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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Barnes 4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K Homeruns: Jeffers (13) Top 3 WPA: Jeffers .323, Gordon .211, Sano .129 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) After the fret surrounding Joe Ryan’s injury had somewhat subsided, the Twins had the second game of a doubleheader against Cleveland to attend to. Here’s how the Twins lined up for game two. Charlie Barnes was recalled from St. Paul to be the extra man on the roster for the Twins Tuesday double header. After issuing a leadoff walk to Myles Straw, Barnes settled in. He retired the next seven Cleveland hitters to bring the game into the top of the third scoreless. Barnes was solid, if not spectacular, working relatively efficiently without dominating or overpowering hitters. With the wrist contusion to his throwing arm, Joe Ryan’s rotation spot into question. Barnes may find himself sticking around through the rest of the 2021 season. Barnes ran into trouble in the top of the third inning. An Oscar Mercado single, back-to-back doubles from Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez, and an RBI single from Franmil Reyes gave Cleveland a 3-0 lead. Barnes returned in the fourth to complete a scoreless inning, and give the Twins bullpen some much-needed length after the trip to New York on Monday. The Twins fought back in the fourth inning. Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano contributed singles before Ryan Jeffers ripped a two-run double down the left field line to cut the lead to 3-2. Willians Astudillo followed up with a double of his own to right center field to tie the game, before a Nick Gordon single to center field gave the Twins their first lead at 4-3. The Twins bullpen held the lead in the latter stages of the game. Kyle Barraclough and Juan Minaya threw back-to-back scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, giving up just a hit between them. In the bottom of the sixth, the Twins added to their lead. Rob Refsnyder doubled down the left field line before Ryan Jeffers clubbed a 426-foot, two-run home run to increase the lead to 6-3. Alexander Colome closed the game in the seventh, bringing the Twins record on the season to 64-82. Encouraging performances from Nick Gordon and Ryan Jeffers will compound the highlight of the day, no serious injury for Joe Ryan. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Minaya 40 0 17 0 13 70 Coulombe 0 23 0 0 27 50 Colomé 12 0 0 27 11 50 Duffey 11 0 0 38 0 49 Farrell 0 12 0 34 0 46 Barraclough 0 0 0 23 16 39 Moran 0 0 37 0 0 37 Thielbar 0 26 0 11 0 37 Alcalá 9 0 18 0 8 35 Garza Jr. 0 0 11 6 0 17 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins continue their series with Cleveland. Griffin Jax will take on Cal Quantrill. First pitch is at 6:40 CST. Postgame Interviews - Coming soon
  7. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Ryan 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Homeruns: Sano (25) Top 3 WPA: Ryan (0.479), Gordon (0.101), Thielbar (0.58) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Joe Ryan Take Perfect Game into Seventh in Second Career Start Apart from one rough inning in his MLB debut last week against the Chicago Cubs, Joe Ryan looked pretty impressive and left an overall good first impression, at least in this writer’s eyes. Well, that strong first impression only got stronger after tonight’s start, as Ryan retired the first 19 hitters Cleveland sent to the plate. Joe Ryan had the fly ball out working in his favor early in the game tonight, as he gave up a number of deep fly balls that looked scary off the bat, but they all would eventually die harmlessly at the warning track for routine outs. Joe Ryan also did a good job keeping his pitch count low, as he completed seven shutout innings with just 85 pitches. While having just four strikeouts aided in that effort, the main reason was Joe not only avoided the walk, but he didn’t really work deep into many counts as he threw nearly 72% of his pitches for strikes. The perfect game, and the no-hitter, came to an end with one out in the seventh, when Amed Rosario laced a hard-hit ball between short and third for a one out single. Rosario would advance to second on a pickoff attempt throwing error from Ryan. However, Ryan would focus in and get out of the inning without allowing a run to score. Twins Get on the Board First in the Fifth The first few innings of this game were rather uneventful. The most action came from a Josh Donaldson leadoff double in the 2nd that was originally ruled an out, but after a Twins challenge Donaldson was awarded second base after it was determined that the ball made contact with the outfield wall just before it fell into the glove of Cleveland outfielder Harold Ramirez. The fifth inning started like most of the other innings early in this ballgame, as the Twins made two outs to begin the inning. Rob Refsnyder got the two out rally started by working the count full before drawing a two out walk. Then, with Nick Gordon up, Refsnyder stole second base to get in scoring position. Gordon then promptly delivered with a double, bringing Refsnyder around to score the first run of the game. Miguel Sano Goes Way Deep in the Seventh After putting up a run with two outs in the fifth, the Twins got another two out run in the seventh, this time via a more conventional way, a Miguel Sano bomb. Now I must preface this by saying, for Sano this was just another oh hum home run, but for any average MLB hitter this would certainly be classified as a bomb that traveled 449 feet to the opposite field. Twins Tack on Insurance Run in Eighth With the perfect game in the rearview mirror, the focus was shifted back on the original goal, winning the ballgame. The Twins bats aided in the bullpen’s quest to lock down the win by giving them a bigger cushion to work with. Ryan Jeffers got the inning started with a one out double into the left-center field gap. Luis Arraez followed with a single to left field that seemed like it should have scored Jeffers, but he was held up by third base coach Tony Diaz, despite the throw coming back into second. Byron Buxton then delivered on what should have been a TaylorMade double-play, but with Buxton’s speed those do not exist, as he beat it out allowing the run to score. Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Colomé 11 23 9 17 0 60 Thielbar 0 28 0 25 8 61 Minaya 21 0 0 21 0 42 Alcalá 0 15 0 19 0 34 Garza Jr. 23 0 0 0 0 23 Duffey 0 10 8 0 17 35 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0 What's Next The Twins will go for the rare four-game sweep vs Cleveland on Thursday night, as they will send Randy Dobnak to the mound to face Cleveland pitcher Cal Quantrill. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10pm CDT. Postgame Interviews
  8. Box Score Bailey Ober: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (64 pitches, 44 strikes (68.8%)) Home Runs: Jeffers (9), Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (0.126), Bailey Ober (0.117), Miguel Sano (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Return of Arraez Before Saturday’s game, the Twins announced that Luis Arraez was being activated from the Injured List. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A St. Paul (will he finally make his Saints debut?). He was put into the cleanup spot in the Twins lineup. It paid immediate dividends for the team. In the first inning, he came up with runners on second and third base. He gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. He added another RBI his second time up. With runners on first and second, he hit a double down the right field line. He added a walk later in the game. Bailey’s Big Hit Bailey Ober had not had an at-bat in a baseball game in eight years, since he and Vikings center Garrett Bradbury were starring at Charlotte Christian High School in North Carolina. He stepped to the plate, and on an 0-1 pitch, lined a single to right field for his first big-league hit. OK, softly lined a single to right field. It doesn’t matter. Congratulations to Ober! The Twins' pitchers haven’t had a lot of hits of late. More importantly, Bailey Ober pitched well. He began with three scoreless innings, and then in the fourth, he gave up a run but was able to limit damage with a big double play ball. Despite a 7-1 lead, Ober was due to bat for the third time but Willians Astudillo pinch hit and grounded a single through the infield to give the Twins an 8-1 lead. Ober’s fastball sat between 92 and 93 mph, but he is able to get swings and misses with it up in the strike zone. Why? As important, the Twins bullpen combined for five shutout innings. Jorge Alcala worked two innings, and then Caleb Thielbar, Juan Minaya and Alexander Colome each pitched one inning. (see the bullpen usage chart below) Jeffers Jolts In the third inning, Ryan Jeffers came to the plate and hit a three-run homer to give the Twins a 7-0 lead. It was his ninth homer of the season, but it was his third in his past two starts. Remember, he had two homers in that crazy, 17-14 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday. In his past nine games, Jeffers is 9-for-29 (.310) with two doubles, three homers and an OPS north of 1.000). Since returning from the IL, Mitch Garver has played in five games and hit .278 (1.324 OPS) with two doubles, three homers and ten RBI. After both struggled mightily at the plate in April, Twins fans are now seeing what we thought we might from the Twins catching duo. It feels appropriate to talk about the performance of Twins catchers on a night when Hall of Fame catcher Ted Simmons' number was retired by the Cardinals and a statue of his likeness was unveiled outside the stadium. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Coulombe 0 10 0 0 23 0 33 Thielbar 13 16 0 0 0 14 43 Alcala 0 11 0 0 0 21 32 Gant 0 0 24 0 0 0 24 Colomé 16 0 0 0 0 16 32 Minaya 0 0 45 0 0 18 63 Duffey 11 7 0 0 32 0 50 Burrows 0 0 63 0 0 0 63
  9. Box Score Happ: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (62.5% strikes) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Jeffers .512, Rogers .169, Polanco .104 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Happ struggles early but settles in nicely Eight pitches. Eight pitches were all it took for this game to have its first runs on the board. Happ was off to a horrendous start, which is not news. Coming into tonight’s game, 21.3% of all earned runs given up by the southpaw in the season happened during the first inning of games. That became a little worse when Phil Gosselin doubled and then scored on a Jose Iglesias’ single. Then it became a lot worse a few moments later when old friend Kurt Suzuki hit a two-out, two-run bomb to the left field corner, making it 3-0 Angels. Facing righty Alex Cobb, the offense loaded the bases during the bottom of the first inning but couldn’t capitalize. They went down in order in the second frame, but not before Happ had given up yet another home run in the top of the inning to Jack Mayfield, extending the Angels’ lead to four. With the four early runs allowed, the Twins’ starter took the lead of Robbie Ray for most earned runs allowed by any left-handed pitcher in the American League. Minnesota got one run back in the third inning with Jorge Polanco keeping his hot streak alive and well with a double, and being pushed across by a single from Trevor Larnach. Fortunately, that was also the inning when Happ had started to settle in. After the awful first two innings, he went on to pitch four scoreless frames. Before he departed, the Twins manufactured another run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Max Kepler hit a bullet to lead off the inning (110 MPH exit velocity), then Polanco singled to move him to third. With men on the corners, a fantastic defensive play from Mayfield at third prevented the Twins from maybe scoring a couple of runs. Instead, Josh Donaldson grounded into a double-play, but that was enough to score Kepler from third and cut Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2. Offense keeps pushing for a rally The Twins continued to peck their way into this game. Cobb came back to the mound for the bottom of the sixth, but he left the game with a blister before throwing a single pitch. With Steve Cishek pitching, Miguel Sanó led off the inning with a double, and Nick Gordon singled to right to bring the big man home, putting Minnesota within a run. Minnesota kept hitting the ball hard. After Alexander Colomé delivered a scoreless seventh inning, Donaldson hit a single in the bottom of the inning, the Twins’ 11th hit of the night. However, they couldn’t add on, thanks to Mayfield’s impressive defensive display at the hot corner. While the Twins were able to produce baserunners, most of them were stranded by the Angel defense. Juan Minaya worked out of a jam in the top of the eighth to keep this a one-run game. Then, with a series of great at-bats, the offense came through in the home half. Sanó worked an eight-pitch at-bat to draw a leadoff walk, prompting a pitching change. Joe Maddon brought in star closer Raisel Iglesias to try to keep the Angels ahead. After he got the first out of the inning, Gordon responded with a single, his second of the night. Then Ryan Jeffers came through with his most clutch hit yet! A single to left, just out of the reach of Mayfield, was enough to score Sanó from second. After an errant throw home, Suzuki tried to catch Gordon advancing to third base, but he was way off the mark, allowing the Twins’ rookie to score sliding and give the Twins their first lead of the night, 5-4. Taylor Rogers came in to pitch the ninth inning and, despite giving up a bloop single to David Fletcher, managed to retire the side and secure the Twins win. This was his ninth save of the season, the 50th in his career. He's now even closer to enter the top 10 in career saves in Senators/Twins franchise history, ranking 13th at the moment. Postgame Interviews Nick Gordon Ryan Jeffers Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Colomé 0 26 22 0 11 59 Duffey 16 0 38 0 0 54 Alcala 23 24 0 0 0 47 Coulombe 0 5 0 32 0 37 Rogers 19 0 0 0 18 37 Thielbar 0 17 16 0 0 33 Robles 19 7 0 0 0 26 Minaya 0 0 0 0 20 20
  10. So keep reading to find out just how crazy the night was for your favorite Twins prospects! TRANSACTIONS Minor League Gold Glove OF Mark Contreras was promoted to St. Paul from Wichita In Fort Myers recent free agent signing OF Justin Washington was assigned from the GCL Twins, 3B Wander Valdez was sent back to the GCL Twins roster, and SS Ruben Santana was activated from the disabled list. SAINTS SENTINEL St. Paul 17, Iowa 6 Box Score The Saints took advantage of some wildness from double-A’s 2019 strikeout king, Corey Abbott to jump out to an early lead. They got to the Cubs prospect for six runs in the first two innings, with a three-run Tomas Telis homer doing the bulk of that damage. They would tack on four more in the fourth after an RBI double from Ben Rortvedt was followed by another three-run blast, this one off the bat of JT Riddle, his first with the Saints. In all St. Paul hitters mashed seven hits (five for extra bases) and drew five walks against Abbott, taking full advantage of the extra baserunners and opportunities they were given. As far as the Saints starting pitcher went, it was Bailey Ober’s first appearance since making his MLB debut, and he dazzled. In five innings he allowed just one earned run on four hits, striking out five. It was good for his first win of the 2021 season. While watching the game the opposing broadcast’s announcer was excited to see Abbott on the mound, but Ober was the one who left a mark on him. “I’m very impressed so far with Bailey Ober. You understand why he posts zeroes so often [and] can see why he is tough to pick up. Six-foot-nine, long reach, and hides the ball very well.” With the big lead Ober’s day was done after just seventy pitches, with Ian Hamilton coming on for the sixth. Hamilton was hitting high 90’s with his fastball in his inning and struck out two. Robinson Leyer delivered two scoreless frames, allowing one hit and striking out one. Another RBI double from Ben Rortvedt and RBI single from Jimmy Kerrigan added a few more runs in the sixth, then Ryan Jeffers and Brent Rooker added insult to injury with home runs in the seventh and ninth innings, respectively. Jeffers was a three-run no-doubter, and Rooker’s a two-run blast to dead center that made the score 17-1. They were the fourth home run of the season for each player. Tom Hackimer would come on for the ninth but made the game last quite a bit longer than it should have. The bases were loaded before he recorded an out, then he was not able to finish it off. In all, Hackimer allowed 5 runs on three hits, four walks, and a hit batter. St. Paul was forced to go to Andrew Vasquez for the final out, and he made sure it went as quick as possible, getting a strikeout to end the game. WIND SURGE WISDOM Springfield 7, Wichita 2 Box Score Unlike the rest of their affiliate brethren, the Wind Surge were unable to pile on the runs on Tuesday, falling to the Cardinals in Wichita. Starter Bryan Sammons went the first four innings and surrendered all the damage Springfield would need as their pitchers allowed just six hits and three walks to Wichita’s lineup. In total he allowed four earned runs on five hits and a pair of walks in his time. While he struck out six, three of his hits allowed were home runs. Dakota Chalmers came on for the fifth and went two innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits (including a homer of his own) while striking out two. Jonathan Cheshire was the only Wind Surge pitcher without a blemish, pitching a scoreless seventh, though he did walk two. Hector Lujan finished the final two frames, allowing a solo home run and striking out one. Jermaine Palacios led the way hitting for Wichita with a 2-for-4 night. Andrew Bechtold hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth. Jose Miranda contributed an RBI single in the third. As a team the Wind Surge had just three at-bats with runners in scoring position and left only five men on base. KERNELS NUGGETS Wisconsin 2, Cedar Rapids 9 Box Score Cedar Rapids slugger Seth Gray put the Kernels on the board early with a two-run blast in the first. He and Michael Helman would add to that lead in the third with a pair of RBI doubles, Helman’s of the 2-run variety for a 5-0 lead after three. Starter Tyler Beck ran into some trouble in the top of the fourth, allowing a run to score after three singles and a walk, and exiting with the bases loaded. In all he went 3 1/3, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out four. Jordan Gore came on and allowed one inherited runner to score on a groundout but would stop the bleeding there by picking up a strikeout. He would add a scoreless fifth inning and add another K to his ledger. Lefty Tyler Watson would keep Cedar Rapids out front three scoreless innings. He scattered one hit and two walks while striking out three. The Kernels bats went pretty silent for the middle innings, but in the seventh Spencer Steer woke them up again with a leadoff double. Wander Javier drove him in with a single that was misplayed by the center fielder and allowed another runner to score that made it 7-2. Leobaldo Cabrera’s first home as a Twins prospect would make it 9-2 after eight. Lefty Zach Featherstone would finish the game for Cedar Rapids with three strikeouts in the ninth around a walk. MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 13, Lakeland 0 Box Score After losing four in a row to the Tampa Tarpons by a combined score of 53-13, the Mighty Mussels have unleashed some frustration the past two games. In the final game of their series with the Tarpons they won 9-3 and were even more impressive in the opening tilt with the Flying Tigers. Fort Myers also got the scoring started early in this one courtesy of a slugger, in their case Aaron Sabato. His first inning home run was his second of the season and gave them the early 2-0 lead. They added another run in the second after loading the bases on a Misael Urbina sac fly but were just getting started. Starter Brent Headrick went the first five innings and was dominant. He threw just 67 pitches (43 for strikes), allowing only two singles and one walk while striking out five to pick up his second win of the season. Juan Pichardo went the next two scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two. Matthew Swain would finish the shutout for the Saints going the final two innings. He allowed one hit, a walk, and struck out two. The Mighty Mussels broke the game open in the top of the sixth with quite a bit of help from Lakeland pitchers. Consecutive singles were followed by two four-pitch walks to score the first run of the inning. After a strikeout of Sabato another four-pitch walk scored another run before the bullpen was summoned for the Flying Tigers. It was greeted by a Kyle Schmidt double on their first pitch, scoring two more. Then two more walks, an RBI single from Anthony Prato, and a 2-run double from Edouard Julien would push Fort Myers’ lead to 11-0 before the inning was over. They would add a few more in the top of the ninth on a Yunior Severino two-run single for the final of 13-0. In all the Mighty Mussels racked up fourteen (!) walks and twelve hits against Flying Tigers pitching. Julien (2-for-3, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K), Schmidt (3-for-4, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI), and Prato (2-for-4, 2 R, RBI) had multiple hits. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – Brent Headrick, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (W, 5.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 5 K) Hitter of the Day – Tomas Telis, St. Paul Saints (4-for-6, 3 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 - Alex Kirilloff (Minnesota) – 2-for-4, 2 2B, RBI, K #2 - Royce Lewis (Rehab) - Out for Season (torn ACL) #3 - Trevor Larnach (Minnesota) – 0-for-3, 2 K #4 - Ryan Jeffers (St. Paul) – 2-for-5, 3 R, HR, BB, 2 K #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) – Did not pitch #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) – Injured List (back) #7 - Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) – Did not play #8 - Aaron Sabato (Fort Myers) – 1-for-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K #9 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) – Did not pitch #10 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – Did not pitch #11 - Gilberto Celestino (Wichita) – 0-for-3, BB #12 - Brent Rooker (St. Paul) – 2-for-6, R, HR, 3 RBI, K #13 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – Did not play #14 - Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) – 0-for-4, R, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K #15 - Cole Sands (Wichita) – Did not pitch #16 - Edwar Colina (Rehab) - 60-Day IL (elbow) #17 - Ben Rortvedt (St. Paul) – 2-for-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB #18 - Alerick Soularie (Complex) – N/A #19 - Jose Miranda (Wichita) – 1-for-3, RBI #20 - Bailey Ober (St. Paul) – W, 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 5 K WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Iowa (12:08PM CST) – LHP Charlie Barnes (1-0, 3.95 ERA) Springfield @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) – RHP Cole Sands (0-0, 3.00 ERA) Wisconsin @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) – LHP Kody Funderburk (0-0, 1.32 ERA) Fort Myers @ Tampa (5:30PM CST) – RHP Regi Grace (1-0, 4.50 ERA) Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!
  11. To find out everything that happened with your favorite Twins prospects on MiLB opening day, keep reading! TRANSACTIONS The Minnesota Twins recalled infielder Nick Gordon to take the place of Luis Arraez who was placed on the 7-day concussion injured list. LHP Lachlan Wells was assigned to the Cedar Rapids Kernels. SAINTS SENTINEL St. Paul 2, Omaha 8 Box Score The Saints debut as a major league and Twins affiliate didn’t quite go to plan, but count me as one who is super excited they are in the fold instead of an independent. Starter Andrew Albers went the first four innings but was touched up for a single run in three of them, and four in the other as the Saints fell behind 7-0 while he was on the mound. He allowed eight hits total and struck out six. Glenn Sparkman came on for the fifth and allowed a solo home run, Omaha’s fourth of the game, but struck out five in his two innings. Lefty Andrew Vasquez came on for the seventh and flummoxed Omaha hitters with his slider that the broadcaster compared to “those wiffle ball pitches you see in your backyard.” He went 1-2-3 in both his innings, striking out three. Saints hitters were also flummoxed by Storm Chasers pitching throughout the game, striking out 15 times and collecting only five hits and two walks. Zander Wiel and Ryan Jeffers led the way with two hits apiece, and Jeffers delivered the first two runs as an affiliate for St. Paul with a two-run homer in the seventh. https://twitter.com/KSTPSports/status/1389756806965174275 WIND SURGE WISDOM Wichita 2, Springfield 0 Box Score Another new affiliate for the Twins, Wichita got their season off on the right foot defeating the Springfield Cardinals 2-0. It's fun for me to see this matchup at Hammons Field in Springfield, MO as it is one of the MiLB stadiums I have had the pleasure of attending, and reminds me of their parent club’s Busch Stadium in mini form. As for this game, it was a pitcher’s duel throughout with the teams trading zeroes until the top of the eighth, when the Wind Surge struck for two runs. Singles from Damek Tomscha and Jose Miranda started the inning, then Mark Contreras and Andrew Bechtold finished it with consecutive RBI singles with two outs to account for the scoring. Josh Winder made the start for Wichita and went the first 4 2/3’s, allowing no runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six. He threw 81 pitches with 57 of them going for strikes (70.4%), including 14 swinging strikes. Left-hander Jovani Moran got the last out of the fifth with a K, then struck out two more in a scoreless sixth. Sidewinder Tom Hackimer was next out of the bullpen and added two more scoreless frames, allowing two hits and striking out three. International signing out of Cuba in 2019, Yennier Cano, came on for the ninth and bookended a single with a pair of strikeouts to close out the victory. Aaron Whitefield, batting ninth, led the Wind Surge offense with two hits including a double and a stolen base. Contreras finished 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in addition to the RBI. Gilberto Celestino led off the game with a single and finished 1-for-5. KERNELS NUGGETS Peoria 0, Cedar Rapids 7 Box Score In the Kernels first game as a high-A affiliate, they got the job done on opening night in convincing fashion. They chased Chiefs starter Ian Bedell from the game before he could complete one inning, scoring three runs on four hits and a walk in the opening frame. They would add two more in the second and one each in the third and fourth innings to jump out to a 7-0 lead that was more than enough. Kernels pitchers cruised throughout the game, allowing just three hits to Peoria hitters and scattering five walks. Kody Funderburk made the start and went the first three innings, allowing one hit, two walks, and striking out two. Andrew Cabezas went the next four innings and picked up the win, allowing one hit, two walks, and striking out two. Melvi Acosta finished the game with two scoreless frames, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two. Leadoff man Spencer Steer (2-for-4, 2 R, BB, SB) was the only Kernels batter with multiple hits, while Matt Wallner, Jair Camargo, and Seth Gray each clubbed a double. Gabe Snyder had an RBI triple in the first and was hit by a pitch twice. While the lineup had just seven hits, they also drew eight walks. MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 6, Bradenton 3 Box Score Newly minted as the Twins low-A affiliate and renamed the Mighty Mussels before last year’s MiLB season was cancelled, Fort Myers opened their new era with a 6-3 win over Bradenton. Willie Joe Garry Jr. got the scoring started three pitches into the game, launching a home run to right-center for the early 1-0 lead. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1389715977990852609 Fort Myers would leave the bases loaded without adding another run in the opening frame and from there until the seventh inning the pitchers were the story. Mussels starter Regi Grace went 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk while striking out six. Though he struck out the first two hitters of the fifth, he was lifted as his pitch count reached its limit at 75. He was relieved by Louie Varland who was drafted in the 15th round of the 2019 draft out of Concordia-St. Paul, and he would finish the game’s final 4 1/3 with some eye-popping numbers. He gave up two earned runs on two hits and a walk among his 16 batters faced, but struck out TEN(!) of them. The runs given up came on a two-run home run that gave the Marauders a 3-2 lead after seven, but the bats would pick him up in the ninth to give him the win. Will Holland led off the top of the ninth with a double and a few walks (one intentional to Garry Jr.) around a strikeout kept the bases loaded for the bulk of it. The first two runs would score on wild pitches, then with two outs Edouard Julien delivered the finishing blow with a two-run single. Garry Jr. (1-for-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB), Holland (1-for-3, 2B, 2 R, BB), Keoni Cavaco (1-for-3, R, RBI, 2 BB, SB), and Julien (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB) led the way for the offense in the win. Aaron Sabato was 0-for-5 with 3 K’s in his minor league debut. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – Louie Varland, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (4.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, BB, 10 K) Hitter of the Day – Ryan Jeffers, St. Paul Saints (2-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, K) PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #1 - Alex Kirilloff (Minnesota) – Did not play #2 - Royce Lewis (Rehab) - Out for Season (torn ACL) #3 - Trevor Larnach (St. Paul) – 0-for-3, BB, K #4 - Ryan Jeffers (St. Paul) – 2-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, K #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) – Did not pitch #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) – Injured List (back) #7 - Keoni Cavaco (Ft. Myers) – 1-for-3, R, RBI, 2 BB, SB #8 - Aaron Sabato (Ft. Myers) – 0-for-5, 3 K #9 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) – Did not pitch #10 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – Did not pitch #11 - Gilberto Celestino (Wichita) – 1-for-5, 2 K #12 - Brent Rooker (St. Paul) – 0-for-4, 3 K #13 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 1-for-5, R, 2B, K #14 - Misael Urbina (Complex) – N/A #15 - Cole Sands (Wichita) – Did not pitch #16 - Edwar Colina (Rehab) - 60-Day IL (elbow) #17 - Ben Rortvedt (Minnesota) – Did not play #18 - Alerick Soularie (Complex) – N/A #19 - Jose Miranda (Wichita) – 1-for-3, R, BB #20 - Bailey Ober (St. Paul) – Did not pitch WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Omaha (12:05PM CST) – LHP Charlie Barnes Wichita @ Springfield (6:35PM CST) – TBD Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) – RHP Ben Gross Fort Myers @ Bradenton (5:05PM CST) – RHP Casey Legumina Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!
  12. Projected Starter: Mitch Garver Likely Backup: Ryan Jeffers Depth: Willians Astudillo, Tomás Telis Prospects: Ben Rortvedt THE GOOD Few teams have a starting catcher as good as Mitch Garver. No teams have a backup catcher as good as Ryan Jeffers – to the extent you'd call him a "backup" given this appears to be a straight 50/50 timeshare. The Twins are in a pretty optimal situation with two starting-caliber catchers on hand. Although questions marks surround both Garver and Jeffers to some extent, each backstop has proven his mettle in the majors after stepping in with big expectations and big pressure. In 2019, after coming up short in their offseason pursuits of free agents Yasmani Grandal and Robinson Chirinos, the Twins turned to Garver as the primary partner for veteran Jason Castro. Garver's future behind the plate was somewhat in doubt after another concussion ended his 2018 campaign, while Castro was trying to come back from knee surgery. It was a bit of a precarious situation. It worked out nicely, in part because Castro rebounded with a .767 OPS, but mainly because Garver broke through with a spectacular season that earned him Silver Slugger honors and catapulted him immediately into the upper echelon of major-league catchers. He slashed .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs and a .404 wOBA in 391 plate appearance, producing 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Garver's offensive explosion was accompanied by clear improvements on the defensive end, as he graded out very well by pitch-framing metrics and earned more confidence from Twins pitchers. While the luster wore off from his breakout during in injury-marred and abbreviated 2020 campaign, Garver is a prime rebound candidate and remains a high-quality starting option. The uncertainties attached to Garver are much easier to stomach given last year's emergence of Jeffers, who answered the call for Minnesota's beleaguered catching corps. Showing up as a 23-year-old rookie, he showed astonishing poise and preparedness, slashing .273/.355/.436 while grading out well defensively. Jeffers received Twins Daily's nod for Rookie of the Year, and made such an impression that his spot on the 2021 Opening Day roster was at no point in doubt. He might not offer the upside to match what Garver showed in 2019, but Jeffers has instantly established himself as a high-floor timeshare partner, balancing out Garver's risk factor while enabling Rocco Baldelli to take it easy on both of them. The manager can rotate his top two catchers steadily to regulate their workloads, without ever sacrificing high-end offense or defense. How many other teams can say that? THE BAD While the Twins have an admirable 1-2 punch atop the depth chart at catcher, neither player is necessarily a slam dunk. Garver's immense struggles in 2020, when his OPS plummeted by nearly 500 points and he struck out in 46% of his plate appearances, can't be completely ignored, mitigating circumstances aside. He won't be that bad again, and got off on the right foot this year with a ringing single in his first spring training AB, but Garver will not escape the shadow of his 2020 season until he goes out on the field in real games and firmly proves it a fluke. As for Jeffers, his successful first stint in the majors carried no specific indicators of unsustainability, but all standard caveats apply. It was a 26-game sample for a 23-year-old who'd previously played only 24 games above Single-A. He needs to substantiate that performance while holding up to the rigors of a full MLB season as catcher – no small task. In terms of depth behind these two, the Twins aren't in bad shape with Tomás Telis, Ben Rortvedt and Willians Astudillo (who may round out the Opening Day roster as a third catcher). Needless to say, they'd see a huge drop-off in the quality of their catching rotation if either Garver or Jeffers goes down. THE BOTTOM LINE Minnesota's catching situation is the envy of much of the league. You'd be hard-pressed to find another club that would be in as comfortable shape as the Twins if their 1A option became unavailable. In fact, as spring training gets underway, it's not entirely clear Garver should be the 1A, given that Jeffers earned enough trust last season to start both playoff games. Regardless of how you want to stack them, these two provide Minnesota with a decisive competitive advantage behind the plate compared to nearly all rivals. For a deeper dive into position's long-term outlook, check out Cody Christie's future position analysis at catcher. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. Something a little different on tonight's Twins Spotlight. Instead of talking to some Twins player, we will be talking with some player's wives. Maci Blankenhorn watched her husband Travis make his major-league debut last September while finalizing wedding plans. The couple got married this winter. Lexi Jeffers was in St. Paul when her husband Ryan made his debut in 2021. Of course, she still couldn't go to Target Field for the game. They had been married the previous offseason. Jordan Kirilloff married her husband Alex in October of 2016, months after he was the Twins first-round pick. The couple welcomed their first child, a daughter, to the world just over one year ago. We will get to know a little more about each and find out what it is like to be married to a professional baseball player. Certainly there are several good things, but it isn't all easy. There certainly are challenges as well. We'll talk about some of their experiences in and around the game, but also find out their thoughts on some of their husband's professional achievements. And, each has their own achievements to celebrate as well. This should be a fun show, and we welcome your questions. Join us live at 5:30 tonight to watch, and participate by sending your questions. We'll cover a ton of topics. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Please watch LIVE at 5:30 pm (central time) Thursday night on the Twins Daily Twitter, Facebook or YouTube pages live. Also feel free to ask questions in the comments below or on those platforms during the show and we'll ask them. Subscribe to the Twins Daily podcast on Libsyn, Apple iTunes or anywhere you download podcasts. Here is the YouTube link where you can watch the show. Previous Episodes Click here to see more previous episodes of Twins Spotlight. Episode 19: Regi Grace Episode 20: Louie Varland Episode 21: Max Smith Episode 22: Zander Wiel Episode 23: Blayne Enlow Episode 24: Royce Lewis Episode 25: Trey Cabbage Episode 26: Keoni Cavaco Episode 27: Casey Legumina Episode 28: DaShawn Keirsey Episode 29: Twins Wives (Maci Blankenhorn, Lexi Jeffers, Jordan Kirilloff)
  14. MLB.com tried to identify the top players under 25 under an interesting premise. “If you were starting a team today, and you were able to choose only from players under 25 years old -- that’s Major League stars and Minor League prospects, just so long as they aren’t past their age-24 season in 2021 -- who would you pick?” It can be a tough exercise, especially with Minnesota’s deep farm system. 5. Royce Lewis, SS (21-years old) Lewis might be the team’s second-best prospect, but his recently announced knee surgery puts a hold on his development. There were already questions about his swing and his long-term defensive position. Those questions will remain, especially after not playing a professional game in 2020 or 2021. The potential is there, the work ethic is there, and he projects to be a building block piece in the future. For now, the Twins are going to be left looking for other shortstop options as they wait for Lewis to return to the field. 4. Jhoan Duran, RHP (23-years old) Minnesota’s front office was confident Duran would debut in 2020, but then the pandemic shortened the season. He worked at the Twins alternate site last season and reports continue to be positive. Here at Twins Daily, Duran is the organization’s highest ranked pitching prospect. With a fastball that hits triple-digits and a unique splinker pitch, Duran is one of the most intriguing prospects to come through the Twins organization. He has the making of four above average pitches and the Twins hope he is a pitcher they can build their rotation around for years to come. 3. Ryan Jeffers, C (23-years old) Jeffers is half of one of baseball’s best catching duos and he’s six and a half years younger than Mitch Garver. Because Garver was a late bloomer, the Twins have team control of both players for multiple seasons. Jeffers was Twins Daily’s number four overall prospect and it’s clear to see why people should be excited about him. He has some of the best catch framing skills in baseball and it is going to be intriguing to see how his numbers play over the course of 162-games. Jeffers needs to prove his offensive numbers weren’t a fluke from 2020, but he was known as a hitter out of college. 2. Luis Arraez, UTL (24-years old) Arraez is moving to a utility role for 2021, but there’s no question that Rocco Baldelli will find way to insert him into the line-up on a regular basis. Even though he was hobbled in 2020, he still managed to post a .321 batting average, which means he has a career .331 batting average in 124 big-league games. On many other teams, Arraez would be in the everyday starting line-up, but he’s only one injury away from finding himself back in a fulltime role. FanGraph’s ZiPS projects him to win the AL batting title and it will be Baldelli’s job to make sure he gets enough plate appearances to qualify. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF (23-years old) Kirilloff is the type of player any team would like to build their franchise around. He had tremendous make-up and a sweet swing that is hard to ignore. MLB.com will likely include him on their top-25 list entering next season after baseball gets a longer look at Minnesota’s top prospect. One of the few questions that remains is whether or not Kirilloff will be on the Opening Day roster. Minnesota’s winning window is open and that’s one of the strongest reasons to have Kirilloff be in the line-up from day one. How good can he be in his age-23 campaign? Other Potential Names (Ages): Jordan Balazovic (22), Trevor Larnach (24), Aaron Sabato (21), Gilberto Celestino (22), Matt Canterino (23), Edwar Colina (23) Would you put any of these other names on the list? Should Lewis drop off because of his injury? 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
  15. Position: C Age: 23 (DOB: 6-3-1997) 2020 Stats (MLB): 62 PA, .273/.355/.436, 3 HR, 7 RBI ETA: 2021 2020 Ranking: 5 2019 Ranking: 13 National Top 100 Rankings BA: 60 |MLB: NR | ATH: NR |BP: NR What’s To Like Defense is the name of the game for any prospect that plays an up-the-middle defensive position and Jeffers showed his tremendous defensive value last season. He only caught 162 big-league innings, but he ranked seventh in baseball when it comes to strike rate, which puts him into elite company. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 90th percentile when it came to framing pitches last year. Twins pitchers must love pitching to him, because his smooth receiving skills gain extra strikes for pitchers and help them to get into favorable counts. For two straight offseasons, MLB.com has named Jeffers as the organizations best defensive prospect. Offensively, Jeffers combines plate discipline and a powerful swing that has improved over the last three seasons. Throughout the minors, he posted a 18.5% strikeout rate, but that number jumped to over 30% in his initial big-league run last year. Historically, his walk rate was 10.2% in the minors and he posted a 8.1 BB% in 2020. Expect both of those numbers to improve in 2021 as he gets more experience seeing MLB pitching. Jeffers just missed Baseball Prospectus’ Top-101 list as he was the second to last player removed. ESPN thinks highly of Jeffers as Kiley McDaniel has him ranked higher than any other national ranking (57th). FanGraphs also has Jeffers in their top-60 prospects as they said, “A physical beast with a power over hit offensive profile, Jeffers has the talent to be an everyday catcher but needs to improve his ability to control the running game.” What’s Left To Work On His defense has improved so much throughout his professional career, but there are other areas he can improve. Like FanGraphs wrote, his arm might not be as strong as a team would like from their everyday catcher. Jeffers has continued to work on quickening his release and that continues to help him improve his caught stealing percentage. Last year, base runners were successful in 14 of 16 potential chances, which put Jeffers at 13% below the league average in CS%. Another thing to consider is that MLB might be moving toward electronic strike zones and that could also negatively impact his long-term value. If his defensive value changes, Jeffers needs to continue to produce at the plate. His hit tool is average, which is why last year’s offensive numbers were a pleasant surprise. Some scouting reports have his breaking ball recognition and plate coverage as slightly below average. He posted a .364 BABIP last season and many projections have that total regressing in 2021. Jeffers is going to have to prove that 2020 wasn’t a fluke and that he can continue to make adjustments at baseball’s highest level. What’s Next Jeffers is projected to split catching duties with Mitch Garver throughout the 2021 season. Rocco Baldelli loves to rotate his catchers on a regular basis, so Jeffers should be getting 3-4 starts per week. He will be playing at the big-league level from season’s start, so it will be intriguing to watch his chances at bringing home AL Rookie of the Year honors. He’d need to put up some impressive offensive totals and teammate Alex Kirilloff might have something to say about the award before things are said and done. Does Jeffers have a shot of AL Rookie of the Year honors? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects Honorable Mentions 20. Bailey Ober, RHP 19. Jose Miranda, INF 18. Alerick Soularie, OF 17. Ben Rortvedt, C 16. Edwar Colina, RHP 15. Cole Sands, RHP 14. Misael Urbina, OF 13. Matt Wallner, OF 12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 11. Gilberto Celestino, OF 10. Blayne Enlow, RHP 9. Matt Canterino, RHP 8. Aaron Sabato, 1B 7. Keoni Cavaco, SS 6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 5. Jhoan Duran, RHP 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Stop by tomorrow for prospect #3! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Max Kepler, Right Field MLB Network Rank: NR Right field includes some of baseball’s most notable names like Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Bryce Harper along with young studs like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. Since the beginning of 2018, Kepler ranks as one of the best right fielders in all of baseball. According to FanGraphs, Kepler has the eighth highest WAR among right fielders over the last three seasons. This puts him ahead of players on MLB’s list including Mike Yastrzemski, Jorge Soler, Joey Gallo, and Charlie Blackmon. Kepler’s defense helps to separate him from the other players on this list. According to SABR’s SDI rankings, Kepler was the AL’s second-best defensive right fielder in 2019 and the only player ahead of him on the list, Mookie Betts, has since been traded to the NL. He probably doesn’t have a chance to rank in the top-5, but there’s a solid argument for him being baseball’s sixth best right fielder. Ryan Jeffers, Catcher MLB Network Rank: NR Minnesota has a catcher rank in MLB’s top-10, but Mitch Garver might not even be the team’s best catcher in 2021. Garver entered the 2020 season as MLB’s fourth best catcher as he trailed J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, and Willson Contreras. Garver went from the AL’s Silver Slugger in 2019 to hitting .167/.247/.264 in 26 games last season. This allowed Jeffers his time to shine. Jeffers was seen as a bat first catcher coming out of college, but he has turned himself into a tremendous defensive asset. During his rookie season, he ranked seventh in baseball when it comes to strike rate which places him ahead of many names on MLB’s top-10 list. Offensively, he hit .273/.355/.436 with three home runs in 26 games. To top it off, Garver just turned 30 in January and Jeffers won’t turn 24 until June. Taylor Rogers, Relief Pitcher MLB Network Rank: NR Tyler Duffey represents Minnesota on MLB’s top-10 relief pitcher list and few question how valuable Duffey has been over the last two seasons. However, Rogers has a longer track record and there are some signs that point to his 2020 numbers being more of a fluke. His BABIP rose to a career high .400, but he was still striking out well over a batter per inning. With an even better defense behind him in 2021, there’s a clear opportunity for him to rebound. Since the start of 2018, Rogers ranks fourth among all relief pitchers in WAR including a tremendous 2019 campaign. In that season, he had the third highest win probability added among AL relievers. Many of the players on MLB’s list haven’t ranked in the top-10 before and. Also, their rankings seem to be relying a lot on numbers from last season when many relievers were limited in their number of appearances due to the shortened season. Who do you think are the Twins most underrated players? 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
  17. In a season without minor league games, it is hard to know what happened on the back fields at spring training, at the alternate site in St. Paul, or in instructional leagues this fall. For better or for worse, the names on this list will form the core of the Minnesota Twins for the majority of the next decade. 5. Jhoan Duran- RHP (23-years old) Acquired: Along with Gabriel Maciel and Ernie De La Trinidad in the Eduard Escobar trade ETA: 2021 Duran can pump it across the plate with a triple-digit fastball that regularly sits in the high 90s. He combines that with a very good pitch that is a cross between a splitter and a sinker. His off-speed pitches include a curveball and a changeup that he can use to keep hitters off balance. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, his frame continues to fill out. His command continues to improve and his ability to triple-digit velocity and other sinking pitches will make it tough for big league hitters to make consistent contact. 4. Ryan Jeffers- C (23-years old) Acquired: 2018 2nd Round Pick ETA: 2020 When the Twins drafted Jeffers, he was seen as a bat-only player as many scouts felt like he would be a hindrance behind the plate. Things certainly have changed as MLB.com just named him the organization’s best defensive prospect. He burst onto the scene last year and he is the highest riser on this list. Minnesota is projected to use Jeffers and Mitch Garver in a two-catcher system for 2021. Last season, he hit .273/.355/.436, so there could be some expected regression, but he will continue to have strong defensive value. 3. Trevor Larnach- OF (23-years old) Acquired: 2018 1st Round Pick ETA: 2021 In some other organizations, Larnach would have a shot at being the team’s top prospect, but Minnesota has some bigger names ahead of him. His polished swing is going to make him a home run threat at the big-league level. He’s a large man and that prevents him from adding much value on the defensive side of the ball. During the 2019 campaign, he was the organization’s choice for Twins Minor League Player of the Year. He should start 2021 in St. Paul before making his big-league debut sometime next season. 2. Royce Lewis- SS (21-years old) Acquired: 2017 1st Round Pick ETA: 2022 Since the Twins drafted him, Lewis has been considered the top prospect in the Twins organization. Within the industry, there seems to be a shift this winter as more national outlets are putting Kirilloff at the top of the list. There are questions with Lewis about his swing mechanics and his future defensive position and this makes it tough to know what the future might hold. He is making changes to his swing, but some of the flaws are still present. Likely, he has a higher ceiling than Kirilloff, but his floor is also lower and that’s why I have a new number one prospect on my list. 1. Alex Kirilloff- OF/1B (23-years old) Acquired: 2016 1st Round Pick ETA: 2020 In the last draft under Terry Ryan, the Twins took a high school outfielder known for his advanced swing and a tremendous make-up. He has a tremendous plate coverage, and he uses a free-swinging approach to drive balls to all parts of the field. Defensively, he will end up playing right field, first base or designated hitter so that will decrease some of his value. However, he has proven that he is a hitter, and he is projected to hit for power. Minnesota is going to be able to rely on him in the middle of their batting order for the majority of the next decade. How would you rank the top five prospects? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Prospects 16-20 — Prospects 11-15 — Prospects 6-10 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 11th-through-15th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway. Read Part 1 (16-20) Read Part 2 (11-15) 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 2020 Ranking: 14 Ranked as Twins Daily's No. 3 prospect coming into the season, Larnach didn't have a chance to raise his stock in 2020. He spent his summer practicing and scrimmaging in St. Paul, and never seemed to be in serious consideration for a call-up (unlike fellow top prospect Alex Kirilloff, who debuted in a playoff elimination game). With that said, it's not as if Larnach forgot how to play. The former first-rounder had already established himself as a polished hitter ready to make an impact. Turning 24 next month, he's a plug-and-play corner outfield bat with a solid floor and real upside, controllable through much of his prime. The main thing holding him back on this list is redundancy. As a corner outfielder he's stuck behind Kirilloff and Max Kepler indefinitely, and while first base is a possible destination, Larnach has yet to play the position professionally. He's the prime example of a player who'd have much more value to another team than to the Twins, making him a trade candidate. 9: Byron Buxton, CF 2020 Ranking: 7 The 2020 season was much like the 2019 season for Buxton and his valuation. He showed signs of being an elite difference-maker, but was unavailable often – including at the end when the Twins needed him most. Buxton's health struggles have been so chronic and unshakable that they've defined his career more than anything else up to this point. Which is a real shame because when you take them out of the equation, he's one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Unparalleled speed, transformative defensive impact, and high-end power: all offered by a 27-year-old who will earn around $15 million in his final two years of team control. If he can stay on the field, Buxton could be the single most vital key to a championship for this franchise. But he continually hasn't been able to, and now the clock is ticking on his opportunity to fulfill all that potential as a Twin. 8: Mitch Garver, C 2020 Ranking: 6 Garver's drop-off in 2020 was dramatic to say the least, but I'm inclined to mostly write it off. He got hurt in spring training, missed tons of time with a strained oblique, and never appeared fully comfortable at the plate. His brutal stats – .167 average, .511 OPS, and an eye-popping 46% K rate – were vastly out of line with any prior benchmarks. Still, the question remains whether Garver is capable of sustaining anything close to the MVP-caliber level of performance shown over 93 games in 2019. Is he a star or merely a quality rotational piece behind the plate, as he appeared in 2018? The uncertainty, combined with a price tag that's beginning to rise as he progresses into arbitration, places Garver just one peg below the meteoric riser up next on the list. 7: Ryan Jeffers, C 2020 Ranking: 20 Last year, when Jeffers edged into these rankings at the No. 20 spot as a relative unknown, I wrote that "Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially ... Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets." Affirming those beliefs in 2020 caused Jeffers to make a huge leap in these rankings. No longer is his impact theoretical; at age 23, his rookie contributions were crucial, coming in cold from the alternate site and filling in admirably for the injured Garver. All the strengths we'd heard about in those glowing reports – powerful bat, unusual poise behind the plate, natural instincts for pitch-framing, arm strong enough to deliver a bullet to second from his knees – were on display, under incredibly difficult circumstances. When I started putting these rankings together, catcher was a clear point of organizational weakness. In 2018 Jason Castro was the highest-ranked backstop at No. 17. Now, we've got two proven commodities, both under the age of 30 and controllable for several years, in the top 10. What a turnaround. 6: Jorge Polanco, SS 2020 Ranking: 1 From No. 1 to outside of the top five: how did it happen? The main thing is that 2020 reinforced some of the concerns that shrouded Polanco even when he sat atop this list. Namely: that his second-half production in 2019 (.788 OPS) was more representative than his All-Star first half (.882); that his balky ankle – now requiring surgery for a second straight winter – was no isolated issue; and that he doesn't really have the defensive chops to play short. That last one is most glaring, and is reflected by the front office's apparent pursuit of a new shortstop this winter. Polanco remains a fixture-type building block with a highly favorable contract – controlled for three years at a total of $18 million, with multiple team options on the back end. But it's becoming clearer that he'll play out these remaining years as either a utility man or a blatant defensive liability at short, which is a far cry from the American League's starting SS in the 2019 All-Star Game. THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 9. Byron Buxton, CF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Ryan Jeffers, C 6. Jorge Polanco, SS 1-5: Coming tomorrow!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. Current Catchers: Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers Garver was limited to 23 games in 2020 and he hit .167/.247/.264 with three extra-base hits. It was going to be hard to live up to his 2019 season when he posted a .995 OPS with 31 home runs and 16 doubles in 93 games. While it’s unlikely for Garver to replicate those totals, his 2020 season was impacted by a right intercostal strain. He will be 30-years old next year and the Twins have team control over him for three more seasons. Jeffers impressed in his first taste of the big leagues, especially on the defensive side of the ball. His Strike Rate was the highest in the American League and he was especially good at getting strike calls on the edges of the zone. His offensive numbers weren’t too shabby either as he posted a .791 OPS with three home runs. Many scouts saw him as a bat-only catcher coming out of college, so it shows how much the Twins have been able to do with him since he joined the system in 2018. 40-Man Options Garver and Jeffers figure to get the bulk of the time behind the plate in 2021, but the Twins have other options that add depth to the organization. Willians Astudillo still has options remaining so the Twins can stash him at St. Paul and then bring him up when needed at the big-league level. Since joining the Twins, he has hit .294/.319/.428 with only 13 strikeouts in over 317 plate appearances. Before this year’s Rule 5 Draft, the Twins added Ben Rortvedt, a 2016 second-round pick, to the 40-man roster. He finished the 2019 season at Double-A and his OPS has risen in every professional season. He will likely start the year at Double-A, especially with some of the other more veteran catchers in the organization. On the Farm Options Outside of the options mentioned above, there are other catching options in the minor leagues including some strong prospects. Telis has over 120 games played at the big-league level and he did well during his first year in the Twins organization. At Triple-A, he hit .330/.364/.490 with 31 extra-base hits and a 33 to 16 strikeout to walk ratio. Hamilton, a 2016 draft pick, reached Triple-A in 2019 and he has shown the ability to play multiple defensive positions. He ended 2019 with a .660 OPS and 26 extra-base hits in 99 games. Williams spent time at Low- and High-A in 2019 and he was limited to a .192 batting average. However, he got on base over 33% of the time and ended with a .749 OPS after collecting 26 extra-base hits in 74 games. Casanova was a 2018 draft pick and he spent 2019 at the same levels as Williams. His 2019 strikeout percentage is the highest among all the catchers in the system. Minnesota took Isola out of college in 2019 and he made it all the way to Low-A in his professional debut. He destroyed the ball in seven games with the E-Twins as he went 10-for-25 and posted a 1.029 OPS. Salva has been in the organization since 2016 and he spent his first three years in the GCL. Last season at E-Town, he posted a .710 OPS, his highest total of his professional career. Morales made his stateside debut in 2019 and he will have a chance to move to Low-A in 2021. What do you think about the future of catcher in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES -Second Base -First Base -Shortstop -Third Base MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Filling Out the Line-Up Alex Kirilloff is going to be a big part of the 2021 Twins even if he isn’t in the line-up on Opening Day. The Twins thought highly enough of him to put him into the playoff line-up in a do-or-die situation and there have been other glowing reports out of the Twin Cities. He slides in nicely to the spot vacated after the Twins non-tender Eddie Rosario. Kirilloff is cheaper and has the potential to produce at a similar level for a fraction of the cost. Nelson Cruz has been amazing in a Twins uniform, but there are no certainties surrounding a player over the age of 40. Marcell Ozuna seems like a better option to fill the designated hitter role. He is a decade younger than Cruz and he is coming off a season where he hit .338/.431/.636 while leading the NL in home runs, RBI, and total bases. With Ozuna’s big contract, money is saved with the reserve players. Jake Cave can come back as a starting outfielder to begin the year before Kirilloff becomes the regular player. Travis Blankenhorn takes over the role vacated by Marwin Gonzalez as the super utility player. Ehire Adrianza steps back in as the back up player at multiple positions and Ryan Jeffers starts the season as the backup catcher with a good chance to be used more regularly than Garver. Rotation Roulette Three out of the five rotation spots for the Twins are decided with Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda penciled in. This leaves decisions to make in the back half of the rotation. One strategy would be to sign someone big for the fourth spot in their rotation and leave the fifth spot to someone else already in the organization. The Texas Rangers already announced they would decline the option on Corey Kluber and it seems like a no-brainer for the Twins front office to be interested. Derek Falvey, Minnesota’s President of Baseball Operations, worked with the Kluber when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. Kluber was a three-time All-Star with Cleveland and won two Cy Young awards. The back of Minnesota’s rotation can easily be filled with a cornucopia of players from within the organization. Randy Dobnak seems like the logical first choice, but there are plenty of other options including Cody Stashak, Lewis Thorpe, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic. Teams don’t need a lot out of the fifth spot in the rotation and these players can more than fill that role. Completing the Bullpen Bullpens have become so important in the modern game especially with starters pitching fewer innings. This year’s playoffs were a prime example with the Dodgers and the Rays riding their bullpens to a thrilling World Series. While these teams relied on a variety of arms, the Twins strategy might need to change if they spend on the players mentioned above. The bullpen outlined above might be worse than last year’s conglomeration with Sergio Romo’s option declined and other players pushed into different roles. Tyler Duffey and Jorge Alcala will be absolute weapons in late innings. The Twins can hope for a bounce back year from Taylor Rogers. The front office might also be able to find another Matt Wisler type player from another organization. Do you think this blueprint pushes the Twins to the next level? 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
  21. There is always much to learn for a rookie first entering the big-league ranks, but it's a steeper curve for catchers. They not only participate in games, but are essentially asked to run them. Catchers must signal for and interact with every pitch, and (as framing metrics illuminate) they can impact game outcomes in deeply subtle ways. Mix in the circumstances that surrounded Jeffers when he joined the Twins in mid-August, and the crash course grows all the more daunting. Think about it: replacing a reigning Silver Slugger (and former Twins Daily Rookie of the Year), on a team battling for first place, with championship aspirations, amidst a sprint of a season just five weeks away from ending. Jeffers had to gel with a new pitching staff, acclimate to major-league competition, and perform at an extremely high level, despite the lack of any opportunity to sharpen up in minor-league games. It's a great deal to ask of a 23-year-old who had played 167 games in the minors since being drafted in 2018, including just 24 above Single-A. Jeffers was up to the task. IMMEDIATE IMPACT For some context, Mitch Garver had played 508 games in the minors before he debuted in the big leagues. Even Joe Mauer, who rocketed through the Twins system as a No. 1 overall draft pick and No. 1 overall prospect, played 277 games in the minors before first reaching the Show. Jeffers, a former second-round pick out of UNC-Wilmington, was barely two years removed from being drafted when the Twins called him over from St. Paul's alternate site on August 20th. The front office's decision to tab him as replacement for an injured Garver was somewhat surprising, given the availability of a familiar and experienced option in Willians Astudillo. But it wasn't THAT surprising, if you've ever heard Twins people sing Jeffers' praises. The young backstop wasted no time making his presence felt. He started in the first game after he was called up, and delivered a go-ahead RBI single in his first MLB at-bat. From that point forward, Jeffers was a mainstay. A DEPENDABLE WORKHORSE After Jeffers was called up, Garver made only 21 more plate appearances, the same number as Alex Avila. Minnesota's veteran backstop depth evaporated halfway through the campaign, making Jeffers an absolutely vital asset. He started 18 of the team's final 35 games behind the plate following his promotion, including nine out of 13 at one point while Garver was sidelined and Avila was hampered. Through it all, Jeffers gained confidence from the pitching staff while proving a reliable battery partner. In 162 innings behind the plate, he was charged with zero errors and only one past ball. Not only did he grade out well defensively according to these traditional statistics, but by advanced metrics as well. Statcast him had as a 90th percentile pitch-framer, and Baseball Prospectus' FRAA pegged him as above-average. Granted, this is all based on a small sample, but it jibes with the rep on Jeffers from the minors, and what we saw with our own eyes as he smoothly received pitches and stole strikes consistently. For his part, Jeffers takes a lot of pride in this aspect of his game. "Every pitch is an opportunity for me to change the count," he told our Seth Stohs in a recognizing him as Rookie of the Year. "I love making a hitter mad." Offensively, Jeffers was more solid than spectacular, but that's still an accomplishment on its own from a rookie who specialized in defense behind the plate. He slashed .273/.355/.436 with three home runs in 62 plate appearances, posting a .791 OPS that ranked fifth on the team among players with 50+ PA. The only higher finishers: Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Eddie Rosario. There was nothing fluky about the rookie catcher's production. He showed excellent discipline, and an ability to crush his pitch. Jeffers generated a Barrel % of 13.9%, higher than any qualified Twin other than Miguel Sanó and Cruz. His average exit velocity was above all teammates save for Sanó, Donaldson, and Garver. Jeffers swung at only 26.7% of pitches outside the zone, which is significantly better than average, and lower than all Twins except LaMonte Wade Jr., Donaldson, Garver, and Avila. On both sides of the ball, Jeffers look like a comfortably seasoned MLB veteran. For that reason, he was our pick for Twins Rookie of the Year – but only by the slimmest of margins. OTHER CANDIDATES As you can see in the ballot results below, Jeffers actually received fewer first-place votes than Randy Dobnak (12-to-9) but managed to narrowly edge him in overall points, 50-to-48. That's about as close as it gets. (Twitter was a little more decisive.) Either one would've been deserving. Why did Jeffers get the nod? https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1315403648361476103 Part of it is recency bias, I'm sure. Dobnak was sensational over the first half, and on a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year path, but his play cratered after that and he was in the minors when the regular season concluded. Jeffers, meanwhile, came along right around the time Dobnak dropped off. He was a fixture the rest of the way and into the playoffs. There's also the fact that, unlike Jeffers, Dobnak wasn't an entirely new commodity. We'd already seen him look great over 28 innings in 2019. Novelty makes an impression. But really, speaking as a Jeffers-first voter, I think it comes down to this: While Dobnak ended up having a good year in a year where many pitchers had good years – on the Twins, and across the Central divisions generally – Jeffers came up and outperformed most others in a lackluster lineup. His comparative edge in OPS+ (118) to Dobnak's ERA+ (108) is telling. And, while Dobnak's performance may have been above-average on balance, there's no downplaying the extreme and dramatic plunge that stamped his ticket. It doesn't negate his outstanding early performance, but it does cast serious doubt on the sustainability. Others who deservingly received votes: Jorge Alcala, Brent Rooker, and Cody Stashak. (Had we polled people after the playoff series, Alex Kirilloff might've received a down-ballot vote or two.) THE BALLOTS Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters. Seth Stohs: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Nick Nelson: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Randy Dobnak John Bonnes: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Tom Froemming: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Andrew Gebo: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Randy Dobnak AJ Condon: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Brent Rooker Cody Christie: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Jorge Alcala Cody Pirkl: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Ryan Jeffers Cooper Carlson: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Jorge Alcala, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Ryan Jeffers Lucas Seehafer: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Ryan Jeffers Matt Braun: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Cody Stashak Matt Lenz: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Cody Stashak Matthew Taylor: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Matthew Trueblood: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Jorge Alcala Nash Walker: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Jorge Alcala Nate Palmer: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Brent Rooker Patrick Wozniak: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Derek Wetmore: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Steve Lein: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Jorge Alcala Renabanena: 1) Randy Dobnak, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Ryan Jeffers Ted Schwerzler: 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Brent Rooker Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Jorge Alcala, 2) Randy Dobnak, 3) Ryan Jeffers POINTS Ryan Jeffers: 50 Randy Dobnak: 48 Jorge Alcala: 35 Brent Rooker: 3 Cody Stashak: 2 How would your ballot look? Leave a comment and make your case. Previous Twins Daily Rookie of the Year Winners 2015: Miguel Sano 2016: Max Kepler 2017: Trevor Hildenberger 2018: Mitch Garver 2019: Luis Arráez
  22. Back in 2016, the Twins revamped their front office by hiring Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. One of their biggest tasks in their first year on the job was preparing to have the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. That draft was just the start of how they were able to add to Minnesota’s well stocked farm system. Minnesota’s current crop of regulars was moving through the system back in 2015-16 and that’s why the farm system ranked so highly. The new front office crew saw some of their impact after the 2017 MLB Draft and that continued into the following year’s draft. The results of their time at the helm are already being felt at the big-league level. 2017 Draft There were multiple options with the top overall pick back in 2017 with names like Hunter Greene, MacKenzie Gore, Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright all in the discussion. Minnesota decided Royce Lewis was the best option and he has been the organization’s highest-ranking prospect since he was drafted. Last season, Lewis finished at Double-A and under normal circumstances, he might have made his big-league debut this season. Lewis wasn’t the only strong pick in this draft. Brent Rooker was recently called up and he has been contributing to a team in the middle of a pennant race. Time will tell if he can develop into a big league regular, but his powerful swing should keep him on the roster. In the same draft, Minnesota had to offer Blayne Enlow a big signing bonus to lure him away from LSU and now he is one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. He might be a couple years away from debuting, but he add to the depth of the farm system. 2018 Draft Coming off a surprise run to the playoffs, the Twins had a much lower draft pick in 2018, but that didn’t stop them from finding players to restock the farm. Trevor Larnach was the team’s first round selection and he has developed into one of the best hitting prospects in the organization. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year and the Florida State League Player of the Year. He finished last year at Double-A and now he has been part of the team’s 60-man roster that is working out in St. Paul. Another player from this draft, Ryan Jeffers, has played a pivotal role with the club due to Mitch Garver’s injury. When he was drafted, he was seen as a bat-only catcher, but he was given very little coaching on his catching defense throughout his collegiate career. Now, his 51.2% strike rate has him in the top-20 among all MLB backstops when it comes to catcher framing. Trades Add Depth Making trades is another way to stock a farm system and the Twins front office has already seen some of the rewards of those trades. Zack Littell was acquired back at the 2017 trade deadline as part of the Jaime Garcia trade and he has fit nicely into the Twins bullpen when healthy. At that same deadline, Minnesota added LHP Tyler Watson who pitched all last season at High-A with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. The 2018 trade deadline was where Minnesota was able to revamp the farm. Trading Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks got the Twins back a trio of prospects including RHP Jhoan Duran, who is considered one of the team’s top pitching prospects. Also, Minnesota traded away Ryan Pressly for RHP Jorge Alcala and OF Gilberto Celestino. Alcala has shown electric stuff out of the Twins bullpen this year and Celestino could become a regular at the big-league level in the years ahead. For the Twins, this trade could pay dividends for multiple years into the future. How do you feel about the Twins consistency in their farm system? 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
  23. Alex Kirilloff is Here to Stay Minnesota made it clear how highly they thought of Alex Kirilloff by having him on the postseason roster and starting him in an elimination game. There are a couple different ways to get Kirilloff in the line-up as a regular in 2021. Eddie Rosario is in his final year of arbitration and he is scheduled to get a raise to around $10 million. He likely isn’t worth that much especially if the Twins are trying to cut costs. If Rosario isn’t offered arbitration, the Twins could start next year with an outfield of Kirilloff along with Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. Kirilloff also can slide in at first base and the easiest way to make this happen is to not try and resign Nelson Cruz. Sano could move from first to being the team’s full-time designated hitter and Kirilloff could become Minnesota’s first baseman for the better part of the next decade. Finding Room for Brent Rooker Before the Twins turned to Kirilloff, Brent Rooker was the player the Twins turned to from the alternate site. Unfortunately, his season ended early after being hit by a pitch from Cleveland’s Zach Plesac. The 25-year old was still able to make a strong impression in his first taste of the big leagues. In 21 plate appearances, he went 6-for-19 with half of his hits being for extra bases. Much like with Kirilloff, the Twins could find a scenario where Rooker takes over at first base with Sano moving to DH. Minnesota could decide what can be better for the team’s defense which seems like Kirilloff in the outfield and Rooker at first base. Would the Twins want two unproven bats in the line-up from season’s start? Meet Ryan Jeffers, Everyday Catcher Ryan Jeffers quickly made his presence known on the Twins roster this season and there is little chance he will be going anywhere in the years ahead. Things get tricky when considering that Mitch Garver struggled in 2020 after one of the best hitting seasons ever for a catcher. Over the last couple of seasons, the front office has preferred to have one younger catcher, Mitch Garver, and pair him with a more veteran backstop (Jason Castro, Alex Avila). Both Castro and Avila made a good complement to Garver because they bat left-handed. Would the Twins be willing to trade Garver and resign a player like Avila as the back-up to Jeffers? Others on the Way Outside of the trio of players mentioned above, there are also other players closing in on Target Field. Trevor Larnach was the team’s 2019 Minor League Player of the Year and he adds some depth in the outfield. If Buxton misses time, an outfield of Kirilloff, Kepler and Larnach could certainly be intriguing. Another option could be to trade Larnach to fill a need at another spot on the roster. Royce Lewis is going to be talked about a lot this offseason and rightfully so. He is the team’s consensus top prospect, and he is one of baseball’s top prospects. With no minor league season, it’s tough to know how he progressed at the team’s alternate site. He ended 2019 at Double-A and there was a chance he made his big-league debut this season. Would the Twins be willing to trade Jorge Polanco and his team friendly deal? By midseason next year, the Twins line-up could include: C: Ryan Jeffers 1B: Brent Rooker 2B: Luis Arraez 3B: Josh Donaldson SS: Royce Lewis LF: Alex Kirilloff CF: Byron Buxton RF: Max Kepler DH: Miguel Sano The Twins farm system has kept them relevant and it continues to be the key to sustainable contention. Do you think the Twins should go with a youth movement in 2021? 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. A season ago Baldelli was named American League Manager of the Year. It was warranted. The former star player guided the Twins to a record setting home run total and one of the most successful seasons in Twins history. Often times the award is handed to a guy leading a surprising organization to new heights. In 2020 expectations were lifted, but Baldelli created plenty of confusion. The vaunted lineup on paper failed to perform plenty of nights and drawing the infield in during early stretches of games became commonplace. In the biggest game of the season however, four decisions struck me as poor. Kenta Maeda is lifted after 5 innings and 91 pitches Minnesota had a 1-0 lead at the time, but the only thing going for the Twins in this contest was Maeda. Despite forcing Zack Greinke to work in the 1st inning, no runs were scored with the bases loaded and just one out. The Astros starter then settled in, and Framber Valdez dominated after a shaky first inning of relief. It seemed questionable to assume that one run would be enough to win this one and hoping the bullpen could lock things down for nearly half the game was a big ask. After getting both Matt Wisler and Trevor May warm previously, it’d have been nice to see Maeda return for the 6th and at least go one batter at a time. He could’ve been lifted at any point then. Instead the horses of the pen have no all been used while Houston didn’t trot out a single reliever. Mitch Garver pinch hits for Ryan Jeffers to start the 7th inning It was maybe an aggressive move to start rookie Ryan Jeffers in game one despite just 26 games of action. His .791 OPS and they way he worked behind the plate had earned it, however. Combine that with Garver slumping massively since his IL return and there was nothing about the decision that needed defending. In response to a lefty being on the mound though, Baldelli became convinced that 2019 Garver was who he was calling off the bench. Instead four straight curveballs, each one looked at, was all it too to get Minnesota’s pinch hitter. Letting Jeffers hit in that spot was the right move. You started him because of what he’d shown thus far, and he put up exit velocities of 105 and 109 mph earlier in this one. It was a second guessing that was unfounded and made no sense. From here, we get two more problems. Alex Avila replaces Mitch Garver defensively in the 8th inning Immediately following a poor at bat, Garver is lifted prior to taking the field. Despite being arguably a better receiver than Avila, Baldelli decided the veteran backstop was the play. Of course, there was still another catcher on the roster thanks to the Twins rostering four in this series, but it never was going to make sense for the position to become a revolving door. Garver could’ve caught the 8th inning and been more likely to steal strikes. Avila remains on the bench and represents your last true catcher behind the plate. Willians Astudillo pinch hits for Alex Avila in the 9th inning Now we get to the third cascading effect of the original choice to lift Jeffers. Trailing by three runs in a momentum setting first game, the Twins responded with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco singling to right field. The batter would represent the tying run with a single out and runners on first and second. The right-handed bats left were Ehire Adrianza and Astudillo. Neither ideal, and the latter had just 16 big league at bats this season. On the very first pitch Astudillo lunged at a bender and hit a routine ground ball to third for the double play. The entirety of this move was necessitated because of Rocco’s initial mistake to lift Jeffers. It was in this at bat though that highlighting Astudillo’s negative impact is so simple. He’s not Luis Arraez, and his ability to make contact is quite literally a negative. His chase rate is not good, and neither is the hard-hit percentage. By putting the ball in play, which is his sole intention, you’re more likely to experience a negative result. 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. 1. Can the line-up get healthy? Two of Minnesota’s scheduled regulars, Mitch Garver and Luis Arraez, are both on the injured list. The good news is Garver has been getting at-bats and working behind the plate at the team’s alternate training site in St. Paul. Rocco Baldelli told the media that Garver could join the team on the road trip if everything continues to go well. Ryan Jeffers has done more than hold his own with Garver out as his pitch framing has been outstanding and his has a .819 OPS. Arraez has been fighting with knee issues that date all the way back to spring training. He has been playing through the issue and this is the first time he went on the injured list this season. He can’t come off the IL until September 19 which will give him a little over a week to get ready for the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza can fill-in at second but both have been struggling offensively. 2. How will the team line-up the rotation for the first round? It’s clear that Kenta Maeda will be starting in Minnesota’s first game of the playoffs. He’s been the best starting pitcher on the staff, and he has plenty of playoff experience from his time with the Dodgers. He’s currently projected to start on Thursday to close out the White Sox series and then he should get one more start before the regular season concludes. Outside of Maeda, it seems likely for the Twins to give Jose Berrios the nod in the second game of the playoffs. He had a shaky start to the season, but he seems to be getting back to form as of late. In his last four starts, he has held batters to a .183 BA and he has struck out 31 in 22 2/3 innings. He has been trending in the right direction and hopefully he is peaking at the right time. The third spot in the playoff rotation isn’t as clear, but it might be Michael Pineda’s spot to lose at this point. Randy Dobnak was terrific to start the year, but his last start was a little concerning as he hit two batters and allowed five runs on only two hits in one inning. Rich Hill has seen his strikeout totals increase in each of his last two starts, but he has yet to pitch more than five innings. Jake Odorizzi is coming back from injury and the team might not trust him in a winner-take-all game. 3. What’s the bullpen pecking order? Even with some recent struggles, Minnesota’s bullpen was outstanding to start the season. However, managing a bullpen in the postseason can be a little trickier. Baldelli seems to be set on Taylor Rogers being used in the closer role even though he has given up 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings. Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard continue to get work in the late innings. Tyler Duffey might be the bullpen’s best pitcher and Baldelli has show flexibility to use Duffey in a variety of situations. Matt Wisler has been outstanding in nearly every role he has been given. Jorge Alcala has shown some of the flame throwing ability that made him one of the team’s top pitching prospects. There could also be some bullpen spots for starters that don’t make the playoff rotation. This could add even more depth to an already strong relief core. How do you think the Twins will answer these questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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