glunn reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Did the Twins Lose Money Last Year?
We as fans don't get a lot of clear insight regarding the profits and losses of major-league franchises, even though team revenues are inherently tied to payroll spending. That's the nature of a business where all clubs (save Atlanta) are privately owned, their books shielded from the public eye.
But each year, Forbes attempts to calculate and rank the value of all 30 teams, and the 2023 list just dropped. The methodology assesses "enterprise values (equity plus net debt) based on historical transactions and the future economics of the sport and each team." There's a whole lot more explanation and detail in the article if you're interested.
The most striking finding, from the local standpoint, is that according to Forbes, the Twins lost $30.3 million last year. They had the fifth-highest losses of any team.
At the end of last season, when asked about payroll expectations for 2023, Twins president Dave St. Peter raised some eyebrows with his response, which suggested the team had surpassed the standard for investing in the roster based on their revenues.
"Our payroll has not been commensurate with our revenues for some time,” he said. “That’s a reality. Our payroll is well north of where revenues suggest it would be."
This data from Forbes would appear to corroborate his statement, at least to some extent. By signing Carlos Correa and pushing payroll to a new height in the wake of two COVID-affected seasons, the Twins apparently took a sizable loss. Now they've pushed that payroll even higher here in 2023.
Will it stop the "Cheap Pohlads" birds from chirping? Probably not. And to be clear, it's not like ownership is necessarily losing money here; so much of their ultimate profit from the franchise is derived from its ever-growing overall valuation (see below). But personally, as a fan, I can appreciate that the team is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to investing in a better product and winning back the fans.
Will it pay off? That remains to be seen.
Some other noteworthy findings from the Forbes report:
The Twins, worth $1.39 billion, rank as the 22nd-most valuable franchise in baseball. They didn't increase their valuation from last year. Carl Pohlad bought the team for $44 million back in 1984. The New York Mets took a reported operating loss of $138.5 million last year. Steve Cohen's a hell of a drug. According to Forbes and Nielsen data, the Twins had a pretty strong TV viewership at 47,000 households on average, but don't seem to getting a great deal on the rights fee. (Compare to markets like Detroit and Colorado below.
glunn reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Projecting the Twins 2023 Opening Day Roster: Final Decisions
Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots.
Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers
Like many teams, the Twins will employ a two-catcher system behind the plate. Minnesota signed Vazquez to a 3-year, $30 million deal this winter, so it seems likely for him to get a higher percentage of the playing time. In his last three full seasons, Vazquez has averaged over 130 games played, and he's been above average at controlling the running game. Jeffers has shown some pop in his bat this spring, with four of his six hits being for extra bases. Veteran catchers like Tony Wolters, Grayson Greiner, and Chance Sisco were non-roster invitees this spring, and one of them will get an opportunity if/when there is an injury.
Infielders (5): Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Donovan Solano
Jorge Polanco is the biggest name not listed among the team's projected Opening Day roster. Derek Falvey told reporters on Sunday that Polanco might not be ready to start the regular season on time. He has lingering soreness in his left knee, an injury that ended his 2022 season. Kyle Farmer and Donovan Solano will see time at second base until Polanco is ready to return. Kirilloff is also not guaranteed to break camp with the club, but he has played in minor league games over the weekend. The Twins will likely give him regular rest to start the year, with Gallo and Solano starting games at first base. Top prospects like Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, and Edouard Julien can add depth to this group when needed.
Outfielders (6): Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach**, Michael A. Taylor
The Twins focused on adding strong defenders to the roster, with Gallo and Taylor being Gold Glove winners. Buxton slowly worked his way into game action this spring and should be as close to 100% as possible. Larnach wasn't guaranteed an Opening Day spot and entered the picture with Polanco's injury. There was some concern after Gordon suffered an ankle injury earlier in camp, but the injury won't hinder his availability at the season's start. Matt Wallner, the organization's reigning MiLB Player of the Year, is the team's best power prospect, and he will be waiting for a call-up back to the big leagues.
Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan
Bailey Ober has been terrific this spring, but the Twins aren't going to utilize a six-man rotation. St. Paul's rotation is set up to be strong, with Ober, Louie Varland, and Simeon Woods Richardson at the top. The front office set up this rotation to have depth when a starter misses time with an injury. Three veteran starting pitchers (Gray, Mahle, and Maeda) are entering a contract year, so they will be eager to prove that previous injuries and age don't factor into their long-term value. The Twins project to have one of the club's best rotations of the last 25 years, but health questions will continue to follow this group throughout the season.
Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala, Jovani Moran, Jeff Hoffman**
Trevor Megill is the most significant change among this group from earlier in the offseason. The Twins optioned him to the minor leagues on Sunday, opening an opportunity for another pitcher. Megill had a rough spring by allowing eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. Dennis Santana held a 40-man roster spot until the Twins lost him on waivers to the Mets at the end of last week. Minnesota signed Hoffman to a minor league deal at the end of February, and he has an 8-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in spring action.
ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. The Twins used 39 pitchers last season so multiple relievers will make the trip back and forth between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
How do you feel about the team's depth at multiple positions? Do you agree that these will be the 26 players coming north with the team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
glunn reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, Can Jorge López Rediscover His First-Half Success?
In late-July of last year, the Twins were still grasping to a small division lead, with more holes seemingly appearing by the day. One of the biggest gaps in their roster at the time fell between superstar relief ace Jhoan Duran – and pretty much anyone else in their relief corps. Sure, Griffin Jax had built some trust equity from the skipper, as did Caleb Thielbar. They weren’t all-star caliber players, but they could be trusted to pass the baton in a relay that led to Duran.
The team then went out and made a trade for the star-level arm that was desperately needed to help bridge the gap.
Enter Jorge López.
The former Baltimore Oriole was having a career-year when the Twins acquired him in exchange for pitching prospects Cade Povich and Yennier Cano. He had a fantastic 1.68 ERA with a 27.6% strikeout rate and a 60% ground ball rate, leading to his first all star nod. His fastballs ran hot, with an average of 97.4 MPH for his four-seamer and 98 MPH on his preferred sinker, and he paired them with a slew of secondary offerings that have carried over from his time as a starting pitcher. His curveball, in particular, was a real weapon, with his slider and changeup serving as additional tricks up his sleeve.
So Lopez had big strikeout numbers, got plenty of ground ball outs, and had two and a half years of club control at the time of the trade. What’s not to like?
While he wasn’t a train wreck with his new team, Lopez’s first two months as a Twin were disappointing based on the expectations that were set when the team acquired him. In that time, he had a 4.37 ERA across 23 innings pitched, due in large part to a walk rate (13.7%) that nearly eclipsed his strikeout percentage (17.6%).
Lopez’s sinker was his bread and butter in the first few months of the season, but its success trailed off considerably once the calendar flipped to July. In the first three months of the 2022 campaign, he allowed just 11 hits on that offering, but in the second half that figure nearly doubled to 20 (six of which went for extra bases). This pitch wasn’t just his most used offering, but it was a notable choice when deciding what to use as a “put away” pitch – or what he used in an effort to get a strikeout once he got to two strikes in the count. That rate for his sinker went from about 16.5% in April and May, all the way up to 29.6% in June and July, but then it plummeted to just 4.5% by the time September rolled around.
That’s a big kick to his confidence in his best pitch.
That "put away" pitch selection is vital to Lopez’s end results because he’s one of the best at getting to that point when facing opposing hitters, especially those that are right-handed. Last year, he was able to get at least two strikes in the first three pitches against 73% of the right-handed hitters that he faced, according to Inside Edge. Obviously that can be a huge advantage in the grand scheme of things, and indeed it was for the first half of last season when he had a 28.7% strikeout rate. But for whatever reason -- whether it was trying a different pitch mix, or his sinker lost some zip, or he wasn’t locating his pitches as well, or hitters were merely catching up to him -- he was unable to tap into that put away stuff in the second half.
That could come across as a grim outlook going forward. Baseball fans suffer from perpetual recency bias, and Lopez’s most recent month of work was uninspiring. However, the Twins don’t need him to be the monster that he was for Baltimore in the first few months of last season. They just need him to be in the same mix as Jax and Thielbar, which is probably somewhere between the two poles that Lopez set last season. The Twins need him to be in that group of guys that can be trusted in a relay that leads to Duran taking on the highest-leverage situations at or near the end of the game.
But what do you think? Can Jorge Lopez regain some of his value that the team had in mind when they traded for him? Or did the club get duped into buying-high on an inconsistent arm? Let us know your thoughts and expectations in the comments below.
glunn reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Guy Who Never Heard of Edouard Julien Until Last Week Pre-Furious About Triple-A Assignment
The early talk of Minnesota Twins spring training is not the return of Kenta Maeda or the leg of Carlos Correa, but rather the blistering start from Edouard Julien. The infield prospect put a bow on the chatter by belting two home runs against Atlanta in Tuesday’s 10-7 pretend game victory.
Jason Kornhaber is already mad about it.
“Edmond [sic] is a monster talent,” said Kornhaber, who found out about Julien’s existence on Friday, February 24th, when two-time Jeopardy! also-ran Do-Hyoung Park interviewed him for MLB.com. “It’s unconscionable that this team would hold him back. Are they playing to win or playing with Edwin [sic] ’s service time?”
Julien, an 18th-round pick out of Auburn in 2019, led the minor leagues with 208 walks over the last two seasons. This is just one of the recently acquired facts that Kornhaber has marshaled in Julien’s defense despite not knowing his entire name yet.
“Juilliard [sic] is a generational talent, and the Twins are throwing it away,” said the Farmington beekeeper. Per sources close to Kornhaber, he has also said this about Kohl Stewart, Alex Burnett, Michael Restovich, Deolis Guerra, Anthony Slama, and Matt Moses. In addition, a former roommate said Kornhaber vowed to get a tattoo of MTV’s Dan Cortese on his thigh if J.D. Durbin didn’t record a 20-win season. Durbin finished his MLB career with six total wins. Kornhaber denied the story.
“He’s going to lead Team Canada to a World Baseball Classic title and come back to Fort Myers with a ticket to (home of Twins Triple-A affiliate) St. Paul,” claimed Kornhaber, who discovered Julien’s nationality on Monday.
The Twins have made no indication on their plans for Julien in 2023, but Kornhaber’s anger is already at a fever pitch not seen since his misguided advocacy for Joe Webb as the Minnesota Vikings quarterback of the future.
“I can’t believe they’re doing this to Erwin [sic],” said Kornhaber.
glunn reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Natural: Brooks Lee Is Special, and the Twins Know It
"He makes it look easy" is one of the highest compliments you can pay a person when it comes to something so immensely challenging as playing baseball at the highest level.
And yet, that's Brooks Lee in a nutshell. The 2022 first-round pick has handled everything thrown at him with such a sense of grace and nonchalance that it's easy to see why the Twins keep throwing more.
Selected eighth overall out of Cal Poly, Lee impressed the organization enough with his smooth transition to the pro game that they advanced him rapidly over a two-month span. Following a brief opening stint at rookie ball, where he batted .353 in four games, Lee skipped right past Low-A and went straight to Cedar Rapids.
In 25 games with the Kernels, the switch-hitter slashed .289/.395/.454 with four home runs and an 18-to-16 K/BB ratio. His performance was so impressive that he received a late promotion to Double-A, where he went 11-for-26 (.423) in six contests, including four playoff games.
This spring, the Twins are showing a ton of faith and belief in Lee. Oftentimes when a prospect drafted nine months earlier is invited to big-league camp, it's used as an opportunity to soak in the experience and acclimate to major-league surroundings.
Not in Lee's case. They're throwing him right into the fire. Through the first four days of spring training games, Lee made three starts and handled the assignment with aplomb, notching four hits in nine at-bats.
"He’s clearly not overwhelmed with the situation," observed manager Rocco Baldelli after Lee went 2-for-3 against the Braves on Tuesday.
For his part, Lee says he wasn't quite expecting to get this much early-spring action ... not that he's disappointed. "It's pretty surprising, but I signed up for it. I'm having a lot of fun."
For those familiar with Lee's background, his ability to take it all in stride and enjoy the moment shouldn't come as a huge shock.
The Coach's Kid
The narrative about a coach's kid with supernatural baseball aptitude can be an overplayed trope, but in Lee's case it is impossible to deny. After starring for San Luis Obispo High School in California, he was considered a top name in the 2019 draft, but withdrew his name the day before, informing teams he intended to play at Cal Poly for his father Larry, who'd served as Mustangs head coach for nearly two decades.
A 2020 season lost to injury and COVID was followed by an excellent 2021, where he batted .342 with a 1.010 OPS, and then an even better 2022, which featured a .357/.462/.664 slash line and cemented his status as a top-10 draft pick.
Growing up as a coach's kid creates a deep and unique connection to the baseball field, and the fundamentals of the game. It's apparent to Lee's current manager, who himself was coached by his father as a youth. Rocco has credited Dan Baldelli with developing his love for the game, so he can relate to this special aspect of Lee's makeup.
"He’s a very relaxed guy when he’s at the ballpark," Baldelli said. "He gives off the impression that he is a coach’s son and he spent many, many, many years of his life at a baseball field, and he knows everything that goes on at the baseball field. It doesn’t feel like there’s a ton going on here that he’s completely unfamiliar with."
In particular, Baldelli has been impressed by Lee's ability to process information and adapt on the fly.
"The at-bats look good. He makes really good adjustments during at-bats, he finds a way to get his barrel kind of on a good plane. Depending on what’s going on in the count, depending on the pitcher he’s facing, he’s not a one-trick pony at the plate, that’s pretty clear from watching him."
This crucial quality helps explain why Lee emerged as a top 2022 draft prospect – MLB.com had him ranked as the fifth-best draft prospect ahead of time – and why the Twins were so delighted to get him with the No. 8 pick.
So far he's been everything they could've hoped, with his initial performance standing out so much that Lee managed to sneak (ever-so-slightly) past Royce Lewis to claim the No. 1 spot on our latest Twins prospect rankings.
Now all he has to contend with is a troubled history for those who've been in this position before.
Breaking a Pattern of Top Prospect Letdowns
I wrote recently about the track record for Twins prospects who've topped our rankings over the past 10 years. It's a list that includes:
Most recently, Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, who are both grappling with potentially career-threatening health issues as we head into this season. Austin Martin, who plummeted in the rankings following a tough encore season at Double-A in 2022. Fernando Romero, who fizzled out and never came close to reaching his high-end starter potential. Byron Buxton, whose career thus far has epitomized the disruptive power of uncontrollable forces impacting elite athletes, even when their on-field play matches their promise. Can Lee break the spell? His skill set is so advanced, balanced, and resilient that it feels almost impossible to envision a Martin-esque performance drop-off. Injuries are of course less predictable, and Lee hasn't been able to totally avoid their grip – he suffered a hyperextended knee in 2020 that required surgery – but he's fully healthy and without any restriction this spring.
That differentiates them from so many other players in camp, and has probably contributed to the number of opportunities available to him here in the first week of games.
The natural question now, for The Natural, is what comes next.
What's Ahead for Brooks Lee?
I'm assuming Lee will open the year at Double-A. That's a semi-aggressive assignment on its face, but so send him back to Single-A would feel almost unfair to the pitchers there.
Once he's settled in Wichita, Lee is instantly in range of a big-league promotion, and his showing this spring helps build confidence he'll be ready for the call whenever it comes. "Offensively, defensively, everything we’ve thrown at him, he’s handled it, done it, excelled at it, and he looks good," said Baldelli.
Assuming he picks up where he left off in the minors, it becomes a matter of when and where Lee's opportunity will arise in the majors. The Twins are hoping it won't come anytime soon at shortstop, where Correa is penciled in for years to come.
The more imminent opportunity figures to come at third base, and it sort of feels like the organization is planning around such a scenario, maybe sooner than later. Playing third would be a relatively new experience for Lee, who played shortstop exclusively in college and has yet to appear anywhere else defensively as a pro.
He said short is his favorite position, but added, "I love third too." Maybe it's meant to be. After all, Lee was named after legendary Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson. In the past, he's set his sights on an accordingly ambitious career path.
"Honestly, I think I should be a Hall of Famer when I grow up and be in the talk for one of the greatest of all time," Lee said back in 2021 as a redshirt freshman at Cal Poly.
These days, he's a little more subdued in his goal-setting. Asked what he hopes to accomplish this year: "Just be satisfied with how I did at the end of the season, that’s all I care about. Haven’t really thought about stats or anything like that, or where I’m gonna be."
Sounds like a coach's kid. And while he doesn't have his dad in the dugout anymore, Larry is never too far away – Brooks says he talks to him "every day." Upon reaching the big leagues, Lee will have the luxury of a more contemporary mentor close at hand.
After Correa exited his spring training debut on Wednesday, I asked for his impressions of Lee thus far.
"Man that kid is a stud," Correa said, with an added emphasis on the last word. "I really, really, really like this kid. I’m very high on him. Don’t be surprised if we see him up this year, he’s very, very good man. Everybody I talk to about him, it’s high praise. I don’t get impressed very easily. That was definitely a great pick by the Twins."
Just a couple of first-round shortstops who make it look easy.
glunn reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, 2023 is a Big Season for Recent Top Picks
When the Twins signed Donovan Solano to the major-league roster last week, it shuffled things a bit. Nick Gordon is out of options, and the rest of the bench is largely set. Kyle Farmer could find himself as the Opening Day designated hitter, and everything points to Trevor Larnach beginning the season at Triple-A St. Paul.
On one hand, Larnach failing to crack the 26-man roster is representative of depth behind Joey Gallo, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler. On the other, it’s suboptimal to see a polished college hitter still yet to establish himself in the majors at age-26. The Twins have a concerning string of draft picks, and it starts with Larnach for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
Taken 20th overall from Oregon State during the 2018 Major League Baseball draft, Larnach’s selection was largely rooted in his hit tool. Capable of lots of loud contact, Larnach generates significant bat speed and produces very high exit velocities. He is a guy that should hit for plenty of power, and he doesn’t whiff substantially in doing so. At the big league level, we have seen that, but it has come in short bursts as he has struggled to stay healthy.
Larnach has played just 130 major-league games, and his .687 OPS is not close to what he has flashed in small sample sizes. He did show off his arm in left field last season but then was shelved with a significant core muscle injury. Finding a way to force his addition to the 26-man roster this season is a must, and raking at Triple-A may be a start. To stay there this time, he’ll need to be healthy.
Following the selection of Larnach, 2019 top pick Keoni Cavaco was cut from an entirely different cloth. As a late riser and helium pick, Cavaco may have been a reach at 13th overall. He was a shortstop with tools and projection but potentially wouldn’t stick there. Now 187 games into his pro career, he has missed time with injury, missed a season due to the pandemic, and not produced at all.
Cavaco played the hot corner for Fort Myers last season as Noah Miller took over at shortstop. His .672 OPS across 99 games was a career-high, and he showed some power by hitting 11 homers. His 138/22 K/BB at Low-A doesn’t bode well for his future. Cavaco will likely start at High-A Cedar Rapids this season, but it’s not necessarily production warranted. He still will only be 22 years old, but something has to give in order for this pick to turn in some future promise.
Rounding out the group is another loud college bat, Aaron Sabato. A first baseman at North Carolina, Sabato was taken 27th overall in 2020. Like Larnach before him, the draw was a power bat that produced strong exit velocities. That’s not a skill you can teach, and he did a pretty good job of showing plate discipline as an amateur as well. Unfortunately in pro ball, the wheels have all but fallen off.
Across 210 professional games, Sabato owns an ugly .209/.355/.424 slash line. He has hit for the expected power, and he’s done a decent job drawing walks, but he also punched out 142 times last season in just 103 games at Double-A and lower. The strikeout problems aren’t going to get better as the competition increases, and it’s looked more and more likely that he may only be a designated hitter. Finding a way to show some level of plate discipline could go a long way toward avoiding this being a bust pick. Minnesota didn’t wait around with Brent Rooker, and the results there were much more manageable on the farm.
None of these three players are done with their time in the Twins organization after this year, but what their futures look like could largely be influenced by it. Larnach needs to force his way into a crowded picture, and the pair of Cavaco and Sabato need to show there is a reason why they were taken so high.
Not all first-round draft picks pan out, but Minnesota is definitely eyeing better things from this three-year stretch as soon as possible.
glunn reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Claim RHP Dennis Santana from Atlanta
According to a tweet from Star-Tribune beat writer Phil Miller, the Minnesota Twins have claimed right-hander Dennis Santana from the Braves. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Twins have shifted shortstop Royce Lewis to the 60-Day Injured List.
The 26-year-old from the Dominican has well over three years of service time in the big leagues. Signed by the Dodgers way back in 2013, Santana made his big-league debut for Los Angeles in 2018. He worked 3 2/3 innings in one game. In 2019, he pitched in three games, and in 2020, he worked in 12 games. In 2021, he pitched in 16 games for the Dodgers before being traded to the Rangers. He finished the season with 39 games in Texas. Last year, he pitched in 63 games for the Rangers.
In total, he has pitched 139 big-league innings and has an ERA of 5.12. He has just under a strikeout per inning while walking one every other inning. Therein lies the issue.
Shortly after the season, he was acquired by Atlanta.
However, it is important to note that Santana is out of minor-league options. So, he will have to make the Twins roster or be put on waivers in an attempt to keep him in the organization.
He has a nice pitch profile. Last year, his average fastball was about 97 mph. His big pitch is his mid-80s slider, which he threw about 40% of the time. He also has a decent, 90-mph changeup.
Again, adding a young guy with a big arm. If needed, he could be DFAd and you hope he stays in the organization. Or maybe Pete Maki finds something to make him a consistent bullpen weapon.
The addition of Jeff Hoffman is interesting. No, not because he was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, but he is a 30-year-old who has spent a lot of time in the big leagues. He pitched in 68 games for the Rockies between 2016 and 2020. He has pitched for the Cincinnati Reds the past two seasons.
He was a starter earlier in his career, so he's got a full pitch-mix. His fastball averages about 94 and he throws it a lot. He also has a curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s, a low-to-mid 80s slider, and a changeup that he probably throws too hard.
Feel free to discuss this transaction in the COMMENTS below.
glunn reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top 20 Prospects: Recap & Analysis
The purpose of these rankings is to take stock of the Twins farm system leading up to the start of the season. This year we asked 10 different Twins Daily writers, all of whom follow the minors closely, to share their choices for the current top 30 Twins prospects. Then we aggregated them into the list that's been gradually rolled out here over the past few weeks.
This is a snapshot in time. Prospect rankings are never static, and in order to better follow the movement that occurs over time, last year we launched the Twins Daily Prospect Tracker. It's updated monthly throughout the season with new stats, insights, and re-rankings. I recommend bookmarking that page and checking back often if you love to follow the next generation of Twins talent.
For today, we're going to dive deep on that next generation and how it's shaping the future of the franchise. First, here's a rundown of this year's top 20 rankings – you can click on each player's name to find a profile on him from one of our writers.
Minnesota Twins 2023 Top 20 Prospects
20. Misael Urbina, OF: Has come along slowly since signing as a top int'l talent out of DR in 2018, but still 20 with big tools.
19. Jose Rodriguez, OF: Opened eyes with a spectacular and rare power display in the Dominican Summer League.
18. Tanner Schobel, 2B: 2022 second-round pick saw his college power spike evaporate in pro debut, fading his hype.
17. Ronny Henriquez, RHP: Slider-slinging 22-year-old seems destined to break through in full-time relief role.
16. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Stellar track record keeps him on the radar following a disastrous year at Triple-A.
15. Matt Canterino, RHP: Maybe the best raw stuff in the organization, but TJ surgery will sideline him again this year.
14. Noah Miller, SS: Outstanding fielder needs to find some semblance of offensive game other than drawing walks.
13. David Festa, RHP: Former 13th-rounder's domination of Single-A sparks hope for another deep-draft pitching find.
12. Yasser Mercedes, OF: Club's biggest int'l signing last summer flashed all five tools in highly impressive rookie-ball debut.
11. Matt Wallner, OF: His off-the-charts raw power will play in the bigs if he can stay relatively disciplined at plate.
10. Austin Martin, SS: Huge dropoff after topping this list a year ago, but the speedy OBP specialist can rebound.
9. Louie Varland, RHP: Continues to outperform his stuff, but also, the stuff continues to get better for hard-working SP.
8. Jose Salas, INF: Twins picked up a dynamic young athlete via Arraez trade in this versatile switch-hitting infielder.
7. Connor Prielipp, LHP: Slid to Twins in second round of latest draft coming off elbow surgery, but has frontline SP traits.
6. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP: Reached majors at age 22 following lights-out campaign between AA/AAA.
5. Edouard Julien, 2B: He has raked in the minors with an ultra-patient approach, and is knocking on MLB door.
4. Marco Raya, RHP: Word is out on the best-kept secret in Twins system, who dazzled in pro debut at Fort Myers.
3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF: Flashed superstar talent and production during full-season debut cut short by knee injury.
2. Royce Lewis, SS: Cemented legitimacy during a convincing return to action before being struck by another torn ACL.
1. Brooks Lee, SS: Drafted eighth overall with a bat that pretty much looked MLB-ready as soon as he reached the pro field.
A True Deadlock at the Top
The most fascinating dynamic of this year's rankings was the choice between Lee and Lewis for number one. I cannot possibly overstate how accurate the word "deadlock" is in describing the lack of separation between these high-end talents in our ranking process.
The results from tabulating our panel of 10 voters placed the two in an exact tie: five voters picked Lewis, five picked Lee. In order to try and swing things one way or the other, we reached out for off-the-record opinions on the matter from a variety of trusted sources: scouting contacts, prospect analysts, baseball people inside the Twins organization and out.
You know what came back? Pretty much a 50/50 split exactly. Almost everyone expressed a variation of the same sentiment: It's really hard to compare the two directly, because it all comes down to the upside & risk versus safety & floor equation. "If I had to choose, I guess I'd go with X."
We all want to dream on the lofty upside Lewis still possesses: the potential for an electric power/speed combo from shortstop or center field, combined with character and charisma on the Jeter Scale. But no one can ignore the realities of a career that's been sabotaged by injuries, the latest of which undeniably clouds his future outlook.
How do you properly account for this in projecting him as a major-league player? And how do you compare him to someone like Lee, who probably has a lower overall ceiling but also has one of the highest floors you could ask for in a prospect? Lee looked so polished and adept during his pro debut after signing last year that he found his way to Wichita for the Double-A playoffs and was up to the task.
Lee makes it look really easy, and that's the highest compliment you can pay a 21-year-old barely out of college and facing experienced pro competition.
Ultimately, we went with Lee as our choice for as the top Twins prospect of 2023, because the feedback we received seemed to tilt ever-so-slightly in that direction and because the majority of publications we chart our rankings against – MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic (both Keith Law and Aaron Gleeman) – have Lee in front of Lewis.
But if there's a strong consensus to be found around these two it's this: the Twins are very lucky to have them both.
Restocking the Low Minors with Upside
Lee and Lewis both contribute to a robust top end of the pipeline, joining the likes of Julien, Woods Richardson, Varland, Martin, and Wallner as quality prospects who could essentially be ready to make an MLB impact at any time. But a number of breakthroughs from recent draft classes and recent high-profile international signings have populated the lower levels with promising young talent.
This was missing last year, when essentially all 10 of our top prospects were in the high minors and approaching MLB-readiness, save for Chase Petty who got traded shortly after we published. The emergences of teenaged players like Emmanuel Rodriguez, Raya, and Mercedes – bolstered by the acquisition of Salas in the Luis Arraez trade – have done wonders for the lower levels of this system, and the franchise's long-term talent landscape.
Still Lacking Catcher Talent
The lack of standout catching prospects in Minnesota's system is something I noted last year, even before Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt were traded away. It's now even more conspicuous. The Twins have sought to backfill at the MLB level with veterans like Gary Sánchez and now Christian Vázquez, but the future of this position continues to hinge on Ryan Jeffers, who has proven little at age 25.
Not only were there zero catching prospects in our top 20, but if you zoom out to the top 30, none are found in the 21-through-30 range either. The highest I've seen a catcher ranked by anyone is Noah Cardenas, who was 25th on Gleeman's top 40 list, but Cardenas was profiled there as a "future backup with some starter upside."
Another tough year for Jeffers, with Vázquez under control through 2025 but turning 33 in August, would leave the organization's outlook pretty flimsy behind the plate unless new names emerge.
Rebound Scenarios Present X-factors
Aside from some of the big risers, the most stark movements from last year's rankings were the dramatic downfalls of Martin (#1 last year, #10 this year) and Balazovic (#4 last year, #16 this year). Those are tough blows for the system and help explain why it's generally viewed as middling compared to the league. (Law ranked them 19th out of 30 organizations at The Athletic earlier this month.)
The flip side is this: it's only one season, and these players are not far removed from being viewed as viable (and imminent) difference-makers with convincing track records. Martin and Balazovic are legit talents, and both will be 24 this year with ample experience in the high minors. A turnaround for either could quickly thrust them into the big-league picture.
Who's Your Pick to Click in 2023?
I asked this at the conclusion of last year's recap article, so I'll send it your way again. Who is your pick to click and make a huge jump in the rankings in 2023?
Last year I the name I submitted was Marco Raya, and he went from Honorable Mentions to #4 on our list, so that went well. This year I will go with Keoni Cavaco, who was merely an Honorable Mention this year having fallen off the radar in three unproductive seasons since being drafted 13th overall in 2019.
Cavaco wasn't good last year, but he did seem to take a step forward and he remains an athletic and toolsy infielder. I like him to escape the pitcher-friendly Florida State League and put together a strong age-21 season that vaults him back into the top 20.
How about you?
Twins Daily 2022 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2017 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2016 Top Prospects Twins Daily 2015 Top Prospects Twins Daily Links: Misael Urbina, OF, Jose Rodriguez, OF, Tanner Schobel, 2B, Ronny Henriquez, RHP, Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Matt Canterino, RHP, Noah Miller, SS, David Festa, RHP, Yasser Mercedes, OF, Matt Wallner, OF, Austin Martin, SS, Louie Varland, RHP. Jose Salas, INF, Connor Prielipp, LHP, Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, Edouard Julien, 2B, Marco Raya, RHP, Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Royce Lewis, SS, Brooks Lee, SS.
Baseball-Reference Links: Misael Urbina, OF, Jose Rodriguez, OF, Tanner Schobel, 2B, Ronny Henriquez, RHP, Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Matt Canterino, RHP, Noah Miller, SS, David Festa, RHP, Yasser Mercedes, OF, Matt Wallner, OF, Austin Martin, SS, Louie Varland, RHP. Jose Salas, INF, Connor Prielipp, LHP, Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, Edouard Julien, 2B, Marco Raya, RHP, Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Royce Lewis, SS, Brooks Lee, SS.
glunn reacted to Ted Wiedmann for an article, The Twins Hitter Set to Benefit Most from Shift Ban Isn't Who You Think
With the new shift ban coming into effect in 2023, several Minnesota Twins’ hitters could stand to benefit. Joey Gallo, perhaps the face of the new rule change, is certainly one player who could see increased production. Max Kepler is another very pull-heavy hitter who could potentially see his numbers increase with a now more open right side of the infield. A lot of the focus of the shift ban has been directed to left-handed hitters, and understandably so.
The shift against left-handed hitters was quite apparent, as it often involved a second baseman in right field and sometimes four outfielders, making baseball traditionalists sick to their stomachs as none of the players were seemingly in the spots they were supposed to be.
There is one Twins hitter who might benefit most from the shift ban that I have rarely seen mentioned. He may not be an obvious shift victim candidate due to his physical profile and offensive production in the last couple of seasons, but he stands to gain more from the rule change more than players like Kepler and Gallo. That hitter is Byron Buxton.
Believe it or not, Byron Buxton is not only the most pull-heavy hitter on the Twins but also the most pull-heavy player in all of baseball. According to Statcast, in 2022, out of hitters with 300 plate appearances, Buxton had the highest pull% in MLB at 54.2%. Gallo was eighth in pull% at 48.4%, and the league average pull% is 45.9%.
Teams noticed this pull-happy tendency from Buxton and adjusted their defenses accordingly. In 2022 among hitters with 250 plate appearances, Buxton was shifted 78.8% of the time, good for 34th most in MLB but second most among right-handed hitters, only trailing Eugenio Suarez of the Seattle Mariners.
The shift impacted Buxton dramatically. Contrary to standard thought, Buxton only hit .188 (13-for-69) on ground balls, despite his world-class speed. His shift and non-shift splits were jarring as well. In the 301 plate appearances against the shift, Buxton registered a .312 wOBA. When there was no shift, Buxton’s wOBA was .517 in only 81 plate appearances. The league average wOBA is .316, so a .517 wOBA in an 81 PA sample is astounding. His .205 difference in shift versus non-shift wOBA was the biggest in all of baseball among players who received at least 15 plate appearances against both the shift and no-shift.
While it is impossible that Buxton can sustain a .517 wOBA, it may have been understated how much he can benefit from the shift ban. While the strikeout rate may limit him from reaching the elite tier of hitters in MLB, Buxton makes as consistent and hard contact as anyone. He ranked in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity, 97th percentile in barrel%, and 93rd percentile in hard hit%.
His .224 batting average in 2022 may have disappointed some, but I would be shocked if it stays that low in 2023. Being able to hit ground balls again opens up new avenues for all hitters, particularly for ones like Byron Buxton, who runs like the wind. So while this new era of baseball defense may take some below-average hitters to average ones, it may also take the Twins’ superstar into a class of his own.
glunn reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 4 Players the Twins Need to Outperform Their Steamer Projections
Leading into the 2023 season, fans can analyze different projection systems to predict the performance of any big-league team. For this article, Steamer projections will be featured. According to MLB.com, Steamer uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. It also uses pitch-tracking data to help forecast pitchers.
Steamer projects the Twins' top five position players as Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda, and Christian Vazquez. On the mound, the top five pitchers are all starters, including Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Kenta Maeda. It would be easy to target any of those players and say they need to outperform their projections, but let's dig deeper into the roster.
Joey Gallo, OF
2023 Steamer Projection: .188/.313/.393, 105 wRC+, 2.7 Off, -6.3 Def, 1.1 WAR
The Twins signed Gallo to a one-year, $11 million deal in hopes of him returning to the All-Star caliber player he was in previous seasons. He's coming off his worst professional season, as he posted a .638 OPS and a 79 OPS+ over 126 games for the Yankees and the Dodgers. His projected slugging percentage is 76 points below his career average, which is one area he will need to outperform his projection. His defensive total also seems extremely low for a player known as a strong defender. Last year, he posted a -1.3 Def, his lowest total since 2017.
Trevor Larnach, OF
2023 Steamer Projection: .225/.306/.373, 96 wRC+, -1.9 OF, -5.3 Def, 0.3 WAR
Over the last two seasons, Larnach has dealt with multiple injuries, including a hand injury and a core muscle injury. When healthy, his powerful bat looks like it should be penciled into the middle of the Twins line-up. In 16 games last June, he posted a 1.077 OPS with six doubles and three home runs. Twins Daily's most recent roster projection has Larnach pegged to start the year at Triple-A. He will have to prove he is healthy and hit his way back to the big-league roster. Injuries will impact the Twins' outfield, and he needs to be ready when promoted.
Jorge Alcala, RP
2023 Steamer Projection: 54 IP, 3.75 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.2 WAR
Alcala missed nearly all of the 2022 season after having arthroscopic debridement surgery on his throwing elbow. In 2021, Alcala posted a 3.92 ERA with 9.2 K/9 over 59 2/3 innings while earning opportunities in a late-inning role. The Twins didn't add anyone to the bullpen this winter, which makes Alcala's return even more critical. He's already produced more than 0.2 WAR in multiple big-league seasons, so that projection is the most significant discrepancy. If Alcala can outperform his projections, he may help to revitalize a core bullpen group that struggled through much of the first half of 2022.
Jorge Lopez, RP
2023 Steamer Projection: 70 IP, 3.58 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.4 WAR
Steamer projects Lopez to provide the fourth-highest WAR total among Twins relievers. It's reasonable to think that the Twins would be disappointed in that result. Minnesota surrendered four pitching prospects (including Cade Povich) because they felt Lopez could upgrade the bullpen for multiple seasons. He struggled after the trade with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 23 appearances. The Twins won't follow a traditional closer model, but Lopez will likely get save opportunities, primarily if Jhoan Duran is used in high-leverage situations earlier than the ninth inning.
Which player is most likely to outperform their Steamer projection? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
glunn reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Is This Where Byron Buxton’s Injuries End?
Let’s first start by relieving pressure from new trainer Nick Paparesta. I don’t think anyone in the Twins organization views him as a savior of sorts, but there is no denying that his addition comes on the heels of a 2022 that saw a ridiculous amount of injury. Introducing new training techniques, the hope for Minnesota would be that players remain on the field more.
No one is more important in that endeavor than Byron Buxton.
On April 7, the Twins seventh game of the season in 2022, Buxton led off the game with a double against the Boston Red Sox. When sliding into second base, he jammed his knee, pounded his fist, and it looked as though his season may be over. Surprisingly, he missed just six games and returned on April 21 against the Kansas City Royals. Two days later, against the Chicago White Sox, he was 4-for-4 with a homer and looked like a superhero. The problem was that he never felt the same.
Routinely, Buxton found himself on the trainer’s table. He was getting fluid drained from his knee frequently. There was fear of infection. There were countless hours of rehab. In short, the superstar from Baxley, Georgia, was doing his best impression to look like the Superman from Smallville, Kansas.
From the point he injured the knee against the Red Sox through his ultimate shutdown in August, Buxton played 85 games for the Twins. A good portion of those came as a designated hitter, attempting to keep his bat in the lineup while removing some pressure from his legs. Unfortunately, that also substantially saps the value such a great defender brings to the field, and Buxton had to feel less than ideal by providing only half of his value.
Getting into a total of 92 games last season, something Buxton noted as the most he’s played in since 2017, the Twins saw him produce 4.0 fWAR. On a per game basis, he has been right there with the likes of Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, or Paul Goldschmidt. The question for years has not been whether the talent was real, but how often it could matter.
Turning the page to 2023, Minnesota is hoping the fluke injuries end. There is no way to predict a knee going into the ground harshly on a slide. A hit by pitch shouldn’t always break a hand, and a dive forward into grass shouldn’t always result in a concussion. There was a time that Buxton’s style of play put him in harm's way, but even there Minnesota has worked to keep their talent healthy. Looking at projections for the upcoming season, Fangraphs’ Steamer has Buxton launching 32 homers across 130 games. Last season, he put up 28 in just 92 games. ZiPS projections have the Twins centerfielder at 22 home runs, but that system has him registering just 90 games. The total could conceivably be somewhere in the middle, but if Buxton plays anywhere close to 130 games, he may double the 3.6 fWAR seen for him in that time by Steamer.
As a whole, baseball does a poor job marketing its stars. Trout is hidden in Los Angeles as is his teammate Shohei Ohtani. The East Coast teams often get their due, and Mookie Betts has recently been the darling of the Dodgers. Although Minnesota will never be on that level, for Buxton to be in any national conversations, he must remain on the field. Fans wanting to see what that looks like over a near-162 games could be treated to something special.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put a strong foot forward for Rocco Baldelli with this club. Carlos Correa is here to stay. Byron Buxton being healthy and amazing is something everyone is waiting to present itself.
glunn reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Twins PECOTA Projections: The Pitchers
On Tuesday, Baseball Prospectus—one of baseball's leading analysis site—released their PECOTA projections for every player in MLB. PECOTA predicts nearly everything; minor stats like holds, quality starts, and losses emanate from its crystal ball along with more crucial numbers like FIP and groundball rate. For this article, we will focus on ERA, FIP and WARP.
You all know what ERA is. FIP is similar to ERA—you read it exactly the same—but it only considers walks, strikeouts, and homers. WARP is Baseball Prospectus’ version of WAR.
Note: These are the 50% projections, meaning each player has a coin flip’s chance of beating or falling behind their projection.
I find these numbers more fascinating than the hitter ones. First, nearly every pitcher in MLB is set to beat their FIP according to PECOTA, something I don’t understand and have not found an answer for. I’d love to soliloquy about Minnesota’s excellent defense, but doing so may be incorrect.
Anyways, perhaps the most surprising result is the first: Pablo López is the Twins’ best starter by a few ticks. The machine pegs him as netting the 33rd-most pitching WARP in baseball, hanging out with other quality arms like Dustin May and Chris Bassitt. Joe Ryan isn’t far behind him.
PECOTA hammer home another point; the starting rotation is a quality assortment of high-floor starters—all five arms are projected to be in the top 80 of MLB by WARP—that lacks a true ace. There isn’t a black hole, however.
Now we move into the bullpen. Jovani Moran earns a healthy projection, one that sees him as one of the best relief arms in the game and essentially tied with Caleb Thielbar as the second-best option for Rocco Baldelli. Emilio Pagán, everyone’s favorite punching bag, receives a hearty premonition from the machine, perhaps a sign that his underlying measurables are indeed favorable. The only notable surprise to me is Jorge López, although it makes sense that PECOTA is leery of his performance given his struggles with the Twins.
To end our journey with PECOTA, a few other notable projections: Louie Varland receives a 4.01 FIP—usable, but not outstanding. The machine sees some value in both Patrick Murphy and José De León—two pitchers Minnesota signed to minor league deals—as they net 0.2 WARP projections.
Note: Baseball Prospectus tinkers with PECOTA until the start of the season; these numbers were taken on February 15th and may not match future projections. Also, if you question PECOTA's value, Rob Mains wrote about how successful the machine is and where it fails.
glunn reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 3 Twins Roster Battles Entering Spring Training
Many Twins players have already reported to Fort Myers in eager anticipation of the 2023 season. Spring training is even more important for some players this season because they are battling for a roster spot. Minnesota has added depth at multiple positions, which means other players are pushed down the depth chart. For many of the battles, health is the most significant factor, so who will win these battles in the coming weeks?
Starting Rotation Battle
There are many questions about the Twins' rotation. Is Tyler Mahle healthy? No one knows how his shoulder will hold up as he ramps up for the season. How will Kenta Maeda return from Tommy John surgery? Maeda had a chance to return last season, but the Twins fell out of contention and didn't rush him back. Would the team consider a six-man rotation to keep players healthy? Bailey Ober is the odd man out in the rotation if everyone is healthy at the conclusion of spring training. Ober is the next man up from Triple-A if there is an injury.
Potentially, the Twins could push a starter into a bullpen role to keep the player on the Opening Day roster. There is also a stable of young pitchers waiting in the wings, including Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson. There is depth there, but there are no guarantees everyone will be healthy on Opening Day.
Many of the team's bench spots are already locked in, but the team can still go in a different direction. The Twins presumed bench is Ryan Jeffers, Kyle Farmer, Michael A. Taylor , and Nick Gordon. Staying healthy will be vital to keeping the team's bench depth. Gordon currently occupies the last-position player spot on the roster, but he is out of minor-league options, so he likely makes the team. Alex Kirilloff is returning from surgery, but there is no guarantee he will be ready for Opening Day.
When spring training starts, the Twins can move Royce Lewis and Chris Paddack to the 60-day IL and open new 40-man roster spots. This could allow a veteran player to be added as a third catcher, or there will likely be a need for Kyle Garlick to be a bench bat in 2023. Gilberto Celestino has been part of the Twins roster over the last two seasons, but he's likely headed to Triple-A.
Many of the roster decisions above aren't as complicated if everyone is healthy at the start of the season. The bullpen is another story, with eight spots to fill and multiple decisions on the table. Five bullpen spots are locked in with Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, and Emilio Pagan. In Twins Daily's roster projections, the final three bullpen spots are currently occupied by Jorge Alcala, Jovani Moran, and Trevor Megill. All three of these players have minor league options remaining, which helps the team have some roster flexibility.
Alcala was limited to just two appearances in 2022 due to an elbow issue that eventually required surgery, so there is no guarantee he is at full strength. Moran and Megil pitched at Triple-A last year and are candidates to take the train back and forth from St. Paul in 2023. Other bullpen options could emerge this spring, especially from other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder. The Twins used 38 different pitchers last season, so all of these players will be needed at some point in the coming season.
Who will emerge from those roster battles? Which relievers will get the final spots in the bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
glunn reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Falvey Philosophies, Part 1: The Young Core
The Twins have a specific goal toward which all of their decisions are ordered: sustained success. Although it is more difficult to say to a fanbase that has seen an 0-18 playoff streak reaching nearly 20 years, the best way to win a World Series is to make the playoffs as many times as possible. Octobers are weird, and anything can happen.
The Twins' strategy for reaching sustained success has become apparent. It can be summarized by a few precepts: develop a constructive core of young talent, fill remaining holes with veterans, and avoid long-term commitments that are not cost-controlled. Those guiding principles placed them in the position to sign Carlos Correa to a six-year, $200 million deal this month, perhaps the biggest breaking of their own rules, though not entirely out of character.
I've combed through every transaction that the team has made since the 2016-2017 offseason, the first year that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over baseball operations, and I'd like to discuss some of them.
Let’s start with the young core. Name a team that does not rely on amateur acquisitions, minor-league trades, and player development to provide the bedrock of its roster, and I will show you a front office not long for this world. (The jury is still out on the Mets, so hold on to that thought.) This thinking can go too far, such as in the pervasive attitude in the Terry Ryan regime that spending money on free agents was for poorly-run organizations, though those instances are few and far between.
Nonetheless, this Twins front office has shown a commitment to developing talent and constructing the roster around homegrown products. As can be seen below, most of the players on the current roster were either drafted by the organization or traded for as prospects. I've color-coded the table with red being pitchers, blue being catchers, green being infielders, and yellow being outfielders.
With the exceptions of Jordan Balazovic, Alex Kirilloff, Jose Miranda, Nick Gordon, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Byron Buxton, every member of this team has been acquired by the current regime. Balazovic, Kiriloff, and Miranda did not reach Class-A until 2018, and Gordon was in Class-A prior to the 2017 season, so their development has largely been a product of the regime. The other three have signed extensions.
Of particular note is the amount of red (pitchers) in the "draft" and "MiLB trade" columns. The team has had six seasons to build up a harem of young pitchers, and it may be a make or break year in 2023 with so many homegrown hurlers in the majors or high minors.
Regardless of the rest of the moves this offseason, the team will live or die based on the talent developed from within. Seeing this breakdown, is there anything that stands out to you?
glunn reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Chris Paddack Agrees to Contract Extension with the Minnesota Twins
After coming to terms with the Twins earlier today on a one-year $2.4M deal to avoid arbitration, Chris Paddack agreed to a contract extension that will allow the team to keep him pitching for the Twins for 2+ more years when he returns from Tommy John surgery later this season, Twins Daily has learned. Financial details of the contract have not been disclosed, but it is expected to be worth $10-15M in total value.
Remember Chris Paddack? Of everything that went wrong with the 2022 Twins, Paddack’s early-season promise and immediate surgery happened so quickly that an adept gaslighter could convince one that he never existed in the first place.
Paddack’s career arc is well-documented. The 27-year-old former starting pitching phenom traveled to San Diego from Miami in a trade for—you're going to love this—Fernando Rodney. From there, he shot up prospect lists and became a popular pick to become a major league regular. His 2019 rookie season proved promising, as the youngster made the opening day roster by surprise and accrued 140 ⅔ quality innings. The future seemed bright.
The future is also mean. Paddack’s fastball/changeup combo went from electric to the little shock that emanates from one of those fake gum gimmick toys. Paddack's numbers dropped with no useful third pitch in sight; however, his home runs continued to stay high, and both 2020 and 2021 were a wash.
Feeling the itch to trade someone, A.J. Preller moved Paddack, Emilio Pagán, and Brayan Medina for Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker, announcing that it would be someone else’s problem to fix the former future ace.
Minnesota may have done that. Paddack carried a hilarious 1.72 FIP through five games—not giving up a homer will do that—and even appeared to have worked in an adequate slider to pair with his fastball and changeup. Then the elbow started barking. the Paddack now enjoys company in the double Tommy John club. No one wants to be a part of such a gathering.
Three members of the Twins' projected starting rotation will be free agents at the end of the year. The Twins are gambling that, in an age where high schoolers undergo the operation, a second Tommy John surgery simply means a pair of scars, and Paddack can return to being a promising pitcher on a staff in need of younger blood.
John Bonnes contributed to this story.
glunn reacted to John Bonnes for an article, STUNNER: Carlos Correa Agrees to Terms with Minnesota Twins
Carlos Correa's wild offseason journey has led to agreements with both the Giants and Mets that fell through over concerns about his physical. Now, it has led him back to where he started.
This time last year, Correa was one of the top names on the free agent market, so much so that he reportedly turned down a 10-year, $270M offer. However, he had to wait out MLB’s lockout, which is when he switched agents to Scott Boras. The market for superstars was less robust when the lockout ended in early March. So, he opted to sign a three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins for $35.1M per year, but the contract also allowed him to opt out after each of the first two years.
That agreement couldn’t have worked out better for both parties. Correa thrived offensively and defensively, becoming the Twins MVP and earning rave reviews for his leadership and mentorship. He opted out of his contract, again positioned as one of the top free agents available.
But the usually thrifty Twins declared their intention to pursue him, eventually offering a 10-year $285M contract. Alas, that appeared to be nowhere near enough. Correa agreed to a deal with the San Francisco Giants for 13 years and $350M, but that deal fell apart a week later when the Giants expressed concerns about a plate in Correa’s right leg from a 2014 injury.
It didn’t take long for Correa to find another suitor. The same night, he agreed to a 12-year deal with New York Mets' owner Steve Cohen for $315M. However, shortly thereafter, the Mets had a similar concern, jeopardizing that deal.
Correa and the Mets worked on resolving that concern for more than two weeks, with varying levels of optimism that a deal would get done. Thursday night, that optimism was shaken when Jon Heyman revealed that Boras had engaged with at least one other team. The talks stalled when the two sides could not agree on language protecting the Mets if Correa’s career or production were cut short due to the old injury. Lenient terms on a team opt-out midway through a 12-year deal can quickly turn a guaranteed contract into a not-so-guaranteed contract.
Enter the Twins. They had re-engaged with a similar contract to the one they previously offered, though the guaranteed amount is unclear. Also, while Correa's old injury surely could provide some concerns, they had the advantage of having already observed Correa and his right leg up close for the last year. Their offer was less dependent on a physical, a key component Boras needed before walking away from the Mets’ offer.
It was unclear to the Twins whether they were truly a serious contender or were being used as leverage for Boras against the Mets. Correa may have enjoyed his time with the Twins, but the Mets have a loaded roster, an owner willing to spend whatever it takes, and the City that Never Sleeps. Were the Twins just being used to drive up the dollars? Or to get the Mets to bend on contract language regarding the opt-out? Or did they really have a chance to land Correa?
The Twins and Boras traded multiple offers over the weekend, and confidence their status varied from hour to hour and executive to executive. They knew that Boras was also doing the same with the Mets, and it should be obvious that negotiations with the super agent Boras can be intense. Several times, the pendulum swung from “optimistic” to “pessimistic” and back again, even over the last 24 hours.
With that said, this is obviously a stunning turn of events in terms of optics. The Mets and Giants are among the most free-spending, impulsive, uninhibited franchises in baseball regarding free agency. The Twins are on the exact opposite end of that spectrum.
Correa has quickly become one of the most publicized high-risk free agents at this level of caliber/price we've ever seen. Minnesota's front office – despite its litany of existing injury concerns – said ‘screw it’ and bypassed the inhibitions that held back big-market titans. Why? Because they feel the shortstop is everything their team needs to take the next step.
The only times the Twins have even approached swimming in waters this deep financially was when they were previously faced with losing longtime Twins fixtures like Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer, and Byron Buxton. In 1992, Puckett was the top free agent on the market but re-signed with the Twins for 5 years and $30M. In 2010, entering his last year of team control, Mauer agreed to an 8-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the team. Finally, last year, also entering his final year of team control, Buxton agreed to a 7-year, $100M contract with almost another $100M in possible incentives.
While Correa was with the team for only one year, he has this in common with those players: the organization didn’t want to lose him.
Correa's impact on the team was clearly evident in 2022, when he put forth stellar production on the field and earned rave reviews of his wide-reaching impact on the organization. He’s a Gold Glove caliber defender at a premium position. He’s averaged 28 home runs over 162 games while getting on base at a .359 clip. He’s also just 28 years old, entering the prime of his career. Like those previous players, he is now positioned to be the face of the Twins franchise.
In terms of his future fit, obviously, Correa is lined up to play shortstop for now, which pushes Kyle Farmer into more of a utility role while giving Royce Lewis plenty of time to work his way back from knee surgery. It's interesting that the Mets were planning to immediately shift Correa to third base (and he seemed totally open to it), so that could be the plan somewhere down the line for Minnesota.
But as a 28-year-old former Platinum Glover still fielding short at a high level, there's no rush for now. The Twins got their shortstop. And more than that, they got their guy and turned around a wayward offseason with the biggest and boldest contract in franchise history.
The Twins are in it to win it. Let's go.
glunn reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Claim RHP Oliver Ortega Off Waivers from Angels
In a move to add bullpen depth, the Minnesota Twins have claimed Oliver Ortega, a 26-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. Dan Hayes of The Athletic was first to report that move.
Ortega, who was waived by LA on December 22nd to make room for free agent signing Brandon Drury, has thrown 43 ⅓ innings as a member of the Angels bullpen, posting a 3.95 ERA to go along with an uninspiring 4.74 FIP, 1.2 HR/9 rate and 4.2 BB/9 rate. The numbers haven't been too impressive up to this point, but the Twins obviously see something they like.
It might relate to a a big strikeout rate in the minors (10.1 K/9) and a big fastball that features 84th percentile velocity (averaging about 96 MPH) and 64th percentile spin, according to Statcast. He uses the heater as his primary pitch and mixes in a curveball, which is said to be a quality pitch when he can throw it in the zone – a big caveat.
To make room for Ortega on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated Blayne Enlow for assignment. The right-hander was acquired out of high school in the first draft under the current Twins front office, but Tommy John surgery derailed his development. He turns 24 in March and still lacks a clear path to the majors.
We'll update this article with more information as we get it. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on the acquisition of Ortega and loss of Enlow.
glunn reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Had a Chance to Get Back in the Carlos Correa Mix, and Passed
In a tremendously reported new article for The Athletic, Andy McCullough and Ken Rosenthal bring us a revealing account of the latest stunning twist in Carlos Correa's bizarre free agency saga.
On Tuesday, about one week after agreeing to terms with Correa on a $350 million, we learned the Giants were postponing an introductory press conference for the signature signing, over concerns surfaced in his physical. Suddenly, the deal appeared to be in doubt.
Sure enough, it completely fell through, and by the time we awoke this morning Correa had already agreed to a lesser deal with the Mets: 12 years, $315 million. It all happened so quickly, we wondered if the Twins – reportedly one of the two finalists for CC before Steve Cohen entered the fray – ever even had the chance to jump back in.
It turns out, they did. And they decided against it.
Per The Athletic, as Boras revived discussions with Cohen and the Mets, he "also contacted the Twins."
"The presence of the Mets gave Boras leverage," according to the reporting. "If Minnesota wanted Correa, Boras conveyed, the team needed to improve its earlier offer – even though Correa appeared compromised with the Giants. The Twins would not have advanced the conversation without investigating the potential issues caused by Correa’s physical. The team did not intend to increase its bid beyond 10 years and $285 million. So Boras stuck with the man in Hawaii (Cohen)."
So there you have it. I'm not sure anyone can hold the Twins front office at fault in this situation, given that they merely appear to have been doing their due diligence. Why increase your offer after some mysterious issue was flagged and torpedoed an historic deal?
That's not to say they intended to increase their offer even if the medicals checked out – sure sounds like they had reached their definitive max. But at the very least they were within their rights to take a beat and figure out what's going on.
Alas, that wasn't to be, because – for whatever reason – Boras is in a sudden rush to get this thing done. And that is strange to me. He's typically an agent known for exercising extreme patience in order to get his clients the best deal possible.
Now he's giving up $35 million from the first agreed-upon contract to settle for a lesser deal with New York, because – in Boras' own words – the Giants wanted to conduct more investigation on the second-largest contract in major-league history. "They advised us they still had questions," he said. "They still wanted to talk to other people, other doctors, go through it."
Sounds like the Twins sang a similar tune, and that was also a deal-breaker.
Based on the information currently out there, it's easy to hold the Giants accountable as incompetent and noncommittal fools in this situation. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that, "It sounds as if there was a very old Correa injury - pre MLB - that was raised as a potential issue. It has not cropped up again. None of Correa’s other physical issues have required medical intervention or ongoing treatment."
Slusser adds: "If this was a true medical concern, it sounds a little tenuous - and if it was a matter of cold feet, that’s usually ownership. Not the front office."
Doesn't sound so good for the Giants. But then, the information being relayed to Slusser is pretty clearly coming from Boras – notably, she was quick to tweet initially that Correa's medial issue did NOT involve his back, at a time when no other details were emerging – and the team has thus far been silent.
One report from Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area indicates that the Giants were concerned about a previous ankle injury that required surgery and insertion of a metal plate, as I speculated yesterday while recalling that the injury had been stirred up during a stolen base attempt with the Twins this past season.
Clearly, the Giants were ready to sign Correa. They certainly had the money after missing out on Aaron Judge. An agreement was in place. The press conference was scheduled and ready to go.
Something spooked them. And given the circumstances, Minnesota's front office wasn't going to blindly dive back in, to the extent they were ever interested in hanging with New York. So as of now, Correa is lined up to play alongside Francisco Lindor, at third base for the Mets.
Given all that's happened, it's hard to take for granted that's what will play out. But either way it now seems clearer than ever it's time for the Twins to move on.
glunn reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Here is How the Minnesota Twins Can Save Their Offseason
There was no question that Carlos Correa was the focal point for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this winter. Rocco Baldelli wanted him back, as did superstar Byron Buxton. Everyone said the right things, but when the dust settled the Twins presented an offer that was never going to get it done and came up $65 million short.
Then Carlos Rodon went to the New York Yankees. Then Dansby Swanson went to the Chicago Cubs. Every top tier free agent Minnesota could have realistically been involved with sought other alternatives.
No longer is there a plethora of starting pitching, and the shortstop group is the same holdovers that Kyle Farmer was likely acquired to help avoid. Unless Jose Iglesias draws the eye of the front office, or some alien-induced reunion with Andrelton Simmons is on the docket, there aren’t better options up the middle either.
Joey Gallo is a decent addition for a team that needed offense far too often last year, and while he likely makes moving Max Kepler a certainty, that should be viewed as a net gain. Christian Vazquez works behind the dish, and he’ll take pressure off of Ryan Jeffers. There are still holes, however, and at least $40 million needs to be spent on filling them.
So what happens? How can the Twins try to salvage this offseason?
1. Sign Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi will be 33 years old in 2023, and he’s been healthy for a whole season just once since 2014. That said, he represents a player with the amount of risk Minnesota should be comfortable taking on. Whether Baldelli initially employs a six-man rotation or not, Eovaldi could find himself with opportunities for extra rest throughout the season thanks to depth such as Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson, and others. When healthy, the former Red Sox starter can be elite. The velocity is still strong and his strikeout numbers are solid. He gave up too many home runs last year, but is just a season removed from Cy Young contention. With what is still out there, the Twins may have just one last shot to sign a starting pitcher.
2. Sign Will Smith
Really, there are still more than a handful of solid relievers left on the open market. The Twins goal should be to acquire at least two with high-leverage ability. I don’t think they make sense as a landing spot for aging veterans such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Zack Britton. Someone like Smith or a reunion with Michael Fulmer could work. Trevor Rosenthal may fit in this space if he’s healthy, but it’s the Astros World Series winner that should be prioritized. Smith has previously had multiple 30-save seasons, and although he has a 4.21 FIP the past two seasons, he was incredible with Houston down the stretch. There are lots of strikeouts to be had here, and Smith could certainly help Minnesota’s relief corps as a whole.
3. Sign Brad Hand
The fit is a natural one. Hand is a Minnesota native and would give the Twins another lefty out of the pen. He posted a strong 2.80 ERA for the Phillies last season, and while his secondary numbers were down, the Twins could make some tweaks to return strikeout performance back to where it was previously. Hand hasn’t lost much in the way of velocity, and he’s a big slider guy which is something this front office has consistently targeted.
4. Trade for Willy Adames
There were a few names I considered here. Brandon Crawford is being pushed off shortstop in San Francisco, but I can’t see the Giants pulling the band-aid off and flipping a fan favorite like that. Ha-Seong Kim could be available with the Padres acquiring Xander Bogaerts, and while they have Fernando Tatis Jr. returning at some point, the trio could be kept with Manny Machado having an opt out and Tatis likely moving to the outfield. Milwaukee has been linked to talks of shedding salary, and while they now don’t seem to be trading Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, Adames could still be available.
Adames is in line for a $9.2 million salary through arbitration per MLB Trade Rumors projections, and he owns a career 111 OPS+. His 31 homers were a career-high last season, and although Farmer brings a bit of pop to Minnesota’s lineup, this would take that to another level entirely. Someone has to replace Correa’s production, and that was already in the context of a lacking offense. Adames has only played shortstop, and maybe the Twins don’t love that, but neither Royce Lewis or Brooks Lee are a slam dunk to stay there.
Although this isn’t close to what fans would’ve hoped for at the beginning of the offseason, would this be enough to satisfy going into the year?
glunn reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Joey Gallo Is A Land of Contrasts
In the late spring of 2019, as temperatures rose in Texas and the night skies over Arlington were peppered with little white dots, a once-heralded prospect made an astonishing imprint on the game of baseball. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the increased heat was due to normal seasonal changes and that the little white dots were simply the stars in and around the Milky Way galaxy.
No, both phenomenon were simply the result of Joey Gallo’s bat. Coming off back-to-back 40 home run seasons with a combined 114 wRC+, Gallo peppered the skies of the American League West with 22 home runs, often sending them into near orbit. He also elevated his triple slashline to a blistering .253/.389/.598 (.987) resulting in an MVP-esque 144 wRC+.
Gallo was on track to more than double his fWAR (3.2) from the previous two seasons combined (5.9), but while his star burned hot and bright that summer, it ultimately went supernova after only 70 games thanks to a fractured hamate bone in his right wrist. He did not appear in a another game that year.
Since his ill-fated 2019 campaign, Gallo has largely fallen back to earth. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 2021 before being shipped to the New York Yankees—an experience Gallo would later refer to as “rock bottom”—and registered a career-high 4.2 fWAR, but has yet to post an average above the Mendoza line or hit 40 home runs in a season over the last three years.
Looking at the stats, it’s pretty easy to see why Gallo was so successful in 2019. It wasn’t because he was striking out less or walking more—his K% and BB% more or less stayed steady with his career numbers—nor was it because he was hitting the ball harder or adopting a new approach at the plate. The primary driver behind his success was a towering .368 BABIP, a value 43% higher than his career average.
Suffice it to say that the odds of Gallo ever putting together another 70-game stretch similar to the one in 2019 are slim, but he doesn’t need to slash anywhere near .250/.390/.500 (.890) for a full season to find success with the Twins. (To be clear, if he did, Gallo would very likely be an MVP candidate.)
Despite owning the highest strikeout rate in MLB history, Gallo has been 10% better than league average by wRC+ thanks to a fairly discerning eye at the plate as well as the aforementioned otherworldly power. Simply put, Gallo is a land of contrasts.
Last summer he ranked in the 1st percentile in strikeout rate and Whiff% but in the 95th percentile in walk rate, which is consistent with his career numbers. He is also unlikely to bite on offerings that Statcast refers to as chase and waste pitches. He patiently waits for his pitch with such aptitude that he is worth positive runs even though he is, at best, 70/30 to hit pitches in the zone. (The MLB average zone contact rate is 82.0%. Gallo’s career number is 67.4%.)
Gallo is the definition of a three true outcomes player. A laughably outrageous 59% of his career plate appearances have ended as either a strikeout, walk, or home run. In that sense, Gallo is Miguel Sanó on steroids. (A mere 54% of Sanó’s plate appearances resulted in one of the outcomes.)
However, what separates Gallo from someone like Sanó—and why Gallo was the first of the two to sign a deal this offseason—is that he provides near elite defense in the outfield. Although he ranked in the 19th percentile in Outs Above Average last season, Gallo had consistently ranked in the top 25% of outfielders since 2017. He has a cannon for an arm, topping out on some throws near 95 mph, and has the ability to get a good jump on the ball. Defensively, Gallo isn’t all that far behind Max Kepler, an athlete who is considered to be among the best defensive corner outfielders in the game.
So, basically, the Twins signed a corner outfielder that projects to be an amalgamation of some degree of Miguel Sanó’s offense and Max Kepler’s defense, which is a player well-worth a one-year, $11 million gamble. Steamer, one of the projection systems published on FanGraphs, projects Gallo to slash .188/.313/.397 (.710) with 19 home runs in 102 games next summer. That would give him a 107 wRC+ and 1.1 fWAR, almost exactly a value of $11 million.
The signing of Joey Gallo is not the type of move that cements a solid offseason for the Twins in isolation, but it does allow them to potentially be a little more aggressive on the trade market, particularly when dangling Kepler or perhaps Luis Arraez and/or Trevor Larnach. If the Twins are able to swap some of their existing pieces for impact starting pitching or a shortstop, the Gallo acquisition could be seen as a boon, especially since he has largely been able to remain healthy for his career.
It’s also possible that Gallo never rebounds from his morbid 2022 and is DFA’d before the season ends. However, the bar is so low for his projected offensive performance and his defense is so reliably good that it would take quite the drop in production, perhaps even more so than last season, for the Twins to simply give up on him.
glunn reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, Too Many Outfielders, Another Perplexing Acquisition for the Twins
Getting rid of Gio Urshela was the let-down of the off-season for me. Urshela came in quietly, didn’t say much, but he let his defense and at-bats speak for themselves. He quickly became a fan favorite and had the whole stadium singing his walk up song’s chorus, “Take this world and give me GIO” with every at-bat. While Urshela had one more year of arbitration remaining, he was due for a big raise and earned it. Urshela hit .285/.338/.429 with 27 doubles and 13 home runs, Two of those homers were walk-offs. The Twins wanted to make as much room as they could to contend for shortstop, Carlos Correa, who ultimately went to the Giants.
Urshela’s absence will give Jose Miranda a well-deserved opportunity at third base. So the trade is not illogical. However, when Correa signed with the Giants, it made the Gio trade extremely frustrating; but now, the trade is frustrating and perplexing. On Friday, the Twins signed Joey Gallo to a one year, $11 million contract. Why would the Twins get rid of a steady contributor to the lineup and defense only to bring in a player who really struggled with the bat in 2022? Urshela may have saved them a few bucks in the chase for Correa, but he would have been the better investment.
Gallo certainly has talent, but he also spent 2022 between the Yankees and the Dodgers with a mortifyingly low batting average of .162 for the season. When he does hit the ball, he has power and sits in the 94th percentile for hard hit balls. If he is unable to produce at the plate, he can still provide value with his defensive play.
More than likely Gallo would play one of the corners of the outfield positions alongside Byron Buxton, but if there is one thing the Twins already have - it’s a lot of left-handed hitting outfielders including Nick Gordon, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Mark Contreras, and Matt Wallner The Twins also currently have another outfielder who plays good defense but finds his batting average near the Mendoza Line.
Max Kepler has been the subject of trade rumors during the offseason. Kepler struggled with the bat but was a finalist for AL Gold Glove in right field in 2022, a far cry from his breakout 2019 season. Kepler, like most of the 2022 roster, fought injuries and missed most of the season's final month.
Both Gallo and Kepler are often mentioned as it relates to the new shift rules coming in 2023. There is some thought that those two hitters in particular lost hits because of the shifting tendencies. Will it help? Can both be on the same roster?
More potential crazy trade options
It is possible that Gallo may be a replacement for Kepler if he is traded this offseason. Another option is making one the primary DH, though it is likely Luis Arraez will get a lot of DH plate appearances and Byron Buxton will get time there too. Maybe Minnesota can be a place where Gallo can bounce back and flourish.
With the rest of the outfield and much younger prospects like Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Gilberto Celestino, Royce Lewis, Nick Gordon, Matt Wallner and Mark Contreras, any one (or multiple) of them could be a part of a package deal to get more starting pitching, or any pitching period.
But if the Twins don’t trade Kepler, there are two outfielders with similar stats, bats and love to hit into the gaps.
Once again, the Twins front office leaves fans scratching their heads with confusion, too many players in the outfield, no Gio, and there is still eight weeks until pitchers and catchers report.
glunn reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Minnesota Twins Sign Catcher Christian Vazquez
It wasn’t long ago that the Minnesota Twins employed a veteran alongside Ryan Jeffers in the form of Mitch Garver. When he was traded to the Texas Rangers last offseason, Derek Falvey targeted Gary Sanchez in a deal that sent Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees. Sanchez wasn’t awful, but didn’t make the strides that would’ve warranted a return.
While the catching market looked thin behind All-Star Willson Contreras, the Twins keyed in all along on former Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros backstop Christian Vazquez. Having spent the entirety of his professional career in Boston up until 2022, Vazquez was dealt at the trade deadline with the Red Sox falling out of contention.
At the time he was dealt, Vazquez owned a 109 OPS+ for Boston and was a solid defender with a great clubhouse presence. The position is not one that is often seen as a strong offensive contributor, but he’s remained slightly above-average in each full season since 2019.
Coming off a World Series victory with the Houston Astros, Vazquez has worked with every type of pitcher including future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. He’ll look to handle a Twins pitching staff headlined by the trio of Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, and Joe Ryan. Kenta Maeda will also start the season in the rotation, and it’s well documented that Minnesota would like to add another starter.
Behind the plate, Vazquez has been a solid defender for the majority of his career. He ranked 22nd in pop time last season per Statscast and generated an additional framing run for his efforts. His 47.8% strike rate ranks just below former Astros teammate Martin Maldonado.
In signing Vazquez, Minnesota puts Jeffers back on the smaller end of a split. Similar to the scenario he was in with Garver, it should be expected that Vazquez operates as the 1A option among the pair. The Twins front office still has plenty of belief in Jeffers’ bat, and he’s come a long way defensively since the draft. If he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance he gets significant work against lefties and can raise his overall numbers.
The front office made their first substantial move of the offseason in addressing the catcher situation. They’ll now refocus their efforts on Carlos Correa at shortstop and what they can find on the starting pitching market.
glunn reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Is This the Year Kirilloff Sticks for Twins?
Over the past few seasons we have heard plenty about Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and Alex Kirilloff. High-round picks and gaudy draft grades, each of them has developed plenty of fanfare while producing on the farm. Kirilloff was the first of the bunch to reach the big leagues, making his debut in 2020 during the postseason when Josh Donaldson left a void in Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. In the two full seasons since, Kirilloff has done, little playing just 104 games with a career .694 OPS. Is this the season that finally sees it come together?
Last year Kirilloff began the season as Minnesota’s Opening Day left fielder. Miguel Sano was still on the roster and had yet to go through his handful of completely ineffective games. Kirilloff was going to figure prominently into the plans at first base, but there was no reason to limit his athleticism until absolutely necessary.
We know now that Sano didn’t last long for the Twins in 2022, and Kirilloff spent almost half of his time in the big leagues last year playing first base. Like Sano however, Kirilloff saw his production tail off in dealing with a wrist injury and it was ultimately a combination of Miranda and Luis Arraez that needed to man an abandoned position. With the hope of health in the year ahead, Minnesota is counting on Kirilloff to be who he showed he was on the farm.
After a nagging wrist injury sapped Kirilloff’s power in 2021 and caused him to play just 59 games for Minnesota, he underwent offseason surgery to address the problem. The slow start in 2022 eventually led to a demotion to Triple-A St. Paul in hopes of figuring out a way to play through the injury effectively. The former first round pick noted that he had to shut down his offseason program due to discomfort, and he truly never worked his way back to 100% coming into the year. That was a gut-punch knowing what Minnesota needed from him, and led to an entirely unsurprising result when he managed just 45 games in 2022.
This offseason Kirilloff will again be coming back from surgery, but this time he’s had a bone in his wrist shaved down in hopes of alleviating pain and providing a more realistic path forward. In over 316 minor league games the former top prospect posted an .895 OPS. While that doesn’t directly correlate to Major League success, the hope has always been that the true production would be somewhat similar.
Kirilloff was shut down earlier in 2022 and wound up having surgery in August. With more of a runway to work himself back into baseball activities, the hope would be that Minnesota returns 100% of the player that they counted on when calling him up for the 2020 postseason. Kirilloff too has to be hoping for an ability to regain the form that saw him as the darling of so many prospect lists.
A year ago the Minnesota Twins experienced some of the most substantial stays on the injured list across all of baseball. With a new head athletic trainer in the fold, there has to have been some level of communication with expected producers even in the early stages of Nick Paparesta’s time with the club. Connecting with Kirilloff and making sure the plan for the offseason is going smoothly is a must. The Twins can’t get to Spring Training and have uncertainty, and it would be catastrophic to hear initial reports of a shutdown or lack of healing come the regular season for the second year in a row.
Now 25-years-old, it’s not as though Kirilloff’s injury history is a death sentence, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary to see a substantial level of performance at the highest level. The Twins are counting on him in the season ahead, and you can bet he’s itching to prove he belongs as well.
glunn reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Add Four to their 40-Man Roster
There were two Givens for the Twins to add to their 40-man roster. The team simply was not going to leave Edouard Julien and Matt Canterino at risk to be lost in the Rule 5 draft next month. So they were added. Here is what I wrote about them in my 40-man roster prediction column:
1.) 2B Edouard Julien - The 23-year-old from Quebec was the Twins 18th round pick in 2019 out of Auburn. Just this weekend, he was named the Breakout Prospect in the Arizona Fall League after he hit .400/.563/.686 (1.248) with five doubles and five home runs in 21 games. However, you could argue that he broke out during the 2022 regular season in Wichita where he hit .300/.441/.490 (.931) with 19 doubles and 17 home runs in 113 games. He even stole 19 bags. Of course, I would argue that he broke out in 2021, his professional debut after missing 2019 and 2020 due to Tommy John surgery and the Covid pandemic. He split that season between Ft. Myers and Cedar Rapids. In 112 games, he hit .267/.434/.480 (.914) with 28 doubles, 18 home runs, and 34 stolen bases. Where will he play? Well, he spent most of 2022 at second base. He has played first and third base in pro ball. Yes, he played a couple of games in left field in 2021, but that isn’t an option. Regardless, his all-around offensive game makes him a future top-of-the-lineup contributor.
For more Twins Daily content on Edouard Julien, click here.
2.) RHP Matt Canterino - Maybe not quite as “given” as Julien, but Canterino is absolutely a given to be added. He was the team’s second-round draft pick in 2019 out of Rice University. Since turning pro, two things have been true of the 24-year-old righty. First, when he has pitched, he has been absolutely dominant. In 11 games and 34 1/3 innings for Wichita in 2022, he posted a 1.83 ERA and struck out 50 batters. In 23 innings in 2021, he struck out 45 batters. His stuff is electric. Unfortunately, the second truth is that he has missed a lot of time with injury. He was shut down early in the 2021 season after experiencing some elbow pain. The rest-and-rehab was tried, but in 2022 at Wichita, he was limited to three innings per start and eventually four innings, but as his arm threw more, the pain continued. Finally, in mid-August, he underwent Tommy John surgery in Arlington making his availability to pitch in 2023 unlikely. But again, with this kind of talent, particularly with a pitcher, you keep him around and add him and don’t even give it a second thought.
For more Twins Daily content on Matt Canterino, click here.
Lefty Brent Headrick was my #3 prediction to be added, and here's what I wrote about him.
3.) LHP Brent Headrick - In 2022, Headrick made 15 starts in Cedar Rapids before moving up to Double-A Wichita. In 2021, he was limited in the second half with some shoulder impingement. He stayed healthy throughout the 2022 season and went 10-5 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. In 108 1/3 innings, he walked just 25 batters and struck out 136 batters. Now, his Double-A numbers don’t look as good. In 10 games, he went 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA. However, in his first Wind Surge appearance, he gave up seven runs on 10 hits (including five home runs) in 2 1/3 innings. Take away that outing, and he went 2-2 with a 3.54 ERA, and in 40 2/3 innings, he gave up just six more home runs. Headrick was the Twins seventh-round pick in 2019 out of Illinois State.
For more Twins Daily content on Brent Headrick, click here.
4th addition.) But I completely missed on Casey Legumina . He was the Twins 8th round draft pick in 2019 out of Gonzaga. He had Tommy John surgery that spring and therefore didn't make his professional debut until 2021. He was given some opportunities to star, but he has had his most success out of the bullpen. In 2022, he made three appearances in Cedar Rapids before jumping up to Wichita for 30 games. He went 2-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 33 games (16 starts). In 86 1/3 innings, he walked 36 and struck out 92 batters. He's got a closer's potential when healthy.
For more Twins Daily content on Casey Legumina, click here.
However, there are several players that were left unprotected who now could be selected by other teams.
Catchers, or at least guys that can catch and also play first base, that could be lost include Chris Williams and Alex Isola. Williams provided power for Wichita and St. Paul. Isola played well in Wichita but missed a couple of months with an injury. He just finished his stint in the Arizona Fall League.
High-upside prospects can be scary to be left unprotected. The Twins left toolsy outfielder Misael Urbina off of their 40-man roster. He probably isn't ready for the big leagues at this point, but his talent will be intriguing. Yunior Severino is a talent, and he did well in 2022 in High-A, but also in Double-A, so for the right team, he could be a bench fit for the 2023 season. DaShawn Keirsey Jr. is a little older than those two, but his athleticism, speed and defense are incredibly intriguing. He was finally healthy in 2022 and started to show what he is capable of.
Michael Helman could certainly be selected. His ability to play at least seven positions well would make him intriguing to teams. However, he broke out in the upper levels with 20 homers and he also had 40 stolen bases. In the same vein, Anthony Prato is another utility player, capable of playing at least four positions. He was healthy in 2022 and did well in Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Utility players are one of the areas that do often get selected in the Rule 5 draft.
So do relief pitchers who are, or very soon could be, big-league ready. Twins Daily's 2022 Relief Pitcher of the Year Evan Sisk was dominant in Wichita and at St. Paul. He's also left-handed and mixes pitches well with his low-90s fastball. Austin Schulfer keeps producing in whatever role the Twins have had him work in, starting or relieving. He ended the season with the Saints as well.
Sisk isn't the only left-hander that could be at risk either. Southpaw Kody Funderburk pitched very well in 2022 for Wichita, posting a sub-3.00 ERA. He mostly started but has worked in various roles out of the bullpen as well.
So, what do you think about the fourTwins additions? Which of the Twins minor leaguers left off of the roster are most at risk of being selected in the Rule 5 draft and lost? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.
For more Twins Daily content on other players mentioned in this article, click the links below:
Chris Williams, Alex Isola, Michael Helman, Anthony Prato, Evan Sisk, Austin Schulfer, Kody Funderburk.
glunn reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, Twins Pitching Prospects That Could Breakout in 2023
The Twins pitching rotation struggled on and off this season from starters to the bullpen. Injuries early on created a lack of starting pitching for the Club, putting lots of pressure on the bullpen to perform; they also suffered a significant loss with Pitching Coach Wes Johnson leaving mid-way through the season. Because of the pitching woes, Twins fans got a glimpse of what the farm system has in store by bringing up players such as Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Jordan Balazovic. The arms in the farm system give hope that the Twin's pitching could match the Guardian's deep farm pitching model.
He is focused and driven but has components that will need to improve if he wants to make his appearance in 2023. He was the top Venezuelan pitching prospect in the 2019-20 international class. Medina initially signed with the Padres for $700,000 on July 2, 2019. The Twins acquired him as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres. The pandemic canceled the 2020 season, so Medina spent some time in San Diego's fall instructional camp. He had his professional debut in 2021 with the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Fall League.
He has three pitches: slider, fastball, and changeup. His pitches already have good velocity, and as he grows from his 6'1", 180-pound frame, he should be able to add a bit more velocity in the future. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s on occasion. He also throws an above-average slider, and his slider continues to improve.
Medina has focused delivery and the ability to be aggressive with hitters. In seven starts, he struck out 24 in 23 2/3 innings in 2022 with the FCL Twins. Medina never saw more than three innings in a game in 2022. He posted a 6.46 ERA, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 24-to-20. Medina is only 20 years old and has plenty of room to grow in size and craft. The concern with Medina is the high pitch count due to lack of control, working himself out of the game sooner and putting more pressure on the bullpen. If Medina can garner control of his pitches and perfect them, he is equipped with the proper elements but needs to work heavily on his plate command to bring his ERA and walk down.
If Cruz can harness his control and improve on his strike zone, there is potential for him to make an appearance in 2023. The Twins signed Cruz back in March 2017 for just $30,000 as an international free agent. He spent his first two seasons playing with the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League, Elizabethton Twins. In 2021 he started in Single-A Fort Myers and, late in the season, was promoted to High-A Kernels.
After two starts with the Kernels, he struggled to harness his control, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3 1/3 innings; the Twins sent him back down to focus on improving. He finished the 2021 season with Fort Myers and, in 2022, was sent to AA Wichita Surge posting a 5.14 ERA and 72-to-35 Strikeout to Walk ratio.
Finding the strike zone has been Cruz back; the right-hander walked more than six batters per nine innings early in his Minor League career. The 6-foot-7 Cruz has a ton of power and throws his fastball in the 95-101 mph range, and it's a pitch with some riding life. He also has a hard slider, thrown around 89 mph, a potential out pitch that can miss a lot of bats.
His walk rate continues to trend down each year, and his strike count over nine innings continues to increase. How much he can refine his control and strike zone will determine whether he can handle a high-leverage role in the future.
The 2022 season was the first time Raya pitched in affiliated games since the Twins selected him in the fourth round of the 2020 draft due to a shoulder strain that sidelined him for most of the 2021 season. Raya returned more robust and better after his injury and didn't disappoint, throwing extremely well with Single-A Fort Myers with three wins and two losses.
At six feet tall and 165-pounds, what the right-handed pitcher lacks in size, he makes up for with athleticism and pure stuff. He's got a few pitches in his arsenal and relies on a big four-seamer alongside a high-quality curveball, a slider, and a changeup with great pitch profiles. The Twins feel like there's only a little work needed on those. His fastball continued to sit in the high 90s in the 2022 season, hitting 98.
If Raya can stay healthy, he will be one of the system's best pitchers. At 19 years old, in his first season with Fort Myers, he posted a 3.05 ERA and had a 76-to-23 Strikeout-to-Walk ratio over 65 innings. With less than four walks per nine innings and over ten strikeouts, Raya doesn't hold back.
Raya pitches with a chip on his shoulder. The chip may have helped him make significant strides in his development toward the close of 2021. Like many young pitchers, the Twins hope he'll simplify and attack the strike zone with his quality stuff, which he's done in the past. Moving to Double-A would be a big jump, and with a small sample size, inviting him to spring training would give the organization an opportunity to see if he has the tenacity to jump directly over the Kernels.
Do you think these prospects could see action with the Twins in 2023? Probably not, but what are your thoughts on these pitchers and which pitchers do you anticipate breaking out in 2023?