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  1. Earlier this week, ESPN’s baseball writing team identified the most watchable teams and players so far this season. The article featured Twins in multiple spots, including being named one of the must-see teams. Minnesota was identified as a team to watch “if you love seeing an experiment in action.” Overall, the premise is the Twins decided not to rebuild after a last-place finish and began rebuilding a competitive roster. Here are four experiments that have worked out well for the Twins. The Superstar Experiment Minnesota was never supposed to be in the market for Carlos Correa, but many pieces fell into place this winter. The Twins used the money saved from the Josh Donaldson trade to sign Correa to a unique contract. Both players bring vastly different personalities to the clubhouse, and those differences may be helping the team’s clubhouse chemistry this season. Twins fans are well aware that Correa can opt out of his contract at the season’s end, and that’s another part of this Twins experiment. Can a superstar player help a team win even without previous or future ties to the organization? The Closer Experiment Taylor Rogers was entering his final year of team control, and the Twins front office traded him just hours before Opening Day. One can debate whether or not that was the right decision, especially now that Chris Paddack underwent his second Tommy John surgery. However, the Twins received Emilio Pagan to add to the bullpen, and the team had a secret weapon in waiting. ESPN named Jhoan Duran one of their pitchers to watch because of his unique splinker. When added with his triple-digit fastball, Duran is one of baseball’s most dominant arms. Minnesota has been careful with his transition to the bullpen, so it will be interesting to see how his role changes throughout the year. The First Base Experiment The Twins started the year with a plan to use Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff at first base . Unfortunately, Minnesota got little to no production out of this position as both players dealt with injuries and poor play. So, the front office had to get creative and try another experiment. Players that are 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds aren’t supposed to handle first base, especially when that player averages less than five home runs per season. Luis Arraez hasn’t fit the typical mold for most of his professional career, but it’s clear the Twins are a better team when he is in the lineup regularly. He entered the season with a 114 OPS+, but he’s raised that by over 40 points this season, even in baseball’s muted offensive environment. The Pitching Pipeline Experiment Many Twins fans were clamoring for the team to spend money on starting pitching this winter. That didn’t happen as the team trusted that their young pitching would continue to develop, which has looked like the right bet. Joe Ryan doesn’t fit the mold of a typical ace, but his start to the 2022 season puts him in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. Bailey Ober, a former 12th-round pick, is proving he can be more than organizational depth. Minnesota decided it couldn’t leave Josh Winder off the roster, and he has been successful as a starter and a reliever. Other top-pitching prospects are also getting closer to the big leagues, so replacements can be ready when the need arises. Minnesota is clearly experimenting with a variety of roster components this year, but everything seems to be mixing together quite nicely. Do you think these experiments can last the entire season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  2. Last Week's Game Results: Game 36 | MIN 3, OAK 1: Lewis, Sanchez Lead Twins Game 37 | OAK 5: MIN 2: Royce Rolls but Winder Wilts in Loss Game 38 | MIN 14, OAK 4: Bats Bust Out in Series Clincher Game 39 | MIN 6, KC 4: Smeltzer Solid, Miranda Clutch Game 40 | MIN 9, KC 2: Late-Inning Rally Fuels Blowout Win Game 41 | MIN 7, KC 6: Twins Score 7 Unanswered in Massive Comeback Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/16 through Sun, 5/22 *** Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 25-16) Run Differential Last Week: +19 (Overall: +31) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (4.5 GA) NEWS & NOTES Oh man, what a week. This first-place Twins are taking heat on multiple fronts, which I guess we can take as a positive. People care! My quick takes on both of the big talkers from last week: Royce Lewis demoted to make room for Carlos Correa. It stinks, I get it. Lewis is an electric young player who was coming off an outstanding game Tuesday night, so the timing could've hardly been worse. But the Twins called him up to fill in for Correa at shortstop, and they stuck with their plan. They want Lewis to play everyday and gain familiarity at some other positions in a lower-stakes environment. That's exactly what's happening – Lewis has already made starts at third base and left field in addition shortstop since going down. He'll be back soon enough. Chris Paddack undergoes Tommy John. The surgery was expected but became official on Wednesday. It's obviously a very unfortunate development, especially given the success Taylor Rogers is having in San Diego. The trade still has a chance to work out in Minnesota's favor – Emilio Pagán has been solid, and Paddack is under team control for the next two years. But without question, the Twins ended up downgrading their talent significantly in a contention year. We'll see how much it ends up hurting them. Kyle Garlick was activated from IL at the start of the week and Trevor Larnach at the end, backfilling some key outfield depth for the Twins. The rest of the week's moves mostly involved juggling the pitching staff. Here's a quick recap: IN: Dylan Bundy (activated from IL), Trevor Megill (added to 40-man and called up), Bailey Ober (activated from IL). OUT: Jharrel Cotton (DFA'ed, outrighted to St. Paul), Devin Smeltzer (optioned to St. Paul), Josh Winder (placed on IL with shoulder impingement), Cody Stashak (also placed on IL with shoulder impingement). Finally, Chris Vallimont was designated for assignment to create 40-man space (we'll learn soon if he gets claimed) and Danny Coulombe started a rehab stint at Wichita. HIGHLIGHTS It'll be awhile before the Twins have another opportunity to prove themselves against high-caliber competition, but one signature of good baseball teams is that they consistently take care of business against weaker opponents. Minnesota has been doing exactly that here in May, and it continued in a 5-1 week capped by a spectacular late-game comeback in Kansas City. Down 6-0 entering the eighth, the Twins scored seven unanswered in the last two innings to steal a victory and seal a sweep. Despite losing Paddack, the rotation kept up its surprisingly steady work, with effective returns to action for Bundy (3 IP, 0 ER on Tuesday) and Ober (5 IP, 1 ER on Sunday). Joe Ryan lowered his ERA to 2.38 on Saturday, tossing 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball. He's allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his eight starts, and has a 5-2 record to show for it. On offense, the Twins were very happy to get back Garlick, who drove in two runs in Friday 6-4 victory and launched a crucial homer (against a righty!) in Sunday's comeback. Gilberto Celestino continues to enjoy a major breakthrough, and owns a seven-game hitting streak after going 7-for-16 last week. He's batting .422 in the month of May. Gary Sánchez has come on in a hurry after starting slow. He went 7-for-24 last week with four doubles, two home runs, and eight RBIs while starting all six games. This is the Sánchez who had gone missing in New York, and you hope the slugging rejuvenation is here to stay. The Twins are surely happy enough to no longer have to deal with Josh Donaldson and his antics, but Sánchez is proving to be a very valuable asset on his own, delivering the power Minnesota was originally hoping to get from Mitch Garver (who's slugging .370 in Texas). While many of us questioned it at the time, that series of moves is looking extra sweet right now. Perhaps no Twins hitter is more fun to watch at this moment than Luis Arraez. He is absolutely on top of his game and providing a constant spark to the lineup in his unlikely new role as primary first baseman. Arraez struck out once all week and reached base in well over half of his 26 plate appearances, tallying nine hits and six walks. Since returning from a bout with COVID earlier in the month, Arraez is batting .382 with a 2-to-9 K/BB ratio and .545 on-base percentage in 10 games. LOWLIGHTS A pair of relief implosions were the biggest blemishes in a mostly outstanding week for Rocco Baldelli and the Twins. On Tuesday night, Winder was arguably hung out to dry in Oakland – pushed to throw 78 pitches in an extended relief outing behind Bundy. Winder managed to battle his way through three innings despite clearly not having his best command, but it all fell apart when he was sent back out for the seventh. The righty coughed up five earned runs in the inning, and finished the day with nine hits allowed and just one K. While I didn't love the decision to stick with the rookie so long, I sort of understood it, given that the Twins were a bit worn in the bullpen and they wanted to keep Winder stretched out as a starter. Still, it was clearly a questionable call, and it looks worse in hindsight, not just because of the results but because Winder went on the shelf days later with shoulder issues. He dealt with a similar injury late last year, so that's definitely worrisome, but hopefully the Twins are just getting out front of it. Yennier Canó impressed during a couple of outings in Oakland, allowing one run over three innings and notching his first big-league victory. But the bottom fell out on him in Kansas City with a disastrous appearance that saw him charged with five earned runs on four hits and two walks while recording just one out. He had no command and was offering up a ton of non-competitive pitches. Canó will be in danger of losing his bullpen spot quickly with Coulombe on the comeback trail and MLB clubs compelled to cut down to 13 pitchers in a week. Amidst all the roster juggling that took place last week, it was rather surprising to see José Miranda come out unscathed. He actually enjoyed one of his biggest moments as a big-leaguer on Saturday night, launching a key two-run double in the eighth inning of a close win, but overall he's been woefully unproductive. Miranda's slash line sits at .117/.159/.217 after a 2-for-16 week that saw him continue to flail away at everything while generating a ton of poor contact. If we accept that the Twins are trying to do right by Lewis' development in sending him to Triple-A to get defensive reps and gain comfort in a less pressurized setting, it's difficult to see the consistency in logic when they're leaving Miranda out there to get bullied by MLB pitchers. At the same time, one can also see the roster realities at play. The Twins are short on corner-infield depth, with Miguel Sanó and Alex Kirilloff out of the picture indefinitely. Arraez had never played first base before a few weeks ago and now he's their sole option with any real experience there besides Miranda. Sánchez has taken some practice reps at first but he's already playing everyday in his current role. Gio Urshela could probably slide over but then your depth at third base is sapped. With all that being said, the Twins can't continue to run Miranda out there much longer as he struggles to stay afloat, so they're gonna need to figure something out. TRENDING STORYLINE The answer to the above dilemma could be solved by one (or both) of two players currently in Triple-A with the Saints. Kirilloff is trying to rediscover his swing and offensive ability as he fights his way through lingering wrist pain in the wake of last year's surgery. He offered some reason for encouragement on Wednesday when he went 4-for-6 with a home run and double – his first two extra-base hits of the season – but the rest of the week saw him tap five singles in 16 at-bats, and he struck out three times on Sunday. It looks as though it's going to be awhile for Kirilloff. That may not be the case for Lewis, who is getting a crash course in defensive versatility as the Twins prepare to recall him to play alongside Correa in a utility role. Lewis has continued to rake since going down, batting .375 with a double and home run in four games. He has amazingly seen no in-game action defensively yet at his new positions, but at least he's getting a feel for the hot corner and outfield. One wonders how just much the Twins want to see him get acclimated before they're comfortable bringing him back. They have the luxury of a continuing soft patch in the schedule, which might give them leeway in making the sacrifices required to keep Lewis' bat in the minors. I wonder if the goal is to have him dialed and ready to step in for good around the start of June, when the competition starts getting a whole lot tougher and they'll want to bring everything they've got. LOOKING AHEAD Tough competition won't be a factor in the coming week, as the Twins return home for seven games against the Tigers and Royals, against whom they are a combined 7-2 this season. They would need to go at least 7-3 in the next 10 games – all against Detroit and Kansas City – in order to complete a 20-win May, which the Twins previously accomplished in 2019 and 2015. MONDAY, 5/23: TIGERS @TWINS – RHP Elvin Rodriguez v. RHP Chris Archer TUESDAY, 5/24: TIGERS @TWINS – RHP Beau Brieske v. RHP Sonny Gray WEDNESDAY, 5/25: TIGERS @TWINS – TBD v. RHP Dylan Bundy THURSDAY, 5/26: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. RHP Joe Ryan FRIDAY, 5/27: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Bailey Ober SATURDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brady Singer v. RHP Chris Archer SUNDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Zack Greinke v. RHP Sonny Gray
  3. Every contending team looks to make improvements throughout the season. Sometimes those changes come from within the farm system and other times the front office must supplement the roster with talent from other organizations. With nearly a fourth of the schedule complete, here are the three biggest weaknesses on the Twins roster. First Base No team has gotten less production out of first base than the Minnesota Twins. According to fWAR, Minnesota’s -1.5 WAR at first base is baseball’s lowest total. Miguel Sanó’s well-documented poor start played a role in the team’s lack of production. However, Alex Kirilloff’s wrist injury and poor production are also tied to the position. Luis Arraez continues to get opportunities at first, but he doesn’t fit the mold of prototypical first basemen. Improvement Options: Earlier in the week, MLB.com claimed the Twins need to find a player similar to Daniel Vogelbach, because power-hitting first basemen/DH are easy to find. For the Twins, it seems most likely for the team to continue to use Arraez at the position until a better option presents itself. Left Field Unlike first base, left field hasn’t been a black hole in the Twins lineup, but there is room for improvement. Alex Kirilloff was the Opening Day starter, but he was demoted earlier this week to try and rediscover his swing at Triple-A. Trevor Larnach was swinging the bat well before a groin strain put him on the injured list. Nick Gordon has played the most games in left field this season, but his value is in being used in a utility role. Improvement Options: Larnach should return from injury in the coming days, and the team hopes he can pick up where he left off at the plate. However, Royce Lewis is back at Triple-A to work on other defensive positions and left field might be his best shot at a big-league role. Starting Pitching Minnesota’s front office bet on the organization’s young pitchers this winter and so far, that decision has worked out in the team’s favor. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober have proven they are more than capable of holding down a big-league role. The Twins pitching staff ranks in the top-10 in multiple statistical categories, but it is still early in the season. Unfortunately, injuries and illness have hit the starting pitcher group with Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Chris Paddock all missing time. It doesn’t seem as though Minnesota’s current pitching core is built for October success. Improvement Options: Even with strong early-season numbers, the Twins are going to have to make some additions to the big-league roster. At least four veteran starting pitchers will be available before the trade deadline, but there are questions surrounding all of these players. Jordan Balazovic, one of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects, is in the Triple-A rotation, so he can be a second-half call-up. There are plenty of games left to be played before the trade deadline, but more flaws tend to present themselves throughout the season. Which of these weaknesses do you feel most needs to be addressed? Are there other internal options to fix the team’s flaws? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  4. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Sonny Gray, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K (84 pitches, 55 strikes, 65.4%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Gary Sánchez (.264), Luis Arráez (.125), Carlos Correa (.125) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Sánchez, Urshela remain hot, push across four runs The Twins were off to a great start offensively, with the pair of former Yankees pushing across four early runs for Minnesota. After Luis Arráez and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back singles and Max Kepler drew a two-out walk to load the bases, red-hot Gary Sánchez hit a slow liner to left to score two runs. In the next at-bat, Gio Urshela smacked an RBI single to right to bring home Kepler and make it 3-0 Minnesota. Sánchez has been living his best stretch as a Twin. Not only did he homer in the first two games of this series, but he carried into this game an OPS of .916 in his previous 15 games. That’s a relief for Twins fans, as he posted a .606 OPS in 12 games during the month of April. Urshela, who is also seeing some improvement as of late, now has at least one hit in five of his last seven games. Making his second start since being reinstated from the injured list, Sonny Gray struggled a bit to close out the innings early. After quickly getting two outs in the bottom of the first, he gave up back-to-back hits, and Oakland got a run back on a Seth Brown RBI single. Sánchez, again, provided him with some more run support in the third when he hit a two-out double to score Jorge Polanco from first. He now has four extra-base hits in the last four games. But Gray would go on to give up three more two-out hits in the next two innings, including an RBI single to Christian Bethancourt in the bottom of the third, to cut the Twins lead to two once again. Twins begin a hard-hit bonanza, score seven more runs Minnesota provided a quick response to Oakland’s potential rally. After Byron Buxton drew a two-out walk in the top of the fourth, the Twins hit back-to-back doubles to score two more runs. First, it was Arráez with a 96.5 MPH exit velocity fly ball to center to score Buxton, then it was Correa with a 105.6 MPH rocket to score Arráez. Speaking of Correa, what a great way to come back from the IL. This was the third time he made solid contact in the game, with his first-inning hit reaching 109.8 MPH coming off the bat. The offense kept putting men on base, as they loaded the bases (but didn’t cash in) in the fifth and had seven men reach in the sixth. Arráez and Correa drew walks against reliever Kirby Snead to lead off the inning, and they were both brought home by a Polanco single and a Kepler sac-fly, making it 8-2 Minnesota. Snead’s nightmare inning continued as he gave up a walk to Urshela, which put two men on, and the Twins made him pay. Ryan Jeffers hit a hard double to left (104.9 MPH exit velocity) to bring home both runners, then he himself scored on a Nick Gordon single. The entire Twins lineup had an at-bat in the sixth. Gray gets on a roll, retires ten in a row It wasn’t all just about the offense today. After giving up Oakland’s second run in the third inning, Gray went on to retire ten consecutive batters, including three consecutive 1-2-3 innings. This was a very encouraging outing for him, giving him a much-needed morale boost. He wasn’t very sharp in his last start last Friday against the Guardians. He threw only 56.1% strikes despite the season-high eight strikeouts and gave up four walks. Today, he seemed much more comfortable with his command, which enabled him to complete six innings with a similar pitch count as his last start, when he tossed only 4 1/3 innings. The Twins bullpen wasn’t nearly as sharp as Gray was. Yennier Cano took over for him in the seventh, and he loaded the bases before recording an out. Fortunately, after a mound visit, he was able to limit the damage to a minimum. The A’s got one run back on a Tony Kemp forceout, and that was it. In the eighth, Cody Stashak also allowed Oakland to score, when Chad Pinder doubled and scored on a Luis Barrera single. With outfielder Pinder pitching for the A's in the ninth, the bats got a couple more insurance runs with an RBI double by Arráez, his third hit of the afternoon, and an RBI single by Gilberto Celestino. That gave Jhoan Duran some more cushion to finish the game in the bottom of the inning (not that he needed it). What’s Next? The Twins have a day off on Thursday, and they remain on the road after that. They start a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City on Friday, with the first game set to start at 7:10 pm CDT. Devin Smeltzer (1.80 ERA) is expected to make the start, facing Daniel Lynch (3.30 ERA). Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Winder 0 0 0 78 0 78 Cano 0 0 25 0 19 44 Duran 12 0 0 0 23 35 Thielbar 15 2 0 16 0 33 Stashak 0 13 0 0 13 26 Duffey 5 0 20 0 0 25 Jax 0 0 25 0 0 25 Smith 15 9 0 0 0 24 Pagán 9 10 0 0 0 19
  5. Since coming back from the COVID IL, Luis Arráez has returned to a tricky role for his short stature: first base. After some questionable defensive plays at third base had a few too many Twins fans in agony, Rocco Baldelli began shifting Arráez across the diamond. Although Arráez is only a few inches shorter than most of his teammates, the position does raise questions: does size matter at first? The common assumption among most baseball experts, and one that Miguel Sanó easily fit, is that the player should be a big target. Lumbering at 6’3” and 270ish pounds, the big man could often be seen stretching for balls from various players over the years. With Sanó out for some time, prospect call up Jose Miranda seems like a more conventional choice for the position at 6’2” and 210 pounds. But as much as everything in baseball can be questioned to find an advantage, perhaps Arráez is not as much of a problem as one might expect. Although you can find the height of every baseball player on their BRef page, actual height data is rarely provided in data sets among hitting or fielding. That makes comparison across the league a bit harder, so I mostly focused on the 2021 performances at first base. These players range from big boys like Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman (6’5”), to players closer to Arráez like Carlos Santana and Ty France (5’11”). Over its history, the league has made way for small hitters like Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts, but these players are rarely found at first base. Even when first basemen might show some vertical challenge, they might have some size to make up for it. Max Muncy played most of first for the Dodgers in their 2021 season, sitting only two inches above Arráez, but with 50 more pounds of muscle. He can stretch those legs much further than what we’ve seen from Arráez so far. As baseball has transformed, the decrease in the height of a first baseman has changed as well. First base has often been the place, for lack of a better word, smashers with bad defense. As Matt Eddy reported for Baseball America just last year, “A 6-foot player was once deemed too short to play first base, with exceptions made for the most prodigious sluggers, such as Prince Fielder.” But particularly in a game where grounders are going the way of the dodo, that means having excellent defenders at first base has become even more critical than it was even a decade ago. If Arráez’s defense is questionable, it will feel even less important in 2022 Baseball. But the question is not whether Arráez’s defense matters, but whether a tall boy makes for better defense at first base. Although bigger men in 2021 did usually better in Outs Above Average and Defensive Runs Saved, so did Mariners hitter Ty France, who lives only an inch about Arráez. France was close to top in the league in the advance metric UZR, considered by many to be the gold standard of infield defensive stats. At the bottom of this list? Miguel Sanó. UZR can be tricky—Josh Donaldson was close to Sanó in the metric, and the eye test would tell you that the former third basemen was hardly a schlub in the role. But the closer we look, the correlation between height and defense falls apart. There is one key difference that might assist Arráez’s defense over either Miranda or Sanó, which might sound surprising, his speed. Over in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were constantly shifting Max Muncy around, which worked due to his quick reactions and acceleration speed. Muncy is hardly a speed demon, but he is extremely quick in his reflexes. It’s something the Dodgers liked about Freeman as well to bring him over from Atlanta. Arráez’s speed puts him at the same level as Vlad Guerrero Jr., Yuli Gurriel, and Ty France. None of these men are in Muncy’s elite level, but it allows for more flexibility there rather than a single target and might assist in building unique positioning. Most giants at first base do not show a lot of speed, and while Arráez is hardly a demon, his average speed could make for a bit more positioning work through the season. Arráez’s bat, as we’ve seen even in this first month, is too important to not put somewhere in this lineup to drive in runs. As long as the player can manage the role, the singles smasher will play an unsung advantage in a position where the combined first baseman of the league hit for only 108 wRC+ in 2019. So far, he hasn’t missed any balls at first in his few game sample. But in a game that depends on finding advantages in every nook and cranny, perhaps the front office might find a hidden advantage in putting a short king slugger at first.
  6. Bill Smith Contributions (2007-2011) Smith faced a challenging time in Twins history as he took over the GM role. Torii Hunter was on his way out the door, and the team needed to trade Johan Santana. The Twins lost a Game 163 (2008) and won the division twice (2009-10) during his tenure. Despite these positive results, Smith couldn’t survive the 2011 campaign as the Twins lost 99 games. It was one of the most disappointing seasons in Twins history, but he helped sign three core pieces to the current roster. Smith’s lasting legacy with the Twins connects to the 2009 international signing class, which was tremendous in retrospect. Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler signed as part of this class. These players have combined for 37.3 total WAR and two All-Star appearances in their big-league careers. Sano’s Twins tenure may conclude in 2022, but Kepler and Polanco are under team control for multiple more seasons. Terry Ryan Contributions (2012-2016) Ryan served as GM for two different stints, so it makes sense for his fingerprints to be all over the Twins organization over the last decade. When taking over from Smith, Ryan got the opportunity to pick the second overall pick, and the organization decided on Byron Buxton. Multiple pitchers were in the conversation for Minnesota, but Buxton has accumulated the fourth-most WAR among players from the 2012 first round. He is now the face of the franchise, and he will be in a Twins uniform for over a decade after Ryan was fired. Minnesota signed Luis Arraez as an international free agent during the 2013 signing class. He has been worth 5.9 WAR in his career while hitting .312/.374/.400 (.748) with a 130 OPS+. Nick Gordon was a top-5 draft pick under the Ryan regime. His professional career hasn’t progressed perfectly, but he has shown the club the value he can provide over the last two seasons. These players look like they will be part of the team’s roster for multiple seasons moving forward. Minnesota’s bullpen picture is also covered with players acquired by Ryan. Tyler Duffey was a fifth-round pick in 2012, and he has been one of the team’s best relievers since 2019. Cody Stashak, a 13th-round pick in 2015, has been terrific to start the 2022 season, and he has yet to become arbitration-eligible. The Twins took Griffin Jax in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Ryan’s last with the organization. This season, he is transitioning to the bullpen, and signs point to him fitting well into his new role. Other prospects on the 40-man roster were also acquired under the Ryan regime. Jovani Moran was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, and he has the potential to be a dominant late-inning reliever. His change-up is a dominant pitch, and it has helped him post a 13.4 K/9 in his minor league career. Jordan Balazovic was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and he currently ranks as Twins Daily’s fifth overall prospect. Entering the season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each had him in the back-half of their top-100 prospects. He recently made his Triple-A debut, so there is a good chance his big-league debut will be in 2022. Smith and Ryan might not be regarded highly because of how each left the organization. However, their impact will be felt years after their departure. Besides Buxton, which of these players will provide the most long-term value to the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. Miguel Sano is under contract through the 2022 season and has a $14 million team option for 2023. Carrying just a $2.75 million buyout, it’s all but certain the front office will move on from Sano. Once ranked as high as the 4th best prospect across all of baseball by MLB.com, Sano now is a big leaguer with nearly 700 games under his belt. Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager, Sano’s initial contract was one of the most contentious topics in the sport at the time. From questions about his true age to decisions regarding which team he’d agree with, a full feature-length film was made about the process. Coming stateside in 2010, Sano has been a part of the Twins organization for over a decade. His minor league numbers were always gaudy. Tabbed a shortstop only through initial athleticism, but with the understanding future size would move him to a corner, Sano put up a .932 OPS in 491 minor league games. Debuting with the Twins on July 2, 2015, Sano became a fixture at the hot corner. He was asked to play right field in an odd move just a few seasons later and has since settled in holding down first base. Across 691 Major League games, Sano has launched 162 career home runs and posted an .809 OPS. His 117 OPS+ is above league average, and while he’s tallied over 1,000 strikeouts, there’s no denying his bat is one of the most explosive in the game. Sano finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2015, being beaten out only by Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. He made the All-Star Game in 2017 and also competed in the Home Run Derby. Never a strong defender, Sano has been passable at best in the field. Aside from the abomination that was his right field experiment, he’s been far from a butcher but hardly sniffed any sort of accolades. He’s taken to the new role at first base well and has shown a level of athleticism that originally highlighted the opportunity to succeed at the hot corner. He’s fluctuated on the scale and that has also led to both criticism and improved opportunities for success. It’s foolish to believe Sano has played his last game for Minnesota, there will be opportunities when he returns. What capacity the opportunities come from remain entirely linked to those currently holding things down. Jose Miranda is a top prospect with a good bat. Luis Arraez is a dependable utility player. Alex Kirilloff was supposed to be the next mainstay in Minnesota’s lineup. Any combination of those three could take at-bats away from Sano, but at least two of the three have plenty of earning yet to be done. When the dust settles the expectation should be that Sano tacks on a few more home runs. While his production leaves plenty to be desired right now, having just a .379 OPS, there was good reason to believe a patented outburst was coming. A streaky type of player that can break out in a big way, Sano was still looking for the other shoe to drop early on in 2022. There shouldn’t be a career-altering amount of change coming the rest of the way for Sano, however, and that opens the door to evaluation. What has Sano been for the Minnesota Twins? A former top 10 prospect across all of baseball puts up nearly 200 homers and an .800 OPS by the time he turns 28 and that gets evaluated how? His work ethic, character, and play style will likely always drag him further down for some, but have the positives been enough to find yourself happy with the overall trajectory? This is where you chime in. Was Miguel Sano a bust for the Twins, or did he do enough to justify the hype?
  8. A year ago, the Twins were doing a little West Coast swing. While in Anaheim, several players including Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick, and Caleb Thielbar tested positive for Covid. The Twins were in the early part of a delayed season that was already going south quickly. Losing players and the stress of that situation only contributed to the Twins early-season demise in 2021. Obviously the hope this time around is that the affected players (and manager) are feeling alright and can return to the game in quick fashion, hopefully within a week. That said, we may not have heard the end of this. Players have been testing today, and with more positive tests, it is likely that they will continue to test in the coming days. We know that Covid's incubation period can be several days, so the Twins could find more positives for the next few days as well. Max Kepler has felt under the weather for a couple of days. He left Wednesday night's game early. He has taken a few Covid tests and they have been negative to this point. GM Thad Levine said other players are also feeling a little under the weather. We shall see where this takes us, but it could be a very interesting weekend for the Twins. The Twins entered play on Thursday with a 15-10 record and a 3 1/2 game lead over the White Sox and Guardians in the AL Central. Levine told reporters in Baltimore, "This is why you built out a lot of versatility and experience in your coaching staff and go get several people on our bench who have had managerial experience whether it be in the big leagues or winter leagues or in the minor league," That is equally important when considering how the Twins built their roster, with several players able to play multiple positions. Speculation is that the Twins personnel may have contracted Covid while in Tampa as several members of the Rays coaching staff are also currently out for the same reason. Bundy and Arraez were both placed on the Covid-IL. Per MLB Trade Rumors: "As per the 2022 version of the league’s COVID protocols, Arraez and Bundy will miss at least the next 10 days, though they may make an earlier return if they meet three criteria — two negative PCR tests, at least 24 hours without a fever, and approval from a team doctor and a MLB/MLBPA joint committee of two other physicians." With that in mind, the Twins will likely need to add a couple of players to their active roster on Friday. To replace Luis Arraez, the team will likely want a 40-man roster guy who could play multiple positions if needed. They will also want to add a pitcher to replace Bundy. Sonny Gray is making a start for the Saints this weekend. Josh Winder, Chris Paddack and Joe Ryan are scheduled to start for the Twins this weekend at Target Field against the A's. So the Twins could go with a long reliever or a starter. It will be interesting to see what direction the team goes with a pitcher. It would seem that Alex Kirilloff would be the hitter to return. We will continue to update this as more information becomes available.
  9. Depth is critical when building a big-league roster, especially if a team is in contention. Minnesota planned on two players getting the bulk of the time at first base, but that plan has already needed to shift. Let’s examine what the Twins can do at first base if injuries continue to impact the roster. Injuries: Miguel Sanó, Alex Kirilloff Minnesota’s plan entering the season was to rotate through Sanó and Kirilloff at first base. Sanó was one of the AL’s worst defenders at first base last season, but his height helps him pull in errant throws. Sanó isn’t in the line-up for his defensive ability, as he has posted an OPS+ of 105 or higher in six of his seven big-league seasons. His recent knee injury pushed him to the IL, and this might be a good time for him to reset as he has a .379 OPS in 2022. If surgery is required, he may miss a significant chunk of the season. Kirilloff is currently rehabbing a wrist injury in St. Paul, but there is no timeline on when he will return to the team. It was clear that he wasn’t 100% healthy at the season’s start, as he went 1-for-17 before being put on the IL. Even with his rehab starts, Kirilloff has yet to collect an extra-base hit this season. Last season, he ranked very well on the defensive side of the ball at first base, but he needs to prove he is healthy before taking over a starting role. Plan B: Luis Arraez Minnesota shifted to Plan B, with Sano and Kirilloff out of the picture. Luis Arraez has taken over the everyday starting first base role even though he doesn’t fit the prototypical first baseman mold. Entering the 2022 season, Arraez had minimal professional experience at first base, but injuries have allowed him to shift from a utility role to a starter. He is below average at other defensive positions, so moving to first may help hide some of his defensive flaws. Plus, the Twins want his bat in the line-up as much as possible because he has posted his highest OPS+ since his rookie season. Arraez has dealt with knee issues in the past, so where would the team turn if he gets hurt? Other Options: Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez, Jose Miranda Twins manager Rocco Baldelli mentioned that other first base options include Urshela and Sanchez. Both players have combined for 10.0 defensive innings at first base during their big-league careers. It seems unlikely for Sanchez to make regular appearances at first since rosters dropped to 26-men, and the team is only carrying two catchers. Miranda might be the most likely player to see time at first as he has played 270 innings at first base throughout his minor league career. He’s one of the team’s best prospects, and this might be a way for him to play every day at the big-league level. Another name to watch at St. Paul is Curtis Terry, who the team signed to a minor league deal this winter. Terry made his big-league debut last season with the Rangers and went 4-for-45 with two doubles and 15 strikeouts. So far this season, he is hitting .261/.378/.464 (.842) with five doubles and three home runs. He is not on the 40-man roster, so it would likely take a long-term injury for him to get an opportunity. Do you feel the Twins need to worry about their first base depth? Can Arraez handle the position? Should Miranda take over at first? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Box Score SP Chris Paddack: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (81 pitches, 53 strikes (65.4%)) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Joe Smith (.208), Johan Duran (.191), Emilio Pagan (.137) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The storylines existed for this game before the teams even took the field for warm-ups. It all begins with the Baltimore starter and old friend, Tyler Wells, a Twins 15th-round draft pick from 2016. Wells was selected by the Orioles last offseason in the Rule V draft and has been starting for the Orioles this season, coming into the game with a 5.54 ERA over four starts, and 13.0 innings pitched. The other leading storyline for Monday night's game was that Twins prospect Jose Miranda got his call up to the majors. The Twins number three prospect in Twins Daily’s prospect rankings started at third base while batting sixth in the Twins lineup. While playing at AAA St. Paul Miranda hit .256/.295/.442 with a .737 OPS, two home runs, ten doubles, and twelve RBIs. Twins Bats Scuffle Early Against Former Twins Prospect Tyler Wells Early on, the game came easy for the former Twins farmhand. Wells worked quickly through the first two innings and put up a perfect first three innings. In those first three innings, Wells was able to create several harmless pop-ups and collect two strikeouts. Wells was spotting his pitches well for strikes, and it was apparent even from the television camera angle that he was getting good movement on his breaking pitches. Finally, Luis Arraez found good contact on a Wells’ pitch to break through for the Twins first hit of the night in the fourth inning. Paddack Up for the Challenge With Wells off to the perfect start, Chris Paddack gave the Twins 5.1 innings of a competitive start. There were plenty of long and loud outs throughout his start Monday night, but the key was most of them resulted in outs. Rougned Odor did get to Paddack for a triple which led to an Orioles run after Ramon Urias drove him home. Urias’ single led to the only earned run allowed by Paddack. The Twins right-hander did get into a bit of trouble in the fifth before Joe Smith came on to induce a ground ball double play and keep the Twins in front. Paddack collected eight swings and misses before leaving the game with the Twins leading the Orioles 2-1. Correa Continues to Deliver As Carlos Correa has been heating up over the past week, he continued to deliver for the Twins on Monday evening. This time it was in the form of an RBI single. Correa dropped the ball in the outfield grass with Byron Buxton standing on second base. This sixth inning scoring sequence feels like the situation envisioned when Correa was added to this lineup already featuring Buxton. Correa also flashed his glove again at a critical moment. Jorge Mateo drilled a line drive in the eighth inning with one on and no outs. Correa was there and able to snag the line drive out of the air for the first out and help Emilio Pagan complete the inning without allowing any runs. What’s Next? The Twins will look to pick up another win as they send Joe Ryan to the mound. Their hitters will hope to have better success against Bruce Zimmerman who is the scheduled starter for the Orioles. The Orioles lefty has been tough this year in 19 1/3 innings carrying a 0.93 ERA and 9.8 K/9 Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Jax 46 0 0 0 15 61 Coulombe 0 35 0 0 0 35 Stashak 18 0 14 0 0 32 Duran 0 0 20 0 10 30 Pagán 0 0 0 0 27 27 Duffey 8 0 0 17 0 25 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 15 Smith 0 0 9 0 2 11 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0
  11. Despite the Twins attempting to coin the phrase, "We rake" early on in the season, they didn't see that sustained level of success until about the third week. Closing out the month well, it was a combination of strong starting pitching and good production from the bats. Plenty has been made about the lineup being boom or bust, having the ability to only win with the longball, but that notion was also dispelled early. The Twins have shown they can compete offensively through a wide array of outcomes and that has benefitted them with a ball traveling shorter distances. They'll continue to make adjustments as the season goes on, but these three players have helped to lead the charge early. Honorable Mention 2: Luis Arraez Expected to be somewhat of a rotational player and work in starts as a utility man, it only took a matter of weeks for Arraez to find a regular starting role. Playing in 20 games during the first month of the season, Arraez drew starts at first base (for the first time in his career), second base, third base, and designated hitter. Across 74 plate appearances, the modern-day Rod Carew has slashed .318/.386/.397. Never a guy who will be known for power, Arraez has continued the blueprint of being an exceptionally difficult hitter to strike out. He owned a 4/7 K/BB, and his 3.5% whiff rate is the lowest in all of baseball. Minnesota needed someone to fill in across the dirt in the early going this season, and Arraez managed wonderfully. Honorable Mention 1: Max Kepler Somewhat of a surprise in this space, Kepler was last an above-average hitter in 2019. After mashing 36 homers as part of the Bomba Squad, he dipped to a .760 and .719 OPS the past two seasons, respectively. Putting up a career month, Kepler was tough to be topped in April. The German outfielder slashed .258/.372/.515 with five homers and 11 RBI. His 9/7 K/BB showed a strong process, but the most notable output comes against lefties. Having struggled against southpaws throughout his career, Kepler posted a 1.011 OPS versus lefties to start the season, which actually trumps the .814 OPS versus righties. While four of his five home runs have come against righties, Kepler has struck out just three times against lefties while drawing seven walks. Should Kepler keep this type of production up as the warmer months come, he’ll be looking likely to make his first All-Star game. Twins Hitter of the Month: Byron Buxton The man got paid, and Buxton is undoubtedly looking to cash in again. With an $8 million MVP incentive, the Twins centerfielder has been arguably the best player in baseball when on the field. He’s missed minimal time due to injury thus far, and his April finished with an outstanding 1.069 OPS. Just two off the Major League lead in homers, Buxton has launched seven (six in April) while tallying four doubles. His 1.2 fWAR is just outside the top 10 across all of baseball, and he’s been every bit as exceptional in the field. The Twins have played 22 games, of which Buxton has been in 14. Continuing to remain available is the chief concern, but if he’s out there, he will make a difference. It’s conceivable even better months lie ahead for the Minnesota MVP candidate. Buxton owns an 18/2 K/BB on the season, and turning some empty at-bats into walks or base hits will only drive his slash line north. He, too, will benefit from warmer weather, both on the base paths and in batted ball results. As has always been the case, should Buxton be healthy, the production will be gaudy. He’s looking for his first All-Star game appearance this season, and jumping into the top 10 vote-getters for MVP is more than doable. If you were to rank your top 3 for April, are these the three you would have ranked? In the same order? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP,4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 59 strikes (74.7%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (4), Ryan Jeffers (1) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.186), Byron Buxton (.171), Luis Arraez (.130) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Injury Updates Before the game on Saturday, the Twins announced that Gary Sanchez's abdominal injury was fairly minor but that he would need to be out a few days. That is good news. Of course, it still required some roster moves. The Twins selected the contract of catcher Jose Godoy to have a backup backstop for the next few games. It will be interesting because since they have already DFAd him. If they decide to DFA him again when he gets sent down, he will have the right to become a free agent rather than accept an outright if he cleared waivers. That said, he has options, so the Twins could do that. To make room on the 28-man roster, reliever Jhon Romero was placed on the 10-day Injured List with biceps tendinitis. But to make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins placed reliever Jorge Alcala on the 60-Day Injured List. We had heard that he had a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury. Moving him to the 60-Day IL means he won't pitch in the big leagues for at least six weeks. It also allows him to be more patient with his rehab and hopefully return. Bundy Rolls As we all expected when news of the Dylan Bundy signing broke just before the lockout began, he has started the season by going 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP. I mean, that’s what you expected, right? Bundy was the fourth-overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft out of high school in Oklahoma. He was a hard-throwing righty who often hit triple-digits. He made his MLB debut in late 2012, but then he was injured and didn’t get back to the big leagues until 2016. Short story long, Bundy has certainly faced ups and downs throughout his career, both in terms of health and production. What Bundy appears to have done, or at least has been doing at the start of this season, is completely buy into a mindset of who he is and what he can be as a pitcher. Instead of reaching back and throwing fastballs in the upper 90s, he is now mixing all of his pitches and relying heavily on his breaking pitches. On Saturday afternoon, he threw just 32% four-seam fastballs. He threw 30% sliders, 16% changeups, 13% curveballs, and 9% sinkers. Most importantly, he has been throwing strikes and working ahead in the count. In 15 1/3 innings this season, he has struck out 12 batters while walking just one batter. Likely the credit needs to be split. We assume that he has worked with pitching coaches Wes Johnson, Luis Ramirez, and Pete Maki to develop a strategy and game plan. But Bundy has bought into it, and he is executing the plan and the pitches. While it isn’t fair to expect this kind of performance from Bundy every start or all season long, it certainly has earned him some lengthy leash. Byron Buxton is Back! The Twins and Buxton were wise to be patient with Byron Buxton following his scare last Sunday. Initially, the fear was he would be out for a whole, but when an MRI came back that it was “just inflammation,” they could have pushed him back. Instead, they gave him the necessary rest. He played on Thursday night, and then they gave him Friday night off to see how he responded. He was back in the lineup on Saturday night, and the response was tremendous. He hit a single in his first at-bat. In his second at-bat, he hit a line drive to right field (at 108 mph), and when the throw to the infield came to first base, he kept running and turned a single into a double. Third at-bat? He destroyed a ball into the 2nd deck in left field, a two-run homer. He was hit by a pitch in the ribs his next time to the plate (clearly unintentional), and with the right side of the infield open, he slapped a single to right field. It’s good to have Byron Buxton at the top of the lineup, making things happen and clearly having a lot of fun. He is now hitting .344/.400/.844 (1.244) on the season. All Rise for Arraez Following Buxton in the Twins lineup on Saturday was Luis Arraez. Like Buxton, Arraez had a four-hit game. Arraez used the whole field to record his 4-for-5 day. But, he was able to still drive in three runs in the game, nearly doubling his season total to seven RBI. Arraez is now hitting .364/.429/.477 (.906) through 14 games. Arraez returned to third base in this game. To be honest, he has been really poor defensively at that position in the early season. On Saturday, he made all of the plays. Jeffers Jolt The Twins decided to trade catchers Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt before the season, which really showed their confidence in Ryan Jeffers. He is off to a slow start this season, but things may have turned around in the late innings on Friday night. In the 8th inning on Friday, he hit a double, which started the unlikely (and unusual) rally. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch that didn’t get too far away from the catcher, which made for a tougher play on The Play With Two Errors. Then, protecting a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, he blocked a couple of balls in the dirt, a breaking ball that landed about four feet in front of the plate with a runner on third base. Finally, he framed the final pitch, a borderline fastball on the inside corner at the knees to end the game. I remind you of all of that because contributing to an unlikely, fun, important win against a divisional competitor can absolutely alter the momentum of your season, in large part by helping him regain confidence. In each of his Saturday at-bats, Jeffers hit the ball hard. After not having an extra-base hit on the season until Friday night’s double, he hit a double at 101.7 mph in his first at-bat on Saturday. A couple of innings later, Jeffers hit a ball 102.4 mph into the bleachers in left field for his first home run of the season. He added a walk and a strikeout to end the day 2-for-3. Respect the Competition On Saturday afternoon, Detroit Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera lined a single to right field. It’s something he has done so many times in his career. This one was special for him, his teammates, and the Tigers' fans, especially those who were at Comerica Park on Saturday. This was his 3,000th hit. Cabrera became the 33rd player in MLB history to join the 3,000 Hit Club. He is one of seven players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He joins Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and a .300 batting average. Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera! What’s Next? The Twins will finish their series at home against the White Sox at Target Field at 1:10 pm. The Twins will send right-hander Chris Archer (0-0, 2.16 ERA) to the mound. The White Sox will counter with Lucas Giolito, who will be making his first start of the season. He has been out with an abdominal injury. On Tuesday, he threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game in Arizona, so he could potentially throw 70-75 pitches on Sunday. For the record, I am also OK with 9-2 wins. Maybe another tomorrow? Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Pagán 0 0 9 34 0 43 Stashak 0 21 0 0 22 43 Thielbar 0 15 0 0 22 37 Romero 30 0 0 0 IL 30 Jax 0 0 0 29 0 29 Duffey 15 0 0 13 0 28 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 28 28 Smith 2 0 16 0 0 18 Duran 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  13. Early in the year, there’s often the excuse that weather is a culprit for lackluster offensive performance. That’s certainly a fair suggestion, but it’s far too generalized to sum everything up with that easy of a pass. This offseason, the Twins front office added one of the best free agents in baseball, and while Carlos Correa will likely get going, he hasn’t anchored a lineup looking to produce. Scoring just 41 runs in 13 games, Minnesota is averaging just over three runs per contest. No matter how strong the starting pitching has been (they rank 8th in baseball in terms of ERA) or how bad the bullpen has been (they rank 27th in baseball in terms of ERA), the reality is that type of production leaves little room for error. Minnesota is 4-0 when scoring at least four runs this season, but having scored less than that in eight contests is why they’re being doubled up in the loss column. For Rocco Baldelli’s club, it’s not as though there’s a single culprit either. Looking up and down the lineup, no player save for Luis Arraez is producing. Byron Buxton was off to a torrid start before going down with a knee injury. Returning to the lineup, there’s still a 10/1 K/BB he’ll be looking to even out and push the on-base percentage north. It was expected that Alex Kirilloff would be a regular contributor to the lineup this season. However, his lingering wrist injury still hasn’t figured itself out, and the path of a cortisone shot is one that only provided a temporary fix last season. Minnesota’s .195 average as a team sits 27th in baseball, ahead of only the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. They see a slight boost to 23rd when looking at on-base percentage, and despite being a team capable of doing significant damage, they rank just 24th in terms of slugging. To say things are bad right now would be putting it lightly. However, there has to be hope on the horizon, and if there is, that comes in terms of process driving results. The Twins lineup currently produces the highest hard-hit rate in baseball at 36.7%. They avoid ground balls, hitting them just 38.7% of the time, which ranks 27th in baseball. There’s room for growth in terms of the HR/FB (home run/fly ball) rate and line-drive rate. Minnesota ranks in the bottom third of the sport in both areas. Despite being seen as a homer-happy club, it’s also important to note that the Twins are doing a decent job in the batter’s box regarding plate discipline. Their chase rate ranks in the middle of the sport, and while the whiff rate is 10th, they aren’t egregiously bad on an island by themselves. In short, there should be a light at the end of this tunnel. If it’s unfair to suggest that the weather is the main culprit here, it’s probably also unfair to suggest that 12 games indicate what’s to come. The reality is this lineup has far too much talent to stay down for a considerable amount of time. They are all going through it simultaneously, but one person breaking out could undoubtedly provide a spark for the rest of the group. When the dust settles on the 2022 season, I’d bet handsomely on the pitching taking a back seat to where the lineup is in terms of production. Winning baseball games by scoring three runs or less is a daunting task. The guys in the clubhouse know that, and getting it going needs to happen soon. After feeling good about the bats up and down the order this spring, the hope is that sentiment returns soon.
  14. This week’s series against the Royals was about as dismal as the weather that the Twins played in. Even though they came away with one win, they have yet to win a series. The Twins are either not meant to play in the rain and cool weather or the team is taking their time getting their rhythm. Either the weather affects the bats or attitudes, but the bats need to get moving, including the bat of Carlos Correa. The Question of Carlos Minnesota baseball fans were stunned and delighted when they woke up on March 12th to the news that Carlos Correa would be a Minnesota Twin. The former Houston Astros shortstop was a free agent, and that was a position Minnesota needed to fill. His defense since coming over has shown why he is one of the best in the league. He led the American League with 20 defensive runs saved in 2021, earning the Gold and Platinum Glove Awards. Shortened spring training and Carlos not practicing in the off-season, these factors combined show why the shortstop is at only nine hits, five runs, including one home run out of his 51 plate appearances, and went 1-for-12 in the Royals series. At this time, offensively, Correa is slightly better than Miguel Sano in strikeouts, but no one is talking about Correa and how bad his at-bats are like they are about Sano. Call it a matter of expectation, but Correa has been an outstanding hitter with an average of .275 over his seven seasons with Houston. Some fans are taking notice that he's not hitting. It is clearly a small sample size being only 13 games in. I think the overall lack of offense may be what’s frustrating. Maybe Correa, along with the rest of the team, will heat up. For now, we will continue to rely on his defense and leadership until his bat warms up. Defense is Carrying the Team, and the Starting Pitching is helping Correa isn't the only one that is struggling at the plate. The defense is carrying the team and keeping the score from being run up by the opposing team. Even with Byron Buxton out for five games, the outfield managed to keep the runs at bay. Defensively, we have seen a handful of players rotate between positions in the outfield, like Gilbert Celestino, Kyle Garlick, and Nick Gordon, and they have had some fantastic plays. That doesn’t equate to offense, sadly. The players on this team have the makings of a championship team. That is my personal view. I know it’s early, but why are other teams hitting well? The offense has 41 runs this season, batting .203 as a team. The offense's struggles could potentially be explained by the shortened spring training, the cold weather, too few games, or the schedule, but in reality, not all other teams are struggling the way that the Twins offense is. They join the Rangers and the Orioles in the bottom three teams in the league. While not far out from the leader, the Anaheim Angels, with eight wins, projections would indicate that the offense will not catch up with the performance they have had the past few weeks. The potential to make it to the postseason right now is 25.2%. Even though the offense seems to be taking a while to heat up, one player is already on fire. Luis Arraez, Shining Star(ter) If it seems like the team improves when Luis Arraez enters the game, it's because it does. Arraez has had 40 plate appearances, and he has made contact with the ball 31 times. This matters because he is one of the players who is making contact with the ball almost every time he is up to bat. Luis Arraez was left out of the starting lineup four times in the first 13 games. Rocco Baldelli keeping him out of the starting lineup is a matchup situation that makes sense on paper. In the games where Arraez has been left out of the lineup, he came in as a pinch hitter, essentially only missing one game so far this season. Arraez has six RBIs so far. In the Twins' losses, Arraez has had an impact on getting the Twins on the board, whether playing a position or pinch hitting. In the five wins the Twins have, Arraez has had a hit or run in four games to assist in the win. What about the other plate appearances? Four strikeouts and four walks, and one base reached on an error. Arraez has not been in specific lineups because he doesn't hit as well off of lefties. That is obvious in the numbers compared to his numbers against right-handed pitchers. An argument for keeping him out of the lineup unless he's DHing. His defense has been brutal at third base this year. He has played eleven innings at third base and has committed four errors. Arraez may have more errors than Gio Urshela, but Arraez is a player who can also cover first and second base and record fewer errors making him an integral part of the team. Urshela could also play those spots, he just may not have had the chance yet. While there may be reasons why Arraez is not in the line-up every day, there are reasons why this writer and other fans believe he should be. What do you think will happen now that we are starting to play teams inside our division? Will our bats come back? Will the team catch up, take the lead, or continue to plummet in the standings?
  15. 'Musica, bailar', Emmanuel Rodriguez answers, through interpreter (and Mighty Mussels hitting coach) Rayden Sierra, when asked by Twins Daily's @Seth Stohs how he likes to spend his time outside of baseball. 'Music, and dancing'. Rodriguez is 19, after all. Easy to forget after his impressive start in 2022. On Thursday, Seth chatted with the Mighty Mussels' prodigious outfielder on "Three Questions With..." Emmanuel Rodriguez made Baseball America’s weekly Hot Sheet after hitting .360/.568/.880 through his first 25 plate appearances of the season. Rodriguez has also managed ten runs, four home runs, 12 walks, and two steals to open 2022. One of Rodriguez’s four home runs traveled 439 feet with an exit velocity of 111 mph. Not bad for a 19-year-old. So who is this teenage phenom? How did he end up with the Twins? What is his ceiling? It’s often not talked about how reliant the current Twins lineup is on international signings. Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Gio Urshela, and Gary Sanchez were all signed as professionals via international free agency (although not all with the Twins). While the more famous free agent signings like Sano and Sanchez come with plenty of prestige and attention, others, such as Arraez, are virtually unheralded, making a monumental impact when considering their signing bonuses. Emmanuel Rodriguez falls between those two extremes. The Twins signed him for a $2.5 million bonus in 2019. The Dominican was their top target in a class that was led by Yankees Jasson Dominguez. According to most international prospect lists, his overall placement in free-agent rankings that season lay between 10th and 20th. "They were always there. They were always following up with him. The scouting department made him feel wanted and that meant a lot to him', translates Sierra, on how Rodriguez ended up with the Twins. The 5’10, 200-pound left-handed hitter managed a 124 wRC+ and 10 HR in his professional debut in the Florida Complex League. While his .390 wOBA was impressive, Rodriguez's 36.6 K% was a clear area of focus ahead of 2022. The early returns are promising. At the time of writing, Rodriguez has increased his BB% from 15% in 2021 to 29% in 2022, cutting his K% to a more manageable 22%. In addition, Rodriguez has posted a scorching 252 wRC+. "I am working mostly on evening out my strikeout to walk ratio', says Rodriguez (through Sierra), after asking what his primary focus is in 2022, "that, and staying healthy." Entering the season, Rodriguez boasted 60-grade power, a 60-grade arm to go with 50-grade running and fielding. The question was his hit tool. Prior to 2022, Baseball America graded is at 45, citing his weakness in controlling the strike zone and an overly steep swing that resulted in too many strikeouts. Even with these concerns, they ranked him as the Twins' #10 overall prospect ahead of 2022, also giving him the superlative of best outfield arm in the system. What’s so exciting in Rodriguez’s start is his age and the rapidity of his improvement. At 19, he has a ton of projectability as he fills out, grows, and continues to develop. Even now, he has some of the best bat speed in the Twins system, top to bottom. While his 2022 start could simply be a hot two-week stretch, it should be a huge reason for optimism. The sky is the limit for Rodriguez if he can continue to improve and make adjustments at the rate and with the competence he has thus far in his young career. When asked what making the big leagues would mean to him, his answer is clear "It would be a dream come true," Rodriguez explains through Sierra. "I know for a fact it's something that would make my family incredibly proud." There’s a long road ahead, but don't count Emmanuel Rodriguez out, it looks like he has star potential.
  16. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (82 pitches, 60 strikes, 73.1%) Home Runs: Miguel Sanó (1) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.189), Miguel Sanó (.170), Luis Arráez (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins lose Buxton early but score four runs on five hits It was an eventful start to the game for Minnesota. Eight pitches into the first inning, Byron Buxton left the game with an apparent leg injury. He popped up to shallow left, and when Boston’s defense couldn’t make the play because of the sun, he sprinted and slid into second when the injury occurred. He immediately headed to the dugout and was replaced by Nick Gordon. On the brighter side of the inning, Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a liner to center, and yet again, the Red Sox defense couldn’t take care of it, allowing Gordon to score the game’s first run easily. Even though Jorge Polanco drew a walk, helping to drive Nick Pivetta’s pitch count to 26, Minnesota had to settle for the one run in the first. But that wouldn’t last long. After Joe Ryan cruised through the bottom first on only eight pitches, striking out two and throwing strikes on every pitch, the offense ambushed Pivetta, scoring three runs on three hits. After Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sanó followed with a moon shot that went over the ‘green monster’ to make it 3-0 Twins. That was his first base hit of the season. Could his biggest early-season problem be the cold weather? Later on, Gordon singled to center with two outs, only to be brought home in the following at-bat by an Arráez double, making it 4-0 Minnesota. That’s the second multi-hit game for Luis this season. Closing out the inning with 54 pitches, Pivetta was done after two. Alex Verdugo got Boston a run back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer to center. Ryan looks excellent through six; the offense adds on After a somewhat shaky opening day start, Ryan looked superb today at Fenway. Boston hitters simply couldn’t figure him out, especially his slider, which produced whiffs 47% of the time in the first five innings. He also managed to get out of jams during the fourth and fifth innings when Boston had two runners on in each of them. In the meantime, he got even more run support from the bats. Carlos Correa and Polanco reached on a walk and a single to open the fifth inning, and both of them scored on a Gary Sánchez ground ball, making it 6-1 Minnesota. With those two runs batted in, Sánchez now has more RBI against Boston than any other team in the majors. Ryan continued his fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 sixth, shredding through Red Sox hitting with his off-speed offerings. By the end of the inning, he had produced an astonishing 19 swinging strikes, a career-high for him. Overall, 40% of his pitches were either called strikes or swinging strikes. Duran breaks Twitter, Boston’s rally comes up short Jhoan Duran took over once Ryan departed, and he baffled local fans and media with an incredible seventh inning. He retired the side on eight pitches which averaged 98.2 MPH and touched 102 MPH. His performance drew the attention of several national media accounts on Twitter. Boston got to him during the eighth, scoring three runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double and was pushed across a couple of at-bats later by a Kike Hernandez double. Then, Rafael Devers followed that with a two-run home run to the corner right, cutting the Twins lead in half. Duran cooled down and struck out the final two batters to end the inning. With the Red Sox getting dangerously close, Minnesota needed some insurance runs. Reliever Matt Barnes retired Arráez to open the top of the ninth, but he gave up a couple of walks against the following two batters. The Twins cashed in on both of those walks, first with a Max Kepler single and then with a slow groundout from Larnach with the bases loaded, bringing the lead back to four. Emilio Pagán came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and he threw a clean 1-2-3 inning to secure the win. What’s Next? For game two on Saturday, the Twins turn to Sonny Gray, who is set to face Boston’s Tanner Houck. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duran 11 0 0 0 34 45 Thielbar 19 18 0 0 0 37 Romero 0 34 0 0 0 34 Pagán 0 20 0 0 11 31 Winder 0 28 0 0 0 28 Jax 0 0 22 0 0 22 Smith 19 3 0 0 0 22 Coulombe 0 14 0 0 0 14 Duffey 14 0 0 0 0 14
  17. Arraez has quickly become a fan favorite during his four seasons as a big leaguer. His energy at the plate and ability to spit at pitches on the edges of the strike zone make him exciting for even casual fans. It's hard to believe he just turned 25-years-old over the weekend. Fans would be thrilled to have him take over a starting role, but there may be a method to the team's madness. On the team's depth chart, Arraez is the backup defender at second base, third base, and designated hitter. He's played outfield in the past, but the team spoke about not using him in the outfield this spring. His defensive starts have come at third base this season, which is his best defensive position. Last season, he finished fifth among the AL's third basemen according to SABR's Defensive Index. Minnesota may have a natural platoon at third base with Arraez and recently-acquired Gio Urshela. For his career, Arraez, a left-handed hitter, has hit .332/.380/.441 (.820) versus right-handed pitching. His platoon splits are significantly different as his OPS is 152 points higher when facing lefties. Urshela, a right-handed hitter, doesn't have the extreme splits as Arraez, but his OPS is 39 points higher against left-handed pitchers. There's a scenario where the Twins can continue to rotate through these two players, allowing Arraez to get regular at-bats. Arraez's bat is also valuable in a pinch-hitting role as he is 5-for-15 (.333 BA) in his career. His MLB debut was as a pinch hitter, and he has already been used as a pinch hitter this season. "His special skills, I think, are the same skills that make him a good hitter in general," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… His feel in the box as a hitter, his ability to see the ball, his hand-eye coordination. He's not going up there, generally ever, swinging and missing, almost ever. He's putting good swings on the ball always. That's kind of who he is." An argument can also be made for giving Arraez regular time off. He has missed time with knee issues throughout his career, including stints on the IL last season. He has only played more than 120 games in one season in his big-league career. His career-high for games played is 146 games during the 2019 season, when he played 92 MLB games and 54 games in the minors. Rocco Baldelli has advocated for giving players regular rest during his tenure, so giving Arraez time off may be best for his problematic knees. Opportunities may arise during the season for Arraez to take on a more regular role. One injury to a regular starter may cause the team to need Arraez to be a starter. Many of the team's top prospects at Triple-A are infielders, so it seems likely that Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis will make their debuts in 2022. If a player gets injured, the Twins may keep Arraez in his current role and promote a top prospect to become the everyday starter. Arraez provides value to the Twins no matter his role on the team. It's critical for the team to keep him healthy this season, and that might mean keeping him out of the line-up when there is a tough left-handed pitcher on the mound. Arraez provides a spark to the team, but he has to be healthy, and that is on the field less than some fans would like him to be. Do you think Arraez has earned a starting role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Homeruns: None Bottom 3 WPA: Jeffers -.151, Buxton -.144, Polanco -.103 Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Chilly temperatures and rain were not enough to prevent baseball at Target Field, with the Dodgers eager to get home on time for their home opener on Thursday. Here’s how the Twins lined up against one of the most formidable teams in baseball. Twins fans continued to see their remade rotation on Tuesday as Chris Archer took the mound against Andrew Heaney. Archer came out strong and effective, with his fastball reaching 95 mph in a scoreless first inning on just 13 pitches. A 105 mph double off the bat of Carlos Correa amounted to nothing in the bottom of the first inning for the Twins. Indeed, Heaney’s three-quarter, across the body action appeared to be deceiving Twins hitters early, as he induced seven swings and misses in the bottom of the first inning. The teams traded scoreless second innings that were uneventful, save for Byron Buxton doing Byron Buxton things. Gavin Lux, Freddie Freeman, and Carlos Correa doubles were the only offense for both teams in innings three and four, as Archer left the game having thrown 63 pitches and limiting the best lineup in baseball to two hits and zero runs. Archer was relieved in the fifth inning by Josh Winder to make his major league debut with the Twins. Like Bundy on Monday night, Archer’s debut will give Twins fans optimism that their new-look rotation can be effective against good offenses. After benefiting from a generous called third strike on Dodgers catcher Will Smith, Winder struggled for command in the fifth inning. He managed just 12 strikes on his first 28 pitches, walking Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor before a double steal and a Gavin Lux sac fly allowed Bellinger to score. Winder managed to limit the damage to one run. One could wonder why making his MLB debut on a cold, wet Tuesday, in a close game against the best lineup in baseball, was preferential to any game against the Mariners from the previous series? To Winder’s credit, he battled through it. With rain imminent, the Twins posed their first threat in the fifth. A Kepler double to right-center field, and Sano hit-by-pitch put runners at first and second with one out. Rocco Baldelli opted to pinch-hit Luis Arraez for Gilberto Celestino. A routine ground ball to Trea Turner resulted in a Twins run. Turner slipped, overthrew Gavin Lux at second, allowing Kepler to score and putting runners at the corners with one out. Heaney was relieved by old friend Brusdar Graterol. A Byron Buxton pop out and Carlos Correa ended an excellent scoring opportunity for Minnesota. Struggling with the increasing rain, Danny Coulombe managed just five strikes on 14 pitches, managing two-thirds of an inning before being relieved by Joe Smith. Smith struck out Justin Turner to end the top of the sixth inning. Despite getting two men aboard in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Jeffers popped out to end the inning. Mookie Betts walked to lead off the eight for the Dodgers. Caleb Thielbar relieved Pagan, walking Freddie Freeman before a ground ball rolled under Luis Arraez’s glove for an error, scoring Betts. While it was scored as a single, it was a brutal play by Arraez, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Thielbar then walked Max Muncy to load the bases before being pulled for Jhon Romero. Romero immediately surrendered a single to Justin Turner, increasing the lead to 3-1. The Dodgers began to pour it on, adding hits and benefiting from a second Arraez error. After the top of the eighth, the score was 7-1, and the game was put to bed. Except it wasn't. The game was delayed in the bottom of the eight inning due to inclement weather. After a 90 minute rain delay, play resumed at around 11:35 CT. Nick Gordon walked to lead off the eighth for the Twins, before Jorge Polanco singled. Max Kepler singled to bring home Nick Gordon to make the score 7-2. Ryan Jeffers struck out to end the inning. Jharel Cotton managed a scoreless ninth despite walking three Dodgers in the inning. The Twins bullpen walked nine hitters and threw 142 pitches in five innings of work. The Twins went quietly in the bottom of the ninth, falling to 2-3 on the young season. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Coulombe 27 0 15 0 14 56 Thielbar 0 18 0 19 18 55 Romero 0 0 15 0 34 49 Cotton 0 20 0 0 25 45 Duran 31 0 0 11 0 42 Smith 0 20 0 19 3 42 Duffey 0 18 0 14 0 32 Pagán 0 0 10 0 20 30 Winder 0 0 0 0 28 28 Jax 0 0 0 0 0 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their short series against the Dodgers. Chris Paddack will take the mound against Clayton Kershaw. First pitch is at 12:10 CST. Postgame Interviews - Coming Soon
  19. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (67 pitches, 47 strikes (70.1%)) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.288), Jorge Polanco (.223), Luis Arraez (.118) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Cy-Bundy? Ok, so no one is going Cy-Young award yet on Dylan Bundy. His outing Monday night was very encouraging and clean. Considering the question marks surrounding Bundy and how he might step into the Twins rotation. For at least one turn, the answer was very good. Bundy was very efficient as he made it through 5 innings while only throwing 67 pitches of one-hit ball. 5-6 innings each time out of anything close to Monday night would be an excellent outcome for the Twins' free-agent addition. Everyone gets an RBI-Single The Twins got their first run in the first inning on an RBI double. In the 5th inning, the offense got going with three straight RBI singles and put the Twins up 4-0. Byron Buxton provided the fireworks as he almost hit his 4th home run of the season. Instead, the ball hit the top of the wall, letting Buxton cruise into second with a double. Then, Luis Arraez into Jorge Polanco into Gio Urshela gave the Twins those three straight singles and three more runs on the board. After a weekend that provided a heavy diet of long home runs, the Twins went the route of stringing hits together to get runs on the board. Did Rocco Go to the Wrong Guys in the Pen? After the Twins went up 4 in the fifth inning, Rocco still chose to run out many of his key arms. Caleb Thielbar took the sixth, Tyler Duffey the seventh, and Joe Smith the eighth. It seemed like a game situation where the Twins could have worked some of their lower leverage arms into the game and saved the higher leverage arms for the Dodgers as they come to town tomorrow. If you refer to the bullpen chart at the bottom of the game recap, it seems there is a potential pattern Rocco is following, at least early on. The relievers have been bunched into groups that allow days rest between outings for each reliever. That is true for all the relievers outside of Josh Winder, who has yet to pitch through this opening series. Tonight’s game felt like an excellent opportunity for Winder to have gotten at least an inning or two. We did get to see Jhoan Duran in the ninth and Wow... Base Running Woes Twins fans are not immune from feeling the woes of bad base running. Monday night was a flashback of that. The home team saw two base runners thrown out at home plate. The first was Miguel Sano in the second inning, and the second Alex Kirilloff who was thrown out just ahead of the RBI single parade in the fifth. Those two missed runs may have been enough to add to leaving Winder in the bullpen and not on the mound. What’s Next? The Twins will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to town along with their powerhouse of a lineup. Chris Archer is set to make the start for the Twins in a game that is scheduled to begin at 6:40 p.m. The Dodgers will look to send Andrew Heaney to the mound. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Coulombe 0 27 0 15 0 42 Duran 0 31 0 0 11 42 Alcalá 0 13 0 27 0 40 Smith 0 0 20 0 19 39 Thielbar 0 0 18 0 19 37 Duffey 0 0 18 0 14 32 Cotton 0 0 20 0 0 20 Romero 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 10 0 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  20. Box Score SP: Sonny Gray: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (76 pitches, 52 strikes (68.4%)) Home Runs: Luis Arraez (1), Byron Buxton (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Tyler Duffey (-.620), Miguel Sano (.098), Jorge Polanco (.080) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Sonny Gray, who started his very first regular-season game as a Minnesota Twin, completed 4 2/3 innings in his debut. Gray has a solid presence on the mound and control of his strike zone. Even when he isn’t throwing 94 mph, his command of the strike zone earned him four strikeouts and 52 strikes. Birthday boy, Luis Arraez, hit his first home run of the season in the bottom of the first inning and subsequently gave the Twins their very first lead of the season! Byron Buxton, who didn't get on base in the season opener or in his first three plate appearances on Saturday, brought the Twins' bench to life and fans to their feet in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit his first home run of the season deep into left field. The offense had been remarkably quiet and Buxton turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. It was the second hardest-hit home run for Buxton at 112.3 MPH. Nick Gordon who had a huge run-in with Max Kepler on April 4 in the final game of spring training is feeling better and certainly showed that there are no lingering side effects from the collision. Gordon ripped the ball through the shift in the second inning, advancing Ryan Jeffers to third. Gordon had a tremendous plate appearance that ended in a walk to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. For the second straight day, Carlos Correa made great defensive plays that really showed his dedication to this team and skill he brings to the game. I was talking to a few fans at yesterday’s game and some are still in disbelief that he is here, but he’s here and making a difference all over the field. The Twins defense is certainly better with him. In an opportunity to get to know our new pitcher, Chris Archer who just joined the Twins today in the clubhouse was on the headset during the third and fourth inning of the game today and talked about how much he’s excited to be here. Archer attributes a large amount of his move here to not only Rocco, but Jake Odorizzi. He called him to see what the organization and the city and the fans are like and "Odo" gave nothing but props to the city, fans, and organization. He loves the new defense and Ryan Jeffers as the catcher. He said that it came down to a few teams, but that he genuinely believes in this team and organization. We look forward to seeing him on the mound. Tyler Duffey came in the ninth inning, and according to Baldelli it was exactly as it was planned, except the pitching didn't go the way they wanted. Duffey continues to struggle with command of the strike zone and gave Julio Rodriguez his first MLB hit, With two outs, Adam Frazier doubled into left-center to score Rodriguez and tie the game. Ty France followed and drove Frazier home with the go-ahead run. Not the way the Twins or their fans wanted the game to end, and while some of the players struggled to make contact with the ball, we saw glimmers of what is yet to come with this team as the months and the bats get a chance to warm up. What’s Next? The Twins will finish their series at home with the Mariners tomorrow at 1:10 pm central time with Bailey Ober taking on left-hander Marco Gonzalez. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duran 0 0 0 31 0 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 27 0 27 Cotton 0 0 0 0 20 20 Smith 0 0 0 0 20 20 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 18 18 Duffey 0 0 0 0 18 18 Alcalá 0 0 0 13 0 13 Ober 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  21. In these rankings we will only be looking at players on the 40-man roster, and we will only be looking at their value to the Twins for the 2022 season. This is different from the Twins asset rankings that Nick Nelson does each year where he ranks the Twins players in terms of the long-term value they bring to the club. In these rankings, young prospects might be ranked lower than aging veterans and past production will typically trump future projection. In the simplest of terms, these rankings will answer the question, “Who would you rather have for the 2022 season?” Tier 11: Likely Non-Contributors 40. Chris Vallimont Vallimont struggled mightily in double-A last season, but was added to the 40-man roster to be protected in the Rule 5 draft. Don’t expect to see Vallimont contribute to the Twins this season. 39. Ronny Henriquez 38. Blayne Enlow After undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, Enlow will look to get healthy in 2022 as he prepares to be a contributor for the club in 2023. 37. Drew Strotman Strotman has been converted into a reliever and will work as such with the St. Paul Saints this season. He struggled as a starter after joining the Saints last year, but in a bullpen role he will likely get a shot with the Twins at some point in 2022. 36. Cole Sands 35. Jordan Balazovic While he hopes to get a call up to the Majors at some point in 2022, Balazovic still has yet to pitch above the double-A level and will be starting the 2022 season on the injured list. Still a promising prospect, Balazovic will hope to string together some healthy months and work his way up to the Big Leagues. Tier 10: Bench Utility Guys…With Upside? 34. Gilberto Celestino 33. Royce Lewis Having not played in competitive baseball games since 2019, the 2022 season will be a big one for Royce Lewis. The former number one overall pick will look to prove that he still has what it takes to be a superstar in this league. Lewis will start the season in St. Paul and fight to work his way up to the Big Leagues where he can fill in all over the diamond. 32. Nick Gordon 31. Jose Miranda Miranda exploded onto the scene in 2021 in Wichita and St. Paul, posting one of the best minor league seasons in Minnesota Twins history. Miranda will look to ride that momentum into the 2022 season, where it shouldn’t be long until he gets a call up to the Majors. Tier 9: Who Keeps Their Job Longer? 30. Chris Archer The most recently acquired player on the Minnesota Twins’ roster, Archer has shown what his ceiling can look like. The problem is, he hasn’t reached that ceiling since leaving the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. Now with injuries and declining velocity, we’ll see how long he can stay in the rotation. 29. Dylan Bundy Tier 8: Bullpen Cycle Guys 28. Cody Stashak After bursting on the scene in 2019 with an extremely impressive run as a rookie, Stashak has struggled mightily with injury. Last season, Stashak didn't pitch at all after May, and now again this season the right hander finds himself on the injured list with bicep trouble. When healthy, Stashak has impressive upside, but until he can prove himself to be healthy, he finds himself at the bottom of the "Bullpen Cycle Guys." 27. Griffin Jax 26. Jovani Moran After pitching the lights out in the Minors last season, Moran got called up to the Majors towards the end of the season where he struggled. Moran will begin the year in St. Paul, but is the type of high-upside left hander that could pop in his second stint up in the Big Leagues. 25. Josh Winder 24. Emilio Pagán The "other guy" acquired in the Taylor Rogers trade, Pagán has shown that he has the ability to be a lights-out reliever. In 2019, the right-hander tossed a 2.31 ERA in 70.0 IP with the Tampa Bay Rays with a 12.3 K/9. After a couple of down seasons in San Diego, he has the makeup to be a potentially dominant reliever for the Twins with a few tweaks. 23. Danny Coulombe 22. Jhon Romero The newly acquired Colombian product is still just 27-years-old and with little experience in the Major Leagues. Across double-A and triple-A last season, though, Romero posted a combined 2.95 ERA with a K/9 of 11.3. 21. Joe Smith 20. Jharel Cotton 19. Jhoan Duran Maybe this ranking is a little too optimistic for how young and unproven he is, but Jhoan Duran has a higher ceiling than almost any other arm in this bullpen. Since being moved to a full-time reliever role, Duran has upped his velocity to consistently hitting triple digits, to go along with a nasty ‘splinker’. Duran could easily be this team’s closer by season’s end. Tier 7: Which Catcher is Better? 18. Gary Sánchez Did you know that Gary Sánchez is the fastest catcher in MLB history to hit 100 home runs? Sánchez came up with the New York Yankees as a super prospect and immediately showed off his big time power en route to some incredible seasons. Over the last two seasons, though, the swing for Sánchez has looked ugly, and his poor defense lends to him being more of a DH than a catcher. If a change in scenery can spark the offense for him again, though, he could do some special things. 17. Ryan Jeffers Tier 5: X-Factor Bats 16. Trevor Larnach 15. Gio Urshela Urshela broke out in a big way in 2019, when he posted a .889 OPS over 132 games with the Yankees. After another strong season in 2020, Urshela regressed in 2021 to the tune of a .720 OPS. Urshela can play multiple spots in the infield, but whether or not his bat can rebound is what makes him an X-Factor for the Twins in 2022. Tier 4: Back of Bullpen Studs 14. Jorge Alcala After struggling to start the year in 2021, Alcala thrived down the stretch. Over the last 22 innings of last season, Alcala allowed just two earned runs while striking out 27. We could quickly see Alcala working his way to higher and higher leverage spots this season. 13. Caleb Thielbar 12. Tyler Duffey A prime bounceback candidate, Tyler Duffey will look to return to his 2020 form after a tough 2021 that saw his K/9 decline from 11.6 to 8.8, however he still managed to turn in an excellent 3.18 ERA. Tier 3: Young Gun Arms 11. Bailey Ober 10. Chris Paddack 9. Joe Ryan Ryan was acquired last season in a trade deadline deal for Nelson Cruz and quickly became a fan favorite. In his sophomore season, Ryan has already been named Opening Day starter and hopes are high for the right hander. Ryan is no doubt a Major League pitcher, but the question with him is upside. Does he have the upside to be a top of the rotation starter? Tier 2: The Next Best 8. Max Kepler After a breakout season in 2019, Kepler regressed in 2020 and was even worse in 2021. Last season, Kepler finished the year with a lowly OPS of .719. He still has the power and still has the glove to be a fringe all-star player, but he needs to prove that this season, otherwise he might wear out his welcome in Minnesota. 7. Alex Kirilloff Alex Kirilloff jumped out of the gates really strong in a Twins uniform, showing that his hype as a highly-touted prospect was deserved. The injury bug hit him hard though, as a wrist injury severely diminished his power and he limped through the season to a mediocre .722 OPS. Now, with a healthy wrist, Kirilloff figures to impact the Twins team more this season and provide middle-of-the-order numbers by the end of the season. 6. Miguel Sanó 5. Luis Arraez Tier 1: 2022 Team MVP Candidates 4. Sonny Gray While Sonny Gray profiles more as a number two than a number one, Gray has the upside to be an ace pitcher for the Minnesota Twins in 2022. If he can replicate his 2019 numbers and give the Minnesota Twins a true, no-doubt ace that they have been starved for, he certainly has the potential to be the MVP of the Twins in 2022. 3. Jorge Polanco 2. Byron Buxton An argument could definitely be made for Byron Buxton to fill the number one spot on these rankings. Pound for pound, game for game, Buxton arguably produces more value than any other player in baseball. Like always with Byron, though, health is the question. If Buxton can play 140+ games for the Twins this year, he will likely finish the season in the number one spot. 1. Carlos Correa In signing Carlos Correa, the Minnesota Twins are bringing in who is now the best player on the team. Correa does everything that you look for in a star player. He plays a premium position, offers gold-glove level defense and excellent offense. The best part, he’s only just entering his prime, as he is still just 27-years-old. Do you agree with the rankings above? Who is ranked too high? Too low? Leave your disagreements in the rankings below and let’s have a conversation!
  22. Projected Starter: Gary Sánchez Likely Backup: Miguel Sanó Depth: Luis Arraez, Brent Rooker Prospects: Aaron Sabato, Christian Encarnacion-Strand THE GOOD A few weeks ago, I figured the team's plan was to have Mitch Garver split time between catcher and designated hitter, with Ryan Jeffers getting primary reps behind the plate and other players rotating through the DH spot when Garver caught or sat. That's the kind of flexibility you gain from losing a fixture in Nelson Cruz. The scenario I envisioned has since been flipped upside down by a flurry of disruptive moves, and as the sum result, Gary Sánchez will essentially be filling the same role I saw for Garver. He'll have the smaller end of a catching timeshare, with plenty of time at DH to maximize the impact of his powerful right-handed bat. Although Sánchez has been worse than Garver of late, his overall track record is much more impressive: Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2016, two-time All-Star, owner of an .804 career OPS and 138 home runs by age 29. We've got Sánchez pegged as the starter at DH because he seems lined up for the most time there early on, but things are fluid at this position by design. Rocco Baldelli can play match-ups and maximize his best bats by taking advantage of the open reins. Plenty of candidates will be vying for opportunities. Miguel Sanó should see a good amount of time at DH, since the Twins seem to (justifiably) much prefer Alex Kirilloff's defense at first base. Luis Arraez lacks a firm starting position, so DH is an easy way to get his bat into the lineup against righties. (I wouldn't be surprised to see him there on Opening Day, even against a lefty.) Those three alone should be able to account for a bulk of the ABs in April. From there, the Twins can keep an open mind. Brent Rooker, the former first-round pick with an .874 OPS in the minors, could be a factor. Aaron Sabato, a more recent first-rounder coming off a roller-coaster pro debut, may not be far behind if his emergence at Cedar Rapids was legit. Christian Encarnacion-Strand is very intriguing to me – the 2021 fourth-rounder mashed to a 1.022 OPS in pitcher-friendly Ft. Myers last summer after starring for Oklahoma State. Like Sabato, he's 22. Plenty of potential bats in the pipeline. But the real dark horse here is José Miranda. I don't have him listed among the prospects or depth at this position because he's got enough glove to not be considered a long-term DH candidate, but Miranda's bat may force the issue. If he's raking in St. Paul while the various timeshare partners aren't inspiring for the Twins, the reigning Minor League Player of the Year is a mere shuttle away. A nice little ace in the hole. THE BAD Most of Minnesota's future DH impact is entirely theoretical, representing a stark change from the very reliable and material impact of Cruz. Sánchez is a nice piece there if he's mashing like he did early in his career. But between 2020 and '21 he slashed .187/.291/.406. Yeesh. Arraez, for as much as we all love him, was not a great offensive player last year. His punchless .294 average and .357 OBP yielded a 105 OPS+, meaning he was 5% better than average. You need more from a designated hitter. With Garver gone, Sanó is probably the most dependable impact bat the Twins can use at DH. For all the grief he gets, he was second on the team in home runs and RBIs last year, and he's only posted a below-average OPS once in seven seasons. I think I lost everyone when I used "Sanó" and "dependable" in the same sentence so I'll just move onto the next paragraph. It would be awesome to see Rooker grab the job and take hold of it. This is his moment. He's 27 and the raw power is special. His defensive shortcomings suggest that any major-league future will be at DH. Unfortunately, the Twins basically gave him everyday playing time after trading Cruz last year and Rooker did little to impress, slashing .219/.317/.425 with a 57-to-14 K/BB rate in 183 plate appearances. He's got an uphill battle for anything resembling regular tread. He might not even make it to Opening Day on the 40-man roster. Miranda, as amazing as he looked in the high minors last year, remains a theoretical big-league asset in his own right. Sabato and Encarnacion-Strand even more so. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins face an uncertain future at designated hitter after parting ways with one of the best to ever do it. Expect to see plenty of Sánchez, Sanó and Arraez early on, with an open-ended roadmap after that. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field
  23. In most seasons, we have a general consensus of one or two players that will make the final bench role for the big-league roster. This year Major League Baseball announced that rosters would start at 28 players, at least through April. That’s two additional spots beyond what has become recent custom. Let’s assume Minnesota uses additional openings on pitchers, given the likelihood that starters aren’t entirely stretched out, and we’ve got a 13 position player configuration. Knowing that the lineup will have nine starters and that Carlos Correa’s spring training debut looks like a pretty good glimpse of what it may look like on Opening Day, we have four bench spots to work with. Here’s how I see that shaking out: The Given (1): Luis Arraez As of this moment, I think only Arraez is marked in pen to start the season on the Twins bench. He’s a second baseman that’s below-average defensively virtually everywhere he plays but has shown positional flexibility. Arraez’s greatest asset is his eye and the batting average it generates. Despite being routinely shifted, he can spray the ball all over the diamond and is a lineup asset when healthy. If he’s not traded for pitching to a team looking at him as a starter, having this type of talent on the bench for Rocco Baldelli is a great commodity. The Assumed (1): Jose Godoy Claimed off waivers last week, Jose Godoy is a good bet to make the Opening Day roster because managers love third catchers. If Baldelli is going to use Gary Sanchez as his designated hitter in any given lineup, that means there’s no one to back up starter Ryan Jeffers. With Ben Rortvedt traded to the New York Yankees, Godoy is the lone option left on the 40 man roster. He’s a career minor leaguer with just a .723 OPS in over 2,000 plate appearances. That said, he’s only 27-years-old, and clearly, Minnesota thought something of him to file the waiver claim. Unless another option emerges at catcher through waivers in the next two weeks, this is probably who fills the spot. The Uncertains (4): Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino Quite possibly the most challenging group to peg because you could go either way on a number of these guys. Larnach is easily the most talented of the group with the highest ceiling, but being a left-handed corner outfielder, he fills the same profile as both Alex Kirilloff and Max Kepler. Among this foursome, Larnach is the guy needing consistent at-bats most. He makes the club only if there’s an avenue for that to happen. Minnesota won’t include him to sit. Next in line would be Gordon, and for good reason. He filled a utility role admirably last year, even if the bat doesn’t really play. Gordon can take over in all three outfield spots, though his speed masks his arm strength. It’s a nice addition to a bench that hasn’t had wheels in some time, but that really comes down to how aggressive the Twins want to be on the base paths. For Rooker and Celestino, the situation couldn’t be more opposite. The former saw quick success but has basically become a swing and miss power hitter that struggles defensively. The latter struggled mightily in a premature promotion but has the chops to be an above-average defender in the outfield. Celestino’s impressive return to Triple-A could make him an enticing option for the fourth outfielder, but more seasoning on the farm makes sense too. The Doubtful (1): Jose Miranda It’s not as though talent suggests Miranda won’t make the club, as he dominated both Double and Triple-A last season. The problem is that there’s no straightforward avenue to playing time, and he needs to be more than a utilityman if the Twins want to start him on the big club. Miranda can play second, third, and first base. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s the first man up, but barring a trade, it seems unlikely he’d unseat a guy more able to ride the pine. The Dark Horses (2): Tim Beckham, Daniel Robertson Two non-roster invitees have continued to generate at-bats this spring, and both have substantial big league track records. Beckham is a former first overall pick, while Robertson has done a good job filling in anywhere on the diamond in short stints. There’s probably more to like about Robertson’s game than Beckham’s, and despite the notoriety of the former Rays top pick, I wrote about the other guy being a dark horse to watch this winter. Either of these two would need a 40 man addition should they be chosen, which is, of course, another scenario working against them. Assuming Luis Arraez is among them, who are your three favorites to fill out the Minnesota Twins bench on Opening Day?
  24. Leadoff Options So far this spring, Byron Buxton has served as the leadoff hitter in every game he has been in the line-up. This positioning may point to the team considering him for the leadoff spot, or it may be a way to get him more in-game action this spring. Buxton has started 33 games as the leadoff hitter throughout his career and posted a .315 OBP and a .514 OPS. His speed would be a clear weapon out of the leadoff spot, making him an intriguing player to feature in the leadoff role. Minnesota also has other options to fill the leadoff role. Luis Arraez has the contact and on-base skills to fit the mold of a leadoff hitter. In his career, he has batted leadoff more than any other line-up spot while hitting .320/.371/.398 (.769). However, Arraez doesn't have a regular line-up spot, and his knees issues have made his running painful to watch. Last season, his sprint speed ranked in the 45th percentile, but the team may still want his bat-to-ball skills in the leadoff spot. Two Hole Coming off a season where he was team MVP, Jorge Polanco will likely continue to be used in the second spot in the line-up. He has batted second in nearly 40% of his big-league appearances, where he has hit .288/.345/.478 (.823). Last season, he accumulated double-digit steals for the second time in his career, and that may point to his ankles being healthy for the first time in multiple seasons. A healthy Buxton batting in front of Polanco can be an exciting one-two punch at the top of the line-up. Polanco played over 150 games for the second time in his career last season, but there are other options for the line-up's second spot when he is given a day off. As mentioned above, Buxton and Arraez have the skills necessary to bat at the top of the line-up when Polanco sits out a game. Depending on the handiness of the pitcher, Max Kepler, a left-handed hitter, Three Spot Carlos Correa is the highest-paid infielder in MLB history, and he needs to bat in the middle of the Twins line-up. He has made over 230 starts in the number three and four spots throughout his career. From both of these spots, his OPS is north of .820, and he hit 83 career home runs. The higher Correa bats in the order, the more at-bats he will accumulate throughout the season. Batting him lower than third in the line-up takes away from the offensive value he can be providing to the team. In the past, Correa has dealt with injuries, including missing time in multiple seasons because of back issues. He has averaged more than 115 games per season, but there will be times when he isn't on the field. When that occurs, moving Buxton to the third spot allows him more opportunities to drive in the leadoff runners. Alex Kirilloff is returning from injury, but he projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Twins over the next decade. Minnesota's line-up has undoubtedly taken on a different look since the lockout ended with Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver out of the equation. However, Correa adds another experienced bat that has been accustomed to connecting for big hits in the playoffs. How do you think the Twins will shape the top of their line-up this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  25. Major League Baseball recently announced that teams will be able to carry 28-player rosters until May 1. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of injuries. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Ryan Jeffers, Gary Sanchez One of the biggest remaining questions is whether or not the Twins will carry a third catcher. Jeffers can't start every game behind the plate, and Sanchez is known as one of baseball's worst defenders. Minnesota's only other catcher on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, but it seems more likely for him to stay in St. Paul until there is a need at the big-league level. If Jeffers or Sanchez struggles behind the plate, Godoy is one phone call away from Target Field. Infielders (7): Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Gio Urshela, Carlos Correa, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker** Correa's addition undoubtedly changes the face of the infield, including solidifying the team's up-the-middle defense. Minnesota has made it clear that Arraez won't be getting regular playing time in the outfield, leaving him as a backup infield option at multiple positions. Last season, Arraez's defense was significantly improved at third base, so maybe he and Urshella will be fighting for playing time at the hot corner. Barring injury, Gordon and Rooker fill out the bench, but neither has a path to a consistent starting job. Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach** With three corner outfielders, the Twins will need to be strategic about getting at-bats for each player. Larnach isn't a true fourth outfielder, so the team may want him in St. Paul to get regular at-bats. Kirilloff can spend time at first base, which is his best defensive position. Rooker is also on the roster, but the team is hesitant to play him defensively in the outfield. Gilberto Celestino is the lone outfielder on the 40-man roster left off this projected Opening Day roster. He was terrific in St. Paul last year, and he's one injury away from taking over a big-league role. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Archer Randy Dobnak's injury took him out of contention for an Opening Day roster spot. Minnesota signed Archer to serve as Dobnak's replacement at the rotation's backend. Archer's deal is a low-risk option for the Twins as it is highly incentive-based, but he has a chance to prove he is healthy. Also, it's important to consider that the Twins won't need a fifth starter very regularly at the beginning of the season. In some years, off-days and weather delays can push back the need for a fifth starter, but that won't be the case this season. Bullpen (10): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Joe Smith, Cody Stashak, Jharel Cotton, Jovani Moran**, Griffin Jax**, Jhon Romero** This spring, Rogers has looked strong, which is a good sign for the bullpen's backend. Smith was the team's most significant offseason addition to the bullpen. He comes with over 13 years of big-league experience. Minnesota needed another right-handed relief option, and Smith filled that role. Cotton and Stashak have started in the past, so they can pitch multiple innings when needed. If there were a 26-man roster, the last three names would be fighting for a job. All three could enjoy a big-league paycheck for the season's first month with expanded rosters. What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Which on the bubble players will miss the cut? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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