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  1. Like
    bighat reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, One Fan's Opinion: Rooker is Ready   
    The Twins have not been afraid of change. They have not been afraid to move guys up and down from Triple-A St. Paul with regularity. There were copious amounts of injuries and other ailments. There were also a couple of trades. Following the trade deadline trade of Nelson Cruz, Brent Rooker was recalled. 
    The Twins have depth in the outfield still. Kyle Garlick did what he was asked to do, which his produce against left-handed pitching. Rooker provided some power. It was a question last year at spring training, and again it doesn't make sense for both to be on the roster in 2022. There will be some tough decisions and this may be another one. 
    Kyle Garlick came into the season securing a spot on the 26-man roster. He made the Opening Day roster. In April, he landed on the COVID-IL. That was just the start of the issues for the outfielder and pinch hitter. At the beginning of June, Garlick left with a groin injury and eventually needing surgery to repair a hernia and left him out for the remainder of the season. It is unfortunate for him because in his 99 at-bats with the Twins in 2021, he had eight doubles and five home runs. In 63 plate appearances against southpaws in 2021, he hit .271/.302/.576 (.878) with six doubles and four homers. 
    By spring training, Garlick’s injury will presumably be better, but will he still be on the 40-man roster? He will turn 30 in January, but still can provide strong offense against left-handed pitching. That may be important with lefties like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Max Kepler in the outfield rotation. Garlick still has one option year remaining since he did not use one in 2021, so he could be stashed in St. Paul for additional depth. 
    Brent Rooker's value to the team comes in the form of power and production and the plate. He has shown the power. Now he just needs an opportunity for regular playing time. At each minor league level, he initially struggled and within a couple of months he becomes incredibly productive. Can he do that at the big-league level? Rooker will be 27-years-old in 2022, not young, but certainly with room to continue growing. 
    While Rooker is not a good defensive outfielder, his ability to play in the corners, and some first base, does give him value to the team. That said, Rooker has never had the typical lefty-righty splits. However, in 189 at-bats in 2021, he had 10 doubles and nine home runs. That is after he hit 20 homers in 62 games for the Saints. 
     In March, Do-Hyoung Park wrote an article showing that Rooker may have already been preferred by management. While the two players have similar offensive productivity, Rooker stood out as the younger, more potentially dominant player:
    Indeed, one option, and the option I think would make sense, would be to try to trade Garlick, if there is any market for him. From a business standpoint (and yes, personal standpoint as a fan), there are better options with younger players who are ready for the big leagues. Rooker is more than able and prepared to remain on the 26-man roster. 
    What do you think? Is Rooker ready, and should he remain on the big-league roster? What should the team do with Kyle Garlick? Could he have a role going forward? Leave a comment. 
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    bighat reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Winning Out   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/27 thru Sun, 10/3
    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 73-89)
    Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -105)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 157 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Edge Tigers in Pitchers' Duel
    Game 158 | MIN 5, DET 2: Polanco and Pineda Propel Twins
    Game 159 | DET 10, MIN 7: Buxton's 2 HR Not Enough as Ryan Struggles
    Game 160 | KC 11, MIN 6: Pitching Plastered as Royals Pound Twins
    Game 161 | MIN 4, KC 0: Arms Rebound, Blank Kansas City
    Game 162 | MIN 7, KC 3: Twins Close Losing Year with a Win
    It turns out that Bailey Ober's start the previous week would be the last of his rookie season. He was shut down ahead of his scheduled final turn with a right hip strain, although the move surely had more to do with workload management than real injury concern. Ober completes his first MLB campaign with a 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 96-to-19 K/BB ratio in 92 ⅓ innings spread across 20 starts. A tremendously encouraging year from the big righty, who has vaulted directly into the club's rotation plans.
    With an offseason ahead that may prove decisive in shaping his big-league future, Byron Buxton ended his season on a high note. Generally speaking, he hasn't been quite the same offensively since returning from his broken hand, but Buxton's final week looked more like his first month. He went 11-for-25 with three home runs, five doubles, and 11 runs scored, mixing in a couple of stolen bases for good measure. 
    We're seeing something special here, folks. The question now is whether we'll have the opportunity to keep watching Buxton's magic happen in a Twins uniform. He's got one year ahead until free agency and if Minnesota can't extend him, his trade market will be too hot to ignore. 
    The decision with Buxton this offseason will primarily dictate whether the Twins actually aspire to contend in 2022, and will likely determine whether a lot of fans choose to stick with the team or tune out for the time being. I've written in the past where I stand: pay the man, or regret it forever. You cannot let a talent like this get away.
    Joining Buxton with strong finishes at the plate:
    Josh Donaldson went 6-for-21 with four walks, two homers, and five RBIs. He started all six games, which is pretty much par for the course by now. It was a huge proving year durability-wise for the 35-year-old, who returned from an immediate IL stint to play in 133 of the club's final 150 games, starting 125. The production was there too. While he still carries plenty of risk at this point, JD looks like a much more dependable building block than he did one year ago. The late drop-off of Luis Arraez was an under-discussed storyline in the second half for the Twins. From August 19th through September 19th, he batted just .176 in 99 plate appearances, sinking his average from .318 to .284. Given the lack of real defensive value, and the absence of power or patience in his game, Arraez's value plummets pretty quickly when he's not hitting for average, and we've never seen him slump in that department quite like he did during this late stretch. So it was nice to see him snap out of it with an excellent final week, in which Arraez notched 11 hits in 20 at-bats, lifting his final average to .294. It'll be very interesting to see what the team's plan is with him going forward. Miguel Sanó went 7-for-22 with a home run, a double, and four RBIs. He rebounded from a brutal April with production the rest of the way that was basically in line with his quality career norms. He also put up the lowest overall K-rate of his career (34.3%) after leading the league in strikeouts a year ago. It was ultimately a disappointing year for Sanó but offered some promising signs, and he's vowed to focus harder than ever on his body this winter, setting a goal of losing 20-30 pounds. With Alex Kirilloff looking more like a first baseman than outfielder, Sanó is another intriguing piece in the organization's future planning. He has one more guaranteed season under team control. On the pitching side, Michael Pineda wrapped his walk year with 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a win over Detroit. He returned quickly from an August oblique injury to register a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in five outings. That'll give the pending free agency market a boost. 
    Griffin Jax finished a rough rookie season in a positive way, delivering his best performance as a big-leaguer on Saturday with five innings of shutout ball against Kansas City. He was hardly dominant, striking out three and walking two, but he allowed only one hit. Jax showed some promise after the All-Star break, but in his final eight starts he went 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA, erasing any chance of factoring into the Twins' rotation plans next year. That said, with his effective fastball-slider combo, he's definitely earned a look in the bullpen.
    Speaking of which, the Twins received impressive final weeks from a trio of key relievers. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala combined to allow zero earned runs over 11 frames. Tough to overstate how impactful these three are for the Twins' bullpen outlook.
    At the All-Star break, it wasn't clear that any of them were going to be names to comfortably write into the 2022 plans. None pitched especially well in the first half. But since the break, they've collectively posted a 2.48 ERA and 85-to-24 K/BB ratio in 83 ⅓ innings. All three are expected to return in 2022, at a little over $5 million in total salary.
    It's not an amazing bullpen foundation to build around, but if Taylor Rogers can return to form following his finger injury, it's certainly a viable starting point for a contending relief corps. 
    He's been a beaming beacon in the Highlights section nearly every week since arriving in the majors, but in his final turn as a rookie, Joe Ryan finally hit a road bump for the first time. Facing the Tigers at Target Field on Thursday, Ryan was knocked around for six earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings, with a pair of homers by Niko Goodrum accounting for much of the damage. 
    The poor finale may diminish a bit of Ryan's shine, but hardly removes the luster from a tremendous showing in September for the rookie. He finishes with a 4.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, and 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 26 ⅔ innings. Small sample and lack of experience aside, it's tough to imagine he won't be at least tentatively penciled into a rotation spot come next spring.
    Will Max Kepler still be the man in right field at that time? He closed out one of the worst offensive seasons of his career with a 3-for-19 week, leaving him with a pedestrian final slash line of .211/.306/.413. Just flat-out sub-mediocre production from a right fielder. It does bear noting that Kepler supplements his value in other ways, like on the bases (10-for-10 on steals this year) and in the outfield, but with emerging corner outfield depth in the Twins system, Kepler and his favorable contract will likely be shopped on the trade market.
    Andrelton Simmons put the finishing touches on an all-time dud of an offensive season, going 2-for-11 with a couple of singles. He posted a .480 OPS in the second half, managing three total extra-base hits (all doubles) in 189 plate appearances. Most Twins fans will be more than happy to be rid of the pending free agent, and while his defense was customarily good this year (albeit unspectacular), I do wonder if any team will view him as a starting-caliber player on the offseason market.
    In an interesting trend, Simmons finally started losing some his playing time at shortstop to Nick Gordon toward the end of the year, much to the pleasure of fans who'd been clamoring for such a shift. Gordon first start at short didn't come until September 11th, by which time he'd been in the majors for three months and appeared in 55 games. From that point forward, however, he started eight of the team's final 21 games, including three times in the final week.
    Gordon's bat went cold during this final stretch, producing just one hit in 13 at-bats, and his overall production for the season was underwhelming (.647 OPS, 0.2 fWAR), but if he's viewed as a credible option at short, that cements his value as a utility guy. The team's usage late in the season inspires optimism on that front.
    There are plenty of trending storylines ahead as we turn our attention to the offseason. Once a World Series champion is crowned in about one month's time, the page will turn and Hot Stove season will officially get underway. (Theoretically, anyway ... a looming CBA expiration could throw a wrench in things.)
    As they seek to rebound from a terrible season, the Twins face a number of key decisions this winter. Will Buxton be traded? What about dealing a semi-redundant yet valuable fixture such as Kepler, Arraez, or Sanó? Who will survive the 40-man roster crunch? How hard will Minnesota attack the free agent markets at pitcher and shortstop? 
    There's plenty to explore as we size up a critical offseason. I'm pleased to say we'll have an exciting announcement on that topic dropping on Monday morning. Make sure you tune in for it.
    On a final note: a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has consumed, commented on, or complimented these Week in Review columns over the course of the year. It's been fun, and for me, a good way to stay plugged into a season that was often difficult to find motivation to care about. Hopefully these weekly recaps served a similar purpose for many of you.
    We'll be back next year. Here's to much happier weeks to break down in 2022.
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  3. Like
    bighat reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins to Promote Olympic Medalist Joe Ryan, Slated to Start Wednesday   
    When the Twins take on the Cubs on Wednesday night against the Cubs, we will be able to watch the major-league debut of Joe Ryan. Darren Wolfson reports that Ryan is being promoted tomorrow, with rosters expanding on September 1st, and the expectation is that he'll take the hill at Target Field in Kenta Maeda's place on Wednesday.
    It's been a pretty crazy travel schedule for the former Rays prospect the past two months. In late June, he headed to the Olympics in Tokyo. Upon his return to the States, he went to North Carolina to pack up and move to the Twin Cities. He has spent the past couple of weeks with the Saints, making starts at CHS Field, and in Toledo. He was in Columbus, Ohio, when he learned that he got The Call. And now he will be back in Minneapolis, excited for his debut.  
    Scouting Report
    Joe Ryan is a fastball pitcher. He throws, literally, at least 70% fastballs. But it’s not because he has huge velocity; his fastball sits between 90 and 93 mph. Like another Twins pitcher, it has proved more effective than the radar gun readings.
    Bailey Ober sits 91-93 mph with his fastball, his length allows him to release the ball closer to home plate. In essence, he can make 91 look like 94 just because of that release point. 
    Joe Ryan is only 6-2, but he still has some deception in his delivery. He throws from a lower release point. While the average pitcher’s release point is 5.9 feet, Ryan’s average release point is just 4.8 feet from the ground. Not one starting pitcher in the big leagues throws from that low. He also gets Ober-like extension in front of the mound. It’s something that he credits his water polo background with helping him. He told Verducci in a Sports Illustrated article: 
    Here's a breakdown of Joe Ryan by Twins Daily's own Nash Walker:
    “"In water polo you learn how to skip the ball,” he says. “I spent 10 years trying to skip the ball in water polo, and it’s the same concept as throwing a fastball: Get the shoulder in position and then let the hand work and get it out front. Throwing a baseball feels the same way. You get that zip right at the end.”
    He has always had supreme confidence in his fastball, even though he doesn’t throw it real hard. He has a swagger. He believes that his movement and location will make it difficult for the hitter to square up. When he gets ahead, he - again like Ober - can get a lot of swings-and-missed up in or just above the strike zone. In fact, in his two starts with the Saints, he struck out 17 batters in just nine innings. 
    In 2019, Ryan was pitching in High-A Charlotte. His pitching coach was Doc Watson. In a 2019 Baseball America article, he shared a story about facing then-Miracle outfielder Trevor Larnach, who was the Florida State League MVP that season: 
    “Several guys kept saying ‘I’ve not seen a fastball like that in my career, “High Class A Charlotte pitching coach Doc Watson said. “Even when we were playing Fort Myers, (Trevor) Larnach, who’s their best hitter, in my opinion, he made a comment … he said ‘Doc, I’m gonna tell you what, that arm is electric. It comes through and you do not see the baseball until it’s on top of you.’ so I’ll take it from them and just say that it is an electric arm.””
    But Ryan has also shown a solid slider. In his two starts since joining the Saints, he has been able to locate it at the knees and near the outside corner very consistently. It will obviously be an important second pitch for him to keep hitters off balance. Even within that, he throws a couple different sliders. Sometimes it acts like a cutter, and just moves enough to stay off a barrel. Other times, he’ll throw the slider with a bigger break. He will also throw a slower, more 12-to-6 curveball. 
    Joe Ryan turned 25 years old in June, and he sits on the precipice of a lifelong dream and goal, the big leagues. It’s been a somewhat unusual path to get here, and to land with the Twins. 
    Joe Ryan grew up in Northern California, miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. He led a unique early life. From a Tom Verducci article in Sports Illustrated, Ryan “grew up without travel ball, video games or cable while living an old-fashioned Tom Sawyer life in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods in Marin County, California”
    His father, Kurtis, was “an extreme athlete and runner.” The family didn’t have cable TV. He didn’t play video games until middle school. At age 8, he entered a 7.2 mile cross-country race with his dad. He and his dad went into the mountains to camp, fish and hunt. He played water polo competitively, even during the baseball season. 
    He attended Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California. As a senior, he went 12-1 with a 0.76 ERA. He was drafted in the 39th round by his hometown San Francisco Giants. 
    Instead of signing, Ryan headed to Los Angeles to attend Cal State - Northridge. As a freshman, he pitched in 13 games (9 out of the bullpen) and posted a 1.48 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. As a sophomore, seven of his 11 appearances were starts. He went 1-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 40 1/3 innings. As a junior in 2017, he posted a 12.79 ERA in just 6 1/3 innings due to lat injury. 
    At the end of that season, he decided to transfer. If he had gone to another Division I school, he would have had to sit out a year. The Twins and other teams tried to sign him as a non-drafted free agent that summer. Instead, he headed back to northern California and went to Division II Cal State - Stanislaus. It proved to be a great decision for him. In 14 starts - and with health - Ryan went 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 98 1/3 innings. He had 127 strikeouts with just 13 walks. 
    In June of 2018, the Tampa Bay Rays selected him with their seventh-round draft pick. Because he had received a medical redshirt that junior season, he had some leverage and signed for just shy of $150,000, about $60,000 under slot value.
    He spent that summer in the New York-Penn League, but in 2019 he raced through three levels of the minors, making it to AA. He also led the entire minor leagues in strikeouts (183) in just 123 2/3 innings, while walking only 27 batters. 
    He didn’t pitch officially in 2020 due to the pandemic, but he did work out at the Rays alternate site and continued to progress under the Rays’ strong pitcher development program. 
    He began the 2021 season at Triple-A Durham. He pitched in 12 games (11 starts) and went 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA. In 57 innings, he walked just ten and struck out 75 batters. 
    He then was named to the Team USA Olympic team and had a fantastic run. He started the team’s first game in the tournament. He then was the starting pitcher against Korea in the semi-finals, a win that put USA into the Gold Medal game. The team won the silver medal, but Ryan really impressed. 
    While in Japan, he learned that he had been traded (along with RHP Drew Strotman) and has made two starts for the St. Paul Saints. In the first start, he struck out the first six batters he faced and nine batters over four innings of work. 
    In his second start, last Thursday, he struck out nine batters in five innings. In his two starts, he only gave up five hits and two runs over nine innings, to go with seventeen strikeouts. Turns out that was enough to prove to the Twins brass that it was time to call him up. 
    On Wednesday, Joe Ryan will make his long-anticipated Twins debut (long-awaited in this case being since the July 31st trade) at Target Field against the Chicago Cubs. It's always fun to watch an MLB debut, but Twins fans should be excited about seeing Ryan for the season's final month. 
  4. Like
    bighat reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, What To Do With Max Kepler   
    Kepler’s career can be split into three parts. One was his 2019 season where he led the Twins in fWAR and punished pitchers no matter their handedness. He slashed a fantastic .252/.336/.519. Unfortunately this stretch lasted all of 596 plate appearances.
    The other two parts are the near 2000 plate appearances of just not being anything too special surrounding that 2019. He was 7% above the league average hitter in 2020, but this was just the 2nd of his seven seasons in the MLB where he was even league average at the plate.
    Kepler has basically always held his own against right handed pitching, but it’s against lefties that really brings him down. In his career he’s slashed .214/.284/.359 against southpaws, 29% below league average. Also keep in mind that those numbers are significantly inflated by his one fantastic season in 2019 where he was 30% above league average against lefties. At this point we have about three years prior to that performance and plenty of data compiled since to say that Max Kepler is a terrible hitter against left handed pitching. Expecting anything other than an out every time he takes an at bat in those matchups is a mistake.
    So what can the Twins do with Max Kepler? He’s not a bad player but his usage everyday regardless of matchups significantly hurts his production and the team’s success.
    Find the Right Trade
    Kepler is still a good defender in the corner according to his 80th percentile rating in Outs Above Average. He’s also been 12% above league average against right handed pitching in his career. It’s entirely possible that there’s a team out there who sees these bright spots as well as his affordability and actually makes a decent offer on the trade market.
    Despite the amount of injuries the outfield has had this season, the Twins system as a whole has incredible depth in the corner outfield, especially of the left handed variety. On the big league club alone the Twins have Kirilloff, Larnach and Arraez. Kepler won’t bring in the haul he once would have, but finding a decent package based on what he still does well could be a great option for the Twins to try to shake up a roster that’s been incredibly disappointing.
    Move to a Platoon
    This season may be lost but the next time the Twins are looking to compete it’s really difficult to make a case that Kepler adds to those plans while he’s taking at bats against left handed pitching. They may give him the rest of the season but if they want to keep Kepler around it should come with the condition that a right handed hitting corner outfielder is brought in to platoon with him. 
    So far Kirilloff and Larnach appear to be avoiding the biggest flaw in Kepler’s game, but the Twins are still very left handed heavy in the outfield. Bringing a right handed bat into the mix with the intention of sitting Kepler against lefties and occasionally one of the young left handers would likely be an all around better situation.
    I once found Kepler to be one of the most exciting players on the Twins when thinking about his future. At 28 years old however it’s become far too obvious that he’s not a future star and likely shouldn’t be thought of as one of the “core” pieces of the next great Twins team. He’s a solid player who can succeed in specific situations if you manage around his shortcomings to get him there. It’s time for big changes. Max Kepler is not an everyday difference maker in this Twins lineup, and it’s time they stop treating him that way.
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    bighat reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Rare Unwritten Rule Triggers Name Change for Minnesota Twins   
    When the Minnesota Twins took the field against the Los Angeles Angels for the second half of Thursday’s doubleheader, they technically weren’t the Minnesota Twins. In the latest twist involving baseball’s unwritten rules and the franchise, the road team was officially the Cocaine Dentists.
    “I’ve been in the game my whole life and this was news to me,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “But we’ve gotten pretty good at rolling with the punches this year, and now it’s up to us to go out there and play Cocaine Dentists baseball.”
    The unwritten rule stems from a turn-of-the-century handshake deal between a consortium of team owners and Philadelphia dentist Leo Thurm, who advertised himself as “the leading practitioner of cocaine dentistry and orthodonture in the Delaware Valley.” Thurm and the owners agreed that if any team in the league loses twice as many games as they've won, that team must change its name to Cocaine Dentists if the deciding loss comes in the first half of a doubleheader. When Los Angeles sent the Twins to a 14-28 record on Thursday afternoon, the rule was triggered. The team must now go by the name for the next two weeks.
    “As you can guess by the name, there is no written record of this transaction,” said Society for American Baseball Research CEO Scott Bush. “There’ve been whispers of it from guys like (longtime baseball journalist) Peter Gammons, but I don’t think anyone believed it despite it being just as deeply, deeply stupid as all the other unwritten rules. Then Wednesday happens and the Twins are the Cocaine Dentists for a while.”
    Cocaine, which is now illegal, was used as an oral anesthetic at the time of Thurm’s practice. Per Bush, it would behoove the Twins to get themselves out of the American League cellar, and not just because of a restless fan base.
    “If the any team gets no-hit three times, it’s alleged that the team with the worst record in the league must take the name of Thurm’s other business venture for the remainder of the season,” said Bush. “Seattle, Cleveland, and Texas have all been no-hit twice and it's not even June yet. I don't know that the public is ready for the Minnesota Thurm's Miracle Tincture to Increase Vitality and Good Bodily Humours in Your Colicky Newborn. Also, the tincture in question was just opium cut with Dr. Pepper and more opium.”
    As of this writing, Minnesota Cocaine Dentists hats, jerseys, and clothing all sit at number one in the MLB.com online store.
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