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  1. For more on each of these arbitration-eligible players, you can read much more in The Question: To Tender or Not To Tender. Here is the quick summary: John Gant cleared waivers and became a free agent. Rob Refsnyder was DFAd and became a free agent. Willians Astudillo was DFAd, cleared waviers and was released. Jake Cave signed a one year, $800,000 for 2022. In addition to those four arbitration-eligible players, lefty Devin Smeltzer was DFAd, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. You might have heard, the Twins have agreed to terms with Byron Buxton on a seven-year, $100 million contract extension which also includes some creative, interesting incentives. But there is more work to be done, and today (Tuesday) should be an interesting day. The team still have to make decisions on seven more arbitration-eligible players. Here is some information on each of those players (mostly from Sunday's article), but we will have a spot ready to update whenever we hear any news on any of the players. Also, be sure to vote on whether or not you would a.) Tender a contract, b.) Non-tender the player, or c.) Try to reach an agreement at a lower dollar value. If player won't, then non-tender. LUIS ARRAEZ - UT (24) Service Time: 2 years, 121 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million JHAREL COTTON - RHP (30) Service Time: 3 years, 52 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: N/A DANNY COULOMBE - LHP (32) Service Time: 3 years, 8 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $800,000 Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million TYLER DUFFEY - RHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 74 days Arbitration Year: 3rd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million MITCH GARVER - C (31) Service Time: 4 years, 45 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million JUAN MINAYA - RHP (31) Service Time: 2 years, 140 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million TAYLOR ROGERS - LHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 145 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $6.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $7 million CALEB THIELBAR - LHP (35) Service Time: 3 years, 131 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Again, we will update this article throughout the day on Tuesday until we learn what the resolution is for each player. There may be some agreements, maybe even multi-year deals. There will be contracts tendered without an agreement. At that point, numbers will be exchanged by the team and the player. There are likely to be a non-tender or two as well which will make those players free agents immediately, like happened with Eddie Rosario a year ago.
  2. The Twins have already made several transactions that have altered their list of arbitration-eligible players. Early in November, the Twins decided to put right-handed pitcher John Gant on waivers. When he cleared, he elected to become a free agent. Gant came to the Twins at the July trade deadline as part of the J.A. Happ trade. He was set to make approximately $3.7 million in his final season of arbitration. Outfielder Rob Refsnyder played like a Legend for a while after the Twins called him up, even playing a lot of center field. However, after a couple of injuries, including a concussion, he wasn’t able to repeat that performance. The minor league veteran was projected to make about $800,000, but the Twins DFAd him this month too. It became a talker, but the Twins signed outfielder Jake Cave to a one-year, $800,000 deal for 2022. Like all arbitration deals, it isn’t completely guaranteed. Finally, just last week, the Twins DFAd the fan-favorite, Williams Astudillo. Set to make a projected 2022 salary around $1.2 million in his first arbitration season. Since he hasn’t hit since his debut season in 2018 and has little defensive value, it was an easy decision to remove him from the roster and after he cleared waivers, they simply released him. And then the Twins claimed right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton from the Texas Rangers in early November. Let’s take a look at him and the other arbitration-eligible Twins players that the Twins have a decision to make before Tuesday’s deadline. (in alphabetical order, note: age on April 1, 2022) LUIS ARRAEZ - UT (24) Service Time: 2 years, 121 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Why Tender? Though Arraez struggled late in 2021 and ended out with a batting average below .300 for the first time in his professional career. He can play in left field and second base, and actually had a solid season playing third base in 2021. On the other side of his case, he had several IL trips again due to his knees and legs. Likelihood to be Tendered: 10 Summary: Just over the weekend, we learned that MLB had set the “Super 2” line at 2.116 (two years, 116 days) service time. Fortunately, the Twins' brass doesn't need to spend much time thinking about whether or not to tender a 2022 contract to Arraez. It's a given. What is his future with the organization? Could he be traded? If not, what position will he play, or will he continue to play all around the diamond? All to be figured out... after that contract is tendered on Tuesday. BYRON BUXTON - CF (28) Service Time: 5 years, 160 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $7.3 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million Why Tender? Because he’s Byron Buxton. Because his 2022 salary will be minimal relative to the value he will and has provided. Because they can then continue negotiating a potential long-term deal. Because even if they don’t reach a deal, he can easily be traded for a very nice return. Likelihood to be Tendered (1 unlikely to 10 very likely): 10. Easy choice. Summary: This one will require very little thought. What happens beyond tendering hims a 2022 contract has been the topic of debate for the past six months. JHAREL COTTON - RHP (30) Service Time: 3 years, 52 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: N/A Why Tender? Because he showed some good stuff out of the Rangers bullpen in his return to the big leagues following Tommy John surgery. Because of what he had shown as a starter in Oakland early in his career. Because he’s got a good fastball, but a great changeup. Likelihood to be Tendered: 5 Summary: There are reasons to believe that Cotton could be a solid middle-relief pitcher option, and who knows, maybe the Twins think that he could be healthy enough to get back to starting and be an option for a back of the Twins rotation too. However, the Twins may also ask for Cotton to agree to a 1 year, $900,000 or $1 million deal, and if he accepts, great. If not, non-tendered and he becomes a free agent. DANNY COULOMBE - LHP (32) Service Time: 3 years, 8 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $800,000 Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million Why Tender? Coulombe isn’t an exciting pitcher, but he’s long been a solid MLB left-handed reliever, and he pitched well for the Twins in the second half. Had quite a bit of MLB success before injury including being used very often for Oakland for a couple of seasons. He is very similar to Caleb Thielbar, so again, is it necessary to have another lefty in a ‘pen that already should include Thielbar and Taylor Rogers, with Jovani Moran in the near-ready position as well? Likelihood to Tender: 6 Summary: Coulombe has been better than most Twins fans probably think. He’s just solid with limited upside. For $800,000, little reason not to tender him. That said, they may do what they did with Thielbar a year ago and lock him up to a deal below projection. TYLER DUFFEY - RHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 74 days Arbitration Year: 3rd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million Why Tender? Duffey’s velocity may have been down a little bit in 2021, but he still put up solid numbers. He ranked right up there with the top relievers in baseball over the past three seasons. Hasn’t received many Save opportunities, which certainly keeps his arbitration salary down, but he’s been used in high-leverage situations. Can they reach an agreement on a one-year deal before an arbitration hearing? Could they look to lock up Duffey for two or three seasons? (maybe a two-year, $7 million deal, or even a three-year, $12 million deal). Likelihood to Tender: 9 Summary: Another easy decision because even if things go poorly, he should have some trade value so non-tendering makes no sense. With so many question marks in the Twins bullpen, losing Duffey would make things even more difficult. MITCH GARVER - C (31) Service Time: 4 years, 45 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million Why Tender? Remember his 2019 season? Well, after a poor April, Garver returned to that high-level, 2019 form for much of the rest of the season. The lone concern is an injury history that really hurt him in 2020, but also a couple of times during the 2021 season. Garver’s name shows up in some trade rumors this offseason, and teams would likely line up if the Twins made it known he was available. Likelihood to Tender: 10 Summary; An easy decision to tender him a contract. Likely a much more intense conversation has likely occurred regarding the future of the Twins catcher position. While the idea of a Garver/Ryan Jeffers even split of playing time makes a ton of sense in theory, would it work in reality? Or, could the fact that they have both of them, along with Ben Rortvedt in Triple-A and clearly the best defensive catcher of the three, maybe one could be dealt in the offseason for some pitching. None of that alters how easy the decision will be to tender Garver. JUAN MINAYA - RHP (31) Service Time: 2 years, 140 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million Why Tender? Minaya came up to the Twins in the season’s second half and really performed well. He showed good life on his pitches and was put into some big situations. The interesting thing is that he pitched much better for the Twins than he did in his time with the Saints. He had some good years with the White Sox. He has had some control issues in his career, but he’s also very capable of racking up strikeouts. Likelihood to Tender: 6 Summary: Minaya was certainly a nice surprise for the Twins in the second half of the season, but was that enough to tender a seven-digit deal? Like Cotton and Coulombe, it might be another case where the Twins offer him $900,000 to $1 million for 2022, and if he takes it, great. If not, he can be non-tendered. TAYLOR ROGERS - LHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 145 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $6.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $7 million Why Tender? I think we would start with the fact that he has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past four or five seasons. Aside from some struggles in the shortened-2020 season, he’s been very good. He also has been very healthy until his late-July finder injury that cost him the final two months of the 2022 season. The lone question regarding Rogers will be how he recovers and returns from the finger injury since he did not have surgery. Likelihood to Tender: 9 Summary: Another easy choice. Reports indicated that teams were still interested in trading for Rogers, even after he got hurt. They certainly can trade him in the offseason or in July should they choose to do so. I personally think there should also be extension thoughts with Rogers. He’s become a leader on the team, and has earned it based on production. Of course, Aaron Loup getting two years and $17 million might tell us that Rogers should get quite a bit more than that. However, I would offer him a three-year, $24 million deal with an option at $9 million for a fourth year. CALEB THIELBAR - LHP (35) Service Time: 3 years, 131 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Why Tender? By the end of the 2021 season, the Minnesota native was Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson’s most relied upon, if not reliable, bullpen arm. He really increased his ability to miss bats. His fastball sat between 91 and 95 mph, and that slow, 68 mph curveball is a good pitch to go with a strong slider. Likelihood to Tender: 8 Summary: Another easy choice. Just offer it to him, work on a good deal and call it good. Because of his age and that he’s got a few more seasons before free agency, there is no reason to do anything but go year-to-year with him. How long will the Twins be able to keep Thielbar away from a college coaching career? Your turn. If you’re in charge, would you tender contracts to all of these players? What kind of deals would you like to see? Discuss.
  3. Typically, baseball assumes that you’re dealing from a pool of future talent to acquire something usable now, or vice versa. That is a logical assumption, but one that may not fit the Twins current mold. If their goal is to get better now, without embarking on a complete rebuild, dealing from a position of depth could be a path to accomplishing that goal. When looking at the Twins roster, there are three current regulars that all provide an enticing level of opportunity regarding the trade market. At catcher, it’s Mitch Garver. From an infield or utility perspective, it’s Luis Arraez. In the outfield, it’s Max Kepler. Sure, if we’re not re-signing Byron Buxton, then he has to be moved, but I choose not to live in a online world where that may be a possibility. With that said, let’s explore the three options. Mitch Garver Rebounding to the tune of an .875 OPS following a down year in 2020, Garver looked again like a top-tier bat behind the plate. He’s an adept pitch framer and has made considerable strides defensively. While age isn’t on his side for a future payday, he’s still plenty ripe for a prime stretch at 31-years-old being a late-blooming prospect. With Ryan Jeffers as his backup, it could be argued that Minnesota has a luxury in their backstop stable. 2020 showed a brief glimpse of what Jeffers may be, and as a future starter, he could push toward the upper tier for the position. Behind him, however, is Ben Rortvedt, who is almost certainly going to be a defense-only type of player. Moving Garver could net the Twins a handsome return, and catcher is one of the most challenging places in the sport to squeeze out offensive production. The Twins may desire to do this if Garver’s future prognosis trends more towards designated hitter duties as injuries mount. Selfishly, I’d like them to avoid this route. Give me all the Garv Sauce. Luis Arraez Formerly a fill-in for Jorge Polanco at second base, Arraez has established himself as one of baseball’s best pure hitters. He’s a contact guy that will always hit for average, and he has an incredible sense of plate discipline. Not a great defender anywhere; he truly can play everywhere after being thrust into a left-field role at times during the 2021 season. Assuming that Minnesota opts to keep Polanco at second base and sign a shortstop, that leaves Arraez looking at a utility role once again. He can spell Josh Donaldson at the hot corner and take reps in the outfield, but his defensive home will cease to exist. There’s no denying the at-bats will always be there for him with the Twins, but what is the gain should he be flipped to a team that sees him as their everyday option in the same defensive role? I don’t know that moving Arraez is an opportunity cost that Minnesota should be looking into. His utility is invaluable, and he covers multiple guys necessary of a true insurance policy. Max Kepler We’ve made it to the one player in this trio that finds themselves still seeking peak value. The .719 OPS in 2021 was a career-low, and the .855 mark during the 2019 Bomba Squad year looks as distant as ever. There is this, though, as Twins Daily’s Tom Froemming pointed out, Kepler’s expected results are drastically different from what reality is giving us. I’ve consistently hoped that Kepler would elevate the baseball and see the payoff due to his hard-hit contact potential. We noticed some of that in 2019, and that consistency is the biggest thing holding him back. Under team control through 2023 and tied to a 2024 team option, Kepler’s contract is among the most enticing things about him. He’s not turning any heads with a 98 OPS+, but at 123 or even 109 in 2020, he’s an above-average player that’s stellar on defense and could net something nice. Kepler’s value is hard to pinpoint given the results in comparison to what you’d hope he’s capable of. Getting the right team to bite on the right return is the goal, and with young outfield talent behind him, a flip could be more than beneficial for both sides. What do you think? If you’re trading a regular from the Twins lineup, who is it that you’re moving, and who do you think has the most value
  4. The 2021 season was the ninth straight season where SABR's Defensive Index (SDI) was used as part of the voting process for awarding Gold Gloves. Votes from managers and coaches count for 75% of the final results, while SDI is worth approximately 25%. According to SABR, "The SDI draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts, including data from MLBAM's Statcast, Sports Information Solutions, and STATS, LLC." Here is where qualified Twins players finished in the SDI rankings along with some places where Minnesota can improve in 2022: Catcher: Ryan Jeffers (1.0 SDI) Among qualified AL catchers, Ryan Jeffers finished eighth according to SDI. Oakland's Sean Murphy won the Gold Glove and was the AL leader at 6.8 SDI. Jeffers has been touted for his catching ability throughout his professional career, and some of those results showed up on the field last season. However, his struggles at the plate forced the team to demote him to Triple-A, limiting him to 85 big-league games in 2021. Jeffers may see his playing time increase next season if the Twins decide to trade Mitch Garver this winter. First Base: Miguel Sanó (-5.6 SDI) First base can be one of the team's most straightforward defensive fixes for 2022. Only one AL first baseman, Boston's Bobby Dalbec, ranked lower than Miguel Sanó when it comes to SDI. Alex Kirilloff is a better defender at first base, and he should start to get more reps at that position next season. Sanó can rotate through first base and designated hitter roles depending on the pitching match-up on any given day. First base defense can be overlooked, but Kirilloff presents an easy upgrade for the Twins. Second Base: Jorge Polanco (2.8 SDI) Last winter, Minnesota made a significant defensive upgrade at second base by moving Jorge Polanco away from shortstop. He finished the season as the AL's fourth highest-ranked second baseman, according to SDI. Polanco stayed healthy for all of 2021, and the results speak for themselves on both sides of the ball. Minnesota gave Polanco 39 appearances at shortstop last year, and the team is in the market for a shortstop this winter. It's in the team's best interest to keep Polanco at second base for the long term. Third Base: Luis Arraez (1.4 SDI) Josh Donaldson has been considered a solid defensive player throughout his career, but he didn't make enough defensive appearances to appear on the SDI Leaderboard. Luis Arraez finished fifth among AL third basemen according to SDI, which may come as a surprise. Minnesota moved Arraez to a utility role entering last season because his defense was below average at second base. Arraez, Donaldson, and Jose Miranda will all get time at third base in 2022. This is quite the defensive turnaround for Arraez, and it is certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (11.8 SDI) Even in a poor offensive season, Andrelton Simmons ranked among baseball's best on the defensive side of the ball. Houston's Carlos Correa, the eventual Gold Glove winner, was the lone player ranked higher than Simmons among AL shortstops. In fact, only two players, Correa and Kansas City's Michael Taylor, finished with a higher SDI. The only way to keep this kind of defensive output at shortstop is to sign Correa to a giant contract or keep Simmons around on a cheap deal. Outfield: Max Kepler (5.4 SDI) Max Kepler was the only player to make enough appearances to qualify for the season-ending leaderboard among Minnesota's outfielders. He finished fifth among AL right-fielders when it came to SDI. There is an argument to be made that he should have been one of the Gold Glove finalists at his position. One of the easiest ways for Minnesota to improve its outfield defense is to have Byron Buxton on the field more regularly. An outfield with Buxton and Kepler can make up for whatever player roams in left field for the club. Where do you think the Twins can make the most defensive improvement next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 200 PLATE APPEARANCES TO QUALIFY* ALEX KIRILLOFF 2021: 59 games, .251/.299/.423 (98 OPS+), 8 HR, 11 2B, 3B, 34 RBI, 22% K, 6% BB Kirilloff went 0-for-15 to start his MLB career, with hard-hit outs dominating his results. Once a few dropped in, they didn’t stop. The rookie had an excellent 15-game stretch where he hit .306/.343/.581 (.924) with four homers and five doubles, separated by an IL stint. Even with a torn wrist ligament, Kirilloff posted some of the gaudiest Statcast numbers in the league. He slugged just .423 on the season, but that number should’ve been over 100 points higher based on the quality of contact. His season ultimately ended in July when he chose to undergo surgery. It was a disappointing finish to a promising debut. Assuming his wrist heals, Kirilloff figures to man a spot in the heart of the Twins’ order in 2022 and beyond. He also looked strong at first base and held his own in the outfield. GRADE: B BYRON BUXTON 2021: 61 G, .306/.358/.647 (171 OPS+), 19 HR, 23 2B, 32 RBI, 9/10 SB, 24% K, 5% BB Buxton’s season was nothing short of incredible. It was also incredibly short. Buxton appeared in 61 games, missing extended time with a hip injury and a broken hand. It was his brightest flash of upside, maintaining massive power and blazing speed and adding it to the best centerfield defense in the world. Buxton had one of the best months in Twins history in an MVP April and looked on his way to the season-long award. The complete package of a superstar was on display. Buxton recorded 42 extra-base hits and 4.5 bWAR in just 254 plate appearances. Therein lies the excellence and frustration with Buxton, whose future could depend on what the Twins decide to do this offseason. Will they extend, hold, or trade their most talented (and arguably best) young star since Joe Mauer? GRADE: A- MAX KEPLER 2021: 121 G, .211/.306/.413 (98 OPS+), 19 HR, 21 2B, 3B, 54 RBI, 10/10 SB, 20% K, 11% BB Kepler reverted to his offensive profile from the first three years of his career, which is a less-than-solid, low-OBP, low-AVG contributor. Then and now, Kepler is a borderline asset because of his superb defense in right field. Kepler ranked second to only Manuel Margot in Outs Above Average (8) among right-fielders. But how much is that defense worth? It’s a tricky question. This version of Kepler is a below-average hitter and especially below-average for a right-fielder. He limits a lineup that carried more potential than results over the last two years. Kepler was 19% better than the league in his last 182 games heading into the season, so maybe 2021 was just a down year. Or perhaps it was Kepler coming back to earth. The Twins have a decision to make on him this winter, with a potential $25.25 million owed through 2024. GRADE: C- LUIS ARRAEZ 2021: 121 G, .294/.357/.376 (105 OPS+), 2 HR, 17 2B, 6 3B, 42 RBI, 10% K, 9% BB Arraez worked through a knee issue and hit his customary .317 with a .380 On-Base Percentage over his first 326 plate appearances. Rumblings of a potential batting title loomed until Arraez hit a snag at the end. The 24-year-old throwback hit just .241/.291/.302 (.593) over his final 33 games. This stretch sapped his last line, making year three look more mediocre than anything. Arraez may have been hurting, worn down, or a mixture of both, but his streakiness is a significant development. When he’s not roping singles or walking, it’s hard to justify keeping Arraez in the lineup. He can be a liability defensively with very little power. Arraez is under contract through 2025 but could be surprising trade bait this winter. GRADE: B- TREVOR LARNACH 2021: 79 games, .223/.322/.350 (88 OPS+), 7 HR, 12 2B, 28 RBI, 35% K, 10% BB It was a tale of two seasons for Larnach, who the Twins called up to provide left-handed spank when Kirilloff went down. Larnach immediately went 2-for-15 out of the gate and looked understandably over his skis. Not so fast: a 3-for-5 game against Oakland kicked off an excellent stretch for the rookie. From mid-May to early July, Larnach slashed .274/.365/.452 (.817) with seven homers and seven doubles. He was controlling the strike zone like a veteran while hitting for power. But this game can be cruel. Pitchers responded and started dicing Larnach up, beating him regularly with offspeed before gradually blowing fastballs by him. Larnach’s season turned. He went 13-for-88 (.148) with 43 strikeouts and 11 walks over his final 27 games. The future remains bright for Larnach, but he may need some extended time in St. Paul to get things together at the plate. GRADE: C+ BRENT ROOKER 2021: 58 games, .201/.291/.397 (89 OPS+), 9 HR, 10 2B, 16 RBI, 33% K, 7% BB The primary beneficiary of the Nelson Cruz trade, Rooker was recalled on July 23rd and looked to be taking advantage of a new opportunity. He hit .281/.361/.625 (.986) with three homers in 32 at-bats after the promotion. Rooker started 37 of the Twins’ next 55 games but hit just .203/.306/.375 with 50 strikeouts and 11 walks in 147 plate appearances. Rooker hit the ball hard and consistently found the barrel but struggled to make contact at times and didn’t walk much to make up for it. With an open DH spot on the 2022 team, the Twins may benefit from giving Rooker more chances to tap into his immense power profile. For now, it’s still potential. GRADE: D+ NELSON CRUZ 2021: 85 G, .294/.370/.537 (148 OPS+), 19 HR, 13 2B, 3B, 50 RBI, 18% K, 10% BB Cruz capped off his unbelievable tenure in Minnesota with another terrific 85 games. He was once again the Twins’ best hitter and remained a terrifying power bat until he was traded before the deadline. On top of his production, Cruz allowed the Twins to acquire Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman from Tampa Bay, with Ryan looking like a staple in the rotation for years to come. Cruz hit .304/.386/.598 with 76 home runs in 258 games as a Twin, solidifying himself as one of the great signings in team history. The impact he had on the organization will be felt for much longer than he spent playing for them. GRADE: A WILLIANS ASTUDILLO 2021: 72 games, .236/.259/.375, 7 HR, 8 2B, 21 RBI, 6% K, 1% BB Astudillo entered 2021 as basically a career league-average hitter in 95 games. He hit .295 with a 99 OPS+ in three seasons, with the ability to catch, play first and third base, and even pitch. The beloved utilityman crashed at the plate in 2021. Astudillo’s .634 OPS placed him more than 25% below MLB average. He appeared as a catcher in only nine games, illustrating the Twins’ faith in him behind the plate. Astudillo added some value with four electric innings out of the bullpen (2.25 ERA), but it seems his time in Minnesota could be over. He’s owed an estimated $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration. GRADE: D- OTHER GRADES: INFIELD STARTING PITCHERS RELIEF PITCHERS... COMING SOON! 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
  6. Luis Arraez is one of the most fun players on the Twins roster. Everything from his unmatched ability to get the barrel to the ball to his aggressive head shaking after taking a pitch is entertaining to watch. He wasn’t much of a top prospect, but has made the most of his opportunity after being called up in 2019 due to injuries. Little has changed with Luis Arraez the player, but the Twins’ perception of him may have. Arraez appeared to be the second baseman of the future when he arrived in 2019. The energy and variety he brought to a record-setting power team made it easy to imagine slotting him into the middle infield for years to come. Amid all of that excitement, however, it was easy to overlook his defensive shortcomings. Fast-forward two years. Luis Arraez holds a .313/.374/.403 batting line. He’s more than held up his side of the bargain offensively. In those two years however, so much around him has changed. Jorge Polanco made the permanent switch to Arraez’s home position, pushing him into a rotation between second, third, and corner outfield. The Twins have also signed Josh Donaldson, and now Jose Miranda appears to be the future of the hot corner in Minnesota. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach debuted and will get solid MLB time in 2022 with several corner outfielders shortly behind them in the minors. Having too many quality players is far from a problem, but the real concern comes from the quickly mounting injury history. At 24 years old, he’s suffered significant injuries to both knees, the side effects of which can commonly be seen on the base paths or following awkward swings. In 2020, injury cost Arraez 28 games out of the 60 game season. In 2021, Arraez missed 41 games and looked to be fighting through some kind of injury a good amount of the time. Unfortunately the game of baseball is unforgiving, and it’s rare to see such long standing recurring knee issues improve with age. Is it possible the Twins see more value in shopping Luis Arraez on the trade market? Regarding highly sought after defensive positions (and positions the Twins have a need at), Arraez can’t fill in at shortstop or center field. He’s also not particularly strong at the positions he does play. In Outs Above Average per Statcast, he was worth -1 in left field, -1 at third base and -3 at second. His defensive flexibility consists of positions that are easy to fill on the market if the Twins already emerging long term solutions there don’t work out as planned. This is not to say the Twins should necessarily actively look to dump Luis Arraez. Heading into 2022 with him platooning and spelling starters to get his bat in the lineup would be far from a bad thing. That being said, everything good about Luis Arraez makes him a valuable trade asset. His bat is special, he’s incredibly cheap and controllable, and he isn’t locked into one single position. In regards to assets the Twins have on their roster to trade, it may not get any better than Luis Arraez. It would be a difficult decision, but someone like Max Kepler or Miguel Sano wouldn’t bring in any kind of impact arm the Twins will certainly be looking for. It may be easy for them to look over the roster and see Arraez as a solid bat in the lineup that’s buried at several positions. They may also weigh the long term health gamble on his knees which could continue costing him significant time. Should the Twins trade Luis Arraez? That question likely has a lot to do with what they can get in return. It’s safe to say the idea has crossed their mind however, and possibly could be looked at more closely this winter for a roster that needs a significant shakeup. Should the Twins even consider it? Let us know below. For More Twins content: — 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
  7. Coming off a pandemic-shortened 2020, the Twins did a solid job holding serve regarding payroll. While it dropped, it didn’t fall off a cliff. I don’t know where I expect Minnesota to be in terms of dollars this season, but I think we’re in for an offseason that sees some major-league assets moved. If that’s going to be the case, who are the combinations that are defined by value and expendability? Max Kepler I’m torn on the idea of moving Kepler, given the Twins commitment to getting more out of him. He posted just a .719 OPS this season, and it was a down year. He remains one of the best outfield defenders in baseball, however, and that has significant value. For a guy that plays on the corners, you’d certainly like to see the power production of 2019 return. Given his name was dangled at the deadline, I can’t imagine Minnesota is against the idea of moving him, but it’d need to be a situation where someone is parting with assets based on what they believe Kepler can be rather than what he is currently. Alex Kirilloff can fill some of the gap here, and Trevor Larnach is also an option should the Twins move on. Mitch Garver After a down year in the shortened 2020 season, Garver has rebounded with a vengeance. Mitch is back to hunting fastballs, and despite some fluke injuries this season, he put up impressive numbers from the minute he got settled in. His final 51 games were played to the tune of a .991 OPS. I’m reluctant to hand the reigns over to Ryan Jeffers full-time, but Garver is the older of the two, and this is a position where Minnesota could exploit the strength and use it to secure pitching help. The Twins don’t have much for a backup option unless they want to go defense only with Ben Rortvedt behind the plate. That said, a veteran backup shouldn’t cost much on the open market, and there’s plenty of names they could chase after. Cody recently did a great breakdown of a partner for Garver. Luis Arraez Once again near the top of the league in batting average, Luis Arraez continues to be as predictable as they come. 2021 was his first season with an average south of .300, but that’s more related to a late-season slide than it is the body of work. He is always going to hit, there’s not much in terms of speed or pop, and his glove is just ok in the field. What Minnesota has to determine is where Jorge Polanco will play and what they want to do at shortstop. Arraez is either a rotational player with plenty of avenues for playing time, or he’s a luxury that they can parlay into something more necessary. A lot of Arraez’s functionality for this club directly correlates to the build-out of their infield. Miguel Sano In the final year of his three-year extension, Sano will cost Minnesota just over $9 million this season. He hasn’t lived up to the .923 OPS he posted in 2019, but he has plenty of functionality as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He’s continued to post OPS+ numbers north of league average, and the power potential was once again evident in a season where he blasted 30 homers. I can’t imagine his value bringing back a whole lot for the Twins, but with the designated hitter expected to be league-wide, there may be more suitors interested in his services. I prefer the Twins don’t utilize a consistent batter as a designated hitter this season, but that’s definitely where Sano is at his best. Rocco Baldelli will also need to balance first base playing time with Alex Kirilloff returning to action. Obviously, if the Twins decide against paying Byron Buxton, then he’d likely be on the move as well and bring the greatest return. I can’t see a scenario in which any arms are moved, most notably because of that being Minnesota’s greatest need. Who else could you see as potential interest for another organization? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Recently named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year, the Twins Minor League Player of the Year, and the MLB Pipeline All-Prospect 1st Team, Miranda has picked up all of the accolades. It’s hard to be surprised, given his performance. For the season, he owns a .347/.403/.574 (.977) slash line along with 60 extra-base hits, of which 29 are home runs. His 73/41 K/BB rate suggests a strong eye and plate discipline ability, and despite the year with no minor league action, it’s hard to see anything but an immense amount of work put in. For a Minnesota Twins team that saw their season end essentially before it ever got off the ground, it’s worth wondering how Miranda wasn’t selected to see action at the big-league level. The role isn’t straightforward, though, and it’s something Derek Falvey and Rocco Baldelli will need to sort out for the year ahead. In 2021, Miranda played games at every infield position aside from catcher, and he even got three starts in left field. Primarily a third basemen, that role is currently occupied by Josh Donaldson, who has been one of the Twins better hitters and is signed to a large contract. Miranda is blocked at second base by one of the game’s best in Jorge Polanco, and he’s miscast playing shortstop. It appeared that the Twins wanted to see his abilities at first base, but that’s a role currently held down by Miguel Sano and likely Alex Kirilloff next season. So, where does he go? Had the Twins dealt Donaldson at the trade deadline, it essentially would’ve been to swing a cash dump. Donaldson, and more notably his contract, will never net the Twins anything close to an equal value. Given his uptick in production, it made sense to keep him around for the year ahead. If Minnesota is entering a rebuild, though, Donaldson’s services are much less needed, and he’d likely desire an opportunity to win elsewhere. The man at the hot corner remains much of the linchpin to this situation, though. Suppose Donaldson was out of the picture, an immediate opening is created for Miranda. He could slot in as Baldelli’s everyday third basemen. The other option would be to roll with Jorge Polanco as the team’s shortstop next season. We’ve seen that he’s stretched defensively in that position, and for a guy who’s looked so good at second base, it’d be a tough sell to put him in that spot. With Polanco at short though, Miranda could draw the most starts at second base, with Luis Arraez continuing to operate in a super-utility role as he has. The other possibility is at first base, moving Miguel Sano to a full-time designated hitter role. That forces Alex Kirilloff into the outfield, however, and leaves Trevor Larnach or Max Kepler twisting in the wind. Sano being the primary designated hitter also reduces the lineup flexibility for Baldelli on a nightly basis. It's an option, but wouldn't strike me as a desirable one. No matter what the decision-making process is, the Twins need a solution. Miranda was not a top-100 prospect entering the season, but coming off his production at the highest levels and being just 23-years-old, forcing his way into the immediate plans has been accomplished. From my perspective, the Twins still need to sign a starting-caliber shortstop, preferably on a one-year deal. That doesn’t help the chances of Miranda making the Opening Day roster or squeezing his way in quickly, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from 2021, it’s that the roster turnover comes quickly and often. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Pineda 5.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K Homeruns: Polanco (32) Top 3 WPA: Pineda (0.181), Polanco (0.163), Duffey (0.121) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Jorge Polanco Give Twins Early Lead The Twins bats got off to a quick start in this ballgame providing some instant offensive support for Michael Pineda. Luis Arraez got things started with a single and advanced to second on a weakly-hit infield single from Byron Buxton. This set the table for Jorge Polanco, who promptly drove the very next pitch out of the ballpark, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Michael Pineda Has Strong Final Start of the Season With the Twins season coming to an end on Sunday, this was almost assuredly the final start of Michael Pineda’s season, and potentially his final start in a Twins uniform, as he will be a free agent at season’s end. Pineda held the Tigers offense scoreless on three singles through the first three innings of the ballgame, before surrendering his lone run of the game in the fourth. Robbie Grossman got the Tigers fourth started with a single, before Pineda struck Miguel Cabrera with a pitch. Grossman advanced to third on a Jeimer Candelario fly out, and then scored on this comebacker that struck Pineda. Twins Add Insurance Runs in the 8th Protecting small leads in the 9th have plagued the Twins all season, so the offense adding two insurance runs in the 8th inning to double their lead felt bigger than they usually would. After making a great catch to end the top of the inning, Byron Buxton led off the bottom of the inning and was hit by the first pitch he saw. Buxton then stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Tigers catcher Eric Haase. Buxton would later come in to score on an RBI base-hit from Max Kepler. Miguel Sano followed the Kepler hit with a one-out walk to load the bases for Nick Gordon who hit a shallow fly ball to center that did not appear deep enough to score Josh Donaldson from third, but he tagged up anyway and scored the Twins fifth run of the game thanks to an off target throw home. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN TUE WED TOT Garza Jr. 0 0 18 19 0 37 Vincent 0 0 33 0 0 33 Thielbar 0 0 17 13 0 30 Coulombe 0 37 0 0 0 37 Farrell 0 18 0 0 0 18 Duffey 17 0 0 18 21 56 Barraclough 0 33 0 0 0 33 Colomé 5 0 0 26 18 49 Minaya 19 0 0 0 22 41 Moran 0 19 0 0 0 19 Alcalá 6 0 0 10 0 16 What's Next? The Twins have their final home game of the 2021 season on Thursday night, as they look to complete the three-game sweep of the Tigers. Joe Ryan is scheduled to pitch for the Twins opposite Tarik Skubal. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 pm CDT. Post Game Interviews
  10. "Underrated" can mean slightly different things to different people. Briefly, it's simply defined as - using baseball players in this example - a player who is not rated as highly by people as you think they should be. So, here are three Twins players that I believe are most underrated by Twins fans. Do you agree? Or, feel free to add your most-underrated Twins in the Comments below. 3. Bailey Ober, SP Following the trade deadline, things could have completely fallen apart for the Twins. The front office had traded away two pitchers from the team's Opening Day rotation. By doing this, the team looked to internal options that might fit into the 2022 starting rotation. Enter Bailey Ober and a boost some fans might not have been expecting. Ober has all but solidified his spot in next year's rotation with a tremendous rookie campaign. According to MLB.com, he has a 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranks first among rookie seasons in Twins history (minimum 80 innings). Currently, he ranks among baseball's best in walk percentage (93rd percentile) and chase rate (84th percentile). The Twins have played .500 baseball in the second half, and Ober has provided some rotational stability. 2. Caleb Thielbar, RP Minnesota's bullpen was in shambles at the beginning of the season, but Caleb Thielbar has been one of the team's biggest bright spots in a dull year. Pitch selection has been one of the most significant changes for Thielbar in his second stint with the Twins. He uses his slider nearly 35% of the time, and batters have posted a .172 batting average and a .313 slugging percentage. Out of necessity, Thielbar shifted to a set-up role near the trade deadline, and he has been part of a bullpen turnaround. Since then, the Twins bullpen has posted a 3.20 ERA and has the American League's highest Win Probability Added. Among the AL's left-handed relievers, Thielbar ranks third in WPA. His baseball-playing career was supposed to be over, and now the Twins hope he sticks around for a while. 1. Luis Arraez, UTL There have certainly been multiple reasons to turn off the Twins this season, but Luis Arraez hasn't been one of them. Only two Twins players, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton, have a higher WAR than Arraez. He is getting on base 36% of the time and hitting close to .300, which has him just outside the AL's top-10. His 106 OPS+ is a career-low, but it also points to a good offensive season, even for a player with minimal power. Defensively, he has also played over 40 games at second base and third base. Minnesota switched Arraez to a utility role because the team wanted to get better defensively. At last check, Arraez ranks as the seventh-best AL third baseman according to SABR's Defensive Index. He likely will never win a Gold Glove, but he has been more than competent at the hot corner. How would you rank these players? 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
  11. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SABR has used SDI as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Here is how the Twins rank through games played on August 22, 2021: Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 3.7 SDI (3rd) Berrios was traded before the deadline, but he accumulated the bulk of his SDI total while still in a Twins uniform. Earlier this season, he ranked sixth overall in the AL, so he has made a significant jump in the second half. However, his defense isn’t helping the Twins anymore, and there are no other Twins players on the current leaderboard. Dallas Keuchel is the favorite among AL pitchers as he has nearly double the SDI total of the second-ranked pitcher. Catcher (AL Ranking): No Twins’ Players Qualify At the All-Star Break, both Twins catchers ranked in the top-12 when it came to SDI. Garver’s extended time on the IL pushed him out of the rankings, while Jeffers spent some time in St. Paul trying to find his swing. Over the last few weeks, Jeffers has been catching regularly, so it will be interesting to see if he winds up on the final leaderboard. First Base (AL Ranking): Miguel Sano -2.5 SDI (10th) Only two qualified first basemen, Nathaniel Lowe and Bobby Delbec, have a lower SDI total than Miguel Sano. His months of July and August continued to bring down his total as he was at -0.9 SDI. It also doesn’t help that Minnesota’s best defensive first baseman, Alex Kirilloff, is injured and won’t be back in 2021. At the All-Star break, he ranked third among all AL first basemen. For 2022, Minnesota should pencil Kirilloff in at first base every day. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco, 3.3 SDI (3rd) Polanco has been on an offensive tear in the second half, and his defense has also significantly improved. In less than two months, he moved from 8th to 3rd in SDI among AL second basemen. At that time, I mentioned that he was only 0.5 SDI out of the top-3, and he now ranks 1.2 SDI ahead of fourth place. Polanco looks to be in line to be a Gold Glove finalist, but Whit Merrified and Marcus Semiem have accumulated over twice as much SDI as Polanco. Third Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez, 0.4 SDI (7th) Arraez isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess, so this ranking might come as a surprise to some Twins fans. Every third baseman ranked below Arraez has a -4.0 SDI or lower. Josh Donaldson was known for being a strong defender when the Twins signed him, but he has fallen off the leaderboard since the All-Star break. At that time, he looked to be in the middle of his worst defensive season. Does the future at this position belong to Arraez or Jose Miranda? Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons, 6.4 SDI (3rd) Simmons is having another solid defensive season, but he has taken a step back in the second half. In July, he ranked as one of the AL’s best defenders, and he was the number one ranked shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Carlos Correa have stormed past him over the last two months. Simmons looks like he will be a Gold Glove finalist, but he won’t be coming away with the hardware. Left Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Trevor Larnach was on these rankings at the All-Star break, but he was near the bottom with a -2.2 SDI. He no longer qualifies as the team demoted him to Triple-A after some offensive struggles. Overall, this race looks to be one of the AL's tightest when it comes to the Gold Glove winner. There is no clear-cut favorite, with Austin Hays (2.1 SDI) and Michael Brantley (1.8 SDI) leading the rankings. Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Byron Buxton is still one of baseball's best defenders, but a hip injury and a broken hand have kept him sidelined for a good chunk of the second half. Former Twins prospect Akil Baddoo has the third-lowest SDI total among qualified AL center fielders. Michael Taylor (9.5 SDI) and Myles Straw (7.1 SDI) are at the top of the leaderboard with a month to go in the season. Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler, 0.8 SDI Kepler has a positive SDI, but only one qualified right fielder sits below him in the rankings. His second-half defense has improved because he had accumulated a -0.1 SDI in right field at the All-Star break. He dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, which might have brought down his SDI total. Do any of these rankings surprise you? Do you think the team's defense has been worse in the second half? 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
  12. Never a top prospect or one worthy of national attention, Arraez has long gone about his business quietly. He put up a .331 average across more than 300 minor league games, and the Venezuelan has continued to replicate that success at the Major League level. He’s a second baseman by trade, but not in the same vein that Minnesota has seen in recent seasons. He’s not a great defender, but it matters a whole lot less when the stick keeps him producing. Ever since Jorge Polanco moved off of shortstop for the Twins and Josh Donaldson took over at the hot corner, Rocco Baldelli has needed to get creative in deploying his best batting average hitter. Arraez has adapted to playing a utility role, which has included time in the outfield and given some additional rest for a balky knee issue. Playing multiple positions has allowed for offensive flexibility, and really, that’s why he’s here in the first place. To date Luis Arraez owns a .326/.388/.421 career slash line. The power production will likely never trend towards a .500 slugging mark, but it’s that average that has Twins fans dreaming of two All-Time greats. Rod Carew is a legend among these parts, and the late Tony Gwynn was one of the best pure hitters ever to play the game. Between the two of them, both Hall of Famers, there’s a total of 15 batting titles. Minnesota hasn’t had a player accomplish that feat since future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer did so in 2009. Dreaming on Arraez with a career trajectory like that of Carew or Gwynn is probably far-fetched, but expecting similar offensive accomplishments is far from hyperbole. Right now, Arraez is just 24-years-old. Carew debuted at 21, while Gwynn showed up at 22. In his first three big-league seasons, the former owned a .299 average, while the latter put up a .329 mark. Both captured their first batting crown in year three. Right now, Arraez doesn’t have the plate appearances to qualify for the award, but he trails only the Astros Michael Brantley (.325) in the American League. Neither Carew nor Gwynn would win their second award for another three seasons but then did pull off a run of multiple years in a row. Hoping that Arraez takes crowns year over year before grabbing his first is putting the cart before the horse, but it’s clear the recipe is there. Carew had virtually the same strikeout to walk tallies, while Gwynn loaded up on free passes and went back to the dugout just over half as often. Minnesota’s two-bagger owns the same on-base percentage as the Padres legend, and the parallels run deep between this threesome. If we can separate career expectations from production viewed at the moment in time, it’s fun to see just how closely this trio is related. There’s a lot of career left for Luis Arraez, and as long as the knee issues subside or stay at bay, there’s plenty of reason to believe that one thing he’ll always do is hit for average. Maybe Minnesota wasn’t banking on him working out like this, but he’s made his mark and established it as truth. This is the type of guy you describe as rolling out of bed and being ready to hit. He’ll continue to put up the numbers in a Twins uniform, and one can only hope that there’s a shoulder full of batting titles at rest when it’s all said and done. Make no mistake about it, comparing Arraez to the best average hitters of All-Time is fairer than you may think. He’s got the goods, and they keep on coming. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. From 2013-2018 Brian Dozier played in nearly 900 games and blasted 161 homers for the Twins as their primary second basemen. He took time to settle into the role and changed his approach at the plate, but became an All-Star in 2015 and earned top-15 votes each of the next two seasons. In 2016-17 Dozier combined to hit 76 dingers with an .871 OPS. For a position often seen as an afterthought in the infield, he’d become a beacon of strength. Fast-forward to where we are now, and the Twins have successfully passed the torch to a new pair of talents. Signed to an extension in 2019, Jorge Polanco is potentially under team control through the 2025 season. He dealt with an ankle injury that changed his abilities drastically, but now with a clean bill of health, he looks like one of the best in baseball at the position. Since June 1 this season, Polanco owns a .926 OPS. He was a first-time All-Star in 2019 and has posted an .806 OPS over the past three seasons, even with the dismal 2020 factored in. There were always legitimate concerns regarding Polanco’s range and arm at shortstop. It was a position he had played often, but one he was ultimately miscast in. Sliding over to second base full time this season, Twins coaches talked up the fact that not only would his bat play, but his glove may find gold there. It’s safe to say the experiment has been wildly successful, and the return to offensive prowess is a welcomed shot in the arm. Recently turning 28-years-old, it’s fair to assume Polanco’s best seasons are still ahead of him, and for a Twins team looking to rebound, that’s a great thing to dream on. Then there’s the opposite but an equally successful type of player at second base for the Twins. Luis Arraez may be the second coming of Rod Carew, and he’s here to challenge for a batting title on an annual basis. Nagging knee injuries have kept him off the field at times, but the bat has remained intact when he’s out there. A .317 average this season marks a career-low, but it’s continued to rise, and the .325 mark across his first 205 big-league games is nothing to scoff at. Arraez will never play with the power that either Dozier or Polanco has, and he’s more Dozier (Gold Glove’s are offensive awards sometimes) than Polanco with the leather, but calling second his primary home helps to push this narrative. Luis has done well for himself by establishing utility around the diamond, but make no mistake that the pipeline Minnesota has pushed here is impressive. Add in that Nick Gordon is beginning to realize some of his potential in the big leagues, a converted shortstop moving to the first base side, and this situation continues to be worth monitoring. Spencer Steer is another name down on the farm that’s pushing his way towards the top and watching the Twins develop these athletes is exciting. Second base is often considered the fallback for a shortstop with a lackluster arm. Be that what it may, but Minnesota isn’t simply throwing out good defenders that have little other tools at the position. Rocco Baldelli has employed lineups that can do damage, and even before the current skipper got here, second base has become an area of strength in the system. Maybe Jorge Polanco pushes for the best in baseball title down the line, but even if he doesn’t, he’s currently headlining an impressive position group within this organization. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Box Score Barnes: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 5R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K Home Runs: Polanco (18) Bottom 3 WPA: Barnes (-0.299), Sano (-0.259), Rooker (-0.215) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Jorge Polanco Gets the Twins on the Board Early Just a matter of hours after hitting the game winning home run in the top of the ninth in Tuesday night’s ballgame, Jorge Polanco went deep again in the first inning of today’s game, giving the Twins the early 1-0 lead. Polanco had another good performance at the plate again today, as he would go 2-for-4 with a walk. Charlie Barnes Gets the Nod for Second Career Start 25-year-old Charlie Barns began the game on the mound this afternoon for the Twins. In his only previous start, the 2017 4th round pick out of Clemson did well, as he only allowed one run, on a solo shot, over four innings of work to the Detroit Tigers back on July 17th. Things went well for Burns to begin the ballgame. He gave up a leadoff single to Jonathan India, who has lived up to the hype so far as the former 5th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft was recently named the NL Rookie of the Month for July. That would be no trouble for Burns, however, as he got Jesse Winker to flyout to left before Kyle Farmer grounded into a double play to end the inning. In the second, Burns gave up a two out single to Eugenio Suarez, but other than that looked sharp. The third inning is where things got away from Burns. Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama singled to begin the inning, before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt from Reds pitcher Luis Castillo. Burns then got Jonathan India to strikeout and appeared to be on the cusp of getting out of the inning with no damage done. That would not be the case, however, as the next four Reds batters went walk, single, double, single and before you knew it they had a 4-1 lead. The Reds would tack on another run against Charlie Burns in the fourth. After Aristides Aquino flew out to begin the inning, Burns issued a one out walk to Shogo Akiyama. The Reds then executed National League style baseball to perfection, as they had Luis Castillo sacrifice him over to second and Jonathan India came through with a clutch two out single to give the Red the 5-1 lead. Juan Minaya Strikes Out Five in Two Innings of Relief Work A week removed from his outing against Detroit in the emphamis 17-14 Twins loss, where Juan Minaya was cruising until everything fell apart on him in the ninth, Rocco Baldelli learned his lesson and only left Minaya in for two innings of work. The outing did not get off to a great start for Juan Minaya, as he walked both Kyle Farmer and Joey Votto to leadoff the fifth. However, after a mound visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson, Minaya found his rhythm as he struck out each of the next three batters to get out of the inning. Minaya would follow that up with another scoreless inning in the sixth, where he gave up a two out double to Jonathan India, but struck out two more hitters, including Jesse Winker to get out of the inning unscathed. Reds Add Crucial Insurance Run in the 7th After an excellent outing from Juan Minaya, Rocco Baldelli turned to Beau Burrows in the seventh, with the Twins still trailing 5-1 at the time. Burrows looked decent in the inning, as he retired three of the four batters he faced. Unfortunately for the Twins, the loan batter he failed to get out was Tyler Stephenson, who took Burrows deep to center field giving the Reds a 6-1 lead. While it may not have seemed like it at the time, that run would be monumental just an inning later. Twins Comeback Effort Falls Short With the Twins trailing 6-1 entering the eighth inning, it seemed as though the game was getting out of reach of the Twins if they didn’t get something going with the bats in a hurry, and that is exactly what they did. Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez leadoff the inning with a couple of walks, before Miguel Sano laced an opposite field double into right, bringing Polanco around to score and advancing Arraez to third. The Reds then went to the bullpen and brought in Luis Cessa to face Trevor Larnach, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at that point in the game. That would change quickly, though, as Larnach delivered with a ground ball double that was just fair down the first baseline, bringing around both Arraez and Sano to score. With Nick Gordon up with Trevor Larnach on second, and the Twins now down by just two with still nobody out, they seemed primed to finish off the big comeback right here. Gordon would wind up advancing Larnach to third on a groundout, before Ryan Jeffers brought him in with a one out single. The Reds would go to the bullpen once again, this time bringing in Michael Lorenzen. With the pitcher’s spot in the order due up, Josh Donaldson made an appearance as a pinch hitter, but he would fail to help the cause as he struck out for the second out of the inning. It was then Max Kepler’s turn, who would come up with a big double of his own. Despite being two outs in the inning, Ryan Jeffers was unable to score for first and was held up at third. While Jeffers being not the most fleet of foot base runners did not help, credit the Reds defense for getting the ball back in so quickly and forcing Tony Diaz to put the stop sign up for Jeffers as he rounded third. This put the pressure on an already 0-for-4 Brent Rooker to come up with a big two out hit. However, things did not turn out the Twins' way, as Rooker struck out to end the scoring threat. The Twins would have another chance in the top of the ninth with Polanco, Arraez and Sano due up. Polanco put up a good battle, but eventually struck out on a 3-2 pitch. Luis Arraez then did his job as he got on base with a one out single. Nothing came of that however, as Miguel Sano would immediately ground into a double play to end the ballgame. Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Coulombe 0 21 0 13 0 34 Burrows 0 45 0 0 13 58 Gant 0 16 0 22 0 38 Colomé 16 0 0 20 0 36 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Alcala 21 0 0 0 0 21 Minaya 18 0 0 0 44 62 Thielbar 14 0 0 0 22 36 Postgame Interviews What's Next The Twins will travel to Houston to face the Astros in a four-game series beginning Thursday night at 7:10 p.m. CDT. Griffen Jax (6.41 ERA) is scheduled to be on the mound against Astros starter Framber Valdez (3.01 ERA).
  15. After Mitch Garver and Nelson Cruz took home the prestigious title in May and June, respectively, we will have a new award winner for the month of July. Before we announce the winner, let’s look at a group of honorable mentions for the month. Honorable Mention #3: Luis Arraez Arraez missed some time in July, otherwise he’d be higher on this list, but he was still one of the most productive Twins of the month. In the month of July, he had the highest batting average (.373) and on-base percentage (.415) of his career in months where he had at least 40 at-bats. Due to the time he’s missed this year, he’s currently about 50 plate appearances short of being a qualified hitter but he would rank 13th in the league in batting average if he had the minimum number of plate appearances. He gets bonus points for the crafty slide he showed on July 19th against the Chicago White Sox Honorable Mention #2: Josh Donaldson At 35-years-old, it’s safe to assume that Donaldson’s MVP days are behind him but that was probably an unfair bar to hold him to in the first place. Over the last two months, Donaldson has been one of the Twins best hitters smashing 11 homeruns with a .929 OPS. Although Donaldson slowed a bit in July and missed some time, he still accrued 0.5 fWAR with three homeruns and a .854 OPS. Included in his three home runs from the month was this 446 foot moon shot against off of José Cisnero where he broke through some career milestones. Honorable Mention #1: Max Kepler Kepler has struggled since his impressive 2019 season, but he hit well in July hitting one double, one triple, and a team-leading eight homeruns. He ended the month slashing .228/.290/.522 with a wRC+ of 118. Most notably, he became the all-time leader in walk off hits with this bloop against the Tigers that scored utility pinch runner Kenta Maeda in extras. Many thought that Kepler might get traded at the deadline and it even sounds like they had some preliminary talks with the Yankees. Alas, he’ll keep manning Centerfield and Right Field for the foreseeable future as the Twins begin a (hopefully) mini rebuild. Hitter of the Month: Jorge Polanco This was quite easy. In the month of July, Polanco slashed .327/.366/.548 with a wRC+ of 149 and this is now two plus months of solid play from the Twins second baseman. It seems that part of Polanco’s rebound can be thanks to a healthy ankle, and I wonder if shifting to second is a little easier on the joint. Regardless, this is an important development for a player who is under contract until 2024-2025 and could theoretically be a contributor to the next competitive window for the Twins.
  16. Box Score Bailey Ober: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (64 pitches, 44 strikes (68.8%)) Home Runs: Jeffers (9), Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (0.126), Bailey Ober (0.117), Miguel Sano (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Return of Arraez Before Saturday’s game, the Twins announced that Luis Arraez was being activated from the Injured List. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A St. Paul (will he finally make his Saints debut?). He was put into the cleanup spot in the Twins lineup. It paid immediate dividends for the team. In the first inning, he came up with runners on second and third base. He gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. He added another RBI his second time up. With runners on first and second, he hit a double down the right field line. He added a walk later in the game. Bailey’s Big Hit Bailey Ober had not had an at-bat in a baseball game in eight years, since he and Vikings center Garrett Bradbury were starring at Charlotte Christian High School in North Carolina. He stepped to the plate, and on an 0-1 pitch, lined a single to right field for his first big-league hit. OK, softly lined a single to right field. It doesn’t matter. Congratulations to Ober! The Twins' pitchers haven’t had a lot of hits of late. More importantly, Bailey Ober pitched well. He began with three scoreless innings, and then in the fourth, he gave up a run but was able to limit damage with a big double play ball. Despite a 7-1 lead, Ober was due to bat for the third time but Willians Astudillo pinch hit and grounded a single through the infield to give the Twins an 8-1 lead. Ober’s fastball sat between 92 and 93 mph, but he is able to get swings and misses with it up in the strike zone. Why? As important, the Twins bullpen combined for five shutout innings. Jorge Alcala worked two innings, and then Caleb Thielbar, Juan Minaya and Alexander Colome each pitched one inning. (see the bullpen usage chart below) Jeffers Jolts In the third inning, Ryan Jeffers came to the plate and hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 7-0 lead. It was his ninth homer of the season, but it was his third in his past two starts. Remember, he had two homers in that crazy, 17-14 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday. In his past nine games, Jeffers is 9-for-29 (.310) with two doubles, three homers and an OPS north of 1.000). Since returning from the IL, Mitch Garver has played in five games and hit .278 (1.324 OPS) with two doubles, three homers and ten RBI. After both struggled mightily at the plate in April, Twins fans are now seeing what we thought we might from the Twins catching duo. It feels appropriate to talk about the performance of Twins catchers on a night when Hall of Fame catcher Ted Simmons' number was retired by the Cardinals and a statue of his likeness was unveiled outside the stadium. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Coulombe 0 10 0 0 23 0 33 Thielbar 13 16 0 0 0 14 43 Alcala 0 11 0 0 0 21 32 Gant 0 0 24 0 0 0 24 Colomé 16 0 0 0 0 16 32 Minaya 0 0 45 0 0 18 63 Duffey 11 7 0 0 32 0 50 Burrows 0 0 63 0 0 0 63
  17. What's Their Situation? The Toronto Blue Jays entered the 2020 offseason with a clear goal in mind: return to the American League playoffs in 2021 and make some noise. The first step in attempting to accomplish this task was bringing in veteran offensive talent to complement young studs Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, so they went out and spent big on shortstop Marcus Semien (1-year, $18 million) and outfielder George Springer (6-years, $150 million). The next step was to shore up the starting rotation, so they brought back Robbie Ray on a 1-year, $8 million deal and consummated a trade with the New York Mets for Steven Matz. The final step was to bet that their aforementioned young core would take the next step in their development and become legitimate All-Star talent. To this point, the Jays' plan has gone exceptionally well. While Springer has only appeared in 20 games due to oblique and quadriceps injuries, and Matz has mainly been mediocre (4.72 ERA), Toronto finds themselves in third place in the AL East and within striking distance of an AL Wild Card spot with 75 games remaining on their schedule. For this reason, in addition to the fact that they are hoping to (conveniently) return to the Bold North by July 30, there is perhaps no team more compelled to make a significant trade or two in the coming weeks than Toronto. What Do They Need? The Jays' offense was among the most fearsome in baseball during the first half of the season as they ranked second overall in home runs (130), OPS (.776), and OPS+ (110). Guerrero has officially completed his metamorphosis into one of the game's most feared sluggers, leading the team with 28 bombs and an absurd 1.089 OPS. Semien's production isn't far behind with his 22 homers and 4.3 WAR, and neither is Bichette's 16 dingers and 3.0 WAR. In all, the three form the foundation of a lineup that will leave any opposing pitchers shaking in their cleats should they qualify for the playoffs. While it may not be their greatest need, Toronto would likely benefit greatly from adding a fourth outfielder or a super-utility player that can slot into one of the corner outfield spots on occasion. Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. all have nice pop and are deserving to be full-time starters, but they sometimes struggle with reaching base consistently. Jonathan Davis, the Jays' primary fourth outfielder as of this writing, and his -0.3 WAR leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, adding someone who can spell Cavan Biggio and his mediocre production at third base (.699 OPS) would be all the more valuable for Toronto. One could also argue that Toronto could benefit from buying a pure DH-type bat, but doing so would be more of a luxury than addressing a glaring need. If they believe Guerrero can be a passable first baseman and there will be enough at-bats for everybody once Springer returns to the lineup, pursuing DH options becomes much more palatable. Otherwise, Toronto would likely be better off seeking to remedy more pressing needs. Speaking of which: What the Jays truly need is pitching, particularly in the bullpen. General manager Ross Atkins told reporters in mid-June that the team would focus on adding bullpen arms as the season progressed and, so far, he has kept to his word. Toronto has already swapped first baseman Rowdy Tellez and second baseman Joe Panik for Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber to shore up the pen. (The Jays also added outfielder Corey Dickerson, though he has yet to appear in a game due to injury and a return date remains murky at best.) Still, Toronto would benefit from adding another arm, particularly one that could slot in alongside standout closer Jordan Romano in save situations and close scores late in games. Additionally, it may behoove the Jays to add one more starting pitcher. Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray have performed like legitimate number one and two options to date, but some degree of regression is inevitable. Adding a true ace or a competent number four starter would put them in a position to improve their pitching unit significantly. As a team, Toronto ranks 12th in ERA (3.99), 11th in ERA+ (112), and 16th in FIP (4.28). Which Twins Are the Best Fit? It wouldn't surprise me if reports started popping up that the Jays are among the most aggressive teams trying to pry Taylor Rogers away from the Twins. The fit makes too much sense. Toronto needs a lockdown bullpen arm, and Rogers will likely be the best reliever on the market. Add that he is left-handed while Romano is right-handed, and the fit becomes even more apparent. Similarly, Toronto is one of the more obvious landing spots for José Berríos should the Twins choose to move him. They need a pitcher with ace-level potential who lines up with the timeline of their young core. They also have a great farm system when looking strictly at their top 10 prospects, making them an ideal trade partner for the Twins. Finally, Luis Arraez's emergence as a super-utility man this season makes him a fantastic fit for Toronto. His ability to get on base would have Guerrero and company salivating, while his defensive versatility would allow for off-days for most of the Jays' primary offensive contributors. He may not be great anywhere, but Arraez is serviceable almost everywhere, and that has value. Michael Pineda, Hansel Robles, and Caleb Thielbar are also potential targets for Toronto should they seek to make a big splash elsewhere or not at all. Who Could the Twins Get Back? The Jays boast six prospects inside MLB Pipeline's top 100, headlined by No. 9 RHP Nate Pearson and No. 16 UTIL Austin Martin. Both players, including No. 90 RHP Alek Manoah, who has performed well for Toronto since being called up, are likely off-limits, even in a trade involving Berríos. Perhaps the most exciting prospect they could pry away from Toronto is No. 68 RHP Simeon Woods Richardson. Woods Richardson, who is currently pitching in Double-A at 20-years-old, stands 6-foot-3-inches tall and possesses four pitches - a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup - that are considered plus offerings. He has reasonable control and fits the physical profile that the Twins like in their pitching prospects (i.e. tall and athletic). In a best-case scenario, Woods Richardson develops into a José Berríos-Esque pitcher, making losing him more palatable for the Twins. An intriguing name that may be included in a deal for any of the three players listed above is utility man Otto Lopez. He's young, versatile on defense, has good bat-to-ball skills, and some power potential. Thus far, his power has primarily presented itself as a propensity to hit doubles, but a tweak here or there could turn that double power into home run power. Other prospects the Twins could potentially ask for are SS Jordan Groshans, ARHP Adam Kloffenstein, and CRHP CJ Van Eyk. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Mitch Garver: .497 xwOBAcon What makes Garver’s injury tough to swallow is how well he had been hitting at the plate. His Statcast numbers point to this improvement even after his slow start to the season. For those unfamiliar, xOBAcon uses three variables: exit velocity (EV), launch angle (LA), and sprint speed. Garver’s exit velocity and launch angle have allowed him to spray the ball all over the field. He currently ranks in the top 6% of the league in xwOBAcon so the hope is he can return sooner rather than later. As Rocco Baldelli alluded to after Tuesday’s game, it’s hard to imagine he will be behind the plate anytime soon. Luis Arraez: .308 xBA Arraez is another player the Twins are missing on the IL. During his big-league career, Arraez has been known for his bat to ball skills with many thinking a batting title is in the realm of possibility for him. Expected batting average (xBA) is a metric that measures the likelihood a batted ball will become a hit. Sometimes a player gets lucky, and ball falls in for a hit and other times a hard-hit ball ends up being an out. Arraez currently has a .277 batting average, but his xBA is over 30 points higher as he ranks in the top 3% of the league. Arraez provides an energy at the plate and the Twins offense has been struggling to find energy in recent weeks with him out of the line-up Andrelton Simmons: 9 Outs Above Average The Twins signed Simmons to provide a defensive upgrade and he has certainly come as advertised on that side of the ball. Only three players have produced an outs above average total of nine as Simmons is joined by Matt Chapman and Nick Ahmed. His recent play has moved him up this list so it will be intriguing to see if he can stay healthy and producing on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, his strikeout numbers have made him a disappointment on the offensive side, but he might be on his way to winning another Gold Glove. As a veteran with an expiring contract, the only question that remains is whether or not he is with the Twins after July. Nelson Cruz: 10.5 Barrels/Plate Appearance % Like Simmons, Cruz struggled mightily in the month of May, but this was on the heels of a torrid stretch at season’s start. Only five AL batters have a higher Barrels/PA % than Cruz and that isn’t the only Statcast metric where he ranks near the top of the league. He ranks well in barrel % (Top 7%), max exit velocity (Top 1%), and hard hit % (top 5%). His xwOBA over his last 100 plate appearances is dropping faster than Rob Refsynder running into the outfield wall in Baltimore. Is age catching up to Cruz or will he be able to solve his offensive woes? Which one of these Statcast numbers stands out the most to you? 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
  19. Sano’s Slow Start Miguel Sano entered the 2021 season as the team’s first baseman, and he seemed locked into that spot after signing an extension entering the 2020 campaign. Prior to his injury, Sano was trying to find himself at the plate. He is hitting .111/.310/.244 (.555) with two extra-base hits, both home runs. One positive among these numbers is the fact that he has already drawn 13 walks, which is just five fewer than his walk total in 53 games last year. Sano is typically among the league leaders when it comes to average exit velocity, hard hit %, and barrel %. During the 2020 campaign, he ranked in the 99th percentile or higher in all three of those areas. This season he is at the completely opposite end of the spectrum with all three being below average. His hard hit % might be the most concerning as that has dipped to the 8th percentile. Kirilloff’s Emergence For most of his professional career, Alex Kirilloff has played in the outfield, but the Twins have been grooming him to get more time at first base. Sano’s trip to the disabled list has allowed Kirilloff to play first on a more regular basis and he is considered a better defender than Sano. In fact, Minnesota might have one of their best defensive infields in team history with Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco, and Kirilloff. It also helps that Kirilloff has been killing the ball even though the results weren’t showing up until this past weekend. Among batters with at least 25 batted ball events, Kirilloff has been barreling up the ball at a higher rate than any player in baseball including Byron Buxton. His hit tool has always been advanced, and he might be putting it all together at the big-league level as a 23-year-old. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1389277969785425924?s=20 Besides Kirilloff’s emergence, the Twins also need to continue to find regular playing time for another key player. The Arraez Puzzle Arraez was penciled in as the team’s utility player, but he has become an everyday player. Only two players, Jake Cave and Nelson Cruz, have appeared in more games than Arraez. He has played regularly in the outfield and at multiple infield positions. He started the season on a strong note at the plate, but his bat has cooled off as the first month progressed and now he is heading to the concussion IL. Injuries have allowed Arraez to be in the line-up on a regular basis and finding spots in the line-up tends to work itself out over the course of 162-games. Other players are going to get injured, and Rocco Baldelli prefers to give players regular days off. This means the Twins can rotate through players at multiple positions, especially with the team’s defensive flexibility. When everyone is healthy, Minnesota’s best line-up doesn’t include Sano. That being said, he will continue to be used at first base and designated hitter as the season progresses. It just might be tough for him to refine his offensive approach if Kirilloff continues to get at-bats at first base. What do you think Sano’s role will be moving forward? 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
  20. 5. Josh Donaldson (0.7 rWAR, 0.5 fWAR) .286/.368/.469 (.838), 2 HR, 3 2B, 7 BB, 5 K There are plenty of candidates to be on the back end of this ballot. Andrelton Simmons put together some strong numbers, but he missed time due to COVID. Taylor Rogers was a one of the lone bright spots in the bullpen, while Michael Pineda and Jose Berrios provided value in the rotation. However, Donaldson gets the nod after getting on base nearly 37% of the time and having more walks than strikeouts. His current 144 OPS+ is his highest total since the 2017 season. Many Twins fans would like to see him leading this list, but he ended the month healthy and that’s certainly a positive sign <knock on wood>. 4. J.A. Happ (0.6 rWAR, 0.2 fWAR) 2-0, 1.96 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 13 K, 7 BB, 199 ERA+ Other pitchers rank higher than him in WAR, but Happ’s value has come from what he has meant to the rotation this year. Happ took the mound on April 23rd with the team in the middle of a stretch where they had lost nine out of ten games. He took a no-hitter into the late innings and helped the club to their first victory in over a week. Minnesota lost the next four games before Happ took the mound again and righted the ship. He’s been a steadying veteran presence when the team has needed one the most. 3. Luis Arraez (1.0 rWAR, 0.9 fWAR) .289/.400/.373 (.773), 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 14 BB, 11 K Arraez started the season on fire by hitting safely in six of the team’s first eight games including three multi-hit games. On April 15, he almost single-handedly brought the Twins a victory by going 4-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Over his last 12 games, things haven’t gone as smooth. He’s gone 10-for-40 (.250 BA) during that stretch with two extra-base hits. Defensively, he’s also being moved all over the diamond including getting accustom to playing in the outfield for the first time in his career. If Arraez would have continued his hot start, he might have been higher on this list. 2. Nelson Cruz (1.1 rWAR, 1.1 fWAR) .321/.375/.655 (1.030), 8 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B(!!), 7 BB, 16 K Cruz, the team’s back-to-back team MVP, is right up there in the running again. Oh yeah, he’s also 40-years-old. He’s tied for second in the league in home runs and he is quietly climbing the all-time home run list. His next two home runs will move him into the top-50 all-time. If he ends the year with 30 homers, he’d jump to 41st all-time. If he can hit 40 homers, he’d move into 38th place. Even without defensive value, he provides leadership on and off the field and that’s one of the biggest reasons the Twins wanted to bring him back for the 2021 campaign. https://twitter.com/betsyhelfand/status/1388963798367801358?s=20 1. Byron Buxton (2.4 rWAR, 2.3 fWAR) .408/.444/.842 (1.287), 8 HR, 9 2B, 3 BB, 17 K By many accounts, Buxton just completed the best month in Twins’ history as his 1.363 OPS was higher than Joe Mauer’s (1.338 OPS) in 2009 and Rod Carew’s (1.313 OPS) in 1977. Good news is that Mauer and Carew would both go on to win MVPs in those seasons. Buxton might be on the same path as he leads the American League in WAR and slugging percentage. His defense continues to be otherworldly and his changes to his offensive approach look to be sustainable. Can he stay healthy? Can he play over 145 games? Those are questions that still remain to be answered. How would your ballot look at the end of the season’s first month? 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. Weekly Snapshot: Thurs, 4/1 through Sun, 4/4 *** Record Last Week: 2-1 (Overall: 2-1) Run Differential Last Week: +7 (Overall: +7) Standing: T-1st Place in AL Central Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 1 | MIL 6, MIN 5: Twins Blow 3-Run Lead in 9th Inning Game 2 | MIN 2, MIL 0: Take a Bow, José Berríos Game 3 | MIN 8, MIL 2: Arraez Reaches 5 Times, Twins Take Series NEWS & NOTES An opening series victory in Milwaukee brought plenty of glowing positives, but also a familiar feeling of dread as Minnesota's two most critical players – Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton – still can't seem to stay on the field. Donaldson made it through only one plate appearance before his balky legs acted up once again. A tight hamstring disrupted his stride while he rounded first base on a double in Thursday's opener, and Donaldson was removed before taking the field at third base. The diagnosis is relatively encouraging, in that it wasn't calf-related and the Twins emphasized the "mild" nature of the injury ... but still. This is a gutting development right off the bat. Buxton lasted slightly longer before being removed from a game, but not by much. He exited Sunday's contest in the third inning, although fans were able to breathe a big sigh of relief upon learning he was lifted due to non-COVID illness. Donaldson went on the Injured List and was replaced on the roster by Brent Rooker, who made his season debut on Sunday in place of Buxton. Presumably Buck should be back within the next day or two. Still, to have both players already knocked out of games in a season where the big narrative is "What can the Twins do if they keep JD and Buck on the field for any length of time" is almost unreal. What's most unfortunate is that both players looked so good prior to these incidents. Donaldson hit a 112 MPH rocket into the gap in his lone at-bat, and Buxton's been on an absolute tear out of the gates. Which feels like a good place to start the next section. HIGHLIGHTS Before leaving Sunday's game, Buxton ripped a 98 MPH double in his first AB, tallying his third extra-base hit already. The first was a majestic moonshot on Opening Day that should've sealed a win (longest HR of Buxton's career), and the second home run on Saturday broke up a no-hitter by Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, ultimately proving decisive in Minnesota's 2-0 victory. After slugging .534 with 23 home runs in 126 games over the past two years, Buxton is making an emphatic early statement that his power breakthrough is entirely legitimate. His hot start, combined with the injury to Donaldson and unavailability of Nelson Cruz, quickly elevated the center fielder to No. 3 hitter, and Buck looked the part. He wasn't the only one who looked like a natural at a new spot in the order. Luis Arraez batted leadoff in each of the first three games, and it sure seems like he's gonna stick there. He reached base nine times in the series, including five times in Sunday's finale. He's sporting a healthy .600 on-base percentage after three games. Although his defense at the hot corner may be somewhat questionable, Arraez is an absolute godsend in the absence of Donaldson, allowing the Twins to replace one of their most crucial players in the lineup with an amazing hitter and essential sparkplug. The team's decision to designate him essentially as a 10th man is already looking very savvy, dramatically lessening the blow of Donaldson's loss. Beyond Buxton and Arraez, there were plenty of other offensive highlights, including Max Kepler's clutch hitting, Mitch Garver's awakening, and some encouraging signs from Miguel Sanó. But the resounding positive coming out of this series is starting pitching. José Berríos was unbelievable on Saturday night, spinning the gem of his career with six no-hit innings and 12 strikeouts. With his fastball pumping 95-96 consistently and his breaking ball giving hitters fits, Berríos retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced, with an HBP the only blemish in his brilliant performance. While they weren't quite as overwhelmingly impressive, Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda also deserve credit for high-caliber first turns in the rotation. The fielders behind them weren't always helpful (more on that in a moment), and Maeda especially was not at his sharpest, but both starters were effective, combining to allow just one earned run in 9 ⅓ innings with 10 strikeouts. The path to a 100-win season for the Twins this year lies in getting consistently strong starting pitching, day in day out, and letting the rest take care of itself. So far, so good on that front. LOWLIGHTS The Twins revamped their roster during the offseason with a clear objective in mind: upgrade to a world-class defense that can uplift the pitching staff and cut down on costly miscues. So far, not so good on that front. The series in Milwaukee featured a medley of gaffes and blunders. Andrelton Simmons dropped a force-out thrown right into his glove. Jorge Polanco muffed a routine grounder. Alex Colomé committed a mental and physical error with a wayward throw to second on Thursday. Later that inning, Kepler failed to secure a deep drive to right despite getting leather on it. Certainly not the hallmarks of a stalwart defensive club, although it's wise not to overreact at this stage, and there were some nifty plays mixed in as well. The disappointing glovework, and Colomé's ninth-inning meltdown in the opener, were really the only significant rough spots in this series, since the Twins outplayed Milwaukee quite thoroughly otherwise. TRENDING STORYLINE We've gotten past the known commodities in the Twins rotation. Maeda, Berríos and Pineda all looked good, but that's nothing new. They powered this starting staff to stellar results last year. Now, we'll get a look at the new guys. Matt Shoemaker is set to make his Twins debut on Monday, followed by J.A. Happ on Tuesday. Shoemaker will be looking to shake off a rough spring, where he posted a 6.57 ERA and allowed four homers in 12 ⅓ innings, while Happ will be looking to go as deep as he can following a COVID-shortened ramp-up. Expect to see some Randy Dobnak in the days ahead, and possibly some roster moves (position player out, pitcher in?) as the Twins aim to keep fresh arms stocked while escaping from NL rules. LOOKING AHEAD With interleague play in the rearview (for now), the Twins will welcome Cruz back to their starting lineup on Monday in Detroit, where they kick off a three-game series against the worst team in the division. Of note: in an early-season scheduling quirk, all three games at Detroit are noon starts. On Thursday, Target Field will welcome back fans for the first time in 18 months. It promises to be a very special occasion. With six games on tap against two of the worst teams in the league, this should hopefully be a chance for the Twins to flex their muscles a bit. MONDAY, 4/5: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Matt Shoemaker v. RHP Jose Urena TUESDAY, 4/6: TWINS @ TIGERS – LHP J.A. Happ v. RHP Casey Mize WEDNESDAY, 4/7: TWINS @ TIGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Matthew Boyd THURSDAY, 4/8: MARINERS @ TWINS – LHP Marco Gonzales v. RHP Jose Berrios SATURDAY, 4/10: MARINERS @ TWINS – RHP Yusei Kikuchi v. RHP Michael Pineda SUNDAY, 4/11: MARINERS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Flexen v. RHP Matt Shoemaker MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Catcher Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are penciled in to get the majority of the innings behind the plate. However, Willians Astudillo is making the Opening Day roster and he can be used occasionally at catcher. Garver and Astudillo’s bats are strong enough that they may be used at other defensive positions as well. Jeffers is the best defensive catcher as his pitch framing skills are among baseball’s best. First Base Miguel Sano is set to be the primary first baseman, but his long-term role might end up being DH. Reports praise Alex Kirilloff and his athleticism at first, but he is starting the year in the minor leagues. Mitch Garver might be the team’s best back-up option at first until Kirilloff is called up. Max Kepler and Willians Astudillo also have some experience at first, but the Twins can get creative and use other players at first. Second Base Jorge Polanco has shifted from shortstop to second base, but he certainly isn’t anchored at that position. Luis Arraez will see time at second along with Astudillo. It is going to be intriguing to see how good Polanco can be in his transition to a new position. His previous defensive flaws won’t be magnified as much at second and some think he can be above average at second. Third Base As Twins fans saw last season, Josh Donaldson might not be able to be in the line-up for 162-games. Baldelli will need to find days off for him to get rest as he continues to age. Sano has the most experience at third among Twins players and the team sounds open to him making periodic starts at the hot corner. Arraez and Astudillo will also get opportunities at third. Shortstop If Andrelton Simmons is in the line-up, he is going to be the starting shortstop, because he has proven to be one of the best defenders at that position in baseball history. On the Opening Day roster, Polanco is the most likely player to take over if Simmons needs a day off. On the team’s official depth chart, Arraez is listed as the third option at short, but that would be in an emergency situation. Left Field One of the biggest question marks entering spring was who would take over for Eddie Rosario. Minnesota’s initial answer will be a platoon of Kyle Garlick and Jake Cave. Brent Rooker and Kirilloff were in the mix, but they didn’t make the club. Arraez has a chance to make starts in left, but he has very limited outfield experience and that inexperience showed itself during the spring. Center Field Much like shortstop, Byron Buxton is the primary center fielder, but he isn’t the club’s only option. Kepler has shown the ability to fill in nicely and he is an underrated defender in center. Also, Cave has experience starting in center even if he is the worst defender of the three. Right Field Max Kepler is one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball and he should start here on a regular basis. Many of the same options from left field can fill in for Kepler if he is needed in center field or if he needs rest. Garlick and Cave can shift to either corner spot so that adds even more flexibility. How many different defensive alignments will Baldelli use in 2021? What’s the team’s best defensive line-up? 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
  23. The Incumbent: Max Kepler Last season, Kepler batted leadoff in 34 of the team’s 60 games and he was used there for over 100 games back in 2019. There’s a good chance he is the leader in the clubhouse to be the team’s primary leadoff hitter unless his performance struggles significantly. He hit .281/.324/.625 last year in his at-bats as the first batter in the game. That’s quite the punch for opposing pitchers to have to endure out of the gate. The Contenders: Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver Buxton’s raw speed makes him a natural contender to be at the top of the line-up and there has been talk of him filling that role during different parts of his professional development. That being said, he’s only been used as a leadoff hitter in 15 games throughout his career. Obviously, that’s a small sample size, but he has gone 5-for-15 with two home runs and a double in the first at-bat of the game as a leadoff hitter. Overall, as the first batter, he has a .670 OPS and the Twins seem more comfortable having him serve as a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the line-up. If Polanco’s ankles are healthy, he might be able to get back to his strong hitting fans saw back in the first half of 2019. He’s seen time batting in every spot in the order, but the majority of his time has been spent as the number two hitter where he has an .823 OPS. He does have 160 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot where he has hit .284/.313/.351 with a 21 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio. Rocco Baldelli will likely slide Polanco back into the number two spot in the line-up. Arraez is adjusting to a new role this spring without a specific spot in the starting line-up. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get regular at-bats and few players bring energy to the batter’s box like Arraez. So far in his young career, Arraez has been most frequently used as the number six hitter. In his 17 games batting in the leadoff spot, he has hit .354/.386/.415 with four doubles. As the first batter of the game, he has gone 5-for-13 with a .928 OPS. Garver definitely doesn’t fit the traditional leadoff hitter mold, but Baldelli has loved to use Garver in this role versus left-handed starting pitchers. He’s started 30 games as the leadoff hitter, and he’s compiled some eye-popping numbers. In 141 plate appearances, he’s hit .277/.376/.630 with 12 home runs and four doubles. While those numbers are great, Garver is going to have to prove he is healthy and back to his powerful hitting ways in 2021. Who would you bat leadoff? 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
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