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  1. Every contending team looks to make improvements throughout the season. Sometimes those changes come from within the farm system and other times the front office must supplement the roster with talent from other organizations. With nearly a fourth of the schedule complete, here are the three biggest weaknesses on the Twins roster. First Base No team has gotten less production out of first base than the Minnesota Twins. According to fWAR, Minnesota’s -1.5 WAR at first base is baseball’s lowest total. Miguel Sanó’s well-documented poor start played a role in the team’s lack of production. However, Alex Kirilloff’s wrist injury and poor production are also tied to the position. Luis Arraez continues to get opportunities at first, but he doesn’t fit the mold of prototypical first basemen. Improvement Options: Earlier in the week, MLB.com claimed the Twins need to find a player similar to Daniel Vogelbach, because power-hitting first basemen/DH are easy to find. For the Twins, it seems most likely for the team to continue to use Arraez at the position until a better option presents itself. Left Field Unlike first base, left field hasn’t been a black hole in the Twins lineup, but there is room for improvement. Alex Kirilloff was the Opening Day starter, but he was demoted earlier this week to try and rediscover his swing at Triple-A. Trevor Larnach was swinging the bat well before a groin strain put him on the injured list. Nick Gordon has played the most games in left field this season, but his value is in being used in a utility role. Improvement Options: Larnach should return from injury in the coming days, and the team hopes he can pick up where he left off at the plate. However, Royce Lewis is back at Triple-A to work on other defensive positions and left field might be his best shot at a big-league role. Starting Pitching Minnesota’s front office bet on the organization’s young pitchers this winter and so far, that decision has worked out in the team’s favor. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober have proven they are more than capable of holding down a big-league role. The Twins pitching staff ranks in the top-10 in multiple statistical categories, but it is still early in the season. Unfortunately, injuries and illness have hit the starting pitcher group with Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Chris Paddock all missing time. It doesn’t seem as though Minnesota’s current pitching core is built for October success. Improvement Options: Even with strong early-season numbers, the Twins are going to have to make some additions to the big-league roster. At least four veteran starting pitchers will be available before the trade deadline, but there are questions surrounding all of these players. Jordan Balazovic, one of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects, is in the Triple-A rotation, so he can be a second-half call-up. There are plenty of games left to be played before the trade deadline, but more flaws tend to present themselves throughout the season. Which of these weaknesses do you feel most needs to be addressed? Are there other internal options to fix the team’s flaws? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  2. Fans didn't have to wait long- the very next inning, Byron Buxton hit a home run to left field, his 11th of the season. As Buxton high-fived his teammates in the dugout and fans in the stands celebrated, the Target Field big board displayed "1000th Home Run" on the bottom of the screen. The Twins' Twitter account tweeted out the milestone (and so did I). But was it actually the 1,000th Target Field Home run? Shortly after Buxton's blast, tweets started surfacing calling into question whether Buxton's home run actually did represent Target Field's 1,000th home run. It appears the discrepancy was first spotted by eagle-eyed Twitter user @TwinsDingers, a Twitter account that primarily tweets videos of past and present Twins home runs. The user noticed that the Twins appeared to be including an April 18, 2018 Miguel Sanó home run hit during the 2018 Puerto Rico Series in their official count. During this series, the Twins played Cleveland, and the Twins were the designated home team. Thus, while it was indeed a home run the Twins hit as the home team, it was not at home sweet home Target Field. @TwinsDingers was keeping his own home run count and noticed the discrepancy immediately. "I have had a 1,000th home run tweet in the drafts for about two weeks now, just waiting for it to happen. So I knew it was wrong the second they claimed it was 1,000." the user wrote. The Twins did not Tweet anything differently after the discrepancy came to light, but they reportedly did issue a correction. So, with this mystery solved, it appears the wait for the official 1,000th Target Field home run continues. The Twins next return to Target Field on May 23 for a three-game series vs the Detroit Tigers, followed by another home series vs. the Kansas City Royals, so time will tell which Twin makes it official.
  3. Since coming back from the COVID IL, Luis Arráez has returned to a tricky role for his short stature: first base. After some questionable defensive plays at third base had a few too many Twins fans in agony, Rocco Baldelli began shifting Arráez across the diamond. Although Arráez is only a few inches shorter than most of his teammates, the position does raise questions: does size matter at first? The common assumption among most baseball experts, and one that Miguel Sanó easily fit, is that the player should be a big target. Lumbering at 6’3” and 270ish pounds, the big man could often be seen stretching for balls from various players over the years. With Sanó out for some time, prospect call up Jose Miranda seems like a more conventional choice for the position at 6’2” and 210 pounds. But as much as everything in baseball can be questioned to find an advantage, perhaps Arráez is not as much of a problem as one might expect. Although you can find the height of every baseball player on their BRef page, actual height data is rarely provided in data sets among hitting or fielding. That makes comparison across the league a bit harder, so I mostly focused on the 2021 performances at first base. These players range from big boys like Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman (6’5”), to players closer to Arráez like Carlos Santana and Ty France (5’11”). Over its history, the league has made way for small hitters like Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts, but these players are rarely found at first base. Even when first basemen might show some vertical challenge, they might have some size to make up for it. Max Muncy played most of first for the Dodgers in their 2021 season, sitting only two inches above Arráez, but with 50 more pounds of muscle. He can stretch those legs much further than what we’ve seen from Arráez so far. As baseball has transformed, the decrease in the height of a first baseman has changed as well. First base has often been the place, for lack of a better word, smashers with bad defense. As Matt Eddy reported for Baseball America just last year, “A 6-foot player was once deemed too short to play first base, with exceptions made for the most prodigious sluggers, such as Prince Fielder.” But particularly in a game where grounders are going the way of the dodo, that means having excellent defenders at first base has become even more critical than it was even a decade ago. If Arráez’s defense is questionable, it will feel even less important in 2022 Baseball. But the question is not whether Arráez’s defense matters, but whether a tall boy makes for better defense at first base. Although bigger men in 2021 did usually better in Outs Above Average and Defensive Runs Saved, so did Mariners hitter Ty France, who lives only an inch about Arráez. France was close to top in the league in the advance metric UZR, considered by many to be the gold standard of infield defensive stats. At the bottom of this list? Miguel Sanó. UZR can be tricky—Josh Donaldson was close to Sanó in the metric, and the eye test would tell you that the former third basemen was hardly a schlub in the role. But the closer we look, the correlation between height and defense falls apart. There is one key difference that might assist Arráez’s defense over either Miranda or Sanó, which might sound surprising, his speed. Over in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were constantly shifting Max Muncy around, which worked due to his quick reactions and acceleration speed. Muncy is hardly a speed demon, but he is extremely quick in his reflexes. It’s something the Dodgers liked about Freeman as well to bring him over from Atlanta. Arráez’s speed puts him at the same level as Vlad Guerrero Jr., Yuli Gurriel, and Ty France. None of these men are in Muncy’s elite level, but it allows for more flexibility there rather than a single target and might assist in building unique positioning. Most giants at first base do not show a lot of speed, and while Arráez is hardly a demon, his average speed could make for a bit more positioning work through the season. Arráez’s bat, as we’ve seen even in this first month, is too important to not put somewhere in this lineup to drive in runs. As long as the player can manage the role, the singles smasher will play an unsung advantage in a position where the combined first baseman of the league hit for only 108 wRC+ in 2019. So far, he hasn’t missed any balls at first in his few game sample. But in a game that depends on finding advantages in every nook and cranny, perhaps the front office might find a hidden advantage in putting a short king slugger at first.
  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. Bill Smith Contributions (2007-2011) Smith faced a challenging time in Twins history as he took over the GM role. Torii Hunter was on his way out the door, and the team needed to trade Johan Santana. The Twins lost a Game 163 (2008) and won the division twice (2009-10) during his tenure. Despite these positive results, Smith couldn’t survive the 2011 campaign as the Twins lost 99 games. It was one of the most disappointing seasons in Twins history, but he helped sign three core pieces to the current roster. Smith’s lasting legacy with the Twins connects to the 2009 international signing class, which was tremendous in retrospect. Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler signed as part of this class. These players have combined for 37.3 total WAR and two All-Star appearances in their big-league careers. Sano’s Twins tenure may conclude in 2022, but Kepler and Polanco are under team control for multiple more seasons. Terry Ryan Contributions (2012-2016) Ryan served as GM for two different stints, so it makes sense for his fingerprints to be all over the Twins organization over the last decade. When taking over from Smith, Ryan got the opportunity to pick the second overall pick, and the organization decided on Byron Buxton. Multiple pitchers were in the conversation for Minnesota, but Buxton has accumulated the fourth-most WAR among players from the 2012 first round. He is now the face of the franchise, and he will be in a Twins uniform for over a decade after Ryan was fired. Minnesota signed Luis Arraez as an international free agent during the 2013 signing class. He has been worth 5.9 WAR in his career while hitting .312/.374/.400 (.748) with a 130 OPS+. Nick Gordon was a top-5 draft pick under the Ryan regime. His professional career hasn’t progressed perfectly, but he has shown the club the value he can provide over the last two seasons. These players look like they will be part of the team’s roster for multiple seasons moving forward. Minnesota’s bullpen picture is also covered with players acquired by Ryan. Tyler Duffey was a fifth-round pick in 2012, and he has been one of the team’s best relievers since 2019. Cody Stashak, a 13th-round pick in 2015, has been terrific to start the 2022 season, and he has yet to become arbitration-eligible. The Twins took Griffin Jax in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Ryan’s last with the organization. This season, he is transitioning to the bullpen, and signs point to him fitting well into his new role. Other prospects on the 40-man roster were also acquired under the Ryan regime. Jovani Moran was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, and he has the potential to be a dominant late-inning reliever. His change-up is a dominant pitch, and it has helped him post a 13.4 K/9 in his minor league career. Jordan Balazovic was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and he currently ranks as Twins Daily’s fifth overall prospect. Entering the season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each had him in the back-half of their top-100 prospects. He recently made his Triple-A debut, so there is a good chance his big-league debut will be in 2022. Smith and Ryan might not be regarded highly because of how each left the organization. However, their impact will be felt years after their departure. Besides Buxton, which of these players will provide the most long-term value to the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  6. Miguel Sano is under contract through the 2022 season and has a $14 million team option for 2023. Carrying just a $2.75 million buyout, it’s all but certain the front office will move on from Sano. Once ranked as high as the 4th best prospect across all of baseball by MLB.com, Sano now is a big leaguer with nearly 700 games under his belt. Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager, Sano’s initial contract was one of the most contentious topics in the sport at the time. From questions about his true age to decisions regarding which team he’d agree with, a full feature-length film was made about the process. Coming stateside in 2010, Sano has been a part of the Twins organization for over a decade. His minor league numbers were always gaudy. Tabbed a shortstop only through initial athleticism, but with the understanding future size would move him to a corner, Sano put up a .932 OPS in 491 minor league games. Debuting with the Twins on July 2, 2015, Sano became a fixture at the hot corner. He was asked to play right field in an odd move just a few seasons later and has since settled in holding down first base. Across 691 Major League games, Sano has launched 162 career home runs and posted an .809 OPS. His 117 OPS+ is above league average, and while he’s tallied over 1,000 strikeouts, there’s no denying his bat is one of the most explosive in the game. Sano finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2015, being beaten out only by Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. He made the All-Star Game in 2017 and also competed in the Home Run Derby. Never a strong defender, Sano has been passable at best in the field. Aside from the abomination that was his right field experiment, he’s been far from a butcher but hardly sniffed any sort of accolades. He’s taken to the new role at first base well and has shown a level of athleticism that originally highlighted the opportunity to succeed at the hot corner. He’s fluctuated on the scale and that has also led to both criticism and improved opportunities for success. It’s foolish to believe Sano has played his last game for Minnesota, there will be opportunities when he returns. What capacity the opportunities come from remain entirely linked to those currently holding things down. Jose Miranda is a top prospect with a good bat. Luis Arraez is a dependable utility player. Alex Kirilloff was supposed to be the next mainstay in Minnesota’s lineup. Any combination of those three could take at-bats away from Sano, but at least two of the three have plenty of earning yet to be done. When the dust settles the expectation should be that Sano tacks on a few more home runs. While his production leaves plenty to be desired right now, having just a .379 OPS, there was good reason to believe a patented outburst was coming. A streaky type of player that can break out in a big way, Sano was still looking for the other shoe to drop early on in 2022. There shouldn’t be a career-altering amount of change coming the rest of the way for Sano, however, and that opens the door to evaluation. What has Sano been for the Minnesota Twins? A former top 10 prospect across all of baseball puts up nearly 200 homers and an .800 OPS by the time he turns 28 and that gets evaluated how? His work ethic, character, and play style will likely always drag him further down for some, but have the positives been enough to find yourself happy with the overall trajectory? This is where you chime in. Was Miguel Sano a bust for the Twins, or did he do enough to justify the hype?
  7. Depth is critical when building a big-league roster, especially if a team is in contention. Minnesota planned on two players getting the bulk of the time at first base, but that plan has already needed to shift. Let’s examine what the Twins can do at first base if injuries continue to impact the roster. Injuries: Miguel Sanó, Alex Kirilloff Minnesota’s plan entering the season was to rotate through Sanó and Kirilloff at first base. Sanó was one of the AL’s worst defenders at first base last season, but his height helps him pull in errant throws. Sanó isn’t in the line-up for his defensive ability, as he has posted an OPS+ of 105 or higher in six of his seven big-league seasons. His recent knee injury pushed him to the IL, and this might be a good time for him to reset as he has a .379 OPS in 2022. If surgery is required, he may miss a significant chunk of the season. Kirilloff is currently rehabbing a wrist injury in St. Paul, but there is no timeline on when he will return to the team. It was clear that he wasn’t 100% healthy at the season’s start, as he went 1-for-17 before being put on the IL. Even with his rehab starts, Kirilloff has yet to collect an extra-base hit this season. Last season, he ranked very well on the defensive side of the ball at first base, but he needs to prove he is healthy before taking over a starting role. Plan B: Luis Arraez Minnesota shifted to Plan B, with Sano and Kirilloff out of the picture. Luis Arraez has taken over the everyday starting first base role even though he doesn’t fit the prototypical first baseman mold. Entering the 2022 season, Arraez had minimal professional experience at first base, but injuries have allowed him to shift from a utility role to a starter. He is below average at other defensive positions, so moving to first may help hide some of his defensive flaws. Plus, the Twins want his bat in the line-up as much as possible because he has posted his highest OPS+ since his rookie season. Arraez has dealt with knee issues in the past, so where would the team turn if he gets hurt? Other Options: Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez, Jose Miranda Twins manager Rocco Baldelli mentioned that other first base options include Urshela and Sanchez. Both players have combined for 10.0 defensive innings at first base during their big-league careers. It seems unlikely for Sanchez to make regular appearances at first since rosters dropped to 26-men, and the team is only carrying two catchers. Miranda might be the most likely player to see time at first as he has played 270 innings at first base throughout his minor league career. He’s one of the team’s best prospects, and this might be a way for him to play every day at the big-league level. Another name to watch at St. Paul is Curtis Terry, who the team signed to a minor league deal this winter. Terry made his big-league debut last season with the Rangers and went 4-for-45 with two doubles and 15 strikeouts. So far this season, he is hitting .261/.378/.464 (.842) with five doubles and three home runs. He is not on the 40-man roster, so it would likely take a long-term injury for him to get an opportunity. Do you feel the Twins need to worry about their first base depth? Can Arraez handle the position? Should Miranda take over at first? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Miguel Sano is headed to the injured list with a knee issue following his walk-off hit the other night, and Kyle Garlick may land there with a calf strain. Having Sano out has meant that Luis Arraez needed to learn first base on the fly, and no backup exists on Minnesota’s roster. This year, Alex Kirilloff was expected to rotate with the hulking slugger, but he’s currently dealing with a wrist ailment. Enter Jose Miranda. Having primarily played third base throughout his professional career, it’s evident that Minnesota sees Miranda’s versatility as a bonus and can get him into the lineup in multiple different ways. He has played second base, some corner outfield, and a significant amount at first base. You’d be hard-pressed to suggest he’s a Gold Glove candidate anywhere, but he’s a starting option at any of the positions he plays on the dirt. Needing to spell Arraez, considering his lack of significant defensive value, it may be prudent to find Miranda a spot as Rocco Baldelli juggles his players dealing with differing maladies. What can you expect when he’s ultimately called up to the big leagues from a guy who laid waste to the competition a season ago? Miranda was a second-round pick for Minnesota back in 2016. He posted an .824 OPS with Elizabethton as a 17-year-old but then never again topped a .736 OPS until 2021. As a 23-year-old last season, he needed less than 50 games at Double-A to prove he was too advanced for the level. Making it to Triple-A St. Paul last season, he became the main act for a Saints team in their debut year as a Twins affiliate. Across 80 games, he slashed .343/.397/.563 and ripped a whopping 30 total homers. Striking out just 74 times while drawing 42 walks, he’s hardly a slugger that sells out for power. Fast forward to 2022, and Miranda was given plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills this spring. Josh Donaldson was originally going to block him at the hot corner, and then the trade for Gio Urshela accomplished the same thing. Sano is entrenched in the big leagues, so first base was taken, and Jorge Polanco isn’t going anywhere at second. It would take injury to provide an opportunity, and that door has now opened. Through 21 games with St. Paul this season, Miranda has overcome a slow start. A .737 OPS is hardly indicative of the talent that emerged last season, but what he’s done lately will draw attention. Miranda has hits in 10 of his last 11 games, and his last 57 plate appearances have resulted in a .300/.351/.520 slash line. Last week, he blasted his second homer of the season, and it was crushed to deep left-center at CHS Field. While the weather has yet to do so, Miranda is heating up. Starting last season in Kansas, the change to an odd Minnesota spring hasn’t been helpful at all. It doesn’t appear the process has altered, though, as a 14/5 K/BB is still indicative of a guy picking his spots. Should the recent surge provide any substantial evidence, it’s time to call mastery at the highest minor league level a thing. When graduating to Minnesota, there should be plenty of promise. He can play all over the diamond but is a more natural fit at first base than Arraez. He’s a better hitter than Sano but lacks the same level of power. He will put baseballs in the seats, but will do so without the prototypical slugger plan of attack. He’s an adequate defender, and that gives him a leg up on his internal competition for both spots on the right side of the infield. I don’t know that Miranda is an immediate .800 OPS player at the next level given his slow burn on the farm, but if 2021 and beyond are any indication, he should be here to stay when called upon. This is a regular that could have a quicker path to contribution than that of Urshela, but a player in that vein would be a great addition for a team needing depth. We are on the precipice of a long-term run from another prospect out of Puerto Rico, and following in the footsteps of Jose Berrios or Eddie Rosario would be a welcomed reality.
  9. 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.
  10. Miguel Sanó has had an April to forget in 2022 for the Minnesota Twins. Through 15 games, Sanó has just five hits and an abysmal OPS of .380. Sanó has just one extra-base hit and has statistically been the least valuable player in baseball in this early season with an fWAR of -.07. Miguel Sanó having yet another poor start has left Minnesota Twins fans extremely frustrated with the first baseman and questioning whether it is time to cut bait. Sanó is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and with Alex Kirilloff nearing his way back from injury and Jose Miranda on the doorstep of the Majors, it might make sense to move on from him in favor of youth. I certainly have voiced my own frustrations with Miguel Sanó. Miguel Sanó’s advanced numbers, though, paint a different picture and portend that Sanó’s early struggles are largely fluky and that better days are ahead. Let’s dig deeper into the numbers. First, let’s look at his contact numbers. Through the first handful of weeks, Miguel Sanó ranks 11th in all of baseball with an average exit velocity of 93.2 MPH, right on par with his career average exit velocity of 93.1 MPH. Further, Sanó’s hard-hit percentage is at 50%, tied for 24th in baseball. Finally, his barrel numbers are at his typically high rate, with a barrel percentage of 15.6%, just a tick below his career average. So, if his contact numbers are at their typically high level, then it must be his poor plate discipline that explains his terrible numbers, right? Wrong. Sanó is actually showing better discipline at the plate in 2022 than he ever has in his career. Thus far in 2022, Sanó owns a career-low K% of 29.3 with a BB% of 13.8, the second-highest mark of his career. Additionally, Sanó has a career-low chase rate and whiff rate of just 16.9% and 33.3%, respectively. Just look at Sanó’s statcast percentile numbers. Does this look like someone who should be hitting .083 and worthy of being cut? If Sanó’s contact rates are at his typically-elite levels, and his plate discipline numbers are at career-best levels, why is Miguel Sanó having such a terrible start to the season? Simply put, it’s been bad luck for the Dominican. A simple, yet admittedly not perfect, way to gauge luck in baseball is by looking at batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Over a large enough sample size, the BABIP for most MLB players will settle at around .300. Heading into the 2022 season, Miguel Sanó had a career BABIP of .329. This season, though, Miguel Sanó is sitting at a BABIP of .097, the second-lowest mark in baseball behind Kansas City’s Carlos Santana. Another way to look at bad luck is to compare a player’s actual numbers to his expected numbers and look at the difference. The best numbers to look for this is weighted on-base average (wOBA) versus expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). wOBA is a catch-all offensive statistic that best encapsulates offensive performance. xwOBA then looks at a player's process statistics such as exit velocity to determine what a player’s numbers should be, as we all know that luck is a big part of the game of baseball. Miguel Sanó currently has a wOBA of .192, compared to a xwOBA of .334. The -0.142 difference between those two numbers is the sixth-largest discrepancy in all of baseball, showing that Sanó has been one of the most snake-bitten players in 2022. On Tuesday night, Miguel Sanó teased what could be the start of some converted luck as he smoked a 108 MPH single over right fielder, Robbie Grossman's, head which (in the wildest way possible) wound up being a walk-off hit for the Twins. It has been extremely frustrating to watch Miguel Sanó bat in 2022, but all of the advanced numbers show that better days are ahead for the right-hander. It can be tempting to want to give up on Sanó and want to move onto other options, but the upside that Sanó brings is sky-high. Let’s cut Sanó some slack as a big summer is coming for the powerful first baseman.
  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. Last Week's Game Results: Game 10 | MIN 8, BOS 3: Garlick, Polanco Homer as Twins Split in Boston Game 11 | KC 4, MIN 3: Duffey Implodes as Twins Waste Winnable Game Game 12 | KC 2, MIN 0: Another Solid Pitching Performance Gets Wasted Game 13 | MIN 1, KC 0: Joe Cool Dazzles, Slough of Singles Game 14 | MIN 2, CWS 1: Twins Catch Break, Win Thriller Game 15 | MIN 9, CWS 2: Buxton, Bundy Lead in Comfortable Win Game 16 | MIN 6, CWS 4: Twins End White Sox Sweep with a Bang Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/18 through Sun, 4/24 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 8-8) Run Differential Last Week: +13 (Overall: +2) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (0.5 GA) NEWS & NOTES Thankfully it was a week filled with more good news than bad news on the injury front. First, the bad news: Jorge Alcalá was moved to the 60-day injured list with his elbow inflammation showing no signs of improvement. He'll be out until at least June, dealing a serious blow to the Twins' bullpen outlook. Replacing him on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, who joined the team as a third catcher. The additional depth was needed with Minnesota's top two backstops experiencing some (hopefully minor) issues. Gary Sánchez was scratched on Saturday due to abdominal tightness and Ryan Jeffers was scratched on Sunday due to a knee contusion. Neither player was placed on IL, although seemingly neither was available on Sunday. With a cortisone injection improving the condition of his ailing right wrist, Alex Kirilloff is set to start a brief rehab stint in St. Paul on Tuesday. He may rejoin the Twins next weekend. Meanwhile, Byron Buxton is already back and making a HUGE impact. We'll get to that shortly. HIGHLIGHTS The refreshingly impressive Twins rotation kept on rolling in Boston, Kansas City, and back home into Minneapolis. Check out the yeoman’s work in each successive game Monday through Saturday: Dylan Bundy @ BOS: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Chris Archer @ KC: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K Chris Paddack @ KC: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Joe Ryan @ KC: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K Bailey Ober vs. CWS: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Dylan Bundy vs. CWS: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Add in Chris Archer's so-so effort on Sunday (3 IP, 2 ER) and the rotation posted a 2.21 ERA in seven games last week. Starting pitching is carrying this team in April. Joe Ryan's outing was perhaps the most critical of the bunch last week – he was masterful Thursday in a 1-0 victory where the Twins needed every bit of his greatness. With a marked increase in his slider usage (up to 31.2% in his first three starts, from 16.0% in 2021) Ryan continued to relentlessly attack the zone while inducing whiffs and weak contact. Dylan Bundy lowered his ERA for the season to 0.59 (third-lowest in baseball) with a pair of excellent starts. His early success owes to a few factors, but a big one is that he's pounding the strike zone at one of the highest rates in the league. His fastball has been extremely effective, despite ranking in the 9th percentile for velocity (averaging just 89.0 MPH). Hitters are batting .133 against it with zero extra-base hits through three starts. The offense's breakout on Saturday, which saw them score more runs (9) than they had in the previous four games (6) was keyed in part by Luis Arraez, who went 4-for-5 in the contest and is now slashing .354/.426/.458 after a 9-for-21 run. But the true star of the week – and stop me if you've heard this before – was Buxton. He only started three games, taking a few games off to make sure all was well with his sore knee, but the team's best player wasted no time making his presence felt. After a 1-for-4 game as DH against Kansas City on Thursday, Buxton started in center at Target Field on Saturday night and went 4-for-4 with a home run, HBP, and three runs scored. On Sunday, he came through with a clutch game-tying two-run homer in the seventh and then walked it off with an epic three-run blast in the 10th. It was a really special moment. There really aren't words to describe what Buxton is doing right now. He's single-handedly winning ballgames. He has hilariously accumulated 1.4 fWAR in a span of 10 games. His WPA in Sunday's game alone (0.761) was higher than all but seven MLB players had accumulated ALL season. This is amazingly fun to watch. I continue to believe Buxton's contract extension will go down as the most important move this franchise has ever made. LOWLIGHTS Up and down the lineup, hitters continue to generally struggle. Carlos Correa finally notched some hits, going 6-for-22, but they were all singles and he also mixed in three GIDPs. Trevor Larnach, who went 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts, looks like he belongs in Triple-A (and will likely soon head back). Max Kepler failed to register an extra-base hit or RBI; his slugging percentage sits at .300 yet he's still batting fourth or fifth every time he's in the lineup. But make no mistake: Miguel Sanó continues to be the biggest laggard on offense for the Twins. Following a 2-for-22 week, his slash line sits at an embarrassing .083/.224/.146, and the supposed slugger has produced just one home run and three RBIs in 15 games. It's a weird deal with Sanó. The process isn't bad. He's taking good at-bats and making hard contact, with barrel and chase rates that rank among the best in the league. But there's constantly no payoff and it's hard to view it all as just bad luck. On Sunday, in a key spot with the tying run on second in the 10th, he got the green light on a 3-0 count and popped out to the catcher. I mean come on dude. On the bullpen front, Tyler Duffey coughed up another close lead and saw it turn into a loss on his ledger. While his meltdown Tuesday in Kansas City was less damaging than the blown save against Seattle – this time the offense had three chances to tie or take a lead, although of course they failed – it was substantively much uglier. Rather than getting dinked and dunked on a string of hits like in his first blown save, Duffey gave up a pair of long home runs in KC on absolute meatballs left out over the plate. He left that outing with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) of any pitcher or hitter in the big leagues. With his season starting to feel like an Alex Colomé redux, Duffey bounced back on Friday night. Rocco Baldelli gave a strong vote of confidence to his embattled veteran, handing Duffey the ball with a one-run deficit in the eighth against the top of the Chicago order, and Duff delivered: a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. Hopefully it's a sign of stabilization to come, because the Twins really need Duffey to be a Dude in that bullpen – especially in light of the unfortunate Alcalá news. TRENDING STORYLINE What is the plan with Gilberto Celestino? That is the big looming question in my mind right now. He's 23 years old, and still very much a developing prospect – he's played a total of 75 games above Single-A in the minors – yet for some reason Celestino is relegated to stagnation on the big-league bench. He's been with the Twins since Opening Day, accruing just 10 at-bats (with one hit) in three weeks. I get that the 40-man roster situation is a bit challenging, but this is getting ridiculous. Not only does Celestino offer very little as a bench player for the Twins, but more importantly, this is terrible for his development. He needs regular at-bats. I understood carrying him as a short-term patch while the Twins pursued Justin Upton, but if that's not happening ... what are we doing here exactly? LOOKING AHEAD Having passed their first test against an AL Central contender in flying colors, the Twins will now welcome another one to Target Field as Detroit visits for a three-game series. We're slated to see old friend Michael Pineda on Wednesday night. Then it's off to a Tampa for three games against the always-tough Rays. It feels like the Twins have faced an inordinate number of left-handed starters early on this year, and that trend continues with (at least) four southpaws on the upcoming docket. The health situations of Sánchez and Jeffers will be worth closely monitoring. TUESDAY, 4/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Chris Paddack WEDNESDAY, 4/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Joe Ryan THURSDAY, 4/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Bailey Ober FRIDAY, 4/29: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/30: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Shane McClanahan SUNDAY, 5/1: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Paddack v. LHP Josh Fleming
  13. 'Musica, bailar', Emmanuel Rodriguez answers, through interpreter (and Mighty Mussels hitting coach) Rayden Sierra, when asked by Twins Daily's @Seth Stohs how he likes to spend his time outside of baseball. 'Music, and dancing'. Rodriguez is 19, after all. Easy to forget after his impressive start in 2022. On Thursday, Seth chatted with the Mighty Mussels' prodigious outfielder on "Three Questions With..." Emmanuel Rodriguez made Baseball America’s weekly Hot Sheet after hitting .360/.568/.880 through his first 25 plate appearances of the season. Rodriguez has also managed ten runs, four home runs, 12 walks, and two steals to open 2022. One of Rodriguez’s four home runs traveled 439 feet with an exit velocity of 111 mph. Not bad for a 19-year-old. So who is this teenage phenom? How did he end up with the Twins? What is his ceiling? It’s often not talked about how reliant the current Twins lineup is on international signings. Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Gio Urshela, and Gary Sanchez were all signed as professionals via international free agency (although not all with the Twins). While the more famous free agent signings like Sano and Sanchez come with plenty of prestige and attention, others, such as Arraez, are virtually unheralded, making a monumental impact when considering their signing bonuses. Emmanuel Rodriguez falls between those two extremes. The Twins signed him for a $2.5 million bonus in 2019. The Dominican was their top target in a class that was led by Yankees Jasson Dominguez. According to most international prospect lists, his overall placement in free-agent rankings that season lay between 10th and 20th. "They were always there. They were always following up with him. The scouting department made him feel wanted and that meant a lot to him', translates Sierra, on how Rodriguez ended up with the Twins. The 5’10, 200-pound left-handed hitter managed a 124 wRC+ and 10 HR in his professional debut in the Florida Complex League. While his .390 wOBA was impressive, Rodriguez's 36.6 K% was a clear area of focus ahead of 2022. The early returns are promising. At the time of writing, Rodriguez has increased his BB% from 15% in 2021 to 29% in 2022, cutting his K% to a more manageable 22%. In addition, Rodriguez has posted a scorching 252 wRC+. "I am working mostly on evening out my strikeout to walk ratio', says Rodriguez (through Sierra), after asking what his primary focus is in 2022, "that, and staying healthy." Entering the season, Rodriguez boasted 60-grade power, a 60-grade arm to go with 50-grade running and fielding. The question was his hit tool. Prior to 2022, Baseball America graded is at 45, citing his weakness in controlling the strike zone and an overly steep swing that resulted in too many strikeouts. Even with these concerns, they ranked him as the Twins' #10 overall prospect ahead of 2022, also giving him the superlative of best outfield arm in the system. What’s so exciting in Rodriguez’s start is his age and the rapidity of his improvement. At 19, he has a ton of projectability as he fills out, grows, and continues to develop. Even now, he has some of the best bat speed in the Twins system, top to bottom. While his 2022 start could simply be a hot two-week stretch, it should be a huge reason for optimism. The sky is the limit for Rodriguez if he can continue to improve and make adjustments at the rate and with the competence he has thus far in his young career. When asked what making the big leagues would mean to him, his answer is clear "It would be a dream come true," Rodriguez explains through Sierra. "I know for a fact it's something that would make my family incredibly proud." There’s a long road ahead, but don't count Emmanuel Rodriguez out, it looks like he has star potential.
  14. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Chris Paddack, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (71 pitches, 52 strikes, 73.2%) Home Runs: none Bottom 3 WPA: Gio Urshela (-.181), Gary Sánchez (-.154), Trevor Larnach (-.085) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Royals put pressure on Chris Paddack right out of the gate, as the righty gave up back-to-back hits to open the game, and the Royals had men on the corners eight pitches into the game. Paddack was able to induce a double play to get out of the jam partially, but not before leadoff man Whit Merrifield scored from third. Fortunately, that double play was the beginning of Paddack hottest streak. After the two hits he allowed early, he went on to retire the next eleven batters. The Royals manufactured another run in the fifth inning, again opening the inning with back-to-back hits. Adalberto Mondesí brought Andrew Benintendi home on a bunt single to make it 2-0 Kansas City. Paddack got right back on track and retired the next three batters to end the threat. Unfortunately, the offense was a no factor to back him up. Coming into this game, the Twins' offense had a poor OPS of .621 (ranking 19th in MLB) and struck out 26.8% of the time (ranking 22nd) when facing lefties this year. Minnesota’s bats were utterly dominated by Royals starter, lefty Daniel Lynch during the first five innings. The only time during that span the Twins posed a threat to Lynch was in the third inning, the only time they had two baserunners – a Miguel Sanó leadoff single and a Jorge Polanco walk. However, Minnesota couldn’t cash in, and they stranded both runners. In the sixth, a leadoff single by Carlos Correa took Lynch out of the game, but the pitching change didn’t do much for Minnesota’s offense, which continued struggling. Paddack closed out the game with a solid start, throwing 73.2% strikes over five innings of work. After two starts, he has yet to give up a walk in a Twins uniform. Is he becoming a reason for optimism for Twins fans? Caleb Thielbar and Cody Stashak combined for three solid shutout innings with no walks and four strikeouts, keeping the team alive came the ninth inning. But once again the cold bats couldn't provide the needed runs. According to Aaron Gleeman, this is the first time in Twins history they've had a batting average below .200 after 12 games. It can't get any worse than that. What’s Next? To conclude the road trip, the Twins will try to avoid the sweep on Thursday afternoon. Joe Ryan duels with Zack Greinke, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Winder 66 0 0 0 0 66 Jax 0 0 47 0 0 47 Romero 11 0 0 30 0 41 Stashak 0 17 0 0 21 38 Duffey 0 18 0 15 0 33 Thielbar 0 17 0 0 15 32 Duran 0 0 23 0 0 23 Smith 0 0 6 2 0 8 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0
  15. The 2019 season was one of the most memorable Twins seasons in recent memory. After nearly a decade of irrelevancy, Minnesota’s Bomba Squad was born, with the team clubbing an MLB-record 307 home runs. Five Twins hitters combined for 30 or more home runs, and the team won over 100 games for only the second time in franchise history. During the 2019 season, Miguel Sanó became a first-time member of the 30 home run club. For the season, he hit .247/.346/.576 (.923) with 34 home runs and a 139 OPS+. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category but so did a lot of other Twins players. MLB’s baseballs from that season were flying out of parks at tremendous rates, so many players accumulated hollow stats that season before the baseballs returned to normal. Following the season, the Twins signed Sanó to a three-year, $30 million contract that would keep him in Minnesota through the 2022 season. Since signing his extension, Sanó has frustrated fans with his record-breaking strikeout totals and offensive inconsistencies. In 197 games, he has batted .213/.302/.459 (.761) with a 109 OPS+ and 283 strikeouts. His slow start to the 2022 season was also concerning, but fans have seen his streakiness in the past. It’s also very early into the 2022 campaign, and all of Minnesota’s hitters have struggled so far. CJ Cron was another member of that Bomba Squad roster, but he fell just shy of the 30 home run plateau. In 125 games, he hit .253/.311/.496 (.780) with 25 home runs and a 104 OPS+. It was disappointing to see Cron post an OPS+ that was eight points below his career mark in a heightened offensive environment. He missed time during the season with a thumb injury, and there were concerns that the injury could linger into the 2020 campaign. Minnesota non-tendered him during the offseason, and he hit the free-agent market. Since leaving the Twins, Cron has provided tremendous value when he has been on the field. A knee injury limited him to 13 games in 2020, but he posted an .894 OPS with seven extra-base hits. Cron headed to Colorado in 2021 and posted one of the best seasons of his career. In 142 games, he hit .281/.375/.530 (.905) with 31 doubles and 28 home runs. Over the last three seasons, FanGraphs ranks Cron as the 13th most valuable first baseman. Sanó is 25th on the list and ranks only ahead of three players with a minimum of 600 plate appearances. Cron’s overall value comes from how much better defensively he is at first base compared to Sanó. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, Cron posted a 1.2 SDI last season, which ranked seventh in the National League. Only one AL first baseman, Bobby Dalbec, posted a lower mark than Sanó’s -5.6 SDI. Cron was also worth five more outs above average than Sanó during the 2021 season. Overall, Cron might not be elite defensively, but he is a step up compared to Sanó. Many teams will look at the Cron versus Sanó situation with the same lens as the Twins. Sanó was multiple years younger and coming off a season where he had a 139 OPS+. That same winter, the Twins added Josh Donaldson to play third base, which pushed Sanó over to first. Cron was a solid player during his time in Minnesota, but he never fit into the team’s long-term plans. Now, that might look like the team took a swing and a miss. Do you think the Twins made the wrong choice at first base? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (82 pitches, 60 strikes, 73.1%) Home Runs: Miguel Sanó (1) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.189), Miguel Sanó (.170), Luis Arráez (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins lose Buxton early but score four runs on five hits It was an eventful start to the game for Minnesota. Eight pitches into the first inning, Byron Buxton left the game with an apparent leg injury. He popped up to shallow left, and when Boston’s defense couldn’t make the play because of the sun, he sprinted and slid into second when the injury occurred. He immediately headed to the dugout and was replaced by Nick Gordon. On the brighter side of the inning, Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a liner to center, and yet again, the Red Sox defense couldn’t take care of it, allowing Gordon to score the game’s first run easily. Even though Jorge Polanco drew a walk, helping to drive Nick Pivetta’s pitch count to 26, Minnesota had to settle for the one run in the first. But that wouldn’t last long. After Joe Ryan cruised through the bottom first on only eight pitches, striking out two and throwing strikes on every pitch, the offense ambushed Pivetta, scoring three runs on three hits. After Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sanó followed with a moon shot that went over the ‘green monster’ to make it 3-0 Twins. That was his first base hit of the season. Could his biggest early-season problem be the cold weather? Later on, Gordon singled to center with two outs, only to be brought home in the following at-bat by an Arráez double, making it 4-0 Minnesota. That’s the second multi-hit game for Luis this season. Closing out the inning with 54 pitches, Pivetta was done after two. Alex Verdugo got Boston a run back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer to center. Ryan looks excellent through six; the offense adds on After a somewhat shaky opening day start, Ryan looked superb today at Fenway. Boston hitters simply couldn’t figure him out, especially his slider, which produced whiffs 47% of the time in the first five innings. He also managed to get out of jams during the fourth and fifth innings when Boston had two runners on in each of them. In the meantime, he got even more run support from the bats. Carlos Correa and Polanco reached on a walk and a single to open the fifth inning, and both of them scored on a Gary Sánchez ground ball, making it 6-1 Minnesota. With those two runs batted in, Sánchez now has more RBI against Boston than any other team in the majors. Ryan continued his fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 sixth, shredding through Red Sox hitting with his off-speed offerings. By the end of the inning, he had produced an astonishing 19 swinging strikes, a career-high for him. Overall, 40% of his pitches were either called strikes or swinging strikes. Duran breaks Twitter, Boston’s rally comes up short Jhoan Duran took over once Ryan departed, and he baffled local fans and media with an incredible seventh inning. He retired the side on eight pitches which averaged 98.2 MPH and touched 102 MPH. His performance drew the attention of several national media accounts on Twitter. Boston got to him during the eighth, scoring three runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double and was pushed across a couple of at-bats later by a Kike Hernandez double. Then, Rafael Devers followed that with a two-run home run to the corner right, cutting the Twins lead in half. Duran cooled down and struck out the final two batters to end the inning. With the Red Sox getting dangerously close, Minnesota needed some insurance runs. Reliever Matt Barnes retired Arráez to open the top of the ninth, but he gave up a couple of walks against the following two batters. The Twins cashed in on both of those walks, first with a Max Kepler single and then with a slow groundout from Larnach with the bases loaded, bringing the lead back to four. Emilio Pagán came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and he threw a clean 1-2-3 inning to secure the win. What’s Next? For game two on Saturday, the Twins turn to Sonny Gray, who is set to face Boston’s Tanner Houck. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duran 11 0 0 0 34 45 Thielbar 19 18 0 0 0 37 Romero 0 34 0 0 0 34 Pagán 0 20 0 0 11 31 Winder 0 28 0 0 0 28 Jax 0 0 22 0 0 22 Smith 19 3 0 0 0 22 Coulombe 0 14 0 0 0 14 Duffey 14 0 0 0 0 14
  17. The offense as a whole has failed to match a surprisingly strong start to the season for the Twins pitching staff. Few hitters have shown any kind of consistency, but it’s plenty easy to key in on right-handed slugger Miguel Sano. Every year it’s seemingly the same with Sano. Struggle for the first month or two, make some adjustments, iron out the timing at the plate and finish the season looking like everything has been fixed only for the same cycle to be repeated again. Perhaps in a touching tribute to the banning of pitchers hitting in the NL, Sano has been particularly terrible to begin the season in 2022. Yes, Miguel Sano is yet again approaching the record books after becoming the fastest player in Major League history to 1000 strikeouts at the end of 2021. Through six games it’s been particularly frustrating to watch, which has fans already wondering: What can we do with Miguel Sano? Cut Him As is tradition, the calls to cut Miguel Sano or try to send him to AAA have already erupted. The latter scenario is downright unrealistic. Sano would have to essentially be cut and re-signed in agreement with going to St. Paul, a situation that would never play out. Another team would surely pick Sano up on the league minimum, and he would most certainly prefer to play in the MLB elsewhere than in AAA here. Some would call this an upgrade to the team, but there aren’t any legitimate replacements at first base. Alex Kirilloff is out for the foreseeable future after his recurring wrist issue flared up and players like Jose Miranda who have some experience at first base aren’t the kind of player you ship a veteran out for. Not to mention the fact that the Twins likely would never pay the $9.25m remaining on his deal to play elsewhere. Bench Him An adjustment is likely in order for Sano to catch up to fastballs and barrel up breaking balls again. So why not have him work exclusively on making adjustments with the coaching staff in an environment where he’s not dragging down the lineup? Even if the Twins had an obvious short-term replacement at first base, Sano’s main issue is timing. Perhaps it is a mechanical tweak that helps him lock-in, but tee work isn’t going to do him much good. We saw in 2019 when Sano was struggling to keep his strikeout rate below 40% for the first two months that he benefits from working through his timing issues by getting his reps in during games. There isn’t much substitute for live pitching when it comes to a player with such significant swing and miss tendencies. Ride It Out This leads to the most likely option, the Twins are likely going to ride this out. After all, Sano has shown time and time again that their patience will pay itself off. Taking an at-bat away from Miguel Sano is taking him one step further from breaking out and being one of the better hitters in the lineup for at least some period of time. The second halves of his seasons are always better than the first, and at some point, he’s going to return to being a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. Is it an ideal scenario to have a player with such crippling gaps in production in the lineup? No. I’d guess the Twins' front office would go back in time and undo the extension they signed Sano to if given the opportunity. It’s also hard to imagine a scenario where they pick up his $14m option for 2023. That being said, Miguel Sano is likely here for 2022 for better or worse. We’ve been watching him since 2015. It’s time to be realistic about the Miguel Sano situation. He’s going to be beyond frustrating until he’s on one of the most ungodly heaters we’ll see from a player this season. It may hurt the Twins' season tremendously, or perhaps he’ll play a large part in them returning to the postseason. Be as frustrated as you’d like, but Miguel Sano likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
  18. MINNIE: Nothing to be done. PAUL: I'm beginning to come ‘round to that opinion. All this time I've tried to put it from me, saying Paul, be reasonable, he hasn't yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. So, there you are again. MINNIE: Am I? PAUL: I'm glad to see you back. I thought after the lockout you were gone forever. MINNIE: Me too. PAUL: Together again at last! We'll have to celebrate this. But how? Get up till I embrace you. MINNIE: Not now, not now. PAUL: May one inquire where His Highness spent the night? MINNIE: In a ditch. PAUL: A ditch! Where? MINNIE: Over there. PAUL: And they didn't beat you? MINNIE: Beat me? Certainly they beat me. PAUL: The same lot as usual? MINNIE: The same? Yankees, Dodgers, I don't know. PAUL: When I think of it…all these years…but for me…where would you be…you'd be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it. MINNIE: And what of it? PAUL: It's too much for one man. On the other hand, what's the good of losing heart now, that's what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties. MINNIE: Ah stop blathering and help me off with this bloody thing. (MINNIE gestures at his Dairy Queen promotional Twins batting helmet.) PAUL: Hand in hand from the top of the Foshay Tower, among the first. We were respectable in those days. Now it's too late. They wouldn't even let us up. What are you doing? MINNIE: Taking off my helmet. Did that never happen to you? PAUL: Helmets must be taken off every day, I'm tired telling you that. Why don't you listen to me? MINNIE: Help me! PAUL: It hurts? MINNIE: Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! PAUL: No one ever suffers but you. I don't count. I'd like to hear what you'd say if you had what I have. MINNIE: It hurts? PAUL: Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! MINNIE: (MINNIE points at PAUL's Menards promotional Twins baseball pants) You might button it all the same. PAUL: True. (PAUL buttons his fly.) Never neglect the little things of life. MINNIE: What do you expect, you always wait till the last moment. PAUL: The last moment…hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that? MINNIE: Why don't you help me? PAUL: Sometimes I feel it coming all the same. Then I go all “maybe this is the year he’s consistent all season long.” How shall I say? Relieved and at the same time…appalled. AP-PALLED. Funny. Nothing to be done. Well? MINNIE: Nothing. PAUL: Show me. MINNIE: There's nothing to show. PAUL: Try and put it on again. MINNIE: I'll air it for a bit. PAUL: There's man all over for you, blaming on his promotional Dairy Queen batting helmet for the faults of his head. This is getting alarming. Gogo. MINNIE: What? PAUL: Suppose we repented. MINNIE: Repented what? PAUL: Oh. We wouldn't have to go into the details. MINNIE: Our being Minnesota sports fans? (PAUL breaks into a hearty laugh which he immediately stifles, his hand pressed to his careworn Bomba Squad t-shirt, his face contorted.) PAUL: One daren't even laugh any more. MINNIE: Dreadful privation. PAUL: Merely smile. It’s not the same thing. Nothing to be done. Gogo. MINNIE: What is it? PAUL: Did you ever read Baseball Reference? MINNIE: Baseball Reference…I must have taken a look at it. PAUL: Do you remember the Similarity Scores? MINNIE: I remember the Advanced Batting stats. I remember WAR and Win Probability. I remember seeing that his closest comps are Kyle Schwarber and Adam Duvall and Bo Jackson. The very look of it made me thirsty. That's where he'll go, I used to say, that's where he'll go for our postseason. We'll win. We'll be happy. PAUL: You should have been a poet. MINNIE: I was. Isn't that obvious? PAUL: Where was I…how's your head? MINNIE: Swelling visibly. PAUL: Ah yes, the two players. Do you remember the story? MINNIE: No. PAUL: Shall I tell it to you? MINNIE: No. PAUL: It'll pass the time. Two players traded at the same time as our savior. One— MINNIE: Our what? PAUL: Our savior, Joe Mauer. Two players. One is supposed to have been saved and the other…damned. MINNIE: Saved from what? PAUL: Hell. MINNIE: I'm going. PAUL: And yet…how is it –this is not boring you I hope– how is it that of the four beat writers only one speaks of a player being saved. The four of them were there –or thereabouts– and only one speaks of a player being saved. Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a way? MINNIE: I find this really most extraordinarily interesting. PAUL: One out of four. Of the other three, two don't mention any players at all and the third says that both Hardy and Hoey were damned. MINNIE: Who? PAUL: What? MINNIE: What's all this about? Damned how? PAUL: Hoey got optioned. Hardy went to Baltimore. MINNIE: Why? PAUL: Because Hoey couldn't save them. MINNIE: From hell? PAUL: Imbecile! From losing. MINNIE: I thought you said hell. PAUL: From losing, from losing. MINNIE: Well what of it? PAUL: Then the two of them must have been damned. MINNIE: And why not? PAUL: But one of the four says that one of the two was saved. MINNIE: Well? They don't agree and that's all there is to it. PAUL: But all four were there. And only one speaks of a player being saved. Why believe him rather than the others? MINNIE: Who believes him? PAUL: Everybody. It's the only version they know. MINNIE: People are bloody ignorant apes. PAUL: Pah! MINNIE: Charming spot. (MINNIE looks at Twins depth chart.) Inspiring prospects. Let's go. PAUL: We can't. MINNIE: Why not? PAUL: We're waiting for Sano.
  19. Sa-No Go? At the end of the 2021 season, Miguel Sano seemed to have found a rhythm and confidence in his swing. He finished the season with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs. Spring training fans seemed to get their hopes up as Sano seemed to be in the same form that he was in last season and hitting home runs like it was nothing. In the season-opening series, Sano struggled at the plate. In the four-game series with the Mariners, Sano had 16 plate appearances and went 0-for-13 with three walks and six strikeouts. . While we consider a truncated spring training, hitting off Double-A and Triple-A pitchers, other players in the line-up were getting multiple hits by the third regular-season game. Sano is 0-for-13 and Alex Kiriloff is just 1-for-15 so far. While it's still early in the season and only 16 plate appearances, fans are unsure that Sano has what it takes to be a productive part of this team in the lineup offensively. Yes, he gets on base, but is that enough? In an interview with Phil Miller from the Star Tribune, Rocco Baldelli explained that he feels differently. He feels there are too few at-bats to go off of and that Sano has been working hard at laying off bad pitches. That is true, and he does seem to have more plate discipline; maybe he's just getting another slow start. His defense has been outstanding to start, so maybe we just need to trust Rocco on this one. We have pitching For the first time in four baseball seasons, I feel good about the pitching. The pitching has been impressive thus far, and rookie Joe Ryan did not disappoint in his first Opening Day start. He seemed to settle down after getting over his first-inning jitters and giving up two runs. He had four strikeouts. In Game 2, Sonny Gray had his Twins debut and matched Joe Ryan with four strikeouts and two runs. Sonny, like Ryan, was pulled early, leaving fans frustrated again with another managerial decision by Rocco. Both pitchers are solid starters and have strong fastballs that make hitters chase. They both have a strong command of the mound and control of the strike zone. When looking back at the games, compared to Bailey Ober, both pitchers held the Mariners to two runs in five innings, which isn't too bad for a new guy and a rookie. Even if some are frustrated with Rocco pulling the starters early, the Twins have a strong bullpen. The bullpen has players from trades, rookies, and everything in between: like Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, and Jharel Cotton. They all gave fans impressive performances and a lot of confidence in our bullpen and, oddly, our front office. New reliever Jhoan Duran (affectionately known as "Durantula" or "Hurricane") has become a fan favorite with his nasty pitches. In the three innings pitched in the series, Duran's velocity was over 101 MPH. With Taylor Rogers going to the Padres and Tyler Duffey struggling in game two, Duran is a very welcome addition to the bullpen and could be a solid contender for a closer. The front office continues to surprise us with their trades and acquisitions to bolster the pitching staff. The Twins may not have the ace we are looking for in our starters, but we certainly have the depth and ability to move players around to keep us in contention until we do. These bats are on fire Not only was the weather for opening day chilly, but so were the bats. As the weather warmed up, so did the bats. By game three of the series against Seattle, the players were making contact. The first person to bring life to a game was Gio Urshela. Urshela seemed a little unsure in spring training, but it didn't take him long to find his stride in Minnesota, leading with the first Minnesota Twins home run of the season in game one. Over the next three games, other hitters quickly followed suit: Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, Carlos Correa, and Byron Buxton, who hit his second-fastest home run at 112.3 MPH. Gary Sanchez, who came over with Gio Urshela in the Yankee trade, left many Twins fans with negative feelings and doubted his position on this team. Sanchez wasted no time getting to work to show us that he indeed is an asset and has a lot to offer this lineup as the designated hitter. In-game one, Sanchez swung often and swung hard. With the crowd cheering his name in the bottom of the ninth, Sanchez fell short in the last hit of the game, thinking he hit a home run, accompanied by a bat-flip. Unfortunately, because of the cold weather, the ball did not carry as far as not only Gary thought but the entire stadium and both teams. In the third game, Sanchez didn't come up short of a home run when he hit a grand slam to give the Twins a five-run lead over the Mariners, with a very well-earned bat flip. It seems that the Bomba Squad may be back in action! Come back for more Top Three Takes after each series!
  20. It was never going to make sense for Minnesota’s front office to push Josh Donaldson out solely to reduce payroll. Despite his flaws, he was still relatively healthy last season and posted good numbers. Heeding the advice of avoiding a salary dump, the Twins netted Urshela in exchange. Coming off a down 2021, it’s fair to temper expectations, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited. There was never any real belief that Urshela had somehow lost it last season. He dealt with Covid and injury despite still playing over 100 games. However, his .720 OPS was well off the .881 mark that saw him find a home in New York. Brought into a clubhouse where enjoyment seems high, Urshela creating a home with the Twins wouldn’t be surprising. Before Opening Day, Byron Buxton called the atmosphere in the clubhouse “night and day” different as opposed to last season. That may not be directly tied to Donaldson, but there’s no shortage of instances where he’s been seen as someone who could rub people the wrong way. Urshela taking over at the same position gives a reason to compare numbers, and his production may have been lost in the shuffle during the opening weekend. Ceding paying time to Luis Arraez against righties, Urshela drew two starts and had seven plate appearances. He walked twice while also picking up his first blast at Target Field. Even with a friendlier home field last season, Urshela didn’t go yard until his sixth game of the season in 2021. Obviously, there isn’t much to draw from such a small sample size, but it stands to reason that Urshela may see the same bounceback as the guy he was dealt with. Sanchez lifted the Twins in a big way providing a grand slam during their first win, and Urshela settling into a different market may be a significant narrative to come out of this season as well. Minnesota certainly has prospects that could push for Urshela’s job if he struggles, but seeing the former Cleveland third basemen contribute so quickly was exciting, to say the least. While Urshela is already 30-years-old, he was a late bloomer and really didn’t come on until his age-27 season. He’s not going to be a franchise cornerstone by any means, but you have to be excited about the opportunity to create consistency with him. Miguel Sano could never hold the hot corner down, and Minnesota fans never knew when Donaldson would wind up on the Injured List. Consistency is something Urshela has shown previously, and if the maladies can stay behind him, seeing him re-establish himself would be great news for Rocco Baldelli’s lineup. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but the opening impression has been a good one. Urshela will continue to mix spots with Arraez, but finding regular opportunity shouldn't be hard if the Twins unlock the hitter that destroyed every arm he faced just a couple of seasons ago.
  21. Stop losing sleep over pitching Out of the 16 pitchers on the roster, only three appeared on last season’s Opening Day roster (Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala). This reformation came quietly, with the Twins choosing to promote from within and to sign smaller names in larger quantities. The biggest changes came from trades, which have already reaped some benefits (@ Twins legend, Gio Urshela). This is the most pitchers that Minnesota has carried on their roster in the past five years, with the Twins opting to add exclusively pitching to their expanded roster. The Twins learned the hard way last season that quantity can override quality. This new approach prevents a single point of failure, such as when the Twins were forced to consistently use Alex Colomé after the mass exodus in the bullpen. It doesn’t hurt that the Twins supplemented quantity without compromising quality. Jhoan Duran’s performance made fans forget about Brusdar Graterol and Taylor Rogers. Jorge Alcala is coming into his own, putting away the Mariners in 13 pitches. Going into tomorrow, the Twins have eight completely fresh bullpen arms, which is equal to the total number of pitchers in the bullpen last season. The pitching may not be the best in the AL Central, but the Twins have taken the necessary steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Alex Kirilloff will lead the team in strikeouts This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Shohei Ohtani, Randy Arozarena, and Salvador Perez appearing collectively in the top 10 strikeout leaderboard last season. The Twins’ strikeout leader in Miguel Sanó struck out a career-high 185 times but also walked a career-high 59 times last season. He continues to trend in this direction. Gary Sánchez lived a very similar narrative in New York. However, the young rookie has the most to prove in this group. He was on a hot streak before a season-ending injury last year, with some doubting his impact on the team post-injury. Alex Kirilloff wants to be in the elite class of the Buxtons and Correas of the world, and he has the talent to back it up. There is no doubt that Kirilloff will swing for the fences if given the opportunity. Joe Ryan is the real deal The bats were quiet, but Joe Ryan had a good outing in his first Opening Day start and sixth start overall against a much improved, playoff-hungry Seattle Mariners team. Even though his one mistake to Mitch Haniger cost the game, he worked himself out of every other jam. Outside of pitch count, Ryan’s stats today don’t fall too far behind Robbie Ray’s, with Ray collecting one more strikeout. However, Ryan’s composure falls in the footsteps of the Cy Young winner. One of Ray’s biggest assets is his ability to regain control after a mistake on the mound. On paper, Ryan had the worst start of his career, but his ability to minimize damage and regain control are all signs of a future ace like Ray. Today, Ryan showed maturity in his experience beyond his years. The Front Office (probably) knew what they were doing Although it would’ve been nice to have Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup today, things have shaken out decently thus far. Gio Urshela was the hero of the game, and Carlos Correa was in mid-season form. Promoting Jhoan Duran has given fans someone exciting to root for. As mentioned above, the brand new pitching staff looks to be an improvement from last season. Even though the season is long and many things can still go wrong, the Front Office had done a passable job of addressing some of the biggest concerns from last year. As Penny Lane once said, “it’s all happening.” …and Jose Berríos getting pulled in the first inning didn’t hurt this argument. Fan-favorite Frankie Montas didn’t fare too well either…
  22. There’s no denying that the Twins have among the best starting lineups in all of baseball. It’s been a question, and a fair one, if they have enough pitching. While everything on paper suggests that this team will be there at the end, it’s worth wondering which contributors will get them there. Each season sportsbook Bovada puts out over/under numbers for individual performances. While Byron Buxton being a longshot MVP candidate at 30/1 as of April 3rd is a fun one to look at, these numbers are a bit more focused. Here are some of my favorites: Byron Buxton 26.5 Home Runs (Ted's Take - Under) Do I think Byron Buxton has a legitimate path to an MVP award? Absolutely. Do I think he’s going to barely miss 30 homers? I’m less sure. Buxton’s numbers in 61 games last season were eye-popping. The 19 homers put him on pace for 50 over a 162 game season. I have always contended Buxton is more of a 20 home run guy than he is 20 stolen bases because the power would often put him at second base or rounding them all, that said, I’m not quite ready to believe he’s in for 27 or more. Prove me wrong. Carlos Correa .280 Batting Average (Ted's Take - Under) Batting average isn’t all that useful in today’s game, but this number stuck out to me. Correa is a .277 hitter who has surpassed .280 just once when he batted .315 back in 2017. I absolutely expect Correa to be an impact player with an OPS north of .800 for the Twins, but think it comes more from on-base and slugging percentages as it has over the course of his career. Correa has raked at Target Field, and he’s noted being plenty comfortable there, but the average is one I’m not yet on board with. Carlos Correa 25.5 Home Runs (Ted's Take - Over) Remember how comfortable Correa is at Target Field? Sure, he was previously hitting against Twins pitching, but he’s also crushed the AL Central division as a whole. I’d expected the former Astros shortstop to put up big power numbers, and he’s coming off a career-high 26 longballs last season. Back in 2019, Correa blasted 21 dingers for Houston in just 75 games. With the idea of playing for another big payday given his opt-outs, I wouldn’t be shocked if Correa pushes power and enters the MVP discussion. Gary Sanchez 25.5 Home Runs (Ted's Take - Over) I think everyone in Twins Territory is hoping that a change of scenery provides a fresh start for the former Yankees backstop. There was a time Sanchez was among the best power hitters in baseball. He’s just two years removed from a 34 home run campaign, while also being an All-Star, and the removed pressure of New York could help to bring that back. 26 homers is a relatively modest number, and even while routinely being benched last season, Sanchez hit 23 homers in 117 games. Miguel Sano 31.5 Home Runs (Ted's Take - Over) We’ve seen that Sano put in work this offseason shedding 25 pounds, and this could be the final year he’s in a Minnesota uniform. Even with just a .778 OPS last season, Miguel still hit 30 home runs. 32 dingers would be just two shy of the 34 he hit during the Bomba Squad season, and from June 1 on last season Sano brought his OPS back north of .800. Playing for his next contract should be some added motivation, but even an average version of the Twins' first basemen could run into a lot of long balls. Needing 39 homers this season to reach 200 for his career, I wouldn’t bet on Sano coming up short. Sonny Gray 9.5 Wins (Ted's Take - Over) Minnesota’s new de facto staff ace in taking over as a clone of Jose Berrios, Gray hasn’t won more than nine games since 2019. Pitcher wins are a goofy statistic, but I’m dabbling here because this number seems influenced by bad Cincinnati Reds teams. Gray is a good arm, now back by a good lineup. He’s been a double-digit game-winner in five of his nine big league seasons, and that includes when pitching in Yankee Stadium with bad numbers during 2019. Gray will be expected to should the load for Minnesota, and his arm talent is more than enough to do so. Minnesota Twins 81.5 Wins (Ted's Take - Over) While there's no denying this Twins club could use more starting pitching, every projection system has them in the mid-80's for a win total as currently constructed. There may be an opportunity to add as the season goes on, and the lineup should certainly be a force to be reckoned with. The roster looks the part of a fringe postseason team, and getting there is going to take at least 85 wins. Now it's your turn. Regarding these six Over/Unders, do you agree or disagree? Leave your predictions below.
  23. Projected Starter: Gary Sánchez Likely Backup: Miguel Sanó Depth: Luis Arraez, Brent Rooker Prospects: Aaron Sabato, Christian Encarnacion-Strand THE GOOD A few weeks ago, I figured the team's plan was to have Mitch Garver split time between catcher and designated hitter, with Ryan Jeffers getting primary reps behind the plate and other players rotating through the DH spot when Garver caught or sat. That's the kind of flexibility you gain from losing a fixture in Nelson Cruz. The scenario I envisioned has since been flipped upside down by a flurry of disruptive moves, and as the sum result, Gary Sánchez will essentially be filling the same role I saw for Garver. He'll have the smaller end of a catching timeshare, with plenty of time at DH to maximize the impact of his powerful right-handed bat. Although Sánchez has been worse than Garver of late, his overall track record is much more impressive: Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2016, two-time All-Star, owner of an .804 career OPS and 138 home runs by age 29. We've got Sánchez pegged as the starter at DH because he seems lined up for the most time there early on, but things are fluid at this position by design. Rocco Baldelli can play match-ups and maximize his best bats by taking advantage of the open reins. Plenty of candidates will be vying for opportunities. Miguel Sanó should see a good amount of time at DH, since the Twins seem to (justifiably) much prefer Alex Kirilloff's defense at first base. Luis Arraez lacks a firm starting position, so DH is an easy way to get his bat into the lineup against righties. (I wouldn't be surprised to see him there on Opening Day, even against a lefty.) Those three alone should be able to account for a bulk of the ABs in April. From there, the Twins can keep an open mind. Brent Rooker, the former first-round pick with an .874 OPS in the minors, could be a factor. Aaron Sabato, a more recent first-rounder coming off a roller-coaster pro debut, may not be far behind if his emergence at Cedar Rapids was legit. Christian Encarnacion-Strand is very intriguing to me – the 2021 fourth-rounder mashed to a 1.022 OPS in pitcher-friendly Ft. Myers last summer after starring for Oklahoma State. Like Sabato, he's 22. Plenty of potential bats in the pipeline. But the real dark horse here is José Miranda. I don't have him listed among the prospects or depth at this position because he's got enough glove to not be considered a long-term DH candidate, but Miranda's bat may force the issue. If he's raking in St. Paul while the various timeshare partners aren't inspiring for the Twins, the reigning Minor League Player of the Year is a mere shuttle away. A nice little ace in the hole. THE BAD Most of Minnesota's future DH impact is entirely theoretical, representing a stark change from the very reliable and material impact of Cruz. Sánchez is a nice piece there if he's mashing like he did early in his career. But between 2020 and '21 he slashed .187/.291/.406. Yeesh. Arraez, for as much as we all love him, was not a great offensive player last year. His punchless .294 average and .357 OBP yielded a 105 OPS+, meaning he was 5% better than average. You need more from a designated hitter. With Garver gone, Sanó is probably the most dependable impact bat the Twins can use at DH. For all the grief he gets, he was second on the team in home runs and RBIs last year, and he's only posted a below-average OPS once in seven seasons. I think I lost everyone when I used "Sanó" and "dependable" in the same sentence so I'll just move onto the next paragraph. It would be awesome to see Rooker grab the job and take hold of it. This is his moment. He's 27 and the raw power is special. His defensive shortcomings suggest that any major-league future will be at DH. Unfortunately, the Twins basically gave him everyday playing time after trading Cruz last year and Rooker did little to impress, slashing .219/.317/.425 with a 57-to-14 K/BB rate in 183 plate appearances. He's got an uphill battle for anything resembling regular tread. He might not even make it to Opening Day on the 40-man roster. Miranda, as amazing as he looked in the high minors last year, remains a theoretical big-league asset in his own right. Sabato and Encarnacion-Strand even more so. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins face an uncertain future at designated hitter after parting ways with one of the best to ever do it. Expect to see plenty of Sánchez, Sanó and Arraez early on, with an open-ended roadmap after that. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field
  24. Projected Starter: Miguel Sanó Likely Backup: Alex Kirilloff Depth: Curtis Terry, José Miranda Prospects: Aaron Sabato THE GOOD Miguel Sanó is capable of putting forth production that would make him a prototypical slugging first baseman. We saw it in 2017, and in 2019, and at times last year. After shaking off a rough first two months in 2021, Sanó slashed .246/.325/.493 with 21 homers in 97 games starting on June 1st. He continues to hit the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, ranking in the 97th percentile for average exit velocity, 98th in max EV, 99th in hard-hit percentage, and 97th in barrel percentage. That's a guy who intimidates not only opposing pitchers, but also everyone around the infield who might get a drive sent their way. Sanó rebounded somewhat from a disappointing shortened 2020 campaign, although his overall numbers still left something to be desired – especially the .223 average and .312 on-base percentage. The 28-year-old hasn't since come close to replicating his 15.8% walk rate and .385 OBP as a rookie in 2015. Rediscovering a sense of selectiveness and discipline at the plate – sustainably, rather than in sporadic bursts – holds the key to resuscitating his dormant potential. If you've given up on that ability ever showing through again, I don't blame you. It's been a rough go. But as his batted-ball metrics illustrate, he still has it within him to be a dominant power hitter if he can rein in the strike zone control. And Sanó is now more fundamentally motivated than ever to do so. Pending a $14 million team option for 2023, he's due for free agency after this season, and as things currently stand Sanó will struggle to drive a market for his services. He could alter that outlook significantly with a season that harkens back to 2019, when he posted a .923 OPS with 34 home runs and 2.8 fWAR in just 105 games. This is a career-defining season for him, which helps explain why he openly committed to getting in better shape during the offseason. He looks pretty good physically in camp, but of course, the proof will be in the pudding. If Sanó can get back to the level of hitting we know he's capable of, he'll become a stellar complement to Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, and (maybe) Gary Sánchez as standout righty power bats in the lineup. If Sanó falls back into one of this familiar ruts, the Twins may accelerate their plan to move on and entrench Kirilloff at first base, given the lack of future commitment. It's a nice fallback to have available, because Kirilloff clearly has enough bat for the position and his defense looked terrific there during brief glimpses last year. THE BAD The Twins were already in the process of writing Sanó out of their plans last summer. He'd essentially been demoted to part-time player status by June, with Kirilloff drawing regular starts at first as the team's clearly preferred option. From June 18th through July 18th, Sanó started 12 of Minnesota’s 24 games, including just nine at first base. Then Kirilloff underwent wrist surgery, and Sanó regained the starting first base job by default. To his credit, he made the most of it, slashing .250/.346/.504 from the date of Kirilloff's surgery to the end of the season. That's nearly identical to the line he put forth during an All-Star 2017 campaign (.264/.352/.507). It's unclear Sanó can afford another start like he got off to in 2021, when he slashed .141/.295/.256 through mid-May while the team tanked into an inescapable early hole. As things stand, however, the Twins need Kirilloff in left field. Maybe Trevor Larnach re-establishes himself to negate that need, or the Twins add another veteran outfielder, but right now they're somewhat reliant on Sanó at first. THE BOTTOM LINE The long-term outlook at this position is strong with Kirilloff waiting in the wings, but for now things are in flux. Will Sanó shake off his consistency struggles of the past two seasons and reaffirm his status as a cornerstone for the Twins? Doing so would not only give him a chance to hang on at first base this year, but also potentially extend his tenure with the club for another year (perhaps as a DH?). If not, we may be reaching the end of the road for Sanó and Minnesota, and dawning a new era at first base. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Roster Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Become a Twins Daily caretaker
  25. In recent years, Nelson Cruz was penciled in as the team's primary designated hitter, and he performed at a high level in this role. Throughout the offseason, the Twins planned to rotate through various players in the DH role, but there has been a roster turnover since the lockout ended. Here are some of the names expected to fill the DH role in 2022. Gary Sánchez 2021 Stats: .204/.307/.423 (.730), 13 2B, 23 HR, 121 K, 117 G It seems likely for Sánchez to get the majority of his at-bats in the DH role this season because he is atrocious behind the plate. Sánchez has played 74 games as a DH for his career while hitting .224/.306/.469 (.775) with 11 doubles and 19 home runs. If Ryan Jeffers misses time or struggles, Sánchez will be pressed into service behind the plate. He's also in his final year of team control, and he likely wants to hit the market known for being a catcher and not just as a DH. There is an outside chance that Minnesota will include Sánchez in a trade before Opening Day, and then the team will have to turn to other DH options. Miguel Sanó 2021 Stats: .223/.312/.466 (.778), 24 2B, 30 HR, 183 K, 135 G Expectations were for Sanó to be used more regularly at the DH spot this season with Cruz out of the picture. Since switching to first base, he's made marginal defensive improvements, but SABR's SDI ranks him as the second-worst defensive first baseman. Also, Sanó isn't a stranger to the DH position as he's played nearly as many games at DH (155) as first base (195). He has a .753 OPS as the DH for his career, which is lower than when he plays a defensive position. Minnesota has a $14 million team option attached to Sanó with a $2.75 million buyout for next season. That's a steep price to pay for someone that has shifted to a more regular DH role. Brent Rooker 2021 Stats: .201/.291/.397 (.688), 10 2B, 9 HR, 70 K, 58 G Rooker has run out of things to prove in the minor leagues as he has a .932 OPS in nearly an entire season at Triple-A. The 27-year-old was used sporadically at the big-league level in 2020-21, and a DH role might be his best shot to earn a permanent role. Last season, he lost out on an Opening Day roster spot because the team was concerned with his defensive ability in the outfield. Those concerns likely remain, but Rooker is already behind the aforementioned names, and he may be relegated to a bench role this season. Other Options All three players mentioned seem to fit the prototypical DH mold, but others on the Twins roster will have the opportunity to fill the DH spot. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has preached a mantra around giving players adequate rest, including moving a regular position player to the DH role for the day. Four outfielders currently project to make the Opening Day roster, so one of those players could fill in at DH on any given day. Besides the outfielders, Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco have played through in-season injuries in the past. A day at DH may take some of the wear and tear off their knees (Arraez) and ankles (Polanco). Jose Miranda is also coming off a tremendous season, but he doesn't have a clear roster spot this spring. Would the team consider bringing him up to get at-bats in a DH role? Some other powerful prospects like Matt Wallner and Aaron Sabato are also working their way towards Target Field. Minnesota's DH plan seemed much clearer at the beginning of the offseason, but those plans have changed. Now, these options seem worse than the Twins' production out of the DH spot with Cruz. Should Twins fans be worried about production from the DH spot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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