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  1. At 11:00 this morning (Friday), teams and arbitration players will have to exchange numbers unless they are able to reach an agreement before that deadline. The Twins will have a busy morning as they have seven players to have these discussions with. Please use the comments section below to discuss Twins arbitration news of the day.Earlier in the offseason, the Twins had to make decisions on which players they would offer arbitration to. Players with less than six years of service time, and more than three years (and the top 30% of players with more than two years of service time are Super-2 players) are eligible for salary arbitration. At that time, the team non-tendered RHP Sam Dyson early in the process. They also non-tended CJ Cron, who has since signed with the Tigers. They also agreed to terms with infielder Ehire Adrianza and RHP Matt Wisler. Below are the players that will know a lot more about their 2020 salaries by this afternoon. They will either agree to terms before 11:00 (which is usually what happens), or at that time, the team and the player will make their "bids" for their 2020 salaries. If they are unable to agree to terms before their arbitration date, the two sides will go in front of an arbitration panel and have the 2020 salary determined. This also does not happen often. So let's get to the players. What you will see below is the MLB Trade Rumor projection, and also the Twins Daily projection (found in the Offseason Handbook). When we see that an agreement has been reached, we will also post that under each player's name. UPDATE (5:00 pm.) - more specifics will be posted below when details are available. https://twitter.com/...803718043684864 Feel free to discuss. Click here to view the article
  2. The next portion of these rankings will introduce some difficult questions. For example, who's more important to the Twins' future: an established All-Star starter under control for one year, or a high-upside pitching prospect who has yet to debut? (Catch up on Part 1 here.)First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations: Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown. TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (11 through 15) 15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP 2019 Ranking: NR Odorizzi is a challenging guy to rank. His situation is similar to that of Nelson Cruz, who I had two spots lower at No. 17. Both players are under contract for only one more year, which limits their asset value. But both are absolutely key to the 2020 outlook, and I would argue Odorizzi even more so given the relative depth of power-hitting, and lack of high-end pitching. And unlike Cruz, who will turn 40 next year with a balky wrist, Odorizzi turns 30 in March with a fully clean bill of health. In 2019, he was an All-Star, ranked eighth among AL starters in fWAR, and held his own in an ALDS matchup against the Yankees. 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 2019 Ranking: NR As a bat-first prospect who can't play a premium position, it's tough to climb up a list like this. Larnach was on the fringe last year as a first-round draft pick who impressed in his debut, but putting up numbers in rookie ball and Low-A is no rare feat for a slugger fresh out of college. In 2019, Larnach raised his distinction considerably. He opened up in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where his .316 average and .842 OPS in 84 games led all players. Then he moved up to Double-A and hardly missed a beat, finishing with a .295/.387/.455 slash line as a 22-year-old at Pensacola. As a result of the monster campaign, he earned Twins Minor League Player of the Year honors and figures to make big jumps in 2020 preseason top prospect lists. As of right now, he's probably most valuable to Minnesota as trade collateral, but his imminent impact potential can help the team breathe easier about its uncertainty at first base. 13. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2019 Ranking: NR Pitching prospects with high ceilings that are close to the major leagues are valuable to every franchise, and especially to the Twins in this moment. In 2019, Duran reached Double-A as a 21-year-old, becoming one of the youngest pitchers to throw in the league. Despite his youth, he overpowered hitters with a 16% swinging strike rate yielding a 41-to-9 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. This after he put up a 3.23 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in 78 innings at High-A. Entering his age 22 season, Duran has already established himself in the high minors and built a strong workload baseline, with 100 and 115 innings pitched the last two years. His odds of sticking as a starter seem higher than most electric arms at his stage, which gives him a big boost here. As ever, though, the TNSTAAPP caveat applies. 12. Taylor Rogers, LHP 2019 Ranking: 10 With yet another phenomenal season out of the bullpen, Rogers further solidified himself as Minnesota's relief rock. In some ways, he was more essential than ever, serving as the safety valve in an oft-beleaguered unit and recording six-plus outs on nine different occasions. He ranked fifth among MLB relievers in Win Probability Added, fifth in fWAR, and second in K/BB ratio. He doesn't feel quite as indispensable as he did a year ago, only because a few other trustworthy high-leverage options have emerged for the Twins, but no one can match what the lefty brings. He's durable, consistent, and matchup-proof. Best of all, he's still under team control for three more years (though his cost could rise quickly in arbitration if he keeps accumulating saves). 11. Miguel Sano, 3B 2019 Ranking: 14 No player roused more debate and disagreement in the last rankings than Sano. One year ago, he was shrouded in mystery, coming off an ugly season that included a "reset" demotion to Single-A and further issues with a surgically repaired leg. His run of mishaps carried over into the spring of 2019, when a questionably treated heel laceration cost him a quarter of the season, but upon returning Sano made his presence felt and restored his status as a deeply feared hitter. In just 105 games, Sano hit 34 home runs with 79 RBIs. His .579 slugging percentage ranked 11th among big-leaguers with 400+ plate appearances. His average exit velocity and barrels per plate appearance % were both fifth-highest in baseball. In Cleveland, late in the season, Sano delivered the fatal blow in the AL Central race with a devastating grand slam. He narrowly misses the Top 10 because of defensive shortcomings at third, and because durability concerns will persist until they don't (he still hasn't played more than 116 games in an MLB season). The Twins are down to two years of team control remaining. RECAPPING THE RANKINGS SO FAR: 20. Ryan Jeffers, C 19. Eddie Rosario, OF 18. Michael Pineda, RHP 17. Nelson Cruz, DH 16. Tyler Duffey, RHP 15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 13. Jhoan Duran, RHP 12. Taylor Rogers, LHP 11. Miguel Sano, 3B Check back in tomorrow for Part 3. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  3. First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations: Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally). Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.) The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.) This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019. Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown. TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (11 through 15) 15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP 2019 Ranking: NR Odorizzi is a challenging guy to rank. His situation is similar to that of Nelson Cruz, who I had two spots lower at No. 17. Both players are under contract for only one more year, which limits their asset value. But both are absolutely key to the 2020 outlook, and I would argue Odorizzi even more so given the relative depth of power-hitting, and lack of high-end pitching. And unlike Cruz, who will turn 40 next year with a balky wrist, Odorizzi turns 30 in March with a fully clean bill of health. In 2019, he was an All-Star, ranked eighth among AL starters in fWAR, and held his own in an ALDS matchup against the Yankees. 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 2019 Ranking: NR As a bat-first prospect who can't play a premium position, it's tough to climb up a list like this. Larnach was on the fringe last year as a first-round draft pick who impressed in his debut, but putting up numbers in rookie ball and Low-A is no rare feat for a slugger fresh out of college. In 2019, Larnach raised his distinction considerably. He opened up in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where his .316 average and .842 OPS in 84 games led all players. Then he moved up to Double-A and hardly missed a beat, finishing with a .295/.387/.455 slash line as a 22-year-old at Pensacola. As a result of the monster campaign, he earned Twins Minor League Player of the Year honors and figures to make big jumps in 2020 preseason top prospect lists. As of right now, he's probably most valuable to Minnesota as trade collateral, but his imminent impact potential can help the team breathe easier about its uncertainty at first base. 13. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2019 Ranking: NR Pitching prospects with high ceilings that are close to the major leagues are valuable to every franchise, and especially to the Twins in this moment. In 2019, Duran reached Double-A as a 21-year-old, becoming one of the youngest pitchers to throw in the league. Despite his youth, he overpowered hitters with a 16% swinging strike rate yielding a 41-to-9 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. This after he put up a 3.23 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in 78 innings at High-A. Entering his age 22 season, Duran has already established himself in the high minors and built a strong workload baseline, with 100 and 115 innings pitched the last two years. His odds of sticking as a starter seem higher than most electric arms at his stage, which gives him a big boost here. As ever, though, the TNSTAAPP caveat applies. 12. Taylor Rogers, LHP 2019 Ranking: 10 With yet another phenomenal season out of the bullpen, Rogers further solidified himself as Minnesota's relief rock. In some ways, he was more essential than ever, serving as the safety valve in an oft-beleaguered unit and recording six-plus outs on nine different occasions. He ranked fifth among MLB relievers in Win Probability Added, fifth in fWAR, and second in K/BB ratio. He doesn't feel quite as indispensable as he did a year ago, only because a few other trustworthy high-leverage options have emerged for the Twins, but no one can match what the lefty brings. He's durable, consistent, and matchup-proof. Best of all, he's still under team control for three more years (though his cost could rise quickly in arbitration if he keeps accumulating saves). 11. Miguel Sano, 3B 2019 Ranking: 14 No player roused more debate and disagreement in the last rankings than Sano. One year ago, he was shrouded in mystery, coming off an ugly season that included a "reset" demotion to Single-A and further issues with a surgically repaired leg. His run of mishaps carried over into the spring of 2019, when a questionably treated heel laceration cost him a quarter of the season, but upon returning Sano made his presence felt and restored his status as a deeply feared hitter. In just 105 games, Sano hit 34 home runs with 79 RBIs. His .579 slugging percentage ranked 11th among big-leaguers with 400+ plate appearances. His average exit velocity and barrels per plate appearance % were both fifth-highest in baseball. In Cleveland, late in the season, Sano delivered the fatal blow in the AL Central race with a devastating grand slam. He narrowly misses the Top 10 because of defensive shortcomings at third, and because durability concerns will persist until they don't (he still hasn't played more than 116 games in an MLB season). The Twins are down to two years of team control remaining. RECAPPING THE RANKINGS SO FAR: 20. Ryan Jeffers, C 19. Eddie Rosario, OF 18. Michael Pineda, RHP 17. Nelson Cruz, DH 16. Tyler Duffey, RHP 15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP 14. Trevor Larnach, OF 13. Jhoan Duran, RHP 12. Taylor Rogers, LHP 11. Miguel Sano, 3B Check back in tomorrow for Part 3. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Day 2 of the Winter Meetings ended with a flurry of activity, ending a busy day. However, the Twins did not consummate any moves on Tuesday. Will Day 3 bring a transaction to the Twins?A little after 11:00 central time, news broke that Gerrit Cole had agreed to a nine-year, $324 million contract. Yes, that is not a typo. Nine years. At $36 million per season... For a total of $324 million. Not a bad payday. Now the Twins were never really involved in Cole talks. Sure, they have been in regular contact with Cole's agent, Scott Boras. However, those conversations likely had more to do with Hyun-Jin Ryu or other Boras clients. However, not long before the Cole announcement, we saw this tweet from Jon Heyman: What will Day 3 at the Winter Meetings bring? The two big pitchers got their paydays. Now that second tier or Bumgarner, Ryu and Keuchel is next. Anthony Rendon is the top free agent overall, but Josh Donaldson is going to get paid too. Will there be any more trades? And will the Twins be involved in any of the transactions? Stop by and add your thoughts on any rumors below. Click here to view the article
  5. A little after 11:00 central time, news broke that Gerrit Cole had agreed to a nine-year, $324 million contract. Yes, that is not a typo. Nine years. At $36 million per season... For a total of $324 million. Not a bad payday. Now the Twins were never really involved in Cole talks. Sure, they have been in regular contact with Cole's agent, Scott Boras. However, those conversations likely had more to do with Hyun-Jin Ryu or other Boras clients. However, not long before the Cole announcement, we saw this tweet from Jon Heyman: https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1204605545576943617 Hurdle #1: Location... Read that as Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. We are where we are. Not much we can do about that. Hurdle #2: League... Bumgarner wants to hit. That's why he wants to stay in the National League. And frankly, good for him to want to participate in all aspects of the game. Again, the Twins can't really do anything about that one either. However, less than 90 minutes later, the Cole news brought: Hurdle #3: Gerrit Cole signs with the Yankees. Not the Angels. Not the Dodgers. So there is news such as this from Ken Rosenthal. https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/1204628472359833600 The Dodgers will be willing to overpay. The Dodgers are in Los Angeles. So, the Bumgarner rumors were fun while they lasted, right? Oh, and they're in the National League. However, if you're looking for a little consolation, here is a more positive tweet for Twins fans: https://twitter.com/Jeeho_1/status/1204629469673050112 Hyun-Jin Ryu is really good, just as good as Bumgarner, just a couple of years older. Could he be the Twins target if Bumgarner goes elsewhere? Or as we mentioned yesterday, could the Twins shift their attention toward Dallas Keuchel? White Sox Make Another Move The White Sox have been active this offseason, having added catcher Yasmani Grandal and offering a lot of money for Zack Wheeler. Moments after the Cole news broke, news came from Rangers beat writer Evan Grant that right fielder Nomar Mazara had been acquired in a trade with the Rangers. Mazara hit .268 with 19 homers in 2019 for the Rangers. But the reason that he is intriguing is because he is still just 24 years old. Add him to the crop of very young hitters and pitchers that could help the White Sox compete in the AL Central very soon. More News Twins Killer Didi Gregorius signed a one-year deal with the Phillies. He will be reunited with manager Joe Girardi. After missing the first half of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and struggling some in the second half, Gregorius will hope to have a big season and cash in next offseason. Last week, I wrote about Kevin Gausman potentially being a buy-low option for the Twins after being DFAd by the Reds. On Tuesday he signed a one year, $9 million contract with the San Francisco Giants with another $1 million available in incentives. Next up on my list of potential buy-low options would be Julio Teheran, formerly of the Atlanta Braves. Twins Looking at Trade Targets While Bumgarner, Ryu and Keuchel are all still available, and the Twins are interested in all three, if they are unable to convince any of them to take their money, they are also making calls to teams about young pitchers. We've been hearing Tigers LHP Matt Boyd's name for awhile now, but the Twins also have talked to the Marlins about one of their talented young starters. https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1204617020890742784 Baldelli Speaks to Media Rocco Baldelli met with media at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday night, and you can watch and listen here. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1204568084087853056 Cruz Named First Team Nelson Cruz received another honor on Tuesday. He was named First-Team DH on the inaugural All-MLB Team. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1204515860162973696 Rogers Goes (to the) Wild (game) Taylor Rogers was at the XCel Energy Center for the Wild game tonight. He was there in support of the Rogers Family Foundation for the mental health of St. Paul Firefighters. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1204589987947106304 He (and Devin Smeltzer) joined Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau earlier in the day at the Gillette Children's hospital for a visit with the kids. https://twitter.com/GilletteChildrn/status/1204468008929910784 What will Day 3 at the Winter Meetings bring? The two big pitchers got their paydays. Now that second tier or Bumgarner, Ryu and Keuchel is next. Anthony Rendon is the top free agent overall, but Josh Donaldson is going to get paid too. Will there be any more trades? And will the Twins be involved in any of the transactions? Stop by and add your thoughts on any rumors below.
  6. I didn't know that ESPN named an All MLB team, but they do. I was surprised to see that Taylor Rogers, as well as Nelson Cruz, were named to the first team. Mitch Garver was named to the third team. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28114533/espn-2019-all-mlb-team
  7. 5. Eddie Rosario 2019 Season (137 Games): .800 OPS, 106 OPS+, 1.6 WAR So far this off-season, there has been talk of trading Rosario to upgrade the pitching staff. Unfortunately, Twins fans might value Rosario more than he is actually worth. As a 28-year old, he might fit the definition of a replacement level player and Minnesota has other young outfielders working their way to Target Field. He is under team control for the next two seasons so an extension beyond those years seems improbable. 4. Taylor Rogers 2019 Season (60 Games): 176 ERA+, 2.85 FIP, 2.5 WAR Rogers was one of the team’s most valuable pitchers last season, especially while other parts of the bullpen were struggling. He will be arbitration eligible this winter and he can’t become a free agent until the 2023 off-season at which point he would be 31-years old. Would Minnesota be willing to buy out his remaining arbitration years so they could add some years of team control? It seems more likely for the Twins to explore an extension after the 2020 campaign to see if Rogers can continue his bullpen dominance. 3. Byron Buxton 2019 Season (87 Games): .827 OPS, 114 OPS+, 3.1 WAR There has only been one big-league season where Buxton has logged more than 92 games played. In fact, the last two seasons he has been limited to 115 total games and he might have been denied a September call-up. Minnesota could look to avoid a Kris Bryant situation with Buxton by offering him an extension now. Buxton’s value could be hard to put a number on at this point because he showed some offensive improvement when he was on the field last year. He can reach free agency in 2023. 2. Miguel Sano 2019 Season (105 Games): .923 OPS, 138 OPS+, 3.1 WAR Like Rosario, Sano is closer to free agency than the others on this list. He started last season recovering from a freak off-season injury before settling in nicely to a career-high OPS. There are some obvious flaws on the defensive side of the ball, but he could get more time at first base and designated hitter in the years ahead. Nelson Cruz’s mentorship helped Sano and that duo will be able to collaborate again in 2020. It’s scary to think what that could mean if Sano can play more than 105 games. 1. Jose Berrios 2019 Season (32 Games): 124 ERA+, 3.85 FIP, 3.3 WAR Berrios seems the most likely candidate to receive an extension, especially after his 2019 season. Minnesota’s front office already approached Berrios last off-season and he turned down the contract offer. Betting on himself might have been the right choice. “Every player wants to sign a multiyear deal, but we know it’s a business,” Berrios told the Star Tribune last spring. “I have to manage my business, too. … We’re waiting for the best for both sides. If it doesn’t happen this year, maybe next year.” Berrios has built quite the resume and the Twins are going to want to keep him long-term. Will any of these players sign extensions this winter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. A majority of the discourse surrounding the offseason for the Twins will be focused on the starting rotation. Of course, this makes sense as José Berríos can’t throw 1,000 innings by himself, but for this article, I am more interested in the relief pitching side of the pitching staff.Here are a few relievers who will be available on the market who would make great additions to the Twins’ bullpen: Drew Pomeranz The Giants moved Pomeranz to the bullpen after an ineffective stint as a starter in the first half of 2019 and he became death, destroyer of worlds because of it. After throwing a fastball with an average speed of ~92 MPH as a starter, his velocity jumped to the point where it was ~95 in the month of September. His curveball saw a similar boost as it went from sitting ~81 MPH as a starter to ~84 MPH when he was used fully out of the bullpen in September. The end result was a plain cartoonish strikeout rate of 47.2% as a reliever that came with a modest walk rate of 7.6%. Pomeranz will be 31 heading into 2020 and with Taylor Rogers already firmly cemented in the bullpen, the Twins could decide to make any left-handed hitter want to crawl back into the dugout with another nasty lefty reliever in the back-end of their bullpen. Héctor Rondón You may know Rondón as the guy who threw as many innings in Game 7 of the World Series as Gerrit Cole, but he is more than just that. Rondón signed with the Astros in 2018 after an OK year with the Cubs and surprise surprise, he did much better. 2018 saw a career high in swinging strike % for Rondón as the Astros worked their magic with him and it seemed like his career was back on the upswing. 2019 was less kind to Rondón as his K% dropped to the lowest rate since his rookie season, his swinging strike% was at a career low, and his zone% was also at a career low. His average fastball velocity dropped a hair from 97.2 MPH in 2018 to 96.7 MPH in 2019 but his stuff still seems to be all there. Rondón will be 32 to start the 2020 season and it wouldn’t surprise me if a change of scenery sparks a bounce-back season for the flame-throwing reliever. Hopefully that scenery is the aesthetic of Target Field. Collin McHugh McHugh is another Astros reliever set to become a free agent this winter but why not pick up the parts dropped by the development machine that is Houston? McHugh also had a rougher 2019 than 2018 as he struggled out of the gate in a starting rotation role and missed time with some elbow problems. While a pitcher with elbow problems is a bigger red flag than someone being a Cowboys fan, I can’t help but look at McHugh’s 2018 season and imagine what a full, healthy season back in the bullpen will look like. McHugh’s 2018 was the stuff of legends as the righty put up a 1.99 ERA and 2.72 FIP over 72 1/3 innings pitched. His swinging strike% was a career high 13.3% and nearly 1/3 (33.2%) of all batters who faced McHugh went back to the dugout with a strikeout on their ledger. Maybe McHugh just needs a fresh start somewhere else to regain his old self and Minnesota should be open to allowing McHugh to flourish. Tony Cingrani Cingrani never threw a pitch in the majors in 2019 due to injury but had been phenomenal since being traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2017. After holding a career FIP of 4.62 with the Reds, Cingrani knocked it down all the way to 2.11 over his 42 innings with the Dodgers. His strikeout rate jumped and his walk rate plummeted which is a pretty good combo if you’re a pitcher. You can read more here if you want to know specifically what the Dodgers changed about his game to make him more effective. In any case, Cingrani could prove to be a forgotten reliever this offseason and potentially get lost in the shuffle of other relievers with bigger names. The Twins might be wise to take a close look at this lefty looking to get healthy again in 2020. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — OffseasonHandbook Preview: Everything You'll Find Inside — How the Washington Nationals Built Their World Series Roster — 3 Pitchers Who Complement the Twins Defensive Strengths Click here to view the article
  9. Here are a few relievers who will be available on the market who would make great additions to the Twins’ bullpen: Drew Pomeranz The Giants moved Pomeranz to the bullpen after an ineffective stint as a starter in the first half of 2019 and he became death, destroyer of worlds because of it. After throwing a fastball with an average speed of ~92 MPH as a starter, his velocity jumped to the point where it was ~95 in the month of September. His curveball saw a similar boost as it went from sitting ~81 MPH as a starter to ~84 MPH when he was used fully out of the bullpen in September. The end result was a plain cartoonish strikeout rate of 47.2% as a reliever that came with a modest walk rate of 7.6%. Pomeranz will be 31 heading into 2020 and with Taylor Rogers already firmly cemented in the bullpen, the Twins could decide to make any left-handed hitter want to crawl back into the dugout with another nasty lefty reliever in the back-end of their bullpen. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1189992958524715008 Héctor Rondón You may know Rondón as the guy who threw as many innings in Game 7 of the World Series as Gerrit Cole, but he is more than just that. Rondón signed with the Astros in 2018 after an OK year with the Cubs and surprise surprise, he did much better. 2018 saw a career high in swinging strike % for Rondón as the Astros worked their magic with him and it seemed like his career was back on the upswing. 2019 was less kind to Rondón as his K% dropped to the lowest rate since his rookie season, his swinging strike% was at a career low, and his zone% was also at a career low. His average fastball velocity dropped a hair from 97.2 MPH in 2018 to 96.7 MPH in 2019 but his stuff still seems to be all there. Rondón will be 32 to start the 2020 season and it wouldn’t surprise me if a change of scenery sparks a bounce-back season for the flame-throwing reliever. Hopefully that scenery is the aesthetic of Target Field. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1189997947607343104 Collin McHugh McHugh is another Astros reliever set to become a free agent this winter but why not pick up the parts dropped by the development machine that is Houston? McHugh also had a rougher 2019 than 2018 as he struggled out of the gate in a starting rotation role and missed time with some elbow problems. While a pitcher with elbow problems is a bigger red flag than someone being a Cowboys fan, I can’t help but look at McHugh’s 2018 season and imagine what a full, healthy season back in the bullpen will look like. McHugh’s 2018 was the stuff of legends as the righty put up a 1.99 ERA and 2.72 FIP over 72 1/3 innings pitched. His swinging strike% was a career high 13.3% and nearly 1/3 (33.2%) of all batters who faced McHugh went back to the dugout with a strikeout on their ledger. Maybe McHugh just needs a fresh start somewhere else to regain his old self and Minnesota should be open to allowing McHugh to flourish. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1190002824584683520 Tony Cingrani Cingrani never threw a pitch in the majors in 2019 due to injury but had been phenomenal since being traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2017. After holding a career FIP of 4.62 with the Reds, Cingrani knocked it down all the way to 2.11 over his 42 innings with the Dodgers. His strikeout rate jumped and his walk rate plummeted which is a pretty good combo if you’re a pitcher. You can read more here if you want to know specifically what the Dodgers changed about his game to make him more effective. In any case, Cingrani could prove to be a forgotten reliever this offseason and potentially get lost in the shuffle of other relievers with bigger names. The Twins might be wise to take a close look at this lefty looking to get healthy again in 2020. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1190006483104124928 Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Offseason Handbook Preview: Everything You'll Find Inside — How the Washington Nationals Built Their World Series Roster — 3 Pitchers Who Complement the Twins Defensive Strengths
  10. If you read my article last week on the 2019 Minnesota Twins bullpen, then you already know my thoughts on how the season went. It was a roller coaster ride for the ages. For my article today, though, I will be moving past 2019 and looking ahead to the offseason. I will be looking at where things currently stand for the Twins bullpen, what decisions need to be made, and what potential arms could be acquired on the free agent market as I look to build what I believe should be the Twins bullpen on opening day of 2020. Let’s dive right in... As we start our process for building the Twins 2020 Opening Day bullpen, we first need to establish how many arms will make up the group of relievers. In case you hadn’t heard, 2020 will be the first season where teams will employ a 26-man active roster (previously 25). With that in mind, I assume the opening day roster will shake out like this: 9 starting batters 4 bench players 5 starting pitchers 8 bullpen pitchers Now that we have established how many spots we have for our bullpen we can begin assigning names to those spots. Locks: Taylor Rogers ( L ) Trevor May ( R ) Tyler Duffey ( R ) Zack Littell ( R ) Cody Stashak ( R ) None of these names should be a surprise at this point. They all did enough to prove that they are worthy of being in the bullpen on opening day of 2020. There’s a chance that Stashak or Littell could pitch themselves out of favor in 2020 if they regress, but given their ages and their progress as the season went on, I don’t expect that to happen. Of note regarding these five names: only Trevor May is not under team control for the next two seasons following 2020. Question Mark: 6. Sergio Romo ( R ) As an impending free agent, Romo is no sure thing to be back with the Minnesota Twins. With that being said, I do think that there is mutual interest for him to come back to Minnesota on another one year deal. From the Twins’ point of view, Romo was very effective in his 23 innings with the Twins, posting a 3.18 ERA and completely shutting down right handed hitters, holding them to a .205 batting average. From Romo’s point of view, Minnesota seems to be a good fit for him as well, he quickly became a fan favorite at Target Field this year, he figures to have a prominent role in the bullpen again next season and, well, there’s this…I’ve got Romo slotted as the 6th member of the 2020 bullpen. The Long Man: 7. Randy Dobnak ( R ) There are four potential names that could fill the “long man” spot in the bullpen to start the 2020 season: Smeltzer, Thorpe, Gibson and Dobnak. I ended up going with Dobnak. First, I believe that the Twins will cut ties with Gibson. I do think that this spot would be Gibson’s if he was willing to reduce his role to a reliever, but I believe another team will offer Gibson a contract to be their starter and he will leave Minnesota. Lewis Thorpe is someone that I believe the organization has hopes of being their long term starter, with which I agree — he should start 2020 as a starting pitcher either with the Twins or at Rochester. That left me with deciding between Dobnak and Smeltzer. While Smeltzer got much of the long man work through the final months of the 2019 season, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see another “Rochester shuttle” situation, I think that Dobnak did enough in 2019 and has the minor league track record to prove that he’s worthy of getting the first look. The Final Spot: 8. ??? This spot was originally supposed to be Sam Dyson’s, but we all know how that turned out. As a result, we need to find an 8th reliever for the bullpen. I’m going to leave my selection until the end, after parsing out all of the various options. First we’ll take a look at the internal options, then take a look at the free agent market, and we’ll make a decision. Of note: Up to this point our Twins bullpen has 6 right handers and 1 left hander. The preference will be to assign a lefty to our final bullpen spot. Internal Options Devin Smeltzer ( L ) - See above. Smeltzer is a solid option for the 8th spot in our bullpen. He would provide a lefty arm and performed admirably for the Twins in 2019, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49 innings, although his 4.58 FIP and 7.0 K/9 suggest that he may not be as good as his numbers appear on the surface. Brusdar Graterol ( R ) - Brusdar showed that his stuff was legit in limited innings with the Twins in 2019. His velocity and strikeout rate certainly lived up to the billing. I do believe, though, that he will start the 2019 season in AAA as he builds up his arm strength to join the club as a starting pitcher in 2020. It’s possible that Graterol could be a reliever eventually, but not in 2020. Trevor Hildenberger ( R ) - Crazy how quickly things can change in the MLB, huh? Just two years ago at this time we were counting on Hildy to be the relief arm of the future for this team, but after injuries and poor performance have derailed his last two seasons, I find it hard to imagine him starting 2020 anywhere other than the minor leagues. Fernando Romero ( R ) - See Hildenberger, Trevor. Poor performance from 2019 doesn’t lend any confidence in putting a once promising bullpen prospect into the 2020 opening day plans for the Twins. Free Agent Options Will Smith - SF Giants ( L ) - The 30 year old southpaw from San Francisco is the top left handed reliever option in free agency this year. Smith is coming off a great season in which he produced a 2.76 ERA and 13.2 K/9 in 65 innings of work. While he fills a need of another strong lefty reliever in the bullpen, I’m not sure that the Twins will pay the ~$8-10M/year premium that it will cost to sign him when they have a bigger need in the rotation. Jake Diekman - Oakland Athletics ( L ) - The flame throwing left hander, Diekman, is certainly another enticing free agent option for the Twins the offseason. The career 3.90 ERA and 11.2 K/9 numbers are very solid and would be a welcome addition to this Minnesota Twins bullpen. He should not be the final arm in this bullpen, though, as there is another lefty who will be a better fit for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. Which leads me to… Drew Pomeranz - Milwaukee Brewers ( L ) - Pomeranz was a longtime starter who was converted to a full time reliever this summer after being acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline. This change unlocked a dynamite arm who helped lead the Brewers to a wild card crown this season. Now an impendending free agent, I think he would be an excellent addition to this Minnesota Twins team, and shouldn’t be as costly as the Will Smith’s of the world. He is a left handed arm that destroys left handed hitters, which this team does not currently have outside of Taylor Rogers. In his career, Pomeranz has allowed left handed hitters to hit for a .626 OPS in 208 innings, including an outstanding .512 OPS against lefties as a relief pitcher. Drew Pomeranz is number 8 in my 2020 Twins bullpen. What are your thoughts on the 2020 Opening Day bullpen that I built? Please let me know in the comments below.
  11. The Twins ought to prioritize re-signing Romo no matter what, but he’s an especially good fit for this kind of gig, so if they were to pursue it he’d become an even better target. They would pitch every third game. Almost every appearance for Rogers, Duffey, and Romo would thus come on either two or three days of rest. Depending on the opposing lineup and the starter scheduled for that day, the day’s relief ace might serve as an opener, be called in immediately when the starter needs to be lifted, or saved for anywhere from three to eight outs at the end of the game. The point is that they would be given a firm schedule, with designated time for rest and recovery, a throw day to work on a given pitch or make mechanical tweaks, and the ability to game-plan for opposing teams and individual hitters in a more focused way. Rogers showed the ability to work all the way through an opposing lineup within a game at times last year. He could do it semi-regularly under this system. Romo could be reserved for a segment of the opposing lineup loaded with right-handed batters, perhaps as an alternative to the starter facing that group a third time. As starters sometimes must, a relief ace might be asked to prepare differently from outing to outing, according to the path the team sees through the 27-out gauntlet of the contest. However, as a starter does, they would benefit from at least knowing in advance on which day they’d be asked to do so. The loop would need to be three pitchers deep, because while one day of rest makes a huge difference relative to zero days under current usage patterns, a pitcher asked to throw roughly every other day would be on fumes by August. Three is the magic number here. It avoids both overrest and overwork, both in short windows and over the long season. Involve more pitchers, by making a middle relief rotation for instance, and the staff might become too rigid. Unpredictable situations could demand that a team be ready to stretch a given pitcher out, or throw them on back-to-back days, and while a relief ace rotation can decrease the frequency of such incidents, a manager still needs flexibility further down the depth chart. Besides, there will always be some pitchers—Trevor May is an example, though far from the only one—who thrive on a less consistent usage pattern, finding rhythm and averting fatigue when working back-to-back games, and fluid roles should be held open for such players. Let’s tackle the obvious objections here. First of all, yes: making this change would decrease the average leverage index of these pitchers’ appearances. Inevitably, it would mean that some percentage of Rogers', Duffey’s and Romo’s innings would end up being virtually meaningless. As currently constructed, bullpens concentrate the most important innings in the hands of the best few pitchers within them. This system would more evenly distribute those opportunities, and it could lead to more narrow leads being blown by the fourth or fifth arm in the bullpen. It would fall to May, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and another two hurlers of even less distinction to build bridges from the starter to the designated relief ace of the day, or to close things down if the day’s ace pitched early. Like the Boston Red Sox’s closer-by-committee experiment of 2003, the plan would risk ridicule and a certain degree of clubhouse turmoil should it not go well right out of the chute. However, there’s a case to be made that the existing system- especially the one that came into vogue early in the 21st century, wherein a good bullpen would have a formulaic hierarchy of three hurlers lined up behind a starter the team hoped would go six innings: set-up, set-up, closer- creates its own set of problems. A winning streak becomes oddly taxing, when a team has to call on its trio of dominant relievers five times each in seven days. If a manager elects to be cautious with those arms, that streak might never even materialize. Pitchers further down the ladder get fewer chances to demonstrate their own value, and just as importantly can suffer either rust or overuse when the team gets very hot or very cold. With the depth the Twins will hope they still have come Opening Day, rotating relief aces to get the best possible performance from them doesn’t even cost that much. May, Littell, and Stashak, among others, can provide adequate work in medium-leverage middle relief. There are other concerns and challenges, too, should the Twins proceed down this road. We’ll cover those in Part 3 tomorrow. Here is Part 1 of this series.
  12. For most of the past decade, the Minnesota Twins have had one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Pick a meaningful statistic for pitchers and you would find the Twins usually at or very near the bottom of the rankings. That changed in 2019 when the Twins had one of the top five or six pitching staffs in the American League. The Twins' 4.18 ERA ranked eighth in MLB and fifth in the American League. Their 1.30 WHIP ranked 12th in the big leagues and sixth in the AL. Their 9.0 K/9 ranked 12th in MLB and fifth in the AL, and they did so while walking just 2.8/9 innings, second best in baseball. Baseball Reference’s Wins Above for All Pitchers ranks the Twins sixth in MLB, fourth in the league. The Twins had two All-Star starting pitchers (Berrios and Odorizzi), and a third starter (Pineda) who was arguably their best starting pitcher option when he was suspended. The team’s bullpen came on strong over the season’s final two month.Frankly, it was nice to see this year’s Twins Daily Pitcher of the Year ballots listing several viable candidates. The vote was close, but the 2019 Twins Pitcher of the Year is closer Taylor Rogers.Over the past couple of days, we have handed out the Twins Daily Awards for Twins Rookie of the Year (Luis Arraez) and Twins Most Improved Player (Mitch Garver). While there were solid candidate in each category, today’s Pitcher of the Year vote was much closer with votes cast for multiple pitchers. Taylor Rogers doesn’t have the typical background story for a Pitcher of the Year candidate. He was the Twins 11th-round draft pick back in 2012 out of Kentucky. The lanky lefty began his career as a starting pitcher and in 2013 was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He moved up one level, as a starter, each season. In the first week of the 2016 season, Twins closer Glen Perkins got hurt. Taylor Rogers was recalled and worked out of the bullpen. Gradually he seemed to get more comfortable with the role, both on the mound and in his preparation for the job each day. He began getting more high-leverage opportunities in 2017. And frankly, over the last two seasons, he has been one of the top four left-handed relief pitchers in baseball. The names that you can put with or even ahead of Rogers might be Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Vasquez. That’s it. Heading into the 2019 season, Rogers knew that he had a role as a late-inning reliever for the Twins. He had earned that. But early in the season, it was Blake Parker often getting save opportunities. Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger also recorded a save or two in the season’s first month. Rogers was used anytime from the seventh inning on. Sometimes he would get a couple of outs, and sometimes he would work a couple of innings. Over the course of the summer, Rogers became the team’s most reliable reliever. At some points in the season, he was their only reliable reliever. He was often tasked with getting more than three outs to record saves, something we just haven’t seen much of in the last two decades of Twins baseball. Sure, he had a couple of hiccups throughout the long season, as all great relievers do. However, after the trade deadline, the rest of the bullpen really took off and allowed Rogers to get more regular rest. In the season’s final weekend, Rogers notched his milestone 30th save of the season. WHAT CHANGED? In researching Taylor Rogers’ 2019 stats and comparing them to his 2018 stats, one thing is clear… I think we may have overlooked just how good Taylor Rogers was in 2018, and 2017 too, for that matter. His ERA dropped from 2.63 to 2.61. His WAR increased from 1.9 to 2.1 over the past two seasons. However, fans who watched most Twins games noticed that he had become much more dominant, more aggressive (increased his first-pitch strikes percentage to 68%). He was able to get ahead and quickly dispatch of batters, either by strikeout or weak contact.There may be some numbers that illustrate that as well. First, Rogers increased his strikeout rate while reducing his walk. Both improvements were significant. His strikeout rate increased from 9.9 K/9 in 2018 to 11.7 K/9 in 2019. That speaks to his dominance, but to me, his ability to get those additional strikeouts while decreasing his walks from 2.1 BB/9 to just 1.4 BB/9 speaks to the sharpness of his stuff. Taylor Rogers really changed his approach on the mound in 2019.He threw a few fewer fastballs (53% to 50%), but his average fastball velocity jumped from 93.4 mph to 94.8 mph. In 2018, he threw 33.4% curveballs and just 12.4% sliders. In 2019, he went almost exclusively to the slider. He threw 45.5% sliders and just 4.1% curveballs. And that slider was a dominant pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. While his swinging strike rates stayed about the same, his Line Drive Percentage decreased which led to a big increase in Ground Ball Percentage. Rogers didn’t just come in to start clean innings. He was often called in to tough situations where his stuff really played well. In 2019, his Left On Base Percentage was an incredible 86.2%, up from 74.8% in 2018. All told, Taylor Rogers’ 2019 season was about as dominant as anyone could have hoped. LOOKING FORWARD Rogers will turn 29-years-old in December. He earned $1.53 million in his Super-2 arbitration season. He will have three more seasons of arbitration. He should get quite a raise in 2020. I would think a four-year contract could be discussed during the offseason. OTHER CANDIDATES As noted above, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi were both All-Stars in 2019. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts and 159 innings. Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and 200 1/3 innings. Michael Pineda went 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts in 146 innings. When he was suspended in early September, it could have been argued that he was the Twins top starting pitcher. Tyler Duffey began the 2019 season in Rochester. He worked 57 2/3 innings over 58 games and struck out 82 batters (12.8 K/9). He posted a 2.50 ERA with a 1.01 ERA and ended the season with 21 scoreless innings. Trevor May struck out 79 batters over 62 1/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA. THE BALLOTS Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters. Seth Stohs: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Tyler Duffey John Bonnes: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey Tom Froemming: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Taylor Rogers Cody Christie: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda Ted Schwerzler: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Jose Berrios Steve Lein: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda S.D. Buhr: 1) Jake Odorizzi, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey Matt Braun: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Jake Odorizzi Cooper Carlson: 1) Taylor Rogers 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jake Odorizzi Andrew Thares: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey JD Cameron: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey Matt Lenz: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May, 4) Michael Pineda Nash Walker: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey Patrick Wozniak: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jake Odorizzi Sabir Aden: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey AJ Condon: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4.) Jake Odorizzi POINTS Taylor Rogers 59 Jose Berrios 51 Jake Odorizzi 38 Tyler Duffey 21 Michael Pineda 9 Trevor May 2 PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS 2015: Kyle Gibson 2016: Ervin Santana 2017: Ervin Santana 2018: Jose Berrios OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez Most Improved: Mitch Garver Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow Click here to view the article
  13. Over the past couple of days, we have handed out the Twins Daily Awards for Twins Rookie of the Year (Luis Arraez) and Twins Most Improved Player (Mitch Garver). While there were solid candidate in each category, today’s Pitcher of the Year vote was much closer with votes cast for multiple pitchers. Taylor Rogers doesn’t have the typical background story for a Pitcher of the Year candidate. He was the Twins 11th-round draft pick back in 2012 out of Kentucky. The lanky lefty began his career as a starting pitcher and in 2013 was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He moved up one level, as a starter, each season. In the first week of the 2016 season, Twins closer Glen Perkins got hurt. Taylor Rogers was recalled and worked out of the bullpen. Gradually he seemed to get more comfortable with the role, both on the mound and in his preparation for the job each day. He began getting more high-leverage opportunities in 2017. And frankly, over the last two seasons, he has been one of the top four left-handed relief pitchers in baseball. The names that you can put with or even ahead of Rogers might be Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Vasquez. That’s it. Heading into the 2019 season, Rogers knew that he had a role as a late-inning reliever for the Twins. He had earned that. But early in the season, it was Blake Parker often getting save opportunities. Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger also recorded a save or two in the season’s first month. Rogers was used anytime from the seventh inning on. Sometimes he would get a couple of outs, and sometimes he would work a couple of innings. Over the course of the summer, Rogers became the team’s most reliable reliever. At some points in the season, he was their only reliable reliever. He was often tasked with getting more than three outs to record saves, something we just haven’t seen much of in the last two decades of Twins baseball. Sure, he had a couple of hiccups throughout the long season, as all great relievers do. However, after the trade deadline, the rest of the bullpen really took off and allowed Rogers to get more regular rest. In the season’s final weekend, Rogers notched his milestone 30th save of the season. WHAT CHANGED? In researching Taylor Rogers’ 2019 stats and comparing them to his 2018 stats, one thing is clear… I think we may have overlooked just how good Taylor Rogers was in 2018, and 2017 too, for that matter. His ERA dropped from 2.63 to 2.61. His WAR increased from 1.9 to 2.1 over the past two seasons. However, fans who watched most Twins games noticed that he had become much more dominant, more aggressive (increased his first-pitch strikes percentage to 68%). He was able to get ahead and quickly dispatch of batters, either by strikeout or weak contact.There may be some numbers that illustrate that as well. First, Rogers increased his strikeout rate while reducing his walk. Both improvements were significant. His strikeout rate increased from 9.9 K/9 in 2018 to 11.7 K/9 in 2019. That speaks to his dominance, but to me, his ability to get those additional strikeouts while decreasing his walks from 2.1 BB/9 to just 1.4 BB/9 speaks to the sharpness of his stuff. Taylor Rogers really changed his approach on the mound in 2019.He threw a few fewer fastballs (53% to 50%), but his average fastball velocity jumped from 93.4 mph to 94.8 mph. In 2018, he threw 33.4% curveballs and just 12.4% sliders. In 2019, he went almost exclusively to the slider. He threw 45.5% sliders and just 4.1% curveballs. And that slider was a dominant pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. While his swinging strike rates stayed about the same, his Line Drive Percentage decreased which led to a big increase in Ground Ball Percentage. Rogers didn’t just come in to start clean innings. He was often called in to tough situations where his stuff really played well. In 2019, his Left On Base Percentage was an incredible 86.2%, up from 74.8% in 2018. All told, Taylor Rogers’ 2019 season was about as dominant as anyone could have hoped. LOOKING FORWARD Rogers will turn 29-years-old in December. He earned $1.53 million in his Super-2 arbitration season. He will have three more seasons of arbitration. He should get quite a raise in 2020. I would think a four-year contract could be discussed during the offseason. OTHER CANDIDATES As noted above, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi were both All-Stars in 2019. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts and 159 innings. Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and 200 1/3 innings. Michael Pineda went 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts in 146 innings. When he was suspended in early September, it could have been argued that he was the Twins top starting pitcher. Tyler Duffey began the 2019 season in Rochester. He worked 57 2/3 innings over 58 games and struck out 82 batters (12.8 K/9). He posted a 2.50 ERA with a 1.01 ERA and ended the season with 21 scoreless innings. Trevor May struck out 79 batters over 62 1/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA. THE BALLOTS Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters. Seth Stohs: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Tyler Duffey John Bonnes: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey Tom Froemming: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Taylor Rogers Cody Christie: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda Ted Schwerzler: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Jose Berrios Steve Lein: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda S.D. Buhr: 1) Jake Odorizzi, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey Matt Braun: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Jake Odorizzi Cooper Carlson: 1) Taylor Rogers 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jake Odorizzi Andrew Thares: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey JD Cameron: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey Matt Lenz: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May, 4) Michael Pineda Nash Walker: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey Patrick Wozniak: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jake Odorizzi Sabir Aden: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey AJ Condon: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4.) Jake Odorizzi POINTS Taylor Rogers 59 Jose Berrios 51 Jake Odorizzi 38 Tyler Duffey 21 Michael Pineda 9 Trevor May 2 PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS 2015: Kyle Gibson 2016: Ervin Santana 2017: Ervin Santana 2018: Jose Berrios OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez Most Improved: Mitch Garver Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow
  14. 1. The position player core is solid The question of the off-season last year was whether or not Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó would be a part of the Twins future, and if they were, then to what degree? That question was partly answered as Sanó hit for a career high 137 wRC+ and put up a career high fWAR of 2.7 despite just playing 105 games. His defense at third base remained rough, but there should be no more disputes about his bat playing at the major league level. Buxton’s answer to the question may not be as murky as split pea soup, but it isn’t as clear as the Twins would like. Buxton’s on-field play was fantastic, as he put up 2.7 fWAR in just 87 games played. But it’s that “87 games played” that again raises concern, considering that this was another season where he struggled to stay healthy. Buxton’s talent level will force the Twins to stick with him, but another injury-plagued season may lead them to look elsewhere. Beyond those two players there were a few others who were overlooked like I was when they picked teams for dodge ball during gym class. These players put up seasons that were actually better than the two players who were the focus of the off-season. This is where I struggled, because while they had great seasons, I just got nailed in the spleen within three minutes, and you know what? Let’s just forget it. Anyways, players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Mitch Garver sat on the back burner over the off-season with the two former players receiving the spotlight only when they signed extensions during the start of spring training. Perhaps they should have been focused on more as Kepler broke out with a 4.4 fWAR season, Polanco had a 4.0 fWAR season, and Garver turned into Mike Piazza and put up 3.9 fWAR in just 93 games. Now also armed with Luis Arráez at second base, who looks to be Tony Gwynn 2.0, the Twins have a formidable core of young position players all either in pre-arbitration, just starting arbitration, or already extended for a number of years. The next step will be to figure out whether Eddie Rosario has a future on the team, as he put up his worst full season fWAR total with his bat and defense both regressing. With Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach looking to make a potential impact soon, Rosario may be on the move as the Twins look to upgrade their starting pitching. 2. A flexible bullpen is a good bullpen Take a good look at the names in the bullpen to start the season and the names that were there in the end and try not to get a hearty chuckle out of it. Of all the pitchers on the Twins’ ALDS roster, only Taylor Rogers and Trevor May started the season with the major league team. Players like Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and Tyler Duffey joined the team from Triple A and made major impacts over the season before eventually finding themselves on a postseason roster. On the flip side, relievers like Matt Magill, Blake Parker, and Adalberto Mejía were on the team during the start of the season but were all victims of the DFA hammer as they were not effective enough in the Twins’ eyes and were shown the door. But more than their sporadic effectiveness was the ultimate sin of not having any minor league options remaining. These days, the 25-man roster is stretched to the point where it becomes more of a 28-man roster, as relievers with options are shipped to the minors in return for more relievers with options as teams simply can’t employ enough fresh arms at the same time under the current roster rules. The end result was almost a clean sweep as the Twins rid themselves of arms without options in favor of young relievers. With those new players in the mix, the Twins’ bullpen peaked. The Twins’ bullpen ranked second in the majors in reliever fWAR from August until the end of the season thanks in part to addition Sergio Romo and great performances from those aforementioned young relievers. Now the Twins have a solid core of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Cody Stashak, and Zack Littell with an opportunity to mold their bullpen into something more. 3. The starting rotation is never complete Perhaps no part of the team in 2019 was more in sync with the general plot of a Michael Bay movie than the starting rotation. At times it was flashy and awe-inspiring, at others it was dull and joyless. In total, it was a decent 5/10 that I would like to never see again. From the start of the season until June, the Twins’ starting rotation was third in baseball with a 3.55 ERA, and while there were some peripherals that suggested regression, it seemed like they had the tools to succeed. There was a lull in the middle of the season and then from August onward the Twins ranked 19th in baseball by starting pitching ERA. Reasons for this included the Michael Pineda suspension, the regression of Martín Pérez, and the health issues Kyle Gibson faced. Jake Odorizzi and José Berríos remained anchors in the rotation, but the deck of starting pitching cards shuffled consistently. Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and Randy Dobnak did their best to glue it together down the stretch. Ultimately it was too little too late and the weakness reared its ugly head during the postseason, as Dobnak started Game 2 of the ALDS. It went quite poorly. The Pineda suspension could not have been anticipated and was possibly the worst-case scenario for the rotation, but it brings us back to the eyebrow-raising decision made when the Twins did nothing before the trade deadline to upgrade a rotation that was starting to show signs of breaking down. Not only that, but when the draft pick compensation was removed from Dallas Keuchel, the Twins decided to hold their ground. Not too long afterward, a quality starter quickly went from a luxury to a necessity. Going forward, the Twins should act more swiftly in regard to rotation concerns and build depth to handle such events. 4. Clubhouse chemistry is crucial This one is about 70% speculation on my part simply because I have never been in the Twins clubhouse and have no clue what the personal relationships are like there. From watching the team play, listening to Rocco Baldelli and Nelson Cruz, and seeing how the players responded to adversity, however, it appears the 2019 Twins team was a close-knit bunch who got along quite well. Contrast that with the 2018 team that employed two notably salty dogs in Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison, who both seemed none too pleased about how their respective free agencies went. Throw on top of that a few trades that saw some favorites leave town and, well, it seemed that the clubhouse chemistry was like oil and water. This year, however, story after story poured out about how well the group got along and how cohesive they were on a day-to-day basis. From Rocco’s calm stoicism to Derek Shelton and “LAF” to Nelson Cruz’s naps and then to Marwin González facetiming Michael Pineda and Byron Buxton while celebrating the division title, each report indicated that this was a group playing together instead of for themselves and that may have been a major reason for success. https://twitter.com/Carlson_MnTwins/status/1177252799450624001 Wherever this is stemming from, hopefully the team chemistry is systemic and something that continues even as old players leave and new players join. Now armed with this knowledge, it will be interesting to see how the front office runs the off-season. I'd ask for more but we all know what hope brings us Minnesota sports fans.
  15. Three games should hardly form the basis of a team’s offseason mentality, but the particular way these three games unfolded should crystallize a few things as the Twins look toward 2020. Specifically, this five-part series will explore things that seem both clearer and more important now than they did a week ago, and which should inform the Twins’ plans for getting back to the Division Series, at least, next fall. Jake Odorizzi Should Be a Priority For most of baseball history, a pitcher with Odorizzi’s vulnerabilities the third time through an opposing batting order would be significantly less valuable than even a slightly worse pitcher with better durability. In this era, though, Odorizzi is almost the quintessential mid-rotation guy. He might only go five or six innings (as in Game 3, when he allowed two runs to the formidable Yankees lineup in five frames), but he’ll usually leave his bullpen a lead to protect for the balance of the contest. His performance in Game 3 was typical in every way: he got some swings and misses, stayed mostly off the barrels of opponents’ bats, and forced them to defend the entire strike zone. His adjustments this season deepened his repertoire and made him more well-rounded, even if they didn’t eliminate his fundamental shortcomings. As he carried the pitching staff during September and turned in the best performance of any Twins hurler against New York, he asserted himself as the first internal decision the club needs to make. The club should extend a qualifying offer to Odorizzi. Too often, teams get cute with those decisions, and treat it like a game of chicken. They only extend the offer if they feel sure the player will reject it, thereby assuring them of the right to collect draft compensation for him. In this case, Odorizzi might well accept the offer, but that shouldn’t scare Minnesota away from making it. He’ll only be 30 in 2020. He’s a good fit in the clubhouse and for the needs of the team. He’s already proven he can work within the support framework of coaches and analytical staff to maximize his talent. A one-year deal, even for $18 million or so isn’t a bad proposition at all, especially given the Twins’ payroll situation for the coming year. Such a short-term solution would allow them to evaluate their internal options for a more homegrown rotation in 2021 and beyond.
  16. Minnesota’s dreams of postseason glory were cut brutally short on Monday night. Target Field was poised to exploded at the first sign of life from the Twins, but that moment would never come. Instead, fans saw the Twins set many dubious records. Minnesota became the first 100-win team to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs and the club has lost an MLB record 16-straight postseason games. As the dust starts to settle, where should the blame be placed? Fans begin to move from the postseason to a time of second-guessing choices made by the coaching staff and the front office.Starting Pitchers After watching Jake Odorizzi on Monday night, plenty of fans were questioning the decision to hold him off until game three. As the series started, Minnesota’s logic was to use Odorizzi, a fly-ball pitcher, at Target Field, which is a less-prone fly-ball park than Yankee Stadium. Randy Dobnak had been a good story for the Twins, but he was a rookie with few MLB appearances. Odorizzi had been named an All-Star and he might have been Minnesota’s best pitcher down the stretch. While Jose Berrios struggled in the second half (4.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP), Odorizzi posted a 2.86 ERA in August and a 3.27 ERA in September. In a shorter five-game series, Odorizzi might have been the better choice in the second game of the series. Kepler’s Injury Minnesota, like a lot of teams, deal with injuries down the stretch. Luis Arraez suffered what looked like a season-ending injury in the Twins’ last series of the year as he had to be carted off the field. He came back to hit 5-for-11 against the Yankees and he became the first to record to record four doubles in an ALDS. Max Kepler also missed time at the end of the year, but he didn’t fare nearly as well against New York. Kepler did not record a hit in 13 plate appearances and he officially finished the postseason going 0-for-10 with three strikeouts and three walks. Some might question if Kepler was healthy enough to play in the post-season, but the second guessing could come in the team’s decision not to play him in the season’s final series against Kansas City. It’s hard to know if Kepler was healthy enough to play. However, standing in for at-bats against the Royals might have helped him to get some of his timing back after being injured. Bullpen Taylor Rogers didn’t pitch until the third game of the ALDS and Trevor May was limited to one pitch in the entire series. Some might question whether Kyle Gibson should have even been on the roster. In Game 1, Minnesota turned to Zack Littell after only four innings out of Jose Berrios. From there the Twins turned to the likes of Cody Stashak and the aforementioned Gibson. This wasn’t exactly the power bullpen Minnesota had used the final weeks of the season. The results from Game 2 weren’t much better as Dobnak recorded six outs before Duffey struggled in his 2/3 of an inning. By the middle of the second game of the series, Duffey was the lone key relief option to make multiple appearances and the team’s two best relievers (Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers) had yet to appear. Rocco Baldelli made plenty of good decisions throughout the season, but his bullpen usage in October is something to be questioned. If you are second guessing the Twins, what decision would you change? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  17. Starting Pitchers After watching Jake Odorizzi on Monday night, plenty of fans were questioning the decision to hold him off until game three. As the series started, Minnesota’s logic was to use Odorizzi, a fly-ball pitcher, at Target Field, which is a less-prone fly-ball park than Yankee Stadium. Randy Dobnak had been a good story for the Twins, but he was a rookie with few MLB appearances. Odorizzi had been named an All-Star and he might have been Minnesota’s best pitcher down the stretch. While Jose Berrios struggled in the second half (4.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP), Odorizzi posted a 2.86 ERA in August and a 3.27 ERA in September. In a shorter five-game series, Odorizzi might have been the better choice in the second game of the series. Kepler’s Injury Minnesota, like a lot of teams, deal with injuries down the stretch. Luis Arraez suffered what looked like a season-ending injury in the Twins’ last series of the year as he had to be carted off the field. He came back to hit 5-for-11 against the Yankees and he became the first to record to record four doubles in an ALDS. Max Kepler also missed time at the end of the year, but he didn’t fare nearly as well against New York. Kepler did not record a hit in 13 plate appearances and he officially finished the postseason going 0-for-10 with three strikeouts and three walks. Some might question if Kepler was healthy enough to play in the post-season, but the second guessing could come in the team’s decision not to play him in the season’s final series against Kansas City. It’s hard to know if Kepler was healthy enough to play. However, standing in for at-bats against the Royals might have helped him to get some of his timing back after being injured. Bullpen Taylor Rogers didn’t pitch until the third game of the ALDS and Trevor May was limited to one pitch in the entire series. Some might question whether Kyle Gibson should have even been on the roster. In Game 1, Minnesota turned to Zack Littell after only four innings out of Jose Berrios. From there the Twins turned to the likes of Cody Stashak and the aforementioned Gibson. This wasn’t exactly the power bullpen Minnesota had used the final weeks of the season. The results from Game 2 weren’t much better as Dobnak recorded six outs before Duffey struggled in his 2/3 of an inning. By the middle of the second game of the series, Duffey was the lone key relief option to make multiple appearances and the team’s two best relievers (Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers) had yet to appear. Rocco Baldelli made plenty of good decisions throughout the season, but his bullpen usage in October is something to be questioned. If you are second guessing the Twins, what decision would you change? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  18. The two highest-scoring offenses in baseball will be squaring off when Minnesota meets New York in the ALDS later this week. When it comes to offensive prowess, it's nearly impossible to appoint an advantage between these evenly-matched bunches of sluggers. But the Twins do have a clear edge in one area – one which appeared at the outset of the season (and even two months ago) to be their greatest weakness: pitching.STARTING PITCHING The Twins have question marks in the rotation, yes, but the Yankees even more so. Minnesota ranks 11th among MLB teams in starting pitching ERA, and seventh in WAR. New York ranks 11th and 17th, respectively. While the Twins may lack a prototypical ace, their top two starters have easily outperformed their Bronx counterparts: Jose Berrios: 200.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.68 FIP, 1.22 WHIP Jake Odorizzi: 159 IP, 3.51 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, 1.21 WHIP Here's take a look at New York's top two starters this year: James Paxton: 150.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.86 FIP, 1.28 WHIP Masahiro Tanaka: 182 IP, 4.45 ERA, 100 ERA+, 4.27 FIP, 1.24 WHIP The caveat here is that New York also has Luis Severino, who's likely their best starter on talent alone. But Severino missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury, coming back to make three appearances in September. He pitched well in those appearances (1.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings) but still... he's barely pitched. CC Sabathia is no more than a mediocre long reliever at this point, and J.A. Happ has had a crummy season though he did finish it strong. Interestingly, both rotations are without key third pieces due to self-created messes. The Twins are obviously missing Michael Pineda, who received a PED suspension in early September. Meanwhile, Yankees right-hander Domingo German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 153-to-39 K/BB ratio before being placed on administrative leave in mid-September due to domestic violence allegations. Depending on your level of belief in Randy Dobnak, the Twins have either a slight or considerable advantage in starting pitching in the first round – a chasmic difference from a scenario where they would've drawn Houston. RELIEF PITCHING The Yankees spent big to build a power bullpen, and to an extent it has paid off. The $39 million trio of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino has been phenomenal. New York has a couple of other rock-solid relief arms in Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. But they're without an essential fixture in Dellin Betances, who suffered a partial Achilles tear and is done for the year. Minnesota's top three bullpen arms – Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May – are roughly equivalent to New York's prime trio, at about 10% of the cost. But the next wave of depth is where the Twins start to pull away: Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Sergio Romo, and the electric wild-card that is Brusdar Graterol... these guys have the performance and stuff to inspire confidence. The absence of deadline dud Sam Dyson barely even seems to factor – certainly not the extent of Betances for New York. In terms of season numbers, these two clubs are very comparable. New York ranks second in bullpen WAR at 7.5, while Minnesota is third at 7.3. New York ranks ninth in bullpen ERA at 4.08, Minnesota ranks 10th at 4.17. Minnesota ranks first in bullpen FIP at 3.92, New York ranks ninth 4.15. You could argue that the Yankees are equal or even superior in this department on some of those counts, but in present terms, overall numbers overstate the impact of Betances for New York, and understate the impact of guys like Duffey and Stashak for Minnesota. Since the All-Star break, the Twins edge the Yankees in basically every measure. In fact, since the All-Star break, Minnesota's bullpen is conquering the world according to certain metrics. For example... Top Second-Half Bullpen WAR: 1. MIN - 4.8 2. TB - 3.7 3. NYY - 3.7 4. SD - 3.4 5. BOS - 2.7 That's some gap at the top. Rocco Baldelli told media on Tuesday, "Right now I think we have one of the best bullpens I've ever seen." And really, it's not a ridiculous statement. This unit is a strength unrivaled by any other team in this postseason mix. Given the immense relief struggles the Twins were facing around the deadline, and the total fizzling of their marquee addition at that time, this is a borderline miraculous development. It may be the story of the season in a year where the Twins sent two starters to the All-Star Game and set the MLB home run record. Amidst all the talk of these two powerful lineups clashing, not enough attention is being paid to Minnesota's elite, spectacular bullpen. That depth will come heavily into play as Baldelli attempts to navigate this series with a shorthanded rotation. In all likelihood, neither of these imposing lineups are getting silenced. In a series like this, it's about damage control. That happens to be Minnesota's primary advantage on paper. Click here to view the article
  19. STARTING PITCHING The Twins have question marks in the rotation, yes, but the Yankees even more so. Minnesota ranks 11th among MLB teams in starting pitching ERA, and seventh in WAR. New York ranks 11th and 17th, respectively. While the Twins may lack a prototypical ace, their top two starters have easily outperformed their Bronx counterparts: Jose Berrios: 200.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.68 FIP, 1.22 WHIP Jake Odorizzi: 159 IP, 3.51 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, 1.21 WHIP Here's take a look at New York's top two starters this year: James Paxton: 150.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.86 FIP, 1.28 WHIP Masahiro Tanaka: 182 IP, 4.45 ERA, 100 ERA+, 4.27 FIP, 1.24 WHIP The caveat here is that New York also has Luis Severino, who's likely their best starter on talent alone. But Severino missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury, coming back to make three appearances in September. He pitched well in those appearances (1.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings) but still... he's barely pitched. CC Sabathia is no more than a mediocre long reliever at this point, and J.A. Happ has had a crummy season though he did finish it strong. Interestingly, both rotations are without key third pieces due to self-created messes. The Twins are obviously missing Michael Pineda, who received a PED suspension in early September. Meanwhile, Yankees right-hander Domingo German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 153-to-39 K/BB ratio before being placed on administrative leave in mid-September due to domestic violence allegations. Depending on your level of belief in Randy Dobnak, the Twins have either a slight or considerable advantage in starting pitching in the first round – a chasmic difference from a scenario where they would've drawn Houston. RELIEF PITCHING The Yankees spent big to build a power bullpen, and to an extent it has paid off. The $39 million trio of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino has been phenomenal. New York has a couple of other rock-solid relief arms in Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. But they're without an essential fixture in Dellin Betances, who suffered a partial Achilles tear and is done for the year. Minnesota's top three bullpen arms – Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May – are roughly equivalent to New York's prime trio, at about 10% of the cost. But the next wave of depth is where the Twins start to pull away: Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Sergio Romo, and the electric wild-card that is Brusdar Graterol... these guys have the performance and stuff to inspire confidence. The absence of deadline dud Sam Dyson barely even seems to factor – certainly not the extent of Betances for New York. In terms of season numbers, these two clubs are very comparable. New York ranks second in bullpen WAR at 7.5, while Minnesota is third at 7.3. New York ranks ninth in bullpen ERA at 4.08, Minnesota ranks 10th at 4.17. Minnesota ranks first in bullpen FIP at 3.92, New York ranks ninth 4.15. You could argue that the Yankees are equal or even superior in this department on some of those counts, but in present terms, overall numbers overstate the impact of Betances for New York, and understate the impact of guys like Duffey and Stashak for Minnesota. Since the All-Star break, the Twins edge the Yankees in basically every measure. In fact, since the All-Star break, Minnesota's bullpen is conquering the world according to certain metrics. For example... Top Second-Half Bullpen WAR: 1. MIN - 4.8 2. TB - 3.7 3. NYY - 3.7 4. SD - 3.4 5. BOS - 2.7 That's some gap at the top. Rocco Baldelli told media on Tuesday, "Right now I think we have one of the best bullpens I've ever seen." And really, it's not a ridiculous statement. This unit is a strength unrivaled by any other team in this postseason mix. Given the immense relief struggles the Twins were facing around the deadline, and the total fizzling of their marquee addition at that time, this is a borderline miraculous development. It may be the story of the season in a year where the Twins sent two starters to the All-Star Game and set the MLB home run record. Amidst all the talk of these two powerful lineups clashing, not enough attention is being paid to Minnesota's elite, spectacular bullpen. That depth will come heavily into play as Baldelli attempts to navigate this series with a shorthanded rotation. In all likelihood, neither of these imposing lineups are getting silenced. In a series like this, it's about damage control. That happens to be Minnesota's primary advantage on paper.
  20. Remember when the Minnesota Twins had a terrible bullpen and it was one of the worst in baseball? That’s how the 2019 Major League Baseball started, and aside from Taylor Rogers, Rocco Baldelli was chucking darts when turning to his relievers. At the trade deadline the Twins were supposed to upgrade their staff, and while they got one burned on one deal, they did accomplish that through another. More than anything though, Minnesota has benefitted from internal talent rising to the top. Against big names in the Yankees pen, could the Twins really have an advantage? You know the names in New York. Aaron Boone will be able to turn to the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino. Throw in the strikeout rates of both Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle as well and you’re looking at quite a daunting group. Boone’s relief corps is battle tested, veteran laden, and built to propel them through a few weeks in October. There’s zero denying the talent and ability of this group. Statistically speaking, Minnesota has been better, however. We’re splicing the season into a two-month sample, but since the trade deadline the Twins owns the second-best bullpen in baseball (trailing only the Tampa Bay Rays). At 4.0 fWAR, Minnesota is nearly two full wins clear of the trio tied for third (Athletics, Dodgers, and Yankees). WAR can be a misleading compiling numerator, but the Twins have generated their result in just 214.1 IP. That’s 50 innings shy of the first place Rays (who they trail by just 0.1 fWAR), and 25 innings below the output of the Yankees. Quality in less quantity is something we’re seeing develop in this space. This isn’t your Minnesota arms of yesteryear development either; there’s no smoke and mirrors happening. Baldelli’s relief corps has a 10.2 K/9 (top 10) and the lowest walk rate in the sport (2.27). It’s not a ground ball dominated approach, but a 13.3% HR/FB effort is the 6th lowest in baseball (and 3rd best among Postseason teams). Although six other units have posted lower ERAs, Minnesota’s league leading FIP substantiates that this performance is for real. When poking holes in performance there is some potential cause for concern. The Twins are in the bottom five when it comes to surrendered hard hit rate, and while their BABIP is in the top third, it’s not unexpected following hard contact. Thwarting that though, is the quality of offerings sent up to the plate. Minnesota leads baseball with a 34.7% chase rate. Hitters expanding the zone is also accompanied by a whiff rate of 13.2%, or 5th best in baseball. Opposing batters make contact just 73.3% of the time (9th lowest) but given the first two inputs, they’re often attacking what would be described as a pitcher’s pitch. Breaking it down to singular players, Tyler Duffey is second in baseball in terms of fWAR since the trade deadline. Before giving up a homer to Jorge Soler in his final outing of the year, he’d gone 23.2 IP (dating back to July 28) without surrendering a run. He gave up just 11 hits in that span and owned an insane 40/5 K/BB. Taylor Rogers and Zack Littell have also been top 30 relievers since the deadline, and reflect the group being a strong sum of its total parts. It’s hard to suggest that the emergence of strong performances from Twins arms is as beneficial as what New York can turn to. Similarly, to the rotation questions for the Yankees, Minnesota’s stance is more of opportunity than favorability. That being said, it’s very clear the skill gap here is minimal at best and things could swing either way. Credit must be given to the development of the Twins arms, and the position they now find themselves in because of it. A few years ago, the Chicago Cubs gave up Gleyber Torres in an exchange to grab a World Series on the left arm of Aroldis Chapman. Boone is going to have his horses ready to go, and New York can willingly shorten a game with relievers. Although the Twins don’t have an Ottavino or Britton, they do have a Duffey and Rogers that look to provide the same value with the generic brand label. When dissecting much of this series it becomes abundantly clear how close these two opponents are. The bullpen being as such would’ve been a laughable suggestion a few months ago, but here we are. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  21. March Madness is upon us. I’m nothing close to a college basketball specialist, but it seems to me that not even the most optimistic Minnesotan believes the Golden Gophers will go far in the Big Ten Tournament -- but, who knows? Either way, with or without the presence of the Gophers, many people will hop on the Bracketology train and go crazy during the month of March. Motivated by the school spirit brought by this event, I decided to look at how some Minnesota Twins did while they were playing in college.I came across a lot of interesting facts and numbers from the time that these now major leaguers were just a bunch of hopeful kids attending classes everyday. Here’s a list that I’ve put together, with a personal experience shared at the end. Kyle Gibson was a vital part of the Twins rotation last year, after struggling for some years in the majors. That story is a bit similar to how his college career went down. He was off to a slow start, coming out of the bullpen during his freshman year for the Missouri Tigers, in 2007. But then, when he started being used as a starter in 2008, he turned the corner and pitched at a good level in the following two seasons. In his last year in college, when he posted a 3.21 ERA and 11.05 K/9. Gibby and the Tigers played the NCAA Regionals in all of the three years he was there. Kyle Gibson (Missouri, 2007-09) 3.66 ERA 63 games (29 starts) 259.0 IP 304 K (10.48 K/9) 0 HR 61 BB (2.10 BB/9) 1.16 WHIP 9 SV Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Twins in 2012 out of his hometown college, Rice University, in Houston. He spent three full seasons playing for the Owls between 2010 and 2012, helping the school claim its fourth conference championship in 2011. Curiously enough, do you know who was elected the conference MVP that year? That’s right...Duffey. He helped the Owls to finish the regular season in first place (16-8 conference record), with the highest number of wins (42-21 overall record) and to be the No. 24 program in the nation. He shared closing duties with former Twin J.T. Chargois. Tyler Duffey (Rice, 2010-2012) 3.06 ERA 92 games (1 start) 13 SV 152.1 IP 189 K (11.12 K/9) 14 HR (0.82 HR/9) 55 BB (3.24 BB/9) 1.21 WHIP Trevor Hildenberger also spent three seasons in college ball, but his overall numbers weren’t nearly as impressive as Duffey’s nor his stellar minor league totals. Coming out of high school, he pitched for the University of California, Berkeley starting in 2010, but he was redshirted during the 2011 season. His best season was his senior year, in which he posted a 2.83 ERA and tied the school record of 10 single-season saves. On May 10, 2014 he pitched three innings to earn a save, striking out six batters, his career high. Trevor Hildenberger (California, 2010-2014) 4.28 ERA 56 games (5 starts) 11 SV 106.0 IP 95 K (7.97 K/9) 3 HR (0.25 HR/9) 33 BB (2.77 BB/9) 1.34 WHIP Veteran relief pitcher Blake Parker wasn’t always a pitcher. During his three seasons playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, from 2004 to 2006, Parker played third base. Drafted in 2006, forgoing his senior year, he had a very slow start as a position player on rookie and A-ball and started his transition to the mound in 2007, to never turn back. As a batter in college, his best season was during his sophomore year when he had an .865 OPS and was an extra-base maniac, with a 54.55 XBH%. After maintaining a 2.85 ERA in ten years pitching in the minors, he knew he made the right call for his career. Blake Parker (Arkansas, 2004-06) .266/.344/.417 (.761 OPS) 129 games 504 AB 15 HR 79 RBI 16 SB 51 BB (8.79 BB%) 118 K (20.34 K%) Taylor Rogers is a superstar in the making right now, but his college career was nowhere near an indication of that. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2009, he decided not to sign with them and to attend the University of Kentucky. He was a starting pitcher for the Wildcats for three seasons and his performance comes as a shock for those of us who have been seeing him thriving at the major league level nowadays. Look at what his Wikipedia page has to say about his college career: “In 2010, he tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in losses (7) and runs allowed (68), as he went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA. In 2011, he tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in losses (7), and was third-highest in runs allowed (56). In 2012, he was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in runs allowed (45)”. Can you believe this? Taylor Rogers (Kentucky, 2010-12) 5.34 ERA 45 games (42 starts) 249.0 IP 172 K (6.21 K/9) 25 HR (0.90 HR/9) 55 BB (1.99 BB/9) 1.46 WHIP Addison Reed's MLB career is pretty respectable. His college career? It was monstrous. In three seasons pitching for the Aztecs, Reed was one of the best pitchers in the country. During his sophomore year, in 2009, he led the nation with 20 saves in 20 save opportunities, striking out 38 batters in 27.2 IP (12.36 K/9) and finishing with a 0.65 ERA. He was named the 2009 National Stopper of the Year by the NCBWA. Addison Reed (San Diego State, 2008-10) 2.16 ERA 60 games (11 starts) 24 SV 132.0 IP 154 K (10.40 K/9) 10 HR (0.68 HR/9) 31 BB (2.09 BB/9) 1.05 WHIP Another player who had an astonishing college career was C.J. Cron. In three years playing for the Utah Utes, between 2009 and 2011, Cron was acknowledged as one of the best first basemen in the nation. Not only did he have extraordinary individual numbers, but he also helped the Utes reach the regional finals in 2009, his freshman year. During his junior year, he was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America, NCBWA, ABCA, Perfect Game, ESPN and the Collegiate Baseball newspaper (Louisville Slugger). He slashed .434/.517/.803 (1.320 OPS) that season. C.J. Cron (Utah, 2009-11) .396/.459/.713 (1.172 OPS) 157 games 641 AB 46 HR 198 RBI 62 BB (8.46 BB%) 75 K (10.23 K%) When the Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24,5 million contract in 2017, they did it for his defensive skills. As a major leaguer he hasn’t lived up to his minor league numbers and certainly not for his college numbers. Castro played very well offensively for Stanford, especially during his junior year. Not only did he lead the Cardinal in batting average (.376), hits (105), doubles (18) and RBI (73), he also earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, second-team All-America accolades from Rivals.com and third-team All-America recognition by Baseball America, ABCA/Rawlings and Ping!Baseball. He was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench award honoring college baseball's top catcher. With Stanford reaching the College World Series that year, Castro was named to the All-College World Series team after hitting 6-for-18 (.333) during the event. Jason Castro (Stanford, 2006-08) .309/.381/.476 (.857 OPS) 162 games 540 AB 18 HR 106 RBI 62 BB (9.94 BB%) 83 K (13.30 K%) 11 SB Last, but not least (especially not for me, but I’ll get to that in a minute), there’s Mitch Garver, who played for four years for the University of New Mexico, in his hometown of Albuquerque. Garver was one of the best catchers in the nation. In his senior year, he slashed .390/.458/.589 (1.047 OPS) and led the team in multiple stats. But not only did he succeed individually, but he’s also led UNM to two of its three Mountain West Conference titles (2011 and 2012), including the very first in school history, making him one of the best Lobos of all time. Garver also takes much pride in his state’s roots. I don’t know if may of you will remember, but during Players Weekend last year, the catcher used a New Mexico flag bat. Mitch Garver (New Mexico, 2010-13) .351/.421/.527 (.948 OPS) 211 games 809 AB 18 HR 167 RBI 88 BB (9.51 BB%) 104 K (11.24 K%) 21 SB .384 BABIP What makes Garver’s college career so special to me? In 2013 I was granted a scholarship from my university in Brazil and I managed to spend six months in the U.S., studying at UNM. At the time, basketball was my main passion and I took every opportunity I had to go watch the Lobos basketball team, which was pretty good at that year (until a tragedy at March Madness…). But I took one chance to go to the Isotopes' park, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and attend the very first (and only) baseball game of my life. Download attachment: MitchGarverLobos.jpg Back then, I didn’t follow baseball nearly as much as I do today. So I had no idea who any of those players were. It only occurred to me last year, when Garver started to get his first Major League chances, that he was very likely there, behind the plate, during that particular game. I checked, and, yes. He was at that game (check the picture above, which I took on that day). The Lobos trailed 4-2 on that February evening, the ballpark was empty before the game was finished and the pitcher I actually went there to watch, because we took one class together, didn’t even play (I think). But, in retrospect, I can see how meaningful that day was to me, and Garver was a part of that. Click here to view the article
  22. I came across a lot of interesting facts and numbers from the time that these now major leaguers were just a bunch of hopeful kids attending classes everyday. Here’s a list that I’ve put together, with a personal experience shared at the end. Kyle Gibson was a vital part of the Twins rotation last year, after struggling for some years in the majors. That story is a bit similar to how his college career went down. He was off to a slow start, coming out of the bullpen during his freshman year for the Missouri Tigers, in 2007. But then, when he started being used as a starter in 2008, he turned the corner and pitched at a good level in the following two seasons. In his last year in college, when he posted a 3.21 ERA and 11.05 K/9. Gibby and the Tigers played the NCAA Regionals in all of the three years he was there. Kyle Gibson (Missouri, 2007-09) 3.66 ERA 63 games (29 starts) 259.0 IP 304 K (10.48 K/9) 0 HR 61 BB (2.10 BB/9) 1.16 WHIP 9 SV Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Twins in 2012 out of his hometown college, Rice University, in Houston. He spent three full seasons playing for the Owls between 2010 and 2012, helping the school claim its fourth conference championship in 2011. Curiously enough, do you know who was elected the conference MVP that year? That’s right...Duffey. He helped the Owls to finish the regular season in first place (16-8 conference record), with the highest number of wins (42-21 overall record) and to be the No. 24 program in the nation. He shared closing duties with former Twin J.T. Chargois. Tyler Duffey (Rice, 2010-2012) 3.06 ERA 92 games (1 start) 13 SV 152.1 IP 189 K (11.12 K/9) 14 HR (0.82 HR/9) 55 BB (3.24 BB/9) 1.21 WHIP Trevor Hildenberger also spent three seasons in college ball, but his overall numbers weren’t nearly as impressive as Duffey’s nor his stellar minor league totals. Coming out of high school, he pitched for the University of California, Berkeley starting in 2010, but he was redshirted during the 2011 season. His best season was his senior year, in which he posted a 2.83 ERA and tied the school record of 10 single-season saves. On May 10, 2014 he pitched three innings to earn a save, striking out six batters, his career high. Trevor Hildenberger (California, 2010-2014) 4.28 ERA 56 games (5 starts) 11 SV 106.0 IP 95 K (7.97 K/9) 3 HR (0.25 HR/9) 33 BB (2.77 BB/9) 1.34 WHIP Veteran relief pitcher Blake Parker wasn’t always a pitcher. During his three seasons playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks, from 2004 to 2006, Parker played third base. Drafted in 2006, forgoing his senior year, he had a very slow start as a position player on rookie and A-ball and started his transition to the mound in 2007, to never turn back. As a batter in college, his best season was during his sophomore year when he had an .865 OPS and was an extra-base maniac, with a 54.55 XBH%. After maintaining a 2.85 ERA in ten years pitching in the minors, he knew he made the right call for his career. Blake Parker (Arkansas, 2004-06) .266/.344/.417 (.761 OPS) 129 games 504 AB 15 HR 79 RBI 16 SB 51 BB (8.79 BB%) 118 K (20.34 K%) Taylor Rogers is a superstar in the making right now, but his college career was nowhere near an indication of that. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 2009, he decided not to sign with them and to attend the University of Kentucky. He was a starting pitcher for the Wildcats for three seasons and his performance comes as a shock for those of us who have been seeing him thriving at the major league level nowadays. Look at what his Wikipedia page has to say about his college career: “In 2010, he tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in losses (7) and runs allowed (68), as he went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA. In 2011, he tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in losses (7), and was third-highest in runs allowed (56). In 2012, he was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in runs allowed (45)”. Can you believe this? Taylor Rogers (Kentucky, 2010-12) 5.34 ERA 45 games (42 starts) 249.0 IP 172 K (6.21 K/9) 25 HR (0.90 HR/9) 55 BB (1.99 BB/9) 1.46 WHIP Addison Reed's MLB career is pretty respectable. His college career? It was monstrous. In three seasons pitching for the Aztecs, Reed was one of the best pitchers in the country. During his sophomore year, in 2009, he led the nation with 20 saves in 20 save opportunities, striking out 38 batters in 27.2 IP (12.36 K/9) and finishing with a 0.65 ERA. He was named the 2009 National Stopper of the Year by the NCBWA. Addison Reed (San Diego State, 2008-10) 2.16 ERA 60 games (11 starts) 24 SV 132.0 IP 154 K (10.40 K/9) 10 HR (0.68 HR/9) 31 BB (2.09 BB/9) 1.05 WHIP Another player who had an astonishing college career was C.J. Cron. In three years playing for the Utah Utes, between 2009 and 2011, Cron was acknowledged as one of the best first basemen in the nation. Not only did he have extraordinary individual numbers, but he also helped the Utes reach the regional finals in 2009, his freshman year. During his junior year, he was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America, NCBWA, ABCA, Perfect Game, ESPN and the Collegiate Baseball newspaper (Louisville Slugger). He slashed .434/.517/.803 (1.320 OPS) that season. C.J. Cron (Utah, 2009-11) .396/.459/.713 (1.172 OPS) 157 games 641 AB 46 HR 198 RBI 62 BB (8.46 BB%) 75 K (10.23 K%) When the Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24,5 million contract in 2017, they did it for his defensive skills. As a major leaguer he hasn’t lived up to his minor league numbers and certainly not for his college numbers. Castro played very well offensively for Stanford, especially during his junior year. Not only did he lead the Cardinal in batting average (.376), hits (105), doubles (18) and RBI (73), he also earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors, second-team All-America accolades from Rivals.com and third-team All-America recognition by Baseball America, ABCA/Rawlings and Ping!Baseball. He was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench award honoring college baseball's top catcher. With Stanford reaching the College World Series that year, Castro was named to the All-College World Series team after hitting 6-for-18 (.333) during the event. Jason Castro (Stanford, 2006-08) .309/.381/.476 (.857 OPS) 162 games 540 AB 18 HR 106 RBI 62 BB (9.94 BB%) 83 K (13.30 K%) 11 SB Last, but not least (especially not for me, but I’ll get to that in a minute), there’s Mitch Garver, who played for four years for the University of New Mexico, in his hometown of Albuquerque. Garver was one of the best catchers in the nation. In his senior year, he slashed .390/.458/.589 (1.047 OPS) and led the team in multiple stats. But not only did he succeed individually, but he’s also led UNM to two of its three Mountain West Conference titles (2011 and 2012), including the very first in school history, making him one of the best Lobos of all time. Garver also takes much pride in his state’s roots. I don’t know if may of you will remember, but during Players Weekend last year, the catcher used a New Mexico flag bat. Mitch Garver (New Mexico, 2010-13) .351/.421/.527 (.948 OPS) 211 games 809 AB 18 HR 167 RBI 88 BB (9.51 BB%) 104 K (11.24 K%) 21 SB .384 BABIP What makes Garver’s college career so special to me? In 2013 I was granted a scholarship from my university in Brazil and I managed to spend six months in the U.S., studying at UNM. At the time, basketball was my main passion and I took every opportunity I had to go watch the Lobos basketball team, which was pretty good at that year (until a tragedy at March Madness…). But I took one chance to go to the Isotopes' park, home field of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and attend the very first (and only) baseball game of my life. Back then, I didn’t follow baseball nearly as much as I do today. So I had no idea who any of those players were. It only occurred to me last year, when Garver started to get his first Major League chances, that he was very likely there, behind the plate, during that particular game. I checked, and, yes. He was at that game (check the picture above, which I took on that day). The Lobos trailed 4-2 on that February evening, the ballpark was empty before the game was finished and the pitcher I actually went there to watch, because we took one class together, didn’t even play (I think). But, in retrospect, I can see how meaningful that day was to me, and Garver was a part of that.
  23. In 2015, the Royals pioneered the strategy of five-and-dive starters, and allowed the pen to handle the rest. The merits of relievers now rests in the seventh through ninth innings, and given the Twins recent playoff demons that should bring nightmarish flashbacks. Bullpens are a focal point of postseason success. In the 2017 wildcard game, Ervin Santana was yanked three innings into his start. Luis Severino, the Yankees starter was also removed on a much shorter hook after just 1/3 of an inning with three runs already allowed. It's no safe assumption a starter will go five innings or 100 pitches. Shutdown starters and unhittable closers get all the glory, but the unsung heroes of the past season, such as Josh Hader, are much more valuable than they get credit for. Trevor May has received his fair share of criticism. Saturday night’s display of pure dominance predicated on fastball command would be a welcomed sight in the postseason. More breaking ball usage and less dependence on a flat changeup could perhaps be enough for May. A much smoother finish with his mechanics, and not leaving as many pitches in the whomping zone of hitters have been helpful for Trevor. Since his bad stretch of home runs he has lost all trust in his curve, which could fuel more good fortune. May has had the year of his life in 2019. He had a promising end to his 2018 campaign that saw him flash the truly elite stuff that he flashed as a middling fourth/fifth starter in the dawn of his career. He’s bumped his velocity up considerably, and lately has sliced his pitch assortment, providing a better directive to his mound mindset. Taylor Rogers might be the most underrated pitcher, perhaps even player, in baseball thanks to his above average fastball and frisbee slider. A bullpen absent the invincible Aroldis Chapman fireball, or the radioactive cutter of Kenley Jansen, or the capital C-declared closer, might be an assembly of relief pitchers as effective, or more so, than any other in baseball. If there was one point of criticism for Rogers, I would point to the curveball and slider blending together. But that in no way detracts from the set of weapons that he has, and that the Twins have, that their playoff success could hinge on. Tyler Duffey might be the most remarkable story of the entire season for the Twins. He flamed-out as a starter in 2016 and followed with a pair of enigmatic seasons. At the tipping point of his career, he took on a complete overhaul, reinvention and refinement of his mechanics and approach under the tutelage of Wes Johnson. Duffey was taught sinkers inside and low, during the Rick Anderson, Neil Allen and Garvin Alston regimes. Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press recently wrote an article that delved into Duffey's progress that included some illuminating quotes. Duffey spoke to how different Wes Johnson's mentality is. “Obviously I had the potential to be good, but it was seeing why I could be, understanding why I could be, and then doing it and repeating was the last piece of that. I think for me, personally, it’s just been trusting the whole plan that’s been set and going with it. “Pitching with conviction is the name of the game. Hitters can tell when you’re not convicted in what you’re doing. I think I’m trusting it, I feel good doing it and the results are speaking for themselves.” “He can be a strikeout guy, and he’s learned that,” Johnson said. “When we started back in spring training, our goal was to strike out more hitters than we ever have. We’re getting there, incrementally. And Tyler is someone you’re seeing make progress really fast.” The intuitive and tailored recipe for success spearheaded with the ongoing trend of elevating, decelerating and spiking. Fastballs up, sliders and curves down and away, and toggling with the velocity of those breakers has paved the way to a 2.35 ERA and a 1.0 WAR during this 2019 run to the postseason. A truly remarkable achievement for a pitcher once on the bubble. For the Twins to succeed in the postseason, a strong back-end of the bullpen must complement a competent starting staff. It could be a feasible plan, given that the trio of Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers has arrived and they are here to stay.
  24. For months there was a growing notion that the Twins would make a move. This club looked the part and jumped out to a big divisional lead. With a relief corps that could use some reinforcements, the front office would almost assuredly deal from depth to bolster the bullpen. Although it didn’t happen in as timely of a matter as some may have hoped, and there could have been some hiccups avoided mid-summer, moves came. Two veteran arms with high ceilings would be added to a back end that already had some promise. But then, two became one, and a handful emerged. Dyson was the best reliever dealt at the deadline. There were bigger names that weren’t moved, but it was he who had previous closing experience and top-notch stuff. He has since been shut down and it looks like his season may be over. Romo and his wipe-out slider are still getting the job done, and he’s stuck in high leverage as expected. One of the two moves worked, but it’s the ones set into motion many months before that are truly paying off. Back in February I suggested that the Twins would win 92 games en route to a Central division crown. Chief among the reasons was the revamped coaching staff and infrastructure within the organization. The current group is a collaborative power that is constantly changing on the fly and looking for an opportunity to exploit the next level out of each player. For some, it takes longer to unlock then others, but if there’s a way this contingent of coaches is going to find the right buttons. There’s no more apparent area currently reflective of that then the bullpen. Since the trade deadline the Twins have posted 2.9 fWAR (2nd in MLB). Their 2.06 BB/9 is the lowest in baseball as is the 3.58 FIP that suggests they’re even better than a fifth best 3.67 ERA. The 1.54 WPA is fifth in baseball and one of just 12 teams currently putting up positive numbers. No one has opponents chasing more than the Twins' 35.2% and the arms they’re doing it with are virtually all home grown. You already know Taylor Rogers is an absolute menace. He’s a lefty with high velocity stuff that doesn’t care what side of the plate you stand on. Tyler Duffey owns 0.8 fWAR since August 1st and hasn’t given up a run since July 23 (a streak of 18.2 IP). He has a ridiculous 30/5 K/BB in that time, and looks the part of the elite closer that Minnesota drafted out of Rice way back in 2012. Looking for his calling with the Twins, there’s no denying Trevor May appears to have found it. Despite an ugly breaking pitch against Cleveland, and one that Rafael Devers beat him on in Boston, his 20 innings since the deadline have been exceptional. May has generated 0.5 fWAR and has allowed just those two earned runs in 20.0 IP. He has a 25/4 K/BB and opposing batters have mustered a sad .325 OPS against him. Arguably the most impressive work comes from the guy that the least was expected of. Still just 23-years-old, Zack Littell was asked to take a game against the Rays on the chin in May. He went back to Triple-A and transitioned to relief. Ramping up the velocity in shorter stints, he showcased his stuff in brief call-ups throughout the year. Now adding the time up, he’s pitched 24.2 innings in relief since June. Littell has allowed just two runs, both in the same outing, and has 21 strikeouts to his credit. He’s still working through command issues at times, but the .209 batting average against is exceptional. With just two weeks left until postseason baseball, Minnesota’s earliest bugaboo has now become an area of strength. This isn’t a lineup that needs to pad a starter’s lead bridging a gap to Taylor Rogers. The Twins are something like six or seven deep in quality arms, and none of those guys could care less who is in the opposing batter's box. Opponents may not have heard of anyone aside from the elder statesmen Romo, but this is a group that will generate name recognition as they turn from the plate watching the ball go around the horn following any given at-bat. There’s no denying that Rocco Baldelli is going to need a healthy dose of mix and match in October. Only the Astros go deep enough to throw starting cares to the wind. Teams like Minnesota will need to get what they can from the first man on the bump and then turn it over to the reinforcements behind the wall. Fortunately for this group, everyone from Baldelli to Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the entirety of the minor league pitching support staff deserves a significant pat on the back for the speed with which they turned a deficiency into an asset.
  25. Box Score Berrios: 6IP, 8H, 5 ER, 1BB, 5K, 68% strikes (66 of 97 pitches) Bullpen: 3IP, 8H, 7ER,2 BB, 2K Home Runs: Wade Jr. (2) Multi-Hit Games: Wade Jr. (2-for-3 HR, 3B, BB), Arraez (2-for-5, 2B), Cruz (2-for-5), Sano (2-for-4) Bottom 3 WPA: Rogers (-0.43), Berrios (-0.24), Rosario (-0.14) Kansas City Strikes First In the top of the second inning, with one out, Jose Berrios hit Alex Gordon in the foot. After a bloop single, Ryan O’Hearn doubled, scoring Gordon. Meibrys Viloria then hit a shallow fly ball to Eddie Rosario and Ryan McBroom tagged from third. Rosario’s throw was slightly off-line, but appeared good enough to get McBroom. However, after reaching across to tag McBroom the ball popped out of the webbing of Jason Castro’s mitt when it hit the ground. Berrios was able to strike out Brett Phillips and keep the score at 2-0. Rookies Spark the Offense, Man With Dick Bremer lamenting about how many first pitch fastballs Twins hitters were taking, LaMonte Wade Jr. came up in the bottom of the third and turned on the first pitch Glenn Sparkman had to offer. 416 feet later Kansas City’s lead was cut to one. The home run was the second of Wade Jr.’s young Twins MLB career. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175560833054588928 Broadcaster Latroy Hawkins claimed that he joked with Wade Jr. before the game that he hit like Reggie Jackson in batting practice, but like Michael Jackson in games. It appears that Wade Jr. took Hawkins' words to heart. In his next at-bat, Wade Jr. led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple. Luis Arraez followed Wade Jr.’s triple with his second hit of the game, a hustle double that scored Wade Jr. to tie the game. With the rookies doing their job, the anti-rookie, Nelson Cruz stepped up and singled in Arraez for his team-leading 104th RBI. That marked the end of the day for Sparkman. With runners on first and second and no outs, Eddie Rosario stepped up to the plate and did the most Eddie thing possible – he immediately popped out on the first pitch. But luckily for Minnesota Miguel Sano stepped up and singled in Jorge Polanco (who had earlier walked) to put the Twins up 4 – 2. Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi was kind enough to gift Minnesota another run by botching a Willians Astudillo groundball, allowing Nelson Cruz to come home and put the Twins momentarily ahead. Berrios stumbles, Royals Strike Back Things were looking good going into the sixth and Jose Berrios was able to induce a double play after allowing the first two Kansas City hitters of the inning to single. With a runner on third and two outs, McBroom singled to bring the score to 5 -3. The next batter, the other Ryan, took a Berrios’ changeup for a ride, tying the game up. Berrios was able to finish out the inning, but it marked the end of the day for Berrios. Rogers, Hildenberger Falter Both Kansas City and Minnesota got great efforts from their bullpens after Sparkman and Berrios left the game. However, after Tyler Duffy and Serio Romo went six up, six down in the seventh and eighth innings, Taylor Rogers struggled mightily in the ninth. Rogers managed to get only one out, giving up three hits, the most damaging one a two-run dinger coming off the bat of pinch-hitter Cheslor Cuthbert. It’s worth mentioning that it is the fourth time in the last six games that Rogers has pitched (although he hadn’t thrown more than 14 pitches in any of the appearances). Trevor Hildenberger relieved Rogers and the wheels really fell off. Hildenberger faced six batters and failed to record an out. It doesn’t get much uglier than that. By the time the top of the ninth finally ended the Twins were down 12 – 5 and the game had been lost. Jorge Alcala Debuts If you bothered to stick around after the meltdown, you were rewarded by getting to see Jorge Alcala make his MLB debut (and see a seemingly never ending, nearly 50-minute(!) top of the ninth). He came into the game with the bases loaded and one out and gave up a single that Marwin Gonzalez had a chance to catch but didn’t. His four-seam fastball topped out at 95. He would go on to walk in another run but finally ended the inning by retiring two Royals batters. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175607269620211712 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
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