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  1. Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (62 pitches, 37 strikes (59.7%)) Home Runs: Gary Sanchez (3) Top 3 WPA: Gary Sanchez (0.143), Griffin Jax (0.143), Jorge Polanco (0.138) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Garlick activated The Twins sent out their patented righty heavy lineup with lefty Zach Logue on the mound for the Athletics. It was a perfect opportunity for the healthy Kyle Garlick to return to the Twins after spending time on the IL with an injured calf. Coming into Monday night, Garlick has hit .357/.500/1.000 with a 1.500 OPS against left-handed pitchers. Archer gives the Twins four innings Chris Archer did exactly what 2022 Archer does. He gave the Twins four full innings of work and left the game with the Twins in a position to win the game. It was an uneasy beginning as it seemed Archer was trying to nibble around the edges of the plate. Once the right-hander could locate some pitches better, he went through a stretch of sending nine straight A's batters back to the dugout. Lewis makes his case As Carlos Correa draws closer to returning from his finger injury, Royce Lewis isn’t ready to go back to St. Paul just yet. The Twins shortstop is doing everything to make sure he stays in the majors. Lewis accounted for two Twins runs. He was first driven home by Jorge Polanco after his third-inning double and then Byron Buxton after a fifth-inning walk. While Lewis will need to find a new defensive home if he and Correa are to coexist in the same lineup, his bat may force just that to happen. Lewis is now hitting .286/.306/.457 since his call up. Gary brings the power While the Twins needed to employ small-ball tactics of what feels like an era forgotten for their second run, Gary Sanchez brought us right back to present-day baseball. Sanchez smashed a ball to center field in the sixth inning for the Twins third run. His home run measured at 433 feet and had an exit velocity of 109.9 mph. Cano, Jax, Duffey impress out of the bullpen Yennier Cano has seen the Twins bullpen roles be shuffled around, and now he is staking his claim to a role of his own. Cano once again was asked to pitch two innings as he came on in relief of Archer. As he sat mid-90s with his fastball, Cano only allowed one hit and recorded two strikeouts. Cano is turning heads early on in his major league career. Griffin Jax was the next man up out of the bullpen and added his own two innings following Cano. Allowing only one hit, Jax has continued to be trusted by his manager and has become a real asset for the Twins. Tyler Duffey followed to get the save on a night in which Emilio Pagan was unavailable. It is also interesting that the choice was Duffey and not Jhoan Duran, but now Duran will be available for the rest of the series. What’s Next? The Twins will go to bed likely with the sounds of drums and horns bouncing in their heads. It was announced Dylan Bundy will return from the COVID IL to make the start on Tuesday. Bundy brings into the game a 5.76 ERA on the season in his five starts. The A’s will send James Kaprielian to the mound. The right-hander has made three starts in 2022 and currently owns a 4.97 ERA. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Jax 0 50 0 0 25 75 Cano 36 0 0 0 25 61 Stashak 46 0 0 13 0 59 Duffey 33 0 5 0 20 58 Pagán 0 22 9 10 0 41 Thielbar 23 0 15 2 0 40 Smith 0 4 15 9 0 28 Duran 0 10 12 0 0 22 Cotton 0 0 17 0 0 17
  2. Who cares about 46 plate appearances? Not me. Neither, globally speaking, should you. 46 plate appearances, however, is all we have to judge Jose Miranda on so far in the big leagues, and it hasn't been pretty. After putting together a MiLB season for the ages in 2021 in which he hit 30 HR and a combined 159 wRC+ between AA and AAA, Miranda has struggled in his opening month with the Twins. Over 11 games, he’s put up an 8 wRC+ and has been worth -0.5 fWAR. Obviously not great. What do the numbers say about Miranda? How might he turn his slow start around? Miranda’s 2021 MiLB breakthrough came from the ability to drive the ball well. In 2021, his Line Drive Percentage (LD%) was 24.3% at AA and AAA. For a point of reference, Jorge Polanco, who put up 4.1 fWAR for the Twins, was at 23.1%. Obviously, a different level of competition, but a useful reference point. Fast forward to 2022 and Miranda’s LD% has plummeted to just 2.7%. Essentially, everything he’s hitting is into the ground, or straight up in the air. What gives? The clues come in the form of Miranda’s plate discipline numbers. He doesn’t walk often 4.3% BB%. He also doesn’t strike out very often, something we might expect for someone struggling so mightily at the plate (15.2% K%). Miranda’s low walk and low strikeout totals warrant further investigation, for that, it’s useful to look at his swing and contact rates. Miranda has an O-Swing% of 29.9%, meaning he swings at 29.9% of pitches thrown outside the strike zone. This isn’t an alarming number (Polanco, our contextual comparison for this piece, is at 28.8% here). Miranda, however, swings significantly more in the zone than other hitters (70.2% so far in 2022 to Polanco’s 61.5%). We know that Miranda can crush the ball, no one who hits 30 HR in a season can’t. However, his average exit velocity is 88.2 mph, right at league average with a Barrel% of just 5.4%. If we put these two data points together, here’s what we can glean; Miranda has a tendency to swing at pitches in the strike zone, which is fine. Currently, his swings in the zone are not selective enough, causing him to ground out and pop out frequently. His tendencies are a much scaled-back version of the challenges Willians Astudillo faced in Minnesota, where his ability to put bat-to-ball was negated by the poor quality of contact he produced. I’ll finish with this; who cares? Hitting in the majors is a game of reactivity and constraint adjustments. Whether Miranda continues to work through his struggles in Minneapolis or St. Paul, I remain extremely confident in his ability to hit at the big league level. If he wants to maximize his success, however, he needs to once again hunt for pitches he can drive.
  3. Last Week's Game Results: Game 30 | HOU 5, MIN 0: Verlander Dominates Hapless Twins Game 31 | HOU 11, MIN 3: Astros Blast Twins in Suspended Game Game 32 | HOU 5, MIN 0: Lack of Luck, Lots of Runners Stranded Game 33 | MIN 12, CLE 8: Bats Awaken, Snap Losing Streak Game 34 | CLE 3, MIN 2: Offense Absent, Twins Fall in Extras Game 35 | MIN 3, CLE 1: Ryan Rebounds, Twins Take Series Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/9 through Sun, 5/15 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 20-15) Run Differential Last Week: -13 (Overall: +12) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES The list of news and moves from last week is a long one, so let's just try and rattle through it rapid-fire: Carlos Correa, whose bruised finger wasn't improving fast enough to facilitate a speedy return to action, was placed on the injured list for the sake of roster flexibility. He got in some work over the weekend and is expected to be back relatively soon. Luis Arraez was activated from COVID IL, and played throughout the latter part of the week while showing no ill effects. Dylan Bundy, however, remains sidelined as he recovers from his battle with the virus. He wasn't able to go on Saturday so Devin Smeltzer came up to make his 2022 Twins debut, hurling five innings of one-run ball. Alex Kirilloff returned from rehab, basically out of necessity, but looked completely ineffective as his wrist continues to restrict him. The Twins optioned him back to St. Paul on Saturday and he'll stay there until his bat shows signs of life. Meanwhile, Mark Contreras is up from Triple-A and temporarily providing some outfield depth. Danny Coulombe, whose season was off to a magnificent start, suffered a hip injury on Tuesday that forced him to the shelf. It's another blow to this bullpen, which hopes to get a boost from his replacement: 28-year-old Yennier Canó, called up after a strong run at Triple-A. Jhon Romero was moved to the 60-day IL to create 40-man space. Kyle Garlick embarked upon a rehab stint at Triple-A, with his calf apparently healed. He went 3-for-9 with a homer in St. Paul over the weekend and could rejoin the Twins for their coming road trip. They will be happy to get back his lefty-mashing stick. Also due back this week: Bailey Ober, who threw 72 pitches over five innings in a rehab start on Sunday. He struck out seven with no walks, although he did allow four earned runs. The most impactful health development of the week concerned starting pitcher Chris Paddack, but that one is discouraging enough that we'll save it for the Lowlights section. HIGHLIGHTS While the lineup has largely been struggling, a few players are stepping up in a big way. Jorge Polanco is at the head of that list, with his bat catching fire here in May following a fairly quiet first month. He contributed a homer and two doubles last week, and leads the team with 20 RBIs. In a lineup that's seen almost everyone else miss time, Polanco has been a steady and durable force, appearing in all but one of Minnesota's games so far while easily leading the team in plate appearances. His ankle has sometimes impeded his performance but Polanco's been able to battle through and stay on the field, and it's one of his defining qualities. Dating back to 2019 only eight MLB players have amassed more plate appearances. With Correa sidelined, Royce Lewis has been very impressive while filling in on the other side of second base. Although there have a been a few hiccups defensively, he's mostly made the plays and Lewis is swinging a good bat. The past week saw him notch six hits in 22 at-bats, including his first major-league home run – a grand slam that broke things open in Friday's win over Cleveland. It was a really awesome moment for a kid who is extremely easy to root for. Byron Buxton was great as usual when available, launching a pair of homers against Cleveland over the weekend, but he's still bothered by soreness and occasional swelling in his knee, which is keeping him out of the lineup semi-regularly. With that being the case, the emergence of Gilberto Celestino has been tremendously impactful. Celestino went 4-for-11 with a double last week and is now slashing .333/.396/.417 in 52 plate appearances this year. His defense in the outfield has been beyond exceptional (see below). It would've been hard to imagine, given how overmatched he looked as a rookie last year, but Celestino came right back to the big leagues and is giving the Twins everything they could want out of him as a fourth outfielder. On the pitching side, a heaping share of credit is due to Joe Smith, who's been absolutely brilliant out of the Twins bullpen. The front office's lone MLB free agent addition for this unit has been providing absurd value, making frequent yet short appearances and ALWAYS getting the job done. He worked all three games in the Cleveland series, pitching on back-to-back-to-back days and running his season-opening scoreless streak to 12 ⅓ innings. The two couldn't be much different stylistically, but the 38-year-old sidearmer Smith and the 24-year-old flamethrower Jhoan Duran – who worked two scoreless innings last week and rewrote the franchise record for pitch velocity multiple times – are leading the way in a surprisingly reliable bullpen, ranking first and second on the staff in Win Probability Added. LOWLIGHTS The Astros series served as a stark reality check for the Twins, who'd ridden a major hot streak into a multi-game division lead despite all of their injury trials and setbacks. One-run victories over soft competition will be happily banked, but they're not necessarily the most convincing displays. Facing one of the league's truly elite teams, Minnesota was barely competitive. Even at full strength the Twins are probably not at the level of Houston – yet – and all weaknesses were magnified in their undermanned state. Batting Gary Sánchez third in your lineup against Justin Verlander is ... not what you want. Options were limited, unfortunately, and to some extent they still are. Far from giving the lineup a boost, José Miranda has reverted to his old offensive profile – swing at everything, with lots of weak contact – and it's not playing in the majors, as evidenced by a .114/.152/.227 slash line. Meanwhile, the streaky Ryan Jeffers has gone cold again – he went 3-for-16 last week and doesn't have an XBH since his last homer on May 3rd. Sánchez and Gio Urshela have been mostly unproductive outside of the occasional long ball, with each sporting a sub-.290 OBP. The Twins could desperately use a healthy and effective Kirilloff in the middle of their lineup right now, but that simply isn't in the cards. He's in a weird purgatory with his ailing right wrist, where it's not "injured" enough to merit being on the IL, but it's clearly giving him no chance to succeed at the plate. During his time with the Twins, Kirilloff wasn't generating any loud contact. His batted ball metrics were brutal, with exit velos and launch angles ranking at the bottom of the team – not at all what you expect from a hitter of his caliber. Kirilloff still has not barreled a single ball in the majors this year. All the team can really do at this point is send him to a lower-pressure environment and hope the wrist progressively improves, with results turning around in kind. One wonders if it'd be wise to simply give him some time off from swinging. But that's a difficult ask of a 24-year-old who is trying like hell to get his career going. In addition to an offense that was shut out twice and nearly no-hit, the Houston series was also a harsh one for the rookies and reclamation project in Minnesota's rotation, with Joe Ryan, Chris Archer and Josh Winder all struggling to varying degrees. The patience of the Astros lineup proved too much for these starters. Ryan issued a career-high five walks on Tuesday while coughing up four earned runs in four innings. (To his immense credit, he bounced back with a clean and stellar performance on Sunday.) Archer threw just 42 of 75 pitches for strikes on Wednesday and lasted three laborious innings in a loss. Winder was touched up for four runs (three earned) over 3 ⅓ innings in the series finale, yielding six hits and three free passes. Twins pitching was completely outclassed by that of the Astros, with the rotation setting the tone for a lopsided series sweep. It was the type of stretch that leaves you yearning for a steady veteran hand to go along with the youth movement. Seemingly this was a big part of the motivation in acquiring Paddack just ahead of the season, but now that trade has taken a turn for the worse with his elbow issues resurfacing. Paddack exited his last start due to elbow inflammation, and has since been in the process of consulting specialists and gathering information to determine his next move. Having been placed on the 60-day IL, he'll miss at least a couple of months and it seems likely he'll undergo Tommy John surgery, costing him the rest of the season. Last year in San Diego, Paddack was diagnosed with a partial tear of his UCL, which he tried to pitch through and remedy via non-surgical means. As such, this outcome is hardly shocking. The Twins knew the risks involved when they moved on Paddack, and now it looks like the worst-case scenario will be realized: he's going to contribute very little this year while Taylor Rogers is balling for the Padres. Presumably we'll get more clarity in the coming week concerning the plan for Paddack. If you're seeking an optimistic slant, you could take a look at the example of Twins prospect Blayne Enlow, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June and is now ramping up and returning to action, less than one year later. A similar timeline for Paddack could potentially have him back pitching for the Twins in the first half of next year. But again, we'll need to see the details. One way or another, he has a long road ahead of him. TRENDING STORYLINE With Correa set to return soon, perhaps even in the coming week, it will be interesting to see what the plan is for Lewis. He certainly looks like a guy who belongs in the majors and the Twins aren't necessarily in a position where they should feel comfortable losing his spark. But obviously their superstar free agent will resume everyday shortstop duties once activated. Lewis has the speed to be an asset in the outfield and could probably hold his own at third base, where Urshela hasn't been terribly impressive (offensively, anyway – the defense has been quite spectacular). But Lewis lacks much of any experience playing these positions, and you wonder if the Twins are comfortable letting him learn on the fly in the big leagues. I guess we'll find out soon enough. LOOKING AHEAD An extremely soft section of the schedule is underway, and the Twins need to make hay. They'll open the coming week with a trip out west to face the Athletics, who they swept at home a week ago. Then it's off to Kansas City for a match-up against the Royals. The following 12 games are all against Detroit and KC. After that, the Twins will be running through an AL East gauntlet featuring the Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays, and at that point, they'll have a chance to show their mettle against strong competition after falling woefully short versus Houston. But until then, the goal is just to rattle off victories and build some distance in the Central standings. As I publish this, no starter has been officially announced for Friday but that nod will presumably go to Ober. MONDAY, 5/16: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Zach Logue TUESDAY, 5/17: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Josh Winder v. RHP James Kaprielian WEDNESDAY, 5/18: TWINS @ ATHLETICS – RHP Sonny Gray v. RHP Daulton Jefferies FRIDAY, 5/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – TBD v. LHP Daniel Lynch SATURDAY, 5/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Brad Keller SUNDAY, 5/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Chris Archer v. TBD
  4. 10. Jorge Polanco: 30 HR Polanco has become one of Minnesota's most valuable contributors, and he is one of 22 second basemen to hit more than 30 home runs in a season. During the 2019 season, Minnesota coughed up a ninth-inning lead only to have Polanco hit a walk-off in the tenth inning. 9. Joe Mauer: 32 HR Mauer wasn't known for his home run prowess and his best home run season came at the Metrodome. His first walk-off home run was worth the wait as it came in his 14th big-league season. 8. Josh Willingham: 33 HR Willingham's home run prowess gets a little lost because he played on some bad Twins teams. However, he hit one of the most valuable home runs in Target Field history. With the Twins down to their final out, Willingham sent the fans home happy. 7. Nelson Cruz: 36 HR What is left to say about Cruz? His Twins tenure was full of remarkable moments, and he seemed to be the glue behind Minnesota's record-breaking home run season. The Twins don't have a lot of good memories against the Yankees, but his walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman has to be one of the best. 6. Byron Buxton: 38 HR Buxton's long-term deal means he will continue to move up this list in the years ahead. However, he already hit a memorable home run during the 2022 season. His 469-foot moonshot was the longest walk-off home run in the StatCast era. Which one of these home runs stands out most to you? How high will Buxton get on this list before the end of his career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THE SERIES -Home Run Hitters: 11-15
  5. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer, 3.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (75 pitches, 42 strikes, 56%) Home Runs: none Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Offense shows some encouraging signs early, but Archer can't come through Apparently, not having to face Justin Verlander makes a huge difference – who knew? Contrary to Tuesday night, when Minnesota’s first hit of the game came only in the eighth inning, the bats were off to a good start early. Max Kepler doubled to deep right in the Twins’ second at-bat of the game and scored moments later when Jorge Polanco hit a double to the right corner. Starting this game with a couple of good, extra-base hits was a relief for this offense. The Twins hadn’t scored a run since the third inning of the final game of the Oakland series. Polanco hit an RBI single on Sunday, and the Twins went on to hit .137 since. But the Twins needed their starting pitcher to pick up as well, and that didn’t come close to happening tonight. Making his sixth start of the season, Chris Archer hadn’t given up more than two runs in any of his previous five starts, but things were about to change. After a long 1-2-3 first inning, Archer struggled with his command and very quickly gave up the Twins' one-run lead. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel hit back-to-back singles to open the second inning, and both of them scored later on, on a sac fly and a single. José Altuve hit a leadoff home run to right to open the third, and then things definitely spiraled out of control for Archer. He gave up back-to-back walks after the home run, then loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Kyle Tucker. Jeremy Peña hit a liner to right to score two more runs, making it 5-1 Houston. That concluded Archer’s night, making it the fourth consecutive game in which a Twins starter pitches four innings or less. A storm breaks out, and the game gets suspended, set to resume on Thursday A Royce Lewis single to lead off the bottom of the third brought some hope that the Twins could build some momentum offensively, with the top of the order coming next. But José Urquidy retired the side on 13 pitches to end the threat and… the night at Target Field. Before the fourth inning started, with Yennier Cano warming up to make his big league debut, a storm broke out, and the game went into a weather delay. Fans were evacuated from the stands into the concourses and had to wait until the announcement of the game suspension came, roughly one hour after the interruption of the game. Here we go again... After a 15-hour weather delay (aka, suspended game), the Twins and Astros resumed play at 12:10. Big-League Debuts Technically, Yennier Cano made his MLB debut on Wednesday night because he was announced. However, the reality is that he actually made his MLB debut when the game resumed on Thursday. Cano, who had all night to think about it, was impressive. He struck out the first batter he faced, catcher Martin Maldanado. Then he got Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley quickly. In the fifth inning, he got through Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Guerriel without breaking a sweat. He went out for a third inning. Kyle Tucker hit a high home run over the wall in right field to lead off the sixth frame. He got one out in that inning but after a couple of singles, Cody Stashak came on and allowed both inherited runners to score. So in his 2 1/3 innings, he was charged with three runs on three hits. That line is so much worse than how Cano performed. The Twins had a second player make his MLB debut in the game too. When play resumed, Gilberto Celestino had moved from left to center field. Mark Contreras took over in left field. Contreras came to the plate with runners on first and third and nobody out. He swung at the first pitch and hit a ball 105 mph to center. It was caught just in front of the warning track, but the run scored, so Contreras was awarded an RBI on the sacrifice fly. In his next at-bat, Contreras saw a handful of pitches before hitting a bounding grounder up the middle. Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena misplayed it for an error. Contreras later came around to score a run too. His final at-bat ended with a fielder's choice. The Twins are off to a very nice start to their season, but playing against a strong, veteran Astros team without Carlos Correa, and with young pitchers, was always going to be a bit of a reality check. Again, consider the amount of MLB time and at-bats that Alex Kirilloff, Jose Miranda, Gilberto Celestino, Royce Lewis, Mark Contreras, and even Ryan Jeffers have. Yet each of them contributed something in this game and are holding their own. So, you can say it's a reality check to see the Twins lose by a big margin, and that's fair. You can also be really excited about the future of this club, not only this year when Correa and Byron Buxton are back at full strength but for years to come. Along with the pitching pipeline that we are starting to see contribute to the Twins, there are hitters too. It's also OK to acknowledge both. Speaking of firsts... Nick Gordon has played all over the place since joining the Twins last summer. On Thursday, he made his pitching debut. The son of the former All-Star and long-time reliever Tom Gordon, Nick came in to face the Astros with the Twins down 11-3. And, he kept the score right there. For the most part, he lobbed in pitches at 70 mph or so. That said, he hit 87 with one pitch and 88 with another. He got a little help from Gio Urshela, but threw a scoreless frame. What’s Next? In approximately 30 minutes, Josh Winder (1.61 ERA) will try to snap the sequence of bad starts as he takes the mound for the third and final game of this series, facing Luis Garcia (3.45 ERA). Postgame Interview No postgame interviews due to the quick turn-around. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SUN MON TUE WED THU TOT Stashak 34 0 0 0 46 80 Cotton 0 0 58 0 0 58 Cano 0 0 0 0 36 36 Coulombe 0 0 29 IL IL 29 Pagán 28 0 0 0 0 28 Thielbar 20 0 3 0 0 23 Smith 12 0 0 0 0 12 Duffey 9 0 0 0 0 9 Duran 0 0 0 0 0 0 Jax 0 0 0 0 0 0
  6. Bill Smith Contributions (2007-2011) Smith faced a challenging time in Twins history as he took over the GM role. Torii Hunter was on his way out the door, and the team needed to trade Johan Santana. The Twins lost a Game 163 (2008) and won the division twice (2009-10) during his tenure. Despite these positive results, Smith couldn’t survive the 2011 campaign as the Twins lost 99 games. It was one of the most disappointing seasons in Twins history, but he helped sign three core pieces to the current roster. Smith’s lasting legacy with the Twins connects to the 2009 international signing class, which was tremendous in retrospect. Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler signed as part of this class. These players have combined for 37.3 total WAR and two All-Star appearances in their big-league careers. Sano’s Twins tenure may conclude in 2022, but Kepler and Polanco are under team control for multiple more seasons. Terry Ryan Contributions (2012-2016) Ryan served as GM for two different stints, so it makes sense for his fingerprints to be all over the Twins organization over the last decade. When taking over from Smith, Ryan got the opportunity to pick the second overall pick, and the organization decided on Byron Buxton. Multiple pitchers were in the conversation for Minnesota, but Buxton has accumulated the fourth-most WAR among players from the 2012 first round. He is now the face of the franchise, and he will be in a Twins uniform for over a decade after Ryan was fired. Minnesota signed Luis Arraez as an international free agent during the 2013 signing class. He has been worth 5.9 WAR in his career while hitting .312/.374/.400 (.748) with a 130 OPS+. Nick Gordon was a top-5 draft pick under the Ryan regime. His professional career hasn’t progressed perfectly, but he has shown the club the value he can provide over the last two seasons. These players look like they will be part of the team’s roster for multiple seasons moving forward. Minnesota’s bullpen picture is also covered with players acquired by Ryan. Tyler Duffey was a fifth-round pick in 2012, and he has been one of the team’s best relievers since 2019. Cody Stashak, a 13th-round pick in 2015, has been terrific to start the 2022 season, and he has yet to become arbitration-eligible. The Twins took Griffin Jax in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Ryan’s last with the organization. This season, he is transitioning to the bullpen, and signs point to him fitting well into his new role. Other prospects on the 40-man roster were also acquired under the Ryan regime. Jovani Moran was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, and he has the potential to be a dominant late-inning reliever. His change-up is a dominant pitch, and it has helped him post a 13.4 K/9 in his minor league career. Jordan Balazovic was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and he currently ranks as Twins Daily’s fifth overall prospect. Entering the season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each had him in the back-half of their top-100 prospects. He recently made his Triple-A debut, so there is a good chance his big-league debut will be in 2022. Smith and Ryan might not be regarded highly because of how each left the organization. However, their impact will be felt years after their departure. Besides Buxton, which of these players will provide the most long-term value to the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 4 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K Homeruns: None Bottom 3 WPA: Ryan -.209, Urshela -.069, Kepler -.068 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Tuesday’s game was billed as one of the best pitching matchups of the season, as Joe Ryan took on Justin Verlander. Entering the contest, the pitchers had remarkably similar statistics on the year, while the Twins and Astros had identical 18-11 records. The Astros made Joe Ryan work in the first inning. Despite this, he pitched around a walk of Alex Bregman to manage a scoreless frame. Justin Verlander, despite Gary Sanchez's scalding a line drive to left field, managed a hitless first inning of his own. Ryan struggled in the top of the second, surrendering a leadoff hit before walking Kyle Tucker for his second free pass in as many innings. After a fly ball moved Yuli Gurriel to third, a Jeremy Pena groundout gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. Verlander, meanwhile, continued to cruise, retiring the side in order to sit at just 23 pitches after two hitless innings. In the fourth inning, Ryan walked Kyle Tucker with one out. Tucker stole second and came around to score on a bloop single from Pena with two outs. Ryan struck out Martin Maldonado to end the fourth inning trailing 2-0. Ryan had poor command and did not look sharp on Tuesday. It’s perhaps a testament to him that he managed to keep the game close, despite walking four and throwing 83 pitches through four innings. Verlander sat at just 43 pitches through four hitless innings. The Twins produced poor at-bats against the future Hall-of-Famer, but he also threw 81% strikes. A Jose Altuve bloop single and Joe Ryan’s fifth walk of the game led off the fifth inning for Houston. An Alex Bregman double increased the lead to 3-0 with runners of second and third and none out and ended Ryan’s night, undoubtedly his most disappointing outing of the season. Danny Coulombe entered the game and managed to limit the damage to just one more run. The Twins entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 4-0. Verlander allowed his first base runner in the fifth inning when Jorge Polanco walked. Gio Urshela promptly grounded into a double play to immediately end any inkling of Twins resistance. In the sixth inning, Coulombe exited the game, the latest in a litany of injured players. He was replaced by Jharel Cotton. The Astros tacked on another run, pushing the score to 5-0. Gilberto Celestino took the Twins' second walk of the game in the sixth inning but he was thrown out trying to take second base on an errant pitch from Verlander, who faced the minimum through six innings. Jharel Cotton continued to pitch admirably for the Twins as he was asked to eat as many innings as possible to preserve the bullpen through the rest of the series. He pitched scoreless seventh and eight innings. Verlander finally lost his no-hit bid with one out in the eighth inning. Gio Urshela punched an opposite field single to give the Twins just their third base runner of the game. The crowd sounded their appreciation, both for Urshela, and Verlander's masterful performance. Tuesday's game was the second time this season the Twins were at risk of being no-hit by a future Hall of Fame pitcher. Royce Lewis grounded into a double play to erase the runner, and get Verlander through eight one-hit innings, striking out five. The Twins managed to get two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth, advancing a runner to second base for the first time in the game! Jose Miranda flew out to centerfield to complete the shutout for the Astros. the loss dropped the Twins to 18-12 on the season. If nothing else, the Astros effortless swatting of the Twins on Tuesday emphasized the easy ride Minnesota has had with their recent schedule. A lineup without Buxton, Arraez, and Correa looked toothless. The Astros provided the first stern test for a severely undermanned Twins team. Verlander was brilliant. The Twins failed comprehensively. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Cotton 0 0 0 0 58 58 Pagán 28 0 28 0 0 56 Coulombe 0 12 0 0 29 41 Stashak 0 0 34 0 0 34 Duran 0 31 0 0 0 31 Thielbar 0 0 20 0 3 23 Duffey 11 0 9 0 0 20 Jax 0 19 0 0 0 19 Smith 6 0 12 0 0 18 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series against the Astros. Chris Archer will start for Minnesota while José Urquidy starts for Houston. The first pitch is at 6:40 CT Postgame Interviews - Coming Soon
  8. Box Score SP: Chris Paddack: 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (55 pitches, 41 strikes (74.5%) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Emilio Pagan (0.150), Jorge Polanco (0.146), Gilberto Celestino (0.124) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Notes Injuries and ‘day-to-day’ nagging injuries are adding up, and that continued on Sunday. In the morning, the team announced that outfielder Trevor Larnach was being placed on the Injured List with a right adductor strain. To take his place, the Twins recalled catcher Jose Godoy. In 22 games this year, Larnach has hit .313/.365/.448 (.813) with nine doubles. He has been hitting most everything hard. Hopefully it’s just a 10-day injury and he can get back into the lineup shortly. It’s also fair to ask why Godoy would be brought up? Sure. However, he is the only hitter on the 40-man roster, and it would make no sense to take someone off the 40-man roster, add someone else, when it's likely a couple of hitters will be playing again on Tuesday. Paddack Leaves with Injury Chris Paddack started the game strong. He struck out the first two batters, but after a couple of soft singles, Chad Pinder lined a single that gave the A’s a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, he had a strikeout, a weak line out, and a ground out. He started the third inning with a strikeout as well. But after Sheldon Neuse hit a single and Sean Murphy doubled, trainer Michael Salazar was summoned to the mound. After a couple of questions, Paddack was removed from the game without even attempting a practice throw off the mound. With two runners on, Cody Stashak came into the game. He gave up a single that scored both inherited runners before getting out of the inning. Obviously, we can hope for the best. Paddack has looked really good so far this season. On Sunday, he was sitting 93-95 mph and had a pitch hit 95.8 mph. His breaking ball has been much improved and his changeup remains a really good pitch. In the middle innings, we learned that he was removed from the game with “right elbow inflammation.” That’s pretty vague, and with his history of elbow issues, they will certainly continue to evaluate and do all the needed imaging. Twins starting pitching has been good to this point in the season, much better than expected. They really have had seven starting pitchers on their roster. Sonny Gray just returned from a hamstring injury. Bailey Ober is on the IL with a groin injury. Dylan Bundy is on the Covid-IL. The Twins have good starting pitching depth, but that’s only true until it isn’t. Get ‘em Back The best way to respond after a tough top of the third inning, not only falling behind 3-1 but also losing their starting pitcher is to put up some runs. The Twins did just that in the bottom of the third inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Jose Miranda doubled down the left-field line to score one run. Then came Jorge Polanco, and he dropped a 72.5 mph single in front of the left fielder. Miranda read it well and scored from second to give the Twins a 4-3 lead. Polanco now has a nine-game hitting streak. Celebrating Celestino A year ago, Gilberto Celestino had barely played above Low-A ball when the Twins were desperate in the outfield and called him up because he was on the 40-man roster. Celestino had ended the 2019 season with eight games in High-A Ft. Myers. He missed the entire 2020 season, though he was at the alternate site. Then he began the 2021 season with 21 games at Double-A Wichita before being called up. No surprise that he struggled. In 23 games last year with the Twins, he hit just .136/.177/.288 (.466). He was set to begin the 2022 season in St. Paul, but he ended up on the Opening Day roster, playing little. He was sent to the Saints, but after just two games, he was needed at Target Field again. And he has been a major contributor. On Sunday, he had three more hits and ended the day hitting .324/.390/.405 (.796) with three doubles. He has at least one hit in eight of his past nine games. Over that time, he is 11-for-27 (.407). With the Twins being cautious with Byron Buxton, Celestino has been given opportunities in center field, and he has done well out there too. Bullpen Big Again While Stashak allowed his inherited runners to score, he was very good. He gave up just one hit over 2 2/3 innings. Caleb Thielbar came in for the sixth inning. He walked the leadoff batter but then struck out the next three hitters. Joe Smith faced three batters in a scoreless seventh frame. Tyler Duffey needed nine pitches to close out the eighth inning. And, Emilio Pagan came in for the ninth inning. Of course, runners got to second and third, but he did not allow a run and recorded the save. When you sweep a series by scores of 2-1, 1-0, and 4-3, the bullpen has to perform under stress, and they have certainly done that! The Defense of Lewis Royce Lewis made all the plays this weekend at shortstop. On Sunday, he made a play early in the game, deep in the hole, and threw a perfect, one-hop throw across the diamond to Alex Kirilloff for an out. It's such a smart play, and one we have seen Carlos Correa make a couple of times already this season. In the eighth inning, the leadoff batter hit a slow roller toward short. Lewis charged, bare-handed it, and uncoiled a perfect throw to first for a big out. From what we have seen, both this weekend and in the first month at St. Paul, Royce Lewis can play shortstop in the big leagues. He won't always be perfect. There will be errors, but it's good to know that he can stick there. Lewis had one hit in all three games this weekend. He went 3-for-10 (.300). Do you know when the last time that a Twins' hitter had a hit in each of his first three games? In May of 2019, Luis Arraez did it. What’s Next? The Twins will enjoy a day off at home on Monday. The Twins have been playing well, but the aches and pains are catching up so a day off is really needed. On Tuesday, the Astros will come to town for a three-game series. Tuesday: Joe Ryan (3-1, 1.63 ERA) vs TBA Wednesday: Chris Archer (0-0, 3.26 ERA) vs TBA Thursday: Josh Winder (2-0, 1.61 ERA) vs TBA Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Pagán 0 0 28 0 28 56 Coulombe 26 0 0 12 0 38 Thielbar 0 18 0 0 20 38 Jax 0 15 0 19 0 34 Stashak 0 0 0 0 34 34 Duran 0 0 0 31 0 31 Duffey 0 0 11 0 9 20 Smith 0 0 6 0 12 18
  9. Box Score SP: Sonny Gray 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (66 pitches, 42 strikes (63.6%)) Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (3) Top 3 WPA: Jhoan Duran (.265), Sonny Gray (.205), Jorge Polanco (.159) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Welcome Back Sonny Sonny Gray has had a less than great start since coming to the Twins organization in a trade after the lockout. His much-anticipated acquisition meant some rounding out to the pitching rotation. Gray came from Cincinnati in March in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Chase Petty, Gray brings a source of veteran leadership to the rotation and a player to watch, but he has been sidelined much of the early season. He wasn’t nearly as stretched out as his teammates at the conclusion of spring training and ultimately ended up with a right hamstring injury early in the season. The discomfort was obvious on his face as he stepped back off the mound in the second inning and ultimately out of the rotation. Gray has only pitched one game at Target Field, against Seattle. He missed the last 19 games. During his IL stint, the pitcher rehabbed his hamstring and made one rehab start for Low-A Fort Myers last weekend. He pitched three shutout innings with one hit allowed and five strikeouts. He hasn’t left the team except for that one rehab game. He’s been with them in Florida and Baltimore, so instead of taking the starting position in St. Paul today, he returned to the mound on Saturday. In his first inning, he looked composed, loose, and settled in by the second batter, bouncing back from 3-0 count on Chad Pinder to strike him out. The outfield assisted in Gray getting through his first inning, giving him a quick 1-2-3 to his start back with the team. Gray continued to pinpoint his pitches and left the game with 66 pitches. The plan was for him to be around 65 pitches. Considering this is his first game back and throwing four shutout innings and allowing only one hit, this seemed to be like the time to pull him and let the bullpen take over. The bullpen continued to keep the game right where Gray left it. Home Grown Lineup... until it wasn't For a short time, the line-up that complimented Sonny Gray’s return was a homegrown Twins farm system team. For all the years that the Twins fans have spent frustrated with the front office, this lineup is a product of patience and hard work. Players like Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis who have all put up outstanding numbers in the minors only to come-up to the Twins and show why they deserve to be on the 40-man. This was the original lineup. Jayce Tingler who has stepped up for Rocco Baldelli who is currently quarantining in Baltimore, has done a good job steering the ship and making good lineup and in-game decisions. This is exactly what happened after the "home-grown lineup" was announced, Trevor Larnach was sidelined with lower body tightness. Gary Sanchez replaced him in the lineup. Hopefully, we will get a chance for that lineup again, but it was fun to see and awesome to know how much homegrown depth there is.. Joining the crew on Friday was Alex Kirilloff. He didn't play on Friday night, but on Saturday, he batted eighth. Considering he had surgery that ended his 2021 season on that joint last July, there was some concern it would be more than just inflammation. This latest injury didn’t turn out to be anything structural. He started his rehab assignment with St. Paul on April 31st and played four games in St. Paul before being activated from the IL on Friday. Polanco the under-rated All-Star Jorge Polanco has been flying under the radar and while carrying a batting average of .211, he has an eight-game hitting streak, and six of his last fourteen RBIs in two games alone (May 1st and May 3rd). In his appearance against the Rays on May 1st, Polanco went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI, rocketing the Twins to a 9-3 win. Among the stars of the Twins team, Polanco is potentially one of the better players on the team that doesn’t get talked about enough. He also doesn’t talk about himself. He is focused on being a team member and contributing to the game overall. He sets goals for himself that he doesn’t talk about, and even with solid defense and hitting, he still doesn’t reach all his goals. In a previous press conference Manager, Rocco Baldelli talked about the significance that Polanco has on the field. "He's such a solid contributor for us on the field," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He does everything almost kind of under the radar. Personality-wise, he's a wonderful human being, but he's a quiet guy, and that's just who he is. So we probably don't talk about him enough." And just as this writer was deep-diving into Polanco’s stats, Polanco hit his third home run of the year, 451 feet according to Baseball Savant off of Kaprielian’s slider to center field to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Close Calls and a Marginal Lead Things started to heat up in the seventh inning as it looked like the Athletics were going to get into the action after a deep liner to center field that slid between Buxton and Nick Gordon, allowing Christian Bethancourt to get a double. The A’s momentum was brought to a screeching halt when Max Kepler stopped a fly ball by Brian McKinney to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Royce Lewis got the second hit of his MLB career, a double off the wall in right-center. He was promptly picked off when a bunt was missed. Even with a challenge to New York, the call remained, and a frustrated Lewis returned to the dugout. Pitcher A.J. Puk had a tough time in the eighth, bobbling a ball hit back to him off of the bat of Gilberto Celestino who advanced to first and waited for a chance to advance, but to no avail. Heading into the ninth, the Twins had no insurance runs and a marginal lead, but Jhoan Duran came back out to finish what he started in the eighth frame. It wasn't without stress though. Just like Friday's game, this game brought extra anxiety in the ninth as Duran walked a batter and then hit another. The last out seemed to take forever. As Ryan Jeffers framed strike two to Bethancourt, the Twins were looking at one remaining strike to complete the game. Bethancourt continued to foul-off balls prolonging the pain of the ninth before Duran threw him with a 100mph fastball to get him swinging to end the game! Sonny Gray and the bullpen pulled off a combined shutout and guarantee a series win. Can they come back tomorrow and complete the sweep? Who is your favorite reliever in our Bullpen right now? Are you nervous about all the ninth inning bases loaded? What’s Next? The Twins finish up the series tomorrow on Mother’s day against Oakland before Houston arrives at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: Sunday 1:10 central: Chris Paddack (1-2, 3.15 ERA) vs RHP Dalton Jefferies (1-4, 4.81 ERA) Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Coulombe 0 26 0 0 12 38 Thielbar 18 0 18 0 0 36 Jax 0 0 15 0 19 34 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Duffey 18 0 0 11 0 29 Pagán 0 0 0 28 0 28 Stashak 11 0 0 0 0 11 Smith 0 0 0 6 0 6 Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
  10. Box Score SP: Josh Winder 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (83 pitches, 54 strikes (65 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (7) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (.131), Kyle Garlick (.106), Josh Winder (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins bats were ready to continue their hot streak from Saturday against the Rays on Sunday and wasted no time doing so. The top of the first brought about a lot of excitement for the Twins as Byron Buxton reached base on a throwing error from Rays shortstop Taylor Walls which advanced him to second. In the next at-bat Carlos Correa hit a single to have two runners on for Kyle Garlick. Garlick was able to drive in the Twins' first run of the game with an RBI single to right which scored Buxton. This had two runners aboard for Jorge Polanco who drove both Correa and Garlick in on a bases-clearing double to make it a 3-0 Twins lead. Gio Urshela was the Twins first out of the inning, but Max Kepler came up next to make it a 4-0 game on another double. The scoring didn’t stop there for the Twins in the top of the first. Gary Sanchez followed Kepler’s RBI double with an RBI single of his own to make it 5-0. Left fielder Gilberto Celestino ended the inning with a double play hit to Walls but the Twins still gave Winder an extensive lead for his first MLB start. The Twins offense certainly stood out during Sunday’s game but Winder was the star of the game making his first MLB start. Winder had made three bullpen appearances for the Twins before Sunday only looking rough in his MLB debut against the Dodgers on April 12. The six inning workload that Winder pitched on Sunday was not set to be a challenge either. Winder had a relief appearance of 5 1/3 innings on April 16 after Sonny Gray was removed from his start due to injury. Winder’s start against the Rays was his best pitching appearance of 2022 to date. Six shutout innings, only three base runners on two hits and a walk and seven strikeouts proved why the Twins were smart to put him on the Opening Day roster. After the first inning that almost had the Twins bat around, the scoring didn’t stop there for them. Buxton was the next to add on a run for the Twins as he hit his seventh home run of the season to deep left field in the top of the fourth. The Twins bats wouldn’t do anything again until the top of the seventh where they scored an additional two runs thanks to another Polanco bases-clearing double. Trevor Larnach, who came into the game for Garlick who had to leave due to a hamstring injury, made sure the Twins weren’t done scoring in the top of the eighth. Larnach drove in Celestino on an RBI single to make it a 9-1 game for the Twins. The Twins bullpen was not able to keep the shoutout going for Winder after he left the game. Tyler Duffey came into the game in the bottom of the seventh and gave up an RBI double to Walls to make it a 8-1 game. Following Duffey’s one-run inning, Twins Daily 13th-ranked prospect Cole Sands came into the game to make his Major League debut in the bottom of the eighth. After recording the first out, Sands struggled surrendering three straight hits and two earned runs. Sands recovered though as he recorded his first two big-league strikeouts to get out of the eighth inning. Even with his struggles in the eighth, Rocco Baldelli sent his newly arrived reliever in for the ninth to close the game out for the Twins. Sands cooled off completely in the ninth throwing a one, two, three ninth inning to give the Twins the win and series victory on the road against Tampa. What’s Next? The Twins will start the second series of this road trip against Baltimore tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. CT. Chris Paddack will be making his fourth start for the Twins against the Orioles 6’8 righty Tyler Wells. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 20 0 35 0 0 55 Jax 0 46 0 0 0 46 Stashak 0 18 0 14 0 32 Sands 0 0 0 0 30 30 Duffey 0 8 0 0 17 25 Duran 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 10 0 0 9 0 19 Thielbar 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0
  11. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (71 pitches, 51 strikes (71.8%)) Home Runs: Kyle Garlick (1), Jorge Polanco (2) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.162), Kyle Garlick (.160), Jorge Polanco (.126) Game Score: Twins 8, Red Sox 3 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The city of Boston was buzzing with excitement on Monday, also known as Patriots Day. It was the first Patriots Day to feel normal since COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. Just outside of Fenway Park was the running of the Boston Marathon. While Bostonians were looking for a good day, it did not start that way for Red Sox fans as COVID would rear its ugly head. Before game time, Kevin Plawecki was spotted leaving the stadium in street clothes. Later it would be reported that he and two other Red Sox staffers had tested positive for COVID. It will certainly be a development we, as Twins fans, will want to keep an eye on as it could have a ripple effect if any Twins players or staff would also end up testing positive. A Cleanup Spot Garlick Tater Monday morning, as the starting lineup was posted on Twitter, there was plenty of angst surrounding the selection of Kyle Garlick to hit cleanup. Garlick proved his doubters wrong with Carlos Correa on base by placing a Rich Hill pitch right on top of the Green Monster in left field. At first look, there is reason to be initially frustrated that an offensively struggling Twins team would bat a player who wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster cleanup. Garlick also flexed one of the big reasons the Twins front office preferred him over the recently traded Brent Rooker. Garlick rakes against lefties. Entering the day, Garlick, over his career, had slashed .258/.298/.567 with a .865 OPS against southpaws. Bundy Finally Gives Up a Run Even though his velocity seemed to be down, Dylan Bundy pitched very well and was nearly flawless through four innings. That included a stretch in which Bundy sent down ten batters in a row. Bundy ran into trouble in the fifth inning, allowing his first run as a Twin. When the Twins tried to stretch Bundy into the sixth and save the bullpen another inning, everything really went south for Bundy. After getting Hernandez out to start the inning on a strikeout, the next two hits were struck hard and resulted in runners on second and third base with one out. If the Twins did not have a three-run lead, Baldelli might have gone to his bullpen right away to begin the inning. It seemed like a measured gamble worth taking with the lead and how efficient Bundy had been. While the results may have been very similar to Bundy’s first Twins start last Monday, there is one thing to keep an eye on. Last week Bundy kept hard-hit balls to a minimum. Monday morning, the hard-hit rate was up considerably. He gave up ten hard hits and boasted a hard hit % of 66.7%. Where Smith Big in Relief Joe Smith was tasked with cleaning up the mess that was left after Bundy was pulled from the game. He was able to get Martinez to hit an infield grounder that Sano fielded and froze Devers leading to an eventually tag placed on the Red Sox third baseman. Then after an intentional walk to Verdugo, Smith got Arroyo to hit a loud F8 to end the inning. The sixth inning could have turned into an ugly inning, but the veteran Smith was able to come in and save the Twins three-run lead. Polanco Comes Up Big While Garlick got things going on the offensive side of the ball, Jorge Polanco put a big exclamation point on the morning and afternoon. Polanco followed up Garlick’s two-run home run over the Green Monster with one of his own with Gilberto Celestino on base. Then in the eighth inning, with the bases loaded, Polanco came through with a two-RBI single. Polanco’s eight-inning single gave the Twins second baseman a 2-for-5 day and four RBIs, which helped give his team some much-appreciated breathing room. Polanco’s single was part of an excellent eighth inning for the Twins. An inning where they scored four runs on only one hit! Griffin Jax even pitched a scoreless eighth, helping the Twins get past an inning that has not been friendly to them this season. What’s Next? The Twins will move on to Kansas City for their first look at the fellow AL central Royals. Tuesday's game will feature Chris Archer's second start of the season. While the Royals look to send Carlos Hernandez to the mound. Because of the Wild and Wolves, the Twins game will be on the CW. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Winder 28 0 66 0 0 94 Jax 0 22 0 0 47 69 Duran 0 34 0 0 23 57 Romero 34 0 11 0 0 45 Thielbar 18 0 0 17 0 35 Pagán 20 11 0 0 0 31 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 18 Stashak 0 0 0 17 0 17 Coulombe 14 0 0 0 0 14 Smith 3 0 0 0 6 9
  12. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (67 pitches, 47 strikes (70.1%)) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.288), Jorge Polanco (.223), Luis Arraez (.118) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Cy-Bundy? Ok, so no one is going Cy-Young award yet on Dylan Bundy. His outing Monday night was very encouraging and clean. Considering the question marks surrounding Bundy and how he might step into the Twins rotation. For at least one turn, the answer was very good. Bundy was very efficient as he made it through 5 innings while only throwing 67 pitches of one-hit ball. 5-6 innings each time out of anything close to Monday night would be an excellent outcome for the Twins' free-agent addition. Everyone gets an RBI-Single The Twins got their first run in the first inning on an RBI double. In the 5th inning, the offense got going with three straight RBI singles and put the Twins up 4-0. Byron Buxton provided the fireworks as he almost hit his 4th home run of the season. Instead, the ball hit the top of the wall, letting Buxton cruise into second with a double. Then, Luis Arraez into Jorge Polanco into Gio Urshela gave the Twins those three straight singles and three more runs on the board. After a weekend that provided a heavy diet of long home runs, the Twins went the route of stringing hits together to get runs on the board. Did Rocco Go to the Wrong Guys in the Pen? After the Twins went up 4 in the fifth inning, Rocco still chose to run out many of his key arms. Caleb Thielbar took the sixth, Tyler Duffey the seventh, and Joe Smith the eighth. It seemed like a game situation where the Twins could have worked some of their lower leverage arms into the game and saved the higher leverage arms for the Dodgers as they come to town tomorrow. If you refer to the bullpen chart at the bottom of the game recap, it seems there is a potential pattern Rocco is following, at least early on. The relievers have been bunched into groups that allow days rest between outings for each reliever. That is true for all the relievers outside of Josh Winder, who has yet to pitch through this opening series. Tonight’s game felt like an excellent opportunity for Winder to have gotten at least an inning or two. We did get to see Jhoan Duran in the ninth and Wow... Base Running Woes Twins fans are not immune from feeling the woes of bad base running. Monday night was a flashback of that. The home team saw two base runners thrown out at home plate. The first was Miguel Sano in the second inning, and the second Alex Kirilloff who was thrown out just ahead of the RBI single parade in the fifth. Those two missed runs may have been enough to add to leaving Winder in the bullpen and not on the mound. What’s Next? The Twins will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to town along with their powerhouse of a lineup. Chris Archer is set to make the start for the Twins in a game that is scheduled to begin at 6:40 p.m. The Dodgers will look to send Andrew Heaney to the mound. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Coulombe 0 27 0 15 0 42 Duran 0 31 0 0 11 42 Alcalá 0 13 0 27 0 40 Smith 0 0 20 0 19 39 Thielbar 0 0 18 0 19 37 Duffey 0 0 18 0 14 32 Cotton 0 0 20 0 0 20 Romero 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 10 0 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  13. Box Score SP: Bailey Ober 5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (79 pitches, 48 strikes (60.7 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (3), Gary Sanchez (1), Max Kepler (1), Jorge Polanco (1), Carlos Correa (1) Top 3 WPA: Gary Sanchez (.228), Byron Buxton (.127), Max Kepler (0.75) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Byron Buxton was the star at the plate on Sunday hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first to put the Twins up 1-0. Buxton then made it three consecutive at-bats with a home run in the bottom of the second which earned a curtain call of MVP chants from the crowd. Buxton’s second home run gave the Twins a 6-0 lead. Gary Sanchez made his first start of the season behind the plate today and after almost giving the Twins an Opening Day victory with a fly ball that fell a few feet short of the left field bleachers. Sanchez crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the first to make it a 5-0 game and show the left field bleachers will be a common landing spot for his hits. In the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez tagged his fifth RBI of the game with a two out double to right center that scored his former Yankee teammate Gio Urshela and gave the Twins a 10-4 lead. Bailey Ober made his first start for the 2022 season. Ober struggled in the first inning throwing 27? pitches , walking Jesse Winker and giving up a double to Mitch Haniger. Following a rocky first inning, Ober had a one, two, three second inning that helped him cool off. Going into the third the Twins held a 6-0 lead for Ober but the Mariners bats came alive in the top half scoring four runs, three of which came from another Haniger home run. After giving up four runs in the third, Ober cooled off for his final two innings and kept the Mariners scoreless in the fourth and fifth. Correa continued his hot streak in the field. In the top of the first when it looked like Winker would score on Haniger’s double, Correa caught Alex Kirilloff’s relay throw and nailed a strike to Sanchez who tagged Winker out at home. After going hitless in his first three at bats, Correa joined in with Sanchez getting his first home run as a Twin on Sunday. Correa crushed a 83 MPH slider from Yohan Ramirez to the third deck of the left field bleachers making it a 9-4 Twins lead. In addition to the power hitting Buxton, Sanchez, and Correa showcased for Twins fans on Sunday. Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco also awoke at the plate hitting their first homers of the season. Polanco reached base a second time as well with a single. Sunday’s game showed that even with new faces on this 2022 squad, the Twins are still very much the Bomba Squad crushing six home runs after having only two from the season's first two games. Through the first three games, Buxton leads the team with three home runs. The Twins bullpen recovered from yesterday’s loss keeping the Mariners scoreless through the final four innings of the game. Danny Coulombe, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagan, and Jhon Romero combined for 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K, Pagan, making his season and team debut with the Twins, threw only ten pitches in a scoreless eighth, striking out two of three batters faced. Romero also made his season and team debut and threw 15 pitches giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth. What’s Next? The Twins will play their final game of this four-game series against the Mariners Monday night at 6:40 p.m. CT start time. Dylan Bundy will be making his 2022 Twins debut against the Mariners Chris Flexin. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Availability WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 0 0 27 0 15 42 Alcalá 0 0 13 0 27 40 Duran 0 0 31 0 0 31 Cotton 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 0 0 0 20 0 20 Thielbar 0 0 0 18 0 18 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 18 Romero 0 0 0 0 15 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 10 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Twins Daily’s own John Bonnes will be at today’s post game press conference and provide coverage, so check back over the next few hours. In the postgame interviews, we learned a little bit more about the key factor that got Ober back on track after that home run. “He seemed good,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “He seemed kind of pissed off.” Ober confirmed that the home run really bugged him and helped him get more aggressive over his last couple of innings. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work.
  14. In these rankings we will only be looking at players on the 40-man roster, and we will only be looking at their value to the Twins for the 2022 season. This is different from the Twins asset rankings that Nick Nelson does each year where he ranks the Twins players in terms of the long-term value they bring to the club. In these rankings, young prospects might be ranked lower than aging veterans and past production will typically trump future projection. In the simplest of terms, these rankings will answer the question, “Who would you rather have for the 2022 season?” Tier 11: Likely Non-Contributors 40. Chris Vallimont Vallimont struggled mightily in double-A last season, but was added to the 40-man roster to be protected in the Rule 5 draft. Don’t expect to see Vallimont contribute to the Twins this season. 39. Ronny Henriquez 38. Blayne Enlow After undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, Enlow will look to get healthy in 2022 as he prepares to be a contributor for the club in 2023. 37. Drew Strotman Strotman has been converted into a reliever and will work as such with the St. Paul Saints this season. He struggled as a starter after joining the Saints last year, but in a bullpen role he will likely get a shot with the Twins at some point in 2022. 36. Cole Sands 35. Jordan Balazovic While he hopes to get a call up to the Majors at some point in 2022, Balazovic still has yet to pitch above the double-A level and will be starting the 2022 season on the injured list. Still a promising prospect, Balazovic will hope to string together some healthy months and work his way up to the Big Leagues. Tier 10: Bench Utility Guys…With Upside? 34. Gilberto Celestino 33. Royce Lewis Having not played in competitive baseball games since 2019, the 2022 season will be a big one for Royce Lewis. The former number one overall pick will look to prove that he still has what it takes to be a superstar in this league. Lewis will start the season in St. Paul and fight to work his way up to the Big Leagues where he can fill in all over the diamond. 32. Nick Gordon 31. Jose Miranda Miranda exploded onto the scene in 2021 in Wichita and St. Paul, posting one of the best minor league seasons in Minnesota Twins history. Miranda will look to ride that momentum into the 2022 season, where it shouldn’t be long until he gets a call up to the Majors. Tier 9: Who Keeps Their Job Longer? 30. Chris Archer The most recently acquired player on the Minnesota Twins’ roster, Archer has shown what his ceiling can look like. The problem is, he hasn’t reached that ceiling since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. Now with injuries and declining velocity, we’ll see how long he can stay in the rotation. 29. Dylan Bundy Tier 8: Bullpen Cycle Guys 28. Cody Stashak After bursting on the scene in 2019 with an extremely impressive run as a rookie, Stashak has struggled mightily with injury. Last season, Stashak didn't pitch at all after May, and now again this season the right hander finds himself on the injured list with bicep trouble. When healthy, Stashak has impressive upside, but until he can prove himself to be healthy, he finds himself at the bottom of the "Bullpen Cycle Guys." 27. Griffin Jax 26. Jovani Moran After pitching the lights out in the Minors last season, Moran got called up to the Majors towards the end of the season where he struggled. Moran will begin the year in St. Paul, but is the type of high-upside left hander that could pop in his second stint up in the Big Leagues. 25. Josh Winder 24. Emilio Pagán The "other guy" acquired in the Taylor Rogers trade, Pagán has shown that he has the ability to be a lights-out reliever. In 2019, the right-hander tossed a 2.31 ERA in 70.0 IP with the Tampa Bay Rays with a 12.3 K/9. After a couple of down seasons in San Diego, he has the makeup to be a potentially dominant reliever for the Twins with a few tweaks. 23. Danny Coulombe 22. Jhon Romero The newly acquired Colombian product is still just 27-years-old and with little experience in the Major Leagues. Across double-A and triple-A last season, though, Romero posted a combined 2.95 ERA with a K/9 of 11.3. 21. Joe Smith 20. Jharel Cotton 19. Jhoan Duran Maybe this ranking is a little too optimistic for how young and unproven he is, but Jhoan Duran has a higher ceiling than almost any other arm in this bullpen. Since being moved to a full-time reliever role, Duran has upped his velocity to consistently hitting triple digits, to go along with a nasty ‘splinker’. Duran could easily be this team’s closer by season’s end. Tier 7: Which Catcher is Better? 18. Gary Sánchez Did you know that Gary Sánchez is the fastest catcher in MLB history to hit 100 home runs? Sánchez came up with the New York Yankees as a super prospect and immediately showed off his big time power en route to some incredible seasons. Over the last two seasons, though, the swing for Sánchez has looked ugly, and his poor defense lends to him being more of a DH than a catcher. If a change in scenery can spark the offense for him again, though, he could do some special things. 17. Ryan Jeffers Tier 5: X-Factor Bats 16. Trevor Larnach 15. Gio Urshela Urshela broke out in a big way in 2019, when he posted a .889 OPS over 132 games with the Yankees. After another strong season in 2020, Urshela regressed in 2021 to the tune of a .720 OPS. Urshela can play multiple spots in the infield, but whether or not his bat can rebound is what makes him an X-Factor for the Twins in 2022. Tier 4: Back of Bullpen Studs 14. Jorge Alcala After struggling to start the year in 2021, Alcala thrived down the stretch. Over the last 22 innings of last season, Alcala allowed just two earned runs while striking out 27. We could quickly see Alcala working his way to higher and higher leverage spots this season. 13. Caleb Thielbar 12. Tyler Duffey A prime bounceback candidate, Tyler Duffey will look to return to his 2020 form after a tough 2021 that saw his K/9 decline from 11.6 to 8.8, however he still managed to turn in an excellent 3.18 ERA. Tier 3: Young Gun Arms 11. Bailey Ober 10. Chris Paddack 9. Joe Ryan Ryan was acquired last season in a trade deadline deal for Nelson Cruz and quickly became a fan favorite. In his sophomore season, Ryan has already been named Opening Day starter and hopes are high for the right hander. Ryan is no doubt a Major League pitcher, but the question with him is upside. Does he have the upside to be a top of the rotation starter? Tier 2: The Next Best 8. Max Kepler After a breakout season in 2019, Kepler regressed in 2020 and was even worse in 2021. Last season, Kepler finished the year with a lowly OPS of .719. He still has the power and still has the glove to be a fringe all-star player, but he needs to prove that this season, otherwise he might wear out his welcome in Minnesota. 7. Alex Kirilloff Alex Kirilloff jumped out of the gates really strong in a Twins uniform, showing that his hype as a highly-touted prospect was deserved. The injury bug hit him hard though, as a wrist injury severely diminished his power and he limped through the season to a mediocre .722 OPS. Now, with a healthy wrist, Kirilloff figures to impact the Twins team more this season and provide middle-of-the-order numbers by the end of the season. 6. Miguel Sanó 5. Luis Arraez Tier 1: 2022 Team MVP Candidates 4. Sonny Gray While Sonny Gray profiles more as a number two than a number one, Gray has the upside to be an ace pitcher for the Minnesota Twins in 2022. If he can replicate his 2019 numbers and give the Minnesota Twins a true, no-doubt ace that they have been starved for, he certainly has the potential to be the MVP of the Twins in 2022. 3. Jorge Polanco 2. Byron Buxton An argument could definitely be made for Byron Buxton to fill the number one spot on these rankings. Pound for pound, game for game, Buxton arguably produces more value than any other player in baseball. Like always with Byron, though, health is the question. If Buxton can play 140+ games for the Twins this year, he will likely finish the season in the number one spot. 1. Carlos Correa In signing Carlos Correa, the Minnesota Twins are bringing in who is now the best player on the team. Correa does everything that you look for in a star player. He plays a premium position, offers gold-glove level defense and excellent offense. The best part, he’s only just entering his prime, as he is still just 27-years-old. Do you agree with the rankings above? Who is ranked too high? Too low? Leave your disagreements in the rankings below and let’s have a conversation!
  15. Catchers Ryan Jeffers: Will more at-bats against LHP take Jeffers to a new level? Over the last two seasons, Ryan Jeffers had ceded at-bats against left-handed pitchers to Mitch Garver. With Garver no longer on the team, Jeffers figures to get more opportunities against southpaws which should aid his performance at the plate. Gary Sánchez: Will a change of scenery bring back the old Gary? After bursting onto the scene as a prospect and in his early years with the Yankees, Sánchez has struggled mightily, to the tune of a .698 OPS over the last two seasons. Potentially getting out of the highly-intense New York market and moving to Minnesota will be the change that he needs to get back to his past production. Infielders: Luis Arraez: Will he stay on the team all year? Arraez has been a prime trade candidate all offseason, however he is on the Opening Day roster. As needs continue to appear and the Twins make moves during the season, will Arraez be a guy they look to move? With Polanco taking second base and Urshela at third, with Miranda on the way, Arraez could prove to be moveable. Carlos Correa: Can Correa’s clutchness (finally) bring the Twins a playoff victory? Among many areas in which Carlos Correa has excelled in his young career, his clutchness might be the most exciting. At 27-years-old, Correa has already appeared in 79 postseason games and might finally be the guy to end the Twins’ playoff drought. Nick Gordon: How long can he fend off the prospects? While Nick Gordon was a surprise in the 2021 season, he still only managed to post an OPS of .647. With prospects like Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis waiting for their opportunity, how long can Nick be the utilityman before he gets overtaken for someone with more upside? Jorge Polanco: Can he provide Gold Glove-level defense this year? After a bumpy start at second base to start the year, Polanco finished strong at second base, providing excellent defense. In his second full season at the position, Polanco could turn into Gold Glover at second base, paired up the middle with Carlos Correa, who himself is a Gold Glover. Miguel Sanó: Can he avoid prolonged slumps this year? The problem with Miguel Sanó has never been a question of talent, as he can get scorching hot at the plate and single-handedly win games by himself. The problem with the first baseman has always been his propensity to go into prolonged slumps. Avoid long slumps, and he could be in for a big year. Gio Urshela: Was 2019 the outlier season or was 2021 the outlier season? In 2019, Urshela posted a .889 OPS in 132 games with the Yankees. Last season, Urshela posted a mediocre .720 OPS in 116 games with the Yankees. Which is the norm and which is the outlier? We’ll soon find out. Outfielders Byron Buxton: Will he win the MVP this year? Having already received his big payday, and coming into the season fully healthy, this looks like it could be the year that Byron puts it all together. With upside higher than almost anyone else in the Majors, an MVP looks in the realm of possibilities for Buck. Gilberto Celestino: How much upside is there? A surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, Celestino was named fourth outfielder over Kyle Garlick. Celestino has been on top-prospect lists for the Twins since coming over via the Ryan Pressly trade in 2018. Is Celestino just a fourth outfielder type, or is there more? Could he use this opportunity to really burst onto the scene? Max Kepler: Can he hit left handed pitching again? Max Kepler had the best season of his career in 2019, largely because of the success that he had against left-handed pitching, posting a .880 OPS against southpaws that year. Every other year of his career, Kepler has struggled mightily against lefties, shown by his .509 OPS against them last season. Can he hit left handers again? Alex Kirilloff: Can he burst onto the scene with a now-healthy wrist? After a strong start to the year in 2022, Alex Kirilloff sustained a wrist injury which hampered his play immensely. Following the injury, Kirilloff lost almost all of his power, managing a slugging percentage of just .387. Now healthy, what can he do? Starting Pitchers Chris Archer: How long of a leash will he have? Check out Cody’s article linked above! Dylan Bundy: Can he ride his slider to a nice season? The Twins love sliders and Dylan Bundy has a good one. Even though he had a 36% whiff rate on his slider last year, Bundy only threw it 21.1% of the time. If the Twins have Bundy throw the slider more, he could surprise some people. Sonny Gray: Can he work through his declining velocity? Sonny Gray’s fastball velocity has declined in each of the past two years and now it is sitting at 92 MPH. Gray has never been a power pitcher, but if that trend continues, things could get worrisome. Bailey Ober: Has he already hit his ceiling? Bailey Ober’s 2021 season was a big surprise as he was never high on people’s prospect lists. The question with Ober, though, is if he can continue improving. Was his 2021 season the best that we’ll see of him, or is he on a trajectory to get even better? Chris Paddack: Should we be worried about his elbow? The newly-acquired Chris Paddack certainly has upside, as he showed in his rookie year in 2019. His elbow is a bit of a concern, though. Paddack previously had Tommy John surgery in 2016, and last year got an elbow injection after a UCL strain. Something to monitor, for sure, as an elbow injury would change the outlook of the Rogers trade, tremendously. Joe Ryan: Can he become a frontline starter? Joe Ryan is good, but is he a third or fourth starter type of good? Or is he a number two pitcher, potential ace type of good? He was named the Opening Day starter and will get plenty of opportunity, and the answer to this question could mean a lot for the Twins’ roster-building plans moving forward. Relief Pitchers Jorge Alcala: Will he become the Twins closer? With Taylor Rogers gone, Alcala looks like one of the prime candidates to be the 9th inning closer for the Twins in 2022. After a strong finish to the 2022 season in which he posted a 0.82 ERA in his last 19 appearances, Alcala might be the best man for the job. Jharel Cotton: Will he be the next big Falvine waiver claim? In 2019 it was Matt Wisler. Last year it was Danny Coulombe. This year, Jharel Cotton has the makeup to be the next big waiver claim reliever. Danny Coulombe: Can he reliably get out lefties? Following the Rogers trade, Coulombe is now one of two left handed relievers on the Opening Day roster. The Twins will need to look to Coulombe throughout the season to get out left-handed hitters. Tyler Duffey: Is he now a pitch-to-contact pitcher? After huge strikeout rates in 2019 and 2020, Duffey managed to strikeout less than one batter per inning last year. Is that who Duffey is now, or can he get back to his strikeout ways? Jhoan Duran: Will he be the hardest-throwing pitcher in Twins history? Duran has always thrown gas as a prospect for the Twins. After now having been moved to a full-time reliever role, Duran can let it rip even further. He has already been touching triple digits this spring with ease. Emilio Pagán: Will he be a high-leverage reliever? The other piece in the Taylor Rogers trade, the Twins will be bringing back another reliever to fill Rogers’ place in the bullpen. Pagán was excellent in 2019 with Tampa Bay, tossing a 2.31 ERA with a K/9 of 12.3. The right-hander has struggled each of the last two seasons, but has the upside to be a high leverage guy with some tweaks. Jhon Romero: Can he be a piece? Another sneaky waiver claim by the front office this offseason, Romero is just 27-years-old and coming off of a season in which he posted a 2.62 ERA with an 11.3 K/9 across double and triple-A. The numbers certainly point to him being a piece, but it remains to be scene if it will translate to the big leagues. Joe Smith: Does he have anything left in the tank? An under the radar signing this offseason, Joe Smith doesn’t possess velocity, but has been successful throughout his career. At 38-years-old, though, it’s only a matter of time before the wheels fall off. Caleb Thielbar: Can he get back to dominating with his curveball? Caleb Thielbar has one of the best curveballs in all of baseball. In 2020, Thielbar didn’t allow a single hit against his curveball. Last season, opponents hit .348 against the pitch. Josh Winder: What will his role look like? There was some thought that Winder might have gotten the fifth starter spot prior to the Twins signing Chris Archer. Still making the Opening Day roster, it’s fair to wonder how the Twins will use him. The Twins will still want to keep Winder stretched out, so I would expect to see him in a piggyback type role with Archer in April. Which of the above questions is the biggest one for the Twins in 2022? Leave a comment and start the conversation!
  16. Leadoff Options So far this spring, Byron Buxton has served as the leadoff hitter in every game he has been in the line-up. This positioning may point to the team considering him for the leadoff spot, or it may be a way to get him more in-game action this spring. Buxton has started 33 games as the leadoff hitter throughout his career and posted a .315 OBP and a .514 OPS. His speed would be a clear weapon out of the leadoff spot, making him an intriguing player to feature in the leadoff role. Minnesota also has other options to fill the leadoff role. Luis Arraez has the contact and on-base skills to fit the mold of a leadoff hitter. In his career, he has batted leadoff more than any other line-up spot while hitting .320/.371/.398 (.769). However, Arraez doesn't have a regular line-up spot, and his knees issues have made his running painful to watch. Last season, his sprint speed ranked in the 45th percentile, but the team may still want his bat-to-ball skills in the leadoff spot. Two Hole Coming off a season where he was team MVP, Jorge Polanco will likely continue to be used in the second spot in the line-up. He has batted second in nearly 40% of his big-league appearances, where he has hit .288/.345/.478 (.823). Last season, he accumulated double-digit steals for the second time in his career, and that may point to his ankles being healthy for the first time in multiple seasons. A healthy Buxton batting in front of Polanco can be an exciting one-two punch at the top of the line-up. Polanco played over 150 games for the second time in his career last season, but there are other options for the line-up's second spot when he is given a day off. As mentioned above, Buxton and Arraez have the skills necessary to bat at the top of the line-up when Polanco sits out a game. Depending on the handiness of the pitcher, Max Kepler, a left-handed hitter, Three Spot Carlos Correa is the highest-paid infielder in MLB history, and he needs to bat in the middle of the Twins line-up. He has made over 230 starts in the number three and four spots throughout his career. From both of these spots, his OPS is north of .820, and he hit 83 career home runs. The higher Correa bats in the order, the more at-bats he will accumulate throughout the season. Batting him lower than third in the line-up takes away from the offensive value he can be providing to the team. In the past, Correa has dealt with injuries, including missing time in multiple seasons because of back issues. He has averaged more than 115 games per season, but there will be times when he isn't on the field. When that occurs, moving Buxton to the third spot allows him more opportunities to drive in the leadoff runners. Alex Kirilloff is returning from injury, but he projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Twins over the next decade. Minnesota's line-up has undoubtedly taken on a different look since the lockout ended with Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver out of the equation. However, Correa adds another experienced bat that has been accustomed to connecting for big hits in the playoffs. How do you think the Twins will shape the top of their line-up this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  17. Projected Starter: Carlos Correa Likely Backup: Jorge Polanco Depth: Gio Urshela, Nick Gordon Prospects: Royce Lewis, Noah Miller THE GOOD Carlos Correa is an MVP-caliber stud in his prime and one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since debuting for the Astros at age 20 in 2015, he ranks third at the position in fWAR, with his 25.1 trailing only Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts. Correa is a former Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star who last year finished fifth in AL MVP voting, thanks to a .279/.366/.485 slash line to go along with 26 home runs, 92 RBIs, and 104 runs scored. He was the best player on a 95-win Astros team, and then added to his extensive postseason résumé by helping propel Houston to another World Series berth. At age 27, the former first overall draft pick has already appeared in 79 playoff games, with a customary .272/.344/.505 slash line. He's the real deal: a two-way phenom who is legitimately elite on both offense and defense. Correa's work in the field was so impressive last year that he not only earned his first Gold Glove at shortstop, but was awarded a Platinum Glove as the best overall defender in the American League. Assuming he's healthy and on top of his game, Correa will give the Twins a boost at short like they've never had before. He brings the defensive chops of Andrelton Simmons combined with the bat of a healthy and thriving Jorge Polanco. It's the best of both worlds. The only question is how long it will last. (And the answer is: probably not very.) THE BAD The Twins' problem, before acquiring Correa, was not that they lacked a starting shortstop. It was more that they lacked ANY shortstops, throughout the entire system basically. What once looked like an abundance of depth at the position evaporated over the years, as prospects switched positions or fizzled out. This issue will rear its head again quickly if Correa goes down for any period of time. Presumably one of Polanco or Gio Urshela would slide over – each started a couple-dozen games at short last year. I'd be interested to know which backup ranks ahead in preference. Urshela has much less overall experience at the position, but the Twins seem motivated to keep Polanco off short if they can help it. Utilityman Nick Gordon is an option to plug in, with the least disruption to the starting lineup, but I can't envision a scenario where Rocco Baldelli uses him there regularly over an extended period of time. Backup talk aside, the biggest question at shortstop is beyond this year, due to the nature of Correa's contract. Barring something unforeseen, he'll opt out and return to free agency for a $300 million payday following the 2022 season. That wouldn't exactly bring the Twins back to square one, since they'll have a bunch of new spending flexibility and another year's worth of intel on their own prospects. One of those prospects in particular seems to hold the key to the future of the positon at this point. No one really seems to believe Austin Martin will be a regular shortstop in the big leagues, but that possibility remains in play for Royce Lewis. Drafted first overall, five years after Correa, Lewis has played short almost exclusively in the minors, and that's where the Twins have been using him this spring. In the highlight below, we see both the natural ability that keeps Lewis in the SS conversation, as well as the rusty form and footwork of a player who's basically been sidelined for two straight years. The Twins need to get a good long look at Lewis and assess where he's at. The presence of Correa this year will enable them to do just that, with Lewis billed for Triple-A. If he doesn't convince them he can stick, and Correa opts out after this season ... well, then the Twins pretty much are back to square one. THE BOTTOM LINE I would say the Twins addressed their shortstop vacancy in the most impactful way imaginable, except ... it was unimaginable. The #1 free agent in a loaded class, Correa seemed completely out of their reach. Yet various circumstances – the lockout, the Josh Donaldson trade, and Correa's agent switch – came together and created an opportunity. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine jumped on it. On both sides of the ball, Correa is capable of bringing a level of play at shortstop most Twins fans have never seen before. Strap in and enjoy the ride while it lasts. We can worry later about what comes next. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Become a Twins Daily caretaker
  18. While Carlos Correa isn’t quite ready for his debut in the Twins lineup, he did go through his first infield-outfield drills with the club today. Nick Gordon was stationed by Correa at short, but plenty of younger prospects like Royce Lewis and Jose Miranda remained near to pick his brain and observe. Blayne Enlow followed Alcala throwing his first live at-bats since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Talking with him afterward he noted a debut with Double-A Wichita should be on tap in early May. He’d be returning to the mound roughly 11 months after going under the knife. After getting his first live at-bats since the World Series yesterday, he continued ramping up with another session facing Jorge Alcala on the minor-league side. A Forbes report dropped this morning showing the value of each team in baseball. Unlike the lies Rob Manfred tried selling during the lockout, it’s very apparent owning a team is quite lucrative. Minnesota is valued at $1.39 billion, a five percent increase year-over-year. The lowest valuation checks in at $990 million for the Miami Marlins. Prior to the game, Minnesota outfielder Brent Rooker was scratched from the lineup with a right shoulder strain. The Twins announced he is day-to-day. The hope would be that it’s not a long-term absence. Minnesota's bats have struggled with high-velocity pitchers to start out Spring Training, and Drew Rasmussen provided another test for them today. Despite sitting around 96 mph on his fastball, the Twins jumped early. Byron Buxton turned a regular-season triple into a double before Jorge Polanco nearly left Hammond Stadium. Bailey Ober looked very sharp on the bump today. He stretched out to 44 pitches over three innings. The fastball was roughly in the 92-93 mph range, but he generated 10 whiffs against the Rays. With most of their regulars in the lineup Ober's performance wasn't a watered-down one either. With no trade yet completed for another arm, Ober should remain locked into the rotation. There's some growing belief Josh Winder could find himself among the group. John looked at how soon Minnesota needs a full rotation. The Twins tallied seven runs on nine hits in their win over the Rays today. Another good showing from an offensive production standpoint is certainly welcomed. Tim Beckham, who’s likely ticketed for Triple-A, provided the big highlight with a mammoth moonshot immediately trumped by his bat flip. Two weeks out from Opening Day, the Twins announced their theme night packages for the upcoming season. Tickets have been flying off the shelves since the signing of Correa. Minnesota expects to draw increased interest on these special nights again this season. The Twins also partnered with Summit Brewing to release a new team-branded beer. 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. Minnesota moved Polanco off of shortstop for good last season. He responded by posting an .826 OPS and played in 152 games. After grading out negatively in all of his seasons at shortstop, Polanco posted three defensive runs saved (DRS) at his new position. For the first time in his career, the Twins infielder showed defense as an asset. Looking into Statcast’s outs above average (OAA), Polanco is seen a bit below average. His -1 OAA is noted as being reflective of a struggle going up the middle. Being worth -5 OAA when moving laterally towards third base, Polanco is seen as stretched when dealing with range efforts. That compares interestingly to his OAA as a shortstop. Polanco’s worst season analytically was 2019, and his -22 OAA that season was primarily influenced by a -11 number when coming in on the ball. What bodes well for both Polanco and Minnesota is the new guy standing towards the third base direction of him. While Gold Gloves can sometimes be awarded to players based on offensive acumen, there was no mistake when rewarding Correa last season. He posted an exceptionally strong 20 DRS and checked in with an equally impressive 12 OAA. When breaking down his output, the production came almost entirely from coming in and moving towards third base. That makes a good deal of sense, considering a need to show range in the hole. Good shortstops often brandish a big arm and put it on display when throwing well off their position. How things change as the two are married will be interesting. Looking back at what Correa has come from, Jose Altuve grades out well defensively but struggles to go the opposite direction. Last season Altuve posted five OAA for the Astros, but his eight OAA coming in was drug down by a -4 mark when moving towards first base. It's obviously straightforward that players display strengths differently. OAA is also somewhat reflective of positioning and opportunity. Both Houston and Minnesota shift while being invested in analytics, but not all numbers will be utilized in the same fashion across organizations. There’s no denying that having a defensive wizard at shortstop will help Polanco. That was the case last season as the Twins employed Andrelton Simmons. The former Angels shortstop experienced differing double-play partners in that Los Angeles had second base in flux while Simmons had also switched organizations previously. I’d expect a talent like Correa would seamlessly acclimate to a new situation even with some uncertainty. During his press conference, Correa talked at length about his level of comfort with the Twins organization, which will need to extend on the field. Previously, he hasn’t shared the same jersey with Polanco, but both spent over 100 games in 2013 as teenagers in the Midwest League. Competing against each other and then passing conversation as big-league opponents brings a level of familiarity. The next piece of the puzzle is ratcheting that up to benefit each other professionally. Maybe this winds up being a one-year deal after all, but the success of that one year will be as much determined by the relationship with his new infield partner as it will offensive production and the ultimate win-loss record. We’ve seen growing pains from new teammates before, and few positions are more critical than shortstop. How much do you think Correa’s presence helps Polanco, and do you expect a smooth insertion onto the dirt? 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. Up-the-middle defense is one of the most critical aspects of the game. Having one weak link up the middle can result in poor defensive plays and more strain on a pitching staff. Luckily, the Twins have some of baseball’s best defenders at the most important positions on the field. Carlos Correa, SS 2021 SDI Ranking: 1 Correa is coming off a season where he took a massive step forward as a defender and won the AL’s Platinum Glove Award. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, he was baseball’s best overall defender last season. His 20 Defensive Runs Saved were nearly double his previous high. In 2016, he was worth -18 Outs Above Average, and he improved to 12 Outs Above Average in 2021. As long as his back doesn’t flare up, Correa is among baseball’s best defenders at a critical defensive position. Jorge Polanco, 2B 2021 SDI Ranking: 4 Polanco’s defensive transition was relatively seamless as he shifted from being a below-average defensive shortstop to an above-average second baseman. He set career highs in Defensive Runs Saved (3) after being worth negative DRS at shortstop. During 2019, Polanco’s last entire season at shortstop, he was worth -22 OAA, which put him near the bottom of the league. Last year, he posted a -1 OAA at second base after being limited to 43 big-league innings at the position in previous years. Polanco gets another season to get comfortable at the position while continuing to improve. Byron Buxton, CF 2021 SDI Ranking: NR Buxton’s 2021 injuries kept him from being featured on the final SDI leaderboard, but he still ranked highly in other defensive metrics. He was worth 7 OAA and 10 DRS, which is tremendous considering he was limited to just over 500 defensive innings. His sprint speed continues to be in the top 1% of the league, so it will be interesting to see how he ages during the life of his contract extension. He is arguably baseball’s best defender when healthy, and the Twins hope he can be back to his Gold Glove-winning ways in 2022. Ryan Jeffers, C 2021 SDI Ranking: 8 Jeffers finished in the top-10 for SDI last season despite being in the minor leagues for over 20 games. Minnesota traded Mitch Garver and is seemingly handing the starting catcher duties to Jeffers. His framing skills ranked in the 74th percentile, a 16 point drop from his 2020 campaign. He was worth 4 DRS in 2021, but his below-average arm allows more steals than a team may prefer. Many viewed Jeffers as a bat-first catcher when the Twins drafted him, but he has completely revamped his defensive reputation as a professional. Minnesota needs Jeffers to take the next step this season, including improving on both sides of the ball. Where do you think Minnesota’s defense now ranks among baseball’s best? 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
  21. Projected Starter: Jorge Polanco Likely Backup: Nick Gordon Depth: Luis Arraez, Daniel Robertson Prospects: Austin Martin, José Miranda THE GOOD Last year, the Twins decided to pivot in the middle infield by moving longtime shortstop Jorge Polanco – the 2019 All-Star starter at the position – to second base. The club hoped this relocation would help Polanco stay healthier, rediscover his power swing, and contribute more defensively. It appears they were correct on all counts. Polanco went from ranking 19th among all MLB shortstops in fWAR during the shortened 2020 season to ranking ninth among second basemen in 2021. His .349 wOBA was sixth-best at the position, trailing only Trea Turner, Marcus Semien, Brandon Lowe, Jonathan India, and Jose Altuve. That's some great company. He was in even better company when it came to the AL's leaders in Win Probability Added: Shohei Ohtani Aaron Judge Jorge Polanco Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Salvador Perez Polanco was a clutch-hitting beast who delivered five walk-offs over the course of the season. He slashed .269/.323/.503 with 33 homers, 35 doubles, 98 RBIs, 97 runs scored, and 11 steals, filling the stat sheet and easily earning Twins Daily's MVP nod. He saw sizable increases in barrel rate, exit velocity, and launch angle thanks to a sturdy base. Following two surgeries and a maddening impact on his game over parts of three seasons, he finally seemed to put the ankle issues behind him. Defensively, Polanco looked much more comfortable and natural in his new position. Although fielding metrics were mixed, he clearly improved as the year progressed, and there's no doubt that the team's defense benefited massively overall from supplanting him at shortstop with a more viable glove. In the event Polanco gets hurt, or needs to fill in at shortstop for a spell, the Twins are well equipped to backfill in his absence. It's possible that second base is the best defensive position for all these players: Luis Arraez, Nick Gordon, José Miranda, Austin Martin, Royce Lewis. The latter two haven't really played there, but as fringy defensive shortstops they automatically qualify. One could argue this saturation of similar defensive skill sets is less than ideal in the big picture, but in terms of the outlook at second base – which is our specific focus here – it's wonderful. THE BAD It's pretty difficult to envision a scenario where second base becomes a problem this year. If Polanco is unavailable, they have so many options to step in. Even if you don't have faith in Gordon, and even if Miranda and Arraez are spending most their time at third base ... you can still fall back on one of the top two prospects in the organization. More than depth and contingencies, the question here is really one of true upside. Second base is a strength for the Twins, but how strong can it be? The answer might come down to Polanco's defensive progression. I mentioned that he looked better at second last year, but metrics don't necessarily match the eye test. FanGraphs had him at negative-1 Defensive Runs Saved, with a -10.5 UZR/150 that basically matches his career mark as a shortstop (-11.0). According to Statcast he was in the 13th percentile for Outs Above Average, ranking 30th out of 37 qualified players. If Polanco keeps raking, the lack of defensive impact will be tolerable, especially with the Twins being otherwise incredibly strong up the middle. But improving his range and execution – perfectly reasonable with one year of regular experience under his belt – would make him a more balanced player, offsetting any regression at the plate. THE BOTTOM LINE From top to bottom, second base is probably the strongest position in the Twins system. Polanco is controllable at reasonable rates for three more seasons after 2022, through age 31, so he figures to maintain a foothold on the position so long as his feet (and ankles) hold up. From there, it's really just a matter of sorting out the youthful depth behind him, which shouldn't be terrible difficult since so many of those players are defensively versatile and capable of ending up elsewhere. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Become a Twins Daily caretaker
  22. When the Minnesota Twins acquired Sanchez in exchange for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, much was immediately made about the former top prospects’ struggles. He’s certainly been bad behind the dish, and he hasn’t been much good in the box of late either. However, not long ago, there was a time that he was a force to be reckoned with. Finding that again will be the key for the Twins. Not unlike Sanchez, Sonny Gray was also recently acquired by the Twins. Also, similar to Sanchez, a change of scenery was a great prescription for his career as well. New York initially dealt for Gray because he owned a 3.45 ERA across his five years in the Majors. With Oakland, Gray had established himself as a frontline starter while picking up an All-Star nod and nearly winning a Cy Young. Then he got to New York. The first 11 starts resulted in a workable 3.72 ERA, but the walks hit a career-worst rate, and so did the home runs. The Yankees went just 4-7 in his 11 starts, and it was clear the Cracker Jack box that is Yankee Stadium was doing Gray no favors. The following season, 2018, things got even worse. Gray posted a 4.90 ERA, and there was plenty of media pressure. It was more than clear things weren’t working out. Fast forward to 2019 after signing with the Cincinnati Reds, Gray was once again back to his dominant self. A 2.87 ERA was nearly a career-best, and his 10.5 K/9 represented the first time he’d averaged double-digits during his career. Despite Great American Ballpark being a hitter’s paradise, Gray dropped the HR/9 back below 1.0 to 0.9 before suppressing it further to 0.6 in 2020. Gray’s 2021 wasn’t as great. He was above the 4.00 ERA mark again and did give up too many homers, but it’s still a smashing success to see the 3.49 ERA across 68 starts with Cincinnati. I’d imagine a few tweaks were made along the way by a new staff, but it’s hard not to note that a guy who was once good with Oakland was good again when escaping New York. Sanchez has experienced a similar career path. After being a highly-touted prospect, he came out to the tune of a .923 OPS and 53 homers across his first 175 games. He struggled in 2018 but then rebounded with a. .841 OPS in 2019. Since 2020 however, Sanchez has played in 166 games for the Yankees and posted just a .698 OPS. He was benched regularly for Kyle Higashioka, and the media had a field day with his defensive woes. While no longer a kid at 29-years-old, I can’t imagine that didn’t weigh on him. Coming to Minnesota, Sanchez gets to settle in with a group he knows well. Latin players are prevalent all over the Twins roster, and there are long-established friendships with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco. Rocco Baldelli and his staff will look to make inroads with their new backstop, but it could be the relationships Sanchez has established from earlier in life that help acclimate him most quickly to his new home. I don’t know that we’ll ever see Sanchez receive MVP votes again or capture a Silver Slugger, but I think there’s a better case than not to bank on him performing better than he did the last few years in New York. What are your thoughts? Does a change of scenery help a person? Is the New York media that damaging? 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. Through 2018, Jorge Polanco had played 288 games for the Twins. He owned a career .272/.329/.420 slash line and was still trying to find himself as a hitter. Polanco has never played in more than 133 games during a season and topped 80 just once. He wasn’t a big strikeout problem, but his on-base prowess wasn’t exactly pronounced either. Having come through the system as a shortstop, Polanco played three infield positions for Minnesota in 2016 before assuming shortstop full-time each of the next two years. His .773 OPS in 2018 seemed to indicate a breakout may be coming, and while there were concerns of his ability to stick at short, the bat was where hope resided. We all remember how 2019 went as the Bomba Squad came on the scene, and Polanco was right in the center of that. His career-best .841 OPS was the offensive explosion Falvey banked on, and his 22 home runs were nearly double his previous career-high. Arguably one of the best offensive teams in Twins history, Polanco helped bolster a lineup with much bigger bats around him. We’ve seen Polanco move off shortstop and deal with some ankle issues in the two years since. After a second surgery in 2020, his 2021 season re-established his place as one of baseball's best up-the-middle hitting infielders. The rebound to an .826 OPS with 33 big flies was truly a remarkable performance. Polanco has played more than 150 games in two of the past three seasons. He experienced his first All-Star game and picked up MVP votes. Signed for $25.75 million over five years, with two vesting/team options in 2024 and 2025, there was very little way for the deal to go pear-shaped on Minnesota. Despite coming off another impressive season, Polanco will make just $5.5 million in 2022 and $7.5 million in 2023. Fangraphs estimates Polanco’s value has been worth $32.7 million in 2019 alone and $70.3 million through just the first three years of his extension. He’s nearly tripled the value paid to him, and there are still two years left on the deal. Tied to Polanco in terms of timing was Kepler. Before doing his deal, Kepler had played in 419 games for Minnesota. He owned a .233/.313/.417 slash line and had recorded 56 homers. With just a 96 OPS+, Kepler was a solid defender that looked to have more in his bat. Like Polanco, the return on investment immediately was realized in 2019 as Kepler posted a career-best .855 OPS backed by 36 dingers for the Bomba Squad. He was a middle-of-the-lineup bat that commanded the zone and generated solid contact. From there, though, the approach has fallen off. The past two seasons, Kepler has posted .760 and .719 OPS marks with a combined 28 homers in 169 games. A guy with good hard hit numbers, he finds himself too often driving the ball into the ground rather than elevating it. Kepler walks a relatively fine line between a productive contract and unfortunate placement. His hard-hit rate in 2021 (35.6%) wasn’t where it was in 2019 (42.4%), but the flyball rate has also decreased in each of the past two seasons. Kepler is among the best defensive right-fielders in the game, and getting the most out of his bat would be the last segment of his game for the Twins to unlock. Even without the complete package that Polanco has become, Falvey doing Kepler’s deal at $32.13 million over five years with a 2024 team option was never going to get the organization burned either. Fangraphs has Kepler’s 2019 alone being worth $35.6 million, and the total production over his first three years adds up to $58.4 million in value. He’ll likely double the contract value in 2022, and a great season or two could line him up for the payday Minnesota would no doubt love to consider. At the time both deals were struck, neither seemed outlandish. Both players had come up through the system with plenty of projection, and the dollar value was Minnesota’s front office capitalizing on timing before production. These are two of the best contracts in baseball, and there’s only room for each to rise in the returned value. Where do you think we see Polanco and Kepler go from here? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. The Twins opted to draft Noah Miller 36th overall in the 2021 draft after taking right-handed pitcher Chase Petty with their first pick. Petty got a deserved amount of hype for his triple-digit fastball and future upside as a stud pitcher, but Miller appears to have gotten overshadowed just a bit too much. Noah Miller boasts fantastic contact ability with a great eye at the plate, average speed, and developing power. He pairs his raw skills with highly touted athleticism and baseball IQ, all of which adds up to a fantastic floor even for a player drafted out of high school. His lack of standout offensive ability would give him the ceiling of a decent major league player if he has to move to a position like outfield or second base, but there appears to be more and more optimism in his ability to remain at shortstop. Miller falls into the mid-teens across most Twins prospect ranking lists. Keith Law of the Athletic, however, recently released his ranking of the Twins system and bumped Miller all the way up to 10. For those unfamiliar with Law, he’s recognized for being particularly pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) when it comes to ranking prospects. Law essentially believes in Miller’s safe offensive profile and more importantly his ability to play a sufficient shortstop. While Miller doesn’t have the ceiling to be the next Fernando Tatis Jr. or Wander Franco, Law believes Miller has an achievable ceiling as an everyday contributor at the position. An evaluator as highly regarded as Keith Law making such a statement should be exciting, and Twins fans in particular should have an appreciation for this possibility playing out. It seems to be a yearly tradition where the Twins either draft or internationally sign a significant number of shortstops and fans ask “Why?”. Despite the perception of casting a wide net at this position, the Twins have made little progress in developing any players who are anywhere near a lock to be the long-term answer. Typically we see these “shortstops” Make a pivot elsewhere on the diamond shortly thereafter. In regards to the history of the Minnesota Twins, Jorge Polanco was the starting shortstop in consecutive Opening Days in 2019 and 2020. Before him Pedro Florimon earned that honor in 2013 and 2014. Since 2004 however when Christian Guzman made his 6th consecutive Opening Day start, the position has essentially been a revolving door. Miller may be a long way off from Major League action at just 19 years old, but his offensive skillset that made him a first round pick is also one that gives him a relatively good shot at an MLB career. Twins fans saw with Aaron Sabato in 2021 that even in the first round there’s significant risk with prospects that have a feast or famine slugger profile. While prospects are always risky, Miller’s contact ability alone may give him a slightly better chance of overcoming the minor league gauntlet over the next few years. The bar is admittedly set quite low when it comes to shortstops in Twins territory. That being said, if Noah Miller has a full 2022 of proving he can do it at shortstop, his notoriety is going to go through the roof. For as much flak as the Twins get for their pitching development, taking a first-round shortstop who actually pans out would be an incredible development for the organization. There are a lot of MLB-ready prospects to watch in 2022, but none have an opportunity to raise their stock quite as much as Noah Miller. We won’t see him in Minneapolis this summer, but we just may be talking about him as the future franchise shortstop by this time next year. — 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
  25. The first fact we’re dealing with is that Rocco Baldelli needs a shortstop. As The Athletic’s Dan Hayes pointed out, Jorge Polanco would not appear to be a desirable choice. Even if it weren’t for the ankle injury concerns, there’s the reality that he’s just simply not good defensively at the position. Taking him from a place of strength at second base and causing a step backward in the field at two spots (when inserting Luis Arraez) would be suboptimal. The second fact is that waiting on prospects is a very tricky proposition. I believe Royce Lewis will return in 2022 and make the time missed look like a minor speed bump. That said, I’m still not convinced he’s a shortstop at the Major League level, and I think it’s fair to assess that Minnesota believes Austin Martin isn’t ticketed for that role either. In that scenario, both of the Twins top prospects up the middle would be looking at the outfield or elsewhere when it comes to playing time. Prospects can force a club’s hand and work their way in, but holding a position for them isn’t always the best path towards success. The third fact is that while Derek Falvey has money to spend, it will not be enough for Carlos Correa. Even before joining forces with Scott Boras this offseason, the former Astros shortstop was said to be looking for a $300 million deal. The New York Yankees need a shortstop, and Correa’s price tag immediately makes them a logical fit. As the premier option on the open market, it makes sense that he’d go where the highest payday can be achieved. So, what about Story then? ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle ranked the fits for Trevor Story back at the end of December and called the Twins a “two-star fit.” His two caveats to spending on the spot are Lewis’ return and the need to spend on starting pitching. We discussed Lewis above, and shy of spending for Carlos Rodon, Minnesota isn’t going to be able to spend on pitching through free agency. As Matthew Braun recently pointed out, Minnesota has largely failed Josh Donaldson. After inking him to a franchise-record deal, there’s been little done to supplement that talent throughout his contract. With two years left, signing Story to a five-year pact would be the right foot forward in terms of that narrative. After becoming a two-time All-Star in 2019, Story has seen declining offensive numbers each of the past two seasons. He was barely above league average in 2021, posting a 103 OPS+, and he failed to eclipse the 30 homer plateau. Every time you play your home games at Coors Field, you’ll warrant talk about splits, and it’s fair to note Story’s .752 OPS on the road is well below the .972 OPS at home. However, as a righty, the left-field line at Target Field could play to his pull tendencies. The slight decline could also lend itself to a more manageable number on the dotted line. I don’t think Story is a must for Minnesota, but there’s no denying the shortstop position is integral amongst the infield. I’d bank on the Twins trading for their frontline starter, which will eat up some capital, but spending still will fall short. Rather than taking the risk on an expensive arm, being more calculated while throwing dollars at a 29-year-old offensive star seems to fit well. I don’t want to see Polanco relocated across the diamond, and I’m out on Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias even at the lowest dollar amount. Do something to move the needle. Adding Story would accomplish that. Where are you at on Trevor Story? If Minnesota can't spend on pitching, how interested are you in the dollars going to a shortstop? Comment below. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
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