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Andrew Luedtke

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  1. Andrew Luedtke
    Twins fans were rightfully excited about acquring slick fielding SS Andrelton Simmons last night.
     
    If you want to spend a fun 10 mintues, check out his defensive highlight reel

    There's no doubt that grabbing the best defensive SS since Ozzie Smith will upgrade the Twins roster.
     
    Combine Simmons with already strong defenders in Buxton, Donaldson, Jeffers, and Kepler, you can see how quickly the mind would shift to "well, what does this mean for their pitching?".
     
    In my opinion, this means two things:
     
    1) It upgrades the Twins existing staff (and should be helpful to one guy in particular)
    2) It might tell us a bit about who the Twins could target next for a SP, given their newly upgraded defense
     
    Simmons Impact on Existing Twins Pitchers:
     
    Looking purely at GB% (calculated by the number of ground balls induced/number of balls put in play), we know that based on an improved defense, the more balls hit on the ground, the higher chance they have to be converted into outs than they did 24 hours ago (pre-Simmons signing).
     
    It's even more fun to look at how much better the Twins defense is than in 2017 when Falvey and Levine took over. JD Cameron takes a look into that here.
     
    From Fangraphs, a "ground ball pitcher" is any pitcher who has a GB% over 50%. League wide in 2019 - 2020, the average GB% was 42.8%.
     
    Here is how the Twins current staff stacks up by GB% using combined stats from the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
    For the most part, the majority of the staff has a below average GB% (would love to see what this chart looked like for the 2004 pitch-to-contact Twins).
     


     
    Two names stand out here.
     
    1. Randy Dobnak - GB% of 58.8%***
    2. Taylor Rogers - GB% of 48.2%
     
    ***Since he came into the league, Randy Dobnak ranks 7th out of 284 pitchers in GB%.
     
    Which SP could the Twins acquire that would benefit most from the Twins defense?
     
    Given that any ball hit on the left side of the infield should be vaccumed up quicker than a Dyson, maybe this shifts how the front office approaches filling out the rotation. Ground ball pitchers stand to gain a lot if their infield can consistently convert more ground balls into outs.
     
    It's the little things in baseball that make the major differences.
     
    From 2019 - 2020, there were 284 pitchers that threw at least 75 IP.
     
    Below are the ranks and GB% for the remaining free agents.
     
    For this exercise, I only focused on FA that had a GB% at 44% or higher.
     
    You can see the entire list from Fangraphs here.
     
    Brett Anderson - 55.2% (17th)
    Jake Arrieta - 51.4% (30th)
    Adam Wainwright - 47.4% (71st)
    Cole Hamels - 47.0% (79th)
    Aaron Sanchez - 46.9% (81st)
    Homer Bailey - 44% (128th)
     
    Below are the ranks for potential trade candidates that have popped up in rumors. Again, I only focused on players with a GB% of 44% or higher.
     
    Luis Castillo - 56.1% (13th)
    Sonny Gray - 50.9% (35th)
    German Marquez - 49.5% (52nd)
    Jon Gray - 46.9% (81st)
     
    BONUS. Here are a couple bullpen free agents that could benefit from a good defensive infield:
     
    Jeremy Jeffress - 50.0%
    Alex Colome - 47.7%
     
    So there you have it. I will be interested to see how the Twins defense positively impacts the pitching staff all year long. Specifically, I am excited to see what this means for Randy Dobnak.
     
    For now, I am most interested to see what the Simmons acquisition means in how the Twins front office addresses the rest of their pitching needs.
     
    Do any names on this list jump out to you as being good targets for the Twins? Maybe now even moreso with a Simmons addition?
  2. Andrew Luedtke
    It was quite impressive how inept the Twins middle infield was as a whole offensively in 2020. Twins 2B combined to produce a .708 OPS while Twins SS combined for an even worse, .616 OPS. The majority of the at bats at these spots went to Arraez, Polanco, Gonzalez, and Adrianza.
     
    Polanco and Arraez were never fully healthy and there is concern for both of them entering this season. For this reason, it makes sense that even after an All-Star game appearance in 2019 for Polanco, the Twins are rumored to be looking at SS.
     
    This blog is part of a collection of other blogs in the "Patching Holes" series. Also check out my thoughts on the DH, Starting Pitching, and Reliever positions.
     
    Currently, the Twins SS position ranks 17th in MLB. There are a two ways the Twins could go in improving their team:
     
    1) They could keep Polanco as the everyday SS and acquire a utilityman to replace Marwin/Adrianza
    2) They could acquire a SS and shift Polanco/Arraez to the utility spot
    Here is how the Twins SS and 2B project to perform in 2021 based on Fangraphs Depth Charts.
     


     
    The Twins can do better.
    Here are some SS and utility options for the Twins. I noted both how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).
    “Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the least valuable options for the 2B/SS positions on the Twins currently.
    For this purpose, we will use the combined WAR for the non-starters at each position as the “baseline” since adding any player below will raise the floor of the team. So in this case we are using the projected WAR for Royce Lewis (.1) and Luis Arraez (.2) at SS, and Nick Gordon at 2B (.1) for a total of .4 WAR.
    For example: Jurickson Profar’s Depth Chart projection is 1.6 WAR. So to calculate “net WAR” you subtract 1.6 from .4 and are left with +1.2 wins.
    *All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts
    Free Agent SS Options:
    Marcus Semien: +2.7 WAR ($17M)
    Andrelton Simmons: +2.3 WAR ($14M)
    Didi Gregorius: + 2.1 WAR ($15M)
    Freddy Galvis: +.4 WAR ($6M)
    SS Trade Options:
    Javier Baez: +2.2 WAR ($11.65M)
    Trevor Story: +3.5 WAR ($17.5M)
    Free Agent Utilityman Options:
    Jurickson Profar: +1.2 WAR ($7.5M)
    Tommy LaStella: +1.1 WAR($7M)
    Enrique Hernandez: +.5 WAR ($6M)
    Marwin Gonzalez: +.4 WAR ($5M)
    Asdrubal Cabrera: +.3 WAR ($3M)
    This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player would impact the rest of the team. For example, a SS signing would move the projections for both Arraez and Polanco based on new splits in playing time. The current projections for the utility players like Profar and LaStella assume almost a full-time role. If their role is less than that with the Twins, it obviously hinders some of their overall value.
    In any case, the additions above would improve the Twins.
    My take:
    I think a SS signing makes a ton of sense, especially if the front office believes there is a chance the Arraez, Polanco, or even Donaldson injuries linger into this season. I feel like a guy like Didi or Simmons elevates the floor of this team much higher than a utilityman signing. Polanco can shift to 2B and platoon with Didi or Simmons depending on the matchup. I also view Arraez as the most versatile utility guy since he played 2B, 3B, and even LF in 2019.
    Also of note, I am dreaming of watching Simmons and Buxton play on the same team. If Baseball Tonight still did nightly “Web Gems”, the Twins would be frequent participants.
    Matthew Trueblood made a compelling argument for Didi the other day.
    Here’s how the lineup could look any given day:
    2B: Arraez/Polanco
    SS: Didi or Simmons/Polanco
    3B: Arraez/Donaldson
    LF: Kirilloff/Arraez
    The other option is to hope Polanco returns close to 2019 form and sign a utilityman that can give you more production than Marwin/Adrianza did in 2020. A very logical path that would be more cost effective, but as you can see, not as impactful as adding a SS.
    In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!
  3. Andrew Luedtke
    It’s no secret that the Twins are keen on bringing back Nelson Cruz. But for now, let’s focus on the moves the team could make that would best maximize both their roster and ability to spend on other free agents.
     
    This blog is part of a collection of other blogs in the "Patching Holes" series. Also check out my thoughts on the SS/Utility, Starting Pitching, and Reliever positions.
     
    Currently, the Twins DH spot is projected to be a revolving door of players led by Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker totaling a WAR of 1.0, 4th worst in the American League.
     


     
    The Twins can do better.
     
    Here are some DH options for the Twins. I noted both how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).
     
    “Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the current Twins DH starter’s projection.
     
    For this purpose, we will use the projections combining Rooker and Kirilloff’s stats - so .5 WAR as the baseline.
     
    For example: Nelson Cruz’s Depth Chart projection is 1.9 WAR. So to calculate “net WAR” you subtract 1.9 from .5 and are left with +1.4 wins.
     
    *All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts
     
    Free Agents:
     
    Marcell Ozuna: +2.8 WAR ($17.5M)
    Michael Brantley: +1.6 WAR ($15M) *has since signed with the Blue Jays
    Nelson Cruz: +1.4 WAR ($15M)
    Eddie Rosario: +.9 WAR ($6M)
    Trade Options:
     
    Kris Bryant: +2.4 WAR ($19.5M)
    Nick Castellanos: +.3 WAR ($16M)
     
    This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player would impact the rest of the team. For example, signing Ozuna or Brantley would most likely mean their playing time would be spread out between LF and DH with Kirilloff/Rooker rotating in either position. Not to mention, both Brantley and Ozuna’s projections have their defense contributions factored in, that would likely change if they were DH only.
     
    In any case, the additions above would improve the Twins.
     
    My take:
     
    If the Twins can get Ozuna or Brantley on a 2-year deal, the positional flexibility gained from these signings alone might put the Twins in the best spot. Rocco can mix and match the lineup however he sees fit and use the DH spot as a revolving door to give players days off and play matchups.
     
    The Twins have done a nice job of developing players to play multiple positions so on any given day the lineup could look like this:
     
    1B: Sano/Kirilloff/Rooker
    LF: Ozuna or Brantley/Rooker/Kirilloff
    RF: Kepler/Rooker/Kirilloff
    DH: Any player
     
    I love Nelson Cruz and would love him back but age and lack of a defensive position at times limits the Twins. Kris Bryant is a pipe dream (sorry, everyone) and Castellanos only makes sense in a scenario where the Twins acquire Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo and Castellanos is thrown in as a salary dump.
     
    In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!
  4. Andrew Luedtke
    It’s no surprise that the Twins have to address their bullpen after the departures of May, Romo, Clippard, and Wisler. So far all they have to show for it is Robles.
     
    This blog is part of a collection of other blogs in the "Patching Holes" series. Also check out my thoughts on the SS/Utility, Starting Pitching, and DH positions.
     
    Currently, the Twins RP group ranks 11th in MLB. A far fall from their #2 ranking as a core in 2020. There is work to be done.
     
    Here is how the Twins RP group projects in 2021.
     


    The Twins can do better. In fact, the hope is that they add at minimum two more arms to this bullpen.
     
    Here are some RP options. I noted how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).
     
    “Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the least valuable option for the RP position on the Twins currently.
     
    For this purpose, we will use the WAR for Ian Gibaut who is projected .1 WAR in 2021 and figures to be the last man in the ‘pen.
     
    For example: Brad Hand projects .9 WAR so to calculate “net WAR” you subtract .9 from .1 for a net of +.8 WAR.
     
    *All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts
     
    Free Agent RP Options:
     
    Brad Hand: +.8 WAR ($9.3M)
    Collin McHugh: +.4 WAR ($2M)
    Alex Colomé: +.4 WAR ($8M)
    Joakim Soria: +.3 WAR($7M)
    Mark Melancon: +.3 WAR ($8M)
    Trevor Rosenthal: +2. WAR($6.5M)
    Tyler Clippard: +.2 WAR ($3M)
    Darren O’Day: +.2 WAR($2M)
    Keone Kela: +.2 WAR ($4M)
    Brandon Workman: +.2 WAR($5M)
    Shane Greene: +.2 WAR ($5M)
    Jake McGee: +.1 WAR ($4M)
    Sergio Romo: +.1 WAR($3M)
     
    This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player would impact the rest of the team. Also, Fangraphs Depth Charts is very conservative when projecting the output for relievers. Please keep in mind, I pulled these projections from a website, I didn’t make them myself so don’t shoot the messenger
     
    It’s kind of difficult to run these scenarios for the reliever market. It’s not as clear how each individual reliever impacts the rest of the team like it was for SS, DH, and SP.
     
    Currently there are really only a few top end guys left (Hand, Colome, and Rosenthal). The rest fall in the middle tier of the market and as you can see, the options are plentiful.
     
    In any case, there are opportunities the Twins can pull from to improve their pen. The real value is when you add 2-3 of these guys and can replace Gibaut, Thorpe, and Smeltzer on your RP depth chart.
     
    My take:
     
    I would love to see the Twins add 2-3 arms here. I am a big fan of Rosenthal, I see value in having Soria’s veteran presence (plus, he’s good), and I want to see Clippard return.
     
    That would line the Twins up to have a bullpen of:
     
    Rogers
    Duffey
    Rosenthal
    Soria
    Clippard
    Thielbar
    Robles
    Stashak
    Alcala
     
    Optional/minors: Gibaut, Sparkman, Waddell, Colina, Law, Coulombe
     
    That bullpen will absolutely play. Especially in the AL Central.
     
    In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!
  5. Andrew Luedtke
    In my follow-up to the 5 “Under the Radar” Free Agent Pitching Targets blog, I thought it would be fitting to also describe a few key free agent utility players that should come at a bargain.
     
    One of the top priorities of the Twins offseason is to find replacements for utilitymen, Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza - both now free agents.
     
    In 2020, Marwin and Ehire combined to produce .1 fWAR while costing just north of $10.5M in salary, if it were a normal 162 game season.
     
    Injuries to the Twins regular lineup forced Gonzalez and Adrianza to play much more than the Twins would have liked. They appeared in 53 and 44 games, respectively. Gonzalez had a .606 OPS in 199 PA’s while Adrianza produced a .557 OPS in 101 PA’s. Both leaving much to be desired.
     
    For this reason, the Twins have to find a way to upgrade their bench in the event of an (inevitable) injury to a starting infielder. But also because Rocco likes to rest starters frequently. A solid utility player will be useful to mix into the lineup on occasion.
     
    The two players that they add to the roster need to be able to at minimum play 2B, 3B, and SS. Having one of those players that could also play 1B or OF would be a nice bonus and allow for lineup flexibility.
     
    The players below are “value” free agent targets that the Twins could sign to fill one of those needs. Ideally, they would be signed at a low-cost so that the money saved could be applied elsewhere to a payroll that is sure to decrease from 2020.
     
    Note:
     
    ***Obviously, a player like Kike Hernandez, Jurickson Profar, or Tommy LaStella would be preferred to any of the names on this list. However, signing one of the above names may jeopardize a spot in the lineup elsewhere. Think, “would you rather have Asdrúbal Cabrera and Tyler Clippard for a combined $5M or Kiké Hernandez for $6M?” when going through these names***.
     
    Asdrúbal Cabrera
     
    Speaking of Asdrúbal Cabera…
     
    He could be playing for his 5th team since 2018. Once an All-Star SS for the Cleveland Indians from 2011-2012, Cabrera has spent his last season and a half with the Nationals in an everyday utility role. This has mostly been at 3B, 2B, and 1B. No longer an option at SS (last played there full-time in 2016), Cabrera still offers plenty of positional flexibility and is a switch hitter.
     
    Cabrera was basically league average in terms of offensive production in 2019-2020. In a combined 183 games he slashed .254/.331/.443, good for a .774 OPS and also mashed 26 HR’s.
     
    While he is not great defensively at any one position, (combined -10 DRS across 1,400 innings in 2019 and 2020) what Cabrera offers you is positional flexibility at 3 infield spots. He is also a fine player if he has to play every day due to an injury.
     
    Since 2018, he has started:
     
    120 games at 3B
    120 games at 2B
    25 games at 1B (22 in 2020 alone)
     
    Cabrera could also help the Twins immensely against LHP, which they struggled with in 2020. In 194 PA against southpaws in 2019 & 2020, Cabrera produced a .840 OPS.
     
    Cabrera could be a great veteran option on a one-year deal. He also comes with playoff experience, coming off a 2019 World Series championship with the Nationals.
     
    Fangraphs projects him for a 1.0 fWAR in 2021 and he shouldn’t cost too much more than his $2.5M salary in 2020.
     
    2018 - '20 stats:
     


     
    Howie Kendrick
     
    A fellow Washington teammate to Cabrera, Kendrick does a lot of the same things.
     
    Howie Kendrick can play 1B, 2B, and 3B, all exactly fine. He had 0 DRS in 2019 across those positions. The Twins were rumored to be interested in trading for him at the 2020 trade deadline. A hamstring injury, however, ended his 2020 season prematurely.
     
    Injuries have always been the question mark for the 37 year old. Kendrick has only played in 100 games once (2019), since 2016. He’s had countless injuries including a torn achilles and a hyper-extended knee.
    When in the lineup, he is productive.
     
    In 630 PA since 2018, Kendrick has produced a line of .322/.367/.516. Good for a .883 OPS and 23 HR’s.
     
    He is especially lethal vs LHP where he has posted a 132 wRC+ in 199 PA’s since 2019.
     
    His injury concerns, age, and poor showing in 2020 (.705 OPS in 25 games) all are valid question marks. But, if the Twins can find a way to get near his 2019 level performance, they could have a nice value utilityman.
     
    He should come at a price tag less than the $6.25M he would have earned in 2020 on a one-year deal.
     
    2018 - '20 stats:
     


     
    Brad Miller
     
    Once a SS, definitely not known for his defense in Seattle and Tampa Bay (-36 DRS in 3,300 innings at SS in career), Miller has found a role in the bigs as an “everywhere nowhere man” utilityman. He has played on 5 teams since 2018 and may be looking for his 6th.
     
    He has played all over the diamond.
     
    Since 2018:
    308 innings at 1B
    230 innings at 2B
    194 innings at 3B
    44 innings at SS
    102 innings in LF
    2 innings in RF
     
    As a left-handed hitter, he posted an .853 OPS across 341 PA’s in 2019 and 2020 with 20 HR’s. He has been especially effective vs RHP posting a 131 wRC+ across 299 PA’s but borderline unplayable vs LHP only posting a .619 OPS in a small sample size of 42 PA’s.
     
    With two LHH up the middle in Polanco and Arraez, Miller could look to spell Sano or Donaldson on day’s where there is a tough righty on the mound and you need to give those guys a day off. He could also fill in adequately against RHP in case of an injury to Miggy, JD, or Arraez, and in small emergency instances Kirilloff/Cave/Wade in LF.
     
    Fangraphs projects Miller for a 1/$2M salary and a .8 fWar in 2021. Both seem like good value.
     
    2018 - '20 stats:
     


     
    Jonathan Villar
     
    Villar has played on 4 teams since 2018 (do you sense a theme here?). He’s been an everyday SS/2B his whole career. I almost didn’t put him on this list, but his abysmal 2020 and the pending suppressed free agent market don’t necessarily point to Villar getting a large contract this offseason.
     
    Maybe there is a chance he falls to a team like the Twins on an affordable pillow contract.
     
    In 303 combined games between 2018 and 2019, Villar produced a line of .268/.333/.424 with 38 HR’s and 75 SB - so he has some speed, something the Twins desperately need.
     
    In 2020, he completely imploded. He only slugged .292 in 52 games, producing an OPS south of .600.
     
    Since 2018, he has appeared in:
     
    233 games at 2B
    136 games at SS
     
    As a switch hitter, Villar is more effective from the left side vs RHP where he has produced a .767 OPS in 610 PA’s compared to a .709 OPS vs LHP in 311 PA’s.
     
    Villar projects to be the 5th best SS in this year’s FA class behind Semien, Didi, Simmons, and Galvis.
     
    Fangraphs projects Villar for a 1/$6M deal and .9 fWAR which seems like overpayment for what the Twins potentially need. But, like I said, the hope is that he could be brought here on a lesser deal. The other hurdle would be convincing him to play a part-time role vs starting which he’s been doing.
     
    2018 - '20 stats:
     


     
    Jedd Gyorko
     
    In a somewhat surprising move, the Brewers declined Gyorko’s $4.5M club option two weeks ago making him a free agent. Gyorko was the Brewers best hitter in 2020. Twins fans may remember him from that game-tying homer he hit off Taylor Rogers in Milwaukee earlier this year
     
    Gyorko started his career in STL as a 2B but has transitioned into a 3B/1B with the ability to play 2B on a pinch.
    In 42 G in 2020, Gyorko produced an .838 OPS with 9 HR’s. A big step forward from his 2019 campaign where he produced an OPS under .500 in 62 games. Overall, Gyorko has been a solid offensive producer. Especially vs LHP where he has slugged .480 with 10 HR’s against them in 110 G’s since 2018.
     
    With the Twins he would give them flexibility at the corners and injury insurance for Donaldson/Sano. He would make some sense to bring in if the Twins didn’t bring back Cruz at DH but instead keep the DH spot open as a revolving door. Then I could see Gyorko getting starts at all three spots.
     
    It’s hard to see him making more than the $4.5M he would have made in this offseason market. He too could make sense on a one-year deal with the Twins.
     
    2018 - '20 stats:
     


    Here are stats featuring the 5 players mentioned in this article plus Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza.
     
    2018 - 2020 stats. Please note the two players at the bottom:
     


    So, that’s it. Here are a few names that I think would make sense as “bargain” utility options. As you can see from the stats above, each player has provided more offensively than Marwin or Ehire.
    Honorable mentions: *old friend* Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, and Eric Sogard
     
    Are there any names I am missing that you’d like to see the Twins add in free agency?
  6. Andrew Luedtke
    Today is the official first day of the offseason! Annnnd nobody knows what to expect. What we almost assuredly can count on is that the Twins payroll will be reduced from what it was in 2020. With that in mind, the front office will have to be smarter about how they spend their money. Here are a few “under the radar” pitching signings that could prove valuable in 2021.
     
    The way I am looking at this is that the Twins have at least one spot open in their rotation. Ideally, I would like to see them add two this offseason and push Dobnak to the #6 spot, looking in. More on that in my 2021 “Offseason Blueprint” that I hope to write next week.
     
    Also, with Romo now officially a free agent alongside May and Clippard, the Twins will have to look for some more help in the bullpen. I don’t fully trust Thielbar to be the lone lefty next to Taylor Rogers so I examine two lefty arms that can be had for a discount and one possible right handed replacement for May/Clippard.
     
    Each name below could provide a solution at a relatively low price.
     
    Drew Smyly
     
    Smyly signed a 1 year/$4M deal in San Francisco in 2020. He appeared in 7 games in 2020 (5 starts). In 26 innings he produced 42 (!!!) strikeouts for a 14.4 K/9. He was good for a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP).
     
    Between the Rangers and the Phillies in 2019, Smyly started 21 games. In 114 total innings he produced a 6.24 ERA (6.24 FIP) with a 9.5 K/9. His WHIP ballooned to 1.588, where he also posted a 4.2 BB/9. 2019 was his first full season since 2016 following Tommy John surgery in 2017.
     
    What changed? Small sample size? Finally healthy?
     
    Taking a look at BrooksBaseball, Smyly went from a 4-pitch mix to just 3 pitches midway through 2019. He abandoned his changeup entirely and instead focused on a four seam, cutter, and curve. He added 2.6 mph to his fastball in 2020 (from 91.2 to 93.8 mph). Opponents also went from slugging .632 on that pitch in 2019 to only .263 in 2020 (small sample size of 220 pitches). His curve was especially devastating in 2020, opponents only hit .184 in 50 PA’s. 27 of his 42 K’s were on this pitch (64.3%).
     
    If the Twins believe his numbers are for real, and maybe there’s another gear here, he could be a solid low-cost #5 SP or swingman between the rotation and the ‘pen.
     
    Could they sign him for a 1/$4-6M contract?
     


    Taijuan Walker
     
    Rumored to have been in the mix to sign Taijuan Walker before the 2020 season, the Twins ultimately passed when he showed up to a tryout throwing his fastball in the mid-80’s.
     
    Having recently come off of Tommy John as well (missed most of 2018 and 2019), there was concern about his arm.
     
    He ended up settling for a 1-year/$2M deal with Seattle, and was eventually traded to Toronto at this year’s trade deadline.
     
    At only 27 years old Walker put up solid numbers this year between two teams:
     
    11 GS, 53.1 IP, 2.70 ERA (4.56 FIP), 8.4 K/9
     
    His fastball velocity stayed up where he averaged 93mph (in 2015 - 2016 he averaged 95.1mph). He was brilliant in 5 of his 6 outings as a Blue Jay ending with a 1.37 ERA in his last 26 innings.
     
    There are some concerns, however, with such a small sample size, the peripherals are not amazing. Other than limiting hard hit %, the screenshot below doesn’t scream ‘sustainable’.
     


    But, if looking for a buy-low #5 SP, you could do much worse than Walker. The bet is that he stay healthy for an entire year.
     
    Will he take another 1-year deal in the $4-5M range?
     
    Oliver Perez
     
    Do you also feel like Perez has been around FOREVER? Well, he has. He made his debut in 2002.
    Lately, he has been hiding in Cleveland’s bullpen only to be deployed very carefully by Terry Francona. When used correctly, the 39 year old is still effective.
     
    From 2018 - 2020 with CLE, Perez appeared in 139 games.
     
    91 IP, 105 K’s (10.4 K/9), 2.67 ERA (2.83 FIP)
     
    Forever considered a LOOGY, I was concerned how the new 3-batter rule in 2020 would impact Perez, but, he did just fine:
     
    2.00 ERA in 18 innings with 14 K’s.
     
    He is still death to lefties, and when used properly, could be a good addition to the Twins ‘pen with a lack of lefty arms behind Rogers and Thielbar (who, again, I don’t fully trust).
     
    Perez vs LHH 2018 - 2020:
     
    191 batters faced, .295 SLG, 52 K’s
     
    Last year he signed a 1-year/$2.5M deal, would he take equal to or less than that in 2021?
     
    Sean Doolittle
     
    OK. This one is a bit trickier to predict. Sean was an All-Star in 2018 with the Nationals. But since, hasn’t been great (other than his takes on social media, which are awesome by the way).
     
    In 2018 with OAK, Doolittle was nails. He posted a 1.60 ERA in 45 innings with 25 saves and a 12 K/9.
     
    In 2019 - 2020, Doolittle struggled. He posted a 4.26 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 67.2 IP and a 9.6 K/9. In 2020, he had a knee issue and struggled with a dip in velocity but recovered a bit before a second injury ended his season entirely.
    Doolittle was however a staple in the Nationals ‘pen during their World Series run in 2019. He threw 10.1 innings only allowing 2 runs while striking out 8. He threw 3 scoreless IP in the WS.
     
    Like Perez, he is a lefty tough on left-handed batters.
     
    Doolittle vs LHB 2018 - 2020:
     
    131 batters faced, .331 SLG, and 48 K’s
     
    Doolittle will be 35 by the end of the 2021 season. It’s unlikely that he will earn the $6.5M salary he had in 2020.
     
    Will he consider a 1-year $2-3M deal or if his market has plummeted entirely, a minor league deal with MIN?
     


    Keone Kela
     
    OK. I have no clue what to expect here. There’s a lot to unpack. Kela came up as a promising arm in the Rangers organization. He had some issues with management when they put him in a minor league practice game in Spring Training, and his effort, um wasn’t there. The Rangers ended up trading him to Pittsburgh where he had some other issues including not even showing up to the Bucs for a week, getting suspended for a clubhouse issue, and delaying his 2020 season due to COVID testing.
     
    Injuries impacted his 2019 and ultimately ended his 2020 season with right forearm inflammation.
     
    But, when going right, Kela is one of the best right handed arms in the game. He ended his season in 2018 as the closer in Texas and was the expected closer in PIT before the injuries.
     
    He basically just relies on two pitches, a four seam that can touch 97 mph and a curve.
     
    Between 2018 - 2020 Kela appeared in 89 games:
     
    83.2 IP, 2.90 ERA (3.29 FIP), 11.0 K/9, 25 saves
     
    If the Twins can find a way to bring Kela in on a reasonable 1-year deal, there is loads of upside.
     
    However, I do feel the interest is going to be very high among all teams for this reason given his age and potential.
     
    So, that's it. Are there any "under the radar" pitchers you think the Twins should go after?
  7. Andrew Luedtke
    We’ve done it, Twins fans. We’ve officially made it to Spring Training! Baseball games at Target Field will be played before we know it.
     
    As the team assembles in Ft. Myers, some of the burning questions that will assuredly be asked of Rocco Baldelli are “Who will be hitting leadoff?” or “What will the batting order be?”
     
    It’s a fun exercise as a fan because there really seems to be no wrong answer with this team. If Rocco wanted to, he could draw names out of a hat and the 2020 Twins would score some runs. This lineup has no weak spots. Check out this article from Mike Petriello about how deep the Twins are.
     
    The 2020 lineup is similar to the ‘19 version except the Twins are getting a full season of Luis Arraez and of course, they added Josh Donaldson.
     
    I’ve been calling them the “Bomba Squad 2.0”.
     
    No matter how you slice it, the 2020 Twins lineup is downright silly. The definition of #FunToWatch. They have a real opportunity to break their own major league record of 307 bombas hit in 2019.
     
    It got me thinking…
     
    How does the 2020 Twins lineup potentially compare to one of the most lethal teams of all-time - The 1927 “Murderers’ Row '' New York Yankees?
     
    Of course, the ‘27 Yankees are widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best team in baseball history. They won 110 games, a record at the time, and cakewalked their way to a 4-game sweep of the Pirates in the World Series. Four players in the starting lineup ended up in the Hall of Fame: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earle Combs.
     
    You might be asking yourself, there’s no way the 2020 team holds a candle to one of the best teams of all-time? Well, it’s potentially closer than you think…
     
    1927 Yankees Top 9 Starting Position Players - SLG %
     
    C Pat Collins - .418
    1B Lou Gehrig - .765*
    2B Tony Lazzeri - .482
    SS Mark Koenig - .382
    3B Joe Dugan - .362
    OF Bob Meusel - .510
    OF Babe Ruth - .772*
    OF Earle Combs - .511
    UTIL Ray Morehart - .328
     
    *I would like to point out how insane Gehrig and Ruth’s SLG % were. They were #1 and #2 atop the league in 1927. The third highest SLG % that year was Al Simmons at .645. Those poor 1920’s era pitchers...
     
    Combined:
     
    AB’s: 4217
    1B: 874
    2B: 253
    3B: 85
    HR: 152
    SLG: .53189
     
    2020 Twins Top 9 Starting Position Players - Using ‘19 SLG%
     
    C Mitch Garver - .630
    1B Miguel Sano - .576
    2B Arraez - .439
    SS Polanco - .485
    3B Donaldson - .521
    OF Rosario - .500
    OF Buxton - .513
    OF Kepler - .519
    DH Cruz - .639
     
    Combined:
     
    AB’s: 4008
    1B: 608
    2B: 244
    3B: 16
    HR: 247
    SLG: .53193
     


    That’s right. The 2020 Twins projected lineup actually out-slugged the 1927 Yankees (by .0004). Granted, the comparison is a little unfair since I am using 2019 stats. Not to mention the ‘27 Yankees performed better than the Twins in many scenarios (OPS, R/G, and AVG). But for this scenario, I choose to ignore that and only focus on the 2020 Twins being better than the 1927 Yankees at something.
     
    Speaking of something, SLG % isn’t the only stat that the 2020 Twins had an advantage over the 1927 Yankees.
    They also hit more home runs (247 - 152), had more total bases per plate appearance, and had more hitters with an above average OPS relative to the rest of the league.
     
    Think about these stats for a second. Who would have thought that entering the 2020 season, we’d be talking about the Twins and Murderers’ Row in the same breath. Imagine telling a Twins fan that after the 100-loss 2016 season.
     
    So there you have it. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have slowly constructed one of the most terrifying offenses in the game today, maybe...ever? OK, that might be a stretch. Only time will tell.
     
    Here’s to hoping the 2020 “Bomba Squad 2.0” season ends the same way as the Murderers’ Row - with a World Series victory.
  8. Andrew Luedtke
    In his fourth offseason at the head of the Minnesota Twins, there are two words Derek Falvey wishes he could take back, "Impact Pitching".
     
    It's all the casual Twins fan has been talking about this offseason, up until the Josh Donaldson signing, of course.
     
    The fact of the matter is that the Twins were agressive in pursuing their "Plan A" options for the offseason in free agents Ryu, Bumgarner, and Wheeler. It just didn't work out, mostly because of forces outside of their control.
     
    To me, the Josh Donaldson signing signaled that the front office is pushing their chips to the middle of the table in 2020. At 34 years old, Donaldson might only have two years of elite production left. Now might be the time to capitalize in making that final offseason move for "impact pitching" right?; not necessarily.
     
    The Twins made a pair of early offseason moves to their staff with Odorizzi accepting their Qualifying Offer, Pineda coming back on a two year deal, and a pair of New Years Eve signings in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey.
     
    There is no doubt the Opening Day pitching staff still has some question marks but on paper this is a fine starting 5.
     
    The question marks of course come from Pineda who is suspended for the first 39 games of 2020 and Rich Hill, who had "primary and revision" surgery and won't be back until "June or July".
     
    Per Fangraphs Team Depth Charts 2020 Projections, the Twins starting staff projects to have a total WAR of 11.6, ranked 21st in MLB. Now, like I mentioned, this is because of the starts that should be made by Pineda and Hill in April - June will have to be made up by the likes of Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. Fangraphs projects that this trio will pitch 169 total innings - which may be too many for a team with deep playoff run aspirations. But if things shake out like the Twins hope, they will have a fine starting 5 for the second half of the year, not even factoring in a potential July 31st trade. But they have to get there first. That's the key.
     


     
    As of right now there are two options the Twins have to add to their existing rotation, trade or sign a remaining free agent.
     
    Sure, trading for a Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, or Jon Gray would be nice. However, it seems that with each day closer to Spring Training, that possibility dwindles.
     
    What if they went a different direction...
     
    What if they were able to sign a pitcher with starting experience who can bridge the gap in April and May to fill in until Pineda's return?
     
    What if once he is not needed in the rotation anymore he can be added to the bullpen to strengthen the back end of baseball games?
     
    What if he actually happens to be a very good reliever?
     
    Enter, Collin McHugh.
     
    Collin McHugh - The Starter
     
    In 2016 - 2017, McHugh started 45 games for the Astros.
     
    In 248 innings, McHugh posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 8.7 k/9.
     


     
    He missed quite a bit of time in 2017 with right shoulder tendonitis. In 2018 he pitched only in the bullpen (more on that in a minute).
     
    In 2019, the Astros put McHugh in the rotation on Opening Day. On the surface his numbers are ugly as a starter.
     
    In 8 starts, he posted a 6.37 ERA in 41 innings with a 9.2 k/9 allowing an OPS of .808 (yikes).
     


     
    But let's break this down a bit and only focus on the first six starts he made in 2019, as that really is all the Twins would need out of him before Pineda is back on May 10th.
     


     
    McHugh only had one rough start. If you eliminate that outing, 5 of those 6 starts were very good. He threw 28.2 innings, struck out 36 batters, had three quality starts (one out away from 4), and allowed 8 runs - a 2.51 ERA.
     
    That tells a much different story.
     
    Collin McHugh - The Reliever
     
    As stated earlier, in 2018 McHugh became a full time reliever. He was outstanding posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 11.7 k/9 in 72.1 innings. He also pitched in 4 playoff games that year allowing zero runs in 4 innings.
     
    After he was done starting in 2019, he went back to the Astros bullpen posting a 2.67 ERA, a 10.7 k/9, in 27 appearances across 33.2 innings.
     
     


     
    Solid.
     
    Do I think the Twins still need an "impact" SP to propel them to postseason success? Sure. Do I think the July 2019 Twins rotation could be very solid? Of course. But, they have to get there. Collin McHugh would help the Twins do that and add depth to an already established bullpen core for the second half of the season. A very hybrid and cost effective approach to bolstering the Opening Day Twins rotation. They can always wait to make their "impact pitching" move until the July 31st deadline. Signing McHugh would allow them the flexibility to do that.
  9. Andrew Luedtke
    Last week I wrote a blog titled 127 Feet where I tried to answer the question "Should Miguel Sano play 1B or 3B in 2020?". Well, that question has been answered in a BIG way by the Twins front office with the news of Josh Donaldson signing with the Twins.
     
    So, I am repurposing some of the points I made in a prior blog to show the history of slugging, right handed 3B, transitioning to 1B.
     
    My focus will be on Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ryan Zimmerman.
     
    I will be evaluating them in two different ways:
     
    1. Their defensive and offensive metrics in their last season as a full time 3B
    2. Their defensive and offensive metrics in their first season as a full time 1B
     
    The defensive metrics I am using are a combination of your typical, pre-analytics, back of the baseball card stats, errors and fielding percentage, and more modern metrics like defensive runs saved (DRS), ultimate zone rating (UZR), and UZR/150 which is just that stat scaled to an average number of chances for a season.
    *Note: You can find more info on these stats from Fangraphs. I realize they have their limitations ie. UZR doesn’t factor in shifts and is a "relative positional average" compared to the other players in the league at that position, some positions are obviously harder to play than others as is the case here.
     
    But nonetheless, this is what we are going to use for this exercise.
     
    As a rule of thumb, negative (-) = bad
     
    Miguel Cabrera:
     


     
    Let’s start with Miguel Cabrera who Sano drew early comparisons to at the beginning of his career.
    Cabrera started as a SS with the Marlins but quickly converted to 3B and stuck there until 2008 - his first year in Detroit. He was a full time first basemen until 2011, then the Tigers moved him back to 3B for the 2012 and 2013 seasons (his back-to-back MVP seasons) before ultimately moving him back to 1B for good in 2014.
     
    He was never a strong defensive 3B (career -58 DRS and -5.6 UZR/150)
     
    Offensively in 2007, his last year on the Marlins, Cabrera was solid, of course, with a .320/.401/.565 and 34 homers.
     
    Defensively however, that was a different story.
     
    In 1,310.2 innings he committed 23 errors, had a fielding % of .941, -19 DRS, and -5 UZR/150.
    In 2008, his age 25 season, he moved to first base full time (for the first time). His metrics relative to his 1B peers were much improved from 3B.
     
    In 1,245.2 innings his fielding % was .992, -7 DRS, and a -4.2 UZR/150. Not gold glove worthy but no doubt an improvement from the prior year. Offensively, his stats took a “dip” but he was still a very solid player.
     
    Albert Pujols:
     


     
    Personally, Fat Albert is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. As I kid, I wore #5 because of him. I know nobody cares - so moving on.
     
    Drafted as a 3B in the 13th (!!!) round in 1999, Pujols quickly made his way to the majors making his debut in 2001. He made the Opening Day roster after H.O.F. 1B Mark McGwire said not putting Pujols on the team “would be one of the worst moves of his (Tony LaRussa’s) career”.
     
    Pujols is a little odd compared to the rest of the group because the Cardinals never really had a true position for Albert until he moved to 1B full time in 2004. In years 2001 - 2003 he played 3B and LF because the Cardinals had *checks notes* 34 year old Tino Martinez at the first sacker in 2002. So, for the data below I combined his 3B metrics from 01 and 02.
     
    In total, he played 96 games, 727.2 innings, committed 16 errors, had a fielding % of .938 and -6.9 UZR/150. (DRS apparently was not tracked prior to ‘03).
     
    In his first year at 1B in 2004, his age 24 season, he made the transition flawlessly. In 1,338 innings he had a positive 7 DRS and 3.7 UZR. Offensively, he was a monster winning a silver slugger, finishing top-3 in the MVP voting, and was an All-Star.
     
    Pujols of course remained at 1B the rest of his career, picking up Gold Gloves in ‘06 and ‘10 before ultimately limping out the rest of his days as the Angels DH.
     
    I think Sano would take even a fraction of Pujols’ career as his ceiling.
     
    *Note a couple things about Pujols and Cabrera: They both transitioned from 3B to 1B at relatively young ages. Miguel Sano will be 27 in May, 2020. He will be older than both these players when they made the switch.
     
    Ryan Zimmerman:
     


     
    Drafted as a 3B, the Nationals first ever pick in a Major League draft was Ryan Zimmerman.
     
    He made his Major League debut in the year he was drafted (2005) and played 3B until 2013.
    Overall, he was a VERY solid 3B (Gold Glove winner in 2009, if you care about those things) where he posted a positive 52 DRS, and 33.5 UZR for his career in 9925.2 innings. Shoulder injuries led to his downfall.
     
    However, we are going to focus on his last year at the position and his subsequent move across the diamond.
    In 2013, his aged 28 season, Zimmerman played 1,245.2 innings, committed 21 errors (.945 fielding %), and a -13.7 UZR/150. Offensively, he was solid posting a 124 wRC+ in 633 PA’s. This is all coming off of a shoulder surgery after the 2012 season, mind you.
     
    At the end of the 2013 season, he was having injury issues again to the point where 2014 was basically a wash. His spot at the hot corner was taken by a fella by the name of Anthony Rendon. So in 2014, Zimmerman played in LF. It wasn’t until 2015 he took over at 1B.
     
    His first year at 1B was solid defensively when he played. He only got into 93 games but played 792.1 innings of 1B, only made 4 errors (.995 fielding percentage), -1 DRS, and -.1 UZR/150 - not bad!
    Offensively, he was barely above league average. It wasn’t until 2017 where he returned with authority. Again, keep in mind his health.
     
    Overall, a very good transition over to 1B from 3B for Zimmerman.
     
    Edwin Encarnacion:
     


     
    Last on this list is the parrot-keeper himself, Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin has had an interesting career to say the least. People forget he started as a 3B (albeit a butcher of one, more on that in a minute).
     
    Edwin was drafted in the 9th round by the Reds in the year 2000 as a 3B. Does anyone know who the Twins selected #2 overall that year? Bonus points if you do. It was Twins legend, Adam Johnson (who?) Adam Wainwright and Chase Utley were taken later in the first round. Sorry to pour salt in the wound...
     
    He played there through his 2010 season, his first full one on the Blue Jays. I think they said, uh, yeah, I’ve seen enough.
     
    In 95 games, 841.2 innings he made 18 (!!) errors. But somehow *only* posted -4 DRS and a positive .5 UZR/150.
    After that he pretty much was positioned as a part-time DH and 1B.
     
    His first “full” year at 1B was in 2012, his aged 29 season, when he broke out offensively. He played 68 games at first, 583.1 innings and was serviceable despite a -9.2 UZR/150. Note, it is tough to use this stat for less than a full season’s worth of data.
     
    For his career at 1B he played 4,170 innings from 2011 - 2019 and was not awful with -20 DRS across all years and a -3.8 UZR/150.
     
    Comparatively, his 3B career numbers (hold your laughs) were -52 DRS, -48.4 UZR, and 114 errors across 5,751.2 innings. He was much better defensively relative to the 1B in the league than 3B.
     
    Miguel Sano:
     


     
    Now, you probably are wondering, how does Miguel Sano compare to these players? Here you go.
     
    Across 91 games in 2019 at 3B, Sano committed 17 errors (.926 fielding percentage), -5 DRS, and a -19.9 UZR/150.
     
    Additionally, I looked at Sano’s career defensive metrics at 1B. Again, SUPER small sample size. He’s played 233 innings there, -2 DRS, and a -5.3 UZR/150. That is without dedicating 100% of his focus to the position. From his press conference yesterday, he said he is committed to play wherever the Twins put him. Now, that position is 1B
     
    https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1217254719078518784?s=20
     
    Sano is young and athletic enough where there is hope that he should be able to transition into an average defensive 1B relative to the rest of the league. It helps he has spent some time there. It's not a completely new position like him playing RF in 2016 (gasps).
     
    In every scenario listed above, each player was a better 1B than 3B relative to their peers at those respective positions. Fans should not worry too much about Sano as there is no doubt Donaldson at 3B and Sano at 1B upgrades the entire Twins infield for 2020 and beyond.
  10. Andrew Luedtke
    127 feet, 3 3/8 inches - the distance between third base and first base. In other words, the distance Miguel Sano might be asked to move this season.
     
    Even the casual Twins fan following the 2020 offseason knows that the front office is in talks with free agent 3B, Josh Donaldson. And before that, there were reports at the beginning of November the Twins were interested in Todd Frazier, also a free agent 3B option. It was assumed, and then reported on, that if the Twins were to acquire a 3B, that would mean Miguel Sano would shift from 3B to 1B - a common cycle in MLB history for big slugging right handed hitters who typically move from 3B to 1B, then finally to DH by the end of their careers.
     
    It got me thinking, how have other players before Sano fared in their transition from the hot corner across the diamond to man first base?
     
    In the below post I will show some recent examples (in the last 20 years) of players who did just that.
     
    My focus will be on Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ryan Zimmerman.
     
    I will be evaluating them in two different ways:
     
    1. Their defensive and offensive metrics in their last season as a full time 3B
    2. Their defensive and offensive metrics in their first season as a full time 1B
     
    The defensive metrics I am using are a combination of your typical, pre-analytics, back of the baseball card stats, errors and fielding percentage, and more modern metrics like defensive runs saved (DRS), ultimate zone rating (UZR), and UZR/150 which is just that stat scaled to an average number of chances for a season.
     
    *Note: You can find more info on these stats from Fangraphs. I realize they have their limitations ie. UZR doesn’t factor in shifts and is a "relative positional average" compared to the other players in the league at that position, some positions are obviously harder to play than others as is the case here. But nonetheless, this is what we are going to use for this exercise.
     
    As a rule of thumb, negative (-) = bad
     
    At the end of this article, I will present my conclusion based on my findings from this exercise and ask for the community’s opinion on which position does Sano give the Twins the most value.
     
     
    Miguel Cabrera:
     


     
    Let’s start with Miguel Cabrera who Sano drew early comparisons to at the beginning of his career.
    Cabrera started as a SS with the Marlins but quickly converted to 3B and stuck there until 2008 - his first year in Detroit. He was a full time first basemen until 2011, then the Tigers moved him back to 3B for the 2012 and 2013 seasons (his back-to-back MVP seasons) before ultimately moving him back to 1B for good in 2014.
     
    He was never a strong defensive 3B (career -58 DRS and -5.6 UZR/150)
     
    Offensively in 2007, his last year on the Marlins, Cabrera was solid, of course, with a .320/.401/.565 and 34 homers.
     
    Defensively however, that was a different story.
     
    In 1,310.2 innings he committed 23 errors, had a fielding % of .941, -19 DRS, and -5 UZR/150.
    In 2008, his age 25 season, he moved to first base full time (for the first time). His metrics relative to his 1B peers were much improved from 3B.
     
    In 1,245.2 innings his fielding % was .992, -7 DRS, and a -4.2 UZR/150. Not gold glove worthy but no doubt an improvement from the prior year. Offensively, his stats took a “dip” but he was still a very solid player. His overall WAR, however, you will notice was nearly cut in half from 5.2 to 2.8 - something to keep in mind as you determine the overall value of a 3B vs. 1B.
     
    Albert Pujols:
     


     
    Personally, Fat Albert is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. As I kid, I wore #5 because of him. I know nobody cares - so moving on.
     
    Drafted as a 3B in the 13th (!!!) round in 1999, Pujols quickly made his way to the majors making his debut in 2001. He made the Opening Day roster after H.O.F. 1B Mark McGwire said not putting Pujols on the team “would be one of the worst moves of his (Tony LaRussa’s) career”.
     
    Pujols is a little odd compared to the rest of the group because the Cardinals never really had a true position for Albert until he moved to 1B full time in 2004. In years 2001 - 2003 he played 3B and LF because the Cardinals had *checks notes* 34 year old Tino Martinez at the first sacker in 2002. So, for the data below I combined his 3B metrics from 01 and 02.
     
    In total, he played 96 games, 727.2 innings, committed 16 errors, had a fielding % of .938 and -6.9 UZR/150. (DRS apparently was not tracked prior to ‘03).
     
    In his first year at 1B in 2004, his age 24 season, he made the transition flawlessly. In 1,338 innings he had a positive 7 DRS and 3.7 UZR. Offensively, he was a monster winning a silver slugger, finishing top-3 in the MVP voting, and was an All-Star.
     
    Pujols of course remained at 1B the rest of his career, picking up Gold Gloves in ‘06 and ‘10 before ultimately limping out the rest of his days as the Angels DH.
     
    I think Sano would take even a fraction of Pujols’ career as his ceiling.
     
    *Note a couple things about Pujols and Cabrera: They both transitioned from 3B to 1B at relatively young ages. Miguel Sano will be 27 in May, 2020. If he moves to 1B, he will be older than both these players when they made the switch.
     
    Ryan Zimmerman:
     


     
    Drafted as a 3B, the Nationals first ever pick in a Major League draft was Ryan Zimmerman. Mr. National. I am sure he enjoyed the 2019 World Series win more than anyone. It was fun to see him get there.
     
    He made his Major League debut in the year he was drafted (2005) and played 3B until 2013.
    Overall, he was a VERY solid 3B (Gold Glove winner in 2009, if you care about those things) where he posted a positive 52 DRS, and 33.5 UZR for his career in 9925.2 innings. Shoulder injuries led to his downfall.
     
    However, we are going to focus on his last year at the position and his subsequent move across the diamond.
    In 2013, his aged 28 season, Zimmerman played 1,245.2 innings, committed 21 errors (.945 fielding %), and a -13.7 UZR/150. Offensively, he was solid posting a 124 wRC+ in 633 PA’s. This is all coming off of a shoulder surgery after the 2012 season, mind you.
     
    At the end of the 2013 season, he was having injury issues again to the point where 2014 was basically a wash. His spot at the hot corner was taken by a fella by the name of Anthony Rendon. So in 2014, Zimmerman played in LF. It wasn’t until 2015 he took over at 1B.
     
    His first year at 1B was solid defensively when he played. He only got into 93 games but played 792.1 innings of 1B, only made 4 errors (.995 fielding percentage), -1 DRS, and -.1 UZR/150 - not bad!
    Offensively, he was barely above league average. It wasn’t until 2017 where he returned with authority. Again, keep in mind his health.
     
    Overall, a very good transition over to 1B from 3B for Zimmerman.
     
    Edwin Encarnacion:
     


     
    Last on this list is the parrot-keeper himself, Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin has had an interesting career to say the least. People forget he started as a 3B (albeit a butcher of one, more on that in a minute).
     
    Edwin was drafted in the 9th round by the Reds in the year 2000 as a 3B. Does anyone know who the Twins selected #2 overall that year? Bonus points if you do. It was Twins legend, Adam Johnson (who?) Adam Wainwright and Chase Utley were taken later in the first round. Sorry to pour salt in the wound...
     
    He played there through his 2010 season, his first full one on the Blue Jays. I think they said, uh, yeah, I’ve seen enough.
     
    In 95 games, 841.2 innings he made 18 (!!) errors. But somehow *only* posted -4 DRS and a positive .5 UZR/150.
    After that he pretty much was positioned as a part-time DH and 1B.
     
    His first “full” year at 1B was in 2012, his aged 29 season, when he broke out offensively. He played 68 games at first, 583.1 innings and was serviceable despite a -9.2 UZR/150. Note, it is tough to use this stat for less than a full season’s worth of data.
     
    For his career at 1B he played 4,170 innings from 2011 - 2019 and was not awful with -20 DRS across all years and a -3.8 UZR/150.
     
    (A hot take of mine was that the Twins should have signed him for the 2020 season. Obviously, that didn’t happen but imagine that lineup).
     
    Comparatively, his 3B career numbers (hold your laughs) were -52 DRS, -48.4 UZR, and 114 errors across 5,751.2 innings. He was a much better relative 1B than 3B.
     
    Miguel Sano:
     


     
    Now, you probably are wondering, what is the point of this if you can’t compare it to Miguel Sano himself? Well, here you go.
     
    Across 91 games in 2019 at 3B, Sano committed 17 errors (.926 fielding percentage), -5 DRS, and a -19.9 UZR/150. If you are like me and watched every game this year you might say something along the lines of “ only -5 DRS, it felt more like - 50”. Kidding, kidding.
     
    Honestly, I felt when Sano first came back from his injury, his defense was fine. He tailed off as the year went on. If he is average or slightly below average, with his bat, I think the Twins are OK with that.
     
    They know he is not going to win any Gold Gloves. Many questions remain: Is he better off at 1B than 3B long term? What Sano defensive position gives the Twins the best chance to succeed in 2020?
     
    Now, many things go into this. Especially with how the Twins play baseball. Keep in mind they shift often and Sano plays all over like diamond sometimes asked to play the SS position with lefties up. I have no doubt that the Twins have their own metrics where they grade their players, but, we as fans, have Fangraphs.
     
    Just for fun, I pulled up Sano’s career defensive metrics at 1B. Again, SUPER small sample size. He’s played 233 innings there, -2 DRS, and a -5.3 UZR/150. That is without really knowing how to play the position properly. Seems on the surface less of a liability than having him at 3B.
     
    You would assume that if the Twins made the decision to put him at 1B for *good*, they would dedicate the time and effort to train and coach him. Can we get Ron Washington, the infield guru, on this Twins staff PLEASE? If he can get Chris Pratt to play 1B, he can get Miguel Sano to as well (Moneyball joke).
     
    Conclusion:
     


     
    Now that we all have the facts in front of us, I will present to you my opinion that literally nobody asked for.
     
    I believe seeking a defensive upgrade at 3B would improve the overall team drastically. It would be preferred that the player has at least equal offensive metrics to CJ Cron, since that is who is ultimately being replaced here.
    Josh Donaldson is the dream scenario (believe me, I am praying to the baseball Gods daily). But, a player like Todd Frazier also could be a fit. Not to mention, trade possibilities (Kris Bryant, anyone?).
     
    Doing this exercise also gave me a lot of optimism that players can make the switch on the fly to 1B and have done it without being too much of a liability, and in most cases above, much less a liability at 1B than 3B.
     
    Some of the arguments against moving Sano are that he is too young (Pujols and Cabrera were younger) and that he has more value as a 3B (2 of the 4 players listed above had a better WAR in their first season at 1B than their last at 3B). I think it’s easy. Move him to 1B.
     
    I would love to hear your feedback.
     
    What position do you think Miguel Sano should play in the 2020 season, and why?
  11. Andrew Luedtke
    In January 2019, Thad Levine answered a question at Twins Fest:
     
    "The best time to acquire players of that magnitude is when your window to win is wide open, not when you got your fingers underneath the window and you're trying to jam the window open. I want to do it when we're projected to win the Central and we're ready to put our foot on someone's throat".
     
     
    After a fantastic 2019 season ending in a disappointing fashion, Derek Falvey addressed the media and is quoted as saying "We're going to target impact pitching".
     
    Well, time to put up or shut up, Falvine.
     
    I put together what I believe should be a realistic outcome for the 2020 offseason based on the above statements from the front office.
     
    1. Leave the historic 2019 offense alone
     

     
    In this plan, I didn't change anything with the offense that set a MLB record for home runs. This includes picking up CJ Cron's option.
     
    As long as the team is healthy, they should have no problem scoring runs. Maybe the biggest move was the one not made - trading Eddie Rosario.
     
    I don't think the Twins (nor the fans) are going to like what the return for Rosario would be. Keeping the unofficial captain of this team intact will keep the offense rolling. Hopefully a healthy ankle will help him move around the outfield better improving on his down defensive metrics. I am hopeful Eddie might even take a step forward in 2020.
     


     
    2. Beef up the bullpen
     
    The one silver lining in the Sam Dyson injury is that the Twins were forced to use other arms in high leverage situations down the stretch. They discovered Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell could be solid pieces in late innings. Adding to an already promising mix with Will Harris (2/$16M contract) and Drew Pomeranz (2/$7mil contract) will give Rocco plenty of options in 2020.
     
    Will Harris quitely had a 2019 season with a 1.50 ERA and 9.30 K/9 in 60 innings. Oh, and he has appeared in 23 postseason games - 12 of which came this year during the Astros World Series run. His age (35 on opening day) could be one cause for concern. A two year deal feels right, here.
     
    Drew Pomeranz is an interesting one. An absolute disaster in 2018 and most of 2019 makes this signing questionable. However, 26 innings of lights out baseball in Milwaukee make it seem like there may be more potential here. He has increased his velocity after a permanent move to the bullpen, has always been lights out vs lefties, and now will be working with Wes Johnon. Sign. Me. Up.
     
    Pair him with Taylor Rogers and we could be looking at a bullpen that is a nightmare for opposing managers playing matchups. Pomeranz would come at a discount, of course.
     


     
    3. Sign a veteran backup catcher
     
    Martin Maldonado makes some sense here as a backup. Very poor offensively but a solid backstop. I would be open to other options here, such as Jason Castro on a one year deal, but am thinking he would want a chance to start somewhere else. I know Anaheim needs a catcher
     


     
    4. Go find an "ace" starter and keep Jake Odorizzi
     

     
    OK, it's put up time, Falvine. Sign Zack Wheeler.
     
    When you said "impact pitching" - this is what it means.
     
    Not Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey which is some people's opinion of impact (*cough* Terry Ryan).
     
    Go get us a guy that is equal to, or, with the potential to be better than Jose Berrios.
     
    This free agent market is flush with solid top of the rotation targets that do not grow on trees, for the Minnesota farm system at least. I think Wheeler makes a lot of sense. A 5/$125M contract would be by far the biggest free agent contract in Twins history but, the time is now.
     
    There is no excuse. Get. It. Done.
     
    Zack Wheeler 2018-2019:
     
    Innings: 377
    ERA: 3.65
    K/9: 8.9
     
    Yeah, I'd take that in this rotation.
     
    Other acceptable "ace" type pitchers - Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, or Hyun-jin Ryu
     
    Also, depending on the outcome of Odorizzi and his qualifying offer, the Twins have to find a way to bring him back. If he rejects, they have the upper hand compared to other teams. A three year deal sounds about right. Plus, Jake likes it here. His kids are Vikings fans now. I pray for them.
     
    5. Bring in a vet presence to stablize rotation
     
     
    MLB.com reported that Cole Hamels is open to a one-year deal on a win now club.
     
    Hey, Cole! Over here!
     
    Come on out to Minnesota.
     
    Bringing in a veteran like Cole with playoff experience (and a connection to Thad Levine, might I add) will stabalize the rotation and give a solid 4 starters to run train on the AL Central in the regular season, plus be ready for any October opposing matchup.
     
    Hamels put up soild numbers as a Cub. He was lights out in the first half of 2019 but an injury derailed the mid point of his season, and it never really seemed like he recovered.
     
    A 2020 rotation of:
     
    1. Wheeler
    2. Berrios
    3. Odorizzi
    4. Hamels
    5. Dobnak/Graterol
     
    Sounds like a winning recipe to me. A recipe that might not add up to 101 regular season wins again, but hey, it can't do worse in the playoffs!
     
    *This was not a dare, @BaseballGods*
     


     
    Total payroll: $141.5 million
     
    A Twins franchise record but very realistic. Anything lower than this, with the free agent pitching market as stacked as it is and a desperate need to fill the rotation, is an absolute insult to the fanbase.
     
    The improbable 2019 Twins magic season captured fan interest in Minnesota again. We got a taste of playoff baseball at Target Field for the first time in 9 years and we want more. The window is wide open. It's time for the Pohlad's and the front office to honor their promises and give us a team to dream on in 2020.
     
    Foot, meet throat.
     
    Time to stomp on the competition in the AL central and get back to the playoffs.
     
     


  12. Andrew Luedtke
    As we sit here the night before the first Pitchers and Catchers workout for the Minnesota Twins, the starting rotation is at best...uh, incomplete? Ervin Santana's surprising injury news last week left the Twins with basically only two "locks" to break camp at the end of March. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. As it stands, the last three spots will have to come from a combination of Adalberto Meija, Phil Hughes, Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns, Stephen Gonsalves, and Fernando Romero. The latter two have 4 combined starts in AAA. You may be asking yourself: What is a Dietrich Enns? (Twins received him in the Jaime Garcia trade last season). I thought Phil Hughes retired? (I wish). While the thought of a top prospect contributing at the Major League level right away is enticing, the Twins are probably best suited to let them develop.
     
    Adding 1 or better yet, TWO, starters no doubt helps this team try to get back to the postseason in 2018. Yu Darvish signing with the Cubs on Saturday left Twins fans shattered, as their #1 option went off the board. This leaves Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb as the top remaining free agents. While there are many blogs that have speculated on how those three would contribute to the team, I will be focusing on the Twins trade options.
     
    Chris Archer
    Age: 29
    Contract status: Signed thru 2019. Team option in ‘20 & ‘21 (AAV $8.415mil)
    162 gm Average: 3.63 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 204 IP, 9.7 K/9, 1.214 WHIP
     
    Immediately after the Darvish news broke over the weekend, Twins fans began clamoring on Twitter to trade for Chris Archer. It is without question Archer would improve this team but at what cost? Thad Levine stated earlier today that "The prospect of kind of weakening one part of your team to strengthen another is not appealing." He was of course speaking in reference to the Major League 25 man roster. As recently as two weeks ago, the Twins offered a trade for Chris Archer. The package was believed to include Max Kepler. With how favorable Archer’s contract is, the prospect of the Rays building a new stadium, and having several young prospects graduating through their system, they are not in any urgency to get rid of him. A package of Kepler, Nick Gordon (#8 prospect via Baseball America), and Gonsalves (#4 prospect) would most likely not be enough to lure him away. Look at as recently as last season’s Chris Sale trade. It took the Red Sox’s #1 prospect (and #1 prospect in all of baseball) Yoan Moncada, plus Michael Kopech (Boston’s #5 prospect) and two others. The bar has been set. If I were the Rays, my price for Archer starts at either Byron Buxton or Royce Lewis. Seeing as those may be untouchable for the Twins front office, a deal for Archer is unlikely...onto the next option.
     
    Jake Odorizzi
    Age: 27
    Contract status: Arb eligible ‘18 & ‘19
    162 gm Average: 3.83 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 188 IP, 8.2 K/9, 1.219 WHIP
     
    At 27 years old with two years to go before he is a free agent (2020 season), Odorizzi would be a clear upgrade to this rotation. Most likely slotting in right behind Santana & Berrios. Relying mostly on his low 90’s fastball (thrown 48% of the time) and his splitter (23%) to generate swings and misses, Odorizzi has had plenty of success getting American League hitters out. However, both the fastball and splitter have led to more fly balls due to the way Odorizzi mechanics work. His slight armside run and the way he releases the ball create more backspin than most pitchers. He allowed 30 home runs last year. For a right handed pitcher, he has had good success keeping left handed hitters at bay, something Twins pitchers (especially Jose Berrios) struggled with in 2017. Lefties hit just .210 off him with an OPS of .686. He was much improved over the second half of the year with an ERA of 3.47 (first half of 4.63), a K/9 of 8.3, and only 10 homers allowed (20 allowed in first half). That is encouraging to see. It remains to be seen what the market for Odorizzi will be. With only two years remaining of team control, he should fetch at least 2 solid MLB prospects. Cubs, Yankees, Brewers, and Twins have all been connected to Odorizzi in the last week. As a comparison, Gerrit Cole was traded for MLB ready Joe Musgrove and former first round pick Colin Moran plus two additional minor leaguers. Cole is at a higher level than Odorizzi and to some, gathered an underwhelming return. If that is the bar, maybe it wouldn’t take too much for the Twins to pry Odorizzi away?
     
    Collin McHugh
    Age: 30
    Contract status: Arb in ‘18 & ‘19
    162 gm Average: 3.70 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 195 innings, 8.4 K/9, 1.253 WHIP
     
    Like Odorizzi, McHugh would likely slot behind Big Erv and Berrios in the Twins rotation. A serviceable and reliable starting pitcher who threw healthy workloads for the Astros from 2014-16. Last year, he dealt with some arm issues that limited him to 63 innings. A “posterior impingement of his right elbow” led to shutting him down before the season even began. He rebounded for a solid campaign over 12 starts with a 3.55 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He only threw 6 innings out of the bullpen last year for the World Champion, Houston Astros. With the addition of Gerrit Cole, the Astros have a bit of a logjam in their rotation. McHugh might be the odd-man out. He has already been rumored in trade discussions, notably with the Orioles. McHugh throws a low 90’s fastball and relies heavily on his curveball (thrown 20% of the time) and in 2017 developed a slider which he used 17% of the time. His slider clocks in at at 83mph and was very successful in a short period of time. Opposing hitters only batted .138 off it, with one homer allowed. A kudos to Astros pitching coach, Brent Storm for the help with that one. What this new pitch means for 2018, only time will tell. It’s hard to see McHugh taking another step at the age of 30. At this point he is what he is. With the Astros seemingly OK entering 2018 with McHugh in their bullpen and an emergency option for the rotation, there isn’t a lot of urgency to move him. If the Twins were willing, I am sure a solid low level prospect (Lewis Thorpe?) combined with a mid-tier minor league player would be enough to get a deal completed.
     
    With the Twins internal options less than ideal, it seems the best option will be 1) Sign a free agent and 2) trade for one of these three pitchers. The best case scenario would be a combination of both.
     
    There is not doubt Odorizzi and McHugh plus Cobb/Lynn help this team immensely in 2018 and give them a great opportunity to close the gap with the Cleveland Indians in the AL central. There is the issue however that adding two new pitchers could have an effect on the 2019 season. The Twins will add Michael Pineda to the mix. Additionally, Gonsalves/Romero should be ready. Plus don’t forget about Trevor May. None of those are a given and “too many starting pitchers” is never a bad problem to have.
     
    But the focus right now is the present. Without a real “ace” the Twins will have to rely on several #2 and #3 starters to get the job done. Already possessing a top 10 offense, upgraded bullpen and above average defense, the Twins would be poised to make a run back to the playoffs. Not making an addition is inexcusable. I do think the Twins do something, but how far do they go?
     
    So let me hear you Twins fans: What are your opinions on trading for a starter?
  13. Andrew Luedtke
    When looking at the 2021 Minnesota Twins it is pretty easy to look around the diamond and see positives and negatives for nearly every player. Take Byron Buxton for example. On one side you have a game changing defender who has shown power over the last two years. If things break right, he could be in the MVP conversation. On the other side, you have a guy who is prone to injury and tends to go into extended slumps at the plate.
     
    Which player are the Twins going to get in 2021?
     
    Now take that line of thinking and apply it to the entire roster. When more things go right than wrong (the 2019 Twins), that’s a very good baseball team. When more things go wrong than right (the 2018 Twins), well, that’s a different story. Like a box of chocolates, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
     
    The Twins front office has done a great job of creating depth up and down the entire roster this offseason. They are 11-12 players deep in their lineup with starting caliber players after the addition of Andrelton Simmons, and they have a scrap heap of arms they can pull from to form the bottom part of their bullpen.
     
    The worry is did they do enough to alleviate the risk in case of injuries or ineffectiveness from the team?
     
    Let’s dive in.
     
    Below you will see an evaluation plus projections on each position group (using Fangraphs Depth Charts projections) for the Twins and the “anxiety factor” - a thing I just made up that rates how risky each position group is with a “boom” or “bust” scenario. It's rated on a 0-10 scale. 10 being the most risk.
     
    Catcher:
     
    Mitch Garver was a monster in 2019. He won the Silver Slugger and posted a career best .995 OPS with 31 HR’s. In 2020, he battled injuries, landed on the IL for a significant portion of the year, and only appeared in 23 games. In those 23 games he was borderline unplayable with a .511 OPS. He never looked right, due to injury.
     
    In a limited sample, Ryan Jeffers was impressive. In 55 AB’s he posted a 118 OPS+ and earned positive marks from his pitching staff and advanced metrics for his pitch framing abilities. Oh ya, and he took Shane Bieber yard.
     
    https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1304619154054549504
     
    It’s easy to see a scenario where the Twins have a lethal catching combo with two starting caliber players and offensive upside. It’s also easy to question the optimism. Is Garver fully healthy? Can we trust a 55 game sample size from Jeffers or is there a sophomore slump coming?
     
    Anxiety factor: 3
     
    I feel the Twins will get good production out of the catching spot. With injury, even Astudillo can sub in for a short period of time.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 2.7 (8th)
     
    Mitch Garver: .236/.321/.442 - 1.2 fWAR in 294 PA’s
    Ryan Jeffers: .249/.313/.415 - 1.4 fWAR in 320 PA’s
    Willians Astudillo: .283/.314/.453 - .1 fWAR in 26 PA’s
     
    First Base:
     
    Like Buxton, Sano might be one of the most frustrating players for Twins fans. He’s the definition of a roller coaster. In 2015 he looked like Miguel Cabrera in his rookie year. In 2016 he was hurt and put in right field. In 2017 he was an all-star. In 2018 he was overweight and sent down. In 2019 he was one of the best hitters in the league. In 2020, he posted the 2nd lowest OPS+ of his career (104).
     
    So, what can we expect out of Sano in 2021? The Twins need him to be closer to his .830 career OPS than the .757 he posted in 2020.
     
    Anxiety factor: 6
     
    Sano’s inability to hit fastballs and work the count deep, drawing walks in 2020 was a concern. Despite a .395 OPS in 29 PA’s this Spring, Sano does look to be tracking much better in a small sample and projections expect him to bounce back. If things somehow break really well, he could see his way to a season like PECOTA’s 90th percentile projection for him.
     
    https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1360056481635270657
     
    Also, it should be noted that the Twins have other options that will see time at 1B this season. Kirilloff, Rooker, and Garver can all play here, which alleviates some risk.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 1.9 (10th)
     
    Miguel Sano: .230/.322/.507 - 1.8 fWAR in 595 PA’s
    Alex Kirilloff: .279/.326/.449 - .1 fWAR in 49 PA’s
     
    Second Base:
     
    Jorge Polanco moved to 2B with the Simmons addition bumping Luis Arraez to the utility role. Polanco, who was playing hurt in 2020, posted the worst offensive season of his career (.658 OPS). Now, with a surgically repaired ankle for the second year in a row, will Polanco be able to adjust to a new position and return to form? In 2018 and 2019 combined, Polanco hit .293/.353/.466. He also figures to get some work in at Shortstop.
     
    Arraez, who has knee problems of his own, has hit over .300 in back-to-back years and will fill in at times all around the diamond. It’s easy to see a pathway to this duo being a great pair in 2021. But, with injuries a part of both their pasts and neither having defensive prowess, should fans be a bit more concerned?
     
    Anxiety factor: 2
     
    This duo projects to be near a top-5 position group among all 2B in baseball. They are covered in case of ineffectiveness or an injury. Not to mention there are other players in the org that could fill in if needed here (JT Riddle, Travis Blankenhorn, and Nick Gordon). It’s hard to see a scenario where Polanco was in fact worse than he was in 2020.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 2.7 (6th)
     
    Jorge Polanco: .274/.334/.436 - 1.6 fWAR in 448 PA’s
    Luis Arraez: .311/.370/.410 - 1.1 fWAR in 231 PA’s
     
    Shortstop:
     
    One of the Twins biggest moves of the offseason was the acquisition of slick fielding SS, Andrelton Simmons. Simmons ranks 1st in DRS and UZR among all shortstops since 2002.
     
    Like many Twins, injuries are no stranger to Simmons who suffered ankle injuries in 2019 and 2020. In 551 PA’s between 2019 and 2020, Simmons produced a 84 OPS+, below his career average of 91. The Twins don’t need him to hit in order to be valuable. They just need him to be on the field and continue to do what he does best, play defense.
     
    Anxiety factor: 4
     
    With Simmons' injury history, any long term setback could be detrimental to the strength of the 2021 Twins - depth. If Simmons' offense continues on a downward trajectory or he takes a step back defensively, that could also hurt the overall makeup of the team. Luckily, their backup was the starting SS for the American League All-Star game in 2019.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 3.4 (10th)
     
    Andrelton Simmons: .277/.328/.393 - 2.9 fWAR in 581 PA’s
    Jorge Polanco: .274/.334/.436 - .4 fWAR in 91 PA’s
    Luis Arraez: .311/.370/.410 - .1 fWAR in 21 PA’s
     
    Third Base:
     
    When Josh Donaldson played last season, he was productive. His 131 OPS+ in 28 games was near his career average of 136. The issue was that he only played in 28 G due to calf injury and missed the entire first round of the playoffs. Not ideal.
     
    The Twins need Donaldson on the field this season. He has now missed significant time in 2017, 2018, and 2020. The good news is that the backup options seem to be better than they were in 2020. The Twins can give Donaldson days off, when needed and still have a formidable lineup with Arraez, Polanco, and even Sano filling in.
     
    Anxiety factor: 4
     
    It’s comforting to know that there are other options to fill in for Donaldson in case of an injury that are better than Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza. However, I’m skeptical of Donaldson's ability to stay healthy. Rocco will have to pull the right levers to maximize rest and recovery. If he’s not out for a prolonged period of time, there are backup measures in place.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 4.0 (6th)
     
    Josh Donaldson: .242/.363/.468 - 3.0 fWAR in 490 PA’s
    Luis Arraez: .311/.370/.410 - .6 fWAR in 133 PA’s
    Miguel Sano: .230/.322/.507 - .3 fWAR in 49 PA’s
    Jorge Polanco: .274/.334/.436 - .1fWAR in 28 PA’s
     
    Left Field
     
    The Twins non-tendered Eddie Rosario this offseason because they have lots of depth at the corner OF positions. Alex Kirilloff, who many believe will end up with the starting LF job at some point this year, was sent to the alternate site last week.
     
    So, at least to start the year, the Twins will have to mix and match between Luis Arraez, Jake Cave, and Kyle Garlick.
     
    Like every position, there’s reason for optimism...and concern.
     
    Jake Cave has a career 107 OPS+ and can play all three OF positions. He was great as a 4th OF in 2019 - that’s good! Jake Cave posted a .674 OPS in 2020 across 42 games - that’s bad!
     
    Brent Rooker had a nice debut in 2020 playing in 7 G’s, but his season ended with a wrist injury. Will the wrist injury linger and can his offense overcome his defensive limitations?
     
    We know the type of hitter Luis Arraez can be, but he’s uh, not a natural outfielder, which could hurt the Twins in the field.
     
    Then there’s Kyle Garlick who has mashed at AAA but success hasn’t translated to the pros where he has posted a .691 OPS. He’s 29 and if his offensive surge from Spring Training doesn’t continue, he could be DFA’ed.
     
    Kirilloff’s demotion last week split the Twins fanbase. His Spring numbers are not encouraging and with only 415 PA’s above A ball, he’s no slam dunk in 2021. So LF is a bit of a mixed bag.
     
    Anxiety factor: 6
     
    Easily the most concerning position group on the Minnesota Twins amongst the hitters. Yes, they have lots of options but as you can see above, there’s equal reasons for optimism and concern. Kirilloff offers the most upside but for now will not be on the Opening Day roster. Trevor Larnach should be mentioned here as a potential option as well.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 1.3 (19th)
     
    Alex Kirilloff: .279/.326/.449 - .7 fWAR in 329 PA’s
    Luis Arraez: .311/.370/.410 - .5 fWAR in 147 PA’s
    Jake Cave: .248/.309/.426 - .1 fWAR in 126 PA’s
    Brent Rooker: .234/.305/.437 - .1 fWAR in 56 PA’s
    Kyle Garlick: .218/.272/.399 - -.1 fWAR in 42 PA’s
     
    Center Field:
     
    Like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton has had his share of a rollercoaster Twins career. He’s had his injuries and struggles at the plate. However, 2020 was promising. He capitalized on a strong 2019 and led the entire team in bWAR (2.1) over 39 games. He was limited in the playoffs, however, due to injury. Across his last 126 games, Buxton has a .833 OPS with 23 HR’s. The Twins have a .563 winning percentage when Buxton is in his lineup across his whole career.
     
    The question mark of course, is can he stay healthy?
     
    The Twins have options to backup Buck, but unlike other position groups, any player playing instead of Buxton will hurt elsewhere. For example, if Kepler is in CF, you’re weaker at two spots since Kepler is a downgrade defensively to Buxton and anyone who plays RF is going to be worse than Kepler. A healthy Buxton is a key to success.
     
    Anxiety factor: 5
     
    Since Buxton has shown effectiveness across the last two seasons, hopefully some of his offensive woes are behind him and he can be more consistent. However, injuries are a real concern. He’s only played only 100 games once in his career. Will this finally be the year? We’ll see.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 3.8 (4th)
     
    Right Field:
     
    Since 2019 Max Kepler ranks 16th in baseball in bWAR (4.1) for outfielders. His breakout 2019 looked to continue into the first part of 2020, but he went into a slump at various points of the year and basically forgot how to hit left handed pitching, something that helped his overall numbers in 2019. In fact, 2020 was the worst he’s ever been in his career vs. lefties. Meanwhile, in a small sample, 2020 was the best he’s ever been vs RHP.
     
    https://twitter.com/andluedtke/status/1374737976480169984
     
    In addition to his own injury history (missed parts of games in 2019 & 2020), his 2021 Spring Training has been discouraging (3-for-43). At his worst, he’s a great defensive platoon player who hits RHP well. At his best, he’s an above average all-around player and a major cog in the Twins lineup. What version are they going to get?
     
    Similar to the backup options in LF Garlick, Kirilloff, Rooker, and Cave figure to get playing time.
     
    Anxiety factor: 4
     
    There’s concern about Kepler putting it altogether again like he did in 2019. Hopefully this slump in Spring is meaningless. The options defensively without Kepler in RF are a bit frightening. In any case, even if something were to happen there are enough guys in the Twins system that could fill in at the corner. Celestino and Larnach are not too far off.
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 2.9 (8th)
     
    Max Kepler: .248/.337.475 - 2.9 fWAR in 609 PA’s
    Kyle Garlick: .218/.272/.399 - -.1 fWAR in 42 PA’s
    Jake Cave: .248/.309/.426 - .1 fWAR in 28 PA’s
     
    Designated Hitter:
     
    Nelson Cruz was the team MVP in 2019 & 2020. All he’s done in a Twins uniform is hit. The concerns with Nelly of course are his age, wrist injury (are we sure you can just play normally with a ruptured tendon?), and the fact he fell off the map at the end of 2020. In his last 11 games he posted a .256 OPS.
     
    Anxiety factor: 2
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 2.5 (3rd)
     
    Nelson Cruz: .267/.353/.524 - 2.2 fWAR in 574 PA’s
    Josh Donaldson: .242/.363/.468 - .3 fWAR in 98 PA’s
     
    Most teams don’t have a “backup” DH contingency plan in case things go south. If anything were to happen, there’s plenty of options for the Twins to fill in the DH spot to get players like Donaldson off his feet. Rocco may employ this strategy anyways to maximize rest & recovery.
     
    Starting Pitching:
     
    Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda figure to be a strong 3 in this rotation. Can Kenta repeat close to his runner-up to the Cy Young award numbers from 2020? Will Jose Berrios finally take that step forward we’ve all hoped? Will Pineda be able to continue to be effective in a full season? Barring injury, these three should be pretty safe bets to continue with a strong 2021. It’s the rest of the staff that may be a bit worrisome…
     
    Many (myself included), felt the Twins didn’t do enough in free agency to elevate the ceiling of the rotation. The floor, yes. But, they seemingly missed out on that upside move to really take a giant leap forward. They sat idly by as Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, and Taillon were traded. They made offers to Kluber and Morton but obviously, they chose a different path. They ended up with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. Happ has been serviceable since 2018 and posted solid numbers last year (ignore his postseason ). You could do worse for a #4 starter but after getting a late start in camp due to COVID, his age, and the fact that the AL Central employs many mashing right handed hitters, could they have done better here?
     
    Shoemaker has been effective when healthy. The problem is, he never is. Shoemaker hasn’t thrown more than 80 innings since 2016. That’s a real concern.
     
    In a 162-game season, teams can’t operate on a 5-man rotation. The Twins know how important depth is. They will be using their 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th options for starts. I am excited to watch Dobnak now that he has added a pitch and is coming off a strong Spring. Having a healthy Donaldson and Simmons behind him will be a massive plus as he has the 2nd highest GB% since he came into the league.
     
    I think there’s enough arms here to create a top-15ish rotation. They can always add at the deadline too. I just wish they aimed higher this offseason. They’re only a move or two away from having a top-5 staff. Hope it doesn’t hurt them come playoff time.
     
    Anxiety factor: 3
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 11.8 (12th)
     


     
    Bullpen:
     
    After losing May, Wisler, Clippard, and Romo the Twins replaced them with a handful of internal guys plus Hansel Robles and Alex Colome. Since 2019, the Twins have the second best ERA as a staff (Tampa is #1). So the front office clearly knows what they are doing. It seems their strategy is to lean on the top-4 guys in the pen (Rogers, Duffey, Colome, and Robles), hope their other guys can take a step forward after a strong 2020 (Alcala, Stashak, Thielbar), and get effectiveness from the scrap heap of guys they picked up this offseason. Maybe there’s another Matt Wisler in there (Law, Waddell, Gibault, Anderson, Hamilton, Sparkman).
     
    I think there’s a lot of risk here. I wish they added 1-2 additional veteran arms to really help bolster this group. Each guy in the current pen comes with question marks and you really have no clue what you’re going to unlock, if anything, from the scrap heap guys.
     
    Rogers - Is he the 2.61 ERA guy from 2019 or the 4.05 guy from 2020?
    Colome - He continually outperforms his peripheral stats. Can that continue in 2021? Since 2019, he has posted a 2.27 ERA but a 3.78 FIP
    Duffey - Should we read anything into his awful 2021 spring?
    Robles - He posted a 2.48 ERA in 2020 but a 10.26 ERA last year in 18 games.
    Thielbar - He started the year hurt due to a back injury. Can his 2020 be trusted?
    Alcala - Very impressive 2020. Hope he can take a step forward in an elevated role in 2021.
     
    If any of the top-4 are ineffective for prolonged stretches or injured, the depth in high-end arms gets tested. Unlike other position groups, the backup options are not as strong.
     
    If one of the top-4 guys is not useful, this may look more like a bottom-10 bullpen than a top-10.
     
    Anxiety factor: 6
     
    Fangraphs Depth Charts WAR projection: 3.0 (9th)
     


     
    Conclusion:
     
    Now that we have each position group broken down into parts and risk associated with each, we can draw a few conclusions.
     
    If the season goes as Fangraphs projects it to - the team will win ~88 games.
     
    If more things break right than wrong, guys are healthy, moves are made to bolster the team at the deadline, and steps forward are taken from certain guys - this team could easily win 94+ games
     
    If more things break wrong than right, there are too many injuries and/or some guys regress - this team may end up winning ~83 games.
     
    That’s a good sign when your worst case scenario is a borderline playoff time.
     
    My prediction:
     
    With the over/under set at 88.5 in Vegas, I am taking the under. But barely. I think there’s a chance things go more wrong than right and the team ends up winning 85-87 games but securing a wild card spot. I’m giving the Central to the White Sox. At the end of the day, it may come down to who is healthier and even with their depth issues, their guys have stayed healthier better than the Twins. Like Forrest Gump said, you just don't know what you are going to get.
     
    Record: 87-75
    Wild Card
     
    Twins end up defeating the Angels at Target Field ending the 0-18 streak. From there, it’s anybody’s guess…
     
    Go Twins!
  14. Andrew Luedtke
    Major League Baseball is no longer played with only 5 starting pitchers, and it hasn’t been for awhile. The importance of depth becomes crucial here as teams know that during a season, they will have to use 8, 9, 10+ starters in a given season.
     
    Anyone else remember when the 2017 Twins used 16 different starters?
     
    With departures of Odorizzi, Hill, and Bailey, the Twins have thus far replaced Hill/Bailey with J.A. Happ. It still feels like they need to add one more SP. I think prospects like Duran and Balazovic are at best not making their debut until later this year.
     
    This blog is part of a collection of other blogs in the "Patching Holes" series. Also check out my thoughts on the SS/Utility, DH, and Reliever positions.
    Here is how the Twins SP group projects in 2021. A total WAR of 12.6 - 13th in baseball.
     
    ***This has been updated to reflect the J.A. Happ signing. Previously, the Twins SP group was projected for 12.3 WAR.
     
     


     
    The Twins can do better. In fact, they need to do better. It is preferred if Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe are pushed from the 5,6,7 guys in the rotation to the 7,8,9. Dobnak has plenty of value for this team and will be needed plenty as the 6th man. Injuries do happen.
     
    Here are some SP options. I noted how the Twins would benefit in “net WAR” as well as the 2021 estimated salary of each player (via Fangraphs).
     
    “Net WAR” in this scenario is the difference between the Fangraphs Depth Chart projection for each player below and the least valuable option for the SP position on the Twins currently.
     
    For this purpose, we will use the differnece in WAR for Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer who currently project to be the 5/6 starters in the rotation. That difference is .8 WAR for 2021.
     
    For example: Rick Porcello projects 2.1 WAR so to calculate “net WAR” you subtract 2.1 from .8 for a net of +1.3 WAR.
     
    *All WAR projections use Fangraphs Depth Charts
     
    Free Agent SP Options:
     
    Tier 1:
     
    Trevor Bauer: +3.4 WAR ($29M)
     
    Tier 2:
     
    James Paxton: +2.1 WAR ($15M)
    Mashiro Tanaka: +1.9 WAR ($18M)
    Jake Odorizzi: +1.3 WAR ($13M)
     
    Tier 3:
    Chris Archer: +1.3 WAR ($8M)
    Garrett Richards: +1.3 WAR ($8M)
    Rick Porcello: +1.3 WAR ($11M)
    Taijuan Walker: +.8 WAR ($9M)
     
    Tier 4:
    J.A. Happ: +.6 WAR ($8M)
    Adam Wainwright: +.6 WAR($7M)
    Rich Hill: +.6 WAR ($8M)
    Homer Bailey: +.4 WAR ($5M)
    Cole Hamels: +.1 WAR($14M)
     
    Trade Options:
     
    Luis Castillo: +3.1 WAR ($4.2M)
    German Marquez: +2.9 WAR($7.5M)
    Sonny Gray: +2.6 WAR ($10M)
    Jon Gray: +1.5 WAR ($6M)
    Jameson Taillon: +1.4 WAR ($2.3M)
    Chad Kuhl: +.2 WAR ($1.4M)
    This is not a perfect formula. There are a lot of moving parts in each of these instances due to how each player added would impact the rest of the team. Especially in this scenario, I am using “net WAR” to show the difference when adding in a starter to the top-6 spots of the rotation only rather than spread out against the entire group.
    In any case, there are plenty of opportunities the Twins can pull from to improve their rotation. After going through the exercise, I was actually encouraged at the amount of depth still in the free agent SP market.
     
    My take:
     
    I think all fans can agree that Bauer to the Twins is a pipe dream (but wow, would that be fun).
    However, I am hopeful that the Twins can add one more SP that is equal to or better than Michael Pineda (2.1 projected WAR) and a second that acts as a veteran depth signing. Someone on a one-year deal that has a record of success and can pitch in the playoffs or a pennant run. ***This was written before J.A. Happ signing. It is clear now that he is the one year veteran depth piece***.
     
    My preferred trade candidate is Sonny Gray. Him and Joe Musgrove had similar value from the site BaseballTradeValues.com. In many circles, the return for Musgrove seemed light, so maybe there is hope the Twins wouldn’t have to give up as much as one would think.
     
    I think any combination of:
     
    Odorizzi/Tanaka/Paxton/Gray/Richards
     
    Paired with a second addition of:
     
    Wainwright/Porcello/Walker/Archer/Happ
     
    would make for a well rounded and deep rotation grouping.
     
    In the comments below, let me know who you think the Twins should sign and why!
  15. Andrew Luedtke
    As we approach the report date for Spring Training, it’s clear there are some large question marks on the Twins roster. The patience for many Twins fans is growing thin while they wait for some news, any news, to break on social media.
     
    Will it be re-signing Nelson Cruz? A trade for Sonny Gray or *cough* Kris Bryant?
     
    Whatever it is, one thing is certain - moves are coming…
     


     
    It’s clear that the White Sox have made strides in improving their team this offseason. The National baseball media and some White Sox fans (OK, all) have already handed them the coveted preseason AL Central Championship Title.
     
    The narrative has been the Twins need to make additions to “catch the White Sox”.
     
    I don’t buy that. As back-to-back division champs with an 0-5 playoff record in those seasons, the Twins know they are making moves with one goal in mind, win a World Series.
     
    Not to mention, the gap between the White Sox and the Twins may be narrower than fans think.
     
    In the blogs to follow, I will examine the state of the Twins currently and dive into some moves they can make that will immediately improve their positional “holes”.
     
    A “hole” in this case is any position that doesn’t give the Twins a projected Top-10 value when compared against the other 29 MLB Teams.
     
    As you will find below, the “holes” the Twins need to address are at the following positions:
     
    1) Designated Hitter
    2) Shortstop/Utility
    3) Starting Rotation
    4) Bullpen
     
    First things first, in order to understand where you need to go, you need to know where you are.
     
    From Fangraphs Depth Charts, you can sort by total projected Wins Above Replacement - the most important stat when discussing team wins. This is broken down for each team, by each positional group.
     
    Important Note: Fangraphs Depth Charts calculates positional WAR based on projected playing time for each position, not just for the projected starting player.
    For example:
     
    The 3B position on Fangraphs for the Twins is projected to create 4.2 WAR - 7th best in MLB.
    Josh Donaldson is projected 3.4 WAR, Luis Arraez is projected .7 WAR, and Travis Blakenhorn is projected .1 WAR.
    Furthermore, when looking at Josh Donaldson’s WAR, you cannot just use his 3B projection as he also appears in the DH slot where he projects .4 WAR in 98 Plate Appearances for a total of 3.8 WAR.
     
    I like the Depth Charts projections when comparing MLB Teams because it takes into account, well organizational depth, in playing time at each position rather than comparing just the teams starter who will get a bulk of the at bats.
     
    Here is a quick summary Twins projected positional WAR and their rank across all 30 MLB teams:
     
    ***Another note: This was completed on 1/18/21 and will change frequently, especially with so many FA available
     
    C - 3.0 WAR (6th)
    1B - 2.3 (8th)
    2B - 2.6 (10th)
    3B - 4.2 (6th)
    SS - 2.4 (17th)
    LF - 1.1 (18th)
    CF - 4.1 (3rd)
    RF - 3.2 (8th)
    DH- 1.0 (11th)
    SP -12.3 (13th)
    RP - 2.7 (11th)
    Overall - 38.9 (8th)
     
    For comparison’s sake, here is how the Twins stack up to the White Sox.
     


    *** For a breakdown of each position’s WAR projection for the Twins, click this link.
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