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  1. For the first time in spring training of 2022, fans saw Josh Winder take the mound unless you've been following on milb.tv in recent years. The 6'5" right-handed pitcher calmly, quietly, struck out hitter after hitter. Like a lion stalking prey, he studied his opponents in the batter's box, and then with a quick snap of his wrist, he threw a nasty slider to get his opponent out. After each strikeout, he circles the mound in true predatory fashion getting ready for his next ambush. Josh Winder strikes out two | 04/05/2022 | Minnesota Twins (mlb.com) When the Twins made the 28-man roster announcement, I was delighted and somewhat surprised. But it was no surprise and no shock for people in his life. Young Prodigy Josh Winder's baseball career has been pushing the boundaries over his entire life, which is probably why the coaching staff at VMI started recruiting him, and the Twins started scouting him, so early in their respective times. Winder started playing travel ball for the Prince George Swamp Things out of Prince George, Virginia, where his coaches saw early in his pre-teen years that he would be going places. His head coach at VMI, John Hadra saw him growing up playing on the fields of VMI, "Josh just had a natural talent. He had the ability to hone in on the strike zone". Leslie Winder, Josh's mom, said "Well, of course, as his parents, we knew that college was a possibility, but at that time, we weren't thinking of him playing past that." As he got older Leslie and Lee Winder started to see what the coaches saw. While playing travel ball, Winder would sometimes play up on the same team with older brother Gregory. Playing up a level provided Winder a chance to be challenged and grow in his discipline. His siblings always allowed him to be competitive. Leslie tells me that the kids had a great relationship; they all got along, but when it came to games and Wiffle Ball in the front yard, she would have to go outside to quiet the yelling from the "players" for not taking their outs, trying to steal a base or bending the rules. She said, "When they played Wiffle ball, they were playing for the World Series every time they played." The competitive nature in Wiffle ball stuck with Winder as he grew in baseball. His college coach Jon Hadra said that Josh is highly competitive, he wants to win, and he will do whatever is asked of him to help not only get his team a win but also improve. "Josh is competitive," Coach Hadra states in our interview, "but he is competitive internally. He takes things personally. If he has a bad inning or rough outing, he gets frustrated with himself, never the defense". Coach Hadra said that Winder never got angry or upset externally; he would work harder. He is a good leader, the other guys looked to him for leadership, and he didn't even have to say anything; he would show leadership. Josh's strong leadership and presence make him an asset to the game of baseball and the team that he is on. Winder's talent and ability to throw strikes make him an above-average rookie. He doesn't just throw the baseball; he takes the temperature of the man he is facing, taking a moment to decide what to do next. Winder has excellent control of the mound. He is not just a thrower; he is a pitcher. There are pitchers, throwers, and Winder's arm and delivery make him an outstanding pitcher and a menace on the mound. Winder is so good, he began the year at the Minnesota Twins AA affiliate Wichita in 2019 and in 10 starts for the Wind Surge went 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 65 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 54.2 innings. Winder was promoted to Class AAA St. Paul in late June and has a 3.52 ERA and a 1-0 record in two starts. He began the season as the Twins #12 ranked prospect by MLB.com. Even with missing a season in 2020 and the lockout in early 2022 he didn't miss a beat. "He continued to work out every day", says his mom, "He wasn't worried about it, or if he was, he certainly didn't show it. He came home and lived with his friends who continued to work with him. He worked out, threw and focused on being ready for whenever baseball would be back. He never got out of routine, or out of shape". Winder knows the importance of being ready at a moment's notice, like a lot of other players who weren't sure if they would play again, he took the opportunity to work hard and improve, making him even more of a threat on the mound. It's no wonder he only played three seasons in the minors. Winder makes hitters work. Some hitters can make a pitcher's pitch count rise, but Winder stays low in the count as he works through a game, making hitters chase, get tired, second guess their swings, and strike out before they even know what's going on. His junior high friends said he was so smooth when he pitched, he was stuck with the nickname “smooth” - because that’s what he is when he pitches. Natural Born Leader Josh doesn't say a lot, to himself, or anyone else really when he is on the mound. He is working and he has a job to do and that job requires focus. He learned that early on. When he was drafted in 2018, he left one semester of college behind him, but knowing how important that component was to his success, he came back later that fall to finish his degree. Coach Hadra says, "Josh is a good leader, a strong leader. He doesn't say much, you know? He doesn't have words of wisdom, or 'try this', he shows guys what makes him successful and they follow suit," He went on to tell me that, "when Josh came back to finish his semester after being drafted, he came to the field frequently to help players. They would get so excited because he was spending time with them, talking to them about his experiences and what made him successful. Those guys, who are now getting ready to graduate are doing the same thing, he is left an imprint, that is affecting the program in a generational capacity". This is exactly what the Twins need on the mound, someone who is a leader, who can set the tone for years to come. He may be a rookie, but as Josh's mom points out, "he's an old soul". He is routine, strict in his time management and is willing to listen to learn and to pass on whatever he is taught. His family dynamic is another part of his leadership. No matter how busy the rookie pitcher and his family are, they always make time for each other. His mom talks about how often they text, or when he calls home after a game. They also have weekly zoom calls with family that include Grandpa, who sometimes struggles with technology, but is quick to pull up an article on Twins Daily (thanks, Grandpa!). Family is a huge component to his success and something that is important to Winder off and on the field, and with the Twins going through constant transitions, leadership is something that would benefit everyone. It's been awhile since the pitching staff can say there has been one leader in the bullpen, and Winder may fit that role well. A leader never asks someone to do what they can't, even if they don't want to, adversity makes players (and people) who they are and one thing that Winder is not afraid of is adversity. Able to make it through transition When Coach Hadra first saw Winder at a young age, he came across him throwing bullpen, but he quickly noticed that as Winder grew, he was a starter. That is not always an option in the big leagues and his bullpen lessons aided him as he made his debut as a Twins pitcher. Coach Hadra told me that Josh has always been a starter, but when it comes to the team, Winder will do anything he can to get his team a win. He came in as a long reliever before his May 1 start with the Twins, which he had never had to do before. During his first three games as a long reliever, Winder got a chance to see how different that was for him to "be ready" to play at any time. The mentality to switch from working from a starting position to being ready to take over as a long reliever is very difficult for a pitcher. If they are used to a routine by starting, that can affect the pitcher’s game. That did not stop the predatory mentality from the mound from the rookie pitcher. Ready isn’t a thing in the majors, if Skip tells you you’re playing, you go. His relief appearances leave room for growth compared to his starting appearances, Winder showed not only the Twins but also the Dodgers who he is and why they should be ready when he's on the mound with his MLB debut. Winder came in to relieve Chris Archer in the fifth inning, and the line-up that he was coming into was no joke. Winder started his debut by striking out Will Smith, walking Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor. When Gavin Lux came up to hit, Cody Bellinger ran on Winder to steal second. "Okay, I will never do that again," Leslie Winder said as she talked about his first inning as a Twin, "He is used to watching from the dugout, not the bullpen. He watches the hitters and analyzes them. This was different for him and he knew as soon as Bellinger stole second, that letting his eye off of him was a big mistake. But, it was a learning mistake and Josh, he catches on quickly.". That is how he has approached his baseball career, taking each play and player and learning from it—continuing to analyze his prey and knowing how next time: how to be more aware, more stealthy, more elusive in his pitching, and ready for his next attack. His relief games with Houston and the Athletics was the most we have seen the pitcher struggle this season, but even then he controlled his emotions and his arm. He documented his first losses of the season, but still managed to strike out players and maintain a low ERA. While he doesn't shine as a reliever, there is only one way to get better and that's putting him in every chance they get. The more he sees, the better he will get. Compared to other starters in the rotation, he is just as reliable to control games, especially with the defense behind him. Being a long reliever is not where Winder will be successful for the Twins, he certainly makes it work in a pinch, but where he will be the biggest asset is in the starting lineup. Winder is hungry; his drive for perfection and success is evident when he gets on the mound. While he prefers to start a game, Winder does recognize that being put into the games to be a long reliever gives him a different vantage point. This different vantage point got him ready for his first official start on May 1, which was anything but short of amazing. Mound Command When he was younger and even now, Winder has a great command of the mound. During college he had health issues his junior year, giving him a struggle off and on, but his numbers and his attitude would never let you know. On April 13, 2018, Winder had a season high 11 strikes to get the win versus Western Carolina. He also, finished his career at VMI with the top K/9 mark in school history, second in BB/9, tied for third in wins, second in strikeouts, and fourth in both games started and innings pitched. In his first start against Tampa Bay, Winder pitched six innings, had seven strikes, and only allowed two hits and one walk. A smiling Winder was excited to not only share his experience. By the time the second start came around, he was able to use his five-day routine to prepare for the game and he counted his second win (in a week) as a rookie pitcher. During his post-game interview after his second start, after going six scoreless innings, a journalist inquired if he was ready or surprised to start that day. Winder replied, "I knew I would be starting, and I had to fly to meet the team, so I was in bed by 10:30 pm the night before to get lots of rest". When Winder is getting ready for a start, he has a five-day routine to get him ready, and he does not use his phone on game days at all. He also calls his dad after every game. His ability to be called into any situation shows he is a solid component of the team and dangerous to anyone in the batter's box. Ready to Set Records So far this season, Winder has started three times winning two and losing one. He relies heavily on his four-seam fastball and slider, which are as fast as they are nasty. His fastball sits at about 94mph and if he really wants to make a hitter work, he will use a curveball to throw them off dropping the speed down to roughly 80 mph and make them chase. Winder is the fourth pitcher since 1913, with zero errors and over seven strikeouts in his first two starts. In 2021 he was a part of the Futures American League Team as part of All-Star Week. The Futures game is for the top prospects across MLB. The defense that Winder gets to work with is one of the best in the league, even if news outlets won't say it, he is not afraid to. Players like Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, and Luis Arraez round out his support if a ball gets hit into play. There is no doubt that there are great tools around the already outstanding pitcher. He also has strong chemistry with both Gary Sanchez and Ryan Jeffers. The season is still early. There is no doubt that as Winder continues on this journey, there will be losses, errors, and rough starts, but no more than what the starting rotation has been through. Winder may give Joe Ryan a run for becoming the Twins rookie pitcher of the year.
  2. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO Homeruns: Royce Lewis (2), Gary Sánchez (4) Bottom 3 WPA: Josh Winder -.489, Jorge Polanco -.143, Jose Miranda -.131 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) On Tuesday night, the Twins were out to secure another series win in Oakland. The game marked the return of Dylan Bundy from the COVID IL. Bundy had struggled prior to being on the IL. The storyline heading into the game was if he could give the Twins an opportunity to win? Here’s how Minnesota lined up. The Twins came into the game having won the previous four encounters against Oakland despite scoring just 10 runs. Perhaps Oakland was the team to get Bundy back on track? Bundy looked relatively comfortable in the first inning, retiring Oakland on 19 pitches, surrendering only a bloop single to left-field that Nick Gordon couldn’t quite track down. James Kaprielian cruised through his first two innings of work for Oakland. He served Twins hitters a steady diet of mid-90s fastballs up in the zone, and breaking pitches down. Bundy worked around a leadoff walk in the second inning, keeping the game scoreless through two innings. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Coliseum, it was going down. Royce Lewis led off the top of the third inning with a scorching, 111.7 mph double to the left-center-field gap. The Twins failed to capitalize however, as Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco struck out to extricate Kaprielian from trouble. Tony Kemp singled in the bottom of the third with Josh Winder already warming up. A short start was always likely for Bundy, returning from COVID. Jed Lowrie walked to put runners on first and second base with one out. Jose Miranda bobbled a relatively straightforward grounder to third that should have been an inning-ending double play. He managed to rescue the force at second, putting runners at the corners with two out. Bundy escaped, striking out Seth Brown to throw three scoreless, and encouraging innings in his return from the IL. The Twins continued to struggle to cash in runners in the fourth inning. Gary Sánchez missed home runs on two sliders he crushed down the left-field line by mere feet. Max Kepler singled to left field with one out, but the Twins couldn’t bring him home, despite a hard hit lineout from Nick Gordon to right field. Josh Winder relieved Bundy in he bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Kevin Smith crushed a belt-high fastball into the left-field seats to give Oakland a 2-0 lead. The pitch wasn’t a bad one from Winder, it was above the strike zone, Smith just hit it out. The Twins got half of the lead back in the top of the fifth, when Royce Lewis blasted his second home run into the left-field seats, cutting the deficit to one. Lewis has made the Twins forthcoming roster challenge difficult, with Bailey Ober, Carlos Correa, and Trevor Larnach all due back from the IL in short order. One thing is clear, he can’t be sent down right now, he’s on fire. Winder struggled with his command in the fifth inning, with Oakland’s contact continuing to find holes. He loaded the bases with two outs, before escaping the bases loaded jam, to preserve the one-run deficit. Gary Sánchez knocked Kaprielian from the game, launching a game-tying, solo home run to left field after Elvis Andrus took a base hit away from Jorge Polanco in the previous at bat. Max Kepler added a one-out single. Rocco Baldelli pinch hit Kyle Garlick for Nick Gordon. Garlick promptly struck out, before Gilberto Celestino reached on an infield hit to put runners at first and third base with two outs and Royce Lewis due up. Lewis grounded out to second base to end the inning with the game tied at two. Aside from a walk for Luis Arraez, the top of the seventh inning was uneventful for the Twins. In the bottom of the innings, the Athletics broke the game open. Winder walked Lowrie and hit Laureano. There is an argument that Winder should have been pulled, having surrendered five hits and two walks to that point. He stayed in the game. Seth Brown crushed a double and Sean Murphy blooped a single and the Athletics took a 5-2 lead. Winder surrendered two more hits before finally being pulled by Baldelli. He allowed five runs on nine hits with two walks in 3.2 innings of work. It's clear that the Twins had planned on the combination of Bundy and Winder eating the majority of the innings on Tuesday night. Ultimately, Winder's command issues made that plan challenging to execute. The Twins threatened in the top of the eight, managing two base runners, but failed to eat into the lead. The Athletics closed out the game in the ninth to even the series at one game each. In spite of this, the Twins have won the season series, and will look to win the current series on Wednesday. The Twins fell to 21-16 on the season. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Winder 0 0 0 0 78 78 Jax 50 0 0 25 0 75 Pagán 22 9 10 0 0 41 Thielbar 0 15 2 0 16 33 Smith 4 15 9 0 0 28 Cano 0 0 0 25 0 25 Duffey 0 5 0 20 0 25 Duran 10 12 0 0 0 22 Stashak 0 0 13 0 0 13 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will conclude their series against Oakland. Sonny Gray gets the start for Minnesota, against Daulton Jefferies of the Athletics. First pitch is 2:37 CT
  3. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Josh Winder, 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3BB, 2 K (77 pitches, 45 strikes, 58%) Home Runs: none Bottom Three WPA: Josh Winder (-.209), Byron Buxton (-.105), Jose Miranda (-.097), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) After a rocky finish to last night's weather-delayed game, the Twins finished up a 'less than pretty' series against the Astros with a 5-0 shutout loss on Thursday afternoon. Despite garnering seven hits (to Houston's eight), the Twins were unable to convert any rallies and left 16 runners on base throughout the game. First Foe for Winder After two incredible starts to kick off his MLB campaign Josh Winder had his first sub-par start on Tuesday afternoon. The highly-touted prospect lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up six hits while walking three batters. Twins trainer Abe Masa accompanied skipper Rocco Baldelli to the mound to check on Winder towards the end of his outing. Winder continued to pitch and appeared fine. Hopefully, the young talent is healthy and will rebound for another great start next week! Bullpen After a rough outing in the first game of the day, the Twins' bullpen was adequate through 5 2/3 innings. Caleb Thielbar followed Josh Winder in relief and was scoreless through 1 2/3 innings. Tyler Duffey followed suit with two innings of scoreless ball. The highlight of the bullpen experience came from Cole Sands in the top of the eighth inning. Called up to the 40-man roster after last night's delay, Sands struck out the side, providing the only 1-2-3 inning on the day for the Twins' pitching staff. Sands wasn't as lucky in the ninth, giving up a homer to Yordan Alvarez. Arraez and Rocco Return Despite the gloom of the box score, Luiz Arraez and Rocco Baldelli returned from the COVID protocol on Thursday. Baldelli managed both games today and Arraez made his debut in the second game of the pseudo-double-header, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. Nick Gordon is a Renaissance Man The Twins may have lost, but Nick Gordon won over the hearts of Twins fans between the two games on Thursday. After pitching a scoreless ninth inning of a blowout loss, Gordon made one of the most spectacular catches across the league in the second inning of the second game. Gordon had an impressive day at the plate as well, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles in the fifth and seventh innings. The former first-round pick has been a joy to watch for the Twins this season both in the field and at the plate. The Avon Park, Florida native has hit .294 in his last seven games, and Thursday afternoon's game was his first multi-hit game since April 21 against Kansas City. Bullpen Usage Chart What’s Next? After a disappointing sweep, the Twins will look to regain momentum tomorrow night with a home series against the Cleveland Guardians. RHP Sonny Gray (0-1, 3.48 ERA) will face off against Aaron Civale (1-2, 9.45 ERA) in a battle of two of the AL Central's top teams. First pitch at Target Field is scheduled for 7:10 pm CST.
  4. Last Week's Game Results: Game 23 | MIN 2, BAL 1: Paddack, Bullpen Power Twins in Win Game 24 | MIN 7, BAL 2: Twins Stay Hot Behind Ryan, Bats Game 25 | BAL 9, MIN 4: Bad Start, Bad Defense, Bad Luck Game 26 | BAL 5, MIN 3: Solo Shots Shatter Twins Game 27 | MIN 2, OAK 1: Game of Firsts Ends in Victory Game 28 | MIN 1, OAK 0: Polanco and Pitching Power Another Win Game 29 | MIN 4, OAK 3: Bullpen Completes Sweep of Oakland Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/2 through Sun, 5/8 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 18-11) Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: +25) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES Things looked grim after Carlos Correa took a pitch off the hand on Thursday night in Baltimore, with post-game X-rays suggesting the potential of a non-displaced fracture. Twins fans couldn't be blamed for their incredulity ... another HBP knocking out a superstar player for an extended period?? But unlike last year, when Byron Buxton's broken hand was just another big ol' drop in the endless bucket of bad luck, the Twins again got some unexpected positive news upon further testing, with a Friday CT scan showing only a bruise. Correa avoided the injured list, just like Buxton did last month after his scary slide into second at Fenway. Even with Correa staying active, the Twins still called up top prospect Royce Lewis to fill in at shortstop over the weekend, adding an extra level of energy to their home series against Oakland. Lewis has gotten his MLB career off to a solid start, with three hits in his first 10 at-bats. Buxton himself appears to have dodged another scary setback. He left Saturday's game due to tightness in his right hip – the same spot where a significant strain cost him six weeks last year – but the the new issue was described as "very low level" and he too avoided an IL trip. The good breaks in the wake of bad news didn't stop there. COVID reared its ugly head in the Twins clubhouse once again, with manager Rocco Baldelli as well as Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy all testing positive on Thursday. But by the end of the weekend, no one else on the team had registered a positive test, which qualifies as a big relief given the level of contagion we've seen with this virus. It wasn't all happy outcomes, however. Trevor Larnach suffered a groin strain that forced him to IL, which is especially unfortunate because he was really cooking (as we'll cover shortly). The team is confident that his absence will be a short one – hopefully only around the 10-day minimum – but still the Twins will be without one of their most effective hitters of late. Alex Kirilloff has activated after a rehab stint in St. Paul, but the jury is very much out on his ability to make an impact with his balky wrist. And, ss it turns out, Miguel Sanó's balky left knee was serious enough to require a surgical remedy. He underwent a procedure to repair torn meniscus, and figures to be out for a couple of months, though no firm timetable has been established. With top prospect José Miranda called up to replace him and likely to see a bulk of time at first base, it's possible that Sanó will return to find his job taken. He may be reaching the end of the road in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Chris Paddack left Sunday's start with inflammation in his right elbow, which was a big issue last year when he battled a partially torn UCL that required a PRP injection. Very unsettling, but we'll see what comes out from further exams on Sunday. I guess we've learned better than to jump to negative conclusions. HIGHLIGHTS This pitching staff is incredible. What else can you say? Even within the context of a drastic decline in offense across the league, Twins pitchers are simply crushing it. The past week featured four games in which opponents were held to two runs or fewer, including a pair of 2-1 squeakers and a 1-0 victory. A certain amount of good luck is inherently at play when you're scratching out wins like these. But the staff is legitimately winning games, and it's valuable to bank them while the bats continue to lag amidst a league-wide hitting scourge. Great performances are coming from all corners of the rotation and bullpen. Sonny Gray returned from the injured list on Saturday with an electric performance against Oakland, striking out seven over four scoreless innings. The previous day saw Josh Winder obliterate the A's in his second MLB start: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The combination of he and Joe Ryan, who looked good once again in Tuesday's win over Baltimore and now sports a 1.63 ERA, is almost too much to handle. This franchise has been starved for impact rookie pitchers. Now we've got ALL the impact rookie pitchers. Of course, this conversation wouldn't be complete without a mention of Jhoan Duran, who's been just as uplifting to the bullpen as Ryan and Winder in the rotation. Duran was on his way to an appearance in the Lowlights column this week after allowing two homers and taking the loss on Thursday. Then he went out on Saturday and cemented a 1-0 win with two absurdly dominant innings. He allowed no hits. He struck out five. He got nine whiffs on 32 pitches. I'm not sure prime Aroldis Chapman comparisons are out of bounds at this point. Duran is lighting up the radar gun and flat-out blowing people away. His only weakness so far has been an odd proneness to the long ball – with four of the 10 hits he's allowed in 14 ⅔ leaving the yard – but that seems very flukish to me. The bullpen, in general, has been simply phenomenal. Over the past week Twins relievers allowed just three earned runs in 33 innings, good for a 0.87 ERA with a 38-to-6 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. The shockingly effective relief unit was absolutely pivotal in a weekend sweep of the Athletics. While the offense has been underwhelming overall, it's nice to see some secondary contributors stepping up, especially with Correa and Buxton hobbled. Larnach has been making a very strong impression, and getting plenty of tread. He started five of seven games last week before the groin injury surfaced, going 6-for-15 with a pair of doubles and five runs scored. Jorge Polanco notched nine hits in 25 at-bats, including the decisive solo shot in Saturday's win. José Miranda launched his first career home run and made it count in a 2-1 Friday win. Gilberto Celestino tallied six hits in 15 at-bats to push his average to .324. LOWLIGHTS It was a tough week for Bundy. His positive COVID diagnosis came on the heels of a nightmare outing against his former team in Baltimore. Over 3 ⅔ innings, he was touched up for a career-high nine earned runs, with the Orioles piling up 11 hits, two walks and two home runs in a ballpark that had been suppressing offense to the extreme. Bundy had given up six earned runs over six innings in his previous start, so he's seen his ERA balloon from 0.59 to 5.76 in a span of two outings. No one expected the extraordinarily strong start to sustain, but this is a jarring regression to the mean by any standard. It's the kind of all-out implosion that can put an inexpensive back-of-rotation flier like Bundy on the ropes very quickly in a suddenly crowded rotation. TRENDING STORYLINE Rotation adjustments lie ahead of the Twins. Even with Paddack going down, their starting mix is full between Gray, Ryan, Winder, Bundy, and Chris Archer. Bailey Ober is expected back in relatively short order. An overabundance of starting pitching depth is certainly not a "problem" anyone expected the Twins to deal with, and it's almost funny we're discussing it. Nevertheless, here we are. Even if they're cool to continue rolling with six, what happens when Ober is ready to come back? How many more bad outings can Bundy afford? Is it possible a move to the bullpen might breathe some life into his upper-80s fastball? LOOKING AHEAD Things get a bit more challenging this week with the Astros and Guardians coming to town. The Twins will need to play better ball than they did against Oakland if they want to win these series. How much will Buxton and Correa play? We shall see. TUESDAY, 5/10: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Justin Verlander v. RHP Joe Ryan WEDNESDAY, 5/11: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Jose Urquidy v. RHP Chris Archer THURSDAY, 5/12: ASTROS @ TWINS – RHP Luis Garcia v. RHP Josh Winder FRIDAY, 5/13: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. RHP Sonny Gray SATURDAY, 5/14: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Triston McKenzie v. TBD SUNDAY, 5/15: GUARDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. RHP Joe Ryan
  5. On Wednesday night in Baltimore, Dylan Bundy took away any possibility of a Twins win for the second straight start. While recording just 11 outs, Bundy surrendered 11 hits, two walks, two home runs, and nine earned runs. For the second straight start, he allowed a string of five-plus hitters to reach base safely without recording an out, a feat that’s rare enough to wonder whether it could possibly be a fluke. After dazzling in his first three starts, Bundy has absolutely cratered his season line. The result of this is a reality check for Twins fans on a pitcher who’s failing to crack 90 mph and posted an ERA over 6.00 in 2021. Having signed for $5m, Bundy should have never been expected to provide premium innings, even after his first three starts. The question is whether the Twins' front office has received this same reality check. The issues were plentiful for the 2021 Twins, but starting pitching was arguably #1 on the list. The signings of J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, whom the Twins had identified as values in the offseason, turned out to be two of the worst pitchers in all of baseball and provided the Twins with a predetermined loss every 4th and 5th day. Despite this fact, Shoemaker remained in the rotation until the end of June and Happ remained until he was somehow traded at the deadline. Both proved that pitching signings of their tier simply don’t warrant a whole lot of patience. Neither has a job in Major League Baseball in 2022. Context is key in this scenario, as by the time they need to move on became abundantly clear, the Twins season was effectively over already. The farm system also suffered from a wide range of pitching injuries, leaving the Twins with several bullpen days per week and no replacement options for the rotation. In short, the goal became crossing off innings rather than filling them in a meaningful way. In 2022, things have to be different. Two starts make up just a small percentage of a pitcher’s season-long workload, and plenty of high-quality arms will struggle for such a short stretch. For that reason it’s not yet time to make any significant moves with Dylan Bundy. That being said, it is time for the Twins to feel some skepticism towards the 29-year-old right-hander. After watching three starts and wondering whether any kind of success could continue given Bundy’s visible lack of stuff, these last two starts may be the beginning of our answer. Unlike 2021, the Twins simply have too many alternatives to allow Bundy to become a deciding factor in their 2022 season. Their financial commitment to him is too low, as are the odds of him factoring into any long-term plans. With him headed to the COVID IL, we should get to see more from Josh Winder for another start or two, although it’s very likely Bundy gets a chance to reclaim his spot in the rotation. In the meantime, if Josh Winder continues to stake his claim to a rotation spot, it may leave the Twins set up to act quickly if Bundy doesn’t rebound. For what it’s worth, they’ve shown early signs of learning from their mistakes in 2021. After sticking with Alex Colomé through one of the worst months by a reliever in franchise history, the Twins were very quick to pull the plug on Tyler Duffey in high leverage this season after his early struggles. I would guess their lack of patience with a homegrown former staple of their bullpen foreshadows a very short leash for a one-year bounceback candidate in the rotation. At this point one thing is certain, Dylan Bundy is currently the last man on the totem pole that is the Twins rotation. The wounds that 2021 left in Twins Territory are still fresh in the minds of fans as many already wonder “How many more starts can we let this happen?”. For a front office that was seemingly so eager to show off the arrival of their pitching pipeline, my best bet would be “Not much longer” as the Twins attempt to make a worst to first rebound in 2022. How long of a leash should Dylan Bundy get? — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  6. Box Score SP: Josh Winder: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K (80 pitches, 55 strikes (68.75%)) Home Runs: Jose Miranda (1), Byron Buxton (9) Top 3 WAR: Josh Winder (.231), Emilio Pagan (.156), Byron Buxton (.128) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Woe is We…Ailments Carlos Correa has been getting into the swing of things (pun fully intended) the past two weeks and it’s been fun to watch. He got off to a slow start but had a seven-game hitting streak by Thursday. The slugger is hitting .255 with a .320 OBP, with five doubles, two homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs so far this season. When he was hit on the hand during the final game of the Orioles series, everyone was worried that he may be out for a considerable amount of time. While waiting on the results of a CT scan, tons of speculation circled the injury debating whether it was broken, dislocated, or a bruise. Hoping for the best, and as a Twins fan, always expecting the worst. Not only was Correa being scratched from play at this time, but the team is also working through a small stint of COVID-19 in the club house, taking out Luis Arraez, Rocco Baldelli, and Dylan Bundy. Luckily, the CT scan showed no fractured bones for Correa. With the news that it is "just a bruise" and he wouldn't be put on the Injured List, he attempted to ask into the lineup. Jayce Tingler said No. With all the bad news hitting the Twins this week, the ailments and injuries have allowed for some major roster moves that gave Twins fans a morale boost. Royce Lewis, who missed the past two seasons, 2020 with the pandemic and 2021 due to his torn ACL, joined the Twins and made his MLB debut. Another Day Another Debut Royce Lewis (and Twins fans) have been waiting for this day since he was drafted by the Twins with the first overall pick in the2017 draft. There were a few bumps on the road to the Show, but he has arrived, and Lewis joined his teammates on the field donning #23, once worn by fan-favorite Nelson Cruz before he was traded to Tampa Bay. Some have a “too soon” feeling, all in fun of course, but maybe it’s a good omen for the young player and Cruz’s talent will rub off on him. Lewis has been tearing it up in St. Paul this season, showing that he is more than ready and capable for this call-up. His at-bats are some of the most impressive thus far with 21 hits (including 11 doubles) helping catapult his team to an above .500 April. While he didn't take Correa's roster spot, he did take Luis Arraez's spot, with Arraez officially going on the Covid-IL. It’s a good problem to have when you can be sad for one player potentially being hurt, but now the team has aces up their sleeve who can come in and take their place. Luckily for the fans, Correa is okay, and Lewis still got to make his debut and gain some experience. Lewis had a successful night at third base in support of Friday night's starter Josh Winder. In the first inning, on his fourth pitch, Winder threw a fastball to Sheldon Neuse which came off the tip of the bat, a hopper right to shortstop, giving Lewis his first major league put-out, throwing to Jose Miranda to get out Neuse at first base. Lewis started out his hitting career with the Twins with a ground out to third base, but Lewis left first base with a huge smile on his face and the glow didn’t disappear all night. Lewis made contact every time he was at bat tonight, finally getting the first hit of his Major League career in the bottom of the eighth. While Lewis did not get a chance to score, all-in-all it was a fantastic night for the Twins top prospect and fans are ready for more! Warm nights, Hot performances In the second inning, Jose Miranda connected for his first major-league home run. Miranda drilled a Zach Logue’s fastball, hitting the ball into second deck in left field. The velocity on the home run was 105.5 MPH. Trevor Larnach has not let up on offense. He collected another double tonight, his ninth of the season. Larnach has been beyond impressive at the plate and with his defense. In the second inning, Elvis Andrus hit a one-hopper to Larnach in left, who fielded the ball and threw it home to Gary Sanchez to get out the runner easily. Byron Buxton was in the game as the Designated Hitter on Friday, and while fans would rather see him in center field, it doesn’t matter where he is, he makes an impact. Buxton hit his ninth home run, putting him in fourth place in the American League this season. The Starters and the Bullpen are on Fire Josh Winder had his second start of the season. This was his first start at Target Field. On this night, the mound was his, and he started out hot again, with a ground out and two strikeouts in the first inning. Winder followed that up by striking out Jed Lowrie and Sean Murphy for a 1-2-3 inning. His pitching didn’t let up. By the top of the fifth inning, the rookie had four straight strikeouts and four 1-2-3 innings before Elvis Andrus hit a ground ball to Lewis who made a great stop and threw to Miranda for the out. Winder carried the Twins through six innings, only allowing an unearned run and that came at the end of his night in the sixth inning. Wes Johnson came out to give his rookie some advice, and Winder was able to regain composure and finish out the inning. His night ended when Gary Sanchez threw out Sheldon Neuse on a steal attempt. The bullpen started out great with Joe Smith and Tyler Duffey who got the team through innings seventh and eighth innings. Fans held their breath as Emilio Pagan took the mound and loaded the bases in the top of the ninth. With bases full and Chad Pinder's count full, Pagan got a swinging strike to end the game. What was your favorite moment of the game? What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series this weekend with Oakland before Houston comes to town on Tuesday and meets up with Correa for the first time in a different uniform. Remaining pitching matchups for this series include: Saturday 1:10 pm: Sonny Gray (coming off IL) vs RHP James Kaprielian (0-1, 18.00 ERA) Sunday 1:10 pm: Chris Paddock (1-2, 3.15 ERA) vs RHP Dalton Jefferies (1-4, 4.81 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Pagán 27 0 0 0 28 55 Thielbar 0 18 0 18 0 36 Jax 15 0 0 15 0 30 Duffey 0 18 0 0 11 29 Coulombe 0 0 26 0 0 26 Stashak 0 11 0 0 0 11 Duran 10 0 0 0 0 10 Smith 2 0 0 0 6 8 Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
  7. Box Score SP: Josh Winder 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (83 pitches, 54 strikes (65 strike %)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (7) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (.131), Kyle Garlick (.106), Josh Winder (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins bats were ready to continue their hot streak from Saturday against the Rays on Sunday and wasted no time doing so. The top of the first brought about a lot of excitement for the Twins as Byron Buxton reached base on a throwing error from Rays shortstop Taylor Walls which advanced him to second. In the next at-bat Carlos Correa hit a single to have two runners on for Kyle Garlick. Garlick was able to drive in the Twins' first run of the game with an RBI single to right which scored Buxton. This had two runners aboard for Jorge Polanco who drove both Correa and Garlick in on a bases-clearing double to make it a 3-0 Twins lead. Gio Urshela was the Twins first out of the inning, but Max Kepler came up next to make it a 4-0 game on another double. The scoring didn’t stop there for the Twins in the top of the first. Gary Sanchez followed Kepler’s RBI double with an RBI single of his own to make it 5-0. Left fielder Gilberto Celestino ended the inning with a double play hit to Walls but the Twins still gave Winder an extensive lead for his first MLB start. The Twins offense certainly stood out during Sunday’s game but Winder was the star of the game making his first MLB start. Winder had made three bullpen appearances for the Twins before Sunday only looking rough in his MLB debut against the Dodgers on April 12. The six inning workload that Winder pitched on Sunday was not set to be a challenge either. Winder had a relief appearance of 5 1/3 innings on April 16 after Sonny Gray was removed from his start due to injury. Winder’s start against the Rays was his best pitching appearance of 2022 to date. Six shutout innings, only three base runners on two hits and a walk and seven strikeouts proved why the Twins were smart to put him on the Opening Day roster. After the first inning that almost had the Twins bat around, the scoring didn’t stop there for them. Buxton was the next to add on a run for the Twins as he hit his seventh home run of the season to deep left field in the top of the fourth. The Twins bats wouldn’t do anything again until the top of the seventh where they scored an additional two runs thanks to another Polanco bases-clearing double. Trevor Larnach, who came into the game for Garlick who had to leave due to a hamstring injury, made sure the Twins weren’t done scoring in the top of the eighth. Larnach drove in Celestino on an RBI single to make it a 9-1 game for the Twins. The Twins bullpen was not able to keep the shoutout going for Winder after he left the game. Tyler Duffey came into the game in the bottom of the seventh and gave up an RBI double to Walls to make it a 8-1 game. Following Duffey’s one-run inning, Twins Daily 13th-ranked prospect Cole Sands came into the game to make his Major League debut in the bottom of the eighth. After recording the first out, Sands struggled surrendering three straight hits and two earned runs. Sands recovered though as he recorded his first two big-league strikeouts to get out of the eighth inning. Even with his struggles in the eighth, Rocco Baldelli sent his newly arrived reliever in for the ninth to close the game out for the Twins. Sands cooled off completely in the ninth throwing a one, two, three ninth inning to give the Twins the win and series victory on the road against Tampa. What’s Next? The Twins will start the second series of this road trip against Baltimore tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m. CT. Chris Paddack will be making his fourth start for the Twins against the Orioles 6’8 righty Tyler Wells. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Coulombe 20 0 35 0 0 55 Jax 0 46 0 0 0 46 Stashak 0 18 0 14 0 32 Sands 0 0 0 0 30 30 Duffey 0 8 0 0 17 25 Duran 0 0 0 20 0 20 Smith 10 0 0 9 0 19 Thielbar 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0
  8. Last Week's Game Results: Game 17 | MIN 5, DET 4: Wild Final Play Extends Win Streak to 5 Game 18 | MIN 5, DET 0: Twins Win Again in Another Great Ryan Start Game 19 | MIN 7, DET 1: Twins Sweep, Correa Comes Up Clutch Game 20 | TB 6, MIN 1: Bundy Roughed Up Early, Win Streak Over Game 21 | MIN 9, TB 1: Garlick Powers Twins to Lopsided Win Game 22 | MIN 9, TB 3: Winder Dominates, Twins Take Series Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/25 through Sun, 5/1 *** Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 13-9) Run Differential Last Week: +21 (Overall: +23) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA) NEWS & NOTES While on his way to another strong outing on Thursday, with one run allowed through 3 ⅔ against Detroit, Bailey Ober was bothered by discomfort in his groin. He exited and headed to the injured list with what is hopefully a minor groin strain. Cole Sands was called up to replace him on the roster and provide length in the bullpen, and debuted on Sunday. Outside of that, it was a week mostly filled with relatively minor injuries and precautionary sittings. Gary Sánchez missed a few games due to soreness, but returned to action with no apparent issues. Byron Buxton was scratched on Saturday after suffering a hand contusion on an HBP Friday night. He returned to the lineup on Sunday and homered. Miguel Sanó played only two games due to knee soreness that first emerged on Tuesday and flared up on Saturday. He was placed on IL after Sunday's game and replaced on the roster by José Godoy. Meanwhile, they'll also need to soon find room for Alex Kirilloff and Sonny Gray, who are both on the comeback trail in the minors. HIGHLIGHTS I'm running out of superlatives for Joe Ryan. Or should I say, Joe Cool? Joe-lan Ryan? What the rookie is doing on the mound has been absolutely incredible for someone of his age and experience level. Calm, cool and collected, he just keeps mowing down opposing lineups. Most recently he matched a career-high with seven innings of shutout, one-hit ball against the Tigers, striking out nine with one walk as the Twins cruised to a 5-0 victory. Ryan continues to unleash a more balanced mix with heavier usage of the slider, to outstanding effect with opponents batting .185 and slugging .239 against the pitch. Ryan was very pleased to get some support in that outing from Carlos Correa, who is finally starting to put a slow start behind him. His defense has consistently been stellar but Correa is now beginning to wake up at the plate, with a three-hit, three-RBI game on Thursday snapping the shortstop out of a 4-for-26 slump. He carried his breakout over into the weekend series at Tampa, where he notched seven hits in 13 at-bats with a pair of RBIs and four runs scored. Joining him in the offensive awakening was Max Kepler, who followed up his strong series against the White Sox with a power display against Detroit, launching three homers and a double with five RBIs to key the lineup. Those three games raised his slugging percentage from .300 to .475, and by week's end it was all the way up to .514 following another strong series at Tropicana (3-for-9, HR, 2B, 4 RBI). Another development that simply must be highlighted is the rapid emergence of Griffin Jax in the bullpen. This was always seen as a hopeful possibility, but the weaponization of Jax as a reliever has occurred much more quickly and smoothly than anyone could've expected. Jax pitched twice in the Detroit series, tossing four scoreless innings with four strikeouts. In five relief appearances he has a 2.00 ERA and 11-to-3 K/BB ratio and 16% swinging strike rate. The elevation of his stuff in shorter stints has made a night-and-day difference. Here's a side-by-side look at his Statcast measurables from last year (as a starter) compared to this year. The increases in whiff rate and chase rate are staggering. Some other noteworthy performances from an absolutely outstanding week for the Twins: Josh Winder dazzled in his first major-league start on Sunday. Handed a big early lead, the rookie was workmanlike as he rattled off six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. He was efficient and in command while mixing a heavy dose of sharp sliders and curveballs with a fastball that averaged 95 MPH. Winder looks phenomenal. Minnesota's new bullpen kingpin made only one appearance on the week, but it was a brilliant one for Jhoan Duran: two perfect innings with three strikeouts in Saturday's blowout win over the Rays. Duran now has an 18-to-2 K/BB ratio through 11 MLB innings. Chris Paddack continued to show why the Twins targeted him in a pristine outing on Tuesday against Detroit, hurling 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball to set the stage for a wild walk-off win. Since struggling in his Twins debut against the Dodgers, Paddack has allowed three runs in 10.2 IP with a 10-to-1 K/BB ratio. Drawing four starts in six games against a lefty-heavy slate, Kyle Garlick showed why he's on the roster and why he gets slotted into the heart of the order against southpaws. He went 3-or-8 with three walks and made all of those hits count, including a pair of home runs against a dealing Shane McClanahan on Saturday. Unfortunately, he came out of Sunday's contest with right calf soreness and may be headed to the shelf. LOWLIGHTS Is the clock striking midnight on Caleb Thielbar's cinderella story? He struggled in another outing against Detroit on Tuesday, charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. It was the third time in seven appearances Thielbar allowed a crooked number, which is not what you like to see from a one-inning reliever. Even after rebounding with a scoreless frame on Saturday, his ERA sits at 12.79 on the season. Thielbar's stuff has looked okay, and it's evident some bad luck has been at play (for example, Emilio Pagán coming in and immediately giving up a home run to score both runners Thielbar put aboard). Some patience is warranted based on his performance in 2020 and '21. But still: we're talking about a 35-year-old who was out of the majors for four years prior. And roster spots (both 26-man and 40-man) are at a premium for the team right now. It was otherwise difficult to find many bad performances in such a stellar week of baseball for the Twins. Dylan Bundy hit a speed bump with six earned runs allowed on Friday, but still delivered six innings. A few hitters had quiet runs, but obviously not enough to slow down the offense much overall. The Twins are playing clean, consistent baseball, letting their opponents make the mistakes and capitalizing when that happens. Rebounding after a beatdown in the Rays opener to outscore Tampa 18-4 on Saturday and Sunday was a remarkable showing of resilience. The first month of this 2022 season has felt like a polar opposite of 2021. TRENDING STORYLINE It's a nice problem to have, especially compared to last year, but the Twins are quickly running into a shortage of roster spots for all the players they'd like to have around. MLB teams must reduce their rosters from 28 to 26 on Monday, and the Twins were already facing a coming crunch with Gray and Kirilloff on their way back from IL. Ober seemingly won't be out long so they also need to plan around his return. There's another factor coming into play too: a scorching hot Royce Lewis at Triple-A. He went 7-for-16 last week with a home run, two doubles, two steals, six walks and only three strikeouts. Lewis is absolutely tearing it up in his first real action for more than two years, with a .320/.441/.587 slash line through 21 games in St. Paul. Lewis stated before the season his intention to prove himself ready for the big leagues, and he's doing exactly that. Obviously there is no short-term opening at shortstop for the Twins, but you wonder if they'll start mixing in some looks at other positions to create a path for him. Showing sharpness at third base or in the outfield corners open one up. This idea is not so much fanciful as it is practical – Lewis is already on the 40-man roster and the Twins could potentially use a right-handed bat with both Garlick and Sanó hurting. (Notably, José Miranda would also be a fit...) LOOKING AHEAD With the Rays out of the way, the Twins now rolling into what should – theoretically – be one of their softest stretches of the year. The Orioles and Athletics are barely trying this year so the coming week represents a chance to fatten up before things get considerably tougher with the Astros and Guardians following on the schedule. On Monday, Paddack is scheduled to face off against old friend Tyler Wells in Baltimore. MONDAY, 5/2: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Paddack v. RHP Tyler Wells TUESDAY, 5/3: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Joe Ryan v. LHP Bruce Zimmermann WEDNESDAY, 5/4: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Dylan Bundy v. RHP Kyle Bradish THURSDAY, 5/5: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Chris Archer v. RHP Spenser Watkins FRIDAY, 5/6: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – LHP Cole Irvin v. RHP Josh Winder SATURDAY, 5/7: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP James Kaprielian v. RHP Chris Paddack SUNDAY, 5/8: ATHLETICS @ TWINS – RHP Daulton Jefferies v. RHP Joe Ryan
  9. The Twins took advantage of the 28-man rosters by supplementing their bullpen with extra arms. Especially with a lockout-shortened Spring Training, this was crucial as it allowed for Twins starting pitchers to have a reasonable ramp-up period. Now that we are three weeks into the season and starters are beginning to reach their “Opening Day form,” I think we will see at least one bullpen pitcher be sent down to St. Paul and possibly two. With that said, let's look at the pitchers who might be on the outside looking in. Josh Winder I think this is the most obvious choice and would go as far as issuing a guarantee that he makes his way down to St. Paul. Winder is a promising 25-year-old prospect who has found success as a starter at every level, not to mention providing the Twins with some effective relief innings so far in 2022. The long-term picture for Winder is that of a mid-rotation arm, not a long reliever out of the pen, whose only “red flag” is being shut down in July last year due to a shoulder injury. While he should be the first to be sent down to St. Paul, he’s likely also the first to earn a spot start when the Twins have a need in the big league rotation. Griffin Jax Although he’s older than Winder, Jax is another one who needs to get innings, and I think it’s time to groom him as a reliever. In the last year or so, Jax has developed a slider that is now his best pitch and mixes that with a mid-90s fastball that seems to add a couple of ticks when he comes out of the pen. As noted by Nick, it’s a small sample, but the Twins have starting depth in their minors which provides them the flexibility to give Jax some run as a reliever. If the long-term plan is a reliever role, I could see him sticking in Minneapolis as he’s been one of the few non-starter bright spots in 2022. Cody Stashak He seems older than 27 because he’s pitched parts of four seasons at the Major League level. I’m conflicted with Stashak as I don’t see any upside to him taking a spot in St. Paul, but I don’t know how effective he can be in Minneapolis. He showed promise over 40 relief innings in 2019 and 2020, but the road has been rocky for Stashak since dealing with ineffective pitching and, of course, a strained bicep that cost him most of last season. So far, 2022 hasn’t been kind to Stashak, but I’d instead give him some time in Minneapolis in low leverage spots than any role across town with the Saints. If you are the Twins, who would your two roster cuts be next week?
  10. But they battled back, scoring one run off of White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and tying up the game on a home run by Byron Buxton in the seventh inning. They threatened to take the lead in the eighth inning but left the bases loaded when Luis Arraez grounded out to second base. That didn't stop the Twins from having faith. Byron Buxton came up to bat in the 10th inning to get a three-run homerun to walk it off! Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 3 IP,3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (61 pitches, 32 strikes (52.4%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (6) Top 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (.761), Jhoan Duran (.227), Max Kepler (.168) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Larnach’s Series Trevor Larnach’s series versus the White Sox has been one of consistency. Since the game in Kansas City versus the Royals, Larnach has had a hit every game, responsible for two of the RBIs in the Saturday afternoon game giving the Twins a seven-run lead in the bottom of the fourth. He did not fare as well at the plate today, striking out twice (looking, once with the bases loaded, and once with runners on second and third) but still found a way to contribute. As Archer struggled to maintain control in the third inning, with bases loaded, Andrew Vaughn singled a sharp line drive to Larnach in left-field, who threw a cannon home to Jose Godoy to end the inning. Godoy Makes Twins Debut Jose Godoy’s contract was added to the Twins’ roster yesterday and made his debut with the Twins today. The former Seattle Mariner had 40 at-bats last year ending the season with a .162 batting average. Ryan Jeffers was scratched from the line-up two hours before game time for a knee contusion and Gary Sanchez is still out with abdominal tightness. Godoy saw five pitches in his first at-bat, striking out. Godoy’s first and second appearances he struck out, but rounded out his first game with the Twins being walked by Aaron Bummer, before being sent home off Byron Buxton game-tying two-run home run. Then he walked again in the 10th inning, coming around again on Buxton's game-winning home run. His defense and chemistry with Archer was impressive to watch. The rookie catcher was able to frame pitches on a consistent basis and has good reaction time. Godoy showed his speed and agility as he ran to catch a foul off Grandal’s bat at the top of the third. Interference from the fence made for a hard catch, but Archer and Godoy got Grandal to swing at a high fast ball striking him out with the next pitch. He did, however, commit a cardinal sin in the 8th inning. With the winning run on third base and one out, he squared to bunt but popped out to White Sox pitcher Kendall Graveman. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that Jeffers took a ball off his knee earlier this series and had a left knee contusion and that Rocco really did not want to use him. That proved to be important as there was that opportunity in the 8th inning to pinch hit for Godoy in the bat in which he popped out on a bump. So the Twins entered today's game with three catchers on the active roster, but only one was truly active. Bats Show Signs of Life The Twins line-up was consistent over the series and through today battling rain and cold to keep their bats swinging, a nice change of pace from the earliest part of the season’s start. With the exception of a few players getting strikeouts early, by the 6th inning, at a minimum, almost every bat made contact with a pitch. Even Miguel Sano who was 0-for-8 through the series ended up getting a single into right field in the second inning. Giolito Returns But Doesn’t Last Long The Twins have been having trouble scoring runs, so the last thing they need is to face a preseason Cy Young Award candidate. Not only was today’s opposing pitcher, Lucas Giolito, a candidate, he opened the season as one of the favorites at 13-2 odds. However, he was also making his first start after a stay on the 10-day injured list for an abdominal strain, and that rust showed a bit in the first inning. Giolito threw 26 pitches that inning, only half of which were strikes, and walked two Twins. But with the bases loaded, he escaped untarnished by striking out Trevor Larnach on two changeups and a fastball. The story was similar in the third inning. This time, a walk, and a couple of singles loaded the bases, and the Twins cashed in a run on a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela. But Giolito escaped further damage by fooling young left-handed hitters - this time both Larnach and Nick Gordon - with his changeup and fastballs away. Still, he had already thrown 65 pitches through three innings, and due to his stint on the injured list, it was expected he would only throw 70-80 pitches in his second outing this year. Sure enough, after an efficient fourth inning, his day was over. Gordon’s Growth Nick Gordon played in his 12th game today, starting at shortstop as manager Rocco Baldelli gave Carlos Correa a day off. He entered today with a 694 OPS in 26 plate appearances. He will likely never show a lot of power, and a .261 batting average is nothing special, but he is getting on base almost 35% of the time. Almost any evaluation of Gordon’s future and performance are tied to the wide range of expectations attached to him. If your expectations are tied to his selection in the first round of the 2014 draft, or of his family pedigree, you’re likely going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your expectations of him were set by his performance and health issues in AAA as recently as 2019, you might be delighted by his sudden progression as a valuable bench asset. To both camps, I’d suggest it is time to take a look at him with fresh eyes. He’s a 26-year-old who is likely to never post a big OPS because he will likely never hit for power. But he gets on base, he is capable (though not outstanding) in several key defensive roles, and as a left-handed hitter, he is more likely to get a decent matchup versus right-handed pitchers. Plus, he’s an asset on the base paths. All that makes him an ideal super-utility player, which is exactly the role he is fulfilling this year. If he can show that he can raise his batting average closer to .300, he might improve to the point where he could be a regular starter. Fortunately for him, his performance and usefulness should provide plenty of opportunities to show his development in the super-utility role. Winder Unleashed After nearly a week without making an appearance, long reliever and promising prospect Josh Winder made an appearance when Chris Archer only lasted three innings. He gave up one run over four innings, striking out two and giving up three hits. Maybe most notably, after struggling with his control in his first appearance, he walked none and threw strikes in 42 of his 61 pitches. Winder is working as the long reliever but is a starting pitching prospect long-term. We saw today what we have seen from him so far: he is a slider-first pitcher who turns to his fastball to keep hitters off-balance. It seems to be working well in a relief role, but it will be interesting to see how it plays when he has to face a lineup a second time. Certainly today that was in question, as he gave up a home run on his second time through the order. But for the most part, we likely won’t see him face batters more than once in his current role with the Twins. We might get a better sense of that if he was starting in St. Paul, but he’s now fulfilling an important role with the major league club. Regardless, it’s nice to see another Twins pitching prospect having some success in the majors. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that the plan was always for Archer to be limited to only 50-60 pitches, and he was told that after his last start in Kansas City. We also learned from Rocco that this decision was specific to Archer; they're not planning right now on similar planned short starts with the rest of the rotation. He also hinted that they wanted to do this now, when they still had a 28-man roster. It'll be interesting to see if Winder eventually does go down to St. Paul as part of the mandatory roster trimming that will happen next week, or whether he'll continue in this role in which he's having success. Clutch Buxton Byron Buxton had a fantastic series, hitting every chance he got, and coming through whenever the team needed him. His 3-run home run came on a 3-1 count with runners on second and third base and one out. White Sox closer Liam Hendricks, in his second inning of work, pitched to Buxton in that situation rather than give him a free pass to first base and load the bases for Luis Arraez. It’s not clear that strategy would have fared any better, but they likely would choose a different path given another chance. Postgame Postscript: As expected (and completely appropriate) postgame interviews centered entirely around Buxton doing godlike things. Baldelli called Buxton the best player in the world right now, and marveled at some of the things he did. But you might be surprised at what he wanted to breakdown: it was Buxton's first, game-tying home run in the 8th. Here it is, because he breaks down what we are seeing pretty nicely. "He's facing a left-hander who as we saw earlier in the game, is one of the best left-handers in the game. Gets a ton of groundballs. He's a really hard guy to drive the ball in the air against. And he's a guy that normally pitches all the right-handers in, pound 'em in. And he decided to go away to Buck. And it took a few pitches, but Buck identifies what's going on. Completely changes what he's trying to do at the plate. And lines a ball over the right field fence. I mean, there's nothing typical or everyday or normal about that. That's very, very special. And I don't want to stop talking about it, because it's so impressive. Even for people who watch this level of baseball everyday. To see what he's doing it's just awesome." What’s Next? The Twins will enjoy an off day at home on Monday before starting a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: Tuesday 6:40: Chris Paddock (0-2, 5.00) vs LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wednesday 6:40: Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thursday 12:10: Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  11. Kepler Got His Groove Back? Max Kepler had a rough season after contracting the Covid-19 virus in early 2021. Not only was his physical appearance worn and thin, but his defense and at-bats were also not what they used to be. Over the past two series, Kepler has increased his plate discipline. Savant showed his zone contact is 90.9% which helped him at least in this series, garnering him both a home run and a double. He may be batting .188 right now, but the average doesn't say it all. He is on track for a good season and getting better the more plate appearances he has, and he's undoubtedly rounding out his efforts by adding in good defensive play. Kepler has been making impressive defensive plays in the right field in a Buxton-like fashion. He is not Buxton, but his commitment to the hustle and making key plays like the out in the bottom of the fifth getting Chris Taylor out was beautiful. Admittedly I thought trading Kepler would have been a good idea at the beginning of the season, but he continues to show the staff and the fans that he is not done yet and won't go down without a fight, or up his trade value. Situational Hitting Gets an "F" The Dodgers pitching lineup was too much for the Twins bats. Over the two-game series, the Twins' offense could only get six hits. I'd rather get a root canal than sit through another series like that again. The Dodgers' pitching is one of the best in the league, but there is no reason the Twins bats couldn't make contact more than they did, at a minimum in game one. Byron Buxton and Gio Urshella went 0-for-4, and Luis Arraez, who has been a bright spot, went a dismal 0-for-3. Thank God at least Kepler and Nick Gordon were able to get runs, or this would have been a shutout series, and that's not a good look. Clayton Kershaw, who had never pitched before at Target Field, got comfortable really quick and was off to a combined perfect game, but thankfully Gary Sanchez came into the batter's box in the eighth inning and broke it up with a single to right field. That's probably the best news of the series, considering no one else could get anything going, and the frustration mounted to a peak when Miguel Sano busted his bat after going 0-for-3 and striking out twice. We are all Miguel Sano right now. I like Josh Winder, but... It was not a shock to me when Josh Winder made the 28-man roster out of spring training. During the shortened spring training, Winder showed confidence and capability to be a part of the rotation. Coming into his first MLB appearance facing one of the best lineups in MLB was not an easy task. He pitched to Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, and his first MLB strikeout went to Will Smith in his debut. Of all the hitters he had to debut with, he kept his head together, not getting phased and letting the defense do their part. Even if a sacrifice fly earned one run, that's all the rookie allowed in his first appearance. Winder's fastball averaged 94.5 MPH, which is excellent, but he needs to keep it in the zone. As he continues to have more mound appearances, there is room for control growth. As he can get control of his fastball, he will be a great mid-reliever. The rest of the pitching was sad. Chris Archer held his own after a jittery first inning, but Chris Paddack had one of the worst first innings I have seen in a while. While he was able to calm himself down and get out of the innings and continue on, both days the bullpen allowed multiple runs. Dereck Rodriguez looked like he was going to be able to keep it together and then gave up three home runs in a row in his fourth inning of the day. The bullpen definitely needs to see more batters to improve thanks to a lockout and short spring training but hopefully not at the cost of losing multiple series. I couldn't imagine that there would be a worse series for the Twins the rest of the season, but I have been wrong before. What's next? Hopefully, a series win in Boston instead of a repeat of last season where Boston won four of the series' five games. What were your lasting impressions from the Dodgers series? Leave a comment below.
  12. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Homeruns: None Bottom 3 WPA: Jeffers -.151, Buxton -.144, Polanco -.103 Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Chilly temperatures and rain were not enough to prevent baseball at Target Field, with the Dodgers eager to get home on time for their home opener on Thursday. Here’s how the Twins lined up against one of the most formidable teams in baseball. Twins fans continued to see their remade rotation on Tuesday as Chris Archer took the mound against Andrew Heaney. Archer came out strong and effective, with his fastball reaching 95 mph in a scoreless first inning on just 13 pitches. A 105 mph double off the bat of Carlos Correa amounted to nothing in the bottom of the first inning for the Twins. Indeed, Heaney’s three-quarter, across the body action appeared to be deceiving Twins hitters early, as he induced seven swings and misses in the bottom of the first inning. The teams traded scoreless second innings that were uneventful, save for Byron Buxton doing Byron Buxton things. Gavin Lux, Freddie Freeman, and Carlos Correa doubles were the only offense for both teams in innings three and four, as Archer left the game having thrown 63 pitches and limiting the best lineup in baseball to two hits and zero runs. Archer was relieved in the fifth inning by Josh Winder to make his major league debut with the Twins. Like Bundy on Monday night, Archer’s debut will give Twins fans optimism that their new-look rotation can be effective against good offenses. After benefiting from a generous called third strike on Dodgers catcher Will Smith, Winder struggled for command in the fifth inning. He managed just 12 strikes on his first 28 pitches, walking Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor before a double steal and a Gavin Lux sac fly allowed Bellinger to score. Winder managed to limit the damage to one run. One could wonder why making his MLB debut on a cold, wet Tuesday, in a close game against the best lineup in baseball, was preferential to any game against the Mariners from the previous series? To Winder’s credit, he battled through it. With rain imminent, the Twins posed their first threat in the fifth. A Kepler double to right-center field, and Sano hit-by-pitch put runners at first and second with one out. Rocco Baldelli opted to pinch-hit Luis Arraez for Gilberto Celestino. A routine ground ball to Trea Turner resulted in a Twins run. Turner slipped, overthrew Gavin Lux at second, allowing Kepler to score and putting runners at the corners with one out. Heaney was relieved by old friend Brusdar Graterol. A Byron Buxton pop out and Carlos Correa ended an excellent scoring opportunity for Minnesota. Struggling with the increasing rain, Danny Coulombe managed just five strikes on 14 pitches, managing two-thirds of an inning before being relieved by Joe Smith. Smith struck out Justin Turner to end the top of the sixth inning. Despite getting two men aboard in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Jeffers popped out to end the inning. Mookie Betts walked to lead off the eight for the Dodgers. Caleb Thielbar relieved Pagan, walking Freddie Freeman before a ground ball rolled under Luis Arraez’s glove for an error, scoring Betts. While it was scored as a single, it was a brutal play by Arraez, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Thielbar then walked Max Muncy to load the bases before being pulled for Jhon Romero. Romero immediately surrendered a single to Justin Turner, increasing the lead to 3-1. The Dodgers began to pour it on, adding hits and benefiting from a second Arraez error. After the top of the eighth, the score was 7-1, and the game was put to bed. Except it wasn't. The game was delayed in the bottom of the eight inning due to inclement weather. After a 90 minute rain delay, play resumed at around 11:35 CT. Nick Gordon walked to lead off the eighth for the Twins, before Jorge Polanco singled. Max Kepler singled to bring home Nick Gordon to make the score 7-2. Ryan Jeffers struck out to end the inning. Jharel Cotton managed a scoreless ninth despite walking three Dodgers in the inning. The Twins bullpen walked nine hitters and threw 142 pitches in five innings of work. The Twins went quietly in the bottom of the ninth, falling to 2-3 on the young season. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Coulombe 27 0 15 0 14 56 Thielbar 0 18 0 19 18 55 Romero 0 0 15 0 34 49 Cotton 0 20 0 0 25 45 Duran 31 0 0 11 0 42 Smith 0 20 0 19 3 42 Duffey 0 18 0 14 0 32 Pagán 0 0 10 0 20 30 Winder 0 0 0 0 28 28 Jax 0 0 0 0 0 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their short series against the Dodgers. Chris Paddack will take the mound against Clayton Kershaw. First pitch is at 12:10 CST. Postgame Interviews - Coming Soon
  13. The Twins selected Winder with their 7th round pick back in 2018 from Virginia Military Institute. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were at the helm of their second draft, and Winder is projected to be a steal at that late point in the draft. Out of the 2018 draft, only two players have debuted, Trevor Larnach (1st round) and Ryan Jeffers (2nd round). In college, He posted a 4.52 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP and 9.0 K/9. Winder numbers were hardly outstanding, but the Twins must have seen something that intrigued the scouting department. Winder’s professional debut came in the Appalachian League shortly after signing with the Twins. He started nine games (38 2/3 innings) and posted a 3.72 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP. Nearly all of his numbers were better than his collegiate career including an improved K/9 and BB/9. Even in a small sample size, there were signs pointing to Winder improving. During the 2019 season, Winder continued to carve up lower level hitters in Cedar Rapids. He pitched 125 2/3 innings with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. His strikeout rate dipped from over 9.8 K/9 in his debut to 8.5 K/9, but it's hard to ignore the other numbers he was able to compile. Like many prospects, it looked like the 2020 season was going to be important for his development. Unfortunately, the minor league season didn’t happen, but Winder was able to make improvements outside of game action. Winder added to his frame during the shutdown and those results were evident during the 2021 season. His fastball sat in the low-90s when the Twins signed him and last season it averaged 95 mph while topping out in the high-90s. He moved from Double- to Triple-A and was the organization’s lone participant in the Futures Game. He posted career highs in K/9, WHIP, and ERA. His season was cut short by a shoulder injury, but the Twins believe he is healthy and ready to produce in 2022. Minnesota’s plan for Winder is to start him as a long reliever, but he will continue to work as a starter later in the season. Expanded rosters to start the season allow teams to carry more pitching, but the Twins need to avoid not using Winder. Last season, Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation to long relief, but the club didn’t get him regular use at the season’s start. Look for Winder to be used as a piggy-back starter for others in the rotation that may not be able to go more than four innings. When roster sizes decrease, Winder will likely head to St. Paul to get further stretched out as a starter. It’s imperative for the team to get off to a good start. Last season, fans saw the bullpen struggle to begin the year and it impacted the remainder of the season. Minnesota wants to avoid a repeat of that performance in 2022 and Winder can be one of the arms to help Minnesota start the year on the right foot. What are your memories of Winder’s time as a prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  14. Breaking Down the Opening Day Roster On Thursday, the Twins finalized their Opening Day roster, with a few surprises rounding out the fringes. The most noteworthy names on the official 28-man squad heading into the season are rookie Josh Winder (serving as a long man in relief), Gilberto Celestino serving as the fourth outfielder (very temporarily, I suspect), and newcomer Jhon Romero edging Griffin Jax for a final bullpen spot. Matthew Taylor wrote a great article posing one pivotal question for each player on the 28-man roster. Oh, and the shakeup we'll cover next also added a very surprising twist to the season-opening mix. Catch Up on the Last-Minute Trade Between Minnesota and San Diego You can never count this front office out. Just when it looked like they were going to roll into the regular season with a conspicuously thin starting rotation, the Twins pulled the trigger on a big trade on the morning of MLB Opening Day. In a last-minute stunner, the team traded its longtime closer and best reliever Taylor Rogers, along with Brent Rooker, to San Diego for starter Chris Paddack and reliever Emilio Pagán. Seth Stohs offered some immediate reaction when the move was announced on Thursday morning, and Ted Schwerzler followed up with analysis of the trade's impact. Joe Ryan vs. Robbie Ray: How Big is Seattle's Matchup Edge? It has the makings of a serious mismatch on paper: the reigning Cy Young winner going up against a rookie with five MLB starts under his belt. JD Cameron has you covered with a full breakdown of the Ryan vs. Ray tilt. As he notes, "Ray could not contrast more markedly with Ryan in experience, build, or arsenal." Elsewhere, Andrew Mahlke wrote about how the Twins are showing major confidence in Ryan by giving him the Opening Day nod. Theo Tollefson pointed out that Ryan is in rare air as a rookie. Our Official Season Preview Guide The Twins experienced a lot of change over the past offseason. Your best bet for getting fully up to speed is by grabbing a copy of Twins Daily 2022 Season Preview. Featuring contributions from JD, Lucas, Nash, Rena, David, Seth, and myself, this PDF breaks down each of the club's biggest offseason moves – the Correa signing, the Buxton extension, the Gray trade, and much more – while also highlighting rookies who are likely to debut and laying out 22 crucial things to know before the first pitch. The guide is free to all caretakers. Buy in for a minimum of one month at six bucks, and it's yours. Stick with us if you're so inclined. But make sure you grab the guide. Position by Position Roster Analysis Over the past few weeks, I've been running through in-depth breakdowns of every position on the team as the season gets underway – from catchers to relievers. The questions we seek to answer in these pieces: What's the outlook? How's the depth? What's the plan going forward? Read up on the 2022 Minnesota Twins roster: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher Get Acquainted with the Top Prospects We recently unveiled our Twins top prospects tracker. I highly recommend bookmarking it and checking back often. It'll be updated throughout the season as stocks rise and fall. If you're looking for a detailed analysis of the organization's best upcoming talent heading into this 2022 season, you can read my overview of the system or click through to profiles on each of the top 20 Twins prospects (spoiler alert: MANY of them are going to debut this year): 20. Steve Hajjar, LHP: Big 6-foot-5 southpaw drafted in the 2nd round last year, touted for his changeup. 19. Edouard Julien, INF: Versatile fielder drew 101 BB in 112 G last year at Single-A, good for a .434 OBP. 18. Spencer Steer, INF: Mashed 24 homers in a breakthrough power season, playing mostly 2B and 3B. 17. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Looked to be clicking last year before TJ surgery, which will cost him '22 season. 16. Emmanuel Rodríguez, OF: Extreme contact woes marred otherwise highly encouraging rookie-ball debut. 15. Louie Varland, RHP: Honored as the org's top minor-league pitcher in '21 thanks to dazzling A-ball performance. 14. Cole Sands, RHP: Polished righty has posted a 2.53 ERA, 10.3 K/9 in two seasons since joining Twins system. 13. Matt Wallner, OF: Huge raw power will play if he can shore up his plate discipline and whiffing tendency. 12. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Was overwhelmed during rushed MLB debut, but the skills are undeniable. 11. Noah Miller, SS: 38th pick in '21 draft out of HS swings from both sides with legit chance to stick at short. 10. Josh Winder, RHP: Absurdly dominant between AA/AAA last year, and is basically ready to go at 25. 9. Chase Petty, RHP: Team's top draft pick from last summer was a high-school phenom with 100-MPH heat. Traded to Reds for Sonny Gray. 8. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP: Mechanics and control hold back premium arsenal, but he's still young. 7. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Imposing flamethrower has makeup to dominate but must get past scary elbow issues. 6. Matt Canterino, RHP: His 1.13 ERA and 76 Ks in 48 IP since being drafted in 2019 say it all, good and bad. 5. Joe Ryan, RHP: Amazing numbers in minors were made to look legit during 5-start run with Twins. 4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Safest combination of ceiling, floor, and proven durability among arms in the system. 3. José Miranda, 2B/3B: Perennial breakthrough candidate broke through with minor-league season for the ages. 2. Royce Lewis, SS: Missed 2 straight years, but has the elite skills, athleticism, and drive to catch up fast. 1. Austin Martin, SS/OF: Headliner of 2022 deadline sell-off is a worthy top prize, with evident star qualities. Finally, a Word to Our Community I originally published this stream of thoughts on Twitter, but figured I would do so here as well, because you all are the people I was really addressing: It's almost Opening Day. An Opening Day some of us (legitimately) thought would never come. I'm feeling really excited and just gonna gush a little bit. In February we celebrated the 10th birthday of Twins Daily. It's been a wild and amazing ride. I feel both proud and humbled to have played a small role in it. John Bonnes, Parker Hagemen, Seth Stohs and Brock Beauchamp are the best partners and friends a guy could ask for. We've developed something so special that we're hoping to extend it into new markets. We joined forces with a Brewers site, Brewer Fanatic, with the goal of bringing our same model of community-based independent coverage to fans in Milwaukee. It's a movement! We also just launched a "Caretaker" program at TD which gives members a way to financially support our operation, mainly because they want to see it sustain and grow while supporting our creators. The response has been unbelievable. Seriously. Twins Daily is, and always has been, driven by the talented and dedicated people that contribute their time and energy to its cause. We have assembled so many that I can't even try to fit them all in a series of tweets. Y'all are amazing. You are the future. Baseball is ultimately a small part of life. Following it closely is a hobby and diversion. But it matters, a lot, to so many of us. That's become clearer than ever over the past few years as fans have repeatedly grappled with the prospect of losing their beloved summer pastime. Personally, this sport has connected me to John, and Seth, and Parker, and Brock. And basically everyone I know on through this community. I never would've guessed when I started a blogspot in 2005 that this obsessive side hustle would turn into something so integral to who I am. Our site's success instills in me a deep faith that this model can keep carrying fandom and online coverage forward. I'm stoked. The internet, for all its imperfections, is perfect for bringing together all sorts of random folks around a shared passion and pursuit. We're not competing with mainstream media or traditional journalism. We're adding to them. Twins fans have never had access to more awesome content and diverse perspectives. That was the entire goal of this endeavor from the start. THANK YOU. See you at the ballpark.
  15. Why go with a flexible pitching staff? There are two significant reasons. The first stems from the natural volatility of relievers, something in the DNA of the position curses them with inconsistency more unusual than any other position in baseball. We see relievers rise and fall yearly, with only a handful of genuinely elite talents remaining at the top of the heap for more than a year at a time. They’re about as consistent as Ohio or Pennsylvania in an election year. That creates a significant challenge for team-building. Beyond occasionally being stuck with poor performances, the issue is the sunk-cost fallacy that comes with bringing in a free-agent reliever. The Twins know all about this. What do you do with a struggling reliever with a solid history of success? Alex Colomé was utterly dreadful in 2021, blowing saves in cartoonish fashion for three painful months before the sting of each loss numbed due to the team’s already poor record. If Colomé were some AAAA schlep, he would have been optioned before April ended, and a different arm would have had the chance to prove themselves. But Colomé didn’t have options, and the team owed him $5 million, so the Twins had to be as confident as humanly possible that Colomé was no longer worth the roster spot. The season was already a lost cause by that time, and Colomé remained on the team. Ensuring that you can quickly rid yourself of a poor-performing reliever is a wise strategy. The other main reason to have flexibility is rooted in pitching philosophy. For years, a pitcher was either a starter, an individual capable of pitching anywhere between five-to-nine innings every fifth day, or they were a reliever, an individual tasked with netting three outs on a moment's notice. The system does not make much sense if one thinks about it. There’s a significant grey area between “incapable of pitching deep into games” and “can only be relied upon for three outs.” Indeed, some of these arms could go for two or three innings, right? One could combine pitchers like Voltron to make a better, more complete staff out of pitchers with potential drawbacks. Fortunately, some more enlightened baseball philosophers have moved away from this rigid binary, and, in a move that harkens back to the pitching staffs of the 60s and 70s, labels like “starter” and “reliever” have merged into someone simply being an “out-getter.” A pitcher is no longer only good for one or five-to-nine innings; they are allowed to get as many outs as physically possible. A myriad of terms have grown into our shared baseball lexicon to describe this shift: “opener,” “piggy-backing,” uhhh, “two dogs and two cats.” While differing in their meaning, they all call back to the idea that pitchers differ in the duration of their effectiveness. The Rays are a masterclass in this style of strategy. In what feels like the millionth year in a row, the team owned a top-10 pitching staff in baseball by fWAR, struck out a small army, and barely walked anyone despite losing ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery. Four pitchers, Shane McClanahan, Rich Hill, Glasnow, and Shane Baz, appeared solely as a starter. The 11 other pitchers who made a start for them in 2021 also appeared out of the bullpen at some point in 2021. Let’s take a look at their strategy in action. On July 28th, Michael Wacha pitched five solid innings before being followed by Drew Rasmussen, old friend Matt Wisler, Pete Fairbanks, and Andrew Kittredge. On August 12th, Rasmussen started the game and went four innings; he was followed by Collin McHugh, old friend J.T. Chargois, Louis Head, and Ryan Sheriff. Rasmussen both started and entered the game in the sixth inning in about a two-week period, and he netted significant innings in both roles. It’s a high-wire act for sure, a bad game or two could throw the entire staff into chaos, but a deft manager can properly tip-toe the line. In practice for the Twins, we may see something like Chris Archer going four innings, Jhoan Duran following with three innings of his own, and then the usual suspects of Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers cleaning up the game, assuming all went well. This style of pitching management will be even more necessary at the beginning of the season; starters are not yet ready for their usual pitch counts, and games have not yet been shortened (but I wouldn’t put anything by Rob Manfred). Expanded rosters will help alleviate the pitching roster crunch. As it stands, five relievers—Rogers, Duffey, Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, and Danny Coulombe—are un-optionable (without the risk of losing them on waivers). The rest of the bullpen will be ushered into the continuous testing machinery to determine which arms can stay at the major league level. Think of it like the Hunger Games, but you’re sent to St. Paul instead of dying. Guys like Griffin Jax, Josh Winder, Cody Stashak, and Jovani Moran may or may not begin the season in the majors, but the team will certainly shuffle them in at some point in 2022. It may be for the best if you don’t get too attached to the names you see in the bullpen to begin the season. How would you like to see the pitching staff work, especially in the season's first month. Leave a COMMENT and discuss below.
  16. Not that long ago, evaluators considered Minnesota’s farm system among baseball’s best. It helped that the Twins were terrible for multiple seasons, and they were able to stockpile high draft picks to rebuild their system. Entering the 2022 season, many national rankings put the Twins farm system in the bottom half of the league. Many of the organization’s top prospects are on the brink of making their debuts, so what does that mean for the future of the farm system? Prospects on the Brink According to MLB Pipeline, the team’s top eight ranked prospects are all expected to debut in 2022. Minnesota’s pitching pipeline looks ready to start producing big-league talent. Joe Ryan was recently named the team’s Opening Day starter, even though he has only made five starts in his big-league career. Jhoan Duran looks like he can be a dominant bullpen option if the team decides to keep him in a relief role. Josh Winder also has an opportunity to be used out of the bullpen to start 2022. Besides these Opening Day options, Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Drew Strotman all project to debut at some point in 2022. Minnesota’s top position player prospects also project to start the season at St. Paul. Jose Miranda dominated the Double- and Triple-A levels, so it seems like he has little left to prove in the minors. Austin Martin is widely considered the team’s top prospect, and he was an on-base machine at Double-A last season. Minnesota has worked with him on his power production and that should put him on a path toward a 2022 debut. Royce Lewis is returning from an injury, so he must prove he can produce like a top prospect. All eight of these prospects may use up their rookie eligibility during the 2022 season, and this has the potential to leave little on the shelves in the minor leagues. What Will Be Left? Minnesota’s pitching depth means some of the team’s top pitching prospects are behind other pitchers in the organization's pecking order. An argument can be made that Matt Canterino is the best pitching prospect in the organization, but all the other names mentioned above are ahead of him on the depth chart. Ronny Henriquez and Louie Varland are both intriguing prospects, but they have multiple stops left to get to the big-league level. Blayne Enlow is returning from Tommy John surgery, so he will likely wait until 2023 to debut. Steve Hajjar is an intriguing name to watch because of his collegiate experience. Last year’s second-round pick may end up being a top-10 prospect in the organization entering the 2023 season. He’s certainly a player to watch this season. Two of the organization's top power prospects will likely still be in the system entering next season. Aaron Sabato and Matt Wallner fit the mold of a typical power hitter with little value on the defensive side of the ball. Noah Miller and Keoni Cavaco are two higher draft picks from this regime with something to prove. Other position players like Spencer Steer and Misael Urbina are also working their way towards Target Field. All of these players have upside, but they aren’t in the same category of prospect as Martin, Lewis, or Miranda. Ramifications So, what does this all mean? Minnesota has a plethora of talent in the upper level of the minors, which is a great problem for any organization. However, is the team less likely to trade these players away because of their proximity to the majors? Teams with top-ranked farm systems can move their prospects for MLB talent to make their team even more competitive. This MLB-ready pipeline should allow the Twins to keep their winning window open, but the team’s future depth relies on a strong farm system that can churn out big-league talent. Minnesota projects to have plenty of young talent in the big leagues, but it will result in a dramatically depleted depth in the minors. Do you think the Twins will have one of baseball’s worst farm systems entering next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  17. Expanded rosters will not be permanent. The 28-man roster will last through May 1st when rosters will go back to 26 players. It’s just enough time to allow players to have a little extra time to tune their bodies, specifically for pitchers to ready their arms. As we have seen in spring training games, this extra time will be a good thing. This additional time will also give players fighting for a spot on the roster a little more time to fight for a position. Player Injuries The most important part of spring training is getting the players ready for the regular season. Pitchers use this time to get back into a pitching schedule. Hitters need to get their timing back and get into game shape. If a player goes into a regular season with less than a whole month of training, injuries can happen more than they already do. In 2020, the players showed up to spring training in shape, but because they had less time to get back into game shape, be in live game situations and get their legs under them, injuries happened throughout the season. Spotrac recorded a 22% increase in injuries from previous years. The Twins already have Kenta Maeda out with Tommy John rehab, and Randy Dobnak is out with ongoing issues with his middle finger. Both are currently on the 60-Day Injured List. On March 24th, Brent Rooker is out with shoulder tenderness and will be kept out of the rotation until that improves. Keeping injuries at a minimum is not only important every year, but for the Twins, they have been plagued with key players being injured, so getting the extra time to loosen up with a few extra weeks will serve them well. For the players, doubleheaders (which will again consist of two nine-inning games) mean more wear and tear on their bodies. Doubleheaders are already scheduled during the season to make up for missing the first week of games, and there are sure to be other games that will be rescheduled due to rain delays. The Twins do have good depth on their roster. There will be room for moving players between the Twins and the Triple-A St. Paul Saints. However, another new rule is that players can only be optioned up to five times during a season, so they have to be careful in doing this too much. 2022 is the first season I have seen fans this excited for the new roster and the possibilities of what the players can accomplish. Defensive Battle Royce Lewis had a tough 2021 season. His pre-camp physical showed a torn ACL which was repaired by surgery on February 21st. Between the lost COVID season in 2020 and his injury, he has not had a chance to play baseball. Lewis was optioned down to St. Paul on Saturday, March 26th, but that is not going to stop him from trying to make the roster. Lewis believes he can make the 26-man roster sometime in 2022 and start his MLB career after a clean bill of health. Lewis has added some weight and some power to his swing. His offseason work has shown as he’s stepped up to the plate during spring training and will need more time in the minors to get back into full offensive and defensive mode. The extra roster spots may also give Nick Gordon more time to prove himself. Gordon has struggled a little bit in the field. Gordon has improved in the outfield, and even his bat has started to come alive, and we saw glimmers of the Gordon that we hoped to see. Both players, along with Austin Martin and Spencer Steer have learned from All-Star Carlos Correa, the newest acquisition by the Twins, during workouts and conversations before they were sent back down to minor-league camp. Correa, one of the best shortstops in baseball, has a lot to teach players, and being on the 28-man with him would be the best education either of those players could get. Martin and Lewis are ranked one and two in the organization's prospect rankings, respectively. The players fighting for the chance to stay up on the Opening Day roster are Kyle Garlick, Jake Cave, and Brent Rooker. All three outfielders have all the heart and drive in the world to make the roster, but when up against players like Byron Buxton, Trevor Larnach and Alex Kiriloff, their numbers just may not be enough. That doesn't mean that they won't see the 40-man or 26-man at all this season, it does mean however, that they are going to take the next week before the 28-man is solidified and give it everything they have got to try and edge out the other Triple-A guys. Cave, Rooker and Garlick have all struggled with injuries that have either ended their seasons or left them fighting to get back into the line-up in 2021, so not only have they not seen a lot of at-bats, but the lockout really affected them getting in the field time that they need to be a contender for the 26-man roster, but hopefully the two open spots through April give them more of the time needed to been seen as an asset to the club and stay in the Twins clubhouse. Competition in the Bullpen Clubs across MLB must carry 13 pitchers on their 26-man roster.. There is no ‘cap’ on pitchers in April, meaning the extra two spots could go to pitchers Pitching has often been a weak spot for the club, but this season there may be a glimmer of hope from what could be their Opening Day pitching staff. Pitchers such as Sonny Gray and older pitchers of the club like Chris Archer, Tyler Duffey, and Taylor Rogers have competition from the other pitchers who also want to start. Many other up-and-comers could quickly fill the extra two slots and give the Twins the pitching depth that the fans have been looking for from our club. We have seen pitchers like Joe Ryan, Devin Smeltzer, and Josh Winder out on the mound during spring training. We have seen solid performances from all three pitchers. These pitchers have a command of the mound by hitting their target based on where he and the catcher are set up constantly and impressive strikeouts. ] mlb.com Josh Winder has quickly become a fan favorite to be seen on the mound, but new acquisition Chris Archer rounds out what could be a very solid rotation, making Smeltzer and Winder work harder for those two spots. Archer has had his own struggles with the strike zone and while fans are not excited about him, there is hope that pitching coach Wes Johnson can improve the 33 year old RHP. Archer is not the ace that the Club is looking for, but he certainly is going to give the other pitchers the push they need to fight for those extra roster spots. They could all be in contention for filling the two new spots in April and potentially deeper into the season. Smeltzer has seen the most significant improvement; he looks strong, confident and has improved his strike-throwing (Smeltzer only pitched once last year and then was injured.). With only adding two players for April, there will not only be lots of competitive drive to make that 27th and 28th spot but ultimately to beat out a teammate to stay on the 26-man roster come May 1st. On paper, compared to other seasons, even the ones with the Bomba Squad, the 2022 Twins roster is one of the stronger rosters that the Twins have had in a few years. It’s exciting to think that there are players who can be in contention for an extra spot on the roster. Who do you think are some of the major contenders for a spot for not only the 28-man month-long roster but who do you think can make it to the 26-man for the remainder of the season? That said, the Twins will use a ton of guys during the remainder of the season, and probably in April too.
  18. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  19. Minnesota already decided to move Griffin Jax and Lewis Thorpe to bullpen roles, which makes sense when looking at their pitching flaws. Last season, Jax was excellent the first time through the order, and he may be a strong candidate to serve in an opener role. Thorpe is out of minor league options, and the team needs to see if he can find success as a reliever. Either pitcher may shift to starting games as part of bullpen games in Dobnak’s absence. Signing a different back-end starting pitcher is also on the table. Rumors surrounding Johnny Cueto coming to the Twins circulated earlier in the week, and he’d be a natural Dobnak replacement. Cueto is coming off a 2021 season where he posted a 4.08 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 114 2/3 innings, but he hadn’t pitched more than 65 innings in three prior seasons. Cueto doesn’t seem to offer a ton of upside, and maybe the Twins are rethinking their back of the rotation options. Another option is to allow other young pitchers to start. Many of the team’s top pitching prospects missed time last season due to injury. Pitchers will be on an innings limit, so when and where do the Twins want those innings? If players start in the minors, those are innings that don’t help the 2022 Twins. Someone like Jhoan Duran can help bolster the team’s bullpen, but Minnesota may not be ready to shift him from starting. Jordan Balazovic is on the 40-man roster, and he pitched nearly 100 innings at Double-A last season. As a 23-year-old, would the Twins start him in the big-league rotation? Nothing stops the team from moving him up and down from Triple-A throughout the 2022 season. Other prospects on the 40-man roster include Josh Winder and Drew Strotman. Winder, like Balazovic, is projected to debut in 2022, but he dealt with a right shoulder impingement that limited him to 72 innings. Winder may be ahead of Balazovic on the depth chart because he made multiple Triple-A starts and is a couple of years older. Last summer, Strotman was acquired as part of the Nelson Cruz trade, and scouts view him as big-league ready. This year, he will start games for the Twins, and Dobnak’s injury may push him into the team’s Opening Day plans. Veteran players like Jharel Cotton, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Dereck Rodriguez have been brought in this winter to provide organizational depth. Cotton projects to be part of the bullpen, but he can bounce back in 2022, including shifting back to being a starter. Gonzalez started 18 games for the Rockies last season but posted a 6.46 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP. There’s a chance that leaving Coors Field will help some of his numbers. Rodriguez also provides rotational depth as he looks to get back to the pitcher he was in 2018. After signing his extension last winter, Dobnak’s career has undoubtedly followed a challenging path. Minnesota tried him as a reliever last season, and it didn’t work. From there, his finger injury started bothering him, and he is still dealing with the issue. Over the next three seasons, he is guaranteed $7.75 million, so Minnesota wants him to solve his finger issue and get back on the field. What path do you think the Twins will follow because of Dobnak’s injury? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Longenhagen was the lone author of the January 2021 rendition of the list so this will be an interesting comparison to see how he views these guys one year later. As a reminder, a player loses his rookie and prospect designation from the prospect list if they surpassed 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days on the active roster. With that defined, let’s start by looking at the graduates from the 2021 list sorted by their 2021 team prospect ranking. Graduates #1 (in 2021) Alex Kirilloff #3 Trevor Larnach #4 Ryan Jeffers #10 Gilberto Celestino #12 Brent Rooker #37 Nick Gordon The Twins graduated some of their best prospects early on in 2021 but the end results left (a lot) more to be desired. Kirilloff’s season ended in July due to a wrist injury but should be penned in as the opening day 1st basemen. Larnach ended the season in AAA after a second-half OPS of .480, but I would expect him to be the everyday left fielder at some point this season. Jeffers stuck around after his June 1st promotion but ended the season batting below the Mendoza line and a career-low (minors included) .401 slugging percentage. Celestino only got 59 at-bats but was on the roster for almost two full months where he slashed .136/.177/.288. I’m not sure what a role would look like for him in 2022 other than maybe the last guy on the roster used as a late-game defensive replacement and pinch-runner. Rooker, who had an exciting start to his career in 2020, was able to eclipse the Mendoza line…by a point…in 2021 but may not have a spot in the 2022 lineup without an injury or trade. Gordon was the lone bright spot and really carved out a role for himself as a super-utility ending the season with a .752 OPS in the last month. Top 3 Risers #3 Jose Miranda, UT (+17) It’s no surprise that the Twins Minor League Player of the Year shot up prospect boards after his meteoric 2021 season. With 30 home runs and a .973 OPS between AA-Wichita and AAA-St. Paul, the utility infielder will be one to keep an eye on during an abbreviated Spring Training although I wouldn’t anticipate him being with the Twins on Opening Day. #12 Marco Raya, RHP(+11) On the contrary from Miranda, it was surprising to see Raya jump 11 spots considering he has yet to see game action in 18 months with the Twins due to shoulder soreness in 2021. Raya has some electric stuff but a small frame.. It remains to be seen whether or not his stuff can play at the professional level and if he’ll be a starter or reliever. #4 Josh Winder, RHP (+9) Winder dominated AA-Wichita to the tune of a sub-2 ERA and struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings. That performance earned him a promotion to AAA-St. Paul where he didn’t find the same success in just four starts before being shut down with shoulder tightness. Honorable Mention: Spencer Steer, 2B (+9) “Top” 3 Fallers #24 Aaron Sabato, 1B (-16) Sabato’s 2021 wasn’t all bad…he ended on a high note with an OPS north of 1.000 after being promoted to high-A-Cedar Rapids in 75 at-bats. But when your value is almost exclusively as a power hitter, it’s hard to ignore the .410 slugging across the entirety of the season. He’s a non-roster invite to Spring Training but I’d imagine he’ll spend most of this season at AA-Wichita. #28 Blayne Enlow, LHP (-11) This fall is mostly attributed to needing Tommy John and missing most of the 2021 season and at least half the 2022 season. He’s still only 22 and the Twins believe in him enough to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this offseason, and he just might end up on the “risers” side of this list next year. #27 Chris Vallimont, RHP (-9) After encouraging 2018 and 2019 minor league seasons, he returned from a missed 2020 season and really struggled with his control, walking six batters per nine. He turns 25 in three days and hasn’t had any success past A-ball in three minor league seasons. He’s always been a starter, but he reworked some things in 2021 and if that doesn’t work, he may need to look at a relief role if he has a shot at being a Major League pitcher someday. I think 2022 will be the deciding factor on what his future looks like. Looking at Langenhagen’s 2022 list, who graduates, who rises, and who falls a year from now? Leave your thoughts in the comments! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  21. After a last-place finish, Minnesota has a top-eight draft pick in 2022. There’s certainly a chance the Twins look to the college ranks for their first-round selection, so it is essential to keep an eye on college action this spring. The organization has drafted players with college experience in recent years, but the top players on this list were acquired via trade. 5. Matt Wallner, OF TD Top Prospect Rank: 13 Minnesota selected Wallner, a Minnesota native, with the 39th overall pick in 2019. During his three seasons at Southern Mississippi, he crushed the ball as he became the school’s career home run leader. He ended his collegiate career with a 1.113 OPS and a 153 to 141 strikeout to walk ratio. Since turning pro, his strikeout rate has increased significantly, which has evaluators wondering if he can make consistent contact as he moves up the ladder. Last season, he posted an .854 OPS in 68 games, but he struck out 100 times. Also, he’s on the 40-man roster, so he won’t be able to play until the lockout ends. 4. Josh Winder, RHP TD Top Prospect Rank: 10 Winder spent three years at the Virginia Military Institute before the Twins took him with a seventh-round pick in 2018. His college numbers weren’t awe-inspiring as he posted a 4.52 ERA, including a 5.40 ERA during his junior season. Minnesota saw some positive signs in him, and the organization worked with him on some changes after he signed. He led the Midwest League in ERA and WHIP during his first full professional season. During the 2020 shutdown, he made vast improvements to his physical make-up, and those results showed on the mound in 2021. He dominated Double-A with a sub-2.00 ERA and 10.7 SO/9. A shoulder injury was likely the only thing that kept him from debuting last season. 3. Matt Canterino, RHP TD Top Prospect Rank: 6 Back in 2019, the Twins took Canterino with their second-round pick from Rice University. His ERA, WHIP, and HR/9 dropped in each collegiate season. Rice had been known for pumping out top pitching prospects, but that has changed in recent years. Many Rice pitching products have struggled to stay healthy in their professional careers due to overuse during their college tenure. Canterino has been limited to 48 professional innings since being drafted, but he has been dominant when on the mound with a 1.13 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Can he buck the trend associated with Rice pitchers? 2. Joe Ryan, RHP TD Top Prospect Rank: 5 Ryan’s path to Minnesota’s rotation is unique, which fits his overall personality. He wasn’t selected in the MLB Draft during his junior season because he dealt with some muscle and shoulder injuries. He transferred to Cal State Stanislaus, a Division II school, for his senior year. In 98 1/3 innings, he posted a 1.65 ERA with a 0.83 WHIP and 127 strikeouts. The Rays selected him in the seventh round in 2018, and he rose to Double-A in his first full professional season. Minnesota received Ryan along with Drew Strotman as the return for Nelson Cruz’s expiring contract. His unique arm-angle on his fastball makes him an intriguing arm that projects to be in Minnesota’s rotation for the majority of the next decade. 1. Austin Martin, SS/OF TD Top Prospect Rank: 1 Martin was arguably the best collegiate player in the 2020 MLB Draft. His sophomore season at Vanderbilt firmly established him as a top draft prospect. During the 2018 season, he hit .392/.486/.605 (1.091) with 33 extra-base hits in 65 games. His first professional games came in 2021 as he spent the entire year at Double-A with a .796 OPS. One of his biggest concerns has been his power production, but he was tweaking his swing last season while also dealing with a hand/wrist injury. Since he isn’t on the 40-man roster, Martin is in Fort Myers working with Twins coaches, which may set him up for better success in 2022 and beyond. How would you rank these former college players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober… Dylan Bundy… Folks, that’s your Minnesota Twins rotation at the time of this writing. After trading Jose Berrios and losing Kenta Maeda to injury, the starting pitching lacks depth, high-end talent, floor, etc. Despite this fact, 14 of the top 15 starting pitchers on the free-agent market signed with teams before the lockout without a single whisper of interest from the Twins front office. This development led some to call shenanigans on the organization's statement that they plan on competing in 2022. Plenty of fans still hold out hope however that the Twins have some enormous splashes left to make that will push the Twins back into the driver’s seat of the AL Central. There are several starting pitchers on the trade market that would instantly become the leaders of the Twins rotation. Luis Castillo, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas to name a few that have been thrown around in hypotheticals. One such hypothetical was just recently proposed by TwinsDaily’s own Nash Walker: The package here is steep but fair, as right-hander Frankie Montas has two years of control and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting in 2021. In acquiring Montas, the Twins would part with Luis Arraez who is controlled through 2026 in addition to recently acquired Drew Strotman, former 1st round pick Keoni Kavaco, and Jhoan Duran whose triple-digit arm suffered an injury in 2021 but made it to AAA. Such a deal would cost the Twins in the present while leaving them open to get burned in the future, as these trades are often composed. Such a deal should raise questions, the first of which being “Does this move push the Twins over the top?”. To which I would argue “not even close”. The Twins had two front-end starters in 2021 in Berrios and Kenta Maeda for most of the season and finished in dead last place in the worst division in baseball. With a similar returning lineup (without Nelson Cruz) and a bullpen that likely won’t have any significant additions, it could be argued that the Twins are paying top dollar just to get halfway to where they were at the beginning of a disastrous 2021. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan will certainly have a huge role in how the rotation performs, but to push the chips in while leaning so heavily on two rookies totaling well under 200 career innings would be quite the gamble. The pair would need to replicate their 2021 performances if not improve upon them to set the foundation of the Twins 2022 rotation. It’s certainly possible both are up to the task, but with such little track record and an offseason of scouting reports, it’s fair to expect some turbulence from the two rookies. It may be more realistic and fair to expect these two to perform closer to #4 starting pitchers than the rotation leaders the Twins need to make a Frankie Montas pairing worth their while. The other consideration in regards to acquiring Frankie Montas is that he’s exactly where Jose Berrios was before 2021 with two years left under contract. What would stop the Twins from similarly shipping him out at the trade deadline if the team is struggling again come July? The return would certainly be less than the price they paid in the preseason. If the Twins do in fact struggle in 2022 and hold onto Montas for the following year, he could definitely become a huge piece of the rotation in 2023 where it’s much easier to see the Twins returning to contention. That being said, they’ll have paid top dollar for two years of a premier arm and only get one meaningful season from him. In short, the Twins have a ton of question marks heading into 2022. In order to truly feel good about the rotation they probably needed at least two legitimate starting pitching additions. There are few impact options left in free agency and it’s hard to imagine them swinging two enormous trades to make up for it. What the Twins have now is a rotation problem that doesn’t come close to being solved by one big move. There are moves to be made in free agency and admittedly they could very well hit on some lower-profile additions. The lineup and bullpen could also shine bright enough to pick up some slack from the rotation. It’s hard to look at the roster and say this is the likelier scenario, however. Given the hoops we have to jump through to imagine a contender in 2022, wouldn’t it make more sense to be prudent before Opening Day and respond accordingly at the July trade deadline? It may be the anti-fun stance, but it would be a shame to see the Twins mortgage their future for a huge addition that doesn’t pay off. Especially with so many high-end prospects nearing the Major Leagues. Of all the times to acquire a huge starting pitcher the last few years, right now may be riskiest with the least amount of possible payoff. The Twins shouldn’t be looking to go all-in on an ace. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  23. The Twins selected Josh Winder in the 7th round of the 2018 draft (the second process headed by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine) out of Virginia Military Institute. Winder spent the next two years milling around prospect list No Man’s Land with occasional phrases like “repeatable delivery” written to let you know his name can be forgotten. In retrospect, those rankings seem harsh, given that his 2019 season was more than serviceable. Winder tossed 125 2/3 innings at low A-ball with a 2.65 ERA, and a 3.44 FIP; plus he struck out then uber-prospect Wander Franco in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Heading into the mid-levels of the minor leagues, Winder appeared set to fly under the radar amongst people-in-the-know. Then 2020 happened. For most prospects, 2020 either knocked them off trajectory or at least shifted industry opinions to the negative; it was an entire year of development gone, after all. Winder went against the grain. He did not pitch at the alternate site, but some mechanical tweaks combined with a different workout routine netted him a few ticks of fastball velocity—an adjustment that adds to every pitcher’s prospect stock. When even a curmudgeon like Keith Law is intrigued to see you pitch, the game is tilting in your favor. Given this excess of previously non-existent attention, it would have been understandable if Winder fell flat in 2021, victimized by the weight of his own hype. That did not happen. Winder dominated AA to the tune of a 1.98 ERA. Over his 54 ⅔ innings pitched at the level, his 31.3% K rate provided the melody, while his outstanding 4.8% BB rate served as the harmony. Just five qualified starters in MLB struck out hitters at a higher rate; only one starter walked batters at a lower rate. It’s not difficult to see why Winder was so good, I lamented the “repeatable delivery” comment before, but he easily owns one of the smoothest windups I’ve seen from a Twins pitching prospect: Hitters have to be prepared for 96 at the pits, a breaking ball dropped in glove-side, and a changeup gliding away arm-side. That’s an impossible task. After embarrassing AA hitters for a month and a half, Winder received the call to AAA, where he hit a minor roadblock. He started just four games which in itself is both a sign for relief and mild concern; four games is a sample too small to analyze closely, but he made such few starts due to a shoulder injury that ended his season prematurely. Those AAA stats—a 4.67 ERA, a 5.15 FIP, and a reduced strikeout rate of 22.4%—ultimately lessen his excellent 2021. In total, Winder tossed 72 innings with a 2.63 ERA, a 29.1% K rate, a 4.7% BB rate, and a FIP of 3.40. Amongst 251 pitchers who threw 70 innings in the upper minors (AA and AAA), Winder posted the 12th best K-BB% and was the highest placed Twins starter with those qualifications. Yeah, I know that stat is a bit of a stretch, just understand that Winder was unusually dominant amongst pitchers around his league placement. When we were dicing out which writer would cover which prospect, I immediately leaped at the chance to post Winder’s writeup. His 2021 season greatly intrigued me—what soulless Twins fan wouldn’t find interest in a pitcher who netted results after improving their raw ability? There are pitching prospects with more impressive stuff, a higher ceiling, a more regal pedigree, or a more dominant individual pitch, but few, if any, can harvest a plethora of crucial pitching characteristics like Winder. He is, in many ways, the total package. Previous Rankings Honorable Mentions Prospects 16-20 Prospects 11-15 #10: Josh Winder, RHP #9: Coming Soon
  24. With the lockout impacting only Major League Baseball, the minor-league baseball season can go off without a hitch. It was recently announced that Triple-A teams will play 150 games after adding six more to their schedule. Many minor leaguers are already down in Fort Myers, preparing for the 2022 season. Unfortunately, a handful of top prospects will start the year on the farm but can’t join their teammates. In my opinion, the guys hurt most by Major League Baseball’s lockout are those recently-added to the 40-man roster but not yet big-league mainstays. Not only do they not get a traditional Spring Training, but they can’t start the minor league season on time and are not allowed access to club facilities either. For Minnesota, that group includes some pretty big names: Jordan Balazovic Balazovic is currently the Twins top pitching prospect. He was at Double-A in 2021 and should be expected to reach Triple-A this season quickly. He’s a hard thrower that can push 97-mph and has the chops to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. Balazovic missed time last year due to injury so being delayed out of the gate is sub-optimal. Cole Sands Like Balazovic above, Sands missed time on the Injured List in 2021. He was dominant at Double-A and should jump up to Triple-A quickly. He still needs to reign in the walks, but this is a rotation arm with plenty of strikeout ability. Sands will be 25 midway through the 2022 campaign. Drew Strotman Half of the return in the Nelson Cruz trade, Strotman spent all season at Triple-A. He walked way too many batters, and the ERA is a testament to that, but he’s got strikeout ability and should be an option for the Twins shortly. Continued acclimation to the new organization and a spring training showing on the big league side would’ve been ideal. Chris Vallimont Arguably the pitcher needing the most refinement from this group, Vallimont has massive strikeout stuff with significant command issues. Working on the big-league side during a traditional spring training would have been invaluable. He’s probably a relief arm, but it would have been great to see what he could have done in March. Josh Winder Maybe Minnesota’s most slept-on pitching prospect, Winder looks the part of a difference-maker. He doesn’t give up free passes, and he mows down plenty of batters. Home runs burnt him in three of four starts at Triple-A, but he too should settle in as a nice option for the Twins soon. Jose Miranda Last season’s prospect darling, Miranda went from off-the-radar to top-100 prospect in the blink of an eye. He crushed at Double-A and then continued doing so at Triple-A. He’s probably sniffing a roster spot on Opening Day, but that gets much tougher without a traditional spring training and lack of runway to make his case. Royce Lewis After missing two seasons of games due to Covid and a torn ACL, Lewis not being able to immediately be back on the diamond isn’t good. Having him prove it in game action is where all parties want him to be, so sitting idle on the 40-man is disappointing. This is a big year for the former top prospect, and getting him going quickly is a must. Trevor Larnach Dealing with injury last season, Larnach found himself struggling and sent back to Triple-A. He was soon hurt, prematurely ending his season He should be a significant contributor in Minnesota’s lineup this year, but we’ll have to wait on what a healthy version looks like. It’s disappointing that these guys, and a few others with youth on their side, won’t get to hit the ground running in 2022. We all want baseball back, and I’m sure they’re itching for it the most. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  25. A 7th round pick in 2018, Josh Winder didn’t break into professional baseball at the top of Twins prospect lists. It would be understandable, in fact, if you hadn’t even heard his name until he really raised some eyebrows last spring. Winder reportedly made a lot of good progress during the canceled 2020 Minor League season, but it’s entirely possible he would have debuted long ago without the interruption. After totaling just under 40 innings pitched in his debut 2018 season, he topped 125 innings in 2019 at Cedar Rapids with decent strikeout numbers as well as an impressive avoidance of walks and home runs in A ball. 2021 showed Winder was far from what you’d expect out of a 7th round draft pick. In 54 innings at AA his strikeout rate eclipsed 31%. He walked under 5% of his batters faced and posted a 0.82 HR/9. His ERA was under 2. Upon his promotion to AAA, his strikeouts dropped a bit and home runs increased dramatically in a small sample before his season was cut short with shoulder fatigue. It was a disappointing end to 2021, especially for those hoping to see the 6’5 right-hander at Target Field by season’s end. Still, Winder showed enough to keep your eye on him in 2022. Winder has built up his prospect status since his selection in the draft. Scouts give him a 55 future grade fastball with 50 grades for his slider, curveball, and changeup. His pitch mix shows a lot of promise when it comes to sticking in a rotation. He may not have quite the fastball command of Joe Ryan, but the depth of his pitches doesn’t make future bullpen arm concerns quite as obvious. In regards to pitch mix, Winder matches up quite well with Bailey Ober who is deservedly receiving quite a bit of buzz headed into 2022. Winder has a superior fastball and slider, while Ober has a plus changeup and impeccable command as Twins fans saw in his 92 innings pitched last season. Where Winder undoubtedly bests Ober, however, is his past body of work. The 125 innings in his second professional season were very encouraging. It’s a benchmark that Ober has yet to reach after throwing a career-high 108 innings in 2022 across AAA and the majors. Winder’s season-ending shoulder fatigue was likely just a result of so many innings after a year off, and his injury/durability concerns moving forward shouldn’t be as significant as Ober’s who’s dealt with his fair share of injuries already throughout his career. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober get a lot of love from Twins Territory, and rightfully so. There isn’t much substitution for watching a young arm succeed at the Major League level. It is important to remember that we were right on the edge of Josh Winder possibly being in the same conversation. For as good as Ryan and Ober might be, one could argue that Winder could be the more well-rounded of the trio when it comes to a future in an MLB rotation. I’d put my money on Winder spending Opening Day in St. Paul. That being said, depending on how the Twins address the rest of the rotation it’s not impossible that Winder could win a rotation spot out of Spring Training. He’s the next man up when it comes to the Falvine pitching pipeline, and we likely won’t have to wait too long to see him in Minneapolis. He may not receive the attention of the Chase Pettys of the world, but Winder deserves a lot of credit for his meteoric rise from being a 7th round pick where even decent Minor League careers are far from the norm. Regardless of how the season goes, 2022 will be a fun year when it comes to the pitching pipeline. Expect to see Josh Winder as the first of many to stake their claim in the Twins future rotation. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
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