gman reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Buyer Beware: Ranking the Twins’ Worst Contracts
It’s the holiday season, and many shoppers are attempting to find the best deals on the season’s hottest items (Twins Daily even has a gift guide). Teams across baseball are trying to cross items off their own wish lists, but shopping for free agents is sometimes riskier than going for the almost-free big screen on Black Friday. Players are paid on past performance, and some fail to repeat that performance as age and other factors start to play a role.
Last week at The Athletic, Cody Stavenhagen ranked baseball’s worst contracts based on what is owed to the player and the expected performance from that player. Some of the worst contracts include Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rendon. The Twins have their own buyer’s remorse with some of the team’s long-term deals.
4. Christian Vazquez, C
Original deal: Three years, $30 million
2024: $10 million
2025: $10 million
The Twins had a need at catcher last season, following a poor year from Ryan Jeffers and the departure of Gary Sánchez. The front office quickly targeted Vázquez and signed him to a three-year pact. Trade rumors have surfaced this offseason that have the Twins shipping out veteran players to free up payroll space, but the team would probably need to eat some of the $20 million he is owed over the next two seasons. On Wednesday, Nick discussed Vazquez's value to the Twins, especially with a younger starting staff. According to FanGraphs, Vázquez was worth $7.6 million last season, even though his 65 OPS+ was his lowest total since 2018. The Twins also utilize a two-catcher rotation, which would be less feasible without Vázquez. It doesn't make sense for a team cutting payroll to trade Vázquez when his value is near its lowest point, and they would have to pay down his contract.
3. Randy Dobnak, SP
Original deal: Five years, $9.25 million
2024: $2.25 million
2025: $3 million
Dobnak’s extension was a strange contract from the moment it was announced, in March 2021. He was coming off a spring training in which he showcased an improved slider that looked like a strikeout weapon. Minnesota bought out his pre-arbitration and arbitration years, and obtained club options on his first three would-be free-agent years. It gave the Twins some cost certainty, but it looks like a poor deal in retrospect. Dobnak is no longer on the 40-man roster, after spending multiple seasons dealing with a finger issue. Last season, he made 31 appearances (26 starts) at Triple-A with a 5.13 ERA, a 1.65 WHIP, and 8.2 K/9. His contract isn’t going to break the bank, but it also wasn’t a move the team was forced to make at the time.
2. Byron Buxton, DH
Original deal: Seven years, $100 million
2024: $15 million
2025: $15 million
2026: $15 million
2027: $15 million
2028: $15 million
Buxton’s deal didn’t look bad when he signed it, but it has aged poorly over the last year. The Twins signed him as their everyday center fielder, and his damaged knees have limited him to DH duties. From 2021 to 2022, Buxton was worth over $30 million per season, even when averaging 76 games per season. Minnesota can hope that Buxton will return to the outfield at some point, but that's far from certain after not he didn't play a single defensive inning at the big-league level in 2023. His bat will have to carry him through the remainder of his contract, and he’s shown the ability to be one of baseball’s best hitters when he is healthy. In his career, there have only been two full seasons where he has been worth less than $15 million, so there is hope he will bounce back next year.
1. Carlos Correa, SS
Original deal: Six years, $200 million
2024: $36 million
2025: $36 million
2026: $31.5 million
2027: $30.5 million
2028: $30 million
Correa was named an honorable mention in the original piece at The Athletic because he was only worth 1.4 rWAR in 2023. Twins fans are well aware of Correa’s struggles this season as he dealt with plantar fasciitis. Minnesota hopes Correa can use the offseason to put his injury behind him and return to performing at his previous level. Last week, I wrote about Correa’s first season since signing his big contract and how he impacts the club’s future payroll decisions. Correa and Buxton are tied to the team’s roster through 2028, and nearly $50 million per season is being paid to these two players. Contracts that initially look bad can rebound and look reasonable, especially if Buxton and Correa can return to performing at an All-Star level.
Free-agent deals rarely work out in the team’s favor. Clubs pay a premium for the contract's early years and suffer the consequences of declining performance in the back half of the deal. This trend is becoming even more pervasive with big-market teams, as they sign players to 10- to 12-year contracts to spread the money out and avoid paying more in luxury tax. Minnesota isn’t going to approach the luxury tax, so it is even more critical that the front office is spending money wisely on the free market.
Do you agree with these rankings? Should Buxton rank higher than Correa? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
gman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Depth Will Look Different in 2024
When Derek Falvey went into the offseason last year, he had a few key areas to supplement Rocco Baldelli’s roster. In looking to build the Twins while hoping to avoid being dealt massive blows by injury, he sought to bring in veterans with upside. Kyle Farmer was a starting caliber option at shortstop if Carlos Correa landed elsewhere. Joey Gallo could start in both the outfield and at first base. Willi Castro and Donovan Solano would be vital supplemental roster pieces.
The Twins acquired each of those players based on their previous track record. If the front office failed to upgrade in those positions, at the very least, they would have capable veteran options going into the 2023 season.
The Twins organization was in a much different place last offseason, however. They had a broadcast deal that assured ownership of millions in revenue. The team has acknowledged that the 2024 payroll will be lower without it.
Should the Twins decrease payroll by up to $25 million, as has been discussed, bringing in multiple veterans isn’t going to be an option for rotational pieces. That isn’t very pleasant by some measures, but it also reflects where the Twins organization is as a whole.
Minnesota has no reason to sign a rotational outfielder north of $10 million this offseason, and Correa is the shortstop, so Farmer at $7 million doesn’t make as much sense. The budget dropping isn’t ideal, but it was sure to happen with the emergence of young talent anyway. Edouard Julien, Royce Lewis, and Matt Wallner have all taken starting roles, and barring an extension, each of them will make the major league minimum.
With how the Twins youth stepped up a season ago, fans should be excited about this prospect depth. No one within the Twins organization will ask Austin Martin or Brooks Lee to play significant roles on Opening Day. However, blocking them with a veteran making a couple of million while they are this close doesn’t make much sense either.
Minnesota tendered a deal to Castro this offseason so that he will return to his utility role. For now, Nick Gordon will remain on the roster at $1 million. Beyond that, Martin could find himself working towards that type of production after a wildly successful 2023 season. Jose Miranda has the opportunity to bounce back if he’s healthy, and Yunior Severino was recently added to the 40-man roster as well.
From a pitching perspective, more will be asked of Brent Headrick as he looks to settle in, and David Festa could be an arm that emerges from a Bailey Ober trajectory in 2024. Matt Canterino should be back and healthy, while the hope would be that Jorge Alcala or Simeon Woods Richardson becomes usable. Pablo Lopez has established the top of the rotation, and Ober, paired with Joe Ryan, makes three guarantees. Adding in Chris Paddack should stabilize things further.
Paying for free agents is a minefield. You are looking to acquire the best talent while being forced to pay for previous production. On top of that, you’re getting aging commodities, and the goal of each player is to establish stability for the longest tenure possible. Routinely bringing in a one-year hired hitman is difficult, but it works well when things turn out like Solano or Michael A. Taylor (acquired via trade).
A season ago, the Twins experienced a historic rookie class, and they got extensive production from them early and often during the season. Banking on that to repeat itself shouldn’t be the plan A. Still, in a season where Brooks Lee, Martin, Festa, Severino, Canterino, Marco Raya, and Tanner Schobel could all debut, it’s understandable to look within.
Depth is something that every organization will always place a premium on, but being able to develop it saves substantial money, and there is a much more known track record with your talent. Minnesota’s farm system is flush with near-ready players, and they could be called upon when the first opportunities arise in 2024.
gman reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Jorge Polanco: First Baseman?
Jorge Polanco has cemented himself as a piece of the Twins' core. First, an All-Star caliber shortstop, then more recently, the everyday starting second baseman. Could Jorge Polanco make another change in position to address a roster need and remain in Minnesota?
Edouard Julien is a core piece of the Twins lineup for years to come. Although his defense at second base remains suspect, he seemed to improve as the year went on, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Twins completely trusted him to cover the position to begin 2024. Brooks Lee also looms in Triple-A, with second base among the positions he could fill when he’s ready to debut. With Polanco still in the mix, his contract makes him a candidate to be shipped out due to the redundancy of his position. Switching him to first base could completely change the situation.
Polanco isn’t the typical first base player archetype, but the Twins are no strangers to filling the position with nontraditional players. Luis Arraez played there in 2022 plenty, and even Alex Kirilloff is far from the prototypical slugging corner bat. The fact is that Polanco is a switch-hitter capable of putting up an offensive line that’s 15-20% better than league average. That should play just about anywhere.
For as much of a question as Julien’s defense is, Polanco has been far from a Gold Glove second baseman since he transitioned from shortstop. 2023 was his best season by Defensive Runs Saved with a +1 mark. His range continues to decline, as noted by his -7 Outs Above Average measured by Statcast. Despite Polanco's solid defensive rep, going from him to Julien at second base might not be the drop-off someone would suspect.
It’s hard to say Polanco would be a net positive defensively at first base, but with range being his main limiting factor, it could be worth a shot. It’s also possible that moving to a position where he doesn’t have to cover as much ground could help him stay on the field more. His hamstring issues in 2023 resulted from running out of the batters' box, but it’s fair to say that playing first base could take some pressure off his ankle, which has been an issue for years now.
Should Polanco be a trustworthy first baseman, the Twins will have solved multiple problems. He can be the right-handed platoon with Kirilloff (if he's healthy) while still moving around DH and other infield positions. If Kirilloff’s injury woes persist, Polanco’s ability to switch hit would make him an everyday option if needed. The Twins could keep a franchise player on the roster and not have to go out looking for additional help at first base. Even at $10.5m in 2024 and $12m in 2025, Polanco’s contract with first base in his repertoire would be worth it.
First base seems to be a priority this winter, and Jorge Polanco’s salary looks extraneous. Rather than dumping Polanco for what would likely be a disappointing return, the Twins should get creative and see if he can make yet another defensive transition. Do you agree?
gman reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Make Arbitration Decisions; Moran, Henriquez Non-Tendered (Updated Article)
Article Update (7:40 pm): On Friday night, the Twins announced that they have tendered 2024 contracts to all seven arbitration-eligible players. It was also announced the Jovani Moran is expected to be having Tommy John surgery in the near future and miss the 2024 season. The Twins are trying to get him to sign a two-year minor league deal. In addition, the Twins did not tender a 2024 contract to RHP Ronny Henriquez.
With Moran and Henriquez coming off of the 40-man roster, the roster is now at 36 players. There are 17 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders and eight outfielders.
When the offseason began, the Minnesota Twins had nine players on their roster that were arbitration-eligible. Since then, the Twins made quick decisions on two of them. Soon after their playoff run concluded, Jordan Luplow and Jose De Leon were designated for assignment and became free agents.
That leaves seven players that the Twins still need to make decisions about their 2024 status. Below, I will run through these seven players and make some notes on each. Several of them may involve answering some difficult questions. A few are pretty easy decisions.
Please feel free to ask questions and discuss these decisions in the Forum below. Also, generally-speaking not many pre-arbitration players are non-tendered, but it has happened. We aren't going to try to project which, if any, of those players will be non-tendered on Friday.
(Players sorted by MLB Trade Rumors Projections)
2B/OF Nick Gordon
Service Time: 2.136 (two years, 136 days, Super 2)
Arbitration Year: 1 of 4
Age in 2024: 28
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $1.0 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: If this decision had to be made after Gordon’s 2022 breakout season, it would have been simple. However, Gordon’s 2023 season started out very slow, but just when he started playing well, he broke his leg and was out the remainder of the season. However, he was an impressive teammate and cheerleader for the team in October!
Potential 2024 Role: Gordon can play second base and performed well in left field and centerfield over the previous year. In a pinch, he can play shortstop and third base as well. He could be the left-handed side of platoons or a more traditional utility player, capable of playing at least five positions if needed. With the emergence of Edouard Julien, Matt Wallner and Royce Lewis, and the likes of Austin Martin and Brooks Lee potentially ready in the near future, playing time may be more and more limited.
Biggest Question Marks: Gordon has had several injuries in his career. And while his 2022 season was just as good as Willi Castro’s 2023 season, Castro is the better defensive player at each spot on the field. Gordon is also out of options, so he couldn’t be sent to the minor leagues by the Twins without going through waivers.
Prediction: The dollars are low and Gordon should have value to teams, including the Twins. I would predict that he will be tendered a 2024 contract, although I would think that the Twins front office might be looking to trade him to a team looking for a solid utility option. A trade could happen before Friday’s deadline, or anytime after Friday (assuming he is tendered).
RHP Jorge Alcala
Service Time: 4.014 (four years, 14 days)
Arbitration Year: 2 of 3
Age in 2024: 28
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $1.0 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: After pitching just twice in 2022, Alcala made the 2023 opening day roster. However, after 10 games and 15 innings, he went on the Injured List in mid-May and didn’t return until the final game of the season. However, in that game, he was displaying a fastball between 97 and 99 and a sharp slider.
Potential 2024 Role: The “potential” for Alcala has been the same each of the past five offseasons. When healthy, he has a big fastball and quality secondaries that are inconsistent but have big… potential. He has the potential and talent to be the top set up man, joining Griffin Jax and Brock Stewart in getting the ball to Jhoan Duran. I’d like to see what he can do in a fully healthy season.
Biggest Question Mark: Health. That’s it. Yeah, he can work on pitches too and become more consistent, but the only way to do that is to stay healthy and get the innings.
Prediction: This should be a very easy decision. The Twins should absolutely tender him a contract. If it’s $1 million, that’s fine. A year ago, he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $790,000 deal, just $70K over league minimum. With his limited pitching the last couple of seasons, I would think he would happily sign a one-year, $900,000 deal, or something in that range. Sure, the team can still look to trade him if someone sends a quality prospect. However, Alcala hasn’t been optioned in the past, so he’s got three years worth of options remaining which might allow him to work on things and get innings if he’s not with the Twins.
1B Alex Kirilloff
Service Time: 2.141 (two years, 141 days, Super 2)
Arbitration Year: 1 of 4
Age in 2024: 26
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $1.7 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: Because of ongoing wrist pain, Kirilloff’s 2022 season ended after just 45 games. He had a surgery which involved shaving bones in his wrist to help alleviate the pain. The Twins brought him back slowly early in the 2023 season. He missed some time, but generally speaking, his wrist was not an issue. He played in 88 games and posted a .793 OPS with 14 doubles and 11 homers. He struggled in the playoffs and was removed from the roster in the ALDS series against the Astros due to a shoulder injury. He had surgery shortly after the Twins playoff run came to an end.
Potential 2024 Role: When healthy, Kirilloff will be the primary first baseman. While his surgery turned out to be much more minor than feared, he could still miss some time early in the season. When he’s healthy, he is potentially an All Star bat. Can he still reach that level?
Biggest Question Mark: That is the question. He will get healthy in time, though that has certainly become his biggest issue so far. He was pretty strictly platooned in 2023 due to some horrific numbers versus southpaws. Can he put up decent-enough numbers against same-siders to be an everyday player?
Prediction: Easy decision. He will be tendered a contract. Can they negotiate a deal with him and his agent (Boras) to sign a deal for below the projection? Maybe.
C Ryan Jeffers
Service Time: 3.089 (three years, 89 days)
Arbitration Year: 1 of 3
Age in 2024: 27
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $2.3 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: After hitting a combined .203/.277/.384 (.661) in 152 games between 2021 and 2022, the Twins brought in veteran backstop Christian Vazquez on a three-year deal. Early in the season, Vazquez was playing approximately two out of three games. However, Jeffers started playing much better behind the plate and at the plate. In 96 games, he hit .276/.369/.490 (.858) with 15 doubles and 14 home runs. His OPS+ was 134! The Twins played six playoff games in 2023. Jeffers caught all six of them.
Potential 2024 Role: Aside from “normal” catcher bumps, bruises and pain, Vazquez and Jeffers remained healthy throughout the 2023 season. The two should continue to split time, with Jeffers getting the start in two out of three games. If he’s hitting like he did in 2023, he could get more DH opportunities too.
Biggest Question Mark: He’s a catcher. That alone comes with inherent risks of injury. That shouldn’t be a consideration in this discussion. So the big question for Jeffers in 2024 will be if he can replicate his 2023 success as opposed to revert to his 2021 and 2022 levels.
Prediction: Another easy decision. In fact, these two sides should spend time this offseason working on a four or five year deal to keep him in a Twins uniform for a long time.
LHP Caleb Thielbar
Service Time: 5.131 (five years, 131 days)
Arbitration Year: 3 of 3
Age in 2024: 37
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $3.0 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: Since returning to the Twins before the 2020 season, Thielbar has been remarkably consistent, and remarkably effective as a setup man for the Twins. 2023 was the first time in his career that he missed significant time due to injury. He strained his oblique, probably came back too quickly, strained it again and then took longer to return the second time. So, he only pitched in 36 games, but in his 30 2/3 innings, he had 36 strikeouts and just six walks. For the first time since his 2013 rookie season, he had a WHIP of under 1.00.
Potential 2024 Role: More of the same from Thielbar. Yes, he will be 37, but he hasn’t lost velocity, and his curveball continues to be a great pitch. He should continue to get crucial spots anywhere from the sixth through ninth innings. He can also continue to be a mentor in the bullpen.
Biggest Question Mark: Can he stay healthy throughout most of the season? And obviously can he remain effective for another year? And on some level, how much longer does he want to continue pitching?
Prediction: Sure, there are questions, but this is another easy decision for the Twins’ brass. Thielbar will be tendered a contract for 2024. And I would like to see the two sides come together and discuss a longer-term deal. Maybe it’s a series of options. $3 million for 2024, then an option for 2025 at $3 million that vests with 50 innings. If he is between 40 and 49 2/3 innings in 2024, the option vests at $2.5 million. If he’s under 40 innings, there could be a club option at $2 million but if they decline it, there could be a player option at $1.5 million. And, of course, Thielbar would have the right to retire at any point. The lawyers could get involved to creatively work through a one-year deal with a couple of options that would keep Thielbar pitching for his hometown team until he retires.
UT Willi Castro
Service Time: 4.017 (4 years, 17 days)
Arbitration Year: 1 of 2
Age in 2024: 27
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $3.2 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: Following the 2022 season, Castro had accumulated just over three years of service time with the Tigers. He was projected to make $1.7 million in his first year of arbitration, so Detroit non-tendered him. The Twins pursued him aggressively and he quickly signed a minor-league deal with the Twins in which he would make $1.8 million if he was with the Twins all season. Because of injuries and more, Castro made the Twins Opening Day roster, and after not playing for the first several games, he found a way to spend the entire season as a very valuable role player with the Twins. He was fantastic defensively at three infield positions. He did a nice job filling in left and center field as well. In his parts of four seasons with the Tigers, he accumulated 0.4 bWAR. In 124 games with the Twins in 2023, Castro ranked third among Twins hitters with 2.6 bWAR. He played strong defense. He hit .257/.339/.411 (.750) with 32 extra base hits. He stole 33 bases in 38 attempts, an element the Twins haven’t had for a long time.
Potential 2024 Role: His role in 2024 should be very similar to what it was in 2023. He can play three to five times per week all over the diamond. The fact that he is a switch hitter allows him to give guys off at different spots regardless of that day’s starting pitcher.
Biggest Question Mark: He was well worth the $1.8 million in 2023, and we can all picture him continuing to be valuable, but his 2023 production was significantly better than it had been the two previous seasons when he played over 110 games. Won’t the real Willi Castro please stand up? And, how does the front office see the combination of Castro and Gordon in the organization? Can they both be on the roster and provide value? Castro is a year younger.
Prediction: This is really the first one where I’ve had to think about how much I buy into Willi Castro’s 2023 season. That said, I think the Twins will tender him a contract, try to come up with a little lower than projected number, and use his switch-hitting and defensive versatility in 2024.
IF Kyle Farmer
Service Time: 5.129 (five years, 129 days)
Arbitration Year: 3 or 3
Age in 2024: 33
MLB Trade Rumors Projected 2024 Salary: $6.6 million
Deadline Decision: Tendered
2023 Season: Farmer came to the Twins after the 2022 season from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for RH RP Casey Legumina. At the time, he was technically the Twins starting shortstop. As you all know, after a long and winding road, Carlos Correa came back to the Twins which meant it was back to the bench for Farmer. That said, Rocco Baldelli kept his bench active all season. Farmer got extended time at second base early in the season when Jorge Polanco was out. He got quite a bit of time at third base in between the Jose Miranda demotion and the return of Royce Lewis. And late in the year, he played shortstop most every day when Correa was resting his plantar fasciitis. In between, he was a platoon player, often splitting time with, and mentoring, Edouard Julien at second base. Solid defense around the infield. Fantastic leader and teammate. Generally mashes left-handed pitching. Took a fastball to the mouth and went through multiple surgeries.
Potential 2024 Role: It would be the same general role for Farmer in 2024. Depending on how the right side of the infield shakes out this offseason, he could platoon at first and/or second base. He can pinch hit, DH, and even be that emergency catcher. Depending on health, it is likely his playing time would decrease.
Biggest Question Mark: Payroll. Just what will the Twins payroll be in 2024. We know it’s going to drop, so can the Twins afford to pay a utility player over $6 million? Unfortunately that is the reality because my sense is that everyone associated with the Twins would love to bring Farmer back.
Prediction: This is by far the most difficult decision for the Twins front office. As noted, if payroll remained the same, he would very likely be tendered, but with payroll down, we can’t assume that. We know his value to a big-league roster. You would hate to non-tender him and lose him for nothing. So, I don’t think they’ll do that. I do think that they will try hard to trade him for something over the next 24-36 hours, but if they can’t before Friday’s deadline, I would guess that they will tender him a contract and continue to try to deal him throughout the offseason.
There are quick glimpses at the seven remaining arbitration-eligible cases that the Twins front office have to make decisions on before Friday evening. Will they tender all seven? How many do you think they will, or they should tender? Could they be looking to make a trade or two, either of these players or of some pre-arbitration players to make additional room on the roster? How many of these players should be considered for multi-year contract extensions? Feel free to discuss below. And again, check back over the next couple of days to find out what the Twins decided to do.
gman reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, Justin Turner Could Be the Next Boomstick For the Twins
As the Twins jump head-first into the offseason, their needs are pretty straightforward. They have to figure out how to replicate Sonny Gray’s production atop the starting rotation, they need to find a centerfielder to replace Michael A. Taylor, and they should look to fortify their relief corps. Along with that trio of items on their checklist, the club will be on the lookout for a middle-of-the-lineup bat that can mash left-handed pitching.
Could Justin Turner fit that bill?
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be hesitant about bringing in a veteran of 15 years at this stage of his career. Turner is entering his age-39 season, is becoming increasingly limited defensively, and will almost certainly command a two-year deal on the open market.
But those same factors were true for Nelson Cruz heading into 2019, and he is bound to go down as one of the best free agent signings in team history.
So would Turner be a good fit for a similar role with the Twins in 2024?
The Twins were delighted to get as much value as they did out of veteran Donovan Solano this season, especially considering his affordable $2 million price tag. He hit .282/.369/.391 (116 wRC+) while playing in 134 games, mostly seeing time as the right-handed side of a platoon at first base.
Now that he’s a free agent, the Twins will surely want to fill his hole on the roster with more offensive ceiling, but without giving up much on the defensive side of the coin. They need someone who can provide a major boost against left-handed pitching, but can also hold their own if given at-bats against righties. And with the departure of a handful of respected players leaving the clubhouse for free agency, the Twins may want another respected veteran to come in and help establish a winning culture in the dugout. If possible, someone with a plethora of experience having success in the postseason would be icing on the cake.
While the Twins’ financial capacity is still being determined as they wait for a new TV deal, the assumption is that they will have the ability to take on at least one or two mid-level salaries as they try to fortify the roster. But with so many young sluggers emerging as options for the big league club, with even more shining in the minor leagues, the Twins will want the flexibility of a short-term deal if they are to cast their line into the free agency pond.
That’s where Turner fits in rather seamlessly. He’s coming off of yet another stellar campaign with the Boston Red Sox where he hit .276/.345/.455 (114 wRC+), belting 23 home runs and driving in 96 runs in 146 games played. While that type of production is a slight step down from his heyday with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it shows that he still possesses a game-changing bat even in his late-thirties. He is still highly potent against southpaws, where he hit .285/.372/.528 (142 wRC+), and he held his own against righties, hitting .273/.335/.430 (105 wRC+). Simply put, Turner’s bat is his calling card, and he’s shown that there is still plenty left in the tank from an offensive standpoint.
While most of his time was spent in the designated hitter role in 2023, he did play 41 games at first base, and 17 games between second and third base. He looked stretched at the hot corner, and just passable at second, but Turner looked rock-solid as a first-baseman when the Sox needed him. His play was worth three Defensive Runs Saved in that limited time, which would be a massive improvement over what the Twins got from Solano (-3 DRS) and Alex Kirilloff (-8 DRS) in 2023. With Solano entering free agency, and Kirilloff’s health remaining a question mark, Turner could be an excellent platoon bat that remains valuable as an everyday player if needed.
Turner became a free agent last week by opting out of the second year of his deal with Boston, instead choosing a buyout worth roughly $6.7 million. Had he decided to remain a Red Sox, he would’ve secured a $13.4 million paycheck. But opting out gives him the opportunity to seek another multi-year commitment that he can add to his buyout bonus. Given the fact that he will be entering his age-39 season, a two-year pact seems like the sweet spot for what he should be seeking.
For what it’s worth, the Red Sox could still try to bring him back. He made it clear that he enjoyed his time in Boston, and they recognize the strong season he just completed. However, they find themselves saddled with the burden of a few other pricey contracts for players that are likely past their prime. Chris Sale, Trevor Story and Kenley Jansen are owed a combined $89.3 million over the next two years, with another $46.6 million on the hook if Story declines to opt out of his contract after 2025.
The Twins are familiar with the type of deal that will likely be required to nab Turner. They signed Cruz to a one-year, $14 million contract for 2019, with a $12 million club option for the following season. It was a no-brainer for them to pick up that 2020 option, and they then inked him for $13 million in 2021. If they do bring Turner in on a short-term deal and things go south for the club, they could even ship him off at the trade deadline as they did with Cruz in 2021. But regardless, Turner shouldn’t command a lengthy deal that hampers the club’s future, and he has the ceiling to be a true difference-maker in the lineup.
What do you think? Would Justin Turner be a good fit for the Twins if he were to command a similar deal to Cruz prior to 2019? Who else would you rather see the Twins bring in as an affordable, middle-of-the-order bat? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and as always, keep it sweet.
gman reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, How the Twins' Top 30 Prospects from 2020 Panned Out in 2023
The lost opportunity of 2020 was no prospect's fault. Minor-leaguers, like many others around the world, were dealt a bad hand; in some cases, at very costly times in their development.
Some did get MLB playing time such as Ryan Jeffers who played in his first 26 MLB games in the shortened 60-game season. Others have yet to find the crack on an active roster after missing out on an entire professional season.
Enough time has now passed and three full seasons of Major and Minor League Baseball have been completed. So where did each of the Twins' top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, finish their 2023 seasons? Let’s find out.
On active rosters for the end of 2023
1. Royce Lewis
At long last, Lewis arrived at the majors full-time, and he did not disappoint. He was still limited to 58 games, returning on Memorial Day and facing strained hamstring that sidelined him from July to mid-August. Lewis returned as the best power hitter with the bases loaded any rookie has ever been.
He’s quickly become known as Mr. Grand Slam, per teammate Chris Paddack. He carried the team on his back in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against Toronto, hitting the only two home runs the team needed to win.
Lewis has finally arrived and exceeded the expectations that were put on him when he was drafted number one overall in 2017. The next mountain for this future star to climb over is remaining healthy for at least 75% of the season. If he can repeat the same level of success he had in the majors this year, then he will be a force to reckon with in 2024.
2. Alex Kirilloff
Kirilloff didn't make it through the playoffs but he finished the regular season healthy. The injuries still derailed Kirilloff even as he reached a career-high of 88 games played in 2023.
His best stretch of the season came from Memorial Day weekend until his shoulder injury sidelined him in Kansas City at the end of July, performing as one of the Twins' best hitters at the time.
The unfortunate side with Kirilloff is his inescapability of the injury bug, but good news came through when doctors found no tear in his labrum surgery. As of now, he is projected to be fully healthy for spring training, which could lead to the first-ever fully healthy season of his MLB career.
3. Trevor Larnach
Larnach had an up-and-down season both literally and figuratively. He split more time between the Twins active roster and St. Paul Saints than any other player.
His time in St. Paul showed more flourishment than his time in the majors as he posted a .271/.384/.504 triple slash with a .888 OPS across 323 plate appearances with the Saints. But with the Twins, it was a .213/.311/.415 triple slash with a .727 OPS across 212 plate appearances.
While it isn’t quite clear if Larnach will remain a Twin this offseason, his playing time both in the majors and minors over the last few seasons has landed him as a 4th outfielder with this team. Matt Wallner has surpassed him in the pecking order of Twins corner outfielders and Larnach turns 27 in February.
If he wants to finally land a full-time role before he’s out of his prime age, he may have a better chance of that with a different team than the Twins.
5. Jhoan Duran
Duran looked a little more human in 2023 than his lights-out rookie season last year. Despite that, he was still the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball topping out the fastest pitch thrown in 2023 at 104.8 MPH.
Even with five blown saves on the season and an ERA that jumped from 1.86 in 2022 to 2.45 in 2023, Duran was the man he’s lived up to be out of the bullpen when it mattered the most in the postseason.
The sky will continue to be the only limit for Duran in 2024. Twins fans will continue to hope the flamethrowing 26-year-old will continue on his path as one of the best relievers this franchise has ever seen.
6. Ryan Jeffers
The catcher's 2022 season pushed him into a backup role, but 2023 saw him improve from those struggles and take over the Twins' starting role in the postseason. With his numbers improving drastically from a .648 OPS in 2022 to .858 OPS in 2023, Jeffers cemented himself as the best right-handed hitting catcher in baseball this year.
What’s most impressive, and is due credit to his battery-mate behind the plate, Christian Vazquez, is that both these men were healthy all season. And for the first time in a long time, the Twins had to only use two catchers on the active roster all year.
The next hurdle for Jeffers is the amount of games played. He still has yet to reach 100 games played in a season in his career, falling just four short of the benchmark this year. However, if the Twins go through with the possibility of trading Vazquez to save on the payroll a bit, there will be nothing to stop him from 100 games in 2024.
12. Brent Rooker
The Oakland Athletics did not have many bright spots in a depressing 2023 season. Fortunately, former Twin Brent Rooker was one of those bright spots.
Rooker started off the year hot in April, leading the American League with a 1.245 OPS over 22 games. While he cooled off over the next two months, he was still rewarded with the lone all-star selection from the A’s this season. Rooker returned to performing at his All-Star level from April in the final months of the season, reaching the 30 home run mark with a .817 OPS on the season and playing in 137 games.
Rooker will likely remain on the Athletics roster as their top power hitter to start 2024. Unless his breakout 2023 season has enticed a team enough to trade for him and bring him to a team that will be in a better place to contend for the 2024 postseason.
13. Akil Baddoo
Baddoo kept himself on the Tigers' active roster for most of 2023 playing in 112 games for the runner-up in the American League Central. But Baddoo has not been able to recapture the magic he showed on the diamond during the first half of his rookie year.
Baddoo has worked himself into the 4th outfielder role with the Tigers having only 357 plate appearances across those 112 games. His triple slash wasn’t glamorous by any means as he hit .218/.310/.372 with a .682 OPS.
He is still a season away from arbitration eligibility and won’t turn 26 until August 16. Time is still favorable for Baddoo to show the success he had when he burst into the majors, but that will also be dependent on who else finds playing time in the Tigers outfield for 2024.
14. Matt Wallner
The Forest Lake native fulfilled expectations that were put to him during his brief call-up in 2022. The Twins' reigning Minor League Player of the Year exceeded his rookie status in 2023 and didn’t disappoint in the 76 games he played in.
On top of a .249/.370/.507 triple slash and .877 OPS, Wallner quickly became one of the best throwing arms in the outfield per Baseball Savant landing, himself in the 100th percentile in arm strength. Wallner has forged himself into a power-hitting, laser pointer in the outfield that can throw almost any runner out, and it’s a valuable commodity for where the Twins start their outfield in 2024.
As fellow Forest Lake native and avid Twins fan Aaron Rupar has said, “Wallner has done some of the coolest things as anyone raised in that town.” Seventy-six games in 2023 was only a sampling of what he can hopefully do in a full season’s worth of games in 2024.
25. Jorge Alcala
2023 looked to be a bounce-back year at the start for Alcala, who missed the majority of last year due to injury. The season did not turn out as many hoped for him, as he once again was limited to 11 games on the year because of injuries.
On top of that, he looked rather dreadful across those 11 relief appearances posting a 6.23 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and walked 10 batters in 17.1 innings. He was left off the postseason roster despite seemingly having recovered from injury.
Alcala enters his first year of arbitration this offseason. The Twins may consider cutting him loose due to his bad health and poor performance over the last two years. Alcala will be entering his age 28 season, and could still bounce back. Whether that’s in Minnesota or elsewhere remains to be seen.
28. Ben Rortvedt
Rortvedt left the Twins alongside Josh Donaldson and Twin-for-a-day Isaiah Kiner-Falefa as a part of the salary dump of Donaldson to New York for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez.
Rortvedt was either hurt or in the minors all of 2022, but that finally changed in 2023 as he made his Yankee debut on May 20 this year. Rortvedt was up and down all season with the Yankees and was far from glamorous. He only had a .118 batting average in 79 plate appearances across 32 games.
Of course, his calling card is his defense, and that's been on display during his time in the majors. He'll keep working to carve out a niche as a quality backup.
30. Josh Winder
After making 11 starts in the majors in 2022, Josh Winder converted into a full-time reliever with the Twins in 2023. Winder’s season had limitations due to injury but appeared in 40 games out of the bullpen between the majors and minors.
Winder’s days as a starter are likely over, but he’s still a valuable asset to be in the Twins bullpen as the front office formulates what it’ll look like in 2024. Especially if he can maintain his role as a long reliever.
Injured most of season
11. Matt Canterino
Unlike the above players, Canterino did not play in the majors this season. In fact, he did not pitch at all as he recovered from a late-season Tommy John surgery he underwent in August of 2022.
Given he is the only player from the Twins' Top 30 prospect list in 2020 to miss the entire 2023 season due to injury, he falls into this category for simplicity's sake.
Before his Tommy John surgery in 2022, Canterino made a name for himself at Double-A Wichita. He had a 1.83 ERA in 34.1 innings across 11 games and was talked about as potential bullpen reinforcement for the end of the Twins 2022 season.
The front office did add him to the 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. There have been no indications he will lose that spot this off-season which could make him a sleeper name to break into the Twins bullpen next spring training.
17. Nick Gordon
Gordon started the season off cold, but he may have been cursed the same day teammate Kyle Farmer was drilled in the jaw. He only accumulated six hits across 21 games from April 12th to May 9th and just as he seemed to recover from a bad month at the plate, he broke his tibia in a game against the Dodgers on May 17th.
The fracture left Gordon on the injured list for the remainder of the season, with other players such as Farmer, Edouard Julien, and Willi Castro stepping up in roles he often filled in 2022.
Now, Gordon’s future with the Twins is up in the air. The Twins may not re-sign him through arbitration this season, and it’s more likely than not he won’t be a part of the team in 2024.
22. Jose Miranda
It’s easy to say Miranda had the most disappointing 2023 season out of any Twin. The expectations were high coming off a breakout rookie season, but he fell short of them from the start.
A shoulder injury in spring training kept him from playing in the World Baseball Classic, but the effects of that injury lingered into the start of the season. Miranda’s power at the plate was all but zapped away as he was homerless through the first 24 games of the season, before finally getting his first two of the year against the Yankees on April 26th in a 12-6 loss.
That two-homer game was the high point of his season as he continued to decline in his performance at the plate, never having his batting average above .240 from that day on. Miranda was optioned down to St. Paul to fix his swing on May 10, and even after Lewis pulled his hamstring and landed on the IL, Miranda wouldn’t last more than five games before reinjuring his shoulder and effectively ending his season.
Miranda’s future role with the Twins has more questions than answers. He’s fallen behind Lewis at third base on the depth chart, but could still work as the right-handed hitting side of a first base platoon with Kirilloff.
Played in 2023, mostly in the Minors or Indy Ball
4. Jordan Balazovic
Balazovic’s longevity with the Twins was tittering on the edge to start the 2023 season. Between a spring training scuffle that left him with a broken jaw, and a bullpen role with the Saints that wasn’t faring much better than his 2022 struggles, Balazovic looked as though he might be let go by the team in mid-June.
Then the bullpen had too many injuries to count and he was the last man available in the pecking order of the 40-man roster options. His call-up to the majors turned out to be his saving grace.
Balazovic didn’t give up a run in 5 innings over his first three career appearances. He had an even more impressive stretch that followed into July over 12 relief appearances, with only one outing in that stretch where he surrendered more than one run. But he ended the year on a sour note and his future with the organization is very much in doubt.
7. Keoni Cavaco
The Twins top draft pick from 2019 missed out on what would've been his first pro season in 2020 and never seemed to recover. He hasn't produced at any level since.
Cavaco spent the majority of last season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He barely hit above the Mendoza line with his batting average at .203 and had an OPS of .574 across 238 plate appearances in 63 games.
Cavaco will not be turning 23 until June 2, 2024, but the young infielder will be growing old for the age group at High A. He needs emerge and break out in a big way.
9. Blayne Enlow
Enlow spent the first two months of the season at Double A Wichita and had a dominant stretch posting a 3.17 ERA across 54 innings in 10 starts. Those numbers earned him a call-up to the St. Paul Saints in mid-June, and the effects of Triple-A hitting showed against his stuff.
Enlow had a 7.94 ERA in 45.1 innings across 15 outings as a starter and reliever for the Saints. His struggles during his first month and a half with the Saints were bad enough to keep his numbers inflated as he improved over the last two months of the season with the Saints.
Enlow still has a good opportunity to turn himself around in the early months of the 2024 season with St. Paul to make himself available as a bullpen call-up option to make his MLB debut with the Twins in 2024.
15. Gilberto Celestino
Celestino may have spent a few days on the Twins active roster in 2023, but he never appeared in a game. All of his playing time came in St. Paul this year, and even that was limited to 59 games.
His numbers at the plate weren’t as eye-popping as his defense still proved to be. Celestino posted a .244/.385/.386 triple slash with a .771 OPS in 245 plate appearances.
The rushed development of Celestino during the center fielder shortage of 2021 proved costly to his hitting abilities. And with Castro filling in as the primary backup centerfielder to Michael A. Taylor, his role with the team doesn’t seem to be necessary anymore going into 2024.
16. Edwar Colina
Colina made his MLB debut with the Twins in 2020 but hasn’t appeared in the majors since then. He was in the Rangers organization for all of 2023 pitching at Triple-A Round Rock.
This marked his first season in professional baseball since his 2023 debut, and he struggled a bit after a two-year absence. Colina had a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings across 26 relief appearances. His most concerning aspect of his return was lack of command as he had 20 walks to 30 strikeouts adding up to a 1.5 K to BB ratio.
Colina is in the Venezuelan League this Winter to refine his command and hope for a better outcome in 2024.
18. Travis Blankenhorn
Blankenhorn has become a journeyman minor leaguer since the Twins released him in early 2021.
This season was spent in the Nationals organization for Blankenhorn and he didn’t disappoint for the Rochester Red Wings posting a .262/.360/.517 triple slash and .877 OPS in 455 plate appearances across 108 games with them.
He earned himself a roster expansion call-up in September and played in 10 games with the Nats, but only had a .161 batting average in 37 plate appearances.
19. Cole Sands
Sands's greatest achievement in 2023 may have been the amount of MLB service time accumulated compared to amount of pitches thrown with the Twins.
Sands pitched a total of 34 games between the Saints and Twins in 2023. His 19 games with the Saints were some of the most impressive from any pitcher on their roster in 2023 as he posted a 1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings of work. His numbers in his 15 games with the Twins weren’t exactly the same, but they still were an improvement from 2022 as he had a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings of work with Minnesota this year.
20. Will Holland
Holland has never had a full season of success in the minor leagues since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 draft by the Twins. 2023 played out similarly to other seasons.
He spent the whole season at Wichita and played in 101 games, but his offensive output was poor as he had a .197/.300/.306 with a .606 OPS. Holland has defensive versatility to play multiple positions on the field, but his offensive output at Double-A doesn’t show any signs of a promotion to Triple-A anytime soon.
21. Misael Urbina
Urbina had his first full season up at High A but his performance there wasn’t all too impressive. Across 102 games, Urbina had a .180/.289/.282 triple slash with a .571 OPS across 412 plate appearances.
Urbina’s development, like many others, saw drawbacks from the lost 2020 minor league season, and that still carried over into 2023 as he reached his highest level of pro ball yet. Urbina turns 22 in April next year with time still on his side but that window is closing on what he can do at higher levels if he doesn’t have a massive turnaround.
24. Yunior Severino
No other minor leaguer hit more home runs across all levels in 2023 than Yunior Severino. His 35 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A powered him to an OPS just short of .900, at .898 on the season.
Severino still isn’t a top-notch defensive player as he continued to shuffle around the infield playing all positions but shortstop. With the lack of a defensive home and being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, there’s no certainty that he’ll remain in the organization for 2024.
26. Emmanuel Rodriguez
He was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, but COVID-19 delayed his first professional season until 2021. In 2023 Rodriguez felt some of the highest highs and lowest lows of his pro career so far.
He enjoyed a sky-high walk rate and flashed big power while continuing to play an exceptional center field. At the same time, he continued striking out at a high rate with a lot of swing and miss in his game.
Outside of Brooks Lee and Walker Jenkins, Rodriguez is the most exciting prospect in the Twins system. A strong performance in the Midwest League Championship Series has set him up well to start his 2024 season at Double-A Wichita.
29. Chris Vallimont
Chirs Vallimont was claimed off waivers from the Twins by the Orioles in May of 2022. Over a year later, he made his MLB debut with the Birds on July 3. But that sole relief appearance where he only faced three batters would be his only action in the majors this year.
Vallimont's contract was purchased by the Cleveland Guardians just three days later. He spent the remainder of the 2023 season at Triple-A Columbus throwing out of the Clippers bullpen. In 16 outings, he had an unimpressive 6.52 ERA in 29 innings.
Out of professional baseball entirely
8. Wander Javier
Javier once looked to be the next coming of Jorge Polanco, but that all dissipated as his performance stagnated and failed to elevate over several seasons.
Javier had a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres in spring training but decided to retire from the game in March before the season even began.
10. Lewis Thorpe
Thorpe threw his last pitch in the Twins organization on a cold Saturday afternoon on April 16th, 2022. During a comeback attempt with Independent League Kansas City Monarchs, he posted a 4.96 ERA in 81.2 innings across 16 starts, Thorpe then decided to return to his home country of Australia.
The Australian Baseball League begins its 2023-24 season on November 16th, and Thorpe has found himself on the minor-league roster of his hometown Melbourne Aces. While his career in the majors may be over, he looks to continue it in the land down under.
23. Dakota Chalmers
Chalmers spent time between the Dodgers organization and Independent Baseball in 2022. But his name was nowhere to be found in pro ball for the entire 2023 season.
27. Gabriel Maciel
Maciel spent his 2022 season with the Oakland A’s High A affiliate. He elected free agency at season’s end and hasn’t been heard from since.
11 players on Active MLB rosters 3 players who could be on Active Rosters but are hurt 13 players who are in the Minors, Japan, or Indy Ball 4 players completely out of baseball The outcome from these top 30 MLB Pipeline prospects in 2020 just three years later is a strong showing for the franchise. One-third of the players ended their seasons in the majors, and half of them could find realistically themselves there in 2024.
What’s most impressive is that the top six players (Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach, Balazovic, Duran, and Jeffers), all had some form of consistent playing time with the Twins this season. Rarely does a team’s former top five or six prospects earn those opportunities all at the same time, and all have a chance to do so again in 2024.
gman reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, No Surprise: Twins Exercise Options for Kepler and Polanco
In a move that shouldn't have caught anyone off-guard, the Minnesota Twins announced on Thursday that they are exercising their respective team options for 2024 on Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. Among current Twins players, only Byron Buxton has been around as long as these two long-time fixtures, who are now locked into their contracts for the coming season.
Both have their question marks, to be sure. Polanco has dealt with continual lower-body injuries in the past couple of seasons, and Kepler's performance was perpetually underwhelming up until the midway point of 2023. Still, at the prices their options entail -- $10 million for Kepler, $10.5 million for Polo, these decisions were truly no-brainers. Each player would command far more on the open market, and as such, will draw trade interest if the Twins are so inclined.
This procedural move sets the stage for an offseason that will likely be dominated by trade speculation around both Polanco and Kepler. The right fielder and second baseman are proven commodities who were both arguably made redundant by the emergence of standout rookies this year -- specifically, Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner.
Kepler's offensive breakout and outstanding right field defense make him a strong asset. Polanco has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the middle infield across the league. Shortcomings aside, these are good players still in their primes, with short-term and relatively low-cost commitments. That will make them attractive to other clubs, but also makes them attractive to the Twins, who clearly like both players a lot beyond what they bring to the field. They also like depth.
The future for both Kepler and Polanco remains to be seen, but for now, as expected, they are under contract to play for the Minnesota Twins in 2024.
gman reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Avoiding the Sophomore Slump: Where Can Royce Lewis Improve for 2024?
It was hard to know what to expect from Royce Lewis during his rookie season. The former number-one overall pick missed parts of two seasons following ACL surgery, and the pandemic took away an entire minor league season. These speed bumps meant Lewis missed significant development time, which can be essential for a prospect to fulfill their full potential. Lewis didn’t seem to miss a beat by hitting .309/.372/.548 (.921) with 15 home runs and seven doubles in 58 games. He became a grand slam machine during the regular season, and his strong performance carried over into October.
The Twins won their first playoff series since 2002, and Lewis was at the heart of the victories. He hit four home runs in six playoff games, including critical homers in the series against Toronto. Overall, he went 5-for-22 with four homers and six runs scored. It was an impressive performance from the rookie, but there are still areas where he can improve from 2024 and beyond.
Lewis’ strikeout-to-walk rate was one area for him to improve after returning to the big-league level. He struck out 28 times and earned three walks in 99 plate appearances before going on the IL at the beginning of July (26 games). Following his return, he saw minor improvements in both areas. In 140 plate appearances (32 games), he struck out 27 times and was awarded 17 walks. He certainly seemed like a more patient hitter, which helped him to get into more favorable counts and improve his overall numbers. Lewis has shown improved power numbers, which typically comes with a higher strikeout rate, so it will be interesting to track if his walk rate improves with more time at the big-league level.
The Twins shifted Lewis to third base because the team has Carlos Correa, a Gold Glove finalist, locked into shortstop for the foreseeable future. During his minor league career, he had only made ten starts at third base and played fewer than 80 innings at the position. Everything wasn’t perfect in his transition to the hot corner, and it seems likely for him to improve as he gets more repetitions at his new positions. There is also a chance the Twins have him move to another spot on the diamond, especially with other prospects getting closer to the big leagues, including Brooks Lee and Austin Martin. Lewis is athletic enough to thrive at any defensive position, especially since he isn’t spending this off-season rehabbing a knee injury.
When the Twins drafted Lewis, some evaluators compared his speed tool to some of baseball’s best players. After two knee surgeries, Lewis has lost a step, with his sprint speed ranking in the 73rd percentile. There is potential for him to regain some of that speed as he gets further removed from his knee issues, but he has also added muscle during his rehab process. Minnesota was one of the worst base running teams during the first half of last season, and Lewis can help remedy some of the team’s flaws in this area. One way he can get more stolen base opportunities is if his walk rate continues to improve, so he gets more opportunities to be at first base. He went six-for-seven in stolen base attempts this season, and the Twins might let him run wild next year.
Twins fans have already started getting excited about Lewis, and his future can be even brighter if he takes the next step. Where does Lewis need to improve the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
gman reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Matt Canterino: Bullpen Force?
Matt Canterino’s nasty stuff has been advertised to fans since he was drafted in the second round in 2019. The former Rice pitcher threw many collegiate innings, and it’s possible this finally caught up to him in 2022. Could Canterino transition to a bullpen role and impact the 2024 Twins?
The concept of taking Canterino out of a starting role is difficult to imagine, given his repertoire and the success it’s brought him in the minor leagues. With a mid-90s fastball and formidable slider and changeup, he has everything he needs to carve through opposing lineups. He’s struck out well over one-third of the hitters he’s faced in the minor leagues and made it as far as Double-A. What sense does it make then to move Canterino out of a starting job?
The concern at this point has to be creating an innings floor for Canterino. His career high in innings for a given year was the 37 he threw in 2022 before requiring elbow surgery. While the hope is that this has finally fixed the problems that have kept him off the field, his workload must be managed carefully. It’s hard to say where his innings limit will be, but it’s possibly well under 100 to ensure he’s healthy moving forward.
The problem here is that even if the Twins' eyes are on a 2025 debut for Canterino in the rotation, his inning cap – even if all goes well – is likely only over 100 innings. No matter how effective he is, he wouldn’t be available for the entire season. That’s also assuming he stays healthy for an entire season for the first time in his professional career.
The Twins could look to play the long game in pursuit of the top-tier starting pitcher Canterino could become, but the issue is that he’ll already be 26 years old in 2024. Next year will mark five years since Canterino was drafted, and it may be time for the Twins to rush him to the majors to help the big league club.
We saw this play out most recently with Jhoan Duran. The Twins saw his numbers and raw stuff and determined they were better off letting him impact the MLB club rather than continuing to gamble on everything breaking the right way in the minor leagues. While Canterino doesn’t throw 104 with a 98 mph splitter, he could have a significant impact in a bullpen role.
For how dominant he was in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher, it’s easy to see Canterino taking a bullpen role and running with it. More velocity on the fastball and being able to focus on the best possible pitch for each hitter rather than trying to mix things up for another trip through the lineup could make him another bullpen monster.
It’s also a role that some scouts thought he would eventually settle into when drafted. Aside from his raw stuff, the funky delivery adds another element that would undoubtedly play up in short stints.
It’s unclear what the Twins have in mind with Matt Canterino headed into 2024, but they may have seen enough talent from him that they’re confident he can get MLB hitters out once he shakes off some rust next season. The quickest way for him to be a contributor would be a shift to the bullpen, where the Twins rarely invest in the trade and free-agent market. Could Matt Canterino make the bullpen transition in 2024?
gman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Brooks Lee's Anticipation Grows for His Moment in 2024
Heading into the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft, there was little belief within the Minnesota Twins that Brooks Lee would be available with the 8th overall pick. As the draft played out, however, Sean Johnson and the scouting department found themselves in an incredible position to find Lee within their reach.
Lee quickly made that decision look even better as he rocketed through the system, posting a .839 OPS during his first 31 professional games and reaching Double-A.
In 2023, Lee made it to St. Paul at the beginning of August after finishing Double-A with a .841 OPS (nearly 100 points above the Texas League's .751 average OPS in 2023). His offensive performance would tail off in September, but before that, he had a 23-game stretch with the Saints in which he slashed .287/.365/.500. More importantly, he was mere miles away from the ultimate goal of calling Target Field home.
Lee has shown plenty of in-game power, but his profile at the plate is one of an all-around hitter. Being disciplined and commanding the zone while making consistent contact comes naturally. Defensively, he still looks the part of a shortstop. However, his future position with the Twins will be contingent on the presence of Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, and Edouard Julien. Given his hitterish qualities and strong glovework, he could contribute to Rocco Baldelli's plans in 2024 somewhere on the diamond.
For someone who's been around the game since he could crawl, Lee knew his job would be different, but it's always hard to anticipate what that looks like once you experience it. Having a full professional season in the rearview has given him some perspective.
"The season is obviously long, but you don't fully understand it until you're in the thick of it," Lee says. "The first year is all about learning; there are so many games to be played, so getting frustrated about a single game is pointless. You learn quickly how to get your body and mind in the best possible shape for the game ahead of you and take it day by day."
Following his 125 games played in 2023, he now understands what is required in the offseason to prepare for that workload. Planning an attack for 2024 will include tweaks from his previous process, including trying to repair weaknesses exposed by higher-level pitching.
"What I took away most from Triple-A was that the pitching was smarter and more precise," says Lee. "As I went up levels, those pitchers capitalized on going towards hitters weaknesses or being consistent with locating their wipeout pitches. It's hard to hit but even harder when you have a particular hole that an opposing pitcher can expose."
Despite the late-season doldrums, Lee showed plenty of attractive attributes at the plate. Case in point, Lee had two opposite-field home runs with the Saints in early September that registered 103 and 104 MPH off the bat, respectively. Matt Wallner and Alex Kirilloff were the only Twins players to hit opposite field shots at a higher exit velocity.
"My issue was that my great batting practice swing didn't translate into games," Lee says, diagnosing what he plans to work on this offseason. "I want to be in the right positions at load, launch, and follow-through. If I can do that, I can take my swing and tailor an approach I think will be most successful against whoever I'm facing."
As part of his maturation, Lee also had a front-row seat to what Royce Lewis was doing on his rehab back to the big leagues.
"Royce was most helpful as a hitter in Double-A and Triple-A when he rehabbed. He has a unique and specific way of dissecting pitchers and then creating his plan. He is so advanced, and it was super beneficial for me to hit behind him."
Baseball has been part of Lee's blood, and his dad, Larry, has been a constant driving factor. The elder Lee, a lifelong college coach, has been the head coach at Cal Poly for the past 21 seasons. Coach Lee will undoubtedly be present to some degree in his son's development this offseason.
"I hope all my offseasons revolve around working with my dad," he says.
Lee says he will spend some much-needed time decompressing away from the game this December with his girlfriend. The majority of the offseason, however, involves training daily with two of his former teammates at Cal Poly.
"I want to be more agile and quicker, so I must spend time on technique," Lee adds. The infielder has stolen just seven bases in 13 tries so far in his career, and with the renewed emphasis on base stealing, having that additional weapon makes him much more dangerous.
Personal success is important to Lee, but baseball is a team game, and winning is the ultimate goal. The Twins did a lot of that this season, and while he saw some of the action in St. Paul, being locked in on a postseason run took things to another level.
"It was impossible not to follow the postseason, especially with the Twins having a special year. I am even more excited to help the team because the veterans and young guys in the locker room know what it feels like to make it to the postseason and have had a taste of winning."
If Lee can set himself up personally for success, plenty of team success will follow. He knows that 2024 could be a special year for him, but ultimately, one thing drives all motivation.
"I am not chasing anything specific other than helping a team win as many games as possible. Winning takes care of everything."
Minnesota saw success in 2023, and they'll look to expand on that in 2024. It was a season in which the youth made a high impact on the Twins. That can be the formula again next year, and Brooks Lee should be at the forefront of that movement.
gman reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, C.J. Culpepper is the Twins Latest Day 3 Success Story
If you listened to last week’s episode of Destination: The Show, Cedar Rapids Kernels pitching coach Jonas Lovin was asked about CJ Culpepper.
He concluded his comments by saying. “CJ had a really good year and progressed really well throughout the year. He’ll be one that, I’m sure, Twins fans will be seeing down the road and will be looking forward to following, and he’ll keep working.”
Seven players selected by the Twins in the 2019 draft have already reached the big leagues. Two others spent most of the 2023 season with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints. Matt Canterino returns in 2024 with an eye on the big leagues, too.
However, among many Twins fans, there is excitement around the pitchers they selected in the 2022 draft. Kyle Jones (7th round) spent the entire season with the Kernels. Cory Lewis (9th), Zebby Matthews (8th), Andrew Morris (4th), and CJ Culpepper (13th) all started the season in Fort Myers, but each spent most of the second half making starts in Cedar Rapids. In addition, Ben Ethridge (15th) and Zach Veen (18th) remained in Fort Myers, pitching very well, and are now pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Of course, Connor Prielipp (2nd) started the season with the Kernels, but unfortunately, he made just one start and later had elbow surgery.
The group has become quite close over the past year. Culpepper said, “We’ve all become really close, and that’s good. All of us are different. We pitch differently. It’s cool to talk to them about what they do mechanically.”
While Culpepper hasn’t added a knuckleball to his in-game pitch repertoire, he’s learned a lot about the pitch from his time with Cory Lewis. “Playing catch with him (Lewis) isn’t too much fun either. It’s scary. It’s terrifying.”
(You can watch the full 49-minute interview right here, or you can right-click on the video and watch/listen to it in another tab so you can continue perusing Twins Daily while watching the interview.)
C.J. Culpepper grew up in southern California, and baseball has been a big part of his life.
His mom tells him that from when he was two, he was always playing ball. Culpepper’s earliest memory is one that many of us can understand and appreciate.
“The earliest memory I can think of is having my dad coaching me all growing up. I always thought that was really cool. Being able to share that experience with him and having his knowledge get dropped down to me is pretty cool. It’s just something I’ve cherished for the longest time.”
He was always young for his grade and spent three seasons on the Rancho Cucamonga varsity team. He had played soccer in his younger years. Like Twins starter Joe Ryan, Culpepper also played water polo in high school. “My mom said, ‘You’re going to play water polo.’ So I really shouldn’t say No.'"
He also participated in the Garciaparra Baseball Group team from Inland Empire, a southern California team. They played in the Jupiter tournaments in Florida, key events for high school players to be seen by scouts from every organization, as well as many colleges.
California Baptist jumped from Division I to Division II for the 2019 season. Upon visiting, Culpepper quickly knew that it was the place he wanted to play ball. He had a strong relationship with the coaches, and it was a place where he could continue to grow his faith.
He had a handful of games pitched in 2020 before Covid ended the season. As a sophomore, he had 38 strikeouts in 30 innings out of the Lancers’ bullpen.
That summer of 2021 marked a crucial point in C.J. Culpepper’s baseball career. He went to the Cape Cod League and pitched well against top competition. In 15 2/3 innings over 10 appearances, he went 1-0 with four saves, a 1.72 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP. He also had 23 strikeouts and just two walks. His performance gave him a lot of confidence heading into his junior season.
In 2022, he joined the starting rotation for California Baptist. He went 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He also had 76 strikeouts in 69 innings.
In July, he heard various things from his advisor leading to the draft. In fact, on Day 2, his advisor said a team asked if he would take a specific signing bonus if they drafted him. He agreed. Unfortunately, that team picked someone else with that pick.
On Day 3, he spent the day with his parents. They were “watching” the draft online, and in the 13th round, they saw CJ’s name pop up on their computer screen.
“Right when they saw my name, they were so happy. Tears started coming down. They just realized that this is what he’s been working for, and now it’s starting. They were just so ecstatic.”
He continued, “It was a fun day, for sure.”
It’s similar to one of his first days in Fort Myers after signing. He found himself on one of the back fields, playing catch, when he stopped and looked around a bit, thinking, “This is something I’ve been working for my entire life, and now I’m here. I was just in awe. It was definitely an experience that I’ll cherish, for sure.”
Fortunately, there were several players around him that he knew to some degree. During his season with Yarmouth–Dennis in the Cape Cod League, he was on the same team as catcher Nate Baez (12th round) and first-round pick Brooks Lee. Also on the team was 2023 10th-round pick Ross Dunn.
While Culpepper was the lone player that the Twins drafted from California Baptist, they added more in 2023. In the 15th round, the Twins selected right-handed pitcher Spencer Bengard from the school. In the 16th round, the Twins took righty Anthony Silvas from Riverside City College. However, he spent the 2022 season at California Baptist. Following the draft, the Twins signed right-hander Liam Rocha as a non-drafted free agent. He spent three years at Cal Baptist.
With that background, it’s also quite exciting to think about his pitch mix. The right-hander throws a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a slider, a sinker, a changeup, and a curveball. In college, his fastball was generally between 89 and 93 mph. In 2023, Culpepper was not only 93-95 mph, but he touched 97 at times and was able to maintain that velocity later in games.
(Of note, I forgot to ask Culpepper if he has ever actually thrown a kitchen sink.)
More important than just having all of those pitches, it’s about those pitches being good, being effective. And with all the work that the Twins pitching development group does watching videos, reading the Statcast data, and developing a plan for him, still throwing all six pitches speaks to their effectiveness.
Culpepper admits. “I’m pretty comfortable with all the pitches that I have. Whatever the situation and the count allows me to throw. I’m comfortable enough with all of them.”
Returning to last week’s Destination the Show, you heard Kernels pitching coach Jonas Lovin talk about Culpepper. “CJ’s great. He’s a really hard worker, and he’s a really good thinker. He does a really good job of asking good questions and thinking through what he can improve upon.”
Lovin later added, “CJ is so unique because he throws so many different pitches. He throws six different pitches, and they’re all good. He does a good job commanding them in the strike zone, and they all move a decent amount.
After spending most of his life in California, Culpepper is spending this offseason in Tennessee. Maybe it’s to work on something else that he can bring with him to Minnesota. When he played in the Cape, his host family got him excited about fishing by taking him out often. Where he lives in Tennessee, he says he’s got a lake 10 minutes away and some canals and rivers nearby to work on his newfound passion.
He said he would also like to get into hunting sometime but hasn’t found a group to take him out yet. I’m just guessing that if CJ Culpepper gets to the big leagues with the Twins, he will have several new friends willing to show him the ropes.
For more Twins Daily content in which C.J. Culpepper has been tagged, click here. Here was his Twins Daily Draft page from 2022.
gman reacted to Steve Lein for an article, Twins AFL Report (Week 3): Desert Dogs Go Undefeated
Monday, 10/16 | Peoria 4, Glendale 6
Tuesday, 10/17 | Glendale 7, Peoria 6 (10 innings)
Wednesday, 10/18 | Glendale 6, Mesa 2
Thursday, 10/19 | Glendale 10, Salt River 9
Friday, 10/20 | Mesa 4, Glendale 11
Saturday, 10/21 | Glendale 7, Mesa 6 (10 innings)
Coming into the week with a 2-10 record and sitting in last place in the AFL standings, the Glendale Desert Dogs reversed their fortunes in week three in undefeated fashion. Their 6-0 record on the week pushed them out of the cellar and improved their run differential by 16 in the process. When it comes to the Twins' prospects contributing, pretty much everybody improved their small-sample-size numbers across the board. Things were definitely looking up in Week 3!
C Andrew Cossetti
Week: 1-for-3, R, RBI, 2 BB (1 game)
Overall: .100/.280/.250 (.530 OPS)
Cossetti saw action in just one game during the week, in Thursday’s win over the Mesa Solar Sox. He was the catcher and batted eighth in the lineup, and reached base three times.
Down 9-3 heading into the sixth inning, Cossetti was in the middle of a five-run rally for the Desert Dogs, contributing an RBI single to make it 9-5 after a pair of doubles in front of him. He later would score on a bases-loaded ground-rule double that gave his team seven runs at the time. He later drew walks in each of the seventh and ninth innings, but by that time his team had already put their runs on the board and he would end up stranded both times.
The Solar Sox were 3-for-3 stealing bases in the game, and Cossetti also had his second throwing error. In things that don’t really mean much, he has yet to throw out a base stealer in 12 chances (Glendale teammate and top prospect, Kevin Parada, has also been abysmal in this statistic, throwing out just 2 of 21 runners).
OF Kala’i Rosario
Week: 6-for-18, 6 R, 3 HR (4), 4 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K (5 games)
Overall: .160/.276/.420 (.696 OPS)
Hits had been hard to come by for Rosario in the season’s first two weeks, but his lone hit of week two left the yard so I had some optimism moving forward. That was rewarded by a big week from the reigning Midwest League MVP.
He went deep in each of his first two games, and added a third in their last one, giving him four home runs on the season to lead the Desert Dogs and rank second in the league after week three.
His home run in Monday’s win came in the third inning and put Glendale on the scoreboard for the first time against Peoria.
The Javelinas hadn’t seen enough on Tuesday, as his blast made it 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning. In the 10th inning, Rosario also added the needed insurance run with an RBI single that made the score 7-4 in a game they’d win by one. He finished this one 3-for-5.
His third homer came on Saturday in another extra-inning affair against Mesa, and was fun because it was the third of back-to-back-to-back blasts from his teammates that gave them a 4-0 lead after two innings. He also drew two walks in this contest and scored a second run of the game on another Desert Dogs home run. As a team, they hit five homers in the game, including one from Rosario’s teammate who is up next.
1B Aaron Sabato
Week: 2-for-16, 2 R, 2 HR (3), 3 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K (4 games)
Overall: .163/.268/.408 (.676 OPS)
Sabato had a decent run with a bunch of doubles last week, and although he didn’t collect as many hits this time, he did turn both the ones he got into homers.
He again batted in the middle of the Glendale lineup in each game, and his first blast came in Wednesday’s win over Mesa. With the score tied at one in the fifth inning, Sabato’s two-run shot gave the Desert Dogs the lead for good.
He joined Rosario and the rest of his team with another blast on Saturday, and he is the one who got the party started. In the top of the first, he stepped in with two outs and sent his third bomb of the season the opposite way. He also drew two walks in this one.
In all four of his games on the week, Sabato played first base, and both of his games with home runs came with him batting third in the lineup.
LHP Jordan Carr
Week: W, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Overall: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .214 BAA, 1 BB, 7 K (12 IP)
Carr was finally rewarded with a win for his excellent and consistent efforts in the AFL so far, as his team gave him a 3-1 lead on Wednesday before he officially ended his start before the bottom of the fifth inning.
He retired the side in order in the first, induced a double-play ball in the second, and picked up a pair of strikeouts in the third before the Solar Sox were able to manufacture a run against him in the fourth. A leadoff single and a walk was followed by a fielder’s choice to put runners on second and third, before a sac fly brought in Mesa’s only run against him.
Of his 56 pitches, 36 went for strikes (64%), and his only walk issued thus far on the season came from a couple of questionable calls on the corners.
Carr has been nothing short of brilliant thus far in his three starts. He’s been efficient, worked himself out of any jams, and kept runners off the bases at an extraordinary rate, ranking third in the league in WHIP among qualified players. His 1.50 ERA also ranks fourth.
RHP Malik Barrington
Week: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K (2 appearances)
Overall: 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, .167 BAA, 4 BB, 7 K (3 1/3 IP)
Barrington had a rough go in his lone appearance last week, but course corrected in complete opposite fashion in week three, dominating in both of his appearances.
In Tuesday’s extra-inning win over Peoria he was the first reliever out of the bullpen to start the fifth inning, and put together a good old snapper-mow-em-down inning. He struck out the side in order, with 10 of his 16 pitches going for strikes, including five swinging.
Back onto the mound for Saturday’s extra-inning game with Mesa, Barrington got the eighth inning with the score tied at six. He struck out the first hitter on three pitches and got the next on a flyout, before issuing a walk. He recovered and struck out the next batter to keep the game tied. 11 of his 18 pitches went for strikes in this one, including five more swinging.
RHP A.J. Labas
Week: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 K (1 appearance)
Overall: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, .214 BAA, 4 BB, 5 K (4 IP)
Labas came out of the bullpen just one time this week, but he picked up a hold in the process by pitching the seventh inning of the game started by Carr. He did have to work for a bit, as he threw 27 pitches and the Solar Sox loaded the bases against him, but he made a big pitch when he needed to and got a double-play ball to end the threat and keep his team out front 4-2.
RHP Ben Ethridge
Week: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (2 appearances)
Overall: 1-0, 9.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .267 BAA, 0 BB, 2 K (3 2/3 IP)
Ethridge bookended the week for the Desert Dogs with appearances in Monday and Saturday’s wins.
On Monday, despite allowing three hits and two earned runs, he was credited with the win after his lineup went off for four runs in the bottom of the seventh after his outing in the top half.
He recovered nicely on Saturday from allowing traffic on the bases, as he pitched a one-two-three fourth inning while his team was up 4-2. He struck out one.
LHP Zach Veen
Week: 1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (1 appearance)
Overall: 0-0, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, .348 BAA, 1 BB, 4 K (5 IP)
The lone appearance of the week for the southpaw came in Thursday’s comeback win over Salt River.
After the Desert Dogs starter had given up four runs, and the first reliever five of his own, Veen was called upon to stabilize the game in the middle of the fourth inning after those five runs had already come across. With runners on first and second and one out, he got a big swinging strikeout on a splitter before ending the threat with a popout on the first pitch to the next batter.
Back out for the fifth inning, he needed just seven pitches to retire the Rafters in order, including a strikeout of the leadoff man. He threw just 13 pitches total in the outing, with 9 going for strikes, and his offense began their comeback with a five-run sixth inning after his exit in game they would win 10-9 after being down 9-3 after four.
Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the prospects playing in the AFL this week!
gman reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Twins, Alex Kirilloff Dodge Major Bullet During Shoulder Surgery
A nagging shoulder injury continued to bother Alex Kirilloff following his return from the injured list in September. It became bad enough in the playoffs that he needed to be removed from the ALDS roster.
Kirilloff was originally diagnosed with a torn labrum, the ring of cartilage in the shoulder that improves the joint’s stability. Depending on the location of the tear, rehabilitation can take upwards of 6-8 months following surgery before the athlete is cleared to return to play full-time.
Luckily, Kirilloff’s labrum was discovered to be intact, which allowed his surgical team to perform a bursectomy, a much less invasive and traumatic procedure. There are many bursae located in and around the shoulder, with the most prominent being the subacromial bursa.
This fluid-filled sac sits between the supraspinatus tendon (the supraspinatus is a rotator cuff muscle) and the nearby bone, reducing the amount of friction expounded upon the tissue. Shoulder pain resembling a rotator cuff or labrum injury may be a result of subacromial bursa irritation. Removal of the bursa often relieves pain and improves range of motion.
Athletes can often return to play in relatively short order, so, barring any major setbacks, Kirilloff shouldn’t be expected to begin the 2024 regular season on the IL. There also shouldn’t be any major concerns for future rotator cuff injury as proper strength training and other rehabilitative procedures should reduce the risk of tendon irritation.
All things considered, this was a best-case scenario for Kirilloff and the Twins. Bursectomies fall under the nebulous “clean-up procedure” umbrella and spare the surrounding muscular and joint stabilizing structures. While this was Kirilloff’s third surgery of his career (Tommy John while in the minors and two wrist surgeries), it was by far the least significant and concerning.
gman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Walker Jenkins Has a Vision for 2024
Until the draft, there was some question about whether the Twins may deviate from the consensus top five. Both Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews were seen as the top talents coming out of LSU, and Max Clark was paired with Walker Jenkins as prep prospects. Wyatt Langford was the other premier hitter from Florida, and Minnesota was lined up to get one of the five.
Having stayed chalk and taking Jenkins, who was left at their pick, the immediate hope was that they made the right move. An outfielder who projects for more power than speed, Jenkins was built up as the type of player that could turn into a franchise cornerstone. That’s serious pressure to put on an 18-year-old coming out of high school, but you wouldn’t know it by his production level.
Reaching Low-A Fort Myers, Jenkins played in 26 games during his professional debut. Slashing .362/.417/.571, it’d be hard to slow down any hype train already leaving the station. The North Carolina native crushed three dingers while tripling four times to show off his unique toolset. Following in the footsteps of Royce Lewis before him, he did so with a level of maturity that is well beyond his years.
Catching up with Jenkins as the dust settled on the season and he found time to reflect, it is clear that while the start was good, what’s to come can be even better. Working at the Twins complex in Florida, his offseason has already begun, and getting after it never stopped.
It was all about the process when I asked about the biggest takeaway from a foray into pro ball and what might have been unexpected. “Figuring out what routine works for you and developing that was big," says Jenkins. "I didn’t control my schedule as much as I was used to. Learning what adjustments to make, things I needed to work through, and staying responsible while being on top of everything I’m doing was a must.”
Jenkins has experienced a taste of professional ball, and he’s now thrust into his first offseason. Even though it’s a different scenario, he doesn’t envision the offseason changing too much.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve trained extremely hard and like I’m going out and preparing for a 160-plus game season. I’m fortunate enough to be with some big-league guys. I will work as hard as I can this offseason to prepare for next season.”
Home will be where the baseball is for Jenkins this offseason. Although he is currently down in Florida, he plans to bounce back and forth between Fort Myers and North Carolina. Well supported no matter where he is working, the goal doesn’t change based on the location.
Not only did Jenkins play high school baseball in 2023, but he also blew through rookie ball and headed into Single-A. Each step of the way came with considerable success, and it didn’t fly under the radar by any means. Jenkins knows he’s confident in his abilities and the work he puts in, but also said he’s a quick learner and has always seen the game as one of adjustments.
“I was able to adjust while moving through different levels, and similarly to the routine thing, figuring out what would allow me to be successful was a must. I did things a lot differently than other guys who were succeeding.”
It’s not just the mock drafters and teams that understand the talent coming out of this draft, but the players get it, too. Jenkins is well aware of the heights both Jackson Holliday and Nolan Schanuel rose to from his draft class.
“I have considered what a good 2024 looks like for me; it’s kind of hard not to," he acknowledges. "Obviously, I want to be in the big leagues. Possibly a little far-fetched? Maybe. I want to get there as fast as possible but be as prepared as possible. I don’t want to bounce back and forth once I get there. The Twins development group will know when that time is and when to move me. If I come out this year just trusting my abilities, I’ll be in a really good spot.”
Although the goal is the highest level for Jenkins, winning is what matters along the way. He wants to show up individually, but being on the right side of outcomes is also a constant focus. “We did a good job. The teams I was on last year, although it was a short amount of time when I got down there, we started winning a lot. I don’t like to lose.”
For a player like Jenkins, the track record coming into pro ball is already long. He has seen multiple grand stages and played against plenty of dominant competition. That doesn’t mean everything goes as expected. “The jump from being a high school kid, living with your parents, to living on your own was a big jump. The change in that has been a really good learning experience for me. I feel like I’ve always been responsible, but it’s nice to shoulder that when you don’t always have people guiding you that way. This first opportunity in pro ball has kind of given me that exposure.” Minnesota sets this change up well for draftees with the campus in Fort Myers, and Jenkins was quick to call that setup awesome.
Baseball is a sport viewed through larger sample sizes, and although Jenkins jumped out to an excellent start, everyone wants to see that translate in a greater setting. The coming season provides a runway, and goals are already in the works. “I want to go into the year prepared. I want to stay healthy and take care of my body so I can play a full season. I try not to get caught up in the statistical stuff. If I can consistently hit balls hard, consistently play a good defensive centerfield, and consistently make smart mental decisions, that will reflect plenty on the numbers. If I can do those three things, I will be in a good spot.”
Sometimes, it is difficult to envision how a prep prospect plays into the plans of a big league organization while they may be a ways off. Someone as talented as Jenkins can force the timeline, but he is already picturing himself playing at Target Field.
“Just getting drafted by a team and then going and seeing them having postseason success makes you want to get up there and help the team win. I read that Minnesota hadn’t won in the postseason in a while, but the fact that they bounced back and have a successful team as I’m coming through is exciting for me. I feel like as more talent moves up, the more successful they’ll be, and I hope to be a factor in the organization winning sometime in the near future.”
Drafting players is a complicated process, with results that are often scrutinized. Hitting on the talent and makeup isn’t something that always happens, but Jenkins appears to be well on his way to cementing that reality. If he can continue along the path he started for himself, Twins fans may be able to take in his game as soon as 2024 over at CHS Field.
When we see Jenkins next, a professional offseason program will be reflected in his makeup, and how far that propels him in the year ahead isn’t worth limiting him with.
gman reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Is a Comeback on the Horizon for Joe Ryan in 2024?
Joe Ryan's struggles are easy to summarize. In the first half of the season, he threw 107 innings with a 3.70 ERA and allowed 16 homers. In the second half, he threw 54 innings with a 6.09 ERA while allowing 16 homers in about half the time. It would be easy to say he needs to give up fewer homers, but the trick for Ryan is to find out how to achieve that goal.
The knock on Joe Ryan throughout his minor league career was that he was too fastball-heavy and bound to be homer-prone. Through two seasons, this has proven to be true. Ryan still throws his fastball over half the time. While it's still a unique pitch that induces swings and misses, it's hard to deny that, as the league has seen it multiple times, they've found a way not to be fooled.
Luckily, Ryan and the Twins have worked to add variety to his repertoire. First, in 2022, it was the sweeper, and in 2023, a split changeup became his second most used pitch. These different pitches have added different layers to Ryan's pitch mix for opposing teams to worry about, but neither has yet to emerge as a dominant offering thus far. Ryan was known to use almost purely fastball in the minors, so it's unsurprising that he hasn't picked up a new grip and immediately found a wipeout secondary.
Pitching is always a work in progress, and Joe Ryan may be playing catchup when it comes to his offspeed pitches. Fortunately, Ryan and the Twins are investing plenty of resources into his development.
Ryan spent time last offseason at Driveline, and things were paying off significantly during the first half. The facility helps pitchers tweak pitch characteristics and general mechanics, and another offseason of Ryan working to develop his offspeed stuff under their guidance can only help. They'll likely tweak the pitches he already has. They may even work on adding another. We may have to wait until the spring to find out.
In addition to pitching specific endeavors, Driveline also works with players to help them physically get in the right place to endure a 162-game season. Health is an underrated factor for Joe Ryan headed into 2024. His dominant first half seemed so long ago, and many fans forget that the real turning point in his season was a groin injury that sent him to the IL. He was never the same after that point.
It's reasonable to say that Ryan's injury had much to do with his sharp decline in the second half. He had a clean bill of health throughout his professional career before his IL trip in 2023, and the hope is that the injury was just a blip on the radar. He'll have a typical offseason to prepare for another grind in 2024, and Driveline may also assist in this.
Joe Ryan will never be Sonny Gray when it comes to suppressing homers, but the degree to which he allows the long ball will determine what level of success he finds moving forward. His first half in 2023 wasn't smoke and mirrors. He was a dominant pitcher even as he continued to find consistency in his offspeed pitches.
The hope is that further development and returning to good health can help Joe Ryan return to form and be the mid to high-end starting pitcher the Twins need. It's possible that Joe Ryan doesn't just return to form but has another level to reach. 2024 will tell us a lot about him.
gman reacted to Cody Christie for an article, The Twins Would Be Wise to Trade Kyle Farmer
Last winter, the Twins didn’t have a clear option at shortstop. Carlos Correa tested the free-agent waters for the second straight season, and Royce Lewis was recovering from his second ACL surgery. Minnesota needed someone to man one of baseball’s most important positions, so the club traded for Kyle Farmer.
Farmer had spent the previous two seasons as a regular with the Cincinnati Reds, where he offered some defensive flexibility and occasional pop with his bat. Minnesota felt like Farmer could be a bridge player to keep shortstop warm until Lewis was ready to return. Correa’s free agency saga took many twists and turns before ending up back in Minnesota. His signing changed Farmer’s role for the 2023 campaign, but he continued to provide value.
Entering the season, Farmer had an 86 OPS+ for his career, finishing the season with a career-high 97 OPS+. He missed time during the season after taking a pitch to the face that required multiple surgeries. Farmer added depth across the diamond, including playing over 200 innings at shortstop, third base, and second base. The Twins were able to use him in Baldelli's platoon system, to fill in for injured players, and he more than held his own. Overall, it was a solid 2023 season, and the Twins might have more than one reason to trade Farmer this winter.
Farmer is in his final year of arbitration, and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $6.6 million. To some, that might be a high salary for a bench player who doesn’t project to be in the lineup daily. For some perspective, FanGraphs has valued Famer at $11.9 million or more in each of the last three seasons, including $12.6 in 2023. Other teams will also understand his value, which might make him a hot trade commodity.
There have been outstanding classes of free-agent shortstops in the last two winters. Fans might feel this is the norm, but that is far from the truth. There won’t be any names like Correa, Trea Turner, or Corey Seager on the market this winter. So, teams might look for alternative shortstop options similar to what the Twins did last winter. Farmer is under team control for a cheap one-year deal and can handle shortstop while a club waits for a younger player to take his place.
The Twins also don’t need to rush into any trade involving Farmer. Last winter, the club traded Gio Urshela, and the trade return was underwhelming. Minnesota also shopped some of their corner outfield options but didn’t like the value they were getting from other clubs. It would be in the Twins’ best interest to hope for a bidding war, especially with the lackluster free-agent market.
Minnesota’s infield depth chart looks relatively complete, even without Farmer. Correa should play nearly every day at shortstop, and Lewis will be next to him at the hot corner. Jorge Polanco and Edouard Julien will both see time at second base, with Julien also figuring into the first base equation. Top prospect Brooks Lee finished the season at Triple-A and should be ready for a call-up by mid-season.
Farmer provided a veteran leadership to the 2023 Minnesota Twins that shouldn’t be forgotten. His time with the team would have looked very different if Correa hadn’t returned to Minnesota. Instead, the Twins might be able to cash in on his final year of team control and help the club fill a different need for next season.
Should the Twins trade Farmer? What is a suitable return? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
gman reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Beat the Streak: 18 Reasons to Believe the Twins Will End Their Playoff Drought
1. A best-of-three series, all at home, is a big advantage.
I know it can be easy to dismiss, given how everything went for the Twins last time around (2020), but the new MLB playoff format fundamentally shifts the scales toward the higher seed in the Wild Card round matchup. Three games, all in one ballpark.
Beyond the energy and backing of the local crowd, baseball's fabric is designed to favor the home team, providing the key advantage of batting last. Throughout MLB history, home teams have won 54% of their games. The Twins made hay at Target Field this year, where they went 46-33 (.582).
2. The Twins got to set themselves up; their opponents didn't.
By virtue of clinching so early, the Twins have had the luxury of handling all of their players and planning with an eye toward the postseason. That is not true of the Blue Jays, who had to fight and claw through a tight wild-card race all the way down to the final day.
Not only does this mean Toronto's key players have all been playing and pushing through the final week of the season, but it also impacts pitching layouts in significant ways. Twins starters and relievers are all rested up.
3. Sonny Gray is a DAWG.
The last time the Twins had a playoff pitcher with a fWAR as high as Gray's this year (5.2) was Francisco Liriano in 2010 (5.6) and the last time before that was Johan Santana back in 2006 (6.7). Ranking third in the major leagues in ERA, Gray is an elite No. 1 starter who will arguably be the best starting pitcher from the AL in the postseason, based on performance.
Beyond the numbers, Gray just seems like the kind of bulldog you want on the mound in a game with this kind of pressure and stakes. He's confident, competitive, and fierce. It's no surprise he's been extremely successful in postseasons past, with a 2.95 ERA in four career playoff starts.
4. It looks like Royce Lewis is giving it a go.
Lewis is special, and he made that very clear as a rookie this year, putting forth a strong case for team MVP despite playing in just 58 total games. That'll happen when you hit .385/.452/.785 with runners in scoring position with a record-shattering four grand slams.
Emanating pure Derek Jeter qualities, Lewis seems like a player who was built for the October spotlight. This makes it all the more gutting he suffered a hamstring injury just two weeks before the start of the playoffs, a development that threatens to hamper his effectiveness. But if any player has given reason to believe he can overcome adversity and deliver, it's Royce Lewis.
5. Carlos Correa is an all-time October producer.
There is no individual player in the hunt with a more accomplished postseason track record than Correa. He is the active leader in postseason RBIs, and sixth all-time. He's slashed .272/.344/.505 with 18 homers in 79 playoff games. He won a World Series* in 2017.
As we all know, Correa hasn't played up to his standards for most of this campaign, hobbled by a bad case of plantar fasciitis. But he's gotten a little rest ahead of October, which is historically where he's been most in the zone. This is what the Twins signed him for.
6. Jorge Polanco has the clutch factor.
Correa's clutchness on the big stage is legendary, but Polanco has an overlooked reputation of his own in this regard. In his career, Polo has a .909 OPS with runners in scoring position – 190 points higher than with bases empty. He hit .300/.380/.467 this year in "high leverage" spots.
Polanco's got the kind of makeup you want on the big stage, and he's a matchup-proof switch-hitter, effective from both sides. Assuming the ankle soreness that sidelined him in Colorado is not a major issue, Polanco is an underrated potential difference-maker for the offense.
7. Max Kepler is healthy and playing the best ball of his career.
The only other time Kepler has approximated his production from this season was 2019. He was a force to be reckoned with that year, to be sure, but as you may recall Kepler was extremely banged up heading into the playoffs; he missed a bunch of time in September and only hit .171/.293/.200 with one extra-base hit that month. The right fielder's fruitless ALDS performance (0-for-10) was a mere continuation of that trend.
This year we'd love to see Kepler continue his trend from the second half, where he's slashing .292/.364/.529. He appears fully healthy as the playoffs arise and he looks to improve upon his .056 lifetime average there.
8. Jhoan Duran instills fear in opposing hitters.
We all know how important power arms near the back end of the bullpen are for postseason success. These are the moments that separate the greats – the true dominators who are able to handle the pressure and win pressure-packed match-ups.
Duran hasn't been perfect this year but he's been damn good and he's got the kind of premium stuff that overpowers in the playoffs. He's also, importantly, been able to rest up a bit over the past couple of weeks.
9. Rocco Baldelli is a master tactician.
People will probably dispute this one. Whatever. Baldelli navigated his team to an 87-season and easily clinched a division title despite receiving very little value from franchise cornerstones Correa and Byron Buxton. For all the complaints about his pitching staff management, Baldelli's team allowed the fewest runs in the American League. He has the best career winning percentage of any Twins manager since the 1970s.
Say what you will about Rocco Baldelli: he's a winner. He hasn't been one in the playoffs, yet, but then, he's never had quite so many healthy and high-caliber tools at his disposal.
10. Donnie Barrels is lurking.
Doesn't Donovan Solano just seem like the kind of guy who will delight us with a few unforgettable postseason moments? The veteran has been rock-solid for the Twins all year, consistently coming through with quality at-bats and key hits.
When the moment is big, Solano answers the call. With RISP this year he hit .346/.490/.500 and in high-leverage situations, .303/.448/.434.
11. Willi Castro is a premier postseason bench weapon.
The minor-league signing made a major impact for the Twins all year long thanks to his versatility, athleticism, solid switch-hitting bat, and elite base-stealing ability. These same qualities make him a dynamic asset off the bench for postseason play, flexibly capable of fulfilling a variety of important in-game functions.
Castro leads a bench that is, on balance, an under-discussed strength for the postseason Twins, and far better equipped than past units.
12. Pablo Lopez is a strikeout machine.
Strikeout pitchers tend to be more reliable performers in the playoffs – they are less susceptible to the whims of fate on batted balls – and Pablo's been one of the best in this regard.
One of the best in baseball this year, and one of the best in Twins history.
Lopez's 234 strikeouts this year rank him second in the American League and his 10.8 K/9 rate is tops for any Minnesota starter ever. When on his game, he's shown the ability to straight-up mow through opposing lineups, who are helpless against an arsenal with three different pitches registering 30%+ whiff rates.
13. Brock Stewart is back!
Like a disappeared Avengers character, Stewart has returned just in time for the climactic end game, as the Twins welcome him back with open arms. Firing upper-90s filth with precision, the reinvented veteran reliever left opponents helpless during his splashy debut in May and June, rising near the top of the bullpen hierarchy. He out-pitched every Minnesota reliever, including Duran.
Stewart was sidelined midseason by elbow soreness, and as he experienced multiple setbacks in his recovery, it looked like a return wasn't in the cards this year. But he made it, one week ahead of the playoffs. He adds critical high-leverage firepower in front of Duran.
14. Kenta Maeda is a proven postseason weapon.
He gets overlooked with all the hype around Lopez and Gray, and even No. 3 starter Joe Ryan, but Maeda has more experience and success in the playoffs than any other pitcher on this team. He started Game 1 of the ALWC series for Minnesota in 2020, hurling five shutout innings, and was previously used by the Dodgers as a high-performing relief fixture during several deep postseason runs.
Maeda heads into October looking very sharp, with a 2.82 ERA in his four September starts and a strong first relief outing.
15. Bullpen boasts multi-inning relievers who can shove.
Relief pitchers who can reliably come in and pitch well over multiple innings – bridging from a short-ish start to the top arms in the bullpen – are incredibly valuable in the playoffs. Maeda figures to be one of at least three such candidates that Baldelli will have at his disposal.
Louie Varland has looked spectacular since assuming this new role for the first time, bumping up the quality of his stuff and blowing hitters away with a 1.50 ERA and 17-to-1 K/BB rate in 12 relief innings. Chris Paddack has entered the fold with premium high-90s stuff, adding a third power/length hybrid to this suddenly deep relief corps.
16. The youth wave seems unfazed by pressure.
It's too soon to say how the Twins' historic rookie hitting class will handle the big lights in October, but they've certainly handled the stakes of transitioning to the big leagues with aplomb, which bodes well. We've already covered Lewis, but Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner have also played huge roles in the offense's second-half surge, and will be counted on to spark the postseason lineup. They're gonna give right-handed pitchers nightmares.
17. Alex Kirilloff is a sleeping giant.
He's not been talked about as much, with all the attention to Lewis and the rookies, but it's worth remembering that a healthy Kirilloff is perhaps the most talented hitter in this lineup. Right now he looks healthy. In his final 10 games, AK slugged three homers as appeared to dial in his power stroke at just the right time.
18. The Twins team heading into the playoffs is not the same one from the first half.
The biggest reason people are inclined to dismiss the Twins, aside from the general postseason reputation the franchise has earned: they were an 87-win team out of a bad division. Good enough to make the playoffs, sure, but good enough to hang with the true juggernauts of the American League?
Absolutely. Minnesota's underwhelming final record is heavily influenced by their perpetual mediocrity in the first half, and it's hardly pollyannaish to declare that it was a simply a different team back then. Since the All-Star break, they've played at a 96-win pace, with the best record of any AL team other than No. 1 seed Baltimore.
The Twins, in their current form, should absolutely be viewed as one of the best teams in the league. Will they play up to that standard in the next two or three days? That remains to be seen. But there are a whole bunch of reasons to believe that this is the year Minnesota snaps its ignominious streak and doesn't stop there.
I believe. We believe. Now let's go do it.
gman reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Embarrassment of Pitches: Twins Have Arms to Carry Them in October
It's a common trope that pitching wins in the MLB playoffs. (Much like in football, defense wins champions.)
The truth is that pitching helps, of course, but it's only half the battle. You've got to score runs to have a chance, as the Twins have learned the hard way numerous times – including their most recent postseason trip, in which they scored one run in each of their two losses against Houston.
The Twins have reason to feel good about their playoff offense this year, especially if they can get Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis back. They've got even more reason to feel good about their pitching, thanks to a four-deep stable of high-quality starters who've all pitched at an All-Star level when healthy.
Much has rightfully been made of the leading duo, Pablo López and Sonny Gray, who were on actual All-Stars in July and have both been pitching like bona fide aces ever since. No matter what stat or metric you want to use, these two have both been among the league's best starting pitchers this season. For example, Gray leads the AL in fWAR and López ranks sixth. Both are among the top 10 in ERA.
These are elite, ace-caliber pitchers, and whichever team faces the Twins will need to win a game started by at least one of them. A tall order.
There are some other playoff teams with impressive two-headed monsters in the rotation, though. Seattle has Luis Castillo and George Kirby. Toronto has Kevin Gausman and José Berríos.
What really differentiates the Twins is their rotation prowess beyond their top two. Joe Ryan and Kenta Maeda might look on the surface like fairly standard No. 3 and No. 4 starter types on a playoff team, based on their aggregate numbers. However, I think we can fairly say their aggregate numbers do not tell the full story.
On the season, Ryan is 11-10 with a 4.31 ERA in 28 starts. Nothing special, pretty much the epitome of an average starter.
However, as fans who've been following the team all year know, Ryan revealed in early August that he'd been pitching through a groin injury, which he says first flared up weeks earlier ahead of a (brutal) start in Atlanta. He went on the injured list for about three weeks and returned near the end of August.
Prior to the Atlanta start, Ryan was 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA and eight homers allowed in 15 starts. Since returning from the IL, he's 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA and four homers allowed in six starts. In between, while ostensibly being bothered by the injury, he was 1-4 with an 8.63 ERA and 17 home runs allowed in seven starts.
Now I recognize it is often convenient for players to pin their struggles on a supposed injury in hindsight. But here, the explanation really checks out. Ryan was a radically different pitcher during the time he admittedly hid a physical issue from the team, and it shows clearly in the numbers. The home run totals are most conspicuous; Ryan gave up multiple homers five times during that seven-game span, and has done so only twice in his other 21 starts.
If the real Joe Ryan is the one we saw during his 21 healthy starts – during which he posted a 3.16 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 with 12 home runs allowed in 124 innings – that's a legitimate frontline starter, and easily the best No. 3 any team could hope to boast this October, statistically.
Despite all this, Ryan has hardly been viewed as a lock as Minnesota's third playoff starter ... because Maeda has been making such a strong case.
Maeda was, of course, Minnesota's Game 1 starter last time they reached the playoffs, fresh off a Cy Young runner-up season. He came through brilliantly on that occasion, tossing five shutout innings against the Astros.
It's been a long road since then. Maeda battled elbow soreness in 2021, underwent Tommy John surgery, missed all of 2022, and returned this year with a rough landing in April. Coming off an 18-month hiatus, Maeda's arm clearly wasn't quite ready for the rigors of live action. The Twins shut him down for a few weeks, brought him back in late June, and he's been a different pitcher ever since.
In 16 starts since coming off the IL, Maeda is 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. Again, that's frontline starter material, and not dissimilar to the type of performance we saw from the veteran right-hander in 2020. Any other year in history the Twins would be thrilled to start a guy like this in almost any playoff game – now the rotation is so strong one-through-three that Maeda is being prepped as a reliever, ready to provide multiple quality innings on call. (At least in the first round.)
It's easy to feel confident in him for that role, given that Maeda has fulfilled it effectively in several postseasons past with the Dodgers. But it'd also be easy to feel confident in him as a third or fourth starter, and the Twins might need Maeda in that capacity if they advance.
That's what is really exciting about the opportunity in front of this team. The Twins have a favorable situation in the ALWC round, where they can deploy those four – in front of a bullpen that's growing more formidable through season-ending additions – across three games at home. Once you get past the first round (novel concept, I know), Minnesota's rotation depth becomes a much more decisive competitive edge. If they want to, they can even add Bailey Ober, whose 3.66 ERA in 132 innings would make him a clear-cut No. 3 or even No. 2 starter on most playoff staffs.
Starting pitching is without question the signature strength that propelled Minnesota to the playoffs this year, leading the American League in fWAR and ranking second in ERA. This strength offers the best reason to think they can not only snap their losing streak but make a fairly deep run.
You just don't find playoff teams with this many starting pitching weapons very often. As the playoffs arrive, they're all clicking.
gman reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, How the Twins' Best Player Reveals Their Biggest Postseason Concern
Twins Daily writers and contributors recently received their annual end-of-September request to fill out awards ballots for the concluding campaign. As always, the first question: Who was the Twins MVP this year?
There have been times in the past where that question felt difficult to answer. This year presents an especially vexing conundrum.
Royce Lewis probably made the biggest impact while on the field. But he only played 58 games. Max Kepler was probably the single most instrumental player in the offense's second-half resurgence. But he was also downright horrible in the first half.
Edouard Julien, Ryan Jeffers and Willi Castro also have cases, but they are at best incomplete cases.
The most straightforward and obvious answer, when you take all the narratives out of it, is Sonny Gray. Spoiler alert – he was at the top of my ballot.
For me, it's as simple as this: Gray was the best performer on the team, and by a considerable margin. He easily led all Twins players in fWAR and bWAR, more than doubling any position player in either category. In fact, Gray ranked third in the major leagues according to both mainstream valuation metrics. His ERA is third-lowest in baseball, and he's been especially lights-out as the Twins have sewn it up down the stretch, with a 2.01 ERA and 2.72 FIP in 10 August/September starts.
A pretty open-and-shut case, until you start asking yourself what "valuable" means. Because here's the thing: Despite his brilliance, the Twins have gone just 14-17 in Gray's starts. That's a .452 winning percentage compared to .552 in games where he didn't appear.
Does that mean his performance was "less valuable"? Not at all, which is why I've never prescribed to this model of thinking in evaluating baseball's Most Valuable Player. The sport, by nature, limits the impact of individual contributions, making it all too easy for superlative performances to be offset and outweighed once the dust settles. Just ask Shohei Ohtani!
I'm not breaking any new ground here, but the subject feels highly relevant as we look ahead to the Twins hosting a best-of-three Wild Card Series at Target Field, as they did three years ago when we saw the very same example play out.
Facing a Houston Astros team that could very well be returning to Minneapolis next week, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios delivered the kinds of performances you almost ideally hope for from this year's stacked playoff rotation. They combined for 10 innings of one-run ball, doing all they could to set up the offense and bullpen for streak-shattering success.
It wasn't enough. Successive afternoons saw the same script play out, with Minnesota's sleepy offense leaving the door wide open for late rallies by the Astros against the Twins bullpen. 4-1, 3-1. Within barely 24 hours, the whole ride was over.
For that matter, it was the same story last time Target Field hosted a playoff game before that, one year earlier, when Jake Odorizzi tossed five solid innings against the Yankees in a 5-1 elimination loss.
If you don't score, it doesn't matter how well you pitch. This cold truth has haunted the Twins in October, with just five total runs scored in their last four postseason games hosted at Target Field.
Memories of such failure and futility were evoked on Saturday as the Twins, fresh off celebrating their clinched division title Friday night, wasted a stellar performance from Gray in a 1-0 loss. Under the circumstances it was nothing all that meaningful or worrisome, but given how many times we've seen a similar story play out with Gray this year – and with the Minnesota Twins in postseasons past – no one could be blamed for finding the experience a rather ominous follow-up to the climactic high point of the season.
gman reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Short-Season Minor-League Hitter of the Year - 2023
The Twins' regular season is coming to a successful end with a division title. The Cedar Rapids Kernels won the Midwest League championship. It's been a good year throughout the Twins minor league system, from St. Paul to the Dominican Summer League.
Today, we begin our 2023 Awards series by looking at the top hitters from the two Twins short-season affiliates. We considered stats from the two Complex leagues, the Florida Complex League and the Dominican Summer League. These leagues are for the players just beginning their journey in professional baseball. Regarding prospect status, the stats are less meaningful than they are as players move up. But we want to celebrate those players who did put up substantial numbers.
Before we get into the hitters that impressed this season, here are the previous winners of this award:
2016: Lewin Diaz
2017: Akil Baddoo
2018: Chris Williams
2019: Matt Wallner
2021: Kala'i Rosario
2022: Jose Rodriguez
The Twins Daily minor league writers and videographers were asked to vote for these awards. Below, we will share information on the Top 6 hitters, but first, here are some Honorable Mention hitters that received votes.
Others Receiving Votes
OF Ariel Castro, 17 - DSL Twins - 44 G, 33-160, .206/.323/.375 (.698), 7-2B, 4-3B, 4-HR, 24 RBI, 24 BB, 63 K. OF Byron Chourio, 18 - FCL Twins - 24 G, 22-84, .262/.415/.298 (713), 3-2B, 11 RBI, 20 BB, 19 K. OF Walker Jenkins, 18 - FCL Twins - 14 G, 18-54, .333/.390/.537 (.927), 3-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K. IF Endy Rodriguez, 20 - FCL Twins - 16 G, 12-41, .293/.453/.634 (1.087), 6-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 10 RBI, 10 BB, 20 K. C/1B Javier Roman, 20 - DSL Twins - 42 G, 28-99, .283/.374/.414 (.788), 7-2B, 2-HR, 19 RBI, 14 BB, 20 K. SS/CF Brandon Winokur, 18 - FCL Twins - 17 G, 19-66, .288/.338/.545 (.833), 5-2B, 4-HR, 17 RBI, 4 BB, 23 K. Short Season Hitter of the Year
Here are the top six players for the Twins Daily Hitter of the Year, leading up to the choice for Short-Season Minor-League Hitter of the Year.
T5. OF Jose Rodriguez, 18, FCL Twins
49 G, 49-187, .262/.325/.412 (.737), 10-2B, 6-HR, 23 RBI, 18 BB, 41 K.
The Twins signed Rodriguez in January 2021 from Nizao in the Dominican Republic. He debuted last year in the DSL and was the choice for Twins Daily Short-Season Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2022. In 55 games, he hit .290/.361/.605 (.966) with 15 doubles, three triples, and 13 home runs. He was also 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts. He has been a consensus Top 20 Twins prospect throughout the 2023 season. As you can see, he didn't match those DSL numbers, but he did show power and even reduced his strikeout rate slightly. This season, he mostly played right field, but he also played left field and even nine games at first base.
T5. OF Jayson Bass, 17, DSL Twins
46 G, 44-143, .308/.406/.378, 5-2B, 1-3B, 1-HR, 16 RBI, 22 BB, 24 K.
Bass signed this February as a 16-year-old from Los Mochis, Mexico. He was a DSL All-Star in his professional debut. He played in 46 games in the outfield. Thirty-seven of those were in right field. He played nine games in left field and one game in center field. Bass got a fast start, hitting .349 in 18 June games. While he didn't match that productivity, he stayed above .300 and did a nice job putting the ball in play.
4. IF Isaac Pena, 19, FCL Twins
44 G, 39-139, .281/.388/.381 (.769), 5-2B, 3-3B, 1-HR, 17 RBI, 24 BB, 28 K.
The Twins signed Pena in December of 2021 out of Monte Plata, in the Dominican Republic. He made his pro debut in the DSL in 2022 and was quite impressive. Pena played in 46 games and hit .341/.432/.434 (.866) with four doubles and four triples. While he didn't match his DSL batting average, he was solid at the higher level and maintained his walk rate and isolated power. One area he improved upon was base stealing. In 2022, he had four steals in 14 attempts. This season, he was a perfect 11-for-11. Pena played all four infield positions but made the most starts at third base, followed by shortstop.
3. IF Moises Lopez, 17, DSL Twins
46 G, 39-145, .269/.379/.462 (.841), 7-2B, 3-3B, 5-HR, 32 RBI, 22 BB, 52 K.
Lopez was another member of the Twins international signing class from January 2023. At 17, he stands 6-1 and 170 pounds, but he's got the frame to continue growing. The Twins signed him out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In his professional debut in the DSL, he solely played third base, and he has a lot of development to make to be adequate there. However, offensively, he showed the ability to take walks, and his 15 extra-base hits are impressive. Five home runs in the DSL is outstanding. In addition, he was 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts. While he will need to improve defensively and cut down on the strikeouts, there is a lot of talent for the Twins development staff to work with.
2. C/IF Daniel Pena, 18, FCL Twins
34 G, 27-97 .278/.376/.474, 4-2B, 5-HR, 23 RBI, 15 BB, 14 K.
Pena signed with the Twins in January of 2022 from Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He debuted in 2022 in the DSL and hit .304/.403/.378 (.781) with seven doubles and 22 RBI. He came to the States this season and proved he belonged. He played 21 games behind the plate and 13 at first base. He is a work-in-progress at both spots. Offensively, he hit for a decent average, walked more than he struck out, and showed off some home-run power. Will he continue to develop all of those aspects of his game?
1. 2B Dameury Pena, 18, DSL Twins
39 G, 47-123, .382/.453/.496 (.949), 8-2B, 3-3B, 16 RBI, 14 BB, 9 K.
A couple of years ago, the start of the international signing period shifted from July 2nd to January 15th. Every year, we hear and read about big-name 16-year-old players from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and other countries. The Twins signed three players in January to seven-digit bonuses. However, the organization signed a couple dozen international free agents each year, many to bonuses below six figures. Remember, Luis Arraez didn't get a six-figure signing bonus when he signed.
One of those players who signed this past January with few noticing is infielder Dameury Pena. For 2023, he stood out as the top performer in an exciting class. He hit well. He was a DSL All-Star. He has earned recognition as Twins Daily's choice for Short-Season Hitter of the Year.
His .382 batting average was the best on the DSL Twins by .076. His .453 on-base percentage was .047 higher than any of his teammates. His .496 slugging percentage was .034 higher than others on the team. Finally, his .949 OPS was .108 higher than anyone else on the roster. He led the team with 47 hits in 139 plate appearances, and he had just nine strikeouts, the lowest on the team. The next five DSL Twins on the fewest strikeouts list all had under 90 plate appearances.
To summarize, Dameury Pena really impressed in his first professional appearance. He stands at about 5-9 (listed at 5-10) and may or may not weigh over 150 pounds. However, he is really strong. He can put the ball in play, not just by slapping the ball. He does a nice job of getting a lot of barrels and hits the ball hard.
Bryce Berg is finishing his second season as the organization's Minor League Hitting Coordinator. Regarding Pena, he said, "Dameury has an impressive contact ability and showed a good eye for the strike zone this year being aggressive on pitches in the heart of the plate and doing a solid job laying off pitches outside the zone. This helped DaMeury carry an average walk rate and a well better than average strikeout rate in addition to a good ability to collect hits and hit for a high average when he got good pitches to hit in the zone. I only had a chance to be around Dameury once at the beginning of the year and will see him again in about a month, but our staff raves about the way he plays the game, how hard he works, and his overall competitiveness."
Pena just turned 18 following the DSL season. Who knows? He may become the next Luis Arraez in the Twins organization. If you were wondering, a 17-year-old Arraez hit .348/.433/.400 (.833), with six doubles in 2014. Like Arraez, Pena's best defensive position might be DH, but there will be lots of development when it takes him to earn six more promotions. For now, we recognize a fantastic season for Dameury Pena.
Drew MacPhail was named the Twins' Director of Player Development after the 2022 season. When asked about Pena, MacPhail noted that he did an "incredible job of controlling the zone this year at the DSL level. Dameury had the sixth lowest K% out of qualified batters in the DSL with at least 50 plate appearances. He paired that with an average exit velo three mph harder than the average exit velo in the league. He has a bright future in the organization!"
There you have it. Congratulations to Dameury Pena and each of the players above on terrific 2023 seasons.
For more Twins Daily content on these players, click on the following links:
Dameury Pena, Daniel Pena, Moises Lopez, Isaac Pena, Jayson Bass, Jose Rodriguez, Ariel Castro, Byron Chourio, Walker Jenkins, Endy Rodriguez, Javier Roman, Brandon Winokur.
gman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, What to Make of the Twins Arraez-for-Lopez Trade Now
When the Minnesota Twins decided to send Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins it was not because they thought that Rocco Baldelli’s lineup couldn’t use him. The Twins second baseman was a fan-favorite, and he was coming off winning an American League batting title. Despite looking like the second coming of Rod Carew, questions about defense and health tipped the scales just enough for the front office to dangle him out there.
A deal between the Marlins and Twins came together over quite some time, and the sides talked about different constructions of a fit for a while. With the Twins offense seemingly in a good place, the front office decided that Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Kenta Maeda needed some help in the starting rotation. Pablo Lopez was viewed as a talent that had projectable upside, and the organization doubled-down by signing him to a four-year extension that kicks in during the 2024 season.
So far it’s hard to say that the sides didn’t get exactly what they were looking for. Miami is watching Arraez trend towards another batting title while having been named an All-Star for the second consecutive season, and the Twins are seeing Lopez pitch like something of a Cy Young candidate. Rather than view the deal just through the lens of a Minnesota trade though, I wanted to get a Marlins perspective. Ely Sussman of Fish on First covers Miami closely, and had plenty of thoughts to share about the new Marlins infielder.
Twins Daily: Having watched Arraez for a full season, what are your thoughts on him as a player and how do they compare to what you believed you were getting?
Ely Sussman: I was optimistic about Arraez continuing to be more or less the same player he had been with the Twins, and he has instead elevated his game a notch. I was concerned about his durability given his history of knee issues, but he's been available for the Marlins practically every day. Although his defensive metrics at second base have been a mixed bag, I have observed something close to league-average performance from him there. Arraez has shown good hands and a knack for making accurate, off-balance throws when necessary. Last but not least, he is very well-liked by his Marlins teammates and proactive about sharing advice with them. He has helped change the clubhouse chemistry for the better, which was sorely needed after losing 93 games the season before.
TD: Moving Jazz Chisholm to centerfield was part of the Arraez acquisition. How has the Marlins defense benefitted or been hurt by the new construction?
ES: Outside of a few April bloopers, Chisholm's transition to center field has been a success. He's been enough of an upgrade over Miami's 2022 centerfield options to mostly offset the drop-off in defense from Chisholm to Arraez at second base. However, the addition of Arraez also stranded free agent signing Jean Segura at third base, where he had limited experience. That went horribly and may have contributed to his struggles at the plate. Segura was among the worst everyday players in the majors before the Marlins dumped him at the trade deadline. Overall, the Marlins have been in the middle of the pack defensively, which is slightly worse than 2022, but that step back is due to other personnel changes rather than Arraez.
TD: Arraez brought a few years of team control with him to Miami whereas the Twins immediately extended Pablo Lopez. Do you see a longer term deal getting done with the Marlins?
ES: When Arraez was hitting .400-something throughout much of the first half, there was concern that he had played himself out of the Marlins' price range! The silver lining of his second-half regression is he now seems more realistically extendable for them. It is tricky to find relevant comps for Arraez given his old-school batted ball profile, but I estimate that the average annual value of an extension would be less than Pablo's $18.4 million. Perhaps a DJ LeMahieu-like deal (6/$90M) would get it done. There is a good chance of Arraez being signed long term, especially if Jorge Soler departs via free agency and vacates the designated hitter spot.
TD: Year one has included a second straight All-Star appearance and Arraez is trending toward another batting title. Has the production been better than expected?
ES: His production has exceeded expectations, yes. Even with MLB's restriction of the infield shift, it's astounding to see somebody hitting in the mid-.300s and consistently coming through in late-game situations, too. There are still things to nitpick about Arraez like his occasional over-aggressiveness, his inability to steal bases, and the frequency with which he grounds into double plays. But he is very valuable just as he is.
TD: Missing Lopez in the rotation, has the presence of a missing starter been felt? Has Arraez's production in the lineup made that worth it?
ES: López has been sorely missed. Sandy Alcantara's fall from Cy Young winner to ordinary innings eater has been well-documented. Also, the Marlins entered the season with both Johnny Cueto and Trevor Rogers in their starting rotation. Not only did they both suffer injuries in April, but then suffered additional, unrelated injuries while pitching in minor league rehab games. Cueto didn't return until the All-Star break and Rogers still hasn't made it back. The Marlins were relatively thin on upper-minors rotation depth and that was exposed by those unlucky breaks. I would still say that Arraez has made up for the absence of López. Miami's bullpen has thrived in clutch situations to cover up for some of the rotation's limitations.
TD: Simply, would you do the deal again, why or why not?
ES: It's a fascinating "what if" because it depends on whether I am tethered to Bruce Sherman's modest budget. The main reason that the Marlins shopped López is because of how his future salary would impact their flexibility to address other roster needs, rooted in ownership's lack of willingness to spend. This club understandably prioritizes veteran hitters over veteran pitchers because they've had much more success developing cheap pitching internally. An aspect of the trade that I strongly disliked was the inclusion of prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio. Salas was one of the few Marlins hitting prospects who had a path toward becoming a big league regular, but it turns out that his 2023 campaign was a nightmare, making that ceiling seem less attainable. If I'm stuck living in a universe where the Marlins operate with a small-market mentality, I would do the deal again. If I have the freedom to imagine the Marlins spending as much as the Twins do on payroll, then I would have kept and extended López and upgraded the lineup by shopping younger arms instead.
It’s interesting to see what the other side thinks, because even with Lopez’s performance, there are plenty of Twins fans that still miss Arraez. Even with the emergence of Edouard Julien, the Twins lack a true average hitter and Arraez had the ability to set the table on a nightly basis.
What is your takeaway from this deal? Would you still make the trade? How have you felt about Pablo in year one?
gman reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, Twins Minor League Week in Review (9/4-9/10): Stars Shine in System
Read all about the Twins week in Nick’s Week in Review.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints
Overall: 36-27 (4-2 last week) in the second half; In first place in the IL West by 1.5 games; tied for fourth place in the International League. Overview: The Saints made a little progress, but thanks to losing to last two games are running out of time if they want to make the playoffs. 🔥: Trevor Larnach . Again! Eight hits in 23 at-bats. Four doubles and two home runs. Seven strikeouts, but six walks. 🔥: Bailey Ober made his first AAA start after his demotion. He threw five one-run innings, allowing three hits and struck out three. 🔥: Simeon Woods Richardson has had quite a year. He's still young, but the shine has faded. This week, though, he was really good. He struck out five in six innings, allowing only one run on four hits and a walk. 🤔: Yunior Severino hit three more home runs this week and has 32 total home runs on the season. But struck out 10 times in 23 at-bats. 🥶: Jordan Balazovic walked five and allowed three hits in 2 1/3 innings. 🥶: Hernan Perez was the hitter of the week two weeks ago. This week he was 2-for-15 with six strikeouts. What's Next: A road-trip to Iowa (31-31) followed by a season-closing series hosting Toledo (32-31). Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge
Overall: 34-29 (2-4 last week) in the second half and have dropped behind Springfield in the division. Overview: A one-game deficit with six games to go. The Wind Surge have to play their best baseball to make the playoffs. 🔥: Yoyner Fajardo led the team with seven hits, two triples and four walks. He also doubled twice and stole a base. 🔥: Marco Raya struck out three in 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Curtis Taylor (5 1/3 IP, H, BB, 5 K) and Isaac Mattson (4 2/3, BB, 8 K) where great in multiple relief appearances. Pierson Ohl gave up a home run among four hits, and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings. 🔥: Seth Gray led the team with two home runs and five runs batted in. 🥶: Aaron Rozek was very good two weeks ago, but last week struggled. He only retired two batters and allowed three hits, including two home runs. 🥶: Patrick Winkel had one hit in 16 at-bats. Will Holland had one hit in eight at-bats. What's Next: A cold stretch has Wichita on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The Wind Surge will host Midland (34-29) while Springfield (35-28) goes to San Antonio (30-33). High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Overall: 42-24 (2-4 last week) in the second half, six games ahead of Peoria. Overview: The regular season concludes with the Kernels sporting the best full-season record in the Midwest League (82-50). 🔥: Not a lot of big weeks for the Kernels hitters. Luke Keaschall led the team with six hits (including two home runs). Kala'i Rosario also had two home runs (but struck out 10 times). 🔥: Cory Lewis went five innings, striking out three and walking two, allowing only one hit. 🤔: Jose Salas had five hits last week. He barely batted over .200, but five hits, including a home run and double, is at least worth mentioning. 🥶: C.J. Culpepper gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks in two innings. 🥶: Jorel Ortega (1-for-16), Keoni Cavaco (1-for-10), Carson McCusker (1-for-11) and Andrew Cossetti (0-for-9) combined to strike out 22 times this past week. What's Next: The Kernels will take their four-game losing streak to Peoria for Game 1 on Tuesday. They will host the remainder of the best-of-three series later in the week. Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
Overall: 33-32 (2-4 last week) in the second half, finishing 10.5 games behind Lakeland. 😍: Walker Jenkins may have completed his first professional season. He was 6-for-19 with two triples on the week. He drove in and scored four runs. 🔥: Jay Harry and Nate Baez had good weeks. Harry had seven hits and Baez led the team with eight hits and eight runs batted in. 🔥: Matt Gabbert made his first start at Low-A, and it went extremely well. He allowed one hit and two walks in five shutout innings. He struck out six. 😏: Chris Paddack and Jorge Alcala both made rehab appearances. 🥶: Ty Langenberg gave up two runs in 1 2/3 innings. Develson Aria gave up two runs while recording only one out. Juan Mendez, Juan Mercedes and Jack Noble all gave up two home runs. 🥶: The Kyle Schmidt hitless streak has reached a third week. Seven more hitless at-bats with one strikeout. (But his pitching!!) PROSPECT SUMMARY
This Prospect Summary shows our current Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings and how they performed last week. The Prospect Tracker will be updated periodically throughout the season. Notice that these pages now include stats and splits, as well as past article links, video and more. Season-long stats will be in parenthesis.
20. Brent Headrick, LHP, Minnesota: Recalled to the Twins bullpen. (1.43 WHIP, .256 BAA ), St. Paul: (1.36 WHIP, .263 BAA). 19. Cory Lewis, RHP, Cedar Rapids: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, H, 2 BB, 3 K (1.06 WHIP, .198 BAA). 18. Jose Rodriguez, OF, FCL Twins: (.262/.325/.412. .737 OPS) 17. Danny De Andrade, SS, Fort Myers: 4-17, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, K, SB, CS. (.244/.354/.396. .750 OPS), played five games (90 total games) at shortstop and committed two errors in 18 chances (15 errors in 326 total chances). Previously played one game at third base and had no errors in four chances. 16. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 3.86 ERA, 2.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 5 BB. (1.75 WHIP, .270 BAA); Minnesota: (1.56 WHIP, .274 BAA). 15. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, St. Paul: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 4 H, ER, HRA, BB, 5 K (1.50 WHIP, .253 BAA); Minnesota: (1.56 WHIP, .274 BAA). 14. Yunior Severino, 3B, St. Paul: 5-23, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, 10 K. (AA/AAA combined .277/.353/.550. .903 OPS). 13. Kala'i Rosario, OF, Cedar Rapids: 4-22, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 10 K. (.252/.364/.467. .831 OPS). 12. Yasser Mercedes, OF, FCL Twins: (.196/.248/.381. .629 OPS) 11. Connor Prielipp, LHP, Cedar Rapids: Prielipp underwent season-ending elbow surgery. (1.75 WHIP, .294 BAA) 10. Luke Keaschall, 2B, Cedar Rapids: 6-24, 2B,, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB, K. (rookie/l-A/h-A combined .288/.414/.477. .891 OPS), played four games (24 total) at second base and committed two errors in 22 chances (three errors in 83 total chances), played one game in centerfield (four games total) and committed no errors in no chances (no errors in two total chances), and played one game at third base (two total) and committed no errors in one chance (one error in three total chances). 9. Brandon Winokur, OF, FCL Twins: (.288/.338/.545. .883 OPS), played nine games at shortstop and committed two errors in 34 chances and played seven games at centerfield and committed no errors in 19 chances. 8. Tanner Schobel, INF, Wichita: 5-18, RBI, 2 BB, 3 K. (high-A/AA combined .267/.357/.433. .790 OPS), played four games (54 total) at second base and committed no errors in 12 chances (9 errors in 212 total chances), played one game (58 total) at third base and committed no errors in one chance (four errors in 115 total chances), played two games (five total) at shortstop and committed no errors in six chances (no errors in 14 total chances). 7. Austin Martin, 2B/OF, St. Paul: 6-19, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K. (rehab/AAA combined .266/.376/.409. .785 OPS), played one game (11 total) in centerfield and committed one error in four chances (one error in 28 total chances), played three games (36 total) at second base and committed no errors in 9 chances (four errors in 144 total chances), played two games (11 total) in left field and committed no errors in six chance (no errors in 27 total chances). 6. David Festa, RHP, St. Paul: 0-0, 3.86 ERA, 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 6 BB 6 K. (AAA/AA combined 1.37 WHIP, .244 BAA) 5. Charlee Soto, RHP: Did not pitch. 4. Marco Raya, RHP, Wichita: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 K. (AA/Hi-A combined 1.11 WHIP, .205 BAA) 3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Cedar Rapids: 3-13, 3B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 7 BB, 6 K. (.240/.400/.463. .863 OPS) 2. Walker Jenkins, OF, Fort Myers: 6-19, 2 3B, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K, SB, CS. (FCL/low-A combined .362/.417/.571. .988 OPS) 1. Brooks Lee, SS, St. Paul: 4-19, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 6 BB, 3 K. (AA/AAA combined .282/.357/.470. .827 OPS), played four games (103 total) at shortstop and committed no errors in 20 chances (18 errors in 430 total chances) and played one game (six total) at third base and committed no errors in three chances (one error in 14 chances total chances). DESTINATION: The Show
In this week's episode, Jeremy and JD chat with Carlos Collazo, prospect guru at Baseball America. Lots of Twins talk, especially regarding their 2023 draft class. Below is a quick out-take from the show. Click here to watch the full episode. You can find Destination: The Show on all major podcast platforms including Spotify, iTunes, iHeartRadio and Amazon Music. The show is available on Libsyn, our podcasting platform, in addition to Youtube.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
HITTER - Trevor Larnach, St. Paul
CO-PITCHERS - Isaac Mattson, Wichita and Cory Lewis, Cedar Rapids
gman reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Minnesota Twins Are Poised to Reign Over the AL Central
Watching events unfold on Monday and Tuesday night at Progressive Field was no doubt a painful experience for Guardians fans. The Twins obliterated Cleveland by a combined score of 28-9, sealing up the division in uncontested fashion as the hapless home team endured one of the most embarrassing high-stakes beatdowns I've ever seen.
But that's only the start of it.
On Tuesday night, the Twins effectively sewed up their third division title in five years. Based on the landscape of the American League Central, there are likely going to be more on the way.
For Guards fans, getting shoved all over their home yard in the biggest series of the year was bad enough. But worse yet, these blowouts were being driven by emerging young stars, set to power the Twins offense for years to come.
Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner have been leading the charge for a revitalized Minnesota offense, which obviously bodes very well for the future.
On the same day, Brooks Lee launched a grand slam at Class-AAA St. Paul, while Walker Jenkins tripled and walked twice at Class-A Ft. Myers, improving his OPS to 1.192. Those two currently rank 18th and 16th on MLB.com's list of global top prospects, and it'd no surprise to see one or both reach the top 10 next spring.
Going through a pair of losing seasons (2021-2022) sucks, but for the Twins, it yielded two of the most heralded young talents in the game.
On the other side of the clobbering in Cleveland, a much bleaker outlook is taking shape. Legendary manager Terry Francona has made clear he is retiring at year's end. A major turnover is about to take hold, and based on the front office's 'sell' moves at the deadline – dealing two quality vets who were under control for 2024 – they don't seem inclined to make a push next year.
Cleveland will surely continue to pump out solid young arms, but as we've seen this year, that's not enough on its own. Their system lacks the star power of the Twins, and their present club can't remotely contend with Minnesota's young talent nucleus.
Despite their major flaws and question marks, the Guardians still seem like the most credible short-term threat in the division. Detroit's supposed emergence from the darkness was derailed this year as they fell flat again, heading toward a seventh straight sub-.500 finish. They have some promising young players but in reality it's shown no signs of coming together. (Aside from when they're playing the Twins, that is.)
The White Sox just zapped their front office as they crawl toward the end of a disaster campaign that currently has them 30 games under .500. The contention window they built toward by trading their stars and enduring seven years of cellar-dwelling resulted in one division title and zero postseason advancements; now they're back to the drawing board.
In classic Sox fashion, Chicago conducted no meaningful outside search for fresh outside leadership and hired Chris Getz internally. A culture shakeup!
We don't even really need to talk about the Kansas City Royals. I'm truly glad they got that title in 2015 because their fans deserve it, based on the endless purgatory they've endured before and since. This sad rudderless franchise, trudging through another 100-loss season, has no real hope of a turnaround in the remotely near future.
Realistically, is there anything that can happen during the coming offseason that would give any of these teams – Guardians, Tigers, White Sox, Royals – even a .500 projection for the 2024 season? They're bad! These franchises aren't rebuilding, they're smoldering.
Then you have the Twins. They're gonna run away with the division this year despite getting very little from the centerpiece players they just signed to long-term contracts. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton are down but they are not out – MVP-caliber talents who haven't yet turned 30. They'll be surrounded by a core of young talent that includes Lewis, Julien, Wallner, Lee, Ryan Jeffers and Alex Kirilloff. Guys like Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach should not be counted out. The farm is rock-solid.
And for the first time in forever, the Twins actually have some stable continuity on the pitching side. Pablo López is locked down for years to come, as a durable 27-year-old All-Star starter with elite swing-and-miss stuff. He's accompanied by Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober as controllable and proven mid-rotation starters, as well as a returning Chris Paddack who will be 28 and full-go next year. That's only the starting point!
In the bullpen, there's work to be done long-term but Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax form a rock-solid base.
When the Twins hired him seven years ago, Derek Falvey spoke of building a model for sustainable contention – a concept that felt foreign to a franchise six years removed from its last playoff appearance, and reeling from a 103-loss Total System Failure.
Today we can safely say we've seen Falvey's vision take hold. Assuming they finish the job this month, 2023 will mark Minnesota's fourth postseason berth in seven years under Falvey and Thad Levine. It's easy to feel confident there are more on the way, given all we've discussed.
Yes, that owes in part to the utterly dismal state of the American League Central. But who cares? All that matters is taking advantage of the situation you're in, and the Twins are very well poised to do just that.
The longest postseason drought in pro sports lies in the crosshairs. The Minnesota Twins are likely about the to get a bunch of shots at conquering their demon. The first is suddenly less than a month away.
gman reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Twins Were Right to Gamble on Julien
The Twins sent Edouard Julien to the Arizona Fall League in 2022 with hopes of testing him against heightened competition. He responded by batting .400/.563/.686 with five home runs. Putting up a strong showing to start the season for Triple-A St. Paul, Julien earned his way to Minnesota when Jorge Polanco went down with an injury.
After continuing to swing a hot bat, and getting on base at an exceptional clip, there was no way Minnesota was going to send their rookie back down. Having taken over the starting second baseman position that was once held down by Luis Arraez, the Twins were faced with plenty of similarities between the two players.
It was never a question as to whether Arraez had talent. You’d never be able to net a top-tier starting pitcher like Pablo Lopez for his services if he wasn’t. The knock on Arraez was always his defense, and a lack of durability that sapped his availability. Over the past two seasons, Rocco Baldelli watched Arraez bow out as the year went on due to his balky knees. That may have also been what limited his effectiveness defensively.
When promoted to the majors, it was obvious that Julien was a butcher with the glove, and could make a meal out of even the most routine ground ball. Similar to the guy he replaced, the bat was more than capable of playing, but the glove left so much to be desired. Fast forward a few months and we’re seeing development take place right before our eyes.
Coming into the year it was evident the goal for Minnesota was going to be an ability to pitch and field. With Lopez acquired, and Sonny Gray returning, the depth on the mound represented one of the better pitching staffs across all of baseball. Being able to successfully field behind them, the front office envisioned a roster that wouldn’t need to put up gaudy run totals to win on a nightly basis.
Had Julien continued to struggle to make defensive adjustments, he may have found his roster spot in jeopardy. While the Twins are certainly encouraged by his production, and needed every bit of it while the lineup slumped through much of the year, failing to be playable defensively wasn’t an option. Now with Polanco back and options available to them, Julien has still commanded starts.
It’s not as though Julien wasn’t working on his craft while on the farm or with the Saints. However, as he has settled in to the surface at Target Field and continued to work with the Minnesota coaching staff, he has gotten significantly better as the season went on. The Twins never saw that take place with Arraez, and unfortunately his body didn’t position him with an opportunity for consistent health either.
The hope would be that Julien can continue to make offensive adjustments for the Twins as he sees pitchers more throughout his career. Defensive development will need to continue as well, but the early returns should be encouraging for everyone involved. For a player that had a questionable ability to maintain a defensive spot, to now being the best version we have seen, the tireless work can’t be overlooked.
I don’t think we’ll see Julien trending toward a Gold Glove award any time soon, but this revelation may be the next best thing.
gman reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Chris Williams: A Teammate Who's There to Encourage Everyone
ST. PAUL – The Saints are in the midst of a playoff hunt right now. With three weeks left to go in the Triple-A regular season, they sit two-and-a-half games back of first place in the International League.
One team has already clinched a spot for the first round of the division, the Norfolk Tides, the second spot is still up for grabs. That spot will be clinched by the team with the best record in the second half of the International League.
The Durham Bulls are currently the team leading the International League in the second half with a 35-22 record. The Saints sit at 32-25. With three weeks left in the International League season, that last playoff spot will come down to the wire.
September baseball in Triple-A is anything but consistent. There are always many transactions for every team, shuffling players to and from the big leagues in the final full month of the season.
This time last year, these players didn’t have anything else to look forward to. If they were at Triple-A their seasons just ended, but this year everyone is playing for something more.
One player in the Saints clubhouse who is helping the team focus on that playoff spot is catcher, first baseman, and DH, Chris Williams. Williams is part of a core of players that have spent their entire season at Triple-A including Randy Dobnak, Patrick Murphy, Jair Camargo, and Elliot Soto among others.
They’ve seen many players go through the revolving door of transactions to and from the majors this season. Even if someone has been here for a day or all season. Williams and his teammates have done their best to keep them included in the clubhouse culture.
“It’s been a really fun year and fun summer,” Williams said. “All the guys here are awesome. We were just actually reflecting on it the other day, on the kind of year we’ve had. It’s been kind of weird and crazy with the revolving door Triple-A is, but for us core guys, it’s been good.”
As many players have gone through that revolving door, there’s been one consistent focus for the guys who’ve been with St. Paul all year.
“Something that I’ve really enjoyed this year is just how much we’ve just bought into going to Vegas. ‘It’ll be fun, let’s win a championship. That’s been the message all year,” said Williams.
Saints manager Toby Gardenhire has been coaching Williams at every level of the minors since the Twins drafted him in 2018.
“He’s a great team guy and a great guy to have in the clubhouse,” said Gardenhire. “Coming out of college he was a really good player, and he’s always been able to hit a lot of home runs. But the best part about Chris is he’s just such a good teammate.”
Williams’s teammates can attest to that. He and Austin Martin quickly became friends following Martin’s trade to the Twins organization for Jose Berrios in 2021.
“Everyone goes through their highs and lows, and I think everyone on this team has experienced both sides of it. Two people who inspire me by watching them play are Austin Martin and Michael Helman. They’ve both faced a lot of injuries and adversities, and they’re two people that always have a smile on their face and are always working hard,” said Williams.
Martin has gone through many trials and tribulations himself in the minors over the last two years, but having a teammate like Williams has made getting through it all much easier.
“For him to even say that, given he’s seen both sides of my it [career ups and downs] for me. It means a lot because it shows how consistent I am with my behaviors every day. I don’t try to ride the highs too much or dwell on the lows. I just try to be as consistent of a human being as I can,” Martin said.
Williams has kept positive motivation and fun in the dugout and clubhouse all year. The Saints players pick their own player of the game prior to each start, hand-selected by the player who was the guy the day before. It doesn’t matter where they play on the field, but if that player isn’t getting recognition elsewhere, he’s at least receiving it in the Saints clubhouse.
“It’s a team comradery thing to honor someone who showed up the best that night. We do a really good job here lifting people up and have a lot of fun out there. It helps to be in St. Paul with everything going on here [in the stands],” Williams said.
Williams's name has come up often this season as a solution to the Twins' dearth of right-handed hitters on the roster. He still hasn’t had the chance to make his MLB debut at age 26 and next year he does plan to continue to play on for that chance.
That call up to the big leagues hangs over every minor leaguer, but Williams knows he’s needed with the Saints here and now to help their chances to Vegas. It’s something Gardenhire admires in his players like Williams.
“Everybody in the clubhouse is in the same boat there. Everybody would love to go to the big leagues but if it doesn’t happen, what you got to do is work to be better so you can go to the big leagues. But here and now we’re lucky because we are in a playoff race, and it makes it a lot of fun. It’s a lot more fun being in a playoff race than it is just ending the season,” said Gardenhire.
Williams, whose defensive versatility will be vital for the Saints playoff push, is always focusing on how he can help the team wherever he is on the field. He doesn’t find himself lost in the nuances of shuffling from left field to first base and behind the plate at catcher. His focus is on the here and now to get St. Paul to Vegas.
“The big leagues are always on your mind. But the playoffs for Triple-A this year, It definitely keeps us grounded that we’re at Triple-A, so we should win here,” Williams said.
Everything will come down to the wire for the Saints playoff push, and even as the revolving door of players continues to see players come and go before their regular season ends on September 24. Williams will do his part to keep himself and his teammates focused on the playoff push and making sure every Saint is recognized for the accolades on the field.