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  1. There is a small chance the Twins will consider a reunion with Nelson Cruz, but a few factors will impact his return. First of all, his performance significantly declined after being traded to the Rays. Secondly, there is a good chance the National League adds the DH for 2022, which opens the possibility of Cruz signing with many other teams. Cruz was outstanding during his time in Minnesota, but it seems likely for the Twins to move on for next season. After the Cruz trade, the Twins started using a rotational system at DH for various reasons. "We saw the benefit play through the season, whether it was [Donaldson] -- he was dealing with a couple of things along the way, and if he wasn't feeling the best, he could go DH for a day," Derek Falvey said. "[Jorge] Polanco, right? As well as anybody, maybe go get him a day. Get him off his feet. Maybe not play second today, but go DH. So the benefits are the ability to rotate through." There are obvious benefits to playing Josh Donaldson at DH. In recent years, Donaldson's health has been a concern, but playing him at DH can give his legs a break while still keeping his bat in the line-up. However, in 2021, Donaldson's OPS was nearly 170 points lower when serving as the team's DH. Donaldson isn't the team's only option at DH, especially if they will use a rotational system. Out of players on the Twins, Miguel Sanó best fits the mold of a traditional DH as he is a power-hitting slugger who struggles on the ball's defensive side. Sanó was the second-worst defensive first baseman in 2021, and the Twins have a natural replacement at the position. Alex Kirilloff can see defensive time at first base or in the outfield, with him having a chance to be an above-average defensive first baseman. Throughout his career, Sanó has over 645 plate appearances as a DH, and he has hit .230/.336/.417 (.753). Another potential option is to get Mitch Garver more regular at-bats by using him as a DH. Manager Rocco Baldelli likes to give his catchers regular rest, and that's one of the reasons Garver has only started 18 games at DH throughout his career. Falvey knows it is essential to keep Garver's bat in the line-up, and he said that he could get more time at DH and first base next season. There are plenty of other options for the Twins at DH. Jorge Polanco is coming off his best big-league season, but he has struggled with ankle issues in the past. Brent Rooker has little left to prove in the minor leagues, and there have been questions about his defensive skills in the past. Luis Arraez slid into the utility role last season, and his bat is tough to keep out of the line-up if he is healthy. Because of the players listed above, Minnesota seems destined to use a rotational system at DH next season. There is also a chance the team adds other offensive options in free agency, which would add another bat to the DH equation. How do you think the Twins approach the DH spot next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email.
  2. The 2021 season was the ninth straight season where SABR's Defensive Index (SDI) was used as part of the voting process for awarding Gold Gloves. Votes from managers and coaches count for 75% of the final results, while SDI is worth approximately 25%. According to SABR, "The SDI draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts, including data from MLBAM's Statcast, Sports Information Solutions, and STATS, LLC." Here is where qualified Twins players finished in the SDI rankings along with some places where Minnesota can improve in 2022: Catcher: Ryan Jeffers (1.0 SDI) Among qualified AL catchers, Ryan Jeffers finished eighth according to SDI. Oakland's Sean Murphy won the Gold Glove and was the AL leader at 6.8 SDI. Jeffers has been touted for his catching ability throughout his professional career, and some of those results showed up on the field last season. However, his struggles at the plate forced the team to demote him to Triple-A, limiting him to 85 big-league games in 2021. Jeffers may see his playing time increase next season if the Twins decide to trade Mitch Garver this winter. First Base: Miguel Sanó (-5.6 SDI) First base can be one of the team's most straightforward defensive fixes for 2022. Only one AL first baseman, Boston's Bobby Dalbec, ranked lower than Miguel Sanó when it comes to SDI. Alex Kirilloff is a better defender at first base, and he should start to get more reps at that position next season. Sanó can rotate through first base and designated hitter roles depending on the pitching match-up on any given day. First base defense can be overlooked, but Kirilloff presents an easy upgrade for the Twins. Second Base: Jorge Polanco (2.8 SDI) Last winter, Minnesota made a significant defensive upgrade at second base by moving Jorge Polanco away from shortstop. He finished the season as the AL's fourth highest-ranked second baseman, according to SDI. Polanco stayed healthy for all of 2021, and the results speak for themselves on both sides of the ball. Minnesota gave Polanco 39 appearances at shortstop last year, and the team is in the market for a shortstop this winter. It's in the team's best interest to keep Polanco at second base for the long term. Third Base: Luis Arraez (1.4 SDI) Josh Donaldson has been considered a solid defensive player throughout his career, but he didn't make enough defensive appearances to appear on the SDI Leaderboard. Luis Arraez finished fifth among AL third basemen according to SDI, which may come as a surprise. Minnesota moved Arraez to a utility role entering last season because his defense was below average at second base. Arraez, Donaldson, and Jose Miranda will all get time at third base in 2022. This is quite the defensive turnaround for Arraez, and it is certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (11.8 SDI) Even in a poor offensive season, Andrelton Simmons ranked among baseball's best on the defensive side of the ball. Houston's Carlos Correa, the eventual Gold Glove winner, was the lone player ranked higher than Simmons among AL shortstops. In fact, only two players, Correa and Kansas City's Michael Taylor, finished with a higher SDI. The only way to keep this kind of defensive output at shortstop is to sign Correa to a giant contract or keep Simmons around on a cheap deal. Outfield: Max Kepler (5.4 SDI) Max Kepler was the only player to make enough appearances to qualify for the season-ending leaderboard among Minnesota's outfielders. He finished fifth among AL right-fielders when it came to SDI. There is an argument to be made that he should have been one of the Gold Glove finalists at his position. One of the easiest ways for Minnesota to improve its outfield defense is to have Byron Buxton on the field more regularly. An outfield with Buxton and Kepler can make up for whatever player roams in left field for the club. Where do you think the Twins can make the most defensive improvement next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Both Miguel Sano and Josh Donaldson are polarizing Twins players for differing reasons. The former is a hulking slugger that crushes mammoth blasts but goes through cold spells where it seems his bat has a literal hole in it. The latter is a talented slugger that holds down the hot corner but can often not be counted upon when it comes to consistent availability. This offseason, both could be on the trading block, but any return would likely focus on a re-allocation of funds rather than the asset joining the organization. Let’s first take a look at Sano. Miguel is owed $9.25 million in 2022 with a $2.75 million buyout in 2023. Minnesota is on the hook for $12 million over the next two seasons at worst. After a few years stunted by injuries, Sano played in 53 (of 60) games during 2020 and 135 last season. His .778 OPS was a far cry from the .923 mark he posted during the Bomba Squad season of 2019, but he did return the on-base percentage north of .300. His 112 OPS+ puts him just north of league average, although he was worth just 0.4 fWAR after contributing 0.5 in roughly one-third the number of games during 2020. Looking at Fangraphs valuation of fWAR, Sano has been worth just $3.5 and $4.2 million each of the past two seasons. Despite having entered Spring Training in better shape the past few years, he’s just never stayed consistent enough to produce at a high level. Unfortunately, it’s not just the Twins that are aware of this. Sano would almost undoubtedly clear waivers if Minnesota wanted to go that route, which means no one is trading for him and the current price that comes along with it. The Twins would need to eat a significant salary with even a tiny hope of bringing a warm body back in return. Internally there are immediate options to replace Sano. Alex Kirilloff becomes your everyday first basemen, and the designated hitter role gets to be a revolving door. That’s not a terrible thing, but I’m also not sure that keeping Sano as a bottom-of-the-lineup slugger sets you back at all. The cost is already sunk on Miguel, and without the ability to generate enough relief to swap him out with another impact player, riding the final season out seems wise. On Donaldson, the situation is different as he’s an above-average talent. Playing 135 games for Minnesota in 2021, coincidentally the same amount as Sano, he posted an .827 OPS. The former American League MVP has an .829 OPS in Minnesota across 163 games. He missed significant time in 2020 and then was hurt early on in 2021. Down the stretch, he became a reliable contributor but did need to be shut down in the field for a period due to his nagging calf issues. The Bringer of Rain will be 36 in 2022 and is still owed at least $51.5 million through 2023. Putting up 2.2 fWAR last season, Fangraphs valued Donaldson’s worth just north of $17 million. That still falls below the $21.75 million the Twins are on the hook annually for, and he last had back-to-back seasons of at least 3.0 fWAR in 2017. I don’t think there’s any denying that Donaldson is still a very good player and that a competing Twins team should want his talent in their lineup. He is, however, not $21 million a year good and carries a significant injury risk while continuing to age. The Twins could certainly get something nice in return for Donaldson, but it’s not going to come without eating close to half of his remaining salary and will likely be in the form of a future prospect. Ultimately I’m not sure that either player makes sense to trade if the Twins want to compete. Both Sano and Donaldson bring value to the lineup, and while their cost certainly outweighs that fact, the alternative option for either isn’t necessarily a desirable avenue. Minnesota can be done with Sano after this season should they choose, and the year ahead could provide a more straightforward path for Donaldson’s future as well. Roll with both, allow Jose Miranda to be an internal backup plan on either, and leave the spending to other areas of the roster. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. To be clear, the scenario we're hypothesizing here is not a commitment to a rebuild, which could involve gutting the payroll, trading stars for distant prospects, and letting the kids run. Instead, we're trying to depict what it might look like if the organization says, "We still want to compete, we still want to spend, but the current mix just isn't working." It will involve keeping some core pieces in place, but unloading large or expiring contracts and charting a new, dramatically different course for the franchise. This means starting with... THE SUBTRACTIONS Trade 1B Miguel Sanó to San Diego Padres for OF Samuel Zavala This is mainly a salary dump. The Twins owe Sanó $9.25M in 2022, with a $3M team option for 2023, so I have them picking up that option amount (added to the "Dead Money" section) while San Diego takes on the rest of his salary and exchanges a lotto ticket in 17-year-old Samuel Zavala. He's an athletic rookie-ball outfielder ranked as the organization's #17 prospect. This idea presumes that universal DH is implemented, which seems like a safe bet. The championship-minded Padres could use more pop in the lineup, with first baseman Eric Hosmer and the corner outfielders not providing a ton. Trade 3B Josh Donaldson to Washington Nationals for RHP Joan Adon and LHP Matt Cronin Another trade aimed more at salary relief than upgrading talent. This swap was proposed by J.D. Cameron in his story for the Offseason Handbook, so I'll just repurpose it here because it seems like a reasonable framework for a Donaldson deal: Washington sends a couple of mid-tier pitching prospects (ranked #12 and #22 in their system) while taking on two-thirds of JD's remaining commitment. The Twins eat the rest of his salary, so $7M gets added to the Dead Money pool. Trade OF Byron Buxton to Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Mick Abel and RHP Francisco Morales Here the Twins start getting some real value back. If they determine that an extension with Buxton can't be reached, this is the logical path. Philadelphia reportedly expressed interest in Buxton around the deadline, so here the two sides revisit and strike an accord now that the star center fielder is healthy. For a cost-efficient final year of Buxton's control, Philadelphia gives up its #1 pitching prospect in Abel, who was drafted 15th overall in 2020 (10 picks after Austin Martin) and was ranked by MLB Pipeline ahead of this season as the game's #76 prospect. Abel offers plentiful upside, but he's still a ways off (pitched in Single-A this year and turned 20 in August). To round out the package, Philly adds in Morales, their #6-ranked prospect. He's 22 and reached Triple-A this season, and would bring further depth to Minnesota's substantial crop of near-ready arms in the minors. To be clear, I don't personally endorse a move like this – I think failing to retain Buxton would be a colossal mistake – but if they can't make an extension happen, this feels like a reasonable way to soften the blow by acquiring some quality talent in offsetting the loss. Non-tender Taylor Rogers Of course a trade would be preferable, but in this scenario I'm assuming the Twins (and other teams) don't feel confident enough in his injured finger to tender an offer in the $7M range, because they feel they can make that money stretch further in free agency. (We'll get to the reallocation of these funds in the bullpen shortly.) THE ADDITIONS A lineup that's lost three key fixtures in Sanó, Donaldson in Buxton now needs an infusion, and of course there are still those three open rotation spots to address – not to mention a closer spot to fill. The good news is that the above moves have left us with about $85M in spending money for 2022 (assuming a steady $130M payroll). Let's take advantage of this flexibility with a free-agent spending spree, led by two landmark signings that radically reshape the franchise's identity. Sign SP Robbie Ray to a 5-year, $125M contract At long last, the Twins make their long-awaited plunge into the deep end of the pitching market, signing Ray to the largest free agent contract in team history, coming off a spectacular season in Toronto that will likely earn the Cy Young Award. Ray led the league in strikeouts, innings, and ERA. It had the looks of a true breakout for the 30-year-old, but Ray's mediocre previous run (4.53 ERA from 2018 through 2020) should keep him out of the Gerrit Cole range, meaning the Twins could plausibly win a bidding war. So, we've got our rotation-fronter. Now we turn our attention to a big splash at the shortstop position to counteract the significant subtraction of electricity from Buxton and others. Sign SS Javier Báez to a 4-year, $88M contract Like Ray, Báez is a high-tier prospect in his free agent class, but not quite at the top because he has some warts. Namely, Báez hasn't been all that great the past couple years. But in 2018 and 2019 he broke out as a superstar, finishing as MVP runner-up in the former. Báez would be well worth the $22M AAV if he his 2021 performance (3.6 fWAR) becomes his norm, but the Twins are banking on a return to form of sorts from the 29-year-old. He becomes a cornerstone next to Jorge Polanco, while the Twins hope that one of Royce Lewis, Austin Martin, or Gilberto Celestino can emerge in center to solidify their long-term strength up the middle. WIth that, we turn our attention back to the rotation. Sign SP Eduardo Rodriguez to a 3-year, $36M contract Rodriguez's advanced metrics shine a much more favorable light on him than his ERA, so it'll be interesting to see how the market gauges him. Based on FanGraphs' value calculation, E-Rod's 3.8 fWAR with Boston in 2021 made him worth nearly $30M; his record of durability and his age (only 28) help his case as well. Still, it's hard to see someone signing Rodriguez to a mega-deal coming off a 4.74 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. This looks like the type of opportunistic buy-low play the Twins aspire toward. The framework and approach are not dissimilar to the Rangers' (highly effective) strategy in free agent signings like Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson. Sign OF Mark Canha to a 3-year, $30M contract Even with Baez added to the mix, the position player group still needs more veteran reinforcements to aid the internally-driven evolution of the lineup. Canha looks like a nice fit – he's a right-handed bat capable of playing left field, center, and first base. On-base skills are his calling card, as illustrated by a .377 OBP over the past three seasons. He's been a steady fixture for the A's. There will surely be some reservations about handing the reins to Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach as starters. Canha's presence in the lineup mitigates the rookie risk by provide needed experience and leadership. Sign RP Raisel Iglesias to a 2-year, $16M contract The loss of Rogers obviously leaves a huge hole at the end of the bullpen. To address it, we're signing Iglesias coming off a great year with the Angels. His track record as a closer (134 saves and a 2.87 ERA over the past five years) may have yielded a bigger deal in years past, but I wonder if the league's generally declining fixation on the save statistic – along with a competitive high end of free agency that also includes Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Mark Melancon – might keep Iglesias relatively affordable. The FA relief market is notoriously volatile, but Iglesias looks like as much of a sure thing as you're going to find. (Of course, the same could've been said about Addison Reed when they the Twins signed him to a similar deal in 2018.) In case you can't tell, I'm not too enthusiastic about throwing guaranteed money at relievers, which is why this is my only significant move in the bullpen. But in order for this unit to have a fighting chance, we needed at least one. Sign SP Corey Kluber to a 1-year, $7M contract We've got a bit of money left and one key vacancy to account for: the third rotation spot. Kluber fits the bill as a short-term stopgap with some upside. Since signing his one-year, $11 deal with the Yankees for 2021, Kluber has gotten a year older and dealt with more injuries. His velocity was down, he was limited to 16 starts and 80 innings, and he did not appear in the postseason. With that said, the 35-year-old showed enough positive signs while on the field – 3.83 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 9.2 K/9 rate, above-average ratings in many key Statcast metrics – to merit belief that his tank is not yet emptied. SUMMARY This plan represents a complete change in direction for the Twins, both substantively and stylistically. In Buxton, Donaldson, and Sanó, we're losing our three most established power bats, eschewing the homer-driven Bomba Squad offensive model in search of greater balance and a youth infusion. I'd imagine an Opening Day lineup that looks something like this: Arraez, 3B Baez, SS Polanco, 2B Kirilloff, 1B Garver, DH Kepler, CF Canha, LF Larnach, RF Jeffers, C On the pitching side, Ray and Rodriguez become veteran building blocks – to be rejoined by Kenta Maeda in 2023 – as the system feeds the rest of the rotation. We're counting on Iglesias to become an anchor in the back of the bullpen, supported by returns of Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, and Juan Minaya. Would the Twins actually follow a path this drastic during the offseason? I doubt it. But there are signs that a significant shakeup could be at hand. This blueprint shows a semi-extreme version of what this could look like in practice. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Falvine Strike Out on Starting Pitchers With José Berríos in Toronto and Kenta Maeda out for at least the first half of 2022, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan are the only likely 2022 rotation pieces that are actually on the roster right now. Michael Pineda seems somewhat likely to come back into the fold but that’s no guarantee, and even then, the Twins would need a top-end arm to get the rotation even close to competitive. Cody Christie wrote a compelling argument last week that Falvey and Levine need to cut a big check for a starter, and I tend to agree that without one of the big-money guys, this rotation could look pretty gory, and not in a good way. I guess this is only really scary if you believe the Twins offense can be competitive—as I believe they can—because a young, learning-on-the-job rotation isn’t a bad thing if the team wouldn’t be good anyway. But this team can be good with a solid rotation, so it’d be best not to miss out. Miguel Sanó Never “Figures It Out” Of all the scenarios in this article, this is perhaps the most likely. Miguel Sanó isn’t a bad player. He’s a beast with exit velocity and hard-hit percentage numbers. However, as Twins fans, we seem to struggle to accept that those benefits are always going to come with one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. We seem to think that, someday, something will click and the strikeouts will stop, his average will creep up towards .250, and his OPS will rise to .900+. What if that never happens? What if this is who he always is? Again, he’s not bad, but if who he is now is what he’ll always be, then we have a bad defensive first baseman who strikes out a lot out of the six hole in the lineup, and is borderline unplayable when he’s in a slump. Are the 30 homers a year worth that trouble? That’s a question for more analytical minds than mine to figure out, but I think that type of reality is one we have to come to terms with as the expectation for Sanó’s career, as scary as that may be. Andrelton Simmons Being on the 2022 Roster The Twins signed Simmons last January after reportedly missing out late on Marcus Semien. Then, Semien hit 45 bombs, and Simmons was one of the least impressive hitters in all of baseball, so we’ve already lived this nightmare. Simmons is a free agent again this winter, and he’ll be available for a lot less money than the front office spent for him last winter. And, given how committed the team was to putting his useless bat in the lineup almost every night last season, it doesn’t take much imagination to see them bringing him back in. The Twins certainly can’t trot him out as the Opening Day shortstop (talk about nightmare), but I don’t want the stink of his 2021 campaign anywhere close to the 2022 squad, even if it’s just as a backup utility infielder. The Next Wave of Prospects Falls Short About a year ago, the Twins’ plan seemed clear: the current core was fresh off two straight division titles and was poised to transition perfectly into the years of Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Ryan Jeffers, and Trevor Larnach. However, 2021 didn’t go well for either the current stars of the team or for those pegged to be next up. The current Twins fell well short of their playoff expectations, Lewis lost his season, Kirilloff was good-not-great and had surgery, and Larnach and Jeffers couldn’t stay up in the big leagues. Now, Kirilloff and Larnach gave us signs that there is real reason for optimism for the next wave of talent, but it often seems that, with prospects, blind optimism is the norm. And I’m not saying it’s worth a whole lot of concern, but there is a scary scenario out there where these guys just don’t live up to the lofty expectations we’ve given them. Byron Buxton Leaves Okay, so I saved the scariest scenario surrounding this team for last. The Byron Buxton extension talks have been well-documented because he’s the most-talented Twin since Joe Mauer and when healthy, plays something like pre-steroid-era Barry Bonds. Obviously, the concern is his constant injury problems, as he hasn’t played 100 games in a season since 2017. But, though it’s hard to commit a $17 million-a-year extension to a guy who may not be in the lineup half the time, the alternative is worse. Think of what Eddie Rosario is doing right now for Atlanta, except that happens all the time and it’s for the Yankees or some other crazy rich club. That’s the nightmare scenario we’re trying to avoid. And, based on the Twins’ history with former players popping off after leaving the club, Buxton may never get injured again if Derek and Thad let him walk. Did I scare you enough? Let me know in the comments!
  6. After the Minnesota Twins fleeced the Tampa Bay Rays by swapping Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, they officially ended their two-and-a-half year run with a consistent designated hitter. For the first time since 2018, Rocco Baldelli had to consider who would take on that role each night when filling out his lineup card. Cruz had earned top-10 American League MVP consideration each of the past two seasons, but moving on was the right choice. A free agent looking ahead to 2022, Cruz could undoubtedly be brought back by the Twins if the parties wanted. Considering that he’s now 41-years-old and posted just a .725 OPS in 55 games with Tampa Bay, a reunion seems unnecessary. Minnesota’s lineup should be viewed as a strength with players currently within the organization plugged into it. The need for another bat-only type of player falls well down the ladder on the list of essentials. Most important, though, lineup flexibility is paramount to the playing time of talent at the big league level. Baldelli needs to figure out how to accommodate Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff, and Miguel Sano on a near-nightly basis. Brent Rooker hasn’t quite established himself as a necessary piece for me, but he’s in the mix, and Trevor Larnach should be expected to re-emerge quickly too. That’s a total of five names for two positions and comes without even mentioning Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year Jose Miranda. Given the reality that Josh Donaldson is entrenched at third base (but would benefit from rotational DH duties) and Jorge Polanco will play up the middle, having rotation ability at the designated hitter spot makes too much sense. I have no idea whether Miranda will hit at the big-league level like he did at Double and Triple-A. I would assume that he’s ready but will take his lumps like any young player. Larnach and Rooker both have plenty to prove, and to be frank, so too does Kirilloff. Sano is a streaky hitter but benefits from consistent at-bats and possesses 30 home run power. While you’re dealing in uncertainty with this blueprint, the same could be said about a reunion with a 41-year-old displaying a slight decline. Even if the idea is not Cruz, signing anyone to take up 140 games worth of designated hitter at-bats would be putting roster construction in a corner for the Twins. Arguably the most significant positive here is that allocation of funds can be focused elsewhere. It’s not as though Cruz’s $13 million pact in 2021 was back-breaking, but re-upping on that or doling out something similar for another option (though I don’t think Kyle Schwarber hits the open market) would be taking away funds from more pressing needs. Many teams have made a rotational designated hitter work. It’s great to have a guy you can count on to go out and rake. Still, it’s also limiting in terms of flexibility, and as the Twins transition towards a new identity (this doesn’t need to be the Bomba Squad anymore, and hasn’t been), finding who fits the mold offensively is about pushing the right buttons. Allow the skipper to do so. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. The Twins finished 27th overall in production from their first basemen according to FanGraphs' WAR (-0.2) during the 2021 season, with only Cleveland (-0.7), Pittsburgh (-0.9), and Kansas City (-1.0) winding up below them. (These were the only four teams to accumulate negative fWAR.) Despite ranking sixth in home runs (45), Twins' first basemen were 24th in wRC+ (97) and 29th in FanGraphs' defensive runs above average stat (-25.7). In short, Twins' first basemen, as a group, were terrible this past summer. Of course, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who regularly tuned into the games. Miguel Sanó struggled mightily for most of the season before a hot August, and September resulted in quasi-respectable cumulative stats (30 home runs, 110 wRC+, .778 OPS). Alex Kirilloff shone brightly for 59 games before a wrist injury hampered his power, and the corresponding surgery in July sidelined him for the remainder of the season. As a result, Willians Astudillo appeared far more at first base than the Twins originally planned or his skills warranted. Arguably the best solution for the Twins' first base woes is also the easiest and most likely: Move Kirilloff to the bag and Sanó to designated hitter full-time. Kirilloff produced a 1.4 UZR in 213 ⅔ innings at first base last season, representing a slightly above average total. On the other hand, Sanó has accumulated -10.0 UZR at first base throughout his career and has never produced a positive value in a season in which he has played more than 50 innings at the position. Kirilloff's sample is too small to draw any firm conclusions — FanGraphs recommends at least three seasons of data before seeking to do so — but his early results are encouraging. Moving him to first base full-time would likely boost the team's fWAR and UZR numbers while maintaining a similar level of power at his peak. Sanó's presence at DH would also help fill the void left by Nelson Cruz's trade to the Tampa Bay Rays. Secondarily, the Twins could make Kirilloff the primary first baseman, move on from Sano, seek backups in either the free agent, waiver, or trade market, or rely on their prospects to fill in part-time. The first base free-agent class is heavy at the top with names such as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo and lacks overall depth, making an acquisition of that nature unlikely. Likewise, trades for primary backups are rare unless said backup provides value at other positions. As such, perhaps the most logical solution in this scenario would be to have Jose Miranda serve as a utilityman, filling in at third, second, and first base, assuming Josh Donaldson remains on the roster. Miranda played 225 innings at first base across Double- and Triple-A last summer, committing two errors. Many evaluators — present company included — believe he is best defensively at third due to several factors: arm strength, feel for the glove, and range. Still, he could function well at first base in spot situations. Regardless of the path they ultimately take, the Twins need more from their first basemen if they wish to be competitive during the 2022 season. Moving a healthy Kirilloff into the role is most logical and would likely provide a boost both offensively and defensively. From there, it's on the shoulders of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to make the proper decisions. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Read more from Lucas here
  8. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 200 PLATE APPEARANCES TO QUALIFY* JORGE POLANCO 2021: 152 games, .269/.323/.503 (125 OPS+), 33 HR, 35 2B, 98 RBI, 18% K, 7% BB Undoubtedly the brightest star on the 2021 Twins, Polanco ultimately surged after a troubling start. Written off by many following a disappointing 2020 and treacherous April, "Polo" hit .279/.333/.541 with 32 homers and 31 doubles over his last 129 games. He hit a remarkable .333 with a 1.048 OPS with runners in scoring position. Polanco’s outstanding season didn’t offset the overall disappointment of the team but provided positivity and hope in times of need for Twins fans. He is one of the few sure things for 2022. That’s important. Polo was a much better second baseman than shortstop, ranking almost dead even in Outs Above Average (OAA) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). It went as well as any could’ve hoped. GRADE: A+ JOSH DONALDSON 2021: 135 games, .247/.352/.475 (127 OPS+), 26 HR, 26 2B, 72 RBI, 21% K, 13.6% BB Donaldson’s season halted before it started when he came up lame while running out a double on Opening Day. His leg horrors had returned, and it once again looked like his season would be significantly compromised. Donaldson indeed dealt with some aliments along the way, but he never again landed on the IL and produced his customary, strong season. He ranked fifth among MLB third baseman in wRC+ (124) and ninth in Win Probability Added (1.45). Defensively, Donaldson was average at third base. The perception of JD’s campaign might differ if he hadn’t started 0-for-18 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Or if he didn’t miss half the season in 2020. All-in-all, he remains one of the best third basemen in the world. GRADE: B MIGUEL SANÓ 2021: 135 games, .223/.312/.466 (113 OPS+), 30 HR, 24 2B, 75 RBI, 34% K, 11% BB By the time he got going at the plate, the Twins were out of contention, and many had tuned out. That’s an unfortunate reality, as Sanó was both healthy and productive for the season’s final three months. The streaky nature of Sanó’s game was on full display again in 2021. He was unplayable out of the gate, hitting .157/.271/.381 over his first 40 games. The Twins moved him to a platoon role, and he responded by hitting .250/.329/.500 with 21 homers over his last 377 plate appearances, earning back his starting job. It’s hard to argue that Sanó notably contributed to the team, evidenced by his 0.4 Wins Above Replacement mark at FanGraphs. But finishing with 30 homers after such a brutal start certainly helped his stock. GRADE: C- MITCH GARVER 2021: 68 games, .256/.358/.517 (140 OPS+), 13 HR, 15 2B, 34 RBI, 29.2%, 12.8% BB Like Polanco and Sanó, Garver got off to a brutal start, hitting .161/.212/.387 with 12 strikeouts and two walks in his first 33 plate appearances. And like his counterparts, he quickly turned it around. In 102 plate appearances from April 16th until June 1st, Garver hit .247/.373/.541 with six homers and seven doubles. His walk rate climbed to nearly 17% over that span. Sadly, a brutal injury knocked him out for the next month and a half. Garver returned and was even better, hitting .297 with a .927 OPS over his final 27 games. The Sauce was back as a premier offensive catcher, and he also ranked in the 93rd percentile in framing. GRADE: A- RYAN JEFFERS 2021: 85 G, .199/.270/.401 (83 OPS+), 14 HR, 10 2B, 3B, 35 RBI, 37% K, 7.5% BB The Twins thrust Jeffers into an unfavorable role from the outset, with Garver getting the starts against lefties and the rookie left to deal with right-handers. It didn’t go well. Jeffers went 5-for-34 (.147) with 18 strikeouts and three walks in April which earned him a spot on the Saints roster. Called up and handed the reigns after Garver went down, Jeffers hit lefties reasonably well and had some stretches of productivity. The sky-high strikeout rate and lack of consistent walks are both issues, but Jeffers graded favorably on the defensive side with above-average framing. The Twins will likely leave their Designated Hitter hole open for rotation in 2022. This allows Garver and Jeffers to start against lefties, which is a much better plan for the duo than the 2021 misread. GRADE: D+ ANDRELTON SIMMONS 2021: 131 games, .223/.283/.274 (57 OPS+), 3 HR, 12 2B, 31 RBI, 13.8% K, 7.1% BB The Twins signed Simmons to upgrade the infield defense drastically, a move that looked brilliant at the time. What they didn’t know is that he’d be one of the most extensive lineup holes they’ve had in years. Simmons’ .558 OPS is the lowest by a Twin in over 20 years (min. 450 PA). Simmons entered the season with a career .696 OPS. His defense was close to as advertised. Simmons ranked second to Nicky Lopez among AL shortstops in Outs Above Average (16) and second to Carlos Correa in Defensive Runs Saved (14). Still, it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for a historically bad offensive performance. Simmons went 9-for-20 out of the gate and then hit .212/.265/.258 with 12 extra-base hits the rest of the way. GRADE: D NICK GORDON 2021: 73 G, .240/.292/.355 (79 OPS+), 4 HR, 9 2B, 3B, 23 RBI, 10 SB, 25% K, 6% BB Gordon reaching the Twins is a significant accomplishment in itself. He went through a lot to finally land in the bigs, and he earned an extended look down the stretch. Gordon hit .263/.316/.391 with 14 extra-base hits over his first 66 games before going one for his last 21. He held his own at multiple defensive spots, instilling confidence in many that he could fill a utility role for the team in 2022 and beyond. Gordon logged innings at second base, shortstop, third base, centerfield, left field, and right field. There’s definite value in that. Gordon’s overall line isn’t fantastic, and he’ll need to draw more walks or strike out less to improve offensively. There’s some power in his bat, he’s great on the bases, and his versatility is tantalizing. GRADE: B- 2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES Starting Pitchers Infielders Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! Outfielders - Coming Soon! 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  9. 10. April 6th: Byron Buxton off Jose Cisnero Distance: 451 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.1 mph, Launch Angle: 38° On the sixth day of the Twins’ young and (at the time) hopeful season, Byron Buxton came up in the eighth with the Twins trailing the Tigers by a run. He did his thing. This 451-foot blast tied the game, only to set the stage for the Twins’ second of many early season extra-inning losses. Interestingly, this homer has the highest launch angle of this list by far, and was the fifth-highest lofted homer of the Twins season. 9. June 30th: Nelson Cruz off Dylan Cease Distance: 453 feet, Exit Velocity: 110.9 mph Launch Angle: 25° This homer would be a lot cooler if the Twins weren’t getting throttled 11-1 by their division rivals at the time it was hit, but 453 feet is 453 feet. That eventual 13-3 loss was also the middle game of a three-game sweep for the White Sox that was played out over the backdrop of drama surrounding Josh Donaldson accusing Lucas Giolito of cheating. So, yeah, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most forgotten long homers of the year. But 453 feet is 453 feet. 8. April 1st: Byron Buxton off Eric Yardley Distance: 456 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.4 mph Launch Angle: 24° Man, early-season Buxton was a sight to see. Five days before hitting the first homer on this list, he hit this behemoth on Opening Day against the Brewers. The two-run shot came in the seventh with the Twins already leading by one, so it looked like the club was going to start the year on the right foot. Unfortunately, early-season Alex Colome was a sight to see for the opposite reason and blew a three-run lead, leading the Twins to their first extra-inning loss of the young campaign. T-6. June 10th: Nelson Cruz off Aroldis Chapman Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.4 mph Launch Angle: 23° This bomb carries a lot more cachet than Cruz’s first entry on this list. It wasn’t only against the hated Yankees, but it was a walk-off against the hated Yankees. And, Cruz turned around a 98-mph Aroldis Chapman fastball to do it. It did go to potentially the ugliest part of Target—landing somewhere in the vertical waste area between the bullpen and the batter’s eye—but who actually cares. It was a monster shot that made sure the good guys came out on top, at least for that night. (Nash named it the Best Moment for the 2021 season.) T-6. September 10th: Byron Buxton off Daniel Lynch Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.9 mph Launch Angle: 29° So, it turns out that Byron Buxton only hits massive homers in extra-inning losses. In this particular instance, Buxton’s 457-foot poke led off the game for the Twins and this was the first of four first-inning runs that only gave the Twins a one-run lead thanks to three Royals’ runs in the first. Kansas City got that run back and two more in the 11th to seal the Twins’ fate. For Buxton, this homer came amidst his coldest stretch of the season, but of course he got hot again, spawning hundreds of “please pay Buxton” takes from the contributors to this website. 5. July 26th: Brent Rooker off Matt Manning Distance: 460 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.1 mph Launch Angle: 29° As Ted tweeted, Brent Rooker murdered this baseball, and he chose the third deck in left field for its burial site. That’s super interesting and all, but the best part about this is Michael Pineda’s reaction. His extended grimace at watching Matt Manning’s hanger get demolished showed admirable loyalty to his fellow pitcher out there laboring on the mound. 4. May 24th: Trevor Larnach off John Means Distance: 461 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.2 mph Launch Angle: 24° Okay, so balls don’t land here. Larnach’s beautifully struck, 461-foot whopper landed perfectly in the Delta 360 Suite above the batter’s eye. That’s not a part of the park where you’re expecting a home run ball. Anyway, this was only Larnach’s second homer of his MLB career and launched him towards a pretty productive June and early July. Larnach later struggled as pitchers adjusted to him, but he remains a big part of the club’s future, and his 460+ foot power is a big reason why. 3. July 28th: Miguel Sanó off Joe Jimenez Distance: 473 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.8 mph Launch Angle: 30° Welcome to the Miguel Sanó portion of this list. Our favorite three-outcome hitter (only) hit three homers over 450 feet, but they were all over 470 feet. This particular bludgeoning (I’m running out of homer words) traveled 473 feet and was a part of a ridiculous, pitching-optional 17-14 loss to the Tigers. This was also Sanó’s second homer of the game and 17th of the year, reminding us all why we just can’t quit him. 2. August 18th: Miguel Sanó off Zach Plesac Distance: 475 feet, Exit Velocity: 113.9 mph Launch Angle: 27° This ball landed in Section 237, which is interesting for two reasons. First, there’s absolutely no way those green-shirted kids packed into the very cheap group-rate seats were expecting a home run ball, which is kind of cool. And secondly, the ball was hit (just barely) to the opposite field, and a 475-foot Oppo Taco is very cool. Sanó is nothing if not a very strong man. 1. August 25th: Miguel Sanó off Nick Pivetta Distance: 495 feet, Exit Velocity: 116.7 mph Launch Angle: 24° Speaking of balls landing where they’re not supposed to… what even happened here? Balls leave Fenway Park and spill onto Lansdowne Street all the time, but they don’t go to that part of Lansdowne Street. Balls will carry those Green Monster billboards every now and then, but they don’t carry that billboard and certainly not by that much. I mean, this ball might’ve put that famous Citgo sign in danger. Sanó’s nuke travelled 20 feet further than the next-longest Twins homer and was the longest in the majors by nine feet. Ted Williams famously hit a 502-foot blast in Fenway, but you’d be hard pressed to find another ball hit harder in that place's history than Sanó’s moonshot. Which homer from this year was your favorite? Let us know in the comments! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. 3. Buxton Blasts Burnes The Twins looked to flush a forgettable Opening Day in Game 2 of their season in Milwaukee. José Berríos started and dominated the National League Central champions. Berríos pitched six innings of no-hit ball with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. It was one of the best performances of his career and further evidenced his immense talent. Berríos would’ve owned the stage if not for Corbin Burnes, who matched him with six walk-less and hit-less innings. Burnes went on to lead baseball with an incredible 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, and 6.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Byron Buxton still wouldn’t be denied. With Burnes eight outs from a perfect game, Buxton roped a painted 96 mph cutter to Toyota Territory. It was the beginning of one of the most remarkable months by a player in Twins history. The Twins won 2-0. 2. Saturday Sanó Storm With the season quickly spiraling into the abyss and losses in eight of their last nine games, the Twins needed something positive. They trailed 4-2 with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland turned to Jake Diekman to face Miguel Sanó, who was 8-for-67 (.119) with only two extra-base hits in 21 games up to that Saturday. In one of the unlikeliest and best moments of the year, Sanó used his strength to muscle a homer just over the limestone in right field. It was precisely what he and the team needed, and it created hope that there could be something more in 2021. Of course, it was just a brief positive amid a lot of negativity. For Sanó, the homer kicked off a 10-game stretch where he hit six homers, three doubles, and produced an OPS over 1.150. 1. Crushing Chapman Once again at risk of a sweep to the Yankees, the Twins needed a miracle late. Aroldis Chapman trotted out from the bullpen with a two-run lead and a 0.39 ERA in 23 games. Opponents were hitting .097 and had struck out in over 50% of plate appearances against Chapman to that point. He might beat you nine times out of 10, but not that night. The Twins ambushed the imposing lefty. In just nine pitches, Chapman gave up four hits, including two monstrous two-run homers to Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. Beating the Yankees is always satisfying. To watch the two leaders of the team smash one of the best closers in the game at home made it extra special. Donaldson and Cruz showed Twins fans what could’ve (and should’ve) been in 2021’s best moment. That ninth inning also began a stretch where Chapman allowed 14 runs in 5 2/3 innings. What were your favorite moments from the season? Comment below!
  11. Coming off a pandemic-shortened 2020, the Twins did a solid job holding serve regarding payroll. While it dropped, it didn’t fall off a cliff. I don’t know where I expect Minnesota to be in terms of dollars this season, but I think we’re in for an offseason that sees some major-league assets moved. If that’s going to be the case, who are the combinations that are defined by value and expendability? Max Kepler I’m torn on the idea of moving Kepler, given the Twins commitment to getting more out of him. He posted just a .719 OPS this season, and it was a down year. He remains one of the best outfield defenders in baseball, however, and that has significant value. For a guy that plays on the corners, you’d certainly like to see the power production of 2019 return. Given his name was dangled at the deadline, I can’t imagine Minnesota is against the idea of moving him, but it’d need to be a situation where someone is parting with assets based on what they believe Kepler can be rather than what he is currently. Alex Kirilloff can fill some of the gap here, and Trevor Larnach is also an option should the Twins move on. Mitch Garver After a down year in the shortened 2020 season, Garver has rebounded with a vengeance. Mitch is back to hunting fastballs, and despite some fluke injuries this season, he put up impressive numbers from the minute he got settled in. His final 51 games were played to the tune of a .991 OPS. I’m reluctant to hand the reigns over to Ryan Jeffers full-time, but Garver is the older of the two, and this is a position where Minnesota could exploit the strength and use it to secure pitching help. The Twins don’t have much for a backup option unless they want to go defense only with Ben Rortvedt behind the plate. That said, a veteran backup shouldn’t cost much on the open market, and there’s plenty of names they could chase after. Cody recently did a great breakdown of a partner for Garver. Luis Arraez Once again near the top of the league in batting average, Luis Arraez continues to be as predictable as they come. 2021 was his first season with an average south of .300, but that’s more related to a late-season slide than it is the body of work. He is always going to hit, there’s not much in terms of speed or pop, and his glove is just ok in the field. What Minnesota has to determine is where Jorge Polanco will play and what they want to do at shortstop. Arraez is either a rotational player with plenty of avenues for playing time, or he’s a luxury that they can parlay into something more necessary. A lot of Arraez’s functionality for this club directly correlates to the build-out of their infield. Miguel Sano In the final year of his three-year extension, Sano will cost Minnesota just over $9 million this season. He hasn’t lived up to the .923 OPS he posted in 2019, but he has plenty of functionality as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He’s continued to post OPS+ numbers north of league average, and the power potential was once again evident in a season where he blasted 30 homers. I can’t imagine his value bringing back a whole lot for the Twins, but with the designated hitter expected to be league-wide, there may be more suitors interested in his services. I prefer the Twins don’t utilize a consistent batter as a designated hitter this season, but that’s definitely where Sano is at his best. Rocco Baldelli will also need to balance first base playing time with Alex Kirilloff returning to action. Obviously, if the Twins decide against paying Byron Buxton, then he’d likely be on the move as well and bring the greatest return. I can’t see a scenario in which any arms are moved, most notably because of that being Minnesota’s greatest need. Who else could you see as potential interest for another organization? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. Box Score Gant: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (63.3% strikes) Home Runs: Jeffers (14) Bottom 3 WPA: Gant -.291, Rooker -.088, Kepler -.082 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) A small disaster nearly struck the Twins early, as John Gant had a tough first inning. Granted, it could’ve been worse, but things were ugly. Command wasn’t there from the very beginning, and the strike zone eluded him. He loaded the bases before recording an out, then threw a wild pitch that allowed the Royals to score first. He loaded the bases immediately afterward, and Kansas City scored again on a force out. It was not before he tossed 29 pitches that the bottom of the first inning was finished. Weirdly enough, he came back to pitch a 1-2-3, six-pitch bottom of the second. That came with the help of some fancy defense from the Twins’ outfield, with Max Kepler making a beautiful, inning-ending diving catch. But that didn’t help Minnesota’s case much, as the offense couldn’t produce a baserunner before the third when Brent Rooker led off the inning with a single. Rooker got picked off, and the Twins couldn’t get anything going. That scoreless second inning from Gant turned out to be the exception, after all. It didn’t look like it at first, though. He did retire the first two batters he saw in the third on only seven pitches, right before giving up four consecutive hits to the heart of the Royals' lineup, allowing Kansas City to pushed a couple more runs across. Minnesota manufactured a run in the fourth after Byron Buxton hit a double and advanced on a fly out by Jorge Polanco and brought home by a Josh Donaldson two-out double, making it 4-1 Royals. Gant was back out for the fourth, and luck wasn’t on his side this time. In what was supposed to be a scoreless effort from him, the Royals scored two more runs on a pop up that landed between Brent Rooker and Nick Gordon, just tipping off the shortstop's glove. Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez scored, making it 6-1 Kansas City. The offense continued to struggle against rookie Jon Heasley, who cruised through five innings on only 69 pitches. The Royals’ offense, on the other hand, added more runs. Hunter Dozier hit a leadoff home run in the fifth off Luke Farrell. Then, Adalberto Mondesí doubled and scored on a Cam Gallagher RBI-single, making it 8-1 Kansas City. Twins pick up three runs; Royals take them back Heasley dominated the Twins lineup for five innings. However, things started to change for the righty during the sixth inning. Ryan Jeffers crushed a leadoff, 429-feet home run to left that left his bat at 107 MPH. Minnesota kept pounding the rookie, and they loaded the bases with only one out: a Buxton double, a Polanco walk, and a Donaldson hit-by-pitch. Suddenly, the Twins could make this a two-run game on a swing of the bat. Royals manager Mike Matheny pulled Heasley from the game. Reliever Gabe Speier came into the game and got the second out with two pitches, but he couldn’t quite escape from the jam. Miguel Sanó stepped up to the plate and hit a liner to center to score Buxton and Polanco. Kansas City’s lead was down to four runs. But that rally didn’t last. Two men reached against Farrell in the bottom of the sixth, prompting Rocco Baldelli to remove him from the game. Jovani Moran couldn’t take care of the inherited runners, giving up three consecutive singles that scored three more runs to Kansas City, making it 11-4. The offense had some fight in them. With Speier still on the mound for the Royals, Minnesota hit three consecutive one-out singles (Jeffers, Luis Arráez, and Buxton) and loaded the bases for Polanco. Polo grounded into a force out to score Jeffers and Arráez and reach first himself on a throwing error by Merrifield. Polanco was credited with one RBI on that play which was his 95th of the season, tying the club record for most RBI in a season by a switch-hitter, previously held by Roy Smalley, in the 1979 season. Will he break the record in the two final games of the season? Minnesota threatened once again in the top of the eighth when they had men in the corners with two outs and Jeffers at the plate. He then swung on a 3-1 slider over the plate and gave it a ride, but the ball was caught just in front of the center field fence. Arráez led off the ninth with a single, but he was stranded by former Twin Ervin Santana and the Royals won the game. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Colomé 0 26 18 0 0 44 Duffey 0 18 21 0 0 39 Farrell 0 0 0 0 38 38 Moran 0 0 0 0 38 38 Garza Jr. 0 19 0 12 0 31 Thielbar 0 13 0 14 0 27 Alcalá 0 10 0 13 0 23 Minaya 0 0 22 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 0 16 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 15 15 Barraclough 0 0 0 14 0 14
  13. Recently named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year, the Twins Minor League Player of the Year, and the MLB Pipeline All-Prospect 1st Team, Miranda has picked up all of the accolades. It’s hard to be surprised, given his performance. For the season, he owns a .347/.403/.574 (.977) slash line along with 60 extra-base hits, of which 29 are home runs. His 73/41 K/BB rate suggests a strong eye and plate discipline ability, and despite the year with no minor league action, it’s hard to see anything but an immense amount of work put in. For a Minnesota Twins team that saw their season end essentially before it ever got off the ground, it’s worth wondering how Miranda wasn’t selected to see action at the big-league level. The role isn’t straightforward, though, and it’s something Derek Falvey and Rocco Baldelli will need to sort out for the year ahead. In 2021, Miranda played games at every infield position aside from catcher, and he even got three starts in left field. Primarily a third basemen, that role is currently occupied by Josh Donaldson, who has been one of the Twins better hitters and is signed to a large contract. Miranda is blocked at second base by one of the game’s best in Jorge Polanco, and he’s miscast playing shortstop. It appeared that the Twins wanted to see his abilities at first base, but that’s a role currently held down by Miguel Sano and likely Alex Kirilloff next season. So, where does he go? Had the Twins dealt Donaldson at the trade deadline, it essentially would’ve been to swing a cash dump. Donaldson, and more notably his contract, will never net the Twins anything close to an equal value. Given his uptick in production, it made sense to keep him around for the year ahead. If Minnesota is entering a rebuild, though, Donaldson’s services are much less needed, and he’d likely desire an opportunity to win elsewhere. The man at the hot corner remains much of the linchpin to this situation, though. Suppose Donaldson was out of the picture, an immediate opening is created for Miranda. He could slot in as Baldelli’s everyday third basemen. The other option would be to roll with Jorge Polanco as the team’s shortstop next season. We’ve seen that he’s stretched defensively in that position, and for a guy who’s looked so good at second base, it’d be a tough sell to put him in that spot. With Polanco at short though, Miranda could draw the most starts at second base, with Luis Arraez continuing to operate in a super-utility role as he has. The other possibility is at first base, moving Miguel Sano to a full-time designated hitter role. That forces Alex Kirilloff into the outfield, however, and leaves Trevor Larnach or Max Kepler twisting in the wind. Sano being the primary designated hitter also reduces the lineup flexibility for Baldelli on a nightly basis. It's an option, but wouldn't strike me as a desirable one. No matter what the decision-making process is, the Twins need a solution. Miranda was not a top-100 prospect entering the season, but coming off his production at the highest levels and being just 23-years-old, forcing his way into the immediate plans has been accomplished. From my perspective, the Twins still need to sign a starting-caliber shortstop, preferably on a one-year deal. That doesn’t help the chances of Miranda making the Opening Day roster or squeezing his way in quickly, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from 2021, it’s that the roster turnover comes quickly and often. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Barnes 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K Homeruns: Sano (30) Top 3 WPA: Barnes .220, Thielbar .098, Duffey .081 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins opened up their penultimate series of 2021 on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. Charlie Barnes was recalled from AAA St. Paul to start in place of Bailey Ober, who was placed on the IL with a hip strain. The injury brought an end to an incredibly positive breakout season for Ober, who the Twins will rely on for a rotation spot in 2022. Here’s how the Twins lined up for the series opener against lefty Tyler Alexander. Offense was hard to come by throughout the game, particularly in the opening frames. Barnes made it through four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and walking three. Meanwhile, Tyler Alexander put on a strong showing of his own, striking out six Twins in six innings of work. Alexander’s only blemish came in the bottom of the third. Byron Buxton walked, stole second, tagged up to third and then home on back-to-back sacrifice flies, giving the Twins a slender one run lead. Rocco Baldelli did not give Barnes an opportunity to work through the lineup a third time. Barnes was followed by scoreless innings from Jorge Alcala, Tyler Duffey, and Caleb Thielbar. Only Duffey struggled, surrendering two hits in his inning, although he escaped unscathed. Miguel Sano added his 30th home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh, increasing the lead to 2-0. A Nick Gordon walk and Willians Astudillo single had men on the corners with no outs. Max Kepler sacrificed Gordon home to increase the lead to 3-0 Twins. Ralph Garza Jr. pitched a scoreless eighth before Alexander Colome entered to close the game in the ninth. Despite surrendering two runs on three singles, Colome closed the game. The win brings the Twins 2021 record to 70-87 on the season with five games to play. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN TUE TOT Garza Jr. 16 0 0 18 19 53 Vincent 13 0 0 33 0 46 Thielbar 14 0 0 17 13 44 Coulombe 0 0 37 0 0 37 Farrell 19 0 18 0 0 37 Duffey 0 17 0 0 18 35 Barraclough 0 0 33 0 0 33 Colomé 0 5 0 0 26 31 Minaya 0 19 0 0 0 19 Moran 0 0 19 0 0 19 Alcalá 0 6 0 0 10 16 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their short series against Detroit. Michael Pineda will take the mound against Casey Mize. First pitch is at 6:40 CST. Postgame Interviews
  15. Maybe fans should come to expect this from Miguel Sanó. He goes through stretches where he seems lost at the plate. Then he follows those stretches with weeks where it looks like he figures it out and puts it all together. As the season has progressed, Sanó has drastically improved, but many fans tuned out after the team fell out of contention. In the season’s first half, Sanó hit .196/.279/.426 (.705) with 15 home runs and eight doubles in 60 games started. His entire slash line was below his career marks, but his batting average and on-base percentage were higher than his 2020 campaign. Since July, Sanó has hit .243/.340/.505 (.845) with 14 home runs and 15 doubles. His OPS+ is now at 111 for the season, which is six points higher than 2020. Defensively, he ranks near the bottom of the American League when it comes to SABR’s Defensive Index. In his first full season at first base, Baseball-Reference has him worth -1.1 Defensive WAR, and that total is similar to his last season at third base in 2019. He has been worth -3 Defensive Runs Saved, a two-run improvement over last season. He may never be outstanding at first base, but he has the athleticism to be passable at the position. Minnesota has other options for Sanó if the team decides to move him off the position in 2022. Nelson Cruz is gone, and Sanó can slide into a permanent designated hitter role with Alex Kirilloff taking over at first base. Kirilloff is a better defender, and first base is his likely long-term defensive position. Sanó has one year and $9.25 million remaining on his current contract, with a $2.75 million buyout for the 2023 season. Over the last three seasons, FanGraphs puts Sanó’s value at $28.5 million, but $22.2 million of that value came in 2019 when baseballs were bouncing out of ballparks at record rates. In four of his seven big-league seasons, he has been worth more than $9.25 million. Even with a hot second-half, Sanó’s trade market won’t exactly be booming. Power hitting first basemen are easy to come by, and the cost is relatively cheap. Last winter, Minnesota signed Cruz to a one-year, $13-million deal, and he was one of the best power hitters in baseball. Sanó has a similar skill set, but Cruz has been a better offensive weapon. For the Twins, a better option might be to try and package Sanó as part of a deal to acquire controllable starting pitching. There’s no question that starting pitching is the Twins' most significant need this winter, and Minnesota has tradable assets at the big-league level. Sanó might not be the headliner of an off-season trade, but his inclusion might add enough to make another team agree to a deal. Do you think Sanó has increased his trade value in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K Homeruns: Kepler 2 (19) Top 3 WPA: Kepler (0.326), Alcala (0.091), Ryan (0.088) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan Strikes Out Career High 11 Hitters In his first start since being struck by a comebacker last week, Joe Ryan showed that he is just fine as he struck out a career-high 11 Cubs in just five innings of work in tonight’s ballgame. While Joe Ryan has looked impressive in each of his first three starts, his strikeout potential was not on full display, as the most he struck out in any of those starts was just five. Joe Ryan got the night started strong, when he struck out the top of the Cubs order on just 13 pitches in the first. A leadoff walk, followed by a double from Cubs left fielder Ian Happ set up the Cubs lone scoring opportunity off Ryan in the second, which they capitalized on with a one out single from Nico Horner later in the inning. After the second, Joe Ryan was in control, as he allowed just one more base runner the rest of his outing. In fact, only two more Cubs hitters would even put the ball in play against Ryan in his final three innings of work, as he ended the night by striking out eight of the final nine batters that he faced. Max Kepler Schools the Professor With both Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco getting the night off (at-least from the starting lineup), Max Kepler picked up the slack, as he tee off on Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (AKA “The Professor), and provided all the offense the Twins would need in this game. In the top of the first, after two quick outs, Josh Donaldson got a little two out rally started when he laced a ground ball single up the middle. Max Kepler capitalized on that opportunity when he drilled a 2-0 fastball into the basket in right to give the Twins the early 2-0 lead. With the game tied at two runs a piece in the fourth, Max Kepler worked a full-count with one out before giving the Twins back the lead when he blasted his second home run of the night off of Kyle Hendricks. With two outs, and the Twins still leading 3-2, Max Kepler got his third opportunity vs Kyle Hendricks, and gave it his best attempt to Trevor Bauer him, but his bid for a third straight home run came up just short, as it hit off the wall in center for a two-out double. Miguel Sano would follow that up with a single that drove in Kepler from second to give the Twins the two-run lead. Twins Bullpen Shines… For the Most Part After Joe Ryan’s impressive five innings of work, the task of closing out the victory was left in the hands of the Twins bullpen. Juan Minaya was the first pitcher called out of the Twins pen to work the sixth. After giving up a leadoff single, Minaya was able to work out of it by getting Frank Schwindel to ground out, before striking out both Patrick Wisdom and Ian Happ to end the inning. It was Tyler Duffey’s turn to work the seventh, and he picked up right where the other two Twins pitchers before him left off, as Duffey struck out each of the first two batters that he faced before getting Nico Hoerner to fly out to center to set the Cubs down 1-2-3 four the fourth time of the night. We got more of the same from Jorge Alcala in the bottom of the eighth, as he worked yet another 1-2-3 inning, as he got Trayce Thompson and David Bote out on strikes before Rafael Ortega laced a line drive down the right-field line that was chased down by Max Kepler to end the inning. We got another dose of the Alex Colome experience in the ninth. With the Twins lead now at three, Colome needed every bit of that lead to secure the Twins win. After already surrendering two runs in the inning, the Cubs had the trying and winning runs both in scoring position and two outs, but unlike many nights before, Colome got the clutch out when he needed it, as he struck out Trayce Thompson to end the ballgame. Bullpen Usage Report FRI SAT SUN TUE WED TOT Barraclough 0 32 0 35 0 67 Vincent 0 0 40 0 0 40 Thielbar 0 0 22 16 0 38 Minaya 0 0 36 0 13 49 Moran 0 34 0 0 0 34 Farrell 0 0 34 0 0 34 Duffey 16 0 0 11 12 39 Alcalá 13 0 0 10 10 33 Colomé 14 0 0 7 24 45 Garza Jr. 0 17 0 0 0 17 Coulombe 0 0 0 17 0 17 What's Next? The Twins return home on Thursday to begin a four-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays. First pitch of Thursday night's game with be at 6:40 pm CDT, with the Twins throwing Michale Pineda against left-hander Steven Matz. Post Game Interviews
  17. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/13 thru Sun, 9/19 *** Record Last Week: 2-5 (Overall: 65-85) Run Differential Last Week: -11 (Overall: -113) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 144 | NYY 6, MIN 5: Twins Blow Early Lead in Classic Bronx Dud Game 145 | CLE 3, MIN 1: Bats Can't Back Another Strong Ryan Outing Game 146 | MIN 6, CLE 3: Jeffers Drives in Four in Comeback Win Game 147 | CLE 12, MIN 3: Jax, Bullpen Roughed Up by Cleveland Game 148 | MIN 7, TOR 3: Jays Ambushed by Barrage of Long Balls Game 149 | TOR 6, MIN 2: Ober Can't Suppress Potent Lineup Game 150 | TOR 5, MIN 3: Berrios Bests Twins in Toronto NEWS & NOTES Yet another starting pitcher has gone down, further whittling Minnesota's ravaged rotation depth. In the first inning of his start against the Yankees on Monday, John Gant was pulled with a left abdominal strain that would land him on the Injured List. Yet another player who was showing promising signs only to be halted by injury. Incredibly, it looked like the exact same thing was going to happen to the starter in the following game. Joe Ryan took the ball for Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader at Target Field, and tossed five innings of stellar one-run ball before a comeback line drive nailed him in the wrist. His immediate reaction sent shockwaves of panic through Twins territory, as a frustrated Ryan walked straight off the mound and into the clubhouse without even waiting for trainers. Fortunately, in a rare non-worst case scenario, Ryan's X-rays came out negative and he was diagnosed with a contusion. He showed great perspective in a postgame interview, expressing regret for his reaction and going so far as to apologize. Personally I think he came off pretty well. You probably don't want to see a veteran pitcher doing the same thing but Ryan is a fresh rookie with charged emotions and -- evidently -- a fiery demeanor on the mound. Beyond Ryan's favorable news, it was a nice week for feel-good stories on the Twins. Brent Rooker took a few days off for paternity leave, welcoming a baby girl into the world. Then, in his first came back on Friday, he he launched a homer and a double in Minnesota's 7-3 win against Toronto. "Dad strength," as fellow new father Rocco Baldelli put it. The following day, Rob Refsnyder went on the Injured List with a right elbow impingement. Taking his place is minor-league veteran Drew Maggi, who has toiled for more than a decade in the minors and is now getting a chance to play in the big leagues. The utility infielder, who primarily played shortstop for St. Paul this year, doesn't figure into the team's bigger plans but it's really cool to see him get a look in the waning days of this lost season. Assuming he does get a look. (He hasn't yet.) Learn a little more about Maggi here. HIGHLIGHTS Ryan was a major bright spot for a third consecutive week, notching five strikeouts with only one walk and three hits allowed while once again working with extreme efficiency. He was at 67 pitches in the sixth inning before that comebacker forced him from the game. It sounds like Ryan will be able to make his next start on Wednesday, which is great news. In the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader, Ryan Jeffers got the start at catcher and enjoyed a MUCH-needed big offensive game. The catcher went 3-for-3 with four RBIs, keying a 6-3 win for the Twins. We've been needing to see some sparks from Jeffers' bat, which went mostly dormant this year following a promising rookie campaign. The 24-year-old entered the three-hit contest with a .649 OPS on the season, including a .148/.198/.284 slash line and 36-to-1 (!) K/BB ratio since his last multi-hit game on August 4th. Like Rooker, Jeffers' power is not in doubt (albeit to a lesser extreme). And like Rooker, Jeffers needs to overcome his daunting strike zone control issues in order to make that power a real asset. In his case the matter is not quite as existential, because Jeffers offers strong defensive value as a good young catcher, but if he can't iron things out offensively he risks assuming the profile of a no-hit backstop and questionable starting option. He's still young, and games like Tuesday's offer some encouragement. On Friday in Toronto, Jeffers drew a walk, which might not seem like a big deal but it was only his second in 30 games. Then on Saturday he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. At this point he's battling to finish with a batting average above .200. Miguel Sano was fighting for much of the season to get his own average up over the Mendoza Line, but it's now up to .222 following another explosive week that saw him go 9-for-26 with three homers, two doubles, and six RBIs in seven games. He also set an MLB record as the fastest player to reach 1,000 strikeouts, but if you're focusing narrowly on that as a negative, you're missing the forest for the trees. The Ks are part of his game and as we've mentioned here recently, he has actually cut down the strikeout rate considerably in the latter half of this season. Sano's been one the Twins' most productive hitters down the stretch and may actually be stoking some offseason trade value, if the front office is so inclined. LOWLIGHTS The Twins bullpen, which had been on a rather amazing run since the trade deadline, had a major "hurdling back to Earth" experience last week, and it all began with an all-too-familiar outcome at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Minnesota managed to jump out to an early 5-0 lead with three homers off former Twins prospect Luis Gil in the first three innings, but stopped scoring after that while the New York offense went to work. Gant's early exit meant this would basically be a bullpen day, and the relief corps wasn't up to the task. After Luke Farrell and Caleb Thielbar got through 3 ⅓ scoreless frames, Kyle Barraclough, Tyler Duffey, and Alex Colome combined to allow five runs in the next four innings, burning through the team's sizable margin before Ralph Garza Jr. allowed the winning run to score in the 10th. There was some questionable umpiring at play in this classic Bronx collapse, but that hardly made it any less painful. Jovani Moran had a brutally tough first full week in the majors, following up his mostly-clean debut with a couple of absolute clunkers. Appearing twice, on Wednesday and Saturday, Moran was charged with six earned runs over three innings, allowing four hits and four walks with only two strikeouts. His ERA ballooned with 12.46. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. On the bright side, this experience will give him clear cues as to where he must focus on improving during the offseason. TRENDING STORYLINE Can Mitch Garver get back in time to finish his season on a positive note? The catcher has seen a big rebound in 2021 but also his fair amount of frustrations, with injuries costing him significant stretches on multiple occasions. His most recent ailment, a lower back strain, has had him on the sidelines since late August, but Garver embarked on a rehab assignment last week and should be ready to return within the coming days. Having raised his OPS by more than 350 points from a dismal 2020, Garver is firmly re-established as a valuable core piece going forward regardless of what happens in the final couple weeks, but it'll be good if he can return to the field and hit another homer or two before all is said and done. LOOKING AHEAD Following a day off on Monday, the Twins will head to Wrigleyville for a quick two-gamer against the Cubs, then they return home to face the Blue Jays four times at Target Field. TUESDAY, 9/21: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Griffin Jax v. RHP Alec Mills WEDNESDAY, 9/22: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Kyle Hendricks THURSDAY, 9/23: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Steven Matz v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 9/24: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Alek Manoah v. RHP Bailey Ober SATURDAY, 9/25: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Berrios v. TBD SUNDAY, 9/26: BLUE JAYS @ TWINS – LHP Robbie Ray v. RHP Griffin Jax MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. The Star-Tribune's Phil Miller gets credit for this one. Following Miguel Sano's second strikeout of the game, and 1,000th of his MLB career, Miller tweeted: So, not only did Sano break the record, he broke it by a huge margin. Again, that isn't going to surprise a lot of Twins fans. It is also important to note that the above list of players includes some very productive baseball players who remained in the big leagues for a long time. There are a lot of home run champions on this list. There are a few MVP awards. It may surprise many Twins fans that Miguel Sano has the lowest strikeout rate of his career in 2021. 2015: 35.5% 2016: 36.0% 2017: 35.8% 2018: 38.5% 2019: 36.2% 2020: 43.9% 2021: 34.5% So yeah, it isn't the lowest rate by a big amount, but it is, in fact, the lowest. After a very slow start to his 2021 season, Sano has really come on. Since May 18, Sano has played in 97 games and hit .240/.313/.526 (.839) with 20 doubles and 26 home runs. Overall this season, Sano has played in a career-high 122 games and hit .221/.309/.476 (.786) with 20 doubles and 29 home runs. His OPS is 14% above average. In 660 career games since his MLB debut during the 2015 season (parts of 7 seasons), Sano has hit .237/.328/.493 (.821) with 119 doubles and 160 homers. His OPS over that period is 19% higher than average. Thirty years ago, this type of strikeout record would have been deemed a big deal in baseball. Strikeouts are no longer considered a terrible event for a hitter. That said, when Sano makes contact, a lot of good things happen, so I for one would certainly love to see him make more contact. How do you feel about Sano and this strikeout record? What does it mean, big picture (if anything)?
  19. Box Score Pineda: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (71.9% strikes) Home Runs: Polanco (31), Donaldson (23), Sanó (29), Rooker (8) Top 3 WPA: Rooker .141, Buxton .117, Donaldson .095 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Minnesota’s first trip to Rogers Centre in almost two and a half years became fun very early. Both starters, Michael Pineda for the Twins and Hyun Jin Ryu for the Blue Jays, pitched economical, scoreless first innings. But then both teams combined for nine runs in the following two innings. Miguel Sanó drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second and scored a couple of at-bats later on a Brent Rooker double, putting the Twins ahead. But an awful defensive mistake in the bottom half of that same inning gave Toronto a couple of runs that put them ahead. With two outs, Pineda induced a weak ground ball that would have ended the inning. However, Jorge Polanco overthrew Sanó, allowing Corey Dickerson to score from second and Danny Jansen to reach first. Then, Jake Lamb doubled to score Jansen, making it 2-1 Toronto. Minnesota makes it ugly for Ryu In a quick “Bomba Squad” flashback, the Twins exploded for five runs on five hits in their half of the third, including three home runs, before Toronto could record a single out! The game was suddenly tied after Ryan Jeffers hit a leadoff single and Byron Buxton pushed him across with a double. Then, Polanco redeemed himself from his previous error and regained the lead for Minnesota with a two-run shot. The party wasn’t over. Josh Donaldson, who got a warm welcome from the Jays fans earlier, made it back-to-back with a bomb to right field, giving the Twins a three-run lead, prompting some Donaldson-jersey-wearing Toronto fans to boo him. That was fun. Not so much for Ryu, who was immediately pulled from the game by Jays’ manager Charlie Montoyo. That was Donaldson’s 64th home run at Rogers Centre, the most by any active player in the majors. Miggy Smalls didn’t want to feel left out, so he followed Donaldson’s homer with a dinger of his own, his 29th of the season. That was also the 160th long ball of his career, putting him even closer to the Twins’ all-time top 10 in total home runs. He needs four more on the year to drop Tom Brunansky from 10th place. In the bottom half of the inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got one run back to Toronto, hitting a rocket (111 MPH exit velocity) to left field, his 46th home run of the season. Pineda, bullpen finish off strong Big Mike got in the zone after that Guerrero Jr. home run in the third. Pineda retired eight in a row from that moment on, with a couple of 1-2-3 innings. After throwing 45 pitches to complete 2 1/3 innings, he needed only 30 to complete the next 2 2/3 innings. Rooker gave Pineda even more run support hitting a solo home run in the top of the sixth, making it 7-3 Minnesota. Pineda came back and retired the first two batters of the sixth on only four pitches, making it ten batters in a row retired. But he lost Teoscar Hernández on a ten-pitch walk, causing Rocco Baldelli to take him out of the game. Jorge Alcalá took care of the inherited runner for him, concluding Pineda’s solid line for the evening. Is it possible that tonight’s outing from Big Mike might have changed Twins Daily’s Cody Pirkl’s mind about a possible reunion in 2022? Alcalá came back for the seventh, and he continued his amazing second-half run. By pitching a clean, seven-pitch inning, the Dominican flamethrower has now posted a 1.42 ERA since the start of August. He needed only 13 pitches to get four outs, 10 of which were strikes. He also maxed out at 99.8 MPH. Tyler Duffey was equally brilliant, striking out the side for a 1-2-3 eighth. Alexander Colomé closed out the game with a scoreless inning of his own, securing the win. A fun stat from the Twins bullpen: according to Fangraphs, before tonight's game, the Twins bullpen has ranked 8th in ERA (3.64) since the start of August. Could we be seeing some encouraging signs for 2022? Bailey Ober will try to keep the winning streak in Toronto tomorrow against Steven Matz. With Friday's win, the Twins haven't lost a game at Rogers Centre since Aug 26, 2017. Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 2:07 CDT. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duffey 38 0 0 0 16 54 Colomé 27 11 0 0 14 52 Barraclough 23 16 0 0 0 39 Farrell 34 0 0 0 0 34 Moran 0 0 34 0 0 34 Coulombe 0 27 0 0 0 27 Vincent 0 0 21 0 0 21 Alcalá 0 8 0 0 13 21 Minaya 0 13 0 0 0 13 Thielbar 11 0 0 0 0 11 Garza Jr. 6 0 0 0 0 6
  20. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will ultimately steer the direction of the 2022 club this offseason. It’s a very stripped-down roster compared to how this season started in terms of expectations, and how the front office decides to rebuild or retool is yet to be determined. However, there are still pieces in place, and answering questions about three key subjects could determine Minnesota’s outlook in the year ahead. Max Kepler Signed to an extension at the same time as Jorge Polanco, Kepler was given the larger contract. He responded by posting a career-best .855 OPS and was a key contributor on the Bomba Squad. In 155 games since he’s posted just a .737 OPS and 103 OPS+. To say he’s failed expectations would be putting it lightly. Still just 28 years old, Kepler does hope for a prime resurgence to be in front of him. Minnesota dreamed of a player ready to take a step forward, and they saw it for just a single season. Much of how the Twins were expected to compete in 2021 and beyond was reliant on the core of Kepler, Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton. Those players reaching the peaks of their potential at the same time was always the developmental hope. As pointed out by Twins Daily contributors Nash Walker and Tom Froemming, there’s a lot under the hood to like about Kepler. He’s a strong defender, and the inputs still suggest that production has room for positive regression. It’s getting late early, though, and the reality is results must follow. The Twins outfield could be crowded next season, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach joining Buxton and Kepler on more of a full-time basis. This winter, the front office may be tempted by dealing the German-born corner. What is the next step for Kepler, and does it happen with the Twins? Miguel Sano On the books for $9.25 million in 2022, Miguel Sano would seem to be in the Twins plans for the upcoming year fiscally. While there were times he looked essentially unplayable at the beginning of 2021, the reality is that he’s a hulking power hitter that’s always been susceptible to cold streaks. The timing wasn’t there out of the gate, but not playing him has often been fruitless. Since July 4, Sano has posted an .865 OPS, which has jumped up to an .895 OPS in September. He’s an asset at the dish while being a patient and potent slugger. The ability at first base leaves plenty to be desired, but there’s an argument to be made that keeps his head in the game rather than just having him hit. Presumably, the Twins won’t have a consistent designated hitter in 2022, which would seem optimal when it comes to roster construction. With Kirilloff worth taking time at first base and Josh Donaldson benefitting from days off in the field, rotating through bats makes sense. Where Miguel Sano fits into the Twins plans next season remains to be seen. Is he cast entirely as their designated hitter, how much time does he split with Kirilloff at first, and is the club more adequately prepared to ride with him through the low points? Starting Rotation Surprisingly the Twins bullpen has taken a positive turn down the stretch, and a unit that was a complete zero to start the year has produced in the latter half of the season. There are usable pieces there looking ahead to 2022, and even Alex Colome could wind up finding his option selected by Minnesota. When it comes to the rotation, the front office has its hands full. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan look like future pieces, but counting on either of them to be the Opening Day starter seems like an acceptance of futility. Depth and quality would suggest a need for a higher ceiling option to be brought in, and where or how high Falvey aims should say plenty about the intentions for competitiveness. As was the case coming into 2021, Minnesota has plenty of top prospects on the pitching side. Many were shelved at different points throughout this season after having a year off in 2020, and relying on them as more than a bonus seems foolhardy. However, building a group punctuated with retread veterans shouldn’t be expected to move the needle much either. Derek Falvey’s calling card in coming to the Twins was pitching prowess, and while he’s helped develop some throughout the system, an overhaul like this will take some serious architecting. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Jax 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K Homeruns: Sano (28) Bottom 3 WPA: Jax (-0.201), Buxton (-0.047), Jeffers (-0.042) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Griffin Jax Gets Blown Up in the Fifth Griffin Jax’s rough first season in the Majors has been especially brutal of late, as he has posted a 7.54 ERA over his last four starts entering play on Wednesday. For a guy that is clearly pitching for a potential spot in the Twins 2022 starting rotation, these last few starts of the season are going to be very important to him. The way things started in this ballgame, it appeared as though Jax was going to have a start that would help him start to right the ship. However, that was not be the case. Jax faced just 10 batters through the first three innings of the game, before giving up a run on a couple doubles in the fourth. Things took a turn for the worse in the top of the fifth inning, which ended with a Twins reliever on the mound (Jovani Moran, to be specific). A single and an error put two runners on base for the Cleveland nine-hole hitter Oscar Mercado, who delivered a three-run blast into the bleachers in left, giving Cleveland a three-run lead. The damage didn't stop there. Cleveland continued to hit up Jax before he was finally pulled with two outs in the inning and the Twins trailing by five. Jovani Moran came in to relieve Jax in just his third Major League appearance, and got Bobby Bradley to strike out looking to end the inning. Moran would stay out and pitch a clean 1-2-3 sixth inning, before things imploded on him as well in the seventh when he gave up three runs on four hits before having to be relieved with just one out in the inning. Andrew Albers came in to relieve Moran, and promptly gave up a two-run blast to Bobby Bradley. One of those runs was charged to Moran, who finished with four earned runs in the inning. Andrew Albers would stay in and pitch the final 2 2/3 innings for the Twins to help give the rest of the bullpen the night off before an off day on Thursday for some additional much-needed rest. He surrendered single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, the latter of which coming off a solo blast from Franmil Reyes. Twins Position Players Have Rough Night While this game will certainly be looked back on as a rough night for the pitching staff, the position players had an equally-rough night. The defense did the pitching staff no favors as they committed two sloppy throwing errors that helped lead to Cleveland’s two big innings. In addition to the defense, the bats were almost non-existent, at least until the game was well out of reach. The Twins bats mustered just one hit through six innings off of Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill, and it should have stayed that way through seven had it not been for a misplayed pop-up off the bat of Max Kepler that should have ended the inning. Instead, the inning stayed alive long enough for Miguel Sano to deliver a three-run blast to make the Twins offensive woes seem not as bad as they actually were. Twins Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Minaya 0 17 0 13 0 30 Coulombe 23 0 0 27 0 50 Colomé 0 0 27 11 0 38 Duffey 0 0 38 0 0 38 Farrell 12 0 34 0 0 46 Barraclough 0 0 23 16 0 39 Moran 0 37 0 0 34 71 Thielbar 26 0 11 0 0 37 Alcalá 0 18 0 8 0 26 Albers 0 0 0 0 40 40 Garza Jr. 0 11 6 0 0 17 What's Next? The Twins are off on Thursday before heading back on the road for a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays beginning on Friday. Postgame Interview
  22. Box Score Gant: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K Home Runs: Polanco (30), Sanó (27), Buxton (14) Bottom 3 WPA: Garza Jr. -.186, Sanó -.146, Donaldson -.110 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Minnesota struck first and took a four-run lead in the first inning, facing former member of the Twins organization Luis Gil. Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a leadoff single and was later pushed across the plate by a home run from Jorge Polanco. This was his 30th dinger of the season, setting a record for most single-season home runs by a switch-hitter in Twins history, breaking the tie with Chili Davis in 1991. Gil lost Josh Donaldson on a seven-pitch walk immediately after Polanco’s home run. He managed to strike out Max Kepler next for the second out, but then another slumping Twin, Miguel Sanó, snapped his 0-for-13 funk with a high home run to center field which barely cleared the fence, making it 4-0 Minnesota. John Gant started out this game at the mound for Minnesota, but he was forced to leave the game with an apparent injury after throwing only 12 pitches and retiring two batters. Luke Farrell got called into the game and did a fine job, providing 2 1/3 hitless innings, helping to keep the Yankees scoreless through three innings. The Twins kept making good contact off Gil and, during the third inning, they added to their lead with another home run. Leading off the top-half of the inning, Byron Buxton jumped on the first pitch he saw, smashing it to a 106 MPH exit velocity, making it 5-0 Twins. Twins pitchers continued to dominate Yankees' hitting, keeping New York with one hit through 5 2/3 innings. Caleb Thielbar and Kyle Barraclough, who was recalled from Saint Paul earlier today (with Brent Rooker going on the paternity list), delivered two quick, scoreless innings in relief of Farrell. But in the sixth inning, Barraclough got huge help from the outfield defense behind him, as Max Kepler made some crucial plays in right field, robbing New York of at least an extra-base hit that could spark a rally. They did score a run on a sac-fly from DJ LeMahieu, scoring Tyler Wade from third. Terrible umpiring helps the Yankees to rally back Tyler Duffey came into the game to get the last out of the sixth immediately after Barraclough gave up a two-out hit. He opened the seventh fanning Giancarlo Stanton, but he gave up a solo home run to Joey Gallo, cutting Minnesota’s lead to three. He came back to pitch the eighth, but he got some awful calls from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, who missed at least four calls during that inning. Brent Gardner “drew a walk” on a ball four that was most certainly a strike (pitch #6 below). That put two men on, and Rocco Baldelli pulled Duffey off the game. Alexander Colomé came in to face Aaron Judge, who hit a three-run home run, tying the game at five. Colomé struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, taking the game to extra innings. All Minnesota was able to do during the 10th inning was to move up the ghost runner on a sacrifice groundout. In the bottom half, Gary Sánchez hit a line drive to left, deep enough to score Gleyber Torres from second, winning the game for New York. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Farrell 32 0 12 0 34 78 Minaya 0 40 0 17 0 57 Duffey 0 11 0 0 38 49 Colomé 0 12 0 0 27 39 Coulombe 15 0 23 0 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 37 0 37 Thielbar 0 0 26 0 11 37 Garza Jr. 19 0 0 11 6 36 Alcalá 0 9 0 18 0 27 Barraclough 0 0 0 0 23 23
  23. If there’s a takeaway for 2021, it’s that nothing is won in the offseason. Take it from a guy that hung a banner over the winter, and it will be worth taking a significant lap when the dust settles on spending before Opening Day 2022. Going into this season, the Twins needed to do little more than hold serve. This team was no longer the Bomba Squad, but they didn’t need to be. Rocco Baldelli had to have a well-rounded group and one that took a step forward with a well-established core. There was plenty of promise after adding more pitching options, a defensive wizard at shortstop, and bringing back the Boomstick. Depth looked to be in a great place, and the talent at the top should’ve been comparable to anyone. After getting out to a 5-2 start, the Twins went on a 1-9 run. They never recovered and didn’t see a .500 record the rest of the way. That depth was depleted through injury, but it was also worn down through ineffectiveness. Miguel Sano looked lost to start, and Max Kepler may never have been found. The free-agent signings, save for the returning Cruz, all flopped. Kenta Maeda wasn’t the arm that dominated in 2020. The bullpen imploded all over the place. "Unfortunate" would be selling the situation short. Minnesota didn’t perform for any consistent stretch, at any consistent level, and it cost them well beyond the injury concerns they dealt with. Following his extension, Jorge Polanco took the reigns on his career, but Kepler and Sano floundered when expected to contribute. No matter how the offseason acquisitions turned out, the core failed to uphold their end of the bargain. In the future, especially when heading into a season of uncertainty, being reminded the season isn’t won in the offseason is a must. Being able to celebrate moves made is a fair practice. How they gel together and ultimately perform on the field is immeasurable until the games get played. As Derek Falvey reconstructs the future for a Twins team with a drastically different outlook, evaluating the offseason will need to be done individually. How players and contracts fit and money is spent should be a focus. Where the results will end up isn’t worth tying to specific pacts. In the year ahead, Minnesota won’t be able to claim an opportunity for a three-peat, and more than anything else, they’ll be looking to distance from the year that was. As the front office embarks on their first opportunity for significant year-over-year growth, the idea that they had a “freaking offseason” will need some pause in hopes that a well-designed process drives more acceptable results. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. Box Score Albers: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K Home runs: Sanó (26) Bottom 3 WPA: Albers -.127, Arraez -.092, Simmons -.089 Win Probability Chart (Via FanGraphs) After an exciting victory on Wednesday night, the Minnesota Twins got on the board first again on Thursday when Miguel Sanó hit a moonshot for the Minnesota Twins in the second inning, his 26th home run of the 2021 season. Unfortunately for the Twins, though, that was the only offense that they would provide for the night. On the night, the Twins were only able to muster four hits, only plating the solo home run from their first baseman. The Sanó home run improved his OPS on the season to .779 as his resurgent second half of the season continued on. On the other side of the plate, Andrew Albers got the call on the mound for the Minnesota Twins and struggled with two areas that you don’t want to see a pitcher struggle with, control and the long ball. Albers, pitching on four days' rest, could not command any of his pitches and threw just 58% strikes while allowing four free passes. Additionally, Albers allowed two home runs to Cleveland hitters, one to Franmil Reyes in the third inning and another to Oscar Mercado in the fourth. In total, Albers only lasted four innings while throwing 98 pitches, following up his incredible start last week with a poor performance today. In the bullpen, the Twins allowed another home run when José Ramirez hit a solo home run off of Ralph Garza Jr. in the seventh inning to give Cleveland an insurance run. Emmanuel Clase closed things down for Cleveland in the ninth inning with a perfect ninth inning securing a 4-1 win for Cleveland over the Minnesota Twins to avoid a four-game sweep. Postgame Interviews What’s Next The Minnesota Twins will travel home and kick off a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, beginning with Griffin Jax on the mound Friday night against Daniel Lynch. Bullpen Usage Report SUN MON TUE WED THU TOT Farrell 0 0 0 0 32 32 Colomé 23 9 17 0 0 49 Thielbar 28 0 25 8 0 61 Minaya 0 0 21 0 0 21 Alcalá 15 0 19 0 0 34 Garza Jr. 0 0 0 0 19 19 Duffey 10 8 0 17 0 35 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 15 15
  25. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Homeruns: Sano (25) Top 3 WPA: Ryan (0.479), Gordon (0.101), Thielbar (0.58) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan Take Perfect Game into Seventh in Second Career Start Apart from one rough inning in his MLB debut last week against the Chicago Cubs, Joe Ryan looked pretty impressive and left an overall good first impression, at least in this writer’s eyes. Well, that strong first impression only got stronger after tonight’s start, as Ryan retired the first 19 hitters Cleveland sent to the plate. Joe Ryan had the fly ball out working in his favor early in the game tonight, as he gave up a number of deep fly balls that looked scary off the bat, but they all would eventually die harmlessly at the warning track for routine outs. Joe Ryan also did a good job keeping his pitch count low, as he completed seven shutout innings with just 85 pitches. While having just four strikeouts aided in that effort, the main reason was Joe not only avoided the walk, but he didn’t really work deep into many counts as he threw nearly 72% of his pitches for strikes. The perfect game, and the no-hitter, came to an end with one out in the seventh, when Amed Rosario laced a hard-hit ball between short and third for a one out single. Rosario would advance to second on a pickoff attempt throwing error from Ryan. However, Ryan would focus in and get out of the inning without allowing a run to score. Twins Get on the Board First in the Fifth The first few innings of this game were rather uneventful. The most action came from a Josh Donaldson leadoff double in the 2nd that was originally ruled an out, but after a Twins challenge Donaldson was awarded second base after it was determined that the ball made contact with the outfield wall just before it fell into the glove of Cleveland outfielder Harold Ramirez. The fifth inning started like most of the other innings early in this ballgame, as the Twins made two outs to begin the inning. Rob Refsnyder got the two out rally started by working the count full before drawing a two out walk. Then, with Nick Gordon up, Refsnyder stole second base to get in scoring position. Gordon then promptly delivered with a double, bringing Refsnyder around to score the first run of the game. Miguel Sano Goes Way Deep in the Seventh After putting up a run with two outs in the fifth, the Twins got another two out run in the seventh, this time via a more conventional way, a Miguel Sano bomb. Now I must preface this by saying, for Sano this was just another oh hum home run, but for any average MLB hitter this would certainly be classified as a bomb that traveled 449 feet to the opposite field. Twins Tack on Insurance Run in Eighth With the perfect game in the rearview mirror, the focus was shifted back on the original goal, winning the ballgame. The Twins bats aided in the bullpen’s quest to lock down the win by giving them a bigger cushion to work with. Ryan Jeffers got the inning started with a one out double into the left-center field gap. Luis Arraez followed with a single to left field that seemed like it should have scored Jeffers, but he was held up by third base coach Tony Diaz, despite the throw coming back into second. Byron Buxton then delivered on what should have been a TaylorMade double-play, but with Buxton’s speed those do not exist, as he beat it out allowing the run to score. Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Colomé 11 23 9 17 0 60 Thielbar 0 28 0 25 8 61 Minaya 21 0 0 21 0 42 Alcalá 0 15 0 19 0 34 Garza Jr. 23 0 0 0 0 23 Duffey 0 10 8 0 17 35 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0 What's Next The Twins will go for the rare four-game sweep vs Cleveland on Thursday night, as they will send Randy Dobnak to the mound to face Cleveland pitcher Cal Quantrill. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10pm CDT. Postgame Interviews
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