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  1. "The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation is proud to honor Minnesota Twins pitcher Griffin Jax,” Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation Founder and President Peter J. Fertig said. “Griffin has served his country honorably, becoming the first professional athlete in Major League Baseball to come from the United States Air Force Academy. His service to our country, like Bob Feller’s, serves as a reminder that service above self is still as important today as it was in years past." Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller enlisted in the military after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. This award recognizes those who share Feller’s commitment to serving the United States. The award began in 2013. When Griffin Jax was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2016, he became the highest-drafted player ever from the Air Force Academy. On June 8, he became the first Air Force Academy graduate to play in the big leagues. He remained on active duty in 2019, and he maintains the rank of Captain in the Air Force Reserves. His wife Savannah is a Captain in the US Air Force. She was deployed to Afghanistan just last year and was scheduled for another deployment in 2021. In an MLB.com article by Do Hyoung-Park, Jax said, "I think my job is stressful, but hearing what she has to do, and all that stuff, I've got it easy." In a pre-recorded acceptance aired online on Thursday night, Jax remained humble and thanked many including the Twins for nominating him. It's clear his entire family has strongly supported the military, not only in words and funds, but with active duty. "It is a huge honor. As a fellow serviceman, I understand the sacrifice and duty that one must embody as a serviceman. While I serve more in the recruitment role as a reservist, I understand first-hand, watching what my wife does on a day-to-day basis, and my two brothers, both Air Force Academy graduates and in pilot training, and their spouses as well. I watch how they embody themselves in the morals and the sacrifices they take on daily. I just want to give them a shout out as well because they are the true reason this award exists. Past Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winners 2013: Justin Verlander 2014: Nick Swisher 2015: Jonathan Lucroy 2016: Brad Ziegler 2017: Darren O’Day 2018: Sean Doolittle 2019: Ian Kennedy 2020: Craig Stammen The 2021 winners include: 1. National Baseball Hall of Fame Award: Joe Torre, Major League Baseball 2. Major League Baseball Award: Griffin Jax, Minnesota Twins 3. United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Award: ACC (AW/SW/IW) Joshua A. Sawyer, Naval Air Station Fallon, NV 4. United States Marine Corps, Jerry Coleman Award: First Sergeant, Daniel P. Best, Support Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Support Battalion, III Marine Information Group 5. Peer-to-Peer, Sea Command Award: USS GERMANTOWN (LSD 42) Junior Enlisted Association, Sasebo Japan. 6. Peer-to-Peer, Ashore Installation Award: Training Support Center, Great Lakes, IL Chapter of the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) 7. Bob Feller Fellowship Award: Galen Odell, Emerson College According to the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation says on its website, “Each honoree possesses the values, integrity, and dedication to serving our country that Bob Feller himself displayed.” Over 500 MLB players have served in the military, including 37 Hall of Famers. Congratulations to Griffin Jax and the other recipients tonight! More on Griffin Jax: Get To Know: Twins RHP Prospect Griffin Jax (January 2017) Jax Debuts for Kernels (July 2017) Griffin Jax's Baseball Career Resumes (May 2018) ERA to MBA: The Many Talents of Griffin Jax (May 2021) Prospect Retrospective: Griffin Jax (June 2021) Trio Hinting at Twins Pitching Pipeline (August 2021)
  2. Earlier this week, Dan Hayes of The Athletic penned a piece sizing up the monumental challenge ahead of the Twins as they seek to fill the top three spots in their rotation from the outside. The end of the piece includes this quote from the Twins GM, which really caught my attention: “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” While Levine's allusion is not overly specific, one could take it to mean the Twins are envisioning a staff filled with "hybrid" pitchers – not quite starters, but not traditional one-inning relievers either – stringing together nine-inning games, without the expectation of one guy throwing six or seven. This is, in some respects, the direction baseball is trending, and it's been very noticeable in recent postseasons. For a team in Minnesota's position, embracing this revolution fully would make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons why: Free agent starting pitchers are expensive and hazardous. Mid-market teams like the Twins rarely play at the highest level because it's tough to be outbid resource-intensive (not to mention more appealing) heavy hitters, and because getting it wrong on a guy you commit $100+ million to can really set you back. As Hayes notes in his article, the Twins face an especially tough challenge because the two "sure things" in their rotation, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, are young and inexperienced starters who threw about 100 innings apiece this season. They'll surely have workload limits in place next year, and the model we're discussing would help accommodate that, while reducing a need to compensate by going out and finding proven durable workhorses on the open market (far and few between, highly expensive). Theoretically this could be a way to maximize effectiveness for a multitude of pitchers. We've seen many failing starters reinvent themselves as outstanding relievers, and this would be a pivot in the same vein. Guys can let loose more in shorter stints, rely on a two- or three-pitch mix, and avoid going through the lineup multiple times. In the not-too-distant past, it would've been difficult if not impossible to facilitate a system like this, but the expansion of rosters and the ability to continually carry 13-14 pitchers makes it feasible. You might ask, what types of pitchers would fit under an approach like this? There are a few names on the free agent market that catch my eye, but first, let's discuss some internal candidates to thrive under such an arrangement. Randy Dobnak: He's not really built up to a starter's full workload after throwing 46 and 70 innings in the last two seasons. As a multi-inning reliever or "extended opener" type starter, he'd be able to stretch out without pushing too hard. Griffin Jax: I wrote a while ago about why I like Jax as a candidate to level-up in a relief role: he's got one really good pitch (his slider), and he held opponents to a .597 OPS the first time through the lineup this year. Limiting him to two- or three-inning stints could help unlock his peak form. Lewis Thorpe: I'm not sure if the Twins will continue to try and see things through with Thorpe, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dumped from the 40-man roster in the near future. That said, if they are committed to giving him one more shot to get healthy and show his stuff, this seems like the way to do it. Full-time starter is out the window at this point. Upcoming Prospects: The Twins have a wealth of near-ready prospects in the minors, but most of them have been plagued by injury issues and nearly all will need to be carefully managed and monitored. This approach helps here, just as it does with managing young MLB starters like Ober and Ryan. Of course, the Twins can't do it all with what they have on hand. They'll need to bring in some talent. The downside of this model is that established MLB starters are probably not going to want to sign on for such unconventional and reduced usage. The upside is that you can possibly make savvy and cost-effective moves, signing down-and-out guys and turning them around. To be clear, the kinds of pitchers who would likely to be signed to support this framework are NOT going to excite anyone. As you look at some of the names I'll throw out below, it's important to think of them not as they are, but as what they could be. Surely no one in Seattle was excited when they signed downtrodden starter Kendall Graveman for $1.25M last year, but now he's suddenly a hot commodity after posting a 1.77 ERA as a reliever. Here are a few pitchers from the current free agent class who strike me as fits in the hybrid mold: Garrett Richards: Struggled as a starter for Boston this year, but moved to the bullpen in mid-August and posted a 3.42 ERA with one homer allowed in 18 appearances the rest of the way. He threw two or more innings in five of those appearances. Jordan Lyles: Been terrible the past two years while mostly pitching out of the rotation. But he's still only 31 and had some success as a multi-inning RP/swing-man type as recently as 2018. Vince Velasquez: I don't have a specific reason for identifying Velasquez in this mix other than he's always had good stuff that has never really played as a starter. Why not try something else? He'll be extremely cheap despite a career 9.9 K/9 rate. Trevor Cahill: Sort of the same deal here as above. Cahill has a good repertoire but has struggled to sustainably harness it. He has plenty of experience as both starter and reliever, so the shift to a role like this could be relatively natural for him. Josh Tomlin: There's nothing very interesting or exciting about Tomlin; I just think he'd be a likely target if the Twins were to take an approach like this. He's an experienced veteran who spent the past three years in Atlanta pitching in such a capacity – frequent multi-inning relief appearances with the occasional start mixed in – and he has Derek Falvey ties from his days in Cleveland. I'm sure much of the response to names like these, or even to an overall experimental approach like the one being proposed, will be some variation of "Cheap Pohlads." But I'd submit that the cost efficiencies of this approach enable the team to invest heavily elsewhere – say, a star shortstop, or a high-end closer, or putting all of their chips on one workhorse type starter while using the shorter-duration usage patterns otherwise. Will the Twins actually lean into a radically innovative pitching staff model like this? I don't know. Would I personally advise it? I'm not sure. But you don't have to read between the lines much to see they're considering something along these lines, and you don't have to squint too hard to see the logic and potential value in it. "How many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” Maybe we're about to find out. 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  3. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? 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
  4. Box Score Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Josh Donaldson (26) Top 3 WPA: Griffin Jax .290, Josh Donaldson .058, Caleb Thielbar .056 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) For all of his ups and downs this season, Griffin Jax ended his rookie campaign on a high note as the Minnesota Twins brushed past the Kansas City Royals Saturday night. Jax tossed five innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and was bolstered by the hot bats of Miguel Sano (2-for-4, 2B), Luis Arráez (2-for-3, 2 RBI), and Josh Donaldson (1-for-3, HR) as the Twins picked up their 72nd win of the season, keeping them at 89 losses headed into Sunday's regular season finally. Jax was once thought of as a long shot to ever reach the major leagues after posting mediocre strikeout numbers during his minor league career. However, while he likely won't be counted on as a starter in the long run due to his propensity to surrender home runs his second time through the order, Jax displayed enough talent to warrant a shot in next season's bullpen, one that figures to look much different than the 2021 iteration. Byron Buxton (1-for-5) also continued his success at the plate by connecting for his 22nd double of the season. Entering play, Buxton had accumulated 4.0 fWAR in 59 games, which is an MVP-caliber pace when extrapolated over the course of a full season (i.e. 120 or so games). Buxton's status will be one of the biggest talking points this offseason as he figures to be one of the most sought after names on the trade market. The Twins could — and arguably should — off him a contract extension as well. While many will bring up his injury history as a reason not to extend him, Buxton will be worth every penny of his next contract extension, regardless of the dollar amount and regardless of which team it is with. As a reference, Jorge Polanco has been the Twins’ most valuable player this season and likely would garner MVP votes if his team wasn’t one of the 10 worst in all of baseball. Entering play on Saturday, he had accumulated 4.1 fWAR. The Twins conclude the 2021 season on Sunday when Charlie Barnes (0-3, 5.86 ERA) goes up against Jackson Kowar (0-5, 11.28 ERA). First pitch is slated for 2:10 p.m. CT. Postgame Interviews Griffin Jax on his final start. Tyler Duffey on the bullpen's performance and more. Finally, Rocco Baldelli's postgame comments. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duffey 18 21 0 0 15 54 Thielbar 13 0 14 0 26 53 Colomé 26 18 0 0 7 51 Farrell 0 0 0 38 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 38 0 38 Garza Jr. 19 0 12 0 0 31 Alcalá 10 0 13 0 0 23 Minaya 0 22 0 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 16 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15 Barraclough 0 0 14 0 0 14 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. Box Score: Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (83 pitches, 61 strikes) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Mitch Garver (.122) Byron Buxton (.096) Jake Cave (.091) Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon (-.188); Josh Donaldson (-.188) Griffin Jax (-.169) Jax Maxes Out It’s been a tough rookie season for Griffin Jax. After being called up in early June, Jax became a full-time starter almost immediately. He’s shown glimmers of hope, but today was not one of those days. After today’s outing, his ERA rose slightly to 6.78 on the season. Nothing to write home about, per se, but a good outing against the Blue Jays at that. This leaves questions to be asked about his role for next season. Ted Schwerzler took a look at the future of this role (and many others) earlier this week. Lord Byron is Back! Even the mighty need some time to heat up after returning from the IL. Since returning from the IL on August 27th, Byron Buxton hasn’t quite lived up to the bar of his MVP-caliber run in the first half of the season. However, Buxton seems to be heating back up, just in time for the end of the season. Today, he hit his 6th home run of the month, putting him just one less than Jorge Polanco. Since coming back from the IL, the Twins have been 14-14 in games that Buxton plays in. Even though the games don’t matter on paper, Buxton gives hope to all Twins fans for next year on the horizon. In the meantime, enjoy Buxton’s bomb from today. GarvSauce: Good as Gravy Mitch Garver finds himself in a very similar but elongated boat as Byron Buxton. Long IL stint: check. Painful recovery post IL stint: check. The past year hasn’t been kind to Mitch. However, Garver continues to bounce back to his 2019 ways with another double today that almost left the ballpark. Since coming back from this latest stint, Garver has been a gravy train that can’t be stopped with back-to-back multi-hit games before today. If this continues, Garver will finish the season with a line slightly higher than his career numbers, showing that continued improvement is on the horizon. Around the Bases Max Kepler came back to the lineup with two singles under his belt, his first multi-hit game since his undisclosed (but non-COVID) illness. Jake Cave hushed his haters by driving in the first run of the game. Although Miguel Sano later struck out to leave two runners stranded, he produced a big double off of Alek Manoah. Nick Vincent balked. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Vincent 0 13 0 0 33 46 Coulombe 0 0 0 37 0 37 Farrell 0 19 0 18 0 37 Garza Jr. 0 16 0 0 18 34 Barraclough 0 0 0 33 0 33 Minaya 13 0 19 0 0 32 Thielbar 0 14 0 0 17 31 Duffey 12 0 17 0 0 29 Colomé 24 0 5 0 0 29 Moran 0 0 0 19 0 19 Alcalá 10 0 6 0 0 16 Postgame Interviews
  6. Yesterday, I looked at some of the arms from the bullpen that could survive an impending roster shakeup and, knowing there will be turnover, guys that the front office should want to keep. When looking more at the rotation, a handful of arms were expected to elevate the club in 2021 that suffered injuries or setbacks and now have a murkier future. When considering both the 26-man and 40-man rosters, where do these guys fit? Randy Dobnak Signed to an extension this offseason, Dobnak watched 2021 go about as poorly as it possibly could. He owned a 7.64 ERA and was optioned back to Triple-A at one point. Getting in just over 50 innings due to a finger injury was nothing short of a disaster. Under team control through 2025, his deal was more about being earned as a self-made big-leaguer rather than necessary to lock down a future cornerstone. Still, if he returns with a clean bill of health, his status as a 5th or 6th starter with swingman abilities should remain intact. Lewis Thorpe Arguably the most disappointing arm from 2021, considering what the expectations may have been, was Thorpe. His velocity was reported to have ticked up all spring, but that never carried over to games that count. He pitched just 15 innings at the big league level and showed no ability to strike batters out. After being a former high-ceiling prospect, he appears to have been deterred by Tommy John, time missed, and his own personal setbacks. With just shy of 60 innings since debuting in 2019, I’d be far from shocked if Thorpe isn’t jettisoned from the 40-man this offseason. Devin Smeltzer The last injury update on Smeltzer came back in July. He was transferred to the 60-day Injured List with left elbow inflammation. Pitching in just one game for the Twins this season, his year was over before it ever got started. Minnesota has been quiet as to what is next for Smeltzer, but elbow injuries are always scary. He’s certainly not an option for the Opening Day rotation in 2022, and at best, would be rotational depth. Smeltzer gave the 2019 Bomba Squad some really good innings but has largely been an afterthought since. Cody Stashak Each of the past two seasons, Stashak had been one of the Twins more dominant relievers. Although utilized in scarce innings, he racked up strikeouts and limited walks. That wasn’t so much the case in 2021. While the strikeouts saw a nice jump, he allowed ten free passes in 15 2/3 innings. Hitting the Injured List with a back issue, Stashak was transferred to the 60-day IL at the end of June. Ideally, he’d be a factor for Minnesota’s revamped bullpen next season. He’ll be just 28-years-old and has looked the part of a quality arm when healthy. Griffin Jax The first of two fringe arms discussed here, Jax wasn’t injured and has gotten run for Minnesota in the season's second half. He earned a promotion with a 3.76 ERA at Triple-A St. Paul this year. In 72 innings for the Twins, he owns a 6.75 ERA but has a near-identical strikeout and walk rate compared to his minor league numbers. Jax’s bugaboo has been the longball, and 21 of them burn him far too often. However, there have been instances where he looks like the stuff can play, so keeping him on the 40-man as rotational depth makes a good deal of sense. Charlie Barnes Another one of St. Paul’s strong starting arms this year, Barnes earned his call with a 3.88 ERA across 15 turns in the Triple-A rotation. Results haven’t followed at the big league level to the tune of a 6.61 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. He’s struggling by being too hittable with a H/9 north of 10, and his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 at Triple-A to 4.3 in the big leagues. Being able to miss bats is a must at the highest level, and the crafty lefty will need to go back to the drawing board this offseason. The former 4th round pick will be 26 next year and should remain in the organization as rotational depth. John Gant Netting Gant for what J.A. Happ was to the Twins remains a coup. I don’t know that I have a preference for where the former Cardinals arm finds his future in Minnesota, but under team control for another year, he’ll be on the roster. His 4.73 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but the 3.46 FIP suggests there’s more to be had here. Gant is striking out 10.8 per nine with the Twins and has worked in a starting and bullpen role. He’ll be cheap and just 29-years-old, there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t keep him around for a second year. The Twins won’t be able to go into 2022, thinking their depth can produce as this year's case. It should be expected to help bolster what the frontline guys are capable of, but between injuries and ineffectiveness, there’s so much volatility once you get beyond that top tier. A learning year for the front office and the manager, working out who fits where in the year ahead is a must. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K Homeruns: Gordon (3) Top 3 WPA: Gordon .217, Donaldson .192, Buxton .175 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The battle for 2022 draft positions continued on Tuesday night, as Minnesota kicked off a two-game set in Chicago against the Cubs. Here’s how the Twins lined up to face Alec Mills. The Twins got off to a strong start, with back-to-back singles putting Luis Arraez on third and Byron Buxton on first base. Buxton stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Wilson Contreras, with Arraez scoring. A Josh Donaldson sacrifice fly made it 2-0 Twins after the top of the first. The Cubs immediately chipped away at the Twins lead, scoring one in the first, one in the second, and one in the third. The later two runs came from solo home runs from Trayce Thompson and Willson Contreras, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead after three innings. The familiar home run bug has continued to bite Griffin Jax, who only managed to make it through three innings. The Twins fought back in the top of the fourth inning. A Josh Donaldson walk, wild pitch, and Max Kepler single cut the deficit to 3-2. A Nick Gordon home run to left center field added two more runs, giving the Twins a 5-3 lead. The Twins continued to add to their lead in the top of the fifth. A Luis Arraez walk and Byron Buxton single were backed up by further singles from Josh Donaldson and Max Kepler, increasing the Twins lead to 7-3. The Cubs trimmed the lead in the sixth inning. A Rafael Ortega single was followed up by a Frank Schwindel double. Jorge Alcala replaced Danny Coulombe and struck out Wilson Contreras, but allowed a Patrick Wisdom single, scoring two runs. Alcala, however, has been on a recent run of good form which is encouraging news for a bullpen which needs padding heading into 2022. The Twins immediately increased the lead. Doubles from Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano, followed by singles from Nick Gordon and Mitch Garver added two runs, pushing the lead to 9-5 and giving the Twins offense 16 hits on the night. Byron Buxton was hit by a pitch in the foot in the top of the ninth inning. Mercifully, Alexander Colome threw a scoreless inning to draw a marathon four-hour game to a close, bringing the Twins record for the season to 66-85. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN TUE TOT Barraclough 0 0 32 0 35 67 Vincent 0 0 0 40 0 40 Thielbar 0 0 0 22 16 38 Minaya 0 0 0 36 0 36 Moran 0 0 34 0 0 34 Farrell 0 0 0 34 0 34 Duffey 0 16 0 0 11 27 Alcalá 0 13 0 0 10 23 Colomé 0 14 0 0 7 21 Garza Jr. 0 0 17 0 0 17 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 17 17 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will finish their short series in Chicago. Joe Ryan will take the mound against Kyle Hendricks. First pitch is at 6:40 CST. Postgame Interviews
  8. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Homeruns: Sano (28) Bottom 3 WPA: Jax (-0.201), Buxton (-0.047), Jeffers (-0.042) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Griffin Jax Gets Blown Up in the Fifth Griffin Jax’s rough first season in the Majors has been especially brutal of late, as he has posted a 7.54 ERA over his last four starts entering play on Wednesday. For a guy that is clearly pitching for a potential spot in the Twins 2022 starting rotation, these last few starts of the season are going to be very important to him. The way things started in this ballgame, it appeared as though Jax was going to have a start that would help him start to right the ship. However, that was not be the case. Jax faced just 10 batters through the first three innings of the game, before giving up a run on a couple doubles in the fourth. Things took a turn for the worse in the top of the fifth inning, which ended with a Twins reliever on the mound (Jovani Moran, to be specific). A single and an error put two runners on base for the Cleveland nine-hole hitter Oscar Mercado, who delivered a three-run blast into the bleachers in left, giving Cleveland a three-run lead. The damage didn't stop there. Cleveland continued to hit up Jax before he was finally pulled with two outs in the inning and the Twins trailing by five. Jovani Moran came in to relieve Jax in just his third Major League appearance, and got Bobby Bradley to strike out looking to end the inning. Moran would stay out and pitch a clean 1-2-3 sixth inning, before things imploded on him as well in the seventh when he gave up three runs on four hits before having to be relieved with just one out in the inning. Andrew Albers came in to relieve Moran, and promptly gave up a two-run blast to Bobby Bradley. One of those runs was charged to Moran, who finished with four earned runs in the inning. Andrew Albers would stay in and pitch the final 2 2/3 innings for the Twins to help give the rest of the bullpen the night off before an off day on Thursday for some additional much-needed rest. He surrendered single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, the latter of which coming off a solo blast from Franmil Reyes. Twins Position Players Have Rough Night While this game will certainly be looked back on as a rough night for the pitching staff, the position players had an equally-rough night. The defense did the pitching staff no favors as they committed two sloppy throwing errors that helped lead to Cleveland’s two big innings. In addition to the defense, the bats were almost non-existent, at least until the game was well out of reach. The Twins bats mustered just one hit through six innings off of Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill, and it should have stayed that way through seven had it not been for a misplayed pop-up off the bat of Max Kepler that should have ended the inning. Instead, the inning stayed alive long enough for Miguel Sano to deliver a three-run blast to make the Twins offensive woes seem not as bad as they actually were. Twins Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Minaya 0 17 0 13 0 30 Coulombe 23 0 0 27 0 50 Colomé 0 0 27 11 0 38 Duffey 0 0 38 0 0 38 Farrell 12 0 34 0 0 46 Barraclough 0 0 23 16 0 39 Moran 0 37 0 0 34 71 Thielbar 26 0 11 0 0 37 Alcalá 0 18 0 8 0 26 Albers 0 0 0 0 40 40 Garza Jr. 0 11 6 0 0 17 What's Next? The Twins are off on Thursday before heading back on the road for a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays beginning on Friday. Postgame Interview
  9. Box Score Jax: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (75% strikes) Home Runs: Buxton (12), Donaldson (22) Bottom 3 WPA: Refsnyder -.296, Rooker -.274, Gordon -.208 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Seven runs scored right away, in the first inning of this game. Looking to bounce back after three consecutive bad starts, Griffin Jax struggled early tonight. Despite getting ahead on the count, the Twins starter gave up a double to Nicky Lopez and a walk to Salvador Pérez before facing Andrew Benintendi. A lifetime .349 hitter (1.035 OPS) at Target Field, the former Red Sock improved those numbers even more by hitting a three-run bomb to put Kansas City ahead. But rookie lefty Daniel Lynch didn’t take advantage of all the run support. The Virginia native gave up four consecutive hits to open the game. The first one was a mammoth, 457-feet leadoff home run to Byron Buxton. Minnesota was definitely not done hitting that inning. Jorge Polanco followed that Buxton homer with a double, with Rob Refsnyder adding a single. Josh Donaldson didn’t care that Lynch hadn’t brought an umbrella with him and brought the rain to catapult the Twins into the lead, 4-3. But contrary to what happened in the first inning, both starters settled down and mostly dominated their opposing lineups for the following innings. Lynch tossed four scoreless, and, beginning with the final two outs of the first, Jax was able to retire eight in a row, including a pair of 1-2-3 innings. Benintendi broke the streak leading off the fourth and later scored from first on a long double from Michael Taylor, tying the game. That didn’t affect Jax at all. The rookie retired seven of the final eight batters he saw, going scoreless in the fifth and the sixth. He didn’t come back for the seventh, even though his pitch count was still at only 76 pitches, 57 of which were thrown for strikes (75%!). Tonight’s start was the first since Aug. 16, in which Jax completed six innings of work. After a 23-pitch first inning, he navigated through the next five on only 53 pitches. Can he use this outing to regain some confidence and finish the season on a high note? Neither offense performed well against opposing bullpens. Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcalá threw a couple of scoreless innings on only 20 pitches, 80% of which were strikes. Royals hitters didn’t know what hit them. While Kansas City’s relievers were just as effective, Donaldson did drew a two-out walk in the eighth, bringing Miguel Sanó to the plate. However, he struck out, ending the threat. Benintendi was at it again, hitting a leadoff single off Alexander Colomé in the ninth inning. But Colomé did a great job, striking out the next two batters on six pitches, before retiring Taylor. The offense couldn’t take advantage of yet another great outing by a Twins reliever, as they fell in order in the bottom half of the inning, taking the game to extra innings. To the extras, we go Red-hot Juan Minaya came in to pitch the 10th, posting a 0.98 ERA in his previous 14 outings. He struck out the first batter he saw but then gave up a walk to Kansas City’s number nine hitter, Edward Olivares, forcing him to face the top of the Royal lineup with two men on. He struck out Whit Merrifield but then committed a fielding error against Lopez, loading the bases to face Pérez. Fortunately, “Salvy” swung on the first pitch he saw and grounded out, with a beautiful throw from Polanco to first. In the bottom half of the 10th, Luis Arráez drew a leadoff walk, putting two men on. But the Twins couldn’t move either runner, with the following three batters being retired. Buxton, who hit immediately after Arraez, made an absolutely awful bunt attempt. Following that, Minaya continued in the game, and Benintendi (who else?) swung on the first pitch he saw, homering to center field, scoring him and Pérez, the ghost runner. Kansas City took a definitive two-run lead, 6-4. Donaldson, Sanó, and Brent Rooker went down in order in the bottom of the 11th. Minnesota drops the first of three games of the series. They send Michael Pineda to the mound on Saturday evening, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Minaya 0 21 0 0 40 61 Colomé 9 17 0 0 12 38 Duffey 8 0 17 0 11 36 Thielbar 0 25 8 0 0 33 Farrell 0 0 0 32 0 32 Alcalá 0 19 0 0 9 28 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 19 0 19 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15
  10. Box Score Griffin Jax: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (55-percent strikes) Homeruns: none Top 3 WPA: Gordon (.364), Colomé (.194), Arraez (.171) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Jax Bounces Back After Two Abysmal Starts Jax entered today giving up 15 earned runs in his last two starts combined, and was able to have a passable start given his recent struggles. From the start, Jax was benefiting from some near misses starting with the leadoff batter hitting a deep fly ball into the right field corner, another deep flyball to start the second inning, and then a ball off of the bat of Yandy Diaz that had an xBA of .690 to end the second. Regardless, he was able to get through the first two innings unscathed although that would be a sign of things to come for the end of his day. The luck of the near misses through the first two innings were balanced out by three different batted balls, two off the glove of Luis Arraez and one off of Nick Gordon, that would have undoubtedly made for shorter innings and less damage against Jax. Although none of these balls were considered errors, they were plays that gloves of Donaldson and Polanco would likely have vacuumed up for outs. Luckily, the Twins bullpen was most fresh after pitching just one inning on Friday, as Jax only lasted 4 ⅔ innings when the Rays started making consistent hard contact off of the rookie right hander. Coming into today, Jax had given up nine home runs and 11 walks in 27 innings in the month of August. As previously mentioned, there were some close calls today but outside of the homerun to Brandon Lowe he kept the ball in the ballpark and made the Rays earn their bases only giving up one walk. Even on the homerun to Lowe, Glen Perkins had some interesting insight as to how Lowe pulled a low and away breaking ball 365 feet. Clutch Two-Out Rallies Lift the Twins to Victory Luis Arraez started off the game for the Twins getting robbed of a line drive single by Wander Franco in what would foreshadow Luis Patiño’s day against the slumping Twins offense. After a quick first inning, the Twins would score three two-out runs with hitters six thru nine all reaching base, including Willians Astudillo’s first walk since drawing back-to-back walks on June 16th. The Twins would tack on a fourth run in the third inning after aggressive baserunning by Josh Donaldson creating a balk to get to second and taking third on a ball in the dirt. The headsy baserunning would pay off after a bloop two-out single by Jake Cave allowed Donaldson to score easily, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead. The Twins put together another threat in the fourth after an Arraez single and a Buxton double that would have been a run-scoring triple had it stayed in the ballpark. Alas, it was ruled a ground-rule double (bounced off the foul pole and back into play) and the next batter, Jorge Polanco, would hit a line drive to Wander Franco who flipped it to third to double off Arraez. After getting 1-2-3 innings in the fifth and sixth, the bottom of the line up would come through again with Nick Gordon tying the game at five runs apiece with another two-out RBI hit. And that wouldn't even be the end of Nick Gordon's career day. After more aggressive baserunning by Donaldson and with one out in the ninth and runners on 1st and 3rd, Gordon punched a single up the middle to give the Twins the 6-5 lead and ultimately the win. If you were paying attention closely, you realized that five of the six Twins runs were scored with two-outs and Nick Gordon was responsible for half of the runs scored today. Bullpen Usage Chart The Twins made the right call in pulling Griffin Jax but, in what seems like the “Twins Way” this year, the inherited runner was allowed to score when Caleb Thielbar immediately gave up a two-run homerun to Austin Meadows. Thielbar finished the fifth but wasn’t able to finish the sixth after a lead off walk and a comebacker fielder's choice, and was relieved by righty Jorge Alcala. After a first pitch swinging strike by Mike Zunino, he got the backstop to ground into an inning ending double play and would get through the seventh only allowing a double to Franco. Tyler Duffey came on in the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 thanks to Ryan Jeffers gunning down a would-be base stealer before handing over the save opportunity to Alex Colomé in the ninth. As usual, Colomé would make things very interesting in the ninth but ultimately earned the saved after a 23 pitch inning. TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Gibaut 0 24 0 0 47 0 71 Minaya 24 11 0 0 21 0 56 Garza Jr. 17 0 0 8 23 0 48 Colomé 0 0 0 0 11 23 34 Thielbar 26 0 0 0 0 28 54 Alcalá 0 0 0 0 0 15 15 Duffey 16 0 0 0 0 10 26 Coulombe 0 10 0 0 0 0 10
  11. Box Score Griffin Jax: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 5 K, 3 BB, 65.0% strikes Homeruns: Sano (23) Bottom 3 WPA: Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Griffin Jax Struggles with Control If you’ve followed me long enough, you know how much emphasis I put on pitchers being efficient. Well, unfortunately for Jax he was almost too efficient today throwing 65-percent strikes and 76-percent first pitch strikes, but leaving too many pitches over the middle of the plate. Those six extra-base hits could have easily been up to nine extra-base hits but each of the three starting outfielders made nice running catches to limit the Brewers' damage against Jax, including the ball off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr which Byron Buxton snagged with ease. If you were listening to the Bally Sports North broadcast, you heard former Twins All-Star reliever Glen Perkins mention Ryan Jeffers glove “drifting” from where he set up due to Jax missing his spots, which is why he got tagged all day. With a wide-open rotation for 2022, Jax will continue to get an opportunity to prove he can stick, but this is now back-to-back starts for Jax where he got absolutely shelled after a string of five solid starts. In today’s game particularly, his pitch movement was on par with where he’s been all season so it’s just a matter of bearing down and hitting the mitt where the catcher sets up. This leaves me a little optimistic that he can rebound the next time he’s on the bump. Sano Moons One while Rest of Offense is Grounded It was a solid day from left-hander Aaron Ashby, but his one mistake was hanging a curveball to Miguel Sano who hit his fourth blast in the last eight games. This was Sano’s 23rd of the season and “only” traveled 420 feet. The rest of the offense was pretty quiet with each of Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Rob Refsnyder, and Willians Astudillo being the only other players to reach base. In the last twelve plate appearances of the game, the Twins struck out nine times including 1-2-3 in the eighth inning and three straight to end the game. In short, there wasn't ever much from the Twins throughout the entirety of the game. Bullpen Usage Ian Gibaut made his season debut, providing the Twins with three scoreless innings despite not having a clean inning and getting hit hard. Ralph Garza Jr came on in the 9th inning with two strikeouts on 11 pitches and not allowing anyone to reach base. WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Albers 0 0 88 0 0 88 Garza Jr. 24 4 0 0 11 39 Coulombe 19 0 20 0 0 39 Thielbar 22 0 0 23 0 45 Duffey 9 0 6 0 0 15 Colomé 20 0 13 13 0 46 Minaya 0 0 0 17 0 17 Gibaut 0 0 0 0 33 33 Alcalá 0 0 12 0 0 12
  12. The Twins had a tall order when it came to the 2022 pitching staff even when Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were slotted into the first two spots. Berrios has since been traded and we’ve received word that Maeda has an ominous elbow injury and will have exploratory surgery next week which could turn into Tommy John. Kenta Maeda That brings us to the number one factor in the Twins rotation rebuild in 2022: Kenta Maeda needs to be anchoring it. The Twins can’t really affect whether Maeda is healthy and at this point it appears him being relied on in 2022 is a long shot, but not having a single veteran arm returning creates a scenario in which some might call it nearly impossible to field a reliable 1-5. Even if Maeda isn’t the bona fide ace we hoped, having him at 2 or 3 in the rotation would at least give the Twins something to work with. Without Maeda, the rotation troubles likely become too much to recover from. Build From Within There’s no doubt that the Falvey/Levine pitching pipeline is growing ever closer to MLB ready and some of it has already arrived. Bailey Ober is likely a favorite to shore up the rotation on Opening Day after he put up an ERA around 4.00 in his first 68 innings. Griffin Jax will likely finish the season in the rotation, and Randy Dobnak should be back in the rotation before year’s end. Joe Ryan may be up in short order as well. Additionally, the Twins do have Duran and Winder at the AAA level with newly-acquired Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands and Jordan Balazovic at AA. The issue with using internal options is it largely depends on youth, much of which hasn’t even pitched in the majors yet. For as talented as many of the Twins young arms might be, there’s no telling how they’ll perform in their first taste of the big leagues. Furthermore, the Twins simply won’t let any of these young arms throw enough innings to take the ball every fifth day through season’s end even if they are effective. Duran threw over 100 innings in 2019, had 2020 off, and has thrown 16 innings this season. Winder followed a similar trend and has thrown 72 innings this season. Bailey Ober, whose fans typically express their disgust with his limited innings in starts, leads this group with 84 innings in 2021. It would be simply shocking to see any of these young arms reach even 150 innings in 2022. Some innings will be filled internally, but it will likely take some of them debuting down the stretch rather than being leaned on throughout the entire season. Outside Help The Twins are going to have a heavy offseason of trying to acquire pitching on the free agent and hopefully trade market. Even coming into this year they preferred to spend $10m on a combination of Happ and Shoemaker to take up two spots rather than spending on a higher quality arm and dedicating a rotation spot to a young arm like Dobnak. Picking up two free agent starters with three already penciled in in 2021 hints that the Twins will likely pursue three to four starting pitchers this winter at the very least. There are some high level free agent arms available this offseason, but it’s hard to see the Twins pursuing any of them. Spending $15-20m on one single pitcher would limit the Twins ability to effectively fill 3-4 other rotation spots. Instead the Twins will likely have to fill their rotation with middling arms that they can try to tweak and unlock something with. Their rotation’s success will likely have everything to do with their ability to effectively identify some under the radar arms and make the necessary tweaks. So essentially the Twins are relying on a miracle when it comes to Maeda and their effectiveness in bringing in outside options when it comes to their pitching rebound. They’ll certainly be counting on some younger pitchers contributing, but they’re almost certainly going to try to make them complementary pieces. In short, the Twins are in a difficult spot no matter how you spin it. They’re likely going to be headed into 2022 with either four or five starting pitchers in the rotation that weren’t there on Opening Day 2021. That’s an incredibly steep mountain to climb for any front office trying to compete, let alone one that missed on nearly every pitching decision they made just last winter. It’s no fun being negative, but 2022 may be a year to just sit back and enjoy whatever positives shake out with this pitching staff rather than having soaring expectations. There will be a fair share of excitement along the way, but it may be wise for Twins fans to temper expectations. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  13. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 4.2 IP, 7 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO Homeruns: Jorge Polanco (23), Donaldson (18) Bottom 3 WPA: Jax -.514, Cave -.146, Thielbar -.102 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins fans began the day wondering about the status of Kenta Maeda as he is seeking a second opinion on his injured arm. If this is true, the question that has to be answered as this situation plays out, is, why? The Twins have been out of contention for some time, why has Maeda been operating hurt? Here’s how the Twins lined up for their opening game against the Red Sox in Boston. The Twins got off to a fast start on Tuesday. Max Kepler missed a home run by inches, crushing a triple to right center-field to lead off the game. Jorge Polanco brought him home with a single to right field, giving the Twins an immediate one to nothing advantage. Initially, Griffin Jax showed the improved velocity and slider which have made him look like a possibility for the back end of the Twins rotation in 2022. Through three innings, Jax surrendered a solo home run to Travis Shaw to tie the game at one. In he fourth inning Miguel Sano followed up a Luis Arraez single and a Mitch Garver double with a two run singles, to restore the Twins lead. Jax began to lose command in the bottom of the fourth inning. After walking Rafael Devers and an Alex Verdugo double, Jax left a breaking ball middle in to Hunter Renfroe, who clubbed a three-run home run to give the Red Sox a four to three lead. Jax unraveled in the bottom of the fifth. He surrendered a single, ground-rule double, a walk, another double, and a two-run home run to Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe deposited his second home run of the night over the Green Monster. Juan Minaya relieved Griffin Jax and pitched an effective 1 ⅓ innings in relief. The Twins began to close the gap in the seventh inning. After Max Kepler reached on an error, Jorge Polanco walloped his twenty third home run of the year to left-center field. In a season of struggles for the Twins, Polanco has shown himself to be an elite player when healthy and locked in. A Josh Donaldson walk, Luis Arraez single, and a wild pitch, put runners on second and third with one out. Mitch Garver struck out, bringing Nick Gordon to the plate. Gordon took what should have been ball four for a strike, before a remarkable foul ball, keeping his at bat against Hirokazu Sawamura alive. Gordon punched a single straight back up the middle to cut the deficit to nine to eight. In the top of the eight inning, Jake Cave singled, before inexplicably attempting to steal second base. He was thrown out, and the Twins were retired without scoring. In the bottom of the inning, Kike Hernandez mashed a two-run home run off Caleb Thielbar, extending the lead to eleven to eight and putting the game out of reach of the Twins. The Twins continued to claw in the ninth. Josh Donaldson led off the inning with his 18th home run of the year. The Sox walked Luis Arraez and Mitch Garver to put the tying run at first base. Hansel Robles entered the game and got Nick Gordon and Miguel Sano to strike out, leaving Jake Cave as their last hope. Cave lined out to second base to end the game. Bullpen Usage Chart WED THURS FRI SAT TUE TOT Barnes 0 0 109 0 0 109 Minaya 40 0 16 0 30 86 Albers 0 63 0 0 0 63 García 35 0 0 28 0 63 Gant 0 61 0 0 0 61 Garza Jr. 23 0 0 31 0 54 Barraclough 0 0 46 0 0 46 Duffey 14 0 0 0 19 33 Colomé 31 0 0 0 0 31 Coulombe 7 19 0 0 0 26 Thielbar 9 0 0 0 14 23 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins continue their series with Red Sox. They send Bailey Ober to the mound to take on Nick Pivetta. First pitch is at 6:10 CST. Postgame Interviews - coming soon
  14. Box Score Starter: Griffin Jax 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Max Kepler (16), Ryan Jeffers (11) Top 3 WPA: Thielbar (.486), Polanco(.241), Colome (.144) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) In case you missed it, the Twins have been pretty good as of late. They have won a series against three first-place teams in the last week and carrying a record of 7-3 in their previous ten games. Tonight’s starter, Griffin Jax, also had himself a great outing on August 10th against the White Sox, going 6.0 innings with ten strikeouts and three earned runs. With Cleveland coming to town Monday night, the hope for the Twins would be that they could carry all those good fortunes into the new week as they play a rare series against another non-competitive team. The game did start on the right foot for the Twins. After a scoreless first by Jax, Max Kepler led off the Twins half of the 1st with a home run off of Cal Quantrill to put the Twins up 1-0 early. Kepler would also make a tremendous foul territory catch in the 3rd over some fans and finish the game going 1- with a walk and an RBI on a fielder’s choice on the weirdest 6-4 putout ever. By the second inning, some of those good vibes started to wear off. If there was one thing in Jax’s last outing that was a negative, it was the two home runs he surrendered. It was a home run that would get Jax in Monday night’s game as well. After giving up a walk to Franmil Reyes, Bradley Zimmer smashed a 446-foot no-doubter to center field, putting Cleveland up 2-1. Polanco ties the game with his wheels After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Polanco was standing on first with two outs in the third inning. Josh Donaldson was the next batter and just blooped a single into right-center field. Everything looked pretty routine until Polanco rounded third and blew through Tony Diaz’s somewhat casual stop sign. Something about the play even caused Cleveland’s defense to be somewhat lulled into a daze, allowing Polanco to score and tie up the game 2-2 on a play that results typically in him still standing at third base at its conclusion. Twins Out Run Defensive Miscues, Until They Didn’t While Jax didn’t pitch with the strikeout dominance, he did last week. He still did well to pitch around a lot of defensive miscues. Beginning with the second inning, the Twins had three consecutive innings with defensive miscues that extended the inning. The fifth inning included another miscue that didn’t extend the inning but allowed Ahmed Rosario to take an extra-base as Jake Cave overran a ball in the outfield that turned a double into a triple. Rosario would score on a single by the next batter, Jose Ramirez. The sixth inning brought another one of those inning extending plays as Andrelton Simmons committed an error trying to pick up a grounder to short. This miscue led to an Andres Gimenez walk and then a single down the left-field line by Austin Hedges to bring Gimenez to the plate and give Cleveland a 4-3 lead. Jeffers To The Rescue After allowing Cleveland to go ahead in the top part of the inning, Ryan Jeffers didn’t want to leave his pitcher hanging out there with the chance of getting the “L.” Jeffers took a Justin Garza pitch and relocated it to the other side of the outfield fence. Another One for Jorge If the Twins were going to walk off this game, it seemed only fitting that it would be Jorge Polanco once again. After a deflating double play masterfully put together by Cleveland's Ramirez, Polanco ended the game by driving home Kepler. Sound off in the comments about the win, and get ready for another game tomorrow night! The Twins will look to keep the winning ways going tomorrow, with Bailey Ober slated to take the mound against Cleveland's Eli Morgan. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Barnes 0 0 0 73 0 73 Gant 0 41 0 0 17 58 García 0 27 0 21 0 48 Vincent 0 37 0 0 0 37 Thielbar 0 0 0 15 19 34 Duffey 0 0 0 27 0 27 Colomé 0 0 0 13 10 23 Minaya 0 0 0 0 19 19 Garza Jr. 0 0 16 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 10 0 0 10
  15. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/9 thru Sun, 8/15 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 52-66) Run Differential Last Week: -1 (Overall: -74) Standing: 4th Place in AL Central (16.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 113 | CWS 11, MIN 1: Sox Build Huge Early Lead in Laugher Game 114 | MIN 4, CWS 3: Jax Fans 10 as Twins Eke Out Tight Win Game 115 | MIN 1, CWS 0: Ober and Bullpen Combine for Shutout Game 116 | TB 10, MIN 4: Cruz Homers in Return, Rays Roll Game 117 | MIN 12, TB 0: Maeda and Arraez Lead Charge in Blowout Game 118 | MIN 5, TB 4: Twins Walk Off Tampa, Take 3rd Straight Series NEWS & NOTES The Twins lost two-fifths of their rotation via trade on deadline day, and lost another piece to injury on Friday when Michael Pineda exited with an oblique strain amidst an underwhelming outing against Tampa Bay. He was quickly placed on the Injured List and replaced on the active roster by reliever Ralph Garza Jr., a recent waiver acquisition. Garza Jr. shined in his Twins debut, tossing two perfect innings in Saturday night's blowout win. No timeline was announced for Pineda but he is in all likelihood done for the season. It's been a tough go for the big right-hander in 2021 following a strong start; since the beginning of June, he's been able to make only nine starts while going 1-6 with a 5.80 ERA. The silver lining for the Twins, I suppose, is that re-signing Pineda to solidify the back end of the '22 rotation shouldn't take a whole lot at this point. Pineda's absence will require the Twins to lean even harder on their young pitching depth. Logically the next in line will be Lewis Thorpe, who put up 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball for the Saints on Friday while building up to 65 pitches. Thorpe lines up perfectly for Pineda's next turn in the rotation, on Wednesday against Cleveland. Other roster moves for the week saw Beau Burrows and his 12.54 ERA optioned to Triple-A, replaced by veteran journeyman Nick Vincent (Alex Kirilloff moved to 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man), while Jorge Alcala landed on IL and was replaced in the bullpen by another waiver pickup, Edgar García. HIGHLIGHTS With Pineda sidelined, it's now Kenta and the Kids in the Minnesota Twins rotation. Kenta Maeda looked the part of an exemplary veteran leader on Saturday, firing six shutout innings against the Rays, while the rookies joined the fun with strong performances of their own against first-place teams. Griffin Jax was flat-out dominant against the White Sox on Tuesday night, striking out 10 over six innings. Chicago managed to score three runs on a couple of homers, but Jax was otherwise excellent, pounding the zone with sliders and fastballs to keep a potent lineup in check. Interestingly, Jax has piled up 16 strikeouts over 10 innings with a 20% swinging strike rate in two starts against the White Sox this year, compared to 16 strikeouts in 28 innings and a 6% swinging strike rate against all other opponents. The following day, Bailey Ober helped lift the Twins to a series victory over the division leaders, contributing 5 ⅓ scoreless innings to an eventual shutout. Ober struck out six and walked one, pushing his K/BB ratio to 62-to-16 in 57 ⅔ innings this season. Like with Jax, keeping the ball in the park is the biggest challenge for Ober and on days like this where he's able to do so, he looks quite legit. Ober owns a 3.55 ERA in seven starts dating back to the end of June, and Minnesota has gone 5-2 in those games. Even Charlie Barnes joined in on the rookie revitalization of the rotation. While he wasn't particularly effective in his first outing on Monday, yielding three runs in 4 ⅔ innings as bulk guy behind the opener Burrows, Barnes rebounded on Sunday, holding the White Sox to one run over five frames. The lefty was in line for his first MLB win, leaving with a three-run lead, but the bullpen and defense let him down in the late innings. García was among the culprits, surrendering a two-run homer in the sixth, but it was his only blemish in a strong stretch overall. The right-hander stepped up in a pair of earlier long-relief appearances, allowing just one hit over 4 ⅓ scoreless innings versus Chicago and Tampa. In total he struck out five with only one walk, inducing 12 swinging strikes on 80 pitches (15%) while finding the zone with 68% of his offerings. Combined with Garza Jr.'s outstanding debut on Saturday, it was an encouraging week for the club's latest bullpen waiver adds. It might fairly be described as "too little, too late," but Alex Colomé has quietly become the steady rock of this relief corps, looking very much like the reliable closer he's been in years past following an unbelievably ugly April. Since May 1st, he's got a 3.00 ERA and is 5-for-6 in save opportunities. The past week saw him rattle off a pair of saves, both in one-run games against the Sox, and he also worked a scoreless ninth on Sunday to set up Minnesota's win in the bottom half. Offensively, Jorge Polanco continues to be the star of the show – his 21st homer on Wednesday proved decisive in a 1-0 win, and he walked off the Rays with sac fly on Sunday – but Miguel Sanó's re-emergence should not be ignored. His bat, and more generally his offensive approach, have been resuscitated. The past week saw Sanó collect five hits, including a double and homer, but most importantly, he drew as many walks (4) as strikeouts. After leading the league in Ks last year, and fanning in 39% of his plate appearances through May of this year, Sanó has cut that rate down to 31% since the start of June. During that span he is slashing .249/.321/.477 in 56 games. Spectacular? No. But very serviceable and suggestive that the big slugger still has something left in the tank. LOWLIGHTS The Tampa series was a high point for Brent Rooker, who went 6-for-9 with two homers and four RBIs in his two starts. The Chicago series was anything but. In three games against the White Sox, Rooker went 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts, extending a brutal slump at a time where the rookie slugger desperately needs to rake. Prior to his four-hit game against the Rays on Friday night, Rooker was slashing just .098/.159/.171 in the month of August, while regularly slotting in as the Twins' No. 2 hitter. His big weekend was not enough to offset the larger struggles this month, and that's sort of been the story of his season. Rooker shows flashes, but has a .198 average and .676 OPS through 119 plate appearances. His power is not in doubt, but a .252 on-base percentage ain't gonna cut it, especially when you factor in the total absence of defensive value. Unless and until he can find some semblance of strike zone control, it's difficult to project any real value for Rooker as a big-leaguer. In a sense, it feels too soon to rush to judgment on Rooker. But then again, he'll turn 27 this offseason and the Twins are staring down a potential 40-man roster crunch. With the redundant and superior Sanó already in the plans for 2022, where does Rooker fit in? Weeks like these present a crucial opportunity to make his case. Rooker needs more than a random blow-up game here and there to maximize it. Trevor Larnach isn't so much fighting to prove he's got an MLB future – that's not really in doubt – but he too is battling to carve out an immediate spot on the 2022 team. With the way things have been going for him of late, it'll be tough for the Twins to pencil him in. It was another lackluster week for Larnach, who went 1-for-11 with a single and five strikeouts in his four starts. The outfielder's last home run came on July 7th; since then he's batting .156 with a .188 slugging percentage in in 110 plate appearances, while striking out 43% of the time. Larnach doesn't really appear to be benefiting from getting repeatedly beaten by major-league pitching. The signs of growth and adjustment aren't there. With the Triple-A schedule extending through September this year, there's still time to get him back in the minors so he can find his swing and rebuild some confidence. Will the Twins go that route, or are they committed to seeing it through in the majors? TRENDING STORYLINE For those of us keeping a close eye on the Twins' pitching pipeline, Sunday was a big day. Matt Canterino, who ranked 8th in TD's recently-updated prospect rankings, made his first official appearance at Cedar Rapids since May, following a lengthy rest-and-rehab program to address elbow soreness. Canterino picked up right where he left off, overpowering High-A hitters to an absurd degree. After striking out eight of the 10 he faced over three hitless innings on Sunday, he now has a 0.86 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 21 innings for the Kernels. Yes, that is an 18.4 K/9 rate. This isn't even fair. Time to get him up to the next level and see how Double-A fares against him. I'm eager to find out. Even though he has yet to pitch above A-ball, the 23-year-old is going to be fast-tracked and has the ability to factor as a pivotal difference-maker for the Twins next year if he can stay healthy. LOOKING AHEAD Minnesota's run against solid competition rolls on as they welcome Cleveland to Target Field, wrapping up a long homestand before heading to the East Coast for a four-game set against the dreaded Yankees. Can Kenta and the Kids keep it clicking? MONDAY, 8/16: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Cal Quantrill v. RHP Griffin Jax TUESDAY, 8/17: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Eli Morgan v. RHP Bailey Ober WEDNESDAY, 8/18: CLEVELAND @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. TBD THURSDAY, 8/19: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Jameson Taillon FRIDAY, 8/20: TWINS @ YANKEES – LHP Charlie Barnes v. LHP Nestor Cortes SATURDAY, 8/21: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Gerrit Cole SUNDAY, 8/22: TWINS @ YANKEES – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Jordan Montgomery MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Royce Lewis didn’t get off the ground this year after missing a traditional minor league season in 2020. We haven’t seen (and likely won’t) Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic to this point. Although Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have both made their debuts, it’s been pitching where Minnesota has missed most often in 2021. Despite the poor performance, we have seen a trio of potentially overlooked arms brandish their stuff. Bailey Ober Realistically the arm with the highest upside of this group, Ober was a 12th round pick in 2017. He’s 26-years-old and owns a 4.53 ERA through his first 13 big league starts. That number drops to 4.19 if you throw out the clunker in his debut, and it’s an even better 3.55 across his last seven starts. He recently beat both the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, and has tallied a 9.7 K/9 while owning just a 2.7 BB/9. The fastball velocity has averaged 92.6 mph, but when it’s coming from a guy standing 6’9” it’s going to get on you with incredible quickness. While Ober is getting ground balls just 33% of the time, he’s allowing hard hit balls only 37.8% of the time. He has generated a respectable 10.5% whiff rate, and owns a 28.3% CSW (called and swinging strike percentage). This wasn’t a guy ever destined to be a top prospect, and he’s hardly cracked an upper half of any organizational prospect list. That said, it’s never been a concern that the stuff hasn’t played. Ober dominated during his time in the minors with a 2.41 ERA and 11.1 K/9. The caveat is that it came in under 200 innings across four seasons. Injuries remain his chief bugaboo and he’s quickly approaching a new career high in innings pitched. For a team needing rotation help though, Ober’s emergence in 2021 should garner him serious consideration for an Opening Day roster spot next spring. Griffin Jax Taken in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft, Jax made his debut this season at 26-years-old. He went through a gambit of hoops to get here, first and foremost working around his commitment to the Air Force. Another guy that has never been considered highly when it comes to prospect status, Jax has succeeded at each level and always seemed “safe.” I opined that it seemed shocking no big league team wanted to take a chance on him as a Rule 5 option, but it’s great that he’s still with the Twins. Although the current 5.45 ERA is hardly anything to write home about, his 38 innings of work have been punctuated by the last four starts. Across those 20 1/3 innings he owns a 2.66 ERA and .153 batting average against. Those outings feature two tilts with the White Sox, and one against Houston; both of which are high-powered offenses. Jax isn’t a fireballer or big strikeout pitcher, but there’s also nothing he does particularly poorly. It’d be a long-shot to assume that Minnesota has a top half of the rotation arm here, but they’ve once again produced something of substance when it comes to rotation help and pitching depth. Jax hasn’t had the run needed to cement the belief that he’ll stick, but the track record and recent results suggest that he’s more than just a fleeting name during an otherwise lost season. Charlie Barnes Minnesota took Barnes out of Clemson in the 4th round of the 2017 draft. He’s the youngest of this group, not yet having reached his 26th birthday. He’s also seen the least amount of opportunity at the big league level, but it seems more could be in front of him down the stretch. Posting strong ERA numbers during his first two seasons of professional baseball, Barnes made it to Triple-A in year three at 23-years-old. In 2021 he forced his opportunity with the Twins by turning into a solid string of performances with the St. Paul Saints. Barnes doesn’t strike a ton of batters out, with just a 7.7 K/9 in the minors, but he’s done a decent job of limiting free passes and has been stingy with the home run ball. More of a soft-tosser, the lefty will need to miss additional bats as he looks for a lengthened opportunity to stick. Easily the most suspect arm in terms of both tools and production from this trio, Barnes has earned the role he’s currently in. There will need to be further advancement, but Minnesota pushing another fringe prospect to the big leagues is a win. His big-league debut against the Detroit Tigers went well, and despite the blow up against Cincinnati, he rebounded somewhat against a much tougher White Sox club. There’s more work to be done here, but this is a good foundation. The real takeaway here is that you can never have enough arms, and development isn't solely put in place for the top prospects. Minnesota has stockpiled pitching talent, and while it has taken time to bear fruit, the infrastructure implemented by Derek Falvey is beginning to pay off. We can only hope to see that in the coming years with more success stories like these, and realization of top tier talent as well. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K Homeruns: Astudillo (6) Top 3 WPA: Astudillo .283, Colome .169, Duffey .124 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) There was positive injury news for the Twins on Tuesday. Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup in the DH rule after hamstring tightness. Here’s how the Twins lined up against the White Sox. Additionally, there was a Byron Buxton sighting on the field during batting practice. The imminent return of Buxton will be a huge boon to a team looking to build on second-half of the season success stories. It was Griffin Jax who was the story for the Twins on Tuesday. The rookie set a career-high with ten strikeouts in six innings of work, including 14 swings and misses, both career highs. It was the Twins who jumped out to an early lead. Dallas Keuchel walk-loaded the bases in the first inning. A Luis Arraez single and Miguel Sano groundout gave the Twins a 2-0 lead after an inning. Arraez single raised his season average to .320. Combined with a wOBA of .344 and wRC+ of 119, the diminutive hitter has established himself as a premier contact hitter since his return from injury issues earlier in the season. The Twins lead quickly evaporated in the third inning. Griffin Jax made two mistakes in his six excellent innings, both were quickly dispatched for home runs by Adam Engel and Jose Abreu, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead. Dallas Keuchel held the Twins in check after his early control issues, until the sixth inning. Keuchel made Willians Astudillo ‘bend the knee’, but not before La Tortuga deposited an inside pitch into the left-field bleachers, to restore the Twins lead at 4-3. The Twins bullpen continued its improved form, with scoreless innings from Jon Gant, Tyler Duffey, and Alexander Colome. The real story of the night, however, was Jax. Between Jax and Bailey Ober, the Twins have two effective starting pitchers who will battle for spots at the back of the 2022 starting rotation. Now that the Twins have given up the ghost of a playoff appearance in 2021, it’s time to look for reasons for optimism for 2022. One doesn’t have to look far. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Barnes 0 0 0 68 0 68 Duffey 20 0 15 0 15 50 Gant 17 13 0 0 11 41 Colomé 17 0 18 0 10 35 Garcia 0 0 0 32 0 32 Minaya 17 0 12 0 0 29 Coulombe 14 0 7 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 20 0 0 0 20 Vincent 0 0 0 0 0 0 Postgame Interviews Next Up The Twins send Bailey Ober to the mound to face Lance Lynn on Wednesday. First pitch is at 12:10 CST.
  18. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/2 thru Sun, 8/8 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 48-64) Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: -73) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (17.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 107 | MIN 7, CIN 5: Garver, Polanco Power Exciting Win Game 108 | CIN 6, MIN 5: Twins Comeback Falls Short Game 109 | MIN 5, HOU 3: Jax Earns First MLB Win as Starter Game 110 | MIN 5, HOU 4: Twins Rally from Early Deficit Game 111 | HOU 4, MIN 0: Lineup Has No Answers for Houston Pitching Game 112 | MIN 7, HOU 5: Polanco's 2 Homers Lift Twins to Series Win NEWS & NOTES Sidelined since early June by a bad hammy strain, Rob Refsnyder finally returned from the Injured List on Thursday, and has since resumed his role as semi-regular center fielder in Byron Buxton's absence. Refsnyder's activation led to Nick Gordon being optioned to Triple-A, which caused some consternation among fans who wished to see Gordon get a real shot. I get it. I like Gordon as a person and would love to see him succeed. It can feel hard to understand what's holding him back from more playing time on a bad team that's going nowhere. But this move makes it all the clearer how the Twins view him, and ... can you really blame them? While the speed is nice, Gordon has simply shown no signs that he can be an impactful contributor on a major-league team. He's a capable defender at several spots, but nowhere is he a standout, and the Twins seem to have zero interest in playing him at short. When you combine that defensive profile with a completely punchless bat, there isn't much value to be found. During his time in the majors, Gordon put 70 balls in play and recorded one barrel. He slashed .176/.263/.235 in his final 20 games. He lacks any discipline at the plate, offering at 45.8% pitches outside the zone, which is second on the team behind (of course) Willians Astudillo. It's not happening for Gordon this year. Now that doesn't preclude the possibility that he works his ass off during the winter, bulks up, and comes out next spring with a significantly bolstered skill set. We'll see if the Twins hold him on the 40-man roster and pursue that avenue. For now, the sad fact is that Refsnyder has a better chance of being a valuable contributor on the 2022 Twins. In other roster news of the week: Another right-handed reliever picked up off waivers. Just days after snagging Edgar Garcia following his DFA from Cincinnati, the Twins claimed former Astro Ralph Garza Jr., who was immediately optioned to Triple-A to join Garcia on the Saints. Garza, like many pitchers the Twins have added of late, has intriguing attributes and big strikeout rates in the minors, but also some clear flaws. There's no particular reason to think he or Garcia – discarded cast-offs from other organizations – will turn to anything useful. But then again, the same thing applies in the bullpen as in the rotation: the Twins are going to need help from the minors and every lottery ticket helps. It's a numbers game and the team is improving its odds. HIGHLIGHTS With veterans José Berríos and J.A. Happ departing at the deadline, Minnesota plugged in Griffin Jax and Charlie Barnes, who join incumbent rookie Bailey Ober in a suddenly very inexperienced rotation. It's quite the departure from Opening Day, when Berríos was their youngest starter. While veteran holdovers Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda are interesting to track for their own reasons, the youth movement is now the central focus for the starting corps. None of the three rookies currently in the rotation are top prospects, but in the numbers game, it's all about letting them run and seeing if one emerges. This past week, the numbers showed some things to like from Jax and Ober: Jax spun 5 ⅓ innings of one-run ball in Houston on Thursday against the highest-scoring offense in the majors. (Albeit one missing several key bats.) He allowed only three hits and one walk in an efficient and impressive performance. Jax recorded zero strikeouts and only three swinging strikes in the outing, which is concerning, but he did pile up six strikeouts on 16 whiffs against the White Sox two starts prior, so he has at least shown the capability to miss bats. In his past three starts dating back to that one, Jax has a 1.88 ERA with six hits allowed in 14 ⅓ frames. Ober's start on Saturday was a mixed bag. On the one hand, we saw his strengths on display, with five strikeouts and one walk pushing his outstanding seasonal ratio to 56-to-15 ratio in 52 ⅓ innings. Ober's 3.7 K/BB ranks second among Twins starters behind Pineda. Ober also gave up two home runs in his five innings of work, surfacing his biggest weakness, but in general he too has been on a good track. In his past three starts, Ober has a 3.77 ERA and 15-to-3 K/BB ratio in 14 ⅓ frames. Several relievers also had strong showings as the bullpen rebounded from a very ugly run the previous week. Jorge Alcala allowed one hit (a home run) in three innings of work, striking out six of the 11 batters he faced. Alex Colomé worked four scoreless appearances and picked up three saves. Juan Minaya struck out eight over 4 ⅓ shutout innings between three appearances, allowing just two hits. On the offensive side, it was a relatively quiet week with a few standout performances. In spite of his barking knees, Luis Arraez continues to rake; he notched hits in every game he played and went 10-for-17 overall to raise his average to .318, which would rank sixth in baseball if qualified. Jorge Polanco drilled three more homers, and leads the American League in long balls over the past month. It's a remarkable turnaround from a player whose power had been totally sapped. Miguel Sanó did not have a particularly strong week overall, but he did make a game-saving defensive play at third on Friday night, and did this to a baseball on Sunday: LOWLIGHTS While Jax and Ober came through with encouraging performances, Barnes was less inspiring. Facing Cincinnati on Wednesday, the left-hander was knocked around for five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in four innings of work. Through two major-league starts he has a 6.23 ERA with three strikeouts and three walks in 8 ⅔ innings. He has induced only seven swinging strikes on 148 pitches between the two outings (5%). Barnes isn't embarrassing as a spot-starter type but it'd be nice to get someone in that fifth rotation slot with a little more upside. The Twins are slowly starting to get healthier in their starting pitching ranks, so maybe a few options will emerge in the coming weeks. Lewis Thorpe was activated from a lengthy IL stint and started Sunday for the Saints. Randy Dobnak was reportedly doing some "light throwing at Target Field" on Sunday morning, suggesting he's on the comeback trail. I realize these names aren't going to have folks leaping with excitement but they both have a better chance of factoring significantly into the 2022 rotation than Barnes. Brent Rooker cooled off following a red-hot start to his second stint with the Twins this year, going just 3-for-22, although he continued to flash power with all three hits going for doubles. Selectiveness at the plate will be the key thing to watch from Rooker, and he's leaving much to be desired in that area. He's not working into enough favorable counts and when at-bats end with pitchers ahead, he's just 1-for-29 this season. Alas, Rooker looks like an unstoppable offensive force in comparison to Andrelton Simmons. Anyone does. Simmons just continues sinking to new depths, with a 2-for-18 week dropping his slash line to a pitiful .216/.280/.275. His last extra-base hit came on July 2nd, 30 games ago, and since then he has a .355 OPS. There's no point in continuing to run him out there. Remaining money owed is unfortunately a sunk cost. The Twins would be better off sliding Polanco back over to short for the rest of the season and giving the reps at second base to someone like Arraez or Gordon or even Jose Miranda. TRENDING STORYLINE When they acquired him as the headliner in the Berríos trade, I wrote about why Austin Martin is a prospect very much worth getting excited about. Since the trade, he's been doing plenty to fuel the hype. Following a three-hit game for the Wichita Wind Surge on Sunday, Martin is now batting .400 with a .571 on-base percentage since coming over to the Twins organization. His eye at the plate is outrageously good, as illustrated by a 1-to-6 K/BB ratio in six games with Wichita. He has proven already to be a playmaker in the outfield and on the basepaths. Since the start of July, Martin has reached base in 52% of his plate appearances. That's no tiny sample. The idea of him complementing Arraez at the top of order, in front of a proven pack of power hitters, is beyond tantalizing. How far is it from becoming a reality? Next year seems likely, and maybe even from the start. But in order to make Martin a viable candidate for Opening Day, the Twins will need to take some preparatory steps. I'll be quite curious to see if he joins the club as a September call-up, or at least gets a late-season look in Triple-A. His defensive profile makes Martin an especially intriguing piece in the team's planning. Could he take over in center field if Buxton is traded this offseason? Maybe Martin steps in at second with Polanco pivoting back to short. Or perhaps, as I posited in my theoretical 2022 lineup on Twitter, left field is Martin's best initial entry point into the majors. LOOKING AHEAD It bums me out to look ahead at the schedule right now. If things had gone as planned, this would've been an absolutely crucial and thrilling stretch: The Twins, returning home from their longest road trip of the year, face off against the White Sox, Rays, and Cleveland, in consecutive series at Target Field. Could you imagine the stakes and intensity if Minnesota was in contention?! Alas, they are not. So all we can really look forward to is the return of Nelson Cruz to Target Field in another uniform. Hooray. MONDAY, 8/9: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lucas Giolito v. LHP Charlie Barnes TUESDAY, 8/10: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – LHP Dallas Keuchel v. RHP Griffin Jax WEDNESDAY, 8/11: WHITE SOX @ TWINS – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Bailey Ober FRIDAY, 8/13: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Shane McClanahan v. RHP Michael Pineda SATURDAY, 8/14: RAYS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Wacha v. RHP Kenta Maeda SUNDAY, 8/15: RAYS @ TWINS – LHP Josh Fleming v. LHP Charlie Barnes MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Amateur Career Jax was named the 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Colorado as well as a Louisville Slugger High School First-Team All-American after going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and a 57/2 K:BB ratio for Cherry Creek High School. He started 29 games on the mound for the Air Force Academy Falcons across his freshman and sophomore seasons while posting a mediocre 5.49 ERA with 115 strikeouts and 56 walks. However, he exploded onto the scene in 2016 during his junior season by going 9-2 with a 2.05 ERA and striking out 90 batters while walking only 20. He was selected as the 2016 Mountain West co-Pitcher of the Year and was named a top 100 prospect for the 2016 MLB Draft by Baseball America. The Twins selected Jax with the 93rd overall pick. Professional Career Jax’s path to the Majors has taken a circuitous route due in large part to his military commitments. You can read all about this process in a story written by Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs (link below) but the long it short of it: Jax was required to remain on active duty following his graduation, which limited him to only nine games pitched during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. However, he has since transitioned into the Air Force reserves, freeing him up to pursue his dream of becoming an MLB pitcher full-time. He spent the 2018 season with the then Ft. Myers Miracle in High-A, starting 14 games and posting a 3.70 ERA in 87 ⅔ innings. He began the 2019 season in Double-A with Pensacola and performed extremely well, registering a 2.67 ERA in 111 ⅓ innings, though his strikeout numbers were paltry (84). Jax made three starts for Triple-A Rochester where he struck out 10 across 16 innings. The two biggest criticisms often thrown at Jax as he rose through the minor leagues were his lackluster strikeout numbers as well as his lack of a true third pitch. His role in today’s MLB, where velocity and strikeouts are king, has been in question throughout his career despite his established track record of success. However, his strikeout numbers saw a surprising and encouraging bump during his 27 innings with the St. Paul Saints this spring, as he struckout 29 batters across five starts, including a career-high 10 against the Iowa Cubs. While not phenomenal by any means, his 1.1 K/IP rate is by far the highest of his career and arguably changed his trajectory from at best a Quad-A player to one who may have a chance to stick, even if his home turns out to be in the bullpen long-term. Jax’s best pitch is his slider, which he most frequently employs to pick up his strikeouts, though he’ll throw it at any point in the count. He also boasts a fastball that sits in the low-90s and occasionally reaches as high as 94 mph. Jax will mix in a changeup as well as an occasional looping curveball, but his command on both, as well as their combination of velocity and movement, or lack thereof, leaves something to be desired. The Twins made a name for themselves for pursuing hurlers with this exact pitch mix and turning them into serviceable bullpen arms. Jax’s name won’t show up on any of the Twins top prospect lists, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he becomes something akin to last season’s Matt Wisler. Twins Daily Coverage WATCH: Tom Froemming put together some highlights from Jax’s 10 K performance with the Saints earlier this season. READ: Not only is Jax an MLB pitcher, but he’s also pursuing a Master’s degree. Read more in this article from David Youngs. READ: Here’s a dispatch from Stohs when Jax resumed his professional pitching career in 2018 after serving his time in the Air Force. READ: And here’s a Q&A between Stohs and Jax from 2017. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. It isn’t rare to see Major Leaguers have unique skills outside the lines of the ballpark. Twins fans saw Trevor May showcase his gaming skills to the world. Mookie Betts channels his inner Pete Weber with strikes on the bowling ally. Make room for Twins prospect Griffin Jax. There’s no telling what Jax can do with a bowling ball or a joystick. Yet one thing’s for sure- the Air Force Academy alum and Twins pitcher is going to change the world whether it be on the diamond or as a future business leader in today’s society. Jax, 26, isn’t just dealing on the bump. He’s currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and Data Analytics from Colorado State University. It’s not uncommon for professional athletes to pursue a degree following their career on the field. Jax’s situation is impressive, as he’s worn the dueling hats of graduate student and professional baseball player simultaneously the past two years. “I think I was going to do it (go to graduate school) eventually no matter what my career was going to be,” Jax said. “I’ve always taken school seriously and made it a priority growing up. A lot of that came from my parents and how they raised my brothers and I.” A native of Phoenix who grew up in Denver, Jax was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 2016 draft. He’s worked his way up the Twins organization, going from a young boy eating burgers at Cherry Cricket in the Denver metro to posting arguably the best start at AAA Saint Paul for the Saints so far this year. And while his focus currently lies on baseball (and likely will for a long time), Jax understands that it’s important to have a vocation outside of the childhood dream that he’s currently living out. “At the end of the day, I’m not sure where baseball is going to lead. I’m putting all my chips in that corner and it’s an amazing opportunity and my dream, but I do understand that it’s not going to be there forever and when that comes I want to be ready to enter a new life and opportunity,” Jax said. School and Strikeouts While the thought of furthering his education was always an interest, a seed was planted in Griffin’s mind following graduation from the Air Force Academy in 2016. MLB clubs will oftentimes help pay for the tuition of draft picks if they chose to continue their education down the road. Since the Air Force Academy is a military institution, students are waived of tuition upon attendance. “The Air Force offered to help me out with a masters degree and that’s how I initially became interested in it,” Jax said. Online classes and the cancellation of last year’s minor league season helped streamline Jax’s studies in a program that he says will prepare him to bridge the gap between business leaders and analytic gurus. “You’ve got business decision makers and analytics departments and typically it's tough to get communication between the two because the business folks don’t always understand or adapt to analytics,” Jax said. “On the other hand, the analytics folks don’t always do a great job of sitting business leaders down and talking them through the process of the numbers. My role through this program is to be the middle ground between the two.” Jax has seen direct correlation between the content of his studies and his with work on the field with the Twins organization. With a focus on data analytics, Jax has dipped his feet into the coding puddle, something that the Twins scouting department uses on the daily. In fact, Jax has worked with the scouting department directly on a coding platform that both parties use. “One of the classes that I’m in, we’re learning about coding and we use a platform called ‘R’. I was getting ready for my Pittsburgh spring training start earlier this year and I bumped into one of the head scouting directors,” Jax recalled. “He was toying around with ‘R’ and building the team’s scout maps that we use against other teams hitters and pitchers." Fascinating. “Right there I was like ‘Wow,’ I didn’t know that this was being used in baseball. I ended up talking to him a bunch and have been leaning on him a lot this semester because it’s (the platform) brand new to me.” The correlation has helped Jax grow both as a pitcher and a student of the game, and in life. “It’s super interesting to see how that (coding and data analysis) directly translates to baseball and how the Twins are using it. It’s definitely peaked my interest.” Numbers Don't Lie It’s no secret that baseball has progressed into a sport reliant on advanced statistics and in-depth data analysis. As a high-level pitcher, Jax is no stranger to the recent evolution of stat-driven analysis. “When I was first drafted in 2016, we weren’t talking about this at all,” Jax said. “And now, I don’t throw a pitch on the mound without having it tracked, reported, and measured by a machine that will read us all of our reports. Seeing the progression is mind-blowing.” Jax credits the Twins organization for embracing the new trend in a world that has seen some tension between data-driven baseball and ‘old school feel-it out tactics.’ “The Twins have done a really good job of handling the analytics side of the game,” he said. “Our staff has done a great job teaching us how to enable this stuff to make the most of our careers.” Jax believes that the ‘new wave’ of baseball has boosted his performance as he guns for his childhood dream of making the majors. The 6’2 flamethrower was electric in his first start for the Saints last week, tossing five innings of one-run baseball. Griffin will graduate from his masters program this summer. And while it’s safe to say that he’s got a bright future on the bump, Jax will positively impact the world wherever life takes him.
  21. A few notes on the numbers below, these are career numbers and not a single season total because many of the prospects are very early in their professional careers. It was intriguing to see each writer’s strategy play out over the course of the draft as team’s had to balance prospect status and future value. Szymborski doesn’t typically like to do individual player profiles when things are this uncertain because it’s hard to look past just the numbers. Below you will see the team total for fWAR from ZiPS projected over the course of their careers. It also showcases one standout performer on each team. ZiPS loves pitchers as evident by the top-four team’s best player being a pitcher and this didn’t even include the top two pitching prospects in the Twins system. 6. Seth Stohs Top Player: Royce Lewis- 9.8 WAR Overall WAR: 20.7 Top Picks: Brent Rooker, Matt Wallner, Dakota Chalmers Other Players: Taylor Grzelakowski, Parker Phillips, Michael Helman, Wander Valdez, DaShawn Keirsey, Carlos Aguiar, Luis Rijo, Bailey Ober, Sean Poppen, Derek Molina, Javani Moran, Charlie Barnes Seth’s Thoughts: Drafting first is tough because, yes, you get the top player, but then you have to sit and watch as ten more players get taken before you can pick again. That said, I feel quite comfortable taking my chances with Royce. As you know, I am a bit of a prospect guy, so while the 2020 ranking may not look great for me, I will certainly take my chances with the prospects that I picked throughout the draft, and by about 2025, we are going to be really good! 5. Cody Christie Top Player: Trevor Larnach- 6.2 WAR Overall WAR: 33.2 Top Picks: Blayne Enlow, Ben Rortvedt, Misael Urbina Other Players: Victor Heredia, Charles Mack, Spencer, Steer, Wander Javier, Jacob Pearson, Ricky De La Torre, Jorge Alcala, Tyler Wells, Anthony Escobar, Steven Cruz, Evan Gillespie, Tyler Watson Cody’s Thoughts: I had the lowest overall top player but looking at the other top players and it’s easy to see why. If Trevor Larnach finishes his career with a lower overall WAR than Griffin Jax, the Twins have a long-term position player problem on their hands. Enlow has a chance to be one of the best pitchers in the organization and Rortvedt is the best catcher outside of Jeffers. If Larnach and Urbina hit their potential, watch out for my squad. 4. Ted Schwerzler Top Player: Griffin Jax- 9.9 WAR Overall WAR: 41.9 Top Picks: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Keoni Cavaco Other Players: Chris Williams, Trey Cabbage, Travis Blankenhorn, Edouard Juilien, Max Smith, Ernie De La Trinidad, Jimmy Kerrigan, Trevor Casanova, Cody Stashak, Ryan Mason, Ben Gross, Jake Reed Ted’s Thoughts: I actually love that Jax projects as the highest contributor among my team. I was somewhat surprised he wasn't selected in the Rule 5 draft this winter as I think he can hold down a rotation spot for a big-league club right now. Balazovic is the flashy arm with upside, but Jax is probably among the safest picks I made. At just shy of 42 total WAR, I feel good about my squad having solid long-term development opportunities and a bit less volatility than Seth could experience. 3. Jeremy Nygaard Top Player: Devin Smeltzer- 15.4 WAR Overall WAR: 48.4 Top Picks: Jhoan Duran, Gilberto Celestino, LaMonte Wade Jr. Other Players: Kidany Salva, Zander Wiel, Anthony Prato, Drew Maggi, Will Holland, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jared Akins, Chris Vallimont, Yennier Cano, Zach Neff, Benjamin Dum, Austin Schulfer Jeremy’s Thoughts: No surprise that Smeltzer is my top-projected player as he already has had some MLB success. Also, no surprise that I'm higher than Ted, Cody and Seth because, well... 2. Matt Braun Top Player: Lewis Thorpe- 14.9 WAR Overall WAR: 52.1 WAR Top Picks: Ryan Jeffers, Jose Miranda, Cole Sands Other Players: Gabe Snyder, Yunior Severino, Yeltsin Encarnacion, Gabriel Maciel, Willie Joe Garry Jr., Tyler Webb, Luis Baez, Bryan Sammons, Hector Lujan, Ryan Shreve, Adam Bray, Cody Laweryson Matt’s Thoughts: I’m quite happy with my placement. I can now say that I fully support Dan and his projection system because it must be well done if it liked me so much! I’m a big Thorpe fan especially so it’s nice to know that more advanced systems than my own feelings agree in his potential in MLB. 1. Steve Lein Top Player: Randy Dobnak-18.2 WAR Overall WAR: 53.7 Top Picks: Alex Kirilloff, Edwar Colina, Nick Gordon Other Players: Caleb Hamilton, Albee Weiss, Seth Gray, Jordan Gore, Akil Baddoo, Mark Contreras, Andrew Bechtold, Josh Winder, Moises Gomez, Tom Hackimer, Andrew Vasquez, Alex Phillips Steve’s Thoughts: When's my championship belt arrive? Hah. In all seriousness though, I tried to place a bit of a premium on proximity to the majors when making my picks, even taking a few guys who have already made their debut, and that may have helped me with ZIPS projections. Also rewarding for me to see the top overall player was Randy Dobnak, who I said when I picked him in the second round that it may have been a surprise to some. It was not for me, because I know just how good he's been rising to the majors. What do you think of the ZiPS results? 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
  22. If you missed the first round rounds, you can view them here. A brief primer: We're taking 16 players with "prospect" or "rookie" status. Positions on each team included: Catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, three outfielders, a bench player/hitter, three starting pitchers, three relief pitchers, and an extra pitcher. (Please note that comments under the picks were made by the person making the selection.) Round 5 Seth Stohs - Luis Rijo RH SP When the Twins acquired Rijo in July 2018, he had put up solid numbers and was known for his pitch ability. Then last summer in Cedar Rapids, he was pumping 96! I like that upside. Steve Lein - Akil Baddoo OF Though an injury cut short his 2019 season, Baddoo is an outfielder who can play center, gets on base, and was starting to show some pop. Ted Schwerzler - Griffin Jax RHP Jax isn’t going to be an ace, but he’s more than capable of being a safe and trustworthy arm. He’s performed at every level, and despite some hurdles in getting his baseball career to remain consistent, he’s been as reliable as it gets. Cody Christie - Wander Javier, SS Might as well complete my up-the-middle trifecta. Javier is coming off a rough transition to a full-season league, but he has too many tools not to be able to find success. Injuries have limited his time on the field, but more time and experience will showcase his full potential. Jeremy Nygaard - Will Holland, SS Holland struck out way too much in his pro debut, which came on the heels of a not-so-great junior season at Auburn. But his first two years there, plus a really good Cape performance in 2018, has me believing in both the power and the speed (16 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 2019 between Auburn and Elizabethton). If he can stick at shortstop, that’s just icing on the cake if he realizes his potential with the bat. Matt Braun - Gabriel Maciel, OF Outfielders kind of flew off the board quicker than I anticipated so I’m glad that I was able to snap Maciel. He could be the stereotypical leadoff hitter in the mold of Denard Span who sets the table for guys in the middle of the lineup. Round 6 Matt Braun - Yunior Severino, 2B Severino is a very interesting prospect in his own right. He was snatched up by the Twins after the Braves were busted for shady international practices and he has held his own in the lower level of the minors so far. He brings good upside in raw power that isn’t seen often in middle infielders and is one of the only switch-hitters in the entire system. Jeremy Nygaard - Zander Wiel, 1B/OF I’m not positive that Holland bats higher than sixth… but I know Wiel will bat third or fourth. I finally have my run-producing masher, who I assume will be my primary first baseman, though he does have some experience in the outfield. Cody Christie - Spencer Steer, 3B College experience, check. Power bat, check. Steer can help solidify the left side of the infield with Wander Javier playing up the middle. He will be a leader in the clubhouse and on the field. (Get to Know Spencer Steer here.) Ted Schwerzler - Trey Cabbage 1B The FSL wasn’t all that kind in Cabbage’s debut season there, but the 2015 4th round pick game into his power. He’s now 23 and will need to step up quickly, but he’s got the chops to play an athletic first base and drive the ball out of the yard. Steve Lein - Seth Gray 3B After being drafted in the 4th round last year Gray had a tale of two halves in his first season as a professional. In the months of June and July he hit a combined .201/.314/.373 in 134 at-bats with Elizabethton. Then he turned it on in August and September with a .270/.368/.520 line in his last 100 at-bats, including a promotion to Cedar Rapids for his final four games. Gray possesses a good amount of raw power, so I’m looking for that out of him in my lineup. Seth Stohs - Bailey Ober, RH SP I mean, just look at the numbers. The lanky right-hander pitched in 14 games last year and went 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA. In 78 2/3 innings, he struck out 100 batters and walked nine. He may not throw hard, but he’s doing something right. He knows himself as a pitcher and continued to learn throughout the 2019 season. Round 7 Seth Stohs - Sean Poppen, RH RP He’s mostly been a starter since the Twins drafted him out of Harvard. He’s had a little bit of big league time now out of the bullpen. As noted this offseason, I am a big believer in his upside as a reliever. He throws 97 and gets a ton of movement on his fastball and slider. Steve Lein - Josh Winder SP I’ll finish my rotation with Winder. He threw a ton of innings with the Kernels in 2019 and led the Midwest League with a 2.65 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He can hit mid-90’s with his fastball and has a full repertoire of secondary offerings, with a few breaking balls showing promise. Ted Schwerzler - Cody Stashak RH RP The MLB debut in 2019 was about as good as it gets. In 25 innings Stashak mowed down opposing hitters and did so while limiting walks in an extremely impressive way. Relievers only have so much value, but I’m stoked to get him here. Cody Christie - Jorge Alcala RH SP I’m going with my best available player here and he happens to fill a need on my roster. Alcala struggled through parts of 2019, but his high ERA might not tell the full story. He has a fastball that can hit in the high 90s and a slider that helps him strikeout batters. If he doesn’t work in the rotation, he could be a tremendous bullpen option with his top two pitch options. Jeremy Nygaard - Chris Vallimont RHSP I thought hard about taking a pitcher instead of Wiel, but there were quite a few I liked and thought I’d get two of them (here and my next picks). I didn’t anticipate Seth kicking off a five-straight-pitchers run. All the pitchers that I considered here are gone, but I’m going to take the next pitcher on my list. Vallimont throws gas, is a little under the radar, and completes my rotation nicely. Matt Braun - Bryan Sammons, LHSP Jeremy taking Vallimont threw me into a fit of words that will not be repeated but I eventually got my bearings back and took Sammons. The walks were a bit high for him at AA this year but he brings great strikeout potential from the left side and rounds out my rotation quite nicely. Round 8 Matt Braun - Willie Joe Garry Jr., OF Garry Jr. and Maciel might make one of the most athletic outfields you can field using Twins minor leaguers. Garry Jr. is very young with a lot of development left but has as much upside as anyone else in the system. Hopefully people stop taking my guys as this continues. Jeremy Nygaard - Emmanuel Rodriguez OF The top “prospect” left on my list and also, having just turned 17, the youngest. Rodriguez will fit into a defensively-strong outfield, playing right field. He’ll also fit into the bottom third of the lineup where he can put his strong hitting skills on display, without pressure. Cody Christie - Tyler Wells, RH SP Wells was due back from Tommy John surgery in 2020 but his last action in 2018 saw him put up some strong numbers at High- and Double-A. He rounds out my rotation nicely and could wind up being one of my best pitchers if he can get back to where he was before surgery. Ted Schwerzler - Edouard Julien 3B Minnesota went with a pair of Auburn Tigers infielders in the 2019 draft. Julien initially decided to go back to school until the Twins convinced him otherwise. He had a bit of a down Sophomore year, but there’s plenty of pop in his bat and he’s got a chance to be a solid contributor on the diamond. Steve Lein - Mark Contreras OF Contreras had a rough season at the plate in 2019 overall, but I'm adding him for a different reason here: his elite defense. He won an MiLB gold glove award for his work in the outfield at all three spots. Seth Stohs - Derek Molina, RH RP Molina is a great athlete, and now that he is a full-time pitcher, he’s taking off. The right-hander split 2019 between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers and had 61 strikeouts and just 11 walks over 41 innings of work. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. A week ago, Seth did a great job outlining players that the Minnesota Twins needed to add to the 40-man roster. With five of them being handed promotions to the 40- man, a handful of players are left open to the possibility of selection through the Rule 5 process. Although a well-positioned contender like the Twins aren’t an ideal candidate to make a selection, they are a team that could get pulled from. When taking a player through the Rule 5 Draft process a major league team must keep the player on their active 26-man (New for 2020) roster throughout the full season or offer him back to the original team. That caveat makes low-level prospects a bit of a reach to select, and the most often targeted are pitchers that can immediately slot into a relief role. Although Wander Javier is the headliner of the bunch that went unprotected, he is just 20 years old (soon to be 21) and struggled in his first exposure to full-season ball. The ceiling on Javier remains high but asking him to contribute at the big-league level right now seems like a massive leap. That leads us to the question of who is likely to get selected from the organization. Here’s some names that make sense: RHP Griffin Jax Jax recently turned 25 and the third-round pick in the 2016 draft is as close to the big leagues as he’s ever been. Having pitched initially intermittently due to a military commitment, he was as advertised in 2019. Throwing 127 innings, he combined to post a 2.90 ERA at AA/AAA with a 6.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. The ceiling isn’t much here as he’s more finesse than velocity, but Jax has command and control down and that should help him at the next level. There’s no reason a non-contender couldn’t find a place for him at the back end of their rotation. LHP Sam Clay Pitching is generally the easiest commodity to control through Rule 5 stipulations, and a high-strikeout lefty can be plenty enticing. Clay was selected by the Twins in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He’ll be 27 in 2020 but owned a 9.3 K/9 across 69.1 IP at AA/AAA in 2019. In the 22 innings at Triple-A, the 10.3 H/9 is pretty concerning. However, Clay didn’t give up a single home run last year and surrendered just one in 2018. Across 405 minor league innings he’s allowed six balls to leave the yard. In a game that’s now power rich, it’s a skill set that any manager would love to employ in their pen. 1B/OF Zander Wiel The former Vanderbilt star was a 12th-round pick in the 2015 draft. Wiel started slowly in his professional career but turned in his best season as a 26-year-old for Rochester last season. He posted an .834 OPS that was buoyed by 40 doubles and 24 dingers. He’s not a huge on-base guy and driving up his plate discipline could lead to a longer big-league leash. With the Twins he’s blocked at both first and corner outfield so he became expendable, but there could be a nice bat to be had here for someone looking to take a flier on their bench. RHP Jake Reed Appearing in columns like this for the past couple of years, Reed finds himself here once again. Originally expected to blitz the system as a fifth-round pick in 2014, being passed over at the end of 2018 seemed to be the book closing on potential with the Twins. His 1.89 ERA a year ago was watered down by a 4.0 BB/9. In 2019 he posted an ugly 5.76 ERA but pushed his strikeout rate to a career best 11.0. Minnesota changed up his arm action a significant amount last season, and there were stretches of productivity, but he was often done in as evidenced by the career worst 1.467 WHIP. As a high-velocity arm, it’s more than arguable that a sink or swim moment at the big-league level should come from some organization. Do you think the Twins lose anyone during the Rule 5 Draft, and if so, who are you most certain gets taken?
  24. Previous Starting Pitcher of the Year Winners: 2018 winner - Tyler Wells 2017 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2016 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2015 winner - Jose Berrios 2014 winner - Jose Berrios 2013 winner - Taylor Rogers 2012 winner - BJ Hermsen Previous 2019 Winners: 2019 minor league relief pitcher of the year-Anthony Vizcaya 2019 short-season pitcher of the year-Cody Laweryson 2019 short-season hitter of the year-Matt Wallner The Twins’ minor league system has seen some large advancements recently in player development and the most impacted area has arguably been the starting pitching. New players have come in and seen their velocity gain a tick or two, recent draft picks have flourished quickly at each level, and great performances have come from unexpected areas. It has become almost astounding to look to each affiliate’s starting rotation and see how much talent there is in every single rotation. There were many great choices here and I know that I personally found this vote the most challenging one to make. Six Twins Daily Minor League writers voted for the various awards this year. For the starting pitcher of the year, we each voted for five players. The player who was voted as #1 received five points, #2 received four points and so on with the #5 vote receiving one point. Results were tabulated and can be found below. Others receiving votes: Luis Rijo - 19 GS, 5-8, 2.86 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 107 IP, 89 H, 23 BB, 99 K Jhoan Duran - 22 GS, 5-12, 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 115 IP, 97 H, 40 BB, 136 K Devin Smeltzer - 19 GS, 4-5, 2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 104 ⅓ IP, 87 H, 22 BB, 104 K Josh Winder - 21 GS, 7-2, 2.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 125 ⅔ IP, 93 H, 30 BB, 118 K Starting Pitcher of the Year: Here are the top five vote-getters voted on by the Twins Daily minor league crew. T-#4 - Cole Sands, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Fort Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos: 18 GS, 7-3, 2.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 97 ⅓ IP, 81 H, 19 BB, 108 K Sands was taken by the Twins in thefifth round of the 2018 MLB draft out of Florida State University. He did not pitch in the Twins’ system that year which isn’t rare for college pitchers, so 2019 was his first year in professional baseball and what an impression he made. Splitting time between three levels of the minors, Sands dazzled with a 9.99 K/9, a 1.76 BB/9, and a 2.45 FIP. Injuries limited him to 97 1/3 innings pitched in 2019 but a strong season on the field made Sands one of the premier starters in the system and he may be up in the majors as soon as next year. T-#4 - Griffin Jax, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings: 23 GS, 5-7, 2.90 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 127 ⅓ IP, 117 H, 27 BB, 94 K Jax was a graduate of the Air Force and was granted the ability to pitch in the Twins system full-time in 2018 under the military’s World Class Athlete Program which allows active-duty personnel to to train full-time for the Olympics. Jax backs up his cool story with some cool pitching as he threw the third most innings in the Twins’ system in 2019 and held the third lowest ERA among those in the system with at least 100 innings pitched. Jax ended the season at AA, had a taste of AAA, and will need to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the rule 5 draft, so he may factor into the Twins’ starting rotation in 2020. #3-Bailey Ober, GCL Twins, Fort Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos: 13 GS, 8-0, 0.69 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 78 ⅔ IP, 55 H, 9 BB, 100 K Ober unfortunately was not able to throw as many innings as the other names on this list, but his numbers were absolutely eye-popping in 2019. Out of every minor league pitcher who had at least 70 innings pitched in 2019, Ober had the lowest ERA with his 0.69 mark (second place was 1.10). Ober’s K-BB% of 30.7% would be the second highest mark among qualified MLB starting pitchers with Gerrit Cole being the only starter with a better percentage. Really, this is all just me saying that Ober had a fantastic year and when healthy he is one of the best pitchers in the entire system. He discussed his 2019 season, his pitches and more in a Twins Daily interview earlier this week. #2-Jordan Balazovic, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Fort Myers Miracle: 18 GS, 8-5, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 93 ⅔ IP, 67 H, 25 BB, 129 K As a cold-weather pitcher before the draft, Balazovic was a prime candidate for developing quickly when placed into a professional system...and that he did. Balazovic had a good 2018 and then followed it up with an absolutely phenomenal 2019 that saw his prospect stock rise to the top of the Twins’ system. Balazovic’s K% of 33.9% in 2019 would be the fifth highest among qualified MLB starters this year and his batting average allowed of .191 would the third lowest among qualified MLB starters. His 2019 was mostly spent at Fort Myers but he was promoted late in the season and was able to make a single playoff start for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in which seven of the 14 outs he made were by strikeout. #1-Randy Dobnak, Fort Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings 21 GS, 12-4, 2.07 ERA, .98 WHIP, 135 IP, 104 H, 28 BB, 109 K Dobnak is the only starter in the top five to pitch for the Twins in 2019 and he very well may be the only one to pitch at four different levels in 2019 if you consider MLB as its own “level”. Nevertheless, Dobnak was an absolute horse in 2019 as he was first among all Twins’ minor league pitchers in innings pitched and his 2.07 ERA was the lowest among starters in the Twins’ system with more than 80 innings pitched. Dobnak was undrafted out of college and went to pitch in independent ball to start in 2017. Not long after the start of his career for the Utica Unicorns, Dobnak was picked up by the Twins on a minor league deal and he pitched for Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids that year. Beyond baseball, Dobnak was an Uber driver as recently as spring training in 2019 and he apparently was excellent as he had a rating of 4.99 stars out of 5. Man, these advanced stats are getting pretty weird even for me. Luckily for Dobnak, the major league paycheck is just a touch higher than the minor league one so he can retire from his Uber career. Dobnak’s professional career so far has been nothing short of incredible but he is much more than just a story. Dobnak’s wonderful 2019 season earned him a promotion to the majors where has allowed just two earned runs so far over his 11 major league innings. With some question marks in the Twins’ starting rotation at the moment, Dobnak will certainly get a few opportunities to prove that he belongs in the majors and that one’s draft position (or lack thereof) does not necessarily dictate how successful they will be in baseball. Dobnak has had a great 2019 in the minors and hopefully he will continue to have a great 2019 in the majors. The Ballots: Seth Stohs: 1) Randy Dobnak 2) Bailey Ober 3) Jordan Balazovic 4) Josh Winder 5) Luis Rijo Tom Froemming: 1) Jordan Balazovic 2) Randy Dobnak 3) Cole Sands 4) Bailey Ober 5) Luis Rijo Cody Christie: 1) Randy Dobnak 2) Griffin Jax 3) Devin Smeltzer 4) Jhoan Duran 5) Josh Winder Matt Braun: 1) Bailey Ober 2) Jordan Balazovic 3) Cole Sands 4) Jhoan Duran 5) Luis Rijo Ted Schwerzler: 1) Randy Dobnak 2) Bailey Ober 3) Griffin Jax 4) Jordan Balazovic 5) Devin Smeltzer Steve Lein: 1) Jordan Balazovic 2) Randy Dobnak 3) Josh Winder 4) Bailey Ober 5) Cole Sands Feel free to discuss our ballots! Who was completely wrong? Who needs a shout out because they were overlooked? What would your ballot look like?
  25. AWARDS The Twins announced their weekly Hitter and Pitcher of the Week Hitter of the Week: Alex Kirilloff, Pensacola Kirilloff, 21, played in seven games for Double-A Pensacola this week, hitting .444 (12-for-27) with one double, one home run, five RBI and a 1.075 OPS. Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins 15th overall in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft and represented the Twins at the SiriusXM Futures Game in Cleveland this summer Pitcher of the Week: Bailey Ober, Pensacola Ober, 24, made one start for the Blue Wahoos on Wednesday at Mississippi, pitching 7.0 shutout innings with three hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Ober was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of College of Charleston. TRANSACTIONS LHP Gabriel Moya placed on the IL for Pensacola. OF Byron Buxton began MLB rehab assignment with Cedar Rapids. RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 3, Syracuse 11 Box Score Rochester took an early 1-0 lead in this one before falling behind in the middle innings. Wilin Rosario collected an RBI-double in the top of the first to score Ramon Flores. The Red Wings wouldn’t score again until the fourth inning when Brandon Barnes drilled his 29th home run of the year. Zander Wiel lead off the seventh inning with his 37th double and came around to score on a one-out single from Wynston Sawyer. Devin Smeltzer started for Rochester and couldn’t make it out of the fourth frame. He was charged with five earned runs on five hits including three home runs. He struck out five and walked one. Edwar Colina made his Triple-A debut and didn’t find much success. He allowed five runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Jorge Alcala limited Syracuse to one hit in almost two innings and he struck out three. Zack Littell walked a pair of batters in the eighth and saw one runner come around to score. Rochester had a chance to gain ground on first-place Scranton/WB. Unfortunately, the Red Wings are four games back with just eight remaining in the season. BLUE WAHOO BITES Pensacola 1, Jackson 4 Box Score Griffin Jax was cruising along in a pitcher’s duel before Jackson was able to break things open in the mid to late innings. He pitched six innings and was charged with one earned run (three total runs) with seven strikeouts and one walk. Following Jax, Tom Hackimer gave up one earned run on two hits over two frames. Andrew Vasquez finished off the game with a hitless ninth inning. Fresh off his Player of the Week honors (see above), Alex Kirilloff continued his hot hitting. Kirilloff and LaMonte Wade both finished 2-for-4. Wade added his second double as part of his MLB rehab assignment. Ryan Costello reached base twice and Mark Contreras knocked in a run with his 12th double. Pensacola matched Jackson with six hits but finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. MIRACLE MATTERS Ft. Myers --, Palm Beach – (Cancelled) Rain forced the cancellation of the final game of the three-game series between the Miracle and the Cardinals. Fort Myers won the first two games in the series to stretch their winning streak to five games. Currently, the team is a season high 18 games over .500 (73-55). KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 5, Peoria 9 Box Score Byron Buxton made a quick impression back in Low-A as he stretched what looked like a routine single into a hustle double. He was left at second base, but he would make it around the bases in his second at-bat. With two outs in the third inning, Buxton drew a walk in front of Matt Walner’s second home runs since being promoted from Elizabethton. He would get one more at-bat and he struck out. https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/1165759211529297920?s=20 There was more to this game than Buxton cruising around the bases. Josh Winder started and put together another strong outing. He limited Peoria to four hits over six shutout innings with five strikeouts and two walks. His season ERA dropped to 2.68 to go along with a sub-1.00 WHIP. It was his team-high 11th quality start. Dylan Thomas kept the shutout alive by tossing two scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and struck out one. Brian Rapp and Austin Schulfer each had a tough time at the end of the game. Rapp couldn’t record an out and was charged with four earned runs on three hits. Schulfer took the loss and the blown save after allowing five earned runs on three hits. Cedar Rapids loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t mount a comeback. E-TWINS E-NOTES Elizabethton 1, Danville 7 Box Score After allowing seven earned runs in his last start, Andriu Marin did much better as he limited Danville to four hits and two runs. He struck out four and walked two. Frandy Torres got hit around in his inning of work. He allowed three earned runs (four total) on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. Steven Cruz and Benjamin Dum combined to allow one earned run over the final three innings. Cruz struck out the side in both innings he worked. The E-Twins didn’t have much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball as the team was limited to three hits. Trevor Jensen had the team’s lone extra-base hit, a double. Charles Mack reached base twice and had the team’s only RBI. Overall, the team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY TD Pitcher of the Day- Josh Winder, Cedar Rapids (6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB) TD Hitter of the Day- Tyler Webb, Cedar Rapids (2-3, 3B, 2 R, BB) PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) – 0-3, BB, K #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) – 2-4, K #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Rochester) – Did not pitch #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) – 1-4 #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) – 2-5, R, K #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Ft. Myers) – Game cancelled #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL Twins) – No scheduled game #8 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) – Injured list #9 - Jhoan Duran (Pensacola) – Did not pitch #10 - Blayne Enlow (Ft. Myers) – Game cancelled #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Minnesota) – 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, K #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) – Did not play #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) – 0-4, K #14 - Luis Arraez (Minnesota) – 0-2, BB #15 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) – Did not play #17 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - Out for year with Tommy John surgery #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) – 1.2 IP, 0 ER, H, 3 K, 0 BB #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL Twins) – No scheduled game #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) – 0-4, K MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester @ Buffalo (6:05 CST) – TBD Pensacola vs. Jackson (6:35 CST) – TBD Fort Myers @ Dunedin (4:00 CST) – LHP Lachlan Wells (2-5, 4.30 ERA) Fort Myers @ Dunedin (Game 2) – TBD Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria (6:35 CST) – LHP Kody Funderburk (0-3, 4.85 ERA) Elizabethton vs. Greeneville (5:30 CST) – TBD GCL Twins vs. GCL Braves (11:00 am CST) – TBD Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Sunday’s games.
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