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  1. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Steven Trefz for an article, Marlins 1, Twins 0: Twins Have No Answer for Alcantara   
    Miami - Seeking to reach 5-0 for the first time since the 1960's, the Minnesota Twins sent Kenta Maeda to the mound in his first regular season start since 2021. The Marlins sought to regain some hope for their 2023 season by starting 2022 NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara. With the roof open, and a few thousand of the Twins' and Marlins' family and friends in attendance, the battle began.

    Box Score
    SP: Kenta Maeda: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K (79 pitches, 54 strikes (68%)
    Home Runs: None 
    Top 3 WPA: Emilio Pagan (0.114), Kenta Maeda (0.146), Jovani Moran (0.028)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon (-0.166), Donovan Solano (-.096), Willi Castro (-.093)

    Win Probability Chart

    Pre-Game Celebration
    Before the first pitch, the Marlins honored Twins' beloved Luis Arraez with his 2022 Silver Slugger and AL Batting Championship awards. Fans could pose with the awards on the concourse during the game, and since 70% of the crowd was dressed in Twins gear, most made the pilgrimage to remember what was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing 2022 campaign.
    Now Leading Off, for your Minnesota Twins...
    With Max Kepler suffering a knee injury Monday night, the question of "Who will lead-off?" traveled around the fan base. Nick Gordon got the call from Rocco Baldelli. Byron Buxton started the night on the bench. Donovan Solano made his first start at DH, and Willi Castro got the nod in left field, with Trevor Larnach sliding over to right field.
    Gordon came up hacking, and grounded out on the first pitch.
    The Return of Maeda
    Twins fans have been waiting for Maeda's return, and his first inning back did not disappoint. In fact, both teams remained hitless until the bottom of the 2nd, when Avisail Garcia connected on a bomb.
    Dueling Pitchers
    After that home run, Alcantara and Maeda continued to mow down opposing batters through the first four innings. Jean Segura notched a single and stole second base for the first stolen base for or against the Twins this season. Trevor Larnach notched the first Twins hit with some hustle on a grounder to third. Maeda won the re-match with Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, Maeda struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth with some pent-up emotion coming out after the final out.
    First Stolen Base Attempts for the Twins!
    Don't get too excited. Michael Taylor attempted to gain second base with Gordon up on 2-0 count with one out. Gordon fouled it off, on what looked like a straight steal attempt. Taylor tried again with Carlos Correa up on a 0-1 count and would have stolen the base easily, but Correa fouled that pitch off as well. It was exciting to see the effort, and frustrating to watch the missed opportunity in such a tight game. And, ultimately, the team still doesn't officially have a stolen base attempt. 
    Oh No...Kenta...!!!
    Another Marlins game, another key cog on the Twins squad has to leave early due to injury. Maeda was visibly in some discomfort after giving up a single to Jon Berti. He was shaking his right arm as he watched the ball into the outfield. The team surrounded him on the mound, and he was immediately taken out of the game. It didn't seem too bad, as he remained in the dugout after coming out. He was replaced by Emilio Pagan. Pagan walked Arraez, and then escaped the damage with inducing a double-play grounder from Garrett Cooper.
    Last Chances
    The Twins got a runner on second in the 7th inning, but Larnach, who walked, was left there after a Joey Gallo strikeout and a Donovan Solano fly out. Alcantara pitched into the 9th, and induced the game-ending double play from Larnach after a Carlos Correa single. Game over. Complete game, 2-hit shutout for Alcantara. In 1 hour and 57 minutes! 
    Final Thoughts
    Obviously, Twins fans will be waiting for word on Maeda's right arm and will be hoping for not only his quick return to the mound, but also for short memories as they take the field again against another tough hurler. This game had no excitement, and no crowd. Sad to see such great talent going unappreciated here in Miami.
    What’s Next? 
    The Twins will send to the mound former Marlin Pablo Lopez in Game 3 of the series (1-0, 0.00 ERA) on Wednesday afternoon. The team will face their first left-handed starter, Jesus Luzardo (1-0, 0.00 ERA). The game is scheduled for 12:10 pm CDT.  
    Postgame Interviews
      FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT               Pagan 0 0 16 0 26 42 Alcala 0 12 0 25 0 37 Moran 0 0 20 0 15 35 Sands 0 0 0 28 0 28 López 0 8 11 0 0 19 Thielbar 0 18 0 0 0 18 Jax 0 11 0 0 0 11 Duran 0 0 0 0 0 0
  2. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Twins 7, Royals 4: Twins Complete First Opening Series Sweep Since 2017   
    Box Score
    SP: Joe Ryan 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (80 pitches, 52 strikes (65 strike %))
    Home Runs: Joey Gallo 2 (2) 
    Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan .259, Joey Gallo .205, Ryan Jeffers .200
    Win Probability Chart 

    The Twins concluded their first series of the season in Kansas City looking for a sweep over their division foe. With Joe Ryan tossing six strong innings, and Byron Buxton, Ryan Jeffers, Trevor Larnach, and Joey Gallo having multi-hit games, the Twins were able to complete the sweep. 
    Shutout Streak Ends, but Ryan has Quality Start 
    Ryan’s season debut for the 2023 Twins got off to a very good start as he threw his fastest recorded pitch in the big leagues, a 96 mph fastball against Bobby Witt Jr in the top of the first. 
    The downside of Ryan’s start was the end of the Twins' scoreless inning streak to start the season, ending at 19 2/3 innings. The home run from Edward Olivares tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second. 
    Ryan got into another jam in the bottom of the third with runners on second and third, but he escaped on a groundout by Vinnie Pasquantino. Ryan dominated the rest of the way, retiring nine of the last 10 hitters he faced with Salvador Perez being the only hitter to get the better of him with a double and a walk in Ryan’s last three innings of work. 
    Ryan’s career totals against the Kansas City Royals now include a 1.20 ERA in 30 innings of work across five starts. 
    Jeffers, Gallo Keep Bats Hot for Twins Lineup
    Ryan Jeffers made his debut for the 2023 season as well on Sunday and showed himself to be a completely different hitter from last year. Jeffers drove in the Twins' first two runs of the game, both on RBI singles, and made it the first time ever for Twins catchers to have multi-hit games in all three games to start a season. 
    Joey Gallo’s bat also came alive Sunday afternoon. He started the game by going 2-for-3 with a double and the Twins' first home run of the season. His homer came off of fellow Henderson, Nevada native and left-handed pitcher, Amir Garrett, and was pulled straight away to right field landing 431 feet from the plate. 
    Gallo figured one home run wasn’t enough and in his next at-bat hit a three-run home run off of Dylan Coleman to extend the Twins' lead to 6-1 in the top of the seventh inning. This was also Gallo’s third multi-home run game against the Royals in his career, the last coming on June 26, 2021, in an 8-0 victory by the Rangers. 
    Other Notes
    Buxton went 2-4 with a walk in Sunday’s game and made it the first time in his career he has ever started a season with three straight multi-hit games as well. 
    Larnach added on the Twins' final run of the game and had his first three-hit game in the big leagues since May 29, 2022, which was also against the Royals. 
    Emilio Pagan came in for the ninth and made the end results more dramatic as he usually does. However, he recorded the final three outs to finish the victory. 
    The sweep over their Royals brings the Twins' record to 3-0 and is their first 3-0 start to a season since 2017 when the Twins swept the Royals at Target Field in another three-game series. 
    What’s Next? 
    Twins head south to Miami for the second series of the season, reuniting with Luis Arraez and playing the Marlins on the road for the first time since 2019. Tyler Mahle will be on the mound for the Twins against Johnny Cueto for the Marlins. 
    Postgame Interviews 

  3. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Do the Twins Have Too Many Starters?   
    In 2022, Rocco Baldelli had to call upon 39 different players to take the mound. He nearly went through three complete rotations by asking 14 different starters to begin a game. It wasn’t just that the Twins opted to use an opener regularly, but a lack of effectiveness and availability created a need for new arms to be brought in by the bus load.
    As spring training came to a close the Twins made a tough decision to option Bailey Ober to Triple-A St. Paul. He is a major-league quality arm and threw over 50 innings for Minnesota across 11 games last year. He made the Opening Day rotation in 2022. This isn’t what he wanted for his career, but it’s evident of how deep the Twins are this time around.
    Knowing that injuries will happen, and guys are going to force their way in, what is a realistic amount of starters to appear for the Twins this season?
    The Opening Day Group
    Now having set the starting rotation, we know that the newly acquired Pablo Lopez will take the ball on Opening Day. He was a headline piece that cost the club Luis Arraez. Lopez has been consistently good for quite some time, and he elevates the group as a whole. Joe Ryan started Opening Day for Minnesota last year, and may now be something like the fifth best arm among the group. Both Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle have the chops to pitch like an ace, and they should remain highly effective if healthy. Kenta Maeda is somewhat of a wildcard coming back from Tommy John surgery, but before he was injured, Minnesota saw their return for Brusdar Graterol compete for a Cy Young.
    The Triple-A Group
    It has been quite some time since the St. Paul Saints have had a rotation this loaded. There isn’t room for holdover veterans because Minnesota has developed strong internal depth. Ober headlines this unit and should be the first arm called upon when needed. Both Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland made their big league debuts last season. Each should be expected to get some level of run with the Major League team again this year. On the Mend
    Chris Paddack is coming back from Tommy John surgery last season and looked like a reason to part with Taylor Rogers before he got hurt. The San Diego Padres saw him look like a star as a rookie, and the hope would be that Minnesota can extract that type of performance. He was extended this offseason and is clearly a part of the future. Jordan Balazovic is a former top prospect that found himself in hot water after an altercation away from the field this spring. He should be all systems go for the Saints, and while this is a make or break year for him, he does have a 40-man spot and can again earn his way back with strong performances. Guessing on the Rest
    Maybe the Twins will need to pick up a waiver claim for a spot start, as it’s something they have shown a willingness to do previously. They shouldn’t need to call upon an Aaron Sanchez or Chi Chi Gonzalez type this year, and it appears Josh Winder and Cole Sands have transitioned to the bullpen. Maybe David Festa flies through the upper portion of the minors, or Brent Headrick could be used as he was recently added to the 40-man as well. Either way, the bulk of the group should be substantially more reliable than we have seen in the past. Reading between all of the options, it seems like Minnesota should have a much better chance to cap out at 10-12 quality starting options this season. Rather than having to throw darts, establishing depth with a high water level is something that should be a point of praise for the front office. The hope is that it now pays off.
  4. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Considering Rocco Baldelli's Reliever Choices on Opening Day   
    As our wonderful contributor Matthew Trueblood once wrote, “pitching really is two distinct and disparate tasks: pitching to lefties, and pitching to righties.” A starter like Sonny Gray may exhibit multiple personalities in his craft depending on the platoon; for relievers, the game is a little different. While a starter must vary their method of attack when facing a sub-optimal matchup, bullpen arms can brute force their way through three outs, relying on one of their overwhelming strengths with the occasional changeup, just for fun. Specialty is the name of the game.
    Platoons—whether said reliever is facing a lefty or righty—stands as the most apparent input in this equation, but we can dig a little deeper, observe a more granular strategy with modern relievers. We saw glimpses of this new-fangled decision-making process when Robert Orr of Baseball Prospectus revealed that the 2021 Giants selected pinch hitters based on swing path and opposing pitch shape. That team won 107 games with a team of Milk Duds and microplastic. It seems the plan may have worked. 
    What if we reversed the idea? How could a manager manipulate his bullpen to its most ideal form?
    This was the question that popped into my head when Rocco Baldelli first called upon his bullpen on Thursday. He beckoned Caleb Thielber to do away with some lefties, but he then had to decide whether Jorge López or Griffin Jax better suited the situation. 
    For this analysis, we have to eschew traditional forms of sports talk where players exist on a range of “goodness” with Emilio Pagán at the bottom; instead we should consider each pitcher as the owner of a specific set of skills and archetypes. They may range insofar as being able to replicate their strengths, but they’re major leaguers for a reason: they possess some talent in acquiring outs. 
    First, Jorge López. López’s success in 2022 came off a nasty, boring sinker that swiped the souls of righties while a healthy dose of curveballs and changeups kept lefties honest. All three pitches were tremendous offerings. In comparison, Griffin Jax—Minnesota’s other great bullpen piece—is a slider specialist with a four-seamer and a newly developed cutter. Both pitchers are righties. 
    Rocco Baldelli decided to keep Caleb Thielbar in to vex the lefty Michael Massey—platoons still reign supreme—before calling in López to face the righty Hunter Dozier and the lefty Kyle Isbel. Dozier hit for a weak 82 wRC+ against righties in 2022 and has been brutally negative against sinkers his entire career; López caught him window shopping on an outside breaking ball. Isbel is a more interesting case. His offensive profile in the majors has been poor overall, but he was unfathomably bad against four-seam fastballs last season. He grounded out against a sinker. Perhaps Rocco was unphased by any threat he offered. 
    That left Jax for the 8th inning. His first target was Edward Olivares, a righty fairly neutral against all pitches in 2022 but struggled against fastballs and sliders the previous two seasons; he flew out on a solidly-struck liner. Bobby Witt Jr. then stepped in, and promptly worked a five-pitch walk—not surprising given that he performed well against sliders in 2022, although Jax did get squeezed on the final pitch. That’s baseball. M.J. Melendez, who smoked four-seam fastballs last season, then grounded into a double play on a four-seamer down the heart of the plate. That’s baseball. 
    Did Rocco put his best foot forward? Potentially. Calling in López appeared to be a significant anti-Hunter Dozier measure, but Jax’s matchups in the 8th were far from favorable, arguably just as reasonable a time to save for a few López sinkers. But it was likely his best choice, as Pagán or Jorge Alcalá were his other probable selections.
    And there’s even more to the decision-making process than just science! Bullpen management is part political, a dash of art, and a sprinkle of, even in todays game, some classic gut feelings. Matchups are fun, but players are still humans after all, and Rocco has to navigate the murky waters of relationships and egos while still winning ballgames. 
    It’s a tough life for a manager; dealing with relief pitchers, as Bruce Springsteen may have once said in 1982, is just winners and losers, and “don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line.” You can have the best options in and still get burned or you could find the correct answer by plugging in the wrong equation altogether. In any case, it worked for Rocco as the Twins held onto a shutout during their opening day victory.
    Oh, and Jhoan Duran pitched the 9th because he’s Zeus in the flesh.
  5. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Steven Trefz for an article, Twins vs Royals (3/30-4/2): Series Preview   
    In 2022, the Twins went 12-7 against the Royals, and finished 13 games ahead of them in the standings. At Kauffman Stadium, however, the Twins went just 4-5. 
    In 2021, the Twins and Royals split the ten games that they played in Missouri. The Royals won the season series 10 games to nine. The Royals finished one game ahead of the last-place Twins.
    The Royals have traditionally played the Twins tough whether they are evenly matched or one team has a significantly better record. Most games between these two squads are close, so it's likely that the bullpens will play a huge role in these games. That shouldn't be a surprise on Opening Weekend since the starting pitchers are still building up their workloads. 
    Fun Fact: In 2022, the Twins were 15-13 in day games, but only played two day games on the road and lost them both. This season starts with four of their first six games during the daytime and on the road, including all three games in the Royals series. 
    Weather Factor: With temperatures in the mid-50s to low-70s for this opening series, weather shouldn’t play too much of a factor, but humid summer carry on fly balls won’t be an issue.
    So let's take a look at the Pitching Probables for this first series of the season. 
    Game 1 - Thursday, March 30, 2023 – 3:10pm CDT – Right-handers Pablo Lopez (Twins) and Zack Greinke (Royals) go head-to-head to kick off the 2023 MLB campaign. The newest addition to the Twins’ rotation seeks to step into the ace role as time-tested Greinke seeks to hold the Twins’ offense at bay.
    Of the Royals' lineup, only Hunter Dozier has faced Lopez before, and he went 1-for-3 off of him. The Twins starters, however, have plenty of history with Greinke, with Kyle Farmer, Christian Vazquez & Trevor Larnach all enjoying success with less than five plate appearances each. Nick Gordon wins the "I love Greinke" award with a 7-for-11, 1.727 OPS history against him. Who might want to sit on opening day (but definitely isn't)? Joey Gallo, who is 0-for-17 against the Royals righty with one walk.
    Game 2 - Saturday, April 1, 2023 – 3:10pm CDT – Right-handers Sonny Gray (Twins) and Jordan Lyles (Royals) take the hill in Game 2 after the opening weekend scheduled weather flex day. Cooler temps should lead to a close game, and it will be interesting to see if the members of the Twins’ bench who didn’t get at-bats in the opener will be called upon to shake off the nerves against the journeyman Lyles.
    Gray has a decent history against the Royals' current squad, with Bobby Witt Jr. being the only starter with an OPS over .600 against him. Gallo has fared much better against Lyles over time, with a 1.025 OPS in 10 plate appearances. Vazquez, Max Kepler, and Gordon check in with an OPS over 1.000, and should be in the lineup.
    Game 3 - Sunday, April 2, 2023 – 1:10pm CDT – Stop me if you heard this one, but right-handers Joe Ryan (Twins) and Brad Keller (Royals) seek to secure a series victory or sweep in the third and final game. Ryan looks to improve upon his road woes from an otherwise successful 2022 rookie campaign, while Keller attempts to bounce back from a 6-14 record in 2022. Ryan has posted a .113 batting average against Royals hitters, with only Vinnie Pasquantino and Michael Massey doing damage in less than ten plate appearances. Kepler is the only healthy Twin to do much consistent damage against Keller, with a 1.237 OPS. It should be noted that Gallo has four walks in five plate appearances against the Royals righty.
    With a brutal April schedule, the Twins need to come out of the gates with a strong showing in Kansas City. A sweep isn't out of the question to start the season, but the team's poor track record at Kauffman over the past few seasons warns that the Royals won't go down without a fight. They are young and hungry, have a couple of flamethrowers at the back-end of their bullpen, and ready to stop being an afterthought in the AL Central.
    What's your prediction for this series? Get out the brooms, or something in between? Who do you think will start off on fire for the Twins' bats? Who will provide the Twins the best opening series start?
    Steve Trefz - On a mission to go to a Twins series in every stadium over 2023-24. The journey starts 3/30! Follow me on Twitter: @TwinsTrefz Statistical help from StatHead.com    
  6. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, 2023 Minnesota Twins Predictions: The Wins and the AL Central   
    24 Twins Daily writers responded to our survey, while approximately 110 Twins Daily readers or Twitter followers responded. The majority of the questions were related to the Twins 2023 season. How many wins will the Twins have this season? Will they have any Silver Slugger or Gold Glove Award winners? Who will be their top hitters and pitchers?
    We asked other questions but will get to those in Part 2 later today and other topics we will write about throughout the season. 
    So, in Part 1 of our 2023 predictions, we want you to leave a Comment where you answer the three questions below. How many Wins will the Twins have this season, and where will they finish in the division? 
    Question 1: How many Wins will the Twins have in 2023?
    For the Twins Daily writers, I asked what the Twins' record will be. Those that have followed me for the 20 years that I've been blogging about the Twins will probably be surprised to learn that of those 24 Twins Daily writers, the 82-80 record that I predicted for the Twins was the lowest of the group. In my opinion, I think that it will be very interesting to see how the fact that the Twins won't be playing 78 games against the AL Central anymore. I personally think that it will mean that the winner of the AL Central will not be much over .500. But... that's why they play the games, right? 
    50% of Twins Daily writers said the Twins will win between 86 and 89 games in 2023. Surprisingly 37.5% (9) think the Twins will win 90 or more games this season. Just three had them winning between 82 and 85 games. 
    Now, 110 Twins Daily readers responded to this question. Fifty-six of them predicted the Twins to win 86-89 games, one game over .500 if you will. Just 19% (21) of TD readers put the Twins at 90 or more wins. Just eight of the respondents think that the Twins will win 81 games or fewer. 
    So, overall, the Twins Daily prediction is 87 wins for the 2023 Twins. 
    Question 2: Where will the Twins finish in the American League Central?
    While 75% of Twins Daily writers think the Twins will take back the division crown in 2023, 59% of the fan respondents think the Twins will win the division. 37 of the 110 respondents predicted the Twins to finish in second while eight thought they'd finish in third place. The other 25% of the Twins Daily writers have the Twins finishing in second place. 
    Question 3: Which team will win the AL Central?
    Interestingly, between questions two and three, one of the Twins Daily writers decided that the Twins would finish second instead of first. Seventeen had the Twins winning the division, five picked Cleveland, and two picked the White Sox. 
    Fan respondents remained consistent. Sixty-five (of 110) predicted that the Twins would finish in first place and win the division. Thirty-eight think the Guardians will finish in second place, while the White Sox received just seven. 
    To summarize, Twins fans and Twins Daily writers think their favorite team will win the division. Shocking, I know. Those two groups also found consensus, agreeing that the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will not win the division in 2023. 
    Your Turn
    In the COMMENTS below, please tell us how many Wins the Twins will have in 2023 and where they will finish in the AL Central. Will they win the division? 
  7. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Golden Grapefruit Awards: Our Favorite Spring Training Clichés   
    Welcome, welcome, everyone to the first annual Golden Grapefruit Awards show. We’ve finally made it through another spring training, so let’s take a moment to look back at some memorable moments and hand out some spring training awards.
    Every year, the same storylines tend to pop up, and fans consume them like animals every year. We had a great showing this year. Every predicted cliché had at least one qualifier, and many award winners shone magnificently, going above and beyond what the academy (Greggory and his cats) was looking for. Let’s get started!
    Miguel Sanó Memorial "Best Shape of his Life" Award: José Miranda
    We start our awards with a classic. Each year, someone in every camp shows up in what they or someone else can describe as “the best shape of his life.” Sometimes several people show up in such a state. Some people show up in such a state several times.
    With the departure of perennial "Best Shape of his Life" candidate Sanó, this award had no clear frontrunner and big shoes to fill. Miranda certainly filled those shoes, hiring a nutritionist over the offseason and weighing in 12 pounds lighter than he did at the end of 2022 in an effort to slim down and hold up better over the season.
    Take Carlos Correa’s word for it: “He looks sexy. You see that body?” Congratulations on your first Golden Grapefruit, José.
    "Newest Pitch" Award: Griffin Jax and Joe Ryan (tie)
    There was a crowded field for this award, with at least six players showing up to camp with what could be called a “new pitch.” None of these pitchers may still be throwing their new pitches come September, but spring training is built on hope and optimism.
    Emilio Pagán emerged as the early favorite, adding a new pitch down the stretch in 2022—a curveball with which he saw moderate success. Then, early in camp, it was revealed that Griffin Jax, Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, and Joe Ryan all spent time at Driveline this winter to revamp their arsenals.
    Jax added a cutter to pair with his slider. Mahle both changed his slider and split changeup. Thielbar fine-tuned his mix, and Ryan changed his slider to a sweeper while also adding a split change. After camp started, Aaron Gleeman and Jeremy Maschino noticed that Pablo López and Jovani Morán, respectively, both made adjustments to their curveball and slider, respectively, to throw a sweeper.
    I’m here to make the executive decision that changing a breaking pitch to a sweeper doesn’t count as throwing a new pitch, nor does tinkering with an existing pitch. As such, edging out Pagán by a few weeks, we have Jax and Ryan as our co-winners of the "Newest Pitch" Award for their new cutter and split-change developed at the same time.
    We only have one trophy, so they’ll need to settle it between themselves.
    "Most Revamped Swing" Award: Max Kepler
    Most years, this award would go to the player who spent the offseason working with a guru to fix a glaring hole in their swing, refine their mechanics, or build consistent timing. Joey Gallo was a prime candidate for the award, and he did reportedly spend time this offseason fixing holes in his swing. Even the value-brand Gallo, Matt Wallner, was reported to have done the same. 
    However, this year, the award goes to Kepler, who took the unorthodox path toward fixing his swing—getting his mind right while sipping wine in Paris. Kepler, who went through a significant emotional struggle over the past year, stated that he needed to clear his mind for a month to work through it.
    Hey, if it works, who cares how he got there? Best of luck in a shift-free 2023, Mr. Kepler.
    "Weirdest Injury" Award: Jordan Balazovic
    Although not a cliché, it seems that every year there is an inexplicable injury that can only be chalked up to spring training. Recall 2021, when Byron Buxton missed a few weeks due to a root canal after chipping his tooth while eating steak.
    Balazovic, a pitching prospect, spent spring training 2023 with his mouth wired shut after a couple of sucker punches broke his jaw the night before spring training started. In this case, the award was won before a game or even practice took place. 
    "Honey, Grab my Program" Award: Andrew Bechtold
    Spring training, especially early in the year and late in games, features a rotating cast of characters more extensive than The Simpsons. Non-roster invites, prospects, and career minor leaguers are each given their turn in the Florida sun. Every year, a few prospects get their number called more than others, consistently sending fans scrambling to look up who #89 is.
    Only players who have never appeared in MLB and are not on the 40-man roster qualify for this award. Bechtold was the winner, leading qualified players in both games (15) and plate appearances (27) and showing off his defensive versatility. Unfortunately, he has a .305 OPS this spring. But it’s the times you get up that counts, or whatever Rocky Balboa said.
    "First Cliché Statement" Award: Carlos Correa
    It’s not every day that Buxton is the second fastest to get somewhere, but Correa beat him to the first spring training cliché uttered in 2023. Players often repeat some cliché line to the media early in camp about having a good group of guys, a mix of veterans and rookies, or championship aspirations, like in Buxton’s case this year.
    Correa narrowly edged out Buxton in making a clichéd comment to the media. He hit it out of the park by lecturing his teammates about needing to stay healthy, challenging them to wait until they retire to retire go partying. When the 200 million dollar man speaks, I’m guessing they listen.
    Congratulations Carlos! I’m sure you’ll be in the running for earliest cliché for the better part of the next decade, so we’ll see you here next year to defend your title.
    "Grainiest Video" Award: Do-Hyoung Park
    Finally, my favorite award—the media can’t help themselves, and we, as fans, will eat up whatever they give us. When baseball’s back, we need proof. Grainy videos taken through a fence at the beginning of camp are a spring training staple.
    There were many great candidates, but Do hit a grand slam with this video. First, it appeared even before pitchers and catchers reported. Next, it was filmed through not only one fence but two. Finally, Alex Kirilloff’s bat, shorts, and shirt blend in so well with the backdrop that all you can see are his lightning-fast appendages and what I assume are dashing good looks (I couldn’t tell through the fence).
    Congratulations Do! You might not have won Jeopardy, but you did win a Golden Grapefruit.
  8. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 3 Spring Training Stat Lines that Matter for the Twins   
    Fans should take spring training stat lines with a grain of salt. Sometimes pitchers are working on one specific pitch, and there are times when batters are honing their swing. There can still be signs that a player will have a breakout season or start the season on a hot streak. As spring training ends, three Twins players are setting themselves for breakout seasons. 
    Stats are through games played on March 26th. 
    Jose Miranda, 3B/1B
    Spring Stat Line: 10-for-36, 3 2B, 5 HR, 5 BB, 3 K
    Miranda fought through an injury this spring with a sore shoulder that prevented him from playing defensively for multiple weeks. His swing didn’t suffer, with eight of his ten hits being for extra bases. Miranda entered camp after spending the winter slimming down and getting into better playing shape. He tired at the end of the 2022 season, and his on-field results suffered in the season’s final weeks. His improved results speak for themselves, as his five barrels were more than any other Twins player in camp. He had the highest percentage of hard-hit balls among Twins players, with over 100 pitches. The Twins are hoping Miranda can take over the full-time third base job, and his spring training may point to a strong 2023 campaign. 
    Trevor Larnach, OF
    Spring Stat Line: 12-for-32, 2 2B, 4 HR, 3 BB, 5 K
    Larnach wasn’t a guarantee to make the Opening Day roster, but injuries to other key players and his spring performance have him poised to head north with the club. He has shown stretches of being a strong hitter during his first two big-league seasons, including a 1.077 OPS last May. MLB.com believes his breakout could be real because his 96.4 mph exit velocity this spring ranks seventh among the nearly 300 hitters with ten or more batted balls. Larnach is getting an opportunity on the Opening Day roster due to injuries to other players. He needs to prove he can stay healthy, which should help him continue producing at a high level. Otherwise, plenty of young hitters will be fighting for a big-league spot in St. Paul. 
    Bailey Ober, SP
    Spring Stat Line: 4 G, 10 IP, 3 ER, 2 HR, 9 K, 3 BB
    Ober won’t start the season at the big-league level despite a tremendous spring training. When the Twins traded for Pablo Lopez, Ober became the sixth starting pitcher in what was expected to be a five-man starting rotation. When the Twins drafted Ober, his velocity topped out in the high-80s, but he’s made multiple improvements since 2017. So far this spring, his fastball has reached 94 mph, which helps his other pitches to increase his strikeout totals. His 6-foot-9 frame also helps him to release the ball closer to the plate, which gives batters less reaction time. Ober will have to bide his time in St. Paul, but he is one injury or poor performance from breaking back into the major league level. 
    Which spring performance is much more likely to transition to the 2023 season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  9. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Sonny Gray's Criticism of Last Year's Rotation Shows How Far We've Come   
    Over the weekend, we learned that Sonny Gray will not be the Twins' Opening Day starter – that honor will instead go to newcomer Pablo López on Thursday in Kansas City. Gray will, however, get the nod for the home opener a week later. There's little question he is viewed as the veteran leader on this starting staff, one year after establishing himself as its top performer.
    As such, Gray's comments following his final spring start on Sunday are noteworthy. After throwing three shutout innings against the Red Sox, the 33-year-old opened up on a bit of a vent session regarding last year's norm of shorter outings for Twins starters.
    “I don’t think we’re interested in going four innings and being happy,” Gray told reporters. “I feel like we had a group last year that was pretty content with going four innings, and [where] going four innings and five innings is considered a good start. I disagreed with that then, I disagree with that now.”
    Gray was channeling the frustrations a lot of fans felt with last year's team. And those frustrations are understandable, even if they were often misdirected. 
    There's no doubt that Rocco Baldelli generally had a quick trigger with starters in 2022, more so than ever before. But it wasn't due to some sudden philosophical shift on his part. As I see it, this tendency owed to two different factors:
    The league in general has trended toward shorter outings for starters and more innings for specialized relief pitchers. 
    The Twins had a particularly bad starting staff last year, with both Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy members of the rotation on Opening Day and all year long.
    The first part is what it is, and it's not likely to change in the age of high-powered, optimization-obsessive baseball pitching strategy. Baldelli might be more apt than some others to embrace the analytical logic of "times through the order" penalties and matchup-based advantages, but he's hardly some outlier egghead on this topic. 
    It's the way of the game. Last year, eight MLB pitchers threw more than 200 innings and one (Sandy Alcantara) threw more than 210. Twenty years earlier (2002), those numbers were 42 and thirty. 
    Gray himself is sort of a poster child for the modern MLB starting pitcher. While an accomplished multi-time All-Star, and a guy who's rightfully earned "borderline ace" designation, Gray has averaged 140 innings per season over the past seven years, and has never topped even 180 during that span. He hasn't thrown a complete game since 2017.
    That said, I don't think Gray's expectations for himself or others in the rotation are tethered to some outdated standard, even if some fans still long for the prototypical workhorse of yesteryear. He just wants starting pitchers around him who get the job done. Which brings us to my second point above: the Twins were just flat-out lacking in pitching talent last year.
    To some extent, they deserve a bit of grace on that part. Losing Kenta Maeda to Tommy John surgery and trading José Berríos at the deadline left them in an extremely tough spot with no easy answers. The front office signaled early on that they might get experimental in terms of pitcher usage as a way to navigate this challenge, so no one should've been all that surprised that they basically did just that. 
    Ultimately there were some fatal flaws in the execution of this plan, but that doesn't mean it a was conceptually bad idea. And anyway, what needs to be emphasized here is that it was a matter of circumstance: the Twins were in a uniquely bad position with their short-term rotation depth. 
    Fast-forward one year, and the makeup of this unit is very different. Gray now has had a full, normal spring – no lockout-trade combo disrupting his buildup routine – so hopefully that helps lead him to a healthier year and continued excellent performance on the mound. Joe Ryan is now fully established as a quality mid-rotation starter.
    On top of those two, you've got these additions to the mix: 
    Tyler Mahle, who threw 180 innings in his last full season (2021), López, who threw 180 innings last season, and Maeda, who averaged 5.4 IP/start for the Twins before undergoing Tommy John surgery These are hurlers who you can expect to pitch into the sixth inning with regularity, if healthy. That was never a particularly reasonable expectation for the likes of Archer or Bundy.
    It's easy to read Gray's comment at a glance and say, "He's taking a shot at his manager and the way this staff was a run last year." In reality, I think what he's saying is, "It sure is nice to be surrounded by competent talent in the rotation  now."
    While I'm sure he meant no specific offense to Archer with his comment, it's understandable how Gray might've been baffled (as we all were) watching the Twins go through an extensive orchestrated routine to get four mediocre innings out of the guy every fifth day.
    The situation this year will be a far cry from that, which is one of the main reasons fans should feel confident in a significantly better on-field product in 2023.
  10. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 4 Non-Roster Invitees That Can Still Make the Twins’ Opening Day Roster   
    Over the weekend, Derek Falvey told reporters that Jorge Polanco is behind on his preparation for Opening Day. The team has other options to take his spot at second base, but he isn’t the only injury concern. Alex Kirilloff recently started playing in minor league games, and there is still a chance he will start the year on the IL. Here is a look at some players that still have a chance to come north with the Twins next week. 
    Kyle Garlick, OF/DH
    Twins fans are familiar with Garlick since he has played over 100 games for the club in the last two seasons. He missed some time with a wrist injury in 2022, but the Twins signed him to a one-year, $750,000 contract that will pay him significantly more than the Triple-A minimum salary. Over the last two seasons, Garlick has hit .233/.283/.446 (.728) with 11 doubles and 14 home runs. Those numbers don’t tell Garlick’s entire story. The Twins were forced to use him regularly last season because of mounting injuries. He should only bat against left-handed pitchers, where he had an .805 OPS in 82 PA. The Twins like Garlick, and there is a good chance he will be back in the big leagues in 2023. 
    Jeff Hoffman, RP
    The Twins signed Hoffman at the end of February to a minor league deal that includes multiple incentives if he’s on the big-league roster. Last season, he made 35 appearances for Cincinnati with a 3.85 ERA and a 45-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Hoffman has the inside track to the final bullpen spot after the Twins optioned Trevor Megill to the minors and placed Dennis Santana on waivers. In four spring appearances, he has an 8-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio with increased velocity and the ability to pitch more than one inning. Hoffman has previously started games, and Rocco Baldelli has discussed his desire to have a long-man in the bullpen. Hoffman can serve multiple purposes for the Twins, so he will make the Opening Day roster. 
    Willi Castro, UTL
    Castro has played multiple positions for the Twins this spring and posted some impressive offensive numbers. Through his first 11 games, he went 9-for-29 (.310 BA) with five extra-base hits and a 1.049 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Castro has been a regular for the Detroit Tigers, playing six different defensive positions. He has hit .230/.278/.359 (.637) with an 80 OPS+ since the start of the 2021 season. With multiple injury concerns, the Twins might like his defensive versatility as a bench option. However, his offensive numbers this spring might be a mirage, and Minnesota might want someone with a different offensive skill set on the roster. 
    Tyler White, 1B
    White hasn’t played at the big-league level since 2019, but the Twins might want that streak to end so he can add first-base depth. Entering play on Tuesday, he is hitting .250/.382/.429 (.811) with three extra-base hits in 34 PA this spring. Last season, he split time at Triple-A for the Brewers and the Braves. In 103 games, he hit .230/.357/.412 (.769) with 13 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs, and an 88-to-70 strikeout-to-walk ratio. White had an .819 OPS against left-handed pitching in 2022, so the Twins could use him in a similar role to Garlick, with him filling in at first base. 
    Will any of these players be on the Opening Day roster? How would you rank their chances of coming north with the club? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  11. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2023 Prospect Previews: The Best of the Rest   
    In the past five editions of this series, we’ve looked at the Twins first five picks in the 2022 MLB Draft. In each case, we’ve looked at scouting reports, the amateur careers, and where they are likely to start the 2023 season. In this final installment, we’ll turn our attention to rounds dix through twenty, to highlight interesting prospects or tools to look out for from remaining picks.
    Unsigned Players
    The Twins ended the 20 round draft with just two unsigned players, their final two rounds of the draft. In the 19th round, they drafted Garrett McMillan, a left-handed pitcher who returned to school for his senior year. In the 20th round, the Twins drafted prep outfielder Korbyn Dickerson, who opted to fulfill his commitment to Louisville. 
    Best of the Rest
    Listed as a shortstop, the Twins drafted Jorel Ortega in the sixth round for $50k under slot. Ortega was part of an incredible Tennessee team that put together one of the best college seasons in recent memory. Playing as their primary second baseman, Ortega slugged .672 with 18 home runs. Ortega’s offensive  breakout may be partially due to Lindsey Nelson Stadium being a launching pad, as scouts had mixed reviews on his offensive upside. He had a two-run single in his first and only at-bat in 2022 for the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. On the play, he hurt his wrist and his season ended. 
    In the 9th round, the Twins drafted UC-Santa Barbara’s Friday night starter, Cory Lewis. I’m not going to bury the lede here; Lewis throws a knuckleball that scouts think may be a viable pitch in his professional arsenal. Lewis is a classic Twins pick, highlighting a few exceptional skills and some inefficiencies the Twins can work to improve. Lewis’s fastball sits in the low 90s but has elite ride and vertical break. Lewis also gets great extension to get plenty of swing and miss up in the zone. Lewis also features a solid curveball and an emerging changeup. The Twins will likely use him as a starter and work to develop more velocity on his fastball.
    In the 10th round, the Twins drafted infielder Dalton Shuffield for just $20k. Shuffield is a classic organizational player. In college, he strung together over 200 games from Texas State over five seasons, punctuating his career with a .397/.444/.668 line with 20 doubles and 14 home runs. With the raft of Twins injuries in 2022, Shuffield saw time at three different MiLB levels, making it all the way to Triple-A. In 25 games, he hit .305/.380/.537 with four home runs and 10 walks. Shuffield is a versatile infield gamer with surprising pop.
    The Twins used some of their savings in previous rounds to draft shortstop Omari Daniel in the 14th round for $232,800. Daniel was a slightly surprising sign to me, as he seemed likely to follow through on his commitment to Oregon. He’s a true defensive shortstop with strong tools across the board (plus arm and above average speed). Before Tommy John surgery in 2022, Daniel had shown the ability to drive the ball hard but an inconsistent offensive skill set. Daniel has plenty of tools, but needs health and playing time.
    Who are your favorite picks outside the top five rounds? Are there particular players or tools you are excited to see in 2023? Share your thoughts below.
    Previous Articles in the Series
    Brooks Lee
    Connor Prielipp
    Tanner Schobel
    Andrew Morris
    Ben Ross
  12. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Twins could have Six Top-50 Draft Picks in 2024   
    The rules governing MLB are nothing, if not labyrinthine. The draft rules are no different. Between qualifying offers, competitive balance picks, and the standard first-round pick, the Twins have the potential to fill their draft boards.
    MLB teams can offer their impending free agents a Qualifying Offer (QO) at the end of the season. If the player rejects it, teams can receive an additional draft pick. The rules are complicated, but if the Twins are still a revenue-sharing recipient and the player signs a contract north of $50 million, they will gain a draft pick between the first and second rounds. The pick would be between the second and third rounds if the player signs for less than $50 million.
    Have you got it? Super simple. The bottom line is that if the Twins give the QO to an impending free agent, and he rejects it, they essentially get an extra first-round pick.
    Do the Twins have any players who could receive the QO? Yes, several. To give a player the QO, the team has two criteria. First, the player must not have received a QO from their current team or any other team. Second, the player has to have spent the entire season on the team’s roster.
    The Twins have seven players projected to be eligible for the QO. However, the QO is a one-year deal equal to the average of MLB’s top 125 player salaries, likely around $20 million. Something has to go horribly right for three players—Donovan Solano, Michael A. Taylor, and Emilio Pagán—to sniff the QO.
    Depending on how they play, a solid case can be made for each of the other four to receive the QO. It’s something of a win-win for the team. If the player accepts the offer, the team pays them a hefty salary for only one year—no strings attached. The team gets a draft pick for their troubles if they reject it.
    So, who are these four players, and what are the odds they will receive a QO?
    Kenta Maeda
    Maeda is likely the longest shot in this camp, but it’s not unfeasible. It’s hard to predict how he will play this season, coming off of Tommy John surgery at almost 35, but if he pitches anywhere close to how he did in 2020, it’s reasonable.
    He would also be the most likely of the group to accept the offer. At his age, his chances of securing a multi-year deal are lower, so if he doesn’t think he could get a deal in free agency around $50 million over two years (Justin Verlander’s 2022 deal coming off of Tommy John, for reference), a $20 million payday would be good for him. It would also be an affordable veteran arm for the younger 2024 team.
    Sonny Gray
    2023 will be Gray’s 11th year in the big leagues, but he signed an extension early in his career that kept him from testing free agency (and kept him underpaid). Now he’s 33 and an established #2 starter heading into free agency after the season.
    A comparable (albeit more durable) player who signed a deal in free agency this year is Chris Bassitt. Bassitt signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the QO attached to him. If Gray has another season like 2022, with better health and more innings, he could be in line for more than Bassitt got. The Twins would gladly bring him back for $20 million or get a draft pick.
    Tyler Mahle
    Mahle is the highest-upside pitcher in this group and, not coincidentally, the youngest. If his shoulder proves healthy and he keeps his home runs down in pitcher-friendly Target Field, he could put together a season solidifying himself as an upper-level number-2 starter.
    In 2022, similar starters in age and ability Eduardo Rodriquez and Marcus Stroman fetched contracts over $70 million guaranteed. Rodriguez had the QO attached, and Stroman accepted his QO the year prior.
    If Mahle and his representation saw $70 million as feasible, they would likely pursue free agency. Given his age, he may sign a contract for five-plus years, taking him into his mid-30s and even push $100 million. Again, the Twins would gladly accept either outcome from him.
    Joey Gallo
    Here’s the wildcard. Gallo is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He also hit .160 last year. If he had been a free agent last offseason, he would have netted over $100 million on his next contract, even with his struggles down the stretch. Instead, he’s on a make-good, one-year deal with Minnesota.
    If he rediscovers his form, playing elite defense in the outfield, getting on base at a .335 clip, and hits 35 home runs, he will assuredly receive the QO and reject it. Even if he plays at 80% of that pace, there’s a case to be made. (Andrew Benintendi signed a five-year, $75 million deal this offseason).
    What are the odds that all four players play well enough to justify a QO? Probably low. The Twins current front office has only ever offered one player the QO—Jake Odorizzi in 2019—and he accepted it. I would be shocked, though, if none of them received it, and I think there’s a better chance for all four to get one than for none of them to get one.
    Combined with their standard first-rounder and a potential competitive balance pick, which they have been receiving lately due to market size and revenue, the Twins could have as many as six draft picks before the second round.
    I’m not saying it’s likely, but as JP from Angels in the Outfield would say, “It could happen.” I’m sure Twins scouting director Sean Johnson is licking his chops.
  13. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Report from the Fort: Updates from Twins Territory South   
    We’re quickly approaching Opening Day, and as the Minnesota Twins look to iron out their 26-man roster before heading to Kansas City, they’ll continue to make cuts from the major league side of things. As the World Baseball Classic wraps up in the coming days, there will be a few players that return to camp as well.
    Here’s what I’m hearing and have observed through the past week of action:
    Sonny Gray
    Gray threw against the Boston Red Sox Single-A team on Wednesday afternoon. As expected, he was dominant. Ryan Jeffers came down to the back fields to catch the outing, and it was a bit more traditional. Not using pitch com, Gray did have a pitch clock set up behind the batter. He mowed down hitters, and during his final inning, allowed a Red Sox batter to start at first base in order for him to work from the stretch.
    With Wednesday being his day to pitch, he is lined up for an Opening Day start against the Royals. It was Joe Ryan who captured that honor last year, but appears Gray will take it from here. He should have two more starts before the regular season kicks off. Gray could certainly be a difference maker on the mound for the Twins this year. Entering the final year of his deal, a strong season could earn another big payday. Carlos Correa
    He returned to Minnesota’s lineup on Friday after missing some time following the birth of his son. He noted working out while away, and there is little reason to think he’ll have any rust to knock off. Correa has been a pillar of preparation this year for Minnesota and could be in for a massive season during year one of the mega deal.
    Nick Gordon
    Thursday saw a return to action for Gordon. He had missed time following an ankle injury suffered on a defensive play. Rocco Baldelli had him at second base against the Rays and he went 1-for-3 on the afternoon. Gordon should again be expected to play a substantial amount in a utility role, and is a key part of Minnesota’s 26-man roster. Royce Lewis
    Thursday morning saw Lewis doing sprint work on the Twins practice field before he stepped in the cage. Resuming hitting roughly a week ago, the stroke looked smooth as he sent a handful of batting practice balls over the fence. Returning from a second ACL injury, Lewis looks strong and back to form. He’ll continue to rehab having been placed on the 60-day injured list, but should be an option for Minnesota come early summer.
    Lewis did take live at bats on the back fields prior to the Twins game on Friday. He continues to do rehab work and has a bit longer rehab day on Saturday. I plan to talk with him following his workout, so be on the lookout for a more in depth interview in the coming days.
    Alex Kirilloff
    The good news is that Kirilloff is reportedly swinging with no pain. He has been seen smiling and upbeat following batting sessions and that is not something that Minnesota saw much of last season. The bad news is that he has yet to appear in any game action and time is running out. It remains to be seen how he will be utilized the rest of the way this spring, but logic says he’d need to get game action before being an option to start on Opening Day.   Kirilloff got in some love at bat work prior to Friday’s action on the back fields. He does have a noticeable amount of wrist tape on his left forearm. The swing is still smooth, but it doesn’t appear he lets it fly every time. He was struck out in a few at bats by Alex Phillips and Sean Mooney. It was nice to see him a bit more ramped up than the casual batting practice action Thursday. Byron Buxton
    Although he has yet to appear in a major league game this spring, Buxton is getting plenty of work in. He got five at bats during the Triple-A game on Thursday as Louie Varland worked against the Braves minor leaguers on the mound. Buxton batted second each inning and did not play the field. He finished his day with a walk and didn’t have much opportunity to show off the wheels. Regardless of where the cuts are coming, it’s good to see Buxton appears on track to go north with Minnesota. Omari Daniel
    The 2022 draft pick was taken in the 14th round last year and swayed away from college. He underwent Tommy John surgery not long after and never made his professional debut. He was in the lineup Wednesday for his first professional action. The speed was on display and is impressive. He’s not a guy that appears on prospect lists, but the Twins did significant work to get him into pro ball and it’s nice that he’ll be completely healthy this year. Hernan Perez
    Minnesota continues to bring in depth and did so in the form of Hernan Perez. He is playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic alongside of Pablo Lopez, Luis Arraez, and Eduardo Escobar. There shouldn’t be much expectation for him to sniff the big league roster, but he can help at St. Paul. Perez hasn’t accumulated much major league time of late but had a run with the Milwaukee Brewers. Edouard Julien
    He was incredible on a global stage during the World Baseball Classic. Going 7-for-13 with a pair of doubles and homers, the bat just continues to play. He’ll return to Twins camp this week, and after being optioned earlier this week he’s ticketed for more time in the minors. Triple-A is probably the next stop, but he certainly is making a compelling case that he belongs. Should someone miss time, his bat could be enough to warrant opportunity. Lineups
    The Tampa Bay Rays brought one of the worst lineups I have ever seen for their action against the Twins on Thursday. There wasn’t a single player close to being a big-league regular that was in the lineup. Because that how spring training goes, Tampa won the game 2-0. It’s certainly a good thing that the result doesn’t matter. Joe Ryan did work four innings and punched out five. That would put him on track to start Minnesota’s second game of the season. He should have two more outings before heading north. What other Twins questions or comments do you have as spring training continues on?
  14. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, Initial Baseball America Mock Draft: Twins Take Prep Hitter   
    As you're scrolling through the story, you're going to read one of the most Twins-iest things you could think of when Collazo says this, "Currently it feels like a good year to have a top-four pick." 
    Of course it does. The Twins fall right outside of that range and is there anything more Minnesotan than that!?
    But don't overreact just yet. If you've been following college baseball at all to this point, you're probably pretty familiar with LSU's Dylan Crews and Florida's Wyatt Langford separating themselves from the pack as hitters and LSU's Paul Skenes (ascending) and Tennessee's Chase Dollander (coming back) in their own tier as pitchers. It should be relatively easy right now to project them as the first four picks as Collazo does.
    This is where I remind you that funny things - like Kumar Rocker getting drafted third out of nowhere last year - tend to happen. And, worse case scenario, nothing funny happens and the Twins have their pick of the litter outside of the top four in a what is considered to be a very strong draft.
    In the event those four are gone, Baseball America has the Twins selecting Indiana prep outfielder Max Clark. Collazo says of Clark:
    The thing about drafting fifth in a "four-man draft" and settling for Clark is that Clark is... a stud. Which parts of his scouting profile don't you like:
    Vanderbilt commit (ok, you might not love that... some times Vandy guys are hard to sign. But they're also one of the best programs in all of the country. Plus to plus-plus hitting ability  Plus-plus running ability No doubt center fielder with plus-plus arm Excellent make-up Projectable power That's a not-yet-19-year-old who is going to be a Top 100 prospect for the next handful of years.
    Projecting how much power is the biggest question make surrounding Clark. If it comes, you're looking at a middle-of-the lineup hitter who plays premium defense at a premium position.
    Jacoby Ellsbury is a comparison that you may hear on Clark. Aside from one year where he hit 32 home runs, Ellsbury did most damage with his legs, stealing 50 or more bases three times. It wasn't a highly-decorated career, but Ellsbury was Rookie of the Year, a one-time All-Star, Golden Glover and Silver Slugger. He twice received MVP votes. 
    At any rate, Clark projects to be a difference-maker.
    It's also important to remember that college players get a head-start on their season - and to make an impression in their draft season. Clark still has plenty of time to play himself out of the Twins range. 
    Which other players would you like to see play their way into the Twins draft discussion?
    You'll be able to see how things change through the mock draft season.

    TWINS MOCK DRAFTS Baseball America BA Staff Mayo TwinsDaily McDaniel Callis Law Max Clark, OF, Indiana HS (V1.0 3/16 Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU (V1.0 3/2)

  15. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Could Bailey Ober Still Win A Rotation Spot?   
    Bailey Ober has found himself on the outside looking in regarding the Opening Day rotation. With the additions the Twins have made the last few seasons and the return of Kenta Maeda, the 6-foot-8-inch right-hander seemed to have lost his job. It’s certainly about health more than performance, but Ober’s spring thus far may push the Twins into making a difficult decision.
    Bailey Ober is the one homegrown starting pitcher the Falvey regime has produced that can be considered anything near “established”. That definition has to be used loosely, as his health has been a significant question mark. Ober’s size and frame have cost him significant time in his six professional seasons, topping out at 108 innings in 2021. It’s those health issues that have factored into the Twins trading for five starting pitchers during the last two seasons. The team’s inability to count on any significant amount of innings is a concern. He’s showing this spring that he’s at 100%, and that could and probably should force the Twins to bring him north with the big league club for Opening Day.
    His velocity is up, and his offspeed pitches look dominant thus far this spring. With a track record of such a limited workload in his career, it can be argued that healthy innings shouldn’t be burned in St. Paul. So how could Ober find his way onto the Opening Day roster?
    Injury Opens A Spot
    It’s worth noting that finding space for Ober isn’t an issue as of now with plenty of spring training time remaining. We can’t forget the injury-riddled 2022 season in regard to the possibility that a starting pitcher could still find their way to the Opening Day IL, including Ober. Many times when we ask where someone fits in, the problem solves itself. Hopefully, it doesn’t, but Ober is insurance for the possibility that it does.
    He Outright Wins The Job
    The Twins haven’t alluded to any kind of formal rotation battle going on, but if there was, it would likely be between Ober and Kenta Maeda. We’re talking about a ridiculously small sample of spring training stats, but it would be hard to argue that Ober hasn't looked much sharper this spring. Having only thrown six innings in three outings, Ober has struck out six and only allowed two baserunners with his velocity up across the board. 
    Maeda on the other hand has looked rusty as should be expected following his Tommy John recovery. In his 5 2/3 innings. He’s struck out four and walked five. His velocity continues to sit in the danger zone of around 90 mph.
    Could the Twins be swayed into going with Ober and pushing Maeda out of the rotation? It’s worth noting that he showed signs of falling off in 2021 before injuring his elbow. Maeda has also pitched effectively out of the bullpen before where his offspeed pitches could be used more effectively. It may be a long shot, but it may be a possibility worth keeping in mind during the last few weeks of spring training. Six-Man Rotation
    The Twins are considering a six-man rotation more seriously than ever. While it would cost them an arm in the bullpen, the concept makes a lot of sense in order to give an extra recovery day to a rotation full of health-related landmines. The question in this scenario becomes “How long do they stick with it?”. This could also answer itself very quickly due to either health or performance.
    In this situation the Twins keep all six of their possible Opening Day starters stretched out to ensure they still have five viable arms should one go down with an injury. While it’s a bit unorthodox, a six-man rotation would give an opportunity to start to all six pitchers who at this point are deserving. While Maeda’s spring has been questionable thus far, it’s hard to put much stock in the numbers he’s putting up, and this would give him an opportunity to show what he has left in the tank. It seems to be the best option for all parties involved if the Twins are willing to sacrifice a relief pitcher.
    How it all will play out remains unclear, but the Twins had a very simple solution to their unusual stash of depth in the rotation, and Bailey Ober has shown up to camp and made it complicated. Should Ober go to Triple-A and wait for an opening in the big leagues? Should he earn an Opening Day spot should his good performance continue? Let us know below
  16. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Twins Have an Overlooked Lefty   
    Rocco Baldelli will have a much better bullpen entering this season than last year. That much is already a given. Jhoan Duran is established as an elite arm, Jorge Lopez was an All-Star closer in 2022, and Griffin Jax has emerged as a high-leverage arm. The Twins are in a much better position.
    There are a few candidates when trying to figure out the final pieces. From the left-handed side, Caleb Thielbar and Jovani Moran have been considered the top two candidates. That is still true, and while he’s not on the 40-man roster, Danny Coulombe continues to make noise for Minnesota.
    This is the fourth straight season that Coulombe has agreed to a minor league deal with Minnesota. He has made it into major league action each year and clearly feels a level of comfort with the organization. Coulombe established himself as a big league reliever with Oakland spending the 2016-2018 seasons there, but has truly taken off with the Twins. For a team that has built more depth this season across the roster, Coulombe is another example of that.
    A season ago, the veteran reliever pitched just 12 1/3 innings before dealing with an injury. Calling his season a wash is a pretty accurate description. In 2021, Coulombe threw 34 1/3 innings for Minnesota, and his 3.67 ERA was plenty usable. He recorded roughly a strikeout per inning and limited walks to less than two per nine innings.
    Now healthy and back to work for the Twins, Coulombe has looked the part of a quality left-handed arm this spring. He has pitched in four games and has not given up a run across six innings. He has eight strikeouts and four walks. The sample size is admittedly small, but it’s not as though he hasn’t shown this type of production previously.
    It would stand to reason that Minnesota currently has two spots open for southpaws in their bullpen. There is almost no way that Thielbar misses out on the 26-man roster, and even if Moran is optioned, there would still need to be room made on the 40-man roster. The more likely outcome is that Coulombe starts his season with Triple-A St. Paul, but he could be relied upon when first needed.
    A year ago, Minnesota saw a substantial amount of injury and had to constantly shuttle pitchers from different levels of the farm system. Rather than immediately relying upon an unproven resource, Coulombe could provide a level of veteran depth that the starting rotation now seems to be afforded.
    We won’t know how this story plays out until later during spring training. The expectation should be that Coulombe is among the Twins final cuts, and that will give him plenty of opportunities. He has seen a good amount of work through the first two weeks of spring, and that should only increase as additional bodies are sent out of camp.
    Combining ZiPS and Steamer projections show Coulombe throwing something just north of 30 innings at the big-league level this year. Both systems see him posting an ERA similar to 2021 and a modest strikeout rate. While there is no such thing as a lefty specialist anymore, given the three-batter minimum, the Twins have helped the 33-year-old develop a few new tricks to keep him relevant.
    Don’t be surprised if we see Coulombe throw some serious innings for the Twins this year, and that really shouldn’t be a bad thing.
  17. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins in the WBC: De Leon Dazzles in Historic WBC Start   
    The Twins finally got their guy! In January, the Twins quietly signed right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon to a minor-league contract and invited him to big-league spring training.
    Yes, this is the same Jose De Leon that the Twins (and Twins fans) coveted back in 2016 when there were Brian Dozier-to-the-Dodgers rumors. The Twins were said to be very interested in the Puerto Rican right-hander, although they were also interested in the likes of Cody Bellinger and another player on a minor league deal with the Twins, RHP Brock Stewart (reportedly). 
    On Tuesday night, De Leon made the start for Team Puerto Rico in their matchup against Team Israel. The right-hander started the very first Perfect Game in WBC history as Puerto Rico topped Israel 10-0 in eight innings. De Leon was dazzling. The 30-year-old tossed the first 5 2/3 innings. Obviously, he gave up no hits, walked none, had no errors behind him, and was completely in control. He had a WBC-record 10 strikeouts. 
    De Leon showed a very good curveball, a very good slider, and effectively got swings and missed up in and above the zone. 
    Team Israel has been sneakily good in recent international competitions. Their lineup in this game included former Twins infielder Danny Valencia, outfielders Joc Peterson and Alex Dickerson, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, and Cubs power prospect Matt Mervis. 
    Yacksel Rios replaced De Leon with two outs in the sixth inning. De Leon was at 64 pitches, so he could have pitched to one more batter. Instead, manager Yadier Molina came out and took the ball. De Leon was able to walk off the field in Miami to a huge ovation. 
    Edwin Diaz came on and pitched a perfect seventh inning. Duane Underwood pitched the eighth frame. The game ended in the bottom of the eighth inning when Enrique Hernandez singled to score Martin Maldonado to give Puerto Rico a 10-0 lead. With the Mercy Rules of the WBC, the Perfect Game was complete. 
    So, where would Jose De Leon fit into the Twins starting pitcher depth chart?
    Julien Leads Canada to Win
    Team USA and Team Canada are about to start their WBC matchup. Canada's first WBC game came against Great Britain on Sunday afternoon. Twins infielder prospect Edouard Julien, a native of Quebec, was the leadoff hitter and second baseman. 
    Great Britain had scored three runs in the top of the first and chased Guardians starter Cal Quantrill after just two outs. 
    Julien stepped to the plate for the bottom of the first inning. He got a first-pitch fastball and launched it (110 mph) into the right field seats. While there have been 12 leadoff homers in WBC history, Julien's was the first to come on the first pitch. 
    Maybe the British team heard scouting reports on Julien and didn't want to pitch to him after that. He walked the next four times he came to bat to get to Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman and Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill. Canada won that game 18-8.
    (Monday Night Update - Former Twins starter Lance Lynn has struck out Julien in his first two at-bats tonight. In his third at-bat of the night, Julien was facing Cardinals two-time All-Star pitcher Miles Mikolas. He beat the shift with a single to left field.) 
    Pablo Shuts Down Puerto Rico
    On Sunday afternoon in Miami, new Twins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez made the start for Team Venezuela against Puerto Rico in a game filled with current and former Twins players. 
    Lopez was incredibly impressive, keeping the Puerto Rico batters completely off balance. He went 4 2/3 innings and gave up just one run on two hits. He added six strikeouts. He could have finished the fifth inning. He was at just 58 pitches (65 is the limit in Round 1). However, he was taken out to a standing ovation by many of the fans that watched him as a Marlin for the past four years. 
    It may not surprise you that the one run that Lopez gave up came on a solo home run by former Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario. Jose Berrios started for Puerto Rico and was charged with six runs (5 earned) on five hits and two walks in one inning. Jovani Moran got three outs, two on strikeouts, though he also walked two batters. Jorge Lopez pitched a scoreless inning as well. 
    TVS Tops Ohtani
    Finally, former Twins prospect Todd Van Steensel has had a very interesting baseball career. He's been playing professional baseball for about 15 years. He reached Double-A with the Twins, and actually won a championship with the St. Paul Saints in one of their final seasons as an independent team. Van Steensel has been representing Team Australia for a long time too including previous WBCs. 
    For the first time, Australia is advancing to the second round of the WBC. They are the second seed, behind Japan, in their pool, and will head to Taiwan for Round 2. 
    Australia lost to Japan 7-1 over the weekend, but Van Steensel had a highlight. He faced, and struck out, Shohei Ohtani. To no one's surprise, he had a comical response to it. 
    What have been your highlights from watching the WBC so far? Discuss in the COMMENTS below. 
  18. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 5 Questions Facing the Twins Top 5 Prospects in 2023   
    In an ideal world, every top Twins prospect would reach their full potential and become a star. That obviously doesn't happen, but fans can still look to the minors for hope for the future. Twins Daily's top five prospects face an important development season in 2023 with questions surrounding their future. 
    Brooks Lee: Will he make his big-league debut?
    TD Prospect Ranking: 1
    Lee has been the talk of spring training, with players like Carlos Correa gushing over his performance. Many outlets, including Twins Daily, rank him as the organization's top prospect, and he's barely played 30 games in his professional career. He shot through three different levels during his pro debut and finished the year impacting the Double-A line-up in the playoffs. He's likely heading back to Wichita to start the season, and prospects of his caliber don't necessarily need time at Triple-A. The Twins don't need to rush him to the big leagues, but his performance might dictate a call-up at some point during the 2023 season. 
    Royce Lewis: How will the team handle him when he is healthy?
    TD Prospect Ranking: 2
    Lewis showed flashes of his five-tool talent during his big-league debut, but it was a small sample size before he injured his ACL for the second consecutive season. He should be back by the middle of the 2023 season, and it will be interesting to see how the club treats him when he is fully healthy. Will they treat him like a minor leaguer and make him prove his bat is ready with an extended stay at Triple-A? Or will they immediately add him to the big-league roster when he completes his rehab assignment? Regardless of the team's path, Lewis can boost the line-up in the second half. 
    Emmanuel Rodriguez: Does he have the highest ceiling of any Twins prospect?
    TD Prospect Ranking: 3
    There is plenty of hype surrounding Rodriguez and his breakout performance at Low-A in 2023. As a 19-year-old, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with five doubles, three triples, and nine home runs. He drew more walks (57 BB) than strikeouts (52 K) in 199 plate appearances. His season was cut short by a knee meniscus injury that required surgery in June. Rodriguez is a long way from Target Field, and he has plenty of development left to make in the years ahead. However, it's hard not to get excited about a prospect of his caliber. If he continues progressing, he can be a top-15 global prospect entering the 2024 season. 
    Marco Raya: Can his body type hold up with more innings? 
    TD Prospect Ranking: 4
    Raya is similar in size to former Twins pitcher Jose Berrios, so evaluators tend to question whether pitchers of his body type can hold up to the rigors of more professional innings. Minnesota drafted him in 2020, but he missed the 2021 season with shoulder soreness. He has been limited to 65 innings in his professional career but had a 3.05 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and 10.5 K/9. Baseball America ranked Raya as baseball's 53rd-best prospect entering the season, which was his lone top-100 appearance. A good goal for this season would be to crack the 100-inning mark, but the Twins will continue to monitor his usage as he gets closer to Target Field. 
    Edouard Julien: How quickly can he impact the big-league roster?
    TD Prospect Ranking: 5
    Twins fans have seen what kind of impact Julien can have on games earlier during spring training. During the WBC, he will be on Canada's roster with a chance to put his name on the international map. He spent all of 2022 at Double-A, hitting .300/.441/.490 (.931) with 19 doubles, three triples, and 17 home runs. He transitioned that success to the AFL, where he posted a 1.248 OPS in 21 games. The Twins will likely send him to St. Paul, where he will wait for his call-up when an injury occurs in the infield, which should happen before May. 
    What questions do you have about these prospects? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Can Edouard Julien Hit Enough to Stick at Second?   
    As we each race to be the first person to put the cart before the horse of 2023 Spring Training Flavor of the Week Edouard Julien, it’s worth taking a minute to consider where the lad will play. He’s not renowned for his defensive chops, but he may be able to hit well enough to stick at second base.
    “Gregg, you lout!” you might be saying, “You messed up the phrase; it’s ‘defends well enough to stick at second base.’” Allow me to explain.
    Many are familiar with the concept of the defensive spectrum. shortstop, catcher, and centerfield are the most demanding positions, whereas first base, left field, and designated hitter are the easiest. Most players are moved down the spectrum as they are proved incapable of being one of the best defenders in the world at each position. There’s no shame in it.
    However, the further one moves down the spectrum, the more their value is derived from their ability to hit. Andrelton Simmons made an 11-year career out of a bat 13% below league average. He wouldn’t have even been drafted if all he could play was first base.
    Teams will give players as many chances as possible before sliding them down the spectrum, so Julien played exclusively at second base in 2022 at AA Wichita. The Twins are in luck if his big bat can stick at second. Playing Julien at second (or third, for that matter) frees up playing time for even less gifted defenders who can only play first base or designated hitter.
    You don’t have to believe in the value of WAR as a statistic to agree with a basic premise: a player should create more offensive runs than they give up defensively. If the bat is good enough, teams can deal with suboptimal defense.
    Two prime examples of this working out are the cases of Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter. Sheffield played shortstop, third base, left field, and right field during his career, and he was awful at each spot. Sheffield was an approximate 80 WAR hitter for his career but lost approximately 20 WAR because of his defense. Still, he hit well enough to have a strong Hall of Fame case.
    Most people are also familiar with Derek Jeter’s defensive woes. The Captain—never moved off short—is regarded as a poor defender due to his lack of range, despite his Gold Gloves and propensity for highlight plays. It wasn’t the end of the world for either player because their bats more than made up for their defensive ineptitude.
    Julien isn’t on a fast track to the Hall, but if he hits enough, he can make it work at second base despite his lack of range and arm. Scouting reports are not kind to the young Canadian, as FanGraphs and MLB rate his defense as a 30 and a 40 on the 20-80 rating scale, respectively.
    The Twins themselves have dealt with bat-first infielders in recent years. Jorge Polanco certainly made it work. Despite his defensive struggles, he was named to the 2019 All-Star team as the starting shortstop.
    He hit 20% higher than the league average that year, with a slash line of .295/.356/.485 and 22 home runs. Even after his move to second base, where he is still a slightly below-average fielder, he hits enough to be consistently rated in the top 10 second basemen in MLB.
    Luis Arraez, often the first comparison drawn for Julien, given his positional “flexibility” and high on-base skills, was moved to first base out of necessity. Arraez has been an average-to-below-average second baseman, but he can be an option there because of his excellent on-base skills.
    In 2022, he was named an All-Star with a .338 batting average at the break. Although he struggled down the stretch with nagging injuries, he still hit 30% above league average for 2022 and was an above-average big league regular throughout the year.
    However, Julien’s defense appears worse than Polanco’s and Arraez’s. Although he shouldn’t at this time be expected to make an All-Star game in his career, he probably needs to hit somewhere in the same ballpark as Polanco and Arraez to overcome the additional runs he would give up as an everyday second baseman.
    Two other fun examples are worth mentioning. Daniel Murphy could affectionately be called a first baseman playing second base. Through his first seven years in the league, he hit about 10% better than the league average, and although he gave up many runs with his poor defense, he was still a solid regular.
    Then, in 2016, he hit a blistering .347/.390/.595 with 25 home runs and a league-leading 47 doubles. His defense was no longer a consideration. When you win the Silver Slugger, how you field doesn’t matter much. Eventually, he did move to first base, though Father Time was also catching up to him, and he couldn’t produce enough to be a Major League first baseman.
    Alfonso Soriano, another slugging second baseman, won the Silver Slugger three times in his five years as an everyday second baseman. He also led the league in errors at second base all five years before being moved to left field.
    All things considered, errors aren’t the most reliable statistic, but leading the league in them at your position is not a good thing. Still, Soriano was an All-Star four times during that stretch, hitting approximately 20% higher than the league average.
    If Julien comes up and tears the cover off the ball as he has at every level of the Minor Leagues, playing poor defense might not be the end of the world. However, his defense probably can’t be horrible without him being a Silver Slugger candidate to justify sticking at second base.
    If he can improve defensively to merely below average, a solid bat might be enough for him to play there. He could also hit enough to justify bouncing between second, third, left, and first based on need, similar to early-career Arraez.
    Also, Chuck Knoblauch.
  20. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Alex Boxwell for an article, Twins Roster Built on Defense and Rule Changes   
    Neither is inherently evil, whether it's the pitch clock or your politics. The application of both is where it can get ugly quickly, and things may start to get a little awkward at family gatherings, and yes, I'm still talking about the pitch clock.
    Love it or hate it, the new rules are here for 2023, and the Twins have built a team that can take advantage of the new era of baseball. With the shift changes, the pick-off rules, bigger bases, and the fact that the full season for an MLB player is roughly 150 games, the Twins used these facts to help coordinate roster moves.
    The Twins offseason was a roller coaster ride for shmucks like me trying to figure out what was going on with this team. Now that the dust has settled, the picture is more visible. The front office has constructed a team with elite defense and some left-handed bats that can benefit from an open right side for the first time in their careers.
    Defensively, teams with elite athletes that can cover ground and make superstar plays, rather than having a spray chart in their back pocket telling them where to play to create outs, will benefit the most. Athletes will be back making more outs, not data points. Having an elite defensive shortstop becomes way more attractive now that there will be a premium on being able to range to the left and right and make big-time throws. 
    Now that shortstops can't swing to the other side of second base, we will see Carlos Correa (aka C4) ranging to his left and making that spin throw on the right side of second base a couple of times this year. I'm excited to see shortstops limited in their shifting ability and see some of the most impressive athletes in the world be able to show it off. The Twins get to be, arguably, the biggest beneficiary.
    The Twins also brought in Joey Gallo, who we have seen with a wider stance, driving the ball to all fields early in spring. Even this tiny sample size is encouraging. With no shift and pitchers not having as much incentive to throw the cutter inside because there is no iron curtain on the right side, we could see Gallo finally flourish. With a simplified Gallo approach, fans may see a fun uptick from your dad's least favorite player (trademark pending).
    Joey Gallo also fits the mold of the elite defenders that the team has placed a high value on; Michael A Taylor and the already-established Kepler/Buxton outfield combo may be worthy of a Soul Patrol-level nickname. The shift doesn't impact the outfield as much, but it's worth noting that the Twins attacked the defensive side of this team with the thought of improving their offense too, or the banned shift may provide that offensive uptick on its own.
    Every team in the league has abandoned the idea of a guy playing 162 games. (In 2022, only Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson and shortstop Dansby Swanson played in all 162 games.) The depth and positional flexibility will make Baldelli's job pretty simple (that thought may get the old-timers to sleep at night). 
    The Twins have solid defenders that can play all over. Farmer, Gordon, Solano, Gallo, Kirilloff, Miranda, and Taylor (fans will see him and Buxton in the same outfield) can all play multiple positions. So much tinkering can be done with this lineup and not lose the edge created defensively. There are quality options when a player gets a day off due to injuries, rest, or just putting the best nine out there on a given day.
    The Twins aren't a finished product as it stands right now. More moves may be coming, but the Minnesota Twins will defend as well as anybody in the league as a unit. Great defense in a pitcher-friendly ballpark has the potential to be a phenomenal winning formula. It's getting to be time for the rubber to meet the road. I'm excited to start seeing the payoff of all the moves and top-tier defense returning in the MLB.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Twins management took the new rules into account when building an elite defensive ball club for 2023. Regarding the rule changes, you can see the glass half empty or half full, but we should know by now that the Twins front office sees a glass that was made too big. They dealt with reality and facts and used that logic to create a competitive product for 2023.
    Go, Twins!
  21. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Spotlight: LHP Jaylen Nowlin   
    Jaylen Nowlin grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. His parents encouraged him to play many sports and keep busy, so he did, and in doing so developed some great friendships. Once he reached high school, his focus turned solely toward baseball. That decision appears to be the right one for the talented lefty. 
    At Westlake High School, he teamed with Lawrence Butler, one of the top prospects in the Oakland A’s organization. He had committed to West Virginia, but the A’s selected him in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. He had a solid season in the High-A Midwest League in 2022 and a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Butler was added to the 40-man roster last November and has a chance to debut in 2022. Through seven spring training games, he is 8-for-14 (.571) with three doubles, a triple, and a home run. 
    With a few players who are now pros and several who played in college, how good was their team? Nowlin admitted, “Shockingly, not that good. We had the talent, but we definitely lacked the discipline. We had a lot of fun, but discipline was probably our weakest point.” 
    In the summers, Nowlin and Butler played on a local team in regional and national Perfect Game tournaments and did very well. Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Marquis Grissom led the team. His son, Marquis Grissom, Jr., was on the team. He went to Georgia Tech and was drafted by the Nationals in 2021. Also on the team was 2022 National League Rookie of the Year, Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Harris. Harris was called up to Atlanta from Double-A at the end of May, and he went on to use an incredible toolset to hit for average, showed his power, and showed great speed on the bases and in center field.  
    Marvin Freeman spent parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues. He was the pitching coach on the team. Along with Grissom, they provided some much-needed mentorship. “Those two have really pushed my career along since I was like 14 years old. Marvin Freeman is the best pitching coach I could ever ask for. He is just a guru with it. He knows how to make everything make sense, help out, and have all the cues. Without him, I would be a different pitcher right now.” 
    Nowlin recalls, “There was a lot of competition on the team and a lot of competition that we placed against.” He later said, “We did some damage in those Perfect Game tournaments. We were a deep team, pretty much an all black team. A deep team too. We had a lot of talent.” 
    Jaylen Nowlin has been around excellent players for a long time. He was putting up a quality resume in his own right. He had committed in high school to Jackson State but instead went to Chipola College in Florida, one of the best junior colleges nationally every year. In 2021, Nowlin pitched in 16 games and 42 innings. He walked too many (24), but he struck out an incredible 59 batters (44% of batters faced). 
    Nowlin said of the experience, “That’s where my development really took off. I struggled early on, but the pitching coach got to me, and that’s when we started hammering down on just  throwing strikes.” 
    He committed to pitching at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2022. But then came the draft. He was at home with his parents and a few friends. It took awhile, but finally, in the 19th round, he heard his name called as the pick of the Minnesota Twins. 
    He quickly signed and got to work. He pitched in just one FCL game during the season. It was during Instructs that Nowlin started to make his name known. Reports were that the lefty was hitting 97 with his fastball and showing a sharp slider. 
    The southpaw started his first full minor-league season in Fort Myers. He pitched in 19 games, including 11 starts. He was part of one of the two Mighty Mussels no-hitters. 
    David Festa started it. Nowlin pitched in the middle, and Hunter McMahon finished it off. “Once I came in, I just came in and threw. I had no idea that they had no hits at that point until I came out and Hunter came in. I was just going in there, doing my job, like normal. Once we finished the game and they started throwing the water everywhere, I was still pretty much confused.”
     He ended the season with three starts for Cedar Rapids before their playoff run. “I was happy to be able to make that step, just to reach another level. I just want to be able to continue to progress every year, get better as much as I can, and move up as fast as I can. So moving up to Cedar Rapids was a great experience for me, and I was very appreciative of it.” 
    Nowlin has a three-pitch mix primarily. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but has reached 97 at times. He’s got a good, sharp slider, and he also throws a changeup. He says he also likes to throw a two-seamer every once in a while too. Along with stuff, Nowlin thinks he’s got the right mentality. “It’s me throwing every single pitch I have with conviction. It’s just trying to let everything eat, throw it down the middle, and see if they can hit it. I like to test batters to see if they can hit it. I try not to do too much. Keep everything simple. Shove it right down the middle and see if they can beat me.” 
    Combined, he threw 71 innings and had a remarkable 111 strikeouts (14.1 K/9). He also had 36 walks, which is more than he would want and something to focus on in the offseason. Lowering that walk rate is just one of his goals heading into the 2023 season. 
    And in the offseason, he spends a lot of time with his friends. “We’re a tight group. Me, Mike, Marquis, Lawrence. We’re a tight group. We work out together in the offseason. We’re always with each other, playing a game together, working out, or just chilling at each other’s houses.” 
    Nowlin says he is ‘definitely a goal guy, highly goal oriented. Keep progressing. Get to Double-A as fast as I can. Move up as much as I can this year. Get better every day.” 
    Jaylen Nowlin has been in Fort Myers preparing for the season since mid-January. His strikeout rate and stuff have him entering most Top 30 Twins prospect rankings. He and fellow 2021 Day 3 draft pick David Festa are two Twins pitching prospects to move up most in 2022. Can Nowlin take another big step forward in 2023?
    For more Jaylen Nowlin content on Twins Daily, click here. 
  22. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, 2023 Prospect Previews: Ben Ross   
    ‘In these rounds, you’re looking for something special, something unique’, Sean Johnson, Scouting Director for the Minnesota Twins offered, reflecting on day 2 of the 2022 MLB Draft. Johnson went on to highlight the organization's focus on unique tools coupled with breakout performances as two elements used to hone in on talent. In Ben Ross, the Twins landed a prospect with plenty of interesting clay to mold. 
    With the 144th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the Twins selected Ben Ross, a shortstop out of Notre Dame College in Ohio. The school only started its baseball program in 2005. In 2013, they jumped from NAIA to Division II. Hence, Ross was not ranked in Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects heading into the draft. He signed for the Twins for $220,000, significant savings on the $398,500 draft slot. The savings from Ross and others were later applied to talented shortstop Omari Daniel, who the Twins pried away from a commitment to Oregon, in the 14th round.
    Scouting Notes
    Ross is a 6’1 shortstop and an exceptional athlete. While Ross may not have been highly ranked on draft boards, he’s exactly the kind of breakout athlete the Twins target on Day 2 of the draft. Ross has a compact swing and is short to the ball. Ross had an all-around breakout in his final season at Notre Dame College, putting together 14 home runs, 60 RBI, a .747 SLG, and 15 stolen bases in 17 attempts in 52 games. Not bad.
    Ross’s breakout continued in the summer in advance of the draft after playing in the Northwoods League (a college wood bat league). Ross hit .421/.502/.649 with 10 HR, 27 BB, and 28 K. Ross has a plus run tool and is an intelligent base runner and successful base stealer. He has an above-average arm and an athletic profile that could play all over the diamond. Ross’s swing is such that he should be able to continue his power breakout with a short, powerful stroke.
    Ben Ross debuted in late 2022, playing two games of Rookie ball before being promoted to Low-A Fort Myers. In his first 22 games, Ross managed a .371 OBP (.817 OPS), with three homers and 13 RBI. Ross was also 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts, an impressive debut for the 21-year-old.
    Likely to Start At: Low-A Fort Myers
    It’s likely Ross begins 2023 with a deep group of young prospects at Fort Myers. He will have a whole season to show he can continue to translate his exceptional athleticism into tangible developments on the field. Some fans might grumble at Ross’s low ranking or placement on pre-draft lists; I’d argue he’s a name to watch in the low minors in 2023. 
    What did you think of the Ben Ross pick? What do you think his ceiling is with the Twins?
    For more Ben Ross content on Twins Daily, click here. 
  23. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Three Storylines for the Twins in the World Baseball Classic   
    After originally planning to play for Puerto Rico, newly re-signed superstar Carlos Correa will be out of the tournament. He will miss some time this week however as his wife Daniella is scheduled to give birth to their second son. It’s the second time Correa will have missed an opportunity to play third base alongside countryman Francisco Lindor. In his place, Jose Miranda could have been the option at the hot corner, but he too will stay with the Twins as he rehabs a sore throwing shoulder.
    Miranda and Correa aren't alone in stepping away from the tournament. Star reliever Jhoan Duran also opted out despite already touching 102 mph during live at bats. After signing with Minnesota, Donovan Solano decided he would take the time to acclimate with his new team rather than play in the tournament as well.
    It appears as though Minnesota still has seven players on rosters for the tournament, and that’s where the focus should be as the action gets underway. Jose De Leon and Edouard Julien are probably the two players least likely to be on the Opening Day roster, but they join the likes of Pablo Lopez, Jorge Lopez, Christian Vazquez, Jovani Moran, and Emilio Pagan as participants.
    With respect to those playing, here’s some things you should be looking for:
    First and foremost, the Twins don’t need to see injury for any of their players competing in the tournament. The expectation will be that players and managers operate with a focus on the regular season. Although there is a certain desire to win the tournament, each player knows their season ahead is most important. Having already seen Nick Gordon and Austin Martin fall injured during Spring Training, Rocco Baldelli certainly doesn’t want to see more issues for any of his potential players.
    With Vazquez slated to be Minnesota's Opening Day starter behind the dish, him remaining healthy throughout the tournament is paramount. Minnesota has seen Gary Sanchez be ineffective while both Mitch Garver and Jeffers have missed time in recent seasons. Vazquez isn't expected to be an offensive juggernaut, but he's a reliable talent defensively and the depth in the organization below the Major League level is not ideal.
    Quality of Pitching
    The pitchers representing Minnesota in the World Baseball Classic are a very intriguing bunch. Pablo Lopez is the headliner having just come over from the Miami Marlins, so seeing how he looks early against some real competition should be more than exciting. Depending on how De Leon is utilized, it’s Lopez that will be the only starter.
    From a reliever standpoint, there couldn’t be more to monitor. Pagan did not show well in his spring debut, and tightening things up is a must if he’s going to instill confidence when he takes the mound. Jorge Lopez struggled after joining Minnesota last season, and returning to an All-Star level would be more than nice to see. Moran is certainly battling for a spot in the bullpen, and while he could have an inside track as a lefty, starting strong on a big stage could certainly do wonders.
    Next Step for Julien
    Thus far we have seen no reason to suggest that Julien’s bat isn’t legit. He raked everywhere last season in the minors, and then continued to do so during the Arizona Fall League. He has started nicely for the Twins this spring, and carrying that over to elite levels of competition for Team Canada is a must. Given his lack of defensive flexibility, the quality of his bat will be what plays, and if he can showcase it during whatever action he sees now, it could help to influence the timeline he sees in 2023.
    Team USA is led by Mike Trout and a host of other superstars. The Dominican squad is absolutely stacked. The tournament itself should be a fun one, and there will be plenty of high intensity action to watch alongside the Spring Training games taking place down in Fort Myers.
  24. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Spotlight: RHP Travis Adams   
    Last month, Twins Daily posted our Top 30 Twins prospects. You won’t find Travis Adams ’ name in it. Of the 10 Twins Daily writers that provided their Top 30 Twins prospects, Adams appeared on just one person’s list, and that was at #28. He wasn’t in Baseball America’s Top 30 Twins prospects. His name does not appear among the Top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline. MLB.com posted an article that mentioned 11 players to follow outside of the Top 30. No, Adams wasn’t mentioned. 
    Adams was not a huge prospect growing up in southern California and attending Palm Desert High School. Several of his teammates from high school are playing pro ball, and more played college baseball too. In a tournament, his team played one game against Royce Lewis and his JSerra teammates. 
    He didn’t have many scholarship offers coming out of high school, but he was thrilled when Sacramento State offered him because he loved that part of the state and had family there. Adams grew up a Giants fan and enjoyed watching Barry Bonds, Buster Posey, and some of those strong San Francisco teams. 
    “They were my first and only offer. I wanted to give the opportunity to them. I was still early in my development. I was still small. I was only throwing 85. They believed in me at a young age.” 
    However, he matured, got bigger and stronger, and went to a school with an opportunity to pitch right away. As a freshman, he pitched in 15 games which included nine starts. He made four starts in 2020 before Covid canceled the season. He went 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA. 
    Following his sophomore season, Adams played in the Northwoods League for Wisconsin Rapids. 
    “That was super fun, getting to travel and go out to Wisconsin and be with a host family. It was my first time playing summer ball and being with a host family, so it was totally different for me. I had an absolute blast. I enjoyed playing every day. It felt like minor-league baseball.” He continued, “The atmosphere and the fans we had there were great. It was a blast with all the guys I got to play with from all over the country and from different schools.” 
    He made 14 starts in his junior season and went 6-3. In his three seasons at Sacramento State, Adams tossed 151 innings. He had 130 strikeouts with a remarkable 25 walks (1.5 BB/9).  
    The scouts attended most of his games with their radar guns behind home plate. He also went to the combine and met with a lot of teams. He recalls going through a physical with the Twins there, but in general, the Twins didn’t show more, or maybe even as much, interest as other teams. 
    “I really didn’t talk to the Twins very much. I was actually shocked on draft day when I got the phone call from them. There really wasn’t much contact between me and them prior to the draft.” 
    He was at his parents' home in southern California, surrounded by family, some friends, and his girlfriend. When he got the call from the Twins and heard his name on the online draft, his phone started to blow up with calls and text messages. “It was just a great and blessed day,” he recalls. 
    Adams quickly reported to Fort Myers, did some physicals, signed, and then began life as a professional. While he pitched in one game toward the end of the 2021 season, that draft year is used to let those college pitchers get some rest and learn about how the Twins work, the stats and technology they use, and develop relationships with players and coaches. 
    He noted that he appreciated the value of the Trackman system over the Rapsodo system he had used in college. 
    He specifically liked using the Force Plate Mound to see how his body moves and handles various stresses. Some of the things he has worked on throughout the offseason, mechanical improvements to increase velocity and consistency, are based on lessons learned from that technology. 
    He began the 2022 season in Fort Myers. He made 15 starts and went 4-5 with a 3.50 ERA. In 69 1/3 innings, he walked 15 batters and struck out 69. He moved up to High-A Cedar Rapids to end the season and made seven starts. In 31 1/3 innings, he walked 11 and struck out 39 batters. 
    To do the math for you, Adams had 108 strikeouts and 26 walks over 100 2/3 innings. He was one of seven pitchers to reach 100 minor-league innings in 2022. His 22 starts were tied with Simeon Woods Richardson, just one behind the 23 starts made by Louie Varland and Brent Headrick. 
    Level-headed, the 23-year-old right-hander said, “I learned that you just have to take it start by start. If you have a bad start, you can’t get too low on it. If you have a great start, you just have to be even-keel throughout the entire season. If you get too high on the highs and too low on the lows, it’s going to be very hard on you and stressful.” 
    With a solid first full minor-league season under his belt, he entered the offseason with some things to work on. There were a couple of mechanical things that he focused on to help him as he moves forward in his career. 
    He throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. He says the fastball “will sometimes cut, sometimes run, just kind of do its own thing from time to time.” 
    Minor-league camp officially opened on March 1st, but he has been in Fort Myers since mid-January getting himself ready for the 2023 season. 
    And now that he has that great control and command, and a fastball that hit 97 mph late in the season in Cedar Rapids last year, don’t be surprised when you see him rise up the prospect rankings at Twins Daily and other places too. 
    For more Twins Daily content on Travis Adams, click here.
  25. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Kyle Farmer Can Be a Crucial Fit for the Twins   
    Kyle Farmer knew he was going to get traded this past offseason. It was only a matter of where. 
    "I'm happy I'm here," he said, looking around the bustling Twins clubhouse ahead of Tuesday's game against Atlanta. 
    Maybe a little bit less happy than he was at the time of the move. It's no secret that he loves playing shortstop, where he was Cincinnati's primary starter for most of the past two seasons. Farmer was reportedly "blindsided" when the Reds moved him to third base last August, favoring prospect Jose Barrero at short.
    “It sucks,” Farmer said at the time. “I love short. I’ve loved short my entire life. It’s part of the game, I guess, and they see me at third. Hopefully I play well enough to maybe play third here next year.”
    Well, Farmer won't be playing third in Cincy this year, but he should see plenty of action there for the Twins. He started at the hot corner against Boston on Monday after making his spring debut at his beloved shortstop in Saturday's home opener at Hammond Stadium. He'll get the nod at second base on Wednesday against the Phillies.
    Farmer was lined up as the de facto starting shortstop when the Twins acquired him from the Reds in exchange for pitching prospect Casey Legumina on November 18th, and as the offseason progressed, it looked increasingly like Farmer would indeed assume primary duties as at least an interim fixture. Free agent shortstop options came flying off the board while Minnesota's pursuit of Carlos Correa appeared doomed.
    As it turns out, this pursuit was in fact not doomed. Correa signed with the Twins in January and just like that, Farmer's hopes of a full-time return to the shortstop position were dashed. But for his part, he doesn't express too much consternation about it.
    "Love short, love second, and I also love third," he said. "I feel more comfortable playing second probably over anywhere besides short if I had to choose, but third base comes naturally to me too." 
    Farmer also has experience at first base, which seems relevant in light of the uncertainty surrounding Alex Kirilloff's situation, but it's clear he fundamentally enjoys playing around the two-bag. "Playing up the middle it’s like, I’m having fun in baseball, it’s not like a job."
    He will have a job to do for the Twins, and an important one. Farmer has a pretty good idea of how the team plans to use him. 
    "Someone needs a day off or a lefty’s pitching or maybe they put me in certain situations but I expect to play all over the infield."
    What about the outfield? There's been some chatter about that possibility, given the need for righty-swinging depth in the corner spots, but Farmer's MLB experience in the outfield is extremely scarce, amounting to total four innings in left field back in 2020 and 2021. That said, he's open to the possibility.
    "I haven’t done it yet in spring training but that option’s open," Farmer shared. "As long as I’m in the lineup hitting it doesn’t matter where I play defensively."
    And that's what it really comes down to: is he hitting? Farmer's strong splits against lefties are an obvious point of appeal after the Twins scuffled versus southpaws last year, but he might struggle to force his way into the lineup on a regular basis if he's not at least holding his own against righties. Last year he slashed just .235/.291/.320 against them.
    Offensively, Farmer said he's focused this spring on using his hips and lower body more in his swing, gaining more consistency with his load move. The 32-year-old admitted that as he gets older, it takes him a bit longer to find his timing and get in a groove. Luckily (for him, not us), there's still plenty of spring left.
    Under control for two more seasons, Farmer has the ability to impact the Twins in a range of different ways, especially if his work at the plate leads to an improvement upon his sub-par overall career OPS+ of 85. (For comparison, Max Kepler finished at 93 in a career-worst 2022 season.)
    One intriguing tool in his defensive versatility kit that hasn't yet been discussed? Farmer originally came up as a catcher, and played more than 80 innings there as recently as 2019. The Twins are a little iffy on catching depth beyond Christian Vázquez and Ryan Jeffers, so Farmer's experience there feels somewhat relevant, separating him from your standard "emergency catcher."
    To be clear, the Twins are still treating him as such. Rocco Baldelli was assertive in stating that Farmer is only a break-the-glass option as opposed to a third catcher – "He will catch in an emergency and that’s it." Still, it's awfully nice to have someone in that role who is a legit backstop, and it takes away any level of hesitation about carrying only two catchers on the roster, or DH-ing one of Vázquez and Jeffers against lefties.
    Compared to catching, Baldelli was a bit less rigid on the idea of Farmer getting some time in the outfield, although it doesn't sound like he's planning around it. 
    "I don’t think so," the manager said when asked if he anticipated any appearances from Farmer in the outfield this spring. "We generally will make adjustments the last couple weeks of spring training depending on what the roster looks like or any injury concerns around the team, and then if someone has to get some extra work or go play some positions they haven’t, we’ll do that at that point."
    Incidentally, Trevor Larnach was scratched from Tuesday's game with lower-body soreness. Meanwhile, the third baseman Miranda has only been able to play DH so far this spring due to a throwing shoulder issue, and we still have yet to see second baseman Jorge Polanco in a spring game as he works back from a knee injury. Carlos Correa is slated to make his Grapefruit League debut at shortstop on Wednesday, serving as Farmer's double-play partner, but injury concerns will inevitably loom over him and his ankle. As we've discussed, the first base and catcher positions have their own question marks.
    Given all of this, it's easy to see how the flexible Farmer – who's been very durable (he would've ranked third on the Twins in plate appearances last year, and fourth in 2021) – is an extremely nice piece of have on hand, with improved offense almost feeling like a bonus on top of what he can provide with his glove all over the field.
    For a team that was so often forced to use players out of position or push them beyond their station last year, Farmer is a fantastic roster fit. A floor-raising player like him might not be the most exciting, but following a season where the bottom fell out, it's a vital necessity.
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