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  1. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Adam Friedman for an article, Twins 2023 X-Factors: LHP Jovani Moran   
    In 40 ⅔ innings in 2022, Jovani Moran indicated he is ready to be an impact reliever for the Twins in 2023. He posted a 2.21 ERA and 1.78 FIP in 2022, driven by a high strikeout rate and ground ball rate. Beyond the topline numbers, Moran was great against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He gave up a .554 OPS against lefties and a laughable .458 OPS against righties. His terrific changeup drives the reverse splits. 
    While his strong 2022 performance leaves the Twins optimistic, Moran's severe lack of control throughout his career remains a question mark. He has had mammoth walk rates for most of his career, but the similarly eye-popping strikeout rates have allowed him to remain effective. 
    The Twins seem to trust Moran as the second left-handed reliever on the roster behind Caleb Theilbar, and they chose not to add a lefty in free agency. To pay off that trust, Moran must maintain strikeout rates well above 30%, which he has maintained throughout his professional career. He will also need to find a way to keep walks as low as possible, but he has consistently had a walk rate above 10%, which falls comfortably in Fangraphs' "awful" categorization for that statistic. 
    Digging deeper into Moran's 2022 with the Twins, he had an elite 32.9% K% and a dreadful 11% BB%. Those are extreme numbers on each end of the K/BB spectrum. He also had a 48.9% ground ball rate, which is above average and a good sign when the ball is put into play, as ground balls are less likely to do damage than line drives or home runs. The high ground ball rate has been consistent throughout his career, almost as consistent as the walks and strikeouts. 
    Assuming he maintains the strikeout rate and ground ball rate, Moran is likely to be a very solid option out of the bullpen for the Twins and likely to be trusted in medium and high-leverage situations regularly. However, lowering his walk rate could alter the perception of Moran within the Twins organization and amongst their fans. Bringing it below 10% could help make him an elite reliever and a real weapon in an already talented and deep bullpen.  
    In September and an appearance in October, after spending most of August in Triple-A, Moran showed signs of improving his command and control while maintaining his elite strikeout numbers. In 14 ⅓ innings, he still had an elite K/9 of 11.3 and a very good 1.88 BB/9, leading to a minuscule FIP of 1.78. 
    The 1.88 BB/9 is entirely inconsistent with any full season he's had. He has averaged 4.6 for his career. However, if he can land in a middle ground between those points, Moran would force himself into the mix for high-leverage appearances and even put some pressure on Caleb Thielbar for the lefty matchups- despite his reverse splits. 
    The Twins are relying on Moran being at least a reliable middle reliever. But he can be more than that if he carries his command and control from September into 2023. Then, Rocco Baldelli would have a strikeout monster who keeps the ball on the ground to utilize against both lefties and righties, with minimal downside.
    What are your thoughts on Jovani Moran and his role with the 2023 Twins? Can he turn into the dominant reliever we would love to see, or would the Twins be wise to add some lefty reliever depth to go with Danny Coulombe, Locke St. John, Tyler Webb and other minor-league signings? Leave a COMMENT below. 
  2. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Report from The Fort: Twins 10, Braves 7, Mahle Returns, Julien Homers   
    The Twins triumphed over the Atlanta Braves, 10-7, in Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on Tuesday afternoon. It was Tyler Mahle's first game since shoulder fatigue shut down his 2022 season, but his stuff looked great, with velocity exceeding last year's average fastball velocity. The Twins jumped on an early lead thanks to two infielders - Edouard Julien and Willi Castro - who are likely slated for St. Paul. But the postgame talk with manager Rocco Baldelli revealed some injuries that were reflected in the game's lineup. John Bonnes has the details from the game.
  3. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, US Bank to Host Cambria Classic and Many Draft Prospect (March 3-5)   
    The Gophers will host five other teams, including two Big Ten teams and two SEC teams. Ole Miss (#4) is the highest-profile team, but Vanderbilt (#10) and Maryland (#13) are also teams who could make a run at the College World Series. And you can catch as many as nine games at US Bank Stadium over three days starting on Friday. 
    The inaugural event was hosted in 2020 and returned in 2022. The three Big Ten teams will rotate playing the non-Big Ten teams over the weekend.
    Friday, March 3
    11:00 am                Vanderbilt vs Nebraska
    3:00 pm                 Ole Miss vs Maryland
    7:00 pm                 Hawaii vs. Minnesota
    Saturday, March 4
    11:00 am                Maryland vs Vanderbilt
    3:00 pm                 Nebraska vs Hawaii 
    7:00 pm                 Ole Miss vs Minnesota
    Sunday, March 5
    9:30 am                 Hawaii vs Maryland
    1:30 pm                  Nebraska vs Ole Miss
    6:00 pm                 Vanderbilt vs. Minnesota
    Ole Miss will feature the top prospect in shortstop Jacob Gonzalez. Gonzalez helped lead Ole Miss to a 2022 College World Series championship and has also played for Team USA's Collegiate National Team for two years. There are a lot of similar traits to 2022 first round pick Brooks Lee. Gonzalez consistently puts together good plate appearances, walking more than he strikes out and also has home run power. Whereas Lee is a switch-hitter, Gonzalez is strictly a left-handed hitter. On the flip side, Lee will likely move off of shortstop while Gonzalez is seen as more likely to remain there (though he could play third base or second base). This will give the Twins brass an easy look at the potential Top 5 pick. Catcher Calvin Harris also sneaks into Baseball America's Top 200 at #199. Harris hasn't gotten a ton of time behind the plate in the his first two years at Ole Miss, but he figures to be the man this year and has shown traits in the past that make him a catching prospect to follow.  LHP Hunter Elliott was exceptional as a freshman and figures to be a top prospect in the 2024 draft, though he's currently dealing with some forearm tightness and his availability for the weekend is in question. 
    Vanderbilt also brings a potential Top 10 pick in centerfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. Though he struggled in his debut weekend, Bradfield does things on the base paths and in the outfield that are rarely seen thanks to his speed. Not a lot of guys are tagged with 80-grade speed, but Bradfield has it. He's also going to have to be the rare prospect with 20- to 30-grade power. But if you love watching players make a difference with their legs, Bradfield is your guy. Patrick Reilly is a big right-hander who throws in the high-90s with a wild fastball and also features a nice slider and developing change-up. A good year could propel him up boards, while another year of demonstrating poor control could point him directly into a bullpen role. LHP Hunter Owen (#178) and C/OF Jack Bulger (#194) also make appearances towards the back of BA's Top 200. Two other players who figure to be in the conversation in the first round of the 2024 draft are LHP Carter Holton and RHP Andrew Dutkanych. Holton was drafted by the Brewers out of high school but made it to campus and has been very good and features a four-pitch mix and projects to start despite being undersized. Dutkanych is interesting because he withdrew from the 2022 draft when he had a chance to be a first-day pick (due to the lack of pitching depth). There isn't much for a college track record yet, but he will be draft-eligible after his sophomore season. 
    Maryland is not your perennial college baseball powerhouse, but they do boast a first-round prospect of their own in shortstop Matt Shaw. Shaw was extremely impressive in 2022 (.985 OPS with 22 home runs) and then showed out in the Cape Cod League, where he also demonstrated his ability to steal bases (21-of-24). Shaw likely figures to be a second baseman as a professional as he's on the smaller side (5-11, 185). Like Shaw, teammate Luke Shliger also had an impressive 2022 backed up by a good showing in the Cape. Also on the smaller size, Shliger projects as a two-way catcher. RHP Jason Savacool leads the starting staff, but may profile best as a reliever professionally. 
    Minnesota's RHP George Klassen (#173) and Nebraska's 3B Max Anderson (#91) both appear on BA's Top 200 because of power. Klassen with his powerful right arm that reaches triple-digits and Anderson because of the power potential in his bat. There are plenty of questions with both - Can Klassen harness the fastball? Can Klassen put the ball in the air? - but both are enough to tease scouts at this early point of the season. 
    You'll be able to follow Gophers baseball more closely this year as former Gopher Alex Boswell will be writing about the program. 
    Hawaii does not have any notable draft prospects. 
    Tickets for this weekend's event are available here. 
  4. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Who Will Relieve the Relievers?   
    Gone are the days of Terry Mulholland. At least in Minnesota, you will rarely see a strange man sitting at the end of the bullpen bench who will, five times a month, run in to pitch four or five innings of low-leverage relief, only to retreat into the shadows until the next week, when his arm is needed again.
    The Twins tried to employ such a pitcher in 2021 when Randy Dobnak broke camp with the club as a long reliever. However, the team struggled to find him regular work, which had two adverse effects—it used a bullpen spot, and Dobnak (who was very much in their plans fresh off his five-year extension) could not continue to develop with the erratic schedule.
    That is not to say that the team doesn’t send guys out to eat innings occasionally; it simply works differently in the modern game. Instead of retreating to the end of the bench, they typically ride the green line back to St. Paul in favor of a fresh arm.
    The bullpen seems set in most people’s minds, with some hierarchy featuring Jhoan Durán, Jorge López, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagán, Jorge Alcala, Jovani Moran, and Trevor Megill—each of whom has seen a good deal of Major League work. However, all are considered short relievers to one degree or another.
    This concentration of short relievers became a point of consternation in 2022, as the bullpen was stretched to cover four to six innings most nights. The team tried not to throw players on back-to-back games either, and you don’t need to be a math major to understand why that’s untenable with an eight-man bullpen.
    Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t want to face that again this year, and a long reliever is a big part of that. “I personally think our best bullpen has, and always has, one option that can give you 50-75 pitches out of the bullpen. I’d like to carry someone like that at all times.”, Rocco said Friday to Twins Daily’s John Bonnes and the other Twins beat writers.  “Is that going to be the case? No, we probably won’t be able to do that in all 162. But I think having someone like in the vast majority of our games will be very helpful. I also think we have those guys.”
    Given that, we may see the likes of Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, or Brent Headrick called up to do something similar. Sands, Winder, Henriquez, and Headrick may be prime candidates, as they seem most likely to be relievers eventually (though Henriquez is also dealing with a sore elbow.). Calling a player up like this is more the exception than the rule when it comes to divvying up innings, though.
    Although the Twins could roster someone like Dobnak or Sands to be a-low leverage option, it’s debatable whether that will happen practically. I’m interested in speculating on how the Twins might get bulk work from this group—even if that doesn’t mean employing a true fulltime long reliever. I dug through 2022 usage patterns for Twins relievers with more than 15 innings and five relief appearances.Four types of usage profiles emerged in doing this. 
    Short Relief
    The first is true short relief. Players like Joe Smith, Thielbar, López, and Michael Fulmer rarely threw more than an inning, and none had an appearance of two or more innings. They were also the most likely to be used on back-to-back days, with each over 20% of their appearances on zero days’ rest.
    Long Relief
    On the other side of the spectrum were pitchers predominantly used in long relief. There were two of those guys—Sands and Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez threw five relief outings, pitching 5, 3.1, 3, 3, and 1.2 innings. Had he been on the roster all season, he would have been a true long reliever, but he only filled this role in September after rosters were expanded. However, the Twins signed him as a minor league free agent this winter, so he is another option to fill this role at least partially.
    Multi-Inning Relief
    Then we get to the guys who were used somewhere in the middle, which is probably the modern version of a long reliever. Some of these guys were green line regulars, like Moran and Jharel Cotton. They threw more than one inning between 25% and 50% of the time, often when ahead by more than four runs or trailing.
    Although Moran and Cotton were sent down after multi-inning appearances several times, Trevor Megill remained on the roster after his initial call-up in 2022, despite having options remaining and throwing more than an inning 30% of the time. Megill’s usage was a bit all over the place in terms of leverage, and he may present the biggest question mark regarding his role for the 2023 bullpen, assuming he breaks camp with the team.
    Role Changers
    Finally, we have a group of pitchers that fluctuated between groups. The most pleasant surprises last year were Durán and Jax. Both players began the season as freshly-converted starters pitching multiple innings in the middle innings, but they transformed into predominantly one-inning guys.
    Both threw more than an inning about a quarter of the time, but most of those appearances came at the beginning of the year. For example, Jax recorded more than three outs just thrice in the last 100 games of the season.
    In the opposite direction, Emilio Pagán and Tyler Duffey began the season as single-inning options. They were converted into Cotton-esque innings-eaters by the end of the season due to performance reasons. Pagán, in particular, was an interesting case, as he took on more innings but was also relied on to throw in back-to-back games quite often. If there is one positive trait most can agree on, it’s that Pagán possesses a rubber arm.
    So What Will We See?
    At the beginning of the season, at least, the betting money would have to be on Megill, Moran, and Pagán being run out for multi-inning appearances. Suppose Pagán continues his improvements from late in the year (ironically in his new, low-leverage role). In that case, he may be in line for a hybrid role, lower on the bullpen hierarchy, but still trusted in some close games, depending on the rest status of other arms.
    Many fans are clamoring for Moran to be used as a second lefty rather than a long reliever, and if he develops control, he may be more suited for that role. Similarly, if Megill stops leaving balls middle-middle, he can ride his 100 MPH fastball a long way.
    Bulk innings may be given to whichever arm is freshest from that group, and if one emerges as a primary or secondary setup man, they may actually lead the bullpen in innings, taking the Griffin Jax path.
    There may be a rotating cast of waiver claims, semi-prospects, and minor league veterans at the end of the pen, soaking up innings before returning to St. Paul, or being jettisoned into the sun, never to be seen or heard from again. However, between Pagán, Moran, and Megill, the Twins may have a group who can fill multiple innings at a time while also seeing a moderate amount of medium-to-high-leverage innings.
  5. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 5 Thoughts from Sunday's Twins/Phillies Exhibition Game   
    If you're familiar with the dynamics of spring training, then you know it's uncommon for established veteran regulars to make long road trips, and that was certainly true of this game, which featured José Miranda as the only regular present in the lineup. 
    There were, however, several notable players involved in the game, including 2022 Twins Opening Day starter Joe Ryan, who made his first outing of the spring.
    His performance ranked among the five most striking observations I came away with in a 10-8 Phillies victory at BayCare Ballpark.
    1: My first impressions of the pitch clock
    The addition of a pitch clock this year represents one of the most significant and impactful rule changes in Major League Baseball for some time, so naturally I was eager to see it in action. There's been a lot of early handwringing from various corners about how distracting and disruptive it is. 
    To me it seemed like ... not a big deal?
    It'd be tough to call the pitch clock unnoticeable, given the big digital countdown timer that now adorns the backstop, ticking off seconds from a starting point of 0:15, 0:20, or 0:25, depending on the game situation. The speedier pace of the game was definitely noticeable, especially in this case – a 10-8 spring training game is the kind of high-scoring affair that often drags on for nearly four hours, leaving everyone involved in a grumpy mood, but this one wrapped up in just over three (3:06, to be exact).
    I definitely got the sense that both pitchers and hitters were more intentional about readying up and doing their thing, but no one seemed especially rushed. Ryan, who started for the Twins, has always moved at a pretty good pace and he was flying, typically delivering his pitches with seven or eight seconds left on the clock. 
    2: Joe Ryan experiments with new pitches
    Ryan's velocity was good in this outing, sitting in the 92-93 MPH range regularly on the stadium radar and reaching as high as 94.3 MPH, which he seemed very pleased with.
    Of course, Ryan's fastball is not in question. It was the best pitch on the staff last year. Ryan's lack of overpowering secondary stuff is what limits his upside, and it's clearly something he's focused on addressing in his sophomore season, as he aims to refine a sweeping slider with more horizontal movement and a split changeup.
    Ryan's outing was not especially smooth – he needed 40 pitches to get four outs before being removed in the second inning – but that's forgivable in his first spring start, and even more so with the experimentation going on. And Ryan seemed pleased on that front as well.
    3: Edouard Julien bats leadoff
    The big uncertainty in the wake of the Luis Arraez trade was ... who's going to replace what he brought to the table? Julien was a name that came to mind for many people (including myself) – he's been a lefty-swinging OBP machine in the minors, with no clear positional fit, harkening to Arraez in multiple ways.
    Julien was fittingly in the leadoff spot on Sunday in Clearwater. As expected, he took a lot of pitches ... but not with successful results on this occasion. The second baseman struck out in all three of his at-bats, including on called third strikes in both of his first two.
    For any prospect who draws way more walks than you'd expect based on his hitting ability, the question with Julien was whether his on-base skills owed more to patience or passivity. Games like Sunday's point toward the latter, and that's a perception he'll need to prove his way out of. But, it's only one game.
    4: Big bases come in handy
    The new larger bases are not conspicuous to the naked eye – at least not mine – but there's no doubt they will come into play throughout the upcoming season in very subtle ways. We might've seen an example on Sunday.
    Miranda reached first base in the first inning, and seemed like he was inclined to steal second. During the next at-bat, he took a huge running lead on one pitch before Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto whipped the ball over to first in an effort to pick him off. Miranda scrambled back to the base, and seemed to be dead in the water. Yet, he was safe, getting his fingertip on the bag just in time to beat the tag. 
    I feel confident in saying it's the first time a Twins baserunner has been saved by the bigger bases. I'm sure it won't be the last.
    5: Trevor Megill struggles mightily
    Outside of Ryan, the only projected member of the Twins pitching staff to appear in this game was Megill, but he's hurting his chances. 
    There aren't many true position battles happening this spring, which detracts from the drama a bit, but Megill is certainly fighting for one of the last bullpen spots. The Twins love his power pitch mix, which was on display as his fastball reached 97 MPH multiple times, but the righty continues to struggle with execution, and his outing on Sunday was flat-out ugly.
    Megill simply could not seem to find the zone, and when he did, he got crushed. While recording only one out, he gave up three walks and three hits, including two home runs – one of which was a grand slam. He threw only 14 of 33 pitches for strikes and mixed in a wild pitch for good measure. 
    The first spring training appearance should be treated for what it is, but Megill isn't exactly on firm footing – he was a waiver pickup who posted a 4.80 ERA last year, including 7.66 after August 1st. His brutal first outing of the spring leaves him with a 162.00 ERA which will make it almost impossible to finish the exhibition season with decent numbers. And the timing of this clunker was especially bad on a day where the Twins brought in two new right-handed relievers: Dennis Santana (waivers) and Jeff Hoffman (minors deal). 
    On Monday, Pablo López and the Twins face the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. We'll have plenty of coverage, with myself and John Bonnes both in the building. Make sure to check back and find all of the key takeaways from this one.
  6. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Report from the Fort: The Secrets of Spring Training Lineups   
    The form and factor of spring training lineups change throughout the Grapefruit League season, but there is a logic to them. Earlier, teams want to give the prospects and invitees a chance to show what they can do. For road games, they want to defer to veterans to avoid long bus trips. Finally, the best hitters want to face the best pitchers to gear up for the regular season.
    As a result of these, you can get a sense of what to expect from lineup of your favorite team at various points in the season. In this 2-minute video, I dive into some of the factors that you should anticipate as a fan when you see the starting lineup.
  7. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, One Twins Power Prospect Still Waiting to Breakout   
    The 2020 season was unlike any other in baseball history on and off the field. Major League Baseball found a way to play a shortened season during a pandemic, but different facets of the game had to be altered. Front offices changed their scouting and development processes because limited high school and college games were played nationwide. Entering the 2020 MLB Draft, the Twins had a late first-round pick, which added even more uncertainty to their selection. 
    Minnesota took Aaron Sabato with the 27th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, and he signed for $2.75 million. The slugging first baseman had spent two collegiate seasons pounding the ball for the University of North Carolina, a strong college team. In 83 games, he hit .332/.459/.698 (1.158) with 31 doubles and 25 home runs. Some evaluators questioned the pick because he was projected to provide little defensive value, which means his bat must produce at a high level. The Twins were betting on his bat, but he hasn’t put it all together in his professional career. 
    Sabato spent his first professional season between Low- and High-A. In 107 games, he hit .202/.373/.410 (.783) with 18 doubles and 19 home runs. Most of his offensive damage came following his promotion to Cedar Rapids, where he posted a 1.015 OPS in the season’s final 22 games. Even with college experience, he faced older pitchers in over 69% of his plate appearances. He ended the year on a strong note, so there was some hope for even better numbers in 2022. 
    The Twins had Sabato return to Cedar Rapids to start the 2022 season. In 80 games, he hit .226/.351/.448 (.799) with 13 doubles and 17 home runs. Sabato drew 49 walks to help his OBP, but he struck out 111 times in 288 at-bats. He posted a 1.084 OPS in July, so Minnesota promoted him to Double-A. In Wichita, he was over a year younger than the average age of the competition for the first time. His OPS dropped to .688 with nine extra-base hits across 23 games. There were brief signs of his powerful swing, but he lacked the consistency to rank among the team’s top prospects. 
    Sabato is going to feel pressure for multiple reasons during the 2023 campaign. College players taken in the 2020 Draft must be added to their club’s 40-man roster next winter to be exempt from the Rule 5 Draft. Unless Sabato has a monster 2023 season, the Twins are unlikely to add him to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. He turns 24 years old at the beginning of June, and the Twins have other slugging prospects ahead of him on the organization’s depth chart. 
    Minnesota will likely send Sabato back to Double-A to start the 2023 season. He has yet to succeed at that level, and that follows a similar development path the team has used with him in his first two professional seasons. The current front office thought highly enough of Sabato to take him in the first round, so they will give him every opportunity to succeed. However, Sabato needs a solid start to the 2023 campaign to insert himself back into the organization’s long-term plans. 
    Can Sabato put it all together in 2023? How do you view his ceiling after two professional seasons? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  8. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Second Base Is Twins Most Intriguing Position in 2023   
    Short of Alex Kirilloff not being healthy and failing to open the year at first base for the Minnesota Twins, all eyes should be on second base for Rocco Baldelli. Carlos Correa was brought back to be Minnesota’s shortstop for at least the next handful of years, and he’ll be flanked by both Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco. We don’t yet know how Miranda will hold things down taking over the hot corner for Gio Urshela, but Polanco and his role couldn’t be more under a microscope.
    In 2019, as a member of the Bomba Squad, Jorge Polanco was named an All-Star starter and received MVP votes. He blasted a career-best 22 home runs, and his .841 OPS was substantially above what we’d seen to that point. He followed that up with a disappointing 2020 season and then underwent another ankle surgery. In 2021, he rebounded nicely hitting an even better 33 dingers, and his .826 OPS had him again looking like a superstar.
    Unfortunately, injury was the theme last year for Polanco, and he played in just 104 games after dealing with knee tendinitis. Recently talking to The Athletic’s Dan Hayes, Polanco said, “I don’t feel anything. I think it’s part of the process. It’s why I’m going slow, so I can start building up from there and I start doing more things. Once I start doing that, I think I’ll be ready to go. … I feel good right now. It’s just the plan. We’ve got a plan. I’ve got to get my knee ready. We’re just going with the plan to start slow and build up until I’m ready to play.”
    It’s great that he doesn’t feel pain, but it’s not exactly comforting that he’s coming off the season he had and entering the final year of his five-year extension. Polanco will need to be more of what he was in 2019 and 2021 if Baldelli can count on him at second base this year, and availability could be the chief concern.
    As Correa now has shortstop locked down into the foreseeable future, it’s Polanco’s second base where any number of prospects could contribute for the Twins. Royce Lewis looked like a big leaguer during his brief cameo last season, and he should be available sometime this summer. Brooks Lee blitzed through the system after being taken in the first round, and Austin Martin focusing on hitting for average again could have him making a short stop at Triple-A as well. Each of those names appears more likely to factor in on the dirt, and taking over for an absent Polanco seems relatively straightforward.
    Playing in his age-29 season, Polanco will be looking to put up good numbers heading into free agency. He does have a $10.5 million vesting option with the Twins should he reach 550 plate appearances this year, but that’s not something he’ll sniff if there is any significant amount of missed action. As the Twins look towards the future and must figure out how to shift their infield following the presence of Correa, this year could not be any larger for Polanco.
    The front office has the benefit of starting a guy who has shown to compete at a very high level. Polanco has already proven what he’s capable of, but the Twins need to see that return to the forefront immediately in 2023. Each of the depth options behind him will certainly be pushing for their opportunity on the farm, and having realistic options is a great problem to have. Minnesota added to the possibilities earlier this week when they signed veteran Donovan Solano to a one-year deal as well. He could get plenty of run at second base, and has been a starter at the highest level there previously.
    Whether Minnesota would prefer for Polanco to be on the Opening Day roster in 2024 remains to be seen, but he can answer a lot of those questions on his own simply by being healthy enough to compete. Polanco hasn’t seen a substantial defensive boost moving to the opposite side of the diamond, and while that isn’t the outcome that was hoped for, his bat can carry him just like it did his predecessor Brian Dozier.
    If there is a place on the diamond for Minnesota to have in the front of their minds as they evaluate how to get the best from the roster this season, it will be second base as a reflection of which Polanco is present.
  9. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Edouard Julien is Set to Make an Impact for the 2023 Season   
    Edouard Julien spent his entire 2022 season with the Wind Surge and posted some great statistics. He hit .300/.441/.490 (.931) in 113 games. 
    With these numbers and an even more impressive stint at the Arizona Fall League where he hit .400/.563/.686 (1.248) in 96 plate appearances. His performance in the AFL earned him the league's Breakout Player of the Year Award. 
    The growing talent of Julien has been ranked higher on early team prospect rankings, including fifth in the Twins system per Twins Daily. His 2022 season and stint in the AFL has also earned Julien national recognition cracking the number 75 spot on FanGraphs 2023 Top 100 prospects list. While FanGraphs authors Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin listed Julien as a left fielder on the list, it is very unlikely he will play the position this year. 
    “Last year, my goal was to be aggressive early in the count,” Julien said to Twins beat reporters Tuesday morning. “And this year is gonna be the same thing. I tried to drive a pitch early in counts and get ahead of the pitcher. If I get a couple of balls on me, I feel like I'm in the driver's seat because he's behind, he's got to throw strikes. And then that's when the OPS number goes up and I get better as a hitter.”
    Julien has wasted no time in making more improvements as he arrived in Florida a month ago from Quebec to get to the Lee County Sports Complex as early as possible.
    Not only did Julien need a break from the snow to get into his baseball routine, but he will be on Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic. Julien wanted to be as ready as possible to represent his home country on one of baseball’s biggest stages. 
    “You get a chance to wear your country in front of your chest, across your chest. It's always a great experience to see old teammates and some guys that you've never played with,” Julien said. 
    The one player that Julien is looking forward to playing with for the first time on Team Canada above all others, is Dodgers first baseman, Freddie Freeman. 
    “It's gonna be a cool experience to learn from him and see his daily routines and what he does before games every day,” Julien said. 
    While Julien has become more aggressive in counts, he still has shown he is willing to work an at-bat into his favor and draw a walk if need be. He drew 98 walks in 508 plate appearances for the Wind Surge and 23 more free passes in 96 plate appearances in the AFL. 
    His natural ability to get on base has drawn many comparisons to former Twin Luis Arraez. There have been many fans speculating if he’ll be the guy to replace Arraez’s role in the Twins lineup as the 2023 season progresses. 
    In Julien’s own words, there are some similarities that can be seen to Arraez without any direct mention of the former Twin.
    “I think my approach was better last year just to be aggressive in counts and when they see that you're aggressive in counts I feel like the pitchers are trying to put you a little bit more because they're scared that you're gonna swing the bat early,” Julien said. 
    Where Julien will start his 2023 season in the Twins organization is still uncertain. though it is likely you will see him in a Saints uniform in April. If he performs as well as he did at the AFL in the WBC and spring training, there’s a chance Julien could be on the Twins roster before the month of April is over, although that will be more dependent upon an opportunity opening up in the big leagues. 
    What would you like to see from Edouard Julien in the 2023 season? What are realistic expectations for the Canadian who speaks three languages - French, English and Spanish - fluently? 
  10. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, "The Gang Goes To Driveline"   
    Driveline Baseball has become something of a household name in baseball circles in recent years, as it’s extended its reach from youth baseball to the MLB level. Using the newest technology and data available in the baseball world, Driveline has its fair share of success stories among professional pitchers. In 2023, Joe Ryan and Tyler Mahle are looking to become the newest names added to the list.
    Mahle and Ryan likely had very different goals in mind this offseason and each opted to take them to the pitching labs of Driveline Baseball. We often hear little about what specifically pitchers are working on during their offseason routine, but given the reputation of Driveline and the details that we’ve received, this news should be exciting to Twins fans.
    Tyler Mahle
    The first thought when hearing his name tied to Driveline was a recovery plan for whatever shoulder ailment ended his 2022 season. Instead, Mahle went about his business as usual this offseason, looking to make tweaks to his repertoire. Even when healthy last season, he seemed to be missing just a small piece of the puzzle.
    Mahle opted to revamp his slider after the 2022 season. He has what’s classified as a slider and a cutter, though it’s fair to wonder whether both are the same pitch that classify differently at times, as the “slider” averaged a bit less velocity than the “cutter”. At any rate, these were his two worst pitches by most measures. Expected Batting Average and Slugging were markedly worse than his fastball and splitter for these two pitches, and it showed up in his platoon splits. 
    Right-handed hitters put up an OPS of .784 against the right-handed Mahle, much worse than the .602 mark against left-handed hitters. It was clear he lacked an equalizer against same-handed hitters.
    From the little we can see, Mahle has added more horizontal break to his slider and less vertical break. It appears to be a new look breaking ball, which is a welcome change based on how the previous one had difficulties equalizing right-handed hitters. For how well he’s performed against left-handed hitters in his career, if he can find any kind of similar success against righties, he could become a certified stud.
    Joe Ryan
    After being able to dominate the minors with mostly a fastball, the Twins tried to incorporate a slider to better equip Joe Ryan to start in the MLB. On the season, Ryan allowed just one less homer on the slider than he did his fastball, though he threw the slider roughly a third as much. Ryan seemed to find something to end the season, as the pitch was dominant in September by many measures including Expected Slugging and Batting Average, hard hit % etc. Ryan took that momentum to Driveline as well this winter.
    For Ryan, further developing another pitch is a must. His fastball remained fantastic despite being used over 60% of the time, which means any kind of plus secondary offering would raise Ryan’s game to new heights. With the foundation he and the Twins built on the breaking ball, it’s exciting to think about what an offseason at Driveline could do for the pitch.
    Ryan had more than one pitch in mind this winter. Unlike Mahle, Ryan is significantly better against same-handed hitters. His strikeouts markedly drop off, suggesting a need for a good matchup pitch for left-handed hitters. Because of this, Ryan worked on a split changeup this winter as well.
    Of note, this is the same pitch that has been Tyler Mahle’s bread and butter secondary, and is a big reason for the lack of platoon splits in his career. Traditionally the pitch is a little faster and has more late life than the plain old changeup. This makes it a bit tougher to pick up by opposite handed hitters who typically have a better look at what’s coming from the pitcher. While it’s tough to say what to expect from Ryan debuting an entirely new pitch, it’s easy to look at the changeup he used just 12% of the time in 2022 and see room for improvement.
    Tyler Mahle and Joe Ryan have high end upside. Both have good foundations in their repertoire, Ryan with his magical fastball and Mahle with his uncommon ability to negate platoon splits. It sounds like both went in search of the missing pieces this winter at Driveline, and it’ll be interesting to see how the new pitches look. There’s a possibility that both pitchers raise their games to new levels.
  11. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, The Twins Top Prospect in 2025 Will Be…   
    Minnesota's farm system has some strong players at the top, but not all of them will still qualify as prospects over the next two years. Last year at this time, I projected the team's top-5 prospects entering the 2024 season, and so far, those rankings are doing reasonably well. A lot can happen in one year for a team's farm system, so who will be the Twins' top prospect in 2025? 
    1. Emmanuel Rodriguez- OF
    Current TD Ranking: 3
    ETA: 2025
    Rodriguez topped this list at the same point last season, and he's only solidified his prospect status over the last year. He's a Top-100 global prospect, and there was a good chance he would have moved higher on the list if he hadn't been injured last season. He has one of the best power bats in the Twins system, and there is a chance he will move into the top 10 on national prospect lists with another strong year. During the 2023 season, Rodriguez should spend most of the year at High-A, where he will be younger than the average age of the competition. He should be on track to debut in 2025 if he continues on his current development path.
    2. Marco Raya- SP
    Current TD Ranking: 4
    ETA: 2025
    Raya has pitched 65 innings in his professional career, but Baseball Prospectus has him ranked as baseball's 53rd overall prospect. He was three years younger than the average age of the competition at Low-A last season while posting a 3.05 ERA and a 73-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect to come through the Twins system in quite some time. However, he is a long way from Target Field, and a lot can go wrong with a pitching prospect on their way to the big leagues. Raya can be the team's top prospect entering next season if he puts together even better numbers at High-A. 
    3. Connor Prielipp- SP
    Current TD Ranking: 7
    ETA: 2024
    Prielipp is one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the Twins system, even though he has yet to make his professional debut. He was in the conversation for being selected near the top of the 2022 MLB Draft, but he fell to the second round after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He pitched in pre-draft workouts leading into the draft so teams could see how his rehab was progressing. MLB.com already has Prielipp ranked as the team's top pitching prospect. There is no reason to rush him next season, but there is a chance he will pass Raya over the next two years. 
    4. Jose Salas- INF
    Current TD Ranking: 8
    ETA: 2025
    Salas was one of two prospects in the Pablo Lopez and Luis Arraez trade earlier this winter. He was considered one of the Marlins' top prospects at the time of the trade. Last season, he hit .250/.339/.384 (.723) with 20 doubles, four triples, and nine home runs in 109 games. He only had one at-bat versus a younger pitcher last season, and Miami sent him to the Arizona Fall League as a 19-year-old. He likely spends most of the year in Cedar Rapids with a chance to reach Double-A by the season's end. 
    5. Yasser Mercedes- OF
    Current TD Ranking: 12
    ETA: 2026
    Mercedes was one of the top international prospects available during the 2022 signing period, and he showcased his skills during his professional debut. Minnesota sent him to the Dominican Summer League, and he hit .355/.421/.555 (.975) with 13 doubles, three triples, and four home runs in 41 games. He was also a threat on the bases by going 30-for-35 in stolen base attempts. It seems likely for him to make his stateside debut in 2023, and he could have an Emmanuel Rodriguez-style breakout if everything goes well. 
    The Twins have a top-5 draft pick in 2023, so that player will also likely be in the mix to be at the top of this list. Who do you think will be the team's top prospect in 2025? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  12. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Report from the Fort: Why did the Twins Sign Donovan Solano?   
  13. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Matt Braun for an article, The Grumpy Ace   
    Hurt feelings over arbitration are not a new phenomena; they are the byproduct of a system that pits the player’s capitalizing desires against a team’s inherent payroll conservatism, revealing the gross reality when neither player nor team owns sole control over one’s salary. It's a messy beast. While team and player can kiss and make up—indeed, bridges don’t always burn—it seems inevitable that grudges, minor and major, can brew resentment. There’s a reason why both parties dread the process.
    Burnes’ arbitration case stands out as one of the messiest in recent memory. Milwaukee remained steadfast in their offer, forcing a day in court over a less than $750,000 difference in pay. While the Brewers technically offered a deal to avoid the meeting—a two-year pact that Burnes described as “pretty poor”— their arguments in the case revealed their intent.
    “I mean, there’s no denying that the relationship was definitely hurt from what (transpired) over the last couple of weeks,” said the 2021 Cy Young winner following the decision. “There’s really no way to get around that.”
    “You work hard for seven years in the organization and five years with the big-league team, and you get in there and basically they value you much different than what you thought you’d contributed to the organization.” 
    Professionalism will keep Burnes from mutiny or internal sabotage, but his words tinge with hurt feelings and sourness. After all, Milwaukee apparently placed him in the forefront of reasons why they missed the playoffs. 
    With two years of team control remaining, and a healthy PECOTA projection placing Milwaukee as the class of a weird NL Central, the Brewers have no reason to deal their starter. Burnes may be pissy, but athletes have been crabby for years; an upset star only matters when you start losing. 
    But time can fritter and waste in an offhand way. Two years melt away, losses can pile up, and a team can suddenly find themselves staring at an extensive re-evaluation process as their assets’ years dwindle. It would not be a shock to see Christian Yelich and His Merry Men flail early, perhaps placing Milwaukee—a team always conscious about their stars—in a tough spot. Conversations may need to occur; tough decisions made. Could they afford to hold tight, banking that they reverse course in 2024 with enough vigor to make Burnes’ place on the team worthwhile?
    The Twins must have their radar up. Aces—always such a rarity these days—almost never become available, especially for a team that lacks the monetary fortitude to pay for one in free agency. Trades are the great savior. When the market evolves, potentially offering a chance for the team to snag their guy, they must react.
    But the timing must be right. The opportunity, perfect. Spring training is not the appropriate venue for such a deal to go down, but if the team holds their own through July, the trade deadline could be the time to strike. 
    Other teams are thinking as well, wondering whether they can pull the same maneuver to swipe Burnes for themselves. Every team in baseball can use him; the only thing holding them back is themselves. They’ll battle with wondering if they have the gumption to bypass their desire to avoid risk and embrace owning the services of a unique starter. With an unambiguous stud in Burnes, that question becomes a lot easier. 
    For Minnesota, their offer may not touch other teams; their prospect pool is ok, but acquiring Burnes’ services requires the best, not a heap pile of castaways. A combo likely requires Brooks Lee, Marco Raya, and more. It’ll hurt—especially after a plethora of prior trades drained their farm system—but it may be the most crucial step towards the glorious playoff run Derek Falvey and co have worked towards since taking over in 2016. It’s unlikely to happen, but so was signing Carlos Correa, and sometimes you need a little luck, or a grumpy ace, to put your team over the top.
  14. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, College Season Kicks Off   
    Throughout the next five months, we'll be doing all we can to help keep your informed on the player pool for the MLB Draft. The Twins were the biggest movers in the new lottery system and are now bound to select a player that should immediately become a Top 100 prospect in baseball. Last year's draft was especially hitter-heavy at the top as only four pitchers went in the top 19 picks, which included a huge surprise at #3 (Kumar Rocker) and another huge surprise at #7 (Cade Horton). This year's draft has a better mix. And that should be a lot of fun for Twins fans.
    Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
    Dollander enters the season as most pundit's top collegiate pitching prospect and a likely Top 5 pick. As we've seen repeatedly in the past, trajectories of college pitchers can change in a hurry.  In his debut this past weekend, Dollander threw 81 pitches (only 47 strikes), but recorded seven strikeouts. His numbers weren't great in 4 2/3 innings, as he allowed two runs (including a home run) and walked and hit a batter. His impressive fastball was reportedly in the mid-90s consistently but never hit triple figures like it can. It's only his first start, though, so there is plenty of time left.
    "Time" has been a huge friend to Dollander. As a 6' 3", 180 pound high-schooler, Dollander went undrafted and pitched his freshman year for Georgia Southern. That time as an Eagle taught Dollander how to eat and lift weights properly, improving his body (adding 20 pounds) and striking out 64 in 49 innings. He did walk 28, but got plenty of interest in the transfer portal, including from the team he shut down in his collegiate debut, Tennessee. 
    Now entering his second season as a Volunteer, Dollander is considered by some to be the college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg and that's high praise. The comp list beyond that is impressive: Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Jack Leiter. Any time you have the ability to add a potential top-of-the-rotation starter, you have to strongly consider it.
    Paul Skenes, RHP LSU
    Like Doogie says below, Skenes struck out 12 in six innings in his season debut.  Skenes (6'6", 235) also has a big mid-90s fastball which nearly reaches triple-digits. Since arriving at LSU, Skenes has changed his slider by working with noted slider-guy Wes Johnson (sound familiar?) and it's getting rave reviews.
    Skenes, like current Twin Griffin Jax, attended the Air Force out of high school. While Jax remained at the academy through graduation and his commitment to the military delayed and interrupted his professional career, Skenes will not have any extenuating commitments. Cadets are allowed to leave before beginning classes their junior year without penalty. 
    His professional future is brightest on the mound, but Skenes is also pretty good in the batters box. In those two years at Air Force, Skenes hit .367 while smacking 24 home runs with 81 RBI. You're probably thinking, "oh, so he plays first base too" and you're not completely wrong, because he's only done a little bit of that. Aside from pitching, he's been primarily a catcher(!) who committed to college to do just that. 
    There is no doubt it will be interesting to follow Skenes through this season at LSU. If all goes well, there's no reason he wouldn't be in the conversation for the 5th pick (or the 1st pick for that matter). 
    Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
    The final pitcher that will be mentioned today struck out six in five innings over the weekend, while allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. Waldrep transferred to Florida from Southern Miss and has an electric fastball (96-99 mph), a high-80s slider and a mid-80s 12-to-6 curveball.
    Waldrep helped lead Southern Miss to the Super Regionals before fleeing to the SEC. An All-American, Waldrep struck out 156 in 106 1/3 innings in two seasons (one as a starter) as a Golden Eagle. Slightly smaller than Dollander and much smaller than Skenes, Waldrep still has good size (6' 2, 205) and hails from the noted hot-bed state of Georgia. 
    Pitching for a Top-10 team, there's no reason to think that Waldrep won't get plenty of opportunities to pitch in front of big crowds, lots of scouts and in big games for the Gators this year. We could certainly see his trajectory trend upwards.
    While these are just three names to follow for the season, there will be many, many more. The SEC, specifically and as seen above, is littered with potential top-10 picks. 
    Dylan Crews, OF, LSU and Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida are largely considered to be the two best draft-eligible college hitting prospects. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss is arguably the top shortstop prospect. Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt is the most exciting prospect in all of college baseball with elite speed and the ability to put bat on ball, but Ben Revere-type power. (Heck, that might not be a terrible floor comp for Bradfield). The whole conference seems abnormally loaded (and not just for the 2023 draft either).
    Twins Daily will keep pumping out draft content through the spring and into the summer leading up to the mid-July draft.
  15. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #1 Brooks Lee, SS   
    Age: 22 (DOB: 2/14/01)
    2022 Stats (RK/A+/AA): 139 PA, .303/.389/.451, 4 HR, 6 2B, 15 RBI, 17 R
    ETA: 2024
    2021 Ranking: NA

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: 45 | MLB: 31 | ATH: 51 | BP: 37
    What's To Like
    Brooks Lee has grown up around baseball. His father is the head coach at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Entering the 2019 MLB Draft, Lee was committed to playing for his dad, which is the biggest reason he dropped to the 35th round. For anyone that has watched the switch-hitter, his bat-to-ball skills are his calling card. In his final collegiate season, he hit .357/.462/.664 (1.125) with 25 doubles, 15 home runs, and more walks (46) than strikeouts (28). Some college players struggle when shifting from metal to wood bats, but Lee impressed in wood-bat summer leagues prior to the draft. In one 21-game stretch on the Cape, he hit .405/.432/.667 (1.099) with six home runs. It was clear that Lee separated himself from other college hitters leading into the draft. 
    Based on the performance mentioned above, Lee was in the conversation for the first overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, so the Twins were ecstatic that he was available with the eighth overall pick. Many scouts considered him the best college hitter in this year's draft, and that's why Minnesota was aggressive with him during his professional debut. Lee played in the Double-A playoffs just two months after being drafted while being over three years younger than the average age of the competition at that level. He had no trouble adjusting to the start of his pro career, as he posted an .839 OPS before helping Wichita to the Texas League Championship Series. 
    What's Left to Work On
    Since being drafted by the Twins, Lee has only played shortstop and designated hitter. Many expect him to eventually move off shortstop, with third base being his eventual landing spot. His arm is very strong, which should play well at the hot corner. Lee is already known for his tremendous work ethic, so he will put in plenty of time as he switches to a new defensive home. The Twins also have Carlos Correa signed for a minimum of six seasons. It's intriguing to think about Correa, Lee, and Royce Lewis eventually slotted in the same big-league infield. Both top prospects are excited about working with Correa in the years ahead. 
    Like many prospects in their early 20s, Lee has the potential to add more muscle to his frame, especially if he's moved off of shortstop in the future. He can drive the ball from both sides of the plate, so adding more muscle can help improve his power output. Scouting reports already have his power as above-average, and his patience at the plate will help him become a complete offensive player. He's a tremendous offensive talent, but strong players can always strive to improve. 
    What's Next
    Lee likely starts the season at Double-A, the level he finished at in 2022 (for Wichita in the playoffs). Fans may be excited about what Lee can mean for the team's future, but there is no reason to rush him in 2023. When he is ready, he is ready. The Twins have assembled depth at multiple positions, but Lee's performance may dictate the team continuing to be aggressive with him. His big-league debut is not out of the question in the upcoming campaign. 
    Royce Lewis or Brooks Lee? Over the past couple of days, we have laid out our thoughts on both future stars. Did we get it right? The vote was very close. What are your expectations for Lee in 2023? Will he debut for the Twins this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  16. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Is There More to Trevor Megill?   
    Trevor Megill could be called a relative success when compared to the other acquisitions the Twins made to the 2022 bullpen. Megill debuted with the Cubs in 2021 but was DFAd after the season. The Twins claimed him and soon after they DFAd him and he was outrighted to Triple-A. Megill found his way onto the roster in late May. He returned to the Saints for one appearance in early July but was able to stick with the big-league club for the remainder of the season. He may remain there as we head into the 2023 campaign. 
    Megill threw 45 innings with a 4.80 ERA. He struck out over a batter per inning, kept walks to a respectable level and was incredibly stingy in the longball department. This led to FIP and xFIP painting the picture of a mid to low 3s ERA reliever, even if xERA disagreed. Averaging 98 mph on the fastball, the raw stuff alone was probably enough to justify Megill remaining in a low-leverage role throughout the season. After bouncing around a few organizations with little MLB experience, some may assume that at 28, Megill may not have much development left. But what if they were wrong?
    For much of the season, Megill was a two-pitch pitcher. Plenty of relievers get by on a limited repertoire, but typically one of their pitches are an equalizer against same-handed hitters. Megill, who threw almost exclusively a high 90s fastball and a big overhand curve, didn’t have such a repertoire. In fact, Megill performed significantly better against left-handed hitters than right. His strikeout-to-walk rate was three times higher against lefties than righties. His OPS against was nearly .150 points lower. He was actually more of a lefty specialist, and a dominant one at that. Still though, there isn’t much reason that Megill shouldn’t be getting right-handed hitters out consistently.
    The Twins undoubtedly took note of this along the way, as Megill started throwing a pitch that was classified as a slider in August around 27% of the time, and this became his second-most used pitch for the final two months of the season. It’s easy to assume that the Twins were trying to provide Megill with a pitch to match up better against right-handed hitters, as any kind of improvement in that department would have raised Megill’s game to a whole new level. Their midseason attempt to make an adjustment doesn’t show up well on paper with Megill posting his worst two months of the season with this new pitch, but it’s likely been a focal point of his offseason and could have much better results come spring.
    Another issue with Megill is that for all of the spin and velocity he gets on his fastball, it’s one of his most-hittable pitches. Opponents hit nearly .300 on the pitch, and while they didn’t slug well against it, the expected numbers say Megill got lucky. Looking at where he threw his heater gives an obvious answer as to what’s going on here.
    Averaging 98 mph is a huge plus for Megill, but the days of even a triple-digit fastball overpowering lineups are gone. Hitters were bound to get around on it every so often, and when they did, the fastball was often right where they could drive it. We’ve seen the Twins fix this with pitchers such as Tyler Duffey. Dropping the fastball at the top of the zone consistently keeps it out of the danger zone and allows it to play up a few miles per hour. It worked with Tyler Duffey working low-to-mid 90s. For Megill, it may make the pitch unhittable if he has the command to make a change.
    It’s possible that Megill remains the low-leverage middle reliever he was in 2022. The fact that he remains on the roster, and the Twins didn’t push hard to replace him, however, hopefully means that they have hopes that he has more ceiling to reach and a plan to get him there. They began the process midseason in 2022 but with a full offseason to develop a new pitch, Megill could wind up with a devastating pitch to pair with his high-octane fastball against right-handed hitters. In 2023, Trevor Megill could factor into the bullpen mix in a surprisingly big way. Do you agree?
  17. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, Is a Deal with Chaska’s Brad Hand in the Cards?   
    The Twins find themselves in a heated hand of five-card draw. They like most of the cards they’re holding in the bullpen, but they could take a chance on trading in their last piece for a fresh one in the hopes that it complements their hand better. 
    There are plenty of face cards in this hand, including relief ace Jhoan Duran, veteran king Caleb Thielbar, and a young jack, or should I say Jax, rather. Other members in their relief corps such as Jorge Lopez or Jorge Alcala could find themselves in that high-value card class, but the jury is still out on if they can be counted on to be healthy and/or effective. 
    Still, the club could be looking to add one last card in the hopes of landing a royal flush. But is it really worth it to go for a wild card, or should the Twins stick with the hand they were dealt?
    Imperfect analogies aside, the club has been tied by Darren Wolfson to veteran southpaw Brad Hand, who is coming off of a relatively successful, if uninspiring, 2022 season. Right now, the last member of the Twins’ bullpen is projected to be righty Trevor Megill, who showcased a blazing fastball in the last few months of the season but left much to be desired overall. 
    Adding Hand to the mix carries a possibility that he continues to outshine his peripherals, as has been the case since he transitioned to a full-time reliever in 2016. Even just last season, he had a fantastic 2.80 ERA despite having a 4.40 xERA. The expected figure is due in large part to his unspectacular 1.65 K/BB rate, an unexciting 7.3% swinging strike rate, and diminishing values on his fastball as the season wore on. But aside from the discouraging numbers under the hood, he managed to throw 45 innings of mostly unproblematic baseball in 2022. So would the Twins be wise to bring him on board with an inexpensive one-year deal? 
    Let’s start with the upside of such a deal. As the last few years have shown us, you can never have too many options in a relief corps. Signing Hand likely moves Megill down to Triple-A for the time being, but the Twins wouldn’t be required to drop anyone from their 40-man roster. Both Chris Paddack and Royce Lewis are now eligible to be moved to the 60-day injured list, which would remove them from the 40-man roster until reinstatement. 
    If Hand produces as expected, he’d be the third left-handed pitcher in the projected bullpen depth chart. Thielbar is a lock as a high-leverage option, and Jovani Moran is bound to get more time after impressing in 41 MLB innings last year. Sure, Moran has shown more success against right-handed batters thanks to his big changeup, but he’s had success against fellow lefties, as well (12 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 vs. LHH). So overall, it's not too much of a gamble just to have Hand aboard.
    The downside of such a move isn’t that someone like Megill misses MLB opportunities. There are bound to be multiple injuries throughout the season and surely the big-league club will have to tap into the depth stashed in St. Paul. The downside comes from the Twins’ recent track record of giving established MLB veterans too long of a leash when their performance underwhelms. From J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, to Tyler Duffey and Joe Smith, sometimes it feels as if the decision-makers are more concerned with hurting their reputation as a veteran-friendly organization rather than the results on the field. 
    Granted, sometimes that patience pays off. In 2021, Alex Colome had a brutal 8.31 ERA in April before turning things around (3.51 ERA from May 1st through the end of the season). But in that first month, the club was unable to remove him from high-leverage situations, whether due to a lack of MLB-quality replacements or an excess of confidence in Colome’s projected regression to the mean. That lack of action regarding the veteran (among other things) essentially derailed their hopes of contention by May. 
    After two consecutive losing seasons, the Twins can’t afford to have that same mindset with someone like Hand, especially given the fact that he would likely be their sole addition to the bullpen.
    Their efforts might be better suited to give their current cards more playing time and reevaluate their needs down the line. Maybe Kenta Maeda eventually transitions to the bullpen as he approaches an inning limit in his first season post-Tommy John surgery. Perhaps someone like Megill or Ronny Henriquez emerges as a relief weapon. Maybe one of their back-end starters such as Josh Winder or Bailey Ober gets a boost from moving to a relief role. 
    The team is bound to have a handful of options in 2023, and they need to put their chips behind those who will find the most success rather than trying to squeeze out as much value as they can from an aging veteran. 
    But what do you think? Are the Twins better off sticking with the hand that they were dealt, or should they try for the Hand that's still available on the free agent market? Let us know what you think in the comments below. 
  18. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Report from the Fort: Excitement Leads the Way on Day 1   
    Yesterday, we poetically delved into the romanticism and joy that accompanies the first few days of spring training. That is appropriate; optimism is the primary characteristic of the first phase of spring training. Talking with folks on Day 1, the participants make that clear.
    The Players
    It’s time to shake off the rust. That starts with pitchers because they take more time to build up their arm strength. Catchers join them because nobody wants to chase the ball to the backstop after every throw. Four days later, the rest of the position players join camp, because they need less than a week to find their groove. 
    Except this year, most guys are way early. It’s not totally clear why. Factors include the World Baseball Classic, optimism about the team, make-or-break years, the lack of COVID, or the fact that last year's lockdown-shortened camp. 
    Whatever it is, most can’t wait. This is funny because this first part of the year has a very first-week-back-to-school feel. Players are excited to see each other again. The new kids are making friends; finding a lunch table at which to sit. 
    There’s excitement in the air. Goals are fresh in mind. Some are eager to show they’re healthy. Some are eager to test whether or not their offseason workouts will pay dividends on the field. At the very least, those workouts are over. Baseball is the fun part of the season. 
    The first week of school comparison also applies to coaches, trainers, management, etc. Yes, they are also excited to reconnect with each other and players. But the teachers are also sizing up their students' potential - both for greatness and for trouble. They also get a chance to see younger players whom they have only heard about in the minors. Glimpsing the future in those newcomers fires up everyone who loves the game. 
    By definition, the coaches love the game; they wouldn’t have chosen their career if they didn’t. So if you think the players are excited, you can only imagine the spring in the coaching staff’s step. 
    For reporters, this is the best part of camp, too. Players are ready to talk, partly because they’re excited, but also because we haven’t worn them down with the same questions repeatedly. So this is an opportunity to interview players, transcribe the interviews, and then tuck them away to be referenced in a future story.
    The Love of the Game exhilaration applies here, too. Being a beat writer for baseball is a grind, even compared to other sports beats that grind. It’s basically every day or night, for eight months, and the opportunities often require relocating. Again, nobody who isn’t obsessed with baseball subjects themselves to that, especially for what they are paid.  
    Plus - I won’t lie - the days are shorter in this phase of spring training. No afternoon games, and no trips across the state. It’s easily the best and most productive time to attend as a reporter. 
    It’s the best time to attend as a fan, too, at least if your goal is to have more interaction with the players than you’re likely to ever have again.
    There is a path to the practice field where the players walk early each morning and back late each morning. It has barriers to separate them from fans, but the barriers are waist high, and, as mentioned, the players are generally excited. They will often stop for selfies, autographs, high 5s, etc., especially on the way back. 
    Plus, batting cages and the bullpens are both somewhat viewable as well. Want to see Jhoan Duran’s velocity up close? Or see Nick Gordon working with Torii Hunter in the batting cage? There are no guarantees but you’ll see something if you peer long enough through the fences and screens.
    There is one day in particular when excitement is at its peak, and the Twins announced that today. The day after position players report, the Twins have an open house, where they open up Hammond Stadium (including concessions), have some special events (especially for kids), and provide even more chances to interact with players. This year, it’s Monday, the 20th. 
    But mostly any day before games start, you’ll have access you can’t quite believe - provided you show up in the morning. Timing is the biggest obstacle to all these experiences - they happen in the morning. This is by design: Florida can get pretty hot in the afternoons. 
    Players are often in the fields  By 9 AM. (Some much earlier.) they’re often back by 11 or 12.  The camp can be a ghost town in the afternoon. You’ve been warned. 
    Am I trying to convince you to come to spring training? Yes. Yes, I am. If you care enough to seek out Twins news on Day 1, you probably care enough to enjoy yourself. And if you are reading this because you’re excited about watching grown men play catch, then you’re going to fit right in, right here, right now. 
  19. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #2 Royce Lewis, SS   
    Age: 23 (DOB: 6/5/1999)
    2022 Stats: 12 G, .300/.317/.550, 4 2B, 2 HR, 2.4% BB, 12.2% K

    National Top 100 Rankings:
    BA: 82 | MLB: 46 | BP: 40
    What's To Like
    After not playing in professional baseball since the 2019 season, 2022 represented an opportunity to see Royce Lewis back in game action. He had nowhere to play outside of St. Paul for alternate site action in 2020, and then he suffered a fluke knee injury after tearing his ACL in Texas before the 2021 season.
    There was plenty of reason to be uncertain about what Lewis would bring to the table given his time off, but he picked right back up where things ended during 2019 Arizona Fall League action. Although his swing left plenty to be desired during the regular season in 2019, his .975 OPS across 22 games for Salt River was plenty exciting.
    Lewis began the 2022 season with Triple-A St. Paul. It was a substantial leap given he played just 33 games at Double-A two years prior, but he looked every bit like he belonged. In 24 games to start the season, Lewis owned a .993 OPS and had an even more impressive 20/17 K/BB ratio. His plate discipline translated to a .430 OBP, and he blasted a trio of home runs alongside 11 doubles.
    After an injury to starting shortstop Carlos Correa, Lewis found himself making his major-league debut at a position some wondered whether he could hold down. The bat played in the big leagues, and although the plate discipline slid some, he more than held his own offensively. In the field, Lewis looked the part of a natural shortstop and made plenty of throws that suggested he could stick at the position. Even after Correa returned from injury, Lewis still found a way to force his way onto Rocco Baldelli’s 26-man roster. What’s Left to Work On
    Similar to the situation entering 2022, Lewis will again need to prove he’s healthy and ready for the next challenge. After making a brief cameo in centerfield filling in for Byron Buxton, Lewis tore his ACL again in a fluke collision with the wall. He has every idea how to rehab the injury a second time around, and it’s clear he came back strong, but the proof will need to be there again. This time around Lewis will also be returning to a new position. He played third base in high school and could factor there with Jose Miranda, or he could play second base with Jorge Polanco. There will be opportunities at shortstop, but the bulk of that time is going to go to Correa in the foreseeable future. Getting Lewis reps around the diamond at St. Paul will be a must early on this summer. When it comes to production at the plate, Lewis will also need to work on consistency. His 12 game sample size was great, but indicative of very little. He struck out just five times in 41 plate appearances, but he also only drew one walk. Bringing the plate discipline and on-base prowess from Triple-A in 2022 is something that Minnesota would love to see. His swing has calmed down quite a bit, and working to make that habit needs to continue as well. What’s Next
    For Lewis, it’s going to be continued rehab the rest of the spring and into the early summer. He has indicated feeling better, sooner than he did last time around. Recovering from his previous ACL injury, Lewis came back a bit stronger and was clocked running record speeds down the first base line. It remains to be seen how that will go after a second procedure, but his body continues to be something that matures.
    Minnesota fans can expect to see Lewis play for the Saints again at some point this summer, but betting on it being a long-term thing seems relatively foolish considering how quickly he worked through the level a year ago. Character has long been off the charts for Lewis, and expecting another setback to hold him down for long doesn’t seem wise. There isn’t much left for Lewis to prove on the farm, so as soon as he’s health and producing, he’ll be donning the Twins new threads at Target Field. Feel free to discuss Royce Lewis as a prospect and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below.
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20
    Prospects 11-15
    Prospect #10: Austin Martin, SS
    Prospect #9: Louie Varland, RHP
    Prospect #8: Jose Salas, INF
    Prospect #7: Connor Prielipp, LHP
    Prospect #6: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    Prospect #5: Edouard Julien, 2B
    Prospect #4: Marco Raya, RHP
    Prospect #3: Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    Prospect #2: Royce Lewis, SS
    Prospect #1: Coming Tomorrow!
  20. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #3 Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF   
    Age: 19 (DOB: 2/28/2003)
    2022 Stats: (A): 199 PA, .272/.493/.552, 9 HR, 25 RBI
    ETA: 2025
    2022 Ranking: 16
    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: 46 | MLB: 88 | ATH: 48 | BP: 42
    What's To Like
    It's hard to properly explain just how special and stunning Emmanuel Rodriguez's performance was last year in the Florida State League. First, I'll try to set the stage a little bit.
    Rodriguez had just turned 19 before the start of the season, and had played a total of 37 professional games, all in 2021 at the rookie-level Florida Complex League. He had played pretty well there, showing a lot of power (.524 SLG) along with a lot of swing-and-miss (36% K-rate, .214 AVG).
    He was embarking upon his first full-season campaign in the Florida State League, always known for its pitcher-friendly conditions. (In 2022, FSL hitters posted a .687 OPS overall.) E-Rod was younger than the league's average by two years. He was facing more experienced, more advanced competition. 
    Here's what he did, while playing a very solid center field:
    In 199 plate appearances, he hit five doubles, three triples, and nine homers with 11 steals, 52 strikeouts, and 57 walks. That last part is worth repeating: 52 K, 57 BB. He cut his problematic K-rate down to an acceptable range while also drawing walks at a truly staggering frequency. Fifty-seven walks (just one "intentional") in 199 plate appearances equates to a 28.6% BB rate. It's a figure so astronomically high it almost defies belief. Juan Soto led the majors at 20.3% last year.
    The freakish rate of free passes indicates that Rodriguez has quickly developed both an incredibly keen eye, and a reputation among pitchers as a feared slugger to avoid. He lived up to the latter billing when he got something to hit, slugging .552, and rode all those walks to a .493 on-base percentage. The lefty swinger had a .522 OBP against left-handed pitchers.
    Among players with 100+ PA in the FSL, no one was within 80 points of OPS to the teenaged CF Rodriguez, other than a 24-year-old 1B/DH named Jacob Gonzalez.
    Rodriguez's breakout season was cut dramatically short by a knee meniscus injury suffered in June, but evaluators have seen enough in the small sample to elevate him into the elite tier of prospects. All four nationals outlets above have the outfielder in their top 100, and three have him in their top 50. 
    Baseball America called him "one of the strongest up-arrow candidates" on their list. "He might be a top-10 prospect in baseball by midseason if what we saw last spring holds up," observed The Athletic's Keith Law. 
    It's not hard to see where the hype is coming from. And while you couldn't exactly say he came out of nowhere -- the Dominican scored a $2.75 million bonus at age 16 as one of the top talents in the 2019 international class -- he's definitely going somewhere.
    What's Left to Work On
    There is not a single thing you can quibble with in Rodriguez's brief flash of brilliance last year. Complete all-around dominance. But, that's all it was: a brief flash. Turning 20 later this month, he's got a very sparse track record – just 84 pro games – and a long road ahead to the major leagues.
    There are many possible paths forward for the high-upside, high-variance talent. The direction he'll try to steer clear of goes something like this: As he moves up and faces better pitchers (who can better command the strike zone), Rodriguez's patience gives way to passiveness and his K-rate climbs, while the walk rate drops precipitously. Meanwhile, he loses a step after the surgery and keeps adding bulk as he ages into his 20s, forcing a move to a corner outfield spot and raising the bar for his offensive impact.
    Even in this scenario, Rodriguez can still pan out as a pretty valuable player, because his power tool is outstanding and there's nothing wrong with a classic slugging right fielder who can run and throw. 
    But if Rodriguez can come back healthy at High-A and keep remotely intact the robust skill set we saw on display over two spectacular months in Fort Myers ... he'll likely be viewed among the top prospects in all of baseball by this time next year, following the trajectory of a future MLB superstar.
    What's Next
    Prospect rankings tend to be all over the place, but there's a stark level of consensus surrounding Rodriguez and his current estimation from the evaluation community. While there was tremendous dissent regarding the top two spots on the list this year (as we'll soon explore), there was none about who should rank #3: all 10 people who voted on Twins Daily's list had Rodriguez here. 
    Even as you zoom out to the national 100 prospect rankings, the level of consensus is pretty stunning for a player who was on none of these lists a year ago. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and The Athletic all have E-Rod ranked between 42nd and 48th overall.
    We're all seeing the same thing: a highly touted international talent who showed everything you could possibly want to see during an all-too-brief breakthrough in 2022. Now he needs to rebound from the injury, and put together a full season of work. From there, the sky is the limit.
    He might not necessarily be the best prospect in the Twins system, but Rodriguez is almost certainly the most exciting, with a ceiling that rivals any promising young player who's ever graced these rankings.
    Feel free to discuss E-Rod as a prospect and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below.
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20
    Prospects 11-15
    Prospect #10: Austin Martin, SS
    Prospect #9: Louie Varland, RHP
    Prospect #8: Jose Salas, INF
    Prospect #7: Connor Prielipp, LHP
    Prospect #6: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    Prospect #5: Edouard Julien, 2B
    Prospect #4: Marco Raya, RHP
    Prospect #3: Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    Prospect #2: Coming tomorrow!
  21. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Minnesota Twins Pitchers and Catchers Report: An Offseason Summary   
    For the Minnesota Twins, 2023 represents an opportunity to right the ship. Rocco Baldelli got off to a great start in his managerial career, but since the 2019 Bomba Squad, things haven’t been the same. Despite a postseason berth in 2020, the Twins have missed playoff baseball each of the past two years. This roster looks the part of being the best we’ve seen in some time, and the front office now wants to see it matter on the field.
    While we are still a bit away from seeing the Twins in game action, there is plenty to catch up on from the offseason. Who’s Out
    From the Opening Day roster last year, just 14 players currently remain in the system. Notably, starting catcher Gary Sanchez is gone, and so too are starting infielders Luis Arraez and Gio Urshela. Minnesota flipped the arbitration-eligible Urshela to the Los Angeles Angels for prospect Alejandro Hidalgo, while Arraez’s departure brought in Jorge Lopez (along with Jose Salas and Byron Chourio). The rotation will no longer see Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer among it, and longstanding organizational piece Miguel Sano remains unemployed at the moment.
    For Minnesota, this roster is one of renewed belief. Although Arraez was beloved by fans, his deal brought in much-needed pitching help. It will be weird to see Sano in a different uniform if and when he ever surfaces again, but not being in the organization has removed a vein for storylines. The rotation a season ago was largely pieced together, and with both departures for the Twins still being unemployed, it’s not shocking that the new group shows more promise.
    Who’s In
    Most importantly, Carlos Correa is back. Although it took some weird twists and turns to happen, Correa is with the organization at least for another six years, meaning that his deal lines up perfectly with Byron Buxton’s. A true superstar shortstop, Twins fans could watch C4 trend towards an eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement due to his exploits in the new Minnesota threads. The shortstop is also joined by a new backstop in Christian Vazquez. He is expected to start the bulk of Minnesota’s games, and will push Ryan Jeffers into more of a reserve role than he saw a season ago. The outfield grabbed an addition in Joey Gallo, and while he’ll need to bounce back from a down season with the Dodgers and Yankees, he adds defensive talent that could make Minnesota’s outfield the best in baseball.
    The rotation brings back Kenta Maeda at 100% after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery, and the aforementioned Lopez should be expected to contribute in a big way as well. The bullpen has largely gone unaddressed, but that could be an area Minnesota looks to tweak before Opening Day. Kyle Farmer was added as a fallback option, and now immediately slots in as a high-level utility player.
    What Are We Watching For
    This season is one for the youth. Jose Miranda is going to start at the hot corner and be expected to contribute immediately. Plenty of promise has followed Alex Kirilloff, and it’s up to his wrist as to whether he can be the regular at first base. Trevor Larnach has looked the part of a true impact bat, but injuries have kept him off the field. He was solid in left field last season, but will need to show he can remain healthy. That was the major downfall last year, health, and Nick Paparesta’s addition to the organization can hopefully make a quiet impact. Seeing the likes of Buxton, Tyler Mahle, Jeffers, Jorge Polanco, and any number of other players remain available should only enhance Minnesota’s chances. Which Twins player will breakout in 2023? We have seen Louie Varland win the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year each of the past two seasons (2021, 2022). Royce Lewis made his big league debut in 2022 and should be back this summer. Simeon Woods Richardson showed up for one start at the end of the year as well. Does Austin Martin or Brooks Lee get the call? Maybe David Festa forces his way into big league action. Although the Twins may not have the top end talent of some other organizations, their prospect depth is plenty exciting.
    Many of Minnesota’s regulars will remain in camp with the organization. There are a few others that will play for their native countries in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Checking out a few of them in action during more meaningful games could give fans a glimpse of how ready they are for the regular season to start.
    With Cleveland having made just minor upgrades in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, their top spot is ripe for the picking. Andrew Benintendi is a nice get for Chicago, but expecting Mike Clevinger to contribute there any time soon isn’t a good bet. The division is again right there for the taking, and it starts this week.
  22. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Pitchers and Catchers Report (A Poem)   
    Four tiny words mean last season's over 
    Pitchers and catchers report
    A tough year to watch, or remain sober
    Pitchers and catchers report
    A winter spent refreshing MLB rumors
    Praying that Falvey makes a big move or
    re-signs Correa? LOL! That’s good humor!
    Pitchers and catchers report
    A crowded rotation? No chance that’s true.
    Pitchers and catchers report
    No bad backs or elbows or bubonic flu?
    Pitchers and catchers report
    We’ll finally see pitching, for which we’ve waited
    Mahle & Lopez, Sonny, Maeda,
    Ryan & Ober (though he could get Sainted)
    Pitchers and catchers report
    Pico de Gallo adds power that pleases 
    Pitchers and catchers report
    Plus K-rriffic swings that add cooling breezes
    Pitchers and catchers report
    We added a Farmer who fields everywhere 
    Also a Taylor (for when Buxton’s not there)
    A new framing Christian will answer our prayers. 
    Pitchers and catchers report. 
    Finally you take your turn as poet
    Pitchers and catchers report
    Channel your winter frustration and show it
    Pitchers and catchers report
    The comments below are a great place to bleat
    Two tens and three ‘levens provide you the beat
    (But add words wherever, if like me you cheat).
    Pitchers and catchers report
  23. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #4 Marco Raya, RHP   
    Age: 20 (DOB: 8/7/02)
    2022 Stats (Low-A): 65 IP, 3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 76 K, 23 BB
    ETA: 2025
    2021 Ranking: Honorable Mention

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: 53
    What’s To Like
    The Twins have been high on Marco Raya since they drafted the teenager in the fourth round of the 2020 draft out of high school. Raya was one of the club’s biggest risers in 2022 after not being among Twins Daily’s top-20 prospects entering last season. It was easy to see why he was left off the list since he didn’t pitch at all in 2021 and was looking to make his professional debut in 2022. Since joining the organization, his projection has improved from a mid-rotation starter to a potential ace. 
    Minnesota had Raya spend the 2022 season in Fort Myers where he was three years younger than the average age of the competition. He only faced younger batters in 46 plate appearances, and he held older batters to a .571 OPS. Raya posted a 10.5 K/9 and a 3.2 BB/9 while batters hit less than .200 against him. His fastball has increased by multiple miles per hour since being drafted. He compliments his fastball with three offspeed offerings that MLB.com already grades as being 50s on the 20-80 scouting scale. 
    What’s Left to Work On
    Shoulder soreness caused Raya to miss the 2021 campaign and his innings were limited in 2022. His frame is built similarly to former Twin Jose Berrios, so there can be questions about long-term durability with pitchers that size. Raya is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds so there is room to add more muscle to his frame as he enters his 20s. Marcus Stroman is another similar sized pitcher that has found success at the big-league level, but Raya has a better fastball that is paired with very projectable secondary pitches. He is already considered extremely athletic so it will be interesting to see how his off-season regime added to his frame. 
    Raya has been limited to 19 appearances in his professional career, so the 2023 season is critical for building innings. He pitched fewer than five innings in all but four starts last season and he never threw more than 80 pitches. Minnesota will continue to monitor his innings during his young career, and it seems like 100 innings would be a good goal in 2023. His appearances will continue to come against younger hitters and he can continue to refine his secondary pitch offerings. 
    What’s Next
    During the season’s early weeks, Raya should stay in Fort Myers where the weather will be warmer. His previous shoulder injury is no longer a concern, but there’s no reason to rush him into pitching in colder weather if the team can avoid it. As temperatures improve, Raya can move to Cedar Rapids to accumulate the bulk of his innings. He is already on the national prospect radar after a tremendous debut. By this time next season, he has a chance to be Minnesota’s top prospect and a global top-100 prospect. 
    What are your expectations for Raya in 2023? Can he be the team’s top prospect for 2024? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  24. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Derek Falvey Isn't Wrong About the Bullpen   
    Derek Falvey rustled some feathers the other day when, in an article written by Phil Miller of the Star Tribune, the exec said, "[i]f we were to do anything at this point, it would likely be to add depth in the middle [innings]. We'll keep an open mind, but [relief pitching is] not a priority." It’s a shockingly straightforward answer not saturated with Falvey’s typical lawyer-ish flourishes.
    Falvey and Miller covered the gambit in reliever talk in that article; I recommend people read the entire piece before outraging (that will never happen).
    Initially, it’s tough to accept Falvey’s evaluation. I watched the same 2022 Twins team he did, and that squad specialized in blowing games in the late innings. They often failed to hold leads in games that really should have won. Cleveland proved to be a special problem, as Minnesota handed out late wins like Costco free samples as Tyler Thornburg and his ilk tried their darndest to not be a part of the problem. It didn't work, and they finished with the seventh-most meltdowns, a quick-and-dirty Fangraphs stat that uses win probability to determine poor reliever performance. But you don’t need to hear it from a number: that bullpen stunk.
    Perhaps we’re looking at the issue too broadly, though. Yes, the relief corps was terrible in the first half of the season—Fangraphs pegged them as the 2nd worst in MLB—but they didn’t remain static. Michael Fulmer and Jorge López joined the squad. Caleb Thielber emerged as a tremendous, reliable arm. People with eyes determined that Emilio Pagán should probably not pitch late in games. Evolution took its course.
    Quietly, so silent that no one cared to notice, the Twins bullpen improved drastically in the second half. Sure, they couldn’t fall further than before, but their bullpen now ranked 4th in MLB in FIP, only sitting behind the blue-blood organizations who consistently dominate the pitching charts. Part of that may be the inherent randomness in reliever performance, but tangible changes appeared to afflict the Twins for the better.
    Take it from Falvey: "I feel like we saw a lot of progress as last season went on, and within a group that still can make even more progress as they gain experience."
    Bullpens aren’t made of numbers. People pitch those innings, at least for now. Minnesota’s group includes four arms dancing around one year of MLB service time with another, Jorge Alcalá, who is about as green as the others. Is it unreasonable to believe that Jovani Moran succeeds in an expanded role, Griffin Jax finds another gear, or Trevor Megill fully realizes his strikeout potential? Jhoan Duran will continue melting faces in the near future. The teams main worry will be the complimenting pieces always at risk for the bullpen randomness bug; there's nothing that signing Corey Knebel would do to alleviate that. 
    The issue with the Twins bullpen is perhaps one of perception: because they seemingly blew an incalculable number of games in 2022, they appear incompetent, doomed to blow games again. But that may not be fair. As this author noted in July, relievers are an odd group, one whose jobs rely on the starting pitcher's effectiveness; it could be an all-hand-on-deck night, or Rocco Baldelli may only need the services of two arms the do the job. Given Minnesota’s dreadfully short starting pitching, the bullpen felt an extreme strain. Much of those games were technically the fault of the relief corps, but part of the battle is placing those arms in a position to succeed; Minnesota lost that fight consistently in 2022. 
    And they likely won’t have to carry that weight in 2023. With plenty of wood knocking, the 2023 Twins rotation appears a more trustworthy bunch than their previous counterparts. Swapping Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer for Kenta Maeda and Pablo López gives them a deep rotation. No arm sticks out as truly dominant, but their reliability should feed into the bullpen, removing pressure and allowing its hierarchy to remain intact. The days of Jharel Cotton saving games are over. 
    It is risky. Fewer outcomes in baseball are less aesthetically pleasing than a late blown lead; the win should have been in hand, after all. If López doesn’t regain his Orioles form, Alcalá fails to show the improvement he flashed in 2021, or if any of the breakout 2022 arms regress, it could be a tough summer to bear.
  25. Like
    MN_ExPat reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #5 Edouard Julien, 2B   
    At the time, it made perfect sense. Even Auburn couldn’t figure out exactly where to play Edouard Julien on the field. As a freshman, he started 59 games between designated hitter, first base, and second base. As a sophomore, he started 62 games at third base. There was no question about his bat, though. That belonged in the lineup.
    His final game as a Tiger saw these worlds collide. Against Mississippi State in the College World Series, Julien hit a massive two-run home run in the top of the second inning to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. It was a 429-foot blast to right field that, at the time, was tied for the longest in the history of TD Ameritrade Park. He later singled in another run to push the lead to 3-0. In the bottom of the final frame, the Tigers gave up two run, but still had the lead.
    One out away. Tying run 90 feet from home. And a routine ground ball to third base. Three batters later, Mississippi State was celebrating their walk-off victory.
    No one would have blamed Julien for going back to Auburn to try to help his team back to Omaha. But money - nearly a half million dollars - talks and the Twins now have one of the best guys at getting on base in all the minor leagues.
    Age: 23 (DOB: 4/30/1999)
    2022 Stats: (AA): 508 PA, .300/.441/.490, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 19 SB, 98 BB, 125K. (AFL) 96 PA, .400/.563/.686, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 6 SB, 23 BB, 22K.
    ETA: 2023
    2022 Ranking: 19

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: NR
    What's To Like
    The bat. The eye. The legs. Julien's entire offensive arsenal is loaded. In an offseason that saw the Twins offload Luis Arraez, the organization has a ready-made replacement. 
    Julien has been able to get on base in almost 44% of his minor-league plate appearances. You could make a pretty good argument that no one is better suited to bat lead-off. He's stolen 53 bases over the last two seasons.
    He has slugged nearly .500, you could argue that his bat belongs right in the middle of the lineup.
    You could literally make any argument you wanted about getting Julien in the lineup because he is prolific with the bat in his hands and a lineup with him in it is better than one without.
    What's Left to Work On
    If you're talking about someone with an elite offensive package and he's only #5 on the team's prospect rankings, you've either got the best system in baseball (it's not that) or there is something significant that sticks out that needs to be talked about here.
    The Twins - like Auburn - have used Julien all over defensively. He's started double-digit games in his career at first base, second base, third base, and left field. And as you slide down the defensive totem pole as Julien has (and Arraez did), it makes the presence of elite offensive skills even more important. Because the last stop is as a designated hitter. 
    Ideally, Julien either finds a comfortable home (second base? left field?), but the most likely scenario involves him being used all over the infield and in left field. There's a lot of work to do here yet, but the reality remains that Julien is a low-ceiling defender.
    What's Next
    After a successful full-season run at Wichita followed by an outstanding fall in Arizona, Julien will almost assuredly start his season in St. Paul. From there, what happens in 2023 is going to be dependent on a handful of things. Assuming the bat doesn't regress, Julien will get ample opportunities to hone his defensive skills in the infield and, likely, in the outfield. But the performance and health of those above him will be the biggest factor. 
    Before all that, though, Julien will compete for Team Canada in the WBC. Julien figures to get plenty of plate appearances and will likely find himself playing second base. Will he use this opportunity as a springboard for his upcoming season?
    Luis Arraez got an opportunity and ran with it all the way to a batting title. Maybe that's all Julien needs too... and the defensive side will sort itself out in time.
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20
    Prospects 11-15
    Prospect #10: Austin Martin, SS
    Prospect #9: Louie Varland, RHP
    Prospect #8: Jose Salas, INF
    Prospect #7: Connor Prielipp, LHP
    Prospect #6: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    Prospect #5: Edouard Julien, 2B
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