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  1. There are quite a few of these challenge trades in fairly recent Twins history, but this current Twins front office really hasn’t explored this avenue. The Kenta Maeda deal was close, but Brusdar Graterol only had 10 big league appearances to his credit. He was still a prospect. Possibly the LaMonte Wade Jr. trade qualifies as a minor challenge trade, as he had 113 plate appearances and Shaun Anderson had 46 career games pitched at the time of the swap. Considering how that one went, maybe it’s good there haven’t been more challenge trades of late … These deals are risky, but when a team has a surplus or is motivated to make room at the MLB level for a younger player they can make sense. With Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez already in the third base/second base equation and Jose Miranda waiting in the wings, this current Twins roster could be ripe for a challenge trade. There’s another possible option but I don’t want to ruin your day quite yet. Let’s take a look back at some of these types of deals from past Twins seasons. All of the trades below were completed during the offseason and included established MLB regulars on both sides of the deal. Nov. 14, 2003: A.J. Pierzynski traded to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser We’re starting out this list on a high note. One of the ironic elements to this deal is part of its motivation backfired to a degree. In moving AJ Pierzynski, the Twins were making room behind the plate for 20-year-old Joe Mauer. He ended up playing just 35 games in 2004 due to injuries and Henry Blanco ended up as the primary catcher. The Twins still won 92 games that year in part due to Joe Nathan saving 44 games. He had 128 MLB games to his credit at the time of this deal. We’re focusing on the MLB pieces, but I’d say the prospect side of this package also worked out pretty darn nicely for the Twins. Dec. 3, 2003: Eric Milton traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto and Bobby Korecky Milton was only a year away from free agency and Carlos Silva had pitched 130 games for the Phillies. Though he only had one career start prior to the trade, Silva was actually a better rotation piece than Milton right out the gate. I’d say that worked out pretty well. Toss in Punto, who also had some MLB experience at the time of the trade (though only 111 plate appearances) and this one was also a success. Kinda nuts that after back-to-back division championships the Twins made these two big trades and took the central again in ‘04. Nov. 28, 2007: Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza and Eddie Morlan to the Tampa Bay Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie This was a pretty crazy trade under new GM Bill Smith. A starting shortstop and budding rotation piece for the former No. 1 overall pick and reigning runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. Plus Brendan Harris and all of his Brendon Harris-ness! This was an incredible trade … for the Rays. They went from 96 losses to 97 wins and a World Series appearance. Delmon had a great 2010 season with the Twins but was dealt away the next year after fizzling out. Nov. 6, 2009: Carlos Gomez traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy Gomez went from centerpiece of the Johan Santana deal to trade bait in just two seasons. If you thought that tenure was short, Hardy only lasted one season in Minnesota before being dealt to Baltimore. Both players found much more success with their new orgs than they had in Minnesota. Man, the Twins made a lot of trades back during this time. Dec. 6, 2012: Ben Revere traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Vance Worley and Trevor May Terry Ryan was back in the GM role and cleared room for another former first-round pick. The Twins traded both Revere and Denard Span that offseason to open the door for Aaron Hicks in center field. Worley made 46 starts for the Phillies prior to the trade. His Twins tenure was, uh, less impressive. May ended up developing into a nice bullpen piece, of course, but Hicks struggled to take advantage of his opportunity. Speaking of which ... Nov. 11, 2015: Aaron Hicks traded to the New York Yankees for John Ryan Murphy The hope was Murphy would be the long-term solution behind the plate. He was not. I guess I don’t really remember the motivation to move Hicks. Byron Buxton missed most of the previous season and started the year in Double-A, so it was a bit premature to make room for him. The Twins opened the season with Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson platooning in center. Ugh. Looking back, it’s kinda funny how many of these deals revolved around the center field position. I know most Twins fans don’t want to think about this, but it’s time to ruin your day. There’s a possibility of a Buxton challenge trade this winter. We all know it, but most of us don’t want to acknowledge it. I’m on team Pay Byron, but if they don’t extend him … who knows? What do you think? Should the Twins try to pull off a challenge trade this offseason?
  2. As I write this, I’m two weeks away from turning 23 years old, which means I was seven when the 2006 Minnesota Twins won the American League Central. It also means I have no meaningful memory of a Twins playoff win, but whatever. I digress. The 2006 season was the first in which I really followed the sport on more than just a watch-guys-hit-ball level. It was that year that I figured out how the standings worked, what a wild card was, and how to calculate basic stats like batting average and ERA. So, of course, the Twins’ magical comeback from 10.5 games back in the second week of August to Division Champs on the last day of the season—their only division lead all year—made me fall in love with the team and the sport. But, the funny thing about falling in love with a team at seven years old is that the way I remember that team is very far from the reality of what actually happened. Obviously, I remember Mauer, Morneau, and Santana being awesome, and, looking back, that memory is absolutely correct; they were awesome. But things get a little more skewed as we move down the rest of the roster. As mentioned in the teaser, I remember thinking that Boof Bonser was some unique diamond in the rough that had a funny name but dominated on the mound. Turns out the opposite is true: he was a highly-touted first round pick that was always young for his level in the minors, but was never great in the bigs. His career lasted only four years and 2006, his rookie and best season, wasn’t even that great. In my mind, Luis Castillo (not the Reds starter, the other one) was THE Twins’ second basemen of the mid-aughts, and that he was one of the better hitters on the team. That just wasn’t true—he finished only seventh on the team in batting average (his main calling card) and Terry freaking Tiffee had a higher slugging percentage than him. Also, the 2006 season was his only full year in a Twins uniform, as he was traded to the Mets at the deadline in 2007. To this day, when I hear the word piranha, I think about Jason Tyner. Ozzie Guillen coined the term “Little Piranhas” to describe Castillo, Tyner, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto, but, for whatever reason, Tyner sticks in my head as the most piranha-like. And that’s weird, because according to WAR, he was the least productive of them all, probably because he only appeared in 62 games. And, as sacrilegious as it is to measure the Piranhas using WAR, it does show that he wasn’t nearly as big of a factor as I remember. I didn’t only remember guys for being better than they actually were, though. There were two guys in particular whose output was more significant than I remembered. I remember Nick Punto as a funny, light-hitting, loveable-loser kind of player, and I guess he was that in some sense, but he was a lot more. First, I was shocked to look back and see that he batted .290, and I was even more shocked to find out that he was fifth on the team in WAR, ahead of guys like Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Brad Radke. And he did so with one (1) homer. I guess that’s what 135 games of solid third base defense and not terrible hitting get you, but the idea of Punto being legitimately good (if only for a year) is still wild to me. Francisco Liriano will forever stick in my memory as the guy who gets arm surgeries and can’t throw strikes, but he was actually dominant in 2006. He only pitched twice after July and would get Tommy John the following winter, but he made the All Star team as a rookie and pitched to an ERA of 2.16, a WHIP of exactly one, and a K/9 rate of 10.7. His WAR was also third on the team, beating out AL MVP and 130 RBI man Justin Morneau. I also remember Kyle Lohse being an idiot, but I don’t think I’m wrong about that. There’s one more thing I misremember, though. I have very little recollection of the Twins getting swept in the playoffs. I’m sure I watched the games, but they just didn’t stick, though I think I remember my guy Boof starting one of them. That’s okay, though; I will always associate the 2006 Twins with good memories, even if those memories are completely wrong and I have no idea what actually happened. How do you remember the 2006 Twins? What's the first Twins season you remember? Let us know in the comments!
  3. This was supposed to be a critical year for Royce Lewis. Back in 2019, he struggled for the first time in his professional career as the Twins were aggressive and pushed him up to Double-A. He was projected to head back to that level in 2021 with a chance to make his big-league debut before season’s end. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case and Lewis will go over 900 days without getting a professional at-bat. Minnesota is no stranger to top prospects being hit by the injury bug. Alex Kirilloff, Twins Daily’s highest rank Twins prospect, missed the entire 2017 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Even with the missed season, he came back with a vengeance in 2018 as he was one of MiLB’s best hitters that season. Obviously, Kirilloff was able to recover and put himself back on the prospect map, which is something Twins fans can hope for with Lewis. Before Lewis and Kirilloff, Byron Buxton was widely considered the team’s top prospect and many national rankings had him as one of the baseball’s best prospects. Buxton’s injury history has been well documented as he was limited to 103 combined games between his third and fourth professional seasons. Those injury woes have followed him to the big-league level as he as he has only had one season where he has played more than 95 games. Prior to Buxton, Miguel Sano was the team’s top prospect, and he was widely considered one of baseball’s top-10 prospects. He was forced to miss all his age-21 season after needing Tommy John surgery. It still didn’t stop him from making his big-league debut the very next year and he’s been with the Twins ever since. Kyle Gibson had a short stint as the Twins’ best prospect, and he seemed to be rocketing to the MLB level. Entering the 2011 season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus had him in their top-55 prospects. Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery in November 2011 and wouldn’t be back until the end of the 2012 season. Going further back, there certainly more examples of prospects hit by the injury bug. Francisco Liriano famously blew out his elbow while the 2006 Twins seemed like they would have been unstoppable in the playoffs. Joe Mauer’s career started on a bad note as he needed knee surgery shortly into his rookie campaign. One player some people might forget is Jason Kubel. He seemed destined to be a middle of the order power bat that could bring above average defense at multiple outfield positions. Entering the 2005 season, Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s 17th overall prospect. He was able to return from injury and have a decade long big-league career, but his outlooked was significantly changed after his leg injury. Many of the players on this list went on to have solid big-league careers, but there will also be questions about what could have been. How good could Kubel have been? Would the Twins have won the 2006 World Series with a healthy Liriano? How much better would Mauer’s numbers look with another full season? Lewis finds himself among some of the best Twins players in recent memory, but it is a list that he never wanted to join. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Initial Deal: November 14, 2003 Joe Mauer was waiting in the wings to talk over as the team’s full-time catcher. During the previous minor league season, Mauer posted an .832 OPS with 37 extra-base hits while making it all the way to Double-A. He was widely considered baseball’s best prospect and Baseball America had awarded him their Minor League Player of the Year. Pierzynski was no slouch either as he was an All-Star in 2002 and he was coming off a season where he posted an .824 OPS with 49 extra-base hits. The three players acquired from the Giants were Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Nathan became one of the baseball’s best closers on the way to being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Liriano was electric in the minor leagues and he went on to pitch part of seven seasons for the Twins. Even Bonser pitched nearly 400 innings in Minnesota and he became the next branch in this transaction tree. Bonser Trade: December 10, 2009 As a 28-year old, Bonser was on his way out in Minnesota after the Twins designated him for assignment. Carl Pavano agreed to go to arbitration with the club and this made Bonser expendable. Also, Bonser missed the entire 2009 campaign following shoulder surgery, so it was a surprise the team was able to get anything for him. Bonser was dealt for a player to be named later that turned out to be Chris Province, a 2007 fourth round pick. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League that season as a 25-year old, but his time in the Twins organization would be short-lived. In 2010, he pitched most of the season at Double-A where he posted a 5.58 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. He made a few Triple-A appearances, but his career was done after a brief stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Liriano Trade: July 28, 2012 Joe Nathan would leave the Twins after the 2011 season as the team declined to pick up his $12.5 million option but paid him a $2 million buyout. This ended his part of the transaction tree, but the Twins were able to leverage Liriano to add some pieces to the organization. At the 2012 trade deadline, Minnesota dealt Liriano to the White Sox for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez pitched just under 57 innings for the Twins and posted a 6.83 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP. He would only make one more big-league appearance and that came in 2014 with Colorado. Escobar was the key pick-up as he had 671 games in a Twins uniform while playing nearly every defensive position. At the plate, he posted a .729 OPS while getting on base 30.8% of the time. He was a solid contributor, but he was heading to free agency after the 2018 season. Escobar Trade: July 27, 2018 Minnesota was out of contention during the 2018 campaign, so the front office made multiple moves with the trade deadline approaching. Arizona sent three prospects to Minnesota in return for what could have been less than 200 at-bats from Escobar. He eventually resigned with the D-Backs, but that wasn’t a guarantee at the time of the deal. As I wrote about last week, Jhoan Duran was the biggest return for Escobar as he is considered one of the Twins top two starting pitching prospects. Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel have also added depth to the organization. When it comes to Duran, pitching prospects are never a sure thing. That being said, his ceiling seems to be a solid regular starting pitcher and if that doesn’t work, he projects to be a very good relief option. More than two and a half decades after taking Pierzynski in the 1994 MLB Draft, the Twins organization is still feeling the ramifications of his transaction tree. What are your thoughts on these deals? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Mauer’s Presence In the 2003-04 off-season, Mauer was coming off a tremendous minor league season. Between High- and Double-A, he hit .338/.398/.434 (.832) with 37 extra-base hits in 135 games. Baseball America awarded him the Minor League Player of the Year and he would be named the number one prospect that off-season. St. Paul’s hometown boy seemed destined to take his place behind the plate at the Metrodome. Blocking Mauer was Minnesota’s starting catcher in 2003, AJ Pierzynski, and he was coming off a strong season himself. He had an All-Star season in 2002, but the 2003 campaign might have been his best in a Twins uniform. He slashed .312/.360/.464 (.824) with 49 extra-base hits in 137 games. He would only have one other season with a higher OPS in his entire 19-year career. Minnesota was ready to hand the reins to Mauer, which left Pierzynski as a tradeable commodity. Trade Time From the Giants perspective, the trade didn’t look that bad on paper. Pierzynski was in the prime of his career as a 26-year old catcher that was coming off a 4.5 WAR season. To top it off, he had three years of arbitration left, so he wasn’t just a rental player. Regardless of his attitude problems, he was a very good player at a tough position that should have gotten quite the return. From the Twins perspective, well… it’s tough to know what they were thinking at the time. Joe Nathan was a 28-year old reliever that was coming off his first decent season in the bullpen. There had been previous concerns about his shoulder and the possibility of those things lingering. Liriano hadn’t pitched more than 80 innings in any season of his professional career and he had injury concerns of his own. Boof Bonser saw his strikeout rate and velocity drop in the year before the trade. At the time of the trade it looked like San Francisco had fleeced the Twins, but baseball is a funny game. Hindsight is 20-20 Twins fans know what happened after the trade. AJ Pierzynski played one season in San Francisco and hit .272/.319/.410 with 41 extra-base hits. He was worth 0.3 WAR that season. Even though, he could have been arbitration eligible for two more seasons, he had caused so many headaches for the Giants that they let him go at season’s end. He ended up in Chicago and helped the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title. Minnesota got quite the value from their cast-off pitching trio. Nathan would turn into one of the best relievers in the game and accumulate 18.4 WAR during his seven years with the Twins. Liriano exploded onto the scene in 2006 and it looked like the Twins would be unstoppable with a Johan Santana and Liriano combo. Tommy John surgery stopped that dream from becoming a reality, but Liriano was still able to accumulate 9.3 WAR in his Twins tenure. Bonser pitched over 390 innings for the Twins, including one playoff start, and was worth -0.3 WAR. Terry Ryan and Minnesota’s scouting department must have known what they were getting in Nathan, Liriano, and Bonser. They also knew what they were giving up in Pierzynski. What do you remember about this trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  6. Francisco Liriano, LHP, 35 years-old Pittsburgh Pirates, NL Central (40-43) Free Agent in 2020 What’s To Like For 13 years Liriano worked as a major league starter. This was the guy who popped up for the Minnesota Twins as a 21 year-old in 2005, and became an All-Star during his rookie campaign in 2006. Looking incredible that season the Twins seemed to have a partner able to pair with Johan Santana in an annual chase for Cy Young awards. Then he blew out his elbow. Fast forward through roughly a decade of good-but-not-great years and the Pirates now employ Liriano solely as a reliever for the first time in his career. Through 40.0 innings pitched this season for the Buccos, Liriano owns a dazzling 2.70 ERA. His 8.8 K/9 is a high water mark over the past three years and his surface numbers are better across the board. Statcast data doesn’t track back to Liriano’s debut but his velocity hit its peak at 94.5 mph during 2010. Since 2011 he’s lived between 92-93 mph and is still there today, so that consistency is a good thing. Suggesting he was an average starter is about as definitive as it gets when looking at Liriano’s ERA+. The park adjusted metric has him at 98 from 2005-2018. Working solely as a reliever this season, that metric is all the way up to 163. Given that 100 represents league average, all parties involved have to be optimistic with the output. Concerns Do some digging under the hood on Liriano and things can get dicey pretty quick. FIP is far from an analytically advanced metric, his 4.06 mark suggests a significant amount of regression could be coming. His xFIP mark, which is a more nuanced expected fielder independent pitching tally, is even worse at 5.05. It’s one thing for those numbers to be slightly above his ERA, but we’re dealing with very wide gaps here. Of 174 qualified relievers Liriano’s .259 BABIP checks in 54th. Registering in the bottom third, inching up closer towards the mean is a definite possibility. He’s also generating infield fly balls 17% of the time, which checks in 25th out of the same group. Although his pitches aren’t being walloped (just a 30% hard hit rate), there’s more than enough wiggle room for batted ball events to turn less than ideal. There’s no denying that the plate discipline profile works in his favor. Whiff rates are up, so to are chase rates, and contact rates are down. That’s a trifecta of goodness but can be adjusted to. Liriano has never thrown more changeups than he is right now, and relying on offspeed as he must, leaves less room for error. At the end of his career, this is a remade starter that’s carved out a solid showing working in a glorified long man role. High leverage innings have resulted in the highest (.688) OPS against, while late and close scenarios have produced a .729 OPS against. A fine year for him to wind down on, the upside for Minnesota doesn’t look to be worth the squeeze. See Also Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Reds Jake Diekman, LHP, Royals Ian Kennedy, RHP, Royals Sergio Romo, RHP, Marlins Shane Greene, RHP, Tigers Felipe Vázquez, LHP, Pirates Will Smith, LHP, Giants Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays Sam Dyson, RHP, Giants Brad Hand, LHP, Indians Oliver Perez, LHP Cleveland Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds John Gant, RHP, Cardinals Alex Colome, RHP, White Sox Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets Greg Holland, RHP, Diamondbacks Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres 10 Relievers Minnesota Could Target
  7. First World Series Run Since the club moved to Minnesota, the 1965 squad was the lone team to win over 100 games. With a 102-60 record (.630 W-L%), the team also has the highest winning percentage of any Twins team. During the 2019 campaign, the Twins have a .692 W-L%. It seems unlikely for the club to continue on that pace but it seems like they could get to 103 wins. Minnesota’s line-up that season featured greats like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Olivia, Bob Allison, and Earl Battey. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles would be named the AL MVP. The rotation consisted of some strong arms as well. Mudcast Grant, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry all had sub-3.30 ERAs, while Kaat and Grant combined to pitch over 534 innings. The Twins ran into the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax in the World Series, which stopped the club from being a champion. Still the 1965 team, might be one of the best teams from top to bottom. Baltimore Blues Teams Two of Minnesota’s best team contenders also fell short of their World Series goal. Both the 1969 and 1970 squads were able to qualify for the ALCS. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles made quick work of the Twins in both years. Jim Perry was in quite the two-year stretch for being in his age-33 and age-34 seasons. He led the team in WAR in 1969 but he was actually awarded the AL Cy Young in 1970. In these two seasons, he combined to have a 44-18 record with a 2.93 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He averaged 270 innings pitched and along with 160 strikeouts per season. Tony Oliva’s best professional season was in 1970. He 7.0 WAR led the team. He also led the American League in hits and doubles. Killebrew was also in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. Between the two seasons, he hit 90 home runs. Killebrew would take home the 1969 MVP. Oliva would finish second in the MVP voting one year later. World Series Wins Minnesota’s first World Series winning club didn’t exactly have a stellar regular season. The 1987 Twins finished the regular season at 85-77, which was two games better than the Royals. If the Twins were in the AL East that year, their record would have placed them fifth. The Tigers had trounced through the AL East that year with a 98-64 record, but the Twins were able to dispose of them in five games. Minnesota had to go to seven games against the Cardinals, but they won every game in the Metrodome to clinch the title. Frank Viola was the MVP and a poor regular season record was long forgotten. Minnesota’s second World Series winning club managed a better regular season than the first. They finished the year at 95-67, which was the best record in the American League. Do you know who lead the team in WAR that year? According to Baseball Reference, Kevin Tapani, Shane Mack, and Scott Erickson were the team’s top three players. For many, the 1991 World Series is considered the best Fall Classic of all-time. There were three extra-inning games including both games six and seven. Five of the seven games were decided by one run or less. All Twins fans know how this one ended. Puckett ended Game 6 and Morris dominated in Game 7. Metrodome Era Minnesota won the division five times from 2002-2009 with Ron Gardenhire at the helm. The 2002 club was deemed “The Team that Saved Baseball.” While that club shocked many by making the ALCS, the 2006 club might have been the best club in the Metrodome era. On the mound, Minnesota had the best one-two punch in the game. Johan Santana was in a stretch of being the best pitcher in the game. To join him, a young Francisco Liriano was showing he had the stuff to be among the league’s best. Liriano tried to pitch through pain in August but by November he was scheduled for Tommy John surgery. It’s hard to imagine any team that would have been able to beat Santana and Liriano multiple times in a seven-game series. Not to mention, Joe Nathan was anchoring the backend of a solid bullpen. At the plate, Joe Mauer was putting it all together at the big-league level. He won his first batting title, his first Silver Slugger, and he was an All-Star for the first time. Justin Morneau would be named the American League MVP as he beat out the likes of Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Frank Thomas. For many, Liriano’s injury cost the Twins a shot at World Series title. How good is the current team? Is it better than the 2006 squad? Is it better than the World Series clubs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. https://twitter.com/DSBerner2288/status/1101214854323601409 Last year, the Twins signed players late into the spring as free agents were still available. Last week the club added Marwin Gonzalez, which might have seemed like a stretch at the beginning of the off-season. Instead, he was available and fell into the Twins laps. This is a phrase that has been thrown out multiple times by the front office. So… could a pitcher fall into the team’s lap? Dallas Keuchel was the top free agent starter on the market, and he has yet to sign. As a 31-year old, he is coming off a year where he posted a 3.74 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 204.2 innings. It seems logical that plenty of teams would be interested in his services. My guess is he ends up back in Houston to solidify their rotation. That being said, it sounds like he was good friends with Gonzales during their time in Houston. Maybe a reunion could be in the works. The Minneapolis Star Tribune doesn’t believe Keuchel will be coming to Minnesota. It seems most likely for the team to start the season with the current pitchers on the roster. https://twitter.com/MNTwinpinions/status/1101204265769582592 Gio Gonzalez does little to excite me as a free agent. Last year as a 32-year old, he posted a 4.21 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 171.0 innings. He could be a nice veteran presence at the back of the rotation, but I’d rather give those innings to a younger arm. Minnesota will start the year with Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, and Jake Odorizzi occupying the top four spots in the rotation. Innings that could be allotted to Gonzalez should go to the likes of Martin Perez, Adalberto Mejia, Kohl Stewart, and Stephen Gonsalves. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1101203489651224576 Even with the strong reports about Stephen Gonsalves, I doubt there is any way he makes the team out of spring training. The early weeks of the season are full of extra off-days and Minnesota will likely have some weather delays, sine the Home Opener is scheduled before the calendar turns to April. With that in mind, the club won’t need a fifth starter near the beginning of the year. This allows the team to carry an extra bullpen arm or an extra bat for the bench. Without an injury to one of the top starters, there is almost no chance Gonsalves breaks camp with the club. He will start the year in Rochester and be only a phone call away. https://twitter.com/ERolfPleiss/status/1101202433135513601 I would love to buy into all of the Byron Buxton spring training hype. Unfortunately, spring training numbers mean little for the regular season. It’s great for his confidence to be finding consistent success, but fans haven’t seen him put it all together at the big-league level. Until he can do it consistently with the Twins, there will be a lot of fans that wonder if the Twins made the right choice with Buxton. However, many fans were disappointed with Joe Mauer for the majority of his career and he could end up being a Hall of Fame player. Earlier this off-season, I identified Buxton’s emergence as one of the keys to 2019. I still believe that to be true. He could end up being an All-Star. He could end up struggling. It seems more likely that he falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. https://twitter.com/PandaPete21/status/1101143745968381952 This question took me the longest because of all of the options. Some of the options that popped into my head were Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, Justin Morneau’s concussions, and Joe Mauer’s concussions. All three of these injuries deprived Twins Territory of some tremendous years of Hall of Fame caliber baseball. My answer might be a little off the beaten path, but I am going to say Francisco Liriano’s Tommy John surgery in 2006. I fully believe the Twins could have won the World Series that season had Liriano stayed healthy. No team was going to beat Liriano and Johan Santana multiple times in the same series. It might have been one of the most dominant one-two punches in playoff history. I think Liriano’s arm injury deprived the Twins organization of their third World Series title. https://twitter.com/BrianHohlen/status/1101211556828856321 I think the Twins have made it clear this off-season. They don’t want to be known as the club that battles their tails off. They want to hit home runs and they want to hit a lot of home runs. Minnesota’s 2019 roster is going to hit the ball over the fence and the club is going to strike out a lot. This might be good and it might be bad, but it’s a far cry from the Nick Punto days back in the Metrodome. Thanks to all of those that submitted questions this week. Leave a COMMENT with your own answers to all of these questions.
  9. BACKGROUND Fernando Romero burst onto prospect rankings way back in 2013 when he went 2-0 with a 1.60 ERA and 47 strikeouts as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. Much more important than the numbers were the scouting reports which showed he was sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball and that he had a good breaking ball too. In 2014, he moved up to Cedar Rapids in mid-May, but after just three starts, he experienced pain in his elbow. Soon after, he needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2015 season, and as he was rehabbing, he needed knee surgery. When he returned at Instructional League that year, reports showed him hitting triple-digits with his fastball. He was not able to return to the field until May of 2016. Once he returned, it was as if he didn’t miss a beat. He made five starts in Cedar Rapids where he went 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. He moved up to Ft. Myers where he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 11 starts. Combined, he threw 90.1 innings and struck out 90 batters while walking just 15 batters. Following the season, he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. He spent the entire 2017 season in Double-A Chattanooga where he went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA. In 125 innings, he gave up 45 walks and struck out 120 batters. And that brings us to 2018. Following a strong showing in big league spring training (eight no-hit innings). That pushed him up to Rochester to start the season. Romero has made three starts for the Red Wings. He also came out of the bullpen once, piggybacking after Adalberto Mejia went two innings. He is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. In 21 innings, he has given up 17 hits (just one home run), ten walks and struck out 20. SCOUTING REPORT From the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2018: Scouting Report: Romero has absolutely electric stuff, probably the best pure “stuff” of anyone in the organization right now. He is built very strong. He’s just over 6-0 and about 220 pounds. He’s got a very strong lower half, very strong legs. He is quite aggressive with his fastball. His fastball usually sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and he has touched triple digits. His slider can be in the upper-80s and can be a strikeout pitch. He’s still inconsistent with it, but it has potential to be a plus-plus pitch. He also throws a cutter. He has really worked to improve his changeup as well. If he can have three plus-plus pitches, he could be a great starter. Without a third pitch, he could be an elite reliever. He’s shown a commitment to the process of becoming great. He has been willing to work on pitches, such as his changeup, in game situations. Romero is light-hearted and known to be a good teammate. TWINS MLB DEBUTS The Twins will be the underdog in this afternoon’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field. However, with Fernando Romero making his Major League Debut, the excitement and energy in the stadium could certainly affect him and the rest of the Twins team. How comfortable are you with Romero and his stuff in his debut? Be sure to do your research before joining an online betting site and double check the lines. There is incentive for the bookies to have equal bets on both sides. Here is a quick review of how many of the Minnesota Twins pitching prospects over the last dozen years performed in their first major league start. Jose Berrios (4/27/16) – 4 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 93 pitches, 56 strikes. Alex Meyer (5/2/16) – 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, HR, 64 pitches, 34 strikes. Trevor May (8/9/14) – 2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 0 K, 63 pitches, 28 strikes. Tyler Duffey (8/5/15) – 2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 60 pitches, 32 strikes. Kyle Gibson (6/29/13) – 6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 91 pitches, 64 strikes. Andrew Albers (8/6/13) – 8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 109 pitches, 67 strikes. Liam Hendriks (9/6/11) – 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 99 pitches, 65 strikes. Cole De Vries (5/24/12) – 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 HR, 96 pitches, 60 strikes. Scott Baker (7/5/05) – 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, HR, 88 pitches, 54 strikes. Francisco Liriano (9/14/05) – 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, HR, 69 pitches, 44 strikes. Kevin Slowey (6/14/07) – 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR, 99 pitches, 66 strikes. Nick Blackburn (4/2/08) – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 86 pitches, 63 strikes. Anthony Swarzak (5/23/09) – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 98 pitches, 64 strikes. Jeff Manship (9/1/09) – 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, HR, 80 pitches, 48 strikes. Matt Garza (8/11/06) – 2.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 67 pitches, 42 strikes. I would say that the takeaway from a quick review of first major-league starts is that we need to not make too much of it as a predictor of the future in any way, good or bad. So, I’m just going to try to enjoy and realize that he is a big part of the Twins future.
  10. Since coming to Minnesota, the utility player has been worth 3.8 fWAR over the past five years. While that’s hardly anything to get excited about, it’s the smaller things that he brings to the club that make all of the difference. Despite being out of position at times, he has played every position on the diamond outside of first base. Although his bat won’t set the world on fire, it’s provided plenty of pop in limited exposure. Coming into the year, I wondered whether or not Escobar and newly acquired Ehire Adrianza could coexist. Both best served as utility infielders; it was Adrianza who flashed superior leather while Escobar had a better stick. Nearly through the entirety of the 2017 slate, both players together do leave Minnesota a bit stretched, but I tend to lean towards Escobar being the more necessary commodity. Playing mostly shortstop and third base this season for Paul Molitor’s club, Escobar has been lackluster defensively. He has posted a total of -9 DRS between both positions, and while his range hasn’t graded negatively, it’s also not an asset. Given limited exposure in the field however, something like 600 or so innings, he’s not been an incredible detriment to the squad as a whole. It’s at the plate that Escobar becomes an asset for Minnesota, and when spelling a regular, there are far worse options you could be forced to use. In 2017, he’s posted a career best .749 OPS, and has gotten back to looking like the .754 OPS hitter from the 2015 season. With 15 homers to his credit already, he’s already posted a new career high. Yes, he’s in over his head as a middle of the order hitter, but there’s real value presenting itself here. Imaging a scenario in which Escobar continued to pay off long after the Twins jettisoned Liriano seems farfetched in and of itself. Thinking he’s a guy that the club should keep around as they embark on a new window of opportunity leading to the postseason is about as good as it gets. At some point, the Twins are going to need to beef up their bench as a whole and heighten the level of options at their disposal. That being said, Escobar can continue to squeeze out opportunity if he can hold on to a similar level of production. Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine don’t have to make an all too difficult decision until 2019. Extending a utility player with a modest bat into free agency is something that would need to be evaluated against a shifting organizational landscape. That being said, the 2017 Twins wouldn’t be in a position to make September baseball interesting without the contributions of their Venezuelan utility man. When the dust settles, Eduardo Escobar is never going to be a game changer for a big league team. Wanting a guy to spell players every few days, or come in with some unexpected pop off the bench though, he’s more than capable of delivering on those accounts. Minnesota dealt Liriano at the beginning of a very unfortunate downtown. They continue to reap the rewards as the club pushes for relevancy once again.
  11. It’s easy to look back at the deal that brought Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to the Twins for A.J. Pierzynski as an obvious one to make. Joe Mauer was coming off a solid season between A and AA, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would take over behind the plate sooner rather than later. For that to happen, Pierzynski needed to clear out or change positions, and the latter wasn’t happening, so of course Ryan would deal him to clear space for Mauer. But while Mauer was hitting well in the minors -- particularly for his age level -- he wasn’t beating down the doors. As a 20 year old, he hit .338/.398/.434 including a stint in the Arizona Fall League; Pierzynski hit .312/.360/.464 in the majors that season, earning a deserved All-Star selection. And at 26, it isn’t as though Pierzynski was at the end of his career, or even at the end of his prime, so Ryan’s decision to move him after back-to-back great season could have backfired badly had Mauer not made the jump as well as he did. As it turned out, Ryan moved Pierzynski at the absolute peak of his value. While he remained a solid catcher through his age-38 season -- which shouldn’t be glossed over, that’s an incredible achievement -- he never returned to the All-Star Game and only twice put up above-average offensive numbers. In return for this desirable asset, Ryan got a once-prized prospect who had lost a bit of his luster (Bonser), a converted outfielder who was coming off back-to-back seasons of injury issues (Liriano), and a former shortstop who wasn't far removed from shoulder surgery himself (Nathan). A former first-round pick, Bonser had the pedigree to succeed, and (just like many of Ryan’s other finds) he did make contributions to the major league team, even if he was clearly the worst of the acquired players. He gave the 2006 Twins 18 starts and ended the year fractionally above average by ERA+ and with a 1.0 fWAR. Great? Hardly. But he was just 24, so it would have been a solid foundation for him to build on as he rose to being a mid-rotation piece...except that those 18 starts marked the best year of his career. Even if he wasn’t spectacularly bad, Bonser neither generated enough groundballs nor missed enough bats to make it in the majors and a torn labrum in 20009 ended his time with the Twins. Liriano’s arm had already been an issue when the Twins acquired him and it would continue to plague him throughout his career, though to his credit, he has continued to rehab and make it back to the majors every time he has gone under the knife. Still, his career would be typified by terms like “serviceable” and “solid” were it not for his unforgettable rookie season in 2006. His 2006 line is staggering: 3.6 fWAR, 1.00 WHIP, 2.16 ERA, and 10.71 K/9, but that actually undersells how good he was that year. Liriano wasn’t well-suited to pitching out of the bullpen, but that’s how he began the season (even recording a three-out save in a game which the Twins won by 10 runs, because of course he did) which included a three-inning relief appearance after the Tigers bombed Carlos Silva out of an April game. Liriano fared little better, giving up 5 ER in just 3 IP. Look at his numbers once he joined the rotation full time in May, and they’re even better: 1.92 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 112/28 K/BB ratio, and opposing hitters hit a pathetic .181/.244/.281 off of him. But the arm issues caught up to him once again. He threw just six innings after July 28 and would miss all of the 2007 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. His 2010 season showed glimpses of the form that had made him so unbelievably dominant in 2006, and the fact that he had 31 healthy starts means his counting stats look better, but he never did fully recover the form he had shown. He gave everyone a season to dream on and enough flashes of brilliance to bounce around the league for another decade and counting, but the consistent excellence he showed once seems to be part of his legend rather than his actual legacy. The Baseball Prospectus comment on Nathan prior to the 2003 season began “Nathan continued his comeback from shoulder surgery in 2000, with a year that was impressive only relative to the year before. He was never a great prospect, even before the shoulder woes, but he could be a serviceable innings-eater in middle relief.” Put another way: If you don’t have a player like this in your minor league system, the cupboard is so impossibly bare, it beggars belief. You don’t trade for players like this, they just appear on your AAA roster as if placed there by an occult hand. And to be fair, eating innings is exactly what Nathan did in 2003: His first year as a full-time reliever in the majors, Nathan appeared in just shy of half the Giants’ games, racking up 79 innings in 78 starts. Prior to the 2004 season, Prospectus noted that Nathan had looked leaps and bounds better the previous year than he ever had before -- and how right they were! -- but cautioned that this could be an aberration because it seemingly came out of nowhere. Here, too, they were right: 2003 was an aberration for Nathan, because for the decade following, he never again had a season as bad as 2003 when he was healthy for a full year. 2004 started with a closer-by-committee set-up with Nathan, Juan Rincon, and even a fleeting appearance from Joe Roa before he was relegated to mop-up duty, but by mid-April, the job was Nathan’s to lose. The next time someone besides Nathan would lead the team in saves was 2010, when Jon Rausch stepped in while Nathan was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Like Liriano, there were serious concerns about Nathan’s ability to stay healthy during his time in the minors, but after he moved to the bullpen, those concerns all but vanished. He finished his career with the eighth most saves of all time and appeared in the 54th most games. Of the three players acquired for Pierzynski following the 2003 season, Nathan had by far the best career; taking everyone involved in the deal, only Mauer has a claim at being a better player than Nathan. Whatever the Twins thought they were getting in Nathan, no matter how much Ryan and his staff believed that 2003 was indicative of what he could be, Nathan exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. He filled a hole that had existed since the end of Rick Aguilera’s second stint with the team (Mike Trombley notwithstanding) and held it down through some of the team’s best years post-1991. It’s fitting to see him end such a stellar career as a Twin. The Pierzynski-for-prospects deal is widely considered a heist, Ryan’s Robbery if you will. Some of that is due to Pierzysnki’s decline and some is due to Liriano’s apotheosis in 2006, but given that Bonser added almost nothing and Liriano was more frustration than fulfillment, the idea that the trade was as lopsided as it was confirms just how good Nathan was: If the deal had been a straight Nathan-for-Pierzynski swap, would the reviews be all that much less glowing?
  12. Professional baseball has been in Rochester for over 140 years. The Red Wings have been an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Baltimore Orioles (1961-2002), and the Minnesota Twins since 2003. Ironically, when the Twins moved their affiliation to Rochester, it was the first year of their tremendous radio voice, Josh Whetzel joined the. When I saw the ballot for the All Frontier Field team, I couldn’t help but spend some time voting. It is fun to think back to the dozen or more years that I have followed the Twins minor league system and seeing names of some great players and guys who became well-known for their time in New York. Some went on to have long big league careers. Some barely got a cup of coffee. Seeing the names is such a good reminder of how hard this game can be. So, take five minutes and cast your vote. You can spend more time, if you want, and research the stats of the players in Rochester. You can just vote for your favorite player in each category, or the player who went on to the best career? There is no right or wrong answer for this. So, let’s walk down memory lane and take a look at the ballot: First Basemen: Chris Colabello, Garrett Jones, Justin Morneau, Calvin Pickering, Chris Parmelee My vote goes to Garrett Jones. He spent quite a bit of time in Rochester because the Twins had Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel at the positions Jones could have played. So, he just kept putting up monster numbers for the Red Wings. From 2005 through 2008, he played over 105 games for the Red Wings each year and hit a lot of doubles and home runs. He played in just 31 games for the Twins, all in 2007. Since then, he has played in 880 games in the big leagues, mostly with the Pirates, but also some time with the Marlins and Yankees. He’s still playing in 2016, his first year in Japan. Second Basemen: James Beresford, PJ Forbes, Luis Rodriguez, Brian Roberts, Jerry Hairston My vote goes to James Beresford. I was a big fan of Rodriguez (when I wrote of him, I just wrote “Luis!!”), and the other three were from the Orioles era. Brian Roberts had a strong big league career. However, in his three-plus seasons with the Rochester, Beresford has continued to get better and add to his game. He came up and struggled some, but he was a .300 hitter and an All-Star in 2015. This year, he’s playing all over the infield. Third Basemen: Willis Otanez, Ryan Minor, Terry Tiffee, Danny Valencia, Chris Heintz My vote goes to Terry Tiffee. He spent parts of three seasons with the Red Wings and got a couple of cups of coffee with the Twins as well. He played 91 games for the Twins between 2004 and 2006, and then got into a handful of games with the Dodgers in 2008. Valencia has become the best big leaguer in this bunch. Ryan Minor was quite a prospect for the O’s in the late 90s. Chris Heintz spent quite a bit of time with the Red Wings as well. He was signed as a long-time veteran, and his cup of coffee with the Twins was exciting. He was 31-years-old when he debuted for the Twins and played a total of 34 big league games for the Twins, mostly as a catcher. Shortstop: Jason Bartlett, Doug Bernier, Jesse Garcia, Aaron Ledesma, Trevor Plouffe My vote goes to Trevor Plouffe. The Twins really pushed Plouffe up the minor league system despite never putting up big numbers at any level. He reached AAA at age 22 and didn’t debut with the Twins until he was 24, in 2010. He wasn’t always great with the Red Wings, but he grew and improved. He spent parts of four seasons with the Red Wings and has also rehabbed there a couple of times. Bartlett had a solid career in Rochester, where he spent parts of three seasons. I believe he still lives there. Bernier was a very solid producer for the Red Wings for most of three seasons. The Orioles guys didn’t spent a lot of time in Rochester. Catcher: BJ Waszgis, Tommy Davis, Jose Morales, Drew Butera, Eric Fryer My vote goes to Jose Morales. He was drafted as a middle infielder, but was immediately moved to catcher. He worked his way up. When the 2007 season was complete, he went back home. When a couple of catchers got hurt, Morales received a September call up. He made one start and went 3-3 with a double. However, he broke his leg sliding into second base in the game and didn’t get back to the big leagues until 2009. He spent parts of four seasons with the Red Wings and hit over .300. Butera had the defense and has had a solid, lucrative big league career. Fryer has had plenty of time and spent three years playing in Rochester. Outfielders: Danny Clyburn, Lew Ford, Jason Kubel, Dustin Martin, Darnell McDonald, Jason Pridie, Josh Rabe, Michael Restovich, Denard Span, Jim Wawruck. My three votes go to Dustin Martin, Josh Rabe and Darnell McDonald. I know there are bigger names. Kubel was the IL Rookie of the Year the one partial season he spent there and put up great numbers. Lew Ford spent parts of four seasons there but limited time each year because he spent a lot of time with the big league club. Restovich had a couple of very good years in Rochester after spending a couple of seasons in AAA in the Pacific Coast League. Darnell McDonald was one player who played for Rochester while a member of the Orioles and the Twins. He was a top prospect with the O’s, but by the time he got to the Red Wings, he was move organizational filler. However, he played so well that he earned time with the Twins too. Rabe spent parts of five seasons with the Red Wings. He debuted with the Red Wings in 2003. It wasn’t until 2006 that he finally got a call up to the Twins. He played in 38 games for the Twins over two years and hit three homers. Dustin Martin is in the top 5 in many Rochester categories. He spent three years at the level and went to spring training with the big league club but never got a chance with the Twins. Still just 32, he has played for a couple other organizations, in independent leagues and still in Mexico. Starting Pitchers: There are 14 names to consider on this list, so I’m not going to get into them all. However, you will want to click that link to remember how much talent has come through Rochester on the way to Minnesota. We are to vote for five, so here are my picks. Dave Gassner didn’t have a long big league career, though he did win his big league debut, but he spent parts of four seasons with the Red Wings and put up some strong numbers. On the other side of the spectrum, Francisco Liriano dominated the league in 2005 and early in 2006 before coming up to the Twins where he was more impressive than multi-Cy Young winner Johan Santana during his prime. After his Tommy John surgery, he came back to the Red Wings in 2008 and was again very good. Similarly, Kevin Slowey dominated this International League in 2007, posting an ERA under two and captured the league’s Pitcher of the Year award. Boof Bonser racked up some big strikeout numbers during his (parts of) three seasons with the Red Wings. The fifth choice is Brian Duensing who won 20 games in his time with the Red Wings. That doesn’t include the Gold Medal that he won in the 2008 Olympics with Team USA. There are some impressive pitchers that weren’t in my top five. Andrew Albers is back and had a terrific year with the organization a couple of years ago before returning earlier this season. Liam Hendriks was a tremendous minor league pitcher. And who could forget The Real Deal? Scott Baker pitched well there. Matt Garza didn’t get much time in Rochester during his fast 2006 rise to the big leagues, but he was good and has had a long career. Kyle Gibson put up some solid numbers in Rochester as well, before Tommy John and then after his return. Relief Pitchers: We are supposed to vote for two relievers, and for me, the choices are easy. No one who followed the Twins minor leagues from about 2007 through 2011 will be able to not vote for Anthony Slama. No one will ever be able to explain adequately enough to me how a guy who put up the numbers that Slama put up in the minors, including AAA, could possibly not be given more of an opportunity in the big leagues. #Slama Time and #FreeSlama were frequent hashtags even before we knew what hashtags were. Similarly, few have pitched as well in Rochester as AJ Achter did for the Red Wings over the last three years. He didn’t give up many runs, picked up saves, and generally rarely allowed base runners. He got a couple of limited opportunities with the Twins and has been up and down with the Angels a few times already this season. Pat Neshek put up very similar numbers in Rochester, just in less time. He has gone on to a tremendous, long career. Michael Tonkin wasn’t as good as Achter in Rochester, but he still put up terrific numbers and big strikeouts too. I might not argue too much if you wanted one of them on the team. And I’d also understand your votes for Jesse Crain or Bobby Korecky. Designated Hitter: Karim Garcia, Justin Huber, Randy Ruiz, Julio Vinas, Kevin West Kevin West gets my vote. He spent a couple of seasons with the Red Wings and hit 34 homers. He was a big man with a lot of power, hitting both doubles and home runs. Unfortunately, he got hurt in his third season with the Red Wings and never got a chance. Garcia had a fairly long career but didn't spend a lot of time in Rochester. Ruiz had one monster season with the Red Wings and earned a 22-game call up to the Twins at age 30. He spent time the next two seasons with Toronto. Huber was similar in that he was older. The former prospect from Australia earned a September call up, but got hurt in his one game with the Twins. Utility Player: Alex Casilla, Howie Clark, Brian Dinkelman, Matt Tolbert, Tommy Watkins. My vote goes for Tommy Watkins. Sure Howie Clark spent four seasons with the Red Wings, three with the O's and one with the Twins. He has some impressive numbers. Brian Dinkelman ranks in the top five or six in Red Wings stats during the Twins era and was a Harmon Killebrew Award recipient. He had the cool nickname and chant when he received his call ups to the Twins. Casilla and Tolbert both spent a lot of time back and forth between Rochester and the Twins. But Tommy Watkins is The Mayor. I mean, it's Rochester and he owns it. And, it's my ballot! Manager: There are some quality options on the ballot, but I'm going with Gene Glynn. The Red Wings had just come off of losing 91 and 95 games when he took over. Obviously better players help but Gene Glynn less the team to three straight seasons at .500 or better before moving up to the big league club as the Twins 3B coach. So there you have it, a look at my personal ballot for the All Frontier Field team. This is the 20th season of baseball at the stadium. The Twins have had the Red Wings as their AAA affiliate for 14 years now. Please take 5-10 minutes of time to click here and make your choices for the 20th anniversary Frontier Field team. And share your vote and your memories of some of these players in the comments below.
  13. Age: 21 (DOB: 5/27/94) 2015 Stats (AA/AAA): 166.1 IP, 14-5, 2.87 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 175/38 K/BB ETA: 2016 2014 Ranking: 6; 2015 Ranking: 3 National Top 100 Rankings: BA: 28 | MLB: 19 | BP: 17 What's To Like I mean, how much space do I have for this section? I’ll try to keep the superlatives short and to the point. JO Berrios is good at a lot of things, so let’s get to it. What are the things that we want to see in a pitcher? For me stuff, makeup, work ethic, control and ability to miss bats are things that are important to determining what kind of potential a pitcher can have. Let’s look at those things. JO Berrios has the kind of stuff that can make him a top-of-the-rotation possibility. Want velocity? While Berrios generally sits 92-95 with the fastball he has touched 97. When he keeps it down, he can get a lot of movement on it. He has one of the more sharp-breaking curve balls that can be a swing-and-miss pitch. Finally, when it’s on, there are times when Berrios’s best pitch is his change-up. Three above average pitches that move. That’s impressive. How is his control? Well, in his career, he has walked just 2.5 per nine innings. More important, in 2015 he walked just 2.1 per nine, and those were at the highest levels of the minor leagues. It’s been quite some time since the Twins have had a starting pitcher who can miss bats and get strikeouts. Though we will find out if it translates to the big leagues, Berrios has shown the ability to do both in the minor leagues. Again, his career strikeout rate is 9.5 per nine innings. Again, he’s been even better as he’s moved up. In 2015, again, at the highest minor league levels, he averaged 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Finally, he is a very confident young man with big goals and great talent, and yet, he has found a way to remain humble. When it comes to work ethic, Berrios has it in spades. We have all seen his workout videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter very frequently. And, of course, we all started liking Berrios the night that the Twins drafted him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p-A5jDpHYk What's Left To Work On This section will be much shorter, and the scouts big concern about Berrios is his height. At 6-0, many scouts will say that his pitches, particularly up in the zone, will have a flatter plane. In theory, that could make it more hittable, and make him a candidate to give up some home runs. To be fair, he has not given up very many in the minor leagues. He’s probably been able to get away with some high fastballs in the minor leagues that he won’t be able to get away with in the big leagues. I wouldn’t call it a concern, but it certainly is something that warrants observing. Earlier in the week, Berrios was throwing live batting practice to Miguel Sano. From various reports, within two or three pitches, Torii Hunter found that Berrios was tipping his pitches. It’s easily correctable, by just not doing what he was doing, so probably not a large concern. While he is just 6-0 and 185 pounds, he is very strong, and to this point has been durable. Some may be concerned about innings catching up with him and durability. To this point there has been no issue. What's Next JO Berrios will pitch for the Twins in 2016. It’s going to happen. In fact, he could be considered, along with Byung Ho Park and Byron Buxton (and maybe Max Kepler) a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year. The big question is not if he will be called up. It is just when, and there is room for a few opinions on that. Though Berrios, and most Twins fans and probably Twins players and coaches, wanted him to make his big league debut in 2015 the Twins chose to end his season at AAA with over 166 innings pitched. The Twins have some decisions to make this spring. Talent-wise, he is likely one of the five best pitchers in the organization and should be in the rotation. However, there are several factors which make it likely that he will begin the season in AAA. The first is that the team has seven competent big league starters who will likely get the first shot. While the Twins typically have not played the service time issue at the beginning of the season, there are reasons that it may make sense. There are really three timelines for the Twins to call up Berrios: Opening Day - It isn’t hard to envision Berrios being one of the best pitchers during spring and earning an opening day roster spot. Again with the Twins, that matters and if they think he’s ready, he’ll be up. 13 days into the season - We have called it the Kris Bryant rule. If the Twins wait 13 days to call up Berrios, they will get an extra year before he can become a free agent. Specifically, if the Twins have him make two starts in AAA before they call him up in 2016, they can get 32-33 starts from him in 2022, his age 28 season. Maybe the system will change, but that’s a trade-off I would make 100 out of 100 times. Yes, he would get four years of arbitration (assuming he stays up), but he would not become a free agent for an extra year. Early June - if you want to stay away from his likelihood of being a Super-2 and getting four years of arbitration, they can wait until sometime around the first week of June when that deadline typically is. Not a bad strategy if the Twins are getting strong starts from their Opening Day starters, but if he’s pitching as well as we would expect, two months is just two long to wait. So you decide. What would you do? What will the Twins do? What should the Twins do? Be sure to check back tomorrow when we unveil our choice for Minnesota Twins Top Prospect. TD Top Prospect #10: Nick Burdi TD Top Prospect #9: Kohl Stewart TD Top Prospect #8: Alex Meyer TD Top Prospect #7: Jorge Polanco TD Top Prospect #6: Stephen Gonsalves TD Top Prospect #5: Tyler Jay TD Top Prospect #4: Nick Gordon
  14. . The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic signed with the Twins in 2010. He worked his way up the system. He began the 2014 season in Cedar Rapids, but after just three games, he hurt his elbow and needed the Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of the 2014 season. He rehabbed and returned to the mound for the Kernels in early July. We would like to thank Randy Rosario for taking time to respond to our questions. We would also like to thank his agency, LA Sports Management, for helping to facilitate the interview and for translating. You can follow them on Twitter (@LASportsMgmt) for news on Randy Rosario and many other Twins prospects. Seth Stohs (SS): Growing up, who were some of your role models in the game of baseball? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Siempre quise ser como David Ortiz porque yo soy zurdo también. Randy Rosario (English): I always wanted to be like David Ortiz because I'm a lefty too. SS: Tell me a little bit about your youth baseball in the Dominican Republic. Did you play Little League? Did you play other positions besides pitcher? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Yo comencé como todos los dominicanos jugando en la calle y una vez un señor me vio y me invitó al play y después comencé a jugar pelota. Y jugué outfield primero. Randy Rosario (English): I began like every Dominican, playing in the streets, and one time a man saw me and invited me to play in his field and from then on I started playing a lot of baseball! I played outfield first. SS: When did you start hearing from professional, MLB teams and what was it that caused you to decide to sign with the Twins? Randy Rosario (Spanish): La primera vez que comencé a escuchar sobre eso fue cuando Boston contrató a un pitcher asiático y ahí decidí que quería jugar como profesional algún dia. Randy Rosario (English): The first time I started hearing about that was when Boston signed an Asian pitcher, and from there, I decided that I wanted to play professionally one day. SS: What was the adjustment like for you when you moved from the Dominican to Ft. Myers? What were the biggest challenges? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Solo tuve inconvenientes con la comida y el idioma. Me sentí frustrado cuando llegue allí sin saber demasiado, por eso le dediqué tiempo y aprendí. Randy Rosario (English): I mainly had issues with the food and the language. It was frustrating when I arrived without knowing enough and that's why I dedicated the time and learned. SS: How frustrated were you when you had the elbow injury and had to miss time? What was the rehab like? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Pensé que mi carrera se había terminado y que nunca más iba a volver a lanzar Randy Rosario (English): I thought that my career was over and that I was never going to pitch again. SS: What was the highlight of your 2015 season? What did it mean to get back on the mound in Cedar Rapids this year? Randy Rosario (Spanish): ¡Fue maravilloso después de mi primera salida porque todos me felicitaron por haber regresado!! Y me sentí muy bien en el montículo después de haber estado afuera durante todo el año 2014. Randy Rosario (English): It was great after my first outing because everyone congratulated me for coming back! I felt very good on the mound especially after being out all of 2014. SS: What type of pitcher do you think you are and can be? What were your keys to your success on the mound? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Creo que puedo ser como Francisco Liriano. Por lo menos eso es lo que dicen muchos managers y entrenadores de las ligas menores cuando me ven lanzando. Tengo la esperanza de ser tan bueno o quizá mejor si me esmero. Randy Rosario (English): I think I can be like Francisco Liriano, at least that's what many coaches and managers tell me in the minor leagues once they see me pitch. I hope to be as good or hopefully even better with hard work. SS: How did you find out about making the 40-man roster and what does that mean to you? Randy Rosario (Spanish): ¡No recuerdo exactamente, pero cuando me dijeron que estaba en el róster de los 40, me sentí muy emocionado y me sentí muy bien!! Y para mí al igual que para todo jugador de Liga Menor, ese es uno de los sueños que quieres lograr y gracias a Dios estoy ahí ahora. Randy Rosario (English): I can't recall but when they told me I felt very emotional and I felt really good! And for me and for every minor leaguer, that is one of your dreams you want to achieve and thank God that's where I am now. SS: Are there certain areas of your game or preparation that you’d like to focus on during this offseason, looking to 2016? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Sí, tengo a mi entrenador aquí y siempre estoy hablando con él sobre prepararme para la temporada que viene y ya comenzamos a trabajar para estar listos para eso. Randy Rosario (English): Yes, I have my trainer here and I'm always talking with him about being ready for the season, and we have been working to be ready for that. SS: What are some of your goals for the 2016 season? Are there certain statistics that you will focus on? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Mi primera meta es mantenerme sano y mantenerme lo más fuerte que sea posible. Quiero tirar más de 100 inings este año. ¡Esa es otra meta! Randy Rosario (English): My first goal is to remain healthy and be as strong as I can be. I want to throw more than 100 innings this year. That is another goal! SS: What would it mean to you and your family to be able to reach the major leagues and put that uniform on for the first time? Randy Rosario (Spanish): ¡Ese es el sueño de mi familia y el mío!! Estar allí y que todos ellos puedan verme por televisión. Randy Rosario (English): That is the dream of my family and mine! Being there and for everyone to be able to see me on TV. SS: Away from baseball, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? Randy Rosario (Spanish): Me gusta mucho jugar al playstation, siempre hago eso cuando tengo tiempo libre. Randy Rosario (English): I love playing PlayStation, I always do that when I have free time. We would like to thank Randy Rosario for taking time to respond to our questions.
  15. Seeing countless former Twins crush their old Minnesota ballclub got me thinking, what would a team look like made up entirely of former Twins players who are still active in the MLB. So without further ado here is the former-Twins All-Star Team of 2015. The team has a solid core lineup in Morales, Ortiz and Cuddyer and has good on-base guys in Span and Gomez. The only real hole is the second base position filled by Pedro Florimon. Florimon is moved from his primary position of shortstop to second base to make room for J.J. Hardy. Florimon has struggled at the plate in 2015, but did produce a walk-off hit for Pittsburgh just last week. The batting order for the hypothetical Twins team would be this: 1. Span: .301/.365/.431, HR 5, RBI 22 2. Gomez: .246/.307/.392, HR 10, RBI 51. 3. Kendrys Morales: .285/.352/.456, HR 13, RBI 87 4. Ortiz: .260/.350/.499, HR. 26, RBI 76 5. Cuddyer: .263/.313/.408, HR 10, and RBI 37. 6. Ramos: .238/.271/.367, HR 11, RBI 53. 7. Hardy: .222/.253/.315, HR. 7, and RBI 32 8. Valencia: .289/.328/.518, HR. 12, RBI 43 9. Florimon .105/.190/.211, HR 0, RBI 1 Not a bad lineup. The team would however be lacking in power. David Ortiz is the only player on the former Twins All-Star team to have more than 20 homer runs in the 2015 season, although the likes of Hardy, Morneau, and Cuddyer have topped that mark in seasons past. The former Twins squad has a decent batting order but the team’s true strength is the starting rotation. The most difficult decision for me was picking who would be the number one pitcher. Too many Twins pitchers have gone on to be successful in other ballclubs and it shows in the starting rotation below. Here’s the rotation. 1. Francisco Liriano: 9-6, 3.23 ERA. 2. R.A. Dickey: 8-10, 4.26 ERA. 3. Matt Garza: 6-14, 5.26 ERA. 4. Kyle Lohse: 5-13, 6.27 ERA. 5. Jason Marquis: 3-4 6.46 ERA. The strength of the former Twins starting rotation is evident in all the solid pitchers our team has decided to let go. A weakness of the current Twins ballclub is in fact pitching. No starter has solidified himself as an ace in the rotation and many of the younger pitchers have struggled down the stretch. The former Twins would also give the current Twins a run for their money in the relief pitching department. Pat Neshek: 3-3, 3.11 ERA. Jeff Manship: 0-0 1.48 (only appeared in 19 games in 2015) Craig Breslow: 0-3 with an E.R.A. of 4.28 LaTroy Hawkins (Closer): 3-1, 2.81 ERA. Only one 2015 save, but since it is against the Twins, we will make him the closer. Liam Hendriks: 4-0, 2.25 ERA Grant Balfour: 0-0, 6.23 ERA. (Six games played in 2015) Anthony Swarzak: 0-0, 3.38 ERA. (Ten games played in 2015) The bench players include: Chris Colabello (BA .332/.373/.531, HR 13, RBI 49), Ben Revere (.294/.334/.362,HR 1, 30 RBI, SB 24) A.J. Pierzynski (.293/.334/.426, HR. 7, RBI 40), Justin Morneau: (.290/.317/.450, HR 3, RBI 9) and Garrett Jones (.215/.257/.361, HR 5, RBI 17) Overall, I think the former Twins All-Star team would give the current roster a run for its money when it came to pitching, but would struggle to produce runs (especially if David Ortiz or Justin Morneau got hurt). Keep in mind that the current team is a young one and in a couple of seasons I think Twins fans everywhere will begin to forget about all the key players lost to free agency.
  16. As discussed on Friday, the Twins have no fewer than seven starters in the mix who arguably deserve a shot, creating an interesting dynamic as they seek to address the club's most problematic unit. La Velle E. Neal III reports that the team has interest in bringing back Francisco Liriano, who is returning to free agency after an excellent two-year run in Pittsburgh. That's a reunion I could get behind, in principle. He's a strikeout machine, something that this absurdly contact-heavy rotation could sorely use. He's always got that front-end potential and has displayed it frequently over these last couple of seasons. But even as a huge Liriano backer, I'd be a little squeamish about giving up a second-round draft pick in addition to guaranteeing him big money on a multi-year deal. The Twins are as familiar as anyone with the lefty's talent, but they're also all too familiar with what happens when he goes off the rails. Are they really willing to take that plunge one year after getting burned on the Ricky Nolasco signing? I just can't see it. But I'm a lot more intrigued by another pitcher who is represented by the same agency. According to Neal, the Twins are meeting with Brett Anderson's agent on Monday. To me, he's the most perfect fit on the market. He won't require a long commitment, and he's got huge ability. Plus, he's only 26, so if he can turn a corner with his health, maybe they can find a way to work him into the long-term plans. Meanwhile, Charley Walters wrote in the Pioneer Press that the Twins are interested in Justin Masterson, and that they'll make their push for him this week. Walters suggests that the team sees Masterson -- who's coming off a rough season -- in the same light they did Phil Hughes a year ago. That's a parallel that's been drawn here before, as well. Masterson makes a lot of sense as a target. He'll probably only require a one-year deal, and he's more reliable to deliver innings than someone like Anderson. His peripherals hint that fast improvement is in store after an ugly 2014 campaign. But on that note, it's a little hard to sell a guy who posted a 5.88 ERA last year as a shiny rotation upgrade, and signing Masterson would likely push the Twins' payroll close to $100 million. For what it's worth, Darren Wolfson tweeted this weekend that "every sign has Masterson landing elsewhere," adding that the Twins have no meetings set up with him at the Winter Meetings. Stay tuned this week and we'll keep you apprised on any developments relating to these story lines, as well as any others that emerge.
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