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Minny505

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  1. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Tom Froemming for an article, Giants, Red Sox Proving You Don’t Need These 3 Things   
    Before we get into those three items, here’s a video that takes a bit of a deeper look at where the Giants and Red Sox were the past couple years and how they re-emerged after quiet offseasons.
    You Don’t Need A Rebuild
    All that recent success makes it easy to forget neither the Giants or Red Sox made the postseason the past two years (four years for the Giants). That’s especially noteworthy since 16 teams qualified for the playoffs in last year’s shortened season.
    With aging rosters and former stars on bloated contracts, both orgs were in the type of position where rebuilding had to have been considered. Yes, Boston traded away Mookie Betts prior to last season, but they never turned it into a full-on tear down, throw in the towel type situation.
    Meanwhile, several of the league’s bottom teams repeat their place in the standings year after year. Some organizations like the Houston Astros have made rebuilds work in the not-so-distant past, but they are looking more like the exception than the rule.
    Re-tooling can work.
    You Don’t Need A Flashy Offseason
    The Twins spent more on free agents this past offseason than both the Giants and Red Sox. The Twins shelled out $41.75 million while the Giants spent $41.35 million and the Red Sox were at $38.95 million. On the flip side, those teams actually acquired a greater number of players (10 signed for the Giants and eight for Boston), choosing to spread the wealth more than the Twins (six players).
    Meanwhile, the top two spending teams last winter (the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies) and three of the top-five spenders (adding the New York Mets) all missed the playoffs. And if there’s any team that “won” the 2020-21 offseason it was the San Diego Padres. That’s where their winning streak ended.
    The offseason most definitely matters — the 2021 Twins are as much proof of that as any team — but big splashes and flashy signings (or lack thereof) still don’t guarantee anything.
    You Don’t Need A Lavish Bullpen
    There are some expensive, big-name bullpens among this year’s playoff participants but Boston and San Francisco are not among them. 
    The Red Sox have a couple of highly-paid members of their bullpen, but Garrett Richards isn’t there by design (he was signed as a starter) and Adam Ottavino was acquired as a salary dump. It’s not as if either of those guys is exactly a difference-maker, either.
    In fact, the Red Sox bullpen leader in WAR was Garrett Whitlock, their Rule 5 pick. They had eight different pitchers record saves in the second half alone, including former Twins great Hansel Robles.
    The Giants have done even more with a great deal less invested. They signed Jake McGee to a modest two-year, $7 million deal, just $2 million of which was paid this season. Oh, and he was their highest-paid reliever. McGee ended up as one of only nine pitchers to save 30 games this season. 
    San Francisco had a handful of underpaid studs in their pen including Tyler Rogers, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Alvarez, Zack Littell (ouch) and Dominic Leone. When McGee went down, however, it was rookie Camilo Doval who stepped up and was the National League reliever of the month for September. He had a 4.99 ERA and a 7.0 BB/9 in 28 games at Triple-A this season!
    Sometimes a reliever just happens. That’s exactly the kind of thing the Twins need next year.
    The Giants ranked sixth in bullpen WAR (per FanGraphs) and the Red Sox were ninth, a spot ahead of the Mets, who ended the year with four of the top-20 paid relievers in baseball (Jeurys Familia, Brad Hand, Trevor May and Edwin Diaz). The Mets also only won four more games than the Twins this year.
    The Twins have a long way to go from 89 losses back to contention, but they don’t need to tear it down, have an extravagant offseason or spend big on risky bullpen arms to do so. The Giants and Red Sox are proof of that.
  2. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking the 2021 Twins Rookies On Long-Term Value   
    Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 

    5. Bailey Ober, SP
    Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 

    4. Ryan Jeffers, C
    Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 

    3. Joe Ryan, SP
    Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter.
    2. Trevor Larnach, OF
    In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade.  

    1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B
    Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. 
    How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
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  3. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Tom Froemming for an article, Velocity Is (Still) a Problem for the Minnesota Twins   
    Before we dig into some of the numbers, here’s a quick video on a handful of harder-throwing starting pitchers who could be value targets for the Twins this offseason:
    Here is a team-by-team breakdown sorted by average four-seam fastball velocity. It’s color coded, so green is good and red is bad. The information below was gathered from FanGraphs.
    Team vFA ERA FIP xFIP WAR CHW 95.5 3.73 3.74 3.85 27.1 NYY 94.9 3.76 3.90 4.00 22.3 BOS 94.8 4.27 3.95 4.07 19.2 NYM 94.5 3.90 4.04 3.99 16.4 COL 94.5 4.83 4.47 4.38 13.4 SDP 94.4 4.10 4.18 4.08 12.8 CIN 94.3 4.41 4.34 4.18 16.2 ATL 94.3 3.89 4.08 4.09 15.9 LAD 94.1 3.03 3.54 3.75 26.9 TBR 94.1 3.67 3.79 3.97 18.7 PHI 94.1 4.39 4.15 4.02 17.9 DET 94.1 4.32 4.60 4.65 10.2 KCR 94.0 4.65 4.39 4.52 12.5 CLE 93.9 4.34 4.43 4.27 10.2 MIA 93.8 3.96 4.01 4.21 15.1 SFG 93.7 3.25 3.55 3.87 21.9 TEX 93.6 4.80 4.76 4.57 4.5 TOR 93.5 3.91 4.18 4.06 14.6 STL 93.4 4.00 4.30 4.66 12.1 PIT 93.4 5.08 4.74 4.70 5.0 WSN 93.3 4.82 4.87 4.53 6.5 MIL 93.2 3.50 3.72 3.75 23.5 HOU 93.2 3.78 4.12 4.12 16.9 OAK 93.2 4.02 4.10 4.35 15.1 SEA 93.2 4.30 4.26 4.47 14.3 CHC 93.0 4.88 4.88 4.43 4.9 LAA 92.9 4.68 4.25 4.26 15.4 BAL 92.9 5.85 5.15 4.91 7.9 MIN 92.2 4.83 4.66 4.44 8.2 ARI 92.2 5.15 4.88 4.85 4.0  
    As you can see, there’s a fairly strong correlation between teams that throw harder and success. Not only are the Twins near the bottom, there’s also a significant gap between them and the Orioles. That 0.7 mph gap is the same as what separates the fourth-place team from the 15th.
    Let’s switch things up a bit and look at pitches in excess of 95.0 mph instead of average fastball velocity. The information below was gathered from Baseball Savant. The color-coded column is percent of pitches thrown at least 95.0 mph.
    CWS 27.9 6626 23713 NYY 21.5 5112 23761 BOS 20.8 5033 24193 MIL 20.7 4966 23967 NYM 21.4 4799 22405 PHI 20.0 4745 23739 MIA 20.5 4704 22990 COL 20.0 4603 22960 DET 18.1 4339 23914 CIN 17.6 4316 24548 ATL 18.5 4294 23228 LAD 18.3 4187 22927 TB 17.4 4027 23169 KC 16.5 4017 24307 TOR 16.6 3911 23549 SD 14.0 3386 24196 OAK 14.4 3325 23102 STL 14.1 3299 23419 WSH 13.2 3125 23732 SEA 13.0 3111 23859 CLE 13.0 3057 23459 BAL 10.6 2598 24474 SF 10.4 2386 22859 HOU 9.9 2368 23917 CHC 9.4 2238 23877 PIT 9.3 2225 24045 TEX 8.3 1967 23586 LAA 7.6 1847 24415 MIN 6.4 1516 23714 ARI 5.0 1188 23827 Being 29th is bad enough, but even if the Twins were to double the number of pitches that were 95+ mph they’d still only rank 22nd. The Kansas City Royals threw 2,501 more pitches 95+ mph than the Twins — or 15 more per game played — and they barely rank in the top half of the league themselves.
    Do the Twins have an aversion to high-velocity pitchers? That seems like a crazy question to ask, but let’s take a look at some former Twins prospects who were shipped out in trades.
    2021 % of Pitches 95.0+ mph
    66.0 Brusdar Graterol
    44.2 Luis Gil
    38.4 Huascar Ynoa
    15.1 MLB Average
    6.4 Minnesota Twins
    Graterol (Kenta Maeda trade), Gil (Jake Cave trade) and Ynoa (Jaime Garcia trade) all have well above average velo, all were traded away. They also just lost Edwar Colina and his triple-digit heat to waivers. Are the Twins actively avoiding high-octane pitchers? At the very least it sure doesn't feel like they’re making them a priority.
    This seems like a great time to revisit the Twins carpool commercial from 2007 featuring Johan Santana and Joe Nathan.
    That’s how you win Cy Youngs, baby! While this ia a velocity-obsessed article, pitching in the big leagues is obviously about more than just throwing hard. It sure does seem to help, though.
    While the lack of velo is nothing new for the Twins, to be fair, it didn’t prevent them from having successful pitching staffs the previous couple years. Here’s a look at some the numbers throughout the Falvey-era:
    Minnesota Twins Four-Seam Fastball Velo
    2021: 29th, 92.2 mph (26th in ERA)
    2020: 30th, 92.0 mph (4th in ERA)
    2019: 24th, 93.0 mph (9th in ERA)
    2018: 21st, 92.7 mph (22nd in ERA)
    2017: 30th, 92.4 mph (19th in ERA)
    Still, any pitcher who tells you he wouldn’t like to throw harder is either a liar or in denial.
  4. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, Three Indicators that Jorge Alcala has Broken Out   
    This week, Brock Beauchamp posted in the Twins Daily forums on the increasing value of the Ryan Pressly trade. While the irony of the Twins bullpen performing strongly long after they were out of contention is not lost on most Twins fans, Alcala’s breakout may have been. In the second half of 2021, he made the leap to bona-fide high-leverage relief pitcher.
    Let’s begin by considering the big picture before we dive into the minutiae. Alcala may not have remained with the big league team all season given his first half if the rest of the Twins pitching wasn’t struggling so much. He put up a 4.67 ERA, 2.3 HR/9, 5.53 FIP, and just a 23% K%, pretty underwhelming for someone who can throw 100 mph. The second half, however, was a different story, Alcala managed a 2.88 ERA, 0.36 HR/9, 2.01 FIP, and a 32% K%, (Wow!) Alcala massively improved his ability to limit hard contact, keep the ball in the ballpark, and strike opposing hitters out, so, what changes led to this development?
    Tweaking his Pitch Mix
    Let’s start with Alcala’s pitch mix. In order for him to become a consistent back-end bullpen arm, Alcala has been working on incorporating a changeup into his pitching repertoire since the beginning of the 2020 season. Early in his career (and the first half of 2021), Alcala’s fastball was prone to be hit hard due to poor control and command.
    Alcala has reduced his use of his fastball from around 65% when he broke into the league in 2019 to just 36.6% at the end of the 2021 season. Similarly, he has increased his changeup usage to 16%, as his comfort with the pitch has grown.

    The value and effectiveness of Alcala’s changeup has increased significantly, due to his improved command and ability to keep the pitch down in the zone, and his ability to develop arm-side run when throwing it.
    A More Effective 4-Seam Fastball
    In addition to tweaking his pitch mix, Alcala’s fastball has become significantly more effective in 2021. Alcala has pushed the location of his four seam fastball further up the strike zone.

    Additionally, Alcala has developed over three inches more horizontal movement when throwing this pitch. Velocity in the high 90s with no lateral movement is one thing. Velocity in the high 90s with four inches of horizontal movement is another. This is leading to less consistent contact on the pitch.

    Improved Command
    If you want overall indicators of improved control from Alcala in 2021, they are everywhere. His first-pitch strike% improved 11.4%, his in-zone% improved 6.7%. What the Twins now have on their hands is a reliever who throws in the high 90s, has two strong complimentary pitches, an excellent BB%, and has shown the ability to implement changes which improve his command, and the movement of his pitches. A dominant Jorge Alcala, coming to a bullpen near you in 2022.
     
  5. Sad
    Minny505 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Byron Buxton Isn’t the Next David Ortiz   
    Over the weekend, the Star Tribune sent out a headline to subscribers that said, “Twins can’t let Buxton leave and become their new-age David Ortiz.” For those unfamiliar, the Twins famously non-tendered David Ortiz following the 2002 season. He signed with Boston and went on to have a legendary career culminating in multiple World Series titles, 10 All-Star selections, and seven silver sluggers. It was one of the worst decisions in franchise history, but baseball is a funny game.

    Ortiz was a very different player than Byron Buxton when the Twins non-tendered him. From 1997-2002, he averaged 76 games per season with the club and hit .266/.348/.461 (.809) with 169 extra-base hits in 455 games. There were multiple reasons to let Ortiz go, including he was set to make close to $2 million in arbitration, the team had Matt LeCroy to fill the designated hitter role, and they wanted a roster spot to make a Rule 5 pick.  

    When David Ortiz played his final series in Minnesota, Twins GM Terry Ryan didn’t beat around the bush regarding the Ortiz decision. “Obviously, it’s a situation that I watch, and I’ve observed, and I see what he’s done, and I see what he’s meant to the Boston Red Sox. Ok, I screwed it up.” That’s easy for Ryan to say at this point, but it wasn’t as big of a mistake as it has been made out to be.

    Fans know Buxton is good, but Ortiz was still an unknown quantity when he left the organization. In his seventh season, Buxton has played in 38 more games in a Twins uniform than Ortiz. During that time, Buxton has been worth 16.2 WAR while Ortiz was worth 2.6 WAR. Ortiz went on to have four seasons with a 5 WAR or higher, a mark Buxton has yet to reach. 

    The Buxton contract discussions seem like a no-win situation for the team’s followers. Fans are going to be disappointed if he leaves and plays well elsewhere. If he stays, fans will expect him to stay healthy and play at an MVP level. Buxton is one of baseball’s best players when he is on the field, and that is something Ortiz couldn’t say during his Twins tenure. 

    Baseball is a sport where one move doesn’t alter the course of a franchise. Ortiz’s release was a poor baseball decision at the time, but the Twins were still relevant for nearly a decade after Ortiz left. Nothing says his career would have followed the same trajectory if he had stayed in a Twins uniform. The same unknowns circle around Buxton and his future. 

    Every player that leaves Minnesota isn’t going to go on to have a Hall of Fame career. Ortiz is the exception and not the rule. In the end, Buxton’s situation is much more complicated than the decision surrounding Ortiz, and that’s what makes the Buxton decision one of the most intriguing in the months ahead. 

    Do you see any connection between the Buxton decision and the Ortiz decision? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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  6. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, 3 Things Learned About the Twins' Farm System in 2021   
    1. Pitching Depth is the Strength... 
    For years, the Twins were known for producing soft-tossing pitchers and preaching a pitch-to-contact approach. However, if one needs an example to display that is no longer the case, it would be challenging to produce a more blatant example than the 2021 season.

    Partially due to the natural evolution of the game as well as the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime's propensity to select hard-throwing high schoolers and college arms with solid reputations, the Twins farm system is currently replete with pitching talent.

    Jhoan Duran and Chase Petty are among those who sit in the upper 90s and touch 100 mph with regularity. Sawyer Gipson-Long, Matt Canterino, and Louie Varland all boasted K% north of 30%. There's so much talent in the system that top prospects Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Simeon Woods Richardson couldn't even be bothered to pop up until the fifth paragraph of this article!

    And the talent doesn't stop at the backend of the starting rotation. While Jovani Moran and his 42% strikeout rate earned a promotion to the big league club by the end of the season, he was only one of a handful of genuine bullpen arms that excelled over the summer.

    Zach Featherstone, Jordan Gore, Osiris German, Aaron Rozek, Yennier Cano, and Denny Bentley put up huge strikeout numbers across various levels, and all boasted ERAs below 3.40. Ian Hamilton, a former top prospect in the White Sox system, put together a strong season at Triple-A, and it could be argued that he deserved a call-up at multiple points this season.

    In short, this is no longer your Dad's Twins farm system. Their approach to acquiring and developing pitching is night and day from 5-10 years ago. In short order, the team will be reaping the benefits of what they sowed, whether by advancing critical pieces to the majors or by swapping prospects for MLB-ready talent.
    2. …, However, Offensive Depth is Lacking
    It's well known at this point that infield prospect Jose Miranda had one of the best seasons in all of MiLB this past summer. The 23-year-old slashed .344/.401/.572 to go along with 30 home runs, 32 doubles, and a 158 wRC+ across Double- and Triple-A en route to garnering numerous awards.

    Besides Miranda, who could play a prominent role on the Twins as early as next spring, the system lacks definite MLB-caliber offensive talent, particularly up the middle. Top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin possess the raw talent to succeed at the MLB level for years to come. However, Lewis has not played organized baseball for nearly two years due to COVID and injury, and neither are guaranteed to stick at shortstop. (In fact, Martin played the majority of his innings in centerfield after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade.)

    Utility guy Edouard Julien put together arguably the most potent offensive season besides Miranda — he posted a 154 wRC+ due largely to his absurd 21.4% walk rate. He also showed more pop (18 home runs, 28 doubles) and base stealing ability (34 in 39 attempts) at Low- and High-A than he did while at Auburn University. However, he lacks a true defensive home, having appeared all over the diamond this past summer, though he is most robust at second base.

    Beyond the two, the Twins top offensive performers, according to FanGraphs, were a who’s-who of borderline top 30 prospects and minor league veterans. 



    Luckily for the Twins, the majority of their offense at the big league level comprises established athletes who are under contract, so the need for prospects to reach the majors next summer is at a minimum. However, beyond the summer of 2022, the lack of offensive depth in the system may begin to rear its head unless key pieces are retained or a few of the borderline prospects breakout. 
    3. Watching Minor League Ball was a Good Distraction
    Perhaps distraction isn't the correct term here. The Twins were terrible this year and, at many points, virtually unwatchable. But their minor league teams all performed well this year and served as an excellent alternative for the baseball hungry. 

    There are many issues with minor league baseball — the players are poorly compensated, the life is a grind, the production value of non-Twins streams was often pretty bad, etc. — but baseball is baseball at the end of the day. Few teams across MLB put forth a better minor league product than the Twins, which made the summer much more enjoyable.
     
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  7. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Winning Out   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/27 thru Sun, 10/3
    ***
    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 73-89)
    Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -105)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 157 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Edge Tigers in Pitchers' Duel
    Game 158 | MIN 5, DET 2: Polanco and Pineda Propel Twins
    Game 159 | DET 10, MIN 7: Buxton's 2 HR Not Enough as Ryan Struggles
    Game 160 | KC 11, MIN 6: Pitching Plastered as Royals Pound Twins
    Game 161 | MIN 4, KC 0: Arms Rebound, Blank Kansas City
    Game 162 | MIN 7, KC 3: Twins Close Losing Year with a Win
    NEWS & NOTES
    It turns out that Bailey Ober's start the previous week would be the last of his rookie season. He was shut down ahead of his scheduled final turn with a right hip strain, although the move surely had more to do with workload management than real injury concern. Ober completes his first MLB campaign with a 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 96-to-19 K/BB ratio in 92 ⅓ innings spread across 20 starts. A tremendously encouraging year from the big righty, who has vaulted directly into the club's rotation plans.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    With an offseason ahead that may prove decisive in shaping his big-league future, Byron Buxton ended his season on a high note. Generally speaking, he hasn't been quite the same offensively since returning from his broken hand, but Buxton's final week looked more like his first month. He went 11-for-25 with three home runs, five doubles, and 11 runs scored, mixing in a couple of stolen bases for good measure. 
    We're seeing something special here, folks. The question now is whether we'll have the opportunity to keep watching Buxton's magic happen in a Twins uniform. He's got one year ahead until free agency and if Minnesota can't extend him, his trade market will be too hot to ignore. 
    The decision with Buxton this offseason will primarily dictate whether the Twins actually aspire to contend in 2022, and will likely determine whether a lot of fans choose to stick with the team or tune out for the time being. I've written in the past where I stand: pay the man, or regret it forever. You cannot let a talent like this get away.
    Joining Buxton with strong finishes at the plate:
    Josh Donaldson went 6-for-21 with four walks, two homers, and five RBIs. He started all six games, which is pretty much par for the course by now. It was a huge proving year durability-wise for the 35-year-old, who returned from an immediate IL stint to play in 133 of the club's final 150 games, starting 125. The production was there too. While he still carries plenty of risk at this point, JD looks like a much more dependable building block than he did one year ago. The late drop-off of Luis Arraez was an under-discussed storyline in the second half for the Twins. From August 19th through September 19th, he batted just .176 in 99 plate appearances, sinking his average from .318 to .284. Given the lack of real defensive value, and the absence of power or patience in his game, Arraez's value plummets pretty quickly when he's not hitting for average, and we've never seen him slump in that department quite like he did during this late stretch. So it was nice to see him snap out of it with an excellent final week, in which Arraez notched 11 hits in 20 at-bats, lifting his final average to .294. It'll be very interesting to see what the team's plan is with him going forward. Miguel Sanó went 7-for-22 with a home run, a double, and four RBIs. He rebounded from a brutal April with production the rest of the way that was basically in line with his quality career norms. He also put up the lowest overall K-rate of his career (34.3%) after leading the league in strikeouts a year ago. It was ultimately a disappointing year for Sanó but offered some promising signs, and he's vowed to focus harder than ever on his body this winter, setting a goal of losing 20-30 pounds. With Alex Kirilloff looking more like a first baseman than outfielder, Sanó is another intriguing piece in the organization's future planning. He has one more guaranteed season under team control. On the pitching side, Michael Pineda wrapped his walk year with 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a win over Detroit. He returned quickly from an August oblique injury to register a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in five outings. That'll give the pending free agency market a boost. 
    Griffin Jax finished a rough rookie season in a positive way, delivering his best performance as a big-leaguer on Saturday with five innings of shutout ball against Kansas City. He was hardly dominant, striking out three and walking two, but he allowed only one hit. Jax showed some promise after the All-Star break, but in his final eight starts he went 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA, erasing any chance of factoring into the Twins' rotation plans next year. That said, with his effective fastball-slider combo, he's definitely earned a look in the bullpen.
    Speaking of which, the Twins received impressive final weeks from a trio of key relievers. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala combined to allow zero earned runs over 11 frames. Tough to overstate how impactful these three are for the Twins' bullpen outlook.
    At the All-Star break, it wasn't clear that any of them were going to be names to comfortably write into the 2022 plans. None pitched especially well in the first half. But since the break, they've collectively posted a 2.48 ERA and 85-to-24 K/BB ratio in 83 ⅓ innings. All three are expected to return in 2022, at a little over $5 million in total salary.
    It's not an amazing bullpen foundation to build around, but if Taylor Rogers can return to form following his finger injury, it's certainly a viable starting point for a contending relief corps. 
    LOWLIGHTS
    He's been a beaming beacon in the Highlights section nearly every week since arriving in the majors, but in his final turn as a rookie, Joe Ryan finally hit a road bump for the first time. Facing the Tigers at Target Field on Thursday, Ryan was knocked around for six earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings, with a pair of homers by Niko Goodrum accounting for much of the damage. 
    The poor finale may diminish a bit of Ryan's shine, but hardly removes the luster from a tremendous showing in September for the rookie. He finishes with a 4.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, and 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 26 ⅔ innings. Small sample and lack of experience aside, it's tough to imagine he won't be at least tentatively penciled into a rotation spot come next spring.
    Will Max Kepler still be the man in right field at that time? He closed out one of the worst offensive seasons of his career with a 3-for-19 week, leaving him with a pedestrian final slash line of .211/.306/.413. Just flat-out sub-mediocre production from a right fielder. It does bear noting that Kepler supplements his value in other ways, like on the bases (10-for-10 on steals this year) and in the outfield, but with emerging corner outfield depth in the Twins system, Kepler and his favorable contract will likely be shopped on the trade market.
    Andrelton Simmons put the finishing touches on an all-time dud of an offensive season, going 2-for-11 with a couple of singles. He posted a .480 OPS in the second half, managing three total extra-base hits (all doubles) in 189 plate appearances. Most Twins fans will be more than happy to be rid of the pending free agent, and while his defense was customarily good this year (albeit unspectacular), I do wonder if any team will view him as a starting-caliber player on the offseason market.
    In an interesting trend, Simmons finally started losing some his playing time at shortstop to Nick Gordon toward the end of the year, much to the pleasure of fans who'd been clamoring for such a shift. Gordon first start at short didn't come until September 11th, by which time he'd been in the majors for three months and appeared in 55 games. From that point forward, however, he started eight of the team's final 21 games, including three times in the final week.
    Gordon's bat went cold during this final stretch, producing just one hit in 13 at-bats, and his overall production for the season was underwhelming (.647 OPS, 0.2 fWAR), but if he's viewed as a credible option at short, that cements his value as a utility guy. The team's usage late in the season inspires optimism on that front.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    There are plenty of trending storylines ahead as we turn our attention to the offseason. Once a World Series champion is crowned in about one month's time, the page will turn and Hot Stove season will officially get underway. (Theoretically, anyway ... a looming CBA expiration could throw a wrench in things.)
    As they seek to rebound from a terrible season, the Twins face a number of key decisions this winter. Will Buxton be traded? What about dealing a semi-redundant yet valuable fixture such as Kepler, Arraez, or Sanó? Who will survive the 40-man roster crunch? How hard will Minnesota attack the free agent markets at pitcher and shortstop? 
    There's plenty to explore as we size up a critical offseason. I'm pleased to say we'll have an exciting announcement on that topic dropping on Monday morning. Make sure you tune in for it.
    On a final note: a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has consumed, commented on, or complimented these Week in Review columns over the course of the year. It's been fun, and for me, a good way to stay plugged into a season that was often difficult to find motivation to care about. Hopefully these weekly recaps served a similar purpose for many of you.
    We'll be back next year. Here's to much happier weeks to break down in 2022.
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  8. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking What Went Right for the 2021 Twins   
    Why have you continued to watch the Twins in the second half? Have you tuned in for Jorge Polanco’s hot bat? Did you watch some of the young pitching making their MLB debuts? Below is a ranking of the top three things that went right for the 2021 Twins.

    3. Jorge Polanco
    Jorge Polanco has been one of the most prominent bright spots this season. After having ankle surgery the past two off-seasons, there were plenty of question marks about his long-term role for the Twins. The team moved him away from shortstop, and other players on the roster can fit into the plan at second base. He faced these challenges head-on and is ending the season as the team’s most valuable player. 

    Polanco set the franchise record for home runs by a switch-hitter after a slow start to the season. He will end the year with more than 30 homers, 30 doubles, and ten steals, which are numbers only a few MLB players have accumulated this year. Baseball Reference has him with the sixth-highest WAR total among AL position players. His at-bats have become one of the main reasons to watch the Twins in the second half. 
    2. Aggressive Trade Deadline
    Minnesota’s front office said the Twins will compete in 2022, so trading away players like Jose Berrios can be tough to make that a reality. An argument could have been made to retain players and take another run in 2022. Instead, the Twins were able to get two top-100 prospects for Berrios and two big-league ready arms for Nelson Cruz’s expiring contract. These aren’t the only parts of the trade deadline that impacted the team’s long-term outlook.

    Besides Cruz and Berrios, Minnesota dealt away J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles for pitching prospects. Happ and Robles were on expiring deals, and neither had performed exceptionally well during their Twins tenure, so getting value was an impressive feat for the front office. Minnesota also held on to players like Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Max Kepler. All of these players can help the Twins to be competitive in 2022.

    1. Experience for Young Players
    In a lost season, big-league experience can be invaluable for the players who make up the core of the next winning Twins team. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach were thrust into the Twins line-up with some bumps and bruises along the way. Kirilloff fought through a wrist injury and was still able to produce a 98 OPS+. Larnach held his own in the season’s first half (.755 OPS) before the team needed him to rediscover his swing in St. Paul. Both players will be in the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for most of the next decade. 

    On the mound, starters like Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan have shown they can more than hold their own at the big-league level. As of right now, no members of the 2021 Opening Day starting rotation will be with the Twins next year. Minnesota likely feels comfortable with both of these pitchers penciled into the back of the 2022 rotation. Starting pitching depth was an issue in 2022, so the front office has plenty of work to do on this front over the next couple of months. 
    How would you rank these positives from 2021? What would you add to the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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  9. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Youth Movement   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/6 thru Sun, 9/12
    ***
    Record Last Week: 4-3 (Overall: 63-80)
    Run Differential Last Week: +9 (Overall: -102)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (19.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 137 | MIN 5, CLE 2: Ober and Pineda Piggyback, Polanco Rakes
    Game 138 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Gant Combines with 4 Relievers in Shutout
    Game 139 | MIN 3, CLE 0: Ryan Flirts with Perfection, Dominates Cleveland
    Game 140 | CLE 4, MIN 1: Quantrill Keeps Twins Bats Quiet
    Game 141 | KC 6, MIN 4: Offense Goes Silent After Explosive First Inning
    Game 142 | MIN 9, KC 2: Twins Drill 5 Homers, Coast to Easy Win
    Game 143 | KC 5, MIN 3: Royals Rally Late, Take Series
    NEWS & NOTES
    If you had to put your finger on just what's gone wrong with the Twins' pitching staff this year, one culprit would be ... well, fingers. 
    Taylor Rogers has officially been shut down for the season with a middle finger sprain that he suffered in late July. While he'll have a full offseason to heal, the nature of this injury for a slider-reliant pitcher turns the team's top reliever (and one of their top trade candidates) into a major question mark. It's hard to fully trust he'll be the same guy when he returns.
    The same is more or less true for Randy Dobnak, who went back on the IL ahead of his planned Wednesday start with renewed soreness in his own middle finger, which previously sidelined him for more than two months. Dobnak, unlike Rogers, was struggling pretty consistently before getting hurt so there's even less assurance with him going forward.
    With Dobnak going down again, Andrew Albers was recalled to start on short notice. He did okay, all things considered, but was returned to St. Paul a couple days later when the Twins promoted (at long last) relief pitcher Jovani Moran.
    The lefty Moran has been a dominant force this year in the minors, piling up whiffs and strikeouts with help from a standout changeup that makes him even highly effective against righties. Moran made his debut on Monday and looked good, notching a pair of strikeouts over 1 ⅓ innings, though his control started to slip a bit in the latter part of the 37-pitch outing.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    Joe Ryan stole the show with a dazzling performance at Cleveland in his second major-league start, carrying a perfect game through six and ultimately allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings. His Game Score of 79 was the second-best for a Twins starter all season, trailing only José Berríos' spectacular first start of the year in Milwaukee.
    The young right-hander showed pretty much everything you'd want to see in his gem. He worked efficiently, needing only 85 pitches to get through seven frames while throwing 71% strikes. He notched only four strikeouts in this one, but induced plenty of weak contact. And while his fastball was good as advertised, Ryan continued to demonstrate he's no one-trick pony, mixing in some very nice low sliders as well.
    Ryan was the star in another strong week for the rotation, which got another member back via the return of Michael Pineda. Needing to build up after skipping a rehab stint, Big Mike appeared in relief of Bailey Ober on Monday, tossing three scoreless innings. He followed up with five innings of one-run ball against Kansas City on Saturday night. 
    This isn't the dominant version of Pineda we've seen in the past, but he's still plenty effective and the velocity appears to have rebounded. His fastball averaged 91.6 MPH on Saturday, which is his highest mark since early June. Personally, I believe that Pineda makes a lot of sense to bring back on a low-cost deal for the back of the rotation, although not everyone agrees.
    Ober, for his part, kept chugging along with a couple more strong performances – albeit in two of his shorter outings in a while. On Monday against Detroit, the big righty tossed four innings of two-run ball, striking out four with no walks. In his following start on Sunday, he was charged with three runs over 4 ⅓ innings, but had his stuff working with six strikeouts and 16 swings-and-misses on 75 pitches (21% SwSt). Ober hasn't issued multiple walks in a start since before the All-Star break, and owns a tremendous 48-to-6 K/BB ratio over 50 innings in his past 10 starts. 
    Toss in a very fine outing on Tuesday from John Gant, who struck out seven over five scoreless, and it was an altogether outstanding week for this mish-mashed collection of starting pitchers.
    Alas, it's not just the rotation holding things down for the pitching staff as this campaign winds down. The bullpen, to its credit, has really come around. Despite lacking its best player in Rogers, the relief corps has quietly been among the best in baseball since the end of July. 
    The past week saw Minnesota's bullpen deliver a 1.56 ERA, with Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Luke Farrell chipping in three scoreless innings apiece. Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza Jr., and of course Moran had solid showings as well.
    Offensively, Jorge Polanco remains the life of the party. He opened his week with a four-hit game in Cleveland that included three doubles and a homer, then launched two bombs against the Royals on Saturday night. The second baseman is putting on a power-hitting clinic here in September, where he's slugging .795 with six doubles and five homers. Perhaps most impressively, he's driving the ball like this without sacrificing much contact. True to form, Polanco has struck out only seven times in 45 plate appearances this month. He's locked in, to put it mildly.
    Byron Buxton isn't quite on Polanco's level right now, but he does show signs of getting back on track offensively. Buck launched three homers last week, including this mammoth blast to straightaway center on Friday night:
    He didn't do a ton otherwise, and his swing still feels pretty all-or-nothing at this point, but it's a good start as the center fielder looks to finish strong in another frustrating, incomplete season. 
    LOWLIGHTS
    Role players vying for opportunities on the 2022 team aren't doing much to help their cases. 
    Brent Rooker came through with a big two-run double on Sunday, but went just 4-for-18 overall with six strikeouts and no walks. Rob Refsnyder – who drew two starts as the No. 3 hitter and one in the two-hole, for reasons unknown – managed three singles in 15 at-bats. Since returning from the IL in early August, he's slashing .208/.313/.236 with two extra-base hits (both doubles) and two RBIs in 83 plate appearances. Jake Cave made one start all week and was 1-for-6 at the plate. In fact, he's started only twice in the team's past 17 games. He's pretty clearly being phased out and his departure this offseason feels like a mere formality.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    Honestly, there's nothing too compelling happening at the moment. Will the Twins avoid 90 losses? (They'd need to go 10-9 or better in the final 19 games.) Can they steer clear of a last-place finish? (They're currently two games behind the fourth-place Royals). How high of a draft pick will they net in 2022? (As Aaron Gleeman notes, they could realistically get as high as No. 7.)
    Personally I'll be more interested in following some of the noteworthy individual storylines in these last three weeks. I want to see if Buxton can show hints of the player he was back in April. I want to see how Ryan and Ober close out their first impressions in the majors. I want to see how Moran's stuff plays against big-league hitters. The games might not matter much anymore, but there are other implications to this remaining stretch nonetheless.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    For a second consecutive week, the Twins must take a disruptive detour in the middle of their homestand, heading to New York on Monday for an afternoon makeup game against the Yankees. Should be a ton of fun! Right?!
    From there, they quickly turn around and head back home for a double-header against Cleveland on Tuesday. Three games in 35 hours should provide some challenges for Rocco Baldelli in managing a thin pitching staff, but at least there's an off day coming up on Thursday. It's unclear at this point who will take Dobnak's vacant turn with Albers sent back to the minors. Charlie Barnes is a decent bet.
    MONDAY, 9/13: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP John Gant v. TBD
    TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G1) – RHP Aaron Civale v. RHP Joe Ryan
    TUESDAY, 9/14: CLEVELAND @ TWINS (G2) – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD
    WEDNESDAY, 9/15: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Cal Quantrill v. RHP Griffin Jax
    FRIDAY, 9/17: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Hyun Jin Ryu
    SATURDAY, 9/18: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Steven Matz
    SUNDAY, 9/19: TWINS @ BLUE JAYS – RHP John Gant v. RHP Alek Manoah
    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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  10. Haha
    Minny505 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Worst Free Agent Signing Ever?   
    After Jorge Polanco limped through 2020 with an ankle injury that required a second surgery, it became more than apparent that Rocco Baldelli needed a different option at shortstop. Before Royce Lewis was shelved with a torn ACL, the big league club needed a stabilizing presence at the most critical position on the infield.
    Casting a wide net made the most sense for the Twins. Marcus Semien was arguably the best option, and despite finishing a close runner-up for his services, the former Athletics infielder has posted an otherworldly season for the Blue Jays. Many players would qualify as fringe options, having one or more holes in their games. Falvey opted for a pact with Gold Glove-winning fielder Andrelton Simmons. The former Angels shortstop always carried a light bat, but his defense got the job done.
    Welcome to 2021.
    It’s not as though Simmons’ defense has fallen off a cliff; he’s still been a valuable commodity in the field for Minnesota. His 11 defensive runs saved rank third in baseball at the position, and he’s behind only Nick Ahmed and Francisco Lindor when it comes to outs above average at shortstop. Simmons has induced many highlight-reel plays this season behind Twins pitching, but his blunders have always been highly noticeable.
    Simmons has been miscast for a guy who needs to make an impact defensively to hide his bat, given the results Minnesota has generated on the season as a whole. He carries value for a good team that can afford to have a complete non-factor in the lineup. Given the Twins inability to pitch and often hit, the marginal defensive upgrade he has been only amplified the awful season of production.
    At -0.4 fWAR, Simmons has been Minnesota’s third-worst position player behind Willians Astudillo and Gilberto Celestino. Without finding a trade partner for him at the deadline, the Twins have allowed Simmons to play in 116 games despite being a free agent at year’s end. He’s being paid $10.5 million in 2021 and has been worse than a non-factor offensively. His .561 OPS is dead last in baseball among 154 hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. He has a .286 OBP and has a whopping 14 extra-base hits.
    The most divisive contribution Simmons has made to the Twins clubhouse may have been a medical one. Just days after being outspoken regarding his stance on vaccines, the shortstop tested positive, and Minnesota soon experienced an outbreak. Without attributing fault to any one person, Simmons' brash nature and desire to publicly share his opinions on Twitter were undoubtedly met with backlash given how the season began to spiral.
    Over the years, plenty of front offices have missed when it comes to spending money on players leaving other organizations. Sometimes those players move on for the sake of a big contract. Other times it happens because the club is moving on before getting caught holding the bag. This may be more of the latter when considering the Angels situation, and Minnesota felt the wrath of a decision gone wrong.
    You could make a case for Tsuyoshi Nishioka or Ricky Nolasco when considering previous Twins missteps. Still, nothing about how Andrelton Simmons has fared in Minnesota is good, and it’s a shock he’ll survive the year without a DFA. Back to the drawing board at shortstop for 2022.
    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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  11. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Steps Forward and Setbacks   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/23 thru Sun, 8/29
    ***
    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 57-73)
    Run Differential Last Week: -9 (Overall: -99)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (18.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 125 | BOS 11, MIN 9: Jax Runs into a Buzzsaw in Boston
    Game 126 | MIN 9, BOS 6: Twins Explode in 10th for Wild Finish
    Game 127 | BOS 12, MIN 2: Bats Can't Salvage Another Pitching Implosion
    Game 128 | MIN 2, MIL 0: Albers and Bullpen Combine on Shutout
    Game 129 | MIN 6, MIL 4: Twins Fend Off Threats from Brewers, Rain
    Game 130 | MIL 6, MIN 2: Jax Struggles Again, Offense Goes Quietly
    NEWS & NOTES
    The last man standing from the Opening Day rotation is now gone, along with any semblance of stability the Twins may have leaned on when looking ahead to their starting pitching situation in 2022. Kenta Maeda is slated for elbow surgery on Wednesday, and it sounds like Tommy John is the plan. 
    Barring an unforeseen change of course during the procedure, Maeda is looking at a surgery and rehab that will cost him most or all of his 2022 season. He was the only veteran starter under control for next year, meaning the Twins will be essentially starting from scratch in building their rotation.
    On the brighter side, Byron Buxton was finally activated from the Injured List, having played just three games since May 6th due to a hip strain and broken hand. He returned to the lineup on Friday and started all three games against Milwaukee over the weekend. Buck hasn't quite found his stroke yet – he went 0-for-11 with five strikeouts in the series – but it sure is nice to have him back. 
    Other updates from the past seven days:
    To make room for Buxton on the active roster, Mitch Garver was placed on IL due to lower back tightness. A few days later the Twins reinfused some catching depth to account for Garver's absence, recalling Ben Rortvedt from Triple-A and optioning Charlie Barnes. Randy Dobnak advanced to Triple-A in his rehab assignment, starting for the Saints on Thursday and allowing one run over 4 ⅔ innings while progressing to 78 pitches. There's a decent chance he returns to the Twins to take Maeda's vacant turn this week. More churn in the bullpen: Righties Kyle Barraclough and Edgar García were sent to Triple-A, with Jorge Alcala and Ian Gibaut stepping in to replace them. To make room for Gibaut on the 40-man, Luke Farrell was shifted to the 60-day IL, though it doesn't seem he'll be there long as he recently started a rehab assignment with St. Paul. Derek Law also fired up a rehab cent stint with the Saints this past week. HIGHLIGHTS
    The biggest highlight of the past week came at Fenway Park, where Miguel Sanó launched an instantly legendary blast that cleared the stadium and measured as the longest home run by a  major-league hitter this season at 495 feet.
    It was the most memorable moment in another strong week for the slugger, who drove in eight runs in six games. Since the start of June he's slashing .254/.328/.504 with 14 homers and 16 doubles in 66 games, and critically, he has cut his strikeout rate down to the 30% range from the 40% range where he'd mostly sat since the beginning of 2020. In fact, here in August, he's fanned in only 28 of 98 plate appearances (28.7%). That's closer to the league average than where Sanó resided in during his prolonged run of struggles. 
    It really does seem like Sanó is sacrificing the pull-power fixation for a bit more contact and balance at the plate, making him look like the more complete hitter we saw earlier in his career. This is a promising development for 2022 and a much-needed one given all the setbacks. 
    Also in the category of much-needed positives for 2022: Bailey Ober's splendid outing on Wednesday in Boston, where he spun five shutout innings with seven strikeouts. Pitching in a tough ballpark against a very good lineup that otherwise crushed Twins pitching, Ober continued to excel by peppering the upper regions of the zone with fastballs, then going low with the offspeed. It's a formula that works well with his combination of command and physical extension.
    Ober has a 2.35 ERA over his past six starts, and overall, his 4.24 K/BB ratio on the season ranks second among Twins starters, trailing only Michael Pineda. When you're beating out José Berríos and Maeda in that category as a rookie, that's a pretty good sign. 
    At this point, so long as he can stay the course for the rest of the season and maintain his health, Ober is all but assured of a spot in the 2022 rotation. That might be the only thing we can say with confidence about that unit's outlook at the moment.
    Some other noteworthy performances from the past week:
    Josh Donaldson's bat had been stagnating a bit – he was slashing .216/.273/.294 in August entering the week, with a .731 OPS dating back to the start of July – but saw a major revitalization against the Red Sox and Brewers. Starting all six games, Donaldson went 9-for-21 with three homers and six RBIs. He also made his first start at third base in two weeks on Saturday – seemingly a good sign for his balky hamstring. Jorge Polanco just continues to do his thing. He finished the week 6-for-21 with two home runs and two doubles while driving in five. When Polanco is keying a lineup that has Sanó, Donaldson, and others clicking, this is a pretty good offense, as we saw in Boston when the Twins put up nine runs in successive games. I'll be curious to see what they can do in the final month with Buxton back. LOWLIGHTS
    In lineups that feature all the names above, it was a little odd to see Rob Refsnyder drawing multiple starts as the No. 3 hitter last week. I mean I guess it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things but ... why? 
    Refsnyder's surprisingly hot start at the plate as a Twin is now a distant memory; he went 2-for-13 with five strikeouts last week and is slashing .188/.278/.208 in August, with three GIDP and one double.
    I think I get it. The Twins are trying to elevate possible 2022 role players into heightened roles so they can get more extensive looks (and maybe a small confidence boost) here in the waning weeks of a lost season. But Refsnyder is one of many in this situation who have failed to seize the momentum of a solid stretch and grasp an opportunity.
    Joining him in this category:
    Brent Rooker has managed two singles in nine games since his big weekend against the Rays earlier this month, and went 0-for-10 this past week. The endless march of strikeouts simply isn't going to cut it, although he's been drawing a bunch of walks lately which is intriguing. Claimed off waivers in early August, García showed promise during his first string of outings in a Twins uniform, but things quickly devolved, and on Wednesday in Boston, the bottom fell out. Over 1 ⅔ innings, the righty was clobbered for seven earned runs on four hits, three walks, and two homers. He threw just 23 of 48 pitches for strikes, inducing a mere two swings and misses. It was one of the worst relief outings of the year for a really bad bullpen, and the kind of performance that can singularly torpedo your belief in a marginal arm. With Buxton returning, the window might have already closed on Nick Gordon to showcase himself, and he didn't make a strong closing statement. Gordon went 2-for-12 with six strikeouts in the Boston series, and is slashing .185/.267/.259 in nine games since returning from Triple-A. I foresee an offseason DFA. Even amidst all this misfortune, no player's struggles were as deflating as those of Griffin Jax, who saw his impressive run in the Twins rotation come to a screeching halt. Against Boston on Monday, the rookie was absolutely pulverized, coughing up nine earned runs over 4 ⅔ innings. Jax didn't fare much better in his following turn on Sunday, with the Brewers running up six earned runs in five frames against him.
    His total line for the week: 2 GS, 9.2 IP, 15 ER, 13 H, 8 BB, 9 K, 5 HR
    This comes on the heels of a stretch in which he allowed only eight earned runs TOTAL over 26 ⅓ innings in five starts.
    It's not that Jax's latest starts were devoid of encouraging signs – he's seen a nice increase in fastball velocity, and there was some skillful execution mixed into the struggles – but there are also fatal flaws showing through. Chiefly: an inability to escape from his susceptibility to the long ball, which ties more broadly to the frequency of loud contact. 
    Statcast data shows that – even with his successful results mixed in over the previous stretch – opposing hitters are squaring up Jax far too often. 

    There are a number of factors playing into this – among them, the lack of a quality third pitch and the tendency for his slider to flatten out. It adds up to a player who might be better suited for the bullpen, which isn't ideal for a Twins team that will be desperately trying to compile capable starters for next year.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    Forget next year; the Twins are getting pretty desperate for starters now. There are still 32 games left to get through this season. That's a lot of innings to cover for a team with zero veteran starting pitching depth remaining.
    Ober's workload needs to be managed carefully. Jax probably can keep taking the mound every fifth day, but if things continue to trend as they did this week, you have to ask yourself when it becomes counterproductive for his development. (Then again, he turns 27 in November, so maybe they're not too concerned with that.) Trotting out blow-up candidates like Barnes and John Gant runs the risk of running an already overburdened bullpen ragged – not to mention threatening the "respectability" that the front office has spoken of wishing to maintain.
    Unfortunately, the Twins just don't have many other alternatives. But, they do have one pretty good option, who happens to line up pretty nicely for a possible Twins debut in the coming week.
    Joe Ryan, headliner of last month's Nelson Cruz trade, made his second start for the Saints on Wednesday and – much like in the first – he was overwhelmingly dominant. The right-hander struck out eight of the 17 batters he faced en route to four innings of one-run ball. Through two starts in the new organization, he now has a 2.00 ERA and 17-to-2 K/BB ratio in nine innings. 
    While it's fun to see former fringe prospects like Ober and Jax rise above expectations and establish themselves as potential contributors, Ryan would bring a different type of excitement to the table. We've seen a lot of rookies pitch for the Twins this year, but not many with the pedigree of Ryan, who featured as the organization's seventh-best prospect in TD's latest updated rankings. His status as a top prize from the recent deadline would make him an even more compelling figure to follow.
    Twins fans could really use a morale booster like that. 
    Granted, he probably can't be counted on for much length – Ryan hasn't exceeded 83 pitches or 5 ⅓ innings in a minor-league start all year – but I'm not sure that's a luxury the Twins can expect from anyone in their current starting stable anyway.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    On Monday, the Twins travel to Detroit in the middle of their homestand for to play one makeup game against the Tigers, which I'm sure they're thrilled about. They'll return to Target Field on Tuesday for a short series against the Cubs, then head to Tampa to take on Cruz and the Rays. 
    The TBDs for Minnesota in Wednesday's and Friday's probables loom large. Dobnak and Ryan seem like front-runners to take those turns, although Barnes – currently in the minors – could also theoretically be in play. 
    MONDAY, 8/30: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Casey Mize
    TUESDAY, 8/31: CUBS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Davies v. RHP John Gant
    WEDNESDAY, 9/1: CUBS @ TWINS – LHP Justin Steele v. TBD
    FRIDAY, 9/3: TWINS @ RAYS – TBD v. RHP Michael Wacha
    SATURDAY, 9/4: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Drew Rasmussen
    SUNDAY, 9/5: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Luis Patino
    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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  12. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Twins 40-Man Roster Crunch? Perhaps Not   
    The Twins will be faced with several decisions during the offseason concerning the makeup of their roster, beginning with who's placed on and removed from the 40-man. While it may seem as though the team will be confronted with many impossible decisions, the fact of the matter is that the Twins are well-positioned to add critical prospects to the 40-man without losing much in the way of established talent and productivity. 
    Below is a discussion of the Twins 40-man roster, primarily regarding their top prospects. Twins Daily's most recent Top 30 prospect list was used for reference. 
    Already on the 40-man
    Jordan Balazovic, RHP Jhoan Duran, RHP Drew Strotman, RHP Gilberto Celestino, OF Edwar Colina, RHP Brent Rooker, OF/DH Nick Gordon, UTIL Of the players listed above, only Rooker's future with the team appears to be dubious. Perhaps Gordon's as well. If the Twins were to try to drop them from the 40-man — something that I don't consider to be particularly likely — they both would be claimed. While Rooker and Gordon may not remain as Twins for the long haul, Minnesota likely won't just give them away for free. The remainder of the athletes above will probably fill critical roles with the Twins, if not next summer, then in the summers to follow.
    Not eligible for Rule 5 Draft or Minor League Free Agency
    Matt Canterino, RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Austin Martin, OF/SS Aaron Sabato, 1B/DH Keoni Cavaco, INF Misael Urbina, OF Matt Wallner, OF/DH Alerick Soulaire, UTIL Will Holland, INF Marco Raya, RHP Spencer Steer, INF Steve Hajjar, LHP Louie Varland, RHP Noah Miller, INF Chase Petty, RHP All of these guys are going to be sticking around for at least one more season, if not longer. To be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, a player must have spent at least five seasons with the same team if they were signed or drafted during or after high school or at least four seasons if drafted out of college. To be eligible for minor league free agency, an athlete must have spent at least six full seasons with the same team. None of the players above meet the criteria, so they aren't going anywhere unless traded.
    Additionally, save for perhaps Austin Martin and Matt Canterino, it's unlikely that any of the above athletes will be promoted to the majors at any point next season. The majority are still fairly young or lack professional experience, meaning some more seasoning in the minor leagues is more than warranted. 
    40-man Locks
    Jose Miranda, INF Joe Ryan, RHP Josh Winder, RHP Cole Sands, RHP Royce Lewis, SS/OF Jovani Moran, LHP There's no chance that the Twins will risk losing any of these guys. Miranda has been the most impressive minor league player in the system — if not all of MiLB — and will likely slot in somewhere in the infield next season. Joe Ryan and Josh Winder will probably be among those competing for a starting rotation spot next spring. Cole Sands has dominated the minors when healthy. Royce Lewis is a potential franchise cornerstone. Jovani Moran is already an MLB-caliber reliever. While all five athletes may not make the Opening Day roster, they will all accumulate service time beginning next summer, if not sooner.
    50/50 Chance
    Blayne Enlow, RHP Chris Vallimont, RHP Yennier Cano, RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Yunior Severino, INF Jermaine Palacios, INF Here's where the Twins need to make some decisions. 
    Enlow was a third-round pick in 2017 out of high school and has been phenomenal during his minor league career. However, he will miss a good chunk of next season — if not the entire season — after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this summer. While that may seem to disqualify him from Rule 5 consideration, a team could select Enlow and easily keep him on the 60-day IL for the entire season. Doing so would save his 40-man roster spot for another athlete and effectively eliminate the chance for Enlow to be returned to the Twins. Because of this, I would not be surprised if the Twins placed him on the 40-man rather than risk losing him for nothing.
    As I have discussed frequently, Vallimont is an enigma. He has fantastic raw stuff and strikeout numbers, but he lacks command and gives up too many free passes and runs. While he may eventually become an MLB pitcher, he isn't particularly close to being one at the moment. For this reason, I think it would be unlikely that a team would select him in the Rule 5 Draft, and, as such, I could see the Twins keeping him off their 40-man.
    Cano is an electric bullpen arm that dominated the lower minor leagues but has struggled a little bit since being promoted to Triple-A. That said, he has the raw stuff to carve out a major league career. He's already 27-years-old, but has only spent two seasons in the minors after signing as a free agent in 2019. So while he isn't eligible for the Rule 5 Draft or minor league free agency, one figures that if he's going to make it to the big leagues, he'll likely have to do it soon. I'd be surprised if we don't see him in Minneapolis at some point next season. Odds are that he won't be added to the 40-man until next season if he isn't by the end of this one.
    Both Severino and Palacios were former highly-touted prospects who failed to live up to expectations, though both have been performing exceptionally well as of late. As was the case with Vallimont, neither are ready to face MLB pitchers consistently. However, both still have a fair amount of potential, especially if their recent output remains. Palacios would be eligible for free agency if he is not rostered, while Severino would be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. If I'm the Twins, I place Severino on the 40-man and hope I can re-sign Palacios.
    Hamilton's situation is akin to that of Palacios. He's a former highly-regarded prospect who will be eligible for free agency if not added to the 40-man. He's shown promise this season at the Triple-A level, hitting 100 mph with his fastball on multiple occasions. Frankly, it's a little surprising that the Twins haven't given him a shot to this point, and, who knows, maybe they'll do so before the summer is over. Regardless, Hamilton has shown that he still has MLB talent and simply letting him walk could prove to be a poor decision.
    Rather Unlikely Notable Prospects
    Wander Javier, SS Trey Cabbage, OF/DH Both Javier and Cabbage will be eligible for minor league free agency following the season, though I doubt that the Twins will use that fact as motivation to put them on the 40-man. Javier has been too inconsistent at the plate to justify a roster spot, while Cabbage is a power-hitting corner outfielder/1B/DH-type. Cabbage is in the midst of a career year and does have some value; however, the Twins are loaded with young, power-hitting outfield talent. He could probably fetch something like a potential bullpen arm in a trade, but the odds of a team trading for him when they could try to sign him away from the Twins are low.
    Impending Free Agents
    Michael Pineda, RHP Alexander Colome, RHP Andrelton Simmons, SS The Twins may try to re-sign Pineda and Colome this coming winter, but Simmons seems highly unlikely to return, especially with Lewis's arrival right around the corner. I'd put the over/under on open 40-man roster spots from this group at 1.5.
    40-Man Spots That May Be Up For Grabs
    Charlie Barnes, LHP Devin Smeltzer, LHP Beau Burrows, RHP Danny Coulombe, LHP Luke Farrell, RHP Edgar Garcia, RHP Ralph Garza Jr., RHP Juan Minaya, RHP Cody Stashak, RHP Lewis Thorpe, LHP Nick Vincent, RHP Derek Law, RHP Willians Astudillo, UTIL Jake Cave, OF Kyle Garlick, OF Rob Refsnyder, OF The Twins have a bevy of bullpen arms, bench players, and trade candidates that could be on the move this offseason. As such, the team has at least 16 40-man spots — and that may be an underestimate — to play with. Add in the impending free agents, and that number jumps to 19. Subtract the locks, and that number falls to 14. So while it may seem as though the Twins are on the cusp of a roster crunch at first blush, the reality is that the team has plenty of room to play with this coming winter. If the team loses anyone to the Rule 5 Draft or minor league free agency, it's because the team determined that they were of little value to them moving forward. 
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  13. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Matthew Lenz for an article, Twins Options at Shortstop in 2022   
    When the Twins signed veteran Andrelton Simmons to a one-year, $10.5MM deal last offseason, it seemed like a perfect fit for a club that needed their top prospect to get an extra year of seasoning under his belt. A torn ACL and an anti-vaxxer later and what seemed like a perfect fit has turned into a complete disaster, and that’s before pointing out that Simmons has been one of the worst hitters in the league this year. Based on the latest Twitter mentions of Simmons, it’s pretty clear that the fans are ready to turn the page, although after not being dealt at the deadline, we’re likely stuck with him as there isn’t a suitable option to take his place at the moment.

    With Royce Lewis missing two full minor league seasons, he will need to start the year in Wichita or St. Paul and would probably spend the entire season between one of those two spots. Here are the short-term options for the position until he proves he’s ready.
    40-man Roster
    Jorge Polanco - we’re well aware of his recent history with the position, and it’s not pretty. Moreover, I wonder if his 2021 rebound has anything to do with moving to second base. He’s had back-to-back offseasons that required minor ankle surgery but seems to be healthy playing a position that is a little less taxing than shortstop. Based on the season he’s having, I’d hope that Twins don’t push him back to shortstop in 2022, but he also might be the best option currently in the organization. Nick Gordon - after six-plus seasons in the minors, Gordon finally made his Major League debut but didn’t do a great job of taking advantage of the opportunity. In recent years he’s started mixing time in a second, but he does have over 4,500 minor league innings at short. From what we’ve seen so far, he’s not the long-term solution at the position, but he could be an upgrade over Simmons in a season where the Twins likely won’t be competing for a playoff spot. Non-40-man Roster
    Jose Miranda - nobody saw this coming from Miranda, but he’s burst onto the scene and is having arguably the best season of any minor leaguer. He’s crushing so much so that you have fans clamoring for him to be with the big league club right now. In the long run, he’s the current heir apparent to Josh Donaldson, but he’s almost forcing the Twins hand to add him to the 40-man and see what he can do in 2022. A lot of greats have moved from short to third...Ripken, Rodriguez, Machado...and in 2024 or 2025, maybe Miranda can add his name to that list. Austin Martin - the Twins shiny new prospect has done well since coming over in the José Berríos trade, but Ken Rosenthal reported that the front office views him as more of an outfield prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an opportunity in Spring Training next year, but I would be surprised if he were named the everyday shortstop for the big league club. Jermaine Palacios - he’s having a nice little season for AA-Wichita, but I don’t see him being a candidate for this job in 2022. Drew Maggi or JT Riddle - the two minor league veterans are in St. Paul, but like Palacios, I can’t imagine they’ll get much of a look with other, better options to fill in for a year. Free Agents
    Marcus Semien - he’s having a great season with Toronto after signing a one-year deal last offseason, and entering his age 32-season, I have to imagine he’ll be looking for a multi-year deal. Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez - I group these guys because they are the best young shortstops in the game, and all will be looking to cash in. Like Semien, I foresee them wanting a lot of money over multiple years. José Iglesias - if the Twins are going to hit free agency, this might be a good, cheap target. Iglesias has bounced around the league quite a bit with great defense and a passable bat.  Andrelton Simmons - LOL. It comes down to the vision for the 2022 season, which I believe to be a rebuild or “retool” year. If that’s the case, it doesn’t make sense to spend in free agency when you have the opportunity to give some of your prospects time at the Major League level. No matter who they go with, they will be downgrading the defense, but that comes with an increase in offense. I think a mixture of Polanco, Gordon, Miranda, and Martin would be an okay choice while they spend money to rebuild their rotation and bullpen.
  14. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, In Defense of the Twins Front Office   
    The Twins hired Derek Falvey (who hired Thad Levine) in the wake of a disastrous 103-loss season in 2016. By that point, the Twins had gone six straight years without making the playoffs, and during that span they lost more games than any team in baseball. 
    The following year, Minnesota stunningly reached the postseason as a wild-card team. Then they missed out in 2018, still finishing second, before rebounding in 2019 with one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. The Twins followed in 2020 with another division title. 
    To run all that back: this front office took over a team that had gone 407-565 (.419) with zero playoff appearances in its previous six years, and went 300-246 (.549) with three playoff appearances in the next four. 
    Does their success owe somewhat to the foundation built before they arrived? Of course. No one would deny that Terry Ryan and Co. had cultivated an impressive nucleus before being ousted. But during those years, the Twins repeatedly failed in the draft, failed in acquisitions, and failed in player development. The results bore that out.
    Let's be clear about something here: This current regime was so successful and so impressive through four years that they were repeatedly poached of talent, both in the front office and the coaching staffs they assembled. Not only that, but Falvey and Levine themselves have been courted by big-name franchises like the Red Sox and Phillies. 
    What did they say, according to publicized reports on the matter? 
    "No thanks, we're going to see through what we're building here."
    And so, to see flocks of fans calling for their heads because of one bad season, which is no worse than the ones we saw repeatedly before they arrived ... it's a little hard to take. 
    Falvey became the youngest head exec in the league when he took Minnesota's top job. Currently he is 38 years old, which is three years younger than the DH he traded to Tampa Bay last month. Up until now he never experienced serious adversity during his tenure, which speaks to how smoothly things have gone in the first four years. 
    The same could be said, by the way, for his managerial choice Rocco Baldelli, who was named Manager of the Year in 2019 (as the youngest skipper in baseball, with no experience in the role) and then won a second straight division title in his second season.
    These people have shown their mettle. They've won. A lot. I realize they haven't won in the playoffs, and that sucks, but they haven't had nearly the opportunity of their predecessors. 
    Are we not going to give them a chance to learn from failure?
    Obviously the free agent pitching additions from the past winter have failed at every level. But this front office has made plenty of good and savvy pickups in the past, which helped fuel the success of high-quality staffs the last two years. And in any case, Falvey wasn't really hired to sign pitchers. He was hired to develop them.
    On that front, the jury is still out. This operation was four years in when a pandemic came along and wiped out an entire minor-league season. The fact that Minnesota's upper minors are currently loaded with intriguing high-upside arms would suggest the mission was on track, and is just now getting back on the rails. 
    Soon we'll start seeing those arms (along with the ones acquired at the deadline this year) ushered into majors, and at that point we'll be able to make real assessments. But until then, you're judging an incomplete project. 
    This reassembled baseball ops department has been working ahead of schedule basically since they took over a moribund franchise in despair. They hit a setback this year, and it's been painful. Let's give them a chance to get back on track in the wake of a major disruptive event and humbling follow-up season.
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  15. Like
    Minny505 reacted to David Youngs for an article, Twins Claim RHP Ralph Garza Jr. off Waivers   
    On Wednesday, the Twins filled the final spot on their 40-man roster by claiming 27-year-old Ralph Garza Jr. off waivers. Garza Jr. will report to Triple-A St. Paul. 
    Drafted from the University of Oklahoma by the Astros in the 26th round of the 2015 draft, Garza Jr. made his MLB debut earlier this season with Houston. Garza pitched 11 innings in nine games for the Astros, going 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA while striking out 14. He pitched against the Twins on June 2, hurling two innings of one-run ball while striking out two in a 14-3 win against Minnesota at Target Field. Garza was designated for assignment by the Astros when the team activated RHP Josh James from the 60-day IL. 

    Even though Garza’s small sample of numbers at the MLB level isn’t great, he’s been excellent at the AAA level. The reliever posted an impressive 1.96 ERA for Houston's Triple-A affiliate Sugar Land this season in ten appearances. In that span, he gave up just five hits and two runs while striking out 17 in 14 1/3 innings pitched. 
    Garza was even more successful in 2019 with former Houston AAA affiliate Round Rock. Garza was electric, serving as both a closer and a set-up man, posting nine saves and 16 holds en route to an 8-1 record with a 4.04 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 78 innings.
    Although he’s got six pitches in his arsenal, Garza relies primarily on his sinker, four-seam fastball, and slider. Garza’s fastball averages about 92 MPH, and his sinker floats around 90 MPH. Yet his greatest asset is the contrast between his heat and offspeed pitches. The Texas native’s curveball averages just 75 MPH and is his primary strikeout pitch. That contrast landed him an excellent 25.8 strikeout percentage in Triple-A and 14 strikeouts at the big league level in 2021. 
    Of all the waiver signings that the franchise has made in 2021, this one has the potential to be one of the better ones. Garza has consistently dominated in Triple-A and frankly hasn’t had that many opportunities to prove himself in MLB play. Expect the Saints to implement Garza into the back end of their bullpen immediately. And while it isn’t a given, successful results in St. Paul could earn Garza a spot in the Twins bullpen by the end of the season.
  16. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Do the Twins Have a Self-Scouting Issue?   
    There’s no question that successful organizations need to have a strong scouting department. It is the job of this group to find talent at any level and decide if those players are a good fit for an organization. One undervalued scouting skill might be the ability of an organization to evaluate their own talent and decide which pieces are most critical for an organization’s long-term success.
    Unfortunately, these three players have all found success with other organizations without getting a long look at the big-league level by the Twins.
    Akil Baddoo, Detroit Tigers
    Minnesota drafted Baddoo in the second round back in 2016 and he played his first four professional seasons in the organization. Back in 2019, he topped out at High-A where he hit .214/.290/.393 in 29 games. Entering the 2021 season, he didn’t have an at-bat at the Double-A level and the lost 2020 season certainly took away some development time, so the Twins left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Now, it’s looking like the Twins might have given up on him too soon.
    Detroit is in rebuild mode so they can afford to take some chances in the Rule 5 Draft, and they were willing to give Baddoo a shot at the big-league level. His hot start to the season was well documented as he had a 1.024 OPS through his first 15 games. He may not be getting the hype he was at season’s start, but he entered play on Monday with a 142 OPS+ while leading the American League in triples. Minnesota had a lot of minor league outfield depth, but Baddoo is looking more like he can be a contributor for years to come.  
    LaMonte Wade Jr., San Francisco Giants
    Wade was a ninth-round pick by the Twins in the 2015 MLB Draft and the Twins had used him throughout parts of the 2019 and 2020 season. In those two years, he compiled an 87 OPS+ in 42 games and he looked to have a shot at making the 2021 Twins. The decision came down to picking Wade or Jake Cave as the team’s fourth outfielder. Minnesota was able to trade Wade to the Giants in exchange for Shaun Anderson, who was recently claimed off waivers by the Rangers. It was a deal that couldn’t have gone more poorly for the Twins.
    In his age-27 season, Wade has found a role with the Giants, the first team to 50 wins this season. Through his first 28 games, he has posted a 136 OPS+ while playing all three outfield positions and first base. Cave compiled a 43 OPS+ in 31 games this year before ending up on the 60-day injured list with a stress reaction in his lower back. Wade is finding big-league success on one of baseball’s best teams while the Twins have been forced to shuffle through a variety of outfielders.
    Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays
    Anderson, a Minnesota native, had to work his way into professional baseball after attending college at Mayville State University in North Dakota. The Twins signed him out of independent baseball and used him as a reliever in four different seasons as he topped out at Triple-A. In November 2018, the Twins traded him to the Miami Marlins for Brian Schales and Anderson has pitched at the big-league level ever since that deal.
    Anderson was a critical piece of the Rays bullpen that drove them to the 2020 World Series. Throughout the 2019-20 seasons, he has combined for a 155 ERA+ with a 0.96 WHIP and 15 SO/9. His 2021 season hasn’t started yet as he recovers from a partial torn ligament in his right elbow. The injury didn’t require surgery and he is supposed to return for the season’s second half. This will be a welcome boost to a Rays club that is fighting for an AL East crown. He would also be a welcome addition to a Twins bullpen that has seen it’s fair share of struggles this season.
    It’s great to see these players writing their own success story, but it’s too bad those achievements didn’t come in a Twins uniform. Minnesota needs to hang on to players like these that can add to their organizational depth and that process might start with looking in the mirror at their own self-scouting.
    Do you think the Twins have a self-scouting issue? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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  17. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Out of Their Depth   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/7 through Sun, 6/13
    ***
    Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 26-39)
    Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -50)
    Standing: T-4th Place in AL Central (15.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 60 | NYY 8, MIN 4: New York Pulls Away Late, Wins Series Opener
    Game 61 | NYY 9, MIN 6: Yankees Tee Off on Dobnak in Victory
    Game 62 | MIN 7, NYY 5: Donaldson, Cruz Power Dramatic Comeback vs. Chapman
    Game 63 | HOU 6, MIN 4: Shoemaker's Late Lapse Leads to Loss
    Game 64 | MIN 5, HOU 2: Twins Win Behind Strong Effort from Berríos  
    Game 65 | HOU 14, MIN 3: Astros Destroy Twins Pitching in Blowout
    NEWS & NOTES
    Relatively speaking, it was a pretty quiet week in terms of roster moves and injury updates. Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, Luis Arraez, and Max Kepler all embarked on rehab assignments in St. Paul, so the Twins figure to get back these important fixtures in the near future. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A, then quickly recalled, as Kyle Garlick went on the shelf with a sports hernia. Rob Refsnyder is back. (He started in right field and batted cleanup on Sunday, which says a lot about the state of this roster.)
    HIGHLIGHTS
    The biggest highlight of the week, and the season, came in the ninth inning of Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. With the Twins trailing by two runs and facing a sweep, Aroldis Chapman came to the mound, carrying a 0.39 ERA, 4-0 record, and 12-for-13 save conversion rate. He'd been lights-out, and was going up against a Twins team that has constantly shrunk in big spots.
    All of which made the ensuing sequence of events astonishingly improbable. 
    If you turned away from the TV, you might've missed one of the most exhilarating comeback wins in recent franchise history. It all happened so quickly.
    Jorge Polanco led off with a single. In stepped Josh Donaldson, who took ball one and then launched a mammoth game-tying home run to left-center. Willians Astudillo, pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon, followed with a first-pitch single of his own. And then came Nelson Cruz, who basically replicated what Donaldson did two ABs earlier by drilling a 1-0 pitch deep to center for the walk-off winner. 
    Within a span of nine pitches, the Twins grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.
    For Twins fans, the feeling was bittersweet, because it was hard not to think about how much more epic and energizing that win would've been if the Twins hadn't cast themselves hopelessly out of contention. In anticipation of this season, we dreamed about Cruz and Donaldson coming through with game-changing jolts like this all year long, but instead, such marquee moments have been far and few between, which is part of the reason the team finds itself buried in last place. 
    With that said, Cruz's bat has been showing some life at the plate again lately and that's good to see now matter how you slice it. He went 6-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs on the week, equaling his totals in those categories from the entire month of May. He might not find himself leading the Twins on a pennant chase in August and September, but maybe he can do it for someone else, and score Minnesota a prospect or two in the process.
    Donaldson's clutch bomb was also part of a power-hitting rejuvenation, as he followed the next day by going deep twice against Houston – his second two-homer game in an eight-day span. His slugging percentage, which had sagged to .408 by the end of the Baltimore series in early June, is back up to .475. As I noted last week, Donaldson's been remarkably healthy and durable since his season-opening IL sint, leading the team in games played and plate appearances since returning. He's also been doing some very nice work with the glove.
    Polanco, whose single set up the dramatic finish against New York, has generally stayed hot at the plate. He went 6-for-21 with three homers and six RBIs last week. His left-handed swing is actually doing damage again and that's huge. Other standout offensive performances included Miguel Sanó (8-for-24 with two homers and four RBIs) and Alex Kirilloff (5-for-13 with just one strikeout in five games). 
    There weren't many positives on the pitching side, but José Berríos certainly qualifies. He was masterful against the Astros on Saturday night, spinning seven innings of two-run ball. The righty allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Berríos has won five straight decisions and the Twins are 7-1 in his last seven starts dating back to the beginning of May. 
    The other noteworthy pitching bright spot was a strong showing from Bailey Ober on Friday night, when he made a spot start in place of Matt Shoemaker. Going against an elite Houston offense, Ober tossed five innings and allowed just two runs, striking out seven with one walk. He continues to pump 92-93 MPH with his four-seamer, which is immensely encouraging. Ober looks like he could be a legitimate factor on a pitching staff that desperately needs help, both now and moving forward.
    LOWLIGHTS
    Even after being bumped from the rotation, Shoemaker continues to cost the Twins with his staggeringly poor play. He appeared in relief on Friday night against the Astros and took the loss, giving up two runs in the ninth to break a tie. (The decision by Rocco Baldelli to use him in this situation was ... questionable to say the least.) He came out of the bullpen again on Sunday and looked customarily awful, coughing up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings of work. 
    Shoemaker has the worst ERA in the league, he's been tagged with eight losses in 13 appearances, and seems to look worse every time he takes the mound. It's past time for the Twins to move on. Roster crunches and depth issues be damned: you can't justify continuing to run a guy like this out in major-league games.
    The same can also be said for Alex Colomé, whose brief stretch of effectiveness in May is now a distant memory. He gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work on Sunday, and has a 5.48 ERA on the season to go along with his league-worst (by a mile) negative-2.34 Win Probability Added. Colomé's departure is probably less imminent than Shoemaker's, because they're paying him three times as much and are so direly short-handed in the bullpen, but in both cases it's only a matter of time. These guys were complete free agent busts and wherever the Twins go from here, they aren't going to be part of it.
    The situation with Randy Dobnak is a bit more complicated. He's looked every bit as bad as Shoemaker, with his ERA inflating to 8.38 after allowing 14 earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings over the past week. Dobnak gave up five home runs in two appearances, with four coming against his reinvented slider which has changed from a powerful asset to a glaring weakness for him. That begs the question why he or the Twins thought it would be a good idea to tinker with that pitch in the first place.
    It's not pleasant to watch Dobnak pitch right now, but the solution isn't as simple as cutting bait like it is with Shoemaker. The Twins just signed Dobnak to a five-year contract extension on the heels of an outstanding spring training, and while the monetary commitment isn't huge, they are invested in him for better or worse. It behooves them to help him work through his issues because he's currently one of their few figments of long-term stability in the rotation picture.
    Fixing the pitching staff has become a primary crux for the Twins and their future outlook. The work is cut out for them here. Michael Pineda looks to be headed for the Injured List. Shoemaker is unusable and J.A. Happ hasn't been much better. Berríos is under contract for one more year after this and Maeda two more. It's tough to have much confidence in the front office filling tons of holes and constructing a quality unit from scratch during the offseason given how poorly all of their moves this year fared. 
    As such, you can see why it's critically important for Ober to build on his early success and for Dobnak to get straightened out. The Twins need some things to break right with young pitchers or they simply won't be equipped to contend next year, in which case, why not just trade Berríos at the upcoming deadline?
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    For what it's worth, the Twins are about to get a lot closer to full strength. Maeda, Buxton, and Arraez have completed their rehab stints and will be traveling to Seattle for the upcoming road trip. Maeda is scheduled to start against the Mariners on Monday, and the other two will presumably be activated for that game as well. Kepler is be a bit further behind, given that he played his first rehab game in St. Paul on Sunday (and was the DH), but we could see him up before week's end. Those are some pretty key cogs the Twins have been playing without. 
    We'll see if their returns, along with a softening of the schedule, can help this team get on a bit of a winning run here in the back half of June. So far, sustained hot streaks have eluded them.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    Get ready for some late-night baseball as the Twins head to Seattle for a showdown against the Mariners in Pacific Time. Then, following an off day, Minnesota heads down to Texas for a weekend series against the last-place Rangers.
    MONDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Marco Gonzales
    TUESDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP J.A. Happ vs. RHP Chris Flexen
    WEDNESDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Justus Sheffield
    FRIDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
    SATURDAY, 6/18: TWINS @ RANGERS – TBD v. LHP Kolby Allard
    SUNDAY, 6/19: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dane Dunning
  18. Like
    Minny505 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Real Josh Donaldson is Coming   
    We can give Donaldson somewhat of a pass in 2020. Sure, he was hurt again, and his gargantuan calves didn’t hold up over what was a shortened season. There were comments made that pregame preparation was hardly ideal, and given the circumstances, that’s more than fair to believe. When he did play, 28 games to be exact, an .842 OPS was produced. While that’s not superstar level, it’s well above average and the 134 OPS+ reflects that mark as well.
    Fast forward to 2021 and Minnesota has a third basemen posting a .752 OPS across 37 games, and his OPS+ sits at just 115. Take a look at the slash lines year over year though. A season ago Donaldson batted just .222 but posted a strong .373 OBP and a .469 SLG. This year he’s hitting .236, but the OBP is all the way down to .338 and the SLG sits at just .415. If you need an indicator that batting average is overrated, well, there you go.
    At any rate, what’s going on? The short answer is a lot.
    From a process perspective, Donaldson is actually improved when it comes to plate discipline. His 26.9% chase rate is basically in line with his career mark, and it’s resulted in a strong 22/21 K/BB. His CSW%, which is a combination of called and swinging strikes, sits at a career low 22.3%. Contact, both in the zone and as a whole, are also way up. So, to summarize the process, we’re in a good place.
    Now, how about the results?
    Donaldson has long been a hitting savant, and because of it, a banger in the box when the bat meets the ball. That’s still happening for the most part. His 15.2% barrel rate is a career best, and the 35.2% hard hit rate is above the mark posted a season ago. He’s dropped his ground ball rate (good) and increased his line drive rate (also good).
    Why in the world aren’t the results better?
    There’s a couple of reasons, and as silly as it is, some of it comes down to bad luck. Donaldson owns a miniscule .240 BABIP, which is just four points higher than his average. Not all balls put in play are equal, and obviously expecting this man to be a burner on the basepaths is a losing strategy. What the expected outcomes are, however, tells a much different story.
    Fangraphs has the Bringer of Rain’s expected batting average at .282, with an expected SLG of .534, and an xWOBA of .385. Expected outcomes are derived from the assessment of launch angle and exit velocities. In other words, the outcomes that inputs should create.
    Some of that could be blamed on the baseball. Prior to the season MLB announced that it would change the playing object with an intention of a deadening effect. An article from The Athletic in early April talked about the drag coefficient on this baseball. Is livelier off the bat, but flight parameters are muted. For a power guy like Donaldson, that should create a net negative effect when it comes to carry over the wall. It explains a rise in barrel percentage, but helps really only on line drives.

    Another amount of it could be blamed on bad luck and a small sample size. Donaldson’s radial and launch angle charts both illustrate the previously discussed outputs. We’re still just dealing with a 37-game sample, 123 at bats in total, and what equates to 22% of a full season. So, if there’s good news here, it’s the positive normalization should be coming.
    Rocco Baldelli has seen his lineup be rejuvenated by the emergence of both Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver’s return to form. Next could be Donaldson, and for a guy that Minnesota is paying nearly $100 million to anchor the offense, it couldn’t be more necessary.
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