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  1. Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (72 pitches, 46 strikes (63.9%)) Home Runs: Max Kepler (6) Top 3 WPA: Max Kepler (0.275), Kyle Garlick (0.232), Emilio Pagan (0.230) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Archer four innings of bend don’t break In the offseason, Chris Archer was picked up to be the Twins 5th starter. That said, Archer has since become one of the most available arms for the Twins, even if it is for only four innings at a time. The short outings still often leave the Twins in a spot to win more often than not. The journey there can be bumpy. Monday night, that came in the way of three hits and two walks and scoring threats in three of the four innings Archer completed. If it weren’t for Daz Cameron’s speed beating out a double play, Archer likely would have put up a scoreless outing. The difficulty with the short outings is that it means the bullpen must be able to pick Archer up. More on that later. “Checked then Wrecked” You have probably heard the patented phrase “bloop and a blast.” The Twins put together a first inning that resulted in a check-swing single from Jorge Polanco to load the bases—followed by an absolute bomb from Max Kepler for a grand slam to give the Twins and Archer an early 4-0 lead. Monday night’s grand slam was Kepler’s sixth on the season. A season in which Kepler is reestablishing himself as a reliable offensive threat in the Twins lineup. Coming into Monday evening, he carried a career-best 136 WRC+. Chinks in the bullpen armor The bullpen has, time and time again in 2022, shut down opposing lineups. Monday night, the Tigers tested that ability was tested, and the results were not favorable. Griffin Jax came into the game to begin the 5th inning. In that inning, Jax let up a home run to Jonathan Schoop. Then in the 6th, Eric Haase was able to drive in a second run against Jax cutting the Twins lead down to one. Even the seemingly untouchable Joe Smith was scored on Monday night. This time Schoop was the one on base after his own one-out double and driven in by a Miguel Cabrera single. Smith was only to record one out in his appearance and was chased from the game after allowing three hits and striking out one. Pagan steadies the ship Emilio Pagan has created some interesting moments at the backend of games, but he came up big right on Monday night when the Twins needed it. Not only did Pagan shut down the Tigers in the eight. The Twins also called on to take on the ninth. While Pagan allowed one hit, he also struck out four batters. Including Schoop and Cabrera, who caused trouble for the Twins bullpen earlier in the game. Pagan likely won't be mentioned in headlines, but he came up big for the Twins. Urshela with heroics for the second straight game After allowing the Tigers back into the game and tying the score up at four, the Twins had to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Kepler, who already had the important grand slam in the first inning, took a vital walk to lead off the inning. With a lefty in Andrew Chafin on the mound, Rocco Baldelli turned to his bench and lefty masher Kyle Garlick. Garlick promptly hit a single to the outfield which advanced Kepler to third base. On night after Garlick homered off of a righty, he continues to show how elite he is when facing lefties. After a Sanchez pop-out, Gio Urshela came to the plate. Urshela has been one of many Twins that has been bit by the double-play grounder bug. With Garlick on first, that result had a strong chance as one of the Twins bottom of the ninth outcomes. Instead, Urshela was able to hit a grounder up the middle with enough speed that the Tigers couldn't handle it and allowed Kepler to score the game's winning run. Two incredible and exciting wins in the row take the Twins to five straight wins as they try to extend their AL Central lead. What’s Next? Tuesday, the Twins will send Sonny Gray to the mound for his sixth start of the season. He will look to get the Twins a win and improve upon his already solid 3.48 ERA. The Tigers will send rookie Beau Brieske to the mound. The righty sits mid-90s with his fastball and mixes in a changeup and slider, but has been hit pretty hard to this point in his young career. We will see if the Twins can exploit that Tuesday. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet - THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Jax 0 18 0 0 33 51 Pagán 0 19 0 0 28 47 Cano 0 0 0 38 0 38 Smith 0 0 21 0 17 38 Duran 0 16 0 17 0 33 Duffey 0 18 0 14 0 32 Megill 0 0 0 31 0 31 Thielbar 0 0 18 0 3 21 Stashak 0 0 18 0 IL 18
  2. When the Twins claimed Kyle Garlick, he had just 42 Major League games under his belt. A former 28th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garlick had posted a paltry. 691 OPS and had only eight extra-base hits to his credit. He saw success to the tune of a 117 OPS+ in his first 30 games with the Dodgers, but then failed to replicate that production with a -3 OPS+ playing 12 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020. As a 29-year-old, Minnesota saw him as an option to be their fourth outfielder. Possessing a left-hand-heavy group, Garlick presented a platoon bat that could play on the corners. Although not a given to make the 2021 roster, he was activated on April 29, 2021, and the intentions of his usage immediately became evident. Minnesota wanted him almost entirely to face left-handed pitching. Of his 107 plate appearances last season, 63 of them came against southpaws. He posted an .878 OPS and clubbed four of his five dingers against them. The downside was a lopsided 19/2 K/BB and the eventual sports hernia injury that ended his season on July 24. The production as a whole was hardly noteworthy, just a .745 OPS and 103 OPS+, ultimately making him dispensable and leading to an outright off the 40-man roster in November. Wanting to keep him in the organization and see what could happen, Minnesota gave Garlick a Spring Training invite as a non-roster player for 2022, and he became a necessary addition to the active roster just a few games into the season. Now with 19 games played this season, and a brief stint on the injured list interrupting continuity, Garlick looks like one of the league’s best platoon players. Minnesota has received a 1.011 OPS out of Garlick, equating to a 198 OPS+. He already has four homers to his credit and the 7/6 K/BB has made his plate discipline that much scarier for the opposition. The sample size remains extremely small thus far, but the Twins have done well to put Garlick in advantageous situations once again. Across 40 plate appearances, Garlick has seen a lefty 25 times. In those matchups he owns a .350/.440/.800 slash line with three homers and eight RBI. Going so well at the plate, Garlick came up in the biggest spot of his season on Sunday when he faced tough Kansas City Royals righty Scott Barlow, and took him deep for a two-run blast. The proverbial leash for Garlick has to have grown to immense proportions at this point. Although he hasn’t had a significant opportunity to cement the production as sustainable, he remains an oddity on a roster chock full of left-handed outfielders. Whether Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler, Nick Gordon, or Alex Kirilloff flank Byron Buxton on a regular basis, there has to be a power-hitting option that can swap in for them. Gilberto Celestino has done an amazing job to stake claim as a regular this season, but it’s Garlick who can bring the same thump on the corners. Minnesota had to proceed with caution following a surgical procedure (sports hernia) for their platoon player, but bringing him back on a non-guaranteed deal has worked out fabulously thus far. Garlick will forever be overmatched against a consistent barrage of right-handed pitching, but if Rocco Baldelli continues to pull the right strings for his 30-year-old slugger, Garlick could have a truly magical season pounding southpaws into the dirt. A late-round pick that bounced around after some early success, Garlick seems to have found both a home and a calling in Minnesota. If he can keep mashing taters, he’ll continue to find his name on the lineup card.
  3. The Twins entered their three-game series finale against the Royals on Sunday with a three-game winning streak they wanted to extend to four. Bailey Ober was on the mound for his first start since April 28 when he was pulled in the fourth inning with a groin injury. Ober pitched five quality innings in his return allowing only four base runners and one run in his five innings of work. Royals starter Brady Singer kept the Twins to two hits and one walk to Gilberto Celestino through the Twins first two times through the lineup. The walk to Celestino began the Twins best scoring opportunity all afternoon. Having only three total base runners through 5 1/3 innings, the Twins had their first opportunity to get runners into scoring position after Celestino’s walk and Luis Arraez’s second hit of the day. Following Arraez’s single, Polanco drew a full count that led to a walk and the Twins having the bases loaded for Max Kepler. Kepler drew an 0-1 count in his at-bat and connected for a swinging bunt close enough for Royals third baseman Emmanuel Rivera to get the force out at home and keep the Royals lead at 1-0. Gary Sanchez followed up Kepler’s fielder's choice with a fly out to left field that ended the Twins first big chance to score in the game. Following a failed opportunity to score in the top half of the sixth, the Royals offense took off against Twins reliever Yennier Cano who surrendered five runs off of four hits and two walks and was yanked out of the game after recording only out as the Royals lead extended to 6-0. Trevor Megill then came into the game for Cano to get the final two outs in the bottom of the sixth making his season and Twins debut. Megill allowed one base runner on a fielder's choice but got the Twins out of the jam on a strike out and flyout to Kepler in deep right field. In the top of the seventh, the Twins again had an opportunity to score after a Nick Gordon triple that fell a few feet short of clearing the stands. Again, the Twins failed to get Gordon home on the triple and the game was still scoreless going into the top of the eighth. The Twins bats finally woke up in the top of the eighth as they scored two runs off four straight hits from Celestino, Arraez, Polanco and Kepler. The bats did not stop there in the top of the eighth. Gary Sanchez drove in a run on a sacrifice fly that scored Polanco and after being hitless all game. Kyle Garlick hit a home run off of righty Scott Barlow to bring the Twins back into the game with the score 6-5. As Celestino began the second round of the lineup in the eighth, he was walked by Barlow to load the bases up for Arraez. Coming into the at-bat 3-4 for the day, Arraez was poised to make the Twins comeback complete. However, that didn’t end up being the case as some questionable strike calls caught Arraez looking to end the Twins eighth-inning run. Even after a dismal strikeout to Arraez, the Twins came back again in the top of the ninth to threaten with runners on second and third and nobody out for Gary Sanchez. Sanchez worked the count to 2-2 and smacked another sacrifice fly to tie the game at six apiece. Trevor Larnach was cold at the plate in his return from the IL and continued that in the top of the ninth. There was at least a wild pitch in his at-bat to advance Kepler to third. Garlick followed up with a walk putting runners on the corners with two outs for Gio Urshela’s first at-bat of the afternoon. Urshela would only need the one at-bat to contribute for the Twins Sunday as he hit an RBI single that scored Max Kepler for the game-winning run. Jhoan Duran came in for Twins to close out the game in the ninth for his third save opportunity of his young career. Duran completed a one, two, three ninth to give the Twins the win and set their winning streak to four straight. What’s Next? The Twins return home Monday night to start a seven game home stand and three game series against the cellar dwelling Detroit Tigers. Chris Archer will make the start for the Twins and the Tigers have yet to announce their own starter for Monday night. Postgame Interview
  4. 5. Trevor Plouffe: 55 HR Plouffe hit the first Target Field home run during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He also hit a milestone home run during Target Field's third season as he collected the 300th home run hit at the park. 4. Max Kepler: 64 HR Kepler has a chance to move up this list during the 2022 campaign. At the end of April, he clocked two home runs in one game against Detroit. His first career home run was one he likely will never forget as he walked off the Red Sox. 3. Eddie Rosario: 67 HR Rosario had a flair for the dramatic, and he was part of the team's Bomba Squad dramatics in 2019. He helped the Twins set a record for most players with 30 home runs in a season. One of his most significant home runs from that 2019 season was a pinch-hit homer that gave the Twins a late-inning lead. 2. Miguel Sanó: 76 HR Sanó can be a free agent at season's end, but that still gives him a chance to take over the top spot on this list. However, his cold start and recent injury may leave him searching for at-bats when he returns. There's no question that he has been one of the best power hitters for Minnesota in the Target Field era. 1. Brian Dozier: 80 HR Dozier has the most Twins home runs in Target Field history. He was also responsible for one of the Target Field's best moments. In July 2015, he smacked a walk-off home run that capped a seven-run ninth inning to give the Twins the win. Do any of these names surprise you? Which of the top-5 players has the most memorable home run? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THE SERIES -Home Run Hitters: 11-15 -Home Run Hitters: 6-10
  5. The ball is dead. The ball remains dead. And Rob Manfred has killed it. One can barely watch a game or read a baseball article without someone mentioning just how short baseballs are flying compared to previous years. Perhaps MLB wanted to counter-act the previous “rabbit ball” era, perhaps they wanted to de-incentivize home runs to move away from three-true-outcome baseball, or perhaps Manfred is a foolish stooge. One cannot say with authority which statement is true, or if the answer includes some combo of the three, but the reality is thus: baseballs in 2022 are not flying as far as before. If the baseballs are dead, and they are, then flyball pitchers have the most to gain from such a development; their main weakness—one of those flyballs landing behind the fence—is neutered. The term “flyball pitcher” has become something of a swear in the juiced-ball age, implying a deficiency rather than describing a strategy. The main plus to being a flyball pitcher is that most true flyballs end up in gloves; flyballs held a .117 BABIP in 2018, and that number barely moves yearly. If flyballs are no longer as threatening as before, a team in 2022 could be more liberal with allowing them. For the Twins, that’s an important note. The team has the seventh-highest flyball rate in baseball, and many of the culprits holding that number up—Joe Ryan, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray—the team targeted over the past year. Those pitchers have other desirable traits, so their flyball rate could be a secondary thought, but that consideration looms especially large this season. Of course, presumably, part of why the Twins targeted them involved other details; Target Field and outfield defense. If Target Field feels like it’s on the cavernous side of ballparks, that’s because it is. Statcast’s park factors claim that the stadium was the 10th best at suppressing homers between 2019-2021 and is generally slightly more of a pitcher’s park. That feels right. The high walls in right field block homers that would go out in the wiffleball field that is Yankee Stadium, while centerfield often plays like Death Valley, eating up flyballs for dinner. Righties have it better for hitting doubles, but it’s also the most challenging park for them to single in. A secondary point: that 2019 team looks even more impressive when you consider that the team hit many of those homers in a park that is bad for power. The exact characteristics that define Target Field aside, there’s one glaring, painfully obvious reason Target Field is more challenging for hitters: Byron Buxton. Buxton’s defense needs no introduction, so it won’t get one. Buxton is an out machine, whether you like OAA, UZR, DRS, or any other suspiciously New Deal Program-sounding acronyms. His presence in center is world-altering, attracting fly balls to his person so he can gobble them up in a SportsCenter Top 10-esque diving catch or during a mid-sprint effort that only looks easy because Buxton makes it look so. Even his backup, Gilberto Celestino, currently is in the 84th percentile of outfielders by OAA, albeit in a minuscule sample size. In fact, let’s talk about those other outfielders; Max Kepler has long been one of the finest defensive right fielders in the game, ranking in the top 15 in MLB in OAA every full year since its introduction. Trevor Larnach is messier to analyze given his small sample, but Statcast at least thinks his route-running is good enough for an NFL wide receiver. Nick Gordon holds the least attractive numbers, but he has the athleticism to play in the outfield and should improve with more reps. It should be unsurprising that the Twins outfield is currently 1st in MLB in DRS, 3rd in OAA, and 3rd in UZR/150 innings. The ball does not fly as far as before, Twins pitchers are good at allowing fly balls, Target Field suppresses those fly balls, and the Twins outfield will probably catch them. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are either cracked-out geniuses or fortunate individuals because they have quietly built a perfect relationship between the ball, pitcher, park, and defense. That combination has not only fueled their success so far in 2022, but it will probably carry them to many victories as the season continues.
  6. Despite the Twins attempting to coin the phrase, "We rake" early on in the season, they didn't see that sustained level of success until about the third week. Closing out the month well, it was a combination of strong starting pitching and good production from the bats. Plenty has been made about the lineup being boom or bust, having the ability to only win with the longball, but that notion was also dispelled early. The Twins have shown they can compete offensively through a wide array of outcomes and that has benefitted them with a ball traveling shorter distances. They'll continue to make adjustments as the season goes on, but these three players have helped to lead the charge early. Honorable Mention 2: Luis Arraez Expected to be somewhat of a rotational player and work in starts as a utility man, it only took a matter of weeks for Arraez to find a regular starting role. Playing in 20 games during the first month of the season, Arraez drew starts at first base (for the first time in his career), second base, third base, and designated hitter. Across 74 plate appearances, the modern-day Rod Carew has slashed .318/.386/.397. Never a guy who will be known for power, Arraez has continued the blueprint of being an exceptionally difficult hitter to strike out. He owned a 4/7 K/BB, and his 3.5% whiff rate is the lowest in all of baseball. Minnesota needed someone to fill in across the dirt in the early going this season, and Arraez managed wonderfully. Honorable Mention 1: Max Kepler Somewhat of a surprise in this space, Kepler was last an above-average hitter in 2019. After mashing 36 homers as part of the Bomba Squad, he dipped to a .760 and .719 OPS the past two seasons, respectively. Putting up a career month, Kepler was tough to be topped in April. The German outfielder slashed .258/.372/.515 with five homers and 11 RBI. His 9/7 K/BB showed a strong process, but the most notable output comes against lefties. Having struggled against southpaws throughout his career, Kepler posted a 1.011 OPS versus lefties to start the season, which actually trumps the .814 OPS versus righties. While four of his five home runs have come against righties, Kepler has struck out just three times against lefties while drawing seven walks. Should Kepler keep this type of production up as the warmer months come, he’ll be looking likely to make his first All-Star game. Twins Hitter of the Month: Byron Buxton The man got paid, and Buxton is undoubtedly looking to cash in again. With an $8 million MVP incentive, the Twins centerfielder has been arguably the best player in baseball when on the field. He’s missed minimal time due to injury thus far, and his April finished with an outstanding 1.069 OPS. Just two off the Major League lead in homers, Buxton has launched seven (six in April) while tallying four doubles. His 1.2 fWAR is just outside the top 10 across all of baseball, and he’s been every bit as exceptional in the field. The Twins have played 22 games, of which Buxton has been in 14. Continuing to remain available is the chief concern, but if he’s out there, he will make a difference. It’s conceivable even better months lie ahead for the Minnesota MVP candidate. Buxton owns an 18/2 K/BB on the season, and turning some empty at-bats into walks or base hits will only drive his slash line north. He, too, will benefit from warmer weather, both on the base paths and in batted ball results. As has always been the case, should Buxton be healthy, the production will be gaudy. He’s looking for his first All-Star game appearance this season, and jumping into the top 10 vote-getters for MVP is more than doable. If you were to rank your top 3 for April, are these the three you would have ranked? In the same order? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  7. Last Week's Game Results: Game 17 | MIN 5, DET 4: Wild Final Play Extends Win Streak to 5 Game 18 | MIN 5, DET 0: Twins Win Again in Another Great Ryan Start Game 19 | MIN 7, DET 1: Twins Sweep, Correa Comes Up Clutch Game 20 | TB 6, MIN 1: Bundy Roughed Up Early, Win Streak Over Game 21 | MIN 9, TB 1: Garlick Powers Twins to Lopsided Win Game 22 | MIN 9, TB 3: Winder Dominates, Twins Take Series Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/25 through Sun, 5/1 *** Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 13-9) Run Differential Last Week: +21 (Overall: +23) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES While on his way to another strong outing on Thursday, with one run allowed through 3 ⅔ against Detroit, Bailey Ober was bothered by discomfort in his groin. He exited and headed to the injured list with what is hopefully a minor groin strain. Cole Sands was called up to replace him on the roster and provide length in the bullpen, and debuted on Sunday. Outside of that, it was a week mostly filled with relatively minor injuries and precautionary sittings. Gary Sánchez missed a few games due to soreness, but returned to action with no apparent issues. Byron Buxton was scratched on Saturday after suffering a hand contusion on an HBP Friday night. He returned to the lineup on Sunday and homered. Miguel Sanó played only two games due to knee soreness that first emerged on Tuesday and flared up on Saturday. He was placed on IL after Sunday's game and replaced on the roster by José Godoy. Meanwhile, they'll also need to soon find room for Alex Kirilloff and Sonny Gray, who are both on the comeback trail in the minors. HIGHLIGHTS I'm running out of superlatives for Joe Ryan. Or should I say, Joe Cool? Joe-lan Ryan? What the rookie is doing on the mound has been absolutely incredible for someone of his age and experience level. Calm, cool and collected, he just keeps mowing down opposing lineups. Most recently he matched a career-high with seven innings of shutout, one-hit ball against the Tigers, striking out nine with one walk as the Twins cruised to a 5-0 victory. Ryan continues to unleash a more balanced mix with heavier usage of the slider, to outstanding effect with opponents batting .185 and slugging .239 against the pitch. Ryan was very pleased to get some support in that outing from Carlos Correa, who is finally starting to put a slow start behind him. His defense has consistently been stellar but Correa is now beginning to wake up at the plate, with a three-hit, three-RBI game on Thursday snapping the shortstop out of a 4-for-26 slump. He carried his breakout over into the weekend series at Tampa, where he notched seven hits in 13 at-bats with a pair of RBIs and four runs scored. Joining him in the offensive awakening was Max Kepler, who followed up his strong series against the White Sox with a power display against Detroit, launching three homers and a double with five RBIs to key the lineup. Those three games raised his slugging percentage from .300 to .475, and by week's end it was all the way up to .514 following another strong series at Tropicana (3-for-9, HR, 2B, 4 RBI). Another development that simply must be highlighted is the rapid emergence of Griffin Jax in the bullpen. This was always seen as a hopeful possibility, but the weaponization of Jax as a reliever has occurred much more quickly and smoothly than anyone could've expected. Jax pitched twice in the Detroit series, tossing four scoreless innings with four strikeouts. In five relief appearances he has a 2.00 ERA and 11-to-3 K/BB ratio and 16% swinging strike rate. The elevation of his stuff in shorter stints has made a night-and-day difference. Here's a side-by-side look at his Statcast measurables from last year (as a starter) compared to this year. The increases in whiff rate and chase rate are staggering. Some other noteworthy performances from an absolutely outstanding week for the Twins: Josh Winder dazzled in his first major-league start on Sunday. Handed a big early lead, the rookie was workmanlike as he rattled off six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. He was efficient and in command while mixing a heavy dose of sharp sliders and curveballs with a fastball that averaged 95 MPH. Winder looks phenomenal. Minnesota's new bullpen kingpin made only one appearance on the week, but it was a brilliant one for Jhoan Duran: two perfect innings with three strikeouts in Saturday's blowout win over the Rays. Duran now has an 18-to-2 K/BB ratio through 11 MLB innings. Chris Paddack continued to show why the Twins targeted him in a pristine outing on Tuesday against Detroit, hurling 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball to set the stage for a wild walk-off win. Since struggling in his Twins debut against the Dodgers, Paddack has allowed three runs in 10.2 IP with a 10-to-1 K/BB ratio. Drawing four starts in six games against a lefty-heavy slate, Kyle Garlick showed why he's on the roster and why he gets slotted into the heart of the order against southpaws. He went 3-or-8 with three walks and made all of those hits count, including a pair of home runs against a dealing Shane McClanahan on Saturday. Unfortunately, he came out of Sunday's contest with right calf soreness and may be headed to the shelf. LOWLIGHTS Is the clock striking midnight on Caleb Thielbar's cinderella story? He struggled in another outing against Detroit on Tuesday, charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. It was the third time in seven appearances Thielbar allowed a crooked number, which is not what you like to see from a one-inning reliever. Even after rebounding with a scoreless frame on Saturday, his ERA sits at 12.79 on the season. Thielbar's stuff has looked okay, and it's evident some bad luck has been at play (for example, Emilio Pagán coming in and immediately giving up a home run to score both runners Thielbar put aboard). Some patience is warranted based on his performance in 2020 and '21. But still: we're talking about a 35-year-old who was out of the majors for four years prior. And roster spots (both 26-man and 40-man) are at a premium for the team right now. It was otherwise difficult to find many bad performances in such a stellar week of baseball for the Twins. Dylan Bundy hit a speed bump with six earned runs allowed on Friday, but still delivered six innings. A few hitters had quiet runs, but obviously not enough to slow down the offense much overall. The Twins are playing clean, consistent baseball, letting their opponents make the mistakes and capitalizing when that happens. Rebounding after a beatdown in the Rays opener to outscore Tampa 18-4 on Saturday and Sunday was a remarkable showing of resilience. The first month of this 2022 season has felt like a polar opposite of 2021. TRENDING STORYLINE It's a nice problem to have, especially compared to last year, but the Twins are quickly running into a shortage of roster spots for all the players they'd like to have around. MLB teams must reduce their rosters from 28 to 26 on Monday, and the Twins were already facing a coming crunch with Gray and Kirilloff on their way back from IL. Ober seemingly won't be out long so they also need to plan around his return. There's another factor coming into play too: a scorching hot Royce Lewis at Triple-A. He went 7-for-16 last week with a home run, two doubles, two steals, six walks and only three strikeouts. Lewis is absolutely tearing it up in his first real action for more than two years, with a .320/.441/.587 slash line through 21 games in St. Paul. Lewis stated before the season his intention to prove himself ready for the big leagues, and he's doing exactly that. Obviously there is no short-term opening at shortstop for the Twins, but you wonder if they'll start mixing in some looks at other positions to create a path for him. Showing sharpness at third base or in the outfield corners open one up. This idea is not so much fanciful as it is practical – Lewis is already on the 40-man roster and the Twins could potentially use a right-handed bat with both Garlick and Sanó hurting. (Notably, José Miranda would also be a fit...) LOOKING AHEAD With the Rays out of the way, the Twins now rolling into what should – theoretically – be one of their softest stretches of the year. The Orioles and Athletics are barely trying this year so the coming week represents a chance to fatten up before things get considerably tougher with the Astros and Guardians following on the schedule. On Monday, Paddack is scheduled to face off against old friend Tyler Wells in Baltimore. MONDAY, 5/2: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Paddack v. RHP Tyler Wells TUESDAY, 5/3: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Joe Ryan v. LHP Bruce Zimmermann WEDNESDAY, 5/4: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Kyle Bradish THURSDAY, 5/5: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Spenser Watkins FRIDAY, 5/6: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – LHP Cole Irvin v. RHP Josh Winder SATURDAY, 5/7: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP James Kaprielian v. RHP Chris Paddack SUNDAY, 5/8: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Daulton Jefferies v. RHP Joe Ryan
  8. Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K (79 pitches, 46 strikes (58.2%)) Home Runs: Kyle Garlick 2 (3), Max Kepler (5) Top 3 WPA: Kyle Garlick (.316), Gilbert Celestino (.73), Carlos Correa (.60) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Chris Archer Returns to Tampa Bay Chris Archer was acquired by the Twins from Tampa Bay on March 28 of this season, Saturday, he pitched against the team that he spent eight seasons with. While the asset for the Twins was knowing that Archer knows what to throw to his former teammates, the Rays also know what he will throw, which caught up to the pitcher in the bottom of the second when Taylor Walls hit a home run into right-center field off Archer’s slider in the second inning but is the only run that he gave up during his return to Tropicana. In Archer’s first start against his former team, the Rays lineup made him work for every pitch that was thrown, but he completed four innings with the help of his defense and certainly calm demeanor. Rocco Baldelli has been limiting his pitches to around 60 during his first three games this season. The Twins are easing Archer into the season after spending most of 2021 injured with right forearm tenderness. Archer’s confidence continued to grow, allowing him to throw a season-high of 79 pitches. He managed to work through four innings and only allowed two hits and one solo-home run before being relieved by Cody Stashak. The Bullpen did an amazing job of going five scoreless innings holding Tampa Bay to just one run for this game. Last Minute Roster Changes Assist in Game Win The further the Twins have gone into April, the more injuries have popped up along the way. This series both Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton missed starting different games due to injuries. In their absence, other players have been stepping up figuratively and literally to get their chance at staying on the roster. Trevor Larnach replaced Buxton today in the lineup. Buxton was a late scratch for today’s game after he received a contusion from being hit in the hand during the game Friday. Larnach’s hitting against lefties has continued to improve and in his first at-bat, he walked, making McClannahan work. The Twins kept Larnach in the line-up even after the McClannahan had retired, allowing him to help the Twins continue to work towards the win, getting a double in the top of the seventh scoring Celestino giving the Twins a little padding with a 4-1 lead. Larnach’s performance has continued to improve substantially over the past two weeks as he puts in the work to show why he should stay after they reduce the roster in May. Sano is back in the lineup after missing games with a sore knee. Batting eighth in the lineup, he wasn’t able to find his stride in the game and struck out with each at-bat. Frustrating, for not only Sano, but for the team as well. Sano typically thrives at Tropicana Field with hits and RBIs, making it one of his more successful parks to play in, but just couldn’t seem to get anything going. Bailey Ober was placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday and brought up Cole Sands to take his place. Sands most likely will be making his MLB debut with the team after the Rays series when they travel to Baltimore to face the Orioles. Kyle Garlick was the MVP of the game today as he smashed two home runs, a solo homer in the first inning, and a two-run shot in the sixth inning to give the Twins a 3-1 lead. Garlick had his first career multi-home run game of his career today and after his second home run, the Rays removed McClannahan bringing out JP Feyereisen to finish out the inning. Kyle Garlick was taken out after hitting his second home run. He returned to the dugout and the Twins brought in Max Kepler for defensive purposes, and because they would be facing right-handed pitchers the rest of the game. Kepler wasted no time getting in on the action hitting a single in his first at-bat and joining the player he replaced by hitting a home run deep to right-centerfield. Not Finished YET The Twins used the ninth inning to give Twins fans a show, getting seven hits and four runs before leaving the bases loaded. The Twins have been on a hot streak lately winning eight of their last nine decisions and potentially could close out this series with a win. What’s Next? The Twins have a get-away day game tomorrow to complete the series with the Rays before heading to the east coast for a four-game series against the Orioles at historic Camden Yards. Pitching matchups for tomorrow: Sunday 12:10: Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00) vs Josh Flemming LHP (2-2) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  9. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (90 pitches, 58 strikes, 64.4%) Home Runs: Max Kepler, 2 (4), Ryan Jeffers (2) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.322), Max Kepler (.223), Ryan Jeffers (.078) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan – and his cool turtleneck – picked up where he left off after his previous two outstanding starts. He pitched superbly right from the get-go, tossing four scoreless frames on 54 pitches. The first hit allowed by him came only in the fourth, but by that point, he had already induced nine swinging strikes. Also, in the fourth, he matched his season-high in strikeouts with seven. He did get some help from some excellent fielding, including a great stop from Carlos Correa, but his most important help came from the batter’s box. Max Kepler kept the hottest streak he’s had in a while going. Facing former teammate Michael Pineda, Max provided Ryan with some run support by hitting two early, solo home runs in his first two plate appearances. He now has four homers in the season, something that in 2021 didn’t happen until May 16. His increased productivity could be one of Minnesota’s most significant uplifts for this season, should it carry on. Ryan pitched a couple more 1-2-3 innings to reach six scoreless frames on only 76 pitches. That allowed him to become the first Twins starter this year to make it into the seventh. He did so and tossed yet another 1-2-3 innings, completing the brilliant seven-inning shutout. After giving up that Cabrera single in the fourth, he retired ten consecutive batters, almost effortlessly dominating the Tiger lineup. According to MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park, Joe Ryan now has 57 strikeouts through his first nine starts, a new club record. Bert Blyleven held that record until tonight, with 50 punchouts. The offense came through with some more breathing room to make Ryan's evening even better with a four-hit fifth. Trevor Larnach opened the inning with a leadoff double and was followed by a rocket (110.9 mph exit velocity) from Ryan Jeffers, a two-run home run. In that same inning, two more batters reached against Pineda, but they were stranded. The offense continued to hit the ball hard, producing another run for the Twins in the bottom of the seventh. Larnach hit yet another leadoff double, and he was pushed across in the very next at-bat by a Jeffers double. Both of those hits surpassed 107 mph exit velocity and gave Minnesota a 5-0 lead. Joe Smith and Danny Coulombe had no trouble whatsoever shredding the uninspired Detroit offense, tossing a couple of clean innings on 30 pitches, making it a memorable, all-around performance by the Twins. What's next? Before heading to the east coast for a seven-game road trip, the Twins close out the series tomorrow with Bailey Ober (2.81 ERA) dueling against lefty Tarik Skubal (2.30 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 12:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Winder 0 61 0 0 0 61 Thielbar 22 0 0 27 0 49 Coulombe 28 0 0 0 20 48 Pagán 0 0 0 23 0 23 Smith 0 13 0 0 10 23 Stashak 22 0 0 0 0 22 Duffey 0 0 0 19 0 19 Duran 0 18 0 0 0 18 Jax 0 0 0 10 0 10
  10. 1. Twins are in control of the division and this is the time to pull away With two walk-off wins in a row, the bats heating up for players like Max Kepler and (hopefully) Miguel Sanó, Byron Buxton back in the lineup and performing as clutch as ever, and a Twins starting rotation that has an AL-best ERA of 2.60, the Twins appear to be firmly in control of the division and stand to continue to gain ground, especially considering what a mess top rival Chicago White Sox are in. The White Sox are on an 8-game losing streak, including the last 7 losses against 3 division opponents, are plagued by a host of injuries to impact players like Liam Hendriks, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, and have continued to commit a circus of errors in the field. The Sox lead all the MLB in errors with 20. The Twins, by comparison, have 8. If the Twins can sweep the Detroit Tigers, march into the AL East and play competitively vs the middle-of-the-division Tampa Bay Rays and the bottom-of-the-division Baltimore Orioles, they should hopefully continue to gain some ground. The Twins will go head-to-head with the current second place Cleveland Guardians on May 13-15 when the Twins host them for a 3-game series. I have no doubt that the White Sox will end up being fine in the end and will start wracking up some wins once they get some key players back and can calm things down in the field, but until then, it is important that the Twins put as much ground between the teams as possible. The takeaway here is that the Twins are on a 5-game winning streak, the momentum is with them, and the team is having fun again. That's worth a lot. 2. Miguel Sanó is starting to arrive Despite Sanó having what some seasoned Twins fans will regard as his perennial start-of-season slump, it appears that he might be starting to break out of it. This season, it has been apparent that the Twins have decided to stick with him and “play him into the ground,” so to speak, in hopes that he will work through his slow start at the plate. So far this season, Sanó has played in 16/17 games and has not been pinch hit for, even in situations like Sunday April 24's series finale vs the White Sox in which some fans were screaming for Carlos Correa to pinch-hit for him in a bottom of the 10th inning, down by 1, do-or-die situation. For those who have been in the "just stick with him" camp rather than the "send him down to St. Paul to figure things out" boat, it is gratifying to see him being to experience some degree of success at the plate, even though it has mostly continued to be in the form of singles here and there. His at-bats are becoming better quality, his strikeouts are becoming more infrequent (though, as a hitter he is always a high strikeout hitter, even in good times), and his statistics and specifically plate discipline (chase rate and walk percentage) mirror the profile of a consistent hitter who so far has just had some bad luck. Twins Daily's own Nick Nelson had a great tweet illustrating this fact. As we know, Sanó did not get his first hit until the 7th game of the season at Boston, and his batting average is up to a modest .096, but he has quite the hole to climb out of, and it will take some time before his batting average reflects improvement. Baby steps. But just by watching him (everyone's favorite highly scientific "eye test") he is clearly not as lost at the plate or as frustrated as he was to start the season. When he gets ahold of the ball, he is mashing it. Take a look at that exit velocity- the 9th highest exit velocity in the whole MLB. Of note, Sanó has been nothing but an asset at first base as well. Yes, Tuesday's 9th inning hit could have almost been an error, and his baserunning on the play could have been disastrous. No, the Sanó of a few weeks ago wouldn't have had that hit. The takeaway: Sanó was the hero of yesterday's game and big plays like this will hopefully inspire the confidence he needs to continue to return to form. Stick with him a little longer and he's going to be one of the best power hitters in MLB. 3. We probably need to work on our baserunning a bit It is no question that yesterday's 9th inning walk-off was quite fortunate and arguably even lucky for the Twins. When Sanó singled on a line drive to right field, Trevor Larnach held at third, Gio Urshela kept running when Sanó continued to second, and we all collectively screamed at our TVs. Tigers catcher Eric Haase threw the ball over third base into left field (airmailed it, we would have called that in softball) allowing two runners to score and the Twins received a happy reprieve. That play could have easily turned into a double play, and if Kepler had not struck out before Sanó/Haase did not overthrow it, that play feasibly could have feasibly been a triple play. Rewatching that play with the camera focused on Sanó, it appears his eyes are solely fixed on the ball and he isn't paying attention to what the other baserunners are doing. Somewhat relatedly, the Twins also have had three runners thrown out at home so far, including a memorable and unfortunate play vs the Mariners when Sanó was sent home and was ultimately thrown out by approximately a mile despite the base paths being only 90 feet. The Twins have been caught stealing three times this year, which appears to be about league average. Yesterday worked out in the team's favor, other times might not. As the Metrodome light-up board once said, "Walks Will Haunt," and bad baserunning undoubtably will too. Do you have any other takeaways from this memorable game? Leave a COMMENT below.
  11. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Paddack 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO Homeruns: Kepler (1) Top 3 WPA: Sano .624, Larnach .243, Paddack .192 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Here’s how the Twins lined up to open their three-game series against the Tigers. Today, Twins' Twitter was already astir, with reports that Carlos Correa would be open to finding a long-term deal in Minnesota, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. On the field, Chris Paddack looked to continue his upward trend in his third start since joining the Twins. In his first start against the Dodgers, Paddack struggled to find the strike zone and got clobbered by a lineup that frequently saw him in the NL West. Paddack struggled to find the zone in chilly game-time temperatures in the first inning. He made it through a scoreless inning despite issuing an uncharacteristic walk to Javy Baez. From there, Paddack didn’t look back. The Tigers managed just two hits in Paddack’s first five frames, in which he struck out six Tigers hitters. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez had a solid start for Detroit. In the second inning, the Twins got on the board after a Max Kepler double scored Kyle Garlick. The Twins added to their lead in the fourth via a two-run home run from Kepler. Kepler’s performance against a left-handed pitcher is of note. Perhaps even more significant is a Twins' hitter not named Byron Buxton or Luis Arraez stepping up and having a strong offensive performance. More of this, please... Paddack finally ran into trouble in the sixth inning. A bunt hit from Derek Hill was followed by a bloop single from Robbie Grossman. Austin Meadows grounded into a huge double play before Javy Baez got the Tigers on the board with a loud double to right field. Tyler Duffey replaced Paddack and induced a ground out from Miguel Cabrera to end the threat, the Twins taking a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning. Paddack’s development and performance in his first three starts have to be viewed as an incredibly encouraging sign for the Twins. His velocity was up, he pounded the zone, and he looks like a confident starting pitcher. Long may it continue. Duffey and Caleb Thielbar combined for a relatively comfortable seventh inning, a welcome turn given their early struggles this season. Thielbar returned in the eighth and immediately struggled, giving up a single to Derek Hill before walking Robbie Grossman. Thielbar managed to get Austin Meadows to fly out but left the game with runners at first and second and one out. Emilio Pagan relieved Thielbar and immediately surrendered the lead as Baez hit a three-run home run. Miguel Cabrera lined out before Spencer Torkelson walked. Pagan eventually struck out Schoop, but looked all over the place, throwing just 10 strikes in 23 pitches. Griffin Jax looked brilliant in the top of the ninth, striking out two and retiring the side on just 10 pitches. One nagging question for the Twins, in addition to the inconsistent offense, is the bullpen. Whether the complaint is relevant or grounded in recency bias, it feels like the Twins are struggling in some early season games trying to figure out who can do what in their bullpen. Surely an investment of $5-7 million more could have stabilized the back end of the bullpen before the start of the season? The bottom of the ninth was bizarre. Gregory Soto walked Trevor Larnach and Gio Urshela. Miguel Sano singled on a line drive to right field, Larnach held at third, Urshela kept running when Sano continued to second. Tigers catcher Eric Haase threw the ball over third base into left-field, allowing two runners to score and the Twins walked off in bizarre, and extremely fortunate fashion. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Winder 0 0 61 0 0 61 Pagán 34 0 0 0 23 57 Thielbar 0 22 0 0 27 49 Jax 29 0 0 0 10 39 Duffey 13 0 0 0 19 32 Coulombe 0 28 0 0 0 28 Stashak 0 22 0 0 0 22 Duran 0 0 18 0 0 18 Smith 0 0 13 0 0 13 Romero 0 IL IL IL IL 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series against the Tigers. Joe Ryan starts for Minnesota against old friend Michael Pineda. First pitch is at 6:40 CT. Postgame Interviews
  12. Many Twins sluggers had remarkable 2019 seasons, including Max Kepler. In 134 games, he hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles and 36 home runs. Obviously, the baseballs used that season have come under question, which is undoubtedly the case with Kepler. He posted an OPS over 100 points higher than his career average, so how does that connect to his start to 2022? Since 2019, Kepler has hit .216/.315/.411 (.726) with a 101 OPS+ with 29 home runs in 185 games. So far this season, Kepler is getting on base at a higher rate (.361 OPS), but his slugging percentage (.300 SLG) is over 130 points lower than his career mark. With offense down across baseball, he still has a 103 OPS+, which puts him above the league average. There are some positive signs in his underlying numbers. For the first time in his career, Kepler has an average exit velocity of over 90 mph, putting him in the 67th percentile among MLB hitters. He has also done an excellent job of working counts in his favor as his BB% ranks in the 88th percentile. Kepler has also been able to avoid striking out, as his K% (77th percentile), Whiff% (88th percentile), and Chase Rate (87th percentile). While all of these numbers look good, some simple fixes might help him break out. One of Kepler’s previous issues has been his tendency to pop up weakly, which results in easy-outs. He is clearly focusing on this issue in 2022, which has resulted in a 5.5 launch angle. He has averaged a 15.1 launch angle for his career, and the MLB average is 12. His low launch angle has resulted in him hitting the ball on the ground over 50% of the time, which is over 12% higher than his career average. If Kepler can adjust his launch angle slightly, he may see better results that correspond to his increase in average exit velocity. Fastballs are one area where Kepler has the most offensive success, and his slugging percentage on those pitches is another area that points to him being close to a breakout. Last season, he posted a .462 slugging percentage when facing fastballs, which was his highest total on any specific pitch type. In 2022, his slugging percentage has dropped to .292 when facing fastballs, but his expected slugging is .513 on those pitches. His hard contact should result in a higher slugging percentage as the weather improves. Finally, Kepler’s batting average on balls in play (BAbip) is another sign of him turning it around in the weeks ahead. So far in 2022, he has a .256 BAbip, his highest total since 2017. His current .220 batting average is also significantly lower than his BAbip, and that may point to him being unlucky. If a few more of these hits fall in, all of his numbers look better to start 2022, but that seems to be a trend with Minnesota’s hitters not named Buxton. At this point in his career, one must wonder if Kepler can make significant changes to his offensive approach. He is in the prime of his career, but he has accumulated nearly 3,000 big-league plate appearances. He can make some minor changes in 2022 to get better results, but will he be able to make those adjustments in a depressed offensive environment? Do you think Kepler can breakout in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. Kepler Got His Groove Back? Max Kepler had a rough season after contracting the Covid-19 virus in early 2021. Not only was his physical appearance worn and thin, but his defense and at-bats were also not what they used to be. Over the past two series, Kepler has increased his plate discipline. Savant showed his zone contact is 90.9% which helped him at least in this series, garnering him both a home run and a double. He may be batting .188 right now, but the average doesn't say it all. He is on track for a good season and getting better the more plate appearances he has, and he's undoubtedly rounding out his efforts by adding in good defensive play. Kepler has been making impressive defensive plays in the right field in a Buxton-like fashion. He is not Buxton, but his commitment to the hustle and making key plays like the out in the bottom of the fifth getting Chris Taylor out was beautiful. Admittedly I thought trading Kepler would have been a good idea at the beginning of the season, but he continues to show the staff and the fans that he is not done yet and won't go down without a fight, or up his trade value. Situational Hitting Gets an "F" The Dodgers pitching lineup was too much for the Twins bats. Over the two-game series, the Twins' offense could only get six hits. I'd rather get a root canal than sit through another series like that again. The Dodgers' pitching is one of the best in the league, but there is no reason the Twins bats couldn't make contact more than they did, at a minimum in game one. Byron Buxton and Gio Urshella went 0-for-4, and Luis Arraez, who has been a bright spot, went a dismal 0-for-3. Thank God at least Kepler and Nick Gordon were able to get runs, or this would have been a shutout series, and that's not a good look. Clayton Kershaw, who had never pitched before at Target Field, got comfortable really quick and was off to a combined perfect game, but thankfully Gary Sanchez came into the batter's box in the eighth inning and broke it up with a single to right field. That's probably the best news of the series, considering no one else could get anything going, and the frustration mounted to a peak when Miguel Sano busted his bat after going 0-for-3 and striking out twice. We are all Miguel Sano right now. I like Josh Winder, but... It was not a shock to me when Josh Winder made the 28-man roster out of spring training. During the shortened spring training, Winder showed confidence and capability to be a part of the rotation. Coming into his first MLB appearance facing one of the best lineups in MLB was not an easy task. He pitched to Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, and his first MLB strikeout went to Will Smith in his debut. Of all the hitters he had to debut with, he kept his head together, not getting phased and letting the defense do their part. Even if a sacrifice fly earned one run, that's all the rookie allowed in his first appearance. Winder's fastball averaged 94.5 MPH, which is excellent, but he needs to keep it in the zone. As he continues to have more mound appearances, there is room for control growth. As he can get control of his fastball, he will be a great mid-reliever. The rest of the pitching was sad. Chris Archer held his own after a jittery first inning, but Chris Paddack had one of the worst first innings I have seen in a while. While he was able to calm himself down and get out of the innings and continue on, both days the bullpen allowed multiple runs. Dereck Rodriguez looked like he was going to be able to keep it together and then gave up three home runs in a row in his fourth inning of the day. The bullpen definitely needs to see more batters to improve thanks to a lockout and short spring training but hopefully not at the cost of losing multiple series. I couldn't imagine that there would be a worse series for the Twins the rest of the season, but I have been wrong before. What's next? Hopefully, a series win in Boston instead of a repeat of last season where Boston won four of the series' five games. What were your lasting impressions from the Dodgers series? Leave a comment below.
  14. Box Score SP: Bailey Ober 5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (79 pitches, 48 strikes (60.7 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (3), Gary Sanchez (1), Max Kepler (1), Jorge Polanco (1), Carlos Correa (1) Top 3 WPA: Gary Sanchez (.228), Byron Buxton (.127), Max Kepler (0.75) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Byron Buxton was the star at the plate on Sunday hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first to put the Twins up 1-0. Buxton then made it three consecutive at-bats with a home run in the bottom of the second which earned a curtain call of MVP chants from the crowd. Buxton’s second home run gave the Twins a 6-0 lead. Gary Sanchez made his first start of the season behind the plate today and after almost giving the Twins an Opening Day victory with a fly ball that fell a few feet short of the left field bleachers. Sanchez crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the first to make it a 5-0 game and show the left field bleachers will be a common landing spot for his hits. In the bottom of the seventh, Sanchez tagged his fifth RBI of the game with a two out double to right center that scored his former Yankee teammate Gio Urshela and gave the Twins a 10-4 lead. Bailey Ober made his first start for the 2022 season. Ober struggled in the first inning throwing 27? pitches , walking Jesse Winker and giving up a double to Mitch Haniger. Following a rocky first inning, Ober had a one, two, three second inning that helped him cool off. Going into the third the Twins held a 6-0 lead for Ober but the Mariners bats came alive in the top half scoring four runs, three of which came from another Haniger home run. After giving up four runs in the third, Ober cooled off for his final two innings and kept the Mariners scoreless in the fourth and fifth. Correa continued his hot streak in the field. In the top of the first when it looked like Winker would score on Haniger’s double, Correa caught Alex Kirilloff’s relay throw and nailed a strike to Sanchez who tagged Winker out at home. After going hitless in his first three at bats, Correa joined in with Sanchez getting his first home run as a Twin on Sunday. Correa crushed a 83 MPH slider from Yohan Ramirez to the third deck of the left field bleachers making it a 9-4 Twins lead. In addition to the power hitting Buxton, Sanchez, and Correa showcased for Twins fans on Sunday. Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco also awoke at the plate hitting their first homers of the season. Polanco reached base a second time as well with a single. Sunday’s game showed that even with new faces on this 2022 squad, the Twins are still very much the Bomba Squad crushing six home runs after having only two from the season's first two games. Through the first three games, Buxton leads the team with three home runs. The Twins bullpen recovered from yesterday’s loss keeping the Mariners scoreless through the final four innings of the game. Danny Coulombe, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagan, and Jhon Romero combined for 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K, Pagan, making his season and team debut with the Twins, threw only ten pitches in a scoreless eighth, striking out two of three batters faced. Romero also made his season and team debut and threw 15 pitches giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth. What’s Next? The Twins will play their final game of this four-game series against the Mariners Monday night at 6:40 p.m. CT start time. Dylan Bundy will be making his 2022 Twins debut against the Mariners Chris Flexin. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Availability WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 0 0 27 0 15 42 Alcalá 0 0 13 0 27 40 Duran 0 0 31 0 0 31 Cotton 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 0 0 0 20 0 20 Thielbar 0 0 0 18 0 18 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 18 Romero 0 0 0 0 15 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 10 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Twins Daily’s own John Bonnes will be at today’s post game press conference and provide coverage, so check back over the next few hours. In the postgame interviews, we learned a little bit more about the key factor that got Ober back on track after that home run. “He seemed good,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “He seemed kind of pissed off.” Ober confirmed that the home run really bugged him and helped him get more aggressive over his last couple of innings. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work. Ober lasted five innings, and though he gave up four runs, three of them happened on the aforementioned pitch that he would surely like back. After managing his way through the first and second inning, he started the third giving up a double and a walk before a bloop single scored a run. A visit from pitching coach Wes Johnson followed and Ober went back to work.
  15. Minnesota's goal this year is to go from worst to first in the AL Central. Many predictions below will need to happen if the Twins want to overshoot their projected preseason position. Players need to be healthy and perform at a high level, while young pitchers will need to join the pitching staff and avoid rookie struggles. 5. Minnesota will have multiple Gold Glove winners Minnesota's up-the-middle defense is among baseball's best, and the Twins have two former Platinum Glove winners on the roster. Carlos Correa was arguably baseball's best defender last season, as he posted baseball's highest SABR Defensive Index total. Like Correa, Buxton has won a Platinum Glove, but he hasn't been on the field enough to qualify in recent years. When healthy, he is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game. Other players on the roster have the chance to be in the Gold Glove conversation. Jorge Polanco's defense made great strides in his shift to second. Alex Kirilloff is tremendous at first base if the team moves him out of a corner outfield spot. 4. Kenta Maeda pitches games in September Last September, Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery, which can mean an entire season away from baseball. One reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year. Maeda can provide a late-season boost to the pitching staff that can help amid a pennant chase. 3. Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton will finish in the top-10 for AL MVP Many consider Buxton a dark-horse candidate for AL MVP, but the hype surrounding his 2022 season is real. His contract extension also includes incentives for him finishing in the MVP voting. Buxton has an opportunity to establish himself as baseball's best centerfielder. Correa has been a perennial MVP candidate when he is healthy. Because of his unique contract, he can re-enter free agency next winter, so he has an incentive to have a career year. If both players are in the MVP conversation, Minnesota will have to be in the playoff hunt, which has to get fans excited for 2022. 2. Max Kepler gets traded before the trade deadline Max Kepler is under team control through 2024, so his trade value may never be higher than in 2022. Outfield depth is one of Minnesota's strengths, so the team may be able to trade for an area of need. Trevor Larnach is at Triple-A, and the team still has faith in him to take over a full-time role at the big-league level. Austin Martin may also shift to an outfield spot, especially if the team deems him ready. Will the Twins need more starting pitching at the deadline? Can a bullpen upgrade put the team on a path to postseason success? Kepler might be the player needed to make a deadline deal. 1. The streak ends Minnesota hasn't won a playoff game in nearly two decades. The streak ends this season, and it will be exciting to see how far this team can go. Which bold prediction do you think is most likely to come to fruition? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. Projected Starter: Max Kepler Likely Backup: Alex Kirilloff Depth: Trevor Larnach, Jake Cave Prospects: Matt Wallner, Kala'i Rosario THE GOOD It's the same story as usual with Max Kepler in right field: stellar defense and so-so offense. It's easy to focus on the latter, especially in the wake of a truly lackluster season at the plate, but the value of Kepler's glove should not be ignored. Statcast had him in the 95th percentile for Outs Above Average last year, ranking second among right fielders (behind only Manuel Margot) with eight. FanGraphs had him sixth at the position in Defensive Runs Saved, with nine. No matter the source or metric, Kepler is a top-tier defensive player in right, bringing a center fielder's range to the position along with a solid arm and good instincts. When both he and Buxton are in the outfield, it's extremely difficult for opposing hitters to land a fly ball anywhere in their expansive territory, which will certainly be appreciated by young fly-ball pitchers like Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. At the plate, Kepler is not great – especially given the offense-oriented position he plays – but far from horrible. His 2021 season was frustrating because it harkened back to his unfulfilling pre-2019 norm, but not because it was abjectly terrible. Kepler's baseline is "slightly below average hitter" (he's posted an OPS+ between 95 and 98 in four of five full seasons), but that's also been his floor. Even at his worst, he'll contribute enough home runs and walks to be reasonably productive. At his best, Kepler is a legitimate star. He hit 36 home runs in 2019 while holding his own against left-hander pitchers. With a 4.5 fWAR he was our pick for team MVP. It'd be easier to gravitate toward the possibility of that upside returning if we'd ever seen it outside of one brilliant, juiced-ball-aided season. Alas, he's still only 29. THE BAD In his first four MLB seasons, Kepler's home run totals jumped from 17 to 19 to 20 to 36. It appeared he had turned a corner, especially when he opened up the very next one with homers in first two at-bats against Lucas Giolito. And yet, since that first game of 2020, Kepler has managed only 26 home runs with a .410 slugging percentage in 169 games. Among 29 right fielders with 600+ PA over this span, Kepler ranks 25th in wOBA and wRC+. He's a poor hitter at a position with a high offensive bar, and unfortunately Rocco Baldelli has magnified the negative impact by routinely having Kepler hit at key spots in the lineup, as well as by starting him against lefties. Over the past two seasons, the outfielder has slashed .148/.236/.235 against southpaws. He needs to be platooned. Unfortunately, the Twins don't have a natural fit to platoon with Kepler in right. Brent Rooker could theoretically fill that role, but Baldelli doesn't like using Rooker in the outfield and seems to prefer him in left when he does. Also, Rooker has hardly shown to be a lefty masher, with a .222/.325/.375 line in 83 plate appearances. Kyle Garlick was supposed to fill a role like this for the Twins last year, and it's very possible he could resurface quickly, although he's not currently on the 40-man roster. Otherwise, as you look through the right field depth, both short-term and long-term, you find a whole lot of lefty bats: Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Jake Cave, Mark Contreras, Matt Wallner, Willie Joe Garry. THE BOTTOM LINE The shortage of viable platoon-mates means the Twins are probably staying committed to Kepler as an everyday starter for the time being. As long as he keeps providing premium defense in right field, the team can live with his sub-par offensive production at the position. He's under contract for $6.5 million this year, and $8.5 million in 2023, with a $10 million team option for the following year. I'd be very surprised if he plays through the end of his contract in Minnesota. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field
  17. In 79 games for the Twins last year, Larnach slashed .223/.322/.350. The on-base percentage isn’t a negative, and while the average isn’t where you would like to see it, the most glaring issue was Larnach’s slugging percentage. During Larnach’s age-22 season in 2019, he played 127 games between High-A and Double-A. That year he blasted 13 long balls and owned a .458 SLG. He was one of the best prospects to play at the 2020 alternate site, and his bat has always been his best tool. Larnach has plenty of pop, and his game power carries over just as much as the raw stuff displays. Where it was evident that something was off came following the demotion to Triple-A St. Paul in 2021. Despite dealing with struggles in acclimating to big-league life, Larnach went to the Saints for his first Triple-A exposure and slashed just .177/.323/.373 in 14 games. Once again, his eye and plate discipline hadn’t left him, but the power presence was virtually gone. Larnach was plunked by a pitch on his left foot in late May last season. As a left-handed batter, that leg is his load side, or basically where all the weight is distributed initially when swinging. The injury immediately left him in a walking boot, and manager Rocco Baldelli said, “He's just not moving around great.” Up to that point, admittedly a small sample of just 20 games, Larnach had an .845 OPS with his first three major league home runs to go with it. Returning to the lineup just days later, Larnach went on to play another 59 games for Minnesota, in which he posted just a .622 OPS. As a rookie looking to establish a regular cadence towards playing time, fighting through injury is a tale as old as time. While the injury is certainly not the sole factor in Larnach’s struggles, it’s probably a pretty significant influence. When the dust settled last year, Larnach finished with just a 33.5% hard-hit rate, and he put balls on the ground 46% of the time. His average exit velocity checked in at 90 mph, and the max came with a whopping 116 mph clubbing. The barrel percentage was just 9.5%, and it all goes back to a guy showing less than what was initially expected. Coming into 2022 with a clean bill of health Larnach can be a bit looser. Although he’ll need to work for at-bats, likely staring at Triple-A, with Alex Kirilloff slated to start in left field. If something is going against him, it’s that the Twins outfield is so dominantly left-handed, and therefore he doesn’t bring any sort of platoon advantage to the lineup. In just a 13 at-bat sample size this spring, Larnach is undoubtedly making his claim for a turnaround. He’s generated two separate three-run blasts and owns a 1.067 OPS. It’s hard to take too much away from games that don’t count with pitchers working on specifics rather than complete dominance, but it’s more than clear to see this is a hitter with his feet under him. I’m not sure how Baldelli will manage the playing time in the outfield. Designated hitter is now less of a revolving door with the addition of Gary Sanchez, so that takes away from opportunity as well. Expect Larnach to force Minnesota's hand in St. Paul though, and a cross-town promotion will come sooner rather than later. No matter what, banking on anything but the impressive emergence from the former Beaver seems like a bad bet for the year ahead. 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. Through 2018, Jorge Polanco had played 288 games for the Twins. He owned a career .272/.329/.420 slash line and was still trying to find himself as a hitter. Polanco has never played in more than 133 games during a season and topped 80 just once. He wasn’t a big strikeout problem, but his on-base prowess wasn’t exactly pronounced either. Having come through the system as a shortstop, Polanco played three infield positions for Minnesota in 2016 before assuming shortstop full-time each of the next two years. His .773 OPS in 2018 seemed to indicate a breakout may be coming, and while there were concerns of his ability to stick at short, the bat was where hope resided. We all remember how 2019 went as the Bomba Squad came on the scene, and Polanco was right in the center of that. His career-best .841 OPS was the offensive explosion Falvey banked on, and his 22 home runs were nearly double his previous career-high. Arguably one of the best offensive teams in Twins history, Polanco helped bolster a lineup with much bigger bats around him. We’ve seen Polanco move off shortstop and deal with some ankle issues in the two years since. After a second surgery in 2020, his 2021 season re-established his place as one of baseball's best up-the-middle hitting infielders. The rebound to an .826 OPS with 33 big flies was truly a remarkable performance. Polanco has played more than 150 games in two of the past three seasons. He experienced his first All-Star game and picked up MVP votes. Signed for $25.75 million over five years, with two vesting/team options in 2024 and 2025, there was very little way for the deal to go pear-shaped on Minnesota. Despite coming off another impressive season, Polanco will make just $5.5 million in 2022 and $7.5 million in 2023. Fangraphs estimates Polanco’s value has been worth $32.7 million in 2019 alone and $70.3 million through just the first three years of his extension. He’s nearly tripled the value paid to him, and there are still two years left on the deal. Tied to Polanco in terms of timing was Kepler. Before doing his deal, Kepler had played in 419 games for Minnesota. He owned a .233/.313/.417 slash line and had recorded 56 homers. With just a 96 OPS+, Kepler was a solid defender that looked to have more in his bat. Like Polanco, the return on investment immediately was realized in 2019 as Kepler posted a career-best .855 OPS backed by 36 dingers for the Bomba Squad. He was a middle-of-the-lineup bat that commanded the zone and generated solid contact. From there, though, the approach has fallen off. The past two seasons, Kepler has posted .760 and .719 OPS marks with a combined 28 homers in 169 games. A guy with good hard hit numbers, he finds himself too often driving the ball into the ground rather than elevating it. Kepler walks a relatively fine line between a productive contract and unfortunate placement. His hard-hit rate in 2021 (35.6%) wasn’t where it was in 2019 (42.4%), but the flyball rate has also decreased in each of the past two seasons. Kepler is among the best defensive right-fielders in the game, and getting the most out of his bat would be the last segment of his game for the Twins to unlock. Even without the complete package that Polanco has become, Falvey doing Kepler’s deal at $32.13 million over five years with a 2024 team option was never going to get the organization burned either. Fangraphs has Kepler’s 2019 alone being worth $35.6 million, and the total production over his first three years adds up to $58.4 million in value. He’ll likely double the contract value in 2022, and a great season or two could line him up for the payday Minnesota would no doubt love to consider. At the time both deals were struck, neither seemed outlandish. Both players had come up through the system with plenty of projection, and the dollar value was Minnesota’s front office capitalizing on timing before production. These are two of the best contracts in baseball, and there’s only room for each to rise in the returned value. Where do you think we see Polanco and Kepler go from here? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Kepler’s role in the Twins lineup had become established in his 2019 campaign. A power-hitting corner outfielder can lead off a game with power and play strong defense in the right field. 2021 was Kepler’s worst season since becoming a full-time Major Leaguer in 2016. He only posted a .211 batting average, a.306 on-base percentage, and a .719 OPS ( 98 OPS+), all numbers below or even well-below league average. Kepler also missed 41 games in 2021, having spent time on the COVID list and IL with an adductor strain that carried over from 2020. As long as the Twins do not trade Kepler once the MLB lockout lifts, his spot in the right field is guaranteed, assuming he is healthy. The bigger question lingering over Kepler for 2022 is, can he prove that he can get his triple slash at or above league average if playing every day? In 2019, Max Kepler had the best season of his career. He hit .252/.335/.519 (.855), 32 doubles, 36 home runs, and 90 runs batted in. His .855 OPS was 23 percent above league average that season. At this point, Kepler has shown he will not be a contact hitter in the Majors as he was in the minors. Twins fans have come to expect more power in his bat than anything when he makes contact at the plate. Kepler’s most considerable improvement to make for 2022 is his ability to hit off left-handed pitchers. His career numbers off lefties (.209/.282/.350 with a .632 OPS) dip significantly compared to right-hand pitchers (.242/.330/.472 with a .802 OPS). 2021 brought his numbers against lefties down considerably as Kepler only hit .157/.248/.261 with a .509 OPS against left-handers. For Kepler, 2022 needs to see a triple-slash above the Mendoza line and bring his OPS against lefties closer to the high .600’s. One thing that could help Kepler become a more consistent player at the plate is finding a regular spot in the lineup card every day. Not to say he will play anywhere aside from right field or center, but where he ends up hitting. Kepler bounced around to every spot in the lineup 1-9 in 2021, finding the most plate appearances leading off with 137. A significant drop from his 2019 plate appearances led off with 496 in 2019. With the drop in his triple slash in 2021, Kepler will likely see less time hitting lead-off. In a more traditional sense, Kepler makes much more sense as a guy hitting in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup because of his power and lower contact rate. And if Rocco Baldelli is more committed to keeping Kepler in a traditional spot where his bat makes sense, it may help him to prove the 2021 drop-off was just a fluke and not an early career decline. Kepler turns 29 later this month and will still be under contract with the Twins for two more seasons. The two remaining seasons for Kepler with the Twins still have him at an age where he has yet to reach his peak. If Kepler can improve himself in 2022 compared to his on-field performance in 2021, then he perhaps will not hit his peak sometime in the next two seasons while he remains a Twin. What is your confidence level in Max Kepler getting back, or at least getting closer to his 2019 form? 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 emai
  20. As we trudge through this ugly lockout and look forward to the Twins revamping their 2022 roster, I found myself thinking back to some of the guys that could have been. Maybe they were fan-favorites we had hoped for more from, or perhaps a flash in the pan never extended. At any rate, these were some names that immediately came to mind. Oswaldo Arcia Arcia had a decently-long career with the Twins playing in 251 games. He was a top 100 prospect in 2013 and owned a career .901 OPS in the minors. The body type just suggested he should be able to rake even if he was a poor defender. The problem was that he couldn’t make contact. The strikeout rates were egregious, and the on-base ability was non-existent. I held out hope for quite a while, but it became evident he didn’t have it. At 30, Arcia did tear up the Venezuelan Winter League this year. ByungHo Park If there’s a What Could Have Been in recent memory, it’s Park for me. On top of acclimating to new teammates in a new country, Park dealt with a wrist injury in 2016 that he played through for most of the season. The .684 OPS was indicative of a guy who lost his power bat, and even the .823 mark at Triple-A Rochester didn’t afford him another opportunity. After playing in 2017 at Triple-A, he returned to the KBO and immediately posted a 1.175 OPS. Now 35, he’s at the tail end of his career, but there was a productive player here had circumstances worked out differently. Fernando Romero Probably the last pitching prospect Twins fans dreamed on before this current crop, Romero was supposed to be an impact arm. He was a top 100 prospect as recently as 2018 and owned a 3.57 ERA at Triple-A that year. The strikeouts never came, and his command got completely lost after transitioning to the bullpen. Visa issues kept him from being an option for Minnesota in 2020, and he’s since gone to Japan trying to find it again as a 27-year-old. Kennys Vargas Debuting for Twins fans at Target Field during the Futures Game alongside Jose Berrios, Vargas drew plenty of fanfare. He was seen as a David Ortiz protégé, and that’s a comparison no Minnesotan will ever turn away from. The 115 OPS+ in his debut season was a positive sign, but a .626 OPS the next year fell flat. Vargas seemed to come into his own for 47 games during 2016, where he posted an .833 OPS, but that was the height of his abilities. Vargas has been out of affiliated baseball since 2018 but did post strong numbers in Mexico and Puerto Rico this past season. At 31, though, it’s unlikely another chance is coming. Alex Burnett After posting a 1.85 ERA at Single and Double-A in 2009, it was hard not to get excited about Burnett pitching out of the pen. Making his debut in 2010, Burnett compiled a 5.40 ERA across 98 and 1/3 innings the next two seasons. He had mediocre defensive help, but his FIP still sat at just 4.60. He did manage a smoke-and-mirrors level of success with a 3.52 ERA in 2012 despite a 36/26 K/BB in 71 2/3 innings. It wasn’t ever that the ceiling was incredibly high, but I wanted to believe there was more for whatever reason. Max Kepler It’s understandably an egregious ask to put Kepler here, but given his ceiling, it also seems to make sense. Kepler has played 722 games for the Twins and posted just a .756 OPS. His .855 OPS in 2019 looked like a solid response to a contract extension, but it hasn’t been touched since. Kepler is an extraordinary defender, but the bat has always profiled as so much more, and a guy who deservedly flashed as a former top 100 prospect has largely failed to substantiate his ceiling. What other Twins players do you wish would have worked out? Are there some prospects you consistently expected to be great?
  21. The Twins have a type when it comes to international free agents. The majority of players signed by Minnesota profile as athletic shortstops or centerfielders with quick hands and strong hit tools who need to grow into their bodies to achieve their power potential. Yilber Herrera is the former of these two profiles. The 16-year-old Venezuelan is ranked as the #35 international free agent overall. If you want a professional player comp, MLB Pipeline likens Herrera to a young Jorge Polanco based on his frame and overall athleticism, which could allow him to move quickly through the minor leagues. Yilber Herrera Scouting Report Bats: S | Throws: R | HT: 6’0 | WT: 155 MLB Pipeline Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50 Offensively, Herrera profiles as an effective contact hitter with quick hands and good bat speed. His lagging offensive tool currently is power. While he has shown flashes, he is lanky at 6’0, 155 lbs, and has yet to grow into his body. There is a good chance he develops more power as he grows and fills out. The 16-year-old has shown a strong ability to use the whole field when hitting and while not a burner, is quick and a savvy baserunner. Defensively, he diverges from the Polanco comparison significantly. While Polanco never promised to stick at SS due to a weak arm, Herrera’s athleticism and strong arm indicate he has a stronger chance to stick at shortstop. Herrera trains at the Jaime Ramos Baseball Academy. If he signs with the Twins, he will continue to cement a strong relationship between the Twins and Venezuelan youngsters in the last decade. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY The Minnesota Twins Recent History in International Free Agency International Free Agent Profile: Bryan Acuna
  22. The international free agent signing period will get underway on January 15th. After being delayed by the pandemic, the current crop of IFAs can sign with MLB teams provided they turn 17 before September 1st, 2022. This week at Twins Daily, Cody Christie and I will look at the Twins history in International Free Agency, dating back to 2009. What were the Twins' biggest swings and misses? Where did they acquire or miss out on value? Later in the week, we’ll provide offensive and defensive profiles for three prospects likely to sign with the Twins. Note: The current MLB lockout WILL NOT impact international free agent signing as this period has been delayed since last summer. 2009 - The 99th Percentile Outcome Year In 2009, the Twins had a defining year in international free agency. They signed: Miguel Sano to a $3.15 million signing bonus Max Kepler to an $800,000 signing bonus Jorge Polanco to a $700,000 signing bonus The majority of international free agents don’t make it to the majors, let alone have multi-year MLB careers, let alone get extended by the teams that signed them. To have signed three players which fit that description in one signing cycle is a remarkable outcome. It’s not melodramatic to suggest that the IFA period in 2009 changed the trajectory of the Twins franchise. In 2021, Sano, Kepler, and Polanco formed core pieces in the Twins lineup. Kepler and Polanco, in particular, are signed to owner-friendly long-term deals. Last season, the three combined for 6.2 fWAR, just south of $50 million in value. Not bad for a $4.6 million investment. 2013 - 2017 - Twins Find Value, Miss on Big Names In 2013, the Twins signed a diminutive Venezuelan infielder to a $40,000 signing bonus. For an international free agent, this money is an afterthought, a lottery ticket. Throughout six MiLB seasons, he managed a .310 AVG, and .385 OBP. He already had a nickname when he came into the Twins system, ‘La Regadera’ (the sprinkler) due to his ability to spray the ball all over the field. His name? Luis Arraez. Arraez is a great reminder that international free agency is a lottery. Often the biggest name prospects underachieve, and players signed to middling or small bonuses can become superstars. In 2014 the Twins signed Huascar Ynoa for an $800,000 bonus. He was later traded to Atlanta for Jaime Garcia. Ynoa put up 1.4 fWAR in just 17 starts for the Braves in 2021, managing a 27% K%. Another significant free-agent signing in 2014 was from the Diamondbacks organization. Jhoan Duran, a lanky, hard-throwing RHP, signed for just $65,000. He’s now the #5 overall prospect in the Twins organization. In 2015 the Twins went bigger, signing Wander Javier, the #8 overall prospect, to a $4 million bonus. Javier’s career has been largely derailed by injuries. He struck out 34% of the time and managed just a 86 wRC+ at A+ Cedar Rapids in 2021. Gilberto Celestino was also signed by the Astros in 2015. The #7 prospect came to the Twins by way of the Ryan Pressly trade. Lastly, of note, two prospects further down the MLB Pipeline rankings in 2015? Juan Soto (#22) and Fernando Tatis Jr (#27). 2018 - Current - Too Early to Tell It’s difficult to draw conclusions from 2018 onwards as prospects have had limited time in the minors, particularly when considering a lost 2020 season. In 2018, Misael Urbina was signed to a $2.75 million bonus. The Venezuelan OF struggled at A ball last season, but with time on his side at just 19 years old, is an extremely promising prospect and ranked #12 overall in the Twins system. Emmanuel Rodriguez was the big get in 2019. He was signed to a $2.5 million bonus. The left-handed OF is currently the Twins #20 overall prospect, after being ranked #8 in his international free agent class. Rodriguez’s professional career began in earnest in 2021, where he managed a 124 wRC+ and slugged 10 HR in just 37 games. Rodriguez is one to keep an eye on in 2022. Finally, in 2020, the Twins signed Danny De Andrade, another diminutive infield prospect, who currently sits at #24 in the Twins system. Ranked as the #16 IFA in his class, De Andrade projects as a strong hitter for both average and solid power and has the defensive chops to remain at shortstop. De Andrade managed a .340 OBP in his first season with the DSL Twins. What’s Next? International scouting, and free agency, is a complex, challenging lottery. For a mid-market organization like the Twins, it’s critical in adding organizational talent, and potentially, adding impact MLB level talent. Throughout the week, Cody and I will have offensive and defensive profiles of the three major prospects linked to Minnesota, starting tomorrow with the younger brother of an MLB superstar.
  23. Before getting started, you can get up to speed on the ground rules, which were covered in the first installment, and also read up on our picks for #11-15. Here are the players we've ranked so far: 20. Matt Canterino, RHP 19. Josh Winder, RHP 18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 17. Gilberto Celestino, CF 16. Chase Petty, RHP 15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B 14. Jhoan Duran, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Trevor Larnach, OF 11. Luis Arraez, UTIL From there, we crack into the top 10. Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 6 through 10 10. Ryan Jeffers, C 2021 Ranking: 7 Two-way catchers are among the most valuable commodities in baseball. It's not yet clear that Jeffers will be one, but his young major-league career has offered promising signs. Defensively, Jeffers established himself as a strong pitcher framer and good overall backstop. His instincts and reaction speed enable him to make special plays. He seems to have the confidence of the pitching staff – no small feat for a 24-year-old who went from college to the majors in two years. Offensively, his rushed development has been evident. After an impressive rookie showing in 2020, Jeffers saw his OPS drop by 120 points as lacking plate discipline derailed his production. But while the .199 average and .270 on-base percentage were tough to stomach, Jeffers kept bringing the power with 14 home runs in 85 games. At worst, Jeffers looks like a good defensive catcher who can take one deep here and there. (A poor man's Salvador Perez, perhaps?) If he can evolve a bit in the batter's box, he'll become a highly coveted asset – the heralded two-way catcher. It's important to keep in mind Jeffers' age and experience; when Mitch Garver was 24, he was posting a .688 OPS in Single-A. 9. Max Kepler, RF 2021 Ranking: 3 Kepler is an average hitter and an elite defensive right fielder with a very favorable contract. That combination would have more value to a lot of other teams than it does to the Twins, who wouldn't mind spending on an outfielder and already have a top-notch defender in center. A persistent inability to turn the corner offensively – outside of a short-lived breakout in 2019 – has made Kepler a frustrating player to follow. But when you look past that, he's an excellent athlete and quality regular, still a year short of 30 and under team control at reasonable rates for the next two seasons, with a $10M option in 2024. 8. Mitch Garver, C 2021 Ranking: 8 Garver's struggles with the bat in 2020 carried over into the beginning of 2021, where he slashed .151/.196/.321 through 17 games while striking out half the time. As the catcher's incredible 2019 faded further from view, many began to wonder if his approach was broken. Maybe it was, but Garver fixed it in a hurry. He homered twice in his last game of April, and pretty much never looked back, hitting .292/.406/.584 with 11 homers and 12 doubles in 51 games the rest of the way. Garver rediscovered his plate discipline, and as soon as that happened, he got back to dominating and basically out-homering the world (on a per-rate basis). It was a second consecutive season for Garver that was cut short by injuries. The punishment he's taken behind the plate, along with the increasingly evident need to have his bat in the lineup, could compel the Twins to start shifting Garver to different positions more. But that needs to be weighed against the tremendous advantage gained by writing him in at catcher. Since 2019 Garver ranks second among all MLB backstops in wOBA (min. 500 PA). He'd be higher on this list if not for his waning team control, with free agency only two seasons away. 7. Joe Ryan, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Managing to secure Ryan in exchange for Nelson Cruz ahead of the trade deadline was a nifty bit of work by the front office, and one that probably doesn't get talked about often enough. As a 40-year-old designated hitter approaching free agency, Cruz had limited value, but the Twins leveraged Tampa's situation and were able to add an asset that immediately becomes a key part of their plans. The 25-year-old Ryan dominated at Triple-A this year, and translated his performance to the majors. In five starts for the Twins, he struck out six times as many batters as he walked, and allowed only 16 hits in 26 ⅓ innings. The right-hander cemented his spot in a needy rotation, and he's lined up to be an inexpensive fixture for years to come. All in return for an aging and expensive DH who didn't really help the Rays that much, and is now a free agent. In terms of asset upgrades, it doesn't get much better than what the Twins pulled off here. 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Like Ryan, Ober is a newcomer to the rankings and finds himself near the top. But unlike Ryan, he's not a newcomer to the system. The former 12th-round draft pick boosted his stock immensely over the past couple years by significantly increasing his velocity to shed the "soft-tossing" label. Aided by a more effective fastball, which plays up from his 6-foot-9 frame, Ober was highly impressive as a rookie. There was nothing particularly fluky about his performance for the Twins, although home runs were a bit of a recurring issue. He looks the part of a mid-rotation staple, and a guy you'd feel okay about starting in the playoffs. We've seen how difficult it is for the Twins to acquire impact pitching via free agency. Developing cost-controlled arms is instrumental to this front office's vision for success. That's why Ober and Ryan rank so highly on this list: the team's fate (especially in the short-term) is tied to them. Check back in on Wednesday when we wrap up these rankings with our picks for the top 5! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. It was all but expected that the Twins would address their pitching in the offseason. New rotation arms were needed, and the group as a whole flopped. However, when you fall as far as Minnesota did, it isn’t a one-faceted issue. The offense ranked 18th in baseball in terms of fWAR. That’s a drop from 9th in 2020 and 4th when the Bomba Squad exploded in 2019. The good news is that much of that contingent is still present. Here’s how some of them can right the ship: Miguel Sano Posting just a .778 OPS last season, Sano did improve on his 2020, but that still leaves plenty to be desired after owning a .923 OPS in 2019. You’re going to get a boatload of strikeouts from Miguel, but the power is also going to play. His problem isn’t chasing, as he does have good plate discipline. When the bat meets the ball, it’s also done with some of the best hard-hit rates in the game. Sano’s issue has been timing and velocity, something that’s pretty substantial to overcome. He did post an .817 OPS after May and an .824 OPS after July. Both of those numbers will play, and for a guy in the final year of his contract, putting up in a big way would be nice to see. Max Kepler and Trevor Larnach These two are linked in that Kepler’s situation somewhat determines Larnach’s. Max put up an .855 OPS in 2019 and has otherwise underwhelmed at the plate. He consistently does less with what looks like more ability, and the defensive acumen is what saves his value. Maybe he’s traded at some point, but if he’s playing for Minnesota, some sort of higher production at the dish needs to happen. Elevate the baseball and let the contact prowess do the work. For Larnach, it’s about adjustments and settling in during year two. He played 79 games and tallied an 88 OPS+. There were moments where it looked like it may click, but then things never got right after going back to Triple-A. The former first-round pick has always looked like a good bet to hit, and this being the year it starts would be welcomed. Alex Kirilloff After debuting during a Postseason game in 2020, Alex Kirilloff made his official MLB debut in 2021. While dealing with nagging wrist issues again, he played in just 59 games for the Twins and owned a .722 OPS. The power production seemed sapped, which would be a disappointment in the long term. Kirilloff can focus on establishing himself as a regular for the year ahead. He can be a lineup mainstay with the bat, whether mixing in next to Byron Buxton or playing first base. Getting confidence going with a strong start and parlaying it into consistent success could have him quickly looking like a true star. Ryan Jeffers Last season, Rocco Baldelli was expected to have one of the best catching tandems in baseball. Mitch Garver was once again a beast at the plate but dealt with injuries that kept him out of the lineup. Jeffers was expected to be a bat-only prospect and has turned himself into a defensive stalwart, but the bat wasn’t there in 2020. The 119 OPS+ from 2020 dropped to just 83 last season. Catchers don’t necessarily need to hit, but Minnesota would benefit from Jeffers being an asset at the plate and behind it. He’s too good to repeat the 2021 performance, and finding a nice middle ground would lengthen the lineup. Jose Miranda There’s very little Miranda could do to put up better numbers than he did in the minors during 2021. Expecting him to come in as a rookie and blast 30 dingers simply isn’t going to happen. What is necessary here is that the young prospect takes it all in stride. Miranda can spell Josh Donaldson at third base and play second and first. He should be expected to hit after the showing a season ago, but tempered expectations and a learning period can’t allow for the confidence to waver. Unprotected going into the Rule 5 draft last season, this looks like found money, and guiding it for the best opportunity to cash in is a must. That’s a group of 15 or so players we’ve now looked at that can focus in an area or two with an eye on pushing the Twins upward in 2022. Now, we just need the sport to return and get going. 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. Current Corner Outfielders: Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff Max Kepler is under team control for the next three seasons, and he is coming off a three-year stretch where he has a 111 OPS+. He provides defensive flexibility with the ability to play centerfield occasionally. This might make him one of the team's most valuable trade assets. Minnesota needs starting pitching, and trading Kepler can open a corner outfield spot for one or more of the names discussed below. Alex Kirilloff got off to a tremendous start to his rookie campaign before a wrist injury sapped his power. He tried to play through the injury, but he was clearly impacted and underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right wrist. Minnesota's best option with Kirilloff is to move him to first base because he is a superior defender compared to the team's other options. Chances are Kirilloff will still get some time in the outfield, but he will get plenty of reps at first base too. 40-Man Roster Options Besides Kirilloff, the Twins turned to another rookie outfielder in 2021. Trevor Larnach showed some positive signs before ending up in a slump that sent him to St. Paul for the remainder of the season. Entering the 2021 season, Larnach had never appeared in a game above the Double-A level, so he was likely pushed a little faster than the organization planned. He should still be in the team's long-term plans, even coming off a poor year. Brent Rooker also had an interesting 2021 campaign. It looked like he had a chance to win a backup outfield job during spring training, but his lack of defensive positions pushed him back to the minors. At 26-years-old, this was intriguing, especially since he had little left to prove at Triple-A with a career .932 OPS. Rooker got over 200 big-league plate appearances in 2021 and posted a 75 OPS+. With his age-27 season looming, he has an uncertain future with the Twins. On the Farm Options Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's corner outfield depth. Minnesota has multiple corner outfield options populating the rosters throughout the minor leagues. After signing Derek Fisher, the Twins have eight outfielders projected at the Triple-A level. Obviously, this is more than the team will need at one level. Jake Cave and Kyle Garlick are more veteran options at Triple-A, with big-league experience. Mark Contreras, Jimmy Kerrigan, and Ernie De La Trinidad are all over age-25 and Rule-5 eligible this offseason. Some of these players may shift to Double-A with an overload of Triple-A outfielders. Matt Wallner is projected for the Double-A level, and he is one of the most exciting prospects on this list. Minnesota selected Wallner with the 39th overall pick in 2019, and he's coming off a 1.011 OPS in the Arizona Fall League. Joining Wallner at Double-A will be Leobaldo Cabrera and Michel Helman. Last winter, the Twins signed Cabrera as a minor league free agent, and he combined for a .786 OPS at three different levels. Helman was an 11th round pick in 2018, and he posted a .798 OPS in 111 games at High-A in 2021. In the lower levels of the minors, Kala'i Rosario is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. He was the team's fifth-round pick back in 2020 out of Hawaii. Last year, he made his pro-debut with the FCL Twins and hit .277/.341/.452 (.794) with 19 extra-base hits in 51 games. Rosario should make his full-season debut in 2022. Overall, Minnesota has corner outfield depth that is ready to impact the big-league level. What do you think about the organization's corner outfield depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Catchers — First Base — Second Base — Third Base — Shortstop — Center Field
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