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  1. Shortly after the lockout ended, the Twins engaged in a frenzied activity to reshape their roster and prepare for the 2022 season. One of the first moves they made, was trading fan favorite Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who eventually was flipped to the Yankees to shed Josh Donaldson’s contract. Trading an aging catcher, with a lengthy injury history, made a lot of sense, even if Twins fans didn’t like the move. How the trade would be reflected upon, depended largely on the development of Ryan Jeffers and what he could offer offensively in 2022. Early in the 2022 season, the returns are promising. Jeffers’ development since being taken in the second round of the 2018 draft out of UNC Wilmington has been remarkable. At the time, the pick was immediately labeled a reach from Minnesota. The Twins, however, saw a solid power bat and a cerebral player they felt they could develop defensively, despite not having had a college catching coach. Jeffers was essentially self-taught defensively. Let’s dig into his offensive and defensive production in 2022 to see what’s under the hood. Offense When Jeffers was first called up in 2020, hitting .273/.355/.436 and managed a 120 wRC+ in a small, 26-game sample. 2021 was, by comparison, a disaster. Jeffers lost his strike zone control, walking less and striking out more, and struggled to get bat to ball, managing 0.6 fWAR in 86 games. In 18 games in 2022, Jeffers has already matched his season-long fWAR from 2021, hitting .228/.302/.456 to go along with a 125 wRC+. Looking at Jeffers’ Statcast profile tells its own interesting and encouraging tale. Jeffers ranks in the 96th percentile for Barrel % and 89th percentile for xSLG, those are elite numbers. You may not like the profile of hitter, but Jeffers is settling in on being a slugger that will strike out a lot but make a ton of hard, effective contact. That’s valuable in and of itself, for a catcher, even more so. There are a number of factors that hurt the perception of Jeffers’ offensive profile and production. Firstly, Mitch Garver’s 2019 season. It was a unicorn season, both for Garver and in the history of the position. Combine it with Garver’s approach at the plate, which combined elite power and strike-zone control, and it’s easy to wave away Jeffers’ low OBP as uninteresting and lacking value. Let’s put his numbers early in 2022 in some positional context. Jeffers ranks fifth in fWAR among all MLB catchers, seventh in SLG, seventh in wRC+, and ninth in wOBA. He just doesn't get on base a lot, and that’s OK. If Jeffers maintains his offensive production and a wRC+ of slightly above 100, he’s going to have an incredibly valuable 2022 season for the Twins. Defense Let’s start with the obvious, Ryan Jeffers is not good at throwing out runners. He ranks fifth last in this category among catchers in 2022. Also, who cares? Jeffers has had four bases stolen on his watch in 2022, and has thrown out one runner, for a CS% of 20%. Yadier Molina is at 29%. Base stealing has become such an irrelevant part of the game that this area of weakness is inconsequential. Measuring defense is difficult, for catchers, it’s almost impossible. There are no effective metrics to help understand the effectiveness with which a catcher ‘calls’ a game. Here’s what we do know about Jeffers. Per Statcast, he’s in the 84th percentile for framing among MLB catchers. Per Baseball Prospectus, he’s seventh-best in baseball. Rdrs/yr measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder would save over 1,200 innings (approximately 135 games). Jeffers sits at 36, that’s good for second-best among catchers in baseball. This is reflected in the eye test for Jeffers. How many run-saving blocks has he already made this year? While the defensive numbers can’t paint the full picture, the outline is clear. Jeffers is a defensive standout. All of this, of course, is a relatively meaningless sample of around 20 games. There’s plenty of season left to go right or go wrong. The early indicators point to Ryan Jeffers as an extremely valuable long-term commodity for the Minnesota Twins.
  2. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO Homeruns: Jeffers (3) Top 3 WPA: Jeffers .330, Thielbar .133, Polanco .091 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Here’s how the Twins lined up in the second game of their four-game series against the Orioles. In the Twins lineup for the second consecutive day, the news that Jose Miranda made the big league club was making the rounds. The expectations for Joe Ryan have become absurdly high. While he wasn’t as dominant as he was in his last start against Detroit, he continued to impress, working quickly and effectively. His first inning was prolonged by a throwing error from Gio Urshela, allowing Trey Mancini to reach base. Ryan plunked Santander before wriggling out of the inning, despite throwing 25 pitches. The Twins meanwhile, continued their offensive trend from Monday’s game, struggling to put together effective at-bats against Orioles' standout Bruce Zimmerman. The game remained scoreless through three innings, due to some excellent defensive work from Carlos Correa. The Twins finally broke through in the fourth, with Miranda drilling a double into the right-center field gap, to collect his first hit and first RBI as Urshela scored from first base. In the bottom of the fourth, the Twins fell upon some incredibly bad luck. Austin Hays led off the inning with an infield single after drilling a ball into home plate at 77 mph. Rougned Odor followed up with a 42.8 mph double off the end of the bat, that just beat the shift. Tyler Nevin then reached on an error from Correa as the Orioles tied the game at 1-1. Just when it looked like the Orioles were in for a big inning, Anthony Bemboom flew into a double play, with Buxton doubling off Tyler Nevin at second base. Incredibly, Ryan managed to escape with just one run surrendered, taking the game to the fifth inning tied The Twins and Orioles traded one-run fifth innings. The Twins scored in the top of the inning with a Polanco single up the middle, after the Twins had two men on, and none out. The Orioles immediately replied in the bottom of the inning when a Mancini single scored Cedric Mullins, who had doubled to start the inning. Santander grounded into a force-out, blasting a ball at Ryan, who fielded, and threw to second to get Mancini, benefiting from a beautiful stretch and pick by Correa. In the sixth inning, the Twins finally opened up a meaningful lead. Gary Sanchez doubled and Trevor Larnach (who entered the game for Max Kepler) walked, to put runners on first and second with one out. Ryan Jeffers then deposited a three-run home run to left-center field. Jeffers, while not the same caliber of slugger as Mitch Garver, has played extremely well this season. Through the first month, he has put up a 107 wRC+, with excellent defense and framing numbers to boot. Caleb Thielbar worked through five outs of scoreless relief, striking out two. He was followed by Tyler Duffey, who managed five additional outs of scoreless relief. Thielbar and Duffey starting to get back on track will be of great relief to Twins fans, given their early-season struggles. Back-to-back doubles from Gilberto Celestino and Byron Buxton increased the lead to four in the ninth inning. Carlos Correa added another double, moving Buxton to third base with no outs. A Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly scored Buxton, increasing the lead to 7-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Cody Stashak pitched a scoreless ninth to give the Twins the win. Minnesota is 4-1 on their current road trip, has won 11 of their last 12, and has moved to 15-9 on the young season. Winning is fun, and the Twins don't look to be slowing down anytime soon. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Jax 46 0 0 0 15 0 61 Duffey 8 0 0 17 0 18 43 Stashak 18 0 14 0 0 11 43 Coulombe 0 35 0 0 0 0 35 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 18 33 Duran 0 0 20 0 10 0 30 Pagán 0 0 0 0 27 0 27 Smith 0 0 9 0 2 0 11 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their series in Baltimore against the Orioles. Dylan Bundy will look to rebound from a poor outing in Tampa. Kyle Bradish goes for Baltimore. The first pitch is at 6:05 CT Postgame Interviews
  3. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (90 pitches, 58 strikes, 64.4%) Home Runs: Max Kepler, 2 (4), Ryan Jeffers (2) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.322), Max Kepler (.223), Ryan Jeffers (.078) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan – and his cool turtleneck – picked up where he left off after his previous two outstanding starts. He pitched superbly right from the get-go, tossing four scoreless frames on 54 pitches. The first hit allowed by him came only in the fourth, but by that point, he had already induced nine swinging strikes. Also, in the fourth, he matched his season-high in strikeouts with seven. He did get some help from some excellent fielding, including a great stop from Carlos Correa, but his most important help came from the batter’s box. Max Kepler kept the hottest streak he’s had in a while going. Facing former teammate Michael Pineda, Max provided Ryan with some run support by hitting two early, solo home runs in his first two plate appearances. He now has four homers in the season, something that in 2021 didn’t happen until May 16. His increased productivity could be one of Minnesota’s most significant uplifts for this season, should it carry on. Ryan pitched a couple more 1-2-3 innings to reach six scoreless frames on only 76 pitches. That allowed him to become the first Twins starter this year to make it into the seventh. He did so and tossed yet another 1-2-3 innings, completing the brilliant seven-inning shutout. After giving up that Cabrera single in the fourth, he retired ten consecutive batters, almost effortlessly dominating the Tiger lineup. According to MLB.com's Do-Hyoung Park, Joe Ryan now has 57 strikeouts through his first nine starts, a new club record. Bert Blyleven held that record until tonight, with 50 punchouts. The offense came through with some more breathing room to make Ryan's evening even better with a four-hit fifth. Trevor Larnach opened the inning with a leadoff double and was followed by a rocket (110.9 mph exit velocity) from Ryan Jeffers, a two-run home run. In that same inning, two more batters reached against Pineda, but they were stranded. The offense continued to hit the ball hard, producing another run for the Twins in the bottom of the seventh. Larnach hit yet another leadoff double, and he was pushed across in the very next at-bat by a Jeffers double. Both of those hits surpassed 107 mph exit velocity and gave Minnesota a 5-0 lead. Joe Smith and Danny Coulombe had no trouble whatsoever shredding the uninspired Detroit offense, tossing a couple of clean innings on 30 pitches, making it a memorable, all-around performance by the Twins. What's next? Before heading to the east coast for a seven-game road trip, the Twins close out the series tomorrow with Bailey Ober (2.81 ERA) dueling against lefty Tarik Skubal (2.30 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 12:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Winder 0 61 0 0 0 61 Thielbar 22 0 0 27 0 49 Coulombe 28 0 0 0 20 48 Pagán 0 0 0 23 0 23 Smith 0 13 0 0 10 23 Stashak 22 0 0 0 0 22 Duffey 0 0 0 19 0 19 Duran 0 18 0 0 0 18 Jax 0 0 0 10 0 10
  4. Throughout the season thus far, manager Rocco Baldelli has used both Ryan Jeffers and Gary Sanchez in the same starting lineups often. With both catchers being deployed, there’s the reality of a lost designated hitter should they need to swap out mid-game. Baldelli has noted that the club was working through identifying an emergency option, and while that hasn’t yet been needed, the depth is being tested early. After being in the lineup for Friday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, Sanchez walked with catching coach Hank Conger back to the dugout after initially heading to the bullpen for warmups. Jeffers was shifted into the starting lineup, and it was announced that Sanchez had a sore abdomen. He underwent further testing on Saturday, but an MRI revealed only a minor indication of injury. Avoiding the Injured List, for now, he remained on the active roster over the weekend. On Sunday, Minnesota had penciled Jeffers into the starting lineup with Sanchez out, but ultimately he was scratched with a left knee contusion. After placing Jorge Alcala on the 60-day Injured List, the open 40-man roster spot was given to Jose Godoy as a necessary move to have a catcher available. Although Jeffers was said to be potentially available off the bench, that seemed thwarted with multiple late-game situations where his bat or glove could’ve provided an upgrade. While it’s certainly understandable that Minnesota wants to be cautious given the length of the season and needing to keep guys healthy, Sunday’s action brought up questions regarding what happens at a position tied to significant injury risk. Before the season started, the Twins dealt both Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt in separate trades. While that signified Jeffers as the starter and led to an acquisition of Sanchez, it turned the position on its head. Minnesota claimed Godoy off waivers in a depth move, but he brings just 16 games of experience to the table after debuting with Seattle last season. The Twins have a trio of backstops at Triple-A, and each provides a different skill set. David Banuelos is a 25-year-old with just a .574 career MiLB OPS. Caleb Hamilton is a 27-year-old with a better bat owning a career .667 OPS. The most intriguing name may be the recently claimed Chance Sisco. He’s a former top prospect with an .807 OPS in the minors. He’s yet to put it together at the big-league level but may be next in line for Minnesota. There’s no denying that it would be a very negative development if both Sanchez and Jeffers were lost at any point during the season. Happening a few weeks in is even less ideal. As their injuries stand now, both seem to be highly short-term and are being managed to have them back quickly. However, playing catcher will invite nicks and bruises, and the Twins may have seen a quick glimpse of what they wish to avoid in keeping all of their backstops healthy. Over the weekend, Jeffers saw his bat start to heat up, and carrying that momentum forward would be an excellent development for a player the front office so clearly believes in. Sanchez has flashed extreme pop at times, and while his glove still leaves plenty to be desired, he’s settling into a new home with the Twins. The duo looks like part of a strong position group, and Baldelli needing to figure out how to operate without them is not something he will want to do often. I don’t know if Godoy or Sisco can hack it for the Twins over any significant stretch of time. I’d certainly prefer not to find out as well.
  5. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP,4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 59 strikes (74.7%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (4), Ryan Jeffers (1) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.186), Byron Buxton (.171), Luis Arraez (.130) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Injury Updates Before the game on Saturday, the Twins announced that Gary Sanchez's abdominal injury was fairly minor but that he would need to be out a few days. That is good news. Of course, it still required some roster moves. The Twins selected the contract of catcher Jose Godoy to have a backup backstop for the next few games. It will be interesting because since they have already DFAd him. If they decide to DFA him again when he gets sent down, he will have the right to become a free agent rather than accept an outright if he cleared waivers. That said, he has options, so the Twins could do that. To make room on the 28-man roster, reliever Jhon Romero was placed on the 10-day Injured List with biceps tendinitis. But to make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins placed reliever Jorge Alcala on the 60-Day Injured List. We had heard that he had a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury. Moving him to the 60-Day IL means he won't pitch in the big leagues for at least six weeks. It also allows him to be more patient with his rehab and hopefully return. Bundy Rolls As we all expected when news of the Dylan Bundy signing broke just before the lockout began, he has started the season by going 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP. I mean, that’s what you expected, right? Bundy was the fourth-overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft out of high school in Oklahoma. He was a hard-throwing righty who often hit triple-digits. He made his MLB debut in late 2012, but then he was injured and didn’t get back to the big leagues until 2016. Short story long, Bundy has certainly faced ups and downs throughout his career, both in terms of health and production. What Bundy appears to have done, or at least has been doing at the start of this season, is completely buy into a mindset of who he is and what he can be as a pitcher. Instead of reaching back and throwing fastballs in the upper 90s, he is now mixing all of his pitches and relying heavily on his breaking pitches. On Saturday afternoon, he threw just 32% four-seam fastballs. He threw 30% sliders, 16% changeups, 13% curveballs, and 9% sinkers. Most importantly, he has been throwing strikes and working ahead in the count. In 15 1/3 innings this season, he has struck out 12 batters while walking just one batter. Likely the credit needs to be split. We assume that he has worked with pitching coaches Wes Johnson, Luis Ramirez, and Pete Maki to develop a strategy and game plan. But Bundy has bought into it, and he is executing the plan and the pitches. While it isn’t fair to expect this kind of performance from Bundy every start or all season long, it certainly has earned him some lengthy leash. Byron Buxton is Back! The Twins and Buxton were wise to be patient with Byron Buxton following his scare last Sunday. Initially, the fear was he would be out for a whole, but when an MRI came back that it was “just inflammation,” they could have pushed him back. Instead, they gave him the necessary rest. He played on Thursday night, and then they gave him Friday night off to see how he responded. He was back in the lineup on Saturday night, and the response was tremendous. He hit a single in his first at-bat. In his second at-bat, he hit a line drive to right field (at 108 mph), and when the throw to the infield came to first base, he kept running and turned a single into a double. Third at-bat? He destroyed a ball into the 2nd deck in left field, a two-run homer. He was hit by a pitch in the ribs his next time to the plate (clearly unintentional), and with the right side of the infield open, he slapped a single to right field. It’s good to have Byron Buxton at the top of the lineup, making things happen and clearly having a lot of fun. He is now hitting .344/.400/.844 (1.244) on the season. All Rise for Arraez Following Buxton in the Twins lineup on Saturday was Luis Arraez. Like Buxton, Arraez had a four-hit game. Arraez used the whole field to record his 4-for-5 day. But, he was able to still drive in three runs in the game, nearly doubling his season total to seven RBI. Arraez is now hitting .364/.429/.477 (.906) through 14 games. Arraez returned to third base in this game. To be honest, he has been really poor defensively at that position in the early season. On Saturday, he made all of the plays. Jeffers Jolt The Twins decided to trade catchers Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt before the season, which really showed their confidence in Ryan Jeffers. He is off to a slow start this season, but things may have turned around in the late innings on Friday night. In the 8th inning on Friday, he hit a double, which started the unlikely (and unusual) rally. He advanced to third base on a wild pitch that didn’t get too far away from the catcher, which made for a tougher play on The Play With Two Errors. Then, protecting a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, he blocked a couple of balls in the dirt, a breaking ball that landed about four feet in front of the plate with a runner on third base. Finally, he framed the final pitch, a borderline fastball on the inside corner at the knees to end the game. I remind you of all of that because contributing to an unlikely, fun, important win against a divisional competitor can absolutely alter the momentum of your season, in large part by helping him regain confidence. In each of his Saturday at-bats, Jeffers hit the ball hard. After not having an extra-base hit on the season until Friday night’s double, he hit a double at 101.7 mph in his first at-bat on Saturday. A couple of innings later, Jeffers hit a ball 102.4 mph into the bleachers in left field for his first home run of the season. He added a walk and a strikeout to end the day 2-for-3. Respect the Competition On Saturday afternoon, Detroit Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera lined a single to right field. It’s something he has done so many times in his career. This one was special for him, his teammates, and the Tigers' fans, especially those who were at Comerica Park on Saturday. This was his 3,000th hit. Cabrera became the 33rd player in MLB history to join the 3,000 Hit Club. He is one of seven players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He joins Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and a .300 batting average. Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera! What’s Next? The Twins will finish their series at home against the White Sox at Target Field at 1:10 pm. The Twins will send right-hander Chris Archer (0-0, 2.16 ERA) to the mound. The White Sox will counter with Lucas Giolito, who will be making his first start of the season. He has been out with an abdominal injury. On Tuesday, he threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game in Arizona, so he could potentially throw 70-75 pitches on Sunday. For the record, I am also OK with 9-2 wins. Maybe another tomorrow? Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Pagán 0 0 9 34 0 43 Stashak 0 21 0 0 22 43 Thielbar 0 15 0 0 22 37 Romero 30 0 0 0 IL 30 Jax 0 0 0 29 0 29 Duffey 15 0 0 13 0 28 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 28 28 Smith 2 0 16 0 0 18 Duran 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  6. One question that I have been asked frequently over the past couple of offseasons was, “How would you split up the catcher position between Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers?” It was a great question and one I enjoyed answering. In my mind, there was a great answer. Play both of them half of the time. Keep them both fresh. Keep them both playing often. Help both of them keep their legs underneath them. The two backstops are so similar in so many ways offensively and defensively in such a way that should allow for continuity for the pitchers. Physically, Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are both big catchers. Garver is about 6-1 and 230 pounds. Jeffers stands 6-4 and about 240 pounds. I think in some ways, their size gave both of them a perception of poor defense. Garver certainly acknowledged his defensive deficiencies early in his career and set out to improve behind the plate with the help of then-minor-league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. True to the hard work, over one season he went from the worst pitch framer in baseball to league average. That’s more impressive when you consider that it was becoming a huge focus in the game and the overall framing numbers were improving. Like Garver, Jeffers was drafted as an offense-first catcher, at least in the eyes of national sources. However, the Twins scouts saw something in Jeffers that told them he can be a very good catcher. When he got into pro ball and started having the technology and analysis to determine such things, it showed that he was a plus-pitch framer. And he has continued to rank highly even in his first two big-league seasons. Jeffers and Garver are both very smart away from the baseball field. Garver went to the University of New Mexico to become a chiropractor and play a little baseball. Jeffers was a physics major at UNCW. Aside from general intelligence, both have a very high Baseball IQ. Both are analytical and study the game. They put in the time before the game to understand what the opposing hitters like and how that day’s pitcher could use their repertoire to get each hitter out. As important, both are tremendous communicators. They work well with their pitchers and their coaches. They both have talked about their communication with each other on pre-game scouting reports and planning. And yes, both are fantastic with the media too. And then there is the offense. Yes, both can mash. Both have had rough spots in their careers, but overall, these guys can really hit Mitch Garver posted an OPS over 1.000 in his junior and senior seasons at New Mexico. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter in 2014 when he played at Cedar Rapids, and in 2017 with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. He made his MLB debut late that season. He has been in the big leagues since. He earned the American League’s Silver Slugger Award in 2019 when he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. Yes, he struggled and was hurt in the shortened 2020 season. But after a slow April in 2021, he was back. Overall, he hit .256/.358/.517 (.875) with 15 doubles and 13 home runs in 68 games. Jeffers posted an OPS over 1.000 in all three seasons he played at UNC-Wilmington. Along with power, he walked more than he struck out, something that was important to him. After being drafted in 2018, he crushed the ball at both Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. He split the 2019 season between Ft. Myers and Double-A Pensacola. He was invited to the Twins’ alternate site in St. Paul, and when Garver was hurt, the Twins went directly to Jeffers. In 26 games, he hit .277/.355/.436 (.791) with three homers. He had a rough season offensively in 2021 as Garver began the season by getting significantly more playing time. While he hit just .199, he still provided the team with 10 doubles and 14 home runs. His power is legit. Following the lockout, the Twins front office traded Garver, 31, to the Texas Rangers which started a series of moves. A week later, Ben Rortvedt was included in a deal with the New York Yankees. After having the question about how to split up playing time between Garver and Jeffers for a couple of years, there were questions about the Twins’ sudden lack of catcher depth behind Jeffers. Yes, they acquired veteran Gary Sanchez from the Yankees, but he will certainly do less catching and more DHing. That’s why they added minor-league veteran Jose Godoy on a waiver claim to provide another body, a guy who can play good defense. And, after Jeffers’ disappointing .199 batting average in 2021, it is fair for some Twins fans to question the decision of handing him the reins behind the plate. However, if one thing is clear, it’s that the Twins front office has complete confidence in the abilities behind the plate and at the plate of 24-year-old Ryan Jeffers. When a team is looking for a catcher, there is a mental checklist that a front office marks up in their mind as they evaluate a player. For a catcher, that list includes defense, framing, leadership, communication, and then offense, quality plate appearances, power, etc. While needing to show more consistency, Jeffers is a guy who checks all the boxes. So why even bring up Mitch Garver in this article? Why not just speak on the accolades and talents of Jeffers? I think it's important for a couple of reasons. First, it's OK for Twins fans to miss Mitch Garver. He was great with fans and media alike. And, he was a senior sign who made it big, against the odds, to be a Top 5 player at his position. Second, and certainly more important to the Twins and their fans going forward, I think it showed the similarities. Just because players are similar does not mean that the results will be similar. However, it is important to understand what kind of potential Ryan Jeffers has. In 2022, Ryan Jeffers will start getting that opportunity to prove it on a larger scale, as the Twins’ primary catcher. He will likely be able to hit toward the bottom of the lineup which may help take a little bit of the pressure off of his bat. He will be challenged with a pitching staff with three new veteran starters and two pitchers with less than one year of service time. That is a lot to take on, to be sure, but Jeffers is certainly up for the challenge.
  7. I share my motto for the upcoming Twins season with '90's science fiction TV show "The X-Files." I want to believe. However, looking at this pitching staff, I am having a hard time suspending my disbelief to buy in with this team. Who the heck is going to pitch? Who will play in the outfield when Buxton and/or Kepler are inevitably injured at some point this season? Who is the closer? Before the internet, folks would prepare for the upcoming season by reading one of the many preview magazines that cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store. My dad would always say that you could tell how good a team would be by how many times the preview of it said "if." There are way too many "ifs" this year for me to take the Twins seriously. I don't think they will be awful, but I don't think they are in any way a World Series team this season. Of course I am also on record as saying I thought the Wild would stink this season. So it goes. "If" Byron Buxton stays healthy... "If" Bailey Ober can be successful... "If" Dylan Bundy is one of the few reclamation projects this FO has tried that works... "If" Joe Ryan, Josh Winder, etc can be stretched out for a full season... "If" Chris Archer can provide competent innings, let alone return to his all star form... "If" Alex Kirilloff develops into an impactful, everyday player... "If" Gary Sanchez cuts down on his strikeouts... "If" Jorge Polanco can repeat his monster 2021 season... "If" Ryan Jeffers can be a solid full time catcher... There are too many "ifs" this year. I think there will be high points this season and I hope that the team is competitive well into October. But they will need a lot of things to go their way. I have been a Twins fan since I was born, and I always WANT the team to do well. I just don't know how to convince myself that they will be good this season.
  8. Up-the-middle defense is one of the most critical aspects of the game. Having one weak link up the middle can result in poor defensive plays and more strain on a pitching staff. Luckily, the Twins have some of baseball’s best defenders at the most important positions on the field. Carlos Correa, SS 2021 SDI Ranking: 1 Correa is coming off a season where he took a massive step forward as a defender and won the AL’s Platinum Glove Award. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, he was baseball’s best overall defender last season. His 20 Defensive Runs Saved were nearly double his previous high. In 2016, he was worth -18 Outs Above Average, and he improved to 12 Outs Above Average in 2021. As long as his back doesn’t flare up, Correa is among baseball’s best defenders at a critical defensive position. Jorge Polanco, 2B 2021 SDI Ranking: 4 Polanco’s defensive transition was relatively seamless as he shifted from being a below-average defensive shortstop to an above-average second baseman. He set career highs in Defensive Runs Saved (3) after being worth negative DRS at shortstop. During 2019, Polanco’s last entire season at shortstop, he was worth -22 OAA, which put him near the bottom of the league. Last year, he posted a -1 OAA at second base after being limited to 43 big-league innings at the position in previous years. Polanco gets another season to get comfortable at the position while continuing to improve. Byron Buxton, CF 2021 SDI Ranking: NR Buxton’s 2021 injuries kept him from being featured on the final SDI leaderboard, but he still ranked highly in other defensive metrics. He was worth 7 OAA and 10 DRS, which is tremendous considering he was limited to just over 500 defensive innings. His sprint speed continues to be in the top 1% of the league, so it will be interesting to see how he ages during the life of his contract extension. He is arguably baseball’s best defender when healthy, and the Twins hope he can be back to his Gold Glove-winning ways in 2022. Ryan Jeffers, C 2021 SDI Ranking: 8 Jeffers finished in the top-10 for SDI last season despite being in the minor leagues for over 20 games. Minnesota traded Mitch Garver and is seemingly handing the starting catcher duties to Jeffers. His framing skills ranked in the 74th percentile, a 16 point drop from his 2020 campaign. He was worth 4 DRS in 2021, but his below-average arm allows more steals than a team may prefer. Many viewed Jeffers as a bat-first catcher when the Twins drafted him, but he has completely revamped his defensive reputation as a professional. Minnesota needs Jeffers to take the next step this season, including improving on both sides of the ball. Where do you think Minnesota’s defense now ranks among baseball’s best? 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
  9. Projected Starter: Ryan Jeffers Likely Backup: Gary Sánchez Depth: José Godoy, Caleb Hamilton Prospects: Alex Isola THE GOOD The Twins are all-in on Ryan Jeffers. By trading Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt on successive days, the front office decimated its high-level catching depth. Yes, all the moving and shaking did bring back Gary Sánchez, but he's an occasional (at best) catcher with one year of team control remaining. Jeffers is the guy. Clearly the Twins have been heartened by his performance through two big-league seasons and are ready to commit. The 24-year-old former second-round draft pick rose fast through the system, playing only 167 games over a season-and-a-half in the minors before being summoned from the alternate site in 2020 to help the Twins. He has since shown to be a quality defender with good power, equating to 1.1 fWAR over 111 games for the Twins. He was Twins Daily's pick for team Rookie of the Year in 2020. Overall, defense has definitely been Jeffers' calling card in the big leagues. He runs the staff with confidence, bringing good mechanics and instincts behind the plate. His pitch-framing stands out as well above average, ranking in the 74th percentile last year according to Statcast. The bat is lagging behind the glove here, for sure, but given he's only 24 and followed an accelerated development path, it's reasonable to expect some offensive growth ahead. He slashed .286/.377/.452 in the minors, flashing solid discipline that will hopefully translate over time to the majors, and his power tool is definitely legit. When Jeffers gets into one, the ball takes off. The same can be said for his new backup. Sánchez is a masher, and a fair approximation of Garver at the plate. In fact, his All-Star campaigns in 2017 and 2019 were basically what you'd hope to see from Garver in a full season. Sánchez has 138 career home runs through age 28, leading all catchers since 2016, and has been a reliable slugging force even when his offensive game has otherwise run astray. Defensive misgivings aside, it's nice to be able to plug Sánchez's threatening bat into the catcher position from time to time. THE BAD Even before they traded Garver and Rortvedt, catching depth was an area of uncertainty in the Twins system. No one outside of the top three had any MLB experience, Garver was running out of team control, and Jeffers was a question mark. Make no mistake: Jeffers is still a question mark, having seen his OPS+ drop from 119 in 2020 to 83 in 2021. It's just that he now bears a much higher level of expectation and dependence. Sánchez might be a comparable bat to Garver, but he represents a huge drop-off defensively. It's actually pretty hard to make sense of Minnesota's plan in light of their commitments to quality defense, and timeshares behind home plate to reduce wear-and-tear. Are they actually going to let Sánchez catch a sizable share of the team's games? Really?! His defensive issues are well known, especially among Yankees fans. Sánchez has led the league in errors at catcher three times, and allowed the second-most stolen bases of any backstop last year. His rigid movements and slow reactions lead to numerous costly mistakes; Sánchez ranks sixth among all active catchers in passed balls allowed. Here's a, er, "highlight" reel of his glovework: He struggled so mightily in New York that some Yankees pitchers notoriously asked not to have him behind the plate in games they started. That doesn't seem like a great situation for a Twins staff that expects to usher in multiple young pitchers this year. Despite their claims otherwise, I find it difficult to believe the Twins are going to follow through on the current plan. But until something changes, Sánchez is lined up for a big portion of work behind the plate, and we are one Jeffers injury or demotion away from him being the primary guy there. Ack. To make up for the loss of Rortvedt, the Twins claimed José Godoy off waivers from San Francisco on Thursday, infusing at least some semblance of experienced depth behind Jeffers and Sánchez. Godoy is actually quite similar to Rortvedt in profile – a mid-20s, no-hit defensive specialist who's gotten his feet wet in the big leagues. He's a reasonable swap-in that at least gives the team some peace of mind in terms of contingencies. There are players further down in the system like Caleb Hamilton and Chris Williams with the potential to reach the majors relatively soon, but they're not high-caliber prospects and could use more seasoning. THE BOTTOM LINE The Twins imploded their catching depth in order to unload Josh Donaldson's contract. The pipeline is very thin at this position and Sánchez is a year away from free agency, so there is a ton of pressure on Jeffers to entrench himself as a long-term fixture behind the plate. That's a bit of a scary proposition, since he's hardly established himself as a surefire MLB starting catcher. But it's a risk the Twins were willing to take as part of their offseason roster overhaul. This team was in an enviable spot with two starting-caliber catchers under control for multiple seasons. Now they've got Jeffers and a pseudo catcher/DH in a walk year, followed by little assurance at one of the most attrition-filled positions in the sport. Catcher now stands out as a glaring weakness for this franchise, unless Jeffers and Sánchez can both convincingly put their disappointing 2021 seasons behind them. 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  10. Catchers (2): Ryan Jeffers, Gary Sanchez The Twins are turning the starting catcher role over to Jeffers by trading Mitch Garver. On the surface, this makes sense because Jeffers is significantly younger than Garver and has more years of team control. Minnesota hopes Jeffers takes the next step offensively after a down year in 2021. It sounds like Sanchez will serve as the backup catcher and designated hitter. SABR’s SDI ranked him as the AL’s worst defensive catcher last season, so he must get minimal time behind the plate. Behind these two players, the team’s catching depth has thinned so that the team may add a veteran backup option. Infielders (6): Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker, Gio Urshela It looked like Minnesota had their shortstop solution when the team acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but his Twins tenure was short-lived. Now, there is no clear shortstop option on the roster. Polanco and Urshela can fill in, but both fit better at other defensive positions. Sano is likely in a contract year, so it will be interesting to see how the Twins use him this season. He and Sanchez have a similar offensive skillset, so both will need time at DH. Arraez, Gordon, and Rooker provide different skills off the bench, but there is an apparent lack of shortstop depth. Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach Minnesota’s outfield is one of its strengths, so the team will need to rotate through the different options. Like at catcher, the team may trade from a position of strength to add to a position of need. Kirilloff will likely get time at first base since he is the team’s strongest defender at that position. Gilberto Celestino put up some strong numbers at Triple-A, so he adds some depth in the outfield if the team needs a younger option. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak Adding Gray to the top of the rotation is a huge upgrade over the initial roster projection. He immediately adds a front of the rotation starter under team control for multiple years. Minnesota has room to add at least one more veteran arm with young pitchers taking multiple rotation spots. Does a reunion with Michael Pineda make sense? Or will the team dip into the trade market again? Expectations are high for Ryan and Ober, but neither has pitched more than 125 innings in one professional season. Dobnak had a terrible 2021 season, but the Twins had faith in him last winter, so he will need to earn the fifth starter role. Bullpen (9): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Ralph Garza Jr., Cody Stashak, Jovani Moran, Jharel Cotton, Lewis Thorpe Minnesota’s bullpen improved in the second half last season, and the core of that group remains the same. Rogers is returning from a finger injury, so it will be critical to return to his late-inning role. Duffey struggled last season, but the Twins hope he can return to his 2019-20 form. Alcala and Thielbar will also get the opportunity to get the team out of some tricky situations. Moran has a dominant change-up that should allow him to transition to the big-league weapon with a chance to have an even more critical role in the future. Thorpe is out of options, and there doesn’t seem to be room for him in the rotation. Can he stick with the big-league club as a long-reliever? What changes will happen to the team’s roster before Opening Day? Do you feel like the Twins have improved this winter? 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
  11. Catcher is a difficult position both physically and mentally. Manning the backstop is what cost one of the all-time great Twins in Joe Mauer so dearly in his prime. Even if Mauer had avoided the concussion that resulted in his move to first base, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where he would have prematurely declined due to the demands of his position. The Twins may want to try to avoid a similar scenario when it comes to Mitch Garver. Garver is far from the typical catcher in today’s baseball environment. Regulars at the position are typically expected to provide strong defense and adequately call a game for a pitching staff. If they can hold their own offensively that’s just a bonus. Garver on the other hand is a bat-first catcher. He’s far from terrible defensively and has made great strides in things like framing where he ranked in the 93rd percentile in 2021. He may not win any gold gloves but he doesn’t have to given his ability in the batter’s box. Not only has he been an above-average hitter in three of the last four seasons, but he’s also been flat-out incredible in two of them. Garver uses a mastery of the strike zone to lay off borderline pitches and force pitchers into making mistakes. His 2019 was argued as the best offensive season by a catcher since Mike Piazza when he was 55% above league average offensively and nearly put up 4 fWAR in under 400 plate appearances. It’s possible his disastrous 2020 where he posted a .167/.247/.264 line was injury-related, as in 2021 he returned to form hitting .256/.358/.517, good for 37% above the league average hitter. It’s become clear that Garver shouldn’t be valued just for his offensive skills as a catcher, but for his offensive skills in general. With other candidates for the position debuting such as Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt, perhaps it’s time to better set Garver up for success moving forward. Garver has played first base to some extent in every season of his career, although his career-high in innings at the position is 24 in 2017. Still, it may benefit the Twins to make a more concerted effort to get Garver time at a less physically demanding position. Not only is his concussion history worrisome, but it’s fair to wonder at 31 how soon the wear and tear throughout the season could begin to impact his ability to perform at the plate. Besides injury risk, moving Garver even part-time off of catcher could make him available in the lineup more often while allowing Rortvedt and Jeffers to get more exposure. Jeffers in particular was held down in 2021 by getting the bulk of at-bats against right-handers in order to allow Garver to crush lefties whenever possible. It was a tough ask of a rookie and Jeffers understandably struggled at the plate seeing almost exclusively same-handed pitching. Alex Kirilloff will be back in 2022 hopefully as the everyday first baseman with Miguel Sano rotating in. Still, Kirilloff will likely see some outfield innings and Sano and Garver can share first base and DH duties. In the last two seasons, Sano has inexplicably been well below league average against left-handed pitching, an area you can always expect Garver to excel in. If those trends continue, Garver could just overtake Sano’s at-bats altogether. Much like the eternal question “How will we find enough at-bats for Player X?” The question of how to fit Garver into DH or first base on occasion would work itself out if the Twins choose to go that route. The question is whether they decide it’s time to do so. I’d argue that it can only help. Garver’s bat will be all the more important without Nelson Cruz in 2022 and the skills that make him such a force on offense should be able to age gracefully if he can avoid injury. Is it time to start easing him off of his natural position to try to keep him effective at the plate longer? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  12. On the Twins 40-man roster, there are five position players who played college baseball. All five of these players had great success in college, leading them to get drafted in the top ten rounds of the MLB draft. Josh Donaldson, C/IF, Auburn After hitting .515 as a senior in high school, the future Twins third baseman decided to take his talents to Auburn University. In Donaldson's freshman year, he immediately made an impact on the Tigers. After seeing limited playing time for the first month of the season, he became their everyday third baseman in their series against Arkansas and never looked back. Donaldson finished his freshman campaign hitting .294/.347/.477 (.824) with seven doubles, seven home runs, and 26 RBI. Donaldson came into his sophomore year with increased responsibilities, as he was asked to catch. He made 56 starts (every game), with 36 being behind the dish and 20 being at third base. He once again was a very solid bat for the Tigers, hitting .276/.331/.487 (.818) with 16 doubles, ten home runs, and 42 RBI. This season earned him Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American status heading into his junior year. In Donaldson's junior year, he was stellar in all facets of the game. He hit .349/.444/.591 (1.035) with 19 doubles, 11 home runs, and 54 RBI. He also walked 38 times compared to only 27 strikeouts. One aspect of Donaldson’s game that really came into fruition was his baserunning. Donaldson stole 17 bases after only stealing one base between his first two years. It was clear from this standout season that Donaldson was ready for the big leagues, so he got drafted with the 48th overall pick by the Chicago Cubs after his junior season. Donaldson finished his career hitting .307/.378/.522 (.900) with 42 doubles, 28 home runs, and 122 RBI in 158 career games with the Tigers. Mitch Garver, C, University of New Mexico In 2013, the Twins used their ninth-round pick on a bat-first catcher out of the University of New Mexico by the name of Mitch Garver. A hometown kid, Garver grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was lucky enough to be able to stay at his hometown university for college at UNM. As a freshman, Garver served as the backup catcher to former Brewers farmhand Rafael Neda. He made 11 starts and hit .277/.351/.385 (.736) with five doubles and 15 RBI. Neda got drafted after this year, and Garver took the reins his sophomore year in which he started all 61 games. He improved at the plate, hitting .300/.380/.400 (.780) with 13 doubles, two home runs, 28 walks (led team), and 27 RBI. Garver went from a solid hitter his first two years to an absolute powerhouse his junior year. In his junior year, Garver once again started all 61 games, hitting .377/.438/.612 (1.050) with 27 doubles (led team), ten home runs, and 57 RBI. He earned Co-Mountain West Player of the Year honors, was named a national finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, and was named a second-team All-American by Louisville Slugger. Defensively, he was great, throwing out 39.6 percent of base stealers In his senior year, Garver once again started every game. He set the record for most consecutive games started at UNM with 181. He also hit .390/.458/.589 with 21 doubles, five triples, and six home runs. He also drove in 68 runs and was once again named a Johnny Bench finalist, Co-MW Player of the Year, and an Academic All-American for the fourth straight year. He finished his Lobo career 5th all-time in doubles and had the most career hits as a catcher in Lobo history. Ryan Jeffers, C, UNC Wilmington When Ryan Jeffers decided to go to UNC Wilmington, he would only be heading about two hours south from his hometown of Raleigh, NC. The three-time all-conference player in high school would go on to have an unbelievable career at Wilmington where he was one of the best catchers in the country. His freshman year, he served as the backup catcher behind future Diamondback farmhand Gavin Stupienski. Jeffers appeared in 13 games as a freshman, going 8-for-23 (.348) at the plate with three doubles and a home run. Although he did not see a whole lot of action in his freshman year of 2016, Jeffers showed a lot of promise and it was clear that he would be one of their best guys going forward, with Stupienski getting drafted following the 2016 season. In Jeffers’ sophomore campaign, he started 52 games and proved his success in 2016 was no fluke. He hit .328/.422/.604 (1.026) with 19 doubles, ten home runs, and 32 RBI. He also received a variety of honors, including NCCSIA First-Team All-State, ABCA All-East First-Team, and First-Team All-CAA. His third and final year at UNC Wilmington, he started all 62 games, hitting .315/.460/.635 (1.095) with 22 doubles, 16 home runs, 59 RBI, and 51 walks. He led the Colonial Athletic Association in doubles, home runs, OBP, and slugging percentage. He was once again named First-Team All-CAA and to the NCAA Greenville All-Regional team. Jeffers was rewarded for his great season by being drafted in the second round with the 59th pick by the Twins in the 2018 draft. Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State Despite being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the MLB Draft out of high school, Trevor Larnach opted not to sign and headed up to Corvallis, Oregon to start his college baseball career. Larnach’s freshman season at Oregon State was quite unremarkable. In 28 games (12 starts), Larnach hit a measly .157/.271/.176 (.447) with one double and three RBI. In increased playing time sophomore year (58 starts), Larnach hit .303/.421/.429 (.850) with 16 doubles, three home runs, 39 walks (led team), and 48 RBI (led team). He was named All-Pac-12 Conference Honorable Mention and was also named to the Corvallis Regional All-Tournament Team. The Oregon State Beavers made it to the semifinals of the College World Series before falling to LSU. In 2018, Larnach’s junior year, he was one of the best players in the country. Larnach hit .344/.458/.648 (1.106) with 18 doubles, 19 home runs, and 76 RBI. He was named to the All-American team, PAC-12 All-Conference Team, and received many other prestigious awards. On top of all of that, Larnach’s Beavers won the College World Series, much to his help. In the College World Series, Larnach hit .417/.447/.694 (1.142) with five doubles, one home run, and nine RBI. He also had the biggest hit of the World Series, a tie-breaking two home run in Oregon State’s elimination game with two outs in the top of the ninth. Larnach was drafted by the Twins in the first round (20th overall) in 2018. Larnach is a legend in Corvallis, and hopefully he can bring some of that playoff magic to the Minnesota Twins in the near future. Brent Rooker, OF, Mississippi State Rooker, unlike Larnach, was relatively unknown going into his freshman year at Mississippi State. Rooker did not see any action in his first year as a Bulldog, taking a redshirt year. His sophomore year, he played in 34 of the team’s 54 games, making 20 starts. He hit .257/.325/.378 (.703) with three doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBI. He primarily served as the team’s designated hitter and played a couple of games in left field. In Rooker's junior year, he took a major step forward. He hit .324/.376/.578 (.954) and had a team-best 11 home runs and 54 RBI. For this effort, Rooker was named to the All-SEC second team and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 38th round. However, Rooker opted not to sign and came back to Mississippi State for his senior season. Rooker just did that, having a historic 2017 for the Bulldogs. Rooker absolutely mashed, hitting .387/.495/.810 (1.305!!!). Rooker set the single-season Mississippi State record for doubles in a season with 30. He led the SEC in doubles, home runs (23), batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, and RBI (82). He even stole 18 bases. He was named All-SEC first team, All-American, SEC player of the year, and National Player of the Year. Rooker’s 2017 season is one of the best seasons by any college player in recent history, and he was drafted in the first round by the Twins with the 35th overall pick. Had Rooker signed in 2016, he would have received a $1,000 signing bonus. In 2017, he received a $1.935 million dollar signing bonus. Rooker bet on himself and it paid off. Who had the best college career out of these five? Which current Twins prospects that attended college are you most excited for? Leave a comment below and start a discussion Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
  13. The book on Ryan Jeffers when coming out of the UNCW was pretty straight forward. Scouts knew that he possessed big power, but questioned his ability to make consistent enough contact to warrant an everyday role at the MLB level. While his play in the minor leagues suggested that the concern was unwarranted, it has risen anew after he posted a mediocre .211 batting average through his first 111 MLB games. Jeffers burst onto the scene during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season due to a combination of fortuitous luck as well as the betrayal of Mitch Garver at the hands of his own body. After splitting the 2019 season between High-A and Double-A — he slashed .264/.341/.421 with 14 home runs in 103 games — Jeffers was among the prospects selected to train in St. Paul following the cancellation of the minor league season. He was called up in late August after Garver landed on the injured list with an intercostal strain and remained with the team until the conclusion of the season. The former UNCW Seahawk performed admirably in 26 games, hitting three home runs and slashing .273/.355/.436, good for a 120 wRC+, bolstered by a .364 BABIP, while providing surprisingly solid defense behind the plate, particularly in regard to pitch framing. His performance left many wondering if he would soon supplant Garver, perhaps as soon as the coming offseason, as the Twins’ everyday starting catcher. The Twins, obviously with similar questions wafting through their heads, began the season with Jeffers and Garver splitting a roughly equal amount of time in the starting lineup. However, the decision, while sound in theory, turned out to be poor in practice as it wound up negating both of their strengths, namely hitting for power, while intensifying their weaknesses, striking out. Jeffers was eventually demoted to Triple-A while Garver spent more time on the injured list. (Garver absolutely crushed after his slow start and finished the season with a 137 wRC+ and .875 OPS in 68 games while Jeffers — 89 and .670, respectively, in 85 — did not.) Even upon his return to the majors after posting a .786 OPS with St. Paul, Jeffers’ season never really got on track offensively, which was likely the result of multiple factors. For starters, Jeffers wasn’t unable to do much against breaking balls, as he hit .136 with a 36.1% strikeout rate. His barrel rate against benders dropped 22 percentage points year over year while his fly ball rate nearly tripled. However, for as bad as his numbers against breaking balls were, they were more or less commensurate with his performance during 2020 (.133, 37.5%). Where Jeffers struggled the most was with making contact against fastballs, particularly those up in the zone. Overall, opposing pitchers offered fewer fastballs during Jeffers' at-bats — 54.7% of all pitches in 2021 compared to 60.5% in 2020 — and even when they did, he hit worse, posting a .228 batting average this past summer versus .313 throughout the previous. His strikeout rate against heaters also jumped an astronomic 10%, from 28.9% to 38.3%. Jeffers also ran into a bit of poor luck as his BABIP dropped precipitously from an egregious .364 in 2020 to a relatively unlucky .269 in 2021. While the sample sizes are incredibly small, teams did increase the frequency in which they shifted against Jeffers from 3.2% in 2020 to 7.5% in 2021, which may have influenced his BABIP numbers. In many ways Jeffers’ struggles during the 2021 season can be summed up similarly to that of Trevor Larnach: Former top prospect with a track record of mashing fastballs suddenly lost the ability to mash fastballs. Luckily for the Twins, as is also the case with Larnach, Jeffers is only 24 years old and has not yet played 162 MLB games, meaning he has plenty of time to make adjustments. If he is able to do so, the Twins likely possess their starting catcher for the foreseeable future. If not, Jeffers may find himself on the trade block sooner rather than later. 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
  14. 3. Randy Dobnak 2021: 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 5.70 ERA, 12% K, 5% BB, -1.3 WAR It feels like centuries ago, but Dobnak was once a terrific pitcher for the Twins. Bursting onto the scene in 2019, Dobnak produced a sterling 2.25 ERA over his first 68 Major League innings. While José Berríos struggled and Michael Pineda was suspended over the first month of 2020, Dobnak and Kenta Maeda carried the rotation. It hasn’t been pretty since. Dobnak owns an 8.12 ERA over his last 57 2/3 innings, with declining strikeout and exorbitant hard-hit rates. Since signing his five-year contract extension, Dobnak has allowed 43 runs in just 50 2/3 innings. Add in a season-ending finger injury and the word ‘disaster’ seems fitting for Dobnak’s 2021 season. Despite recent results, there are reasons to believe in a bounce back. The horizontal movement on Dobnak’s signature sinker is still elite, with a top-six finish in 2021 (min. 250 pitches). Middle-finger strains can impact command, and sinkers are often reliant on pressure from that finger. If Dobnak can get healthy, that simple change could turn him back into a sturdy rotation member in 2022. 2. Ryan Jeffers 2021: 85 G, 293 PA, .199/.270/.401 (83 OPS+), 10 2B, 3B, 14 HR, 0.6 WAR The Twins put Jeffers in a difficult role last summer. They made sure to start lefty-masher Mitch Garver against southpaws, with Nelson Cruz entrenched at DH and Miguel Sanó at first base. That left Jeffers facing exclusively tough right-handed starters. That’s a tall task for a rookie catcher. With Cruz’s departure, Jeffers will undoubtedly receive more playing time against left-handed pitching in 2021. That adjustment alone should boost his offensive output Jeffers also showed a propensity to punish the ball in 2021. Among 37 catchers with at least 150 Batted Ball Events, Jeffers ranked 9th in hard-hit rate (44%), ahead of Travis d’Arnaud, Will Smith, and Gary Sánchez. Jeffers also caught a barrel in 7.8% of his plate appearances, ranking 5th and beating out Yasmani Grandal. A better role combined with hopefully improved contact rates could propel Jeffers to a breakout in 2022. At the very least, many are underestimating his potential impact. 1. Jorge Alcala 2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB, 0.3 WAR Alcala wasn’t exempt from criticism for the Twins’ early-season collapse. He was mainly bad for his first 40 appearances, posting a 5.73 ERA and 5.35 FIP with just a 22% strikeout rate. As TwinsDaily’s JD Cameron pointed out, Alcala made some critical adjustments late in the season and flipped his results. Alcala allowed two runs over his last 22 innings (0.82 ERA). He struck out 27 of the 77 batters he faced (35%) and allowed just a .420 OPS. Alcala was incredibly dominant, combining his wipeout slider and 100 MPH fastball with an improved changeup. Now entering his age-26 season and with the Twins likely ramping up his role, a full-on Alcala emergence is bubbling. There is no pitcher on the Twins’ roster with better stuff or higher upside. COMMENT BELOW! Who are your sleeper candidates for the 2022 Twins? 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
  15. Before getting started, you can get up to speed on the ground rules, which were covered in the first installment, and also read up on our picks for #11-15. Here are the players we've ranked so far: 20. Matt Canterino, RHP 19. Josh Winder, RHP 18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 17. Gilberto Celestino, CF 16. Chase Petty, RHP 15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B 14. Jhoan Duran, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Trevor Larnach, OF 11. Luis Arraez, UTIL From there, we crack into the top 10. Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 6 through 10 10. Ryan Jeffers, C 2021 Ranking: 7 Two-way catchers are among the most valuable commodities in baseball. It's not yet clear that Jeffers will be one, but his young major-league career has offered promising signs. Defensively, Jeffers established himself as a strong pitcher framer and good overall backstop. His instincts and reaction speed enable him to make special plays. He seems to have the confidence of the pitching staff – no small feat for a 24-year-old who went from college to the majors in two years. Offensively, his rushed development has been evident. After an impressive rookie showing in 2020, Jeffers saw his OPS drop by 120 points as lacking plate discipline derailed his production. But while the .199 average and .270 on-base percentage were tough to stomach, Jeffers kept bringing the power with 14 home runs in 85 games. At worst, Jeffers looks like a good defensive catcher who can take one deep here and there. (A poor man's Salvador Perez, perhaps?) If he can evolve a bit in the batter's box, he'll become a highly coveted asset – the heralded two-way catcher. It's important to keep in mind Jeffers' age and experience; when Mitch Garver was 24, he was posting a .688 OPS in Single-A. 9. Max Kepler, RF 2021 Ranking: 3 Kepler is an average hitter and an elite defensive right fielder with a very favorable contract. That combination would have more value to a lot of other teams than it does to the Twins, who wouldn't mind spending on an outfielder and already have a top-notch defender in center. A persistent inability to turn the corner offensively – outside of a short-lived breakout in 2019 – has made Kepler a frustrating player to follow. But when you look past that, he's an excellent athlete and quality regular, still a year short of 30 and under team control at reasonable rates for the next two seasons, with a $10M option in 2024. 8. Mitch Garver, C 2021 Ranking: 8 Garver's struggles with the bat in 2020 carried over into the beginning of 2021, where he slashed .151/.196/.321 through 17 games while striking out half the time. As the catcher's incredible 2019 faded further from view, many began to wonder if his approach was broken. Maybe it was, but Garver fixed it in a hurry. He homered twice in his last game of April, and pretty much never looked back, hitting .292/.406/.584 with 11 homers and 12 doubles in 51 games the rest of the way. Garver rediscovered his plate discipline, and as soon as that happened, he got back to dominating and basically out-homering the world (on a per-rate basis). It was a second consecutive season for Garver that was cut short by injuries. The punishment he's taken behind the plate, along with the increasingly evident need to have his bat in the lineup, could compel the Twins to start shifting Garver to different positions more. But that needs to be weighed against the tremendous advantage gained by writing him in at catcher. Since 2019 Garver ranks second among all MLB backstops in wOBA (min. 500 PA). He'd be higher on this list if not for his waning team control, with free agency only two seasons away. 7. Joe Ryan, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Managing to secure Ryan in exchange for Nelson Cruz ahead of the trade deadline was a nifty bit of work by the front office, and one that probably doesn't get talked about often enough. As a 40-year-old designated hitter approaching free agency, Cruz had limited value, but the Twins leveraged Tampa's situation and were able to add an asset that immediately becomes a key part of their plans. The 25-year-old Ryan dominated at Triple-A this year, and translated his performance to the majors. In five starts for the Twins, he struck out six times as many batters as he walked, and allowed only 16 hits in 26 ⅓ innings. The right-hander cemented his spot in a needy rotation, and he's lined up to be an inexpensive fixture for years to come. All in return for an aging and expensive DH who didn't really help the Rays that much, and is now a free agent. In terms of asset upgrades, it doesn't get much better than what the Twins pulled off here. 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Like Ryan, Ober is a newcomer to the rankings and finds himself near the top. But unlike Ryan, he's not a newcomer to the system. The former 12th-round draft pick boosted his stock immensely over the past couple years by significantly increasing his velocity to shed the "soft-tossing" label. Aided by a more effective fastball, which plays up from his 6-foot-9 frame, Ober was highly impressive as a rookie. There was nothing particularly fluky about his performance for the Twins, although home runs were a bit of a recurring issue. He looks the part of a mid-rotation staple, and a guy you'd feel okay about starting in the playoffs. We've seen how difficult it is for the Twins to acquire impact pitching via free agency. Developing cost-controlled arms is instrumental to this front office's vision for success. That's why Ober and Ryan rank so highly on this list: the team's fate (especially in the short-term) is tied to them. Check back in on Wednesday when we wrap up these rankings with our picks for the top 5! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. The two areas that the Minnesota Twins had an immense need heading into this offseason were starting pitcher and shortstop. Now, the cupboards are all but bare in each of these areas with 13 of Aaron Gleeman’s top 15 free agent starting pitchers and four of Gleeman’s top six free agent shortstops off the board entirely. Aside from signing one of the star free agent shortstops (not likely) or Carlos Rodón (possible), the Minnesota Twins will need to utilize the trade market if they want to bring in any difference-making talent this offseason. Doing so, though, would not be wise. I’m not breaking any news here, but the Minnesota Twins were not a good baseball team last year. The Twins just had their worst season since 2016, and did not show at any point in the season that they were on the verge of being a successful team. In only one full month in 2021 did the Minnesota Twins finish with a record above .500, when they went 14-13 in the month of August. On top of that, the Twins traded away their best starting pitcher since Johan Santana and their best power hitter since Jim Thome. The most likely path for the Minnesota Twins to acquire difference-making talent via the trade market would be by packaging one (or multiple) future prospects to a rebuilding team in exchange for a win-now player. Trade ideas as proposed by Twins Daily writer, JD Cameron, include Trevor Larnach for Chris Bassit or Jordan Balazovic and Ryan Jeffers for Sonny Gray. While the exact prospects that the Twins would need to part with in these trades could be different, the core idea remains the same…the Twins would need to part with key future prospects if they want to acquire top-shelf talent. The problem, and why they should avoid making deals this offseason, is that the Twins have not shown that they are close to competing and that adding a starting pitcher like Bassit or Gray (or both, even!) would suddenly turn the Twins into contenders. The Twins finished last in the American League Central last season and got worse, while the White Sox, Tigers and Royals all figure to improve. Trading away future pieces such as a Trevor Larnach or a Jordan Balazovic only to marginally improve a still-bad baseball team could prove catastrophic in terms of rebuilding efforts down the line. The other option that the Twins could look at on the trade market would be to trade away a non-prospect batter for some top-line pitching talent. Names like Max Kepler or Luis Arraez could potentially be expendable on a team with more hitting depth than pitching. While this type of trade would prove more palatable for an underwhelming Twins team, they are very difficult to come by. The teams that are looking to add MLB-ready bats are typically not the teams that are willing to part with MLB-ready arms. While it’s possible, I don’t see the Twins making this kind of trade. The best path for the Minnesota Twins to follow in 2022 would be to round out their pitching rotation this offseason with number three or four starting pitchers such as Michael Pineda or Danny Duffy. Then, simply let the season play out. If the Twins’ young arms show that they are the real deal and in turn the Twins prove to be more competitive in 2022 than predicted, Minnesota can then move prospects for win-now arms at the trade deadline. Making a trade now, though, could prove extremely costly.
  17. As the lockout meanders into the holiday season, Twins fans find themselves in starting pitching limbo. The floor of the rotation was raised marginally by the addition of Dylan Bundy prior to the lockout. Minnesota, however, still has significant business to accomplish if they are to field a competitive rotation, with only Bundy, Joe Ryan, and Bailey Ober currently locked into spots for 2022. In the third of a three-part series (part one - Cincinnati Reds, part two - Oakland Athletics), I’ll look at some potential pitching targets from an organization flush with starting pitching capital, the Miami Marlins. NOTE: The trades mentioned are designed to give an approximate idea of the value of each potential starting pitching addition. They don’t necessarily correlate with the exact needs of the Marlins. Pablo Lopez At just 25, Lopez has improved both steadily and significantly since he made his MLB debut in 2018. In 102 2/3 innings pitched in 2021, Lopez accumulated a 3.29 FIP, 2.3 fWAR, a 27.5% K% and a measly 6.2% BB% Talk about a high floor. Lopez relies on a four-pitch mix including a mid-90s fastball, an excellent changeup, a cutter, and a curveball. Lopez is under team control until 2025 and would be pricey, but this is the position the Twins find themselves if they want to improve their rotation significantly through trade. Possible Trade: The Twins trade INF Luis Arraez, C Ryan Jeffers and a PTBNL to Miami for RHP Pablo Lopez Jesus Luzardo A former consensus top pitching prospect, very little has gone right for Luzardo since his first significant MLB stint in 2019 for the Athletics. In 95 MLB innings in 2021 between the A’s and Marlins, Luzardo managed a 22.4% K% (fine), an 11% BB% (not fine), a 5.48 FIP, and -0.2 fWAR (yikes). So, what’s to like here? For one, you don’t sit atop prospect rankings for multiple years for no reason. Luzardo still has electric stuff. A fastball that sits at 95 mph at the low end and a good slider he throws around 23% of the time. This combination falls into the wheelhouse of the Twins pitching preferences, but they’d have to be confident in next steps for Luzardo to pull the trigger on trading for him. Possible Trade: The Twins trade OF Brent Rooker and RHP Cole Sands to Miami for LHP Jesus Luzardo Sixto Sanchez The Twins would be trading into the upper echelons of ‘stuff’ if they were to acquire Sanchez. Still a top pitching prospect, the 23-year-old boasts front of the rotation firepower. Sanchez relies on a fastball that sits at 98 mph. It gets fewer strikeouts than a pitch of that velocity should due to a lack of movement, but it’s his changeup that is the star of the show. In just 40 MLB innings in 2021, Sanchez had a 20.9% K%, 7% BB%, a 3.50 FIP, and accumulated 1.0 fWAR (that’s around 4.5 fWAR pace over a season). Sanchez could be poised for a monster 2022. Possible Trade: The Twins trade OF Max Kepler to the Marlins for RHP Sixto Sanchez The Marlins have a huge amount of additional starting pitching assets, including Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernandez, Edward Cabrera, and Max Meyer who I chose not to include as targets as I felt the Marlins would be unlikely to part with them (Rogers and Meyer) or the Twins wouldn’t be confident enough in the floor they would give the rotation to execute the trade. Which of these targets feel like the best fit for the Twins? What direction do you think the team will take to improve the rotation when the lockout ends? Join the discussion below.
  18. Current Catchers: Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers Like most of the Twins roster, Garver and Jeffers struggled out of the gate before the team decided to make some changes. Garver ended April with a .644 OPS while Jeffers sat with a .393 OPS and a Triple-A demotion. In May, Garver raised his OPS by nearly 200 points, with Jeffers out of the picture. Unfortunately, he suffered a gruesome groin injury at the beginning of June that forced him to the sidelines until July 19. Jeffers took advantage of the opportunity to post a .905 OPS in his first 15 games after the Garver injury. The hot streak didn't last as he hit .191/.269/.382 (.651) in his final 59 games. Garver returned from injury with two home runs in his first game back. He looked like the 2019 version of Garver for the season's final 27 games as he posted a .927 OPS. With two MLB caliber catchers, Minnesota has an opportunity to trade one of their controllable assets this winter. However, keeping both catchers allows the team a chance to do what they planned in 2021. Jeffers has an opportunity to prove his season was a fluke, and Garver can continue to mash. 40-Man Roster Options Outside of Garver and Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. Last season, he made his big-league debut and hit .169/.229/.281 (.510) in 39 games. Rortvedt's scouting report is a defense-first catcher as he has a career .672 OPS in five seasons. Last season, he threw out seve4n of a potential 16 runners for a 44% caught stealing percentage while the league average was 23%. Rortvedt should spend most of 2022 at Triple-A while filling in when needed at the big-league level. On the Farm Options Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's catching depth. Minnesota has a slough of veteran catching options populating the rosters in the upper minors. Besides Rortvedt, all four of the projected Triple-A catchers are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. David Bañuelos, Stevie Berman, Caleb Hamilton, and Chris Williams all saw catching time, with multiple players also getting time at first base. Berman was acquired last August from the Dodgers for LHP Andrew Vasquez. Obviously, there won't be five catchers on the Triple-A roster, so some of these players will be used at other levels. At Double-A, Jair Camargo and Jeferson Morales have the potential to be a very good catching duo. Camargo joined the Twins as part of the Kenta Maeda trade, and he collected 21 extra-base hits in 71 games last year. Morales combined for an .808 OPS last season with 12 home runs and 24 doubles between Low- and High-A. Both players will be 23 years old to start next season, and it seems more likely for them to end the season at Double-A. There are a few other names to watch in the minor's lower levels. Charles Mack was Minnesota's 6th round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of high school in New York. Last year as a 21-year-old, he spent the entire season at Low-A with a .738 OPS in 73 games. Patrick Winkel and Noah Cardenas were taken in last year's draft's 8th and 9th rounds. Each should debut at Low-A next season. Overall, Minnesota has catching strength at the MLB level with a few prospects to watch during the 2022 campaign. What do you think about the organization's depth at catcher? 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
  19. In 2020, Ryan Jeffers burst onto the scene like a supernova, crushing major league pitching to the tune of a 120 wRC+ in his maiden MLB season. Although a small sample size (62 plate appearances in a pandemic-shortened season), Jeffers’ emergence wasn’t completely surprising. Before being called up, the bat-first catcher drafted by the front office out of UNC Wilmington had crushed minor league pitching, averaging a 135 wRC+ between High-A and Double-A in 2019. Then, 2021 happened. Jeffers' star came crashing back down to earth. In 2021, he managed an 82 wRC+ and spent a significant amount of time at Triple-A St. Paul. So who is the real Ryan Jeffers? Can he ascend to his 2019 heights in 2022? What does the performance of his bat mean for Minnesota’s potentially dynamic catching tandem? Jeffers’ Range of Outcomes In 2020, Jeffers carried a BABIP of .364, unsustainably good. In 2021, it fell to .236, unsustainable bad. Could 2020 and 2021 simply be indicators of Jeffers’ one hundredth and first percentile outcomes, respectively? Possibly. But digging into Jeffers’ underlying numbers shows some interesting trends and opportunities to improve. What was Different in 2021? Scanning Jeffers’ underlying hitting numbers raises no immediate cause for alarm. In 2021, he increased his Barrel% from 13.9% to 14.5%, his Hard Hit% from 41.7% to 44%. Additionally, his max exit velocity remained consistent with 2020. We know Ryan Jeffers can destroy baseballs. So what changed? Despite some improvements in hard contact, Jeffers’ xBA fell from .232 to .211, his xwWOBA from .332 to .300. Why? Jeffers had less effective control of the strike zone and made contact less often in 2021. While Jeffers’ BB% remained consistent with his 2020 numbers, his o-swing% (the amount he swings at pitches outside the strike zone) increased sharply, from 26% to 33%. Indeed, his z-swing% (the amount he swings at pitches inside the zone) increased 5% from his 2020 numbers. In short, Jeffers was significantly less selective in 2021, which led to a sharp increase in K% from 2020. It’s also worth noting the quality of the contact Jeffers made against various pitches in 2021. Looking at his exit velocities against each pitch type, it’s noticeable that he is hitting the ball less solidly against fastballs and off-speed pitches in 2021. It’s also notable that Jeffers’ average launch angle against the pitches increased significantly last season. In other words, he is swinging underneath fastballs and off-speed pitches more frequently, generating more fly balls and pop-ups. In combination with a decrease in his control of the strike zone, this led to his overall offensive decline in 2021. What about 2022? How do we evaluate Jeffers as a catching option going into 2022? It’s worth noting here that Jeffers is a solid catcher and ranked in the 74th percentile in MLB for pitch framing in 2021 (remarkable for a player who did not have a catching coach in college). If Jeffers falls roughly between his 2020 and 2021 numbers next season, his offensive performance would equate to approximately a 100wRC+, a league-average hitter, but above league average for a catcher, with the pop we have come to expect from his bat. While there has been some speculation that Mitch Garver could be traded, I think it is more likely that the Twins rotate their catchers heavily through the DH spot next season. I’m intrigued by the possibility of Jeffers making adjustments from a poor offensive output in 2021. What are your thoughts on the starting catching situation in 2022? Do you think Jeffers can bounce back? Are you in favor of trading a catcher? Join the discussion below.
  20. 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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  21. Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 5. Bailey Ober, SP Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 3. Joe Ryan, SP Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? 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
  22. It's clear that starting pitching is Minnesota's biggest priority this winter, and the team will have to be creative to fill all the starting rotation needs. One of the avenues will undoubtedly be to explore the trade market. Free-agent starting pitching costs a premium, and the current regime hasn't been successful signing players in the past. Enter the Miami Marlins and their surplus of starting pitching. It seems like no team can have too much starting pitching, but the Marlins have a strong farm system and other MLB-ready options. According to MLB Pipeline, six of their top-10 prospects are pitchers, including four pitchers at the Double-A level or higher. Marlins manager Don Mattingly made it clear that upgrading catcher is a priority for the club this winter. "It's an area we're looking at," Mattingly said. "It's fairly safe to say it was some kind of message when we grabbed two catchers at the trade deadline and we also have Nick Fortes up here." Fortes, a 2018 MLB Draft pick, posted a 1.030 OPS in 34 plate appearances. However, he has a .651 OPS in 190 minor league games. Alex Jackson and Payton Henry, both catchers acquired at the deadline, struggled after joining the Marlins organization. With no clear long-term option, the Marlins can look to the free-agent class, but Yan Gomes (98 OPS+) is the best option. Minnesota entered the season with what looked like one of baseball's best catching duos, but there were some struggles along the way. Ryan Jeffers struggled offensively at the Triple-A and MLB-level. Mitch Garver found his swing after a rough first month, but he was limited to 68 games. Minnesota's catching future is uncertain with both players' inconsistent 2021 campaign. From the Twins' perspective, Garver seems like the more likely player to be traded. He is six years older than Jeffers, and he has multiple years of team control remaining. Trading Garver allows the Twins to give Jeffers more regular at-bats, and it also provides the team with an opportunity to bring in a left-handed veteran catcher to serve in a back-up role (unless they feel that Ben Rortvedt is ready for such a role). Other teams with established catchers are likely to reach out to the Marlins. Last winter, Miami had discussions about acquiring Willson Contreras from the Cubs, but he is only one year away from free agency. MLB Trade Rumors identified Arizona's Carson Kelly and Pittsburgh's Jacob Stallings as other possible trade candidates. Kelly posted a 104 OPS+ in 98 games, while Stallings finished the year with a 92 OPS+ in 112 games. There's also no guarantee either of those teams are interested in trading their catchers. To be competitive in 2022, the Twins will need to trade MLB-level assets to acquire starting pitching. Besides the catchers, other established players like Max Kepler, Josh Donaldson, and Luis Arraez will likely hear their names in the rumor mill. For now, the Twins and Marlins seem like a strong match to make a trade this winter. Do you think the Marlins and the Twins will be able to work out a deal? 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
  23. In recent years, Minnesota has successfully utilized a two-catcher rotation. In 2019, Mitch Garver and Jason Castro split catching duties, with both players posting OPS+ totals of 100 or more. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has been a big fan of rest and recovery during his tenure. This rotational system for catchers allows for regular rest at one of the most grueling positions in the sport. One reason the Garver-Castro pairing worked so well was that Garver bats right-handed and Castro bats left-handed. This allowed for a more natural platoon of the batters. Entering this season, there was hope that Garver and Ryan Jeffers would settle into their two-catcher rotation. Like many things for the 2021 Twins, the plan didn’t work, and one reason is the handedness of the catchers. Neither catcher was hitting very well in the season’s first month. Garver ended April by hitting .172/.213/.431 (.644) with 27 strikeouts and seven extra-base hits in 18 games. Jeffers hit .147/.216/.176 (.393), with one of his five hits being for extra bases. Baldelli tried to get Garver’s bat going by having him face more lefties, but that doesn’t help Jeffers, who has hit .189/.259/.385 (.644) against righties in 2021. At the end of April, the Twins moved Jeffers to Triple-A, a minor league level where he had yet to appear. Jeffers hit .217/.340/.446 (.786) with the Saints this year, including a 26 to 16 strikeout to walk ratio. Garver’s bat took off after Jeffers’ demotion. In 22 games, he hit .281/.438/.579 (1.017) with nine extra-base hits. It looked like the 2019 version of Garver was back. In early June, Garver suffered a gruesome "groin" injury that kept him out a month and made it necessary to call up Jeffers. Since early June, Jeffers has posted a .714 OPS with 23 extra-base hits in 71 games. Garver returned in July, and he has a .998 OPS with 12 extra-base hits in 24 games. Garver is one of baseball’s best offensive catchers when healthy, so does that make him a tradable asset? Minnesota’s off-season plan will include acquiring starting pitching, which means spending big on free agents or trading away players and prospects. Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are both under team control for multiple years, so it makes sense to deal one of these players away if it helps the team rebuild for the short term. Garver knows the future is uncertain for the Twins. “You never really know what the organization is thinking,” Garver said. “You saw it in ’18, they traded away some homegrown guys that had been a staple in the lineup for a long time. And you saw what we did in ’19 when we turned it around, won 100 games with the lineup that we have, added a few pieces and we were a really good team. Who knows what could happen?” Minnesota also has Ben Rortvedt as an option to fill the backup catcher role. He is considered the best defensive catcher out of the three, and he is left-handed to help form a more natural platoon. However, there are questions about how much he can hit at the big-league level. At Triple-A this season, he hit .254/.324/.426 (.750), but his OPS is 240 points lower with the Twins. In a part-time role, Rortvedt might find success, especially if he is only facing right-handed pitching. Many fans have questions about Minnesota’s direction moving forward. Will the team enter 2022 with both Garver and Jeffers on the roster? Can Rortvedt be the team’s regular back-up catcher? 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
  24. Baseball is a challenging game, and even the all-time greats can have a down season. Players fight through injuries, work on swing adjustments, and fight against extensive data compiled on their every weakness. This is a tough environment for any player to find success. Here are three Twins players that underperformed in 2021 that should return to form next season. Randy Dobnak, SP Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Dobnak after signing his extension last spring. Beginning the season as a reliever and multiple IL stints meant his season could never get off the ground. There were brief glimpses of the old Dobnak this season, but he ended up being worth -1.3 WAR. Only J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker posted a lower WAR total for the team this season. Dobnak is also under contract through 2025. In next year's starting rotation, Minnesota will have plenty of opportunities, and Dobnak is better than his numbers from 2021. Alex Colome, RP Like Dobnak, not much went right for Colome at the start of the year. His disastrous April helped put the Twins in a hole that made it nearly impossible to dig out. He has already shown improved performance in the second half with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He's held batters to a .214/.277/.359 slash line in his last 27 games. One of Minnesota's biggest questions this winter will be whether or not to pick up Colome's mutual option. With Taylor Rogers injured, could that make the team want to keep Colome around? Ryan Jeffers, C Minnesota started the year with what looked like one of baseball's best catching duos. Both Ryan Jeffers and Mitch Garver struggled offensively before Jeffers was eventually demoted. Keep in mind that Jeffers had never played at Triple-A in his professional career. In 24 games, he got on base over 34% of the time and posted a .786 OPS. Defensively, he has still provided value as he has been worth four defensive runs saved and ranks in the 72nd percentile for framing. Jeffers doesn't turn 25 until next June, and he is still the future of catching for the Twins. Which Twins player do you feel is the most likely to bounce back in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. 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
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