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  1. Rewind a year or two and the likes of Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff were seen as foundational pieces for Rocco Baldelli’s future lineup. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had put together an organizational structure allowing such young talents to thrive, and the pair looked the part of potential superstars in the not-so-distant future. When looking at the Minnesota lineup this year, plenty has been suggested about a team that struggled to score runs in 2022 and not a substantial amount of addition. What that unfortunately negates is a belief in youth that had once been there. Yes, Carlos Correa is back, and Joey Gallo could rebound. Christian Vazquez is probably better than Gary Sanchez, but the overhaul hasn’t been substantial. It shouldn’t need to be though, if the power pair can produce. For the past couple of seasons, we have seen Kirilloff struggle with a wrist injury that has had him nowhere near his best. Playing in just 104 games at the big league level the past two seasons, Kirilloff has compiled a mediocre 94 OPS+. The on-base skills are hardly what they were in the minors, and his power production has been all but sapped. At least we have answers as to why. It was clear at different points over the past two seasons that when Kirilloff’s wrist wasn’t nagging him, the bat was as expected. He’s not the prototypical slugger that sells out for power. When right, Kirilloff should possess the ability to be a .300 or better hitter while driving the ball to all fields. With his wrist nagging him, follow through at the point of contact was non-existent, and a rare double seemed to be as good as it gets. Having undergone a much more aggressive wrist surgery late last season, the hope is that Kirilloff can put the injury behind him. He is trending well, and there has been no shutdown similar to the one we were made aware of last offseason. He’s hitting, working on baseball activities, and being anywhere near full health should strike fear in opposing pitchers on a daily basis. For Larnach, the injury history is not as substantial. A core muscle surgery sidelined him for the remainder of last season following a strong start. He wound up playing in just 51 games, but tallied a 104 OPS+. The power spiked a bit more than we saw during his 2021 debut, and it was starting to look like he was settling in as a big leaguer. Although the bat has long been lauded as his calling card, Larnach also fared incredibly well in the outfield. Team’s continued to run on him in left field, and he racked up assists while routinely nailing runners at the plate. Although not as athletic as some of Minnesota’s other outfield defenders, Larnach proved far more than just a bat-only type of player. Having taken time to fully heal, the expectation should be that he can hit the ground running and produce in a big way this year. The Twins have a significant amount of lefty bats they may need to balance in the lineup, but Larnach could certainly get run at the designated hitter spot. If he can hold serve anything like he did on the farm, and has shown in brief stints at the highest level, Baldelli will have plenty to be excited about when putting him in the lineup. Maybe the Twins could have done more to add ability into the lineup this offseason. That said, banking on the development they have always been encouraged by is hardly a misstep either. This pair of prospects have topped charts and been highly anticipated for some time. Still young, and now healthy, breakouts for both could be on the horizon.
  2. What Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are betting on is that winning will matter most. There is no denying that Luis Arraez is a good baseball player. He was an All-Star while winning a Silver Slugger and being crowned the American League batting champion in 2022. His .316 average and .375 on-base percentage were noteworthy, and he posted those numbers while transitioning to an entirely new position. When the Twins re-signed Carlos Correa this offseason, he was reunited with an infield he got to know last year. Arraez was his first baseman, and the group with Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco became friends. It was a tight-knit infield, and moving on from any of them would bring up a few hurt feelings. What Correa wants to do, however, is win, and that’s where the front office is focused as well. It’s not as though the Twins couldn’t win with Arraez, but they certainly have more options at first base than they do in the starting rotation. Pablo Lopez was acquired not to be an ace but instead to fill a need to stock the starting five with as many quality arms as possible. With Lopez raising the bar and providing more pitching depth, it should be expected that Minnesota’s chances go up for the season. When it was announced that Arraez was being dealt to the Miami Marlins, many fans would miss their batting champion. The last time a reigning batting champ was dealt came at the hands of Minnesota as well, when Rod Carew was sent to the Angels before the 1979 season. Having been fondly compared to each other and being someone incredibly easy to root for, a departure of Arraez was never going to sit well with many. Entering the 2023 season, Lopez needs to pitch well for the sake of doing so and will forever be connected as the guy Minnesota acquired in giving up Arraez. Fans didn’t need to view Arraez through the same lens as they did Willians Astudillo. The former is a good player with actual utility, whereas the latter was much more of a mascot to distract from poor play. The casual fan may have ventured out to the ballpark wanting to see Arraez, and maybe they’ll stay away scorned at his departure. What has to matter most is generating as many wins as possible. The Twins need to be both exciting and good at the same time. Eighty-one home games is a substantial amount, and the Twins look to pull as much as possible from ticket sales. There has never been a more affordable sport to watch in person than baseball, yet a team with Arraez and Correa last season wasn’t enough to break records. Wanting to flip the script on another losing season, figuring out a way to push the win total up is where Minnesota knows the money is. As the 2023 Major League Baseball season gets underway, many fans will still be disappointed that Arraez isn’t in the dugout or taking the field. When the dust settles in October, plenty more fans will have shown up to a team that is committed to winning and puts the right foot forward on a nightly basis. It’s never easy for a front office to trade a fan favorite, but Minnesota is not Pittsburgh dealing in only goodwill. This team can be good, and when Correa throws over to Alex Kirilloff in securing a postseason victory, everyone will have forgotten about what was while enjoying what is.
  3. Many first-round picks quickly move into the organization’s top prospect lists. Minnesota has seen some successes and failures in recent drafts, with multiple top prospects on the way to Target Field. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have focused on certain types of players in the draft, which might help the team keep its winning window open as long as possible. Here’s a look at the last decade of first-round picks for the Twins. 2022: Brooks Lee (8th overall) Lee is one of the most exciting hitting prospects to come through the Twins organization in quite some time. Some evaluators thought he could be the number one overall pick, but he fell to the Twins with the eighth pick. Last season, he played at three levels and hit .303/.389/.451 (.839) with six doubles and four home runs. The Twins don’t need to rush things with Lee, and he will probably spend most of the season at Double-A. If he performs well, there is a chance he will make his debut in 2023 and is a top-25 global prospect by this time next year. 2021: Chase Petty (26th overall) It can take a long time for high school pitchers to develop in the minor leagues. Minnesota thought Petty had enough upside to take on that risk before drafting him late in the first round. Leading into last season, the Twins traded him to the Reds organization for Sonny Gray. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. For 2023, Petty should get a full season at High-A with a chance to pitch over 100 innings for the first time in his career. 2020: Aaron Sabato (27th overall) The 2020 MLB Draft will be interesting to analyze in the years ahead. College teams saw limited action before the shutdown, and many high school players never stepped on the field that spring. Sabato destroyed the ball in college (1.158 OPS) before being drafted by the Twins. In 2022, he hit .215/.336/.438 (.774) with 17 doubles and 22 home runs while reaching Double-A. Sabato was over a year younger than the average age of the competition in the Texas League, so he should spend most of 2022 at that level. 2019: Keoni Cavaco (13th overall) Cavaco has spent the last two seasons at Fort Myers while shifting from shortstop to third base. Last season, he hit .231/.275/.397 (.672) with 18 doubles, five triples, and 11 home runs. His OPS jumped 74 points compared to 2021, and he was roughly the same age as the average competition at his level. He will be pushed to Cedar Rapids in 2023 with a chance to reach Double-A by the season’s end. 2018: Trevor Larnach (20th overall) Larnach has averaged fewer than 80 games per season over the last two years. He’s been a streaky hitter during his big-league career, but some of his performance might be tied to his injury history. He posted a 104 OPS+ in 2022 and destroyed the ball in May with a 1.077 OPS. Minnesota has a plethora of left-handed power-hitting bats, which might make Larnach expendable as part of a trade. 2017: Royce Lewis (1st overall) It looked like the Twins might be willing to turn shortstop over to Royce Lewis before the team signed Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. Now, Lewis will need to shift to other defensive positions if Correa continues to stay healthy. During the 2023 season, Lewis isn’t expected to return to action until mid-season while recovering from his second ACL tear over the last two seasons. 2016: Alex Kirilloff (15th overall) Kirilloff has battled through wrist issues during his first two big-league seasons, and the Twins hope his latest surgery helps him in the long term. There have been glimpses of the strong hitter Kirilloff was at the start of his professional career, but his nagging wrist has slowed down his development. He will get regular time at first base and in a corner outfield spot for the 2023 Twins. 2015: Tyler Jay (6th overall) Jay never made it to the big leagues with the Twins organization. He topped out at the Double-A level in four seasons in the organization. The Twins traded Jay to the Reds organization during the 2019 season for cash considerations, but he only spent part of a season pitching for that organization. Last year, he made 22 appearances with a 1.64 ERA and 9.8 K/9 for the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. It seems likely that he can get another job in independent baseball if he wants to continue pitching. 2014: Nick Gordon (5th overall) It may have taken longer than expected, but Gordon found a niche with the 2022 Twins. He became an everyday player for a team struggling through injuries and posted a 113 OPS+ in 136 games. Minnesota has plenty of corner outfield options on the 40-man roster, so it will be interesting to see how the Twins will use Gordon in 2023. He is out of MLB options, so he needs to be kept on the Opening Day roster. 2013: Kohl Stewart (4th overall) Stewart played eight seasons in the Twins organization and made six appearances at the big-league level. He struggled in the upper minors with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in over 160 innings at Triple-A. For 2023, the Royals signed Stewart to a minor league deal, but he isn’t expected in big-league camp as he continues to rehab from an elbow injury. Which players will have the most significant impact on the 2023 roster? Which player was the biggest disappointment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  4. In "Fun with Player Comps" I look at player comps for 30 current Twins who figure to play a role in 2023, starting with their closest age player from Baseball-Reference.com prior to 2022. Based on each player's general vibe, I then move into the best and worst-case scenarios. Previous installments: middle-infield, centerfield. With my inclusion of Luis Arraez in the middle infield (what was I thinking?!) that leaves Jose Miranda as the only strictly corner infielder on the roster, so he gets lumped in with the Twins' glut of corner outfielders. Based on Fangraphs depth chart projections, the Twins have average to above-average projections at every position player spot, except the corner outfield spots. Adam Duvall won’t change the calculus much, but there is both talent and upside here. Let’s start with the one corner outfielder that may feature neither: Max Kepler Best comp through age 29: Cory Snyder Never heard of him, but Snyder posted some decent power numbers in his early 20s with Cleveland before falling off a cliff in his late 20s. Instead of a cliff, Kepler’s production has been more of an unattended rickshaw rolling down a mild incline and gaining speed, buoyed only by his excellent defensive work. Worst case: Andrew Jacob Cave This feels harsh, but both players hit for low averages, provide nothing against lefties, have average power, and play good corner outfield defense, though Kepler's defense is a solid grade ahead of Cave's. If this scenario holds, let's hope it's with another team, ideally one that greatly overestimates the benefits Kepler will receive from the shift ban, because it isn't likely he will benefit. Sadly, the dumb teams in baseball are starting to invest in more intelligent front offices, leaving only the Rockies as a team that might overpay for Max. Best case: Jason Heyward My methodology here is that I assume Kepler gets worse as he ages. If he stays where he is or even if he unlocks something elsewhere, Heyward is a good comp. Heyward was a decent player prior to signing with the Cubs in 2016, providing power, patience, and either elite fielding ability in right field or decent fielding in center. The Cubs, and many others, felt there was more offense to unlock, and even if that didn't happen, they could at least bank on him being a plus defender. He never did figure it out with the bat and was never worth his contract, but he did provide some value; for instance, in his 2019-2020 seasons, he hit for a combined 106 OPS+. Were Kepler to post a similar number, his plus defense and baserunning could provide real value. If he was traded to a contender, like the Yankees or Dodgers, he might be more agreeable to a platoon and maximize his impact even further. Jose Miranda (No comp available) Worst case: Willians Astudillo If Miranda takes a step back, it will be because he gets too antsy at the plate and turns his elite contact ability into a liability, rolling weak grounders off pitches outside the zone. If pitchers don't think they have to throw him a strike, he won't be able to get to his above-average power, and if he doesn't hit for power, he may end up with La Tortuga in Japan. Miranda's path to being a long-term asset rests solely with his bat, as his defense can only hope to grade out as "doesn't kill ya," and his baserunning is uncomfortable to watch. Best case: Wal-Mart Rafael Devers Devers is an offensive-minded third baseman with elite bat-to-ball skills and prodigious power. Miranda doesn't have the power or the elite natural gifts that Devers has with a bat, but he isn't that far off if he takes a step forward in 2023. in 2018, Devers' first full(ish) season in the majors, he hit .240/.298/.433 with poor defense and 66 RBI. Miranda just posted .268/.325/.426 with poor defense and 66 RBI. If he improves his selectivity, as Devers did in his 2019 breakout, he'll be a big part of the Twins' future. Trevor Larnach (Telling that there are no comps for the next two) Worst case: Kyle Blanks Blanks got a lot of chances as a big-bodied right fielder who looked like he could hit coming up with the Padres. But he couldn't stay on the field and was out of the game at 28. Larnach tantalizes with his tools, but it may be fair to wonder if his large frame can handle the rigors of being a major league outfielder. On the other hand, his injuries in 2021 were of the hand and foot variety. Blanks was victimized by back and Achilles issues, among other ailments. Best case: Paul O'Neill Larnach has a chance to be a better defender than O'Neill but has less contact ability. O'Neill's career line of .288/.363/.470 looks like something Larnach could achieve in his prime if he stays healthy and reaches his potential. To do that, he simply needs his body to cooperate and to lay off breaking pitches like he did the first two months of 2022 when he posted an .890 OPS and strong defensive metrics. Alex Kirilloff Worst case: Nolan Reimold Reimold teased Orioles fans with a solid rookie season in Baltimore. He was a top 100 prospect who had just posted a .831 OPS in 2009 but couldn't stay healthy. Believing in his potential, the Orioles kept giving him chances. Eventually, they gave up and released him in 2014, only to bring him back a year later, which.. didn't go any better. Best case: Less patient Will Clark Clark should probably be a Hall-of-Famer, but he never quite hit for the kind of power that came in vogue among first basemen in the 1990s. Nevertheless, he posted 56.5 bWAR for his career and hit .303. Kirilloff, too, doesn't strike me as the type to post numerous thirty home run seasons even if things break right for him, but his plate coverage and power the other way could allow him to approach Clark's career AVG and SLG numbers. Kyle Garlick (Still no comps for Garlick, who is still with the Twins as of this writing.) Worst case: Josh Hamilton (with the Angels) When Hamilton hit free agency after the 2012 season, no one really knew how to evaluate him, similar to how Byron Buxton may have looked to the market if the Twins had not extended him: He's great, but how often? Luckily for Hamilton, the Los Angeles Angels exist and gave him 113M. Unluckily for the Angels, Hamilton didn't offer the hedge that Buxton does, where he can give you four WAR in half a season based on his defense and baserunning. Hamilton provided 2.7 bWAR in total to the Angels. If Garlick posted those numbers over a two-year span, it wouldn't be so bad, but like Hamilton and Buxton, Garlick has an impossible time staying on the field. Best case: A Good Ryan Raburn year Raburn was a frustrating player to watch and would frequently alternate .500 and .900 OPS seasons. For his career, however, he hit for a .818 OPS versus lefties and, in his good years, was a force from the right side who was generally healthy. Matt Wallner (No comps, he's just a boy) Worst case: Logan Morrison LoMo had some hype as a prospect but almost always disappointed, never posting an OPS above .800 until his outlier year with the Rays when he popped 38 home runs. Besides that, Morrison struggled to stay healthy, swung and missed a lot, and provided negative defensive value. His career bWAR was 3.9. Best case: Joey Gallo Gallo and Wallner may each have a top-five arm for an outfielder in the game, and Gallo made himself into a strong outfielder despite coming up as a third baseman. He swung and missed a ton, but made enough hard contact to be an All-Star. He may have reached another level in 2019 when he raised his average to .253 and had a .986 OPS in July as a 25-year-old. But he broke his wrist and has never shown that kind of output since. Gallo is a frustrating player type, but Wallner getting to 85% of his peak would be a great outcome for such a low-contact hitter. Whatever the Twins achieve in 2023 will hinge a lot on what they get from Kirilloff, Larnach, Miranda, and to a lesser extent, Gallo. If the KLM boys stay reasonably healthy, there’s a good chance one of them truly breaks out, which lengthens the lineup considerably and solves the corner outfield problem. If they stall in their development, that puts a lot of pressure on Gallo to rebound, and in the last installment in this series, I compared him to the White Sox era Adam Dunn. Stay tuned for the next installment, catchers and closers. See previous entries here.
  5. The Twins paid Miguel Sano over $9 million for only one home run among five hits in 60 at-bats in 2022. And then paid him another $3 million to simply go away. Much has been made of Sanó’s inability to stay healthy or in shape or, simply, not show up a few dozen pounds overweight. Everything above is completely true. So true, in fact, that even those who look for silver linings aren’t going to have much of an argument to make. But I still think the Twins should consider bringing him back into the fold. The expectations surrounding Sanó were sky-high well before he made his major-league debut as a 22-year-old in the summer of 2015. And despite striking out in over a third of his plate appearance, he still managed to hit 18 home runs in 80 games, reach base over 38% of the time and put up an OPS of .916. He rarely played in the field as he was coming off missing the 204 season because of Tommy John surgery, but the vision of being the third baseman of the future was still bright. Of course, we all know what happened the next year: someone got the wise idea that Miguel Sanó could be a right-fielder (while literally every not-as-smart person knew he couldn’t) and Sanó was back to playing third base exclusively by July 1. Getting jerked around caused him to struggle offensively, but still he managed 25 home runs and bounced back to be an All-Star in the 2017 season. The 2018 and 2020 seasons were both really bad, but sandwiched around a 34-home run year in 2019 where Sanó post a career-high .923 OPS. You could take the 2020 season for what it was - short with a lack of time to prepare - add it to the 30 home run season in 2021 and think maybe, just maybe, Miguel Sanó could get back on track in 2022. But that train derailed before even leaving the station. A torn meniscus on April 26 and more knee issues almost immediately after returning in July caused an abrupt end to a short, disappointing season. The Twins paid Sanó more than $34 million as a major leaguer and watched him strike out over 1000(!) times. And when his Twins career ended unceremoniously when they bought out his contract, many were happy to wipe their hands off him. And that’s fine. But as you look at the current construction of the Twins roster, you can’t help but wonder about the health and depth of first base. Luis Arraez - all 5’ 10” of him - is expected to be the Opening Day starter. Arreaz was fantastic in 2021 and led the league in hitting, but is not your prototypical first baseman… and he’s not exactly a model of healthy knees. Jose Miranda played a lot of first base last year… but with Gio Urshela getting traded, Miranda is the primary third baseman. Alex Kirilloff is a solution… if he recovers from having his arm shortened after battling wrist that cut short his last two seasons. Max Kepler and Joey Gallo are both options in the sense that they’re bigger targets, but neither has played a lot of first base recently. But that’s an easy fix. Tell ‘em Wash. And there’s where Sanó should enter the conversation. On a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. If he shows up overweight and out of shape, you can cut him. If he shows up a little overweight and in a shape other than completely round, you can send him to St. Paul to hit bombs and be a call away if the questionable depth fails in front of him. Miguel Sanó doesn’t have to be the #3 hitter. There doesn’t have to be the expectations of being an All-Star or hitting 30 home runs. But any gas that might still be in his almost-30-year-old tank sure beats the idea of rostering the likes of the Curtis Terrys, Roy Moraleses and Tim Beckhams of the world. It does for me anyway.
  6. For the past year or so, the Twins' outfield has remained in flux behind the starters. Last year left field was a question mark more often than it wasn’t, and Byron Buxton’s latest injury left him out of centerfield more often than not. Plenty of guys were given chances, and while some are now gone (thanks for the memories, Tim Beckham), the group still has too many mouths to feed. I’d expect the Opening Day roster to have five outfielders, but a few have positional flexibility. Looking at the nine names currently categorized by the 40-man roster, here is a probable path for them in 2023. Byron Buxton This one should be straightforward. If he’s healthy, he plays. Last season the Twins got nearly 100 games out of Buxton despite him battling a significant knee injury early on. Many of his injuries in the past have been fluky, but let’s dream of a world where Nick Paparesta and a new training staff focus on giving us what we’ve all been waiting for. He’s among the best in the game, and Rocco Baldelli’s team is much better when he takes the field. Gilberto Celestino Right now, I’m not sure what to think about Celestino. He has been called on in trade discussions and is a guy I’d prefer not to see the front office move. Last year was a good year of development, and still young; there is plenty of room for him to grow. As a right-handed bat, he has that going for him, and defensively he’s an ideal backup option behind Buxton. Joey Gallo Signed to a one-year deal, there is no doubt that Gallo is making the 26-man roster. He’ll play plenty of corner outfield and can play center as well. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Minnesota have him ready at first base, and despite the bat being his calling card, his athleticism and glove are equally as impressive. Nick Gordon Listed as an outfielder by the Twins roster designation, Gordon filled into a utility role well last year. The bat played more, and although he’s limited on the infield, he played outfield well. Gordon looked the part of a centerfielder at times, and more reps could make that even more fluid. He should be a relative lock for the Opening Day roster and will again play all over the field. Max Kepler If there is a guy to bet on being traded this offseason, Kepler is it. He bats left-handed as too many of his counterparts do, and Gallo wasn’t signed to be a redundant form of what the German brings to the table. There has been plenty of interest in the strong defensive right fielder, and it should be a matter of when and not if he goes. Alex Kirilloff The Twins need this to be the year that Kirilloff’s wrist is right. After undergoing a more intense procedure to shave down his bone, there aren't many other surgical options. All reports thus far have been positive, and Kirilloff is a talent Minnesota has been waiting on at the big-league level for some time. He should factor in most as a left fielder, but he can also potentially be a star at first base. He’ll get time at both spots this year, and the only thing holding him back has been health. Trevor Larnach We started seeing what a rolling Larnach looked like at points last season, but the core muscle injury killed the momentum. He’s a power bat with a substantial amount of plate discipline, and he, too, should be expected to contribute from left field. There is no reason he can’t be a middle-of-the-order bat, and we saw the arm play plenty when opposing runners tried to test him a season ago. Like Kirilloff, health is all Minnesota needs here. Matt Wallner Making his debut after such a solid 2022 in the minors, Wallner looked the part in a very small major league sample size. His 105 OPS+ was above league average; he made substantial strides last year when controlling the zone and taking walks. There is probably no room for him on Opening Day, but Wallner didn’t slow down last year at Triple-A St. Paul and could quickly force Minnesota’s hand if he comes out of the gates hot. The Twins have more than a few decisions to make on the grass this season, and right now, things are a bit lefty-heavy. We’ll see how this turns out before the club shows up in Fort Myers.
  7. Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers Entering the offseason, Ryan Jeffers was the lone catcher on the team's 40-man roster. Adding Christian Vazquez helps bolster the organization's catching depth. Last winter, the Twins traded Mitch Garver to allow Ryan Jeffers to become the primary catcher. However, many teams utilize a multi-catcher approach to keep players healthy and help their offensive production. Minnesota also signed veteran catcher Tony Wolters to a minor league deal, but he likely won't make the Opening Day roster. The Twins will need Walters during the season, and he has caught over 2800 innings at the big-league level. Infielders (6): Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco Adding Correa to this group changes the entire look of the infield. Farmer can now shift to a utility role and play all over the diamond. He was penciled in as the team's starting shortstop until Royce Lewis returned from his ACL injury. Minnesota is handing Miranda the starting third base job after the team traded Gio Urshela to the Angels. All the projected infielders can be used at multiple defensive positions, which will help Rocco Baldelli create the best line-ups on any given day. Minnesota was in the driver's seat for the AL Central last season before injuries ravaged the roster. Correa's return puts the Twins back in the conversation as a playoff team in 2023 and beyond. The depth here comes from the likes of Royce Lewis, when he returns (hopefully in June or July), who can play all over the diamond. Austin Martin can get whatever time he needs in St. Paul. The team can be patient with Brooks Lee rather than push him up too quickly. Outfielders (5): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler Correa's signing also pushes other players off the 26-man roster. In my initial roster projection, Trevor Larnach was on the bubble, and now he will be in St. Paul's outfield with Matt Wallner. Both players will get playing time in 2023, but there needs to be room to keep them on the Opening Day roster. Kyle Garlick is also an interesting player because there might be other right-handed free-agent upgrades. Joey Gallo and Max Kepler fill similar roles for the Twins, so the Twins will likely trade Kepler, allowing them to carry a right-handed bench bat. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober On paper, this starting five is a group that can win the AL Central, but there are health concerns with multiple pitchers on the roster. Mahle struggled with shoulder issues after the Twins acquired him, Maeda is returning from Tommy John surgery, and Ober dealt with various injuries last season. The Twins have starting pitching depth on the 40-man roster, with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson ready to contribute at the big-league level. Jordan Balazovic is also an interesting name to consider if he is healthy to start the year. Minnesota has also been rumored to be interested in some of the remaining veteran free agents, but the club may want to rely on its pitching pipeline. Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill** Minnesota hopes Lopez can return to his previous form and combine with Duran to be a dominant back-end duo. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Jax could be a breakout reliever and fill a fireman role that Tyler Duffey had previously occupied. Pagan continues to be a question mark, but the Twins offered him arbitration, so they hope his performance improves in 2023. The Twins have also shown a tendency to move relievers up and down from Triple-A, a trend likely to continue next year. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez and Cole Sands. What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Where do the Twins rank compared to other AL Central squads? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Coming into the offseason there was no denying that a reunion with Carlos Correa needed to be priority number one. With the Twins never advancing far past their original plan during the season, an offer that Scott Boras would entertain never became present. That meant a pivot needed to happen in acquiring more talent for Rocco Baldelli’s group. Both Christian Vazquez and Joey Gallo are fine additions, but they won’t be enough. It’s certainly possible that whatever is done to raise Minnesota’s payroll as a whole before March is uninspiring. That’s why the bulk of Minnesota’s heavy lifting is going to need to come from within. For a team that believes they were snakebit with injury, and an organization that has seen the graduation of many top prospects, it’s beyond fair to tell those established on the 26-man roster “we need you now.” Among those, these are the five (in no particular order) with the most to prove: Ryan Jeffers This should almost go without saying. The Twins front office had an immense amount of belief in Jeffers when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. They then doubled down by trading Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers prior to last season, and sent the only capable prospect in Ben Rortvedt to New York. Unfortunately he couldn’t recreate the 119 OPS+ from his first 26 Major League games, and instead sank to a career worst .648 OPS while playing just 67 games due to injury. Jeffers looked like he was righting the ship for a time before hitting the injured list, and now with Vazquez in the fold, will be fighting for time again. Gary Sanchez is gone, and the Twins farm system remains relatively empty behind the dish. Having Jeffers put it together would be the long awaited promise everyone has been hoping for. Alex Kirilloff Maybe this is a lot to put on a guy that’s only recently just turned 25-years-old, but Kirilloff is no longer a young player. Still ahead of his prime, the biggest issue here is being healthy and real with where he’s at. Kirilloff never got his surgically repaired wrist right last offseason, and therefore was never able to truly take over in left or at first base for the Twins. He’s now undergone an even more substantial procedure, and while the reports have been encouraging, the waiting game has to end. This is a top prospect that looked like a lineup cornerstone. First base could be his with Miguel Sano gone and Luis Arraez having more utility. Finding a way to be a legitimate big league offensive threat is a must. It starts with health. Trevor Larnach Much like Kirilloff, this is a similar scenario with a player that’s almost an entire year older. Larnach will be 26 for Minnesota this season, and despite the flashes a year ago, he played in just 51 games due to a core muscle injury. The solid on-base and slugging skills are real, and he’s always been praised for his incredible bat. We got to see an advanced defender in left, and that would be a substantial boost to the outfield flanking Byron Buxton. Larnach will be given every opportunity to post better than the 104 OPS+ he had in limited action last season, and there is no reason he should be seen as incapable of reaching that. Staying on the field is a must, and like Kirilloff, he will be expected to contribute from the middle of the lineup. Joe Ryan Maybe this jumps out as a weird inclusion for a guy that was the 2022 Opening Day starter, and someone that posted a 3.55 ERA. The problem is he became a true five-and-dive guy while owning a 3.99 FIP and 4.35 xFIP. Ryan feasted on a lot of bad opponents in the AL Central, but he was battered consistently against better competition. A fine guy to have at the back end of the rotation, Ryan’s necessary workload from 2022 is why the Twins could certainly use another arm better than Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle. He’ll be 27 this season, and there is no denying this is a quality Major League arm, but with the velocity as limited as it is, does Minnesota have a number three or a number five here? Bailey Ober There are a few other arms that may have merit for the final spot, but it should be the guy currently penciled in for the rotation’s final spot. Ober was good to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 2.92 FIP last season. Even aside from the more gaudy 4.18 xFIP, the problem has always been what level of reliability he’ll bring to the table. Minnesota trotted out arms in droves during 2022 because guys couldn’t stay healthy. Ober was among them, throwing just 56 innings across 11 starts. 2021 was a professional best inning total going 92 1/3 on the year, but he’s never previously surpassed 80 in a single season despite five years of work. It seems the Twins have developed a capable arm, but it can’t be relied on if it breaks down this often. Looking to rebound in an AL Central that should be tight at the top, it will be on players that have gotten used to the divisional race that need to step up. There is plenty of talent for the Twins to make noise if things break in their direction, but it wouldn’t hurt if they made their own luck as well.
  9. Shortly before the calendar turned to 2023, the Twins finalized a one-year, $11 million deal for outfielder Joey Gallo. He is coming off a terrible season where he posted a 79 OPS+ in 126 games for the Yankees and the Dodgers. However, he was an All-Star in 2021 who led the AL in walks and posted a 121 OPS+. Minnesota hopes to get Gallo back on track, but the 40-man roster was already packed with corner outfield options before he arrived. The team is likely looking to deal from an area of strength, so how do the team’s current corner outfielders stack up according to trade value? All trade values and availability are from Baseball Trade Values. The rankings below on based on their current median trade value. It is not a ranking of the likelihood of each player being traded, but availability is also included for your reference. 5. Matt Wallner Median Trade Value: 7.3 Availability: Medium Wallner’s trade value might be at the highest of any point in his career. He was named the organization’s minor-league player of the year and made his big-league debut in 2022. Some of the other corner outfielders have recently dealt with injuries, so that Wallner might have more long-term value for the Twins. This offseason might be the best time to trade him If Minnesota wants to capitalize on his peak value. 4. Austin Martin Median Trade Value: 7.5 Availability: Medium Martin’s future defensive home might not be in a corner outfield spot, but there’s undoubtedly an opportunity for the Twins to include him in a trade this winter. There’s no question that Martin’s value dropped in 2022 as he entered the year as one of baseball’s top 55 prospects. He battled through a wrist injury and posted a .685 OPS at Double-A. Martin rebuilt some of his value in the Arizona Fall League with a .936 OPS and ten steals in 21 games. Another organization might believe in the potential Martin has shown in the past. 3. Max Kepler Median Trade Value: 7.6 Availability: High Kepler seems redundant on the Twins roster with Gallo’s addition. Kepler is under team control for the next two seasons if his $10 million option ($1 million buyout) is picked up for 2024. He provides little value on the offensive side, with an OPS+ below 100 over the last two seasons. On defense, he is among baseball’s best by ranking second among AL right fielders according to SABR’s Defensive Index. Twins fans have likely soured on Kepler, but he is a solid big-league regular and has value on the trade market. 2. Alex Kirilloff Median Trade Value: 11.9 Availability: Very Low Kirilloff is returning from a unique wrist surgery, so teams will likely be interested in acquiring him once they know he is healthy. His wrist has caused issues over the last two seasons, so his availability is the lowest on this list. In 104 big-league games, he has hit .251/.295/.398 (.694) with 18 doubles and 11 home runs. Some of those numbers are skewed by him trying to play through his wrist injury. Kirilloff is a former top prospect, and Minnesota hopes he can put his injury woes behind him to reach his full potential. 1. Trevor Larnach Median Trade Value: 14.6 Availability: Low Like Kirilloff, injuries have limited Larnach in his first two big-league seasons. Last year, he hit .231/.306/.406 (.712) with 13 doubles and five home runs in 51 games. Larnach has been streaky at the plate by looking like one of the best hitters in the Twins line-up and then struggling mightily. Nearly every player on this list has a higher defensive value than Larnach, but his bat has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order slugger for most of the next decade. His trade value can be even higher at the end of the 2023 season if he can compile a fully healthy campaign. Do you agree with the trade value rankings? Besides Kepler, will any of the other corner outfielders be traded? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. These rankings are intended to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal is to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? We account for age, contract, controllability, upside, etc. It's not strictly a ranking of trade value, because that would be more team-agnostic, where this list aims to capture a very Twins-specific POV. As such, players at areas of scarcity (i.e. pitching) get elevated while those at areas of abundance (i.e. lefty-swinging corner guys) get downgraded a bit. I always find compiling this list to be an interesting offseason exercise – one that surfaces unique conversations about Twins players, how we value them, and where the system's strengths and weaknesses truly lie. What made it so challenging this year is that, by design, these rankings are a snapshot in time – published at the start of January for no other reason than a new year feels like a good time to reset and reassess – and right now, it's very tough to get a read on the state of this organization and its talent. For one thing, it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th. But even more, there is SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY with the players they already have. A snapshot at this midpoint of the offseason lacks clarity around key health-related details with massive implications. I struggled with many decisions, and they begin to crop up in this first installment. For example: If healthy, Tyler Mahle at $7.2 million is tremendously valuable, even with only one remaining year of team control. Can we safely operate under the assumption he'll be healthy and at full strength in 2023? (Spoiler alert: I decided no, and he just missed the cut.) Another example: If his latest surgery works and Alex Kirilloff returns to being roughly the player he was before his wrist affliction, he's a centerpiece in the lineup controlled for several years. Can you assume such a rare and complex surgery will take? (Spoiler alert: My cautious optimism got him on the list, but as you'll soon learn, not very high.) With that setup, let's kick off the countdown with my picks for the 16th through 20th most valuable assets in the Twins organization. First, you can check out my rankings from the past five years to see how the franchise's talent landscape has evolved: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2022 Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023: 16 through 20 20. Matt Wallner, OF 2022 Ranking: NR On a list like this, Wallner has a few key things working against him. First, his player type – strikeout-prone LH corner bat with big power – is fairly abundant in baseball, as evidenced by the Twins signing the poster child in Joey Gallo for $11 million. Second, that player type happens to be especially abundant in the Twins organization. So long as Max Kepler remains camped in right field, Wallner lacks a direct path to the majors, even though his skill set looks ready. The reason he still makes the list, just barely, is because his abilities within that skill set are SO exceptional. Baseball America rates Wallner as the best power hitter and best outfield arm in the Twins system – tools that were on display during a September debut in the majors. Wallner didn't put up terribly impressive numbers in 18 games with the Twins but had some big moments, and if he's shown one thing during his ascent through the minors it's that he can quickly put a slow start at a new level behind him and start dominating once he gets comfortable. The Twins will hope that's exactly what happens to the 25-year-old, who can make a big impact on the team's (near) future as either a slugger in the middle of the order or highly marketable trade chip. 19. Louie Varland, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR Around this time last year, there was still a degree of widespread skepticism around Varland. Sure, he'd earned Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2021 with some truly dazzling numbers, but was this former 15th-round draft pick out of a D2 college the real deal, or a flash in the pan? He backed up his breakout with a 2022 campaign that saw him: Named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive year, posting a 3.06 ERA in 126 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Debut in the major leagues, where he showed the poise and ability of a seasoned vet. In five starts, Varland posted a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings, completing at least five frames in each turn. Skepticism remains regarding Varland's true ceiling, which is why he doesn't rank higher on this list, but he has solidified his standing as a turnkey mid-rotation starter with six years of team control. His durability and consistency stand out from the field of pitchers in the Twins organization. 18. Sonny Gray, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023. That, in a nutshell, is why I had to include him in these rankings, albeit near the back end because the status of his contract (one year remaining at $12.5 million) and checkered bill of health this past season. Gray has been around the block. He's made All-Star teams. He's started playoff games. He's been a featured rotation piece for several teams in a decade of big-league action, and he filled that role pretty well for the Twins last year. It was a bummer that recurring hamstring issues limited Gray to just 24 starts and 120 innings, but he doesn't have the same kind of looming health-related questions as fellow veteran starters Mahle and Kenta Maeda. When on the mound, his performance was pretty much everything you'd want: a bulldog who throws strikes, keeping runners off the bases and batted balls in the park. To whatever extent the Twins are successful in the coming season, it seems very likely that Gray will play a pivotal role. 17. Jorge Lopez, RHP 2022 Ranking: NR As the 2022 season played out, the Twins recognized that in order to take the next step forward, they needed to buttress Jhoan Duran at the back of the bullpen with another dominating force. This revelation pushed the front office to do something they rarely do: invest big in a buy-high relief pitcher. The Twins gave up four prospects at the deadline to acquire Baltimore's All-Star closer, who was experiencing an instant breakthrough in his transition to full-time reliever. Lopez shook off his previous struggles as a starter and transformed into a convincing lights-out bullpen ace for the O's. His performance in Minnesota after the trade was far less inspiring, but unlike Mahle, there's no reason to believe anything is physically amiss for Lopez. His profile – heavy doses of whiffs and grounders with sinking upper-90s heat – is a pretty reliable formula for success. So long as he can get back to commanding his arsenal Lopez figures to be a key piece during his two remaining seasons of team control. 16. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF 2022 Ranking: 3 I'm an affirmed believe in Kirilloff. In five past iterations of these rankings, I've had him in the top five twice, including #2 in 2021 and #3 last year. I view his pedigree, IQ and ability as a hitter to be in a rarefied class. He's flashed it in brief glimpses on the field, and last year AK hammered home his hitting prowess during a hilariously productive month at Triple-A (.385/.477/.725 in 28 games). But on the big-league field, Kirilloff's success has always been fleeting, with each setback tied to a clear culprit. The wrist injury that sabotaged his elite swing, and has now required two surgeries, will define Kirilloff's career. He'll overcome it with help from this latest intervention, or join the long list of rising stars fell victim to the brutal physical toll of pro sports – forced to make do rather than make hay. I'm bullish on Kirilloff overcoming it. If for no other reason than that the Twins as a franchise, and especially Alex Kirilloff as person, are overdue for a good break. The guy also lost a full year of development to Tommy John surgery, and despite it all, finds himself firmly planted in the majors at age 25. His talent is not in question. A healthy and raking Kirilloff would be a radical difference-maker in the outlook for the 2023 Twins and beyond. Ranking him 16th on this list is an attempt to balance that simmering potential with the cold realities of the human body and its limits.
  11. As Derek Falvey and Thad Levine look to reinvigorate Rocco Baldelli’s clubhouse, the goal for Minnesota will be to have their first winning season since 2020. While Covid gave Major League Baseball just a 60-game season, the Twins were still riding high from the 2019 Bomba Squad. That luster has now long worn off, and the fan base responded by generating the worst attendance since 2001. There is reason to believe, even in losing Carlos Correa, that the 2023 Twins will turn the tide and finish with a winning record. Here’s a few reasons to get on board with that notion: 1. Better Health There may be no team that had a worse case of injury luck than the Twins. The injured list could’ve won a considerable amount of games on its own as a team, and each time someone got healthy someone else got hurt. The organization decided to turn the page for the training staff and brought in Nick Paparesta with hopes of better results. We will have to take a wait and see approach when deciding what the actual impact is, but it’s unlikely that the same level of injury will be replicated year over year. Luck isn’t something Minnesota sports teams typically have on their side, but even a bit less bad luck would be welcomed in the year ahead. 2. Youth Development As much as the Twins need to bring in new talent, much of their internal pipeline has graduated to the big league roster. Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis are two of the most highly anticipated prospects for the franchise, and while both have yet to see health at the Major League level, they have the talent to compete. Combined with Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and potentially even Brooks Lee in 2023, there is a substantial amount of home-grown contributors. The success of this organization in the immediate future will be largely reflective of how much each young player can tap into their ceiling. 3. Redo Tight Ones In 2022, the Twins went 20-28 in one-run games. Despite nearly an identical overall record in 2021, Baldelli’s club went 25-19 in one-run games. Obviously winning close games comes down to a multitude of factors. Minnesota did a poor job closing out games last season, and they also failed quite often with runners in scoring position. The former is a reflection of bullpen talent, but the latter is more likely an outlier given the overall lineup ability. When the Bomba Squad pulled off their 101-win season, they went 23-12 in one-run games. Being on the right side of tight ones obviously raises the water level as a whole, but it doesn’t have to be a substantial amount. Minnesota being .500 in one-run games a season ago would’ve kept them in the division and afforded a winning record. 4. Pitching Depth For the first time in quite a while the Twins have a pitching pipeline that we haven’t seen. Kenta Maeda returns to an Opening Day rotation alongside Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and Joe Ryan. The front office should really add another impact starter, but having arms like Bailey Ober, Josh WInder, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Louie Varland provides a nice safety blanket. One would hope that 38 different arms aren’t needed in 2023, but we also shouldn’t see a scenario in which a Chi Chi Gonzalez type is called upon. 5. Division Door Open As has been the case for the past few years, there should be no clear favorite in the AL Central. While the Chicago White Sox have found themselves in the driver’s seat at times, and Minnesota has won it twice in the past four years, Cleveland surprised in 2022. With Tony La Russa out Chicago should be better managed, but the talent level could be argued to have slipped some. The Guardians are a team to be reckoned with as they have developed talent, but they certainly aren’t a juggernaut. Both the Tigers and Royals will want to take a step forward, but neither should pose a huge threat yet. A three-team race for the division crown will likely be tightly contested for the better part of the season. Everyone involved with the organization is hoping for a tide-turning season. The offseason plans may not have gone to perfection thus far, but results on the field could be drastically different simply because of who is already employed by this team. Minnesota didn't fall off a cliff talent-wise in a season, and righting the ship in 2023 remains a solid possibility.
  12. Below you will see Minnesota's projected line-up and each player's age during the 2026 campaign. Only some top prospects will become big-league regulars, making these projections challenging. A lot can happen with a franchise in a short amount of time. In 2019, I projected the 2023 line-up , and a few names have switched positions or aren't part of the team's long-term plans. Catcher: Ryan Jeffers (29) Entering the 2022 season, Jeffers stock is low, and that’s why the Twins invested in Christian Vazquez. The Twins still believe Jeffers can be a contributor at the big-league level because he has shown positive signs over the last three seasons. Injuries have played a role in Jeffers' struggles to be a consistent hitter at the big-league level. Offensively, Jeffers thrives against left-handed pitchers, with a .794 OPS for his career. He might be able to make offensive improvements if the Twins can find him appropriate match-ups in future seasons. First Base: Alex Kirilloff (28) Kirilloff has only played more than 95 games in one professional season. Wrist injuries prematurely ended his last two seasons, and he had a unique surgery to shorten his ulna. Minnesota hopes he can return to the hitter he was in 2018 when he was the organization’s Minor League Hitter of the Year. Kirilloff has strong defensive skills at first base that can be a valuable asset considering the defensive limitations of others in this projected line-up. Second Base: Luis Arraez (29) Arraez’s name has been swirling in the rumor mill this winter, so there is no guarantee he is still on the roster in four years. He is coming off an excellent season where he was a first-time All-Star and won the AL Batting Title and a Silver Slugger. In recent years, Arraez has struggled with knee issues, so he might not regularly play in the field by 2026. Edouard Julien is another option at second base after he posted a .931 OPS at Double-A last season. Shortstop: Royce Lewis (27) After missing out on Carlos Correa, the Twins hope Royce Lewis is the team’s long-term solution at one of baseball’s most important positions. Minnesota has had a revolving door at shortstop in recent seasons, and Lewis might be the organization’s best chance to stop the door from spinning. Last season, he returned strongly from ACL surgery with a .940 OPS in 34 Triple-A games before posting a .867 OPS in his big-league debut. Minnesota hopes he returns just as strong from his second ACL surgery in the last two years. Third Base: Brooks Lee (25) Many evaluators pegged Lee as the best college bat in the 2022 MLB Draft. He impressed many during his professional debut by hitting .303/.389/.451 (.839) with six doubles and four home runs while finishing the year at Double-A. He’s played shortstop so far in his professional career, but many expect him to move to third base as he adds to his frame. He will enter the 2023 season as the Twins’ top prospect on all three national prospect rankings, and there is a chance he will make his big-league debut next year in the second half. Left Field: Emmanuel Rodriguez (23) Rodriguez continues to rise in Twins prospect rankings after a solid full-season debut in Fort Myers. In 47 games, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with five doubles, three triples, and nine home runs. He was 11-for-16 in stolen base attempts and had more walks (57) and strikeouts (52). His season ended prematurely after he tore his meniscus, which required surgery. He has the potential to be a five-tool talent, but he is multiple levels away from Target Field. Center Field: Byron Buxton (32) After last winter’s extension, Buxton is under contract through the 2028 season. He’s been limited to 92 games or less in all but one big-league season. It will be interesting to see how Buxton ages in the coming years. The Twins tried to keep him healthy last season by giving him regular at-bats as a designated hitter. Buxton’s defense is still among baseball’s best in center field, but his speed will likely decline as he ages. Right Field: Matt Wallner (28) Minnesota has three young outfielders that are a similar age and have upside. Kirilloff is listed above as the team’s potential first baseman, so right field comes down to Wallner versus Trevor Larnach. Wallner’s stock has risen significantly over the last year, so he gets the nod over Larnach. He was named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year. Rodriguez is not guaranteed to make it to the big-league level by 2026, so Larnach can be penciled into the other corner outfield spot until a younger player pushes him to the side. Designated Hitter: Jose Miranda (28) The Twins traded Gio Urshela to clear a spot at third base for Miranda. Last season, he had some up-and-down moments but finished the year with a 116 OPS+. His defense is already considered below average at third, which is why he is projected to be the team’s DH in 2026. His bat is good enough to be in the line-up at multiple positions, and he will get time at first base later in his career. Who do you think fits into the team’s 2026 line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS YEAR’S PREDICTIONS — 2025 Line-Up — 2024 Line-Up — 2023 Line-Up
  13. It's hard to believe that the Twins' phenomenal Bomba Squad 2019 was almost four years ago, but 2023 will be here before we know it. As the time approaches, its fun to look back at the Twins' top 30 prospects of the time, according to MLB.com, and how their 2022 seasons panned out across the majors and minors. Here’s how the top 30 Twins prospects from 2019 had their 2022 seasons end up. On Active Rosters for the end of 2022 3. Brusdar Graterol The Twins' fastest throwing arm at the time, Brusdar Graterol, was ranked as their highest pitching prospect going into the 2019 season. This year, Dodgers counted on Graterol often in high-leverage opportunities and will likely continue to do so in 2023 as their bullpen gets reconfigured. Graterol’s fastball is still one of the fastest in the game averaging 99.4 mph for the sixth highest in MLB according to Baseball Savant. Whether the Dodgers will use Graterol as their main closer in 2023 or keep him as a high-leverage reliever remains to be seen. His greatest tool will always be as the flamethrower of the Dodgers bullpen. 7. Jhoan Duran Baseball’s newest and most successful rookie flamethrower was the Twins second-best pitching prospect in 2019. Now he has exceeded expectations as the Twins' best reliever having the best rookie campaign for an American League reliever since Jonathan Papelbon with the Red Sox in 2006. In 2019, Duran was still being used as a starter making 22 starts between Pensacola and Fort Myers. Back then Duran was not the ace reliever we know him to be know as he pitched 115 innings, posted a 3.76 ERA and struck out 136 batters. Now he looks to keep his title of being enshrined as baseballs fastest pitcher. 10. Nick Gordon Back in 2019, Gordon spent all season at Triple-A Rochester while battling injuries that set back his MLB debut so long. With two full seasons under his belt now, Gordon looks to be the go-to backup outfielder for the Twins in 2023 in left and center fields. His time as an infielder will be more limited with the addition of Kyle Farmer last month. Still, if Gordon continues to build off the success he’s had in 2022. There should be no doubts concerning what he can do for the 2023 Twins. 12. Akil Baddo Baddo’s second season in Detroit was a complete sophomore slump. Injuries kept him out for a portion of the season. And when he was healthy, the energy that brought about the success of his rookie campaign just was not there. 2019 was Baddo’s first big injury setback in his career, keeping him to just 29 games played that season, all in Ft. Myers. His numbers in those 29 games looked similar to that of his 2022 season in Detorit as he posted a .214/.290/.393 triple slash and .683 OPS in 2019. 14. Jose Miranda Miranda spent all but one game of his 2019 season in Fort Myers. At that time he did not look like the player he is now, but the Twins have full confidence in his abilities from 2021 and 2022 to make him the everyday third baseman for the 2023 season. Three years ago, Miranda was still coming into his own at the Twins High A affiliate. His numbers did not exactly pop off as they did the last two seasons in the organization as he posted a .252/.302.369 triple slash and a .671 OPS in 119 games. 15. Gilberto Celestino Once an unknown prospect acquired from the Houston Astros for Ryan Pressly, Gilberto Celestino became the Twins' fourth outfielder for the team this year. Celestino’s first full season in the Twins system was mainly spent in Cedar Rapids where he had one of the best professional seasons of his career. Celestino played in 125 games and posted a .277/.349/.410 triple slash and .759 OPS with career highs in home runs (10) and runs batted in (54). 16. Ryan Jeffers The Twins' hopeful starting catcher in 2022 will now be splitting time in a platoon role with new arrival Christain Vazquez. 2019 was Jeffers first full professional season splitting time between Fort Myers and Pensacola. His promise as a future starting catcher for the Twins showed during that season as he hit .264/.341/.421 for a triple slash and posted a .762 OPS in 103 games. Now, the Twins are hopeful that Jeffers can remain healthy more than anything else and rebuild his promise as a 26-year-old platoon catcher in 2023. 17. Luis Arraez The 2022 American League Batting Champion looks to remain with the Twins for now despite faulty rumors of him being a part of a trade to the Miami Marlins for Pablo Lopez. Back in 2019, Arraez graduated off the prospect lists and to the Majors taking the Twins fandom by storm. He proved the contact hitter going the opposite way was not dead in baseball and quickly became a fan favorite. The only limitations ahead for Arraez are consistent playing time at first base or DH, depending on how the team wants to move forward with those roles in the remainder of the off-season. While his name may still be floated around in trade rumors, Twins fans can be more hopeful he will remain with Carlos Correa not coming back. 22. LaMonte Wade Jr. Like Baddo, Wade Jr. had a hard time repeating his success of 2021 season in 2022. 2019 was the year Wade Jr. graduated off the prospect list and debuted with the Twins in late June. Wade Jr. had 26 games with the Twins in his rookie campaign and spent the majority of his season with the Rochester Red Wings hitting .246/.392/.356 for a triple slash and posting a .748 OPS. Wade Jr. looks to continue as a back up outfielder for the Giants next season and his best hope is to develop himself back into the quality fourth outfielder he was in 2021. 23. Griffin Jax Jax being limited to five starts in all of 2017 was knocked off the Twins Top 30 prospect list in 2018. He found his way back onto the list going into the 2019 season when he pitched his best professional season to date between Double A and Triple A. The 2019 season certainly showed Jax’s highest promise as a future Twins starter as he posted a 2.90 ERA in 127.1 innings pitched across 23 starts. Unfortunately that never turned into reality with Jax’s first season in the majors. He fell into the old adage of being a failed starter that turned into a good reliever. Hopefully Jax can continue to live up to this season’s success in 2023. Played in 2022 but were mainly hurt 1. Royce Lewis His future as the Twins man at shortstop is all but secured now once he heals from injury in July 2023. Every Twins fan knows Lewis had the best start to a season before retearing his knee in late May of this year. Back in 2019 though, Lewis had a down season in the Minors compared to his 2018 season. That is when the Twins decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to rejuvenate his talents. Lewis did of course do that tearing apart the Fall League’s pitching hitting .353/.411/.565 for a triple slash and posting a .975 OPS across 22 games. 2. Alex Kirilloff Kirilloff has not had the best of luck staying healthy since making his MLB debut in 2020. While his MLB debut was an elimination playoff game, Kirilloff has only managed to play in 104 games across the last two seasons due to his wrist injuries. Injuries still bugged him 2019, but Kirilloff played in a decent amount of games totaling 93 all at Double A Pensacola. He had a triple slash of .283/.343/.413 and OPS of .756. Kirilloff’s injury history is unique and only Kirk Gibson has had the success and longevity after battling the wrist problems. If Kirilloff plays in at least half the Twins games this season, fans can certainly expect him to continue platooning time between first base and the outfield. 5. Trevor Larnach Before getting his call up in 2021 and battling injuries in 2022, Larnach had his best professional season ever in 2019. Larnach played his season between Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .309/.384/.458 with a .842 OPS. Larnach’s injuries in 2022, compared to that of Kirilloff’s, had more optimism for a sooner return and recovery. He did play in a few games to end the season with the St. Paul Saints. One has to assume, Larnach will see more time in left field than Kirilloff with how the roster currently sits as Kirilloff and Arraez are most likely to platoon between first and designated hitter roles. 18. Jorge Alcala Some Twins fans (including this writer), forgot that Jorge Alcala pitched in any games for the Twins during the 2022 season. The two games Alcala came into relief for were in the Opening Series against the Seattle Mariners. The good news, those two outings were scoreless. The bad, he was out for the remainder of the season. Alcala had surgery on August 3 for right elbow arthroscopic debridement. He is still expected to be ready and healthy for Spring Training 2023. Back in 2019, Alcala was splitting time as a starter and reliever in the minor leagues. That changed once he made his MLB debut with the team on September 21 of that year. Played in 2022, mostly in the Minors or Indy Ball 4. Wander Javier Wander Javier once had such promise as a prospect, he now joins a long list of minor league players who never reached their full potential as the Twins parted ways with him earlier in the off-season. The 2019 season was the beginning of Javier’s fall. After spending all of 2018 on the Minor League IL, Javier played 80 games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Over the course of those 80 games, Javier found himself struggling posting a .177/.278/.323 triple slash over the season. 6. Brent Rooker Brent Rooker spent time between the Padres and Royals organizations in 2022 as he was a piece that brought in one of the most controversial relievers in Twins history. 2019 Rooker was another player than he is now. While he battled injuries, Rooker was very productive for the Rochester Red Wings. Rooker hit 14 home runs and had 47 runs batted in along with a .282/.399/.530 triple slash and a .929 OPS in 67 games. 8. Lewis Thorpe Thorpe found his way out of the Twins organization after one start with the St. Paul Saints in April. Three years ago he was a hyped up pitching prospect who finally found his way onto the Twins roster. Thorpe pitched in 12 games and made two starts for the Twins when called up in 2019 and couldn’t repeat the success he had in the minors as he posted a 6.18 ERA in 27.2 innings. Time in Triple A was better for Thorpe in 2019 but not by much as he made 19 starts and posted a 4.58 ERA in 96.1 innings. 9. Blayne Enlow Enlow’s best path to get to the Majors now looks to be from the bullpen as he battled injuries and struggles on the mound throughout the 2022 season. He split time between the rotation and bullpen at Double-A Wichita this year and found more success as a reliever. During the 2019 season, Enlow split time between the Twins' Low and High A affiliates as a starter. He pitched decently totaling 20 starts across 110.2 innings and posted a 3.82 ERA for the season. 11. Stephen Gonsalves After debuting with the Twins in 2018, Gonsalves spent the majority of his 2019 season on the injured list and when healthy, was on three of the Twins' Minor League affiliates. Gonsalves only pitched in 13 innings the whole season, recording only one more out than he did in 2022 for the Iowa Cubs. Gonzalves has not announced that he is stepping away from professional baseball for 2023, but has not pitched since May of this year, it hard to say if he’ll do so again. 13. Yunior Severino One of many players still in the Twins system three years on. Severino had one of his better professional seasons in 2022 splitting time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita. Severino has had a long journey through the lower Minor League affiliates in the Twins organization. 2019 was a season filled with injuries that kept his playing time limited to 28 games at rookie ball and Cedar Rapids. Fortunately for Severino, the last two seasons have seen a great increase in his hitting ability giving him a good chance to get a call-up to St. Paul sometime in 2023. 19. Jordan Balazovic While he struggled mightily for the 2022 season and didn’t see his number improve until the last month of the season. Jordan Balazovic was a completely different pitcher in 2019, working his way up the Twins system. Balazoivc spent the 2019 season between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, dominating Low and High A pitchers with a 2.69 ERA, 129 strikeouts and a 0.98 WHIP in 93.2 innings pitched. The big question for Balazoivc is if he can replicate the pitcher he once was in 2019 and break his way onto the Twins roster at some point during the 2023 season. 20. Misael Urbina Currently, the Twins' eighth-best prospect according to MLB.com, Misael Urbina broke into the Twins' minor league system as a 17-year-old kid in 2019. The Twins touted Urbina out in the Dominican Summer League that season and played in 50 of the team’s 64 games. Urbina’s numbers for his first 50 professional baseball games were solid as he posted a .279/.383/.443 triple slash with a .825. While Urbina has not been able to repeat the same success of hitting the last two seasons in the minors, he is still a spring chicken in age as he only turns 21 this upcoming April. There is still plenty of time for him to redevelop as a solid starting outfielder over the course of the 2023 season. 21. Zack Littell After pitching briefly with the Twins in 2018, Littell graduated off the prospect list in 2019 as he had 29 relief outings in the Majors with the team and posted a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings. Littell did not have the same success in the Majors this last year as he had in 2019 as his outings became worse and worse with the Giants in 2022 before a meltdown sent him to the Minors to end the season. Littell was released by the Giants last month and no team has taken a bite on signing him yet. It is still likely for Littell to land a minor league deal with a team before Spring Training rolls around. 24. Ben Rortvedt 2019 was a slight drop-off season for Rortvedt from his 2018 campaign in the minors. Rortvedt played in 79 games across Fort Myers and Pensacola hitting .238/.334/.379 for a triple slash and posting a .714 OPS, four points higher than 2018. Rortvedt never saw time in the Majors this season after being traded to the Yankees with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Filefa for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. He is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League to strengthen himself but only has four hits in 41 at-bats across 12 games. 25. Gabriel Maciel An outfielder who has never played a game above the High A level, Gabriel Maciel looked to be the real deal back in 2019. He was one of many players who did not benefit from the loss of the 2020 Minor League season. Maciel spent all of his 2022 season with the Oakland A’s High A affiliate the Langsing Lugnuts, and recovered well from his 2021 season in Cedar Rapids. The A’s parted ways with him after the conclusion of the Minor League season and with Maciel turning 24 next year with no time above High-A, it's hard to say if a team will bring him aboard a minor league contract. 26. Luke Raley Raley was one of three players the Twins received from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade back in 2018. He only spent one full season in the Twins organization in 2019 as he was flipped back to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda the next off-season. While Raley was in the Twins system, he did not accomplish much as he was limited to 38 games that season. He did hit well while healthy hitting .310/.361/.517 for a triple slash with a .878 OPS. The Twins did send him with Royce Lewis to the Arizona Fall League that season too. Raley spent all of 2022 in the Rays organization hitting really well while in Triple-A Durham but not as well while with the Major League club. He is still with the Rays as of now and looks to serve as a utility player for the 2023 season. 27. DaShawn Keirsey DaShawn Keirsey has battled his way through the Twins system since being drafted out of college in 2018. Keirsey spent all of the 2022 season at Double-A Wichita and the outfielder put together a strong candidacy to move up the ladder to St. Paul next season. In 2019, Keirsey was fairly unknown to most Twins fans in the system as only played in 43 games between Cedar Rapids and Rookie Ball in Elizabethton. While he is not on any current top prospect lists for the Twins, Keirsey may be a name for fans to keep an eye on in 2023 for a future outfield call-up. 28. Travis Blankenhorn Back in 2019, Blankenhorn was far off from being an immediate call-up to the Twins. However, he was an effective hitter between Single and Double-A as he hit .277/.321/.466 with a .787 OPS in 108 games that season. Now he is a minor league free agent after spending the 2022 season in the Mets organization. After 92 games played this year and having defensive versatility, it is possible some team will offer Blankenhorn a minor league deal. 29. Michael Helman In 2019, Michael Helman had his worst year in professional baseball. Now he has become a minor league player many Twins fans are familiar with as he had his best season yet, mostly with the St. Paul Saints in 2022. Helman is like Kyle Farmer as a utility player and can play all the infield and outfield positions. Considering the lack of off-season moves currently at hand for the Twins, Helman realistically could make his MLB debut sometime in 2023. 30. Luis Rijo Luis Rijo did not have a pleasant 2022 season, to say the least. He only pitched in 12 games, started 11, and out of those games came a 6.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 30 innings pitched. Back in 2019, Rijo had potential as he was a much different pitcher posting a 3.87 ERA, and struck out 99 batters in 107 innings pitched across 19 starts. The Twins parted ways with him in October of this year leaving him as he enters minor league free agency. Totals: 10 players on Active MLB rosters 4 players who could be on Active Rosters but are hurt 16 players who are in the Minors, Japan, or Indy Ball Fortunately for all of these former Twins prospects, all of them played professional baseball at some level during the 2022 season. Some, like Thorpe and Gonsalves, may be done but have yet to be confirmed. Others have a ways to go in their career, but the majority look like they’ll be around Major League or Minor League Baseball for the 2023 season.
  14. Royce Lewis has long been the organization's shortstop of the future. That may be why the Twins haven't signed Carlos Correa yet (although the fact that a potential deal for a dozen years and upwards of $350 million, or that Scott Boras is his agent and several other organizations are also interested might have a bigger role in that). There are also very real questions as to how Lewis looks returning from a second torn ACL. If you missed Cody Christie’s discussion back in November pondering who Minnesota’s top prospect is, then maybe you aren’t aware of the speed in which Brooks Lee is expected to blitz the minors. Now to be fair, Lewis has already appeared at the Major League level. He filled in admirably last season when Correa went down with an injury, and he was only in centerfield because the coaching staff saw his talent to be so immense they needed him in the lineup. It was just a 12-game cameo, but Lewis slashed .300/.317/.550 (.867) with four doubles and a pair of dingers. If he was healthy to begin spring training, he’d be on the Opening Day roster. Because Lewis is not healthy, there’s a real question as to whether or not it could be Brooks Lee who appears ahead of Lewis for Minnesota in 2023. I’m not certain that the Twins view Lee as a clear cut answer at shortstop. There were thoughts he could move to third base when he was drafted, but purely from an appearance standpoint, it shouldn’t be out of the question that he emerge before the former number 1 overall pick that has already made his Major League debut. As mentioned, the timeline in which Lewis returns remains to be seen, and you can bet the Twins will be cautious. On the flip side, Lee’s promotions have been incredibly aggressive and he’s done nothing to show he can’t handle them. Playing just four games in the Florida Complex League before skipping Low-A entirely, Lee then jumped to Single-A Cedar Rapids and posted an .848 OPS in 25 games. His eight extra-base hits, four of which were homers, was hard not to notice, but it was the 18/16 K/BB that truly stood out. Looking to get Lee an even more advanced exposure, and utilize his talent for a playoff run, he was promoted to Double-A Wichita as they looked to win in the Texas League. Coming into 2023, it would not at all be surprising if he began the year where he left off, even with how aggressively he was pushed to get there. Starting at Double-A Wichita would mean that Lee could presumably force Minnesota’s hand sometime in the summer. Maybe he would benefit from some final tweaks at St. Paul before traveling across town, or maybe he would be ready to skip a level and jump straight to the big leagues. Either way, the bat profiling as it did going into the draft has only continued to gain steam, and it’s carried his meteoric rise through the system. We’ll see how things go in year two as the opposition makes adjustments and Lee settles in, but regardless of which Twins prospect is the top one, I think there’s a case to be made that it could be Lee who debuts in the season ahead prior to Lewis.
  15. For years there have been remarks made towards the Pohlad family regarding their hesitancy to spend on the Minnesota Twins. For as much as any owner wants to claim they are fans of the team, the overarching reality is that their ownership is still an asset and they are running a business. At some juncture, revenues and expenses have to correlate. During the uniform unveiling a new face was on stage. Joe Pohlad was talking next to Twins President Dave St. Peter, not his uncle Jim. There was no announcement that day, but it seemed odd that Jim, who has been known as the visible owner for at least the past decade, was not present. Not long after it was reported that Joe would be assuming that position, and a change was being made. Obviously that leaves fans to question what may happen with the dollars being spent on the team. While Jim remains plenty involved, and Joe has his own personality that seemingly will be more public facing, the family still retains the asset that is the Twins. On that day, when the Twins rebranded and rolled out jerseys asking fans to spend over $300 on each, they have also yet to commit on bringing in talent alongside their superstar Byron Buxton. Last season the Opening Day payroll checked in just shy of $137 million. $35.1 million of that was handed to Carlos Correa on a three-year deal, although everyone knew he would opt out after year one. In talking with a front office source when Trevor Story or others were in play, the comment was made that a $150 million payroll never was going to seem feasible. That’s where Minnesota should begin to lose the trust of fans. While it isn’t fair to suggest that the team won’t spend money after pushing franchise records in that regard over the past few years, having an arbitrary stopping point that falls only in line or below league average isn’t workable. Certainly there are teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Guardians that can do more with less. They have exceptional development, analytical, and scouting processes that help to squeeze additional value from lesser costs. While the Twins have taken significant strides in those regards, they simply aren’t there yet. Going into 2022 the Twins landed on a $15 million annual salary for Buxton. That’s peanuts for a player of his caliber, even with the health issues, and the lack of availability is the only reason they could get that done. Unfortunately, if there isn’t going to be substantial work to supplement his abilities, the entirety of that deal will go to waste. It’s not so much that there is a magic number to spend, but the representative talent that can be acquire with an additional $20 million or so is significant for a mid-market team like Minnesota. Getting to $160 million in 2023 would be a leap for the front office. Doing so would be a year over year boost of just under 17%. Alongside the likes of minimum salary players like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and eventually Royce Lewis, that should be a no-brainer. Being able to provide your pipelined talent with Major League help is the way this should work, and books being as clean as they are going forward makes now as good of a time as any. Despite what Rob Manfred tried to sell fans during the lockout, owning a baseball team is an incredibly profitable venture. Revenues are only increasing throughout the sport, but on a team-by-team basis, Minnesota jumping their own is only going to happen with winning. For a team that saw the worst home attendance since the days of the Metrodome, trying to save cents while costing dollars isn’t a workable route any longer. Maybe it doesn’t have to be exactly $160 million when the Twins open their 2023 season, but the payroll can’t be close to $140 million either.
  16. Every front office spends the offseason trying to create a roster that can be competitive for multiple seasons. This takes a balancing act that includes established veterans, young prospects, and supplemental players. Minnesota has already changed the 40-man roster this winter by trading Gio Urshela and adding Kyle Farmer. These moves help the team set a floor at multiple starting positions, but there is still room to improve. Corner outfielders are one area where the Twins have a surplus, with nine outfielders on the 40-man roster. Minnesota hopes Byron Buxton can make most of the team's starts in centerfield, leaving eight players for the two remaining outfield spots. Luckily, many of the team's other outfield options have defensive flexibility. Let's take a look at the team's options. Projected Starters: Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach Kepler is one of baseball's best outfield defenders, providing significant value even if his bat has recently taken a step back. There is a chance that banning the infield shift will help Kepler's numbers, but it's likely only to generate a few extra hits per season. There is also a chance the Twins will attempt to trade Kepler before the season starts because of the younger and cheaper options available. Injuries have limited Larnach to fewer than 91 games in each of the last two seasons. Last season, he finished 11th on the team in WAR, even though he only played 51 games. He can play both corner outfield positions, but his defense is more limited than some of the team's other options. Entering his age-26 season, Larnach must prove he can stay healthy and produce at the big-league level. Bench Options: Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Mark Contreras, Kyle Garlick Celestino provides the Twins will insurance for Buxton in center field, but he isn't far removed from being considered one of the team's top outfield prospects. He's only played 51 games at the Triple-A level because the Twins have had an outfield need over the last two seasons. He destroyed the ball last May by hitting .364/.426/.418 (.844), but his second-half OPS dropped to .582. Celestino will play significant innings, but it seems in the team's best interest for those innings to be in center. Gordon surprised many with his 2022 performance by hitting .272/.316/.427 (.743) with a 113 OPS+. Kepler was the only corner outfielder to accumulate more WAR last season, and his OPS+ was 20 points lower than Gordon's. Among AL left fielders, Gordon ranked fifth in SDI, which was impressive considering he had limited innings at the position entering the year. Entering 2023, Gordon will likely continue to fill a utility role. From a roster construction standpoint, it will be intriguing to see if Garlick and Contreras can survive the offseason on the 40-man roster. Together, they form a natural platoon, with Contreras being a lefty and Garlick being a righty. However, they are lower on the team's depth chart at both corner outfield spots, so they seem unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. They each have minor league options remaining, so they can offer organizational depth. Other Outfield Options: Alex Kirilloff, Matt Wallner Kirilloff was considered one of the team's best prospects before injuries limited him in his first two big league seasons. For his career, he has hit .251/.295/.398 (.694) with a 94 OPS+, but a wrist injury has impacted his power production. Kirilloff underwent a unique wrist surgery in August, and few professional athletes have had this procedure. If healthy, Minnesota's best defensive alignment likely has Kirilloff at first base. Wallner powered his way through the upper minors last season with a .953 OPS. Minnesota waited until the middle of September to call him up, and he posted a 105 OPS+ in 18 games. He is one of the best power-hitting prospects to come through the Twins organization over the last decade. His stock continues to rise, and the team will likely make him the first man up from Triple-A when there is an injury. It's great to have depth at any position, but it's easy to see where the Twins may have too many corner outfield options. Can the team deal one or more of these players to fill other needs? Or are there enough injury concerns to keep all eight players on the roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  17. Over the past few seasons we have heard plenty about Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and Alex Kirilloff. High-round picks and gaudy draft grades, each of them has developed plenty of fanfare while producing on the farm. Kirilloff was the first of the bunch to reach the big leagues, making his debut in 2020 during the postseason when Josh Donaldson left a void in Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. In the two full seasons since, Kirilloff has done, little playing just 104 games with a career .694 OPS. Is this the season that finally sees it come together? Last year Kirilloff began the season as Minnesota’s Opening Day left fielder. Miguel Sano was still on the roster and had yet to go through his handful of completely ineffective games. Kirilloff was going to figure prominently into the plans at first base, but there was no reason to limit his athleticism until absolutely necessary. We know now that Sano didn’t last long for the Twins in 2022, and Kirilloff spent almost half of his time in the big leagues last year playing first base. Like Sano however, Kirilloff saw his production tail off in dealing with a wrist injury and it was ultimately a combination of Miranda and Luis Arraez that needed to man an abandoned position. With the hope of health in the year ahead, Minnesota is counting on Kirilloff to be who he showed he was on the farm. After a nagging wrist injury sapped Kirilloff’s power in 2021 and caused him to play just 59 games for Minnesota, he underwent offseason surgery to address the problem. The slow start in 2022 eventually led to a demotion to Triple-A St. Paul in hopes of figuring out a way to play through the injury effectively. The former first round pick noted that he had to shut down his offseason program due to discomfort, and he truly never worked his way back to 100% coming into the year. That was a gut-punch knowing what Minnesota needed from him, and led to an entirely unsurprising result when he managed just 45 games in 2022. This offseason Kirilloff will again be coming back from surgery, but this time he’s had a bone in his wrist shaved down in hopes of alleviating pain and providing a more realistic path forward. In over 316 minor league games the former top prospect posted an .895 OPS. While that doesn’t directly correlate to Major League success, the hope has always been that the true production would be somewhat similar. Kirilloff was shut down earlier in 2022 and wound up having surgery in August. With more of a runway to work himself back into baseball activities, the hope would be that Minnesota returns 100% of the player that they counted on when calling him up for the 2020 postseason. Kirilloff too has to be hoping for an ability to regain the form that saw him as the darling of so many prospect lists. A year ago the Minnesota Twins experienced some of the most substantial stays on the injured list across all of baseball. With a new head athletic trainer in the fold, there has to have been some level of communication with expected producers even in the early stages of Nick Paparesta’s time with the club. Connecting with Kirilloff and making sure the plan for the offseason is going smoothly is a must. The Twins can’t get to Spring Training and have uncertainty, and it would be catastrophic to hear initial reports of a shutdown or lack of healing come the regular season for the second year in a row. Now 25-years-old, it’s not as though Kirilloff’s injury history is a death sentence, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary to see a substantial level of performance at the highest level. The Twins are counting on him in the season ahead, and you can bet he’s itching to prove he belongs as well.
  18. There’s no denying that Minnesota’s front office is currently navigating a way forward without Gio Urshela, and they’ve yet to bring back star shortstop Carlos Correa. That leaves plenty of questions on the dirt, and it’s there that Rocco Baldelli’s team struggled the most a season ago. As much as Jorge Polanco or Luis Arraez may contribute offensively, neither have been particularly valuable on defense. A season ago the Twins ranked 13th in baseball in terms of defensive runs saved (23). That’s misleading however, as the outfield alone contributed 24 DRS (4th best), meaning the infield was responsible for a -1 tally. Minnesota was also worth 16 outs above average (4th best) in the outfield, but Statcast’s metric had them at -11 OAA overall, meaning the infield was worth a horrid -27 OAA. It’s not a surprise that the Twins would have a strong outfield defense. Byron Buxton is arguably the best center fielder in baseball, and Max Kepler can lay a similar claim in right field defensively. Left field has been somewhat of a revolving door for Minnesota, especially with injuries to Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff, but the group together is a very solid one. It is imperative that the Twins figure out a way to match that on the infield. We’ll see somewhat of a different look for Baldelli’s team this season. With Urshela being dealt to the Los Angeles Angels, Jose Miranda is set to be the starter at the hot corner. He was worth -6 DRS and -4 OAA in just shy of 600 innings at first base, but was exactly average in roughly 250 innings at third base. The eye test suggested that Miranda has his deficiencies across the diamond, but it’s clear he has good instincts and the arm can play. Getting full trust their in his second season will give us a better indication of what is to come. There’s not going to be a change at second base as Polanco is entrenched there. After a solid showing in his new position during 2021, Polanco regressed by advanced metrics standards in 2022. His -1 DRS was down from 3 the year prior, and his -9 OAA was a far cry from the near-neutral -1 OAA in 2021. There had been hope that Polanco could emerge as a strong defender moving away from shortstop, but we’ve yet to see that. With the shift banning infielders from playing deep in the grass, it may help that Polanco’s throw distance is dramatically reduced. We haven’t seen enough of Kirilloff at first base to make a judgment as to what he’ll be there, and we know that Arraez has his own deficiencies. The latter racked up all of the offensive awards in 2022, but recently told me at the Twins uniform unveiling that his next goal is to win a Gold Glove. Minnesota will continue to make Arraez a utility contributor, but he could be the most consistent first basemen in 2023 without having clarity on the status of Kirilloff’s wrist. The front office has yet to acquire a starting shortstop, and if it’s not going to be Correa, a strong defender could wind up being the linchpin for the infield. Andrelton Simmons was supposed to represent that two seasons ago, and did provide significant defensive value. Limiting range without a shift is going to require individual contributors to provide the utmost ability. Knowing Polanco’s limitations on the opposite side of second base, Minnesota can’t afford to miss on shortstop. The goal for the Twins would certainly be to score more runs in 2023, but they also must do a substantially better job at limiting them. Everyone will be tested without the shift, but having a cleaner and more crisp set of fielders on the dirt is imperative. The Twins outfield may be one of envy defensively, but no one has desired what they’ve put out immediately behind the mound in recent seasons. It’s time to fix that.
  19. Realistically the Twins are inundated with left-handed bats in the outfield. Alex Kirilloff, Max Kepler, and Trevor Larnach all hit from that side of the plate. With Byron Buxton as the lone right-handed hitter, manager Rocco Baldelli could use more from the right side of the dish. Given what Gallo’s market could be, and the banning of the shift, it may make sense to bring him in. There’s been more than a few instances in which the hulking slugger has had fun at Target Field. During his All-Star Futures Game experience in Minnesota, Gallo blasted a home run through a truck window beyond the right field wall. Since then, he has hit some tape measure shots to nearly the same part of the park, including one for the New York Yankees this season. Primarily Gallo has played in the corner outfield, but despite his immense power, his athletic ability has been shown in centerfield as well. Gallo won Gold Gloves in both 2020 and 2021 while rating out well defensively. He may not be Buxton in center, but few people are. He can also play the designated hitter role and has handled first base plenty. Despite 2022 going so poorly with the Yankees, and not much better with the Dodgers, he’s only a year removed from a 121 OPS+. Despite the goofy statistics we saw during the pandemic-shortened 2020, Gallo actually performed much better in 2019. His 145 OPS+ was a career-high and marked a run of three straight seasons in which he was above league average. There were more than a few times last year when Baldelli’s lineup stalled out. Despite boasting plenty of internally developed hitters, and names such as Carlos Correa and Gary Sanchez, far too often runs were hard to come by. Manufacturing runs wasn’t something Minnesota was good at a year ago, and they doubled down on the poor showing by failing to hit many home runs either. For the first time in his career, Gallo will face defenses that are unable to shift him as they have. He may see all three outfielders play on the right side of center field, but the infielders will need to remain in their given positions. For a guy with a strong launch angle and hard-hit rate, he could see additional hits dropping in, and raise his overall numbers to places we haven’t yet seen. What Gallo’s market looks like will be interesting. He made just over $10 million last season, and despite coming off the down year, someone will certainly see an opportunity for a fresh start. The massive power potential is there, and the plate discipline isn’t bad either. What do you think? Would you take a shot on the former All-Star?
  20. Usually, the end of a season like this one – promising but sabotaged to the core by an outrageous abundance of injuries – brings sweet relief. The offseason, theoretically, provides an opportunity for banged-up players to get right and return in the spring at 100% physically. In the cases of many Twins, it's difficult to envision things going so smoothly. Here's a look at seven players – all varying levels of vital to the 2023 outlook – who will have their unusual injury concerns and uncertainties ripple forward into next year. Tyler Mahle, SP No one could seem to figure out what was wrong with Mahle's shoulder this year. Not the Reds, not the Twins, not the pitcher himself ... certainly not any outside observer. His issue was described in different ways at different points – strain, soreness, fatigue, inflammation – but throughout out it all, repeated exams showed no structural damage. So, we don't know what's going on. What we do know is that Mahle's final two attempts to pitch this season saw him induce three swinging strikes on 74 pitches while flashing significantly reduced velocity, getting removed after two innings in each. Now he's got an offseason to rest up and get right. But, what does "getting right" mean when no one could pinpoint what was wrong to begin with? This is one scenario where I feel like the Twins front office and medical staff are getting a bit of an unfair shake. They gambled on Mahle because his scans were clean and he was pitching well at the time. He kept pitching well for a bit. Then the shoulder troubles resurfaced, yet the scans remained clean. Pointing fingers at team doctors is easy but misguided. It's not like they aren't consulting outside specialists at the top of their field. The reality is that for all of our advances, sports medicine remains an inexact and often mysterious science. Mahle is a good example. He's hardly the only one. Byron Buxton, CF I'm not going to act like this is anything new. Buxton, obviously, has to be viewed as an availability question mark heading into every season. But at least last year he didn't carry any blatant health burdens directly into the offseason. In 2021, Buxton played through the end of the schedule and flat-out mashed down the stretch, posting a 1.001 OPS with nine homers after September 1st. His broken hand had healed, and he was seemingly past the hip strain that earlier cost him six weeks. This year, that same hip forced him back to the injured list. That's in addition to a persistent right knee tendinitis, with both trending toward the dreaded "chronic" category of classification. These dark clouds will hover over Buxton, recipient of a new $100 million contract, for the foreseeable future. Outside of an ostensibly minor procedure conducted last week to clean up scar tissue and frayed ligaments in his knee, there's nothing but hope to guide us toward a significantly better outcome for Buxton next year. "What ends up typically happening is the scar tissue and otherwise creates more of that inflammation when you pound on it. So, now let's clear out some of that and hopefully that'll alleviate some of that stress going forward," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. Hopefully. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Perhaps the most perplexing and inscrutable health situation among many faced by the Twins franchise. In August of 2021, Kirilloff underwent season-ending surgery to address a torn wrist ligament, with the hope that creating more spacing would alleviate the pain experienced while engaging his elite swing. It didn't work. Or at least not for long. Kiriloff battled more pain in spring training and the early season, took a short break, went to Triple-A, dominated for a month, returned to the majors, and then it all came roaring back. The pain, the warped swing mechanics, the endless ground balls. Cortisone injections offered only brief respite from his performance-draining affliction. Thus, Kirilloff and the Twins turned to a last-ditch option: a more invasive surgery that involves "breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws," another effort to create space in his wrist. "I really hope it doesn’t get to that," the 24-year-old had lamented earlier in the season. While relatively common for the general population, this procedure is rare for professional athletes and there aren't many past examples to reference. In a recent update to the media, Falvey mentioned that Kirilloff "hasn't ramped up his hitting progression yet," adding that there have been no setbacks or delays but "we just don't want him to hit yet." Kirilloff had undergone the surgery six weeks prior, for whatever that's worth. I want so badly to feel optimistic about Kirilloff because his talent level and upside can be game-changing for this franchise – if only he could tap them for a prolonged period on the field. But it's getting really difficult to find that optimism, and his wayward status creates all sorts of planning headaches for the front office. Royce Lewis, SS Speaking of planning headaches, we have the shortstop position. Lewis showed the makings of a long-term fixture during his brief audition this year, but unfortunately that concluded in late May when he re-tore the very same knee ligament he'd just spent a year rehabbing from reconstructive surgery. In somewhat positive news, he only partially tore the ACL this time, and surgeons put a novel twist on his second knee operation; mentions of a "brace" being involved in this variation led Lucas Seehafer to conclude they employed a technique called lateral tenodesis. While promising in its potential to prevent another injury, Lucas framed this technique as somewhat experimental, adding that "the long-term outcomes for this procedure in the athletic population, and specifically the MLB population, [are] unknown." Even if he's able to come back with a structurally sound, twice-repaired knee ligament, it remains to be seen whether Lewis will be able to maintain the full speed, quickness, and lateral agility that were on display even after his first surgery. Like Kirilloff, Lewis brings much to the table as a building block for this franchise, which makes his uncertainty all the more unfortunate, surfarcing some difficult short-term decisions for the front office with regards to the future at shortstop. Chris Paddack, SP The Twins knew they were taking on risk when they acquired Paddack as the centerpiece of the Taylor Rogers trade, but even in that context, they've pretty much stumbled into a worst-case scenario. Paddack made it through five starts before the partial tear in his UCL, already once repaired via Tommy John surgery, gave way and necessitated to a second TJ procedure. The history of pitchers who have undergone this ligament replacement surgery twice is not the most encouraging. Mike Clevinger, one of the most accomplished pitchers to undergo a Tommy John revision surgery (in November 2020), returned to action this year and while he's managed to throw more than 100 innings, Clevinger is nowhere near his pre-surgery form. There are complicated realities at play with getting this repair a second time that have diminished the rate of success. "On average, the typical TJ revision isn’t as successful as the typical primary TJ,” said Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, an orthopedic surgeon and professor, in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. "The first time you drill a hole in the bone it is fresh and clean, but if it happens again you already have a hole there and that hole is filled with scar tissue. … Scar tissue isn’t as healthy as original tissue. It doesn’t have the same blood supply; (it is) not as durable.” Paddack has already acknowledged that he's realistically targeting an August return next year, setting expectations for a 14-month recovery time and reducing the likelihood he'll be able to make a significant impact in 2023. We probably should collectively drop the notion of Paddack pitching in the Twins rotation again before his team control expires after 2024. Kenta Maeda, SP Relatively speaking, Maeda's outlook is less complicated than Paddack's since he's coming off his first Tommy John surgery. However, the veteran righty still hasn't taken the mound 13 months after his own procedure "with a twist" – an internal brace designed to shorten the recovery timetable from the typical 12-16 months down to 9-12. Alas, he'll be nearly 18 months removed by the time he hits the mound again next spring in Ft. Myers. That Maeda didn't make it back this year isn't a big deal – the timing of his surgery late last year was always going to make it tough, and the Twins being out of contention in September rendered it a moot point. The bigger concern here is that he'll be a 35-year-old coming back from significant elbow surgery and a very long layoff, with 173 total innings pitched over the past three seasons. It's hard to foresee him successfully taking on a full starter's workload in his final year under contract, so I'll be curious to see how he fits into the 2022 plan. Josh Winder, SP Winder was limited to 72 innings last year, and will finish near the same total this year, because of recurring "shoulder impingement" issues that he and the club appear unable to fully diagnose or solve. “He’s felt good for periods of time. He’s thrown the ball well for periods of time. There’s no singular reason why we’re looking at this and thinking, ‘Well, this is why this is happening,’ to be honest,” manager Rocco Baldelli said in late July, shortly after Winder had been placed on IL for a second time with what was by then being termed impingement syndrome. “It’s just soreness that keeps creeping back in there.” Winder wouldn't make it back to the big-league mound for another seven weeks after that, and while he was able to return for four starts in September, he wasn't very effective, posting a 5.59 ERA in 19 ⅓ innings. Much like with Mahle, it's difficult to feel confident in an injury clearing up when nobody can get to the bottom of it. Winder, for his part, has suggested he "might just be at a predisposition for this type of injury." Which makes him pretty challenging to plan around, and that's a big hit because he showed the makings of a signature product of this front office's pitching pipeline. The Twins liked him so much they went out of their way to keep him on the Opening Day pitching staff this year. They were envisioning him as an integral part of their rotation mix this year. I don't see how they can keep doing so going forward. An Uncertain Future In the recent media scrum where he updated a litany of injury situations, Falvey remarked on the avalanche of IL stints that buried the team this year, reasoning that – to some extent – you're at the mercy of fate. Like all things in baseball, injuries ebb and flow. "I'm hopeful, for a lot of reasons that this is our spike-up year and that there's some regression built in going forward," Falvey said. A reasonable mindset, from a basic analytical standpoint. And yet, as these seven examples show, many of the dismal developments in the spike-up year that was 2022 could prove thorny going forward.
  21. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach both made top-100 prospect lists on their way to the big leagues. Minnesota expected both players to be in the middle of the order for the next decade. Over the last 12 months, Matt Wallner has put himself on the prospect map, and he may have altered the team’s future outfield outlook. Alex Kirilloff 2022 Stats (45 G): .250/.290/.361 (.651), 7 2B, 3 HR, 36 K, 5 BB Kirilloff’s 2022 season was plagued by a wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Each of his first two seasons has been cut short because of a wrist injury. His wrist surgery this season is unique in the fact that they are shortening his ulna, which is something that few MLB players have had done. Kirilloff showed signs of being able to play through the injury as he dominated at Triple-A with a 1.106 OPS in 35 games. Eventually, he wasn’t able to play through the injury. "Any time you're talking about shaving a bone down or shortening a bone, I mean that's a substantial procedure," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "But we're hopeful that by getting it done now gives us a chance to use the offseason to get right, to start swinging the bat again, to feel good and to start getting ready for next year." Minnesota hopes Kirilloff is ready for the start of spring training, but there is no guarantee with this type of surgery. Out of these players, Kirilloff was seen as the best prospect, because Baseball America and MLB.com had him in their top-15 prospects leading into the 2019 campaign. Entering his age-25 season, questions will continue to follow him regarding his wrist and whether or not he can get his career back on track. Trevor Larnach 2022 Stats (51 G): .231/.306/.406 (.712), 13 2B, 5 HR, 57 K, 18 BB Like Kirilloff, injuries have impacted Larnach’s first two seasons in the majors. Last year, he posted an .806 OPS through his first 50 games, but things went south. His OPS dropped to .672 before the team eventually demoted him to Triple-A. He eventually revealed that a hand injury had bothered him through part of the season. Larnach started the 2022 season well and was one of the team’s best hitters during May as he posted a 1.077 OPS. By the end of June, his performance had suffered and the team announced he’d undergo a bilateral surgical repair to treat the core muscle strain. At the time, the team announced that he’d need about 6-8 weeks before returning, but he learned that he needed more time to recover. “You learn really quick that that’s not really even reasonable, especially for a professional athlete trying to play at their highest level,” Larnach said. “It wasn’t really relevant to me. I had to take a step back to look at what I needed to do to feel really good. I did that, and I learned a lot from it." During his rehab with the Saints, Larnach suffered a wrist injury that will end his season. He seemed close to returning, so this is likely a frustrating end for the 24-year-old. He has been limited to 130 games in his first two seasons, and injuries have stopped him from producing like he did in the minors. Matt Wallner 2022 Stats (AA/AAA 128 G): .277/.412/.542 (.953), 32 2B, 4 3B, 27 HR, 170 K, 97 BB Unlike Larnach and Kirilloff, Wallner is coming off a tremendous season where he played well in the upper minors and made his big-league debut. In 128 minor league games, Wallner posted a .953 OPS on his way to being named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year. Kirilloff (2018) and Larnach (2019) were both previous winners of this award, but Wallner’s stock is on the rise. He’s seen limited action at the big-league level, but he has been on base over 30% of the time and three of his eight hits have been for extra bases. Wallner used last year’s Arizona Fall League to make adjustments for the 2022 season. “It’s just cool to bounce ideas off different guys and strategies that they have going into the game, at the plate, in the field, whatever,” Wallner said during last year’s AFL. “I’ve definitely learned a lot since I’ve been out here, even in a short six weeks. So, it’s definitely been good for me.” All three outfielders will be entering their age-25 season in 2023. Kirilloff and Larnach were seen as better prospects in the minors with both making top-100 lists before debuting. Now, Wallner may have passed them by, especially with the injury concerns facing the other two outfielders. There's no question that Minnesota’s future line-up is better with all three bats being healthy and hitting in the middle of the order. Do you think Wallner has passed Kirilloff and Larnach this season? Will all three players be able to stay healthy in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  22. You could certainly argue the Minnesota Twins were hoping for better in 2022. Obviously, you don’t sign someone like Carlos Correa with the intention that he doesn’t wind up playing postseason baseball. However, virtually every move made by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this year set up an opportunity for those players to impact outcomes in 2023 as well. As things stand, operating on a handful of assumptions, the Twins should have something like $100 million to spend in the offseason. They put forth a franchise-record payroll in 2022, but that was less about an indication they were going for it, than it was a response to inflation and simply keeping up with the market. Next season the dollars should check in somewhere between $140-160 million based on incentives and complete operating expenses to acquire talent. Minnesota also has a significant amount of the active roster penciled in as potential fits. While it wasn’t able to be as nuanced through a tweet, suggesting that the Twins are a shortstop and bullpen help from rounding out their roster holds some weight. Sure, they would absolutely benefit from a starting pitching acquisition. The problem is they have four guys that are all already givens, while being very good options. Any addition would need to be at the level of Kenta Maeda and Sonny Gray or better. There aren’t a ton of those out there, and you’d be hard-pressed to suggest a Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer type of signing being understandable. Maybe another bat would help, but you also have to figure out where they’ll get regular at-bats. Rocco Baldelli has been afforded lineup flexibility without a static designated hitter this season. The outfield returns Byron Buxton, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, and Matt Wallner. At least a few of those players are entrenched in a long-term role here, and while you may make a move, the youth is full of high hopes and expectations. On the infield, you aren’t likely going to see Jorge Polanco, Jose Miranda or Luis Arraez jettisoned. The hope would be that Royce Lewis can return quickly (July?). Gio Urshela may be a non-tender candidate, but that’s a decision for the front office. Behind the plate, there’ll be an expectation for Ryan Jeffers to fulfill the belief in him, but he will need a backup. Through a quick roster rundown, it becomes pretty apparent that shortstop and bullpen help are the biggest areas of opportunity for Minnesota. Filling the hole left by Carlos Correa will be a massive task should he not return. The Twins made the relief unit better by adding Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline, and they should get Jorge Alcala back in 2023. Maybe Cody Stashak can be a weapon again, but either way, that unit needs some more horses. Before even considering names to fill the spots, it should be relatively straightforward to suggest that Minnesota has plenty of resources to round out a roster not needing a ton of help. If the 2022 Twins were marred by injuries and ineffectiveness on the edges, then raising the water level where there were deficiencies and spending to fill holes is a pretty fair suggestion. The AL Central shouldn’t be expected to take a massive leap ahead in the next year, and once again, Minnesota can position themselves to be right in the thick of it.
  23. Rocco Baldelli has done everything he can to hold this Twins team together. With the injured list total mounting, and lackluster output coming on the field, it’s been a perfect storm of negative outcomes this season. Unfortunately the bad omens came early on this year, and the hits really didn’t stop. Emilio Pagan takes his first loss On April 12 the Minnesota Twins faced the Los Angeles Dodgers at Target Field. It was an absolutely dominant series from the NL West champs, one in which Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter. The front office flipped closers right before Opening Day, and Emilio Pagan was making his second appearance. He gave up a single hit and walk while being credited with a loss. The Dodgers rallied for six runs in the 8th inning and the game went up in smoke. In and of itself, that loss wasn’t entirely damning. It was foreshadowing though, and Pagan has all but sunk the Twins season. He’s racked up six blown saves and is also responsible for six losses. He’s routinely coughed up games against the Guardians, Minnesota’s toughest competition, and all season it’s been a belief in stuff that hasn’t provided any positive results. Byron Buxton jams his knee On April 15 playing against the Boston Red Sox, Byron Buxton slid awkwardly and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked awful and he reacted as such. Being lifted from the game, but walking off the field under his own power, Minnesota’s newly extended $100 million man seemed destined for the injured list. Instead, Buxton was back less than a week later and playing through general knee soreness. Sure, Byron has compiled 4.0 fWAR this season and has been worth every bit of his extension, but it’s been a constant battle as to whether the knee will hold up. He’s had it drained routinely throughout the year, and there have been fears of further damage due to the number of injections. Ultimately a hip injury landed him on the injured list and may end his season. Even with as good as he’s been, it’s hard not to think “what if” given a clean bill of health. There’s no denying the amount of strength this man has to play through what he did in 2022. Royce Lewis goes down The Minnesota Twins found themselves in a bind when record-setting free agent Carlos Correa was hit by a pitch. Despite having missed all of 2021 due to a torn ACL, Royce Lewis established himself immediately on the farm this season and forced his debut at the highest level. In an 11-game cameo, he posted an .889 OPS and looked solid at shortstop. Sent back when Correa returned, Lewis then sought to enter the lineup elsewhere. Playing centerfield for Byron Buxton a leap at the wall on May 29 sent him to the ground. After some waiting on the swelling, it was determined he’d torn his ACL for a second time. Lewis looked like the breakout rookie Twins Territory could get behind. His debut had been heavily anticipated for some time, and then it all came crashing down in a matter of weeks. He’s on the road to recovery, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2023. Minnesota will get their star prospect back, but waiting will be involved. Alex Kirilloff undergoes season-ending surgery, again On August 9 it was announced that Alex Kirilloff would again go under the knife in an attempt to fix his nagging wrist issues. After surgery last year shut him down, a more extensive procedure was required this time around. Kirilloff had looked like a shell of what expectations are, and aside from a brief hot stretch at Triple-A, he never found his power this year. After thinking things were trending in a better direction following the first surgery, Kirilloff revealed that his wrist had never fully recovered. He shut things down in the offseason, and was clearly bothered at the plate for Minnesota. After having to break and shorten his wrist, the hope would be that Kirilloff’s healing process goes smoothly and he can tap back into the player he was prior to the injury. Baserunning and Clutch Situations Without pointing to a specific circumstance, the Twins have been horrid once reaching base this year. Fangraphs keeps track of baserunning via the BsR metric, and only the Washington Nationals rank lower across the league than Minnesota this season. While aggressiveness is desirable, being thrown out by a longshot or running into outs has been something far too regular this season. There's also the ineptitude that Minnesota has displayed when hitting with runners in scoring position. Despite a lineup that should've been expected to score with regularity this season, the Twins have been shut out in nearly 10% of their games and routinely have taken poor at bats with runners in scoring position. What other lowlights come to mind for you this season?
  24. 2021 and 2022 held a lot of similarities for Trevor Larnach. In both cases, he burst onto the scene showing a glimpse of the lineup-changing hitter he’s capable of being. Unfortunately in both cases he tailed off in his production only for an injury to eventually come out as the main cause. So what do we think of Larnach moving forward? In 2021 Larnach began his season with a .845 OPS in May before the league adjusted. He posted a .704 mark in June and a brutal .518 in July. He would finish the season in St. Paul eventually being shut down with a hand issue, an injury that turned out to be nagging him for longer than Twins fans had known about. In 2022 Larnach looked even more encouraging. In March and April, Larnach posted a modest .703 OPS, actually above average for the offensive environment at the time. Then in May he posted an absurd 1.077 OPS. In addition to his hitting, his brief time in the majors was enough for teams to stop running on him in the outfield, as his throwing arm became a weapon against runners trying to get an extra base. Once again, however, he faded off in a huge way, posting an OPS of .429 in June before getting shut down at the end of the month for a core muscle injury he had been dealing with for the entire month. His timeline was 6-8 weeks putting him at a mid to late August return. At the time of this writing in mid-September, however, Larnach is finally making his first rehab appearance in the minors. With the calendar dwindling, it's likely at this point that Larnach’s 2022 season has come to an end, but he finishes with a modest .231/.306/.406 batting line which was heavily weighed down by a brutal final month. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 51 games played alludes to the possibility of an everyday regular in the lineup moving forward. But can we trust Larnach to fill such a role? The first concern at this point has to be health. Larnach has failed to reach 100 games played in each of the last two seasons due to injury. The hand contusion in 2021 may have been a fluke, but 2022's core muscle injury that cost him half the season is more of a concern. Larnach relies on such muscles for every swing he takes, every route to a fly ball he runs, and every rocket he throws into a base. The delay on his return alludes to the Twins making sure he’s at as little risk of aggravating this injury as possible. Headed into 2023 we have to hope it pays off. The second concern is whether Larnach can consistently channel his talent into on-field production. While injury has hampered his numbers to an extent these last two years, it’s easy to be concerned about him long-term given his swing-and-miss tendencies. Easily the biggest knock on his offensive profile, his incredible power and fantastic eye at the plate can easily be outweighed if he fails to make contact with pitches in the strike zone as we’ve seen at times in his young career. It would be nice if Larnach was more of a known commodity after two years of MLB exposure, especially given the murky futures of fellow top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Of the three, Larnach appears to be the most stable however due not only to the flashes of offensive and defensive value, but because of the nature of the injuries that have ended each of their seasons. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to be 100% confident in Larnach, but there has to be some hope that he can be the Opening Day left fielder and hold onto the job for the next 4-5 years. He’s shown a tremendous ceiling but he doesn’t have to reach it to be a valuable player. Max Kepler has spent the last three years providing league average offense at best and has still added value because of his defense. Larnach’s 2022 should provide hope that he can at the very least do the same while providing a much more balanced offensive profile aside from the strikeouts. Certainly, we have to be disappointed with Larnach’s 2022, but like most disappointing seasons, there are some redeeming qualities. Headed into 2023 it’s hard to argue against handing Larnach the keys to a starting job and seeing if it’s finally the year that it comes together. The Twins don’t have any immediate alternative options and it’s safe to say that if they want to prioritize replacing any outfielder, it should be the aforementioned Max Kepler. Larnach should be given another chance to make himself a piece of the Twins future. Do you agree?
  25. The purpose of this article is try and lay out, in no uncertain terms, the insurmountable magnitude of injuries and medical odysseys to which this year's Twins roster has been subjected. There are worthwhile conversations to be had about the way this team is managing players physically, evaluating new acquisitions, and handling rehab plans. But let's take a step back. When you acknowledge that, to a large degree, injury rates and recoveries are driven by luck and uncontrollable forces, I don't see much of a case for holding the manager or even the front office primarily accountable for what's gone down this season. There's no planning for, or adapting, to the way injuries have impacted this roster. There's no managing a bunch of backups and fourth-string options to sustained contention. I recognize this is very unsatisfying for those who demand accountability and want to see heads roll in the wake of such a disappointing turn of events. But when you remove emotion and try to see the situation objectively, I'm not sure how much more you could expect from the execs and decision makers dealt an unwinnable hand. Could they have done certain things better? Of course. Was it going to turn the unstoppable tide that has plunged this ship asunder? No. This side-by-side comparison of the injured lists for Cleveland and Minnesota, here in the heart of the stretch run, kind of says it all. Sixteen Twins players on IL, including several vital cornerstones, compared to three Guardians. How do you realistically overcome that? Let's review all these injuries that have torpedoed a promising season, and the context behind them. I've tried to order them from most devastating to least. Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. When people talk about the 2022 season and what's gone wrong, I feel like this calamity gets glossed over way too much. To me, it is the '1A' headline for all the team's unmet potential. This horrible twist of fate is what I would categorize as unthinkably disastrous. Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the most important assets for this franchise. (I ranked them #3 and #4 during the offseason, behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco – also both currently on IL.) They are at the ages and junctures of development where you'd expect them to start making a real impact the major-league level, and both showed that ability in brief flashes this year. However, both of their seasons were ended in premature fashion. And in BOTH cases, major surgery was required to address the SAME injury that knocked them out for the previous season. (Did I mention this is essentially the third straight lost season for both?) Kirilloff's wrist surgery from last year didn't take, so now he's undergone a more invasive, last-ditch operation to try and alleviate the debilitating issue. Lewis, during his first game back in what appeared to be a permanent call-up, tore the very same ACL he had reconstructive surgery on last year. You can't make this stuff up. And what's most crushing about it all is that both of these absolutely critical players will inevitably be shrouded in doubt going forward. Can Lewis rebound from a second straight surgery on the same knee, especially when his game is founded on agility and foot speed? Will this somewhat experimental surgery for Kirilloff correct a problem that's been plaguing him for years now, sapping his most elite skill? Realistically, it's hard to feel much assurance on either front, and for that reason it's hard to feel optimistic about the Twins' immediate future. It really can't be overstated how disruptive these unforeseeable developments are for a front office trying to build a championship. Tyler Mahle and Chris Paddack. We all understand that Mahle and Paddack came with known injury risk to varying degrees. At the same time, so do a lot of trades. You've got to believe a club carefully reviews medicals and gains a level of comfort before pulling the trigger on significant deals like these ones. Yeah, it's easy to scream "incompetence" in hindsight. Too easy. There are a lot of top-of-field experts involved in these decisions. Maybe, taking each player on his own, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Mahle or Paddack succumbed to (likely) season-ending arm injuries. But for both to do so? And not only that, but for it happen SO quickly in both cases? Paddack made it to his fifth start before his partially torn UCL gave way, requiring elbow surgery. Mahle lasted only three before his velocity nosedived and a mysterious shoulder injury threatened to end his campaign. A combination of worst-case injury scenarios. Of course. And it really hurts, because the talent evaluation in both cases was sound. I genuinely believe that if healthy these would be the Twins' two best starters. Alas, much like Lewis and Kirilloff, their uncertain futures complicate the front office's planning going forward. Paddack will be coming back from a second Tommy John surgery. Who knows what's going on with Mahle but it seems impossible we'll go into the offseason feeling confident about his shoulder, with one year of team control left. Byron Buxton. Look, we know injuries for Buxton have to be expected and accounted for. They're baked into his legacy, and his new contract. Still, this year the gravity of his durability issues came into sharper focus than ever, primarily because it constitutes a "healthy" season for Buxton. He's already made the second-most plate appearances of his career. He avoided the injured list until August. He still might get to 100 games! And yet, that old injury phantom has conspicuously followed Buxton all year, ever since he came up slamming his hand into the dirt at Fenway one week in. Despite his mightiest efforts, he couldn't outrun his eternal tormentor, and now this season is wrapping up like so many before it: Buxton on the sidelines, watching his team fall short. I guess the point of this blurb is not so much about the micro misfortune of injuries sabotaging another year for Buxton, but more an observation about his appropriateness as face of the franchise: The Twins to lost their way into drafting one of the most talented, electric, special players in modern baseball history who also happens to be the (?) single-most injury prone at that level. Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. I group these two together because while neither injury was totally unforeseeable – catchers get hurt a lot by nature, and Larnach was also sidelined for much of last year – they definitely qualify as bad luck, and both absences led to huge drop-offs in terms of backup plans. Jeffers was having a reasonably solid season before suffering a thumb fracture in mid-July, which may cost him his entire second half. Larnach developed a sports hernia requiring surgery in mid-June, and still hasn't made it back yet. In both cases, the path to returning has arduously dragged well beyond original estimates, and continues to do so – another unfortunate commonality. With Jeffers sidelined, the Twins were left at catcher with the husk of Gary Sánchez and trade acquisition Sandy León, who'd been toiling in the minors for Cleveland. It's been ugly, much like the outfield in the absence of Larnach, Kirilloff and Buxton. Bailey Ober and Josh Winder. Winder is no longer on the injured list, but I view him much as the same as Ober: a homegrown talent, 25 years old and coming off a great season, clearly a core part of the Twins pitching plans. Granted, they both had their own warning labels coming into this season, but no clear red flags. As it turns out, both will end up maxing out around 50 innings pitched in the majors – big setback seasons for developing pitchers who will now be challenged to rebuild their workloads once again. In each case, the injury seems not well understood. Ober went down with a groin injury first framed as minor that never seemed to heal. Winder's had recurring bouts with an impinged, but structurally sound, shoulder dating back to last year. On their own, these are losses you could withstand, which is why they're relatively low on this list. But combined with all of the above? Getting almost nothing from Ober, or Winder, or Paddack, or their marquee deadline acquisition Mahle? How do you cobble together a decent rotation through all of that? The only Twins starting pitchers that have truly managed to stay healthy are the guys they signed cheaply to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Jorgé Alcala and Matt Canterino. These two are lumped as high-upside relievers who could have had transformative impacts on the Twins bullpen, but instead fell victim to essentially worst-case scenarios with their elbows. Alcala missed all of this season; Canterino never made it to the majors and will likely miss all of the next one. Maybe these blows would've been easier to sustain if some of the relief contingency plans held up. However... Danny Coulombe, Cody Stashak, and Jhon Romero. None of these three were projected to be pivotal late-inning weapons, but they were all viewed as important parts of the depth mix. Coulombe and Romero were on the Opening Day roster, and Stashak a late cut. All suffered season-ending injuries early on. Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak. I have these two at the bottom because, unlike everyone above, no one realistically expected much out of them this year. But it would have been nice to get something, *anything* from either. Both have been derailed so much for both that it's easy to forget that, coming out of the 2020 season, we were envisioning each as key long-term pieces for the pitching staff. You can look back now and say, "Well the front office shouldn't have been planning around these guys." Or they shouldn't have traded for Paddack or Mahle and the associated risk. Or they shouldn't have committed to Buxton as a centerpiece, or they should have better medical personnel and training philosophies, and so on. There may be truth to these things. But you bet on players you like, and you accept a certain amount of risk. Otherwise, you end up where the previous front office was for so long, treading water in a pointless middle ground. At the end of the day, injuries happen. They're never as predictable or controllable or correctable as people want to believe. Sadly, this scourge has been especially prevalent for the Twins and, more sadly, a lot of these health woes are going to carry forward in terms of their implications. I firmly believe the front office built a team capable of winning the division this year, and Rocco Baldelli was the guy to lead that group. For a while, it was all coming together as planned. Unfortunately, the current team barely resembles what was built.
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