wsnydes reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Winning Out
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/27 thru Sun, 10/3
Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 73-89)
Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -105)
Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB)
Last Week's Game Recaps:
Game 157 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Edge Tigers in Pitchers' Duel
Game 158 | MIN 5, DET 2: Polanco and Pineda Propel Twins
Game 159 | DET 10, MIN 7: Buxton's 2 HR Not Enough as Ryan Struggles
Game 160 | KC 11, MIN 6: Pitching Plastered as Royals Pound Twins
Game 161 | MIN 4, KC 0: Arms Rebound, Blank Kansas City
Game 162 | MIN 7, KC 3: Twins Close Losing Year with a Win
NEWS & NOTES
It turns out that Bailey Ober's start the previous week would be the last of his rookie season. He was shut down ahead of his scheduled final turn with a right hip strain, although the move surely had more to do with workload management than real injury concern. Ober completes his first MLB campaign with a 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 96-to-19 K/BB ratio in 92 ⅓ innings spread across 20 starts. A tremendously encouraging year from the big righty, who has vaulted directly into the club's rotation plans.
With an offseason ahead that may prove decisive in shaping his big-league future, Byron Buxton ended his season on a high note. Generally speaking, he hasn't been quite the same offensively since returning from his broken hand, but Buxton's final week looked more like his first month. He went 11-for-25 with three home runs, five doubles, and 11 runs scored, mixing in a couple of stolen bases for good measure.
We're seeing something special here, folks. The question now is whether we'll have the opportunity to keep watching Buxton's magic happen in a Twins uniform. He's got one year ahead until free agency and if Minnesota can't extend him, his trade market will be too hot to ignore.
The decision with Buxton this offseason will primarily dictate whether the Twins actually aspire to contend in 2022, and will likely determine whether a lot of fans choose to stick with the team or tune out for the time being. I've written in the past where I stand: pay the man, or regret it forever. You cannot let a talent like this get away.
Joining Buxton with strong finishes at the plate:
Josh Donaldson went 6-for-21 with four walks, two homers, and five RBIs. He started all six games, which is pretty much par for the course by now. It was a huge proving year durability-wise for the 35-year-old, who returned from an immediate IL stint to play in 133 of the club's final 150 games, starting 125. The production was there too. While he still carries plenty of risk at this point, JD looks like a much more dependable building block than he did one year ago. The late drop-off of Luis Arraez was an under-discussed storyline in the second half for the Twins. From August 19th through September 19th, he batted just .176 in 99 plate appearances, sinking his average from .318 to .284. Given the lack of real defensive value, and the absence of power or patience in his game, Arraez's value plummets pretty quickly when he's not hitting for average, and we've never seen him slump in that department quite like he did during this late stretch. So it was nice to see him snap out of it with an excellent final week, in which Arraez notched 11 hits in 20 at-bats, lifting his final average to .294. It'll be very interesting to see what the team's plan is with him going forward. Miguel Sanó went 7-for-22 with a home run, a double, and four RBIs. He rebounded from a brutal April with production the rest of the way that was basically in line with his quality career norms. He also put up the lowest overall K-rate of his career (34.3%) after leading the league in strikeouts a year ago. It was ultimately a disappointing year for Sanó but offered some promising signs, and he's vowed to focus harder than ever on his body this winter, setting a goal of losing 20-30 pounds. With Alex Kirilloff looking more like a first baseman than outfielder, Sanó is another intriguing piece in the organization's future planning. He has one more guaranteed season under team control. On the pitching side, Michael Pineda wrapped his walk year with 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a win over Detroit. He returned quickly from an August oblique injury to register a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in five outings. That'll give the pending free agency market a boost.
Griffin Jax finished a rough rookie season in a positive way, delivering his best performance as a big-leaguer on Saturday with five innings of shutout ball against Kansas City. He was hardly dominant, striking out three and walking two, but he allowed only one hit. Jax showed some promise after the All-Star break, but in his final eight starts he went 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA, erasing any chance of factoring into the Twins' rotation plans next year. That said, with his effective fastball-slider combo, he's definitely earned a look in the bullpen.
Speaking of which, the Twins received impressive final weeks from a trio of key relievers. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala combined to allow zero earned runs over 11 frames. Tough to overstate how impactful these three are for the Twins' bullpen outlook.
At the All-Star break, it wasn't clear that any of them were going to be names to comfortably write into the 2022 plans. None pitched especially well in the first half. But since the break, they've collectively posted a 2.48 ERA and 85-to-24 K/BB ratio in 83 ⅓ innings. All three are expected to return in 2022, at a little over $5 million in total salary.
It's not an amazing bullpen foundation to build around, but if Taylor Rogers can return to form following his finger injury, it's certainly a viable starting point for a contending relief corps.
He's been a beaming beacon in the Highlights section nearly every week since arriving in the majors, but in his final turn as a rookie, Joe Ryan finally hit a road bump for the first time. Facing the Tigers at Target Field on Thursday, Ryan was knocked around for six earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings, with a pair of homers by Niko Goodrum accounting for much of the damage.
The poor finale may diminish a bit of Ryan's shine, but hardly removes the luster from a tremendous showing in September for the rookie. He finishes with a 4.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, and 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 26 ⅔ innings. Small sample and lack of experience aside, it's tough to imagine he won't be at least tentatively penciled into a rotation spot come next spring.
Will Max Kepler still be the man in right field at that time? He closed out one of the worst offensive seasons of his career with a 3-for-19 week, leaving him with a pedestrian final slash line of .211/.306/.413. Just flat-out sub-mediocre production from a right fielder. It does bear noting that Kepler supplements his value in other ways, like on the bases (10-for-10 on steals this year) and in the outfield, but with emerging corner outfield depth in the Twins system, Kepler and his favorable contract will likely be shopped on the trade market.
Andrelton Simmons put the finishing touches on an all-time dud of an offensive season, going 2-for-11 with a couple of singles. He posted a .480 OPS in the second half, managing three total extra-base hits (all doubles) in 189 plate appearances. Most Twins fans will be more than happy to be rid of the pending free agent, and while his defense was customarily good this year (albeit unspectacular), I do wonder if any team will view him as a starting-caliber player on the offseason market.
In an interesting trend, Simmons finally started losing some his playing time at shortstop to Nick Gordon toward the end of the year, much to the pleasure of fans who'd been clamoring for such a shift. Gordon first start at short didn't come until September 11th, by which time he'd been in the majors for three months and appeared in 55 games. From that point forward, however, he started eight of the team's final 21 games, including three times in the final week.
Gordon's bat went cold during this final stretch, producing just one hit in 13 at-bats, and his overall production for the season was underwhelming (.647 OPS, 0.2 fWAR), but if he's viewed as a credible option at short, that cements his value as a utility guy. The team's usage late in the season inspires optimism on that front.
There are plenty of trending storylines ahead as we turn our attention to the offseason. Once a World Series champion is crowned in about one month's time, the page will turn and Hot Stove season will officially get underway. (Theoretically, anyway ... a looming CBA expiration could throw a wrench in things.)
As they seek to rebound from a terrible season, the Twins face a number of key decisions this winter. Will Buxton be traded? What about dealing a semi-redundant yet valuable fixture such as Kepler, Arraez, or Sanó? Who will survive the 40-man roster crunch? How hard will Minnesota attack the free agent markets at pitcher and shortstop?
There's plenty to explore as we size up a critical offseason. I'm pleased to say we'll have an exciting announcement on that topic dropping on Monday morning. Make sure you tune in for it.
On a final note: a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has consumed, commented on, or complimented these Week in Review columns over the course of the year. It's been fun, and for me, a good way to stay plugged into a season that was often difficult to find motivation to care about. Hopefully these weekly recaps served a similar purpose for many of you.
We'll be back next year. Here's to much happier weeks to break down in 2022.
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wsnydes reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Why Get a Second Opinion For an Elbow Injury?
Let's begin with a brief anatomy and biomechanics lesson.
The ulnar collateral ligament — more frequently referred to as the UCL — is a robust and triangular sheet of tissue that helps support the inner elbow against valgus stress. The elbow experiences the most valgus stress during a baseball game when the arm is driven forward at high rates of speed while throwing a ball.
Damage to the UCL occurs when the torque produced as the arm is thrust forward — the technical term is internal rotation — is more significant than what the structure can compensate. Injury can occur chronically as well as acutely and is generally described as a sprain. The degree of damage is graded on a scale of 1-3. Grade 1 sprains are usually minor injuries that heal within a week or two. Grade 2 sprains — also referred to as partial tears — cause instability in the joint as some 50% of the ligament fibers have been damaged; the most frequently reported symptoms are pain and swelling. The recovery timeline for grade 2 sprains generally extends into months. Grade 3 sprains — or ruptures — result in significant instability and require Tommy John surgery to address.
Grade 2 sprains are where the best route of treatment is murkiest. As the UCL is technically an extension of the joint capsule — a larger sheet of tissue that envelops a joint and provides stability and nourishment — it has a relatively good blood supply, meaning it is technically capable of healing on its own without surgery. (Side note: This is why ACL injuries require surgery in most instances. Although the ACL is inside the knee, it is technically separate from the joint capsule, and, thus, has almost no blood supply.)
However, the UCL does not have the same blood supply throughout its structure. A recent study found evidence to suggest that the blood supply is best nearer where it connects to the upper arm bone — proximal — and decreases as the ligament extends to the forearm — distal. This finding may suggest that grade 2 sprains of the UCL that occur proximally are more likely to heal without surgery than those that are distal (or, read another way, Tommy John surgeries that treat proximal tears are more likely to be "successful" than their distal counterparts.) (Another side note: Interestingly, a study conducted in 2020 found data to suggest the opposite, though it should be noted that the study had a small sample size and was retrospective; both factors limit the findings' strength.)
Rest and anti-inflammatory medication are most often the first two steps in treating a grade 2 UCL sprains followed by physical therapy to improve range of motion and increase the strength of the surrounding muscles. While the UCL provides static stability for the inner elbow (i.e., its fibers don't contract and act as a brace), the forearm musculature provides dynamic stability (i.e., its fibers do contract and pull the inner elbow together). Having strong forearm muscles is vital for protecting the healing UCL.
Another treatment often reported after an athlete is diagnosed with a UCL sprain is platelet-rich plasma (PRP).
The theory behind PRP is sound. The process involves drawing blood into a test tube, spinning it around rapidly in a centrifuge to separate the blood into plasma and red blood cells, sucking the plasma into a syringe, and injecting the plasma into the injured tissue. Plasma contains a variety of cells and other substances, one of which are platelets. Platelets help form the foundation on which new tissue grows and secret substances that help aid the healing process.
The results surrounding PRP injections and return to play in baseball are … inconclusive, at best. Read one study, and you may come away believing that they work exceptionally well. Read another, and you may think they're just a bunch of hocus pocus. The fact of the matter is this: Despite being relatively well studied, there is little evidence, at this point, to suggest that PRP injections are the medical savior they were once considered to be.
So, back to the original question. Why should Maeda and the Twins even pursue a second opinion?
Well, the short answer is "Why not?" If the injury Maeda suffered is a UCL sprain, and if he ultimately undergoes surgery, he'll miss the entirety of the 2022 season anyway. Waiting another week or two to gather more information won't prevent him from playing next year.
The longer answer is that the most appropriate course of treatment may or may not be surgery, depending on various factors, including grade, location, and, frankly, a specific doctor's training and treatment philosophy. Again, if Maeda is dealing with UCL damage and if it is partial and proximal, it may have a chance to heal on its own.
Also, and this bears repeating, what's the harm in trying conservative rehabilitation and waiting on surgery? Best case scenario: Maeda can pitch again in relatively short order and definitely be next season. Worst case scenario: Maeda has to undergo surgery, which, again, would keep him out of 2022 anyway.
At this stage, there is minimal downside for the Twins and Maeda in gathering as much information as possible. The team isn't going to the playoffs, he's under contract next year, and he's one of the more critical pitching pieces in the Twins' system.
I'll pose the question again. Why should Maeda and the Twins seek a second opinion? Because it's the right thing to do.
wsnydes reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, How to Deal with a Meaningless Yankees Series
The season’s shot. The Yankees can’t hurt you any more than the Twins already have. And yet here we are, a 4-game series against New York on the road. The Yankee Stadium house of horrors should be causing you to [drink heavily/guzzle Pepto-Bismol/both] as the first pitch approaches. Instead, you feel nothing. What in the heck?!?
It’s not your fault. When the Twins are competitive, it’s almost always the Yankees who show up at summer’s end to bring sadness and pain. When the Twins aren’t competitive, it’s very often the Yankees turning an April or May series into a nightmare from which you cannot awake that confirms it’s just not happening this season.
This year? The 2021 campaign was circling the drain when the Twins dropped 2 of 3 to New York in June. Honestly, the fact that they won a game at all should have been a sign that something was different. Meanwhile, New York is in the thick of the American League playoff race, although not unbeatable by any means. How are Twins fans supposed to handle such an odd circumstance?
Twins Daily reached out to Jon Marthaler, a Falcon Heights-based expert on sports-derived frustration and boundless rage, to ask if he had any advice for struggling fans. He shared the following tips:
Ease into it. Find clips from the last 19 Twins playoff losses, many of which came at New York’s hands. Remember the sorrow. Soak in it for a while. Cry if you must. Crying lets the sad out. Find a similar interest. He suggests looking for an activity that’s as equally frustrating/miserable as watching a standard Twins/Yankees game. For those wanting to get out of the house, Marthaler recommends golfing on a course overrun with fire ants. For the homebound, he put forward the reading of any American newspaper’s online comments section. Punch drywall. “It just feels good, and the repair work gives you something to do on a weekend,” says Marthaler. “My hand hurts very badly. This has some downside risks, frankly. Ouch. Ouch.” Watch the Vikings. “It looks like their season is going to be a hot mess,” speculated Marthaler. “They have a preseason game on Saturday. Even pretend Vikings games offer something to make your day just a little bit worse.” Extend grace to yourself and others. "If you just decide to sit on a park bench and crush heaters, that's OK. If you see someone in a Byron Buxton shirsey wandering around the mall and barely keeping it together, give them space. No one really knows what to do until its done." Marthaler said he personally will drive the entire 94/494/694 loop twice on Friday night with the radio off, contemplating eternity and drinking a tepid Sprite.
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wsnydes reacted to Cody Christie for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 1-5
5. RHP Jhoan Duran (23 years old)
Season Stats (AAA): 16.0 IP (5 G), 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 12.4 K/9. 7.3 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 2, 2021 Preseason: 5
Duran is one of the most exciting pitching prospects to come through the Twins system in quite some time. He can consistently hit triple digits with his fastball while mixing in a splitter, curveball, and changeup. One of his pitches sometimes referred to as a splinker, is similar to another big-leaguer. His biggest concerns are control and staying healthy. Currently, he is out with an elbow strain, and he also dealt with a trapezius issue earlier in the year. When he went on the IL at the end of June, the recommendation was for him to be shut down for 5-6 weeks, and surgery will not be needed for the time being. Minnesota can hold its collective breath and hope Duran doesn’t need to go under the knife and miss significant time in 2022.
4. RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson (20 years old)
Season Stats (AA): 45.1 IP (11 G), 5.76 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9
Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline
There are probably plenty of things you don’t know about Woods-Richardson as he was acquired as part of the José Berríos trade. He showcases a traditional mix of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to MLB Pipeline, all four pitches already grade at a 55 (20-80 scale) or higher. Toronto was aggressive with sending him to Double-A as a 20-year old, and the Twins have assigned him to the same level as he returned from the Olympics. Minnesota will be his third organization since being drafted in 2018, and it should be the organization where he will make his big-league debut.
3. RHP Jordan Balazovic (22 years old)
Season Stats (AA): 63.1 IP (13 G), 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 3, 2021 Preseason: 6
Minnesota snagged Balazovic back in 2016 in the fifth round out of Canada. Balazovic started the year on the IL, so his first game action didn’t come until the beginning of June. After shaking some dust off, he had a terrific month of July as he posted a 2.86 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 31 strikeouts. In nine of his 13 appearances, he has allowed three runs or fewer, including seven appearances with no runs allowed. His strikeout rate is higher than his career mark, and he faces older batters over 80% of the time. Will he get a shot at Triple-A before the season’s done?
2. SS/CF Austin Martin (22 years old)
Season Stats (AA): 62 G, .291/.438/.391 (.829), 2 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B,19.4 K%, 15.2 BB%
Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline
While most will have Martin in the #1 spot among Twins prospects, he slots in at #2 here as the organization might have bought low on him. There are a lot of similarities between Lewis and Martin which means they both have immense potential. Since he is new to the organization, here are a few things to learn about him. Martin may be able to play shortstop, but he can also play other infield and outfield positions as needed. He played a lot of third base in college, but the Twins will have him focus on center field. He will hit for average and get on base. The remaining question is how much power he’ll be able to provide.
1. SS Royce Lewis (22 years old)
Season Stats: Out for the season after ACL surgery
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 1, 2021 Preseason: 2
Eight out of ten Twins Daily Minor League Writers agree, Royce Lewis returns to the #1 spot in our Twins Top Prospect rankings. He made strides in 2020 at the alternate site. He’s begun some baseball activities recently after spring training ACL reconstruction. Lewis has power. He has speed. He has the potential to stick at shortstop but can be versatile. Other players taken in the 2017 MLB Draft have started to perform, so some might question whether Lewis was the right choice. Martin might have a higher floor than Lewis, but Lewis has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in baseball.
PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES
wsnydes reacted to David Youngs for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 6-10
10. SS Keoni Cavaco (20-years-old)
Season Stats (Low-A): .242/.314/.332, 49 G, 7 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB, 63/18 K:BB
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: #6
It's been a rough year for the Fort Myers offense. Cavaco's .242 batting average is something that will need to improve. Yet before we double down on the guy, let's remember, he's 20-years-old! While he played 25 games in 2019, this is Cavaco's first 'true' season. The guy is an incredible athlete and has shown moments of brilliance in the field and at the plate.
Plagued by injuries this season, Cavaco's 2022 season will be a big indicator of his future with the Twins. There's a lot of potential if he can stay healthy. Check out his interview with Seth Stohs from earlier this year!
9. RHP Chase Petty (18-years-old)
Season Stats: No Stats
Previous Rankings: Not ranked, Minnesota Twins 2021 Top Draft Pick
Chase Petty may have been the most electrifying pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. The New Jersey-native can hit triple digits, has good off-speed, and name dropped Mike Trout in post-draft interview.
Petty was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of New Jersey this past year. His fastball speaks volumes but he's also got an excellent slider in his arsenal.
Yes, Petty is only 18. Yet he has the confidence of an MLB ballplayer and that is going to work miracles for him as he navigates professional baseball. Expect the Jersey boy to climb the ladder quickly.
8. RHP Matt Canterino (23-years-old)
Season Stats (Low-A + High-A): 5 GS, 20 IP, 0.90 ERA, 0.65 ERA, 16.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: #4
Matt Canterino didn't drop on our rankings because of poor performance. The Twins' 2019 second-round draft pick was sidelined by an elbow injury for a majority of the summer and just recently hit the bump again. Canterino recently began rehabbing at Low-A Fort Myers. In his August 8th return he was perfect, striking out two and giving up zero hits or walks in two innings.
Prior to his injury Canterino was electric, giving up only two earned runs in 10 innings. In that span, hitters racked up a meager .154 batting average against him. In his young professional career Canterino has a 1.20 ERA and 0.64 WHIP. At 23, the young man has an unbelievable upside and a healthy 2022 season will benefit him as much as anyone on this list.
7. RHP Joe Ryan (25-years-old)
Season Stats (Triple-A): 57 IP, 3.63 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11.8/1.6 K:BB
Previous Rankings: N/A (previously in Rays organization)
A product of the Nelson Cruz trade with Tampa Bay, Joe Ryan was previously unknown to most Twins fans. That changed when Ryan grabbed the attention of the nation when he helped guide the United States Olympic team to a Silver Medal in Tokyo. Ryan started two games for Team USA, tossing 10 1/3 innings of nine-hit, two-run baseball, while striking out eight and only surrendering one walk.
It's clear that Ryan can deal. The 2018 seventh-round draft pick has touted a sub-four ERA in each season since his professional debut. Before being traded to the Twins the San Francisco native was 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA on the Durham Bulls staff. Ryan has started 11 games this season with opposing batters hitting .175 against him. With the Olympics serving as a confidence booster, it will be exciting to see what Ryan can do with the Saints for the remainder of the season.
6. 3B Jose Miranda (23-years-old)
Season Stats (Double-A + Triple-A): .342/.406/.596, 21 2B, 23 HR, 4 SB, 65 RBI
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: #5
Don't be fooled that Miranda is a spot lower than he was a few months back. In fact, Miranda has been as good as he's been all season in the past few days. Miranda recorded a multi-hit game on Thursday night and knocked the go-ahead homer to push the Saints to a win in extra-innings on Wednesday.
Miranda has slashed an impressive .338/.402/.606 in just 38 games at Triple-A this season. His numbers were just as strong (if not better) at Double-A Wichita. The best part? Miranda is improving as he increases levels of play. Don't be surprised if the best story of the 2021 Twins organization gets a shot at the MLB level before the 2021 season ends.
wsnydes reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, Twins Daily Interview: Mike McCarthy, St. Paul Saints Pitching Coach
Twins Daily (TD): Thanks for taking the time to chat, Mike. I’m interested in illuminating for folks what coaching looks like in baseball and the Twins organization. Let’s start by hearing about your journey to becoming a pitching coach. Is that always something you wanted to do?
Mike McCarthy (MM): I played six-and-a-half years with the Red Sox and made it to AAA. I learned how to throw really good batting practice starting at around 7:05 pm for three of four innings until they got me out of there. I was always interested in scouting reports and analytics. I was also always interested in teaching and helping others, and I’m always brought back to ‘how do I leave the world better than I found it’? So I always enjoy the opportunity to connect with people and help them get better at what they’re passionate about. One day I got a call from Gabe Kapler asking if I was interested in interviewing for a job and that’s how I met Jeremy Zoll. I did my interview for the Twins from Argentina working for a non-profit via Whats-App. This has led me to coach at a level I never thought I would be at.
TD: What has your experience been with the Twins so far? What have you appreciated about the approach of this organization and front office?
MM: The biggest thing is it’s an authentic organization which treats people the right way. We want to win baseball games, that’s a priority, but we want to do it the right way and I try to live my life that way as well. To be part of an organization that operates that way is a great feeling, and that’s something we work to replicate within our pitching department. We’re always looking outside the box to answer the question ‘how can we be a little bit better tomorrow than we were today’? We approach the work with humility and healthy criticism. That dynamic is really exciting for me.
TD: What is the process when you get access to a pitcher for the first time? Let’s say a guy is claimed off waivers or promoted. What kind of process do you go through in beginning a working relationship with that player?
MM: Two very different processes. If a guy is claimed, the first thing we do is look at where he’s been at, how has been throwing, what are his trends? We’ll look at K:BB ratio, pitch usage, movement plots, how were his last few outings? Most importantly is connecting with the player, letting him know we are excited to work with him, we’re here for him and want to help him get better. We gather as an organization to determine how he best fits and what’s the best direction to go with a new player. Number one thing, I’m going to meet the player where he’s at. He’s going through a challenging time and I want him to feel comfortable.
If a guy is promoted, the first thing is connecting with our AA pitching coaches, seeing where he's at and what he has been working on, his player plan and how we can help him move forward. We also want to know what does he respond well to, or not well to, is he analytically minded or do we want to keep things more simple?
TD: How have y’all managed to balance pitcher workload this year? After an unprecedented lost season, how have you balanced giving guys the necessary innings while protecting arms?
MM: It’s been a challenge. We’re taking on an obstacle we’ve never seen in baseball. We have to be really diligent. We’re talking to players regularly, we’re looking at velocities to see if they are tapering off and really just monitoring work loads as best we can. We are trying to balance and ensure guys continue to get their workload so they can develop and get better. It’s a fine line, we collaborate as a group and make the best action plan we possibly can for each individual guy.
TD: What does the interplay look like between St. Paul and the MLB organization and front office as far as player development goes? How do you arrive at what guys need to work on?
MM: It’s definitely collaborative. It’s about what our data analysts see, our pitching coordinators see, what our coaches see who are with guys more than anyone else. All of those things come together with what the major league staff sees as well. We also get the input of the player and try and put that all together and make the best game plan possible. We ask ‘what is the next step forward for this guy to be an impact MLB arm?’ Sometimes that’s a mechanical goal, a pitch development goal, it could be an execution goal, but we want to make clear and defined goals to help guys with their development.
TD: What are some of the nastiest pitches at AAA right now that Twins fans should be excited about for 2022 and beyond?
MM: You look at a guy like Jovani Moran and see his changeup and say ‘good lord, that’s going to play for a while’. Cano, the sinker. His changeup has also really developed well this season. Drew Strotman is another. You have a big carry fastball there, a changeup with some good fade to it, and a slider which has performed well, but we think there is room for it to get even better. He’s got some big upside. Also Joe Ryan, the invisible fastball which he demonstrated over the last few weeks with the Olympic team. There’s a lot of guys we’re excited over the next few weeks, next few months, and next few years.
TD: Speaking of Joe Ryan, has he joined up with the team yet? What is the plan for incorporating him into the rotation?
MM: He’s in transit. He’ll be jumping into the team in the next two weeks.
TD: Last question. It’s also noticeable from your presence on social media that servant leadership is important to you. Is there any work or organization you are involved with that Twins Daily readers can learn about and support?
MM: I appreciate that. Baseball Miracles is an awesome group. It’s an organization I’ve worked with for eight years now. I think the most important thing is finding ways to go out and serve your community. It’s been a challenging year for people, whether through COVID or anything else. Seeing how we can be servants to the world around us, making the world a little bit better whether that’s signing an autograph for a kid or holding doors for people. These simple acts of random kindness go a long way in our lives, seek to serve and make the world a better place. Thank you for asking that question.
TD: Mike, thank you so much for your generosity, time, and insight, keep up the great work in Saint Paul.
If Twins Daily readers want to learn more about, or donate to Baseball Miracles, you can find their website here. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @mmccarthy35.
wsnydes reacted to Matt Braun for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 15-11
15. Noah Miller - INF
2021 Stats: n/a
2021 Mid-Season Ranking: n/a
There is little to say about Noah Miller considering the fact that he is just 18, and has not played a game of professional baseball yet. The Twins decided to select Miller with the final pick in the 1st round of the 2021 MLB Draft as they believe in his immense potential as a switch-hitting, athletic shortstop. Oh, and also because he hit .608 as a high school senior. No, that is not a typo. Miller will certainly require a significant amount of time to develop, but the end result could be a truly dynamic middle-infielder who could anchor the top of a lineup for years. Just make sure to keep his name tucked away for future reference.
14. Drew Strotman - RHSP
2021 Stats: 67 ⅔ IP, 3.59 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 4.14 FIP, 22.8 K%, 13.1 BB%
2021 Mid-Season Ranking: n/a
Drew Strotman is perhaps the most polarizing prospect the Twins received at the trade deadline. Fangraphs has him placed optimistically as the team’s 7th best prospect (and on the edge of the top 100 prospect list), while MLB.com ranked him as the franchise's 15th best prospect-a number much closer to what we decided. At any rate, Strotman is an exciting combination of talent and seasoning. A brand new cutter has deepened what was already an intriguing repertoire of major league quality. He has already been added to the 40-man roster so his promotion to the major league club is simply a formality at this point. The walks are high, but Eric Longenhagen wrote that Strotman is “likely a big league starter”. Lord knows that the Twins need as many of those as they can get.
13. Gilberto Celestino - OF
2021 Stats: (MLB): .136 AVG, .177 OBP, .288 SLG, 23 wRC+ (AA/AAA): .259 AVG, .338 OBP, .431 SLG, 107 WRC+
2021 Mid-Season Ranking: 7
Gilberto Celestino is the only player from this part of the list to play at the major league level and, well, he certainly seemed overwhelmed. The young outfielder was acquired by the Twins in the Ryan Pressly trade three years ago (holy bleep, it’s been three years already?), and it is quite clear that, while Celestino possesses quality tools, he needs more seasoning before he can succeed in the show. But fear not. Celestino is still just 22 years old and, as we all have seen over the past few years, toolsy center fielders often require an extended amount of time to realize their full potential. Celestino will play out the rest of 2021 at AAA (where he owns a 130 wRC+ in a small sample) and will be better prepared to potentially etch out a role on the 2022 Twins.
12. Matt Wallner - OF
2021 Stats (A+): .281 AVG, .338 OBP, .548 SLG, 135 wRC+
2021 Mid-Season Ranking: 10
Matt Wallner was plucked from the backwoods of Minnesota by the Twins with the 39th overall pick of the 2019 draft. Well, that is not entirely accurate as the Twins neither physically plucked him, like one would with an apple, nor was he taken directly from the state (he played college ball at the University of Southern Mississippi), but the sentence sounds cool so it shall stay. (Editor's Note: Ummmm....) Anyways, Wallner was drafted as a high-strikeout guy with “light tower power,” and so far in his minor league career he has played… like a high strikeout guy with light tower power. He has been frustratingly limited to just over 30 games in 2021 due to a pesky wrist injury that proved to be more serious than previously believed. He had surgery on his hamate bone. But in the time he has played, Wallner has mashed. His nine homers over 148 plate appearances gives him about a 36 home run pace over 600 plate appearances (a typical full season), while his .548 slugging percentage would make him the 11th best qualified major leaguer by that stat. Simply put, a healthy Wallner can absolutely crush.
11. Josh Winder - RHSP
2021 Stats (AA/AAA): 72 IP, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 3.41 FIP, 29.1 K%, 4.7 BB%
2021 Mid-Season Ranking: 8
Perhaps no prospect throughout the Twins’ system has seen his stock rise higher in 2021 than Josh Winder. Even the noted, uh, “strong opinion-holder”, Keith Law, admitted that he was anticipating watching Winder pitch in 2021. So far, Winder has not disappointed. He saw a tangible uptick in velocity while working out in 2020, and the upgrade has rippled throughout his entire pitch mix. The result was an utterly dominant stint at AA Wichita that saw him strike out more than 30% of the hitters he faced, walk less than 5% of them, and earn a trip to the MLB Futures Game. Batters hit a paltry .207 against him, and I can only imagine that hitters in the AA-Central North division threw an absolute rager of a party to celebrate his promotion to AAA. A shoulder injury has cut Winder’s playtime in AAA to just four meager starts, and it appears that the team is in no rush to bring Winder back in 2021; a mix of injuries and a desire to limit his innings total is the culprit here. In any case, Winder should be on everyone's radar as a starter who will make an impact in 2022.
wsnydes reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 25-21
25. RHP Chris Vallimont (24-years-old)
Season Stats (High-A + Double-A): 4-4, 4.76 ERA, 64 1/3 IP, 102 K, 40 BB, 6 HR
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 20, 2021 Preseason: NR
Chris Vallimont has the physical profile of a modern day pitcher. He stands nearly 6-foot-6-inches tall with an athletic 220 pound frame that he uses to generate fastballs in the mid-90s to go along with a hammer curve (as well as the occasional slider and changeup). When he's on, there's a strong argument to be made that he has some of the most dynamic stuff in the Twins' system. However, he is a bit of an enigma. His peripheral numbers suggest that he is a better pitcher than what the surface-level stats say, the main anchor dragging him down being his walks. If he hones his command, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he develops into, say, a No. 3 starter. If he doesn't, he may wind up in the bullpen long-term. There are few prospects in the Twins' system with more future outcome variance than Vallimont.
24: RHP Louie Varland (23-years-old)
Season Stats (Low-A + High-A): 6-2, 1.70 ERA, 69 IP, 98 K, 25 BB, 2 HR
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: Honorable Mention, 2021 Preseason: NR
Louie Varland is one of those Twins prospects who has shot up the rankings this season due to sustained dominance. Varland was an unknown prospect when the Twins selected him in the 15th round of the 2019 draft out of Concordia-St. Paul. He started out the 2021 season with the Low-A Fort Myers Mighty Mussels before earning a promotion to the High-A Cedar Rapids Kernels where he rattled off nearly 20 straight innings of scoreless ball to begin his run at that level. Varland primarily relies on a fastball-curveball pitch mix. His fastball plays well both up and low in the zone; it presents with decent rise when elevated and greater sinking action when down. His most likely future role is as a reliever, but he has the raw stuff — and performance, to this point — to suggest he'll be effective in the high minors and, possibly, the big leagues.
23: UTIL Nick Gordon (25-years-old)
Season Stats (MLB): .250/.301/.333, 37 G, 3 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 SB, 26/5 K:BB
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: NR, 2021 Preseason: NR
To say that Nick Gordon was an after thought on the minds of Twins' fans entering the 2021 season would be an understatement. However, a strong showing at Triple-A combined with a fast start when promoted to the parent squad quickly got him back into people's minds. Gordon primarily played shortstop in the minors; however, the rash of injuries suffered by Twins' outfielders thrust Gordon into some minutes in centerfield. While he didn't provide Gold Glove caliber defense, he did show enough to suggest that he may have a brighter future as a true utility man than most thought. Gordon doesn't do anything great, but also doesn't do anything well-below average. He may not be an everyday-type of player, but he should find himself with a role in the majors — though perhaps ultimately not with the Twins — for years to come.
22: 1B/DH Aaron Sabato (22-years-old)
Season Stats (Low-A): .181/.365/.309, 75 G, 13 2B, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 101/67 K:BB
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 9, 2021 Preseason: 8
The tale of Aaron Sabato is virtually the opposite of that of Varland and Gordon. Sabato was known as a bopper with a good eye at the plate when the Twins selected him with the 27th overall pick in the 2020 draft but so far only his peepers have translated. Sabato has struggled to keep pace with Low-A pitching. His strikeout numbers are through the roof and his power has evaporated compared to what he displayed while with the Tar Heels. To put it bluntly, not many minor leaguers have struggled as much as he has to date and proceeded to carve out a productive major league career. Sabato's walk totals are encouraging, but he needs to show more the rest of the way.
21: INF Edouard Julien (22-years-old)
Season Stats (Low-A + High-A): .251/.423/.449, 78 G, 21 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 25 SB, 98/73 K:BB
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: Honorable Mention, 2021 Preseason: NR
Alright, back to being positive. Edouard Julien is an on-base machine with some pop who has displayed the ability to play multiple positions defensively, though he is probably best at second base. He's also stolen far more bases this year than many thought possible when he came out of Auburn University. Julien's overall productivity has declined some since his promotion to Cedar Rapids — and, thus, the removal of Robo-umps — however, he has done more than enough to justify his placement on this list. Not bad for a former 18th round pick.
What do you think of this set of five prospects? Future big-leaguers?
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wsnydes reacted to Cody Christie for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 26-30
30. RHP Marco Raya (19 years old)
Season Stats: Yet to Debut
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: NA, 2021 Preseason: NA
Raya was the Twins’ fourth-round draft pick in 2020 out of United South High School in Laredo, Texas. His fastball can hit in the low- to mid-90s, and he mixes in three breaking pitches, including a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. At 6-feet tall and 170 pounds, he isn’t tall on the mound, but he is a good athlete, and the Twins are excited about the promise he shows for the future. Currently, he is on the IL with the FCL Twins.
29. LHP Jovani Moran (24 years old)
Season Stats (AA/AAA): 50 IP (26 G), 1.98 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 15.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: Honorable Mention, 2021 Preseason: NA
Moran has one of the best change-ups in the Twins system, and he has been able to use it to dominate the minor’s upper levels this season. Originally, he was taken by the Twins in the seventh round in 2015 out of Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. During July, he struck out nearly 50% of the batter he faced. Right-handed batters have been limited to a .352 OPS against him in 2021. With his success at Triple-A, he seems likely to make his big-league debut before the season's end.
28. LHP Steve Hajjar (21 years old)
Season Stats (College): 81.2 IP (14 G), 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 3.2 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: NA, 2021 Preseason: NA
Hajjar was Minnesota’s second-round pick in this year’s draft from the University of Michigan. He signed for the full slot value of $1,129,700 but has yet to make his professional debut. At Michigan, he led the Big Ten with 110 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings. He is 6-foot-5 and weighs 215 pounds, so he is quite the presence on the mound. Typically, his fastball sits in the low-90s, but he can reach the mid-90s with some movement. He mixes in a change-up and a curveball to keep batters off balance.
27. SS Wander Javier (22 years old)
Season Stats (A+): 76 G, .219/.274/.409 (.683), 9 HR, 12 2B, 9 3B, 33.8 K%, 6.1 BB%
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 17, 2021 Preseason: NA
Javier was initially signed by the Twins in July 2015, and his name has populated the team’s top prospect lists throughout that time. At one point, he was considered a top-100 prospect in baseball, but he hasn’t put it all together to the point where he has been left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft the past two years. He had a tremendous month of June with a .834 OPS, but he struck out 41 times in 112 plate appearances in July. Fans can hope he develops into a five-tool talent, but that dream might have passed at this point.
26. 2B Alerick Soularie (22 years old)
Season Stats: Rehab Assignment
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 18, 2021 Preseason: 18
Soularie rolled his ankle during spring training and then broke his foot going down some stairs, which has kept him out of action until late last week. He was taken in the second round in 2020 out of the University of Tennessee and he is 22-years old. Soularie has started his rehab assignment by going 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. He is considered one of the best athletes in the Twins system, and the organization has to be excited to have him back on the field.
Check back this week for the rest of the Twins post-draft and post-trade deadline top-30 rankings. Feel free to discuss this group of prospects and ask questions.
wsnydes reacted to Cody Christie for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 16-20
20. IF Spencer Steer (23 years old)
Season Stats (A+/AA): 79 G, .255/.363/.497 (.860), 19 HR, 11 2B, 2 3B, 18.9 K%, 12.7 BB%
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 16, 2021 Preseason: NA
Steer was a 2019 third-round pick out of the University of Oregon. Steer’s drop in the rankings is more about the new players in the organization than about him having a poor performance. He started the year in Cedar Rapids, where he slashed .274/.409/.506 (915) in 45 games. The transition to Double-A has seen his OBP drop by 110 points, but he is still slugging .485. In his professional career, this is the first time he has been a year younger than the average age of the competition. At Cedar Rapids, he made nearly all his defensive starts at second base, and now he has been splitting time between second and third in Wichita.
19. RHP Cole Sands (24 years old)
Season Stats (AA): 48.1 IP (12 G), 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 11.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 13, 2021 Preseason: 15
Sands immediately impacted the Twins organization after being taken in the fifth round back in 2018. While pitching at three different levels, he posted a sub-2.70 ERA with a 10.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. Sands missed over a month earlier in the season, and the team has slowly been increasing his workload in recent weeks. Since coming off the IL (5 G), he has posted a 2.70 ERA while holding batters to a .190/.262/.379 slash line. His strikeout totals are up this year which is a positive since he faces older batters in over 60% of his plate appearances.
18. OF Misael Urbina (19 years old)
Season Stats (A): 73 G, .193/.295/.294 (.589), 4 HR, 7 2B, 4 3B, 18.6 K%, 11.4 BB%
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 15, 2021 Preseason: 14
Urbina was signed out of Venezuela during the 2018 International Signing Period for $2.75 million. As a 19-year old, he is making his stateside debut this season, and he has only faced younger pitchers in four out of his 323 plate appearances. Even facing older competition, he has shown an advanced eye at the plate and the ability to draw walks. Defensively, he has split time between center field and left field. Urbina has some of the best tools in the Twins system, and he is a player that should move up this list in the years to come.
17. RHP Blayne Enlow (22 years old)
Season Stats (A+): 14.2 IP (3 G), 1.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 14.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 11, 2021 Preseason: 10
Enlow, a 2017 third-round pick, made quick work of High-A to start the season as he mowed down batters with career-high strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and will be out until the second half of 2022. Minnesota added pitching depth that will be ranked ahead of Enlow, but that doesn’t take anything away from his long-term potential.
16. OF Brent Rooker (26 years old)
Season Stats (AAA): 61 G, .239/.362/.546 (.908), 19 HR, 8 2B, 1 3B, 30.2 K%, 14.3 BB%
Season Stats (MLB): 24 G, .168/.225/.358 (.583), 4 HR, 6 2B, 30.3 K%, 5.9 BB%
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 14, 2021 Preseason: 12
Rooker was the 35th overall pick by Minnesota back in the 2017 MLB Draft, and now he’s found himself in a unique spot with the Twins. He has little left to prove at Triple-A as he has posted an OPS north of .900 in 2019 and 2021. His power might be the best in the entire Twins system, but questions remain about how regularly he can make contact. Minnesota is also concerned about him being a defensive liability, but the team has been using him in both corner outfield spots since his call-up. Following the Nelson Cruz trade, Rooker should stick in the Twins lineup for the rest of the season, so that the club can evaluate him for the long term.
Check back this week for the rest of the Twins post-draft and post-trade deadline top-30 rankings. Feel free to discuss this group of prospects and ask questions.
PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES
wsnydes reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Experts: Naming Five Twins Starters Right Now 'Pretty Good'
When the Twins opened a 4-game series versus the Houston Astros on Thursday, the lineup was markedly different from their brief 2020 playoff series. No Nelson Cruz, no Jose Berrios, and a lot of "wait, who's that again?" Experts say that reaction is nothing to be concerned about.
"I had season tickets in 2000," said Tyler Bouman, a Forest Lake IT specialist. "Some of the guys who would end up doing things were there, like (Corey) Koskie or Jacque Jones. But if you had asked me who was playing second base at any point in the season I would have had no idea. Jay Canizaro played over 100 games. I had to look that up. Honestly, Baseball Reference might be messing with me. There's no way that can be right."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Canizaro played 102 games. Jason Maxwell played 64. Twins Daily has not been able to confirm if these are real people. Baseball Reference could not be reached for comment.]
The lost season makes it very difficult for casual fans to keep up with a lineup in transition, but authorities like Bouman say it really separates o the diehards from the casual fans.
"OK, look at tonight's game," said Bouman. "The odds of you guessing more than one outfielder is astronomical. Maybe you'd pull Trevor Larnach if you were on your toes. Maybe. After that you'd be throwing darts. If someone told you on Opening Day that we'd be rolling with Larnach, Brent Rooker, and Rob Refsnyder on August 5th you'd punch them in their filthy, lying mouth. And yet, here we are."
Jon Marthaler, a Falcon Heights-based expert on sports-derived frustration and boundless rage, says that guessing five of nine starters in any Twins game going forward is incredibly impressive.
"Kids are going back to school, so they'll be distracted," said Marthaler. "Their parents are dealing with that and COVID and any number of things. How are they to know that Griffin Jax is an every-fifth-day starting pitcher? He sounds like a law firm that will help you with your mesothelioma settlement. Josh Donaldson's calf might turn to wet Grape Nuts at any moment. Correctly naming five of nine starters is frankly astonishing. I include Rocco Baldelli in this."
wsnydes reacted to Brock Beauchamp for an article, Twins Daily Community Awards: 2021 First Half
We expect to give these awards out a few times a year, provided we don’t become distracted by something else that seems more fun, or maybe we just get bored and wander off. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
To be semi-serious for a moment, we at Twins Daily appreciate the conversation and great content you all provide the Twins community every single day. It’s awesome to see this site bigger and better than ever as we approach our tenth (wait, what?) birthday next February. Without all of your great content, this site would be nothing more than John Bonnes and Nick Nelson sitting in a bar arguing how to spell “Chris Parmelee” and both of them getting it wrong. While we have a great stable of writers to give the community a platform and topics on which to speak, it’s the community that fills the second half of Twins Daily and, unlike most of the second half of the internet, reading the great output of this community isn’t an embarrassment to all mankind.
Okay, enough of that. Without further ado…
Top Post of the First Half of the 2021 Season goes to…
@Old Twins Cap
In the middle of June, when all of us were reaching a low point of our Twins fandom, Old Twins Cap stood up and pronounced that not only is this season rather pathetic, any chance of winning a World Series ever is basically gone. We’re doomed, our Twins fandestiny only to bring us more sorrow and heartbreak for all eternity.
Sadly, he’s probably not wrong.
For this post, Old Twins Cap received the most likes of the first half of the 2021 season, rendering his bite-sized entry the top post of the first half!
As a prize, he is awarded an autographed Rocco Baldelli rookie card. Look at cute wittle Wocco. He’s adorable. Keep this card close to your heart always, Old Twins Cap.
Blog Post of the First Half of the 2021 Season goes to…
Taking a very straightforward, nuts-and-bolts approach to blogging, Greglw3 is light on the words, heavy on the imagery, and wholly capturing our hearts with this blog entry. Not settling to convince us who is the best Twins leftfielder of all time, Greg instead asked us to convince him of the best leftfielder of all time. Some might call this approach lazy, I call it efficient.
And convince we did, apparently. His blog entry gained the most views and comments of the first half, winning him the blog post of the first half award! To celebrate this achievement, he will receive a rookie card for the Best Twins Leftfielder of All Time (a commanding victory), Bob Allison! We’d also like to congratulate Bob for being very good at the baseball and the extraordinary baseballing he performed in his baseball career of baseballing.
Collectin’ Those Likes
With a whopping 2,541 reputation points in the first half of the season, our dear ol’ moderator Chiefie received the most likes and attention of anyone on Twins Daily! That’s a good thing, I hear!
Sorry, Chief, you get no prize other than our hammering away at that like button whenever we see one of your posts. I hope that helps put food on your table. We’re on a shoestring budget here, we can only do so much. Better luck next time.
Collectin’ (About Half as Many of) Those Likes
At 1,375 reputation points, ashbury was next in line behind chief and also gets no prize!
And those are our awards for the first half of the 2021 season. No matter how painful this season seems, remember that there's a cottage industry of Minnesota Sports Therapists, just use the coupon code "wide left" to activate your personal pain point.
Thank you one and all for everything you do here at Twins Daily. It’s truly an honor (and a lot of fun) to build and maintain the website that so many of you visit every single day to talk Minnesota Twins and how painful it is to be a sports fan in this god-forsaken state of ours.
And remember, we have a fantastic community hidden behind the front page here at Twins Daily. I highly recommend you check out our forums and our community blog and interact with some of these great folks. Jump into the conversation with us anytime, everyone is welcome.
Until next time!
wsnydes reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Trade Nelson Cruz to the Rays for Two AAA Starting Pitchers
Just minutes ago, several national baseball writers, including Jeff Passan announced that the Twins and Rays have reached a deal for the reigning AL champions from Tampa to add slugging DH Nelson Cruz.
According to Bob Nightengale, the deal will involve four players including pitcher Drew Strotman.
The Twins have made it official, noting the Wichita right-handed reliever Calvin Faucher will also be going to the Rays. In return, the Twins will get pitchers Strotman and Joe Ryan.
Drew Stotman is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher. He has spent 2021 with the Rays Triple-A affiliate in Durham, NC. He is 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. In 58 1/3 innings, he has given up 50 hits, walked and struck out 62 batters. He was the Rays fourth round pick in 2017 out of St. Mary's in California.
Joe Ryan is a 25-year old right-hander. He has spent the season with Triple-A Durham as well. He is 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. In 57 innings, he has given up 35 hits, walked just ten and struck out 75 batters. He was the team's 7th round pick in 2018 out of Cal State-Stanislaus.
The two have combined to make 23 starts for Durham and worked twice out of the bullpen. Ryan ranks as the Rays #10 prospect while Stotman ranked #17.
Calvin Faucher was the Twins 10th round pick in 2017 out of UC-Irvine. In 30 2/3 innings with Double-A Wichita, he posted a 7.04 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP. He is a good athlete on the mound.
But let's be honest, we're here, right now, to learn about the prospects coming to the Twins from the Rays organization, and to thank Nelson Cruz for two-and-a-half terrific seasons.
Nelson Cruz won the AL Silver Slugger for DH his first two years with the team. He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting both years as well. In 2021, at 41, he is again having a terrific season and represented the Twins at the All-Star game last week.
In his time with the Twins, Cruz played in 258 games. He hit .304/.386/.598 (.984) with 435 doubles, 76 home runs and 191 RBI. He was clearly the leader in the clubhouse. He has won humanitarian award for his community service in the cities he has played in as well as his home in the Dominican Republic.
The Rays head into Thursday games with a 57-39 record, one game back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. They are the current leader in the race for an AL Wild Card spot. They have a need at DH. The Rays need a right-handed power bat.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on Nelson Cruz's time with the Twins, today's trade to the Rays, the two pitchers they received in return.
wsnydes reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Reflecting on the Best and Worst First Half Ever
I love baseball in all of its dissectible minutiae. I delight in overthinking every at-bat, sweating every intense moment, and debating pointless frivolities. I get a kick out of analyzing and opining on the many twists and turns of a marathon season. And offseason. (If you frequent this site, you might have noticed.)
But more than all that, I just love the baseball experience. Removing all of the stats, trends, trades, analytics, and hot takes, I am plain and simply a baseball fan to the core. I feel at peace in the ballpark, or with sounds of the game droning on my TV or radio.
When I was a young pup riding the bus down Cedar Avenue to the Metrodome, I didn't care much about Kirby Puckett's OPS or Brad Radke's trade value. I was just happy to be wandering through this majestic Dome, eating a hot dog and staring on at the action alongside thousands of other contented folks. If the game went long, maybe I'd even get to stay out late on a school night.
Much has changed since those days, but the fundamental source of my passion has not. And I was reminded of this very starkly in 2020, when a cherished annual summer routine – uninterrupted since I could remember (mind you, I was 9 years old when the '94 strike took place) – fell apart.
As the pandemic unfolded two springs ago, I was highly skeptical a season of record could be salvaged. Happily I was wrong. Major League Baseball managed to pull off a shortened 60-game season, and it was entirely fine. Much better than nothing.
But it never quite felt authentic, and was over almost as quickly as it began. (The Twins played their 60th game of this season five weeks ago.) Most crucially, like so many diehards across the country, I never got to attend a game. It's an irrelevant footnote in the face of all the tragedy and trauma faced by so many last year, but losing the ballpark experience was a bummer. I promised myself that when we emerged from it all and congregated once again at the stadium, I'd savor the hell out of it.
And that I have. I've attended more Twins games at Target Field in the first half of this season than any previous. (And a couple at Kauffman Stadium!) I've run into random friends, heckled opposing outfielders, inhaled messy brats, beat the buzzer on bottom-of-seventh beers, and gazed wordlessly from my seat for indefinite stretches at the beautifully bland cadence of baseball, in all of its calm and rhythmic glory.
Lord, did I miss it.
I attended two games this past weekend, during a sweep of the Tigers to close out the first half. Let's just say it cemented my deep gratitude for the return of (relative) normalcy in the realm of baseball. On Friday I grabbed bleacher seats with high school friends and felt the electricity of the year's biggest crowd. The place was alive. Sunday, I joined up with a whole gaggle of Twins Daily writers – many of whom I'd scarcely had met before, what with the absence of events for 16 months – and we had a ball milling about on the Gray Duck Deck. Considerable Bomba Juice was consumed.
These times are golden. They're what fuel my fandom and love for the sport, through thick and thin. I don't know if this year's Twins season would be described as thick or thin (kinda weird descriptors?), but what matters is we're all trudging through it together, and Sunday was an excellent reminder of that: a perfect punctuation to the best and worst damn first half of Twins baseball ever.
The return of baseball as we know and love it would be way more fun, obviously, if our favorite team did not fall flat and completely erase any pretense of contention by the All-Star Game. But them's the breaks.
The home team hasn't won much, and it's a shame.
Still, those eternal words ring truer than ever: Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd.
wsnydes reacted to Andrew Thares for an article, Minnesota Twins 2021 MLB Draft Recap
While this year’s draft of 20 rounds was still only half of the usual 40, it pretty much felt like a return to normalcy after last year’s draft only had five rounds.
The Twins had a clear approach of wanting to draft players that they knew they could sign, as they targeted high schoolers with both of their picks on night one, and then drafted exclusively college players on days two and three.
When asked about this in an interview after the draft, Twins scouting director Sean Johnson had this to say, “Once you get past the second round a lot of those high school players that you would like to bring on board become a little less signable… so you get out of that high school group pretty quick starting in the second or third round.”
With the 26th overall pick in the first round, the Twins took a fireball high school pitcher from New Jersey named Chase Petty. In showcases last summer and leading up to the draft, Petty’s fastball has routinely been clocked in the triple digits and has reached as high as 102 mph. Petty also has a breaking ball and a changeup that show potential to be above average pitches as he develops them. As a result of his makeup, along with how high school fireball pitchers have fared in the past, Petty was seen as a risky pick. However, with the Twins picking late in the first round, it made perfect sense to bet on the high upside of Petty, as his ceiling is as high as most of the players taken with the first ten picks of the draft.
Just ten picks after they selected Chase Petty, the Twins were on the clock again, this time closing out night one of the draft in Competitive Balance Round A. Again, they went the high school route as they selected Noah Miller, a shortstop from Wisconsin. Miller is a well thought of defensive shortstop who could stick there at the professional level. Offensively, Miller is a switch-hitter with more of a contact approach. While the power is still a bit of a question mark, Miller has time to develop that as he gets into the Twins player development program.
The focus early on day two was college pitching, as four of their first five picks were college pitchers. While each of those four pitchers are seen as more pitch-ability guys, with potential to be back of the rotation starting pitcher or long relief options, second round pick Steven Hajjar does have some middle of the rotation upside if he can tack on a few more MPHs on his fastball.
With the rest of their picks on day two, the Twins focused on filling out their infield and catcher positions. In the fourth round they selected Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who is a third baseman from Oklahoma State with some power potential with the bat. They also drafted back-to-back catchers in the 8th in 9th rounds to continue to build depth at that position within the organization.
On day three it became all about filling out the rest of their class with as many quality players as they could. Again the focus early was on pitching, as three of the first four picks on day three were pitchers. Sandwiched between those pitchers was the first and only outfielder the Twins took in the entire draft, as they selected Big East Player of the Year Kyler Fedko out of UConn.
Another theme of this draft was taking multiple players who played for the same university. In the 8th and 15th rounds, the Twins selected catcher Noah Cardenas and middle infielder Mikey Perez from UCLA. In the 9th and 12th rounds, the Twins took a pair of UConn Huskies in catcher Pat Winkel and outfielder Kyler Fedko. Texas Tech was also well represented in this year’s Twins draft class, as a pair of Red Raiders in right-handed pitcher Brandon Birdwell and second baseman Dylan Neuse were taken in the 11th and 17th rounds, respectively.
One thing everyone wants to know is, how good will this draft class be, and I can promise that the guys within the Twins organization who made these selections are wondering the same thing. The truth is, nobody knows and we likely won’t be able to accurately judge this class for another five to ten years. One this is true however, the Twins just added a number of new and exciting players to their ranks, and all Twins fans should be excited to see what these guys can do.
wsnydes reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, BREAKING: Almost Half a Season Left
Last Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Kansas City was already another unremarkable defeat in a wildly disappointing 2021 Twins campaign. But in a stunning revelation confirmed by team and league officials, it also marked the halfway point of the MLB season.
“There are 162 games in the season,” said a Twins executive who asked not to be identified. “Saturday’s loss was the 81st game. Half of 162 is 81.”
Reaction in Twins Territory ranged from disgust and anger to a world-weary resignation often only found in ER nurses, veterans of war, and Vikings fans.
“You mean I’ve got another 75-80 games of this [expletive],” said Rev. Marshall Lemire of Forestview Presbyterian Church in Baxter. “Unbelievable. I’m a man of faith, but this is a profound test of it. [Expletive.]”
“You know how when a good high school basketball team drills some podunk team from the sticks and they keep the clocks running,” asked Thom Sprouls of Cook. “Can they do that in baseball? Why don’t they? They should totally do that. This is a travesty.”
MLB officials say there are no plans to cancel any games or enforce a slaughter rule for teams like the Twins and Diamondbacks who still have a frankly shocking number of games left to play.
“We get that it seems like there are a remarkable amount of days left in the season,” said Ethan Nguyen, a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office. “But what if you took the family on a vacation all August, like they do in Europe? Just disconnect, bring some books and board games to the cabin, and when you get back you’ve just wiped out like a third of it, slugger. You can see the finish line from there.”
This is cold comfort to fans like Maggie Dietmann of Worthington.
“I don’t even remember when I switched from optimism about this team to wondering how much we could get back for (Jose) Berrios,” said Dietmann. “It seems like a hundred years ago. And now these people have the gall, the absolute, unfounded gall, to tell me there’s almost half a season of this left. They’ve got some brass.”
In a written statement to the media, the team said that there are 162 games in a standard major league season. Twins Daily has confirmed that this is accurate. Still, the sheer burden of three more months of poor pitching, injuries, and regression weighs heavy on a sullen fanbase.
“[Expletive] that,” said Rev. Lemire.
wsnydes reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Kernels' Backstop Alex Isola is Catching On
Alex Isola has played catcher most of his ball-playing career. He grew up near Sacramento and attended Jesuit High School where he starred on the ball field and in the classroom. He went to the University of Utah for one season and played in 12 games. The next year, he headed to Arizona where he played for Yavapai College, a junior college. He hit .367 with eight homers and 37 RBI that year which provided him with the opportunity to go to Texas Christian University for his junior season.
In 2019, Isola started 49 games for the Horned Frogs, 34 at catcher and 15 at DH. He hit .267/.377/.385 (.762) with seven doubles and five home runs. He also really grew as a catcher. The Twins drafted him in the 29th round in 2019 and sent him to Elizabethton. After just seven games in the Appalachian League, he finished the season with 18 games played for the then Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels.
This spring, Isola was invited to participate in the Twins depth camp at big-league spring training. He didn’t get many in-game plate appearances, but he learned a lot.
He said in early May, “The experience was one full of learning and a taste of what it’s like to be at that level. Just to see guys go about their business and watch them on an everyday basis allowed me to see what it takes and gave me things to learn about and add to my game.”
Isola continued, “I got to talk to Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson who were some of my favorite guys to watch in high school, but I tried not to be too in awe because I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable. They really just showed me how to find a routine and the thing that impressed me the most was their discipline each day about doing the same things over and over with enthusiasm.”
He spent a lot of time working with the big-league catchers. “It can be really complicated. Those guys do a good job of doing complicated better and making it as simple as possible. Just watching Garver, Jeffers and others, you find a routine that works for you, like a pregame routine, something that you can go to every day to get better. It was more about the way they approach every day and go about their business. Baseball is repetition. You have to do the same thing every day, and you have to love doing the same stuff every day. You see how they go about it. They don’t cheat themselves. They grind everyday.”
Let’s get back to the defensive side of catching where that grind can be tough. I was always too chicken to want to don the tools of ignorance when I was young. I wanted to play shortstop or third base. I didn’t want to wear the gear or take foul tips. However, in summer amateur ball while in college, I agreed to play the position when the team’s catcher (OK, my brother) got hit in the face with a fastball that tailed right into his nose. I’ve got to be honest, I loved it. No, not that my brother had a broken nose and needed surgery. That was scary! But I loved catching. I wish I would have played there all along. You are involved in every pitch. You kind of run the show.
What is it about the position that Isola most enjoys? His answer speaks volumes about him as a person and as a teammate.
“I think my favorite part is the relationship you form with the pitchers. I take a lot of pride in that. It’s not about me back there. My job is to get the best out of those guys. For me, I try to be there for them if they want me to catch extra. Get to know them off the field. What’s their personality? And most important, what is their stuff like?”
In addition to building that relationship, Isola has worked hard on other aspects of catching too. “(I want to) Make sure I’m on top of my game calling. That’s been a big thing for me. Such an important part of the game is game calling, but it’s also fun because it’s like solving a problem. You’ve got your guy’s strengths against a hitter's weaknesses. But you’ve got to first focus on your guy’s strengths and then form a plan based on that. Obviously you like throwing out runners. The receiving part is, the Twins are big on that, it took me awhile to learn, and I’m still learning everyday. We’re on the one-knee stance a lot. My favorite part is the relationship part, and then game-calling because that’s where I can solve problems.”
With Kernels first baseman Gabe Snyder on the Injured List and Trey Cabbage up in Double-A, the team has to play others at first base. Many nights, that is a catcher, and Isola has been able to get extra at bats because of that flexibility. He had played a little bit there in junior college.
“It was one of the things I worked on during quarantine. I had so much time. Some of the guys I worked with are infielders, so I figured why not. I got to see Astudillo, and you can create a lot of value for yourself just by playing other positions.”
He added, “I’m open to it. I want to learn. You just play wherever the team needs you at this point. We’ve had so many injuries this year. I’m just trying to help where I can. I want to play every day, so whatever “Dink” wants, I can do.”
Also during quarantine, Isola was able to rekindle something that will help him through the ups and downs of a long baseball season and career.
“My faith is something that I grew up with and when I got to college strayed away from to be honest. This last year during quarantine I rekindled my relationship with God and it’s made me realize how important it is to have a relationship with Him. Early in the year when I was struggling at the plate, I had faith that God would get me through and reading the Bible allowed me to maintain a good perspective on things that normally would have had me panicking. Having that relationship with God is key for me along with my family in getting through the ups and downs of a season.”
On Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids, Isola was behind the plate, but at the plate, he went 3-for-5 with two runs and three RBI. He had a single, a double and his seventh home run of the season. No, he didn’t have a triple. He hasn’t had one in his professional career. He didn’t have any in three seasons of college ball.
He said, “I think I had one in high school. I’m not a fast runner. I’m a catcher. I’m going to need a deep ballpark.”
In 42 games on the season, Isola is now hitting .234/.379/.438 (.817) with seven doubles, seven homers and 20 RBI. He also has 31 walks to go against 36 strikeouts. He is patient at the plate and yet has some really good pop in his bat.
A couple of weeks ago, Brian Dinkelman said, “I think his eye and approach have always been there as far as laying off pitches and taking his walks. Now he’s getting stronger and is starting to hit the ball a little harder. The power is starting to come around. So if he can combine the walks with some power also, he can be a good hitter.”
“For me as a hitter, I try to go in with an understanding of what I’m going to do. There are times when you are just reacting, but if I can go in with a good plan based on which pitcher we’re facing. The big thing with the walks is you just don’t want to give away at bats. That’s the tough thing about baseball. It’s a long season. You really have to be competitive in there. There are a lot of strikeouts in baseball right now. I choke up with two strikes. I foul off a lot of balls. I work deep in counts so I’ll get some walks.”
He gives a lot of credit to Kernels hitting coach Bryce Berg. “I give it up to him. He does a great job of helping me develop a plan, trying that and executing it.” .
Alex Isola used the time off in 2020 to his benefit. “I had a full year to just work on my game. Credit to the Twins. I’ve been working with hitting coaches and catching coaches during quarantine. As much as everyone was down because were weren’t playing, I tried to use it as a positive and try to focus on all aspects of my game.”
Manager Brian Dinkelman notes that Isola has really grown as a player since he joined the Kernels late in the 2019 season. “He’s really improved his ABs. He’s really driving the ball a lot more this year in terms of power, which is good to see. He’s improving every day and becoming more of a complete player.”
Isola hasn’t shown up on any Twins top prospect ranking articles. However, if he continues to work hard on presenting pitches and working with pitchers, and is able to maintain a solid approach at the plate, he is a guy who could slowly work his way up to the big leagues in time.
wsnydes reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Rocco Baldelli Urges Team to ‘Get Into’ Steely Dan
With the 2021 season rapidly slipping away, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli needed to do something. With making the team healthier being out of his hands, he did what he thought best: put on some Steely Dan.
“I think the players-only meetings and office sit-downs only accomplish so much,” said Baldelli. “What you really need are the sardonic lyrics of Donald Fagen, the tasteful guitar of Walter Becker, and the in-the-pocket grooves of the finest session players in Los Angeles.”
When the players showed up to Target Field on Thursday after another punishing loss to the New York Yankees, they weren’t met with extra batting practice or a shouting fit from the coaching staff. Instead, the clubhouse was lined with shag carpeting, incense sticks, and the Dan’s 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy booming through cabinet speakers.
“This sounds like something my dad would listen to,” said catcher Ryan Jeffers. “I mean, it’s fine. The guy sure sings about drugs and sex stuff a lot.”
Baldelli says he plans to go through the entire discography in hopes that the team will use the band’s jazz-inflected rock stylings and tales of southern California decadence to inspire them.
“Their evolution from a touring band to creatures of the studio can maybe show the guys here that there’s more than one way to get after it,” said Baldelli. “When you get those Michael McDonald backing vocals on ‘Peg’ it oughta help clear your mind and let your natural talent and coaching do the rest of the work.”
“This sounds like the music my dentist plays in his office,” said outfielder Trevor Larnach. “But then the lead singer who can’t really sing sings about Jose Cuervo and the caves of Altamira. I’m worried about Rocco.”
For his part, Baldelli says he’s confident that he’s making the right move.
“You know, when an engineer accidentally erased the recording of ‘The Second Arrangement’, Donald Fagen didn’t blow up. He simply walked out of the studio. So when I show up at the park and they tell me another player is out for two weeks because of whatever that day’s injury is, I ask what would Donald do? I don’t erupt. I simply walk out of the room.”
When it was pointed out that Steely Dan didn’t record a new album for twenty years after that incident, Baldelli began to sob before composing himself and asking the reporter if he could pick out Mark Knopfler’s guitar on “Time Out of Mind.”
wsnydes reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Twins Bring On Bob Baffert in Consultant Role
With the Minnesota Twins 2021 season on the precipice of disaster, the team’s front office made it clear that they are willing to think outside the box in their efforts to salvage it.
Bob Baffert, the scandal-ridden trainer of champion racehorses, has been brought on as a consultant and assistant nutritionist for the remainder of the 2021 campaign.
“His track record speaks for itself,” said Twins GM Thad Levine. “We’re not at all ready to give up on this year, we know we have playoff-caliber talent. Bob’s here to make sure we get the most out of it.”
Baffert’s horses have won 16 Triple Crown races, but those victories have come with no small amount of controversy. Baffert-trained horses have failed multiple drug tests over his four decades in the sport, including four in 2020 and his most recent Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit.
“We’re aware of the incident but we can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” said Levine. “Bob said it won’t be a distraction and the culture Rocco (Baldelli) has built in our clubhouse ensures that it won’t.”
Through a spokesperson, Baffert said he’s unconcerned with the transition from horse racing to baseball.
“Horses run around the track. Players run around the bases. Same skill set, same concept. To suggest otherwise is a perfect example of cancel culture, frankly.”
Twins players can best be described as intrigued but skeptical.
“I guess I don’t mind the front office trying to shake things up,” said Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson. “But it’s weird. (Baffert) doesn’t call us by our actual names and has given us all horse names. I’m Midnight Son. (Jorge) Polanco is Timberline. And he keeps rubbing our haunches and asking if we’d like some more hay.”
A clubhouse source said the 5-gallon buckets labeled “DINGER JUICE” and “STRIKEOUT BUTTER” observed by multiple reporters are “just standard training room fare.” The source also characterized inquiries about the contents of mason jars with “COSMONAUT URINE” emblazoned on the lids as “you sound like a cop, and you have to tell me if you’re a cop, I know my rights Obama.”
Baffert’s only previous baseball experience was as a bench coach for the 2005 Florida Marlins, which is perhaps best remembered for the day Josh Beckett threw a 117 mph fastball against the Colorado Rockies before injuring his shoulder and being destroyed on the mound during Take Your Child to a Ballgame Day.
(H/T to local man Jim Andrews for the inspiration.)