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  1. That seems like a silly question because the answer is undoubtedly yes; however, many of Minnesota’s most logical pieces to go have some very real warts. How does that position them with potential suitors, and what does it mean when it comes to crafting a package for a deal? Going through some of the expected names, it’s worth wondering who can overcome the drawbacks, and it will be interesting to see how Derek Falvey positions each asset. Max Kepler Kepler is probably the guy most expected to be moved. With a glut of corner-outfield talent behind him, Minnesota could try to open up an avenue for playing time and allow Kepler the opportunity to flourish somewhere else. Kepler is on a team-friendly deal and plays incredible defense, but the problem is his bat has never blossomed to be what was expected. After the 123 OPS+ in 2019, it dipped to 109 in 2020 and just 98 last year. There’s power from the left side, but a corner outfielder putting up an OPS in the low-.700’s isn’t exactly enticing. The value is likely on an upside play, and the hope that 29 is the year Kepler finally puts it all together for good. Luis Arraez Another popular name when constructing hypothetical trades for the Twins, Arraez is known for being one of the best pure hitters in the game. He has extreme plate discipline and is nearly impossible to strike out. Add in the career .313 batting average, and you’ve got a modern-day Tony Gwynn. Therein lies the problem, though, that skillset translates much differently today. Arraez doesn’t hit for power (just six homers in nearly 1,000 plate appearances), and he isn’t exactly fast either. He can play second base but is stretched there defensively, and both third and left field are adequate roles at best for him. Add in the bulky knees while being just 24-years-old, and that’s probably not something that’s going to get better with age. He’s a utility man with no true defensive home, and while he can be a table-setter, you best have the lineup behind him that can drive in runs. Royce Lewis If you want to start looking at prospects, it’s worth considering the best of the farm. Lewis is a former first overall pick and has been ranked as high as 5th on top 100 prospect lists. He’s now returning following an ACL tear before last season, and he hasn’t played in a minor league game since September 2, 2019. Following the .803 OPS in 2018 as a 19-year-old, Lewis sunk to just a .661 OPS in 2019. He needed to re-establish himself, and reports coming out of St. Paul from the alternative site in 2020 were fantastic. There’s plenty to be uncertain about at this point, though, and it’d be a pretty big misstep to flip such a talent at what could be his lowest value. The Prospect Arms Maybe you want to deal from the pool of depth that should be soon supplementing the big league rotation. Take your pick on the names Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Josh Winder. Each of them is near the top of Minnesota’s pitching prospects, and all of them missed time in 2021 due to injury. The lack of game action in 2020 wreaked havoc on so many this season, but the Twins got hit hard in this group especially. How healthy are they each expected to return, and how does the opposition view those internal beliefs when considering a swap? There’s a lot of boom or bust potential with regards to any of these talents. Mitch Garver Included last because he may currently be the Twins best trade asset, but also the one I least want to see go. Ryan Jeffers has hardly established himself as the next backstop, and while more playing time could aid that, Garver is coming off an .875 OPS. Playing through muscle strains in 2020, it was clear that the 2019 .995 OPS wasn’t simply an outlier. Garver was a late-blooming prospect, but at 31, he will be one of the best catchers in baseball. His bat is a catalyst in the Minnesota lineup, and that production would not be easy to replace. If there’s a struggle in flipping Garver for the right value, it’s probably because most organizations are not focused on upgrades behind the dish. Miami was considered the best suitor but recently addressed the position in acquiring Jacob Stallings from the Pirates. Unlike the rest of this group, Garver is the type of trade asset that looks the best on paper, but I’m all for him staying put. Deals are going to be halted for a while now, but when they resume, Minnesota will have to find a delicate balance between moving players for the right value and hanging onto the ones that they expect to benefit most from. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Twins Territory can finally take a sigh of relief as late Sunday afternoon multiple sources announced Byron Buxton’s seven-year, $100 million extension with the Minnesota Twins. Buxton’s extension ensures that the Twins will not have to worry about pursuing a new starting center fielder for a long time. However, there is still the likelihood Buxton could miss playing time with an injury in 2022. With Buxton’s injury history still a concern for many, even after this contract extension, the Twins will be weighing their options on who will get the most playing time in centerfield when Buxton is not playing. Right now the Twins have three possible internal choices to back up Buxton when he is not playing in centerfield whether due to injury or a day off from the field. The first option is Max Kepler. Kepler has totaled 84 games in centerfield since 2019 and both he and the Twins front office are looking for him to spend less time in center and more time at his primary position, right field. This does not rule out that Kepler won’t play center field at all in 2022. It’s just more likely that another player will be seen there more often. The next likely player to see playing time in center field behind Buxton is Jake Cave. The majority of Cave’s 281 career games have been played in center field and now that the Twins have signed him to a Major League contract for the 2022 season, there could be an increase in his playing time. Cave’s 2021 season was abysmal at best and one that both he and Twins fans want to put behind them. It is likely, at this time, that Cave will be the primary backup to Buxton in centerfield to start 2022. One other option within the Twins organization, and on the 40-man roster, that could see playing time in center field for the team in 2022 is Gilberto Celestino. Celestino’s brief time with the Twins in 2021 did help the team defensively in Buxton’s absence. Yet Celestino showed he is not ready to face major-league pitching. In his time with the club last season, he had eight hits in just 59 at-bats. Celestino will still need time to develop his hitting with the St. Paul Saints in 2022. If his hitting continues to improve, as it did in Triple-A in 2021, it could provide another chance for him to play in center for the Twins in 2022. There is a fourth option currently in the Twins minor league system that is hopeful to make his MLB debut in 2022 and could see playing time in center field if he does get called up. That is Austin Martin. The timeframe on when the Twins second-best prospect could make his MLB debut is still uncertain. Martin split time between center field and shortstop following his trade to the Twins organization near the July deadline. He played 46 games in center and 43 at short for the Wichita Wind Surge. Martin’s primary position may be tweaked by the Twins following the Buxton extension, but if he does get called up in 2022, that won’t rule out any playing time he could see in center field with the Twins. Buxton’s extension with the Twins doesn’t dismiss the fact that the Twins won’t try to add more depth to the outfield either. A utility player like Danny Santana or super-utility player such as Chris Taylor could be options for the Twins to still pursue. Taylor and Santana are examples of players who aren’t primarily center fielders yet can still fill in holes for the Twins at other positions where they’re needed such as shortstop. Taylor would be the perfect fit for the Twins because he can play shortstop and back up Buxton in center. Santana, not so much. Santana has only played 12 games at shortstop since the start of the 2016 season and many more games at almost every other position, including center field. The great take away from the Buxton extension is that the Twins organization can be comfortable with a star centerfielder once again playing out his career with the Twins. Buxton’s injury history does warrant a need to have depth in center field. The Twins have solid options to work within the organization, but they could still pursue options outside their system to help ensure Buxton has the right players supporting him in center field when he isn’t playing.
  3. Typically, baseball assumes that you’re dealing from a pool of future talent to acquire something usable now, or vice versa. That is a logical assumption, but one that may not fit the Twins current mold. If their goal is to get better now, without embarking on a complete rebuild, dealing from a position of depth could be a path to accomplishing that goal. When looking at the Twins roster, there are three current regulars that all provide an enticing level of opportunity regarding the trade market. At catcher, it’s Mitch Garver. From an infield or utility perspective, it’s Luis Arraez. In the outfield, it’s Max Kepler. Sure, if we’re not re-signing Byron Buxton, then he has to be moved, but I choose not to live in a online world where that may be a possibility. With that said, let’s explore the three options. Mitch Garver Rebounding to the tune of an .875 OPS following a down year in 2020, Garver looked again like a top-tier bat behind the plate. He’s an adept pitch framer and has made considerable strides defensively. While age isn’t on his side for a future payday, he’s still plenty ripe for a prime stretch at 31-years-old being a late-blooming prospect. With Ryan Jeffers as his backup, it could be argued that Minnesota has a luxury in their backstop stable. 2020 showed a brief glimpse of what Jeffers may be, and as a future starter, he could push toward the upper tier for the position. Behind him, however, is Ben Rortvedt, who is almost certainly going to be a defense-only type of player. Moving Garver could net the Twins a handsome return, and catcher is one of the most challenging places in the sport to squeeze out offensive production. The Twins may desire to do this if Garver’s future prognosis trends more towards designated hitter duties as injuries mount. Selfishly, I’d like them to avoid this route. Give me all the Garv Sauce. Luis Arraez Formerly a fill-in for Jorge Polanco at second base, Arraez has established himself as one of baseball’s best pure hitters. He’s a contact guy that will always hit for average, and he has an incredible sense of plate discipline. Not a great defender anywhere; he truly can play everywhere after being thrust into a left-field role at times during the 2021 season. Assuming that Minnesota opts to keep Polanco at second base and sign a shortstop, that leaves Arraez looking at a utility role once again. He can spell Josh Donaldson at the hot corner and take reps in the outfield, but his defensive home will cease to exist. There’s no denying the at-bats will always be there for him with the Twins, but what is the gain should he be flipped to a team that sees him as their everyday option in the same defensive role? I don’t know that moving Arraez is an opportunity cost that Minnesota should be looking into. His utility is invaluable, and he covers multiple guys necessary of a true insurance policy. Max Kepler We’ve made it to the one player in this trio that finds themselves still seeking peak value. The .719 OPS in 2021 was a career-low, and the .855 mark during the 2019 Bomba Squad year looks as distant as ever. There is this, though, as Twins Daily’s Tom Froemming pointed out, Kepler’s expected results are drastically different from what reality is giving us. I’ve consistently hoped that Kepler would elevate the baseball and see the payoff due to his hard-hit contact potential. We noticed some of that in 2019, and that consistency is the biggest thing holding him back. Under team control through 2023 and tied to a 2024 team option, Kepler’s contract is among the most enticing things about him. He’s not turning any heads with a 98 OPS+, but at 123 or even 109 in 2020, he’s an above-average player that’s stellar on defense and could net something nice. Kepler’s value is hard to pinpoint given the results in comparison to what you’d hope he’s capable of. Getting the right team to bite on the right return is the goal, and with young outfield talent behind him, a flip could be more than beneficial for both sides. What do you think? If you’re trading a regular from the Twins lineup, who is it that you’re moving, and who do you think has the most value
  4. The 2021 season was the ninth straight season where SABR's Defensive Index (SDI) was used as part of the voting process for awarding Gold Gloves. Votes from managers and coaches count for 75% of the final results, while SDI is worth approximately 25%. According to SABR, "The SDI draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts, including data from MLBAM's Statcast, Sports Information Solutions, and STATS, LLC." Here is where qualified Twins players finished in the SDI rankings along with some places where Minnesota can improve in 2022: Catcher: Ryan Jeffers (1.0 SDI) Among qualified AL catchers, Ryan Jeffers finished eighth according to SDI. Oakland's Sean Murphy won the Gold Glove and was the AL leader at 6.8 SDI. Jeffers has been touted for his catching ability throughout his professional career, and some of those results showed up on the field last season. However, his struggles at the plate forced the team to demote him to Triple-A, limiting him to 85 big-league games in 2021. Jeffers may see his playing time increase next season if the Twins decide to trade Mitch Garver this winter. First Base: Miguel Sanó (-5.6 SDI) First base can be one of the team's most straightforward defensive fixes for 2022. Only one AL first baseman, Boston's Bobby Dalbec, ranked lower than Miguel Sanó when it comes to SDI. Alex Kirilloff is a better defender at first base, and he should start to get more reps at that position next season. Sanó can rotate through first base and designated hitter roles depending on the pitching match-up on any given day. First base defense can be overlooked, but Kirilloff presents an easy upgrade for the Twins. Second Base: Jorge Polanco (2.8 SDI) Last winter, Minnesota made a significant defensive upgrade at second base by moving Jorge Polanco away from shortstop. He finished the season as the AL's fourth highest-ranked second baseman, according to SDI. Polanco stayed healthy for all of 2021, and the results speak for themselves on both sides of the ball. Minnesota gave Polanco 39 appearances at shortstop last year, and the team is in the market for a shortstop this winter. It's in the team's best interest to keep Polanco at second base for the long term. Third Base: Luis Arraez (1.4 SDI) Josh Donaldson has been considered a solid defensive player throughout his career, but he didn't make enough defensive appearances to appear on the SDI Leaderboard. Luis Arraez finished fifth among AL third basemen according to SDI, which may come as a surprise. Minnesota moved Arraez to a utility role entering last season because his defense was below average at second base. Arraez, Donaldson, and Jose Miranda will all get time at third base in 2022. This is quite the defensive turnaround for Arraez, and it is certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (11.8 SDI) Even in a poor offensive season, Andrelton Simmons ranked among baseball's best on the defensive side of the ball. Houston's Carlos Correa, the eventual Gold Glove winner, was the lone player ranked higher than Simmons among AL shortstops. In fact, only two players, Correa and Kansas City's Michael Taylor, finished with a higher SDI. The only way to keep this kind of defensive output at shortstop is to sign Correa to a giant contract or keep Simmons around on a cheap deal. Outfield: Max Kepler (5.4 SDI) Max Kepler was the only player to make enough appearances to qualify for the season-ending leaderboard among Minnesota's outfielders. He finished fifth among AL right-fielders when it came to SDI. There is an argument to be made that he should have been one of the Gold Glove finalists at his position. One of the easiest ways for Minnesota to improve its outfield defense is to have Byron Buxton on the field more regularly. An outfield with Buxton and Kepler can make up for whatever player roams in left field for the club. Where do you think the Twins can make the most defensive improvement next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Left field was one of the Twins’ most noteworthy question marks entering the 2021 season and to say that they experienced a merry-go-round of talent in the left corner would be a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately, the performance of said talent was rather lackluster, to put it lightly. In total, 10 athletes made at least one appearance in left — led by Trevor Larnach’s 60 games — and compiled an fWAR of -0.1, which ranked 28th overall in baseball. Luis Arraez (1.8 fWAR) began the season as the primary position holder — one that he had never played before — driven by the desire to keep his bat in the lineup but lacking a home after Jorge Polanco was transitioned from shortstop to second base. However, myriad injuries — including a Josh Donaldson calf strain prior to the first game of the season -- projected him from the outfield and into more consistent roles at second and third base. Larnach (0.2 fWAR), who took up the mantle left following an Alex Kirilloff injury and subsequent move to first base, displayed great promise during the early portions of his premature rookie campaign before an inability to meet ball with wood reared its ugly head. Brent Rooker (-0.2 fWAR) and Jake Cave (-0.3 fWAR) struggled mightily both at the plate and in the field, leaving their future roles on the team — particularly Cave’s, who is a prime candidate to be cut from the 40-man roster — in question. The Grand Left Field Experiment failed to such a degree that it gave rise to one of the most unproductive positions in all of baseball. The following are a select few statistics that put the Twins’ ineptitude on full display: 32.2% K rate (30th) 23.9% K%-BB% (30th) .658 OPS (28th) 82 wRC+ (t28th) .361 SLG% (27th) Minnesota enters the current offseason in virtually the same position as they did the last: With a big ol’ question mark in left field. Chances are that the position remains Larnach’s to lose, at least in the long-term, despite his continued struggles (33.9% K rate; .696 OPS) in Triple-A following his demotion. Few players in the Twins’ system possess as much raw power as the former Oregon State Beaver, who absolutely mashed fastballs as a rookie (.667 SLG and .362 BA) However, Larnach floundered mightily against any and all pitches with movement. Still, Larnach figures to be a key member of the future and is by all accounts a hard worker who is dedicated to his craft and willing to make adjustments to his approach. The Twins will likely have new hitting coach David Popkins work extensively with Larnach in an effort to cut down on his strikeouts and tap into his full power potential. The Twins could also seek to address their left field woes in either free agency or the trade market. Oakland’s Mark Canha (2.6 fWAR) and New York Mets’ Michael Conforto (0.8 fWAR) are both coming off relatively disappointing seasons and may be open to a change of scenery. Coupled with a trade of Max Kepler — one of the Twins’ most valuable trade pieces, according to FanGraphs — signing either Canha or Conforto would cover for the need in left while maintaining room for Larnach in right (or in the case of Conforto, he could take over in right while Larnach stays in left). Regardless of the path they ultimately take, the Twins need to address their lack of productivity from their left fielders this offseason. Doing so should be right up there with upgrading their production from shortstop, first base, and the starting rotation MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Read more from Lucas here
  6. A lot of Twins fans are angered by the front office “refusing to spend big money”. The problem doesn’t lie in not spending, as we see yet another phenomenal season by the penny-pinching Tampa Bay Rays. In 2021, the Twins gave J.A. Happ a one-year deal for $8MM. He had a 63 ERA+ and was in the 5th percentile of all qualified pitchers in Barrel %. Here are his percentile rankings from Baseball Savant: Simply put, Happ was one of the worst pitchers in the league in 2021. Remember that the Twins signed him for a one-year, $8 million deal. Robbie Ray is probably going to win the American League Cy Young award in 2021. He posted an AL-leading 154 ERA+ and led all of MLB with 248 strikeouts pitchers in the league in 2021. He also decreased his walk rate from 17.9% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2021. Here are his percentile rankings: Ray was outstanding in 2021. He was a free agent before the 2021 season and re-signed very quickly with the Toronto Blue Jays. Guess what his contract was? If you guessed that his contract was one-year and $8 million, you would be correct. In November of 2020, Robbie Ray signed an identical contract to what J.A. Happ would receive two months later. It’s not that the Twins won’t spend money on players, it’s that they aren’t spending money on the right players. If you want to see another case of this, take a look at Corey Knebel’s 2021 numbers and know that the Twins paid Alex Colome $250K more than him in 2021. Without further ado, let’s get into my 2021-22 offseason blueprint. Using Twins Daily’s handy roster-building tool I created this roster: Let’s break this roster down. Starting Rotation It is no secret that this is the most important need on the roster. In 2021, the Twins starting pitchers finished dead last in bWAR in all of MLB. The only starting pitchers from 2021 still on the roster are Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom impressed in 2021 campaigns but are both still unproven. If the Twins want to contend in 2022, the front office needs to vastly improve their starting pitching. The first thing they should do is sign Carlos Rodon to a five-year, $115 million deal. If the White Sox choose not to extend Rodon after a Cy Young-caliber 2021 season, the front office needs to make him their #2 priority (more on that later). Rodon’s four-seamer was the most effective pitch in baseball in 2021 in terms of run value, being worth -26 runs. He also had the sixth most effective slider in baseball, worth -14 runs. And come on, just look at these percentile rankings. Rodon is not viewed by the general public as highly as other starters on the market such as Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and Marcus Stroman. I would pay Rodon more than all three of them. Despite his breakout season, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and him being signed for anything less than $20MM would be an absolute tragedy. The next starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Eduardo Rodriguez. The Twins should give Rodriguez a two-year, $24 million contract. There are a number of starters I could have targeted in this price range, including Jon Gray and Anthony DeSclafani. I went with Rodriguez because he may be undervalued because of his below-average 2021 statistics. When you look deeper, Rodriguez was one of the unluckiest pitchers in the league in 2021. Rodriguez has a lot of qualities I look for in a middle-to-top of the rotation starter. He doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, strikes out a good amount, and could blossom into a stud. I wrote about Rodriguez and other free agents here. The last starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Michael Pineda. Pineda is a familiar face for Twins fans, having spent the last four seasons with the organization. Pineda was solid, posting a 116 ERA+ in his three seasons in Minnesota. He rarely walks batters and has an above-average slider, having a whiff rate of 37.7% with the slider and allowing a miniscule .252 xWOBA on the pitch in 2021. He would provide a veteran presence and some familiarity to a Twins rotation. The offer to Pineda is a one-year deal worth $7 million. The Lineup Because in my blueprint I spent $42 million on starting pitchers, I'll have to scale back what the team can spend on the lineup. Let’s get into it. Going down the lineup, the first change we see is I made Alex Kirilloff the everyday first baseman. Kirilloff is a phenomenal young player who I believe will someday play in several all-star games. In 2021, Kirilloff had two outs above average at 1B compared to Miguel Sano’s -6. Sano will be the full-time DH who can occasionally play first base if Kirilloff needs a day off or plays in the outfield. The next change I made is signing Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $3 million deal. In my free agent target article, I mentioned maybe signing Carlos Correa or Chris Taylor to play the position. Unfortunately, that is not something the Twins could do while remaining around the $130 million budget because of the pitching needs. So instead, I am going to echo Nick Nelson's plan and sign Galvis on a cheap deal for one year with hopes Austin Martin or Royce Lewis could take the reins at shortstop in 2023 or even at some point in 2022. Galvis is not an outstanding player but is definitely serviceable. In the outfield, I have Brent Rooker starting the season in left field. Other guys who would be seeing time here would be Gilberto Celestino, Luis Arraez, Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Jose Miranda. This is by no means a set spot and whoever has a hot bat or the best matchup would be playing on any given day. In center field, the Twins give Byron Buxton a newly-inked deal. Extending Buxton is the top priority this offseason, no doubt. I wrote an extensive article highlighting what a potential deal should look like and why. It would be a seven-year, $133 million deal plus incentives for games played. The incentives are not set in stone. and I am open to listening to whatever Buxton’s side wants for incentives because as long as he’s on the field, he will be the team's best player and helping win games in so many ways. Our roster includes Trevor Larnach starting the season in right field. This is a little bit of a concern for me given his late-season struggles in 2021 and his demotion to St. Paul, but from the glimpses he showed earlier in the season and the potential he has, I have faith in Larnach to figure it out. This obviously raises the question: where did Max Kepler go? Kepler is a talented outfielder, and he is owed about $16 million over the next two seasons, which is a team-friendly contract for a player of his caliber. The Marlins are a young up-and-coming team that could use a solid outfielder and Kepler is exactly that. They are likely to value Kepler’s contract, and I believe the return could be good. This is why we should trade Max Kepler to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Twins would be receiving the Marlins sixth best-prospect, RHP Eury Perez, their seventh best prospect, LHP Jake Eder, and their 21st prospect, outfielder Griffin Conine. Perez is 6’8” and throws a fastball in the mid 90s. He had a very strong showing in High-A this year and is still only 18 years old. Eder had a very strong season in AA and features a fastball that has been up to 98 as well as a wipeout slider. Conine is a power-hitting corner outfielder who hit 36 home runs between high-A and AA in 2021. This is a very good return for Kepler so the Twins would add #19 prospect, RHP Cole Sands who had a good year in AA. According to baseballtradevalues.com, this is a very even trade. It would be a trade that would give the Twins some much needed pitching depth and add to a bright collection of pitching prospects. The Bullpen (Arm-Barn?) With the additions to the lineup and rotation, we don’t have a ton of spending flexibility for the bullpen. With Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar all returning, there are four spots to fill. Here is how I filled those spots: Randy Dobnak ($800K) is the long reliever. Dobnak is a good fit for this role if he can get back to his 2019-20 form. He is a strike-thrower who is efficient and could eat innings. He could also make a spot start, if needed. Ryan Tepera ($5 million) is the set-up man who could close a game too. I wrote about Tepera in my free agent targets article, and he would be an instant stud in the back end of the bullpen. He spent time in 2021 on both sides of Chicago and was excellent, being in the 96th percentile for xERA. With a nasty slider and fastball to pair with it, Tepera would be an excellent signing, especially given Rogers’ uncertainty. Heath Hembree ($1 million) is in a middle-relief role. I also wrote extensively about Hembree and his bad luck. Hembree’s high spin rates lead to exceptional strikeout numbers and with a little more luck in 2022, he would be a fantastic addition to our bullpen especially at this price. Griffin Jax ($600K) is also in a long relief role. Jax made quite a few starts in 2021 and was unimpressive. In a relief role he could let it eat a little more. If he revamps his pitch arsenal (more offspeed!), he would be a good pitcher in a long relief role. Jax’s slider had a xWOBA of .270 in 2021, compared to his fastball’s xWOBA of .402. He would be a fun pitcher to watch progress as he learns what does and doesn’t work at the major-league level. I think the poor bullpen in 2021 was a little fluky and keeping the same core four (Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar) along with adding a few good pieces could make our 2022 bullpen a lot better. They also could build bullpen depth with minor leaguers such as Jovani Moran, Ralph Garza Jr., and Jhoan Duran. Summary With this blueprint, I tried to keep it realistic with signings the Twins would be likely to make, and I tried to stay within a reasonable budget. For the most part, I want to not overcommit to free agency so the Twins can still have flexibility to build from within. I gave one or two year deals to Rodriguez, Galvis, Tepera, Pineda, and Hembree. Along with that, extending Buxton for seven years is big, and getting a stud starting pitcher in Rodon and the team could be ready to compete in 2022. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! What do you think of this offseason blueprint. 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  7. Corner outfield spots can include a mixture of solid defenders and other players searching for a position where they will cause the least amount of damage. There are many strong defenders in the American League in right field, including this year’s Gold Glove finalists. New York’s Joey Gallo is searching for his second-consecutive win, while Boston’s Hunter Renfroe and Houston’s Kyle Tucker seek their first honor. One of the metrics used to decide Gold Gloves is SABR’s Defensive Index. Those numbers were last updated near the end of August, and Kepler only had one right fielder ranked below him at that time. Gallo (8.6 SDI) was the clear leader in SDI, with Tucker (4.6 SDI) ranking second. Defensively, SDI isn’t the only metric that should be put into consideration for Gold Gloves. According to Outs Above Average, Kepler was one of the AL’s best fielders in 2021. Kepler’s 8 Outs Above Average ranked second in the league behind Manuel Margot. Gallo and Tucker were tied with 6 OAA, and Renfroe posted a -1 OAA, which was 26th among all right fielders this season. Kepler also ranked well concerning other StatCast defensive metrics as his Jump was one of the best in baseball. According to Baseball Savant, “Jump is calculated only on plays that are Two Stars or harder, meaning with a 90% Catch Probability or lower.” Kepler was tied for 15th among all of baseball’s outfielders by covering 1.7 feet above average. Gallo was the lone nominee to rank higher than him with a Jump of 2.1 feet above average. One area where Kepler excels is with 3-Star catches. According to Baseball Savant, 3-Star catches are when an average fielder has a 51-75% chance of making the play. Kepler was a perfect 14-for-14 in relation to 3-Star catches this season. Only four outfielders in all of baseball were perfect in that category this season, and he had three more opportunities than the others. Other defensive metrics have Kepler near the top of the AL. According to FanGraphs, he ranks first in RngR, the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Kepler ranks third in UZR, with none of the nominees ranking higher than him. Kepler was also one of six AL right fielders to have more than nine defensive runs saved. When looking at the numbers, it seems likely for Gallo to earn his second-consecutive Gold Glove. However, Kepler has built up the defensive resume that should put him in the conversation as one of baseball’s best defensive right fielders. Do you think Kepler was robbed of a nomination? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Spoiler Alert: Your NLCS MVP is Eddie Rosario Unsurprisingly, Eddie Rosario was named the NLCS MVP last Saturday, surrounded by his loved ones including his parents, wife, children, and closest inner circle at Truist Park. Lest we forget that Rosario was DFA’d by the Twins last offseason, signed by Cleveland, and subsequently traded to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval, who had the third slowest sprint speed of all active players. As Jesse Sanchez of MLB said in his profile of Rosario’s humble upbringing to his MVP honor, Rosario was “born to hit” and “may be the best unknown player in baseball”. Give it up one more time for Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die! Nelson Cruz won the Roberto Clemente Award Last night, Nelson Cruz won the coveted Roberto Clemente award for philanthropy, joining the ranks of Clayton Kershaw, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and many others. Cruz was awarded this honor for his tremendous philanthropic efforts in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic throughout the pandemic. Here’s a list of some of Cruz’s philanthropic efforts that he aided in this past year: Provided financial support to over 1,200 families who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic Helped feed over 700 struggling families Gifted a firetruck, ambulance, and 80 uniforms to the town after a childhood friend’s home was burned down in a fire Organized dentists and optometrists to provide check-ups, dental services, glasses, and dental services Began construction of an education center And more! Not only is Cruz one of the most beloved players of all time, but he’s also an exemplary human being. Congratulations Nelson! Josh Donaldson watched a LOT of baseball Josh Donaldson was all of us, live-tweeting during every playoff game. Max Kepler snuggled a Frenchie *Googles how to become a bulldog* Randy Dobnak wasn’t a regular mom; he was a cool mom The man induces ground balls and is the biggest hype man on the planet. Everyone needs a friend like Randy. Louie Varland caught a big fish Devin Smeltzer caught an even bigger fish Sorry Louie Brent Rooker missed Jake Cave ....and we all now know where Cave stands on duck, duck, goose. Which other Twins would you like to see here in the future? Let us know down below in the comments!
  9. Taylor Rogers watched Tyler Rogers Pitch for the First Time Despite a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Dodgers, the silver lining was that Taylor finally got to watch Tyler pitch in person for the first time. There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as one brother trolling another. Taylor also had fun playing the Parent Trap on Giants fans by pretending to be Tyler in the stands during Game 1. We knew that we had a talented lefty on our hands, but who knew that Taylor was also a comedian by night. Eddie Rosario was a Postseason Darling There is no question about it: Eddie Rosario has been the star of the NLCS. He’s currently batting .400 in the postseason with a .864 OPS. This is a different Rosario than even the one we saw in the postseason with the Twins. Minnesota’s beloved Eddie has, as they say, “leveled up”. There may be something else to it though. Baseball players, such as Rosario, are just like us. Minnesota may not have a horse in this NLCS race, but this entire state is behind Eddie on his World Series quest. Max Kepler sat on some logs ….and ate some candy Randy Dobnak had some questions Matt Wallner, Zach Featherstone, Michael Helman, Andrew Bechtold, Evan Sisk, Cody Laweryson, and Kody Funderburk, all played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League The 2021 Arizona Fall League opened last week. Although the Scottsdale Scorpions have started slowly, each prospect has been exciting to watch. We’ve got you on all of the coverage and recaps from the first week that you need on the AFL season.
  10. Coming off a pandemic-shortened 2020, the Twins did a solid job holding serve regarding payroll. While it dropped, it didn’t fall off a cliff. I don’t know where I expect Minnesota to be in terms of dollars this season, but I think we’re in for an offseason that sees some major-league assets moved. If that’s going to be the case, who are the combinations that are defined by value and expendability? Max Kepler I’m torn on the idea of moving Kepler, given the Twins commitment to getting more out of him. He posted just a .719 OPS this season, and it was a down year. He remains one of the best outfield defenders in baseball, however, and that has significant value. For a guy that plays on the corners, you’d certainly like to see the power production of 2019 return. Given his name was dangled at the deadline, I can’t imagine Minnesota is against the idea of moving him, but it’d need to be a situation where someone is parting with assets based on what they believe Kepler can be rather than what he is currently. Alex Kirilloff can fill some of the gap here, and Trevor Larnach is also an option should the Twins move on. Mitch Garver After a down year in the shortened 2020 season, Garver has rebounded with a vengeance. Mitch is back to hunting fastballs, and despite some fluke injuries this season, he put up impressive numbers from the minute he got settled in. His final 51 games were played to the tune of a .991 OPS. I’m reluctant to hand the reigns over to Ryan Jeffers full-time, but Garver is the older of the two, and this is a position where Minnesota could exploit the strength and use it to secure pitching help. The Twins don’t have much for a backup option unless they want to go defense only with Ben Rortvedt behind the plate. That said, a veteran backup shouldn’t cost much on the open market, and there’s plenty of names they could chase after. Cody recently did a great breakdown of a partner for Garver. Luis Arraez Once again near the top of the league in batting average, Luis Arraez continues to be as predictable as they come. 2021 was his first season with an average south of .300, but that’s more related to a late-season slide than it is the body of work. He is always going to hit, there’s not much in terms of speed or pop, and his glove is just ok in the field. What Minnesota has to determine is where Jorge Polanco will play and what they want to do at shortstop. Arraez is either a rotational player with plenty of avenues for playing time, or he’s a luxury that they can parlay into something more necessary. A lot of Arraez’s functionality for this club directly correlates to the build-out of their infield. Miguel Sano In the final year of his three-year extension, Sano will cost Minnesota just over $9 million this season. He hasn’t lived up to the .923 OPS he posted in 2019, but he has plenty of functionality as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He’s continued to post OPS+ numbers north of league average, and the power potential was once again evident in a season where he blasted 30 homers. I can’t imagine his value bringing back a whole lot for the Twins, but with the designated hitter expected to be league-wide, there may be more suitors interested in his services. I prefer the Twins don’t utilize a consistent batter as a designated hitter this season, but that’s definitely where Sano is at his best. Rocco Baldelli will also need to balance first base playing time with Alex Kirilloff returning to action. Obviously, if the Twins decide against paying Byron Buxton, then he’d likely be on the move as well and bring the greatest return. I can’t see a scenario in which any arms are moved, most notably because of that being Minnesota’s greatest need. Who else could you see as potential interest for another organization? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K Homeruns: Kepler 2 (19) Top 3 WPA: Kepler (0.326), Alcala (0.091), Ryan (0.088) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan Strikes Out Career High 11 Hitters In his first start since being struck by a comebacker last week, Joe Ryan showed that he is just fine as he struck out a career-high 11 Cubs in just five innings of work in tonight’s ballgame. While Joe Ryan has looked impressive in each of his first three starts, his strikeout potential was not on full display, as the most he struck out in any of those starts was just five. Joe Ryan got the night started strong, when he struck out the top of the Cubs order on just 13 pitches in the first. A leadoff walk, followed by a double from Cubs left fielder Ian Happ set up the Cubs lone scoring opportunity off Ryan in the second, which they capitalized on with a one out single from Nico Horner later in the inning. After the second, Joe Ryan was in control, as he allowed just one more base runner the rest of his outing. In fact, only two more Cubs hitters would even put the ball in play against Ryan in his final three innings of work, as he ended the night by striking out eight of the final nine batters that he faced. Max Kepler Schools the Professor With both Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco getting the night off (at-least from the starting lineup), Max Kepler picked up the slack, as he tee off on Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (AKA “The Professor), and provided all the offense the Twins would need in this game. In the top of the first, after two quick outs, Josh Donaldson got a little two out rally started when he laced a ground ball single up the middle. Max Kepler capitalized on that opportunity when he drilled a 2-0 fastball into the basket in right to give the Twins the early 2-0 lead. With the game tied at two runs a piece in the fourth, Max Kepler worked a full-count with one out before giving the Twins back the lead when he blasted his second home run of the night off of Kyle Hendricks. With two outs, and the Twins still leading 3-2, Max Kepler got his third opportunity vs Kyle Hendricks, and gave it his best attempt to Trevor Bauer him, but his bid for a third straight home run came up just short, as it hit off the wall in center for a two-out double. Miguel Sano would follow that up with a single that drove in Kepler from second to give the Twins the two-run lead. Twins Bullpen Shines… For the Most Part After Joe Ryan’s impressive five innings of work, the task of closing out the victory was left in the hands of the Twins bullpen. Juan Minaya was the first pitcher called out of the Twins pen to work the sixth. After giving up a leadoff single, Minaya was able to work out of it by getting Frank Schwindel to ground out, before striking out both Patrick Wisdom and Ian Happ to end the inning. It was Tyler Duffey’s turn to work the seventh, and he picked up right where the other two Twins pitchers before him left off, as Duffey struck out each of the first two batters that he faced before getting Nico Hoerner to fly out to center to set the Cubs down 1-2-3 four the fourth time of the night. We got more of the same from Jorge Alcala in the bottom of the eighth, as he worked yet another 1-2-3 inning, as he got Trayce Thompson and David Bote out on strikes before Rafael Ortega laced a line drive down the right-field line that was chased down by Max Kepler to end the inning. We got another dose of the Alex Colome experience in the ninth. With the Twins lead now at three, Colome needed every bit of that lead to secure the Twins win. After already surrendering two runs in the inning, the Cubs had the trying and winning runs both in scoring position and two outs, but unlike many nights before, Colome got the clutch out when he needed it, as he struck out Trayce Thompson to end the ballgame. Bullpen Usage Report FRI SAT SUN TUE WED TOT Barraclough 0 32 0 35 0 67 Vincent 0 0 40 0 0 40 Thielbar 0 0 22 16 0 38 Minaya 0 0 36 0 13 49 Moran 0 34 0 0 0 34 Farrell 0 0 34 0 0 34 Duffey 16 0 0 11 12 39 Alcalá 13 0 0 10 10 33 Colomé 14 0 0 7 24 45 Garza Jr. 0 17 0 0 0 17 Coulombe 0 0 0 17 0 17 What's Next? The Twins return home on Thursday to begin a four-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays. First pitch of Thursday night's game with be at 6:40 pm CDT, with the Twins throwing Michale Pineda against left-hander Steven Matz. Post Game Interviews
  12. Max Kepler was a catalyst for the record-breaking Twins in 2019, bashing 36 homers while mostly leading off for the 101-win division champions. Kepler had been a below-average hitter (96 OPS+) in 419 games before his magical hiatus from the trenches of BAbip hell. It was somewhat odd to see. Kepler hit a modest .233/.313/.417 over the first three-plus years of his career. His 93 wRC+ paled in comparison to other right fielders, as the position hit .261/.333/.441 (107 wRC+) leaguewide over that same span. Even with his relative struggles at the plate, Kepler provided value with a strong glove. He saved 22 runs from 2016-2018, tying him for third among qualified right fielders. Kepler was worth 5.4 Wins Above Replacement even with a negative WAR mark offensively. Recognizing a chance for upside, the Twins inked the instant fan-favorite to an extension and initially looked brilliant for doing so. Kepler broke out in 2019 with elite power and an increased ability to reach base. But it wasn't a breakout. Kepler has since gone back to his unremarkable roots at the plate. There’s no doubt that the numbers look uglier than they should. His barrel rate is higher than ever. He’s hitting the ball harder and more than he did in 2019. His strikeout rate is fantastic, and he’s walking in nearly 12% of his plate appearances. So what happened? Outside of the obvious in 2019 (juiced ball), his few weaknesses have capped his upside overall. He's pulling and pulling rather weakly, contributing to that previously-mentioned BAbip purgatory. Plus, there’s the deadly platoon factor. Kepler's line is impacted by his inability to hit lefties, but even if he were facing only right-handers this season, he'd still be below-average among left-handed right fielders in those matchups. Kepler leads right fielders this year in Outs Above Average (7) and is tied for 10th among all qualified outfielders. Even though he’s well below the position average offensively, he ranks 21st out of 30 right fielders with at least 300 plate appearances in fWAR (1.5). He’s not a hindrance per se, but he’s no longer a solid plus-piece in his current spot. Often lost in value analysis is his ability to play centerfield. In 80 games in centerfield since 2019, Kepler’s been worth three Outs Above Average. Still, the Twins have often turned to others when Byron Buxton is out, focusing on keeping Kepler fresh. There’s room for increased value here. If the Twins decide to trade Byron Buxton, wouldn’t Kepler then become the centerfielder where his subpar bat would play much better? In this case, he’s much more valuable. Kepler would be close to an average hitter as a primary centerfielder in 2021 but is 16% below league average in right. Understandably, the Twins want to keep him fresh, especially since he’s had a history of hamstring injuries. Winning in baseball also requires maximum value at each position. Kepler, while still passable in right, is not being maximized. Keeping him in a corner will limit the Twins offensively unless he finds a way to beat the shift or hit lefties again. On the flip side, if the Twins keep Buxton, marketing Kepler as a centerfielder via trade will help them reach his maximum value in return. It’s great to have both in the outfield, but it’s been more a defensive luxury than a damaging duo in the lineup. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K Homeruns: Gordon (3) Top 3 WPA: Gordon .217, Donaldson .192, Buxton .175 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The battle for 2022 draft positions continued on Tuesday night, as Minnesota kicked off a two-game set in Chicago against the Cubs. Here’s how the Twins lined up to face Alec Mills. The Twins got off to a strong start, with back-to-back singles putting Luis Arraez on third and Byron Buxton on first base. Buxton stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Wilson Contreras, with Arraez scoring. A Josh Donaldson sacrifice fly made it 2-0 Twins after the top of the first. The Cubs immediately chipped away at the Twins lead, scoring one in the first, one in the second, and one in the third. The later two runs came from solo home runs from Trayce Thompson and Willson Contreras, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead after three innings. The familiar home run bug has continued to bite Griffin Jax, who only managed to make it through three innings. The Twins fought back in the top of the fourth inning. A Josh Donaldson walk, wild pitch, and Max Kepler single cut the deficit to 3-2. A Nick Gordon home run to left center field added two more runs, giving the Twins a 5-3 lead. The Twins continued to add to their lead in the top of the fifth. A Luis Arraez walk and Byron Buxton single were backed up by further singles from Josh Donaldson and Max Kepler, increasing the Twins lead to 7-3. The Cubs trimmed the lead in the sixth inning. A Rafael Ortega single was followed up by a Frank Schwindel double. Jorge Alcala replaced Danny Coulombe and struck out Wilson Contreras, but allowed a Patrick Wisdom single, scoring two runs. Alcala, however, has been on a recent run of good form which is encouraging news for a bullpen which needs padding heading into 2022. The Twins immediately increased the lead. Doubles from Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano, followed by singles from Nick Gordon and Mitch Garver added two runs, pushing the lead to 9-5 and giving the Twins offense 16 hits on the night. Byron Buxton was hit by a pitch in the foot in the top of the ninth inning. Mercifully, Alexander Colome threw a scoreless inning to draw a marathon four-hour game to a close, bringing the Twins record for the season to 66-85. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN TUE TOT Barraclough 0 0 32 0 35 67 Vincent 0 0 0 40 0 40 Thielbar 0 0 0 22 16 38 Minaya 0 0 0 36 0 36 Moran 0 0 34 0 0 34 Farrell 0 0 0 34 0 34 Duffey 0 16 0 0 11 27 Alcalá 0 13 0 0 10 23 Colomé 0 14 0 0 7 21 Garza Jr. 0 0 17 0 0 17 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 17 17 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will finish their short series in Chicago. Joe Ryan will take the mound against Kyle Hendricks. First pitch is at 6:40 CST. Postgame Interviews
  14. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will ultimately steer the direction of the 2022 club this offseason. It’s a very stripped-down roster compared to how this season started in terms of expectations, and how the front office decides to rebuild or retool is yet to be determined. However, there are still pieces in place, and answering questions about three key subjects could determine Minnesota’s outlook in the year ahead. Max Kepler Signed to an extension at the same time as Jorge Polanco, Kepler was given the larger contract. He responded by posting a career-best .855 OPS and was a key contributor on the Bomba Squad. In 155 games since he’s posted just a .737 OPS and 103 OPS+. To say he’s failed expectations would be putting it lightly. Still just 28 years old, Kepler does hope for a prime resurgence to be in front of him. Minnesota dreamed of a player ready to take a step forward, and they saw it for just a single season. Much of how the Twins were expected to compete in 2021 and beyond was reliant on the core of Kepler, Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton. Those players reaching the peaks of their potential at the same time was always the developmental hope. As pointed out by Twins Daily contributors Nash Walker and Tom Froemming, there’s a lot under the hood to like about Kepler. He’s a strong defender, and the inputs still suggest that production has room for positive regression. It’s getting late early, though, and the reality is results must follow. The Twins outfield could be crowded next season, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach joining Buxton and Kepler on more of a full-time basis. This winter, the front office may be tempted by dealing the German-born corner. What is the next step for Kepler, and does it happen with the Twins? Miguel Sano On the books for $9.25 million in 2022, Miguel Sano would seem to be in the Twins plans for the upcoming year fiscally. While there were times he looked essentially unplayable at the beginning of 2021, the reality is that he’s a hulking power hitter that’s always been susceptible to cold streaks. The timing wasn’t there out of the gate, but not playing him has often been fruitless. Since July 4, Sano has posted an .865 OPS, which has jumped up to an .895 OPS in September. He’s an asset at the dish while being a patient and potent slugger. The ability at first base leaves plenty to be desired, but there’s an argument to be made that keeps his head in the game rather than just having him hit. Presumably, the Twins won’t have a consistent designated hitter in 2022, which would seem optimal when it comes to roster construction. With Kirilloff worth taking time at first base and Josh Donaldson benefitting from days off in the field, rotating through bats makes sense. Where Miguel Sano fits into the Twins plans next season remains to be seen. Is he cast entirely as their designated hitter, how much time does he split with Kirilloff at first, and is the club more adequately prepared to ride with him through the low points? Starting Rotation Surprisingly the Twins bullpen has taken a positive turn down the stretch, and a unit that was a complete zero to start the year has produced in the latter half of the season. There are usable pieces there looking ahead to 2022, and even Alex Colome could wind up finding his option selected by Minnesota. When it comes to the rotation, the front office has its hands full. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan look like future pieces, but counting on either of them to be the Opening Day starter seems like an acceptance of futility. Depth and quality would suggest a need for a higher ceiling option to be brought in, and where or how high Falvey aims should say plenty about the intentions for competitiveness. As was the case coming into 2021, Minnesota has plenty of top prospects on the pitching side. Many were shelved at different points throughout this season after having a year off in 2020, and relying on them as more than a bonus seems foolhardy. However, building a group punctuated with retread veterans shouldn’t be expected to move the needle much either. Derek Falvey’s calling card in coming to the Twins was pitching prowess, and while he’s helped develop some throughout the system, an overhaul like this will take some serious architecting. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. Across baseball, teams will be vying for free-agent shortstops like Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager. Minnesota can try to outbid other teams for their services, but the current front office doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to free-agent signings. Instead, the team can look to a buy-low candidate at shortstop. The Yankees are a team that spends money on the free-agent front as they currently have a payroll of over $200 million. New York may also be looking for a shortstop replacement. Gleyber Torres has been the team’s starting shortstop, but he has struggled over the last two seasons. Since 2020, he has hit .248/.330/.353 with 36 extra-base hits in 151 games. Torres, a two-time All-Star, turns 25-years-old this winter. He broke into the big leagues as a 21-year-old and posted a 125 OPS+ while averaging 31 homers through his first two seasons. Shortstop is a challenging position for any team to fill, and it is especially tough in the Bronx with players following Derek Jeter’s footsteps. Still, Torres was considered one of baseball’s best prospects, and he showed it early in his career. Why Would the Yankees Trade Him? Torres has struggled to make hard contact for multiple seasons as his Baseball Savant page has much more blue than red. He ranks in the 40th percentile or lower in average exit velocity, hard-hit %, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel %, and whiff %. His worst category is outs above average, where he ranks in the first percentile. Besides his offensive decline, his defense has also been stretched at shortstop. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, Torres has been the AL’s third-worst defensive shortstop in 2021. Back in 2019, the last full season, he was one of only seven AL shortstops with a positive SDI. There’s a chance an undisclosed injury is impacting his performance, but the Yankees might be ready to move on. For any team looking to acquire Torres, it doesn't seem likely for him to be this bad of a player. He was highly regarded as a prospect, and he had multiple years of big-league success. Minnesota can hope that a change in coaching staffs allows him to return to his previous form. Even his current manager believes he will be an impact player for a long time. What Would the Twins Have to Trade? After a disappointing season, the Twins may have multiple players that would be considered buy-low candidates. One name to consider is Max Kepler. Like Torres, Kepler had a monster 2018 season at the plate, but both players have struggled since that point. They are each under team control through the 2024 season, and there’s a chance each player can improve with a change to a new organization. New York’s outfield dimensions are certainly a benefit for left-handed hitters like Kepler. Torres might be helped by being out of New York’s bright lights. Baseball Trade Values claims a straight trade of Kepler for Torres is a fair trade for each team and would likely be accepted from a future value standpoint. New York may also want prospect capital in return for Torres, and the Twins certainly have options down on the farm. The Twins should be prepared to make the call if the Yankees are ready to move on from Torres. Is Torres a player the Twins should target? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. If there’s a takeaway for 2021, it’s that nothing is won in the offseason. Take it from a guy that hung a banner over the winter, and it will be worth taking a significant lap when the dust settles on spending before Opening Day 2022. Going into this season, the Twins needed to do little more than hold serve. This team was no longer the Bomba Squad, but they didn’t need to be. Rocco Baldelli had to have a well-rounded group and one that took a step forward with a well-established core. There was plenty of promise after adding more pitching options, a defensive wizard at shortstop, and bringing back the Boomstick. Depth looked to be in a great place, and the talent at the top should’ve been comparable to anyone. After getting out to a 5-2 start, the Twins went on a 1-9 run. They never recovered and didn’t see a .500 record the rest of the way. That depth was depleted through injury, but it was also worn down through ineffectiveness. Miguel Sano looked lost to start, and Max Kepler may never have been found. The free-agent signings, save for the returning Cruz, all flopped. Kenta Maeda wasn’t the arm that dominated in 2020. The bullpen imploded all over the place. "Unfortunate" would be selling the situation short. Minnesota didn’t perform for any consistent stretch, at any consistent level, and it cost them well beyond the injury concerns they dealt with. Following his extension, Jorge Polanco took the reigns on his career, but Kepler and Sano floundered when expected to contribute. No matter how the offseason acquisitions turned out, the core failed to uphold their end of the bargain. In the future, especially when heading into a season of uncertainty, being reminded the season isn’t won in the offseason is a must. Being able to celebrate moves made is a fair practice. How they gel together and ultimately perform on the field is immeasurable until the games get played. As Derek Falvey reconstructs the future for a Twins team with a drastically different outlook, evaluating the offseason will need to be done individually. How players and contracts fit and money is spent should be a focus. Where the results will end up isn’t worth tying to specific pacts. In the year ahead, Minnesota won’t be able to claim an opportunity for a three-peat, and more than anything else, they’ll be looking to distance from the year that was. As the front office embarks on their first opportunity for significant year-over-year growth, the idea that they had a “freaking offseason” will need some pause in hopes that a well-designed process drives more acceptable results. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SABR has used SDI as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Here is how the Twins rank through games played on August 22, 2021: Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 3.7 SDI (3rd) Berrios was traded before the deadline, but he accumulated the bulk of his SDI total while still in a Twins uniform. Earlier this season, he ranked sixth overall in the AL, so he has made a significant jump in the second half. However, his defense isn’t helping the Twins anymore, and there are no other Twins players on the current leaderboard. Dallas Keuchel is the favorite among AL pitchers as he has nearly double the SDI total of the second-ranked pitcher. Catcher (AL Ranking): No Twins’ Players Qualify At the All-Star Break, both Twins catchers ranked in the top-12 when it came to SDI. Garver’s extended time on the IL pushed him out of the rankings, while Jeffers spent some time in St. Paul trying to find his swing. Over the last few weeks, Jeffers has been catching regularly, so it will be interesting to see if he winds up on the final leaderboard. First Base (AL Ranking): Miguel Sano -2.5 SDI (10th) Only two qualified first basemen, Nathaniel Lowe and Bobby Delbec, have a lower SDI total than Miguel Sano. His months of July and August continued to bring down his total as he was at -0.9 SDI. It also doesn’t help that Minnesota’s best defensive first baseman, Alex Kirilloff, is injured and won’t be back in 2021. At the All-Star break, he ranked third among all AL first basemen. For 2022, Minnesota should pencil Kirilloff in at first base every day. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco, 3.3 SDI (3rd) Polanco has been on an offensive tear in the second half, and his defense has also significantly improved. In less than two months, he moved from 8th to 3rd in SDI among AL second basemen. At that time, I mentioned that he was only 0.5 SDI out of the top-3, and he now ranks 1.2 SDI ahead of fourth place. Polanco looks to be in line to be a Gold Glove finalist, but Whit Merrified and Marcus Semiem have accumulated over twice as much SDI as Polanco. Third Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez, 0.4 SDI (7th) Arraez isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess, so this ranking might come as a surprise to some Twins fans. Every third baseman ranked below Arraez has a -4.0 SDI or lower. Josh Donaldson was known for being a strong defender when the Twins signed him, but he has fallen off the leaderboard since the All-Star break. At that time, he looked to be in the middle of his worst defensive season. Does the future at this position belong to Arraez or Jose Miranda? Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons, 6.4 SDI (3rd) Simmons is having another solid defensive season, but he has taken a step back in the second half. In July, he ranked as one of the AL’s best defenders, and he was the number one ranked shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Carlos Correa have stormed past him over the last two months. Simmons looks like he will be a Gold Glove finalist, but he won’t be coming away with the hardware. Left Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Trevor Larnach was on these rankings at the All-Star break, but he was near the bottom with a -2.2 SDI. He no longer qualifies as the team demoted him to Triple-A after some offensive struggles. Overall, this race looks to be one of the AL's tightest when it comes to the Gold Glove winner. There is no clear-cut favorite, with Austin Hays (2.1 SDI) and Michael Brantley (1.8 SDI) leading the rankings. Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Byron Buxton is still one of baseball's best defenders, but a hip injury and a broken hand have kept him sidelined for a good chunk of the second half. Former Twins prospect Akil Baddoo has the third-lowest SDI total among qualified AL center fielders. Michael Taylor (9.5 SDI) and Myles Straw (7.1 SDI) are at the top of the leaderboard with a month to go in the season. Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler, 0.8 SDI Kepler has a positive SDI, but only one qualified right fielder sits below him in the rankings. His second-half defense has improved because he had accumulated a -0.1 SDI in right field at the All-Star break. He dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, which might have brought down his SDI total. Do any of these rankings surprise you? Do you think the team's defense has been worse in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Box Score (add link) SP: Charlie Barnes: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (73 pitches, 44 strikes (60.3%)) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Max Kepler (.327), Caleb Thielbar (.232), Charlie Barnes (.200) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Patience is a Virtue Luis Patino was the key piece the Rays received in return for former Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the Padres in the offseason. A top pitching prospect, he has certainly shown well for the Rays in 2020. Fortunately for the Twins, he was a bit wild on Sunday and the team took advantage. Patino walked Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco in the first inning, and Josh Donaldon singled in Kepler for the game’s first run. After a walk to Luis Arraez, Polanco scored on a Trevor Larnach fielder’s choice. The Twins went scoreless in the second innings, although Kepler had a double and Polanco walked again. There was one more walk in the third inning. Ryan Sherriff came on in the fourth inning. After getting the first two batters out, Kepler and Polanco walked. All Star Andrew Kittredge came on and Donaldson came through again with a big, two-run double to give the Twins a 4-0 lead. Barnes at his Best Lefty Charlie Barnes made his third MLB start on Sunday afternoon, and it’s fair to say that it was his best start to date. The southpaw was generally in control of the game for five innings. He gave up just three hits and only allowed one run, on a solo homer off the bat of Mike Zunino. Overall, his strike percentage was not real good, but instead of just missing over the middle of the plate, he was missing just outside the strike zone. This is definitely a start to build on. Middle Relief Struggles Edgar Garcia came on for the sixth inning. He quickly got the first two outs of the inning, but then issued a walk and a home run off to star rookie Wander Franco. That cut the Twins lead to 4-3. Tyler Duffey got the 7th inning. He started the inning with a walk. Then after a pop-out, he coaxed a potential ground ball double play. However, due to an error, no outs were recorded. Duffey walked another batter to load the bases. Randy Arozarena hit a little infield single to tie the game at four. Duffey did come up big by striking out Nelson Cruz, but bases were still loaded with one out yet to get. Clutch Caleb (Thielbar) Caleb Thielbar came in and, after falling behind 3-0, got All Star Austin Meadows to pop out to end the inning. He has now stranded his last seven inherited runners, a streak that began on June 21. With the game still tied in the top of the eight, Thielbar gave up a leadoff double to Franco. However, after a sacrifice bunt moved Franco to third, Thielbar got an infield pop out and a ground out to first base to keep the game tied. When you take a look below at the names available to Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson in the chart below, is Thielbar the team’s best, most-reliable bullpen arm right now? Well, another option for that title right now might be Alexander Colome who pitched a scoreless inning in the ninth. It was his eighth straight scoreless appearance. In that stretch (7 1/3 innings), he is 1-0 with five saves. Klutch Kepler (and Polanco) Max Kepler reached base four times on Sunday. As mentioned above, he walked twice. He also had two doubles including an opposite-field double down the left field line to lead off the ninth inning. Bobbled by Austin Meadows, Kepler scampered to third base. Two pitches later, Jorge Polanco hit a fly ball deep enough to easily score Kepler from third and give the Twins the 5-4 win, and a third-straight series win. It was his fifth career walk-off plate appearance and third this season. The Twins are clearly playing their best baseball of the season as they have reached arguably the toughest part of their season. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Barnes 0 0 0 0 73 73 García 0 0 27 0 21 48 Gant 0 0 41 0 0 41 Vincent 0 0 37 0 0 37 Colomé 14 0 0 0 13 27 Thielbar 20 0 0 0 15 35 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 16 0 16 Duffey 0 0 0 0 27 27 Minaya 15 0 0 0 0 15 Coulombe 0 0 0 10 0 10
  19. Taylor Rogers It seemed like a certainty for a Taylor Rogers trade to occur before the deadline, but his recent finger injury made it tougher to swing a deal. He is still under team control for 2021, and there isn’t a guarantee the Twins will be in the race next season. On the most recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron Gleeman mentioned that multiple teams were interested in adding Rogers even with his injury. Relievers, especially late-inning options, are a valuable commodity, and Rogers seems like one of the most likely candidates to be dealt in the off-season. Byron Buxton Like Rogers, Byron Buxton trade rumors were swirling in the days leading up to the deadline. There are some similarities between the two players because they were both on the IL, and have one more year of team control. Minnesota made multiple contract offers to Buxton in the weeks before the deadline, but Buxton’s rejection of those offers means his name will be out there this winter. Nothing stops the Twins from revisiting a contract extension before other teams are offered him in a trade. That being said, a player with Buxton’s ceiling has the potential to draw trade interest even on an expiring contract. Josh Donaldson Donaldson is a little trickier proposition when looking at potential trades because the Twins would need to pay down part of his contract to find a partner. By multiple metrics, Donaldson is having a solid season for the Twins as he has posted a 133 OPS+ for the second consecutive year. Health questions are part of the Donaldson equation, but he is on pace to play over 120 games for only the second time since 2016. It will take the right kind of team to get a Donaldson trade done, but more teams might be interested in him if he finishes the season healthy. Max Kepler While the names above might be obvious, Kepler has the potential to be one of the organization’s most valuable trade assets. He is under team control through 2024, and the maximum he can earn is $25.3 million. As Twins fans know, it’s a very team-friendly deal, which might make other teams interested in adding him. He has value because he produces consistent numbers while also providing some defensive flexibility. Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff’s emergence in the outfield make Kepler more expendable. Trading teams looking for a left-handed bat with multiple years of team control may be willing to part with the right package. Which player do you think is most likely to be dealt? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. After Mitch Garver and Nelson Cruz took home the prestigious title in May and June, respectively, we will have a new award winner for the month of July. Before we announce the winner, let’s look at a group of honorable mentions for the month. Honorable Mention #3: Luis Arraez Arraez missed some time in July, otherwise he’d be higher on this list, but he was still one of the most productive Twins of the month. In the month of July, he had the highest batting average (.373) and on-base percentage (.415) of his career in months where he had at least 40 at-bats. Due to the time he’s missed this year, he’s currently about 50 plate appearances short of being a qualified hitter but he would rank 13th in the league in batting average if he had the minimum number of plate appearances. He gets bonus points for the crafty slide he showed on July 19th against the Chicago White Sox Honorable Mention #2: Josh Donaldson At 35-years-old, it’s safe to assume that Donaldson’s MVP days are behind him but that was probably an unfair bar to hold him to in the first place. Over the last two months, Donaldson has been one of the Twins best hitters smashing 11 homeruns with a .929 OPS. Although Donaldson slowed a bit in July and missed some time, he still accrued 0.5 fWAR with three homeruns and a .854 OPS. Included in his three home runs from the month was this 446 foot moon shot against off of José Cisnero where he broke through some career milestones. Honorable Mention #1: Max Kepler Kepler has struggled since his impressive 2019 season, but he hit well in July hitting one double, one triple, and a team-leading eight homeruns. He ended the month slashing .228/.290/.522 with a wRC+ of 118. Most notably, he became the all-time leader in walk off hits with this bloop against the Tigers that scored utility pinch runner Kenta Maeda in extras. Many thought that Kepler might get traded at the deadline and it even sounds like they had some preliminary talks with the Yankees. Alas, he’ll keep manning Centerfield and Right Field for the foreseeable future as the Twins begin a (hopefully) mini rebuild. Hitter of the Month: Jorge Polanco This was quite easy. In the month of July, Polanco slashed .327/.366/.548 with a wRC+ of 149 and this is now two plus months of solid play from the Twins second baseman. It seems that part of Polanco’s rebound can be thanks to a healthy ankle, and I wonder if shifting to second is a little easier on the joint. Regardless, this is an important development for a player who is under contract until 2024-2025 and could theoretically be a contributor to the next competitive window for the Twins.
  21. This week, there has been mounting speculation that Max Kepler could be a popular target at the trade deadline. While Twins fans may have become a little jaded on Kepler after the promise of his incredible 2019 season, there’s an awful lot to like. Kepler slugged his 13th home run of the season in a losing effort against the Angels on Sunday and is slugging .538 in his last 15 games. While he had a slow start to the season, Kepler’s wRC+ is up to 108, ahead of his 2020 numbers. Kepler also boasts strong defensive play, positional versatility, and excellent baserunning skills. Does this look like the Baseball Savant profile of an underrated player? Kepler is also signed to an extremely affordable contract which has him under team control for an additional two seasons beyond 2021, with a club option for 2024. Kepler will be paid a little over $15 million in his age 30 and age 31 seasons. He’s on track to be worth about $20 million in 2021 alone. While this is only one rough metric, Kepler’s performance has been very steady year over year, with the exception of his outstanding 2019 season. Who is Interested? Plenty of teams should be interested in a solid, affordable outfielder, but there are two more obvious fits. The Atlanta Braves could use an outfield upgrade, specifically in left field. While they are a logical candidate, Atlanta already added Joc Pederson to their outfield and may not be buyers with another bad week. The real Kepler steam has come from the possibility of the New York Yankees as a trade partner. The Yankees are known to seek a left-handed bat at the deadline. Despite being nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, the Yankees are only 3.5 games back in a competitive wild card race. What Could the Twins Get Back? Cody Christie wrote up a more detailed overview of the Yankees as a prospective Twins trade partner. The Yankees do not have the same depth to their farm system that the Padres or Dodgers do. In spite of this, they have plenty of intriguing names which fit the Twins’ needs. Top prospect Jasson Dominguez is an unrealistic expectation, but there are several names Kepler could fetch in a return. Oswald Peraza The Yankees signed Peraza in the international free agent class of 2016. Peraza is an outstanding prospect, ranked #98 overall by MLB. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills, controls the strike zone well, and should be good for 15-20 home runs as he gets stronger and fills out. Peraza is fast and a capable base stealer. Additionally, he offers a 60-grade arm and is 60 grade in the field, offering everything but outstanding power. He is slugging .498 with 25 stolen bases in 2021 and is currently at AA. Luis Gil A name who haunts the dreams of Twins fans who are in the weeds with prospects. The Twins signed Gil for just $90,000 before trading him for Jake Cave in 2018. Gil has a 75-grade fastball which sits 95-98 which he uses up in the zone. Gil also offers a slider and a hard changeup which sits around 90 mph. Gil has to refine his control and command but has made his way to AAA, where he has struck out a whopping 86 batter in 59 2021 innings. Luis Medina Medina is another high-octane right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic. Originally signed as a 16-year old, Medina was already throwing 100mph. Medina can now top out at 102 mph with cut and offers a plus curveball. There’s a massive variance in outcomes for Medina, which runs the gamete from front-line ace to late-inning reliever (if he doesn’t develop the consistency to throw enough strikes). Still, the potential is staggering. Potential Trade: Yankees acquire: OF Max Kepler Twins acquire: SS Oswald Peraza, RHP Luis Medina What do you think the chances are Max Kepler gets traded? What do you think is a fair return? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Pineda 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Homeruns: Rooker (3), Donaldson (16) Top 3 WPA: Thielbar .485, Kepler .265, Rooker .198 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) With a bevy of scouts in attendance on Monday, Michael Pineda delivered. He proved he can be a solid stretch contributor for a contending team. Pineda’s recent spate of injuries has obscured the inalienable truth, that, behind Nelson Cruz, he has been the best free-agent signing of Falvey era in Minnesota, and one of the Twins better free-agent starting pitching acquisitions ever. Pineda struck out the first four batters he faced, working his fastball up to 92 mph, throwing strikes with consistency, and mastering his slider and changeup to great effect. Pineda’s outing was reminiscent of Pineda at his best for Minnesota; quick, efficient, and pounding the strike zone. Through the fifth inning, Pineda gave up three hits, just two singles after a leadoff double by Akil Baddoo. Taking the rubber for Detroit was one of their top prospects Matt Manning, who worked consistently with his mid 90s fastball and showed flashes of his tremendous hammer of a curveball. Offense was hard to come by in the first half of the game. The Twins took the lead in the second inning. Mitch Garver barely missed a home run to right field, doubling home Josh Donaldson from first. Garver’s return to something like his 2019 form has been one of the least talked about positive stories for the Twins in a miserable 2021. Garver came home to score the Twins’ second run in the bottom of the fourth, after getting on base by punching a double to left field. Miguel Sano ripped a single down the third-base line to score Garver, whose lack of sleep after the birth of his first child clearly isn’t impacting his approach at the plate. Pineda’s lone egregious mistake came in the sixth inning, leaving a 91 mph fastball over the heart of the plate to Miguel Cabrera, who clubbed it into the flower beds in right field. Still, Pineda showed enough to convince watching scouts and teams he can contribute meaningfully down the stretch to contending teams in need of solid innings. He’ll likely be gone by Friday afternoon. Brent Rooker restored the Twins lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, obliterating a hanging Matt Manning curveball 460 feet into the third deck in left field. Rooker has earned 200 MLB at-bats with his consistency in St. Paul, and the early returns are promising. Manning was pulled after he walked Jorge Polanco, being replaced by Jose Cisnero. Josh Donaldson greeted Cisnero with a two-run blast to left-center field increasing the Twins lead to 5-2 Eric Haase pulled a run back for Detroit in the seventh inning, with a solo shot off Tyler Duffey, but The Doof quickly recovered to retire the side. Hansel Robles relieved Duffey in the eighth inning. He retired the side despite a walk to preserve the Twins lead at 5-3 heading to the bottom of the eighth. After an uneventful bottom of the eighth in which the Twins threatened but failed to score, Taylor Rogers entered to close the game for the Twins in the ninth. Rogers outing began harmlessly, before he lost control of what appeared to be a breaking pitch to Jeimer Candelario which spun and looped puzzlingly away from the Detroit hitter, ending up nowhere near the strike zone. Rogers appeared to be in discomfort after the pitch, clutching and examining a finger on his pitching hand. Twins fans will hope Rogers merely cracked a nail or was suffering from a blister, anything more serious is a major cloud over one of the most appealing relief pitching options for Friday’s trade deadline. The Twins broadcast booth later reported that Rogers left the game with a left middle finger sprain. Next steps for Rogers and a timetable are to be determined. Alexander Colomé relieved Rogers and did what he does, surrendering a single to Candelario before Robbie Grossman clubbed a two-ruin home run to right field to tie the game at 5-5. Gregory Soto walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, but Willians Astudillo struck out swinging to send the game to extra innings. Caleb Thielbar took the top of the tenth for the Twins. He made short work of the Tigers, retiring the side in order to give the Twins a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the tenth. Kenta Maeda started on second base in the bottom of the tenth (the fourth pinch running appearance of his career). Soto managed a much cleaner tenth until Max Kepler dumped a single into right center field to score Maeda from second base and make the Twins 6-5 winners. Bullpen Usage Chart WED THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Colomé 22 0 11 0 10 16 59 Coulombe 0 32 0 0 18 0 50 Duffey 38 0 0 0 0 11 49 Thielbar 16 0 0 16 0 13 45 Alcala 0 0 0 10 24 0 34 Rogers 0 0 18 0 0 5 23 Minaya 0 0 20 0 0 0 20 Robles 0 0 0 0 0 13 13 Postgame Interviews Next Up The Twins send Kenta Maeda to the mound on Tuesday to face Tyler Alexander. First pitch is at 7:10 CT.
  23. Box Score Bailey Ober: 5 ⅓ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (67.7% strikes) HR: Max Kepler (13), Brent Rooker (2) Bottom 3 in WPA: Miguel Sanó (-0.236), Jorge Alcala (-0.149), Danny Coulombe (-0.109) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Early Offense Saturday night was characterized by a distinct lack of hitting ability, but Sunday quickly proved to be a different story. Max Kepler continued his hot streak by blasting a lead-off homer to kick off the scoring. In the time it took this author to inform his mom of what Kepler did, Brent Rooker, the breaker of no-hitters, absolutely launched a titanic bomb that landed somewhere in Canada. Coming into the game, Kepler had been slugging .597 since July 4th (date chosen for no particular reason). A streak of good health has been a blessing for the outfielder who has been inconsistent since his 2019 breakout. For Rooker, the opportunity is golden. The DH spot is wide open now that Nelson Cruz is on the Rays, and Rooker must impress in a speedy manner if he wishes to be a mainstay in 2022 and beyond. Blasting a ball like that off of a righty is an excellent start. A Familiar Face Returns Jake Cave made his first start for the Twins since May 12th. The added depth is much welcomed as the team has run through approximately 1053 different center fielders in 2021. Cave can provide relief for a struggling Gilberto Celestino. This is more of a result of improper seasoning than an indictment on Celestino’s upside, which simply needs more time to be seen. At any rate, it’s good to see Cave back off the IL. Ober The Hills And Far Away The oak-like rookie made another impressive start on Sunday. Ober punched out four while allowing a pair of earned runs in what is now his longest career start (5 ⅓ IP). Ober could have gone longer, but the team has been especially careful in limiting his innings in 2021 since he did not get to pitch in games in 2020. His xFIP of 4.19 on the year places him among names like Zack Greinke, Aaron Civale, and Casey Mize. Ober may only make a handful of starts down the stretch, though. Sunday’s affair brought him to 59 ⅓ innings pitched split between St. Paul and Minnesota in 2021. His previous high mark came in 2019 when Ober threw 78 ⅔ innings between three levels of the minors. It is unclear just how many more innings the team will allow him to throw-either in an effort to match his career high or lightly pass it-but it can be solidly predicted that the team will be conservative in his workload going forward. Enjoy watching him while you can! Where Did The Momentum Go? Despite getting off to a fast 2-0 start, the Twins let their lead slowly slip away. Max Stassi proved to be an especially pesky enemy as he tripled and homered to bring the game to a tie. With the game tied, the unrivaled Shohei Ohtani took one look at a hanging Danny Coulombe slider and bazooka’d it out of right field. After Rooker’s homerun, the Twins offense let Jamie Barria settle into a groove. The righty put the homers behind him, and cruised through seven innings of work with just four baserunners allowed after the homers. None of the two Twins hits after the 1st went for extra bases. The inability of the Twins to push more runs across after getting off to such a hot start has been an issue the entire season and, once again, put a dent in their chances of winning on Sunday. It was a close 3-2 game headed into the top of the 9th. The game was still well within grasp for the Twins even if they did not have the strongest part of the lineup set up for the bottom of the inning. But, things got messy. Jorge Alcala gave up a single, a double, and another single in succession, and the Angels notched two more runs. Los Angeles would have six runs on the board when it was all said and done. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Colomé 26 22 0 11 0 10 69 Alcala 24 0 0 0 10 24 58 Duffey 0 38 0 0 0 0 38 Thielbar 17 16 0 0 16 0 49 Coulombe 5 0 32 0 0 18 55 Rogers 0 0 0 18 0 0 18 Robles 7 0 0 0 0 0 7 Minaya 0 0 0 20 0 0 20 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. Every year leading into the trade deadline, FanGraphs ranks the top 50 players in baseball according to their trade value. Some of items taken into consideration are performance, age, and years remaining of team control. According to their explanation, “the central question we considered boils down to this: how much value could a team expect to get in a trade for each player on the list?” One Twins player’s ranking may come as a surprise. Max Kepler ranks as baseball’s 45th most valuable trade asset and this comes a year after being ranked 39th overall. He is under team control through 2024 when he will be in his age-31 season. Over the next three seasons, he is projected to be worth 8.8 WAR while earning a max (no pun intended) of $25.3 million. Kepler’s name hasn’t been out there in trade discussions as much as players like Nelson Cruz, Jose Berrios, and Andrelton Simmons. That doesn’t mean a Kepler deal is out of the question. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach emerging as valuable corner outfield options makes it easier to part with Kepler. Minnesota is also talking to Byron Buxton about a potential contract extension and that might leave the Twins even more willing to part with Kepler. So, how does Kepler enter the discussion as one of the most valuable trade assets? He is a good, but not great player that has multiple years of control on a team friendly deal. For his career, he has hit .234/.317/.442 (.760) and been worth 11.7 WAR, which FanGraphs values at $93.9 million. He has also shown the ability be a strong defensive corner outfielder while being capable of being an average defensive center fielder. During the 2021 season, Kepler is posting career highs in average exit velocity and hard hit %. For instance, his average exit velocity in 2019, when he hit 36 homers, was in the 61st percentile. Fast-forward to 2021 and he’s in the 76th percentile for average exit velocity. Minnesota has also seen some of Kepler’s flaws since his breakout 2019 campaign. According to some defensive metrics, he’s in the midst of his worst defensive season of his career. His hamstring issues have certainly slowed him down. That being said, he still ranks in the 78th percentile for outs above average and he’s outfield jump is one of baseball’s best (97th percentile). Offensively, it has been hard to live up to 2019. He consistently posts BABIP totals under .250 because he pops the ball up so frequently. This season, he is also striking out at a higher rate than any other season as his chase rate is in the 89th percentile. He’s hitting the ball harder, but the results haven’t been there. Teams know what they are getting with Kepler and organizations find value in having a known cost. How much value that brings as a trade asset is yet to be seen. Do you think Kepler is one of baseball’s most valuable trade assets? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SDI has been used as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 2.2 SDI (6th); Michael Pineda, 0.6 SDI (19th); Kenta Maeda, 0.1 SDI (23rd) Berrios has always been a strong defensive pitcher and his defensive metrics point to him being near the top of the AL. Last season, Berrios finished 10th in SDI after finishing 16th in 2019. For his career, his highest 162-game season finish was in 2018 when he ranked 13th in the AL. Maeda was a Gold Glove finalist last season, but he hasn’t accumulated enough SDI to be in the discussion so far this year. Catcher (AL Ranking): Mitch Garver 1.3 SDI (10th); Ryan Jeffers 1.2 SDI (11th) Jeffers has been touted as the better defensive catcher, but he is slightly behind Garver in the first half SDI rankings. Garver has been on the shelf since his gruesome injury, and this means Jeffers has accumulated more innings behind the plate. Ben Rortvedt doesn’t have enough big-league time to show up on the SDI rankings, but he might by season’s end if the team is careful with Garver’s catching innings as he returns from injury. First Base (AL Ranking): Alex Kirilloff 1.7 SDI (3rd); Miguel Sano -0.9 SDI (11th) Outside of Simmons (See Below), Kirilloff ranks as the highest defender on the team at his position. Jake Bauers (2.6 SDI) and Ty France (2.3 SDI) have logged more than double the defensive innings compared to Kirilloff’s total. Kirilloff is much better than Sano at first and he has a chance to be a finalist for a Gold Glove in his rookie season. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco 1.1 SDI (8th); Luis Arraez -0.8 SDI (15th) Polanco had flaws as a defensive shortstop and his move to second base was seen as a way to increase his defensive value. Even with his current ranking, he is only 0.5 SDI out of ranking in the AL’s top three. Marcus Semien, another converted shortstop, leads the AL by one of the biggest margins at any position. Third Base (AL Ranking): Josh Donaldson -1.1 SDI (11th) Donaldson has long been considered a strong defender, but he might be in the middle of his worst defensive season. According to SDI, he ranked as high as second back in 2019 when he only finished behind Nolan Arenado in the NL. He’s been playing through hamstring issues that have significantly slowed him down and this might be one of the reasons for the decline in his defensive numbers. Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons 4.4 SDI (1st) Simmons might be one of the all-time best defensive players, so it makes sense to see him at the top of the SDI rankings among shortstops. Only seven AL defenders have accumulated a higher SDI than Simmons including Semien, another player the Twins targeted for middle infield depth this winter. Simmons might have the inside track for another Gold Glove, but will he be with the Twins after the trade deadline? Left Field (AL Ranking): Trevor Larnach -2.2 SDI (14th) Larnach isn’t in the big leagues because of his defense, and this shows up in his SDI total. Only four qualified players rank lower than Larnach among AL left fielders. Former Twin Eddie Rosario currently ranks second with a 2.5 SDI and he is only 0.6 SDI behind first place. This might surprise Twins fans because he was never known for his defense when he was in Minnesota. Center Field (AL Ranking) Minnesota doesn’t currently have any players that qualify for the SDI rankings. <Insert sad trombone sound for Byron Buxton> Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler -0.1 SDI (10th) Kepler’s total might be the most surprising on the midseason rankings. Throughout his career, he has been considered a strong defensive player with the Twins even using him in center field. Kepler is a year older, and he might have lost a step, or his hamstring injuries have slowed him down. Which of these rankings surprises you the most? Leave a COMMENT and star the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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