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Dave The Dastardly

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  1. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Matt Braun for an article, The Twins Shouldn't Spend (Much) On Starting Pitching This Offseason   
    (For the record, I did not intend for this to be a pseudo-response to Nick Nelson’s article from the other day, but it worked out like that.)
    In all likelihood, Kenta Maeda’s Tommy John surgery has ended any chance he has of pitching to any significant degree in 2022. There remains an outside chance that he can return in nine months, but even that heavily optimistic prediction shortens his 2022 season. Because of this, the potential Twins starting rotation in 2022 as of this very moment will consist solely of players with little MLB playing time and John Gant. And John Gant is not a starter. You, yes, you, my good reader, have about as much playing time as any of these other guys. Sure, Bailey Ober has flashed some ability; but the names after him are either questionable or dreadful. It is an unsustainable rotation. The natural thought would be then to sign an entire stable of starters. Just line up pitchers and send them through in such rapid fashion that FDR’s 100 days would appear to have run at a snail’s pace. 
    But this would not be a good idea. First, which teams have built a successful starting rotation on such short notice? Yes, the Giants have found success this season with this method, but they are the exceptions. Look down the list of the top rotations by fWAR. Almost every team has a foundation of starters who were either developed internally or acquired before this last off-season. Teams like the Giants are relatively rare in building a starting rotation; most great units require a more solid base. The Twins, by comparison, would have to sign four starters (or three and pray that someone fixed Randy Dobnak) and assume that Bailey Ober will be available for 160+ quality innings next season. Not a great plan.
    Secondly, let’s think big picture. What good would a patchwork rotation be in 2022? There remain significant questions regarding the stability of this current core of players. The central nucleus of names is getting older. Considering that this same group of players has struggled early in 2021, why should we believe the situation will suddenly be any better? Will Miguel Sanó abruptly learn plate discipline? Will Max Kepler’s BABIP finally go above .250? I think not. The moves made by the front office signal to me that they do not plan on seriously competing until 2023. They traded José Berríos, a starter under control for 2022, for prospects. Yes, it was also because the deal was great for them, but the main driver, I believe, was a fundamental belief that this team, as currently constructed, will come up short in any effort in 2022 without heavenly intervention. Why else would they also peddle core players like Byron Buxton and Kepler? 
    One of the other main tenants in the belief of a 2022 surrender is the prospect situation. It isn’t the lack of quality of prospects; they have those. It’s when they should make their MLB debuts. According to MLB.com, nine of their top 10 prospects will likely debut this year or next year. According to Fangraphs, it is nine of 11. Neither of these lists includes Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, who, while no longer prospects, will become long-term players in their own right who can (and will) replace current names. These soon-to-be-Twins reflect a conscious effort to have 2022 be a messy season in which the Twins can figure out which players will contribute in 2022 and beyond. Call up all the kids, see what they can do, then decide from there. There will be no competing next season.
    Now, while this should prevent the Twins from going all-in on starters, they should not utterly abstain from signing. They should target a younger long-term arm like Jon Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, or even a more prominent name like Marcus Stroman. These players can bring an essential veteran presence while not presenting the same risks that an older (but probably better) pitcher like Zack Greinke or Justin Verlander will have. If the team wants to sign a player of that magnitude, it makes more sense to do so after 2022, when the genetic makeup of the team makes more sense. 
    This line of thought does raise one more important question. If the team only signs one major starter, where does the rest of the money go? Their theoretical spending limit will be significant after this season. While I would love to give Mr. Pohlad a chance to purchase another absurd yacht or buy off a state senator or something, I don’t believe that money should go to waste. Perhaps the team could look towards signing one of the many All-Star shortstops available this off-season or decide to hand out an early extension to one of their numerous pre-arb players. I know that advocating for minimal movement on the rotation front while inking a high-caliber position player to a long-term deal seems like a strange idea, and it is. The key phrase is “long-term”; I’m thinking about building a better 2023 team, not a better 2022 team, and a burnt contract year is just the cost of investing. 
    I get it, though. This team has not won a playoff game since the Bush administration, and it feels that it may be asking the world of some to hold off another season before diving headfirst back into the fray. No one wants to do that. This idea comes from the same desire that every other Twins fan possesses; we want this team to succeed. We want to finally shed the pressure that is years of unmatched playoff ineptitude. All I am asking is that the team realizes the poor situation that 2022 will likely be and instead decide to take a better-calculated shot at playoff success with a more solid foundation underneath them. What good will one more poorly constructed hopeful playoff run do? Plan for a better future. 
  2. Haha
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, A Celebration of Joe Ryan's Hair   
    Some might say the promise of Joe Ryan's debut (An 8-pitch, all-strikes first inning! Five innings of relative competency!) was marred by the 3-run dinger he surrendered to Frank Schwindel, the only runs scored in yet another Twins loss, this one 3-0 to the Chicago Cubs.
    Some are full of crap. 
    Joe Ryan's truly wondrous hair was the star of Wednesday's game and should be rewarded handsomely. Pun intended. I know the rules say he can't be given the win, as his team lost, he gave up all the runs, and he was the pitcher of record. But! The rules didn't stop the Houston Astros from whaling on garbage cans like a child and their first drum set or the New York Mets from hoovering every drug known to man in 1986. Rules are flexible and our governing bodies impossibly corrupt. Giving both Ryan and the Cubs a win may not be legal, but it feels as right as the shampoo-and-conditioner regimen Ryan follows to give his hair that healthy body and luxuriant shine.
    That said, I understand that this radical, if obviously correct, solution will be seen as too much in some quarters. What I propose instead is a day of recognition for Ryan's remarkable hair and what it's done for the team, the fans, and the entire community.
    Every September 1st, we celebrate Joe Ryan's hair.
    If you normally wear a hat or put your hair in a ponytail, let it go free on Joe Ryan Hair Day. Free like a stallion galloping over the open, untrammeled prairie, with nothing but the wind and the sun as companions. If you're bald or keep it shaved, consider a sassy wig, knowing that even your more hirsute pals will also fail to approach the majesty of Ryan's mane. The Twins could do their part, giving out free combs and hot oil treatments to the first 10,000 customers at Target Field. Give a young Twins fan a novelty baseball cap and they have a hair solution for a day. Teach a young Twins fan to establish a cleaning-and-styling routine with the proper tools and they have a hair solution for a lifetime.
    In a summer filled with disappointment and outright misery, the calendar turned to September and blessed us with Joe Ryan and his substantial, inspiring flow. This rare gift of hope ought not to be squandered. Thank you, Joe and/or your stylist. Thank you.
  3. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Getting Jhoan Duran Back on Track   
    The team has not yet announced that Duran will miss the rest of 2021, but, given the nature of elbow strains, I find it difficult to see him returning to the mound in any meaningful way. There's just no decent reason to push him. Now, 2022 will be about rebuilding (essentially) two years of missed time while juggling playing time at both the AAA and major league levels. That sounds like quite a challenge. Fortunately, there is another player that the Twins can mimic in how they build Duran back up. Unfortunately, that player is on a rival squad.
    Michael Kopech; you probably know him. The White Sox brought him over with Yoán Moncada when they traded scissors-enthusiast Chris Sale to Boston as a kick-start to their rebuild. Kopech debuted in 2018 with mild success-barely any walks, but a ton of homers-and emerged as something of a budding ace. The following two years were less kind. Kopech missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and then he opted out of the 2020 season for 'personal reasons'. Kopech was still more-or-less as talented as when he debuted, but he faced an uphill climb in 2021 to build back the stamina needed to be a successful starter. What has been the plan?
    Use him as a reliever, of course. Kopech has started just three games against 27 relief appearances as of August 23rd. Oddly enough, Chicago immediately threw Kopech into the heat of battle-eight of his first ten appearances lasted longer than one inning-before reining him in afterward. Since May 18th, he has thrown multiple innings just three times, with none of those outings lasting longer than two innings. 
    Perhaps part of that is caution. MLB teams are notorious for treating young pitchers like buried treasure, but I think there's a somewhat different philosophy at play here. Yes, the White Sox want to be careful with Kopech, but they want to get him cheap playing time. Relief pitchers are much easier to command because the manager can control the situations they find themselves in. Do you want to avoid using a guy in a high-leverage context? Then don't. Do you want to get him multiple innings? Go right ahead. The reliever moniker allows the team to be flexible in a way that starters cannot be.
    I believe that the Twins should follow suit with Duran. His lack of innings perfectly mirrors the situation Kopech was in, and the 2021 season has been fantastic for Chicago's righty (I wrote this sentence before he gave up five earned runs in one inning, whoops.) The team should use Duran as a sort of swingman or as a piggybacker at the major league level as soon as they can. Forcing Duran to burn time at AAA in a vain effort to build back his stamina will only cause the team to avoid utilizing one of their most exciting pitching prospects.
    "But Matt," you say, "why not just keep him as a starter in AAA? Why force him into the bullpen? What difference does it make?" These are fair questions. 
    The Twins will strongly limit Duran in 2022. My guess is 80 innings-it could be more but likely not by much. Why, then, should Duran waste innings at AAA when he could instead get accustomed to major league talent while also building back his innings? The team will not be competitive in 2022, so Duran taking his occasional licks will hurt no one.
    Keep in mind that Duran will be 24 when the 2022 season begins, and if they keep him as a starter that season, he likely will not be up in any significant fashion until 2023, when he's 25. That's far from old, but he's getting to the point where his prospect status needs to become actual tangible major league ability. The Twins should be looking solely to prep Duran for 2023, and I see a spot in the major league bullpen as a better alternative than more time at AAA.
  4. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Yankees: Move Make-Up Game to 2022   
    The New York Yankees have petitioned Major League Baseball to reschedule last Sunday’s postponed game versus the Minnesota Twins to 2022.
    While make-up games are ordinarily played in the same season, the Yankees claim that there are special circumstances about this matchup that make it more favorable to play next year.
    “We won’t bore you with tall tales of competitive balance or fresh legs,” said a team spokesperson. “Another loss to the Yankees in 2021 is meaningless to this broken, beaten franchise. You can’t steal from the man who has nothing! We want the Twins to suffer. The suffering is why.”
    Sources in the Yankees front office say they’re confident they will not need an extra win over Minnesota this season as they fight for a playoff spot. Instead, the chance to inflict ceaseless pain and torment on the Twins and their fanbase is the club’s primary focus.
    “Every baseball team, even Baltimore, exits Spring Training with optimism,” said the spokesperson. “Snuffing that optimism out is delicious. Snuffing that optimism out of the Twins is beyond delicious. The tears of stoic Upper Midwesterners just taste a little saltier. You can tell it hurts. The tears have meaning, purpose.”
    The Twins aren’t scheduled to play New York until June 7, 2022, when they begin a three-game series at Target Field.
    “There is an open date on Monday, June 6,” said a Yankees source. “Can you just imagine if the Twins have turned things around and are leading the AL Central after Memorial Day? And then for four days, just a constant pummeling in front of their loving fans. Night after night after night after night. A couple 15-2 beatdowns, a couple 11-10 comebacks with blown saves. It’s happening again. You’re powerless to stop it. And there are three more days left in New York in case the light of hope flickers anew. You fools. You fools.”
    The source then cackled for 45 minutes straight.
    Image license here.
  5. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, How to Deal with a Meaningless Yankees Series   
    The season’s shot. The Yankees can’t hurt you any more than the Twins already have. And yet here we are, a 4-game series against New York on the road. The Yankee Stadium house of horrors should be causing you to [drink heavily/guzzle Pepto-Bismol/both] as the first pitch approaches. Instead, you feel nothing. What in the heck?!?
    It’s not your fault. When the Twins are competitive, it’s almost always the Yankees who show up at summer’s end to bring sadness and pain. When the Twins aren’t competitive, it’s very often the Yankees turning an April or May series into a nightmare from which you cannot awake that confirms it’s just not happening this season.
    This year? The 2021 campaign was circling the drain when the Twins dropped 2 of 3 to New York in June. Honestly, the fact that they won a game at all should have been a sign that something was different. Meanwhile, New York is in the thick of the American League playoff race, although not unbeatable by any means. How are Twins fans supposed to handle such an odd circumstance?
    Twins Daily reached out to Jon Marthaler, a Falcon Heights-based expert on sports-derived frustration and boundless rage, to ask if he had any advice for struggling fans. He shared the following tips:
    Ease into it. Find clips from the last 19 Twins playoff losses, many of which came at New York’s hands. Remember the sorrow. Soak in it for a while. Cry if you must. Crying lets the sad out. Find a similar interest. He suggests looking for an activity that’s as equally frustrating/miserable as watching a standard Twins/Yankees game. For those wanting to get out of the house, Marthaler recommends golfing on a course overrun with fire ants. For the homebound, he put forward the reading of any American newspaper’s online comments section. Punch drywall. “It just feels good, and the repair work gives you something to do on a weekend,” says Marthaler. “My hand hurts very badly. This has some downside risks, frankly. Ouch. Ouch.” Watch the Vikings. “It looks like their season is going to be a hot mess,” speculated Marthaler. “They have a preseason game on Saturday. Even pretend Vikings games offer something to make your day just a little bit worse.” Extend grace to yourself and others. "If you just decide to sit on a park bench and crush heaters, that's OK. If you see someone in a Byron Buxton shirsey wandering around the mall and barely keeping it together, give them space. No one really knows what to do until its done."  Marthaler said he personally will drive the entire 94/494/694 loop twice on Friday night with the radio off, contemplating eternity and drinking a tepid Sprite. 
    Image license here.
  6. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Andrelton Simmons Isn’t Good Enough to Get Away with This   
    Remember Steve Carlton? The not-very-integral member of the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins was, at one time, the best pitcher in baseball. Four Cy Youngs, five years leading the National League in strikeouts (the fifth time at age 38), last pitcher to throw 300 innings a season, led the Phillies to their first title in 1980. A remarkable career.
    He was also completely out of his mind.
    Carlton never spoke to the media, which means we didn’t learn until he was long retired that he built a mountain lair with a 7000-foot storage cellar loaded to the gills with guns and bottled water for “The Revolution.” That revolution was coming thanks to Russian sound waves, the Skull and Bones Society, the Elders of Zion, the National Education Association, and more. I’m aware this qualifies him to represent the state of Georgia in Congress today, but in 1994 this was wild stuff.
    One assumes that the Phillies knew that Steve was off his nut, but when you can produce like he did, you let that stuff slide a little bit, especially if he keeps it quiet. By the time he was failing to make the Minnesota Twins playoff roster because he wasn’t as good as Lester Straker, he was just a cooked 43-year-old with weirdly anti-Semitic ideas about how the world works. He never pitched again.
    Which brings me to Andrelton Simmons.
    Already the COVID patient zero of the Twins locker room, he took to social media on Thursday to let the world know, and I quote:
    I’m not going to debate the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines with Simmons or anyone else, as there is no debate to be had. They work. Please shut up and let the horses have their wormer paste. (Also, it’s “effects.”)
    Across town, the Vikings are dealing with a similar situation. A handful of their best players (Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, I guess Kirk Cousins if you squint hard enough) apparently won’t get the vacc either. It presents some hard choices for them, as they don’t have quality replacements for any of them as the regular season looms, and the NFL will make teams forfeit games if they can’t field a lineup due to COVID quarantines.
    The Twins face no such dilemma.
    The season is over. Simmons is an offensive liability and a good-to-excellent defender, which basically makes him a better Jeff Reboulet, if Jeff Reboulet thought Jurassic Park was real. He’s on a one-year deal. Maybe if he was the standout player in a disappointing season you could let his idiocy slide. Or maybe if it was something less harmful and kind of quirky, like thinking the earth was flat or dedicating his Instagram Stories to proving that birds are a deep-fake.
    He’s not good enough to get away with this. Let the summer of Drew Maggi begin.
    Image license here.
  7. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: New-Look Rotation   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/2 thru Sun, 8/8
    ***
    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 48-64)
    Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: -73)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (17.5 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 107 | MIN 7, CIN 5: Garver, Polanco Power Exciting Win
    Game 108 | CIN 6, MIN 5: Twins Comeback Falls Short
    Game 109 | MIN 5, HOU 3: Jax Earns First MLB Win as Starter
    Game 110 | MIN 5, HOU 4: Twins Rally from Early Deficit
    Game 111 | HOU 4, MIN 0: Lineup Has No Answers for Houston Pitching
    Game 112 | MIN 7, HOU 5: Polanco's 2 Homers Lift Twins to Series Win
    NEWS & NOTES
    Sidelined since early June by a bad hammy strain, Rob Refsnyder finally returned from the Injured List on Thursday, and has since resumed his role as semi-regular center fielder in Byron Buxton's absence. Refsnyder's activation led to Nick Gordon being optioned to Triple-A, which caused some consternation among fans who wished to see Gordon get a real shot.
    I get it. I like Gordon as a person and would love to see him succeed. It can feel hard to understand what's holding him back from more playing time on a bad team that's going nowhere. But this move makes it all the clearer how the Twins view him, and ... can you really blame them? 
    While the speed is nice, Gordon has simply shown no signs that he can be an impactful contributor on a major-league team. He's a capable defender at several spots, but nowhere is he a standout, and the Twins seem to have zero interest in playing him at short. When you combine that defensive profile with a completely punchless bat, there isn't much value to be found. During his time in the majors, Gordon put 70 balls in play and recorded one barrel. He slashed .176/.263/.235 in his final 20 games. He lacks any discipline at the plate, offering at 45.8% pitches outside the zone, which is second on the team behind (of course) Willians Astudillo.
    It's not happening for Gordon this year. Now that doesn't preclude the possibility that he works his ass off during the winter, bulks up, and comes out next spring with a significantly bolstered skill set. We'll see if the Twins hold him on the 40-man roster and pursue that avenue. For now, the sad fact is that Refsnyder has a better chance of being a valuable contributor on the 2022 Twins.
    In other roster news of the week: Another right-handed reliever picked up off waivers. Just days after snagging Edgar Garcia following his DFA from Cincinnati, the Twins claimed former Astro Ralph Garza Jr., who was immediately optioned to Triple-A to join Garcia on the Saints.
    Garza, like many pitchers the Twins have added of late, has intriguing attributes and big strikeout rates in the minors, but also some clear flaws. There's no particular reason to think he or Garcia – discarded cast-offs from other organizations – will turn to anything useful. 
    But then again, the same thing applies in the bullpen as in the rotation: the Twins are going to need help from the minors and every lottery ticket helps. It's a numbers game and the team is improving its odds.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    With veterans José Berríos and J.A. Happ departing at the deadline, Minnesota plugged in Griffin Jax and Charlie Barnes, who join incumbent rookie Bailey Ober in a suddenly very inexperienced rotation. It's quite the departure from Opening Day, when Berríos was their youngest starter.
    While veteran holdovers Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda are interesting to track for their own reasons, the youth movement is now the central focus for the starting corps. None of the three rookies currently in the rotation are top prospects, but in the numbers game, it's all about letting them run and seeing if one emerges. 
    This past week, the numbers showed some things to like from Jax and Ober:
    Jax spun 5 ⅓ innings of one-run ball in Houston on Thursday against the highest-scoring offense in the majors. (Albeit one missing several key bats.) He allowed only three hits and one walk in an efficient and impressive performance. Jax recorded zero strikeouts and only three swinging strikes in the outing, which is concerning, but he did pile up six strikeouts on 16 whiffs against the White Sox two starts prior, so he has at least shown the capability to miss bats. In his past three starts dating back to that one, Jax has a 1.88 ERA with six hits allowed in 14 ⅓ frames. Ober's start on Saturday was a mixed bag. On the one hand, we saw his strengths on display, with five strikeouts and one walk pushing his outstanding seasonal ratio to 56-to-15 ratio in 52 ⅓ innings. Ober's 3.7 K/BB ranks second among Twins starters behind Pineda. Ober also gave up two home runs in his five innings of work, surfacing his biggest weakness, but in general he too has been on a good track. In his past three starts, Ober has a 3.77 ERA and 15-to-3 K/BB ratio in 14 ⅓ frames. Several relievers also had strong showings as the bullpen rebounded from a very ugly run the previous week. Jorge Alcala allowed one hit (a home run) in three innings of work, striking out six of the 11 batters he faced. Alex Colomé worked four scoreless appearances and picked up three saves. Juan Minaya struck out eight over 4 ⅓ shutout innings between three appearances, allowing just two hits.
    On the offensive side, it was a relatively quiet week with a few standout performances. In spite of his barking knees, Luis Arraez continues to rake; he notched hits in every game he played and went 10-for-17 overall to raise his average to .318, which would rank sixth in baseball if qualified. Jorge Polanco drilled three more homers, and leads the American League in long balls over the past month. It's a remarkable turnaround from a player whose power had been totally sapped.
    Miguel Sanó did not have a particularly strong week overall, but he did make a game-saving defensive play at third on Friday night, and did this to a baseball on Sunday:
    LOWLIGHTS
    While Jax and Ober came through with encouraging performances, Barnes was less inspiring. Facing Cincinnati on Wednesday, the left-hander was knocked around for five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in four innings of work. Through two major-league starts he has a 6.23 ERA with three strikeouts and three walks in 8 ⅔ innings. He has induced only seven swinging strikes on 148 pitches between the two outings (5%).
    Barnes isn't embarrassing as a spot-starter type but it'd be nice to get someone in that fifth rotation slot with a little more upside. The Twins are slowly starting to get healthier in their starting pitching ranks, so maybe a few options will emerge in the coming weeks. Lewis Thorpe was activated from a lengthy IL stint and started Sunday for the Saints. Randy Dobnak was reportedly doing some "light throwing at Target Field" on Sunday morning, suggesting he's on the comeback trail.
    I realize these names aren't going to have folks leaping with excitement but they both have a better chance of factoring significantly into the 2022 rotation than Barnes.
    Brent Rooker cooled off following a red-hot start to his second stint with the Twins this year, going just 3-for-22, although he continued to flash power with all three hits going for doubles. Selectiveness at the plate will be the key thing to watch from Rooker, and he's leaving much to be desired in that area. He's not working into enough favorable counts and when at-bats end with pitchers ahead, he's just 1-for-29 this season. 
    Alas, Rooker looks like an unstoppable offensive force in comparison to Andrelton Simmons. Anyone does. Simmons just continues sinking to new depths, with a 2-for-18 week dropping his slash line to a pitiful .216/.280/.275. His last extra-base hit came on July 2nd, 30 games ago, and since then he has a .355 OPS. 
    There's no point in continuing to run him out there. Remaining money owed is unfortunately a sunk cost. The Twins would be better off sliding Polanco back over to short for the rest of the season and giving the reps at second base to someone like Arraez or Gordon or even Jose Miranda.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    When they acquired him as the headliner in the Berríos trade, I wrote about why Austin Martin is a prospect very much worth getting excited about. Since the trade, he's been doing plenty to fuel the hype.
    Following a three-hit game for the Wichita Wind Surge on Sunday, Martin is now batting .400 with a .571 on-base percentage since coming over to the Twins organization. His eye at the plate is outrageously good, as illustrated by a 1-to-6 K/BB ratio in six games with Wichita. He has proven already to be a playmaker in the outfield and on the basepaths.  
    Since the start of July, Martin has reached base in 52% of his plate appearances. That's no tiny sample. The idea of him complementing Arraez at the top of order, in front of a proven pack of power hitters, is beyond tantalizing. How far is it from becoming a reality? Next year seems likely, and maybe even from the start. But in order to make Martin a viable candidate for Opening Day, the Twins will need to take some preparatory steps. I'll be quite curious to see if he joins the club as a September call-up, or at least gets a late-season look in Triple-A. 
    His defensive profile makes Martin an especially intriguing piece in the team's planning. Could he take over in center field if Buxton is traded this offseason? Maybe Martin steps in at second with Polanco pivoting back to short. Or perhaps, as I posited in my theoretical 2022 lineup on Twitter, left field is Martin's best initial entry point into the majors.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    It bums me out to look ahead at the schedule right now. If things had gone as planned, this would've been an absolutely crucial and thrilling stretch: The Twins, returning home from their longest road trip of the year, face off against the White Sox, Rays, and Cleveland, in consecutive series at Target Field. Could you imagine the stakes and intensity if Minnesota was in contention?!
    Alas, they are not. So all we can really look forward to is the return of Nelson Cruz to Target Field in another uniform. Hooray.
    MONDAY, 8/9: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. LHP Charlie Barnes
    TUESDAY, 8/10: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Dallas Keuchel v. RHP Griffin Jax
    WEDNESDAY, 8/11: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Bailey Ober
    FRIDAY, 8/13: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Shane McClanahan v. RHP Michael Pineda
    SATURDAY, 8/14: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Wacha v. RHP Kenta Maeda
    SUNDAY, 8/15: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Josh Fleming v. LHP Charlie Barnes
    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers
    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Experts: Naming Five Twins Starters Right Now 'Pretty Good'   
    When the Twins opened a 4-game series versus the Houston Astros on Thursday, the lineup was markedly different from their brief 2020 playoff series. No Nelson Cruz, no Jose Berrios, and a lot of "wait, who's that again?" Experts say that reaction is nothing to be concerned about.
    "I had season tickets in 2000," said Tyler Bouman, a Forest Lake IT specialist. "Some of the guys who would end up doing things were there, like (Corey) Koskie or Jacque Jones. But if you had asked me who was playing second base at any point in the season I would have had no idea. Jay Canizaro played over 100 games. I had to look that up. Honestly, Baseball Reference might be messing with me. There's no way that can be right."
    [EDITOR'S NOTE: Canizaro played 102 games. Jason Maxwell played 64. Twins Daily has not been able to confirm if these are real people. Baseball Reference could not be reached for comment.]
    The lost season makes it very difficult for casual fans to keep up with a lineup in transition, but authorities like Bouman say it really separates o the diehards from the casual fans.
    "OK, look at tonight's game," said Bouman. "The odds of you guessing more than one outfielder is astronomical. Maybe you'd pull Trevor Larnach if you were on your toes. Maybe. After that you'd be throwing darts. If someone told you on Opening Day that we'd be rolling with Larnach, Brent Rooker, and Rob Refsnyder on August 5th you'd punch them in their filthy, lying mouth. And yet, here we are."
    Jon Marthaler, a Falcon Heights-based expert on sports-derived frustration and boundless rage, says that guessing five of nine starters in any Twins game going forward is incredibly impressive.
    "Kids are going back to school, so they'll be distracted," said Marthaler. "Their parents are dealing with that and COVID and any number of things. How are they to know that Griffin Jax is an every-fifth-day starting pitcher? He sounds like a law firm that will help you with your mesothelioma settlement. Josh Donaldson's calf might turn to wet Grape Nuts at any moment. Correctly naming five of nine starters is frankly astonishing. I include Rocco Baldelli in this."
  9. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Andrew Thares for an article, Game Score: Tigers 17, Twins 14   
    Box Score
    Starting Pitcher: Happ 3.0 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
    Homeruns: Sano 2 (17), Jeffers 2 (8), Kepler (14), Rooker (4), Polanco (15)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Happ -0.321, Minaya -0.158, Kepler -0.154 
    Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs)

    J.A. Happ’s Horrendous Start
    It has been far from a good season for offseason signing J.A. Happ, who put together arguably his worst outing of the season, yes even as bad as his start against the White Sox back in May. By the time the plug was finally pulled on Happ, the game was seemingly well out of reach. After giving up a couple of baserunners, but no runs in the first, Happ surrendered four singles and a walk in the second that gave the Tigers the early two run lead.
    Happ then had a strong three-up-three-down third and appeared to get his start back on the right track. That was before all hell broke loose in the fourth. To start the top of the fourth, the Tigers offense started the inning by going single, walk, double, single, single, walk, double before Rocco Baldelli finally came out and ended J.A. Happ’s outing.
    Former Tigers first round pick Beau Burrows came in to relieve Happ, and got out of the inning, but not before allowing two sac-flies and an RBI triple, giving the Tigers an early 10-0 lead. Burrows would stay in the game and pitch a scoreless fifth, after the Twins bats somehow got them back in the game, but then let the Tigers build on their lead again in the sixth. He gave up two walks to begin the inning, before Zack Short hit an RBI double. Burrows then got the next two guys on flyouts, the former being a sac-fly, before Grayson Greiner ripped another double off Burrows giving the Tigers what was at the time a 13-6 lead.
    Twins Monster 4th Inning
    After the Tigers appeared the bust the game completely wide open in the top of the fourth, the Twins bats made the game interesting after a big inning of their own. Miguel Sano got the scoring started with a leadoff solo home run to center field.
     
    After the Sano home run, which was nice to see, the game still felt very much not in the balance. That, however, would all change just four batters later. After the Sano home run, Trevor Larnach, Willians Astudillo and Nick Gordon all hit singles to set the table for this Ryan Jeffers grand slam!
     
    The Twins bats were not done after that, as they continued to pile on the hits. After Andrelton Simmons lined out to right, Max Kepler was hit by a pitch and that was the end of the road for Tigers pitcher Wily Peralta, who was replaced by Kyle Funkhouser (great name). Funkhouser did not find any more success, as Rooker, Polano and Sano all proceeded to get singles off of him to begin his outing, cutting the Tigers lead to four and giving the Twins bases loaded and just one out. They failed to capitalize on this, however, as Trevor Larnach struck out and Willians Astudillo grounded out to end the inning.

    Twins Coming Roaring Back in the 8th
    Yes, I know that was a bad Tigers pun, but it was a long game. With the Twins still down 13-6 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Twins bats exploded for a second time in today’s ballgame. Max Kepler, who has been swinging the bat a lot better in July, got the inning started with his fourteenth home run of the season, and that would not be even close to the last home run the Twins would hit this inning.
     
    Then it was Brent Rooker’s turn to stay hot, after he’s been tearing it up in St. Paul this year to the tune of 19 home runs and an OPS of .908 in 61 ball games for the Saints. In total, Rooker has hit 23 home runs in just 75 games played between the Saints and the Twins this season.
     
    Now down 13-8, it felt like the Twins were still in the ball game, and that feeling became even stronger once Jorge Polanco drew a walk to get on base for what was the most no-boudt of all no-doubters that has ever come off the bat of Miguel Sano, and that is saying something.
     
    According to Statcast, that home run left Miguel Sano’s bat with an exit velocity of 114.8 MPH and a launch angle of 30 degrees, traveling an estimated 473 feet into the third deck in left-center. Truly a mammoth home run, even by his standards. 
    The Twins bats did not slow down after that, as they continued to use the long ball to get back into this ballgame. After a Willians Astudillo double, sandwiched between a Tevor Larnach fly out and a Nick Gordon strike out, Ryan Jeffers blasted his second home run of the game, bringing the Twins back within one.
     
    Juan Minaya Shines Until Things Fall Apart in the Ninth
    After the struggles of J.A. Happ and Beau Burrows, Juan Minaya was a refreshing change of pace for the Twins on the mound, when he entered the game to start the seventh. He began his outing by retiring all six batters that he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, and came back out to pitch the ninth, after the Twins had just made it a one-run ball game. He got the inning started off strong by striking out Harold Castro, before walking Grayson Greiner. After a quick mound visit, Minaya seemed to get back on track as he struck out Akil Baddoo for the second out of the inning.
    That is when things fell apart on Minaya, who was arguably left in the game a bit too long, especially with the Twins back in it. With two outs, the Tigers proceeded to get a single and a walk to load the bases for Eric Haase, who promptly delivered with a bases clearing double to bust the game back open for the Tigers. He would then come around to score on the next batter, when Jeimer Candelario hit a double of his own, giving the Tigers a 17-12 lead.
    It is worth noting that none of the Tigers 17 runs in today’s ballgame were scored on a home run.
    Jorge Polanco Gives Twins a Glimmer of Hope in the Ninth
    Given all that had happened today, a five run lead in the ninth did not seem insurmountable for the Twins. After all, they already had two six run innings, so why not a third and the way the inning started it appeared as though that was possible. Brent Rooker leadoff the inning with a hard fought walk and was immediately followed by a home run off the bat of Jorge Polanco, the Twins seventh of the ballgame.
     
     
    That comeback effort would not come to fruition, as Miguel Sano and Trevor Larnach would both strike out and Willians Astudillo would ground out to end what was not only an incredible game, but an incredible series.
    Bullpen Usage Chart

    What's Next
    The Twins are off on Thursday before traveling to St. Louis to begin a three-game series with the Cardinals. Jose Berrios is scheduled to be on the mound for the Twins, though that is still very much up in the air depending on what happens with the trade deadline fast approaching.
  10. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Mounting Losses   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/19 through Sun, 7/25
    ***
    Record Last Week: 3-5 (Overall: 42-58)
    Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -71)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (17.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 93 | MIN 3, CWS 2: Jax Deals, Twins Steal One in Extras
    Game 94 | CWS 5, MIN 3: Berrios Goes Deep, Then Sheets Does
    Game 95 | CWS 9, MIN 5: Bullpen Implodes in Five-Run 8th Inning
    Game 96 | MIN 7, CWS 2: Polanco, Kepler Power Twins to Split
    Game 97 | LAA 3, MIN 2: Cruz-less Offense Comes Up Short
    Game 98 | MIN 5, LAA 4: Aggressive Baserunning Sparks Win
    Game 99 | LAA 2, MIN 1: Twins Narrowly Avoid Getting No-hit
    Game 100 | LAA 6, MIN 2: Bats Go Silent Once Again
    NEWS & NOTES
    The sell-off has officially begun. Nelson Cruz always ranked No. 1 on the list of Twins players most likely to be traded, and the front office didn't waste time, striking a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays eight days ahead of the deadline. 
    Losing Cruz is painful in the sense that he's a legendary and incredibly likable player, but this is best for all involved. He ends up on a contending team where he makes a huge difference. Tampa reached the World Series last year and Nelly can help propel them back. Meanwhile, the Twin landed a pair of intriguing pitching prospects who are verging on big-league ready. And those prospects now have a much clearer path than in Tampa's crowded pitching pipeline. 
    Naturally, we had plenty of coverage here; I recommend reading the articles below, which include Seth's instant report, Lucas' breakdown of the return package, John's reaction to the deal, and Nash's tribute to Cruz.
    Twins Trade Nelson Cruz to the Rays for Two AAA Starting Pitchers, by Seth Stohs Twins Minor League Pitching Report: Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, by Lucas Seehafer Three Things to Like (and Hate) About the Nelson Cruz Trade, by John Bonnes Thank You Nelson Cruz! By Nash Walker We won't be seeing Cruz in a Twins uniform again this year. Nor Alex Kirilloff. The rookie outfielder opted for wrist surgery after reporting that the pain stemming from a torn ligament had intensified recently. His rehab will carry through the rest of the season but he'll have plenty of time to get ready for 2022, which is really all that matters at this point. Kirilloff finishes his first MLB campaign with a .251/.299/.423 slash line and eight home runs in 59 games.
    Adding to the exodus of high-quality hitters, Luis Arraez hit the Injured List on Saturday after injuring his knee early in the week. Thankfully, his absence looks to be more temporary than the other two, although his continuing knee troubles don't bode well for the 24-year-old. 
    While the Twins suffered some tough losses last week, they did also get some guys back. Mitch Garver returned with a bang on Monday, launching home runs in his first two at-bats. Brent Rooker was recalled after mashing in Triple-A, and should get an extended look at DH in Cruz's stead. Jake Cave was also activated following a two-month stay on IL. 
    HIGHLIGHTS
    With the trade deadline fast approaching, it's possible we'll see the Twins part with one or more of their foundational building block type players. Jorge Polanco is probably not among them, which is just fine because he's been busy proving he still deserves to be in that class.
    Polanco struggled last year and throughout the early weeks of 2021. He entered June with a sub-700 OPS but then finally started to find his groove again, swinging with greater authority and driving the ball with more consistency. 
    Finding himself back near the top of the order regularly, Polanco is keying the offense right now; the past week saw him chip in a pair of three-hit games and two home runs, finishing 10-for-25 with six RBIs. Dating back to the start of June he's slashing .297/.346/.506, which is nearly identical to his overall line in 2019 (.295/.356/.485).
    On Wednesday, Michael Pineda took the mound for the first time in two weeks, and it was a big step in the right direction at a crucial moment. Through five efficient innings, Pineda held the White Sox to one run on four hits, striking out three and walking one. It wasn't a dominating whiff clinic like we saw earlier this year when Big Mike was at his best, but a reassuring performance nonetheless for any interested buyer. Pineda's slated to face the Tigers on Monday – his last turn before the deadline.
    Whatever Pineda gets back in a trade, it won't be much. To really score a haul, the Twins will need to give up one of their most in-demand pitching assets, and both are doing plenty to stoke their markets. Taylor Rogers tossed a pair of scoreless innings with three strikeouts, while José Berríos was masterful in his Saturday night start, allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings against the Halos. 
    LOWLIGHTS
    The front office would surely love to unload Andrelton Simmons and the remaining millions he's owed before re-entering free agency at season's end. Problem is, they might be hard-pressed to find a taker. 
    Simmons has been good in the field, but not good enough to offset the complete and total lack of offense. With each passing week, the shortstop slides further and further into futility at the plate. He went 2-for-22 in the most recent one, and is now slashing a woeful .220/.287/.288 with a negative WAR. Is any contending team really going to view him as enough of an upgrade to take on his remaining $4 million or so in salary? Getting back any kind of prospect is out of the question. Another dead-end move from the past offseason for this front office.
    It's beginning to look like we can place Hansel Robles in that bucket too. The Twins are more likely to find a buyer for him than Simmons, given the lesser money involved and the ubiquitous need for relief pitching, but he's not making himself a prized asset. Robles pitched twice this past week and gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits, including a back-breaking home run against the White Sox on Tuesday. Robles has a 5.32 ERA over his past 24 appearances, with opponents hitting .292/.376/.528 against him.
    One way or another, Robles will be gone after this year. Alex Colomé too. Rogers is "likely to be dealt" at the deadline according to Ken Rosenthal. Beyond Tyler Duffey there is no continuity built into this bullpen, especially because Jorge Alcala has obliterated all confidence. The right-hander is completely unraveling, and the past week added to his woes with five runs allowed over three innings of work. In his past dozen appearances Alcala has taken three losses, blown two saves, and given up 14 earned runs on 19 hits in 10 ⅓ innings (12.20 ERA). It's not even clear he should be in the majors right now, let alone pitching meaningful innings. 
    You look at this relief corps in its current state, and it's just so immensely difficult to envision the kind of abrupt and drastic turnaround needed for the Twins to return to contention in 2022. Which may partially explain why the front office has seemingly softened its commitment to holding players with control beyond this year. 
    This is starting to look more like a full-on rebuild. 
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    The biggest storyline trending around the Twins right now is a deeply disheartening one: Byron Buxton reportedly rejected the team's contract extension offer as the two sides sought to find common ground, at perhaps their last opportunity to do so. It sounds like the club's final offer to Buxton was around $80 million plus incentives, which understandably wasn't enough to entice the superstar center fielder's camp as free agency looms.
    Hitting a wall in extension negotiations will compel the Twins to fully explore Buxton's trade market, but probably not until the offseason. The more immediate names to watch are guys like Berríos, Rogers, and Josh Donaldson, who could all be shipped out this week along with impending free agents.
    The deadline falls on Friday at 3:00 PM – and it's a hard deadline this time, with no post-waiver avenue available. Buyers need to stock up, nor or never. How different will the Twins' roster, and future, in a week? 
    We should all be bracing ourselves for a major shakeup.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    The July 30th trade deadline is, of course, the date to circle. Rumors are sure to be flying throughout the next four days, with all the action building up to Friday afternoon. Berríos is scheduled to pitch for the Twins that night; will he still be here? Or have we already seen him for the last time in a Twins uniform? 
    MONDAY, 7/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Michael Pineda
    TUESDAY, 7/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Kenta Maeda
    WEDNESDAY, 7/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Wily Peralta v. LHP J.A. Happ
    FRIDAY, 7/30: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP José Berríos v. LHP Wade LeBlanc
    SATURDAY, 7/31: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Jake Woodford
    SUNDAY, 8/1: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Johan Oviedo
    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers
    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, This Saints Outfielder is Making His Mark   
    2019 was a rough year at the plate for Mark Contreras. In 27 games with the Ft. Myers Miracle, he hit just .101. At Double-A Pensacola, he hit .210/.279/.381 (.660). He did start to display his power stroke with the Blue Wahoos, hitting 12 doubles, three triples, and ten home runs. He was moved up and down five times before sticking in Pensacola after mid-June.  
    Earlier this year, Ramon Borrego talked about the challenge of moving back and forth between levels during a season. Not being able to get into a routine, or once you do, you could be sent packing either direction. 
    It wasn't easy, but Contreras understood and used it as motivation. "It wasn't the best of situations, but honestly, it fired me up. When I initially got to Double-A, we had a series in Biloxi, and I was there for one series. I hadn't been hitting much in Ft. Myers, and I had some success that one week. I was like, that's where I need to be, that's the swing, that's the approach. I got sent down after that. I told myself I need to get back to Double-A because that's where I'm comfortable."
    The experience taught Contreras another lesson. "That back-and-forth helped me understand the mental grind of the game."
    As difficult as 2019 was for Contreras, he was great defensively in the outfield. In fact, he won a minor league Gold Glove Award for his glove work. 
    "Winning the Gold Glove was awesome. My dad always told me, if it's in the air and it's going to hit your glove, you better catch it. If you're having a bad day at the plate, you can't take it into the field. You can make a great play and change the whole energy of the game. Maybe not for you, but maybe for your teammates. You can change the momentum real quickly with one play, one catch, one throw. So I take that very seriously."
    Contreras arrived at spring training in 2020, ready to prove that he could hit. He frequently spent time with the big league club throughout spring games and had the opportunity to work with the big leaguers. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and while Contreras stayed ready, hoping for an invitation to the alternate site, he spent the entire year at home in southern California. 
    "I hit every day of the week, Monday through Friday, with my dad." 
    Mark's father has been a big part of his development over the years. He coached Mark in Little League, some All-Star, and travel teams. 
    His mom played a huge role in his development as well. "My mom deserves a lot of the credit. She's there. She drove me to wherever I needed to be. Mom was the one that made sure I was eating well. She made sure I got the support after a bad game. She was always there to motivate me."
    Things weren't always easy, though. I mean, his dad is a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, but his side of the family is all big Dodgers fans. His mom's side of the family is fans of Angels. 
    Mark noted, "We would go to both games (Angels and Dodgers), especially the Freeway Series. Lots of smack talk."
    But beyond that, his parents instilled in him the work ethic that still drives him today. 
    "My dad was always there. Whenever you want to do some more work, let's do it. It was tough love, but he wanted me to live out my dream of being in the big leagues. He always took the passive approach of when you're ready, let me know. He wasn't down my throat. Tell me if you want to work. That's how my parents were. They helped me establish my work ethic. They were not going to tell me; you have to go hit today. You have to go lift today. It's like, if you really want to do it, you have to put the time in. You have to seek out the help, and let's go get it. That's how they were. All credit to them because they helped mold me into the person I feel like I am today. I'm always learning something about myself, but they helped me get to where I am now. Every lesson that they taught me, I take it every day and try to build off that."
    It’s a work ethic that made him and his high school teammates during his four years at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley (CA) stay late after practices to get more swings and more ground balls. (Side Note: Former Twins outfielder/DH Bobby Kielty went to the same high school, 20 years earlier.)
    And it's that work ethic that motivated him during the lost 2020 season. For Contreras, it was a return to what worked for him in college that he feels helped him a lot. 
    "When I was younger and playing in college, I went from the college season, straight to summer ball, straight to fall ball. You don't stop. I feel like the rhythm that I had in the 2020 spring training, I wanted to continue that and continue to work on the things we were working on." 
    Mark began the 2021 season in Wichita. He played 18 games before moving up to Triple-A St. Paul. The 26-year-old played in six games for the Saints in Des Moines. But, Gilberto Celestino needed to be promoted to Triple-A in case he (and his 40-man roster spot) needed to be called up to the Twins. Contreras returned to Double-A and played one game for the Wind Surge (and went 2-for-4). At that point, the Twins called up Celestino, and Contreras was promoted back to the Saints and has been there since June 3rd. 
    In 19 games with the Wind Surge, he hit .269/.355/.448 (.803) with four doubles, a triple, and two home runs. 
    In 41 games with the Saints, Contreras has hit .260/.335/.562 (.897) with ten doubles, two triples, and ten homers. 
    Quick to credit those he's worked with, Contreras said, "When the season started, I had hitting coach Ryan Smith in Double-A, and he worked with me, not on the physical, but the mental side of the game." 
    He continued, "Getting to Triple-A, Borgs (hitting coach Matt Borgschulte) and Smars (coach Tyler Smarslok), they took me aside and said we really need to establish the approach now and work on a plan every time you're in the box. I've been riding it and continue to work on it every day because it will never be perfect. It's just constant working on it."
    And, seeing the results certainly helps too. But what kind of hitter does Contreras think that he is? Power hitting (22 extra-base hits in 41 games)? Patient? Solid plate discipline. 
    Does he consider himself a home run hitter? 
    "I just hit it and start running. I've never considered myself a home run hitter. I know that I have it in me, but I'm not trying to hit a home run. I'm just trying to make some hard contact and put the ball in play. My thought every day is, let me hit four line drives, and that's a good day."
    And now he finds himself one call, one step from the big leagues. He is also playing with and against players in Triple-A with a lot of experience, several major leaguers. 
    "They have a different outlook on the game itself. It took me a while to get used to. Get to the field. Get yourself ready for your game and do what you have to do for yourself, but also what you need to do to help win the game today."
    His roommate on the road is Sherman Johnson. In 2018, he played ten games for the Los Angeles Angels. Contreras hasn't been afraid to pick his brain. "He was around Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani when he debuted, and he's helped me understand the preparation aspect of getting to the big leagues. You have to show up every day."
    Already a strong defender, he has been able to learn from Keon Broxton, a great defensive outfielder with five years in the big leagues. 
    Contreras noted, "Keon is a great guy, funny, always joking around. I talk to him a lot about his speed. His jumps laterally; he gets to his top speed so fast. What's the key to that first step?"
    He can also gain confidence by playing against some players with a lot of experience. "Every team we face has big leaguers, ex-big leaguers, or current big leaguers. We're playing against that kind of competition. So it's encouraging. We're facing big-league pitching every day."
    Mark Contreras has enjoyed his time in St. Paul with the Saints. It's not the first time that he has played in Minnesota, though. 
    Following his sophomore and junior seasons at UC-Riverside, Contreras was an outfielder for the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League. 
    "That was fun. Meeting new guys. The competition was great. The success our first year. We got to the semi-finals. The St. Cloud Rox kept kicking our butt. They put it on us. Going back for another year was great. Playing in Rochester exposes you to a lot of excellent players from around the country."
    He hoped to get drafted after his junior college season. He became a key bat in the lineup and hit .332/.407/.430 (.837) with 14 doubles, a triple, and a home run. He also was becoming a quality defensive outfielder. Not bad, considering he had been a shortstop throughout his high school days and transitioned to the outfield because a spot was open.
    At that time, his coach asked, "How comfortable are you in the outfield?" to which Contreras replied, "If I'm in the lineup, it doesn't matter. I'd love to play."
    "I proved to myself that I could play college baseball. You never know. Maybe I'll get an opportunity. When it didn't happen, I said OK, on to the senior year."
    As a senior, he hit .366/.427/.558 (.985) with 11 doubles, eight triples, and two home runs. He had also had several conversations with scouts, including Twins southern California area scout John Leavitt (a veteran of nearly 35 seasons in the Twins organization). 
    Contreras noted, "It was a crazy feeling. John Leavitt gave me a great feeling when he talked about possibly being drafted by the Twins. That comfort. That trust. Hey, this could possibly be happening. He stayed in contact with me the most throughout the process. I was excited when he called me on the second day of the draft and said we might be taking you in the next few rounds."
    As a senior in the draft, it's hard to know what will happen. You could be a senior signed, selected in the top ten rounds to manipulate a team's bonus pool, or you could be selected any round later. 
    On Day 2 of the 2017 draft, Contreras was at home, watching the draft with his sister. During the seventh round, Leavitt made a phone call to Mark, telling him to be ready, that the Twins could take him in the eighth or ninth round.
    Regarding where he might be drafted, Contreras wasn't too concerned. "Doesn't matter. Take that next step. Get my foot in the door. Then from there, we'll show them again. I was blessed to be drafted in the ninth round as a senior sign, which didn't matter to me because I'm there, I'm here. Thanks to the Minnesota Twins for that and for making this dream come true. Now the next step in this journey is to get to the big leagues, and going through the minors has been fun. You learn something every year, even every day. I'm excited about the opportunity and to be in the position I'm in. Excited to be here, and we'll see."
    Another goal? He is just a few credits shy of completing his degree from UC-Riverside in Business Management and takes a couple of classes each offseason.
    **********************************************
    Contreras has enjoyed his time in St. Paul. "The city of St. Paul is very nice. It's opening back up and there are some nice breakfast spots. I'm a big brunch person, so I love going to a nice little breakfast before the game."
    He loves playing at CHS Field and the atmosphere of the ballpark. "The things they do throughout the game to keep it lively for the fans. It's a great fan experience, I believe. It's fun. The field is beautiful. They take care of it. The locker room is nice. We have everything we need." 
    Another nice feature of CHS Field for the players? It's 12 1/2 miles from Target Field. "We're 20 minutes from Target Field, and being so close to that… We know we're so close."
    He has seen many of his current and former teammates get The Call, and not only is he excited for them, but he is also motivated by them. 
    "It's definitely amazing to see my teammates that I grinded a whole year at High-A or Double-A with getting their opportunity to be in the big leagues. Not just there and back, but proving that they can be in the big leagues. Trevor Larnach. Alex Kirilloff. Luis Arraez is one of the best hitters I've seen. Griffin Jax got his opportunity this year, and he's doing what he needs to do. Charlie Barnes just got called up the other day, and he had a great outing for his first start. We were drafted in the same year. I know there's a lot more that I've played with. Akil Baddoo is getting his opportunity. It's very motivating because it shows that they're getting the chance to show, I can be a part of this long term. I can contribute to the end goal here of winning ball games and having fun doing it. Just seeing them be able to do that and have success is very motivating, but playing alongside Larnach and Kirilloff in High-A and AA the last few years. I played with Arraez in High-A. He's doing what he's doing, and talking to him and having a relationship with him is very motivating. He always tells me, just keep doing what you're doing. Keep hitting. Have great at-bats."
    What does it mean to Mark Contreras, being one phone call away from the big leagues, to get The Call himself? 
    "I mean, that's a lifelong dream. I feel like that's the cliche answer, for sure, but it just shows that with the work we put in in the past, we're going in the right direction. It would mean everything, honestly. But the work doesn't stop when you get there. What I've always heard is that it's hard to get there and very hard to stay there. So you've always got to be on, at 100%, do what you need to do to survive, and help the team succeed in winning games, whether it's defense, offense, pinch-run, pinch-hit. I believe that's where the actual work starts. All of this (minor leagues) is just prep for the main stage. Att the main stage, that's when everything counts. There can be no stone left unturned when you get there. You have to perform from Day 1.” 
    He added, "I want to have a big-league career. I don't want to just get there and bounce back."
    Until then, he knows that there is more work to be done. 
    "I'm not there, so the goal is to take care of the What, and then the When will happen. That's the mindset I have. I can't worry about somewhere I'm not right now. I have to worry about today, the game we have today. One day at a time. I tell everybody. My goal is to get two hits every game, but you can't get two hits with one swing. You have to take care of the first one before you take care of the second one. That's just always how I've been. I can't worry about something somewhere I'm not because it can be a distraction. But definitely, the end goal is I want to be a big leaguer."
    And he wants to see Target Field. He hasn't been there before, so if and when that big-league promotion comes, it will be a memorable, 20-minute trip.
     
  12. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Finding Hope for a 2022 Bullpen   
    Some possible solutions to the rotation were found with the return from the Nelson Cruz trade on Thursday. Still, the front office has their work cut out for them to improve the pitching staff as a whole. More trades are surely on the way and a fair share of the available payroll will likely be spent on arms. There are three relievers at AAA however who we may see by season’s end that could put a massive patch in the sinking ship that is this pitching staff. 
    Ian Hamilton
    Nick summarized just about every reason to have hope for Hamilton in one tweet. Hamilton was drafted in the 11th round in 2016 and quickly proved to be an exciting up and coming bullpen arm in the White Sox system. Unfortunately Hamilton’s career was thrown off course by two freak accidents. He struggled thereafter and eventually bounce around waiver claims before the Twins claimed him (and then successfully DFAd him) this spring.
    Hamilton has spent the entire season in St. Paul which is by no means an indicator of his effectiveness. Instead, it almost seems like the Twins are developing the 26-year-old as if he was a prospect as he weathers his first full season of professional baseball since 2018. This plan appears to have paid dividends, as Hamilton has posted a 34% K rate with a 0.58 HR/9 so far and has sorted out his early season walk issues. He should get a chance by season’s end to showcase his high 90s fastball at Target Field in an attempt to earn a place for 2022.
     
    Yennier Cano
    Signed in 2019 as an international free agent out of Cuba, Cano is a bit different than most prospects in the Twins top 30 as he’s 27 years old. Cano has moved a bit more slowly through the system than expected when he was signed, but he appears to be on the precipice of the Major Leagues after debuting at AA ball this year and getting called up to St. Paul a few weeks ago.
    Cano got hit around a bit in his AAA debut allowing three Earned Runs in 1 2/3 innings. He’s settled down since then, dropping his ERA to 4.50 with a 3.05 FIP. He’s struck out 28.4% of the hitters he’s faced. He has a pitch mix that profiles extremely well with a mid 90s fastball to go with a great slider and a splitter to equalize left-handed hitters. It’s honestly a bit surprising that Cano hasn’t received The Call already, but it’s easy to foresee him in Minneapolis very soon.
     
    Jovani Moran
    Moran was Cano’s partner in crime when it came to terrorizing opposing lineups out of the AA bullpen to start the year. Moran has long had the reputation of having nasty stuff but has struggled with control thus far in his career. After having 14% walk rates at both levels in 2019, it was encouraging even to see those numbers drop to 10% at AA to start the season.
    Moran is a left-handed pitcher with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, but his changeup is likely one of the best the Twins system has seen since Johan Santana as Lucas points out (tweet above). The pitch allows him not only to avoid big lefty/righty splits, but is also his go-to weapon for swings and misses. He seems to have the right idea, as he’s struck out 46% of AA hitters and 44.4% of AAA hitters thus far. His late arrival to AAA makes him a bit more questionable to debut with the Twins this season, but it’s certainly a possibility depending on how the trade deadline shakes out. 
    Skepticism is warranted after this season, but it’s been a long time since the Twins in particular have developed arms with such high octane, can’t miss stuff. While far from a sure thing, we should get a look at at least a few of them this year. At the very least it’s a bit of excitement in what will be an inconsequential finish to 2021. At best, we just might get a glimpse into a more effective stable of arms for 2022.
     
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  13. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Scientists Warn Ohtani/Astudillo Matchup Might Deliver ‘Too Much’ Joy   
    The Los Angeles Angels make their yearly visit to Target Field this weekend, meaning Twins fans will get to see the brilliant Shohei Ohtani. In the other clubhouse, Willians Astudillo returns from St. Paul to take Alex Kirilloff’s place on the roster.
    And that has some physicians worried.
    “Quite simply, if you’re in poor health or have underlying conditions, watching these games might be harmful,” said Dr. David Gorman, a heart specialist at Fairview Southdale. “The human body wasn’t meant to experience this much spectacle.”
    Ohtani, the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, also leads the majors with 34 home runs, many of which involve him sending baseballs to hell, where they belong. Astudillo, while not nearly as accomplished a player as Ohtani, plays every game like a bowling ball filled with kerosene, set on fire, and rolled into a Williams-Sonoma. The combination of that much skill and abandon may be too much for some people.
    “What if Ohtani hits one that lands at, like, the Pizza Luce on 4th Street,” said Gorman. “Then the next inning Astudillo tries to stretch a single to a double? So many people skipped their regular check-ups in the last year or so that we have to be concerned about how the body will react.”
    Gorman said the true concern comes on Sunday.
    “The Angels haven’t announced their starting pitcher yet,” said Gorman. “What if they pencil in Ohtani, and the Twins send Astudillo to the plate? What if Astudillo hits a comebacker and they’re racing to the bag? Is that too much joy? You have to ask yourself if the risk is worth it. The teams could do it, but no one is asking if they should do it.”
  14. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Glenwood Man Readies Self For Next Bad Trade   
    With the trade deadline looming, the Minnesota Twins are acknowledged sellers. And for Benjamin Mason, the awful dread of which future former Twin will become an All-Star in 2023 is consuming his every waking moment.
    “I’m resigned to Jose Berrios winning the Cy Young next year for someone else,” said Mason, a Glenwood native and licensed pre-owned pontoon dealer. “But it’s the one you don’t see coming that’s going to hurt more. Who is the Akil Baddoo or LaMonte Wade that we’re going to throw in for three pitching prospects who tear the ulnar nerve in their throwing elbows all at once? That’s the one that keeps me up at night.”
    With a pitching staff in desperate need of, well, everything, Mason is mentally readying himself for the unforeseen kick in the shins that has tormented Twins fans for generations.
    “My grandpa remembers the Graig Nettles deal,” said Mason. “I think the Rod Carew trade is what finally did him in. My dad quit watching baseball after David Ortiz won a World Series and mom left because he wouldn’t stop swearing to himself in the garage. I was minding my own business on Tuesday night, watching the All-Star Game, and there’s Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson. It’s the circle of life and you know what, I hate it.”
    While Mason agrees that the team must do something, the fact that everyone knows they’re a seller probably impacts any potential return.
    “We’re not going to get Wander Franco from the Rays,” said Mason. “We’re going to get his roommate. And the Rays will get our 38th best prospect, who will enter Cooperstown in 2047 after leading Tampa to seven straight titles in front of 259 delirious fans at Tropicana Field. He’ll have his own breakfast cereal, videogame, and talk show. I hate baseball, I really do.”
     
     
     
     
     
  15. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Reflecting on the Best and Worst First Half Ever   
    I love baseball in all of its dissectible minutiae. I delight in overthinking every at-bat, sweating every intense moment, and debating pointless frivolities. I get a kick out of analyzing and opining on the many twists and turns of a marathon season. And offseason. (If you frequent this site, you might have noticed.)
    But more than all that, I just love the baseball experience. Removing all of the stats, trends, trades, analytics, and hot takes, I am plain and simply a baseball fan to the core. I feel at peace in the ballpark, or with sounds of the game droning on my TV or radio.
    When I was a young pup riding the bus down Cedar Avenue to the Metrodome, I didn't care much about Kirby Puckett's OPS or Brad Radke's trade value. I was just happy to be wandering through this majestic Dome, eating a hot dog and staring on at the action alongside thousands of other contented folks. If the game went long, maybe I'd even get to stay out late on a school night.
    Much has changed since those days, but the fundamental source of my passion has not. And I was reminded of this very starkly in 2020, when a cherished annual summer routine – uninterrupted since I could remember (mind you, I was 9 years old when the '94 strike took place) – fell apart.
    As the pandemic unfolded two springs ago, I was highly skeptical a season of record could be salvaged. Happily I was wrong. Major League Baseball managed to pull off a shortened 60-game season, and it was entirely fine. Much better than nothing. 
    But it never quite felt authentic, and was over almost as quickly as it began. (The Twins played their 60th game of this season five weeks ago.) Most crucially, like so many diehards across the country, I never got to attend a game. It's an irrelevant footnote in the face of all the tragedy and trauma faced by so many last year, but losing the ballpark experience was a bummer. I promised myself that when we emerged from it all and congregated once again at the stadium, I'd savor the hell out of it.
    And that I have. I've attended more Twins games at Target Field in the first half of this season than any previous. (And a couple at Kauffman Stadium!) I've run into random friends, heckled opposing outfielders, inhaled messy brats, beat the buzzer on bottom-of-seventh beers, and gazed wordlessly from my seat for indefinite stretches at the beautifully bland cadence of baseball, in all of its calm and rhythmic glory. 
    Lord, did I miss it.
    I attended two games this past weekend, during a sweep of the Tigers to close out the first half. Let's just say it cemented my deep gratitude for the return of (relative) normalcy in the realm of baseball. On Friday I grabbed bleacher seats with high school friends and felt the electricity of the year's biggest crowd. The place was alive. Sunday, I joined up with a whole gaggle of Twins Daily writers – many of whom I'd scarcely had met before, what with the absence of events for 16 months – and we had a ball milling about on the Gray Duck Deck. Considerable Bomba Juice was consumed. 
    These times are golden. They're what fuel my fandom and love for the sport, through thick and thin. I don't know if this year's Twins season would be described as thick or thin (kinda weird descriptors?), but what matters is we're all trudging through it together, and Sunday was an excellent reminder of that: a perfect punctuation to the best and worst damn first half of Twins baseball ever. 
    The return of baseball as we know and love it would be way more fun, obviously, if our favorite team did not fall flat and completely erase any pretense of contention by the All-Star Game. But them's the breaks. 
    The home team hasn't won much, and it's a shame.
    Still, those eternal words ring truer than ever: Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd.
  16. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins to Trade Slugger, This One Hurts   
    Don’t get me wrong, I remember Thome’s time with the Twins fondly. His first season, the year Target Field opened, the slugger that tormented Minnesota for all those years put up a 1.039 OPS across 108 games. A year later he’d record his 600th career home run, only further cementing his place in Cooperstown. Thome was adopted as the Twins lumberjack, and his power played in the role perfectly.
    When Thome was dealt however, it was clear this was the beginning of the end. Not only did the Twins stink, but he’d lost over 200 points on his OPS from the year prior and sending him to a mediocre Cleveland club was about a proper sendoff as much as it was an asset acquisition. He’d make stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore during 2012, but the end came just 58 games into his season.
    At the end of the day, Thome was an integral part of a very good 2010 club, but then watched as the age counter flipped to 40 and Father Time proved undefeated yet again.
    Enter Minnesota’s current designated hitter. Nelson Cruz has now played 247 games in a Twins uniform. That’s roughly 50 games more than Thome, but Cruz went through the shortened 2020 season stunting that growing total. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bomba Squad, a club that hit a Major League record 307 dingers. Despite playing for the organization between ages 38-41, he’s compiled a .307/.389/.607 slash line and 75 homers across that stretch. Age notwithstanding, he’s been among baseball’s best in his latest years.
    When Derek Falvey ultimately deals Cruz later this month, it will feel different as well. He’s not going back to Seattle or Texas. This isn’t a sendoff and Cruz isn’t riding off into the sunset. Two likely landing spots include the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. Minnesota will be looking to maximize value, and Cruz will be counted upon as a lineup fixture. This is a true asset, no longer a privilege for Minnesota to enjoy because the 2021 season fell flat.
    It’d be silly to assume that Cruz will continue this level of production for another decade. Even another couple of years would be unprecedented. What he’s doing now though, is something that any contending team needing a designated hitter should covet. That makes his market limited in that half the league is then cut in half again, but you can bet that suitors will fight for his services.
    There’s also not going to be a reunion tour. Minnesota and Cruz’s camp played a staring contest this winter. Neither wanted to blink first, but a return always seemed to be the best fit for both sides. As the Twins head into 2022 with uncertainty, the luxury of a big money designated hitter doesn’t seem reasonable. On top of that, we won’t know the direction chosen by the front office until July 31 comes and goes with Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, and Josh Donaldson still wearing Twins threads.
    When the dust settles on this eventual move the Twins will have dealt one of the best power hitters ever to wear a Minnesota uniform. While Cruz’s time was ultimately brief, the impact (and especially that felt in 2019) will be talked about for years to come. Nelson was a late blooming player that never stopped getting better, has continued to impart wisdom on the game’s next generation, and his absence will sting more than just a bad team shedding moveable parts.
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  17. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, BREAKING: Almost Half a Season Left   
    Last Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Kansas City was already another unremarkable defeat in a wildly disappointing 2021 Twins campaign. But in a stunning revelation confirmed by team and league officials, it also marked the halfway point of the MLB season.
    “There are 162 games in the season,” said a Twins executive who asked not to be identified. “Saturday’s loss was the 81st game. Half of 162 is 81.”
    Reaction in Twins Territory ranged from disgust and anger to a world-weary resignation often only found in ER nurses, veterans of war, and Vikings fans.
    “You mean I’ve got another 75-80 games of this [expletive],” said Rev. Marshall Lemire of Forestview Presbyterian Church in Baxter. “Unbelievable. I’m a man of faith, but this is a profound test of it. [Expletive.]”
    “You know how when a good high school basketball team drills some podunk team from the sticks and they keep the clocks running,” asked Thom Sprouls of Cook. “Can they do that in baseball? Why don’t they? They should totally do that. This is a travesty.”
    MLB officials say there are no plans to cancel any games or enforce a slaughter rule for teams like the Twins and Diamondbacks who still have a frankly shocking number of games left to play.
    “We get that it seems like there are a remarkable amount of days left in the season,” said Ethan Nguyen, a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office. “But what if you took the family on a vacation all August, like they do in Europe? Just disconnect, bring some books and board games to the cabin, and when you get back you’ve just wiped out like a third of it, slugger. You can see the finish line from there.”
    This is cold comfort to fans like Maggie Dietmann of Worthington.
    “I don’t even remember when I switched from optimism about this team to wondering how much we could get back for (Jose) Berrios,” said Dietmann. “It seems like a hundred years ago. And now these people have the gall, the absolute, unfounded gall, to tell me there’s almost half a season of this left. They’ve got some brass.”
    In a written statement to the media, the team said that there are 162 games in a standard major league season. Twins Daily has confirmed that this is accurate. Still, the sheer burden of three more months of poor pitching, injuries, and regression weighs heavy on a sullen fanbase.
    “[Expletive] that,” said Rev. Lemire.
  18. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Nail in the Coffin   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/28 through Sun, 7/4
    ***
    Record Last Week: 1-5 (Overall: 34-48)
    Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -64)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (14.5 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 77 | CWS 7, MIN 6: Offense Can't Overcome Maeda's Messy Start
    Game 78 | CWS 13, MIN 3: Sox Launch 6 Homers in Ugly Blowout
    Game 79 | CWS 8, MIN 5: Swept Out of the South Side
    Game 80 | KC 7, MIN 4: Royals Snap 9-Game Losing Streak
    Game 81 | KC 6, MIN 3: Jax Knocked Around in First MLB Start
    Game 82 | MIN 6, KC 2: Twins Salvage a Win Behind Maeda
    NEWS & NOTES
    The Matt Shoemaker era has officially ended in Minnesota. One of the worst free agent signings in franchise history saw his Twins tenure come to an end last week, as his egregiously bad relief outing against the White Sox – 2.2 IP, 8 ER, 3 HR – proved to be the last straw. He was designated for assignment the following day, taking with him an 8.06 ERA in 60 ⅓ innings. 
    Short-handed as they are on usable arms, the Twins simply could not afford to send Shoemaker out there anymore. If the guy can't get you through a few innings of mop-up duty without getting bombed, what's the point?
    Replacing him on the roster is Derek Law, who actually looked pretty solid in his return to the major-league mound on Thursday, generating eight swings-and-misses on 32 pitches in 1 ⅔ innings. He added two scoreless frames against Kansas City on Saturday. It behooves the Twins to take a long look at Law in the second half and evaluate whether he might be of potential use to their bullpen in 2022.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    Fresh after turning 41, and on the heels of another very strong week at the plate – 7-for-18 with a homer, a double, three RBIs and four walks – Nelson Cruz was named to his seventh All-Star Game. He'll be Minnesota's lone representative but a worthy one. 
    Cruz slumped a bit in May but snapped out of it with a scorching tear that stacks up to the most productive stretches of his career. Since June 1st, Nelly is slashing .367/.453/.700 with eight home runs, 20 RBIs, and a 17-to-14 K/BB ratio in 25 games. His wOBA of .477 during that span ranks third in baseball behind MVP front-runners Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 
    Alongside Cruz, the rookie outfield tandem of Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach is one of the few things keeping Twins games watchable at this point in time. As the club spirals around them, these promising young hitters continue to excel. Kirilloff went 7-for-25 and Larnach went 8-for-24, with each chipping in a home run and two doubles.
    To be honest, the real highlights for the Twins organization over the past week took place across the river in St. Paul. The two fastest-rising prospects in the system, infielder Jose Miranda and pitcher Josh Winder, made their respective Triple-A debuts and they were both sensational.
    Making his first appearance as a Saint on Tuesday night, Miranda had an offensive game for the ages, launching three home runs (including a grand slam) in a five-hit performance that cemented his bat's legitimacy. 
    Three days later, Winder made his first start in Triple-A and didn't miss a beat, exhibiting the same dominance that produced a 1.98 ERA in 10 Double-A starts and led to a promotion. Winder took a no-hitter into the sixth, struck out eight, and allowed just one run on one hit in 5 ⅔ innings, improving to 4-0 on the season overall.
    LOWLIGHTS
    If the Twins are going to lose nonstop, I personally would prefer if they did so with some level of grace. Josh Donaldson's taunting and trash-talking might strike me as fun under different circumstances, but when it's coming from a laughably bad team that is legitimately struggling to stay out of last place, it just seems kinda sad and pitiful.
    To recap: Donaldson's homered in his first at-bat to open the Chicago series, putting the Twins up 2-0. He loudly yelled "Hands not sticky anymore!" – an allusion to Sox starter Lucas Giolito – while crossing home plate in an ostensible effort to pump up his own dugout. It didn't work.
    From that point forward, Chicago outscored Minnesota 28-12 in a lopsided sweep that snuffed out any glimmer of hope for the Twins to make a run in the division. Press conferences were held, debates rung out about likability, and JD successfully made himself the center of attention. 
    Meanwhile the Twins got their asses kicked all over the field. Giolito and the rest of Chicago's pitchers did just fine with no sticky stuff, while Minnesota's staff was completely unable to contain a White Sox lineup that had been mired in a terrible slump. After slashing .204/.292/.308 with 27 total runs in their previous nine games, the Sox exploded for a .356/.417/.634 line with 28 runs in three games against the woeful Twins.
    Donaldson has certainly talked a big game, and to his credit he had a good week with two homers, two doubles, and four RBIs, but generally speaking his production has not justified the bravado. In the first season-and-a-half of his historic four-year, $92 million contract, Donaldson has played in 93 of a possible 142 games (65%), contributing 2.2 WAR and 0.77 WPA over that span.
    He's been good, but certainly not franchise-altering, and he's been absent in the biggest spots. He got himself kicked out of their most critical regular-season game last year so he could show up an umpire, and he was unavailable when the Twins were swept out of the playoffs. This season, amidst the quality production and relative durability, he's been one of the slowest runners in baseball and miserably ineffective in clutch spots.
    Incidentally, it sounds as though the Twins have engaged in preliminary trade talks involving Donaldson, but with the third baseman battling yet another leg issue (he pulled up with a tight hamstring after rounding first on Saturday), he might be difficult to move.
    Having said all that, there's not much Donaldson can do about the Twins pitching, which is obscenely bad and clearly the primary source of Minnesota's season-long struggles. The past week featured plenty more abjectly awful performances, from Shoemaker punching his ticket out of town, to J.A. Happ laying yet another egg in KC, to Griffin Jax getting pounded by the Royals in his first MLB start, to Kenta Maeda putting forth the worst start of his career. Truly hideous stuff.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    It's July, the trade deadline is looming, and the Twins are open for business. Cruz's hot hitting bodes well for his value and he certainly looks like one of the most likely players to get dealt, although it's unclear just how much of a return can be expected for a 41-year-old designated hitter with two months left on his contract, even if he's one of the league's best hitters.
    Health will be a sticking point (pun intended) for some of the Twins' most valuable assets including Donaldson. His proneness to leg injury is a reality that cannot be ignored regardless of the outcome with his current hammy issue, but if he can rebound quickly and return to the field, as he has with previous instances this year, it may help alleviate some of the concern. 
    Michael Pineda, meanwhile, should certainly have appeal to pitching-needy contenders, provided there is confidence his arm is okay. Pineda's brutal first rehab start in St. Paul on Sunday – 4 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K – won't help on the latter front. 
    LOOKING AHEAD
    With tails between their legs, the beaten-down Minnesota Twins return to Target Field for seven games against Chicago and Detroit. Minnesota could've infused the White Sox series with some measure of drama by delivering a strong performance at Guaranteed Rate Field last week, but instead they'll simply be trying to regain some dignity and escape from last place. 
    The Twins are set to play 15 straight against the White Sox and Tigers, with the All-Star break sandwiched in the middle. 
    MONDAY, 7/5: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Dylan Cease v. RHP Bailey Ober
    TUESDAY, 7/6: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Carlos Rodón v. RHP José Berríos
    WEDNESDAY, 7/7: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP J.A. Happ
    THURSDAY, 7/8: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. TBD
    FRIDAY, 7/9: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Matt Manning v. RHP Kenta Maeda
    SATURDAY, 7/10: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urena v. RHP Bailey Ober
    SUNDAY, 7/11: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Wily Peralta v. RHP Jose Berrios
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  19. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Still Sinking   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/31 through Sun, 6/6
    ***
    Record Last Week: 3-4 (Overall: 24-35)
    Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: -35)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (12.5 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 53 | MIN 3, BAL 2: Twins Edge O's Behind Strong Berríos Effort
    Game 54 | BAL 7, MIN 4: Orioles Snap Losing Streak Against Twins
    Game 55 | BAL 6, MIN 3: Twins Sink to New Low, Drop Series in Baltimore
    Game 56 | KC 6, MIN 5: Bats Unable to Overcome Happ's Poor Start
    Game 57 | KC 14, MIN 5: Okay, Now THIS Was a New Low
    Game 58 | MIN 5, KC 4: Home Runs Power Minnesota to Narrow Victory
    Game 59 | MIN 3, KC 2: Strong Effort from Staff Aids Another Close Win
    NEWS & NOTES
    This team is absolutely ravaged. A nonstop barrage of injuries has forced the Twins to reach into the deepest corners of their minor-league depth, routinely fielding lineups populated by guys playing out of position or above their appropriate competition level. 
    Not only have the injuries been plentiful, but also astoundingly inconvenient and untimely. For example, our last Week in Review column noted that "the biggest bright spot on offense right now has got to be Mitch Garver, who suddenly looks like his old Silver Slugger self." Naturally, in the first inning of the first game last week, Garver went down. The catcher experienced a brutal mishap that no one would wish upon their worst enemy, taking a foul tip directly in the groin and requiring emergency surgery that night. He'll be sidelined for the foreseeable future.
    In last week's column we also noted "Rocco Baldelli's made no secret of the fact that he'll be riding Rob Refsnyder hard in the short-term, and the manager will have to hope his opportunistic 30-year-old can stay hot (and healthy)." Naturally, in the same game where Garver got hurt, Refsnyder ran into the outfield wall in Baltimore and soon after went on the shelf with a concussion.
    With Refsnyder joining Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jake Cave on IL, the Twins had little choice but to call up prospect Gilberto Celestino, their only available center fielder on the 40-man roster. The 22-year-old, who'd played less than two dozen games above Single-A in the minors, has looked like a player that belongs nowhere near the big leagues, and I don't think the Twins would even deny that. But their alternative options are basically non-existent.
    Also hitting the Injured List this past week: relievers Caleb Thielbar (groin strain) and Shaun Anderson (blisters). Juan Minaya was designated for assignment and Dakota Chalmers was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. Griffin Jax and Bailey Ober were recalled, with the latter making an impressive start in Kansas City on Sunday.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    In a season where postseason hopes have been effectively snuffed out by early June, you have to focus on the smaller individual storylines to find fulfillment as a fan – especially those with potential to impact the long-term outlook as this team aims to pick up the pieces and remake itself with help from the internal pipeline. 
    Ober is an intriguing asset from this standpoint. In a spot start on Sunday, he tossed four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He induced an impressive eight swinging strikes on 51 pitches, flashing 93-94 MPH on the gun repeatedly with his four-seamer. 
    Despite an intimidating 6-foot-9 frame, Ober has generally been viewed as having a limited ceiling, due mainly to his middling fastball velocity as a starter. While coming up as a prospect he usually worked in the high 80s or low 90s. The increase we're seeing now plays up his secondary stuff, and when you add strong command to the mix, you've got a pitcher with some real upside. 
    He has a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 16 innings at Triple-A and now an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in eight innings with the Twins. He should stick in the rotation and get a long look this summer.
    Another prospect taking advantage of his unexpected opportunity and running with it: Nick Gordon, who provided a rare heartwarming highlight amidst a barrage of uninspiring performances for the Twins last week. With his father Tom "Flash" Gordon watching from the stands on Friday, Gordon went 3-for-4 with his first major-league home run. 
    In total, Gordon made four starts and went 7-for-16 (.438) with two RBIs and a stolen base. He's slashing .400/.429/.550 in his young big-league career, and dating back to 2019 he now has a .312 batting average and .474 slugging percentage in 340 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors. He's 22-for-26 on steal attempts during that span. Through all the tribulations he's faced over these past few years, Gordon has stepped it up on the field and really produced when given a chance. 
    This season is a giant bummer, obviously, but if the Twins can take the opportunity to get extended looks at fringe-type prospects like Ober and Gordon, and find that maybe they actually have something in them, that's a big win with possible implications going forward. 
    LOWLIGHTS
    It needs to be stated: The front office completely whiffed on nearly every significant pitching acquisition during the offseason. Starters, relievers, free agents, trades ... they've almost all panned out poorly.
    None worse than Matt Shoemaker, who received a $2 million deal to plug in as Minnesota's No. 5 starter and has been a total disaster. His start on Friday was one of the worst ever seen from a Twins pitcher, as the right-hander surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and two walks while recording one out. 
    The catastrophic performance inflated his ERA to 7.28 and tagged him with his league-leading seventh loss. Shoemaker absolutely deserves to be out of the rotation but that's not happening at this point, due to the aforementioned lack of bodies. The Twins can't afford to give away any of their MLB depth, no matter how atrocious it may be. 
    Fellow free agent starter J.A. Happ hasn't been quite as bad as Shoemaker, but he sure hasn't been good. Happ gave up five earned runs on nine hits (three home runs) in five innings against Kansas City the previous night. He now owns a 5.61 ERA to go along with a 4.77 FIP. That includes a 10.17 ERA over his past five turns, during which opponents have slashed .360/.405/.680 against the veteran, who looks pretty cooked by now.
    Bullpen pickups have been similarly disappointing, just about across the board. Centerpiece free agency addition Alex Colomé gave up a two-run homer in Baltimore; his modest momentum built up in early May has now completely evaporated. Colomé has a 9.00 ERA in his past six outings and opponents are slashing .389/.450/.889. The team's lone trade acquisition of the winter, Anderson, pitched badly in his only appearance of the week before going back on IL. We've already seen Derek Law and Brandon Waddell pass through with lackluster stints. 
    What happened to the mojo and moxie of this front office and coaching staff when it comes to identifying and developing arms? It's the top story of the season, in my opinion. Entering play on Sunday, the Twins had the third-worst ERA in the American League (ahead of only the Orioles and Angels) and the second-worst pitching WAR in the major leagues (ahead of only the Diamondbacks). The bats have their issues and the lineup is decimated but this lousy pitching staff gives the team no real shot at getting on any kind of sustained run.
    TRENDING STORYLINE
    It appears the Twins may be getting back two of their most critical pieces in the near future. Buxton, who has now missed a full month and counting since straining his hip on May 6th, completed a baserunning program without issue and will likely head on a rehab stint in the days ahead. It wouldn't be shocking to see him back in the outfield for next weekend's series against Houston.
    Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda went through a 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday morning and came out of it fine. He too is on the verge of a rehab assignment, which presumably would entail one or two starts with the Saints. Will the time off prove an elixir for his woefully underwhelming performance up to this point?
    The Twins are probably in too deep of a hole, and plagued by too many flaws on the roster, for an historical comeback thrusting them back into contention to be realistic. If such a thing was ever going to happen though, getting back their best player and best pitcher at full strength will absolutely need to be a part of the equation.
    LOOKING AHEAD
    Well, here we go. After going 7-6 during their two-week soft patch against the Orioles and Royals, the Twins are about to see the difficulty level steepen sharply. The dreaded Yankees and Astros are coming to town. This could get ugly. (Uglier, I should say.)
    TUESDAY, 6/8: YANKEES @ TWINS – LHP Jordan Montgomery v. RHP Michael Pineda
    WEDNESDAY, 6/9: YANKEES @ TWINS – RHP Gerrit Cole v. RHP Randy Dobnak
    THURSDAY, 6/10: YANKEES @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ
    FRIDAY, 6/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP José Urquidy v. RHP José Berríos
    SATURDAY, 6/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Bailey Ober
    SUNDAY, 6/13: ASTROS @ TWINS – LHP Framber Valdez v. RHP Michael Pineda
     
  20. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Time for a Changing of the Guard   
    Bailey Ober
    Ober has surpassed Lewis Thorpe as a possible back of the rotation option for 2022 in my eyes. He’s dominated the Minors at every stop including AAA this year where he’s posted a 2.81 ERA and 20% K rate. He doesn’t have ace level stuff but he does have a high spin fastball that appears to play up higher than the 90-92 you see on the radar gun, and his control has been nothing short of impeccable. 
    Ober has gotten just the one start for the Twins so far, but that should change. Happ and Shoemaker are arguably not even eating innings at this point and Ober could emerge as a back of the rotation arm for next season which would be incredibly valuable. The 6 foot 9 righty doesn’t have much left to prove in the Minor Leagues. It’s time for the Twins to see what they have.
     
    Nick Gordon
    Gordon’s main issue the last few years has been health, as he’s flashed his first round upside whenever he’s been able to stay on the field. Gordon absolutely dominated AAA slashing .393/.469/.571 and it appears there just isn’t much more for him to prove there. In the Majors he’s been far from overmatched, as he’s been 73% better than a league average hitter according to wRC+
    Gordon’s staying power is a bit murkier, as he’s essentially up due to an injury to Arraez. The Twins are sure to find a team in need of a boost on defense to take Andrelton Simmons at the deadline however which would open a spot for Gordon for the rest of the season. The Twins have also discussed working on Gordon becoming more familiar with the outfield which would make him a much more valuable player. At 25 years old, Nick Gordon should finally get a chance to make good on his first round selection.

    Brent Rooker 
    Rooker looked like a revelation when he was brought up in 2020 slashing .316/.381/.579 before a broken forearm on a hit by pitch derailed his and the Twins plans. He was quickly brought up in 2021 after failing to make the Opening Day roster but struggled to find his stride, slashing .103/.133/.241 with a 43.3% K rate. Rooker’s approach at the plate makes him a streaky hitter but his offensive profile makes him arguably the best pure power hitter in the Twins system.
    Rooker has no defensive position you feel good about, but we’re likely watching the last of Nelson Cruz in a Twins uniform this season. At the age of 26, it’s time to see if Rooker can approach anywhere near that magical 2020 debut which would put him in the running to at least mix into the DH spot in 2022.
     
    Like it or not, several veterans are likely on their way out in the coming months which creates plenty of opportunity. These three may be the first to get their shot but there are certainly several other young players who will be fighting for a look at the MLB level. Are there any you’re looking forward to?
     
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  21. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Tenth Twins Player On Injured List Triggers Valuable Savings   
    Caleb “Meat Raffle” Thielbar landed on the Minnesota Twins injured list Thursday with a strained groin, joining Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver, Kenta Maeda, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez, Devin Smeltzer, Rob Refsnyder, Jake Cave, and Edwar Colina. While this staggering list of casualties is alarming for both the front office and Twins fans, it’s a blessing in disguise for the team’s accountants.
    “We have ten players on the injured list,” said a senior employee with knowledge of the situation. “Next one’s free.”
    Multiple sources confirmed that the Minnesota Twins purchased the Major League Baseball Silver Plan for health insurance, which contains a codicil for catastrophic injuries stating that every player over the tenth on a team’s injured list will have all medical expenses covered.
    “It’s supposed to be triggered by acts of god, a tornado landing in the bullpen, Kent Hrbek bringing room temperature ‘guaca-mayo’ to the clubhouse, things like that,” said the source. “But the rapid accumulation of injuries did the trick.”
    This is a major change from previous years, when the notoriously thrifty team stuck with MLB’s Mild Bronze Plan, in which snake handlers, disgraced veterinarians, and bloodletters were considered primary care physicians, Tylenol cost $800 per bottle, and the only in-network hospital was the abandoned church in Stull, Kansas.
    “Given the pace of injuries, we expect at least 1-3 more Twins to be eligible for free care before players return to the active list,” said the source. “Did that Chinese satellite ever land? You’ve gotta figure it’s gonna fall right on Josh Donaldson’s calf. Hell, I’m calling it now.”
    NOTE: The interview with the source was cut short when a swarm of cicadas attacked J.A. Happ’s face.
  22. Like
    Dave The Dastardly reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Off Day Allows Twins Fan to Convince Himself Season Isn’t Lost   
    Thursday’s off day allowed the battered Minnesota Twins 24 valuable hours of rest. What it did for the fan base was perhaps even more critical.
    “You know, they’re only nine games below .500,” said Ethan Adams. “Not even ten games out of first, either. Put together one more good week and now we’re talking.”
    Adams, an otherwise normal Waseca man with hopes, dreams, and a small HVAC repair business, credits the lack of a Thursday game with giving him the space to feed his grasping delusions of an unprecedented turnaround.
    “You get caught up in the grind of a regular season and miss the big picture,” said the 43-year-old. “Having some time to talk myself into not giving up on 2021 was so important. If there was a game, they might have lost. No game, no loss, no extra player or players on the injured list. That’s practically a win. I know all the so-called experts say it’s impossible, but what if they’re wrong this time?”
    Minnesota’s recent run of competence has come while playing the dreadful Baltimore Orioles. Adams says he’s bargained with the fact that it might just be that the competition was soft.
    “Do I remember the White Sox absolutely throttling them and Alex Colome being worse than Ron Davis and Byron Buxton getting hurt again,” asked Adams. “Yes I do. But the Orioles sweep just happened! Recency bias gets a bad rap in my book. They should call it recency badass. You can quote me on that.”
    Friends say this isn’t Adams’ first foray into desperate hope.
    “Ethan has more than once said to me that this year’s Vikings team ‘has the look,’” said longtime friend Samantha Thiede. “And I’m absolutely certain he means the look of a champion. The Minnesota Vikings. He’s lived here his entire life. I worry about him sometimes.”
    “All the other contenders will be giving up young assets to acquire players for the pennant race,” mused Adams. “All the Twins have to do is get back their healthy players and it’ll be all over but the shouting. Sets us up for the years to come, too.”
    “Every winter, he says this is the year Gophers basketball returns to glory,” said Thiede. “Again, he’s lived here his entire life. He follows these teams closely. He has to know that he sounds like a madman.”
    “It’s like The Rock in San Andreas,” said Adams. “Even if the odds are long, you don’t give up and you damn well take the fight to your opponent, even if it’s an earthquake and you just have your bare hands and a helicopter.”
     
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