gave up only one hit. Malik Barrington worked 1 1/3 innings. He gave up one run on three hits and two walks. Niklas Rimmel got the final five outs, two on strikeouts. He gave up just one hit. 
    Kala’i Rosario had two of the team’s seven hits in the game including his 10th double. Misael Urbina and Jose Salas each had a double. Kyler Fedko mashed his first home run of the season. Tanner Schobel had a single and a walk. Unfortunately, the Kernels also had 14 strikeouts in the game. 
    Fort Myers 1, Lakeland 7 
    Box Score 
    A short start with minimal offensive production is not a great means to victory in baseball at any level. The Mussels have been playing well of late, but not so much on this night. 
    Lefty Develson Aria was on the mound to start and tossed a scoreless first inning. However, the southpaw gave up five runs on three hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. Jackson Hicks came on and got out of that second inning, but he gave up two runs on two hits in the third frame. He recorded four outs, all four on strikeouts. 
    The Mussels were down 7-0 after three innings, but if you’re looking for positives, the pitching over their final five innings was good. Danny Moreno, just added to the roster, tossed three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit, walked three, and struck out two batters. Then Juan Mendez struck out three batters over two scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and one walk.
    Fort Myers managed just five hits in the game and walked twice. Dylan Neuse went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base. 
    Fun with Statcast (Here are the reports on the four Mighty Mussels pitchers in this game. If not interested, scroll down to the Hitter and Pitcher of the Day.)
    Lefty Develson Aria wasn’t in the game long. He threw 47 pitches and 22 of them were four-seam fastballs. He got 12 swings on that pitch including seven whiffs. His fastball ranged between 91.4 mph and 94.2 mph. It averaged 93.2 mph. His next most-used pitch was his changeup, with 17 of them. The velocity on those pitches were between 87.9 mph and 91.1 mph with an average of 89.7. One of two things is going on there. First, it’s possible they were being recorded wrong and maybe should have been called ‘sinkers.’ However, if those were in-fact changeups, then one thing to work on is throwing that about 7-10 mph slower to keep the hitters off balance. He threw six sliders that averaged 80.3 mph. 
    Jackson Hicks threw 23 pitchers, 14 of them were sliders. He got 12 swings on the slider including nine whiffs! The slider’s average velocity was 83.4 mph. He threw just five fastballs which averaged 90.7 mph. 
    Danny Moreno is one of those names that we’ve seen in the Twins organization for quite some time. He signed with the Twins way back in July of 2017. He pitched in the DSL in 2018. He worked two games in the GCL in 2019 before the arm injuries started. He also pitched out of the GCL Twins’ bullpen in 2021 and 2022. Wednesday night was his first game of the year. So why keep the 23-year-old around? Well, 39 of his 57 pitches were designed as sinkers. Those pitches were clocked between 92.6 and 96.4, with an average of 94.6. He also threw some sliders, changeups and a slower curveball. 
    Finally, Juan Mendez came in. Of his 36 pitches, 16 were four-seam fastballs, and 14 were sliders. Those fastballs were thrown between 95.1 mph and 98.5 mph. Three of the pitches were over 98.0 mph. He got just two whiffs on that pitch. However, he got whiffs on six of the 14 sliders he threw, especially good when he only got nine swings on it. The slider was between 81.9 and 84.4 mph. He also threw five cutters, which could have been sliders and called-out differently. The pitches act very similarly, but the velocity separation is really solid. 
    Pitcher of the Day – Danny Moreno (Fort Myers Mighty Mussels) - 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 2 K. 57 pitches, 30 strikes. 
    Hitter of the Day – Alex Isola (Wichita Wind Surge) - 2-for-4, HR(5), R, RBI, 2 K. 
    Check out the Prospect Tracker for much more on the new Twins Top 20 prospects after seeing how they did on Wednesday. 

    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 0-for-4, K
    #2 - Royce Lewis (St. Paul-on Rehab) - Scheduled Day Off. 
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 3 K.  
    #4 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 0-for-3, K
    #7 - Simeon Woods Richardson (St. Paul) - 5.0 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 3 K (87 pitches, 52 strikes) 
    #9 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 0-for-4, 4 K
    #12 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, 2B(4), R, RBI. 
    #13 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4.   
    #19 - Yunior Severino (Wichita) - 1-for-4, K. 
    St. Paul @ Columbus (6:05 PM CST) - LHP Brent Headrick (1-0, 5.60 ERA) vs RHP Aaron Civale. 
    Arkansas @ Wichita (7:05 PM CST) - RHP Blayne Enlow (0-1, 3.56 ERA)  
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) - LHP Jaylen Nowlin (1-3, 3.96 ERA)
    Fort Myers @ Lakeland (5:30 PM CST) - RHP C.J. Culpepper (1-2, 3.09 ERA) 
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Wednesday’s games! 
  15. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Melissa Berman for an article, Take Heart, Frustrated Twins Fans, “Robo Umps” are Likely Coming Soon   
    As you’ve no doubt heard by now, in the 10th inning, with bases loaded, Alex Kirilloff was up to bat when home umpire Phil Cuzzi called two balls well outside the strike zone as strikes. Kirilloff ended up striking out. The calls were so egregious that even the Dodgers announcers, the beneficiaries of the bad calls, spoke out.
    Adding to the frustration was a questionable David Peralta RBI double down the first-base line that the Twins were not allowed to challenge. Further analysis shows that it was almost certainly a foul ball. 
    After the game, the Twitter account Umpire Scorecards published its grade for Cuzzi, whose umpiring resulted in a jaw-dropping 1.39 run advantage for the Dodgers. Typical figures for this stat are in the decimals; hardly ever full runs. 
    After the game, a chorus of frustrated Twins fans expressed dismay at the decidedly unfair outcome of the game. Regarding the Peralta double, manager Rocco Baldelli said, "We had other opportunities to separate and find ways to win the game on top of the things that we were able to do, but late in the game, when you’re just given a double on a ball that’s foul, I mean, that bothers you, yes." 
    I thought Twins fan Shayla put the helpless frustration of the whole situation perfectly:
    Other fans had one message in mind: bring on the robot umps now. And pretty soon, this will likely be a reality, and hopefully fans like Shayla won't have to feel that poignant frustration.  
    Twins Daily has extensively covered robot umps, most recently in a piece this past January highlighting that MLB will use two forms of the automatic strike zone (ABS), the challenge system and the fully automatic system, at all AAA ballparks in 2023.
    Star Tribune columnist LaVelle E. Neal III did a piece last week on using the automatic strike zone at St. Paul Saints games. Several days earlier, Twins Daily had an article on the ABS system and how it would be used. 
    Triple-A plays six-game series, and MLB is testing out both types of ABS during each series. “For the first three games of a six-game series, the ABS calls balls and strikes. For the next three games, the umpire calls the game, with each team given three challenges. Managers aren’t allowed to challenge pitches, but the catcher, pitcher, or hitter can ask for one. The ABS is then used as the final arbiter,” Neal wrote. He noted that the first challenge in CHS field history occurred on May 5 (here is the Twins Daily Minor League Report which includes this example), where Nashville’s Andruw Monasterio challenged a low pitch by Simeon Woods Richardson by tapping his helmet, and the pitch was ruled a strike by the ABS, much to the crowd and team’s raucous delight. 
    Despite MLB making no decisions on the use of ABS in the majors, it’s difficult to imagine that it won’t happen sometime soon: Triple-A is the last frontier for testing rule changes, and it seems in recent years that everything that makes it to Triple-A ends up in the majors too: this year it was the larger bases, pitch clock, and the shift ban. Furthermore, according to Neal’s piece, the pitch clock is popular among Saints players and coaches. “You get less complaining in the dugout because there is less to argue about. You watch the games on TV, and you want the umpires to be right. When a pitch is borderline, it’s a really hard job as an umpire back there to get everything right,” Gardenhire said. 
    Whether or not MLB implements the challenge system or the full ABS would also need to be decided before hitting the majors. My take: the challenge system is the perfect happy medium. I am ok with there being some variation in umpire strike zones. Still, Monday’s game perfectly illustrates the pressing need to have a way of eliminating the most egregious, game-changing calls. A challenge system would have reversed both of Kirilloff’s calls, which the Twins absolutely would have challenged, assuming they still have challenges to use. Hopefully, the Twins would have scored in that one-out, bases-loaded situation with a sacrifice fly to the outfield. Now that the unjustified strikeout made it two outs, it was a completely different, game-defining situation. 
    The ABS would not have saved the day regarding the Peralta double/foul ball. Hopefully this game sparks some discussion of increasing the number of situations in which a team can challenge a play. The Dodgers broadcast explained that teams can't challenge balls in front of the base umpire, and Peralta’s ball first hit the ground in front of home plate. 
    To those who stayed up late on Monday night, it’s hard to argue that something doesn’t need to be done to eliminate bad calls: the stakes are simply too high, especially in game-changing situations, the postseason, and the rise of sports gambling. But disappointed Twins fans can take heart: hopefully, these egregious missed calls will likely soon be a thing of the past.
    _ _
    Did you stay up late on Monday night to watch this extra-inning battle? How did you feel coming away from the game? Do you think ABS would solve a lot of frustration? If so, which of the two kinds of ABS do you prefer? Have you noticed it in use at a Saints game? Leave a COMMENT below.  
  16. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/14): No-No for the Moms!   
    Indianapolis 15, St. Paul 3
    Box Score
    Having worked as a reliever earlier in the year, Jordan Balazovic took the ball to start for St. Paul on Sunday. He went 3 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on four hits. Only three of the runs were earned, however, and he gave up just a single walk while striking out four. He was nearly perfect through the game's first three innings. 
    Looking for an early lead, the Saints got on the board in the first when Matt Wallner lifted a sacrifice fly to score Edouard Julien. Mark Contreras continued his hot hitting later in the frame and singled in Kyle Garlick to make it 2-0. A five-run 4th inning for Indianapolis had the Saints looking up at a deficit, but Wallner brought them closer when he hit his fourth homer of the season in the 5th inning.
    After Austin Schulfer worked a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, Ronny Henriquez came on for St. Paul. He gave up a run on three hits. The Saints had four innings to crawl out of a three-run hole. Unfortunately, Indianapolis added again in the 7th inning and the deficit was 8-3. Despite loading the bases in the bottom of the 8th inning, St. Paul couldn't push a run across. Whatever slim chance they may have had in the 9th inning was dashed as Indianapolis followed the Twins lead and put up a seven-run frame. All of the runs came against Josh Winder.
    Elliot Soto and Edouard Julien struck out before Kyle Garlick grounded out in the bottom half to end the game. Of the seven hits, Contreras was the only one to generate a pair.
    Cancelled - Rain
    The Wind Surge won all five games of the series against Frisco. Infielder Yunior Severino was named the Minnesota Twins minor league hitter of the week after he batted .444 with four homers.
    Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 0
    Box Score
    Jordan Carr worked the Sunday matinee for the Kernels, and he was sharp across six innings. Allowing no runs on four hits and two walks, Carr also punched out six batters to lower his season ERA to 2.25.
    Both sides were scoreless through four innings, and then Cedar Rapids jumped to a lead. Tanner Schobel recorded his second triple of the year and drove in Emmanuel Rodriguez to make it 1-0. Kala’i Rosario followed with his ninth double of the season, and the Kernels found themselves leaving the frame with a 2-0 lead.
    The Kernels wound up with six hits on the day, but the two runs they scored in the 5th inning were all they needed for the win. Rosario was joined by Jeferson Morales with a pair of hits.
    Fort Myers 3, Tampa 0
    Box Score
    Getting in a morning game for Mother’s Day, Fort Myers turned to Cory Lewis, and he did not disappoint. Working 5 2/3 innings, he didn’t allow a batter to reach while punching out seven. That was just the beginning of an amazing day as A.J. Labas, Gabriel Yanez, and Ben Ethridge took over to complete a combined no-hitter.
    The Mighty Mussels scored in the 3rd inning when Jorel Ortega singled in Yohander Martinez. They added in the 5th inning when Andrew Cossetti’s single turned into a throwing error that allowed Martinez a chance to scamper home again. Wrapping up the scoring, Dalton Shuffield and Cossetti swiped bags on a double steal with the former running home on a throwing error.
    Fort Myers only got four hits, but when your pitching is as dominant as it was, there was never a doubt. Lewis has been impressive while being an arm that displays a knuckleball but being able to do much more than act as a soft tossing type. The relievers backing him up today held down the Tarpons lineup, and while the combined no-hitter would have been cool, displaying command to lock in a perfect game could have been the icing on the cake. Only a wild pitch on a strikeout allowed a Tampa batter to reach.
    Headed to Lakeland this week, Fort Myers will certainly bask in this one a little bit. They finished the series with a sweep. It was their fourth no-hitter across the past three seasons.
    Pitcher of the Day – Cory Lewis (Fort Myers) - 5.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
    Hitter of the Day – Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 1-3, 2 RBI, HR(4)
    We will again keep tabs on the Twins top prospects. You’ll probably read about them in the team sections, but if they aren’t there, you’ll see how they did here. Here’s a look at how the current Twins Daily Top 20 performed:

    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 0-3, R, 2 BB, 2 K
    #5 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 0-4, R, BB, 3 K
    #8 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 1-3, K
    #9 - Louie Varland (Minnesota) - 6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
    #11 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 1-3, 2 RBI, HR(4)
    #14 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #16 - Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - 3.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
    #17 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - 1.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB
    #18 - Tanner Schobel (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4, R, RBI, 3B(2), BB
    St. Paul @ Columbus (6:05PM CST) - TBD
    Arkansas @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) - TBD
    Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) - TBD
    Fort Myers @ Lakeland (5:30PM CST) - TBD
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Sunday’s games!
  17. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Hans Birkeland for an article, What If Joe Ryan is Actually This Good?   
    The Twins entered the season low on the national media’s must watch list. Lip service was paid to their rotation improvements and the return of Carlos Correa, but most analysts had the Twins as an 81-83 win team. They’re a nice team but why did they improve enough on a 79-win team to matter? They added pitching but did they add enough pitching?
    Smarter analysts and less biased projection models had the Twins closer to 88 wins, citing the return to something resembling the mean as far as WAR lost to injuries, as well as the tangible and obvious improvements to the roster that was in first place on Labor Day before Arm/Knee-ageddon happened.
    But one thing that both the meatheads at MLB Network and the computer simulations at Baseball Prospectus agreed on is that the Twins lacked an ace coming into 2023; a true top-of-the-rotation-game-one-of-the-playoffs type of ubermensch.
    The Twins’ brass had a different opinion, and believed that Pablo López was a couple of tweaks from ascending to that level. Of course that’s just spring training talk, akin to everyone being in “the best shape of their life.” But López started out so well with a new, tantalizing third pitch to pair with his crisp fastball and elite changeup, that the Twins locked him up for his first three free agent years.
    But López has also been spotty with his command at times, and on several occasions has scrapped his much ballyhooed “sweeper” mid-outing in favor of his tried-and-true fastball-changeup combination. I still think López was worth giving up Luis Arraez, and even more so with his extension in place, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who starts game one of a playoff series his team expects to win. 
    He’s more the best pitcher on a fun team that won the division going away and then gets crushed in the Division Series. He’s mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and generally just too nice to be a starting pitcher, a position usually reserved for obsessive jerkoffs who enjoy nothing more than making fools out of their competitors and spitting. His stuff is good, but it so often comes and goes, particularly in cold weather, that you wonder about him starting an important game in October.
    Which brings me to Sonny Gray , a man so devoted to his craft he can’t speak without gesticulating as if a baseball was in his hand. He talks about pitching like an eight-year-old talks about his Legos, and compulsively tinkers and prepares so as to stay ahead of the adjustments and trends hitters employ and follow. 
    In a recent interview accepting the “Pitch Hand” award from the MLB Central morning show, he mentioned that early in his career he just threw hard and let his stuff dominate hitters, and that he doesn’t have that luxury today. He throws 91-92 MPH with his fastball now, and relies more on his variety of pitches rather than sheer stuff. Consequently, his Stuff+ rating, a new metric that gauges a pitcher’s overall quality in terms of break and velocity, has been fairly middling (four percent above average in 2022).
    But as David Ortiz put it, facing Gray is frustrating for an elite hitter because of how many pitches he can throw you in any situation. It's hard to eliminate pitches against him, and he is good at thinking along with you to know what pitch will be the least expected. 
    That’s valuable, but at the end of the day Gray doesn’t throw that hard and his stuff isn’t overly exceptional. There is a ceiling to that type of pitcher, and he’s reaching it in the early-going this year. Gray also has been susceptible to nagging injuries in the back half of his career, and put a lot of mileage on his arm in his early years in Oakland. 
    Which brings me to Joe Ryan . I was not particularly high on Ryan coming into the season because of his dramatic splits from 2022. Basically, he was Cy Young caliber against the Royals and Tigers, but Kevin Correia against everyone else. He tinkered with a new slider down the stretch and had some success, leading to some optimism about a step forward this year. Although even then, the level of competition affected his results. The last six starts of 2022 went as follows:
    Boston: 5 IP 5 ER NY Yankees: 4 IP 4 ER Kansas City: 7 IP 0 ER Cleveland 7 ⅔ IP 0 ER LA Angels 4 IP 3 ER Detroit 6 IP 0 ER You may be asking yourself if the Angels were really much of a test last year. Well, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, possibly the best two players in the game, drove in all three runs in that outing.
    You get the picture. Ryan had enough stuff to obliterate rebuilding lineups, but against elite hitters he couldn’t skip his fastball past their bats up in the zone; they would just foul it off.
    Part of that is because hitters didn’t have to worry about any of Ryan’s other pitches. He threw his fastball 60% of the time and it rated as one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball in terms of run value, ranking just ahead of Corbin Burnes’ cutter at ninth overall.
    Ryan’s other pitches, as we all know, left a lot to be desired. His slider was awful and his changeup wasn’t much better. He went to Driveline over the offseason and settled on a sweeper and split-changeup as replacements. The early returns aren’t just good, they could change the entire outlook for the Twins’ competitive window.
    Ryan’s fastball is dominant, and he has thrown it even harder this year, averaging 92.7 MPH. His sweeper has been okay, giving right-handed hitters something to think about besides the fastball, generating some swings and misses but also allowing the hardest contact of Ryan’s pitches with a .508 expected slugging percentage (xSLG).
    The split-change, however, has been a revelation, and the eye-test confirms that. The pitch falls away from left handed hitters, but also can get whiffs from righties. It also seems like he can command it around the zone.
    The numbers back it up too, as the pitch is rated as the 44th most effective pitch in baseball, while his fastball has remained in the top 30. (Someone who is better at Baseball Savant than me, please let me know if anyone else has two pitches in the top 50, because I can’t find them.)
    As a one-pitch pitcher, Joe Ryan was pretty good. As a two-and-a-half pitch pitcher, he looks dominant. He’s durable, doesn’t give up walks, and is fairly platoon neutral (.491 OPS against righties, .487 against lefties). He’s been able to pitch deep into games, and thus far, hasn’t pitched appreciably worse against good lineups. He shut down the Yankees twice (but is their lineup really a test?), pitched well outside of one mistake against the Astros, and threw a quality start against the Red Sox. He’s been tested, and his ERA is 2.37 with a Verlanderish .76 WHIP.
    Gray is a former ace, and López is the presumptive ace, but Joe Ryan has a chance to outperform each of them. He is no longer a novelty throwing 80% fastballs for the Rays’ Triple A affiliate. He has better stuff than Gray, and is more consistent (this year and historically) than López. 
    It’s still early, but it sure does appear that he has found an off-speed pitch that complements his unique arm slot with the split-changeup. He is the Twins’ most emotive and marketable pitcher already, which is nice and not unimportant, but if he pushes Gray and López to the second and third slots in the rotation, the Twins’ playoff prospects look almost.. promising?
    The next test will be in facing the adjustments that teams make facing Ryan. Last year, opposing hitters liked to disrupt his rhythm by stepping out of the box, fouling pitches off, and generally getting under his skin. With the pitch clock he has been able to stay in his tempo, and perhaps that is part of his success thus far in 2023. 
    But Tim Anderson showed last week that you can still beat the Twins with Ryan on the mound by wearing him down. If he dictates the game, he’ll go seven scoreless in the blink of an eye. But if a lineup is composed of a bunch of grinders with contact ability, they could get Ryan out of the game after the fifth, or force him into some fatigue-related mistakes. Is that the new key to attacking Ryan? The next step in ascending to Ace level is to see how the league adjusts to the new Joe Ryan. 
  18. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, Minor League Report (5/12): Power Hitting and Solid Pitching Leads to Affiliate Wins   
    Infielder Michael Helman placed on the 7-day IL with left shoulder dislocation Infielder Hernán Pérez moved to the active roster from the developmental list Pitcher Ronny Henriquez was activated by the Twins and optioned to St. Paul Outfielder Ryan LaMarre has been placed on the Saints development list Infielder Keoni Cavaco has been placed on the 7-day IL with a concussion. Outfielder Kyler Fedko has been activated off the Development List for Cedar Rapids Saints Sentinel
    Box Score
    St. Paul 2, Indianapolis 1
    The Friday night lineup for the Saints was power packed. Trevor Larnach and Jose Miranda, along with Matt Wallner, put the pressure on Indianapolis, scoring two runs right away in the top of the first. 
    Wallner continues to be a force of nature for the Saints. In Friday night's game against Indianapolis, Wallner knocked in his 13th run. The Saints only had eight hits and two runs, but it was enough to carry a lead throughout the game. 
    Saint starting pitcher Brent Headrick began this appearance with a 1-2-3 first inning, striking out the first batter, Nick Gonzales, to set the tone. The lefty only allowed one earned run - on a solo homer by Malcolm Nunez - and that was the only run that Indianapolis scored. Headrick struck out six batters. 
    Austin Schulfer tossed a scoreless sixth inning, and Randy Dobnak recorded a three-inning save to close it out. 
    Wind Surge Wisdom
    Wichita 13, Frisco 5
    Box Score 
    Blayne Enlow made his sixth start of the season on Friday night in Frisco. He ran a smooth first three innings, striking out four batters and keeping the RoughRiders scoreless. Then came the fourth inning. Frisco was able to capitalize on a couple of singles and a walk that loaded up the bases. Unfortunately, Enlow gave up a grand slam to tie the game.  But there would be just one more run for Frisco.
    Surge reliever Hunter McMahon came in out of the bullpen to keep the RoughRiders at bay, holding them to one run in his four innings pitched. 
    The Surge continued their thrashing In the sixth inning with a pair of doubles from Armani Smith and David Banuelos, and Jake Rucker pushed the Surge lead to 9-4 with a three-run home run. 
    Yunior Severino also loaded up the scoreboard. Severino added to his 8th and 9th home runs of the season. He hit a two-run home run early in the game and a solo home run in the seventh that helped widen the lead to 11-4. 
    The Surge got two more runs in for good measure ending the night at 13-5 and winning their fourth game in a row.
    Kernels Nuggets
    Cedar Rapids 1, Quad Cities 0
    Box Score 
    There was a pitcher’s duel in Davenport on Friday night. Fortunately, the Kernels came out on the ‘right’ side of a 1-0 ballgame. 
    Twins Daily’s #4 prospect, Marco Raya, made the start for Cedar Rapids and tossed three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out four batters. Lefty Jaylen Nowlin came on and worked the next five innings, holding the shutout with seven strikeouts. Right-hander John Stankiewicz made things interesting in the ninth inning, allowing the bases to be loaded on a hit and two walks, but he closed the door to record his first save of the season. 
    The Kernels offense was pretty quiet throughout the night as well. In fact, the lone run of the game came on Gonzaga alum Ernie Yake who hit his first homer of the season. Cedar Rapids had only five other hits, and two walks, in the game. Noah Cardenas had two hits. Tanner Schobel had a single and a walk. Kala’i Rosario had the only other extra-base hit, a triple. 
    Mussels Matters
    Fort Myers 12, Tampa 1
    Box Score
    Mussels starter C.J. Culpepper pitched very well and was the beneficiary of a huge night from the offense. The 2022 draft pick gave up just one run on four hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings. Jarret Whorff was added to the Mussels roster on Tuesday after signing with the Twins out of an independent league on Monday. The lefty recorded five outs without allowing a run or a hit. Juan Mendez struck out three batters over two scoreless, hitless innings. 
    The Mussels fell behind 1-0 after a half-inning but responded immediately thanks to a string of hits from Jorel Ortega, Danny De Andrade, and Ricardo Olivar who all scored when Rafael Cruz hit a double on a sharp line drive to left. The party continued as Dalton Shuffield singled to right field to score Cruz. He advanced to second on an error. In scoring position, he scored on a wild pitch to give the Mussels a 5-1 lead through just one inning.  
    Rafael Cruz, the younger brother of Pirates shortstop O’Neil Cruz, was promoted from Extended Spring earlier this week. The 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic had a fantastic night. He drove in five runs. He got things going early with a bases-clearing double. Then he had an RBI double. Finally, he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for a likely-more-painful RBI. 
    The Mussels broke the game wide open in the sixth inning when they had their second five-run inning. The Mussels scored after two hit batters and a wild pitch giving the Mussels another five runs and the score 12-1. 
    Culpepper gets his first win of the season and the Mussels continue their wins extending it to four after Friday night's game. 
    Pitcher of the Day – Brent Headrick (St. Paul) - 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K
    Hitter of the Day – Rafael Cruz  (Fort Myers) - 2-for-5, 2-2B, 2 R, 2K, 5 RBI.
    The Twins Prospect Tracker  is the best way to see how each of the Twins top prospects performed during their games; but in case you wanted a quick look, Here is how each of the top 20 performed today: 

    #2 - Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - *expected to play Saturday (SS, 7 innings) and Sunday (3B, 5 innings)
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) -1-4, 3K
    #4 - Marco Raya (Cedar Rapids) - 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. 38 pitches, 24 strikes. 
    #5 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 2-3, HBP
    #8 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, 2K
    #11 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) -  2-4, RBI, K
    #14 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, 3 K
    #18 - Tanner Schobel (Cedar Rapids) - 1-3, RBI, BB
    #20 - Misael Urbina (Cedar Rapids) - 0-3, BB, K 
    Indianapolis @ St. Paul (2:07 PM CST) - RHP Aaron Sanchez (1-3, 5.61 ERA)
    Surge @ Frisco (7:05 PM CST): RH David Festa (1-2, 5.40 ERA) 
    Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (6:30 PM CST) - RHP Kyle Jones (1-2, 3.70 ERA)
    Tampa @ Fort Myers (6:30 PM CST) - LHP Wilker Reyes (1-0, 6.55 ERA) 
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss today’s game! Did you watch any of them? 
  19. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Hunter McCall for an article, Are the Twins Starting the Wrong Primary Catcher?   
    On December 16, the Minnesota Twins signed Christian Vazquez to a three-year $30 million deal to have him take over as the team's primary catcher. The two-time World Series champion Vazquez got off to a hot start at the plate and behind the dish. Since then, however, he has cooled off and made some questionable plays defensively. Is it time to adjust the catching timeshare and give Ryan Jeffers more playing time?
    So far this season, Vazquez has appeared in 27 games to Jeffers' 20. A few of Jeffers' appearances came by way of pinch-hitting, which is why Vazquez has 85 at-bats to Jeffers's 48 at-bats. Over those at-bats, Vazquez boasts a putrid .531 OPS and 0.0 WAR compared to Jeffers's .872 OPS and 0.3 WAR. The stats suggest that Jeffers has been far more effective for the Twins than Vazquez at the plate. However, that is not the most essential aspect to consider.
    Vazquez wasn't brought in for $10 million per season for his bat. He has a career .690 OPS, which is below league average. Instead, the 32-year-old catcher has always made his money defensively. Vasquez has been the primary catcher on two World Series teams. He has gathered a plethora of experience and caught some of the highest-quality pitchers on the planet in the most important games. Vazquez remains an asset defensively, as he currently ranks in the 76th percentile in pitch framing, but even that isn't Vazquez's most important skill he brings to the table.
    The Minnesota Twins' pitching staff has been excellent in 2023. The starters have kept them in games, and the bullpen has finished them off when needed. The staff has generated a ton of swings and misses and soft contact. It isn't a coincidence that this revelation came at the same time the Twins signed Christian Vazquez. Vazquez calls a great game behind the plate. His ability and feel for the game and approach with each batter are second to none. Ryan Jeffers is a fine defensive catcher, but there are few in the league that call a better and more consistent game than Vazquez.
    While Vazquez has been frustrating at the plate and has made some somewhat questionable defensive plays over recent weeks, it's important to remember why he's here. He brings a championship pedigree to the team and understands what pitches to throw to any given hitter in any given situation. His value goes far beyond the value calculated by the stats and analytics. For this reason, the Twins would be wise to continue giving Vazquez the majority of starts behind the plate and pencil him in the lineup around 65-70% of games.
    What are your thoughts? Is it worth sacrificing offense for Vazquez's ability behind the plate? Let me know in the comments! Go, Twins!
  20. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Matthew Taylor for an article, Who Have Been The Luckiest and Unluckiest Minnesota Twins Batters in 2023?   
    At the beginning of a baseball season it can take a while for statistics to normalize. The small sample sizes can cause incorrect opinions to be made about players when in reality their baseline numbers don’t tell the whole story. When you dig into their underlying statistics, you can come to find that a player’s been hitting the ball better or worse than what their results have been showing.
    There are a number of ways to look at luck in baseball. For a long time, the most popular metric for doing this was batting average on balls in play (BABIP). While it can still be valuable to look at BABIP, advanced statistics have progressed to the point that there are better statistics out there to evaluate luck.
    For this exercise, we are going to look at my go-to metric for evaluating luck, wOBA/xwOBA difference.
    wOBA stands for weighted on-base percentage. Essentially what that means is that it measures how often a player reaches base, but it also weights those on-base events based on how a player reaches base. A more accurate measure than on-base percentage and slugging percentage. 
    xwOBA on the other hand is expected on-base percentage. It doesn’t look at results but just the underlying numbers on every batted ball event (exit velocity, launch angle, sprint speed) and assigns a number of what a players wOBA should be. Take the difference between wOBA and xwOBA and you find out how lucky or unlucky a player has been.
    With that in mind, let’s look at who have been the luckiest and unluckiest batters for the Minnesota Twins thus far in 2023.

    1. Ryan Jeffers
    wOBA: .364
    xwOBA: .303
    Diff: 0.061

    Ryan Jeffers has had a really nice start to the year for the Minnesota Twins. He is posting what would be a career-best OPS of .815 and is third on the team with a .357 wOBA. Looking at Jeffers’s underlying numbers, though, it doesn’t appear that he should be hitting as well as he is. He has what would be a career-low average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH and is striking out at a 34% clip. 
    Sure enough, the expected wOBA statistic backs up that thought as his xwOBA is just .295, a difference of 0.062. Peripheral numbers suggest that Ryan Jeffers’s results have been better than what his underlying numbers suggest that his results should be.
    Jeffers has only put together 50 plate appearances this season, so even his underlying numbers have some time to normalize, but to this point his hot start should be expected to cool down a bit.
    2. Byron Buxton
    wOBA: .352
    xwOBA: .324
    Diff: 0.028

    The next “luckiest” batter for the Minnesota Twins thus far in 2023 has been the player who has been arguably their best hitter of the season to this point, Byron Buxton. Buxton has been hitting the cover off the ball lately, but even his great numbers haven’t been without a little bit of luck.
    While his numbers have been incredible, his average exit velocity of 90.4 MPH is lower than his season average has been over each of the past three seasons. The results have been there over the course of the season, but bumping up that average exit velocity will increase his expected numbers and take him off the list of “lucky” batters.

    1. Nick Gordon
    wOBA: .209
    xwOBA: .296
    Diff: -0.087

    Flipping the discussion around, the unluckiest batter for the Minnesota Twins through the first six weeks of play has been Nick Gordon. After a breakout season in 2022, Gordon has started the 2023 season extremely slowly, posting a meager .491 OPS over 75 plate appearances.
    The advanced numbers tell a different story for Gordon, though, as he should have a wOBA of about .300. Certainly not an all-star start to the year, but far from the worst hitter on the team as his numbers would suggest. One thing that would help Gordon a lot is to elevate the ball more than he has. Currently, Gordon has an average launch angle of 8.2 degrees, down from 12.5 degrees in 2023. Increasing that launch angle would increase his xwOBA even higher than it is now and bring his numbers closer to how they were in 2022.
    2. Carlos Correa
    wOBA: .280
    xwOBA: .320
    Diff: -0.040

    Not a surprise, the other unluckiest hitter for the Minnesota Twins in 2023 has been their superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa has had a nightmare start to the season for the Minnesota Twins, posting an OPS of just .643 and is easily off to the worst start to a season over the course of his career.
    Correa’s advanced numbers show that his average exit velocity is just 1.3 MPH off of his career average and his BABIP is a career-low .204.. Those hard hit balls should eventually start to  find holes and his numbers should start to creep up to where we have seen him in the past.
    Do any of the players above surprise you? Do you think the luck will turn around for these players? Leave a comment and start the conversation!
  21. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Melissa Berman for an article, T-Pain and Carly Pearce to Perform Postgame Concerts at Target Field   
    Following the Twins vs. Detroit Tigers 6:10 p.m. game on June 15, T-Pain will perform a full 75-minute set. Pearce will perform a full 75-minute show after the 6:10 p.m. Twins vs. Texas Rangers game on August 24. The concerts are free for fans who have a ticket to the game, or T-Pain and Pearce super fans can purchase a special ticket package enabling them to take in the concert while standing on the field. It also includes a ticket to the Twins game. Both concerts will start approximately 15 minutes after the end of the game.
    T-Pain is a rapper, singer, songwriter and two-time Grammy winner known for scores of hits from the 2000s, including "Low," with Flo Rida, for which he went diamond (10x platinum). Here in the Midwest, where we always look for the "local angle," we especially love him for having rhymed "Mansion" with "Wisconsin" on the song "Can't Believe It."
    The last time T-Pain performed in Minnesota was during halftime at the Vikings vs. Packers season opener on September 11, 2022, during which he wore a Justin Jefferson jersey. Maybe he'll wear a Byron Buxton jersey this time?
    Pearce is a Grammy-award-winning country music singer-songwriter known for hit songs like "Every Little Thing" and "I Hope You're Happy Now."
    Eagle-eyed fans might notice that these two games are the only non-6:40 evening weekday game on this season’s schedule.
    Target Field held its first-ever postgame concert last season when country artist Cole Swindell performed a full hour and fifteen-minute show following a Thursday night game against the Blue Jays. The concert was met with much acclaim by fans, and some members of the Blue Jays even came out of the visiting clubhouse to stand on the field and watch some of the show (visible in the photo above).
    My take
    Last year’s postgame Cole Swindell concert was both a great idea and an overwhelming success, and it’s wise and fun that the Twins “run it back” this year with another couple of shows. Postgame concerts bring more fans to the ballpark who otherwise might not go to a Twins game, and who knows, maybe they will like it so much that they will come back (or at least buy a bunch of beers). I appreciate how the concerts are free to everyone with a ticket to the game- a $4 standing-room ticket or a cheap upper-deck seat gets you into a MLB baseball game to see the best talent in the world AND a full-length concert. The value is unbeatable. Because the Twins are hosting TC Summer Fest, a rock festival, it is wise to incorporate rap and R&B and country to appeal to a broader audience. Last year, some fans were perturbed by the influx of cowboy hat-wearing fans who flocked to Target Field, crowded the concourse, and walked up and down the aisles during at-bats, but hey, it’s only one game a year, and the more, the merrier to cheer on the Twins, in my mind.
    The Twins choosing T-Pain, who is especially popular with millennials, comes at the time when the Twins are trying to attract younger fans to the ballpark. From offering the bargain Twins Pass to hosting its first Friday Happy Hour 3:10 game on April 28, aimed at downtown office workers, and now postgame concerts featuring artists popular with younger fans, the Twins appear to be trying to make games even more appealing to Gen Z and Millennials, both cost and entertainment-wise.
    Some fans might not be excited that the Twins again chose a Thursday to host a postgame concert; last year’s Cole Swindell concert started at 10:45 p.m. and ended at the stroke of midnight. The Twins advertised that the concert would start 15 minutes after the game, and even though they wheeled out an already-assembled stage with speakers and instruments already on it, it took closer to a half hour to get underway. However, the Twins appear to have learned from that experience by scheduling this game earlier at 6:10 (vs. last year’s, which was at 6:40), and with the pitch clock speeding up the game length, the concert will likely start even earlier. If you can stay awake for the show, I see it as a fun way to kick off a summer weekend (and hopefully, you can sleep in the next day!)
    _ _
    What do you think of T-Pain and Carly Pearce playing at Target Field, and of Target Field’s new tradition of hosting postgame concerts? Do you think you’ll attend? Leave a COMMENT below and let me know.
  22. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/10): Big Bats, Big Innings, and Big Returns   
    The Twins got a fun extra-innings win against the Padres on Wednesday night. In the minor leagues, a lot of good things happened, especially with the hitters in Wichita and Fort Myers. 
    Infielder Kyle Farmer was activated from the Injured List after missing about a month after being hit in the face by a Lucas Giolito fastball. To make room for Farmer, Jose Miranda was optioned to Triple-A St. Paul. (Discussion here)  LHP Christian MacLeod started a rehab assignment with the Mighty Mussels on Wednesday.  SAINTS SENTINEL 
    St. Paul 2, Indianapolis 4
    Box Score
    The Saints had seven hits and four walks, but managed just two runs and fell to Indianapolis. 
    Jose De Leon started and gave up three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven batters without issuing a walk. Kody Funderburk came on and recorded the final two outs of the sixth inning, stranding an inherited runner. Ronny Henriquez came on and worked two innings in his first rehab appearance with the Saints. He gave up one run on three hits and two walks over two innings. Cole Sands gave up two hits, but no runs, in the ninth. 
    Trevor Larnach went 2-for-3 with a walk and a double, and is now 4-for-8 with four RBI in his two games. He also played a little defense! 
    Andrew Stevenson went 2-for-4 with a double. He stole his 11th base of the season. Edouard Julien went 1-for-3 with a walk and his eighth double. Jair Camargo hit a solo homer in the fifth inning. He now has three on the season. 
    Wichita 16, Frisco 8
    Box Score 
    This was a game for the hitters. Big performances. Big innings. Eight out of nine Wind Surge hitters had at least one hit. Seven out of nine in the lineup had two or more hits. It might surprise you that leadoff man and top prospect Brooks Lee went 0-for-6. The Wind Surge scored four in the second inning, five in the third inning, and four runs in the sixth inning. Let’s just go through the lineup, starting with the second spot. 
    DaShawn Keirsey went 3-for-5 with a walk and two doubles. Yunior Severino went 2-for-5 with a walk, his fifth double, and his seventh home run. Alex Isola went 2-for-4 with two walks and his third homer. Yoyner Fajardo’s hitting streak ended at 11 games on Tuesday night, so he started a new one. He went 3-for-5 with a walk and his fourth double. Jake Rucker went 1-for-4 with two walks. Will Holland went 2-for-2 with four walks. Armani Smith went 2-for-6. David Banuelos went 3-for-5 with his second homer and six RBI. Holland and Fajardo each had three RBI in the game. In addition, Fajardo stole his 11th and 12th bases while Holland stole his eighth and Smith stole his first. 
    Chad Donato put together one of his better starts of the still-young season. He gave up two runs on six hits and four walks in four innings. Jose Bravo gave up three runs on three hits (2 homers) and a walk and only recorded one out. Osiris German went the next 2 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits and a walk. Seth Nordlin got the final seven outs and gave up only one hit. 
    Reminder: Royce Lewis is set to begin his 20 days of rehab with the Wind Surge. On Thursday in Frisco, he and the team will face Jack Leiter. 
    Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 12 
    Box Score
    The Kernels fell behind 3-0 after one, and a seven-run sixth inning put it well out of reach. 
    Orlando Rodriguez started and gave up four runs (3 earned) on five hits and three walks over four innings. He had five strikeouts. Malik Barrington gave up four runs on two hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. Matt Mullenbach then was charged with four runs on six hits and a walk in one inning. Charlie Neuweiler got the final four outs, two on strikeouts. 
    The Kernels had just five hits in the game, although they actually had five walks as well. Willie Joe Garry led the way. He went 2-for-2 with a double and a triple. Ernie Yake and Kala’i Rosario each walked twice. 
    Fort Myers 8, Tampa 3 
    Box Score 
    The Mighty Mussels put up a three-spot in the first inning, another in the fourth inning, and got some strong pitching along the way. 
    However, the big news (from a big-picture perspective) was the return of lefty Christian MacLeod. The talented lefty, and son of former minor-league pitcher Kevin MacLeod, from Mississippi State was the Twins fifth-round pick in 2021. He had Tommy John surgery last March and has been working his way back since. He is on the Cedar Rapids roster, so technically this is a rehab start. Semantics. 
    Certainly MacLeod wasn’t at his finest. He gave up one run on four walks over 1 1/3 innings. He struck out one batter. Just 19 of his 41 pitches were strikes, but none of that is as important as getting the first appearance out of the way and feeling healthy. 
    His catcher, Andrew Cossetti, understood the struggles but was impressed with MacLeod. “I thought MacLeod battled today in his start. Anytime you’re making your first start in a while, it can be difficult to get in a rhythm, but he stayed strong in a tough situation and kept us in the game. I think that’s a tribute to his mentality as a competitor and a teammate.”
    Johnathan Lavallee went the next 2 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs on two hits> He struck out five batters. Then Zebby Matthews came out of the bullpen tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out four batters. Jackson Hicks came in and got the final out. 
    Cossetti has worked with Matthews several times already this season. The Twins Daily Hitter of the Month of April said of the Twins Daily Starting Pitcher of the Month of April, “Matthews just continues to dominate. He’s fun to catch because he has confidence throwing any pitch in any count. He continues to upgrade his arsenal day in and day out. Anytime he’s on the mound you know you’re going to be in the game.”
    In addition to his work behind the plate, Cossetti continues his assault on pitchers in the Florida State League, the 2012 11th round pick from St. Joseph’s went 2-for-3 with a walk tonight. In the first inning, he hit a two-run homer, his fifth of the season. It was followed immediately by the fourth homer of the season for Carlos Aguiar. Then in the seventh inning, Cossetti hit his second home run of the game to give the Mussels some insurance. 
    Finding success takes a lot of work. After the game, Cossetti told Twins Daily, “I’ve been working a lot with the hitting coaches to create a better and more efficient bat path, and focusing on that process has definitely been bringing me success. I’m just trying to use my opportunity with the Mussels to become a more complete hitter and allow me to have more success in the future.” He continued, “I would call myself a power hitter. I’ve always been able to hit the ball out of the yard, and my goal is to continue to tap into more power. ”
    In between the Cossetti home runs, Jorel Ortega - who had four hits on Tuesday - hit a three-run homer. Ortega is now hitting .308 with a .942 OPS on the season. Aguiar went 2-for-4. Dillon Tatum went 2-for-4. 
    Pitcher of the Day – Zebby Matthews (Fort Myers Mighty Mussels) - 4 2/3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K. 52 pitches, 34 strikes.  
    Hitter of the Day – David Banuelos (Wichita Wind Surge) - 3-for-5, HR(3), R, 6 RBI.
    Check out the Prospect Tracker for much more on the new Twins Top 20 prospects after seeing how they did on Wednesday. 

    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 0-for-6, K  
    #2 - Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - IL (Rehab begins Thursday in Wichita) 
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, K 
    #5 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 1-for-3, BB, 2B(8), R
    #8 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-3, BB, R
    #11 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 0-for-4, 2 K.
    #14 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, K 
    #17 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul-Rehab) - 2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 29 pitches, 13 Strikes. 
    #18 - Tanner Schobel (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, K. 
    #20 - Misael Urbina (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 2 K. 
    Indianapolis @ St. Paul (6:37 PM CST) - RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (0-3, 6.35 ERA) 
    Wichita @ Frisco (6:35 PM CST) - RHP Carlos Luna (0-1, 5.89 ERA) 
    Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (DH at 5:00 PM CST) - RHP Pierson Ohl (2-1, 2.25 ERA), RHP Mike Paredes (0-0, 2.00 ERA).  
    Tampa @ Fort Myers (5:45 PM CST) - LHP Develson Aria (0-0, 4.41 ERA) 
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Wednesday’s games!
  23. Love
    nclahammer reacted to Steve Lein for an article, Twins Minor League Report (5/9): Helboy? No, He Is a Helman!   
    The Saint Paul Saints transferred SS Alex De Goti to the development list, activated 3B Andrew Bechtold from the temporary inactive list, and were sent RHP Ronny Henriquez from the Minnesota Twins on a rehab assignment. RHP Matthew Swain was placed on the temporary inactive list at Cedar Rapids, and the Kernels were assigned RHP Gianluca Dalatri from the FCL Twins in his place. The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels placed RHP Tomas Cleto on the injured list and transferred CF Luis Baez to the development list. In their place, they were assigned RHP Jarret Whorff and SS Rafael Cruz from the FCL Twins. SAINTS SENTINEL
    St. Paul 11, Indianapolis 3
    Box Score
    The Saints jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, when Edouard Julien led off the game by getting hit by a pitch, and was promptly driven in by a double off the bat of Michael Helman, whom you’ll be hearing from repeatedly in this summary.
    Starter Jordan Balazovic continued to trend in the right direction, though he probably would have liked to have gone deeper into this one. He allowed no runs on three hits in his four innings, exiting a bit early as his pitch count got run up to 77 (45 for strikes). He did strike out five but his first win at the Triple-A level still eludes him.
    The top of St. Paul’s lineup got to work again in the third inning, as Edouard Julien followed Tony Wolter’s walk with a single to put multiple runners on base, and Helman brought them all home with his fourth home run in 15 games with the Saints this season to make it 4-0.
    In the fourth Helman’s bases-loaded single scored the first run of the inning, before Trevor Larnach's double emptied them to make it 8-0. They tacked on a single run in the seventh thanks to a Mark Contreras RBI single, and Chris Williams punctuated their scoring outburst with a two-run bomb in the eighth.
    Helman finished 3-for-5, a triple shy of the cycle, and drove in five runs in the game. More than half his hits on the season have gone for extra bases, and speed is still showing up as he has also stolen five bases so far on the year. Joining Helman in the multi-hit club were Julien (2-for-2, 3 R, 2 BB), Larnach (2-for-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI, K), Williams (2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K), and Contreras (2-for-5, 2B, RBI). 
    After Balazovic’s exit, Patrick Murphy delivered two scoreless innings to pick up the win. He allowed one hit and two walks. Connor Sadzeck allowed three earned runs on two hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings, striking out two. Oliver Ortega finished off the blowout with 1 1/3 frames, allowing one hit, walking one, and striking out one.
    Wichita 5, Frisco 4 (10 innings)
    Box Score
    The RoughRiders struck first against Wind Surge starter Aaron Rozek, as he gave up a solo home run and RBI single in the second inning. He went on to finish 4 1/3 innings, being charged with those two runs on five total hits and no walks, while striking out four.
    Wichita had taken the lead 4-2 at that point, as Pat Winkel tied the game at two in the top of the fourth with a two-run home run, before a Brooks Lee RBI double and DeShawn Keirsey Jr.  RBI single in the fifth put them out front 4-2.
    In the bottom of the fifth, a leadoff double preceded a groundout before Rozek was replaced by Hunter McMahon from the bullpen. He allowed an inherited runner to score, before giving up one of his own, and the game was tied back up at four. Tyler Beck came on in relief to start the sixth and delivered three scoreless frames to keep the game tied. He allowed just one hit and struck out four in the outing.
    Still tied after nine, this one went to extra innings, which the Wind Surge wasted no time taking advantage of. In the top of the 10th with the speedy Will Holland starting on second base, Yoyner Fajardo hit a ball deep enough to center to move him to third, before Lee’s groundout to second base allowed him to come home for a 5-4 lead.
    Righthander Jordan Brink delivered a scoreless ninth and was back out for the 10th, looking to seal the win. After a strikeout and a flyout, the tying run was on third base when a pitch got away from catcher Pat Winkel. He was quick enough to track it down and feed it back to Brink in time to beat the runner home, and the out at the plate ended the game.
    Brink picked up his first win of the season with his two scoreless innings, allowing just a hit batter and striking out three. Keirsey Jr. (2-for-5, RBI, 3 K, 2 SB) and Yunior Severino (2-for-5, R, 2B, 2 K, SB) each had multiple hits in the victory.
    Cedar Rapids 7, Quad Cities 3
    Box Score
    The 19-year-old Alejandro Hidalgo took the mound for the Kernels on Tuesday, looking to build on his last outing where he gave up just three hits and struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings. He wasn’t nearly that dominant again, but he kept his team in the game with a four-inning effort. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks, while striking out just two. 
    When he left the game, the Kernels had built a three-run lead. Three consecutive singles in the third inning put their first run on the scoreboard before they busted out the lumber in the fourth. Misael Urbina started the four-run outburst with a double, Jose Salas traded places with him after a double of his own, and then Jeferson Morales and Keoni Cavaco went back-to-back with home runs, making it 5-2 Kernels.
    They tacked on two more in the fifth inning after an RBI double from Tanner Schobel was followed by an RBI single from Urbina, and that was all the scoring Cedar Rapids would need.
    The bullpen quartet of Niklas Rimmel (2 IP, H, BB, 2 K), John Wilson (1 IP, 3 H, ER, K), John Stankiewicz (1 IP, H, K), and Regi Grace (1 IP, H) kept the River Bandits at bay for the final five innings. Rimmel picked up his third win of the season.
    Urbina led the offense with three hits in five at-bats, including a double. Noah Miller finished 1-for-4 with a run scored, a walk, and stole two bases. Emmanuel Rodriguez recorded his first hit since returning from the injured list.
    Fort Myers 8, Tampa 7 
    Box Score
    The Mighty Mussels jumped all over the Tarpons early in this one, taking a 5-0 lead after two innings. They scored three in the first behind a sac fly from Carlos Aguiar, and RBI doubles from Ricardo Olivar and Rafael Cruz, freshly bumped up from the FCL Twins roster. In the second, it was an RBI groundout from the reigning Florida State League Player of the Month, Andrew Cosetti, and an RBI single from Aguiar that extended their lead.
    The Tampa lineup finally got to Fort Myers starter Jose Olivares in the top of the fourth, getting a two-run home run to cut the lead to three. Olivares finished the fourth, allowing those two runs on three hits and three walks in total, striking out two in the start. 
    The Mighty Mussels got one back in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single from Cosetti, making it 6-2.
    Gabriel Yanez chipped in two innings of relief, allowing an unearned run on two hits while striking out three, before giving way to A.J. Labas to begin the top of the seventh. Before it was over the Tarpons had taken a 7-6 lead as five straight hitters reached base, with a two-run homer and an error included. Labas came back on for the eighth and delivered a one-two-three inning to give his lineup a chance. 
    They did so in the bottom half. Alec Sayre drew a one-out walk before coming around to score on Jorel Ortega’s second triple of the season. Ortega then scampered home on a wild pitch to give Fort Myers the lead 8-7.
    Lefty Zach Veen was summoned to close the game out for the home team and set the Tarpon lineup down in order, including a strikeout to punctuate the win and pick up his second save of the season.
    Ortega led the offense by reaching base in all five of his plate appearances, finishing 4-for-4 with a triple and a walk, scoring four runs, and driving in one. Joining him with multiple hits on the game were Danny De Andrade (2-for-4, R, 2B, BB, K) and Olivar (2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI, 2 K). Cosetti and Aguiar each drove in two runs.
    Pitcher of the Day - Tyler Beck, Wichita Wind Surge (3 IP, H, 4 K)
    Hitter of the Day - Michael Helman, St. Paul Saints (3-for-5, 2 R, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, K)
    #1 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 1-for-5, R, 2B (12), 2 RBI
    #3 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-5, 3 K
    #5 - Edouard Julien (St. Paul) - 2-for-2, 3 R, 2 BB
    #8 - Jose Salas (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, R, 2B, RBI, 2 K
    #14 - Noah Miller (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, R, BB, 2 SB
    #16 - Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - 4 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K
    #18 - Tanner Schobel (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB
    #20 - Misael Urbina (Cedar Rapids) - 3-for-5, R, 2B, RBI, K
    Indianapolis @ St. Paul (6:37 PM CDT) - TBD
    Wichita @ Frisco (11:05 AM CDT) -RHP Chad Donato (0-3, 12.79 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (6:30 PM CDT) - RHP Orlando Rodriguez (3-1, 1.10 ERA)
    Tampa @ Fort Myers (6:00 PM CDT) - TBD
    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!
  24. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Baseball is Bringing the Best Rule Change Yet   
    This season Major League Baseball has made plenty of waves with sweeping rule changes added at the highest level. For years Rob Manfred has been toying with changes in the minor leagues and and the sport’s partner leagues. This year, that resulted in larger bases, a banned shift, and the institution of a pitch clock. None of those have been too entirely intrusive although they do represent a substantial new era in the sport.
    As soon as next year, another rule change could make its way from Triple-A, and the challenge system should be something applauded by all.
    For years we have heard consternation about the strike zone at the highest level. Major League Baseball umpires have garnered public notoriety through an inability to accurately do their jobs. While not all are poor, and the practice of addressing big league pitches is tough, a sweeping lack of accountability has become problematic.
    With technology at the disposal of the sport as a whole, an electronic strike zone (or "robo ump") has been clamored for. While that may seem to be a quick and effective change, it also renders the position behind the plate significantly less useful. Catcher’s have adapted their game to pitch framing, receiving the baseball, and presenting strikes to umpires over recent seasons. Removing that aspect of the game makes them little more than blockers playing catch.
    At Triple-A, the ABS system (Automatic Balls and Strikes) is utilized on Tuesday through Thursday games. The umpire remains behind the plate, but basically uses a pitch com system to call the game. There is no framing, there is no nuance. Then Friday rolls around.
    With the challenge system, the umpire makes the call, but each team is allowed three challenges to be initiated only on the field, within seconds, from the batter, pitcher, or catcher. Should one of those involved in the at-bat believe the umpire made the wrong call, they can initiate a challenge. The umpire is then made aware of the correct call, and the videoboard indicates the pitch's location. From there, a challenge is either deemed successful or unsuccessful. The latter decreases a team’s challenge pool while the former impacts nothing but the play.
    I left Friday’s game convinced I had seen the greatest advancement in recent baseball history. All it took was some accountability.
    The first challenge of the game came on a pitch that was called a strike and would have took the count to 3-1 rather than being 2-2. Andruw Monasterio, the batter, was incorrect in his assessment as the ball clipped the zone. He did homer on the very next pitch, but the umpire was officially one-for-one.
    Not long after, Saints pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson didn’t like a call that allowed a free pass to the Sounds hitter. He challenged the ball four call and was wrong. The umpire was now two-for-two.
    Not all games will favor the umpire, and not all pitches will be worth challenging. At one point, St. Paul outfielder Ryan LaMarre didn’t like a strike three against him, but for whatever reason determined the situation wasn’t worth pushing it.
    Therein lies a whole new avenue for analytical advancement. It would behoove the league to track the success of their umpires. How often are they being challenged and losing? Can umpires that perform poorly being suspended or further held accountable. Will teams lean more on their pitcher, catcher, or batter to be right when initiating a challenge? Do certain players always think they know what a call should be? Who will have the best eye across the entirety of the sport?
    It remains to be seen when or if the challenge system will be instituted in the majors, but Saints manager Toby Gardenhire has been wanting it for years. He now gets to see it in action on a weekly basis, and you can bet parent clubs across the sport will be inviting feedback.
    The sport has been sped up with the pitch clock, and a few 20 second delays to make sure critical calls are right seems worth slowing it down moderately. Allowing catchers to still invoke their full value, umpires to be held accountable, and the most important offerings to be judged correctly seems like a win for all involved. Rule changes aren’t always welcomed, but give me this one with open arms.
  25. Like
    nclahammer reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Minnesota Twins 2016 Draft Retrospective: Plenty of Big-League Talent   
    Major League Baseball's 2023 Draft is scheduled to start on July 9, 2023. Each team prepares for the draft with a specific plan, and sometimes those plans play out better than others. To prepare fans for the upcoming draft, this series will examine recent Twins drafts and how those players have performed so far in their professional careers.  
    First Round (15th Overall): Alex Kirilloff
    Minnesota selected high school outfielder Alex Kirilloff with their first-round pick in 2016. He quickly became one of the Twins' best prospects and was a consensus top-100 global prospect from 2019-2021. His breakout campaign came in 2018 when he hit .348/.392/.578 (.970) with 44 doubles, seven triples, and 20 home runs in 130 games. He was named the Twins minor league player of the year and had the potential to be one of the best-hitting prospects to come through the organization in quite some time. 
    Injuries have drastically altered Kirilloff's career. He had Tommy John surgery while still in the minor leagues, and he's dealt with wrist injuries over the last two seasons. The Twins recently ended his rehab stint and assigned him to Triple-A. Kirilloff hasn't been able to play every day since returning from his most recent wrist surgery, but he has posted terrific numbers when on the field. The Twins will continue to build him up slowly and monitor how his wrist handles an increased workload. Minnesota hopes Kirilloff can be part of the team's core moving forward, but he must prove he can stay healthy. 
    Second Round: Ben Rortvedt, Jose Miranda, Akil Baddoo
    Minnesota selected Rortvedt with the 56th overall pick in 2016. He worked through the Twins system before debuting during the 2021 season. The Twins traded Rortvedt to the Yankees as part of the Josh Donaldson trade. He has dealt with injuries since the deal and has yet to appear in a big-league game for the club. Rortvedt is considered a strong defensive catcher with little offensive upside. 
    Following Rortvedt, the Twins had two consecutive picks late in the second round, Jose Miranda (73rd overall) and Akil Baddoo (74th overall). Minnesota took Miranda out of high school in Puerto Rico and has put himself into the team's long-term plans. In 2021, Miranda hit .344/.401/.572 (.973) with 32 doubles and 30 home runs on the way to being named the organization's minor league player of the year. Last year, he had an up-and-down season but still posted a 115 OPS+ in 125 games. Based on this performance, Minnesota traded Gio Urshela to open third base for Miranda, and he has struggled to start the season. 
    Baddoo never appeared in a big-league game for the Twins because the Detroit Tigers selected him in the Rule 5 Draft. He had a terrific rookie season in 2021 with 40 extra-base hits and a 112 OPS+ in 124 games. Over the last two seasons, he has struggled to replicate those numbers, with ten extra-base hits and a 66 OPS+ in 94 games. Initially, it looked like the Twins missed out on a solid outfield regular, but his flaws have become more evident over the last two seasons. 
    Other Notable Picks: Griffin Jax, Jordan Balazovic, Tyler Wells
    Jax was drafted with the 93rd overall pick from the United States Air Force Academy. He was primarily used as a starting pitcher in the minors with mixed results, so the Twins shifted him to a bullpen role. Over the last two seasons, he has developed into one of the team's most reliable relievers. According to FanGraphs, Jax was the third most valuable reliever for the Twins last season behind Jhoan Duran and Caleb Thielbar. The team continues to use him in high-leverage situations, and he's vital to the bullpen's long-term success. 
    Balazovic was one of the team's top-ranked pitching prospects entering last season, but a lot has changed over the last year. He struggled through much of the 2022 season before ending the year on a high note. In spring training this year, someone punched him in the mouth and broke his jaw. This incident set him back to start the year, but he has moved into a starting role at Triple-A. There is a good chance he will make his big-league debut this season since he is already on the 40-man roster.
    Like Baddoo, Wells was selected in the Rule 5 Draft and has accumulated more WAR than any other Twins draft pick from 2016. The Orioles used Wells in the bullpen during the 2021 season but shifted him to a starting role last season. In 103 2/3 innings, he posted a 4.25 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and a 76-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has performed even better in 2023 with a 132 OPS+ through his first six appearances, including drops in his hit and walk rates. It's interesting to think about how Wells would have fit into the Twins' pitching plan. 
    Kirilloff and Miranda's performance connects to the club's long-term success at the big-league level. It seemed likely for both hitters to be penciled into the middle of the line-up for the next decade, but adjustments might need to be made to that plan. In this draft, the Twins clearly identified multiple players capable of providing value at the big-league level. 
    Who makes the more significant long-term impact for the Twins, Kirilloff or Miranda? Should the team have left Baddoo and Wells unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
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