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  1. TAYLOR ROGERS 2021: 40 1/3 IP, 3.35 ERA (128 ERA+), 2.13 FIP, 35% K, 5% BB Rogers bounced back from a rough 2020 as the Twins’ steadiest bullpen piece throughout the first half. Over his first 35 appearances, Rogers posted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP while holding opponents to a .600 OPS. The All-Star lefty then gave up five runs over his next 1 2/3 innings, including a grand slam in the Twins’ last game before the break. Rogers’ season ended shortly after due to a sprained finger. The ERA paints a much worse picture for Rogers in 2021, but he was essentially the same weapon he’s been for much of his career. Even then, his looming ~$7 million price tag and finger injury could give the Twins a tricky decision on arbitration day. GRADE: A- TYLER DUFFEY 2021: 62 1/3 IP, 3.18 ERA (134 ERA+), 3.49 FIP, 24% K, 11% BB Duffey entered 2021 as one of the game’s best set-up men with a remarkable 2.31 ERA and 34% strikeout rate in 2019 and 2020 combined. Alarmingly, Duffey’s velocity was down this spring, raising questions about his arm heading into Opening Day. Those concerns were valid. Duffey posted a 5.87 ERA and 20% strikeout rate over his first 15+ innings of the season. His velocity dwindled, and his luster as a lockdown set-up man was on shaky ground. Fortunately, Duffey bounced back with a 2.30 ERA over his last 47 innings, solidifying himself back in the top-25 among American League relievers. Still, his fastball velocity is down over a tick from 2019, and he walked way too many. GRADE: B- JORGE ALCALA 2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB Alcala was terrific in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.63 ERA and 29% strikeout rate in 24 innings. A full season breakout felt viable in 2021 for the hard-throwing right-hander. Like Duffey, Alcala got off to a plodding start, evidenced by a 5.73 ERA and .464 opponent’s slugging percentage in his first 40 games. Alcala struck out just 22% of hitters during that span. Alcala’s stuff is too good for such inflated numbers. With improved command in his final 22 innings, Alcala allowed just two runs (0.82 ERA) while striking out 27 and walking only three of the 77 batters he faced. GRADE: B- CALEB THIELBAR 2021: 64 IP, 3.23 ERA (132 ERA+), 3.47 FIP, 29% K, 7.5% BB One of the best stories of the 60-game campaign, Thielbar posted a 2.25 ERA and 2.34 FIP in his first 20 Major League innings since 2015. Thielbar continued a strong 2020 season immediately in 2021. He struck out nine and walked none over his first 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Thielbar subsequently allowed 15 runs over his next 27 innings, contributing to a shaky Twins bullpen. The Northfield native then put together an outstanding second half. He produced a 1.76 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate after the break. Thielbar emerged as the Twins’ best left-handed reliever after Rogers went on the injured list. His spot on next year’s team feels secure. GRADE: A ALEXANDER COLOMÉ 2021: 65 IP, 4.15 ERA (103 ERA+), 4.23 FIP, 20% K, 8% BB The Twins signed Colomé to be the pitcher he’d been over his entire eight-year career. Colomé owned a 2.95 ERA and saved 138 games before signing with Minnesota last offseason. His debut couldn’t have gone any worse. Starting with a blown save on Opening Day, Colomé allowed 16 runs and five homers over his first 26 2/3 innings with the Twins. His Win Probability Added was a staggering -2.29. Colomé eventually found his stride and pitched much better down the stretch, with a 3.29 ERA and 3.38 FIP over his last 38 games. Colomé served as the Twins’ primary closer and saved 15 of 19 games from late June to the end of the season. GRADE: D+ JUAN MINAYA 2021: 40 IP, 2.48 ERA (173 ERA+), 3.97 FIP, 26% K, 12% BB Opponents hit .189 with a .624 OPS against Minaya, whom the Twins signed to a Minor League deal before the season. He upped the usage of his outstanding changeup, which increased the effectiveness of his mid-90s fastball. Minaya had previous Major League success with the White Sox, but this was his best season. His ground-ball rate rose to a tremendous 55%, and he posted a career-high 1.1 Wins Above Replacement. Minaya’s peripherals - a 3.97 FIP in particular - create some uncertainty for sustaining success in 2022. Either way, the Twins have a ~$1 million decision to make, and there’s certainly space for him in the bullpen. GRADE: A HANSEL ROBLES 2021: 44 IP, 4.91 ERA (87 ERA+), 4.83 FIP, 23% K, 13% BB Robles had a disastrous 2020 season for the Angels after a stellar 2019 where he posted a 2.48 ERA and saved 23 games. The Twins signed him for $2 million, betting that the Covid season was an outlier for the hard-throwing veteran. It looked that way early. Robles was fantastic with a 2.83 ERA through June 12th. Opponents hit .172/.305/.283 off him during that span. Unfortunately, iffy command caught up to him and previously escaped jams no longer were. Robles allowed 15 runs over his next 15 1/3 innings and slashed much of the trade value he previously had. The Twins moved him to the Red Sox at the deadline for RHP Alex Scherff, and Robles pitched reasonably well down the stretch with a 3.60 ERA and 30% strikeout rate. GRADE: D REPORT CARDS Starting Rotation Infield Outfield
  2. From 2019 to 2020, Tyler Duffey ranked second in all of baseball in ERA among all pitchers who had thrown at least 80 innings. He struck out over 12 batters per nine innings and became one of the most dominant and underrated bullpen arms in all of baseball. After Taylor Rogers struggled in 2020, some even believed Duffey should have been elevated to closing duties. 2021 hasn’t been quite the same for Duffey, although he’s still been a valuable arm. His strikeouts have dropped to under a batter per inning while his walks have ballooned to a career high of over four per nine innings. In short, Duffey just hasn't been consistent. His 0.7 fWAR in 2021 matches his 2020 mark despite throwing 35 more innings. Now over 30 years old and entering his last ride through arbitration, Duffey becomes an interesting case for 2022. Non-Tender After making a bit over $2m in 2021 it would be surprising to see the Twins scoff at a moderate pay increase for a reliever who’s been so solid. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether the front office has learned a lesson in hubris when it comes to bullpen building. It would raise some eyebrows, but they very well could look at Duffey’s age and stat line and believe there’s better value to be had elsewhere for $3-4m. While I wouldn’t advise non-tendering such a dependable reliever given the year the Twins just had, there’s a scenario where the front office would be correct in this decision. Relievers, in general, are volatile and Duffey is coming off of an inconsistent season with diminished velocity and is now over the age of 30. I think this is the least-likely scenario, but it’s definitely a possibility. Extension One way to avoid having to worry about arbitration and impending free agency is to work on an extension. Duffey and the Twins could hammer out a 2-3 year deal for a fairly insignificant figure that makes sense for both sides. Duffey would get security for the next two years and the Twins get the reassurance of one of their bullpen stalwarts staying for the next two years. Again, I see this as an unlikely scenario. Duffey looked far from on the top of his game throughout all of 2021, and I’d guess the Twins would have liked to see more from him in order to lock him up through his age 32 season. Reach a Deal The likeliest scenario is the Twins find the middle ground on a pre-arbitration one-year deal as they showed they like to do in the 2020 offseason. Duffey gets one last year guaranteed in Minnesota and the Twins get another year of a hopefully-reliable reliever with no further commitment into the future. This also allows the Twins to trade Duffey (something I thought they would have done this year) at the deadline if out of contention or even turn around and trade him before the season begins. The price would be the driving factor, but if a team sees their 2022 setup man and offers a fair price to bring him in, the Twins may just save the money and take the return. I think this outcome is increasingly likely if someone like Donaldson or Buxton are traded during the winter and the team shifts its outlook to 2023. Duffey’s had a storied career in Minnesota, but one way or another it may be nearing its end. The Twins have to assess which route best benefits the team moving forward, and it may not be as easy a decision as it would have been last offseason. How do you think the Twins should handle the Duffey situation? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  3. For much of the early part of 2021, the relief pitching let Rocco Baldelli’s club down. Alex Colome was no longer close to his career numbers, and Tyler Duffey had seen substantial regression. The guys expected to step up failed to do so, and the Twins were left searching for answers on a near-nightly basis. There are a few givens are going into 2022, but a couple of guys have made cases for themselves to stick around despite potentially being on the outs previously. Derek Falvey has his work cut out for him, but the more he can count on internally, the less turnover the roster will ultimately need to experience. Here’s how I see the group: The Veterans - Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey It looked like a near-certainty that Rogers would be dealt at the deadline. That was before injury put him on the shelf and ended his season. He’ll return in 2022, and Minnesota will undoubtedly be hoping that he returns to form as one of the best lefties in the game. Duffey’s 3.45 ERA is fine on its own, but it’s a far cry from the 1.88 mark he put up just a year ago. Strikeouts are down, and walks are way up. If the Twins have a better unit, they need his best during the final year of arbitration. The Surprises - Caleb Thielbar, Juan Minaya, Luke Farrell, Danny Coulombe Thielbar has been the best of this group. All but retired from baseball and moving onto coaching, he emerged as an option in 2020. This season hasn’t been quite as good, but the 11.2 K/9 is going to play. He’s given up too many dingers, but as a crafty lefty option, there’s plenty to like here. Minaya made his way back to the big leagues this season and has a career-best 2.70 ERA. He’s not dominant by any means, but as a middle-inning guy that’s gotten it done before, he certainly could stick. Both Farrell and Coulombe were depth types for the Twins. Each has seen stretches of effectiveness, and while their ceilings are admittedly limited, one could lay claim to a spot in 2022. The Youth - Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza, Jovani Moran Minnesota counted on Alcala to take a step forward this season. As a whole, the results have been underwhelming given the 4.20 ERA. However, his last 15 games have resulted in a 1.00 ERA and .501 OPS against. He has a 21/3 K/BB in his last 18 innings pitched. That’s the arm the Twins need out of the gate. Garza was a nice get from the Astros, and he’s been effective with the organization. His strikeout numbers are down some, but he’s looked the part of a middle reliever that can get big leaguers out. Moran isn’t yet established as a future fixture, but he dominated on the farm again this year, and getting a taste going into the offseason should help him prepare to stick in the future. Minnesota used 22 different relievers in 2021, and the pen was often constructed with eight or nine arms. They’ll need better depth and higher ceilings if there’s any interest in being a better unit a year from now. Maybe Alex Colome is asked back as well, but they’ll need to be picky with who is counted upon from a group that severely underwhelmed out of the gate. 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. Box Score Gant: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K Home Runs: Polanco (30), Sanó (27), Buxton (14) Bottom 3 WPA: Garza Jr. -.186, Sanó -.146, Donaldson -.110 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Minnesota struck first and took a four-run lead in the first inning, facing former member of the Twins organization Luis Gil. Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a leadoff single and was later pushed across the plate by a home run from Jorge Polanco. This was his 30th dinger of the season, setting a record for most single-season home runs by a switch-hitter in Twins history, breaking the tie with Chili Davis in 1991. Gil lost Josh Donaldson on a seven-pitch walk immediately after Polanco’s home run. He managed to strike out Max Kepler next for the second out, but then another slumping Twin, Miguel Sanó, snapped his 0-for-13 funk with a high home run to center field which barely cleared the fence, making it 4-0 Minnesota. John Gant started out this game at the mound for Minnesota, but he was forced to leave the game with an apparent injury after throwing only 12 pitches and retiring two batters. Luke Farrell got called into the game and did a fine job, providing 2 1/3 hitless innings, helping to keep the Yankees scoreless through three innings. The Twins kept making good contact off Gil and, during the third inning, they added to their lead with another home run. Leading off the top-half of the inning, Byron Buxton jumped on the first pitch he saw, smashing it to a 106 MPH exit velocity, making it 5-0 Twins. Twins pitchers continued to dominate Yankees' hitting, keeping New York with one hit through 5 2/3 innings. Caleb Thielbar and Kyle Barraclough, who was recalled from Saint Paul earlier today (with Brent Rooker going on the paternity list), delivered two quick, scoreless innings in relief of Farrell. But in the sixth inning, Barraclough got huge help from the outfield defense behind him, as Max Kepler made some crucial plays in right field, robbing New York of at least an extra-base hit that could spark a rally. They did score a run on a sac-fly from DJ LeMahieu, scoring Tyler Wade from third. Terrible umpiring helps the Yankees to rally back Tyler Duffey came into the game to get the last out of the sixth immediately after Barraclough gave up a two-out hit. He opened the seventh fanning Giancarlo Stanton, but he gave up a solo home run to Joey Gallo, cutting Minnesota’s lead to three. He came back to pitch the eighth, but he got some awful calls from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, who missed at least four calls during that inning. Brent Gardner “drew a walk” on a ball four that was most certainly a strike (pitch #6 below). That put two men on, and Rocco Baldelli pulled Duffey off the game. Alexander Colomé came in to face Aaron Judge, who hit a three-run home run, tying the game at five. Colomé struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, taking the game to extra innings. All Minnesota was able to do during the 10th inning was to move up the ghost runner on a sacrifice groundout. In the bottom half, Gary Sánchez hit a line drive to left, deep enough to score Gleyber Torres from second, winning the game for New York. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Farrell 32 0 12 0 34 78 Minaya 0 40 0 17 0 57 Duffey 0 11 0 0 38 49 Colomé 0 12 0 0 27 39 Coulombe 15 0 23 0 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 37 0 37 Thielbar 0 0 26 0 11 37 Garza Jr. 19 0 0 11 6 36 Alcalá 0 9 0 18 0 27 Barraclough 0 0 0 0 23 23
  5. The 2021 season was supposed to be a battle for AL Central supremacy between the Twins and White Sox. Instead, the Twins are languishing in last place with the fifth-worst record in baseball while Chicago is cruising to their first division title since 2008. What’s Their Situation? Currently owners of the fifth-best record in baseball, the White Sox have a commanding 9.5 game lead over Cleveland entering play on Wednesday. They are competing with the Red Sox Astros, Dodgers, and Giants for the best record in MLB. Perhaps more impressively, they have accomplished this working around significant injuries to the likes of Eloy Jiminez and Nick Madrigal. The White Sox are a lock for post-season play, now, their focus is on gearing up for a strong playoff run. What do They Need? Not a lot. The White Sox have the fifth-best offense in baseball right now, sporting a cumulative 113 wRC+. They have a strong front of the rotation between Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dallas Keuchel. While Giolito and Keuchel have been, perhaps, a little disappointing, Rodon and Lynn form a formidable one-two punch in any playoff series. The White Sox could strengthen their bullpen for an October run. Currently the 13th best in baseball with the third-worst xFIP, there is a lack of depth behind Liam Hendriks. The other area of need for the Sox is strengthening their infield. Nick Madrigal had season-ending surgery on a torn hamstring, leaving a lack of depth up the middle after the perennially excellent Tim Anderson. Which Twins are the Best Fit? Infield depth and relief pitching may be the biggest needs the Twins could fill for the Southsiders. Andrelton Simmons would be a massive defensive upgrade. Despite 61 wRC+, Simmons has been worth 15 outs above average, good for second in all of baseball behind Nick Ahmed. With Taylor Rogers currently on the IL and reportedly seeking a second and potentially third opinion on his sprained middle finger, Tyler Duffey would be an option that would add depth to the Chicago bullpen. There’s no question Duffey has taken a step back this year, the most concerning seeing his K/9 numbers drop from 11.6 in 2020 to 7.3 in 2021. In spite of this, Duffey still sports a strong 3.20 ERA and doesn’t reach free agency until 2023, making him an appealing option for any team hoping to contend beyond this season. Who Could the Twins get Back? The White Sox system like the Twins has been weakened by a significant number of graduations. Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Garrett Crochet, and Michael Kopech are all 2021 graduates, leaving the Sox as the only MLB team without a top 100 prospect. Any return for Simmons would fetch a C-level prospect and serve mainly to shed salary. Duffey would fetch a greater price but teams may be wary of his diminishing peripherals. Yolbert Sanchez, SS, AA Sanchez signed out of Cuba during the international free agency period in 19-20. His best tool is 60-grade defense which makes him a viable big-league shortstop or a quality utility infielder. Sanchez is a right-handed hitter who shows solid contact skills. Sanchez is currently sporting a .360 OBP over two minor league levels in 2021. Tyler Johnson, RHP, AAA Johnson was the closer for South Carolina in his collegiate career, signing as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017. In his first three seasons of pro ball, Johnson tallied 169 strikeouts in 115 innings and managed a 2.27 ERA. Johnson’s best pitch is his fastball, which can reach 98 mph. His inconsistent delivery and mechanics seem to impact the quality of his secondary pitches. His ceiling is a late-inning reliever in the majors. Kade McClure, RHP, AA McClure is a behemoth at 6’7 and best known for being the number two starter behind Brendan McKay at Louisville. McClure missed significant time in his first few pro seasons with injuries. Despite his height, he has a fastball that sits around 92 mph and excellent control, walking just 2.1 per nine innings in 2019. McClure profiles as a back-end starter with a similar makeup to Bailey Ober. 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. What's Their Situation? When writing the title for this article, I thought to add a question mark after the word "Mariners." Such a thing would have served two purposes. The first would have reflected the surprise some may have when they realize that the Seattle Mariners are in wild card contention (1.0 games out as of Tuesday morning), with the second being the enigmatic future of the team. Will they buy? Will they sell? Quite honestly, I am not even sure that Jerry Dipoto knows. On Tuesday, they swung their first major deal in an odd swap with the Astros that, according to Dipoto, will make sense once all of their planned deals have been completed. The team was also in on Adam Frazier before San Diego, as per usual, swooped in to pick him up. In the dead of night on Tuesday, Tyler Anderson was swiped from under the Phillies nose. Knowing Dipoto’s love of deals, we are in for some truly wild stuff. What Do They Need? Bats, and a lot of them. The team has just a 91 wRC+ as a whole as their team batting average infamously dipped below the Mendoza line for a portion of the year. They have somewhat rebounded as their wRC+ since the start of June is 100, but holes still exist at significant positions. Second base has been a particularly nasty position for them as either Dylan Moore or Shed Long Jr. have participated there this season with little success. They also have no significant prospects at the position. Beyond that, there is no real clear-cut need in the lineup. Many of the Mariners' position players are either in flux due to injuries or are just warming the spot of a significant prospect. Even with their poorly performing players, I find it challenging to put together a trade because the team is in such a major transition. Perhaps they usurp one of those prospects with an unexpected deal, but I do not see that happening. Again, I must stress that nothing is out of question with Dipoto, to the point that them bringing in Miguel Sanó or Max Kepler would not be out of the question. Their starting rotation, however, is more apparent as a point of concern. Yusei Kikuchi has been outstanding, and Logan Gilbert looks to be the real deal, but the rest is uninspiring. Chris Flexen is hilariously overperforming, Marco Gonzales has regressed, and Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield have been flimsy during their time in the majors. They have prospects to fill these spots, but most of them will not be ready until 2022 or beyond. They did fill a need by acquiring Anderson. Which Twins Are The Best Fit? In a beautiful twist, the best fit may be an ex-Mariner. Michael Pineda would be a consistent presence in a rotation full of youthful arms. He could provide the exact type of 5-6 inning guarantee that few other pitchers on their roster can promise. Depending on the price, the team may add him for a more negligible cost than what other, more major names may net. A shocking trade for José Berríos may not be out of play. The Mariners have well learned that pitching prospects are far from promises, and Jerry Dipoto is an absolute madman, so a move for an established arm could be in their plans. Still, Berríos looks to depart after 2022, and that kind of uncertainty will probably turn off a team looking towards the future. If you squint hard enough, then a surprising deal for Luis Arraez also may be in the cards. The second base position has been a black hole for the team, and they could use a long-term player with the ability to play third as Kyle Seager is unlikely to return following the end of the season. The team knows this as well-they tried to acquire Frazier, as mentioned earlier, and other second baseman have been connected to them Still, the Twins' asking price for Arraez and the Mariners' willingness to meet that mark are probably on two separate continents. Beyond them, the team may look to add a bullpen depth piece like Tyler Duffey. Originally I had written Hansel Robles in here as well, but his performance on Tuesday reflects a player who is anything but valuable. Do you like pitching prospects? Good. Their top 7 or so prospects are likely untouchable, but beyond them, they have: Wyatt Mills: A 26-year-old pure reliever with enough funk to make George Clinton proud. Eric Longenhagen wrote that Mills' "combo of repertoire depth (though he's been exclusively fastball/slider so far in the big leagues) and command are both rare for a reliever." Yes, a pure reliever prospect is not the most exciting option, but he would satisfy a desperate need. Sam Carlson: A 22-year-old Minnesota boy with upside. Carlson is almost entirely unknown as a prospect as a combination of Tommy John surgery and an absent minor league season in 2020 forced him to go four years between throwing a pitch in a professional setting. In any case, Carlson's pedigree as a 2nd round pick reflects an arm with potential. Matt Brash: A more typical hard-throwing righty with quality stuff. Brash is a prototypically modern pitching prospect who possesses great ability with questionable command. If he reigns it in, he's an All-Star; if not, he's a reliever. He can be yet another lotto ticket in the Twins farm. Review: Quite frankly, a trade with the Mariners made much more sense a week ago-when this article was first written. The Cruz trade and the Anderson deal have thrown any predictions out the window. All I can really say now is "be prepared for something weird from this team." The Mariners are genuinely in the great unknown as a team. All signs point towards them selling, but their record so far has gifted them a chance to become soft buyers in the hope that other franchises crash and burn around them. Players like Duffey, Pineda, and potentially Robles may be of interest to them. The partnership is certainly odd, but it would not be all too surprising if the two teams find a way to make a deal with each other. Remember, the Twins did trade Zach Duke to the Mariners in 2018, so a prior relationship does exist.
  7. What's Their Situation? The Phillies declared themselves contenders before the 2019 season when they signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year(!) $330M contract. They backed it up with the fourth-highest payroll in MLB this year. And yet, they haven't made the postseason the last two years and are in danger of missing it again. This year, the NL Wild Card already looks out of reach, but the NL East is a four-team slugfest (or maybe more of a slap fight?) with the Mets, Phillies, Braves, and Nationals all firmly determined to remain within arm's reach of .500. Whichever team makes the right moves at the deadline could eke out a postseason spot. Plus, the Phillies' needs are relatively straightforward, and the Twins are a good fit for several of them. What Do They Need? It is remarkable that the Phillies somehow need the same thing every year: bullpen help. You think the Twins' bullpen has been brutal? The Phillies are twice as bad. And I mean that objectively – their relievers have a collective WPA of -3.33, almost doubling the Twins mark of -1.78. The Twins have 12 blown saves on the year, while the Phillies lead the majors in that dubious category with 22. Which Twins Are the Best Fit? All the relievers, obviously. No, not Alex Colome – even Philly's behavior at the 2018 NFC Championship game doesn't justify that level of punishment. But Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, and even Caleb Thielbar would be of interest. The fact that several are team-controlled for multiple years would help the Phillies solve a seemingly perennial problem. And the fact that the Twins can offer multiple arms is even more valuable, giving them the flexibility to get numerous arms by giving up a single more valuable prospect. Every team could use some more help in their starting rotation, and the Phils are no exception. They have Zack Wheeler as an ace so far this year, and Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin have been serviceable, but a healthy Michael Pineda or Jose Berrios would obviously be of interest. Offensively, you would think a lineup with a core of Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hopkins, and Andrew McCutchen would be elite. Yet the Phils' offense is only slightly above average. Still, it's hard to find a fit. The best fit might be Josh Donaldson taking over at third base: the Phils certainly can spend money, and Alec Bohm is posting just a 641 OPS this year, has struggled defensively, and tested positive for Covid on July 11th. However, he's also just 24 years old and a legit prospect who hit .338 last year in his rookie season. It's unlikely the Phils want to block him for the next two years at third base. Other than that, the biggest weakness is at shortstop (veteran Didi Gregorius) and center field (injured Odubel Herrera). But the Twins don't have a great replacement for either unless they get an offer they can't refuse for Byron Buxton. Who Could The Twins Get Back? This is always a shot in the dark, but let's review some candidates... Alec Bohm, 3B, 24yo – The aforementioned Bohm is the Phillies' top young player, but he's their everyday third baseman. Could the Twins replace him with Donaldson and throw in some salary or arms (or both) to find a workable package? Seems a lot of moving pieces to arrange. Spencer Howard, RHP, 24yo – It's hard to say what Howard's value is these days. This offseason, he was still considered a top 50 overall starting pitching prospect. But now he's spent portions of two seasons in the majors, posted a 5.87 ERA, and was shut down with shoulder soreness in between. This is where scouting matters. Rafael Marchan, C, 22yo – It's hard to tell what the Phils' strategy was with Marchan. He was clearly rushed to the majors, meaning he's already burned two option years. He's shown no power, but he's also just 22. He's a switch-hitter, but stronger from his left side, which seems like a good fit. He just seems like the kind of guy the Twins believe they can coach up and shouldn't cost a lot.
  8. Mets, Third Base Before his recent injury, reports serviced of the Twins and Mets having some initial discussions about a deal involving Josh Donaldson. There are obviously plenty of things to consider with the amount of money remaining on his contract. How much money do the Twins need to cover? What kind of prospect can they get in return? Donaldson has continued to produce offensively, and he can be an October weapon for a club that is willing to deal with some of his antics. Potential Fit: Josh Donaldson Nationals, Starting Pitcher The Nationals have been riding Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation, but there are plenty of other question marks in the rest of their staff. Realistically, Washington needs to add multiple starters including someone with more upside than Pineda. That being said, the NL East is up for grabs, and they have an opportunity to head back to October with rotational upgrades. Potential Fit: Michael Pineda Brewers, Offensive Upgrade Milwaukee finds themselves at the top of the NL Central thanks in large part to a tremendous pitching staff. If they want to find October success, they are going to need to add more to their offense. Nelson Cruz would look great in the middle of their line-up, but no NL DH means that’s out of the question. Donaldson can add a power bat to their line-up if the Twins are willing to eat most of the contract to send him to their border state rival. Potential Fit: Donaldson Reds, Relief Pitcher Cincinnati’s bullpen is terrible as they rank near the bottom of the NL in many metrics. They likely need to add multiple relievers to find any sort of run to the postseason, but are they going to want to surrender the capital needed to make this happen? Minnesota has multiple relievers that are available including plenty of arms with late-inning experience. Potential Fit: Taylor Rogers Giants, Starting Pitcher San Francisco wasn’t supposed to be at the top of the NL West, but baseball is a funny game. Their line-up doesn’t have many glaring needs, so adding to their starting pitching depth seems like the best way to stay at the top of the division. Jose Berrios might be one of the best starters available at the deadline and he can keep them at the top of their division. Potential Fit: Jose Berrios Dodgers, Starting Pitcher Minnesota’s front office has worked with Los Angeles before as part of the Kenta Maeda deal, so that might make another big trade easier for both sides. The Dodgers want to prove that last year’s shortened season title wasn’t a fluke and adding Berrios means the other contenders in their division won’t have the opportunity to acquire him. Potential Fit: Berrios Padres, Relief Pitcher San Diego spent big this winter and they are clearly in win now mode. They can likely use a starting pitcher and some other offensive help, but the Twins have intriguing bullpen arms. Duffey, like Rogers comes with an extra year of team control and that only increases each player’s value. Minnesota might not want to deal Duffey, but the Padres have prospects that might be tough to turn down. Potential Fit: Tyler Duffey There are also plenty of deals the Twins can make with AL squads including multiple teams interested in Cruz. Which of these deals is most likely to happen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. How Did We Get Here? On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump. Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs. Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again. On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued… What About the Unwritten Rules? An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing. After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing." Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else." This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside. What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? 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
  10. We’re now over 30 games into the season and Rocco Baldelli’s club is nearly double-digit games out of first place in the division. The story this offseason was one of winning a playoff game, but at this point getting there looks like a herculean feat. A week ago, I wrote about where blame should fall for this debacle. Taking that a step further, which players have regressed the most, and should we have seen it coming? Max Kepler Back in 2019 the Twins inked Kepler to a five-year contract extension. They had a corner outfielder that had done just enough but was looking to breakthrough. They gambled right and that season the German-native posted an .855 OPS. Since that season he’s played in 72 games and posted just a .720 OPS. Although the .760 OPS in 2020 was still a step forward from where he’d been previously, Minnesota was going to need more in the year ahead. He’s responded but hitting below the Mendoza Line with an OPS of .642. He’s got just two homers in 99 plate appearances and the power potential has been all but sapped. Kepler has struggled at times against lefties in his career, even to the point of being platooned for a period. He’s become an advanced defender, but he’s stretched a bit in centerfield, and it has put his body in more of a demanding scenario as well. It’s one thing when he’s hitting at the bottom of the lineup, but this is a guy the Twins groomed to hit leadoff or for power in the middle, and he’s become anything but. At 28 there’s still time, but it’s getting late early on the 2021 campaign. Miguel Sano Arguably one of the most frustrating players in recent Twins memory, there is no one more of a lightning rod for criticism than Sano is. Despite a .923 OPS across 105 games two years ago, the guy has never been given grace. He’s allowed laziness and character issues to creep in off the field, and even after turning a corner there, performance took a step backwards. Getting off to a late start due to Covid in 2020, Sano has doubled down in 2021. He’s got an unacceptable .496 OPS and looks completely overmatched at the plate. No longer is he able to catch up to fastballs, and while the season started with a strong walk inducing plate discipline, he now looks to be up there flailing. This is a guy that went from Nelson Cruz protégé to someone that could wind up being a lost cause for the organization. Like Kepler, he too is just 28, but at bats are now no longer guaranteed for the first basemen and it’s on him to re-earn any semblance of trust. Tyler Duffey This is arguably the most surprising. Over 81.2 innings the past two seasons Duffey transformed himself into one of baseball’s best relievers. He owned a 2.31 ERA bolstered by a 12.5 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9. The stuff was electric, he had strong command of it, and hitters found themselves looking like something close to an automatic out when he was on the bump. A 5.25 ERA isn’t overtly concerning across just 12.0 IP, but the lack of command and dominance is certainly a problem. Duffey has just a 10/9 K/BB this season and is seemingly not able to get batters to miss the ball. His 9.0 H/9 simply won’t play, and for a guy that was counted on to be a key back-end bullpen piece, Baldelli has been left searching for even more answers with one of his key cogs becoming completely unreliable. Mitch Garver I’m not certain that regression is entirely fair here for Garver as it depends on what the expectation was. I think it’s fair to suggest that his .995 OPS in 2019 wasn’t indicative of the player he is, just as the .511 mark battling through a core injury wasn’t a season ago. He’s since turned it on a bit and now owns a .733 OPS, but the 32/7 K/BB just isn’t reflective of the hitter we once saw. For Garver it doesn’t seem the problem is so much that he’s struggled with what to attack, but instead has been unable to attack the same pitches he once could. Previously hunting and crushing fastballs, he’s sat on that pitch in 2021 but been able to do little with it. Having dealt with a couple of bumps and bruises, it hasn’t been a fluid start to the year, but he could certainly ride some momentum back towards an acceptable output. Looking at the names above, I think they’re probably listed in order of impact and surprise. Kepler hasn’t been good for going on two years now, but he’s also been asked to do substantially more defensively and the level of consistency when getting to the ballpark hasn’t been there. Sano’s ceiling has long been established, and when the bottom falls out of a player like that it crashes hard. For Duffey there has to be a tweak that allows something better the rest of the way, and Garver isn’t far off from what should’ve been expected from him. All in all, the Minnesota Twins are where they are because the core players in their lineup and on the roster have fallen flat. Steps back should always be expected, but by virtually everyone at the same time, that’s pretty difficult to overcome. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. 1. Taylor Rogers Much like in 2019, Taylor Rogers has been one of the few options Baldelli can trust in the late innings of games. At season’s start, it seemed like Rogers would be used in more of a set-up role with Colomé getting more of the closing opportunities. Until Colomé can figure it out, Rogers will be used as the closer and he has the team’s highest level of trust. 2. Hansel Robles Robles was brought in to help add veteran depth to the bullpen and he has made a good impression so far this year. His xBA ranks in the 82nd percentile and his wOBA ranks in the top 7% of the league. One of the biggest changes for him this season is his pitch usage. From 2015-18, he used his changeup less than 10% of the time. So far in 2021, he has used his changeup over 50% with his fastball usage dropping from 45% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. 3. Tyler Duffey Duffey has been one of the baseball’s best relievers over the last two seasons. In fact, MLB Network had him in their top-10 relievers entering the season. So far this year, he hasn’t looked like his dominating self as he ranks in the 24th percentile or lower in nearly every Statcast metric. Baldelli still shows trust in Duffey with the hope that he can make some adjustments moving forward. 4. Cody Stashak Stashak is striking out batters at the highest rate of his career with a K% north of 36% that ranks him in the top 6% of the league. On the other hand, batters are barreling up the ball against him quite regularly. His 20 barrel% is in the bottom 1% of the league and it is 6.5 percentage points higher than his previous career high. 5. Jorge Alcala Alcala might have the best raw stuff in the Twins bullpen and an argument can be made for him being given more high leverage spots as the season progresses. One of the toughest things for Alcala has been his inability to get left-handed hitters out on a consistent basis. For his career, lefties have a 1.178 OPS against him in 55 plate appearances. If he wants to earn more high leverage appearances, he needs to improve against southpaws. 6. Caleb Thielbar With Rogers moving into the closer role, Thielbar will be critical for when the team is facing lefties before the ninth inning. Since rejoining the Twins last year, he has posted a 2.53 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 32 innings. 7. St. Paul Train (Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Devin Smeltzer) The Twins will likely continue to shuffle through players at the backend of the bullpen, especially if a player pitches multiple innings the previous day. These players aren’t going to be relied on for high leverage situations, so there doesn’t need to be a lot of trust in using them. 8. Alexander Colomé Colomé’s start to the season has been disastrous. Until he shows signs of improvement, the teams should have little trust in him. How would you rank the bullpen by level of trust? 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
  12. Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcalá, Cody Stashak, Lewis Thorpe Depth: Shaun Anderson, Ian Hamilton, Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Edwar Colina, Dakota Chalmers, Josh Winder THE GOOD The top of Minnesota's bullpen is well stocked with proven high-caliber arms. Taylor Rogers (3rd), Tyler Duffey (13th) and newcomer Hansel Robles (19th) all rank among the top 20 major-league relief pitchers in fWAR since 2019. Alex Colomé isn't rated quite as highly by that metric (42nd), but is a more conventionally appealing back-end arm: 15th in ERA, fourth in saves (with a 91% conversion rate), and seventh in Win Probability Added. The team's second tier of relievers also offers plenty of prowess. Jorge Alcalá posted a 2.63 ERA and 10.1 K/9 rate as a rookie in 2020, flashing the potential to join the tier above. Cody Stashak has a 3.15 ERA and 42-to-4 K/BB ratio in 40 major-league innings. Caleb Thielbar put up a 2.25 ERA and 9.9 K/9 rate last year in his triumphant resurgence at age 33. On the fringe of the reliever mix are a number of interesting waiver adds and fixer-upper projects. Names like Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut, Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Juan Minaya and Ian Hamilton give Minnesota considerable depth – all pitchers with some big-league experience and intriguing traits pinpointed by the front office. Given the success we've seen the Twins have with guys like Matt Wisler and Ryne Harper, none of those names can be discounted as potential impact relievers in the coming year. And that's before you get to the prospect pipeline, which packs some serious punch. The Twins have a deep well of relief pitchers, rich with impressive track records, closing experience, and appealing strengths. They'll have a lot of options to get them through a long season, in which much will likely be asked of the bullpen. It's easy to have faith in the people running this ship to keep it sailing smoothly. THE BAD By parting with Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, and Wisler during the offseason, the Twins lost 95 of their 231 bullpen innings from 2020. That's about 40% of the unit's total output, and a much higher share of the high-leverage work. With the help of those key contributors, Minnesota ranked fourth in the American League in bullpen ERA and second in fWAR. Now the relief corps will be looking to build upon that success through major turnover. It's hard to make a case on the surface that the Twins' incoming talent comes anywhere close to matching what exited; those four combined last year for a 2.85 ERA while averaging 11.6 K/9. May, in particular, was a flamethrowing strikeout machine whose dominant edge will be tough to replace. Backfilling May's overpowering presence, along with the functional reliability of Clippard and Wisler (who ranked first and second among MN relievers in innings pitched), will be a tall task. While the Twins have a large quantity of talented arms for the task, there are legit question marks surrounding most of them. Rogers is coming off a tough year, in which hitters seemingly caught on to his previously baffling repertoire. Robles is trying to rebound from an unmitigated disaster that got him non-tendered by the Angels. Colomé was ditched by the White Sox and generated little demand in free agency, despite the gaudy numbers. It's hard to look at any of these pitchers with the same confidence as Rogers, May and Romo a year ago. THE BOTTOM LINE Great bullpens are requisite for transcendent teams, especially in the modern game. Year after year, when you look at MLB's leading teams in bullpen fWAR, you find clubs that made the playoffs and often made deep runs. (Last year, the Dodgers and Rays ranked first and second, respectively.) The Twins ranked third, for a second consecutive year, and they've achieved all this success by following their own model. They identify impact relievers (often below-the-radar types), develop customized plans, and execute. They've done it time and time again, and for that reason they've earned a good amount of faith. But leaps of faith are definitely required to see this bullpen maintaining the elite level of performance that's now become the norm. They lost a lot of quality during the offseason, and are gambling heavily on their secret sauce in this 2021 bullpen recipe. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES Catcher First Base Second Base Third Base Shortstop Left Field Center Field Right Field Designated Hitter Starting Pitcher
  13. To be clear, the Twins and manager Rocco Baldelli aren’t going to name a closer. As baseball continues to rethink how bullpens can best be utilized, the Twins are going to look at matchups and put their players in the best opportunities to succeed. That being said, the four players below are the likely candidates to be considered the team’s closer. Taylor Rogers, LHP Career Saves: 41 Rogers was one of the most dominant relievers during the 2018 and 2019 seasons as he took over Minnesota’s closer role. Even with struggles last season, his peripheral numbers point to some bad luck leading to his poor performance. His .400 BABIP was over 70 points higher than any other season. Also, his 10.8 SO/9 was his second highest rate of his career. One pitch to keep an eye on is his slider and the results have been good so far this spring. Twins fans can hope he is back to his old self and the rest of the players on this list are used as set-up men leading into Rogers. Alex Colome, RHP Career Saves: 138 Chicago’s loss is Minnesota’s gain as Colome has been one of the best relievers in recent years. He has the most saves of any player on the Twins staff and he won’t shy away from a late-inning role. With uncertainly surrounding other players on this list, Colome seems like the natural choice to pick up most of the team’s save opportunities. However, relief pitchers can be fickle and maybe there is a bigger reason the White Sox let him go. His 6.4 SO/9 mark from last year was his lowest total since becoming a full-time reliever. If Wes Johnson can work his magic, Colome has a chance to be the team’s leader in saves. Tyler Duffey, RHP Career Saves: 1 Duffey was the team’s best relief pitcher in 2020 and the second half of 2019, but he has been given limited save opportunities. One of the reasons he hasn’t gotten those chance is because he has been so successful being used in a fireman role. Because of the other names on this list, he will likely stay in that role. So far this spring, his velocity has been lower than the team might like, but there is still time to figure it out before the team heads north. If he can’t figure it out, the Twins will have to rely on other arms to take over his important innings. https://twitter.com/IAmRickGraham/status/1370476048488529929?s=20 Hansel Robels, RHP Career Saves: 27 Robels struggled in 2020 and that’s one of the reasons the Twins were able to sign him for a relatively cheap deal. Back in 2019, he compiled strong numbers as the Angels primary closer with a 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.3 SO/9. Last year, albeit in on 16.2 innings, he allowed 19 earned runs, but he posted a career high 10.8 SO/9. It seems more likely for the players listed above to get the majority of the save opportunities, but Robels has some experience, and the Twins can always turn to him if other relievers are struggling at some point during the season. Who do you think will be considered Minnesota’s primary closer 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
  14. Perhaps it was matchups. Perhaps it was the depth of the bullpen. Or perhaps it was just coincidence. But last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the pressure inherent to holding close leads like almost no other Major League team, steering away from the closer-dominated hierarchy we talked about in Part 1. And you can see it using the sabrmetric stat Leverage Index (LI) that we detailed in Part 2. Here are the Twins’ qualified relievers, the average Leverage Index they faced when entering a game, and where they ranked in LI in MLB overall. Name gmLI MLB Rank Taylor Rogers 1.69 19 Sergio Romo 1.62 24 Tyler Duffey 1.61 25 Trevor May 1.36 53 Tyler Clippard 1.24 73 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 100 Jorge Alcala 0.65 146 What are you looking at? As we saw yesterday, any LI over one indicates a more-dangerous-than-average situation. Six of the Twins qualified relievers had an LI greater than one. No other team in MLB had that many. In fact, the Twins actually had eight relievers. Matt Wisler (1.11) and Cody Stashak (1.05) both also had LI over one, but just missed the “qualified” designation by a couple of innings. Baldelli shared his high leverage situations throughout the bullpen, not relying on a couple of guys to carry the load, like other teams. Alternately, you can see that the Twins look like they mostly protected rookie Jorge Alcala from those situations. Now look at how bunched together those top three relievers are, and how high up they rank compared to all MLB qualified relievers. There are 30 teams, but the Twins had three relievers in the top 25 in average LI? Yep. Toronto is the only other team that had three relievers in the top 35. Toronto is also the only other team that had four pitchers in the top 55, like the Twins did. They’re also the only team to have five pitchers in the top 75, like the Twins did. The bunching of the Twins becomes more obvious when you look at the average LI each of the Twins top relievers faced, compared to the average LI the same pitcher faced on other teams. Name gmLI Ave MLB gmLI Taylor Rogers 1.69 1.70 Sergio Romo 1.62 1.37 Tyler Duffey 1.61 1.22 Trevor May 1.36 1.03 Tyler Clippard 1.24 0.86 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 0.77 Jorge Alcala 0.65 0.69 Rogers faced about average situations for the #1 ranked person in the bullpen compared to other teams. And Alcala faced about the same as the sixth ranked guy in the bullpen. But Romo, Duffey, May, Clippard and even Thielbar all were brought into games at significantly more crucial moments than their peers on other teams. In short, Baldelli spread the wealth among the relievers in his bullpen. He is finding spots to use even the fourth and fifth best relievers that impact a game, and likely help them grow, and you can see that using LI. You can also see that using LI if you take a look at individual pitchers’ game logs. So we’ll do that next. Next: Using LI to see how Baldelli is trusting individual pitchers.
  15. 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
  16. 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) 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 2020 Ranking: 11 This is the deepest placement yet in these rankings for Sanó, and with good reason. He moved from third base to first. He is coming off a disappointing year, marred by a ridiculous strikeout total. He is currently lined up as the team's second-highest paid player in 2021, with his $11 million commitment trailing only Donaldson's $21 million. With all this in mind, I think it's important to remember the qualities that have kept Sanó on this list year after year – all still on display in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He is an incredibly gifted athlete who hits baseballs as hard as anyone in the world. He acclimated quickly to first base, with his natural skill and instincts shining through. He's only 27 years old, at the heart of his physical prime, and still quite athletic for his prodigious size. While he'll be somewhat highly paid in 2021, the Twins also control him in 2022 at $9.25 million, which will be an amazing bargain if he pulls it together. They also have a $14 million option for his age-30 season. Focus on Sanó's flaws all you want – it's valid. But don't lose sight of his strengths. They are in some ways unparalleled. 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 2020 Ranking: 16 If he hadn't claimed it already, Duffey firmly took hold of the team's "bullpen ace" title in 2020. He was among the league's most dominant relievers, allowing only 19 baserunners via hit or walk in 24 innings, nearly all high-leverage. And because of his sparse previous track record, Duffey remains quite inexpensive in his second turn at arbitration. He's set to earn $2.2 million in 2020. In some ways, he epitomizes the volatility and unpredictability of relief arms. Duffey was not present in these rankings two years ago, and in fact was probably on the verge of moving on from the organization at that point. He has since harnessed his full potential out of the bullpen to become an elite force in the late innings. How long will it last? That remains to be seen. But the Twins are more than happy to control him affordably for the next two seasons. 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 2020 Ranking: 8 The lost minor-league season in 2020 was especially unfortunate for a guy like Balazovic. He entered the year as a fast-rising and highly promising young arm, ready to take on advanced levels for the first time and make a statement. But because he hadn't yet taken this step, and wasn't really within range of a call-up, he was left off the alternate site roster, leaving him to progress on his own, without the benefit of competition or direct coaching. (He did get added to the alternate group late in the season.) None of this means Balazovic's outlook has dropped off, especially in a relative context (all prospects just lost a year). But he was at such a pivotal crux in his development – 21 years old, three years removed from being drafted out of high school, set to reach Double-A for the first time – that the disruption weighs a bit harder in his case. With that said, he's clearly one of the organization's top pitching prospects – virtually deadlocked with the next guy, from my view – and that makes him one of Minnesota's most valuable assets. Huge year ahead for Balazovic. 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2020 Ranking: 13 The Twins acquired the Dominican right-hander from Arizona as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal in July of 2018. At the time, Duran was a middling Single-A starter with big stuff and lackluster results. Upon coming switching organizations, he immediately turned a corner. Since the trade, Duran has posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate in 151 innings. His whiff rates are among the best in the system. He's been dominating. He's also just about big-league ready. Duran reached Double-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the alternate site in St. Paul, where he gained consideration for a call-up. His proximity to the majors and proven performance in the upper minors gives him a slight edge over Balazovic in these rankings but as I said, they're practically even in my eyes. 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 2020 Ranking: 10 The strengths and positives that Arráez brings to the table are no secret. He's one of the game's best contact hitters and the definition of a spark plug, with a .331 average and .390 on-base percentage through nearly 500 major-league plate appearances. All this before turning 24. But Arráez also has his limitations. He's not a speedy runner, nor a strong defender, and it's dubious whether he'll ever develop enough power to become a well-rounded offensive threat. Overshadowing these shortcomings, all of which he's been able to rise above as a huge difference-maker in his first two seasons, is the one issue that has actually held him back: his health. The second baseman missed all of 2017 in the minors after tearing the ACL in one knee, and in 2020 he was bothered all year by tendinitis in the other. Arráez was clearly hobbled most of the time and spent much of September on the Injured List. No surgery was planned for this offseason, so he'll focus on strengthening his lower body and shaking off the creeping "injury-prone" rep that threatens to further tarnish his otherwise impeccable asset value as a cheap young core player with five remaining years of team control. 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 6-10: 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
  17. Voting for pitcher of the year can be difficult. How do you compare a starting pitcher who may work 160-200 innings to a top relief pitcher who might throw 60 innings, but most of them are very high leverage? That distinction becomes even more difficult in 2020 when the top starting pitchers threw 63-67 innings and the top relievers threw just 20-25 innings due to the COVID-shortened, 60-game season. Yes, voting for Best Pitcher can be quite difficult, at times. This year, the choice was really quite easy as all 23 Twins Daily voters gave their first-place vote to Kenta Maeda. He was the easy choice for Twins Pitcher of the Year, and more important, everything the Twins needed. When Maeda came to the Twins before spring training from the Dodgers in exchange for Brusdar Graterol, it was met with mixed feelings. The Twins gave up a top pitching prospect, though one who most assumed would fit in a bullpen. In return, they received Maeda who had put up five quality seasons in Los Angeles. His numbers were fairly equitable to those Jose Berrios had put up in recent years. Maeda found himself in the bullpen late in his seasons with the Dodgers, and he remained in the bullpen in the playoffs. Was it for contract purposes, or was it because he was best serving his team by pitching, very well, in the playoffs? Coming to the Twins, he was excited about his role with the Twins, and he pitched so well that there was never any consideration of moving him to the bullpen. Maeda led the Twins with 66 2/3 innings in 11 starts. His six wins tied Randy Dobnak for most on the team. His 2.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run better than his previous career-low and was 61% better than league average. His 0.75 WHIP was best on the team, 0.04 lower than Tyler Duffey in over 42 more innings. His previous career-low was 1.07. His 1.4 BB/9 tied Tyler Clippard for the best on the team. His 10.8 K/9 was best among Twins starters. He never worked less than five innings in any of his 11 starts. He never gave up more than three runs in an outing. On August 18th against the Brewers, he had a no-hitter into the ninth inning. At one point in that same game, he struck out an organization-high eight consecutive batters. His previous career high in fWAR was 2.9. He recorded 2.1 fWAR in 60 games in 2020 and was on pace for a 5.7 fWAR in a full season. By almost every pitching measure, Kenta Maeda put together the best season of his MLB career and easily the best season by a Twins pitcher. PITCH-MIX CHANGES With the Twins, Maeda made some adjustments to his pitch mix. In 2019, he threw 37% fastballs. In 2020, he threw just 26% fastballs. He increased his slider percentage from 31% to 40% In addition, he increased his changeup usage from 24% to 29% He spoke about working with the Twins and knowing that his changeup was good enough to use versus left-handers as well as right-handers. By throwing more sliders against right-handed hitters, and more changeups versus left-handed hitters, he was able to get more swinging strikes inside and outside the strike zone. Along with that, batters had a career low exit velocity and Hard Hit % against him. The numbers speak for themselves. Maeda pitched better than anyone else in 2020. Just as important, Maeda provided the Twins with a top-of-the-rotation starter that they have not had in recent years. He provided the team with consistency and reliability that it needed. OTHER CANDIDATES Tyler Duffey was the top bullpen arm for most of the season. He was used in the highest leverage situations and came through most times out. Matt Wisler, our choice for Most Improved Twins player in 2020, provided quality pitching regardless of what role he was used in this season. He was an Opener, a Closer and pretty much everything in between. Tyler Clippard doesn’t overpower anyone, but he had a fantastic season pitching in a variety of roles Randy Dobnak tied Maeda for the team lead in wins. He was a strong candidate for AL Rookie of the Year for the first month of the season before a late-season fade pushed him down to St. Paul. Jose Berrios struggled for the first month, but he finished really strong. Rich Hill quietly put together a strong September. Others who deservingly received votes: Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Sergio Romo. THE BALLOTS Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters. But first... how would your ballot look? Here are the results from the Twins Daily Twitter poll: https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1316197453083877377 Seth Stohs: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler Nick Nelson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Rich Hill John Bonnes: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Sergio Romo Tom Froemming: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler Andrew Gebo: 1) Kenta Maeda, Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak AJ Condon: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey Cody Christie: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler Cody Pirkl: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak Cooper Carlson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard Lucas Seehafer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios Matt Braun: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey Matt Lenz: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Tyler Clippard Matthew Taylor: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios Matthew Trueblood:1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Randy Dobnak Nash Walker: 1) Kenta Maeda, Tyler Duffey, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler Nate Palmer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Clippard, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Michael Pineda Patrick Wozniak: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler Derek Wetmore: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard Steve Lein: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Randy Dobnak Renabanena: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Tyler Duffey Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jorge Alcala POINTS Kenta Maeda: 92 Tyler Duffey: 56 Matt Wisler: 25 Jose Berrios: 25 Tyler Clippard: 12 Michael Pineda: 9 Randy Dobnak: 8 Rich Hill: 1 Jorge Alcala: 1 Sergio Romo: 1 Leave a comment and make your case. PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS 2015: Kyle Gibson 2016: Ervin Santana 2017: Ervin Santana 2018: Jose Berrios 2019: Taylor Rogers OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS Rookie of the Year: Ryan Jeffers Most Improved: Matt Wisler Pitcher of the Year: Kenta Maeda Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow
  18. Most Improved. It is a difficult award to vote on, and this year that was certainly the case. What does it mean? Well, it could be a guy that had a bad first half of the season and really turned it on and showed great improvement as the season went along. Often, it is a player coming off of a disappointing or injury-plagued season who takes a step forward with a strong season. Matt Wisler is not new to the big leagues. 2020 was his sixth season, and the Minnesota Twins are his fifth organization. He was originally drafted and signed by the Padres out of high school in 2011. He became a top prospect. He was a key piece in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, Jr. to San Diego from Atlanta. He was a Top 100 prospect before the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Wisler debuted with the Braves in 2015 and spent two seasons as a starter. He was moved to the bullpen in 2017 and traded to the Reds during the 2018 season. He split 2019 between the Padres and the Mariners. Combined, he was 3-4 with a 5.61 ERA in 51 1/3 over 44 games. At the end of the 2019 season, the Mariners placed him on waivers and the Twins claimed him. Wisler was arbitration-eligible, but he agreed to a guaranteed contract before numbers needed to be exchanged. PITCH-MIX CHANGES Clearly the Twins front office, scouts, analytics group, and/or pitching coaches and coordinators saw something from Wisler. Most likely, they saw his spin rate and that he had started using his slider much more frequently. In 2018, Wisler threw 49.7% fastballs and 46.9% sliders. In 2019, Wisler threw 29.2% fastballs and 70.5% sliders. Turns out, that was just the start. In 2020, Wisler threw just 16.6% fastballs and 83.4% sliders. Here is a quick look at which MLB relievers threw the most sliders in 2020 (with the help of Statcast): Wisler pointed out in September. “The one thing why I think my slider is so effective, talking to catchers, it doesn’t move the same. One pitch it will go straight down and the other one goes more side to side. I have a lot of different movements on my pitch. I don’t do anything different that I can feel.” MATT-OF-ALL-TRADES Wisler began the season by pitching in low-leverage situations. With early success, he soon was working in closer games. In mid-August, he had a stretch of three straight games in which he was used as the Opener. His next appearance, he struck out two batters in a perfect ninth to close out a 3-2 win over the White Sox. The only other Save of his career came in 2015 when he was still a starter. His next appearance was back in the role of Opener. He was being used in higher-leverage situations. He was pitching much more frequently. In a game against the Cubs, he worked two scoreless innings and struck out six batters. Regardless the role he was utilized, Matt Wisler dropped sliders and got the job done! OTHER CANDIDATES You can see who else received votes below, but there was no shortage of players who showed some improvement in 2020. The Twins had one of baseball’s best bullpens. No surprise. Beyond Wisler, several bullpen arms took a step forward. Tyler Duffey finished fourth on this list while Jorge Alcala, Trevor May and Cody Stashak also received votes. Like Wisler, Kenta Maeda came to the Twins from another organization and put up the best season, short as it was, of his career. He made some minor adjustments and went 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA. Arguably the Best Story of the 2020 Twins season could be the return of Caleb Thielbar. The lefty from Randolph returned to the organization after not pitching in the big leagues since 2015. In that time, he spent two more seasons with the St. Paul Saints. He was ready to be done and was hired as a pitching coach at Augustana. The Twins called and said they thought he was a big-league pitcher. He came to spring training and did well. He was invited to Summer Camp. He spent the first trip of the season on the Twins practice squad, and soon after he was promoted back to the big leagues. He responded very well, posting a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 20 innings. Others who deservingly received votes: Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Michael Pineda. How would your ballot look? Here are the results from the Twins Daily Twitter poll: https://twitter.com/twinsdaily/status/1315818049006690306 THE BALLOTS Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters. Seth Stohs: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Caleb Thielbar Nick Nelson: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May John Bonnes: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Matt Wisler Tom Froemming: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar Andrew Gebo: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar, 3) Kenta Maeda AJ Condon: 1) Kenta Maeda, Tyler Duffey, Byron Buxton Cody Christie: 1) Matt Wisler, 2.) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar Cody Pirkl: 1) Caleb Thielbar, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Matt Wisler Cooper Carlson: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Caleb Thielbar Lucas Seehafer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Byron Buxton Matt Braun: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar Matt Lenz: 1) Byron Buxton, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar Matthew Taylor: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey Matthew Trueblood: 1) Jorge Alcala, 2) Eddie Rosario Nash Walker: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar Nate Palmer: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar, 3) Cody Stashak Patrick Wozniak: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Eddie Rosario, 3) Michael Pineda Derek Wetmore: 1) Byron Buxton Steve Lein: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Trevor May, 3) Jorge Alcala Renabanena: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Byron Buxton, 3) Kenta Maeda Ted Schwerzler: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar POINTS Matt Wisler: 47 Kenta Maeda: 28 Caleb Thielbar: 18 Tyler Duffey: 12 Byron Buxton: 10 Eddie Rosario: 7 Jorge Alcala: 6 Trevor May: 3 Cody Stashak: 1 Michael Pineda: 1 Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners 2015: Aaron Hicks 2016: Brian Dozier 2017: Byron Buxton 2018: Kyle Gibson 2019: Mitch Garver OTHER 2020 AWARD WINNERS Rookie of the Year: Ryan Jeffers Most Improved: Matt Wisler Pitcher of the Year: Coming Tomorrow Most Valuable Player: Coming Soon!
  19. Overreaction 1: The Twins can’t score with runners in scoring position. The first inning was rough as the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the frame. Eddie Rosario hit a scalding line drive at over 100 mph that happened to find the glove of the first baseman. With two outs, Miguel Sano hit a slow roller and nearly beat it out for an infield hit. His sprint speed on the play was 28.9 ft/sec which is 1.5 ft/sec fast than his average this season. The Twins didn’t score, but the club made Greinke throw 30 pitches in the frame. Even though Minnesota didn’t capitalize, the Twins got Greinke out of the game early enough to give them time to strike against the bullpen. Overreaction 2: Kenta Maeda is the Twins best playoff pitcher since Jack Morris. Kenta Maeda wasn’t perfect on Tuesday with three walks and five strikeouts over five shutout innings. He got out of one bases loaded jam to keep a zero on the board, but many fans might have forgotten about how good a former pitcher was in October. Johan Santana was outstanding during the playoffs near the end of his Twins tenure. In his last three postseason starts, he allowed three earned runs over 20 innings with 20 strikeouts and five walks. The Twins only won one of those games and it was the team’s last postseason win. Overreaction 3: Rocco Baldelli overmanaged his catchers. Ryan Jeffers was the correct choice to start the game and he put together two solid at-bats that both resulted in line outs at over 100 mph. Overall, this sounds great, but Baldelli turned to Mitch Garver as a pinch hitter for Jeffers in the bottom of the 7th. Garver struggled mightily down the stretch after returning from injury. He promptly struck out on four pitches and then he was replaced behind the plate by Alex Avila. Last season, Garver had an offensive season for the ages when it came to catchers, but that isn’t the player he has been this year. Jeffers should have stayed in the game to get the at-bat and this might be the easiest decision to question. Overreaction 4: Minnesota’s bullpen is broken. Tyler Duffey has been outstanding for most of the last two seasons and he gave up the Twins first run of the game. Sergio Romo allowed back-to-back singles to start the top of the ninth inning. He saw the Twins middle infield botch the final out of the inning on an easy throw to second base. Romo ran the next count full before walking in the go-ahead run. Caleb Thielbar came into a no-win situation with the lead already gone and Houston’s best hitters coming up with the bases loaded. Minnesota used their best arms in the appropriate spots and it just didn’t work out. Overreaction 5: Jorge Polanco is a bad defensive shortstop. No one can argue that Polanco’s error wasn’t a turning point in the game. On a play that looked very routine, the Twins middle infield duo messed up the play. While fans are going to remember this play, Polanco was remarkably better on the defensive side of the ball. He committed only two errors the entire season and FanGraphs Defensive Runs Above Average had him ranked as the fourth best shortstop in the AL. Polanco is never going to win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he made positive strides this season and it’s disappointing that one play could define his season. What are some of your reactions to the first game against the Astros? 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
  20. October is going to look different this season with no off days in scheduled in each of the first three rounds. There is some time off between each round, but bullpens are going to be even more important in this tight schedule. These power rankings aren’t about who should be used in a specific spot because the manager can be creative in the playoffs. The rankings below are about who is pitching well and who has the best stuff to succeed in October. 10. Sean Poppen (4.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 10 K, 7 2/3 IP) Poppen has seen limited time for the Twins this year and it seems unlikely that he would be called on in October. His lone role might be to eat some innings if there was a blowout. He also hasn’t pitched in a game in nearly two weeks. Twins fans don’t want to see him on the mound in the playoffs, because that likely means something went wrong in the game. 9. Caleb Thielbar (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20 K, 16 IP) Thielbar has been a feel-good story for the Twins this season as his pitching performance certainly has matched a player that hasn’t pitching in the big leagues since 2015. If you take out his first appearance, he has a 0.66 ERA while holding batters to a .149/.259/.149 (.408) slash-line. Also, he has been asked to get more than three outs four of his fourteen games, which is likely something he wouldn’t be asked to do in the postseason. On other teams, he’d rank much higher. 8. Cody Stashak (3.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 15 K, 11 2/3 IP) Stashak has been really good and him being this low shows the depth of the Twins bullpen. He’s only allowed runs in two of his nine appearances and he has multiple strikeouts in over half of his outings. His one bad appearance was an inning where he allowed three runs to Kansas City. Rocco Baldelli has shown faith in using him in the late innings of close games. With few off days in each series, Stashak might be needed for some big outs. 7. Jorge Alcala (2.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27 K, 21 2/3 IP) Alcala might have helped Twins fans to forget about Brusdar Graterol since he is basically filling the same role on the team. He’s also been better than Graterol this season. His fastball will certainly play in October and he’s used his slider nearly as often. His Baseball Savant page is also the thing of dreams as he ranks as ranks higher than the 80th percentile in all but one category. He could be the team’s closer of the future and October could be his month to shine on the big stage. 6. Matt Wisler (1.11 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 34 K, 24 1/3 IP) Wilser has been the Twins diamond in the rough this year. Claimed off waivers, the Twins have helped him to morph into one of the American League’s best relief pitchers. According to Baseball Reference, he is tied with Jose Berrios for the fourth highest WAR on the team behind Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, and Nelson Cruz. He’s been used as an opener, earned a save, and has five holds to his name. His versatility could be useful with how effective he continues to be. 5. Tyler Clippard (2.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 22 K, 22 2/3 IP) Minnesota saw plenty of Clippard last year in Cleveland and he’s been nearly as good so far this year. He could actually move down this list with some recent poor performances. In three of his last four appearances, runs have been scored against him, so his worst stretch of the season might be coming at the wrong time. Baldelli will likely continue to turn to him because he is a 14-year veteran with 14 playoff appearances during his career. 4. Sergio Romo (2.89 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 22 K, 18 2/3 IP) Since the Twins acquired him last year, Romo has been getting plenty of late inning opportunities out of the Twins bullpen. Taylor Rogers has struggled at times this year and this has led the Twins to continue to use Romo in late inning situations. Fans saw this as recently as Sunday night in Chicago with Rogers getting the eighth and Romo getting the ninth. Things got a little shaky in that game, but he has a long playoff track record and he’s going to be trusted to get outs in the eighth and ninth inning. 3. Taylor Rogers (4.58 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 22 K, 17 2/3 IP) Rogers and his struggles have been well documented throughout this season. In such a small sample size, luck might be accounting for some of his poor performance. His BABIP is one of the highest among all relief pitchers and his 4.58 ERA comes with a 2.84 FIP. Some of his issues this year might also be tied to the use of his breaking pitches. As Nick wrote about last week, his curve spin rate has flattened out and this could be one reason for more solid contact against him. Whether it’s luck or a poor breaking ball, the Twins need Rogers to be in peak form by the start of next week. 2. Trevor May (4.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 34 K, 20 2/3 IP) Back on September 6, May blew up in a loss to Detroit as he allowed three runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise to 5.74. In his last five appearances, he has been nearly unhittable with opponents limited to two hits, both singles. He has struck out eight in five innings and nearly 60% of his WPA for the season has come during this recent stretch. Even though his season hasn’t been perfect, he’s been Minnesota’s hottest reliever to end the season. 1. Tyler Duffey (1.69 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28 K, 21 1/3 IP) Duffey is the Twins best relief pitcher and it might not be close. If an opponent’s heart of the line-up is coming up in a key spot, Duffey gets the call in the bullpen. These types of situations will only be more amplified in the upcoming postseason. So far this season, he has pitched in any inning from the fourth to the eighth, because Baldelli trusts him in any situation. He isn’t the Twins closer, because he is better than any of the closing options for the Twins. How would you rank the Twins bullpen? 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. Cases could me made for all five of the players below to be included on the 2020 AL All-Star squad. Here’s how I’d rank the Twins as far as their chances to make the team after the season’s mid-point. 5. Miguel Sano, 1B It’s no secret that Sano struggled getting out of the gate this season. He spent a large chunk of the team’s Summer Camp quarantined in his basement after testing positive for the coronavirus. In the team’s first five games, he went 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts and no walks. Since that point, he has been one of baseball’s best sluggers by slashing .292/.407/.667 with 15 extra-base hits in 22 games. Chicago’s Jose Abreu would likely have gotten the starting spot, but Sano has the AL’s third highest WAR among first basemen. He also has a higher WAR than Abreu since last year’s All-Star Game. 4. Tyler Duffey, RP When completing an All-Star roster, managers like to have flame throwing arms to come in for the late innings. Duffey has been outstanding since the middle of last season. In fact, FanGraphs has him trailing only Liam Hendrick and Nick Anderson in WAR since the middle of last year. This even puts him ahead of Twins closer Taylor Rogers. So far this season, Duffey has limited batters to one run on five hits in 11 innings. Over the last two seasons, he has a 96 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio in just under 70 innings. He’s one of baseball’s best relievers and he would have been highly considered for an All-Star spot. 3. Randy Dobnak, SP Dobnak is near the top of the AL in wins and ERA, which is pretty good for a player that wasn’t even a lock to be in the rotation during spring training. Baseball Reference ranks him third on the team in WAR behind the two players ahead of him on this list. He has been terrific since his debut last season with tremendous career numbers like a 1.69 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 39 to 12 strikeout to walk ratio. He might not be the big names fans typically look for in the Mid-Summer Classic but both CBS and MLB.com mentioned him as a potential All-Star. 2. Kenta Maeda, SP In some other seasons, Maeda might be in the conversation to start the All-Star Game with his first half performance. Unfortunately, he’s in the same league with starters like Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke so it’s tough to beat out those names. He still would have likely been a lock to be included on the AL’s roster. He’s ranks fourth in the AL in ERA, first in WHIP, first in hits per nine, and fifth in win probability added. Maeda has been even better than advertised as he seems like the ace on one of baseball’s best teams. 1. Nelson Cruz, DH Cruz would have been a slam dunk to be the AL’s starter at designated hitter. He seems to continue to get better with age as he ranks first in the AL in slugging, OPS and home runs. At different points this season, he carried the Twins offensive load especially with injuries to other key members of the Bomba Squad. His leadership on and off the field have altered Minnesota’s baseball culture and there can’t be enough superlatives thrown his way. Oh, by the way, he turned 40-years old at the beginning of July. Truly amazing. Who do you think would have made the All-Star team for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. From the start of the 2017 season to the end of the 2019 season, Taylor Rogers had been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Over that timespan, Rogers ranked 15th in baseball in ERA (2.75) and 15th in fWAR (4.3). In what had been rollercoaster season for the Twins’ various relief groups, Rogers had been the steady force who could be counted on in the highest of leverage situations. Down the stretch run of 2019 and into the 2020 season, though, there have been some chinks in the armor. After an outstanding first half of the 2019 season (1.82 ERA), Taylor Rogers stumbled a bit down the stretch, posting a second half ERA of 3.68. Rogers has continued that poor stretch into the 2020 season as he now owns a 4.82 ERA through the first third of the season, while batters own a batting average north of .300 against him. Thus far in the 2020 season, the biggest difference in Taylor Rogers struggles have been the ability for opposing batters to square up and make hard contact on his pitches. In 2018 and 2019, Rogers ranked in the top 25% of baseball in limiting hard contact for opposing batters. Thus far in 2020, though, Rogers ranks in the bottom third in baseball in limiting hard contact, allowing a hard hit percentage of 40.7. The hard hits have led to some tough outings for Rogers, who has allowed runs in three of his 10 outings, two of them resulting in multiple runs, and all three of them blowing a tie or a lead. In addition to the runs allowed, Rogers has seemingly had to work his way through every outing. In 2019, Taylor Rogers got through 42% of his appearances without allowing a hit, while in 2020 he has allowed a hit in seven of his 10 outings. While Taylor Rogers has taken a small step back from his "eliteness" over the past 13 months, there have been several other arms in the Minnesota Twins bullpen that have made the leap forward to being outstanding relief options. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1296527817153421313?s=20 As you can see above, Taylor Rogers still has a very respectable 3.82 ERA since last July, but other arms have simply been better — namely, Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. Trevor May has the best pure “stuff” of anyone on the Minnesota Twins bullpen, utilizing a 98 MPH fastball and a slider that completely fools batters at the plate. Tyler Duffey, in the meantime, has developed into one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, becoming practically unhittable every time he takes the mound. May and Duffey both tout right handedness in an American League where the majority of the best hitters come from the right side of the plate. Taylor Rogers still has the command and the stuff to work his way back up the bullpen pecking order, but Trevor May and Tyler Duffey have done enough over what has worked out to be a half-season sample size to become the high leverage arms in this relief group. In a shortened season in which every game (theoretically) means 2.7 times more than it normally would, it’s time for the pecking order to be rearranged and for the Twins bullpen stars to get their time to shine. Do you think Taylor Rogers should be moved down the bullpen pecking order? Would you rather see Trevor May or Tyler Duffey as the “highest” leverage arm? Leave a comment below and start the conversation! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. So far in his two seasons as manager, Rocco Baldelli has shown a preference for giving players time off and allowing pitchers to throw in situations that best fit their role. He adjusted his bullpen usage last season because the team’s relief core was struggling through parts of the first half. In fact, that was one of the team’s biggest needs at the trade deadline last season (See the team’s trade for Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo). Luckily for the Twins players like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May have emerged and the team went out and signed a veteran arm like Tyler Clippard while resigning Romo. This leaves the Twins with one of the baseball’s best bullpens, but their second-year manager could approach the team’s bullpen usage in a different way than he has through the team’s first third of the season. There are two different ways to rank the bullpen when it comes to effectiveness and how the manager views the hierarchy. Taylor Rogers is clearly at the back end of any bullpen configuration for the Twins. From there, things get a little dicey. Baldelli is inclined to use Romo as the team’s alternate closer, but it can be argued that he is the team’s fifth best relief option. The players that should be ahead of Romo in the bullpen pecking order are Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Tyler Clippard. Duffey has turned himself into one of the most dominant right-handed relief pitchers in the American League. He might be even better than Taylor Rogers, the team’s closer, and that’s quite the honor. May tends to allow some home runs and Clippard is on the backend of his career. So, how could the Twins do a better job of using these pitchers? Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been performing at the same level as the 2019 team and it would be hard to live up to the same level as the record-setting “Bomba Squad.” Still, the trend so far this season has been to turn to less established relief arms when the team is trailing in a game. The names mentioned above are saved for if/when the team takes the lead and other players like Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler and Caleb Theilbar are trusted to keep the team in the game. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1292951071556374530?s=20 Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seems to be in the frame of mind that using his best pitchers in deficit games is will have negative results. This seems like a logical response for a manager if the season is 162-games. Unfortunately, the team isn’t in the midst of a season that long. Even the best teams this season will only win around 35 games. This is going to force managers with good bullpens, like Baldelli, to use his good relief arms when the team is trailing. Unless a starting pitcher is pulled after three innings, there is little chance to use Rogers, Duffey, May, Clippard and Romo all in the same game. If the Twins go on a winning streak, this type of bullpen usage could help the team. The team could have a better chance to win by spreading the team’s five best relief pitchers over the course of multiple games. There has also been a plethora of pitching injuries so far this year so allowing pitchers to rest could help the team to stay healthy down the stretch. Out of bullpen arms, Clippard and Wisler have the most innings and that includes Clippard making multiple starts as an opener. Romo, Duffey, Stashak and May have all pitched more than Rogers. In fact, Rogers has barely pitched more than rookie Jorge Alcala. In the grand scheme of a shortened schedule, bullpen usage might not matter until the games count in the playoffs. It is still perplexing to consider the way Baldelli has approached his relief options so far in 2020. Are you concerned with the team’s bullpen usage so far this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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